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By such a love to our enemies, as his example has traced out to us, we should be best able to satisfy our selves, and to convince the world, that we are the children of him, whose infinite goodness we endeavour to express in our behaviour, though in degrees far short of it, and with much of childish imperfcction: And as this attribute is that, which of all others renders the divine Being it felf most amiable, a resemblance of it in us would be most to our praise and honour.
(2.) A second argument is from the reward which Christians expect. It is but reasonable, that fince Christ assures us of eternal happiness upon our obedience, that we should be willing to obey his commands, how disagreeable soever they may be to our corrupt natures : For surely we who live under more glorious promises and hopes, should be ready to do more than those, who have no such expectation. If our love to those about us be only a return for favours received, or to oblige them to farther kindnesses, 'tis mean and mercenary, we have had our reward here, and what can we expect hereafter? In truth, a due observance of the other laws of Christianity, such as humility, and a low esteem of the treasures of this world, would make the love of our enemies, which seems so difficult a duty, more easy: For pride and covetourness are the great obstructions to the practice of this love, by raising in us false notions of honour and self-interest, and so making us to look upon the duty as too severe, when all the difficulty proceeds from those passions, which ought to be subdued and kept under.
(3.) ANOTHER argument is from the practice of the Publicans, who, in the esteem of the Jews, T 2
were the worst of men, yet even these knew how
Our Saviour concludes all with this exhortation; Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect : And a very proper conclusion it is, both with respect to this particular sublime duty, of loving our enemies, and to the rest of the improvements of the Decalogue, which went before. It's true, no man can be perfect, as God is perfect. I mean as to the degree, because God is infinitely so, and therefore it may look as if Christ commanded an impossible thing; but that perfection which the Gospel requires is a most earnest and
ew how 5
diligent endeavour after goodness, especially charity: and this is certainly in our power.
We must strive to resemble the infinite goodness, as far as we are able, and that because of the relation Chriftians bear to their heavenly Father, by regeneration and adoption; * They are the children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus; and therefore must put on his nature by a transformation of their own, into as near à similitude to his in every perfection as is poslible, especially in that of love: For so says St. John, + Let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God.
C H A P. XVI.
Of A L MS-GIVING.
MATTH. vi. I, 2, 3, 4. Take heed that ye do not your alms before men,
to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven, Therefore, when thou dost thine alms, do not
found a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men, Verily I say unto you, they have their reward, But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand
know what the right hand doth; That thine alms may be in secret ; and thy Fa
ther which feeth in secret, himself all reward thee openly,
UR Lord having in the foregoing pa
ragraphs corrected certain errors in the O Jewish explications of the Decalogue,
and some other popular mistakes among
them, the clearing of which was requisite to the instructing his Disciples rightly in his own religion, he proceeds now to give some cautions for the better performance of the three great
duties, as they are esteem'd in most religions (and particularly were so in that of the Jews) alms-giving, prayer, and fasting. This paragraph is about alms-giving; and the cauţion is, that we should not do it out of oftentation, which, in other words, would be to this effect.
“ WHATEVER others do, I would have you, my “ Disciples, when ye bestow a gift on any poor
man, to be very careful, that ye do it not out of a vain desire of being applauded for your charity: For if this be your design, ye have received
your reward already in that applause, and must 5 expect none hereafter in the kingdom of heaven: 6 Therefore chuse not public places, as the hypo66 crites do, for distributions of your charity, as if
ye were rather marketing for fame and reputa5 tion, than discharging a good conscience towards 66 God, and kindness to the poor ; or as if your “ virtue would be wholly loft, if the parade and 56 pomp of it did not draw an admiring croud a« bout you. On the contrary, be ye lo afraid of 6 deceiving your selves by a vanity of this nature, " as to chuse the most retired places, where ye may " bestow your alms with the greatest secrecy, ex5 cept, when ye may reasonably hope to do good " by your good example, and that be the true rea“ fon of your appearing. And God, who knows 6 the secret thoughts of your hearts, and the prin56 ciple and design of your actions, will certainly 6 at the great day of account, reward you openly “ before angels and men ; so that ye shall by no
means lose the credit of your good works, by « denying your selves the seeking of that praise 66 from men, but shall receive the honour of it, “ with more lasting and fubftantial glory, from the - unerring mouth of God.
Now alms-giving, tho' not expresly commarded in this paragraph, is yet by our Saviour's caution