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presented to us at one view : we are not sent to pore over tedious volumes of laws and statutes, or to gather up fragments of precepls here and there in order to learn our duty to one another; it is all summed up in this, Do to others what you would have them do to you. With this is connected another excellency of this precept ; and that is,
2. Its conciseness : it is what I may call a portable directory, which you may always carry about with you and easily recollect; and therefore you need never be at a loss to know your duty. You may always know your own expectations and desires ; do to others then what you would expect and desire from them, and you are right ; you do all that the law and the prophets require you to do. Tedious precepts and long discourses are not so easily learned or remembered ; but the shortest memory cannot fail to recollect this concise command.
3. Another excellency of this precept is, that it is universal, and extends to all mankind, in all circumstances ; to superiors, inferiors, and equals. It is true there is a great diversity in the characters and stations of men, which it is not your business, nor is it in your power to alter ; and there is a correspondent variety in the duties you owe them. But you can easily imagine them all in the same circumstances ; or you can easily suppose yourselves in their place, and they in yours ; and then you can with equal ease look into your own minds, and consider what treatment you would expect from them in such a change of circumstances; and that will immediately discover how you should treat them in their present circumstances. Thus the rule may be universally applied without impropriety.
4. Another excellency of this precept is, that it is plain and convictive. Common minds may be bewildered, instead of being guided, by an intricate, tedious system of laws ; but a man of the weakest understanding may easily perceive this rule. It is an appeal to his own sensations. • What would you expect or wish from others? How would you have them treat you ?' Surely you cannot but know this ; ' well, treat them just in the same manner.' This is also a most convictive rule ; every man that thinks a little, must immediately own that it is highly reasonable ; consult your own consciences, and they will tell you, you need no other adviser, and you are self-condemned if you violate this precept. It is written upon your hearts in illustrious indelible characters : it shines and sparkles there, like the Urim and Thummim on the breast of Aaron. I am,
this rule may regulate the conduct of each of us! I am sure there is reason enough for it, if the greatest necessity, or the greatest advantage can be a reason. Which consideration leads me,
V. And lastly, To shew the necessity and advantage of observing this rule.
(1.) The observance of this rule is absolutely necessary to constitute you real christians. I hinted at this in the beginning of my discourse ; but it is of such vast importance, that it merits a more thorough consideration. A christian not only prays, attends upon religious ordinances, discourses about religion, and the like, but he is also a strict moralist ; he is just and charitable, and makes conscience of every duty to mankind ; and moralily is not only ornamental but essential to his character; and it is in vain for you to pretend to the christian character without morality. An unjust, uncharitable christian, is as great a contradiction as a prayerless, or a swearing christian. You can no more be a good man without loving your neighbour, than without loving your God. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, and neglects the duties he owes to him, is really in darkness even uns til now, (1 John ii. 9.) let him pretend what he will. Therefore if you count it of any importance to be christians indeed, you must do to others what you would have them do to you. No inward experience, no religious duties, no zeal in devotion can make you true christians, or entitle you to the charity of others as such, without a proper temper and behaviour towards mankind. I would have you, my dear brethren, to be complete finished christians ; if there be any thing in the world that I have at heart, it is this : I would have christianity appear in you in its full glory, unmaimed and well-proportioned ; and therefore I would have you to be not only zealous in devotion in secret, in your families, and in public, but also just, honourable, and faithful in all your dealings with mankind; kind, affectionate, meek and inoffensive in your conduct towards them ; in short, that you should treat them as you would have them treat you. You find a great deal of fault with the conduct of others towards you, but consider, have they not equal reason to blame your conduct towards them? My dear brethren, be yourselves what you would have others be: Would you have them to be better than yourselves ? Would you meanly resign to them that true honour ? Do you desire that they should be better
christians and better men than you ? What an awkward, perverse, preposterous humility is this? But,
(2.) A proper conduct towards mankind in the professors of religion, is necessary to recommend religion to the world, and reflect honour upon their profession; whereas the want of it brings a reproach upon the christian name. The blind world has but little knowledge, and still less concern about the duties that we owe immediately to God, and therefore the neglect of them is not so much observed ; but as to the duties we owe to mankind, they themselves are concerned in them, and therefore they take the more notice of the omission of them, and are more sensible of the importance. And when they see a man that makes a mighty profession, that talks a great deal about religion, and is zealous in frequent attendance upon serions, prayer, &c. when they see such a man make no conscience of the laws of justice and charity towards men ; when they observe he is as deceitful, as over-reaching, as sordid and covetous as others, and perhaps more so, what will they think of his religion? Will they not think it a cloke for his knavery, and a stratagem to accomplish his own wicked designs ? And thus are they hardened in impiety, and confirmed in their neglect of all religion. My brethren, it is incredible what injury the christian religion has received from this quarter : the bad lives of professors is the common objection against it in the mouths of heathens, Jews, Turks, and infidels among ourselves. There is indeed no real force in the objection : you may as well say that moral honesty is but villany, because many who pretend to it are knaves, and make that pretence to carry on their knavery with more success. It must also be confessed, that many discover much of their enmity against religion itself, by raising a clamour against the bad lives of its professors; and that there is much less ground for the objection than they would have you believe.
The true secret is this : they hate strict religion themselves, and would find some umbrage to expose it in others, in order to excuse or defend their own neglect of it ; and as they can find no objection against religion in itself, they abuse all its professors : and if it is evident that their visible conduct is good, they would find out some secret flaw; and if they can discover no glaring defect in their duty to God, they pry into their conduct towards man, to discover some secret wickedness : and, alas! in too many instances their malignant search is successful ; and they find some VOL. II.
IV. To mention some important instances of particular cases to which this excellent rule ought to be applied. And here I shall throw a great many things together without method, that my description may agree the nearer to real life, in which these things happen promiscuously without order.
Would you desire that another should love you, be ready to serve you, and do you all the kind offices in his power? Do you expect your neighbour should rejoice in your prosperity, sympathise with you in affliction, promote your happiness, and relieve you in distress? Would you have him observe the rules of strict justice in dealing with you? Would you have him tender of your reputation, ready to put the kindest construction upon your actions, and unwilling to believe or spread a bad report concerning you ? Do you desire he should direct you when mistaken, and labour to reclaim you from a dangerous course? In short, do you think it reasonable he should do all in his power for your good, in soul, body, and estate? Are these your expectations and desires with regard to the conduct of others towards you ? Then in this manner should you behave towards them ; you have fixed and determined the rule of your own conduct :* your expectations from others have the force of a law upon yourselves ; and since you know how they should behave towards you, you cannot be at a loss to know how to behave towards them.
If you were a servant, how would you have your master to behave towards you ? Consider and determine the matter ; and you will know how you should behave towards your servants. The same thing may be applied to rulers and subjects in general, to parents and children, husbands and wives, neighbour and neighbour.
On the other hand, we may consider this rule negatively. Do you desire that another should not entertain angry and malicious passions against you ? that he should not envy your prosperity, nor insult over you in adversity ? that he should not take the advantage of you
in contracts ? that he should not violate the laws of justice in commerce with you, nor defraud you of your property ? that he should not injure your reputation, or put an unkind construction upon your conduct ? Would you expect that if you were a servant, your master should not tyrannize over you, and give you hard usage; or that if you were a master, your servant
-Tu tibi legem dixisti.
should not be unfaithful, disobedient, and obstinate ? are these your expectations and desires with regard to the conduct of others? then you have prescribed a law for your own conduct : do not that to others which you would not have them to do to you: treat every man as another self, as a part of the same human nature with yourself. How extravagant and ridiculous is it that you should be treated well by all mankind, and yet you be at liberty to treat them as you please? What are you? What a being of mighty importance are you? Is not another as dear to himself as you are to yourself ? Are not his rights as sacred and inviolable as yours? How came you to be entitled to an exemption from the common laws of human nature ? Be it known to you, you are as firmly bound by them as any of your species.
By these few instances you may learn how to apply this maxim of christian morality to all the cases that may occur in the course of your lives.
Were I reading to you a lecture of moral philosophy in the school of Socrates or Seneca, what I have offered might be suffi. cient. But in order to adapt this discourse to the christian dispensation, and make it true christian morality, it is necessary I should subjoin two evangelical peculiarities, which are the qualifications of that virtue which God will accept.
The first is, that all our good offices to mankind should proceed not only from benevolence to them, but from a regard to the divine authority, which obliges us to these duties. We should do these things not only as they are commanded, but because they are commanded. We cannot expect that God will
of that as obedience to him, which we do not intend in that view. Let us apply that rule to every social duty, which the apostle particularly applies to the duty of servants to their masters : Whatsoever ye do, do it heartıly, as to the Lord, and not to men. Col. iii. 23.
The second qualification of evangelical virtue or true christian morality, is, that you perform it in the name of Christ, or that you depend not upon the merit of your obedience, but entirely upon his mediatorial righteousness to procure acceptance with God. Without this all your actions of charity and justice, how. ever fair and splendid they appear in the eyes of men, are but proud philosophic virtue, utterly abhorred by an holy God. But with this evangelical temper, you will be accepted as serving God, even in serving men.
And O! that with these qualifications