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The Reafon of this seems to be that mighty Ascendant, which Use and inveterate Habits naturally gain upon us. We can very hardly be persuaded to change a Practice or Opinion, which we have been educated in, and long accustomed to ; or to suppose, that other Men fee farther into things than our felves. The Man therefore, who leans more to his own Understanding and Study, than to that Principle of Virtue, which should difpofe him to an entire: Submiffion to Chrift and his Doctrine, is by no means in a Condition of having his Mind entightned by God. For God expects that we should be subject to Him without any Reserves, and thinks it fit, that a Religious Love and Obedience should take place of our own Réa. fonings.
CHA P. XV.
Of Works of Charity.
Confideration of any Advantage, 'no Regard of Person whatsoever, muft ever prevail with us to do an Ill Thing. But the Benefit of a Person, who stands in need of our Relief, is oftentimes a fufficient, Warrant for leaving a Good Thing undone ; or for changing our Measures, and chuling to do one Good Thing rather than another. For indeed, properly speaking, this is not so much an omitting to do well, as a prudent Contrivance to do better. But, let the Thing we do be what it will, it is the Principle upon which we do it, that muft recommend it: And, as without Charity, both all we are, and all we do, figa nify nothing; so, where this is at the bottom, every
thing we do, how mean foever in it felf, is of very valuable Confideration. For God observes by what Springs we are moved ; and measures our Defert, by the Difpofition of the Heart, and not by the Worth of the Gift, or the Quality of the Action.
The Man then, that loves a great deal, does a great deal; the Man that does any thing well, in that one thing does a great deal : And He does well, who prefers the Good of others before his own private Pleafure or Profit. That which frequently passes for Charity, is really no better than a selfish and carnal Principle. For how very seldom do Men act upon other Motives, than the gratifying their own Inclinations, the doing their own Will, the Prospect of their own Advantage, the Expectation of Return or Reward ; fo consulting the Convenience, not so much of others, as themselves?
Now true and perfect Charity feeks not its own Advantage ; and if God, in his Bounty, bę pleased to recompence it, yet this Recompence is not the thing principally in view, but its great Aim and End is the Glory of God. For the fame Reason Cha
I Cor. xiii. rity envieth not ; because Envy is a Passion proceeding from Selfishness and Pride. And therefore the Man, who acts upon a Principle so generous, as neither to seek his own private Interest, not to take Satisfaction in himself, but places all his Content and Bliss in God alone, is got above Envy, and incapable of fo mean a Passion. Charity looks upon God as the Sole Beginning and End of all Good; the Source, from whence it flowsį and the Immenfe Ocean, in which it is swallowed up; the Perfon from whom all the Saints derive their Righteousness, and in the Fruition of whom the Reward of their Righteousness confifts. And therefore the Man poffess'd of this Principle, fets no undue Value upon himself or others; He takes ņo part of the Merit or Honour to himself; He is
profuse in the Commendation of others; but ascribes the whole Glory of every Virtuous Action to Him, whose originally and in truth it is. Little need be said, to thew, that one thus disposed, thus persuaded of God, as the Only, the Universal Good, must have fet his Heart upon things above. For sure the least Spark of his Holy Fire will serve to kindle in our Breasts the Love of Heaven and Spiritual Joys, and fuffice to convince us that all here below is full of Vanity, and by no means an Object worthy our : Affections,
C H A P. XVI.
observe in your self or others any thing amiss, which you would fain, but cannot cure, your Duty in such Cafes is to endure it, till God fees fit to order Matters otherwise.. And a Duty this is highly reasonable, if you consider, that possibly it is much wiser and better, that these Faults mould not be amended, than that they should. It may be, God permits them for the Tryal and Increase of your Patience and Humility; without which all our Virtues are of no great regard in his Sight. But at the fame time that you ought to bear, you are no lefs obliged to pray against them; to beg that the ill Example of them may be no hindrance to you in your Christian Course ; and to implore the Assistance of his Grace, for the bearing them in such a manner, that the Provocations arising thence may never shake your Temper, or betray you to any sinful, or so much as indecent, excess of Pallion.
If a Man refufe to comply with good Advice, or to reform upon Admonitions and Reproofs ; you are not, after these Offers of doing him Service have been made and repeated, obliged to contend with him any longer. “ 'Tis better to commit the whole Affair to God, and endeavour to effect that by your Prayers, which your Discourses could not do. Befeech Him therefore, whose Infinite Wisdom knows how to bring Good out of Evil, that his Will' may be done, and his Name glorified ; and that all who Serve and Worship him, may be led into such Actions, as most contribute to these Ends, and are well pleasing in his fight. And when you have thus discharged Your Part, fet your self resolutely to bear the greatest Infirmities and Faults of your Brethren without any Disturbance. And, for confirming this Resolution, remember, that You also have many Failings of your own, by which the Patience of other People will have its turn of being exercised. And if you do, ( as certainly you cannot but) see this ; think how unreasonable it is, to expect you should make others in all Particulars,' what you would have Them to be ; when you cannot so much as make your self what you are sensible you ought to be. And, indeed, nothing is more common, than to express exceeding Zeal in amending our Neighbours, and mighty Indignation against their Vices or Imperfections ; while at the same time we neglect the beginning at Home, and either quite overlook, or seem highly contented with our own.
We take a pleasure in being severe upon others, but cannot endure to hear of our own Faults. We are furprized and uneasy at the Liberties they take with us, and wonder with what Confidence they can pretend such Interest in us; and yet there is nothing so extravagant, which we do not think we have a Right to expect, and resent it highly to be denied. We set up for Reformers, declaim at the Wickedness of the Age, and
are all for suppressing and punishing it by rigorous Laws; and yet are unwilling, that any Check or Restraint should be put upon our own Freedoms. This shews, how far we are from observing that great Rule of Equity, the Loving our Neighbour as our Selvęs ; and from meeting to Others the same measure, which we are content should be measur’d to Us again.
Further yet, Supposing all Men to be without Faults, some Excellencies and Virtues must be loft too: What would become of Patience, what of Forgiving and Forbearing one another for Christ's fake, if there were no Provocations to try our Temper? And such there could not be, if every Man were perfect, and did his Duty. But, as the present Condition of the World is ordered, God hath furnished us with constant Occafions of bearing one another's Burthens. For there is no Man lives without his Failings; no Man that is so happy as never to give Offence; no Man without his Load of Trouble; no Man fo fufficient, as never to need Aslistance; none fo wise, but the Advice of Or thers may at some time or other, be useful and neceffary for him: And therefore we should think our felves under the strongest Engagements to comfort, and relieve, and instruct, and admonish, and bear with one another. Besides, we shall do well to reflect, that Afictions and uneasy Accidents are the clearest Indication of a Man's Goodnefs, and the Degrees of his Improvement. For we mistake extremely, in imagining, that any thing which happens to us from without, is the real Cause of our doing well or ill: Adversity does not make Virtue or Vice, but exert and draw them into Practice ; it does not change the Man from what he was, but only discover what he really is.