Page images

SERM. like? Hath not God declared that he hath a special reXXVII. gard to fuch? And are not such things commonly dif

posed by his hand with a gracious intent?

Is it for meanness of parts, or abilities, or endowments? But are not these the gifts of God, absolutely at his disposal, and arbitrarily distributed or preserved; so that thou who art so wife in thy own conceit to-day, mayest, by a disease, or from a judgment, deserved by thy pride,

become an idiot to-morrow? Have not many good, and 7 Cor. i. 26. therefore many happy inen, wanted those things ?

Is it for moral imperfections or blemishes; for vicious habits, or actual misdemeanours? These indeed are the only debasements and disparagements of a man; yet do they not expunge the characters of Divinity impressed on his nature; and he may by God's mercy recover from them. And are not we ourselves, if grace do not uphold us, liable to the fame? Yea, may we not, if without partiality or flattery we examine ourselves, discern the same within us, or other defects equivalent? And, however, is

not pity rather due to them than contempt? Whofe chaLuke xviii. racter was it, that they trusted they were righteous, and 9. xvi. 15. despised others ? That the most palpable offender should

not be quite despised, God had a special care in his Law,

for that end moderating punishment, and restraining the Deut. xxv. number of stripes; If, faith the Law, the wicked man be

worthy to be beaten, the judge fhall caufe him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. Forty sripes he may give him, and not exceed : left, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.

We may consider that the common things, both good and bad, wherein men agree, are far more considerable than the peculiar things wherein they differ; to be a man is much beyond being a lord, or a wit, or a philofopher; to be a Christian doth infinitely surpass being an emperor, or a learned clerk; to be a finner is much worse than to be a beggar, or an idiot. The agreement of men is in the substance and body of things; the difference is in a cir


cumstance, a fringe, or a shadow about them; so that we SERM. cannot despise another man, without reflecting contempt XXVII. on ourselves, who are so very like him, and not confiderably better than he, or hardly can without arrogance pretend to be fo.

We may therefore, and reason doth require that we tould value our neighbour; and it is no impoflible or unreasonable precept which St. Peter giveth us, to honour all 1 Pet. ii. 17. men ; and with it a charitable mind will easily comply: it ever will descry something valuable, something honourable, something amiable in our neighbour; it will find somewhat of dignity in the meanett, somewhat of worth in the basest, somewhat hopeful in the most dege- 1 Cor.xiii.76 nérate of men; it therefore will not absolutely night or scorn any man whatever, looking on him as an abject or forlorn wretch, unworthy of confideration,

It is indeed a point of charity to see more things eftimable in others than in ourselves; or to be apprehensive of more defects meriting disesteem in ourselves than in others; and consequently in our opinion to prefer others before us, according to those apoftolical precepts, Be Rom. xii. kindly affected one toward another with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another. In lowliness of mind let Phil. ii. 3. each esteem other better than themselves. Be subject one to 1 Pet. v. 5. another.

II. Loving our neighbour doth imply a fincere and carnest desire of his welfare, and good of all kinds, in due proportion : for it is a property of love, that it would have its object moft worthy of itself, and consequently that it should attain the best state whereof it is capable, and persist firm therein; to be fair and plump, to flourish and thrive without diminution or decay; this is plain to experience in respect to any other thing (a horse, a flower, a building, or any such thing) which we pretend to love : wherefore charity should dispose us to be thus affected to our neighbour; so that we do not look upon his condition or affairs with an indifferent eye or cold heart, but are much concerned for him, and put forth hearty wishes for his interests : we should with him adorned with all


SERM. virtue, and accomplished with all worthy endowments of XXVII. soul; we should wish him prosperous success in all bis

designs, and a comfortable satisfaction of his desires ; we fhould wish him with alacrity of mind to reap the fruits of his industry, and to enjoy the best accommodations of his life. Not formally and in compliment, as the mode is, but really and with a cordial sense, upon his undertaking any enterprise, we should with him good speed; upon any prosperous success of his endeavours, we should bid him joy; wherever he is going, whatever he is doing, we should wish him peace and the presence of God with him : we should tender his health, his safety, his quiet, his reputation, his wealth, his prosperity in all respects; but especially with peculiar ardency we should defire his final welfare, and the happiness of his soul, that being incomparably his chief concern.

Hence readily should we pour forth our prayers, which are the truest expressions of good defire, for the welfare of our neighbour, to him who is able to work and be stow it.

Such was the charity of St. Paul for his countrymen, Rom. x. 1. fignified in those words, Brethren, my heart's depre and

prayer to God for Ifrael is, that they may be saved ; fuch

was his love to the Philippians, God is my record, how . Phil. i. 8. greatly I long after you all, in the bowels of Jesus Chrift: 2 Cor. xiii. and this I pray, that


abound more and more in knowledge, and in all judgment.

Such was St. John's charity to his friend Gaius, to 3 John 2. whom he said, Beloved, I wish above all things that thou

mayr profper and be in health, even as thy foul prospereth.

Such is the charity, which we are enjoined to express1 Tim. ii. 3. toward all men, by praying for all men, in conformity to

the charity of God, who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Such is the charity we are commanded to use toward Matt. V. 44. our enemies, lleshing those who curse us, and praying for

those who despitefully use us, and persecute us; the which Acts vii. 60. was exemplified by our Lord, by St. Stephen, by all the 1 Cor. iv, 12.

holy Apostles.

[ocr errors]


Luke xxiii. 34.



III. Charity doth imply a complacence or delightful SERM. satisfaction in the good of our neighbour ; this is conse- XXVII. quent on the former property, for that joy naturally doth refult from events agreable to our desire : charity hath a good eye, which is not offended or dazzled with the lustre of its neighbour's virtue, or with the splendour of his fortune, but vieweth either of them steadily with pleasure, as a very delightful spectacle ; it beholdeth him to profper and flourish, to grow in wealth and repute, not only without envious repining, but with gladsome content: its property is to rejoice with them that rejoice ; to partake of Rom. xii. their enjoyments, to feast in their pleasures, to triumph in their success.

As one member doth feel the health and the delight 1 Cor. xii. which another immediately doth enjoy; so hath a.charitable man a sensible complacence in the welfare and joy of his neighbour.

His prosperity of any kind, in proportion to its importance, doth please him ; but especially his fpiritual proficiency and improvement in virtue doth yield matter of content; and his good deeds he beholdeth with abundant satisfaction.

This is that instance of charity which St. Paul so fre- 2 Cor. xiii.. quently doth express in his Epistles, declaring the extreme joy he did feel in the faith, in the virtue, in the or-iv. 1. derly conversation of those brethren to whom he writeth. 9. ii. 19.

This charity possessed St. John, when he said, I have no 3 John 4. greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

This is the charity of heaven, which doth even cheer the angels, and doth enhance the bliss of the blessed fpirits there; of whom it is said, There is joy in heaven over Luke xv. every finner that repenteth. Hence this is the difpofition of charitable persons, fincerely to congratulate any good occurrence to their neighbour; they are ready to conspire in rendering thanks and praise to the Author of their welfare, taking the good conferred on their neighbour as a bleffing and obligation on themselves; fo that they upon such occasions are apt to say with St. Paul, What thanks i Theft. iii. can we render to God for you, for all the joy wherewith we

Phil. ii. 2.

i Theff. ii.

7, 10.



Col. i. 3.
i Theff. i.

SERM. joy for your fakes before God? and, We are bound to thank XXVII. God always for you, brethren, because that your faith grow2 Theft. i. eth exceedingly, and that the charity of every one of you all

toward each other aboundeth : and, I thank my God al1 Cor. i. 4,5. (Phil

. i. 3. ways on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given Rom. i. 8: you by Jesus Christ, that in every thing ye are enriched by


It is a precept of St. Paul, Give thanks always útèp návEph. v. 20. Twv; which is translated for all things, but it might as

well: be rendered for all persons, according to that injunc1 Tim. ii. 1. tion, I exhort, that first of all fupplications, prayers, inter

ceffons, and giving of thanks be made for all men : not only prayers are to be made, but thanksgivings are to be offered for all men, out of general charity.

IV. Correspondently, love of our neighbour doth imply condolency and commiseration of the evils befalling him: for what we love, we cannot without displeasure behold lying in a bad condition, finking into decay, or in danger to perish; so, to a charitable mind, the bad state of any man is a most unpleasant and painful fight.

It is the property of charity to mourn with those that mourn; not coldly, but paffionately, (for it is to weep with those that weep,) resenting every man's case with an affection fuitable thereto, and as he doth himself resent it.

Is any man fallen into disgrace ? charity doth hold down its head, is abashed and out of countenance, partaking of his shame: is any man disappointed of his hopes or endeavours ? charity crieth out alas, as if it were itself defeated : is any man afflicted with pain or fickness ? charity looketh fadly, it figheth and groaneth, it fainteth and languisheth with him : is any man pinched with hard want ? charity if it cannot fuccour, it will condole: doth ill news arrive? charity doth hear it with an unwilling hear and a fad heart, although not particularly concerned in it. The fight of a wreck at sea, of a field spread with carcases, of a country desolated, of houfes burnt and cities ruined, and of the like calamities incident to mankind, would touch the bowels of any man; but the very report

Κλκίes». . Rom. xii. 15.

« PreviousContinue »