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regular Chastity and Sobriety does not every Day, nor perhaps every Month, reason himself into the Observation of these Duties, and exert the Motives in his Heart, upon which the Practice of these Duties is founded; nor can he answer, should he be examined to the Point, how far his Virtue is owing to this or the other Motive, or how far to his natural Temperament and Constitution. And since no one Virtue consists in a single Act, or in any certain determinate Number of single Acts, but in a regular and habitual Conformity to the Rules of Reason and Morality; which Conformity the more habitual it is, the less we feel of the Influence of any particular Motives ; it is hardly possible for Men to estimate the Good or Evil of their Actions, by considering the immediate and sensible Connection between each Action; and the Motives producing it. For, as many
Motions of the Body, which depend on the Acts of our Will, are exerted with the greatest Reason, and yet the Reason of exerting them is but seldom by any, and by some hardly ever attended to; fo in moral Actions a Man of confirmed habitual Good ness does many things right, without recurring back by Reflection to the special Grounds
and Reasons of Duty, in which the Morality of such Actions is founded.
For these Reasons, and for others which might be afligned, it seems to me to be a very distracting Method, to put People upon Inquiry into the Motives of all their particular Actions, and still more unreasonable it seems to be, to exclude Sincerity from all Actions that are not immediately influenced by a special Consideration of the proper Motives of Religion ; because, in this Cafe, the more naturally and habitually Men do good, the more Reason they will have to doubt of their Sincerity.
We must therefore search after a more equitable and more practicable Way of judging of our Sincerity. Our Saviour tells us, we must love our Neighbour as ourselves ; making hereby that Love, which naturally every
Man bears to himself, to be the Standard of that Love and Charity which we ought to have to one another. As therefore it is sufficient to love our Neighbour as ourselves; fo likewise it will be sufficient Evidence of the Sincerity of our Charity, if we can give as good Proof of our Love towards our Neighbour, as we ordinarily can do of our Love towards ourselves.
Now certain it is, that the Principle of Self-preservation does generally act so uniformly in Men, that they do the Things most necessary to their own Well-being, without much Thought and Reflection
the Reasons for so doing ; nor do we ever suspect Men so far in the Sincerity of their Love to themselves, as to question whether the Things which they do rightly for their own Preservation, proceed from proper Motives, and out of a due Regard to their own Well-being.
What the Principle of Self-preservation is with respect to ourselves, the same is Charity with respect to our Neighbour : And the more real and vigorous this Principle is, the more easily, and with the less Deliberation, does it exert the Acts of Love and Beneficence towards our Fellow-Creatures. Hypocrites and Dissemblers, and self-interested Persons, have always a Design in what they do; and therefore they necessarily deliberate, whether it be worth their while to do good to others or no; and can therefore assign to themselves a particular Reason for any good Office they perform to their Neighbour : And it is a great Presumption, that a Man acts upon a general Principle of Charity and Humanity, when he lives well towards
others, without having a particular Reason to assign in every Instance for so doing.
It is either a Principle of Şelf-love, or a, Principle of Charity, that inclines us to do good to others, Where Men act out of Selflove, and seek to promote their own Interest, to gratify their own Vanity or Ambition by serving others, there is so much Design in what they do, that they cannot bụt be conscious of the Reasons which prevail with them: And where there are no such Reasons to be assigned, what Cause is there for Men to suspect their own Sincerity, or to imagine, that the Love they sħew to others proceeds from any Thing but a good Principle ?
It is therefore, if not a certain Rule, yet at least a very reasonable Presumption, that we act upon a true Principle of Charity, when we feeķ the Ease, and Satisfaction, and Comfort of others, without being conscious to ourselves of any selfish Views to our own Interest in what we do.
But to prevent Mistakes, I would not be understood, by laying down this Rule, to condemn Men always in the good they do to others, with a View to themselves; For surely, it is as reasonable to exchange good Offices, as otherless valuable Conveniencies of Vol. III.
Life; and, indeed, the Happiness of civil Life consists in this mutual Exchange of good Offices: And therefore, where Men serye others in an honest Way, expecting only honest Returns, this Justice must at least be done them, to own that they are fair Traders, and deal in a good Commodity. The Apostle to the Hebrews exhorts us to provoke one another to Love and to good Works; and the best Way to provoke others to Love, is to Thew Love towards them.
But the surest Way to know whether we are influenced as we ought to be by a Principle of Charity, is to consider not this or that particular Action, for very bad Men may sometimes do very good Things; nor yet to consider our Behaviour with respect to particular Persons; for the worst of Men are capable of strong Paffions of Love for particular Relations and Acquaintance; but to reflect upon our Carriage towards all in general, and in all Instances: For, if the Principle of Charity be in us, it will discover itself in an Uniformity of all our Actions; as the Principle of Self-preservation makes Men seek their own Good, not at one Time more than another, or in one Instance more than another, but at all Times and in all Instances equally.