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At proper Seasons, and in

proper Coma pany, we ought to chuse nobler Themes : We have all the Works of Nature before us; we have the History of Providence through many Ages faithfully preserved in the sacred Records; and we cannot be excused in overlooking these great Subjects. We owe likewise to one another, whatever each other wants; we should comfort the Weak, instruct the Simple, rebuke the Sinner ; rejoice with them that do rejoice, and mourn with them that mourn. To neglect the proper Opportunities of performing these Duties, is a Fault not to be extenuated. But then they are as improper at fome Times as they are proper at others; and when well-minded, but weak Men, unskilfully break in upon these Subjects, all that they get by it is the Pity of good Men, and the Scorn and Contempt of the Wicked.

. Since then Society is a Thing in itfelf commendable; since one End of Speech is to bę a Bond of Society, which is preserved by mutual Converse; and fince Religion is not always a proper Subject; it follows, that for the maintaining Society, and for promoting Love and Friendship, Men may innocently meet, and spend their Time upon



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fuch Subjects as offer, though the Subject in itself does not tend directly either to the Good of Men, or the Glory of God. If this kind of Converfation be blameable, it muft either be a Sin of Commiffion, or a Sin of Omiffion. It cannot be a Sin of Commiffion, because it is supposed to be innocent; and I know no Sin that a Man can commit by being innocently employed or diverted. Neither can it be a Sin of Omiffion; for no positive Act can be a Sin of Omiffion. A Man may incur the Guilt of omitting his Duty, whilft he fpends his Time in this kind of Difcourfe; and fo he may if he talks of Business or Religion. If your Friend or Relation wants your immediate Help, and you will stand difputing or difcourfing of Religion, you incur a Breach of Charity, and are guilty of a Sin of Omiflion. So if you wafte your Time in talking impertinently, when you ought to be at your Business or Calling, to the Neglect and Impoverishing of your Family; or if you leave no room for the Duties of Religion, no doubt but you are very guilty: But your Guilt does not arife from the nature of your Conversation, but from your Mifapplication of Time, from the Neglect of your proper Business and VOL. III.



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Duty; and your Guilt will be the same, if you mis-spend your Time, though you difcourse upon Subjects ever so great mentous.

But, Lastly, Let us consider the Nature of Man in general, and the different Degrees of Sense and Understanding that different Men are endowed with. This Consideration must have place in this Question, because the Tongue cannot speak better than the Understanding can conceive ; which infers a Proportion between the Abilities of our Mind, and the Soundness of our Speech; the latter must be judged by the former ; for a Man cannot be obliged to utter more Wirdom than God has given him.

Now to discourse profitably upon the most profitable Subjects requires a good Share of Reason, a clear Conception, and a distinguishing Judgment : Without these Qualifications Men do but expose the noblest Subjects they take in hand; and, in proportion, there are but few Men thus qualified. I ask therefore, what must the rest do? Would you have them chuse great and noble Subjects, which they do not understand ? Or would


have them hold their Tongues ? The first, I think, they ought not to do ;


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the last, I am fure, they will not do. It
remains then that they must talk of such
Things as lie level to their Capacities, that is,
of mean and every-day Subjects: For these
Men are fitted for Society, and have a Relish
of Converfation, as well as brighter Spirits,
and they ought not to be excluded from it;
and therefore they must be allowed to follow
their Genius, which is not likely to lead to
any very useful or improving Topics of
Discourse. It is fit, you may say, that these
People should learn, and that others should
inftruct them; fo fay I too: But to be
always under Inftruction is not very divert-
ing, and not many will fubmit to it; and
when Men of the fame Stamp meet together,
who shall be the Inftructor?

I think it would be a good Compofition, if we could prevail so far with the meaner People, as to restrain them from envious and malicious Discourse, from lewd and filthy Jefting, which are great Ingredients in their Conversation: For, fince God has designed them for Society as well as you, and given them no great Share of Understanding, you can neither restrain them from Society, nor exact more Wisdom from them than they have received.


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This Confideration will likewise reach the Cafe of wiser Men: You must not despise your weak Brother. Charity obliges you to be civil and courteous to him; and when a Man of Understanding is joined in Society with a weak Man, the Difcourfe muft be according to the meaneft Capacity; and it is fometimes a Piece of Charity to submit to the Converfation of Men of much less Ability than yourself.

From all these Confiderations together then it appears, that the Conversation of the World, upon common and trivial Subjects, is not blame-worthy. It is a Diversion in which we must not spend too much Time ; if we offend in this Respect, we shall be anfwerable for the Neglect of weightier Matters; but otherwife, if we tranfgrefs not the Bounds of Innocence and Virtue, we truft in Chrift that our harmless, though weak and unprofitable Words, fhall not rise up in Judgment against us.


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