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Ver. 1, 2, 3.
Temper, so neceffary to our Salvation and Acceptance
It hath been observed heretofore*, that Charity, properly fo called, is that Affection of the Mind, whereby we love God for his own fake, and our Neighbour for God's fake. That this is the Principle, which diftinguifhes it from fuch a Love, as either the tenderness of Nature, or nearness of Blood, or Friendship and Acquaintance, or Convenience and Intereft, are apt to difpofe us to. And, how effential this Principle is, the Apoftle here informs us, when fuppofing, that a Man may give even all his goods to feed the poor, without any true Chriftian-love to his Brethren; and his body to be burned, without any true Love of God. If then the moft fpecious Inftances in either fort, fuch as Martyrdom, and Devoting a Man's whole Subftance to the Relief of them that want, are no neceffary Proofs of this Virtue; It follows, that the Grace, here fo highly recommended, does not confift in any outward Acts, but in the inward Difpofition of the Heart: And, that thofe Acts are no farther of any value, than as they proceed from, and are fanctified by, this Difpofition.
It was therefore fit for St. Paul, after having hinted, that the Connexion, between those Inftances, which feem to be the most perfect in their kind, and that Grace they fo nearly refemble, is not so close and neceffary, as will warrant us from the Former, certainly to infer the Latter; It was fit, to affign fome Characters, which may prevent any dangerous Miftakes, in judging of this Matter. So that, where thefe are found, we may be confident the Face of Religiou which fuch Behaviour carries is Genuine; and where thefe are not, how pompous foever the Appearance
*Vol. 1. pag. 6.
pearance be, we may affure our felves, it is but counterfeit.
This is the use to be made of those Properties fpecified at the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Verfes. Not fo much for the judging other People, and the State of Their Souls, (which doth not much concern us, except fo far, as we may help and direct their Endeavours to judge and understand themfelves) as for the preventing any falfe Confidences, and fetting us right in the Notions of our Own. And, to this purpose, I shall make it my Bufinefs to explain thefe Qualities, in fuch a manner, as the Limits, expedient for this Difcourfe, will allow; far from fuch, as fo noble and profitable a Subject deferves.
The First of these is, that Charity fuffereth long. By which is meant, that They, who have this Virtue, are not apt quickly, and upon flight Occafions, to conceive a displeasure, much lefs to meditate Revenge against those who behave themselves ill toward them. They confider, how fubject to Failings Mankind are, how easily betrayed by Infirmity, and Surprise, and Paffion, to Things that mif-become them: They make juft Allowances for Inadvertencies and Indifcretions, and fupprefs their Resentments for the Wrongs that are manifest, so long as they continue to be tolerable. And herein they differ from the Jealous and Captious, the Peevish and Hafty; who either fancy themselves injured or affronted, when nothing like it was done or intended; Or take Fire at every little Provocation or Neglect.
2. The Charitable Perfon is kind. He is fo far from rendring evil for evil, that he labours to overcome evil with good. His Temper and Conversation are sweet and obliging; As he is flow in taking juft Offence, fo he is fure never to give any. His conftant Aim and Endeavour is to be as beneficial as poffibly he can. Quite contrary to that devilish and malicious Difpofition,
fition, too vifible and common in the World; which is continually employed in Mischief; difturbing the Quiet, and obftructing the Advantage of its Neighbours; and rendring Men, whom Nature and Religion intended for mutual Helps and Comforts, continual Plagues and Torments, to each Other.
3. Charity envieth not. A Perfection ftill higher than the former. For Many, who with-hold their Hands from doing harm, can yet be well enough pleased with seeing it done; efpecially to thofe, for whom they have no Affection. But He, that is truly Charitable, takes a real Satisfaction in the Happiness of Others. If God vouchfafes them larger Measures of Knowledge, or Virtue, or Riches, or Credit, or Honour; In a Word, of any Bleffing, Temporal or Spiritual: He grudges it not, murmurs not at it, is perfectly contented with the Preference this gives fuch above himself, and feels a fresh Delight, in obferving the Glory of the Giver advanced, and the Ends of the Gift anfwered. This is his Defire, this his Joy, whoever they be, who are chofen for the Inftruments of bringing it about, and how much foever his own Endowments, and Reputation, fhall happen to be eclipfed, by Their brighter Luftre.
4. As Charity regulates our Affection towards Others, fo does it likewife moderate that to our Selves. And therefore the next Quality, by which it is diftinguished, is that of not Vaunting. The Word is, in the Original, obfcure and ambiguous, but feems here chiefly to denote Sedateness and Prudence, Meeknefs and Modesty.: Not being rash and forward, and affuming; Not exercifing our felves in Matters too high for us, as David expreffes it, (Pfal. cxxxi.) nor thrusting into Bufinefs, above our Capacity and proper Sphere. By this we preserve Order and publick Peace, and contentedly keep within the Bounds of that Station, which the Providence of God hath called us to.
Private Men are fatisfied with Obeying, and Thofe who have no lawful Authority, with Learning; The One does not aspire to Government in the State, nor the Other ufurp the Office of Teachers in the Church: For, where thefe Things are inordinately arrrogated, the Perfons guilty of it, betray a Spirit manifeftly defective in this Divine Virtue; by aiming at Posts, which they are by no means qualified for, and fo introducing Mischief and Confufion.
5. Nor does Charity only restrain Men from pretending to Talents they have not, but prevents their being exalted even with those they have. It teaches them to confider thefe, as they are, Gifts and Graces. If these are Spiritual, and fuch as Religion is immediately concern'd in, I have taken another Occafion
to fhew, that they minifter very great
Epift. on 1 Cor.
It may perhaps be enquired, how Pride and a High Conceit of our own Merit or Abilities, which feem to determine in our felves, and to hurt no Body elfe, come to have any influence upon the Duty of Charity, which manifeftly regards fome other Perfon. The Reasons are but too evident, whether we apply them to the Love of God, or that of our Neighbour. It must be oppofite to Charity in the former Senfe, as
it leffens His Goodness in our Eyes, by the very fame Proportions that it raifes our Own. For, the more we attribute to our own Strength or Defert, the more we plainly take off from the largenefs of his Mercy, and confequently from our Obligations to love and ferve him, in return for that Mercy. And Pride can never confift with Charity in the latter Senfe, because bigh and great are in Truth relative Terms, and imply a Comparison with fomething elfe: So that it is not poffible for a Man to reprefent himself thus, without representing his Brethren at the fame time little and low. The confequence whereof must needs be, failure in the Affection firft, and then in all the outward Marks of it, which are, but he who proceeds upon a falfe Computation does not reckon to be, their due. And here we perceive, how juft the Apostle's Method is, and how fuitable to the Ñature and Order of Things, when he goes on to inftance, as the next Character of Charity,
6. That it Doth not behave it felf unfeemly. It brings Men off from that Haughtiness and Scorn in Converfation, which is fo naufeous and offenfive, and fo certain an effect of their being too full of themselves, For in this, as in all other Cafes, a Man's Deportment will be governed by the reigning part of his Mind; and, where that is the Paffion of vicious Self-love, no other Perfon must expect fair Quarter. Quite otherwise the Virtue, we are contemplating. It renders Men engaging and acceptable; chufes much rather to forego or overlook a great deal, than to insist upon what it might in rigour require; It exceeds all the Polishings of the World; because what They direct for Decency and Appearance, This practifes fincerely. It is courteous without Affectation, conde`fcending without Intereft or Defign, and, (according to St. Chryfoftom's Interpretation of the Word) it thinks no good Office, though never fo mean, below