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and what directions in that kind can be imagined comparably so good, so useful, as those which the gospel affordleth? An honest Pagan historian saith of the Christian profession, that nil nisi justum suadet et lene ; the which is a true, though not full character thereof. It enjoineth us that we should sincerely and tenderly love one another, should earnestly desire and delight in each other's good, should heartily sympathise with all the evils and sorrows of our brethren, should be ready to yield them all the help and comfort we are able, being willing to part with our substance, our ease, our pleasure, for their benefit or succour; not confining this our charity to any sort of men, particularly related or affected toward us, but in conformity to our heavenly father's boundless goodness, extending it to all; that we should mutually bear one another's burdens, and bear with one another's infirmities, mildly resent and freely remit all injuries, all discourtesies done unto us; retaining no grudge in our hearts, executing no revenge, but requiting them with good wishes and good deeds. It chargeth
It chargeth us to be quiet and orderly in our stations, diligent in our callings, veracious in our words, upright in our dealings, observant of our relations, obedient and respectful toward our superiors, 'meek and gentle to our inferiors; modest and lowly, ingenuous and compliant in our conversation, candid and benign in our censures, innocent and inoffensive, yea courteous and obliging, in all our behaviour toward all persons. It commandeth us to root out of our hearts all spite and rancour, all envy and malignity, all pride and haughtiness, all evil suspicion and jealousy; to restrain our tongue from all slander, all detraction, all reviling, all bitter and harsh language ; to banish from our practice whatever may injure, may hurt, may needlessly vex or trouble our neighbour. It engageth us to prefer the public good before any private convenience, before our own opinion or humour, our credit or fame, our profit or advantage, our ease or pleasure ; rather discarding a less good from ourselves, than depriving others of a greater. Now who can number or estimate the benefits that spring from the practice
of these duties, either to the man that observeth them, or to all men in common ? O divinest christian charity, what tongue can worthily describe thy most heavenly beauty, thy incomparable sweetness, thy more than royal clemency and bounty ? how nobly dost thou enlarge our minds beyond the narrow sphere of self and private regard into an universal care and complacence, making every man ourself, and all concernments to be ours ! how dost thou entitle us unto, how dost thou invest us in all the goods imaginable ; dost enrich us with the wealth, dost prefer us with the honour, dost adorn us with the wisdom and the virtue, dost bless us with all the prosperity of the world, whilst all our neighbour's good, by our rejoicing therein, becometh our own ! how dost thou raise a man above the reach of all mischiefs and disasters, of all troubles and griefs, since nothing can disturb or discompose that soul, wherein thou dost constantly reside and absolutely reign! how easily dost thou, without pain or hazard, without drawing blood or striking stroke, render him that enjoyeth thee an absolute conqueror over all his foes, triumphant over all injuries without, and all passions within ; for that he can have no enemy who will be a friend to all, and nothing is able to cross him who is disposed to take every thing well! how sociable, how secure, how pleasant a life might we lead under thy kindly governance ! what numberless sorrows and troubles, fears and suspicions, cares and distractions of mind at home, what tumults and tragedies abroad, might be prevented, if men would but hearken to thy mild suggestions ! what a paradise would this world then become, in comparison to what it now is, where thy good precepts and advices being neglected, uncharitable passions and unjust desires are predominant ! how excellent then is that doctrine, which brought thee down from heaven, and, would but men embrace thee, the
peace and joy of heaven with thee! If we farther survey the laws and directions which our religion prescribeth concerning the particular management of our souls and bodies in their
respective actions and enjoyments, we shall also find that nothing
could be devised more worthy of us, more agreeable to reason, more productive of our welfare and our content. It obligeth us to preserve unto our reason its natural prerogative, or due empire in our souls, and over our bodies, not to suffer the brutish part to usurp and domineer over us ; that we be not swayed down by this earthly lump, not enslaved to bodily temper, not transported with tumultuary humours, not deluded by vain fancy; that neither inward propensions nor impressions from without be able to seduce us to that which is unworthy of us, or mischievous to us. It enjoineth us to have sober and moderate thoughts concerning ourselves, suitable to our total dependance upon God, to our natural meanness and weakness, to our sinful inclinations, to the guilt we have contracted in our lives; that therefore we be not puffed up with self-conceit, or vain confidence in ourselves, or in any thing about us; any wealth, honour, or prosperity. It directeth us also to compose our minds into a calm, serene, and cheerful state; that we be not easily distempered with anger, or distracted with care, or overborne with grief, or disturbed with any
accident befalling us ; but that we be content in every condition, and entertain patiently all events, yea, accept joyfully from God's hand whatever he reacheth to us. It commandeth us to restrain our appetites, to be temperate in all our enjoyments, to abstain from all irregular pleasures, which are base in kind or excessive in degree ; which may corrupt our minds, or impair our health, or endamage our estate, or stain our good name, or prejudice our peace or repose : it doth not prohibit us the use of any creature, whence we may receive innocent convenience or delight, but indulgeth us a prudent and sober use of them all, with the sense of God's goodness, and thankfulness to him who bestoweth them upon us. Our religion also farther ordereth us, so far as our necessary occasions or duties permit, to sequester and elevate our minds from these low and transitory things, from the fading glories, the unstable possessions, the vanishing delights of this world ; things indeed unworthy the attention, unworthy
the affection of an heaven-born and immortal spirit; that we should fix our thoughts, our desires, our endeavours, upon objects most worthy of them, objects high and heavenly, pure and spiritual, infinitely stable and durable ; not to love the world, and the things therein ; to be careful for nothing, but to cast all our care upon God's providence; not to labour for the meat that perisheth, not to trust in uncertain riches ;" to have our treasure, our heart, our hope, our conversation above in heaven. Such directions our religion prescribeth; by compliance with which, if a man be at all capable of being happy, assuredly his happiness must be attained ; for that no present enjoyment can render a man happy, all experience proclaimeth; the restless motions we continually see, the
woful complaints we daily hear, do manifestly demonstrate.
And who seeth not the great benefits and the goodly fruits accruing from observance of these laws and rules? Who discerneth not the admirable consent of all these particular injunctions in our religion with that general one, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are just, whatever things are honest, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, that we should mind such things,” and practise them ? Such, and far more excellent than I am able to describe, is the rule of Christian practice; a rule, in perfection, in beauty, in efficacy far surpassing all other rules ; productive of a goodness more complete, more lovely, more sprightful than any other doctrine or institution hath been or can be able to bring forth; much exceeding not only “the righteousness of blind Pharisees,” but all the virtue of the most sage philosophers. Somewhat in part concurrent therewith philosophy hath descried and delivered ; it is no wonder it should, since all of it is so plainly consonant to reason ; yet what philosophy hath in this kind afforded, is, in truth, if compared with what our religion teacheth, exceedingly meagre, languid, and flat : two words here, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself,” do signify more, do contain in them more sense and savour to the judgment and relish of a well disposed mind, than the Ethics of Aristotle, the Offices of Cicero, the Precepts and Dissertations of Epictetus, the many other volumes of philosophical morality all put together ; in matter our rule is far more rich and full, more sweet and sapid than theirs ; in force and efficacy it doth also, as we shall hereafter see, far excel them.
ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY.
Born 1630—Died 1694.
SERMON, MAT. v. 48.
The strongest and surest reasonings in religion, are grounded upon the essential perfections of God; so that even divine revelation itself doth suppose these for its foundation, and can signify nothing to us, unless these be first known and believed. Unless we be first persuaded of the providence of God, and his particular care of mankind, why should we believe that he would make any revelation of himself to men ? Unless it be naturally known to us that God is true, what foundation is there for the belief of his word ? And what signifies the laws and promises of God, unless natural light do first assure us of his sovereign authority and faithfulness? So that the principles of natural religion are the foundation of that which is revealed; and therefore, in reason, nothing can be admitted to be a revelation from God, which plainly contradicts his essential perfection ; and, consequently, if any pretends divine revelation for this doctrine, that God hath from all eternity absolutely decreed the eternal ruin of the greatest part of mankind, without any respect to the sins and demerits of men, I am as certain that this