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MAT. VII. 12.
Therefore all Things whatfoever ye would that Men fhould do to you, do ye even fo to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets.
The First Sermon on this Text.
N the End of this Sermon on the Mount, we
have several general Exhortations of our Saviour's, all tending to remove whatever might obftruct the good Effects of it among his Hearers; I mean, whatever might hinder their putting in Practice what he had enjoined them.
One Thing, which might have hindred their fetting about that holy Practice, namely, the Want of Strength and Ability for it, we have heard how he obviated, by directing them to Prayer, as the certain Way and Means to obtain fuch a Measure of Grace as should enable them to obferve his Precepts, though ever fo perfect.
Another Thing apt to deter Men from attempting the Chriftian Obedience here required, is the great Number of Duties enjoined, that it is not easy to fuppofe any one's Memory could retain them all, or that we fhould always have the Presence of Mind to put them in Practice readily upon all Occafions; befides the many
[SERM. Rules concerning the Degrees of Perfection, to which that Obedience is required. For our Saviour had not offered to enumerate or speak to them all, but had only treated of fuch as were either defectively explained by the Jewish Doctors of those Days, or had been delivered imperfectly by Mofes himself, because of the Hardness of their Hearts; or wanted to be cleared from fome Blemishes, which the bad Examples of the Scribes and Pharifees had incorporated and intermixed with them. For preventing and answering this Defect of Memory, which likewise darkens the Understanding, our Saviour furnishes us here with a fhort Compend of our Duty. In the Words immediately preceding, he had given them a right Notion of God, as of a loving Father, able and ready to relieve them upon their Application to him. This Notion, among other good Effects of it, was exceedingly adapted to stir them up to the Love of God, which is the Sum and Subftance of the firft Table of the Law ; and now in the Words I have read, he teaches them the Sum and Subftance of their Duty to their Neighbour; required in the fecond Table. And this he infers by way of Confequence, from what he had taught of the Love of God to those who address him. The foregoing Words were: If ye then being Evil, know how to give good Gifts unto your Children, how much more fhall your Father which is in Heaven, give good Things to them that afk him? Then follow the Words of the Text: Therefore all Things whatsoever ye would that Men fhould do to you, do ye even fo to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets.
In which Words we may obferve these Three Things.
1. The Dependance of this Rule on the foregoing Doctrine, in the Particle therefore.
2. The Rule itself: All things whatsoever ye would that Men fhould do to you, do ye even fo
3. Our Saviour's honourable Character of this Rule. For this is the Law and the Prophets.
I. I begin with the Dependance of this Rule on the foregoing Doctrine. Therefore all Things whatsoever ye would that Men fhould do to you, do ye even fo to them, q. d. Since God fo loves his Creatures, fee that ye imitate him in this, and that ye love your Neighbours as yourselves; by treating them, as ye would wish they should treat you in the like Circumstances. As to the Dependance of this Rule on the former Doctrine, it may be accounted for by a threefold Confe quence: namely, by Way of Imitation of God in his Goodness; and by Way of Gratitude to him for it and from his Relation of a loving Father to us; which makes us all Brethren.
1. By Imitation of his Goodness, q. d. If God delights fo much in loving his poor Creatures, and in doing them good; therefore if ye would approve yourselves as the genuine Children of God, ftudy in this to resemble your heavenly Father, namely in doing good to all, and in loving all, as ye would with to be loved and to be done well by yourselves. As there is no better Mark of a Child's being genuine, not fpurious, than his refembling him, who should be VOL. IV. N
[SERM his Father; fo there is no furer Mark of a Child of God, than the resembling him in his Love and Goodness to his Creatures. And fo the Confequence, I think, may be well accounted for ; that fince God loves us as a tender Father doth his own Child, therefore we should love one another with a very intent Love, fuch as this is, which we have all for ourselves; that whatfoever we would that Men fhould do to us, we fhould do fo to them.
2. Another Way, this Precept may follow from the former Doctrine, is, by Way of Gratitude for God's Love and Goodness to us; q. d. If God is fo exceeding kind to you, the best Way ye can fhew your Gratitude for it, (fince we cannot better gratify him by any of our Services,) is to be kind to one another; fo kind, as to fet our Self-love and our Love of our Neighbour upon the fame Footing.
3. Thirdly, This Doctrine follows well from the Relation of God, as a loving Father to, us his Creatures; for if he is our Father, then we are all Brothers and Sifters. If he is fo nearly related to us as a Father, we are nearly related to one another as Brethren. So much for the Connexion, denoted by the Particle Therefore.
II. I proceed next to the Rule itself. All Things whatsoever ye would that Men should do to you, do ye even fo to them. For understanding of this Rule, (the Shortness of it making it liable to Mifinterpretation,) there are feveral Things to be gathered from the Circumftances, which will ferve to guard us against the Mif-understanding, and Mifapplication of it.
1. First then, We are to confider that this whole Discourse of our Saviour's, is a Difcourse of Chriftian Duties; and that this Compend is brought in both to refresh their Memories, as to the Duties our Saviour had already described in this Sermon, and to fupply that Part of Duty, which he had not spoke to. And therefore the Words, All Things whatsoever ye would that Men fhould do to you, must be limited to the Point of Duty. The all Things here, is all Duties;
If ye would know in all Cafes and Circumstances whatsoever, what is your Duty to your Neighbour, take this Rule for it; fuppofe yourself in his Place, and him in your's, and then afk your felf the Question, what you would defire and expect of him as his Duty to you in fuch and fuch Circumftances; and, according to the im partial Anfwer of this Queftion, do ye fo by him. The Question then we are here to put to ourfelves, is only a Question of Duty, and of nothing elfe. This one Confideration cuts off all other foolish and unreasonable Defires, which, from the general Sound of the Words, might feem to be here meant, and is to be limited to fuch Defires as we reasonably think, and expect fhould be complied with in Point of Duty by our Neighbour towards us, in the like Circumstances.
2. Thefe Words, which I added laft, concerning the Equality of the Circumftances, muft be carefully minded, to prevent a dangerous Error in the Interpretation of this Rule. For it was never our Saviour's Defign to fet all Men upon the Level, by taking away all Diftinction between Princes and Subjects, Mafters and Servanis, Parents, and Children, and in fhort, beN 2