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prehend the whole both of what he had said and what he had omitted, concerning the ties of men to each other, in one universal law of life. Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them. Not that he was the first who made any use of this amiable maxim. God forbid the world should have been ignorant of so necessary and so plain a direction for their behaviour, till that time. Both Jews and heathens had seen its equity, and felt its force, in some degree. But still more was wanting to complete its usefulness: and that our Lord supplied. Most, if not all other teachers, had expressed it in the negative form: as Tobit, for instance, Do that to no man, which thou hatest *. And so it served only to restrain mutual injuries. But he laid it down in the affirmative, as an injunction also of proper kindnesses. They spoke of it no otherwise than incidentally, and without ascribing any singular prerogative to it. But he recommended it, as taking in the entire compass of social virtue. They could support it only by argument: but he hath added the sanction of divine authority. In these respects therefore it is peculiarly the law of our gracious Redeemer. But whether we consider it as a precept of his religion, or as one of the primitive dictates of reason and nature in either view we are bound to pay it a conscientious regard. And the right manner of shewing this regard is,

I. To form a just notion of its meaning.

II. To fix in our hearts a due sense of its obligation.

III. To consider its importance well.

IV. To regulate our practice by it in the various relations and occurrences of life.

* Tob. iv. 15.

On the three former of these points I shall discourse now: on the last, God willing, the next opportunity.

I. I shall endeavour to assist you in forming a just notion of this rule. Not that it wants explanation, as being obscure and difficult: but that mankind, in order to excuse their disobedience to it, are very apt to put false interpretations upon it; and so either pervert it into a wrong direction, or perplex it till it becomes none at all.

Some men, if we may judge by their conduct, apprehend themselves bound only to behave towards others, as they are willing others should behave towards them in their present condition. The rich and great, for example, have perhaps no favours to ask of a considerable part of their inferiors: and therefore too often seem to think, they need not bestow any favours upon them. They agree, they say, to the reasonableness of doing as they would be done by: and therefore, if they desire no service from such and such persons, they owe no service to them. But the rule is (and they know it is), not, " treat others " as you would wish them to treat you, circumstances



being what they are;" but, " as you would wish "them to treat you, circumstances being changed "on each side." This makes a great alteration.

Perhaps they will reply, that they are content, if circumstances ever should change, to receive the treatment which they give. Therefore they will overlook the poor and needy now, and they allow the world to overlook them, when they become such. They will revenge themselves of their enemies, while they have power; and let them, if ever it comes to their turn, repay the vengeance. But here again, they know in their consciences the rule means, not

that they shall act as they may think, or rather say, they shall be willing to have others act towards them, supposing circumstances should change, which they trust they never will: but as they would have them act, supposing circumstances were changed. And in that case they would wish for the very kindest behaviour, whatever they may beforehand either pretend or imagine.

But even on the supposition of an actual change, there are people, who can misinterpret this rule in such a manner, as would make the application of it sometimes a most pernicious thing. Every magistrate, were he in the place of the criminal, who appears before him, would wish not to be punished. Every virtuous man, were he a vicious one, would wish to be indulged and assisted in his vices. Every one of us perhaps would be glad, if he could, to have his will on all occasions. Ought we therefore to gratify all the inclinations of others, because we should like to have all our own gratified? Or if not, is not the rule an erroneous one, as implying this? Why, according to their different ways of thinking, some will be apt to prefer the former of these opinions, and some the latter. But neither is well grounded. For though indeed a magistrate, were he in the place of the offender, would wish to escape with impunity, yet this is not the only supposition he hath to make. Let him suppose himself also in the place of such, as may be then or afterwards injured by the offender, if he escapes punishment; or of such, as the precedent of his impunity may tempt others to injure: let him reflect, how the rule before us enjoins him to act with regard to those innocent persons, and he will never be misled by whatever tenderness it may seem to enjoin him with

regard to the guilty. Again, though if we were in the place of any of our vicious acquaintance, we should be glad to be assisted in our vices; yet suppose we were in the place of those, whom their vices corrupt, or impoverish, or grieve, or make any way miserable: should we then be glad, that other people should assist in bringing this misery upon us? If not, the precept of doing as we would be done by, far from requiring us to give such assistance ourselves, absolutely prohibits it. Serving our friends, when they ought not to be served; and raising those in the world, from partial fondness, who ought not to be raised, passes, I am afraid, too commonly for great good nature: and is defended, or excused, because it is treating them as we should desire to be treated by them. But then it is treating their worthier competitors, and all such as may suffer by the faults or incapacity of their favourites, which perhaps many, perhaps the public may, it is treating them as we should abhor to be treated. We must therefore understand this rule to mean that we take into our consideration, not barely the parties who appear and press for the benefit of it, but whoever else is concerned, if any be: and do, not to one or some only, but to all men, as we would that they should do

to us.

But here it may possibly be objected again, that if we imagine ourselves to be successively in the situation of different persons, we shall of consequence desire different and contrary things in reference to the same affair: so that behaving towards every one interested in it, as we should, in their circumstances, desire, that they would behave towards us, is impracticable: that therefore on such occasions, which are not rare, the rule is in effect no rule: and that


farther, on several others it is a very bad one. suppose any one to desire of us, what would be hurtful to no third person, but to himself, or to us: must we comply with his desire, because, if we were exactly in his stead, we should have the same desire? Certainly not. But then such cases as these, not only happen in comparison but seldom, and therefore cannot mislead, or even perplex us often: but when they do happen, instead of overturning the rule, they point out to us a very important limitation of it, which was doubtless originally intended in it, and will secure it from ever being overturned. And this is, that the phrase, whatsoever ye would, must not be extended to mean whatever we can possibly wish, but whatever we can equitably and allowably wish. It is to be understood of proper, not of unfit inclinations for what we are forbidden to desire, we are deemed in this precept not to desire.

The full and distinct purport of it then, the sense in which all the world understand it, excepting when they have a mind to misunderstand it, is; "whatever "treatment you should on cool deliberation think

you had reasonable ground to claim or hope from " each person concerned in the affair before you, were "he now in your condition and you in his, be that " which you give him no less honest and kind."

II. The meaning of the rule being ascertained, the next point is, to fix in our hearts a due sense of its obligation.

Now the proof of its obligation lies in a very small compass, which is one great recommendation of it: and therefore I shall spend much fewer words upon it than a separate head of discourse usually requires. Most evidently, in whatever manner it is fit to treat any person in any circumstances, it is fit to treat in


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