CHARITY RECOMMENDED, IN A SERMON Preached at the ASSIZES HELD AT NORWICH, Upon Thursday the 29th of July, 1686.

By JOHN TƲRNER Hospitaller of St. Thomas Southwark.

And now made Publick at the request of the Gentlemen that heard it.

Simmias Rhodius, de Amore Divino. Cui cuncta obtemperant, & ab eodem originem sui arcessunt.

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LONDON, Printed by Henry Hills Junior, for Walter Kettilby at the Bishops-Head in St. Pauls Church-yard, 1686.

To the Right Worshipful, Sir Robert Nightingale, High-Sheriff of the County of Norfolk.

SIR,

I Am very sensible, it is too great an Honor that is done me by the general Approbation, which this Sermon met with; not that out of Real, or which is still worse, out of a Counterfeit and Pretended Modesty, I would put an Affront upon so great an Audience, by seeming to suspect the Judgments of so many excellent Persons; but the Subject being Charity, was it self a natural Preservative against Censure; and that very word so often repeated to any Man that un­derstands and feels the Sense of it in himself, as every good Man unquestionably doth, hath an in­credible Charm belonging to it, so as together with its Name, to insinuate its kindly and propitious Nature into every Breast, and with an Eloquence peculiar to it self, to bribe even Censure and Cri­ticism themselves into a favourable Opinion of the Speaker. However, it is enough for me, though I had no other reason, that you, who have so great [Page] a right to dispose of me as you please, have Com­manded me to Publish what I Preach'd; and though I know very well, your Friendship is too great to let you judge otherwise, than too too kindly of any Performance of mine; yet I have no power to do any thing but obey, though it be to my own disadvantage: Only, I confess, I am not a little a­sham'd, that so mean, and as you know, so tumul­tuary a Discourse, being written in very great hast, when I had scarce time to turn my self, should open so Glorious and Magnificent an Assize: But as it is, the World is welcome to it, and I have nothing further to say, but that it is very much in my Nature to wish and pray, that such a Chari­table Spirit as I have recommended, might uni­versally obtain, that I am very much in earnest in what I have written, and that I hope that will attone somewhat for other defects.

May you live as long, and as happily as you de­serve; and may the King never want such Gene­rous and Obliging Ministers in every Station, to disperse the happy Influences of his Government over a satisfied and contented People.

I am, Sir,
Your most Affectionate, Humble, and for ever most Oblig'd Servant, JOHN TƲRNER.
JOHN XIII. 35.‘By this shall all men know that ye are my Dis­ciples, if ye have love one to another.’

WHen God had determin'd with him­self to exert that wondrous act of his omnipotent Will, by which this Universe was created out of nothing; the next thing he did was to consult the Eternal Ideas of his own infinitely large and comprehensive Mind, and by that excellent Platform which he found within himself, to reduce the universal Rubbish into a regular and comely Frame and such as might at once declare, not only the Wisdom, but also the Peace, the Equability, and the Constancy of his Nature. For in a Mind harras'd and discomposed by troublesome and anxious thoughts ruffled and distemper'd by insatiable appetites, and e­ternally impotent desires; a Mind that hath no govern­ment, no mastery of it self, it is impossible there should be a true and adequate comprehension of things, any more than a man in a Feaver can be wise, or play the Stoique in the midst of the most exquisite and ingenious Torments. And therefore the Poets, when they go about to describe the happiness and serenity of the Divine Nature, which is unquestionably om­nipresent, have yet notwithstanding Mythologically confined it to those peaceful Regions above this troub­lesom and noisy Atmosphere, where Storms and Tem­pests [Page 2] are deny'd to enter, where a profound Silence and unshaken Calm makes self-enjoyment easie and delightful. So Homer describes his poetical Olympus the supposed Habitation of the Immortal Gods.

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Heaven the sweet place where happy Gods reside,
And where Peace flows with an Eternal Tide;
There no fierce Winds disturb the troubled Aire,
No Rains descend, no threatning Clouds appeal,
Nor Hail, nor Snow, nor pinching Frosts are seen,
But all is warm and silent and serene.

That Power of God by which he made the Chaos, and call'd it out of nothing into a dark, horrid and unhewn Existence, is apt only to fill us with asto­nishment and wonder; it presents us only with the terrours of the Lord, and fills our minds naturally with dismal apprehensions, not knowing what use he may make of so exorbitant a Power as this, till his Goodness comes in to succour and relieve us in the midst of this black and dreadful contemplation; as the Angels themselves, when they at first beheld such an unweildy Mass of indigested Matter, without any use, distinction or contrivance, were silent with asto­nishment and possest with fear, expecting some dan­gerous and destructive Issue of such an ill-bodeing, unpleasant, and deform'd Beginning: But when they saw this confusion by the divine Architect reduced into such admirable and perfect Order, which gave them so firm and irrafragable demonstration, of the wisdom, the peace, and serenity of their Maker, then the morning stars imediately sang-together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy.

Neither are we only instructed as well in the Wis­dom, as in the Peace and Tranquillity of the Divine Nature, which is immoveably blessed and happy in it self, from the Harmony and symmetry of the sensi­ble creation, which argues undeniably a Mind that is perfectly at leasure and at ease, and free from all man­ner of tumult and disorder: But when we reflect upon the Animal World, upon the several orders and degrees of Beings, that are endued with a specifick life, agreeable and suitable to the respective ends for which they were designed, furnisht with organs ex­quisitely fitted for their support and comfortable en­joyment, and with Provisions every were flowing round about them, and inviting them to refresh, exhilarate and enjoy themselves in the best manner their Natures will allow: When for our selves we find provided ready to our hands, not only a com­petence of Meat, Drink and Raiment, barely to sup­ply the necessities of Life; not only a large Train of innocent and lawful pleasures that attends all our mo­tions, and wearies out even self-denial it self, with a perpetual and restless invitation; but also a state­ly and magnificent Theatre, ready prepared and fur­nisht for our Entertainment, a Scene of things wor­thy of a reasonable Soul, fitted for the noble and exalted operations of a contemplative and active mind, that leads us thorough sensible apartments into the presence of the invisible God, and by acquaint­ing us first with his Existence, brings us by gentle steps to the study of his Nature, and to the imitation and enjoyment of it.

I say, when we reflect considerately and duly up­on these things, we are then plainly and certainly convinced, not only that God is, and that he is a Be­ing [Page 4] at rest within himself, that there are no Storms, no Billows in his Notion, no Troubles or Anxieties be­long to his Idea; but also in the language of the Psalmist, that his mercy is over all his works, and that the Emanations of that mercy upon his Creatures in proportion to their respective capacity to be the Ob­jects of it, are every whit as kind and gracious with respect to them, as the reflex acts of his own eter­nal mind, the sense and self-enjoyment of his im­mortal Nature, are kind and propitious and happy to himself.

Lastly, when we consider attentively with our selves, that these things are not thus peradventure, or by chance, or at certain times and seasons, like the Ebbing and Flowing of the Sea, or the encrease and waining of the Moon, as it were some lucid in­tervals of the Divine goodness, some certain fits of mercy and compassion, which have rather the ap­pearance of infirmity than perfection; but that they are all of them regular and constant, and that his Providence goes on in an uninterrupted course thorough all Times and Ages, to let us know and feel, that his mercy is everlasting, and that his truth endur­eth from generation to generation; from hence we learn, that his goodness is every whit as steady and as constant, as it is diffusive and large, that in the Ancient of days, there is no vicissitude, no decay of Na­ture, but that he is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever, in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning; that he is not a being of Arbitrary Will and Power, but that Goodness is rooted and riveted in his Nature, and that it is altogether inseparable from it; nay, that it is his Essence, his very Life and Being, according to that expression of St. John, that [Page 5] God is love, he that loveth not, saith he, knoweth not God, for God is love. He is not Arbitrary, un­determind's power, indifferent either to cruelty or mercy, unaccountable to himself as well as to his Creatures. He is not giddy humour, or alterable fancy, or wavering and uncertain caprice, but though he be infinite in himself, yet he hath mea­sures of Action, and Governs himself in all things by eternal Rules, from which he can no more Di­varicate or flinch, than he can cease to be himself, or bid a long farewell to all his Brightness, Blessedness and Perfection. He is Mercy, he is Kindness, he is all over Love, he is at once the most lovely, and the most loving Nature, and with an equal stream of ne­ver failing Goodness, he waters his Creatures, and enjoys Himself, O God who is like unto thee, gracious and merciful, long suffering and plenteous in goodness and truth; as the Hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my Soul after thee, O God, the Fountain of Pleasure, the everspringing Well of Living waters, and the Eternal source of inexhaustible Mercy.

There are two things required to the happiness of any being whatsoever, the first is an indolency and tranquillity, a calm and quiet sense within it self, not discomposed by turbulent and uneasie passions, nor tost too and fro without any conduct or steerage of it self, by infinite and uncertain desires. The Second is, that every thing without, have so far at least a Congruity, harmony and agreement with it, that nothing may disturb or shake this inward sense. So that the whole being with relation to it self, and with respect to objects that are external to it, is to be like a smooth Sea upon a still and silent Evening, where Tritons dance, and Dolphins play, [Page 6] and Sirens all around rejoyce and Sing, and all the Sea Nymphs revel and caress each other upon the gladsome surface of the great Abysse, which drinks in nothing but light and peace from without, and is surrounded by nothing but a serene and Azure Sky.

But wherever there is an aversion or antipathy of one Being to another, whether it proceed out of fickleness, uncertainty, and vicissitude of Nature, or out of fear, or out of some peculiar and unac­countable hatred, which it cannot exempt or deliver it self from, the first of these argues so great a want of Judgment, which proceeds upon immutable and certain reasons, the Second so great weakness and infirmity, and the Third is in it self so troublesome and tormenting wherever it is found, that all these are perfectly inconsistent with the happyness of any Being, and therefore must not be ascribed to God, who is infinitely wise, and therefore cannot be mista­ken as to his judgment of things, and infinitely pow­erful, so that he need not fear any cross or dange­rous event, and who must be happy if any such thing there be, because all perfection is contained in him­self, and happyness without question is the best Ac­complishment that can belong to any Being whatso­ever; it is that without which Existence it self would be a burthen, and all other attributes whatsoever they are, even Power, Wisdom, Justice, and Good­ness themselves, would be but a rack and torment to the Possessor. And who can dwell with Everlasting burnings? What Being could be so miserable as the Supream and self-existent, if any fastidious aversion or dislike, any desperate animosity or inconciliable hatred, which in so great a Mind must be propor­tion'd to it, had the power Eternally to disturb him?

It is true indeed, that in Scripture we find a fre­quent mention of his wrath, his indignation, his fierce anger, and his sore displeasure, and his jealou­sie that burns like fire, and the like; but yet these things do not argue him to be of a passible Nature, but only first, they refer to those punishments of our sins which in the course of his Providence are inflicted upon us, or which are denounced against us by such expressions as these, in case we do not Repent, and according to the proportion, the great­er or lesser weight and heaviness of these Punish­ments; so in an humane way of speaking we say, be­cause it is usually so in cases of revenge and animosi­ty among Men, that he is more or less angry or dis­pleased, not that he is more or less happy than he was before, or that any impressions can be made upon him, that can unsettle or discompose the equa­lity of his mind, but only he beholds every foolish and unreasonable Action, which is the very nature and notion of all Sin, with an impassible contempt, and with a dislike that hath no other effect upon him, but only to move him upon reasons of Justice, to Punish the Offence as it deserves, for the Good of the World, and for an Example to others.

Very frequently in our own persons he Chastiseth us so lightly, that it is plain he desires our amend­ment, not our destruction; but when the Punish­ment is never so severe, yet still there is a gracious meaning and intention in it, for the good of the Universe, which is infinitely more precious to him than the safety of any single person whatsoever, that other People warned by our Example may hear and fear, and do no more so wickedly. So that his Anger is indeed but an effect of his Love, and that [Page 8] which we call his Wrath and his Iudignation, is in truth nothing else but a particular and distinct branch of his infinite and incomprehensible Mercy.

Or Secondly, when such things as these are spoken of him in Scripture, they are to be referred to the purity of his Nature, to which all sin hath the greatest incongruity that any two things can have to one another; not that there ariseth any painful or tormenting sense, to trouble or disquiet his enjoy­ment of himself, but only according to an humane way of speaking, the Holy Scripture in this case ascribes those passions to God, which good Men upon the like occasion experience in themselves, when they see his Divinity Blasphemed, his Altars Profaned, his Churches Sacrilegiously rob'd and spoil'd, his Priesthood persecuted or neglected, his Laws disappointed and frustrated by Enthusiasm, or by open Wickedness affronted, his Religion and his Honor trampled under foot, either by Schism and Heresie on the one hand, or by Licentiousness and Lewdness on the other: And to this purpose there are two things very remarkable.

First, That though the Scripture be sometimes very fierce in the Denunciation of Gods Anger against Sin, yet it frequently dilutes and blends those sharp expressions with kind and gracious assurances of his Love, and tells us plainly, that it is this alone which is truly agreeable and suitable to his Nature; but that the other, that is, his Anger, or that which in the administration of his providence hath the out­ward semblance and appearance of it, is a thing which is put upon him by the necessities of Justice, and that he finds no other Complacency or satisfaction in the Punishments he inflicts, but what arises from [Page 9] the inward sense and consciousness of those gracious ends for which those unwilling severities are designed.

Secondly, It is to be observed, that God in Scrip­ture is not always represented, as Angry and in­censed at sin, but sometimes as laughing at it, and treating it with contempt and scorn: and indeed, both of these are ascribed together to him in that Prophetick rapture of David, in the second Psalm, Why do the Heathen rage? And the people imagin a vain thing? the Kings of the Earth set themselves and the Rulers take council together against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us, he that sitteth in the Heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision, then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure, not that these two passions are indeed consistent or com­petible together at one and the same time, they being directly opposite and contrary to each other, nor that God whose Nature is perfectly impassible, is really capable of either of these habits or dispositions of mind. But by the later of these was signified that just and condign Punishment that was in the full­ness of time to overtake those Kings and Nations that were Enemies to the Gospel of Christ, and opposed Christianity by bitter Persecutions, notwithstanding all the innocence and the reason of its Principles, and notwithstanding all that supernatural Evidence of Signs and Miracles, and extraordinary Gifts by which it received its confirmation from above, and by the First of them, by Gods Laughing and Scorning at the vain designs of Men that reject the offers of his Grace, and endeavor to no purpose to reverse his immutable Decrees, is meant, that [Page 10] his happiness cannot be injur'd or impair'd by any attempt of ours, that he is not to be disappointed in his intentions or designs by any humane Policy or Strength, that he despises, disregards and perfectly sets at nought such vain imaginations of the Sons of Men, that his Nature is impassible, inaccessible, irre­sistible, that when he stretches out his mighty Arm, it is not an Arm of Flesh that can oppose it, and that he is no otherwise concerned at the wickedness of Men, than only to punish and restrain it by his Provi­dence, and by the Eternal measures of his Power and Justice.

And thus I have shewn more largely than I intend­ed, what the Nature of God is, that he is a Merci­ful and Gracious Being, slow to Anger and of great Pity, that he delights not in Punishment, and that in the midst of Judgment he remembers Mercy, that the Emanations of his Goodness are truly Natural and Congenerous to him, but that his Judgments are only Secondary things, things that are not inflicted for themselves, but for ends of Mercy and Compassion, for amendment and example, for preserving the Go­vernment of the World, from moldring into Anarchy and Confusion, and keeping it from falling foul up­on it self; and this though it may be sufficient to have shewn by the plain Instances already produced, yet there is a greater instance than all this yet behind, and that is his sending his Son into the World to be a Propitiation and Attonement for us miserable Sin­ners, who lay in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and he, when he came, to shew us that he was the true and genuin Offspring of so Gracious a Father, the peculiar Character which is given of him in Scripture is, that he went about doing Good, [Page 11] and this was the general strain and drift of all his Miracles, he did not spend his time in removing of Mountains, or in calling the Sun out of its place, or in any other thing that might create wonder with­out any real use, but he healed Diseases and he cast out Devils, he restored the Lame to their Feet, the Blind to their Sight, the Paralytick to their full Strength and Youthful Vigour, his Miracles were exactly like his Doctrine, useful and practical, not vain, puffy, Ostentatious things, performed to raise Wonder and Astonishment in the spectators, without any real Benefit or Advantage; and when he left the World, he left his Spirit behind him with his Disciples, which was not only a Spirit of Instruction to guide them into all necessary and saving Truth, a Spirit of Courage, to support them in and under Persecution, a Spirit of Power, to work Supernatural and extraordinary effects for the propagation and spreading of the Gospel, but also a Spirit of Dilection and Love, to unite them to one another, and to him their Head; and though this mutual Love and Help­fulness to one another, in our frail condition of hu­manity be a thing that is tied upon us by reasons of Interest, and by principles of Nature, yet in a more peculiar and distinguishing manner, he made it the Badg and Character of his Disciples, who were tied and linked more closely to one another, by superna­tural assistances of Divine grace, by the unity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace. By this shall all Men know, saith he, that ye are my Disciples, if ye have Love one to another.

In my Discourse upon which words, I shall do these Three things.

First, I shall shew upon what Reasons or Principles the Obligation to mutual Charity, and good Will is Founded.

Secondly, In what Instances, and to what Degrees it is to exert it self.

And Thirdly, What are the great and glorious Advantages that may be reaped from it.

I begin with the First of these, Upon what Reasons or Principles the Obligation to mutual Charity and good Will is Founded, and they are these Three.

First, The Love, Imitation, and Fear of God.

Secondly, The Example and Command of Christ our Saviour.

And Thirdly, The undoubted Interest and Ad­vantage of any humane Society whatsoever.

First, The Love, Imitation, and Fear of God.

That God is a Being infinitely Lovely, he being the Source and Fountain of all Created perfection, which in himself is contained, in an infinitely more Eminent and Transcendent manner, hath been already represented; and this loveliness of his, for the great Excellence and Perfection of his Nature, is that which is the proper food of a reasonable mind to Meditate and Exercise it self upon, there being nothing else that will afford it, either so suitable or so lasting entertainment; and it is likewise un­doubtedly the noblest object for its Imitation, so far as humane frailty is capable of aspiring to the Glory and Excellence of so Illustrious and bright a Pattern. The Nature of God after whose Image and Resem­blance, the Soul of Man was Created, is that, which if it were not for the Cloggs and Impediments of the [Page 13] Corporeal part, if we were not dazled by the Pomps and Gaieties, carried away Captive by the false enticements, and blinded by the steams of sense, through which our finer part is weakned and re­fracted, to which we should always naturally desire to be more closely and intimately united; it is that, in the study and contemplation of which, when our minds are once fitted and prepared for so sublime an Employment, we find the most perfect joy and sa­tisfaction; and it is impossible for us to think him as we always do, when our thoughts are at leisure from prejudice and passion, and have emerged out of the sink of Bodily entertainments, to be so very ex­cellent a Being, to love him according to that love­liness, with which he then displaies and manifests his Nature to us, but at the same time we must be studying to be like him, and to Copy out every day more and more exactly those Beauties in our selves, which we Contemplate and Adore in him.

But if the Love of God will not perswade us to endeavour to be like him, if the Excellence of his Nature will not entice and Charme us into an hum­ble Imitation of it, let his Terrours engage us, let his Vengeance affright us, let the consideration of his Omnipotence compel and force us, let our Flesh trem­ble for fear of him, and let us be afraid of his judgments, who expects and requires from us, that as he hath been so Gracious and Merciful towards us, so we should be Kind, and Charitable, and Helpful to each other. For God is not only the Maker, but he is also the great Guardian and Protector of the World, he is the King of the Ʋniverse, and it his peace that is broken, or in a way of tendency towards a breach and rupture, by all uncharitable habits and disposi­tions [Page 14] of Mind; and therefore it belongs to his Go­vernment, it is included in the notion of his Provi­dence, and is a part of that great task, and business which he hath imposed perpetually upon himself, for the preserving by his Goodness the effects of his Pow­er, and for the Good more especially of the rational and intellectual Creation, which is more peculiarly the object of his care, not to suffer ill tempers, and mischievous inclinations, morose, contentious and uncharitable Spirits, so far as we Indulge and Che­rish them in our selves, to go unpunish'd, either in this World or the other, unless by a timely and sincere Repentance, we return to the Love of God, and of our Neighbour.

But Secondly, The second Reason or Principle upon which the Obligation to mutual Love is Found­ed, is the Example and Command of Christ our Sa­viour, which with us, who pretend to embrace his holy Profession, and to have listed our selves, as true and faithful Soldiers under his Spiritual Banner, ought certainly to have very great Authority and Weight.

For his Example, there is nothing more clear, than that his whole Life was nothing else, but one con­tinued course of Patience, Humility, Meekness, Con­descention, Charity, Constancy and Equability of Mind, of doing Good to others, and of forgiving Injuries done to himself; and for his Doctrin, what a mighty stress he laid upon these excellent. Virtues, will appear undeniably by these Four particulars.

First, That he sums up the whole Duty of Man under these Two general Heads, the Love of God, and our Neighbour. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart and with all thy Soul, and with all thy [Page 15] Mind; this is the First and Great Commandment, and the Second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy Neigbour as thy self; on these Two Commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Secondly, In summing up the Duties of the Second Table, he reduces them all under this single Aphorism, Whatsoever ye would that Men should do to you, do ye even so to them: For this is the Law and the Prophets: And under this general Precept there is no question to be made, but all the instances of Charity and good Will are comprised, for there is no Man certainly by his own consent, that would be Injur'd or Defam'd, that would be Kill'd or Murther'd, Wounded or Beaten, that would be Censur'd too severely, Watch'd too narrow­ly, Interpreted too hardly, Punisht with a rigour al­together disproportion'd to the guilt and heinous­ness of his Crime; there is no Man, if it were at all times perfectly at his own Choice, but he would be well thought of, well spoken of, kindly, courte­ously and favourably entreated, and therefore this Precept obliges us not only not to do any injustice, but in all cases whatsoever, to shew as much Mercy, as the thing will bear, to shew the same Friendship, Gentleness and good Nature in all the particular in­stances that can happen, which we our selves in such circumstances should reasonably expect, or should be glad to receive, and to interpret all Men, not by particular Prejudices and Passions of our own, but with an universal Justice, Ingenuity and Candour.

Thirdly, he gives it us in charge in his Holy Go­spel, not only in general terms, to approve our selves, as Men of Candid, Courteous, and Merci­ful Dispositions, but to be so towards our very Ene­mies and Persecutors themselves. If ye love them [Page 16] which love you, saith he, what reward have ye? do not even the Publicans the same? And if ye salute your Brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Publicans so? But I say unto you, Love your Enemies, Bless them that Curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. Which Com­mand of his to his Disciples, though it were cer­tainly at that time when it was uttered, of greater Extent and Obligation than it is now adays, they being then under great and heavy Persecution for Righteousness sake, against which there was no Humane Remedie but Patience, unless they would forsake their Master and their Profession together; In which manner we must likewise interpret those other hard Injunctions in this very Chapter, Whoso­ever shall smite thee on thy Right Cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any Man will sue thee at Law and take away thy Coat, let him have thy Cloak also; and whosoever shall compel thee to go a Mile, go with him twain; which are not now Precepts of so great Obligation as they were then, when the Christians opprest by the Roman and the Jewish Power, were in no capacity legally to right them­selves, and therefore it was their best and only way to conquer their Enemies, if it might be, by an obstinate Patience, and a firm Resolution of under­going quietly and chearfully the worst they could in­flict; whereas if these Commands were now also to be put in practice by Real or Pretended Christi­ans in their converse with one another, as the Chri­stians of that Age were oblig'd to do it, with refe­rence to their Jewish and their Heathen Persecu­tours; it is manifest in this case, that the simpli­city [Page 17] of well meaning Men would but expose it self to be the Prey and Spoil of every sturdy Vagrant; every Midnight Thief, every Covetous, Envious, or Injurious Neighbour, every Lawless, Unconscio­nable, or Unreasonable Person; so that no Christi­an Society could continue for one Moment, but all would presently be thrown into the utmost disorder and confusion, which our Blessed Lord, whose Gospel was the Gospel of Peace, as he himself is stil'd the Prince of it, cannot be suppos'd to have intended; and the same was the case of that severe Maxim of his, It is easier for a Camel to go through the Eye of a Needle, than for a Rich Man▪ to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; which though it were very true in those days, when a Man that embrac'd the profession of Christianity was either Sequestred and Plundered of his Estate, or else was forc'd to sell it for the use of his poor Brethren, who could not otherwise subsist, so that it was morally impossible for him to keep his Estate and his Profession together; yet now the Case is clean altered, and it is now very possible for us to make to our selves Friends of the unrighteous Mammon, not only by giving Alms, to which notwithstanding we are oblig'd in a reaso­nable proportion, but even by heaping up Riches for our selves, so long as they be honestly and justly gotten, without incurring the danger of Damnati­on. And after all, in this hard Chapter of the Ser­mon on the Mount, wherein so many difficult and severe Lessons are set before the Disciples, there are these four things as to the business of forgiving Ene­mies, which do and will always continue to retain their first latitude and extent of Truth.

First, That Christianity lays the practice of this duty much more strictly and indispensably upon us than any former Dispensation ever did, or than was ever practic'd in the World by any other Sect or Party of Men, as appears undeniably by those words of our Saviour, If ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even Publicans the same? And if ye salute your Brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Publicans so? Which is as much as to say, that Christianity lays stronger and more extensive Obligations of Charity and Good-will upon us, than ever were submitted to either by the Jewish or the Heathen World, out of both of which at that time in Judea the Publicans were indifferently chosen.

Secondly, we are not to prosecute, and avenge our selves of our Enemies without necessity, to pre­serve our own Life, Liberty, Reputation or Fortune, to vindicate the innocent or afflicted, when it lies in our Power, against their unjust and unreasonable Op­pressours, who are common Enemies to Mankind; or out of Kindness and Justice to the Common­wealth, which may and do's suffer in very many Cases by the impunity of private and personal Of­fenders.

Thirdly, As we are not to punish without necessi­ty, so we are not willingly to punish beyond it neither; we are not to exercise Cruelty but Justice, not to gratifie an implacable and revengeful temper, that sets no Bounds or Limits to its Wrath, but we are to mind only the amendment of the offending party, or the due and just satisfaction of the wrongs that are done us, or the advantage which the Publick may and will receive by the necessary warning and exam­ple; [Page 19] and if the Offence be such as will admit it, af­ter satisfaction is made us, we are not to decline a Fa­miliarity and Friendship with the Offending Party, upon account of former grudges or misunderstand­ings, if for the future it shall appear to be either prudent or safe, of which we our selves are natural­ly the Judges.

Fourthly, In the midst of those punishments or Forfeitures, which our Adversary incurs upon ac­count of the injuries which either we or the pub­lick have receiv'd from him, we are not to let go our Christian equability of temper, we must not suf­fer our selves to mock at his Calamity, or insolent­ly vaunt at his Affliction, or take any other fort of Satisfaction or Complacency in his Punishment, than what redounds from the hopes of his amendment by this means, or from the sense of our own preservation, or the foresight of a Publick Service, which we may reasonably expect from the Example. We may Pity him, we may Pray for him, and wish, though in vain, that he had not deserved this Punishment, as much as we please, but we must still endeavor to pre­serve a gracious and a candid frame of Spirit, we must not insult, we must not triumph over him, we must not make him the subject of our Laughter, or the unsavoury Food of our Revenge. And in these Four Senses which I have now newly mentioned, the Obligation to forgive our Enemies continues still as strong and pressing upon us, as it was upon the first Converts in our Saviours time.

In the Fourth and last place, though it were our Blessed Saviours Express and avow'd Intention to pro­mote and establish an universal Charity, yet this he press'd much more strongly and warmly upon his [Page 20] Disciples with respect to one another, than in refer­ence to their Enemies, or to Strangers and Aliens abroad; that we should Love one another to the same Degree, to which he Loved us, who lived a Life laden with Reproach and Scorn, and died a painful and ignominious Death for our sakes; and this there­fore he calls a new Commandment, a Friendship so strict, inviolable and Sacred, that it was never heard of in the World before. A new Commandment I give unto you, that ye Love one another, as I have Loved you, that ye also Love one another; by this shall all Men know that ye are my Disciples, if ye have Love one to another. And how very great stress the Apostles in their Writings lay upon this eminent Gift and Grace of Charity, I need not tell you, but shall content my self barely to take notice, First, That St. Paul in the Thirteenth Chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, imputes so very much to this one Grace of Charity, that without it he makes all other things, however Pompous or Specious they may seem, to signifie just nothing at all. Though I speak, saith he, with the Tongue of Men and Angels, and have not Charity, I am become as sounding Brass, or a tinkling Cymbal; and though I have the Gift of Prophecy, and understand all Mysteries, and all knowledg, so that I could remove Mountains, and have not Charity, I am nothing; and though I bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and though I give my Body to be burned, and have not Charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Secondly, Whereas most other Miraculous Gifts and Graces, were in due time to cease, having done the Errant upon which they were employed, which was to give sufficient evidence, and such as without willful blindness could not be resisted to the Truth [Page 21] and Divine Authority of our most holy Religion; yet Charity was still to remain to the very end of the World: So that whereever there is a true Church of Christ, there must be a charitable Spirit visible and reigning in it. Charity, saith he, never faileth; but whe­ther there be Prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be Tongues, they shall cease; whether there be Knowledg, it shall vanish away. And again a little after, And now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity, these three, but the great­est of these is Charity: As it were to answer that Pas­sage in St. John, There are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree in one. For in this par­tition of St. Paul, Faith answers to the Blood; it is Faith in a crucified and bleeding Saviour. Hope to the Water or the Sacrament of Baptism, in which we make Profession of this Faith, and of the Hope that is in us, which is built upon it. And Charity, which is the best and most peculiar Gift of the Holy Ghost, that answers to the Spirit, which is a Spirit of universal Friend­ship and Love, the essential root, and spring, and source of Kindness, abstractum in concreto, the utmost mercy, compassion, and good-will, assuming a Per­son, and breathing forth its likeness upon every Sub­ject capable of receiving it. Faith and Hope are like Pisgah with respect to Canaan, they afford us a pro­spect of the Land of Promise, but they are not the Land flowing with milk and honey themselves; but Charity in its utmost perfection and extent, is that which in other words we call Salvation and Heaven; it is the single Food, and it affords the mutual relish and enjoyment of God and Angels, and of the spirits [Page 22] of just men made perfect, through all the vast Periods of an eternal Duration.

But wo to us vile wretches and miserable sinners, if without Charity there be no true Church, nor any true Disciple! O generation of vipers that we are, who shall deliver us from the wrath to come? or will it not be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, for Chorazin and Bethsaida, nay, for Gomorrah and for Sodom too, at the great and dreadful Day, than for us, who professing outwardly the Religion, are yet so far removed from the inward Spirit of Christ; and, as if we had reason to blush and be ashamed of him and of his Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, have cast away the Badge of Charity, that Men might not know us to be his Disciples. We are unjust in our Dealings, uncharita­ble in our Censures, irreconcileable and implacable in our Animosities; turbulent and uneasie in our Tem­pers, contentious and litigious in our Conversations, false to our Promises, treacherous to our Friendships, hypocritical in our Pretences, and yet we pretend to be Christians all this while: Nay, so very far have we revolted from the true Christian Spirit, so far is it now from being thought the Characteristick and es­sential Mark of a Christian, to be of an humble, meek, and charitable Disposition, that even Religion it self, or at least the vain pretence and colour of it, is made the fatal Bone of Contention, and the Apple of Strife. We quarrel about that very thing which was intend­ed to unite us, and which hath made no Promises but to Unity and Peace, to the candid, quiet, and ingenu­ous frame of Spirit, as if the nature of our Profession were inverted since the Apostolical Times, when it was pronounced as a certain Maxim, If any Man among you seem to be Religious, and bridleth not his Tongue, [Page 23] but deceiveth his own Heart, that Man's Religion is vain; We mistake Brawling and Contention for Zeal, and when our Tongues are set on fire of Hell, we ima­gine them tipt and sanctified by a Coal from the Altar; not but that every Man ought to be very obstinate in what he firmly believes upon his best Enquiry to be the very Truth, every Man's own Conscience be­ing without question his only rule and measure of Action; and to relinquish or disown that of whose truth we have all the inward assurance our present light is capable of giving us, is to betray the great Pillar and Principle of Life, by which all Humane Society is supported, which is bound up in truth, and consists in the faithfulness of its Members to each other: But there may be a Charity every whit as obstinate as the most fierce and most intemperate rage; and Humility will stand its ground, and gain upon its Adversaries by gentle, but resistless Motions, when Clamour an [...] Passion shall be put to silence, and will be ashamed o [...] themselves: or if there appear reason sufficient to persuade it, Humility can own a conquest without shame, and is easily induced to change its mistaken Sentiments for the better, when Passion, though it be inwardly convinced, yet blushes, nay faints and even dies to think of being reconciled.

But though I have said, what I believe to be true, That every Man's private Conscience is his only pri­vate and personal measure of Action; yet I would not by any means be so interpreted, as if I were about to insinuate, That the non-execution of Laws against re­ligious Dissenters were a necessary Branch of that Charity to which we are so indispensibly obliged; no, the Charity lies manifestly on the other side, and he that is the Author and the God of Peace, cannot cer­tainly [Page 24] be displeased with those necessary Methods, without which that Peace can never be obtained. Since Men are so apt to quarrel about religious Mat­ters, there must be a standing Rule in every Nation, to which an outward Conformity must be exacted. If a Man cannot comply, he must be content to suffer, whether he be in the right or wrong: for it is not fit that the Peace of a Nation should be put in hazard, and much less Embroiled and openly Disturb'd by the particular Sentiments of private Persons, so long as the great Rules of Morality are not invaded. And though no Man ought ever to forsake the Truth, or to deny so much as the appearance of it, so long as up­on the best Information he can get, he takes it to be the very substance it self; yet, I presume, there is no question, but God is less displeased with Obedience, which is the certain Instrument of Peace, though it be founded upon our mutual Agreement to some Proposition speculatively false, th [...] with a specula­tive Truth zealously and contentiously urged against the common Sentiments, to the disturbance of the Publick Peace and Welfare.

Much less are we to abandon our Senses, and to be­tray the common Safety by a too destructive Indul­gence, for the sake of those who have neither the understanding to discern what is fit in Practice, or true in Speculation; nor the moderation to set any bounds to that innovating Humour, which will end in Anarchy if it be not timely restrained, and over­whelm all Orders and Degrees of Men in a Deluge of Blood more fatal than any of those of Water, whe­ther of Noah, Deucalion, or Ogyges, which either Scripture or Antiquity have recorded.

Wherefore we have no more liberty left us in this [Page 25] Case, but only to inflict Punishments with a merciful Temper, and to pity those in the midst of legal Infli­ctions, which they do well to undergo for Conscience sake, if they cannot better inform themselves, whom to be sure without, and sometimes with such Reme­dies, we cannot reclaim: But this is a general Rule to be observed in this and all other Instances whatso­ever, That we are never to gratifie Revenge under pretence of Justice. And as we are not upon any terms to let go the Reins of Government, and leave the giddy Multitude without any Curb or Bridle, so though we hold them in never so hard, according to the quality of the Persons we have to deal with, yet we must do it at the same time with a generous trouble and uneasiness to our selves, not with a re­vengeful, cruel and implacable, but with a pitiful and relenting Hand, and with a compassionate sense even of those very Frailties, which we are forced so sharply to chastise. Malice, Envy and Hatred, and all Ʋn­charitableness, are of their Father the Devil, and his works they do; they are not Plants of our heavenly Father's planting, they are the bane, the poison, the canker of the Mind, and like the Tares, the Cockle and the Darnel of the Field, they are not content barely to insinuate themselves and grow up among the Wheat, unless they also stifle it and choak it, un­less they eat away its heart and life, and hinder it from coming to maturity and perfection.

It is true indeed, there is an antipathy and aversion in every wise and good Man, while his Mind conti­nues in its due frame, against the very Notion and Idea of all kinds of sin and folly, they appear so ugly and so deformed to him, they strike so ingrateful and so harsh a Note upon his Understanding; and some­times [Page 26] it is very difficult, and next kin to impossible, for frail and passionate Creatures as we are, to sepa­rate personal hatred from the hatred of the cause; as when our Fortunes or Good-names are violently and maliciously invaded, or when our Lives are treache­rously and unjustly assaulted; and these Passions in these and the like Cases, are so far excuseable as they are necessary, or as, it may be, they may be intended by Nature, upon such important Emergencies as these, for our safety, defence and preservation; but other­wise there is no question, but it is the Duty of every good Man, to separate as much as is possible, the Cause from the Person, and to punish the one out of no private account, but only for the sake of the other, for our own just and necessary defence, or for the sake of Example to the World: But he that encourages and pampers personal Aversions for the Person's sake, will proceed from one degree of malice to another in pursuance of this implacable Disposition, till at length this excellent Gift of Charity shall take its flight, and the Spirit of God, which is a Spirit of Peace, Tran­quillity and Love, shall refuse to dwell in such a Mind any longer, but shall leave it to become the Habita­tion of evil Spirits, and an Hell full of torments and inquietudes to it self. Our Saviour will not own such an one to be his Disciple; and there is still the great­er danger of his Salvation, if he profess himself out­wardly to be one of that number.

And this was the Second Reason or Principle of Ob­ligation to our mutual love of one another, viz. the Example and Command of Christ our Saviour. And certainly if we seriously consider, that Christ, who shed his precious Blood for us, did also do the same for the greatest and the bitterest Enemies we have, [Page 27] and that at a time when all Mankind were in a state of Enmity to himself, nothing can appear more cri­minal and heinous, than for us to own any Senti­ments, but those of the highest Charity and Good­will towards him, for whom, as for our selves, our blessed Saviour did not refuse to Bleed, and who, though really he be never so bad, may yet, upon his hearty and sincere Repentance, be made partaker of those heavenly Joys, into which we without Charity shall never enter.

But Thirdly and Lastly, which I shall but name. The Third and Last Principle of Obligation upon which this great Duty of Charity is founded, is the undoubted Interest and Advantage of any Humane Society whatsoever. And certainly, without any painful or elaborate Proof, it is in it self a plain Case, That kind and merciful, and charitable Dispositi­ons, are the natural and proper Means to preserve the Publick Order and Establishment from falling into ruine and decay; That the contrary Habits of our Minds do break out by degrees into Intestine Strife and Hatred, and that they have a fatal tenden­cy to the Dissolution of Kingdoms, the Downfall of Empires, and the Subversion of every Civil Consti­tution, let it be Establisht never so well or wisely.

Aristophanes, Hesiod, Parmenides, and others, have delivered it down to us according to ancient Tradition, That Divine Love was the Principle that reduced the jarring Elements into this comely Frame, which, if it had not been for that, would still have been a disorderly and confused Chaos, and without its help and assistance every moment, would imme­diately return into it: And I am very sensible there is a great deal of truth and weight in what they say; [Page 28] but yet it is much more true of the Moral and Intel­lectual, than of the Natural World, that it is support­ed by Love, it is supported by Divine Love from without as well as the other; but even this would hardly do, as powerful as it is, without a Principle of Love within it self.

I should now, as I promised under the Second ge­neral Head, proceed to shew in what Instances, and to what Degrees this Duty of mutual Kindness and Good-will is to exert it self; but this having been already sufficiently done in my Discourse upon the former Head, as opportunity presented it self, I may excuse my self and you from any farther trouble upon that account, and betake my self very briefly to the last thing proposed, which was of the Advan­tages redounding from this happy Temper; the bare Enumeration of which, since it is so that my Time will give me leave to do no more, may supply the place of an Exhortation to it.

And the First thing I shall mention is, That it is in general the most blessed Constitution of the Soul of Man, which it is capable of being endued withal. For certainly the most pleasing Disposition of the Soul is Love, if all the World be not very widely mistaken in their Sense and Sentiment of things; and the most eligible Estate which it can wish for it self, is to converse with Objects which it delights in; and such this Temper, this sweet and amiable Habit of the Mind makes every Object more or less to be.

Secondly, It is not only a Temper the most blessed in it self, it is not only an imitation of God, who is the best Example, as hath been already shewn, but it also draws down the Influences of his Spirit upon us, which have a natural and a vital congruity to the [Page 29] charitable Man. It is effectually at the same time a participation of the Divine Nature, and brings us into an intimate and close Communion with the Supreme Love, which is glad of every suitable occasion to dif­fuse and enlarge it self; and so St. John at large re­presents the matter: Beloved, saith he, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that lo­veth not, knoweth not God, for God is love. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit; that is, the Spirit of Love, of Charity and Good-will, of which he had been speaking before.

Thirdly, By keeping our Minds cool, and disen­gaged from any turbulent and uneasie Passions. This Temper is perhaps the best natural Judge of Con­troversies in the World; and if it could universally obtain, by bringing all things to the arbitrage of Reason, it would soon put an end to our religions Broils, or at least, it would hinder those particular Differences in Opinion from being dangerous to our Peace and Welfare.

Fourthly, By preserving our Souls, as it is natu­rally disposed to do, in their true sagacity, clearness, and untainted strength, it prevents those entangle­ments and perplexities of thought, which are the cause of most of those Ills to which Mankind is usually exposed, which run us very frequently upon desperate Courses, and bring us in the end to Misery and Con­fusion.

Fifthly and Lastly, It is not only the best prepara­tion to the Joys and Glories of another World; but [Page 30] when in the end of our Days we arrive happily at the end of our Hopes, the salvation of our precious and immortal Souls, it will be the greatest part of their Fruition and Enjoyment, which consists mainly, if not altogether, in the love God and his Angels, and of one another.

To which most happy and eternally blessed State, God of his infinite Mercy bring us all, by the Merits and Mediation of his Son, our Saviour, the ever blessed Jesus. To whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be ascribed all Glory for ever. Amen.

NOTES.

P. 2. SO Homer describes his Poetical Olympus.] Af­ter the same manner Lucretius also describes those blessed and peaceful Places, though he reject them as fabulous at the same time; and he takes the Copy of his Description manifestly from Homer.

Illud item non est ut possis credere sedes
Esse Deûm sanctas in mundi partibus ullis;
Quas neque concutiunt venti, neque nubila nimbis
Aspergunt, neque nix acri concreta pruina
Cana cadens violat semperque innubilus aether
Integit, & largè diffuso lumine ridet.

P. 18. The Publicans were indifferently chosen.] The Administration of the Vectigalia, or Customs of the Roman State, was primarily in all the Pro­vinces in the Hands of the Romans themselves, but under them certain of the Natives of the respective [Page 31] Provinces were employed, as being best acquainted with their own Nation, and so best able to manage the Collection of the Tribute in it. That it was so among the Jews, is evident by the Instances of Mat­thew, Levi, and Zaccheus in the Gospels, the two first of which are mentioned as Sitting at the Receipt of Custom, and the last is called [...], the chief of the Publicans, or Customers, that is to say among the Jews. And from this I will take occasion to cor­rect, as I conceive, a very great Mistake, which hath hitherto generally obtained among Learned Men, as if Levi and Matthew were the same, only because they are both mentioned by several Evangelists as Sitting at the Receipt of Custom; and out of this number I do not except Grotius himself: whereas indeed, they are the Names of two several and di­stinct Publicans, as appears by Matth. 10. 3. where there is distinct mention made of Matthew the Publi­can, and of Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; which Lebbaeus, by the change of the V Consonant into a double B, the Greeks having no such Letter as the V Consonant in use among them, but always expressing it either by [...] or [...], is the same with Levi, and Levi is [...], as Chivi is [...], Emori [...], Chitti [...], and the like; and when it is added [...], whose Surname was Thaddaeus: This Surname is to be understood of his Roman Name, as the other is of his Jewish, as there is mention made of John, whose Surname was Mark, Acts 12. 12, 25. and cap. 15. 37. where John is Jo­chanan, the Jewish Name, as Mark, is the Roman. So that it seems it was familiar in those Times, when Judea was a Roman Province, for Men to have two Names, the one a Jewish, by which they were better [Page 32] known to their own Countrymen and Kinsfolks, be­ing the Name that was given them at their Circum­cision; and the other a Roman, or rather in this In­stance a Greek, though at that time very familiar a­mong the Romans, who called this Lebbaeus by the Name of [...], which is a contraction of Theodosius, who is by Claudian somewhere called Theudosius, as [...], and [...] is Epaphrodi­tus, and many others of the like nature; and of one that was called by this Name express mention is made Acts 5. 36. which Name by the Jews was cor­ruptly called Thaddai; as Dositheus they call Dosthai, Prolomaeus Talmai, after a barbarous and corrupt man­ner: and indeed all Proper Names of Foreign Nati­ons, the Jews, who were a very ignorant, unletter'd People, were used to corrupt after a strange rate; as Drusius conjectures the Jewish Terphon or Tarphon, to have been the same with the [...] of Justin Martyr. And I make no question but Baithos, who was the fabulous Companion of Sadoc, the Founder of the Sa­ducean Sect or Heresie among the Jews, is the same with the Greek [...], from whence is the Latin Name Boethius, signifying an Helper or Assistant. And they who by St. Paul are called Jannes and Jam­bres, who are said to have withstood Moses and the Truth, are by the Rabbins corruptly named some­times Jonos and Jombros, and at others, Jochanna and Mamre. And other Instances might be given, as well in Appellative as Proper Names; but these are sufficient for my purpose: And, I hope, by this time it is sufficiently clear, that Matthew and Levi are two distinct Persons, notwithstanding the general cry of Expositors to the contrary, who having taken a false scent from one another, are never like to find [Page 33] out the truth. V. Drus. de trib. Sect. lib. 2. cap. 2. & lib. 3. cap. 4. & B [...]xt. Lex. Talmud. in Talmai. pag. 2598. & in Jochanna, pag. 945, &c.

P. 20. And though I bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and though I give my Body to be burned.] These are very proper and genuine Effects of that Charity which the Apostle describes, but it seems without Charity it self, unless they proceed out of an inward Principle of Love to God on the one hand, and our Neighbour on the other; the bare Acts considered by themselves, will be of no profit or avail to us.

P. 27. Aristophanes, Hesiod, Parmenides, and others.] The particular Testimonies to this purpose you may see in Grotius, in his Learned Notes upon his Book De V. R. C. and in Dr. Cudworth in his Intellectual System; and those others whom I mean, are Simmias the Rhodian, and Orpheus the Writer of the Argonautiques, whose Testimonies are likewise produced by Dr. C.

FINIS.

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