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evil conversation. Yet this merciful work of admonition ought to be managed with caution : * there is a particular tenderness due to persons under a present affliction, not only that we may not seem to vex them, whom God hath wounded; and persecute them, whom he hath afflicted; but because men are more susceptible of resentment, in proportion to the greatness of their distress. If the person we reprove be out of our power, we ought to forbear him till his passion is down, till his mind is calm and easy: whoever reprovesa man, when disordered by passion or intemperance, preaches patience to the wind, which the more he endeavours to resist, the louder it will storm. When one is fit to receive a reprehension, we ought to give it with the greatest privacy: if he offend in publick, where there are witnesses, unless the matter be highly scandalous, it is sufficient that weexpress our dislike of it by our looks and the seriousness of our behaviour, and afterwards to shew the folly and danger of his sin in private : to reprove men publickly looks more like malice than mercy; especially till we have first made trialof private reproofs, and found them unsuccessful. Nor with our reproofsought we to minglelightness or drollery, nor passion, nor upbraidings; but to perform this merciful office with modelty, seri- How to be ousness, and compassion : to reprove a man lightly given. or passionately derides and reproaches him for his fin, but never reclaims him from it. Again, weought to reprove him for matters culpable, not to reprehend him for any innocent freedom, not for a very triffing indecency, but only for plain and unquestionable trespasses upon religion : lest he Ihould look upon our reproofs as the language of a proud and ill-natured temper; but rather represent that a vicious state doth weaken and disable men's faculties, impair the health and vigour of their minds, and that for their recovery it is necessary, that their thoughts should be fixed on a confideration of the eviland danger of their fins, and of the blessed hopes which God hath set before them, to renounce and forsake them. And since we see so many sorrowful instances every day amongst men, who in their sober thoughts will
See the duty of a friend on pages 232, 233, 234, 235, 236.
·lament their follies, and blush in the morning when they reIt caf of member how their brains were set on float by their intempe last night's intemperance, who yet, when the next tance. temptation beckons them again, return as greedily to it as ever; and though, when they have repented of their fin, they resolve against it; yet when they are tempted, sin again, and call themselves miserable: we in this case particularly are bound in mercy to recommend their condition to the God of all grace and compassion, to beseech him to take pity on their weakness, and with the out-stretched arm of his grace to touch their dead fouls, and raise them up into a thorough conversion: and tho', in all cases of misery, prayer is a proper work of mercy, yet there is none that so much needs our prayers as this.
Charity requires us to render to our neighbours, friends and acquaintance, who through sickness, imprisonment, persecution, or any other misfortune, have need of our assistance, such good
e offices as do conduce to their supportand recovery; In fickness.
nels. and if their fickness be such as will safely admit of conversation, we are obliged to visit them, to chear their drooping spirits and sorrowful hours with godly conversation, and to administer the supports and comforts of religion; to awaken their minds into serious thoughts and purposes; to resolve their doubts; to comfort and support them with the hopes of glory, and to take all opportunities to prepare their souls for a happy death: that so, whether they recover or no, this sickness of their bodies may contribute to their soul's health; and if they are poor and indigent, to supply them with such remedies as are necessary to their health and recovery.
When a man is in prison, he is in a fort of captivity. Is it To refer not a calamitous condition for a man to be shut up imprisons in a close and unwholesome gaol ; to dwell with ment. hunger and cold, confined to hard lodging and wretched companions; to be with-held from the conversation of friends, from the comforts of diversion, and from business and employment, and all opportunities of making provision for his family in distress? Therefore it is our duty towards these unfortunate men to visit them in this their uncomfortable imprisonment, if they are our friends and ac
. quaintance ;
quaintance; and to divert their sorrows, to strengthen their hopes, and to chear them with assurances of friendship; to use endeavours to soften their adversaries, to vindicate their innocence, or to compound with their creditors, if they are not able to discharge their debts. And whether they are our friends or acquaintance or no, charity obliges us, as we have opportunity and ability, to relieve their necessities, to redress their injuries, to contribute to their enlargements, that they may by their honest industry make provision for those who depend on their honest endeavours. But
Those whoare unjusly perfecuted for consciencefike, who, to secure their souls, are forced to fly, or to submit in case of to spoil and plunder, to imprisonment, and famine perficution. and death, are of all others the greatest objects of our mercy; because they suffer for our common Master, and in our common cause. Therefore if we have any compassion, by what more suitable acts can we express it, than by a kind reception of those, when they fly to us for succour, and a liberal contribution towards their relief and subsistence; and by affisting those with the charity of our prayers, whom we cannot reach with the charity of our alms; by remembering those that are in bonds, to pity and pray for them; and if it were in our power, so to visit and relieve them, as being bound with them; and also to remember those that suffer adversity, as being ourselves also in the body? And
If it should fall to our lot at any time to profecute an offender in a just cause; wemust remember, that tho
.. injuries do give us a right to punish the offender by Secute an ofcourse of law, or by our own power, when at our fender. own disposal; yet, because men's souls are out of the reach of human punishments, we can exact no other penalties of offenders, but such as affect their bodies with thame or pain, with loss of goods, with wearisome labour or confinement; which punishment is an act of mercy, more than an act of revenge, the end of it being to do good, rather than to returnevil for evil: therefore seeing that theend of punishmentis doing good, it ought to be executed with a kind intention; not to discharge our rage, or recreate our malice; but tovindicate our right, to reclaim the offender or terrify others by his pu
ho How to pro
nishment. Consequently, in lighter injuries, suppose a man should give me the lye, or call me names, or abuse me with reproachful language, mercy requires me to remit and forgive the fault, and not to strike and wound him, nor rigidly by a vexatious suit at law to exact the hurt of the offender for such trifling offences as do me no harm.
Again, put the case I have an insolvent debtor, that owes A'debtor.
me a great deal, and can pay me nothing, and it is in
me agt * my power according to the letter of the law to cart him into prison, and force him to languish away his wretched life; to what end shall I inflict this punishment? I cannot hope to recover my own by this means; for a prison will pay no debts, as every body must know. Can I pretend to reform him by it; No; for prisons are fruitful nurseries of all evil. Neither can I warn others by it; for what warning can oblige men to do that which is not in their power?
Hence observe, that he is an unmerciful creditor, who, raWho are ther than abate the least part of his due, will strip unmerciful. his poor debtor to the skin, and reduce him to the utinost extremity; and he is an unmerciful punisher that exacts' to the full desert of the fault, and stretches his right of punishment to the utmost extent, to make the offender miserable without any service to himfelf or to the publick. In a word, mercy requires us to follow the great example of God, who, in the midst of justice, doth always remember mercy; who makes large abatements of his right to punish us, and never exerts the utmost punishment which our iniquities require. Wherefore we are obliged in punishing others to mingle mercy with our feverities, and proportionably to the offender's penitence, or the pitiable circumstance of his fault, or the neceñities of his present condition, to make a favourable allowance. Again,
SUNDAY XII. PART II.
III. This CHARITY is to be shewn towards the goods of Chori in our neighbour, whether he be rich or poor, by respect of assisting and furthering him in all honest ways to goods.
improve and to preserve them. Thus,
· If our rich neighbour is like to suffer loss, we are not to permit it, if it be in our power any way to prevent Towards it; and we must take all opportunities to advance the rich. his profit, when it does not leffen our own substance. But,
If our poor neighbour calls upon our charity, wemustfreely part with our own to supply his neceflities; for, Towards as St. John faith, Whoso hath this world's goods, the poor. and feeth his brother hath need, and shutteth his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
If we fee our brother have need, pinched with hunger, or parched with draught, his hungry family crying for by almswant of bread, and none to give them; children shi- giving. · vering with cold, and drooping with famine, and without any
view of relief, whilst their pined carcases are covered with rags, and more destitute than the beasts of the field, and birds of the air, for want of proper shelter where to lay their heads; then we are obliged by charity to a tender sympathy, to affect our fouls with a compassionate sense of the wants of our poor brethren, and represent their condition as if it were our own: Therefore to relieve the poor is declared by the apostle to be a facrifice wherewith God is well pleased, and accepted by him. And consequently thechurch of Christ hath always joined it, as a proper part of a christian's duty, to the adminiItration of the Lord's fupper, where, among many other such-like fcriptural exhortations, we are commanded to do good, and to distribute forget not. Tho’indeed, if we ourselves are poor and needy, we are not obliged to pinch ourfelves or families, to relieve the necessities of others; for the desire of self preservation being of all others the most vehement passion in our natures, God doth thereby not only Warrant, but direct us to take care of ourselves, and not to facrifice the means of our own preservation to the neceflities of our neighbours. And,
As the obligations we are continually under to practise this duty are great and numerous, it may be use- Mitives to ful to distinguish them under their proper heads, as elmsgiving. they rise from the consideration either of God, our neighbour, or ourselves. And with respect to God, Is it not the As it rething that he has chosen, to loose the bands of speets God.