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Three Sermons: I. on mutual subjection. II. on conscience. III. on the trinity   By: (1667-1745)

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THREE SERMONS AND PRAYERS BY JONATHAN SWIFT

Contents: On Mutual Subjection On Sleeping in Church On the Wisdom of this World Prayers used by the Dean for Stella

ON MUTUAL SUBJECTION {1} (First Printed in 1744)

"Yea, all of you be subject one to another." I Peter v. 5

The Apostle having, in many parts of this Epistle, given directions to Christians concerning the duty of subjection or obedience to superiors, in the several instances of the subject to the prince, the child to his parent, the servant to his master, the wife to her husband, and the younger to the elder, doth here, in the words of my text, sum up the whole by advancing a point of doctrine, which at first may appear a little extraordinary. "Yea, all of you," saith he, "be subject one to another." For it should seem that two persons cannot properly be said to be subject to each other, and that subjection is only due from inferiors to those above them; yet St. Paul hath several passages to the same purpose. For he exhorts the Romans "in honour to prefer one another;" and the Philippians, "that in lowliness of mind they should each esteem other better than themselves;" and the Ephesians, "that they should submit themselves one to another in the fear of the Lord." Here we find these two great Apostles recommending to all Christians this duty of mutual subjection. For we may observe, by St. Peter, that having mentioned the several relations which men bear to each other, as governor and subject, master and servant, and the rest which I have already repeated, he makes no exception, but sums up the whole with commanding "all to be subject one to another." Whence we may conclude that this subjection due from all men to all men is something more than the compliment of course, when our betters are pleased to tell us they are our humble servants, but understand us to be their slaves.

I know very well that some of those who explain this text apply it to humility, to the duties of charity, to private exhortations, and to bearing with each other's infirmities; and it is probable the Apostle may have had a regard to all these. But, however, many learned men agree that there is something more understood, and so the words in their plain natural meaning must import, as you will observe yourselves if you read them with the beginning of the verse, which is thus: "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder; yea, all of you be subject one to another." So that, upon the whole, there must be some kind of subjection due from every man to every man, which cannot be made void by any power, pre eminence, or authority whatsoever. Now what sort of subjection this is, and how it ought to be paid, shall be the subject of my present discourse.

As God hath contrived all the works of Nature to be useful, and in some manner a support to each other, by which the whole frame of the world, under His providence, is preserved and kept up, so among mankind our particular stations are appointed to each of us by God Almighty, wherein we are obliged to act as far as our power reacheth toward the good of the whole community. And he who doth not perform that part assigned him towards advancing the benefit of the whole, in proportion to his opportunities and abilities, is not only a useless, but a very mischievous member of the public; because he takes his share of the profit, and yet leaves his share of the burden to be borne by others, which is the true principal cause of most miseries and misfortunes in life. For a wise man who does not assist with his counsels, a great man with his protection, a rich man with his bounty and charity, and a poor man with his labour, are perfect nuisances in a commonwealth. Neither is any condition of life more honourable in the sight of God than another; otherwise He would be a respecter of persons, which He assures us He is not; for He hath proposed the same salvation to all men, and hath only placed them in different ways or stations to work it out... Continue reading book >>




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