« AnteriorContinuar »
pride and a haughty mind; for charity vaunteth not itself, is Daire not puffed up: whoever therefore vilifies or disdains
his neighbour, breaks the command, and forfeits his right to the discipleship of Christ. Put on therefore, says the apostle, bowels of mercy, kindness, and humbleness of mind, with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another.
It also casteth out cenforiousness and rash judging : for Cenforiouf- charity thinketh no evil of our neighbour's words wels. or actions; and believeth nothing but what is good of him; and hopeth all things for his welfare and credit. So that it is the want of this virtue, that maketh place for unmerciful censures and rash judgments. D:12 Again, charity is without dissimulation ; disdainblingo eth to speak to a man fair to his face, and injure hir: Lelind his back; and despiseth all little arts and conSchein tiivances for private gain and advantage, which
must rise upon the injury of our neighbour. In a word, Where this christian virtue reigns there can be no malice
nor desire of revenge ; for it beareth all things, let Revenge. them be never fo injurious, opposing prayers and blessings to the hottest persecutors, and leaving the issue and vengeance to the Lord, with a full assurance that he will never suffer his servants to be rooted out.
Now this duty of charity must be extended to the innoGobeer cent and the guilty; we must forgive those that tended oven offend us; which forgiveness to' enemies, peculiar to enemies. to christians, consists in bearing a sincere affection towards them, though they are malicious and implacable. There are two kinds of love, which we must distinguish here; the love of approbation, of esteem, and the love of benevolence or good-will. Now it may be impossible sometimes to pay the former kind of love, in any great degree, to our enemy, as when his vices far over-balance his virtues : we cannot love, with any considerable degree of approbation and complacency, him, who does not appear, upon the whole, lovely to our understanding. But should it be granted, that we could not regard an immoral enemy with any love of
approbation ; yet still this would not excuse us from shewing a love of benevolence and good-will to him. A parent, for instance, is far from approving a child who is stubborn, disobedient and immoral ; yet still his love of benevolence and good-will shall continue in allits force and efficacy: and it is this kind of love which the scripture seems to require from us; ifourenemy hunger, weare to feedhim; if he thirst, we are to give him drink. Christians deceive themselves, if they think it is enough not to wish evil, and to do no harm; for we are obliged to be ready to forgive them, and to remove all milunderstandings. Where let it be oblerved, that forgiveness is chiefly taken for abstaining from revenge; and so far we are to forgive our enemies, even whilst they continue so: and tho’ they do not repent of the evil done to us, we mustalso pray for them, and do them allkindand humane of fices. Again, forgiveness doth signify a perfect reconciliation to those that have offended us, so as to take them again into our friendship; which they are by no means fit for, till they have repented of their hatred : and this is the Motives; meaning of that text, of rebuking our brother if thereunto. he trespass against us, and if he repent to forgive him; which is, according to St. Paul's direction, to forgive others, even as God for Chriít's fake forgiveth us : and which gh we are injoined by the express command of our mand of Saviour, who hath made forgiveness of injuries the Chrifl, &c. condition without which we can expect no pardon of our fins: and hath in his own person set us a pattern of this virtue, which he practised to the height, rendering good for evil to all the world. Moreover, it tends to the comfortand happiness of our lives; patience and forgiveness affording a lasting and folid pleasure, in that they restrain tumultuous and unreasonable passions, and prevent many troubles, which flow from a temper that is malicious and revengeful. Our goodness is then perfected, when we do kindnesses not only without merit and obligation, but in defiance of temptation to dissuade us from it. By such a practice we discover a great mind, obtain the most valuable conquest, because gained over our own pafsions, and shew ourselves to be the image of that God, who is affected towards those who are guilty of
the the greatest provocations against his divine Majesty. ThereThe example fore, considering all these motives, ought we not of God. to infer with the apostle, Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another; especially as our pardon before God depends so much upon our forgiving our enemies?
Which is again inforced by a third consideration of the The diforo difference of our sins against God, and of our neighportion of bour's offences against ourselves. And, in thiscomour offences, parison, let us consider the infinite majesty of God, againji God, Pa and of men's and the equality of human nature in every statiagainst us. on; and this will dictate that we owe a perfect obedience to our Maker, as the God of all power and might; whereas all powers amongst men are ordained of God. So all that we enjoy of the necessaries, comforts, or satisfactions of life, are out of the abundance of his goodness and mercy; and they that do not thankfully acknowledge his free gifts are guilty of the greatest ingratitude; an ingratitude no ways applicable to men, because they differ as much as time and eternity. And lastly, we never fin, but we break God's commands and offend him ; but the most envious and malicious person can never find those frequent opportunities to offend his fellow-creature. Which disproportion of our offences against God and man is excellently described in the parable of the lord who forgave his servant ten thousand talents, and of that fame servant that would not forgive his fellowservant one hundred pence.
These considerations may still be heightened by that pleaPleafantness fure, which they feel who are constant in the pracof this duty. tice of this great duty; and whose delight may be discerned even at a distance, by comparing it with the disgrace and uneasiness, which its contraries, revenge and malice, constantly produce, both to our bodies and minds: As also by the manifest and dreadful hazard they run, never to be pardoned of God, who forgive not those that have offended them: and lastly, in consideration of that thankfulness to God and Christ, who of his free grace sent his beloved Son to die for us hisenemies, and (having brought us into a capa
city of happiness) expects such terms as his love exemplifies and demands.
All which confiderations will effectually take place in those minds where the first beginnings of rancour, The first rimalice, and revenge are opposed and stified; and fing of ranwithout this care, neither those, nor any other mo- be supporter tives to christian charity can ever find a place in the fed." heart: because these rather serve to prevent than to cure the wound. Let us therefore cultivate that love, in which there is no torment: whereas a soul imbittered with revenge is a perpetual seat of war. Whatever disturbs the calm easy course of our passions must make us miserable. The life of an angry and revengeful man is all over storm and tempest; he is like a troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. He is a stranger to peace, and all the blessed fruits and effects of it; (for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work :) his mind is continually restless and uneasy, agitated to and fro with the violent force of unruly passions, which lead him on from one evil to another, and hurry him many times into those that are of a very mischievous consequence.
Thus I have done with that part of christian charity, which regards our affections towards our neighbour : Therefore,
II. In the next place, I shall treat of the CHARITY of our actions : from charitable and benevolent,
It Of charity thoughts, the transition is unavoidable to charita- in our acble actions. For the man, that has a hearty deter- tions. ininate will to be charitable will seldom put off men with the mere will for the deed. For, as St. James teacheth in regard to faith, our cold love is dead, if we don't approve our hearts before God by such works of mercy, as shall convince our neighbour, that we sincerely desire the good of his soul, body, goods, and credit. As I said before, that the soul of man has a natural signification; so now I observe again, that the mind of man is in that sense understood, to which not only our good wilhes are to extend, but whenever our.c. neighbour's mind is oppressed with any heaviness, ihe mind of
"Towards we must endeavour to comfort and refresh him, our neigha by all the christian counsel and advice we are able. bor And
If the foul, in its more noble and spiritual acceptation,
, be cast down with any dreadful or despairing His goal.. thoughts, we are still more concerned to attempt His foul. our neighbour's support: Or, if our neighbour does wilfully run into fin, we muit do what lies in our power, in person, or by other proper means, to reclaim him from the evil of his ways: and though they should all prove ineffectual, we must not cease to pray or even to weep in secret for him; because he keeps not God's laws, and because he will not know the things that belong to his peace; for such a neglect is a sin: therefore says Samuel, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, in ceasing to pray for you ; when he could not dissuade the people from their evil courses.
The body must also partake of our charity: for as St. James
ituin likewise observes, If a brother or sister be naked, respect of and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto the body. them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled ; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit either the afflicted or your own soul; for let that man, whose charity only shews itself in his lips, recollect that our Saviour requires the relieve ing of our neighbour's bodily wants, as a necessary part of our duty; and promises to make it a part of his inquiry at the judgment in the last day; and upon those, that wilfully omit it, he has already pronounced that dreadful sentence, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. Therefore, let usendeavour to escape those dreadful judgments, by exercising our charity according to these general heads, at least, set down in the same chapter, by giving meat to the hungry, and drink to the thirsty, harbouring the stranger, cloathing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned: that is to fay, we must lay hold on all opportunities to assist our necefsitous brethren; and, with the good Samaritan, make no distinction of nation or party, but do all the good in our power, and look upon every object, as a call from heaven to put our pious intentions in practice. Wherefore
Charity towards our neighbour requires us, when we fee Reproof and an obstinate finner, to give him feasonable reproofs admonition, and tender admonitions, to reclaim him from his