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less degree than God requires in the appendant law, can be sufficient to any man,-neither can any human authority commute a duty that God requires; and, when he demands repentance, no man can dispense with him, that is, to communicate, or give him leave to give alms, instead of repentance. But if, in the duty of preparation, God had involved the duty of confession to a priest, this might have, in some cases, been wholly let alone : that is, in case there were no priest to be had but one, who were to consecrate and who could not attend to hear my confessions : and the reason is, because in case of the destitution of any material or necessary constituent part of the duty, there is no need of equity or interpretation : because the subject matter of degrees of heightenings and diminutions being taken away, there can be no consideration of the manner or the degrees superstructed. When any condition, intrinsically and in the nature of the thing included in an affirmative precept, is destituent or wanting, the duty itself falls without interpretation.
16. Lastly; This rule is to be understood also much more concerning the negative precepts of the religion: because there can be no hinderance to the duties of a negative precept; every man can let any thing alone; and he cannot be forced from his silence or his omission; for he can sit still and die; violence can hinder an action, but cannot effect it or express it: and therefore here is no place for interpretation, much less for dispensation: neither can it be supplied by any action or by any omission whatsoever.
But upon the matter of this second consequent remarked above P, it is to be inquired, whether in no case a supply of duty is to be made ? or whether or no it is not better in some cases, that is, when we are hindered from doing the duty commanded, to do something when we cannot do all; or are we tied to do nothing, when we are innocently hindered from doing of the whole duty ? When we may be admitted to do Part of our Duty, and when to
supply it by something else. 17. (1.) Negative precepts have no parts of duty, no degrees of obedience, but consist in a mathematical point; or
P Numb. 14.
rather in that, which is not so much; for it consists in that, which can neither be numbered nor weighed. No man can go a step from the severest measure of a negative commandment; if a man do but in his thought go against it, or in one single instance do what is forbidden, or but begin to do it, he is entirely guilty. “He that breaks one, is guilty of all,” said St. James; it is meant of negative precepts; and then it is true in every sense relating to every single precept, and to the whole body of the negative commandments. He that breaks one, hath broken the band of all; and he that does sin, in any instance or imaginary degree, against a negative, hath done the whole sin, that is, in that commandment forbidden,
18. (2.) All positive precepts that depend upon the mere will of the lawgiver (as I have already discoursed), admit no degrees, nor suppletory and commutation ; because in such laws we see nothing beyond the words of the law, and the first meaning and the named instance; and therefore, it is that in individuo' which God points at; it is that, in which he will make the trial of our obedience; it is that, in which he will so perfectly be obeyed, that he will not be disputed with, or inquired of why, and how, but just according to the measures there set down : so, and no more, and no less, and no otherwise. For when the will of the lawgiver is all the reason, the first instance of the law is all the measures; and there can be no product but what is just set down. No parity of reason can infer any thing else, because there is no reason but the will of God, to which nothing can be equal, because his will can be but one. If any man should argue thus :-Christ hath commanded us to celebrate his death by blessing and communicating in bread and wine; this being plainly his purpose, and I, finding it impossible to get wine, consider that water came out of his side as well as blood, and therefore water will represent his death as well as wine; for wine is but like blood, and water is more like itself ; and therefore I obey him better, when in the letter I cannot obey, him :'-he, I say, that should argue thus, takes wrong measures; for it is not here to be inquired, which is most agreoable to our reason, but which complies with God's will; for that is all the reason we are to inquire after.
19. (3.) In natural laws and obligations depending upon
true and proper reason drawn from the nature of things, there we must do what we can; and if we cannot do all that is at first intended,--yet it is secondarily intended, that we should do what we can. The reason is, because there is a natural cause of the duty, which, like the light of the sun, is communicated in several degrees, according as it can be received; and therefore whatever partakes of that reason, is also a duty of that commandment. Thus it is a duty of natural and essential religion, that we should worship God with all the faculties of the soul, with all the actions of the body, with all the degrees of intension, with all the instances and parts of extension : for God is the Lord of all; he expects all, and he deserves all, and will reward all; and every thing is designed in order to his service and glorification: and therefore, every part of all this is equally commanded, equally required; and is symbolical to the whole ; and therefore, in the impossibility of the performance of any one, the whole commandment is equally promoted by another; and when we cannot bow the knee, yet we can incline the head, and when we cannot give, we can forgive; and if we have not silver and gold, we can pay them with prayers and blessings; and if we cannot go with our brother two miles, we can, it may be, go one, or one half; let us go as far as we can, and do all that is in our power and in our circumstances. For since our duty here can grow, and every instance does according to its portion do in its own time, and measures the whole work of the commandment, and God accepts us in every step of the progression, that is, in all degrees; for he breaks not the bruised reed, and he quenches not the smoking flax; it follows, that though we are not tied to do all, even that which is beyond our powers; yet we must do what we can towards it; even a part of the commandment may, in such cases, be accepted for our whole duty.
20. (4.) In external actions which are instances of a natural or moral duty, if there be any variety, one may supply the other ; if there be but one, it can be supplied by the internal only and spiritual. But the internal can never be hindered, and can never be changed or supplied by any thing else; it is capable of no suppletory, but of degrees it is : and if we cannot love God as well as Mary Magdalene loved him, let us love him so as to obey him always, and so as to su
peradd degrees of increment to our love, and to our obedience; but for this or that expression it must be as it can, and when it can, it must be this or another ; but if it can be neither upon the hand, it must be all that is intended upon the heart; and as the body helps the soul in the ministries of her duty; so the soul supplies the body in the essentialities of it and indispensable obedience.
Not every Thing, that is in the Sermons and Doctrine of Jesus
Christ, was intended to bind as a Law or Commandment. 1. Every thing that is spoken by our blessed Saviour, is to be placed in that order of things, where himself was pleased to put it.-Whatsoever he propounded to us under the sanction of love, and by the invitation of a great reward, that is so to be understood, as that it may not become a snare, by being supposed in all cases, and to all persons to be a law. For laws are established by fear and love too, that is, by promises and threatenings; and nothing is to be esteemed a law of Christ, but such things which if we do not observe, we shall die, or incur the divine displeasure in any instance or degree. But there are some things in the sermons of Christ, which are recommended to the diligence and love of men; such things whither men must tend and grow. Thus it is required, that we should love God with all our heart; which is indeed a commandment, and the first and the chiefest : but because it hath an infinite sense, and is capable of degrees, beyond all the actualities of any man whatsoever,-therefore it is encouraged and invited further by a reward, that will be greater than all the work that any man can do. But yet there is also the minimum morale' in it, that is, that degree of love and duty, less than which is by interpretation no love, no daty at all, and that is, that we so love God, that 1. we love nothing against him; 2. that we love nothing more than him ; 3. that we love nothing equal to him; 4. that we love nothing disparately and distinctly from him, but in subordination to him; that is, so as to be apt to yield and
submit to his love, and comply with our duty. Now then, here must this law begin, it is a commandment to all persons, and at all times, to do thus much; and this being a general law, of which all other laws are but instances and specifications, the same thing is in all the particular laws, which is in the general : there is in every one of them a minimum morale,' a legal sense of duty, which, if we prevaricate or go less than it, we are transgressors : but then there is also a latitude of duty, or a sense of love and evangelical increase, which is a further pursuance of the duty of the commandment; but is not directly the law, but the love; to which God hath appointed no measures of greatness, but hath invited us forward as the man can go.
2. For it is considerable, that since negative precepts include their affirmatives, and affirmatives also do infer the negatives (as I have already discoursed), and yet they have differing measures and proportions; and that the form of words and signs, negative or affirmative, is not the sufficient indication of the precepts, we can best be instructed by this measure;—There is in every commandment a negative part and an affirmative :—the negative is the first, the least, and the lowest, sense of the law and the degree of duty; and this is obligatory to all persons, and cannot be lessened by excuse, or hindered by disability, or excused by ignorance, neither is it to stay its time, or to wait for circumstances; but obliges all men indifferently. I do not say that this is always expressed by negative forms of law or language, but is by interpretation negative; it operates or obliges as does the negative. For when we are commanded to love our neighbour as ourself; the least measure of this law, the legal or negative part of it, is, that we should not do him injury; that we shall not do to him, what we would not have done to ourselves. He, that does not, in this sense, love his neighbour as himself, hath broken the commandment; he hath done that which he should not do; he hath done that which he cannot justify; he hath done that which was forbidden: for every going less than the first sense of the law, than the lowest sense of duty, is the commission of a sin, a doing against a prohibition.
3. But then there are further degrees of duty than the first and lowest; which are the affirmative measures, that is,