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ment, while we be always climbing toward the top, and straining unto farther attainment: the sincere prosecution of which course, as it will be more profitable unto us, so it will be no less acceptable to God, than if we could thoroughly fulfil the law: for in judgment God will only reckon on the sincerity and earnestness of our endeavor ; so that if we have done our best, it will be taken as if we had done all. Our labor will not be lost in the Lord;' for the degrees of performance will be considered, and he that bath done his duty in part shall be proportionably recompensed ; according to that of St. Paul, • Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own work. Hence sometimes we are enjoined to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect,' and to be holy as God is holy:' otherwhile to 'go on to perfection, and to press toward the mark;' which precepts in effect do import the same thing ; but the latter implieth the former, although in attainment impossible, yet in attempt very profitable: and surely he is likely to write best, who proposeth to himself the fairest copy for his imitation.
In fine, if we do act what is possible, or as we can do conform to the rule of duty, we may be sure that no impossibility of this, or of
other sublime law, can prejudice us. I say, of any other law; for it is not only this law to which this exception may be made, but many others, perhaps every one evangelical law, are alike repugnant to corrupt nature, and seem to surmount our ability.
But neither is the performance of this task so impossible, or so desperately hard, (if we take the right course, and use proper means toward it,) as is supposed : as may somewhat appear, if we will weigh the following considerations.
1. Be it considered that we may be mistaken in our account, when we do look on the impossibility or difficulty of such a practice, as it appeareth at present, before we have seriously attempted, and in a good method, by due means, earnestly labored to achieve it: for many things cannot be done at first, or with a small practice, which by degrees and a continued endeavor may be effected ; divers things are placed at a dis. tance, so that without passing through the interjacent way we cannot arrive at them ; divers things seem hard before trial,
which afterward prove very easy : it is impossible to fly up to the top of a steeple, but we may ascend thither by steps; we cannot get to Rome without crossing the seas, and travelling through France or Germany; it is hard to comprehend a subtile theorem in geometry, if we pitch on it first; but if we begin at the simple principles, and go forward through the intermediate propositions, we may easily attain a demonstration of it: it is bard to swim, to dance, to play on an instrument; but a little trial, or a competent exercise will render those things easy to us: so may the practice of this duty seem impossible, or insuperably difficult, before we have employed divers means, and, voided divers impediments; before we have inured our minds and affections to it; before we have tried our forces in some instances thereof, previous to others of a higher strain, and nearer the perfection of it.
If we would set ourselves to exercise charity in those instances, whereof we are at first capable without much reluctancy, and thence proceed toward others of a higher nature, we may
find such improvement, and taste such content therein, that we may soon arise to incredible degrees thereof; and at length perhaps we may attain to such a pitch, that it will seem to us base and vain to consider our own good before that of others, in any sensible measure; and that nature which now so mightily doth contest in favor of ourselves, may in time give way to a better nature, born of custom, affecting the good of others. Let not therefore a present sense or experience raise in our minds a prejudice against the possibility or practicableness of this duty.
2. Let us consider that in some respects and in divers instances it is very feasible to love our neighbor no less than ourselves.
We may love our neighbor truly and sincerely, “out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned,' as St. Paul doth prescribe; or according to St. Peter's injunction, • from a pure heart love one another fervently:' and in this respect we can do no more toward ourselves; for truth admitteth no degrees, sincerity is a pure and complete thing, exclusive of all mixture or alloy.
And as to external acts at least it is plain that charity toward
others may reach self-love; for we may be as serious, as vigorous, as industrious in acting for our neighbor's good, as we can be in pursuing our own designs and interests: for reason easily can manage and govern external practice; and common expe. rience showeth the matter to this extent practicable, seeing that often men do employ as much diligence on the concerns of others, as they can do on their own, (being able to do no more than their best in either case :) wherefore in this respect charity may vie with selfishness; and practising thus far may be a step to mount higher.
Also rational consideration will enable us to perform some interior acts of charity in the highest degree; for if we do but (as without much difficulty we may do) apply our mind to weigh the qualities and the actions of our neighbor, we may thence obtain a true opinion and just esteem of him; and, secluding gross folly or flattery of ourselves, how can we in that respect or instance be more kind or benign to ourselves?
: Is it not also within the compass of our ability to repress those passions of soul, the eruption whereof tendeth to the wrong, damage, and offence of our neighbor; in regard to which practice St. Paul affirmeth that the law may be fulfilled : • Love,' saith he,' worketh no evil to his neighbor ; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law ? And what more in this respect can we perform for ourselves ?
3. We consider that commonly we see men inclined by other principles to act as much or more for the sake of others, than they would for themselves,
Moral honesty hath inclined some, ambition and popularity have excited others, to encounter the greatest dangers, to attack the greatest difficulties, to expose their safety, to sacrifice their lives, for the welfare of their country."
Common friendship hath often done as much, and brutish love (that 'mad friendship,' as Seneca calleth it) commonly doeth far more : for what will not a fond lover undertake and achieve for his minion, although she really be the worst enemy he can have ? yet for such a snake will he not lavish his estate,
'Αληθές δε το περί του σπουδαίου, και το των φίλων ένεκα πολλά πράττειν και της πατρίδος, κάν δέη υπεραποθνήσκειν.-Arist. Eth, ix. 8.
prostitute his honor, abandon his ease, hazard his safety, shipwreck his conscience, forfeit his salvation ? What may not a Delilah obtain of her Samson, a Cleopatra of her Antony, how prejudicial soever it be to his own interest and welfare ?
Why then may not a principle of charity, grounded on so much better reason, and backed by so much stronger motives, be conceived able to engage men to the like practice ? why may not a man be disposed to do that out of a hearty good will, which he can do out of vain conceit, or vicious appetite ? why shall other forces overbear nature, and the
of charity be unable to match it?
4. Let us consider that those dispositions of soul which usually with so much violence do thwart the observance of this precept, are not ingredients of true self-love, by the which we are directed to regulate our charity; but a' spurious brood of our folly and pravity, which imply not a sober love of ourselves, but a corrupt fondness toward an idol of our fancy mistaken for ourselves.
A high conceit of our worth or ability, of our fortune or worldly state, of our works and achievements; a great complacence or confidence in some endowment or advantage belonging to us, a stiff adherence to our own will or humor, a greedy appetite to some particular interest or base pleasure; these are those, not attendants of natural self-love, but issues of unnatural depravedness in judgment and affections, which render our practice so exorbitant in this regard, making us seem to love ourselves so immoderately, so infinitely; so contracting our souls, and drawing them inwards, that we appear indisposed to love our neighbor in any considerable degree: if these (as by serious consideration they may be) were avoided, or much abated, it would not be found so grievous a matter to love our neighbor as ourselves; for that sober love remaining behind, to which nature inclineth, and which reason approveth, would rather help to promote than yield any obstacle to our charity : if such perverse selfishness were checked and depressed, and natural kindness cherished and advanced, then true self-love and charity would compose themselves into near a just poise. 6. Indeed (which we may farther consider) our nature is not BAR. VOL. II.
so absolutely averse or indisposed to the practice of such charity, as to those may seem who view it slightly, either in some particular instances, or in ordinary practice: nature hath furnished us with strong instincts for the defence and sustenance of our life ; and common practice is depraved by ill education and custom : these some men poring on do imagine no room left for charity in the constitution of men; but they consider not that one of these may be so moderated, and the other so corrected, that charity may have a fair scope in men's hearts and practice; and they slip over divers pregnant marks of our natural inclination thereto.
Man having received his soul from the breath of God, and being framed after the image of his most benign parent, there do yet abide in him some features resembling God, and relics of the divine original; there are in us seeds of ingenuity, of equity, of pity, of benignity, which being cultivated by sober consideration and good use, under the conduct and aid of heavenly grace, will produce noble fruits of charity.
The frame of our nature so far disposeth us thereto, that our bowels are touched with sensible pain on the view of any calamitous object : our fancy is disturbed at the report of any disaster befalling any person ; we can hardly see or read a tragedy without motions of compassion.
The practice of benignity, of courtesy, of clemency at first sight, without any discursive reflexion, doth obtain approbation and applause from us; being no less grateful and amiable to the mind than beauty to our eyes, harmony to our ears, fragrancy to our smell, and sweetness to our palate: and to the same mental sense malignity, cruelty, harshness, all kinds of uncharitable dealing are very disgustful and loathsome.
There wanteth not any commendation to procure a respect for charity, nor any invective to breed abhorrence of uncharitableness ; nature sufficiently prompting to favor the one, and to detest the other.
The practice of the former in common language hath ever been styled humanity; and the disposition from whence it floweth is called good-nature: the practice of the latter is likewise termed inhumanity, and its source ill-nature; as thwarting the common notions and inclinations of mankind, divest