Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

If therefore we find that our Sentiments of Tenderness and Humanity are confined to certain Persons, to our Relations of particular Friends, to the Men of our own Sect of Party; we may be sure that such Şentiments are the Product of fome partial and narrow Views, and not the genuine Offspring of true Charity, whịch is in its Nature extensive and universal, and reaches as far, nay much bes yond the Power we have of doing good: Or, if we find that in fome Instances we are apt enough to deal juftly and mercifully with our Neighbours, but that in others we are regardless of Mercy and Justice, and value not the Credit, or Reputation, or Contentment of our Brethren, but are ready to facrifice them all to our own Paffions and corrupt Inclinations; our being vile in some Instances is a certain Indication, that our being good in others is not owing to a Principle of Charity, bụt to something else, which we may call by any other Name rather than Virtue. If you love not the World, and the good Things of it, so much as to injure your Neighbour for the sake of mak, ing a Gain to yourself, it is well. If you can part with your own for the Relief of the Necessities of such as are indigent, it is

better,

[ocr errors]

others, is the very same which the Apostle 148 DISCOURSE VI. better. If, besides this, you have a friendly Temper and Disposition, and love to see all about you easy and happy, it is a great Step towards being perfect. But still if Lust prevails, and leads you to violate the Wife or the Daughter of your Friend, how dwells the Love of God or of your Neighbour in you? For Charity is the fulfilling of the Law: For this, Thou shalt not commit Adultery, Thou sbalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou Jhalt not bear false Witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other Commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this Saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as tbyfelf.

The Rule which I am endeavouring to establish, in order to enable Men to judge of the Principle upon which they act towards

to the Corinthians has in effect described in the thirteenth Chapter of the first Epistle; where, speaking of spiritual Gifts, and shewing that without Charity they are of no Use to the Poffeffors thereof, his Subject led him to give the certain Marks and Characters of that Charity, which he so highly exalted. What then is it? Is it Almsgiving? No, says the Apostle ; Though I bestow all my

Goods to

feed

feed the Poor, and though I give my Body to be burned, and bave kot Charity, it profitetb me nothing. Charity is not a particular Virtue, nor is it confined to any kind of good Works, but it is a general Spirit of Life influencing all the Actions of a Man ; 'it is the very Soul of Virtue, and shews itself in the Functions of it: Charity suffereth long, and is kinde-envieth not, -vaunteth not it felf, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unfeemly, seeketh not ber own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no Evil; rejoiceth not in Iniquity, but rejoicetb in the Truth; beareth all Things, believeth all Things, hopeth all Things, endureth all Things.

Thus, you fee, the Scripture Rule of judging ourselves in this great Point of Charity, is to compare our Conduct with the Precept, and to consider whether our Actions are uniformly suited to the Principle we pretend to act by. We are not directed to confider only particular Actions, or the immediate Motives which induced us to do this or that particular good Office; from whence we can argue but with little Certainty, and little Comfort to ourselves: For a general Principle is discoverable only by a general and uniform Influence over all our Actions. Men may be good by Starts; may be tender

and

I 3

and compassionate more at one Time than another, according as their Minds are softened by decidental Misfortunes happening to themselves : But Charity moves in an higher Sphere, and views all the Creatures of God with a constant Benevolence: It is, as the Text calls it –αγάπη εκτενής - - an uninterrupted Love, and which exerts itself uniformly in all our Actions:

When we find this constant Benevolence in our Minds, and that we act conformably to it within the Rules of Reason, why should we doubt of our own Sincerity, or fcrupulously examine into the special Motives which attended on every Act of Charity ? For, where we are conscious of no ill Designs, no private Self-interest, and

yet

find that what we do is agreeable to Truth and Equity; why should we doubt that we do amiss? It is therefore an unreasonable Bur

Men
upon

this Sort of Selfexamination; and more unreasonable to suggest to them, that the Good they do is of no Value, unless in every Instance it be extorted from them by an anxious Consideration of the special Motives of Religion. You may as well tell a Man, that he means bot his own Nourishment in what he eats

and

den to put

[ocr errors]

and drinks, unless he has before his Mind an Aphorism of Hippocrates to justify every Bit he puts into his Mouth : For, as the Principle of Self-preservation directs without much Reflection, and often without any, to seek our own Good; so a general Principle of Charity will make it, as it were, natural to us to seek the Good of others, without the Trouble of Choice and Deliberation.

To conclude: You see the extensive Nature of Charity; and you see a plain and a natural Way of judging, whether this excellent Gift works in you or no. If you allow yourself in any Instance to injure or oppress your Neighbour, how can you be said to love him? since all Ways of Injustice and Oppression are equally inconsistent with Charity. Whatever therefore is the darling Paffion, which makes you transgress against your Brother, that, that is the Thing which destroys in you

this most excellent Grace of the Gospel. What have you then to do, but to root out this Evil from

your

Heart; to expel this Weed, which over-runs the Ground, and choaks the good Seed? Here therefore let us point all our Examination to discover wherein we offend; let us trust the

Good

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »