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HYMN FOR SERMON XXXII.
Holy Fortitude, or Remedies against Fear.
WHEN tumults of unruly fear
I call the days of old to miod, Rise in my heart, and riot there, When I have found my God was kind; What shall I do to calm my breast, My heavenly Friend is still the same ; And get the vexing foe supprest ? Salvation to his holy name. What power can these wild thoughts Great God, preserve my conscience control.
elean ; This ruffling tempest of the soul ? Wash me from guilt, forgive my sin : Where shall I fly in this distress, Thy love shall guard me from surprize, But to the throne of glorious grace ? Though threat'aing dangers round me
rise. My faith would seize some promise, Lord;
When fear like a wild ocean raves, There's power and safety in thy word : Let Jesus walk upon the waves, Not all that eartb or bell can say, And say, “ 'tis 1;" that heavenly voice Shall tempt or drive my soul away. Shall sink the storm, and raise my joys.
The Universal Rule of Equity.
Mat. vü. 12.-All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you;
do ye even so unto them; for this is the law and the prophets. Wu HIEN our blessed Lord took upon him the public office of a prophet or teacher amongst men, he found it was not only necessary to instruct them in the sacred mysteries of religion, and inforin them of their duty to God his Father, and to himself; but he employed much of his ministry also, to teach them the practice of social virtue, and how they should behave toward their fellow-creatures. In the heathen world the rules of morality were lost in a great measure, as well as the rules of piety and worship; and the Jews, the peculiar people of God, had grossly corrupted both the one and the other. As our Saviour refined the practice of religion towards God, and raised it by his gospel, to a high and heavenly degree, beyond what mortals had known before, so he explained and established the rules of moral virtue, in a more glorious and convincing manner than the world had been acquainted with.
Read his life, and observe how often he takes occasion in the several seasons of his preaching, to give particular directions for our conduct toward our neighbours. But after all, he knew that the nature of man was corrupt, his passions strong, his memory frail, and that he would be ready to neglect, or forget his various sacred precepts, when there was most need to practise them; and therefore he thought it proper to give one short and comprehensive rule of equity to regulate all our conduct, that should be written as it were in our very souls : And this is contained in the words of my text, whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them; for this is the law and the prophets.
To dilate a little upon this subject, and refresh a living sense of it upon your memories and your consciences, I shall follow this method, and enquire,
I. What is the truc meaning of this divine rule.-II. What is the special argument that our Lord uses in order to enforce it. III. Wherein the particular excellencies of it appear.-IV. I sball couclude with some reflections on this subjoct.
First, What is the true meaning of this rule?
In order to understand this rule aright, we must consider what it does not require, as well as what it does : For on the one side, some selfish necessitous and unreasonable persons may expect more from us than this rule obliges us to perform : And on the other side, a timorous and weak conscience may perhaps be led into a mistake, and think itself bound by this rule to perform some instances of kindness to others, which are utterly unreasonable and unrequired, and which might be injurious on other accounts to ourselves, or to our families, or to the rest of mankind.
We must remember then, that this rule does not mean to oblige us to give all that to another, or do all that for another, which we could possibly desire or wish to be bestowed upon us, or done for us; but whatsoever we could reasonably desire, and justly expect another should do to us, that we ought to do to him when he is in the like circumstances. All that in our calm and sedate thoughts we judge fit and proper another should do for us, that we should practise and do for him. Such requests as we could make to others, and could justify them to ourselves in our own consciences, according to the principles of humanity, the rules of civil society, and the rights of mankind, such' we ought not to deny to others when they stand in need. Not all that a fond self-love would prompt us to ask, but all that our conscience tells us we might with reason expect.
I shall mention an instance or two, which will more fully explain what I mean.
A criminal under righteous condemnation for murder or robbery, may think thus with himself, Surely I would pardon the judge or the prince, if he were in my circumstances, therefore he ought to pardon me; Or the judge himself might think, I should be glad to be pardoned or not condemned if I were in the case of this criminal, therefore I will not condemn him. This sort of thoughts arising from unreasonable and unjust principles, either of a sinful self-love, or indulgence to iniquity, are not to be the measure of our actions nor expectations; these are not just and reasonable desires, nor can our own conscience in our sedate and calm enquiries judge so concerning them.
Again, if we were poor and starving, it may be we would be glad if our rich neighbour would settle upon us a competent estate sufficient to maintain us for the term of our lives; but this we cannot reasonably expect, or reasonably desire and demand ; therefore we are not bound, be our circumstances never so large, to settle such a competency upon our poor neighbours, be their circumstances never 80 mean. We cannot rationally expect these things should be done unto us, we cannot equitably desire
them of another, therefore we are not bound to do thus to another.
But if we are placed as criminals at the bar of judgment, we may reasonably expect that all the favourable circumstances which attend our accusation, should be well weighed, and all the kind allowances made, which the nature of the charge or crime will admit; for our consciences would think it reasonable to allow so much to any criminal, if we ourselves were placed in the chair of magistracy. Or if we, through the frowns of providence, are poor and starving, we may reasonably expect our rich neighbour should bestow upon us a little of his bread, a little of his clothing, to supply our extreme necessities now and then; and thus much our neighbour may expect from us, when he is fallen into decay by the providence of God, while our circumstances are large, and we are well furnished for such bounty.
Thus you see the true intent and meaning of this universal law of equity, viz. That we practise toward our neighbour in such a manner as our own hearts and consciences would think it reasonable he should practise towards us in the like case.
The Second enquiry was this. What special argument doth our Lord use to enforce the observance of this sacred precept?
When our Saviour had laid down this general rule, he adds, “ This is the law and the prophets;" that is, this is the summary of all the rules of duty, which are written in the law of Moses, concerning our carriage to our neighbour, and of all the laws which are explained by the succeeding prophets, and sacred writers under the Old Testament. They are all comprehended in this short line; Do to others, as you would have others do to you. It is very nearly the same thing, in other words with the law of Moses, Love thy neighbour as thyself ; Lev. xix. 18. but it is much plainer and more intelligible: And indeed this rule of Moses is to be understood and interpreted, and applied in practice according to this plainer rule of Christ, thus, “Let thy love to thy neighbour be as great as thou canst reasonably expect or desire thy neighbour's love should be to thyself."
When our blessed Lord gives an abridgment or abstract of the ten commandments, he doth it in these words; Mat. xxi. 37, 38, 39. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul, that is, love God above all things: this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it ; love thy neighbour as thyself; that is, consider him as a piece of human nature, as a second self, and imitate thy love to thyself in thy conduct toward him : Or, according to my text, it may be explained thus ; enquire of thy own heart how thou wouldst have him love thee, and let this be the rule and measure of thy love to him. All our duties to God or man, all the commands of the first and the second table,
all the dictates of the law and prophets depend on these two com mandments.
Then we answer the design of the law, then we obey the prophets, then we fulfil the commands of Moses, and of Christ, when we give to God our supreme love, and when we put ourselves in the room of our neighbour, and then carry it toward hiin, according to the love we expect he should bear us. This is loring our neighbours as ourselves, and this love is the fulfilling of the law; Rom. xii. 10. When our Saviour delivers the words of my text, it is as if he had said to us, “ If ye would practise all the duties that you owe to your fellow-creatures, and fulfil all the laws of the second table, in the most compendious and perfect manner, remember and practise this one general direction, deal with the rest of mankind as your conscience judges they should deal with you.” But this leads me to the
Third enquiry, riz. wherein do the peculiar excellencies of this rule appear:
This golden rule bath many excellent properties belonging to it. I shall mention a few on purpose to impress it on your consciences with more conviction, pleasure and power. I. It is a rule that is easy to be understood, and as easy to be
a applied by the meanest and weakest understanding. It is so plain, that what is said by Isaiah concerning all the precepts of the gospel, is more eminently true of this ; it is a highway of holiness, and the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein; Is. xxxv. 8. The laws of man are often expressed in such obscure language and terms of art, that they puzzle us to find out the meaning of them : And the nice distinctions and subtle reasonings of men, oftentimes add to their darkness, and raise new disputes : But this is a law that every man understands ; nor is it easy to be clouded by the comments and glosses of crafty men, if we are but sincerely resolved to judge and practise according to it. By the means of this rule, they who never studied the civil law, nor took pains in enquiring the moral dictates of the light of vature; they who never examined the statutes of a nation, nor the rules of natural justice, are all furnished with a law or rule of equity in their own minds, by which to manage their whole practice, with regard to their neighbours. Those who are not capable of long trains of reasoning, or of applying several general rules to all their particular cases: yet are able to look into their own hearts, and to ask this easy question,“ Would I myself be content to have others deal thus with me? Why then should I deal thus with another?"
II. It is a very short rule, and easy to be remembered: The weakest memory can retain it; and the meanest of mankind may Carry this about with them, and have it ready upon all occasions.