« EdellinenJatka »
ments; the imprisonments, the stripes, the reproaches, SERM.
XXV. the oppositions and persecutions of every kind, and from all sorts of people, which he suffered; the 2 Cor. xi.
. 23. iv. 8. pinching wants, the desperate hazards, the lament- 1 Cor. iv. able distresses with the which he did ever conflict :' peruse those black catalogues of his afflictions registered by himself; then tell me how much his charity was inferior to his self-love ? did not at least the one vie with the other, when he, for the benefit of his disciples, was content to be absent Phil. i. 24. from the Lord, or suspended from a certain fruition of glorious beatitude; resting in this uncomfortable state, in this fleshly tabernacle wherein he 2 Cor. v. 1, groaned, being burdened, and longing for enlargement? Did he not somewhat beyond himself love those men, for whose salvation he wished himself accursed from Christ, or debarred from the as- Rom. ix. 3. sured enjoyment of eternal felicity; those very 2 Cor. xi. men by whom
non 24, 25. he had been stoned, had been "Thess. ii. scourged, had been often beaten to extremity, from 15. whom he had received manifold indignities and outrages ?
Did not they love their neighbours as themselves, Acts iv. 34. who sold their possessions, and distributed the prices of them for relief of their indigent brethren? Did not most of the ancient saints and fathers mount near the top of this duty, of whom it is by unquestionable records testified, that they did freely bestow all their private estate and substance on the poor, devoting themselves to the service of God and edification of his people ? Finally,
Did not our Lord himself in our nature exemplify this duty, yea by his practice far outdo his precept?
SERM. For, he who from the brightest glories, from the imXXV.
mense riches, from the ineffable joys and felicities of his celestial kingdom, did willingly stoop down to assume the garb of a servant, to be clothed with the infirmities of flesh, to become a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief: he who for our sake vouchsafed to live in extreme penury and disgrace, to feel hard want, sore travail, bitter persecution, most grievous shame and anguish: he who not only did contentedly bear, but purposely did choose to be ac
cused, to be slandered, to be reviled, to be mocked, Rom. v. 6. to be tortured, to pour forth his heart-blood upon a 8, 1o. 1 Pet.iii.18. cross, for the sake of an unprofitable, an unworthy, Eph. ii. 1. Col. ii. 13. an impious, an ingrateful generation ; for the salvaChrys..... tion of his open enemies, of base apostates, of perEph.Or. vii." iu 1 Cor. verse rebels, of villainous traitors : he who, in the Or. xxxii.
height of his mortal agonies, did sue for the pardon of his cruel murderers ; who did send his apostles to them, did cause so many wonders to be done before them, did furnish all means requisite to convert and save them : he that acted and suffered all this,
and more than can be expressed, with perfect frankHeb. xii. 2. ness and good-will ; did he not signally love his
neighbour as himself, to the utmost measure ? did not in him virtue conquer nature, and charity triumph over self-love? This he did to seal and impress his dottrine ; to shew us what we should do, and what we can do by his grace; to oblige us and
to encourage us unto a conformity with him in this Eph. w... respect; for, Walk in love, saith the apostle, as 1 John iii.
Christ hath also loved us, and hath given himself John xv. 12. xiii. 34. for us; and, This, saith he himself, is my com
mandment, that ye love one another as I have loved
you : and how can I better conclude, than in the re- SERM. commendation of such an example ?
XXV. Now, our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God 2 Thess. ii. even our Father, who hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work,
OF THE LOVE OF OUR NEIGHBOUR.
Matt. xxii. 39.
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. SERM. I HAVE formerly discoursed on these words, and XXVI.
then shewed how they do import two observable particulars: first a rule of our charity, or that it should be like in nature; then a measure of it, or that it should be equal in degree to the love which we do bear to ourselves. Of this latter interpretation I did assign divers reasons, urging the observance of the precept according to that notion : but one material point, scantiness of time would not allow me to consider; which is the removal of an exception, to which that interpretation is very liable, and which is apt to discourage from a serious application to the practice of this duty so expounded.
If, it may be said, the precept be thus understood, as to oblige us to love our neighbours equally with ourselves, it will prove unpracticable, such a charity being merely romantic and imaginary; for who doth, who can love his neighbour in this degree ? Nature powerfully doth resist, common sense plainly doth forbid that we should do so: a natural instinct doth prompt us to love ourselves, and we are forcibly driven thereto by an unavoidable sense of pleasure and pain, resulting from the constitution of our
body and soul, so that our own least good or evil SERM. are very sensible to us : whereas we have no such XXVI potent inclination to love others ; we have no sense, or a very faint one, of what another doth enjoy or endure: doth not therefore nature plainly suggest, that our neighbour's good cannot be so considerable to us as our own ? especially when charity doth clash with self-love, or when there is a competition between our neighbour's interest and our own, is it possible that we should not be partial to our own side ? is not therefore this precept such as if we should be commanded to fly, or to do that which natural propension will certainly hinder ?
In answer to this exception I say, first,
1. Be it so, that we can never attain to love our neighbour altogether so much as ourselves, yet may it be reasonable that we should be enjoined to do so; for
Laws must not be depressed to our imperfection, nor rules bent to our obliquity : but we must ascend toward the perfection of them, and strive to conform our practice to their exactness. If what is prescribed be according to the reason of things just and fit, it is enough, although our practice will not reach it; for what remaineth may be supplied by repentance and humility in him that should obey, by mercy and pardon in him that doth command.
In the prescription of duty it is just, that what may be required, even in rigour, should be precisely determined, though in execution of justice or dispensation of recompense consideration may be had of our weakness; whereby both the authority of our governor may be maintained, and his clemency glorified.