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SERM. And so indeed it is: if we rightly did apprehend
the infinite vanity of all worldly goods, the meanness of private concerns, the true despicableness of all those honours, those profits, those delights on which commonly men do so dote, we should not be so fond or jealous of them, as to scrape or scuffle for them, envying or grudging them to others; if we did conceive the transcendent worth of future rewards allotted to this and other virtues, the great considerableness of public good at which charity aimeth, the many advantages which may accrue to us from our neighbour's welfare, (entertained with complacence, and wisely accommodated to our use,) we should not be so averse from tendering his good as our own.
2. Let us consider our real state in the world, in dependence upon the pleasure and providence of Almighty God.
If we look upon ourselves as subsisting only by our own care and endeavour, without any other patronage or help, it may thence prove hard to regard the interests of others as comparable to our own; seeing then, in order to our living with any convenience, it is necessary that we should be solicitous for our own preservation and sustenance, that will engage us to contend with others as competitors for the things we need, and uncapable otherwise to attain : but if (as we ought to do, and the true state of things requireth) we consider ourselves as subsisting under the protection, and by the providence of God, who no less careth for us than for others, and no less for
others than for us; (for, as the Wise Man saith, he 'Ouesíws di careth for all alike ;) who recommendeth to us a
being mutually concerned each for other, and is enSap. vi. 7. gaged to keep us from suffering thereby; who com.
mandeth us to disburden our cares upon himself; SERM. who assuredly will the better provide for us, as we XXVI. do more further the good of others : if we do consider thus, it will deliver us from solicitude concerning our subsistence and personal accommodations, whence we may be free to regard the concerns of others, with no less application than we do regard our own.
As living under the same government and laws (being members of one commonwealth, one corporation, one family) disposeth men not only willingly but earnestly to serve the public interest, beyond any hopes of receiving thence any particular advantage answerable to their pain and care; so considering ourselves as members of the world, and of the church, under the governance and patronage of God, may disengage us from immoderate respect of private good, and incline us to promote the common welfare.
3. There is one plain way of rendering this duty possible, or of perfectly reconciling charity to selflove ; which is, a making the welfare of our neighbour to be our own: which if we can do, then easily may we desire it more seriously, then may we promote it with the greatest zeal and vigour: for then it will be an instance of self-love to exercise charity; then both these inclinations conspiring will march evenly together, one will not extrude nor depress the other.
It may be hard, while our concerns appear divided, not to prefer our own; but when they are coincident, or conspire together, the ground of that partiality is removed.
Nor is this an imaginary course, but grounded in
SERM, reason, and thereby reducible to practice : for consiXXVI. dering the manifold bands of relation (natural, civil,
or spiritual) between men, as naturally of the same kind and blood, as civilly members of the same society, as spiritually linked in one brotherhood; considering the mutual advantages derivable from the wealth and welfare of each other, in way of needful succour, advice, and comfort, of profitable commerce, of pleasant conversation ;) considering the mischiefs which from our neighbour's indigency and affliction we may incur, they rendering him as a wild beast, unsociable, troublesome, and formidable to us; considering that we cannot be happy without good nature, and good humour, and that good na-. ture cannot behold any sad object without pity and dolorous resentment, good humour cannot subsist in prospect of such objects ; considering that charity is an instrument, whereby we may apply all our neighbour's good to ourselves, it being ours, if we can find complacence therein ; it may appear reasonable to reckon all our neighbour's concerns to our account.
That this is practicable, experience may confirm ; for we may observe, that men commonly do thus appropriate the concerns of others, resenting the disasters of a friend or of a relation with as sensible displeasure as they could their own; and answerably finding as high a satisfaction in their good fortune. Yea many persons do feel more pain by compassion for others, than they could do in sustaining the same evils ; divers can with a stout heart un. dergo their own afflictions, who are melted with those of a friend or brother. Seeing then in true judgment humanity doth match any other relation,
and Christianity far doth exceed all other alliances, SERM.
XXVI. why may we not on them ground the like affections and practices, if reason hath any force, or consideration can anywise sway in our practice ?
4. It will greatly conduce to the perfect obseryance of this rule, to the depression of self-love, and advancement of charity to the highest pitch, if we do studiously contemplate ourselves, strictly examining our conscience, and seriously reflecting on our unworthiness and vileness; the infirmities and defects of nature, the corruptions and defilements of our soul, the sins and miscarriages of our lives : which doing, we shall certainly be far from admiring or doting on ourselves; but rather, as Job did, we shall condemn and abhor ourselves : when we see Job ix. 20. ourselves so deformed and ugly, how can we be amiable in our own eyes ? how can we more esteem or affect ourselves than others, of whose unworthiness we can hardly be so conscious or sure ? What place can there be for that vanity and folly, for that pride and arrogance, for that partiality and injustice, which are the sources of immoderate self-love ?
5. And lastly, we may from many conspicuous experiments and examples be assured that such a practice of this duty is not impossible ; but these I have already produced and urged in the precedent discourse, and shall not repeat them again.
THE NATURE, PROPERTIES, AND ACTS OF
13. Gal. v. 2
Ephes. v. 2.
And walk in love. SERM. ST. Paul telleth us, that the end of the commandXXVII. ment (or the main scope of the evangelical doctrine) 1 Tim. i. 5. is charity, out of a pure heart and a good con
science, and faith unfeigned ; that charity is a ge1 Cor. xvi. neral principle of all good practice; (let all your Gal. v. 14. things be done in charity ;) that is the sum and Rom. xiii. 8, 9. ill. abridgment of all other duties, so that he that lov
eth another, hath fulfilled the whole law; that it is 1 Cor. xiii. the chief of the theological virtues; the prime fruit Gal. v. 22. of the divine Spirit, and the band of perfection, Col. iii. 14.
· which combineth and consummateth all other graces. 2 Pet. i. 7. St. Peter enjoineth us that to all other virtues we
should add charity, as the top and crown of them ; 1 Pet. iv. 8. and, Above all things, saith he, have fervent cha
rity among yourselves. Jam. ii. 8. St. James styleth the law of charity vóuov Bacchekòv,
the royal, or sovereign, law. 1 John iii. St. John calleth it, in way of excellence, the com21. ***** mandment of God; This is his commandment, that
we should love one another. John xv. 12. Our Lord claimeth it for his peculiar law; This
is my commandment; and, A new commandment I
23, 11. iv.
John xv. 12. xiii. 34.