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SUMMARY OF SERMON XXVII.
EPHESIANS, CHAP. V.-VERSE 2.
CHARITY recommended as the main scope of evangelical doctrine : testimony of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James, and St. John to this effect : claimed by our Lord himself for his peculiar law, (John xv. 12. xiii. 34.); and the observance of it is the special badge of his followers. The nature of it will be best understood by a representation of its several chief acts or essential ingredients. Such are those that follow.
I. Loving our neighbor implies that we should value and esteem him : this is necessary, because affection follows opinion: the favorable circumstances in man's nature stated : his excellent faculties; his divine extraction; the redemption made for him, and the glory offered him. How then can any man be deemed contemptible, who has so many noble capacities and privileges ? This point enlarged on.
II. Loving our neighbor implies a sincere and earnest desire for his welfare, and good of all kinds, in due proportion ; for it is a property of love, that it would have its object most worthy of itself, and consequently that it should attain to the best state of which it is capable : this point illustrated. Hence we should readily pour out our prayers, which are the truest expressions of good desire, for the welfare of our neighbor. Example of St. Paul and of St. John in this respect; Rom. x. 1. 3 John ii. 3. &c.
III. Charity implies a complacency or delightful satisfaction in the good of our neighbor: this is consequent on the former property ; for joy naturally results from events agreeable to our desire : especially if our neighbor's spiritual improvement is concerned; and this is the charity which St. Paul so frequently expresses in his epistles (see 2 Cor. xiii. 9. &c.) This is that which possessed St. John (see 3 John 4.) This also is the charity of heaven, which cheers even the angels, and enhances the bliss of the blessed spirits : Luke xv. 7. 10.
IV. Correspondently, love of our veighbor implies condolence and commiseration of the evils that befal him: for what we love we cannot without displeasure behold lying in a bad condition, sinking into decay, or ready to perish. It is the property of charity, to mourn with those that mourn, not coldly, but passionately; for it is, to weep with those that weep: this point illustrated by many Scriptural quotations and examples.
V. It is generally a property of love to appropriate its object; in apprehension and affection embracing it, possessing it, enjoying it as its own : so charity doth make our neighbor to be ours, engaging us to consider his case and his concerns as our own: so also charity doth enlarge our minds beyond private considerations, conferring on them an universal interest, and reducing all the world within the verge of our affectionate care; so that a man's self is but a small portion of his regard.
VI. It is a property of love to affect union, or the greatest approximation that can be, to its object. As hatred sets things at a distance, making them to shun or chase away one another, so love attracts, combines, and holds them fast together.
VII. It is a property of love to desire a reciprocal affection; for that is the surest possession and firmest union, which is grounded on voluntarily conspiring affection : and if we value any person, we cannot but prize his good-will and esteem.
VIII. Hence also charity disposes us to please our neighbor, not only by inoffensive, but by obliging demeanor ; by a ready complaisance and compliance with his humor and his desire in matters lawful, or consistently with duty and discrecion: this point illustrated.
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 sins.
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
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 graces.
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 vópov Pagidekor, 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