« ZurückWeiter »
tween God and men. Our Lord's kindness to all his brethren disposed him to undertake their salvation, and to expiate their sins, and to taste death for every man;' the effect whereof is an universal reconciliation of God to the world, and an union of men together.
Now the blood of Christ hath cemented mankind; the favor of God embracing all bath approximated and combined all together; so that pow every man is our brother, not only by nature, as derived from the same stock, but by grace, as partaker of the common redemption ; now God · desiring the salvation of all men,' and inviting all men to mercy, our duty must be coextended with God's grace, and our charity must follow that of our Saviour.
We are therefore now to all men, that which one Jew was to another ; yea more than such, our Christianity having induced much higher obligations, stricter alliances, and stronger endearments, than were those whereby Judaism did engage its followers to mutual amity. The duties of common humanity (to which our natural frame and sense do incline us, which philosophy recommendeth and natural religion doth prescribe, being grounded on our community of nature and cognation of blood, on apparent equity, on general convenience and utility) our religion doth not only enforce and confirm, but enhance and improve; superadding higher instances and faster ties of spiritual relation, reaching in a sort to all men, (as being in duty, in design, in remote capacity our spiritual brethren ;) but in especial manner to all Christians, who actually are fellow members of the same holy fraternity, contracted by spiritual regeneration from one heavenly seed, supported by a common faith and hope, strengthened by communion in acts of devotion and charity.
Hereon therefore are grounded those evangelical commands, explicatory of this law as it now standeth in force; that as we have opportunity we should do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith ;' that we should abound in love one towards another, and towards all men ;' that we should glorify God in our professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, by liberally distributing to the saints, and to all men ;' that we should • follow peace with all men,' should
be patient toward all men ;' and 'gentle toward all men,' and show all meekness toward all men ;' and ever follow that which is good both among ourselves, and to all men ;' that we should make supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings for all men,' especially for all saints,' or all our fellow Christians; and express moderation, or ingenuity, 'to all men.'
Such is the object of our charity; and thus did our Lord himself expound it, when by a Jewish lawyer being put to resolve this question, · And who is my neighbor ? he did propound a case, or history, whereby he did extort from that Rabbi this confession, that even a Samaritan, discharging a notable office of humanity and mercy to a Jew, did thereby most truly approve himself a good neighbor to him; and consequently that reciprocal performances of such offices were due from a Jew to a Samaritan ; whence it might appear that this relation of neighborhood is universal and unlimited. So much for the object.
II. As for the qualification annexed and couched in those words, 'as thyself;' that, as I conceive, may import both a rule declaring the nature, and a measure determining the quantity, of that love which is due from us to our neighbor; the comparative term as implying both conformity or similitude, and commensuration or equality.
1. Loving our neighbor as ourselves' doth import a rule, directing what kind of love we should bear and exercise toward bim; or informing us that our charity doth consist in having the same affections of soul, and in performing the same acts of beneficence toward him, as we are ready by inclination, as we are wont in practice to have or to perform toward ourselves, with full approbation of our judgment and conscience, apprehending it just and reasonable so to do.
We cannot indeed better understand the nature of this duty, than by reflecting on the motions of our own heart, and observing the course of our demeanor toward ourselves; for thence infallibly we may be assured how we should stand affected, and how we should behave ourselves toward others.
This is a peculiar advantage of this rule, (inferring the excellent wisdom and goodness of him who framed it,) that by it
very easily and certainly we may discern all the specialties of our duty, without looking abroad or having recourse to external instructions; so that by it we may be perfect lawgivers, and skilful judges, and faithful monitors to ourselves of what in any case we should do: for every one by internal experience knoweth what it is to love himself, every one is conscious how he useth to treat himself; each one consequently can prescribe and decide for himself, what he ought to do toward his neigh. bor: so that we are not only Deodidaktor, “taught of God,' as the Apostle saith, 'to love one another;' but autodidaktoi, taught of ourselves how to exercise that duty : whence our Lord otherwhere doth propose the law of charity in these terms, · Whatsoever ye
would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them, for this is the law and the prophets ;' that is, unto this rule all the special precepts of charity proposed in holy Scripture may be reduced.
Wherefore for information concerning our duty in each case and circumstance, we need only thus to consult and interrogate ourselves, hence forming resolutions concerning our practice.
Do we not much esteem and set by ourselves? Do we not strive to maintain in our minds a good opinion of ourselves? Can any mischances befalling us, any defects observable in us, any faults committed by us induce us to slight or despise ourselves ?- This may teach us what regard and value we should ever preserve for our neighbor.
Do we not sincerely and earnestly desire our own welfare and advantage in every kind? Do we not heartily wish good success to our own designs and undertakings ? Are we unconcerned or coldly affected in any case touching our own safety, our estate, our credit, our satisfaction or pleasure? Do we not especially, if we rightly understand ourselves, desire the health and happiness of our souls ? — This doth inform us what we should wish and covet for our neighbor.
Have we not a sensible delight and complacency in our own prosperity? Do we ever repine at any advantages accruing to our person or condition? Are we not extremely glad to find ourselves thriving and florishing in wealth, in reputation, in any accommodation or ornament of our state ? Especially if we be sober and wise, doth not our spiritual proficiency and improve
ment in virtue yield joyous satisfaction to us? Are we not much comforted in apprehending ourselves to proceed in a hopeful way toward everlasting felicity ?-This may instruct us what content we should feel in our neighbor's prosperity, both temporal and spiritual.
Do we not seriously grieve at our own disasters and disappointments? Are we not in sad dumps, whenever we incur any damage or disgrace? Do not our diseases and pains sorely afflict us? Do we not pity and bemoan ourselves in any want, calamity, or distress? Can we especially, if we are ourselves, without grievous displeasure apprehend ourselves enslaved to sin and Satan, destitute of God's favor, exposed to endless misery ?-Hence may we learn how we should condole and commiserate the misfortunes of our neighbor.
Do we not eagerly prosecute our own concerns? Do we not with huge vigor and industry strive to acquire all conveniences and comforts to ourselves, to rid ourselves of all wants and molestations ? Is our solicitous care or painful endeavor ever wanting toward the support and succor of ourselves in any of our needs ? Are we satisfied in merely wishing ourselves well ? are we not also busy and active in procuring what we affect? Especially, if we are well advised, do we not effectually provide for the weal of our soul, and supply of our spiritual necessities; laboring to rescue ourselves from ignorance and error, from the tyranny of sin, from the torture of a bad conscience, from the danger of hell ?— This showeth how ready we should be really to further our neighbor's good, ministering to him all kinds of assistance and relief suitable to his needs, both corporal and spiritual.
Are we so proud or nice, that we disdain to yield attendance or service needful for our own sustenance or convenience ? do we not indeed gladly perform the meanest and most sordid offices for ourselves ?-- This declareth how condescensive we should be in helping our neighbor, how ready even 'to wash his feet,' when occasion doth require.
Do we love to vex ourselves, or cross our own humor ? do we not rather seek by all means to please and gratify ourselves ?--This may warn us how innocent and inoffensive, how compliant and complacent we should be in our behavior toward others; endeavoring 'to please them in all things,' especially ' for their good to edification.'
Are we easily angry with ourselves, do we retain inplacable grudges against ourselves, or do we execute on ourselves mischievous revenge ? are we not rather very meek and patient toward ourselves, mildly comporting with our own great weaknesses, our troublesome humors, our impertinences and follies ; readily forgiving ourselves the most heinous offences, neglects, affronts, injuries, and outrages committed by us against our own interest, honor, and welfare ?-Hence may we derive lessons of meekness and patience, to be exercised toward our neighbor, in bearing his infirmities and miscarriages, in remitting any wrongs or discourtesies received from him.
Are we apt to be rude in our deportment, harsh in our language, or rigorous in our dealing toward ourselves ? do we pot rather in word and deed treat ourselves very softly, very indulgently? Do we use to pry for faults, or to pick quarrels with ourselves, to carp at any thing said or done by us, rashly or on slight grounds to charge blame on ourselves, to lay heavy censures on our actions, to make foul constructions of our words, to blazon our defects, or aggravate our failings ? do we not rather connive at and conceal our blemishes? do we not excuse and extenuate our own crimes ?
Can we find in our hearts to frame virulent invectives, or to dart bitter taunts and scoffs against ourselves; to murder ou own credit by slander, to blast it by detraction, to maim it by reproach, to prostitute it to be deflowered by jeering and scurrilous abuse ? are we not rather very jealous of our reputation, and studious to preserve it, as a precious ornament, a main fence, a useful instrument of our welfare?
Do we delight to report, or like to hear ill stories of ourselves ? do we not rather endeavor all we can to stifle them; to tie the tongues and stop the ears of men against them ?-Hence may we be acquainted how civil and courteous in our behavior, how fair and ingenuous in our dealing, how candid and mild in our judgment or censure, we should be toward our neighbor ; how very tender and careful we should be of anywise wronging or hurting his fame.
Thus reflecting on ourselves, and making our practice toward