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to his heavenly Father: However, he will not fail, at least once every time he Riseth, us: and once every time he goes to Rest, to offer Me up a folemn Sacrifice of Prayer, and Praise.com Less than this, I say, he must not do, for fear Du he break the Commandment of praying frequently, praying continually. But more than this it will become him to do, in order to the giving himself Satisfaction, that he hath fully performed it. .
Thus again, To give Alms to the Poor, is an indispensable Duty of our Religion. But what Proportion of our Substance we are to give away in Alms and Charity, is no where fet down; but is wholly left to our Discretion. Now in this case, it is certainly, much more adviseable to give liberally, and largely, and plentifully, even as much as our Condition in this World, and the Necessities of our Families can allow; though by so doing, we shall prove to have given in greater Abundance
than we were ftri&ly obliged to: than by · giving singily and pinchingly, now and then a little Pocket-money or so, to run the Hazard of being Transgressors of the Commandment, and having our Portion among the Covetous and Unmerciful. .. .in - There is no Damage comes to a Man by doing the former ; but, on the contrary, a great deal of Good: For God never fails bounteously to reward the bountiful Hand.. But there is both Damage and infinite Danger in the latter. And thus we are to practise in all other Duties..... .:
... Only this Caution we must take along with us; That we are always fo to proportion the Measures of every single Duty, as to render it consistent with the Performance of the other Duties of our Lives.
As for Instance, We must not spend so ‘much Time in Prayer, as to hinder the Pursuit of our Callings, and necessary Business. We must so give Alms, as yet to leave ourselves enough to pay every one their own, and to make a competent Provision for our Families. But let us but take care to secure this, and then we cannot easily exceed in the Measures of any Duty. The more we Pray, and the more we give Alms, still the better : And so in all other Instances of Duty.
But now in the Second Place, the quite contrary to this, are we to practise, in Matters of Liberty. There the Rule is, rather to take less than is allowed us, than to take all : Raa ther to abridge ourselves of our Lawful Liberties, than by doing all that we may Lawfully do, indanger our falling into Sin. : There is no harm at all in departing from our Rights and Privileges with which God hath indulged us: But there is a great harm in extending them beyond their Bounds. There is no Evil in not gratifying our Desires and Appetites in all the Things they crave, which are allowable, and which we are permitted to gratify them in: But there is an infinite Evil in gratifyingthem in unlawful,forbidden Instances. And, therefore, every wise and good Man, will be sure to keep on the safe Side; and to pre- vol. I.
vent the Danger of doing more than he should do, he will not always do all that he may do.
The Truth is, That Man that makes no Scruple of using his Liberty to the utmost Stretch and Extent of it upon all Occasions, and regards nothing more in his Actions, than just that he do not fall in some direct Sin; that Man cannot always be innocent, but will be drawn into a Hundred Irregularities and Miscarriages.
Thus for Example, he that useth himself to eat or to drink to the utmost Pitch that can be said to be within the Limits of Temperance, it is impossible but such a one will, now and then, be unavoidably overtaken in the Sin of Gluttony or Drunkenness.
He that will use all the Liberties, that the Law allows him, for the making Advantages to himself in his Trade, or his Dealings with other Men; such a one will not be able to avoid the juft Imputation of being in many Instances an Oppressor, or a hard Conscienced Man.
The fafest Way, therefore if we mean to preserve our Virtue, amidst the, Multitude of Snares and Temptations that we meet with in the World, is to set Bounds even to our Lazeful Liberties; to keep our Actions within such a Compass, as not to come even near the Confines of Vice and Sin. .
Though it is but a Point, and that often an undiscernable one, that distinguisheth between what is Lawful and what is Unlawfoil; yet there is a great Latitude in what is lawful. That is, if I gratify my Appetites but a little, I do that which is lawful, and if I gratify
them more, I may do that which is lawful likewise : But he shews the most Honest and Virtuous Mind, that in his Actions takes but a little of this Latitude, and by that Means, keeps himself at a good distance from that which is Vicious and Criminal.
III. But Thirdly and Lastly, To what degree soever we may think fit to make use of our Liberty, yet at all Times, As foon as we begin to doubt or fear we have gone as far as we larefully can go ; it is then high Time to break off, and to proceed no farther. This is the last Rule I have to offer upon this Occasion. And thus also, where-ever we have à just Ground of Suspicion or Doubt, whether a Thing be lawful or no; this Doubt or Suspicion, is of itself Reafon enough to make us forbear that thing: Unless indeed there be a Neceffity, or a great Charity to be served by the doing of it, which may in Reason over-ballance the Suspicion of its Lawfulness.
Thys in Matters of Recreation, if we have the least doubt, whether this or the other Pleasure or Divertisement be innocent and lawful; why that is Argument enough, without more ado, to make us forbear it; though perhaps, we fee others use it without Scruple.
Thus in Matters of Temperance, when we first · begin to suspect that we have drunk as much as is convenient for us; let us by all Means leave off, and break from the Company.
Thus in Matters of Sobriety, when we have Reason to doubt, that we are come up to the full Bounds of the Christian Gravity and
Modesty; and that any degree more of Pomp or Bravery in our Garb, or in our Attendance, or in our Equipage, will relish of Pride or Vanity, or Affectation; it is high Time, rather to abate something of our Sumptuousness in these Things, than to proceed any farther,
And thus, Lastly, in Matters of Equity and Justice, when we first begin to have a Sufpicion, that such a Practice is an Indirect or Knavis Trick, or that we are too fevere and hard upon a Man, upon whoni we have got an Advantage; why this Suspicion alone is enough in reason to check us in our Career, and to put us upon more fair and moderate Courses. : This is a Rule, that will for ever be fit for us to practise ; for it is grounded upon Eternal Reason. Indeed, it is as old as Morality: Quod dubitas, re feceris : Do nothing that you doubt of, is a Máxim that obtain'd among the Heathens, as well as among us Christians.
I dare not, indeed, say, that this Rule holds univerfally in all Cafes; for Cafes do sometimes happen, wherein it will be advifable for a Man to act even against his Doubts. But in such Matters as I am now speaking of, Matters wherein a Man is at perfect Liberty, to act or not to act; in all such Cafes, it will always, without Exception, be a true, and a Tafc, and a wise Rule. And I am fure, if Men would seriously charge themselves with the Practice of it, they would hereby prevent a multitude of Sins and Transgressions, with which they usually inflame their Accounts against the Day of Judgment.