Billeder på siden

mighty latitude.

[ocr errors]

that they will reasonably bear; and we must on all occasions be ready to publish whatever in them is virtuous and commendable. (2.) The second instance, doing good, is of a

It extends as far, and shews it self in as many forms, as the necessities of our indigent life, and the troubles of our uncertain state, as far as all that our enemics can possibly suffer, all that they can stand in need of, all that we can do to help and to relieve them, and all the benefits they are capable of receiving, either with regard to foul, body, or estate. Though they are daily contriving new injuries, or repeating old ones, and doing us all the mischief in their power ; yet we must act a contrary, and a better part towards them, by all such acts of charity, as fuit best with their pre

sent circumstances and condition, relieving them in want, comforting them in affliction, assisting them in their difficulties; and if they will admit of it, advising them in their affairs, reproving them for their sins, admonishing them of their duty, in such a way as may be likeliest to have a good effect upon them. And in short, we must be ready always to do for them, whatever may be really of advan{age, to the forwarding of their temporal or eternal happiness.

(3.) By the third instance, we are taught to pray for them also, even for those that bitterly malign and persecute us. What help we cannot give them our selves, we must sincerely and fervently pray God to give them ; recommending them to his infinite power, and infinite compassion to restore their health, relieve their wants, and bless them with all needful blessings: As David did for his enemies, who when they were sick, * cloathed himself with sackcloth, and humbled his soul with fast


* Psalm XXXV. 13:

ing, and prayed for them, though his prayer returned into his own bofom. But especially recommending them to the grace and mercy of God, that he would never revenge upon them the injuries they have done us. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do; as the greatest of sufferers prayed for those who were then abusing and murdering him with the greatest insolence and cruelty; setting us hereby an illustrious example of that perfect charity he requires. We should beseech God, by the power of his holy Spirit, fo to awaken their conIciences, and so to improve their convictions, that they may be brought to a true and effectual repentance for all their lins, that a thorough conversion to God and goodness may be wrought in them, and their souls may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. All this is imply'd in the word love, and is a christian duty from which no one, who pretends to be a disciple of our charitable Lord and Master, can hope to be excused: For no less than this brotherly affection for all mankind, be they never fo injurious, will be accepted by him. But perhaps it may be objected, that if this extensive affection be due to my enemies, there will be no room for any distinction in favour of my friends. If I am bound to do all the good offices 'I can for them, what is there I can do more for these? I answer, that though by christian principles, friendship, as a duty, is extended to all mankind, even to those that hate and injure us, as well as to those that do us good, and our religion (now) calls it charity; yet particular and special friendship, the loving of one person more than another, which induces a voluntary additional obligation, and is one of the greatest comforts of society, is doubtless still as lawful, and as commendable as ever. I need


no farther for an instance that will thoroughly justify this, than our Lord himself; who though he was continually


[ocr errors]

instructing, warning, admonishing, healing, and doing good to an ungrateful and malicious people, and though he purposely came into the world to * die for his enemies, which is the strongest effort of love that can be made even to our dearest friends, had nevertheless his twelve select Disciples, with whom he conversed more intimately, and taught with greater diligence and freedom, † and prayed for in a particular, manner, with more than ordinary tenderness and concern. And even in that number, three of them were singled out for special confidences and favours. And even of these three, # St. John is eminently diftinguished, as the Disciple whom he loved, his bosom friend; no doubt thereforc, our religion, notwithstanding the extensive charity it requires, has left us room enough for particular friendships. And if it be still alk’d, what these particular friendships can imply, and suppose, beyond what is included in that charity? I answer, that such a friendship consists in three things: The doing of real benefits and good offices, the distinctions of special honour and esteem, and the particular freedom and intimacy of conversation. Now real benefits are either such as are necessary, as relieving the wants of people, affitting them in distress, praying heartily for them, admonishing them for the good of their fouls, doing justice to what is commendable in them, and thewing a tenderness to the rest of their character; those I confess are benefits promiscuously due to all mankind, whether friends, enemies, or indifferent persons, according to the knowledge we have of their necessities, and to our own ability of serving them: Yet even here, in some of these, where it may so happen that a particular friend may need and require our help at the same time an indifferent person or an enemy does, and we cannot relieve, or do service to them all. Í question not but we may prefer the service of our friend; and that, because there is another moral duty, called gratitude, which in his case throws an additional weight into the scale. Or farther, benefits

* Rom. v. 10. John xv. 13. Mark iv. 33, 34. + John xvii. Matth. xvii. 1, 2. Mark v. 37. Mark xiv.33. John xiii. 23. John xxi. 20.



be such as are not strictly necessary, but voluntary; and, if I may call them so, redundant: Now these I may reserve for my friend. For tho' I am bound to relieve an enemy, if I can, when he is in want, &c. I am not bound to make him extraordinary presents, to solicit extraordinary advantages and preferments for him, to leave him legacies, or make him my heir, and the like. Again, the two last constituent parts of friendship, which I mentioned, are peculiar to it; an enemy cannot claim them. As friendship ought to be founded on virtue, built up by good offices, and strengthned by a grateful sense of them, the distinctions of Special honour and esteem are due to it, not merely because we love, but because the virtue and merit of our friend deserve to be distinguished, and his particular regard to us ought in justice to be returned. And lastly, the freedom and intimacy of conversation, is what the Scripture no where requires us to use, with either a known or a suspected enemy. This is entirely facred to friendship: So says our Saviour to his Apostles, * I have called you friends; for all things which I have heard of my Father, I bave made known unto you. And indeed, to disclose to an enemy our inmost thoughts and purposes, and the secrets of our affairs, would only enable him to do us the more effectual mischiefs ; whereas religion was never design’d to overthrow

[ocr errors][merged small]


common prudence. I hope the objection is by this time fufficiently answered, and charity to our enemies shewn to be consistent enough, with a particular and distinguishing favour to our friends. And now, since the practice of such a love to those that hate and injure us, as is here required, may seem very

difficult to human nature; let us see, II. The motives and arguments by which our Lord has condescended to urge and encourage us thereto.

(1.) The first is, that hereby we prove our selves to be the children of God, who dispenses the necefsary benefits of life with a promiscuous bounty, gives out the light and warmth of the fun to cherish the persons, and direct the affairs, not only of those that love and serve him, but of the unthankful and rebellious also, and sends his showers to enrich and bless the lands not only of the good, who employ the fruits of them to his glory, and the relief of others; but of the worst of men, who turn his grace into lasciviousnefs, pervert his benefits to luxury, and the riches he bestows upon them to oppreffion and injustice. Now if our heavenly Father is thus daily kind to those that are daily provoking, and perhaps blaspheming him, no argument can be stronger than this, to all who have a right notion, what an honour it is to be eftcem'd the children of God, and who consider that imitation is the most natural evidence, that they stand fo related to him. For children are apt to imitate their parents, in whatever they observe in them, especially what is most remarkable and conspicuous; and shall not we then endeavour to refeinble our heavenly Father in one of his chiefest properties, that of doing good to the greatest offenders?


« ForrigeFortsæt »