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Means to preserve his Life, and in the Second, to supply his Wants, by affording him such a Relief, as his Misery calls for, and my Condition will allow, without impoverishing my self or Family
But I do not think that the strictest Laws of Christianity obliges me, in either of the Cases, to exchange Conditions with him, and
put my self into the fame Circumstances of Danger or Wants, without any Regard to my own Safety and Support ; because this is more than is implied in that general Rule, which is laid down by our Saviour in this Matter. Wbat
7. 12 foever ye would, tbat Men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them. Which does not require, that I should do more for them, than I could reasonably expect, they should do for me,
in the like Case. Nor is this only the Doctrine of the Law and the Prophets, but of the Gospel too; for St. Paul plainly intimates, that there is a Priority of Love and Affection, due to our felves, and immediate Relations. No Man (says he) ever yet bated bisown Flesh, Eph. S. but nourisbeth and cherisheth it. And again, 29. if a Man provide not for his own, and especially for those of bis own House, be bath denied the Faith.
Thirdly, This is not to be understood, as if we were to love all our Neighbours with the same Zeal and Fervency of Affection; but thar a diftinguishing Regard ought to be had to their moral Characters and Virtues.
For tho' we are commanded to love our Enemies, do good to them that bate, and to pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us: Tho we are further commanded to have Compassion on the Ignorant, and on those that are out of the Way, to be pitiful, to be courteous, even to the Unthankful and Injurious ; and it is certain, by these Precepts, we are to esteem all Men our Friends in the Spirit of Charity, and to treat them as such, in all our Correspondencies and Dealings with them; yet that does not oblige us to inake them our particular Confidents ; to let them into the Secret Counsels of our Hearts; nor indeed, into the Freedoms and Familiarities of our Conversation.
This supposes an Agreement of Temper and Inclination; of Justice and Faithfulness, of Piety and Holiness; of all those moral Virtues, and Christian Graces of our Holy Profelfion; and these improved, and confirmed, by Knowledge, Experience, and Communications of Thoughts and Intentions, And are all Men thus qualified for our Friendship and Charity ?
And this Discretionary Judgment of Men,
is not only supposed, but recommended in the Rom. 12. Gospel. Be kindly Affe&tioned (says St. Paul)
one to another, with Brotherly Love ; in Hosal. 6.10. nour, preferring one another. Again, as you
bave opportunity, do good unto all Men, especi
ally to those of the Housbold of Faith. And :: 21. 22. St. 'fude more distinctly, Keep your selves in the Love of God; and of some bavc Compassion,
making a Difference ; and others save with Fear, pulling them out of tbe Fire ; bating even the Garment Spotted with the Flesh.
The Sum of the Particular is this.
We are to love the Persons of all Men, to yield them all the Offices of Civil Respect, of Neighbourly Kindness, of Christian Charity; To relieve their Necessities, to inform their Ignorance, to reprove their Vices, and to pray for their Conversion. But to have no Fellowsbip Eph.s.id with them, in their unfruitful Works of Darkness.
This, I presume, may be sufficient, to shew the Meaning, the Extent, the Obligation of this Precept; and whom we are to understand by our Neighbour, and in what Sense we are to love him as our felves. I proceed in the Third Place,
3. To consider what those particular Instances of Benevolence and Charity are, we are to extend to him, by vertue of this Commandment. And,
First, By virtue of it, we are undoubtedly obliged to render him all the Neighbourly Offices of Assistance, Good-Will, and Friendship; not entertain any secret Thoughts of Hatred, Malice, or Revenge toward him, not to envy his Welfare, not to repine at his Profperity, not to leffen hin in his Reputation, Estate or
Family; but to rejoice with him in all his Successes, and heartily wish him a fanctify'd Use, and comfortable Enjoyment of all the Blessings of God. We are further to converse with him by an open Freedom of Heart, and an undissembled Simplicity of Affection, without any dishonest Reserve, or Double-Dealing ; without any Flattery or Guile, without any felfish Intereft, or sinister Designs. We are to pay him all the outward Civilities of Respect, Candour, Affability, and fair Correspondence. All this, with whatever elfe of this kind, is included in the Love of our felves, is due to our Neighbour, by the Laws of Chrift. And truly, not only by the Laws of Christianity, but by those of our common Nature and Humanity: And St. Paul puts it upon that Foot. For in the 12th Chap. I Cor: He argues the mutual Sympathies and Antipathies, which all Men ought to have of the Happiness, or the Misery of their fellow Creatures, from that Order God hath appointed, and that Care which the Members of the natural Body have of one another, as if all Mankind were united, and anima
ted by the fame publick and universal Soul. 1:24. 25. God bath tempered the Body together, that
there should be no Schism in the Body, but that the Members have the fame Care one for another ; that whether one Member Suffer, all the Members suffer with it ; or one Member be bonoured, all the Members rejoice with it.
And this, by the way, gives a sufficient Anfwer, to the common Objections against the Difficulties and Impracticableness of the Chriftian Precepts, as if they were unreasonable Impositions, and intolerable Violences to the Original Dictates of our Nature; whereas they are the real Improvements of it, reinforcing those benevolent Virtues and Graces, which were the bright Ornaments of our Beings, in their Primitive State of Innocence and Perfe&tion.
Secondly, By virtue of this Precept, we are further bound to bear with the Passions, to pass by the Provocations, and freely to forgive the Injuries of our Neighbour.
These are generally the unhappy Beginnings, and fruitful Seeds of thofe Differences and Debates ; that Strife, and Contention, which are hatched, and nourished in Neighbourhoods. How often is a hafty, and unguarded Expresfion, an incautious and mistimed Reproof, or an inconsiderable and accidental Trespass, aggravated and blown up, into a lasting Variance and Hatred ? Now, I pray, what mean and sorry, what trifling and childish Occasions of Difference and Discord are these? Is there any necessity of having recourse to the stricter Laws of Christianity, to suppress the Growth, or to prevent the spreading of them? And indeed, a little coolness of Reflection, and lecond Thoughts would effectually do it.