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IX. Love of our neighbor implies readiness on all occasions to do him good, to promote and advance his benefit in all ways. It does not rest in good opinions of the mind, and good affections of the heart; but from those roots it puts forth abundant fruits of real beneficence: it is a busy, active, industrious disposition of the soul: this point illustrated and enlarged on. This was the charity of the Apostles; and St. Paul declares that he endures all things for the elects' sake.
X. This indeed is a property of charity, to make a man deny himself, to neglect his own interest, yea to despise all selfish regards for the benefit of his neighbor. Liberty is a precious thing; yet how little did St. Paul's charity regard it! how absolutely did he abandon it for his neighbor's good! (1 Cor. ix. 19, &c.) Life is the most precious thing to men; yet even this will charity expose, on urgent occasions, for the good of others: so also with respect to reputation, which to some is still dearer than life itself.
XI. It is a property of love not to stand on distinctions and nice respects; but to be condescending, and willing to perform the meanest offices for the good of a friend: so the greatest souls, and the most glorious beings, are by it disposed with greatest readiness to serve their inferiors. Example of St. Paul (1 Cor. ix. 19.); of the blessed ministering angels; of the Son of God himself. Thus love is the great leveller, which brings down heaven to earth, and raises earth to heaven.
XII. Charity regulates our dealing, our deportment, our conversation toward our neighbor, implying good usage and fair treatment of him on all occasions: wherefore the language of charity is soft and sweet, not wounding the heart, nor grating on the ear of any with whom a man converses; it is like the language of the wise man, Prov. xvi. 24. Its carriage is gentle and courteous; its dealing equal and fair, not fostering any bad humor to embitter society: this subject enlarged on. Such are the properties of charity. But there are also many particular acts which have a very close alliance with it, and are
recommended to us by precepts in the holy Scriptures. These it will be convenient to mention.
1. It is a proper act of charity to forbear anger on provocation, or to repress its motions; to resent injuries either not at all, or very calmly and mildly for charity is not easily provoked, &c.
2. It is a proper act of charity to remit offences, suppressing all desire of revenge, and not retaining any grudge; for charity doth cover all things, and in this sense doth hide a multitude of
3. It is a duty coherent with charity, to maintain concord and peace, to abstain from contention and strife, together with the sources of them, pride, envy, and malice. We are commanded to be of one soul and of one mind, &c.
4. Another charitable practice is, the being candid in opinion, and mild in censure about our neighbor and his actions, giving the most favorable construction to his words, and the fairest interpretation to his designs: this point enlarged on.
5. Another such practice is, to bear with the infirmities of our neighbor, according to that rule of St. Paul, we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak; and that precept of Christ, bear one another's burdens, &c.
6. It is an act of charity to abstain from offending or scandalising our brethren, by doing any thing which may either occasion him to commit sin, disaffect him to religion, discourage him in the practice of duty, or anywise discompose, vex, and grieve him for if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably.
THE NATURE, PROPERTIES, AND ACTS OF CHARITY,
EPHESIANS, CHAP. V.-VERSE 2.
And walk in love.
ST. PAUL telleth us that the end of the commandment' (or the main scope of the evangelical doctrine) is charity, 'out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned;' that charity is a general principle of all good practice; (let all your things be done in charity ;') that it is the sum and abridgment of all other duties, so that he that loveth another, hath fulfilled the whole law: that it is the chief of the theological virtues; the prime fruit of the divine Spirit,' and 'the band of perfection,' which combineth and consummateth all other
St. Peter enjoineth us that to all other virtues we should add charity, as the top and crown of them; and, Above all things,' saith he, have fervent charity among yourselves.'
St. James styleth the law of charity vóμov faoiλikov, the royal, or sovereign law.
St. John calleth it, in way of excellence, the commandment of God;' this is his commandment, that we should love one another.'
Our Lord claimeth it for his peculiar law; This is my commandment;' and a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.' And he maketh the observance of
it the special badge and cognisance of his followers; By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.'
It being therefore a duty of so grand importance, it is most requisite that we should well understand it, and faithfully observe it; to which purposes I shall, by God's assistance, endeavor to confer somewhat, first by explaining its nature, then by pressing the observance of it by several inducements.
The nature of it will, as I conceive, be best understood by representing the several chief acts, which it compriseth or implieth as necessary prerequisites, or essential ingredients, or inseparable adherents to it; some internally resident in the soul, others discharged in external performance; together with some special properties of it. And such are those which follow.
I. 'Loving our neighbor' doth imply that we should value and esteem him: this is necessary, for affection doth follow opinion; so that we cannot like any thing which we do not esteem, or wherein we do not apprehend some considerable good, attractive of affection; that is not amiable, which is wholly contemptible; or so far as it is such.
But in right judgment no man is such; for the wise man telleth us that he that despiseth his neighbor, sinneth;' and, 'He is void of understanding that despiseth his neighbor:' but no man is guilty of sin or folly for despising that which is wholly despicable.
It is indeed true that every man is subject to defects, and to mischances, apt to breed contempt, especially in the minds of vulgar and weak people; but no man is really despicable. For,
Every man living hath stamped on him the venerable image of his glorious Maker, which nothing incident to him can utterly deface.
Every man is of a divine extraction, and allied to heaven by nature and by grace; as the son of God, and brother of God incarnate. 6 If I did despise the cause of my man-servant or of my maid-servant, when they contended with me; what then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what
shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?'
Every man is endued with that celestial faculty of reason, inspired by the Almighty,' (for, There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding,') and hath an immortal spirit residing in him; or rather is himself an angelical spirit dwelling in a visible tabernacle.
Every man was originally designed and framed for a fruition of eternal happiness.
Every man hath an interest in the common redemption, purchased by the blood of the Son of God, who 'tasted death for every one.'
Every man is capable of sovereign bliss, and hath a crown of endless glory offered to him.
In fine, every man, and all men alike, antecedently to their own will and choice, are the objects of his love, of his care, of his mercy; who is loving unto every man, and whose mercy is over all his works;' who hath made the small and the great, and careth for all alike;' who 'is rich,' in bounty and mercy, toward all that call on him.'
How then can any man be deemed contemptible, having so noble relations, capacities, and privileges? How a man standeth in esteem with God Elihu telleth us; God,' saith he, "is mighty, and despiseth not any:' although he be so mighty, so excellent in perfection, so infinitely in state exalted above all, yet doth not he slight any; and how can we contemn those, whom the certain voucher and infallible judge of worth deigneth to value? Indeed God so valued every man as to take great care, to be at great cost and trouble, to stoop down from heaven, to assume mortal flesh, to endure pinching wants and sore distresses, to taste death for every one.'
We may ask with St. Paul, 'Why dost thou set at nought thy brother?'
Is it for the lowness of his condition, or for any misfortune that hath befallen him? But are not the best men, are not all men, art not thou thyself obnoxious to the like? Hath not God declared that he hath a special regard to such? And are