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Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.
THAT which is here recommended by the Apostle, as the common duty of Christians toward each other, on emergent occasions, with zeal and care to provoke one another to the practice of charity and beneficence, may well be conceived the special duty of those, whose office it is to instruct and guide others, when opportunity is afforded : with that obligation I shall now comply, by representing divers considerations serving to excite and encourage us to that practice: this (without premising any description or explication of the duty; the nature, special acts, and properties whereof I have already declared) I shall immediately undertake.
I. First then, I desire you to remember and consider that you are men, and as such obliged to this duty, as being very agreeable to human nature; the which, not being corrupted or distempered by ill use, doth incline to it, doth call for it, doth like and approve it, doth find satisfaction and delight therein.
St. Paul chargeth us to be eis &AAñ\ovs quxóoropyot, or ‘to have a natural affection one toward another:' that supposeth a oropy) inbred to men, which should be roused up, improved, and exercised. Such an one indeed there is, which, although often raked up and smothered in the common attendances on the providing for our needs, and prosecuting our affairs, will on occasion more or less break forth and discover itself That the constitution and frame of our nature disposeth to it, we cannot but feel, when our bowels are touched with a sensible pain at the view of any calamitous object; when our fancies are disturbed at the report of any disaster befalling a man; when the sight of a tragedy wringeth compassion and tears from us : which affections we can hardly quash by any reflexion, that such events, true or feigned, do not concern ourselves. Hence doth nature so strongly affect society, and abhor solitude; so that a man cannot enjoy himself alone, or find satisfaction in any good without a companion: not only for that he then cannot receive, but also because he cannot impart assistance, consolation, and delight in converse: for men do not affect society only that they may obtain benefits thereby; but as much or more, that they may be enabled to communicate them; nothing being more distasteful than to be always on the taking hand: neither indeed hath any thing a more pleasant and savory relish than to do good; as even Epicurus, the great patron of pleasure, did confess. The practice of benignity, of courtesy, of clemency, do at first sight, without aid of any discursive reflexion, obtain approbation and applause from men; being acceptable and amiable to their mind, as beauty to their sight, harmony to their hearing, fragrancy to their smell, and sweetness to their taste : and, correspondently, uncharitable dispositions and practices (malignity, harshness, cruelty) do offend the mind with a disgustful resentment of them. We may appeal to the conscience of each man, if he doth not feel dissatisfaction in that fierceness or frowardness of temper, which produceth uncharitableness; if he have not a complacence in that sweet and calm disposition of soul, whence charity doth issue; if he do not condemn himself for the one, and approve himself in the other practice. This is the common judgment of men; and therefore in common language this practice is styled humanity, as best sorting with our nature, and becoming it; and the principle whence it springeth is called good-nature: and the contrary practice is styled inhumanity, as thwarting our natural inclinations, or divesting us of manhood; and its source likewise is termed illnature, or a corruption of our nature. It is therefore a monstrous paradox, crossing the common sense of men, which in this loose and vain world hath lately got such vogue, that all men naturally are enemies one to another: it pretendeth to be grounded on common observation and experience; but it is only an observing the worst actions of the worst men; of dissolute ruffians, of villainous cheats, of ravenous oppressors, of malicious politicians, of such degenerate apostates from humanity; by whose practice (debauched by vain conceits and naughty customs) an ill measure is taken of mankind. Aristotle himself, who had observed things as well as any of these men, and with as sharp a judgment, affirmeth the contrary, that all men are friends, and disposed to entertain friendly correspondence with one another: indeed to say the contrary is a blasphemy against the author of our nature; and is spoken no less out of profane enmity against him, than out of venomous malignity against men: out of hatred to God and goodness they would disparage and vilify the noblest work of God's creation; yet do they, if we sound the bottom of their mind, imply themselves to admire this quality, and by their decrying it do commend it: for it is easy to discern that therefore only they slander mankind as uncapable of goodness, because out of malignity they would not allow it so excellent a quality. II. Let us consider what our neighbor is; how near in blood, how like in nature, how much in all considerable respects the same with us he is. Should any one wrong or defame our brother, we should be displeased; should we do it ourselves, or should we omit any office of kindness toward him, we should blame ourselves: every man is such, of one stock, of one blood with us; and as such may challenge and call for real affection from us. Should any one mar, tear, or deface our picture, or show any kind of disrespect thereto, we should be offended, taking it for an indignity put on ourselves; and as for ourselves, we should never in such a manner affront or despite ourselves: every man is such, our most lively image, representing us most exactly in all the main figures and features of body, of soul, of state; we thence do owe respect to every one. Every man is another self, partaker of the same nature, endued with the same faculties, subject to the same laws, liable to the same fortunes; distinguished from us only in accidental and variable circumstances: whence if we be amiable or estimable, so is he on the same grounds; and acting impartially (according to right judgment) we should yield love and esteem to him : by slighting, hating, injuring, hurting him we do consequentially abuse ourselves, or acknowlege ourselves deservedly liable to the same usage. Every man, as a Christian, is in a higher and nobler way allied, assimilated, and identified to us; to him therefore on the like grounds improved charity is more due ; and we wrong our heavenly relations, our better nature, our more considerable selves, in withholding it from him. III. Equity doth plainly require charity from us: for every one is ready not only to wish and seek, but to demand and claim love from others; so as to be much offended, and grievously to complain, if he do not find it. We do all conceive love and respect due to us from all men; we take all men bound to wish and tender our welfare; we suppose our need to require commiseration and succor from every man: if it be refused, we think it a hard case, and that we are ill used; we cry out of wrong, of discourtesy, of inhumanity, of baseness, practised toward us. A moderate respect and affection will hardly satisfy us; we pretend to them in the highest degree, disgusting the least appearance of disregard or disaffection; we can scarce better digest indifference than hatred. This evidenceth our opinion and conscience to be, that we ought to pay the greatest respect and kindness to our neighbor; for it is plainly unjust and ridiculously vain to require that from others which we refuse to others, who may demand it on the same title; nor can we without self-condemnation practise that which we detest in others. In all reason and equity, if I would have another my friend, I must be a friend to him; if I pretend to charity from all men, I must render it to all in the same kind and measure.
Hence is the law of charity well expressed in those terms, ‘ of doing to others whatever we would have them do to us;’ whereby the palpable equity of this practice is demonstrated. IV. Let us consider that charity is a right noble and worthy thing; greatly perfective of our nature; much dignifying and beautifying our soul. It rendereth a man truly great, enlarging his mind unto a vast circumference, and to a capacity near infinite; so that it by a general care doth reach all things, by an universal affection doth embrace and grasp the world. By it our reason obtaineth a field or scope of employment worthy of it, not confined to the slender interests of one person or one place, but extending to the concerns of all men. Charity is the imitation and copy of that immense love, which is the fountain of all being and all good; which made all things, which preserveth the world, which sustaineth every creature : nothing advance thus so near to a resemblance of him, who is essential love and goodness; who freely and purely, without any regard to his own advantage or capacity of finding any beneficial return, doth bear and express the highest goodwill, with a liberal hand pouring down showers of bounty and mercy on all his creatures; who daily putteth up numberless indignities and injuries, upholding and maintaining those who offend and provoke him. Charity rendereth us as angels, or peers to those glorious and blessed creatures, who, without receiving or expecting any requital from us, do heartily desire and delight in our good, are ready to promote it, do willingly serve and labor for it. Nothing is more amiable, more admirable, more venerable, even in the common eye and opinion of men; it hath in it a beauty and a majesty apt to ravish every heart; even a spark of it in generosity of dealing breedeth admiration, a glimpse of it in formal courtesy of behavior procureth much esteem, being deemed to accomplish and adorn a man: how lovely therefore and truly gallant is an entire, sincere, constant and uniform practice thereof, issuing from pure good-will and affection Love indeed or goodness (for true love is nothing else but goodness exerting itself, in direction toward objects capable of its influence) is the only amiable and only honorable thing: