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It representeth all men (considering their divine extraction, and being formed after God's image; their designation for eternal glory and happiness, their partaking of the common redemption by the undertakings and sufferings of Christ, their being objects of God's tender affection and care) so very considerable, that no regard beneath the highest will befit them.
It also declareth us so nearly allied to them, and so greatly concerned in their good, (we being all one in Christ,' and 'members one of another,') that we ought to have a perfect complacency in their welfare, and a sympathy in their adversity, as our own.
It condemneth self-love, self-pleasing, self-seeking as great faults; which yet (even in the highest excess) do not seem absolutely bad ; or otherwise culpable, than as including partiality, or detracting from that equal measure of charity which we owe to others : for surely we cannot love ourselves too much, if we love others equally with ourselves; we cannot seek our own good excessively, if with the same earnestness we seek the good of others.
It exhibiteth supernatural aids of grace, and conferreth that holy spirit of love, which can serve to no meaner purposes, than to quell that sorry principle of niggardly selfishness, to which corrupt nature doth incline; and to enlarge our hearts to this divine extent of goodness.
8. Lastly, many conspicuous examples, proposed for our direction in this kind of practice, do imply this degree of charity to be required of us.
It may be objected to our discourse, that the duty thus understood is unpracticable, nature violently swaying to those degrees of self-love which charity can nowise reach. This exception (would time permit) I should assoil, by showing how far, and by what means we may attain to such a practice; (how at least, by aiming at this top of perfection, we may ascend nearer and nearer thereto :) in the mean time experience doth sufficiently evince possibility; and assuredly that may be done, which we see done before us. And so it is, pure charity hath been the root of such affections and such performances (recorded by indubitable testimony) toward others, which
hardly any man can exceed in regard to himself: nor indeed hath there scarce ever appeared any heroical virtue, or memorable piety, whereof charity overbearing selfishness, and sacrificing private interest to public benefit, hath not been a main ingredient. For instance then;
Did not Abraham even prefer the good of others before his own, when he gladly did quit his country, patrimony, friends, and kindred, to pass his days in a wandering pilgrimage, on no other encouragement than an overture of blessing on his posterity?
Did not the charity of Moses stretch thus far, when for the sake of his brethren he voluntarily did exchange the splendors and delights of a court for a condition of vagrancy and servility ; 'choosing rather,' as the Apostle speaketh, 'to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin ? did not it overstretch, when (although having been grievously affronted by them) he wished that rather his name should be • expunged from God's book,' than that their sin should abide unpardoned ?
Did not Samuel exercise such a charity, when being ingratefully and injuriously dismounted from his authority, he did yet retain toward that people a zealous desire of their welfare, ‘not ceasing earnestly to pray for them ?'
Did not Jonathan love David equally with himself, when for his sake he chose to incur the displeasure of his father and his king; when for his advantage he was content to forfeit the privilege of his birth, and the inheritance of a crown ; when he could without envy or grudge look on the growing prosperity of his supplanter, could heartily wish his safety, could effectually protect it, could purchase it to him with his own great danger and trouble : when he, that in gallantry of courage and virtue did yield to none, was yet willing to become inferior to one born his subject, one raised from the dust, one taken from a sheepcote;' so that unrepiningly and without disdain he could say, “Thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee?- !--are not these pregnant evidences that it was truly said in the story, “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and he loved him as his own soul ?'
Did not the psalmist competently practise this duty, when in
the sickness of his ingrateful adversaries · he clothed himself with sackcloth, he humbled his soul with fasting ; he bowed down heavily as one that mourneth for his mother ?'
Were not Elias, Jeremy, and other prophets as much concerned for the good of their countrymen as for their own, when they took such pains, when they ran such hazards, when they endured such hardships not only for them, but from them; being requited with hatred and misusage for endeavoring to reclaim them from sin, and stop them from ruin?
May not the holy Apostles seem to have loved mankind beyond themselves, when for its instruction and reformation, for reconciling it to God, and procuring its salvation, they gladly did undertake and undergo so many rough difficulties, so many formidable dangers, such irksome pains and troubles, such extreme wants and losses, such grievous ignominies and disgraces ; slighting all concerns of their own, and relinquishing whatever was most dear to them (their safety, their liberty, their ease, their estate, their reputation, their pleasure, their very blood and breath) for the welfare of others; even of those who did spitefully malign and cruelly abuse them ?
Survey but the life of one among them; mark the wearisome travels he underwent over all the earth, the solicitous ca which did
his mind for all the churches :' the continual toils and drudgeries sustained by him in preaching by word and writing, in visiting, in admonishing, in all pastoral employments; the imprisonments, the stripes, the reproaches, the oppositions and persecutions of every kind, and from all sorts of people, which he suffered; the pinching wants, the desperate hazards, the lamentable distresses with the which he did ever conflict: peruse those black catalogues of his afflictions registered by himself; then tell me how much his charity was inferior to his self-love ? did not at least the one vie with the other, when he, for the benefit of his disciples, was content • to be absent from the Lord,' or suspended from a certain fruition of glorious beatitude ; resting in this uncomfortable state, in . this fleshly tabernacle' wherein · he groaned, being burdened,' and longing for enlargement ? Did he not somewhat beyond himself love those men, for whose salvation he wished
himself ' accursed from Christ,' or debarred from the assured enjoyment of eternal felicity; those very men by whom he had been stoned, had been scourged, had been often beaten to extremity, from whom he had received manifold indignities and outrages ?
Did not they love their neighbors as themselves, who sold their possessions, and distributed the prices of them for relief of their indigent brethren? Did not most of the ancient saints and fathers mount near the top of this duty, of whom it is by unquestionable records testified that they did freely bestow all their private estate and substance on the poor, devoting themselves to the service of God and edification of his
Did not our Lord himself in our nature exemplify this duty, yea by his practice far outdo his precept ? For, he who from the brightest glories, from the immense riches, from the ineffable joys and felicities of his celestial kingdom, did willingly stoop down to assume the garb of a seryant, to be clothed with the infirmities of flesh, to become a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief:' he who for our sake vouchsafed to live in extreme penury and disgrace, to feel hard want, sore travail, bitter per
, secution, most grievous shame and anguish: he who not only did contentedly bear, but purposely did choose to be accused, to be slandered, to be reviled, to be mocked, to be tortured, to pour forth his heart-blood on a cross, for the sake of an unprofitable, an unworthy, an impious, an ingrateful generation ; for the salvation of his open enemies, of base apostates, of perverse rebels, of villainous traitors: he who, in the height of his mortal agonies, did sue for the pardon of his cruel murderers ; who did send his Apostles to them, did cause so many wonders to be done before them, did furnish all means requisite to convert and save them; he that acted and suffered all this, and more than can be expressed, with perfect frankness and good-will; did he not signally love his neighbor as himself, to the utmost measure ? did not in him virtue conquer nature, and charity triumph over self-love? This he did to seal and impress his doctrine ; to show us what we should do, and what we can do by his grace; to oblige us and to encourage us unto a conformity with him in this respect; for, · Walk in love,' saith the Apostle, as
Christ hath also loved us, and hath given himself for us;' and • This,' saith he himself, is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you;' and how can I better conclude than in the recommendation of such an example ?
Now, our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God even our Father, who hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.'