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table to him, all those Things that are Praiseworthy, and tend to the Perfection of our Nature, and the Reputation of Christ's' Religion.
Let us make it the End of our Adions, not to seek ourselves, but his Glory; every Day to grow better and better, and in every Occurrence to consider, not what may lawfully be done, but what is most becoming a Disciple of Jesus Christ to do. In a Word, whatever is best in any Action; whatever most serves the End of Piety; whatever tends most to the Credit of our Religion, and the Benefit of others, let us consider that, and act accordingly
And thus, I am sure, to design and a&t, is most suitable to the Nature and Genius of our Christian Religion; Nay, indeed, it is the Principal Law and Commandment of it.
The Design of Christianity, is not to adjust the precise Bounds of Vertue and Vice, Lawful and Unlawful, which is that that a great many among us so greedily hanker after. For the best that could have come from such a Design, had been only this, that Men, by this Means, might have been fairly instruct ed, how they might have avoided the being bad; tho' they never became very good. But the Design of Christianity, is to make Men as good as they can possibly be ; as devout, aș humble, as charitable, as, temperate, as contented, as heavenly-minded, as their Natures will allow of in this world. And for the producing this Effect; the exact distinguilbing the Limits of
the several Vertues, and their opposite Vices; signifies very little.
The Laws of our great Master are not like the Civil Municipal Laws of Kingdoms, which are therefore wonderful nice, and critical, and particular in setting Bounds to the Practices of Men, because they only look at overté Actions ; fo that if a Man do but keep his Actions within the Compass of the Letter of the Law, he may be accounted a good Subject, and is no way obnoxious to the Penalties which the Law threatens.
If our Religion had been of this strain, we should, without doubt, have had a World of particular Laws and Precepts, and Directions about our Actions, in all emergent Cases, more than we now have : And we might as easily have known from the Bible, what was forbidden unlawful Anger, what was excessive Drinking, what was Pride and Luxury in Apparel, and the like; as we now know by the Statute. Book, what is Burglary, or Murther, or Treason. But there was no need of these Particularities in the Institution of Christ Jesus. His Religion was to be a Spiritual Thing. And the Design of it was not to make us chast or temperate, or humble, or charitable, in such a Degree ; buc to make us as chast and temperate, as humble and charitable, as pure and holy in all our Conversation, as we poflibly can be.
This, I say, was the Design of Christ's Religion. It was to be the highest Philosophy thar was ever taught to Mankind. It was to make us the most excellent and perfect
Creatures, as to Purity of Mind and Heart, that Human Nature is capable of. And therefore it hath not been so accurate and particular in prescribing Bounds to our outward Actions, because it was abundantly enough for the securing them, to oblige us to the highest Degree of inward Purity.
And this it hath done above all the Laws and Religions in the World. It teacheth us to abhor every Thing that is evil or impure in all the Kinds of it, in all the Degrees of it, and in all the Tendencies towards it; and to lay out ourselves in the Pursuit of every Thing that is honeft, that is lovely, that is Praise-worihy, and of good Report among Men.
If this now be the Design of our Religion; and there be the Laws of it, I leave it to you to judge of these Two Things : First, Whe. ther it doth not highly concern all of us that profess this Holy Religion, to endeavour, in all our Conversation, to be as holy and as vertuous as we can, and to do as much Good as we can, and not to content ourselves with fuch a Degree of Honesty and Vertue, as is just fufficient to the rendring us not vicious ? And then, Secondly, Whether, if we do thus endeavour, we can easily be at a Loss, in diftinguishing between Good and Evil; Duty and Sin, in any Instance ? and consequently, Whę. ther we can be much in Danger of ill using our Liberty; and fo transgressing upon that Account? I have been longer upon this first Head than I intended, but I shall make amends for
it; by dispatching the Two following, in so much the fewer Words. And indeed, after fo large an Account as I have given of the
general Rule, there is less need of dwelling upon particular ones.
II. In the Second Place, in order to the right Use of our Liberty, and fo securing ourfelves from falling into Sin, through mistaking the Meafures of Good and Evil; this will be a good Rule to propose to ourselves, namely, That in Matters of Duty, we should rather do toa much; than too little : But in Matters of Indiffe. rency, we should rather take tog little of our Liberty, than too much.
First, As to Matters of Duty, my Meaning is this; That where the Laws of God have generally and indefinitely commanded a Thing, but have nor fet down Rules about the
particular Measures and Proportions of it; in that Case it is advisable, rather to do more than we are perhaps precisely bound to do, that so we may be sure we have performed cur Duty; than by being fçanty in our Obedience, to run the Hazard of falling short of our Duty.
Thus for Lostance, Our Lord in the New Testament, hath often and solemnly commanded us to pray. But neither he nor his Apostles, have any where told us how often we are to pray; only they have bid us pray fre. quently. In this Cafe now a Man that makes a Conscience of performing his Duty, will take all Occasions and Opportunities of lifting op holy Hands, and devout Affections to his
heavenly Father: However, he will not fail, at least once every time he Riseth, and once every Time he goes to Rest, to offer up à folemn Sacrifice of Prayer and Praise. Less than this, I say, he must not do, for fear 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 Satisfa&tion, 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 advisable 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 strictly obliged to : Than by giving stingily and pinchingly, now and then a little Pocket-money or fu, to run the Hazard of being Tranfgreffurs of the Commandment, and having our Portion among the covetous and "unmerciful.
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 practife in all othet Duties.