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from our neighbor's welfare, (entertained with complacence, and wisely accommmodated to our use,) we should not be so averse from tendering his good as our own. 2. Let us consider our real state in the world, in dependence on the pleasure and providence of Almighty God. If we look on ourselves as subsisting only by our own care and endeavor, without any other patronage or help, it may thence prove hard to regard the interests of others as comparable to our own; seeing then, in order to our living with any convenience, it is necessary that we should be solicitous for our own preservation and sustenance, that will engage us to contend with others as competitors for the things we need, and uncapable otherwise to attain: but if (as we ought to do, and the true state of things requireth) we consider ourselves as subsisting under the protection and by the providence of God, who no less careth for us than for others, and no less for others than for us; (for, as the wise man saith, he ‘careth for all alike;’) who recommendeth to us a being mutually concerned each for other, and is engaged to keep us from suffering thereby; who commandeth us to disburden our cares on himself; who assuredly will the better provide for us, as we do more further the good of others: if we do consider thus, it will deliver us from solicitude concerning our subsistence and personal accommodations, whence we may be free to regard the concerns of others, with no less application than we do regard our own. As living under the same government and laws (being members of one commonwealth, one corporation, one family) disposeth men not only willingly but earnestly to serve the public interest, beyond any hopes of receiving thence any particular advantage answerable to their pain and care; so considering ourselves as members of the world, and of the church, under the governance and patronage of God, may disengage us from immoderate respect of private good, and incline us to promote the common welfare. 3. There is one plain way of rendering this duty possible, or of perfectly reconciling charity to self-love; which is, a making the welfare of our neighbor to be our own: which if we can do, then easily may we desire it more seriously, then may we promote it with the greatest zeal and vigor: for then it will be an instance of self-love to exercise charity; then both these inclinations conspiring will march evenly together, one will not extrude nor depress the other. It may be hard, while our concerns appear divided, not to prefer our own; but when they are coincident, or conspire together, the ground of that partiality is removed. Nor is this an imaginary course, but grounded in reason, and thereby reducible to practice: for considering the manifold bands of relation (natural, civil, or spiritual) between men, as naturally of the same kind and blood, as civilly members of the same society, as spiritually linked in one brotherhood; considering the mutual advantages derivable from the wealth and welfare of each other, (in way of needful succor, advice, and comfort, of profitable commerce, of pleasant conversation;) considering the mischiefs which from our neighbor's indigency and affliction we may incur, they rendering him as a wild beast, unsociable, troublesome, and formidable to us; considering that we cannot be happy without good nature and good humor, and that good nature cannot behold any sad object without pity and dolorous resentment, good humor cannot subsist in prospect of such objects; considering that charity is an instrument whereby we may apply all our neighbor's good to ourselves, it being ours, if we can find complacence therein ; it may appear reasonable to reckon all our neighbor's concerns to our account. That this is practicable, experience may confirm ; for we may observe that men commonly do thus appropriate the concerns of others, resenting the disasters of a friend or of a relation with as sensible displeasure as they could their own; and answerably finding as high a satisfaction in their good fortune. Yea many persons do feel more pain by compassion for others, than they could do in sustaining the same evils; divers can with a stout heart undergo their own afflictions, who are melted with those of a friend or brother. Seeing then in true judgment humanity doth match any other relation, and Christianity far doth exceed all other alliances, why may we not on them ground the like affections and practices, if reason hath any force, or consideration can any wise sway in our practice 4. It will greatly conduce to the perfect observance of this rule, to the depression of self-love, and advancement of charity to the highest pitch, if we do studiously contemplate ourselves, strictly examining our conscience, and seriously reflecting on our unworthiness and vileness; the infirmities and defects of nature, the corruptions and defilements of our soul, the sins and miscarriages of our lives: which doing, we shall certainly be far from admiring or doting on ourselves; but rather, as Job did, we shall condemn and abhor ourselves: when we see ourselves so deformed and ugly, how can we be amiable in our own eyes? how can we more esteem or affect ourselves than others, of whose unworthiness we can hardly be so conscious or sure ? What place can there be for that vanity and folly, for that pride and arrogance, for that partiality and injustice, which are the sources of immoderate self-love 7 5. And, lastly, we may from many conspicuous experiments and examples be assured, that such a practice of this duty is not impossible: but these I have already produced and urged in the precedent discourse, and shall not repeat them again.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XXVII.
EPHESIANS, CHAP. v.-VERSE 2.
CHARity recommended as the main scope of evangelical doctrine: testimony of St. Paul, St. Peter, St. James, and St. John to this effect: claimed by our Lord himself for his peculiar law, (John xv. 12. xiii. 34.); and the observance of it is the special badge of his followers. The nature of it will be best understood by a representation of its several chief acts or essential ingredients. Such are those that follow. I. Loving our neighbor implies that we should value and esteem him: this is necessary, because affection follows opinion: the favorable circumstances in man's nature stated: his excellent faculties; his divine extraction; the redemption made for him, and the glory offered him. How then can any man be deemed contemptible, who has so many noble capacities and privileges 2 This point enlarged on. II. Loving our neighbor implies a sincere and earnest desire for his welfare, and good of all kinds, in due proportion; for it is a property of love, that it would have its object most worthy of itself, and consequently that it should attain to the best state of which it is capable: this point illustrated. Hence we should readily pour out our prayers, which are the truest expressions of good desire, for the welfare of our neighbor. Example of St. Paul and of St. John in this respect; Rom. x. 1. 3 John ii. 3. &c. III. Charity implies a complacency or delightful satisfaction in the good of our neighbor: this is consequent on the former property; for joy naturally results from events agreeable to our desire: especially if our neighbor's spiritual improvement is concerned; and this is the charity which St. Paul so frequently expresses in his epistles (see 2 Cor. xiii. 9. &c.) This * that which possessed St. John (see 3 John 4.) This also is the charity of heaven, which cheers even the angels, and enhances the bliss of the blessed spirits: Luke xv. 7. 10. IV. Correspondently, love of our neighbor implies condolence and commiseration of the evils that befal him: for what we love we cannot without displeasure behold lying in a bad condition, sinking into decay, or ready to perish. It is the Property of charity, to mourn with those that mourn, not coldly, but passionately; for it is, to weep with those that weep: this point illustrated by many Scriptural quotations and examples. V. It is generally a property of love to appropriate its object; in apprehension and affection embracing it, possessing it, enjoying it as its own: so charity doth make our neighbor to be ours, engaging us to consider his case and his concerns as our own: so also charity doth enlarge our minds beyond private considerations, conferring on them an universal interest, and reducing all the world within the verge of our affectionate care; so that a man's self is but a small portion of his regard. VI. It is a property of love to affect union, or the greatest approximation that can be, to its object. As hatred sets things at a distance, making them to shun or chase away one another, so love attracts, combines, and holds them fast together. VII. It is a property of love to desire a reciprocal affection; for that is the surest possession and firmest union, which is grounded on voluntarily conspiring affection: and if we value any person, we cannot but prize his good-will and esteem. VIII. Hence also charity disposes us to please our neighbor, not only by inoffensive, but by obliging demeanor; by a ready complaisance and compliance with his humor and his desire in matters lawful, or consistently with duty and discretion: this point illustrated.