« FöregåendeFortsätt »
others; endeavoring to please them in all things,' especially ' for their good to edification.'
Are we easily angry with ourselves, do we retain implacable grudges against ourselves, or do we execute on ourselves mischievous revenge? are we not rather very meek and patient toward ourselves, mildly comporting with our own great weaknesses, our troublesome humors, our impertinences and follies ; readily forgiving ourselves the most heinous offences, neglects, affronts, injuries, and outrages committed by us against our own interest, honor, and welfare?-Hence may we derive lessons of meekness and patience, to be exercised toward our neighbor, in bearing his infirmities and miscarriages, in remitting any wrongs or discourtesies received from him.
Are we apt to be rude in our deportment, harsh in our language, or rigorous in our dealing toward ourselves? do we not rather in word and deed treat ourselves very softly, very indulgently? Do we use to pry for faults, or to pick quarrels with ourselves, to carp at any thing said or done by us, rashly or on slight grounds to charge blame on ourselves, to lay heavy censures on our actions, to make foul constructions of our words, to blazon our defects, or aggravate our failings? do we not rather connive at and conceal our blemishes? do we not excuse and extenuate our own crimes?
Can we find in our hearts to frame virulent invectives, or to dart bitter taunts and scoffs against ourselves; to murder our own credit by slander, to blast it by detraction, to maim it by reproach, to prostitute it to be deflowered by jeering and scurrilous abuse? are we not rather very jealous of our reputation, and studious to preserve it, as a precious ornament, a main fence, a useful instrument of our welfare?
Do we delight to report, or like to hear ill stories of our selves? do we not rather endeavor all we can to stifle them; to tie the tongues and stop the ears of men against them ?—Hence may we be acquainted how civil and courteous in our behavior, how fair and ingenuous in our dealing, how candid and mild in our judgment or censure, we should be toward our neighbor; how very tender and careful we should be of anywise wronging or hurting his fame.
Thus reflecting on ourselves, and making our practice toward
ourselves the pattern of our dealing with others, we shall not fail to discharge what is prescribed to us in this law: and so we have here a rule of charity. But, farther,
2. Loving our neighbor as ourselves doth also import the measure of our love toward him; that it should be commensurate and equal in degree to that love which we bear and exercise toward ourselves. St. Peter once and again doth exhort us to love one another' é«rev@s, with an outstretched affection and how far that affection should be stretched we are here informed; even that it should reach the farthest that can be, or to a parity with that intense love which we do bear in heart, and express in performance toward ourselves: so that we do either bring down our self-love to such a moderation, raise up our charity to such a fervency, that both come to be adjusted in the same even level. This is that pitch at which we should aim and aspire; this is that perfection of charity, which our Lord recommendeth to us in that injunction, Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.'
That this sense of the words is included, yea chiefly intended, divers reasons will evince; for,
1. The most natural signification and common use of the phrase doth import thus much; and any one at first hearing would so understand the words.
2. It appeareth by comparing this precept with that to which it is annexed, of loving God with all our heart and all our soul;' which manifestly designeth the quantity and degree of that love consequently the like determinaton is intended in this precept, which is expressed to resemble that, or designed in like manner to qualify and bound our duty toward our neighbor.
3. If the law doth not signify thus much, it doth hardly signify any thing; not at least any thing of direction or use to us; for no man is ignorant that he is obliged to love his neighbor, but how far that love must extend is the point wherein most of us do need to be resolved, and without satisfaction in which we shall hardly do any thing: for as he that oweth money will not pay except he can tell how much it is; so to know the duty will not avail toward effectual observance of it, if its measure be not fixed.
4. Indeed, the law otherwise understood will rather be apt to misguide than to direct us; inducing us to apprehend that we shall satisfy its intent, and sufficiently discharge our duty, by practising charity in any low degree or mean instance. Also,
5. The former sense, which is unquestionable, doth infer and establish this; because similitude of love, morally speaking, cannot consist with inequality thereof; for if in considerable degrees we love ourselves more than others, assuredly we shall fail both in exerting such internal acts of affection, and in performing such external offices of kindness toward them, as we do exert and perform in regard to ourselves; whence this law, taken merely as a rule, demanding a confused and imperfect similitude of practice, will have no clear obligation or certain efficacy.
6. But farther to assure this exposition, I shall declare that the duty thus interpreted is agreeable to reason, and may justly be required of us on considerations, which together will serve to press the observance of it according to such measure.
1. It is reasonable that we should thus love our neighbor as ourselves, because he is as ourselves, or really in all considerable respects the same with us; we concur with him in all that is necessary, substantial, and stable; we differ from him only in things contingent, circumstantial, and variable; in the which, of course or by chance we are liable in a small time as much to differ from ourselves: in such respects we are not the same to-day that we were yesterday, and shall be to-morrow; for we shift our circumstances as we do our clothes; our bodies are in continual flux, and our souls do much conform to their alteration; our temper and complexion do vary with our air, our diet, our conversation, our fortunes, our age; our parts grow and decay, our principles and judgments, our affections and desires are never fixed, and seldom rest long in the same place; all our outward state doth easily change face; so that if we consider the same person in youth and in age, in health and in sickness, in prosperity and in distress, may we not say, quantum mutatus ab illo; how quite another man is he grown! Yet shall a man for such alterations surcease or abate his love to himself? Why then in regard to the like differences shall
we less affect our neighbor, who is endowed with that common nature, which alone through all those vicissitudes sticketh fast in us; who is the most express image of us, (or rather a copy, drawn by the same hand, of the same original,) another self, attired in a diverse garb of circumstances? Do we not, so far as we despise or disaffect him, by consequence slight or hate ourselves; seeing (except bare personality, or I know not what metaphysical identity) there is nothing in him different from what is, or what may be in us?
2. It is just that we should love our neighbor equally with ourselves, because he really no less deserveth love, or because on a fair judgment he will appear equally amiable. Justice is impartial, and regardeth things as they are in themselves, abstracting from their relation to this or that person; whence, if our neighbor seem worthy of affection no less than we, it demandeth that accordingly we should love him no less.
And what ground can there be of loving ourselves, which may not as well be found in others? Is it endowments of nature, is it accomplishments of knowlege, is it ornaments of virtue, is it accoutrements of fortune? But is not our neighbor possessed of the same? is he not at least capable of them, the collation and acquist of them depending on the same arbitrary bounty of God, or on faculties and means commonly dispensed to all? May not any man at least be as wise and as good as we? Why then should we not esteem, why not affect him as much? Doth relation to us alter the case? is self as self lovely or valuable? doth that respect lend any worth or price to things?
Likewise, what more can justice find in our neighbor to obstruct or depress our love than it may observe in ourselves? hath he greater infirmities or defects, is he more liable to errors and miscarriages, is he guilty of worse faults than we? If without arrogance and vanity we cannot affirm this, then are we as unworthy of love as he can be; and refusing any degree thereof to him, we may as reasonably withdraw the same from ourselves.
3. It is fit that we should be obliged to love our neighbor equally with ourselves, because all charity beneath self-love is defective, and all self-love above charity is excessive.
It is an imperfect charity which doth not respect our neighbor according to his utmost merit and worth, which doth not heartily desire his good, which doth not earnestly promote his advantage in every kind, according to our ability and opportunity : and what beyond this can we do for ourselves?
If in kind or degree we transcend this, it is not virtuous love or true friendship to ourselves, but a vain fondness or perverse dotage; proceeding from inordinate dispositions of soul, grounded on foolish conceits, begetting foul qualities and practices; envy, strife, ambition, avarice, and the like.
4. Equity requireth that we should love our neighbor to this degree, because we are apt to claim the same measure of love from others. No mean respect or slight affection will satisfy us; we cannot brook the least disregard or coldness; to love us a little is all one to us as not to love us at all: it is therefore equitable that we should be engaged to the same height of charity toward others; otherwise we should be allowed in our dealings to use double weights and measures, which is plain iniquity: what indeed can be more ridiculously absurd than that we should pretend to receive that from others, which we are not disposed to yield to them on the same ground and title?
5. It is needful that so great a charity should be prescribed, because none inferior thereto will reach divers weighty ends designed in this law; namely, the general convenience and comfort of our lives in mutual society and intercourse: for if in considerable degree we do affect ourselves beyond others, we shall be continually bickering and clashing with them about points of interest and credit; scrambling with them for what may be had, and clambering to get over them in power and dignity: whence all the passions annoying our souls, and all the mischiefs disturbing our lives, must needs ensue.
6. That intire love which we owe to God our Creator, and to Christ our Redeemer, doth exact from us no less a measure of charity than this: for seeing they have so clearly demonstrated themselves to bear an immense love to men, and have charged us therein to imitate them; it becometh us, in conformity, in duty, in gratitude to them, to bear the highest we can, that is, the same as we bear to ourselves: for how can we