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Ver. 1, 2, 3.
Vol. 2. pag. 53.
Temper, so necessary to our Salvation and Acceptance
with God, that the highest Attainments without it, shall, we are told here, profit
us nothing. It hath been observed heretofore*, that Charity, * Vol. 1. pag. 6.
properly so called, is that Affection of the Mind, whereby we love God for his
own sake, and our Neighbour for God's fake. That this is the Principle, which distinguishes it from such a Love, as either the tenderness of Na ture, or nearness of Blood, or Friendship and Acquaintance, or Convenienceand Interest, are apt to dispose us to. And, how essential this Principle is, the
Apostle here informs us, when supposing,
that a Man may give even all his goods to feed the poor, without any true Christian-love to his Brethren ; and his body to be burned, without any true Love of God. If then the most specious Instances in either sort, such as Martyrdom, and Devoting a Man's whole Substance to the Relief of them that want, are no necessary Proofs of this Virtue ; It follows, that the Grace, here so highly recommended, does not consist in any outward Acts, but in the inward Disposition of the Heart: And, that those Acts are no farther of any yalue, than as they proceed from, and are sanctified by, this Disposition.
It was therefore fit for St. Paul, after having hinted, that the Connexion, between those Instances, which seem to be the most perfect in their kind, and that Grace they so nearly resemble, is not so close and necessary, as will warrant us from the Former, certainly to infer the Latter ; It was fit, to assign some Characters, which may prevent any dangerous Mistakes, in judging of this Matter. So that, where these are found, we may be confident the Face of Religiou which fịch Behaviour carries is Genuine ; and where these are not, how pompous foever the Ap
pearance be, we may assure our felves, it is but counterfeit.
This is the use to be made of those Properties specified at the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7tb Verses. Not so much for the judging other People, and the State of Their Souls, (which doth not much concern us, except so far, as we may help and direct their Endeavours to judge and understand themselves) as for the preventing any false Confidences, and setting us right in the Notions of our Own. And, to this purpose, I shall make it my Business to explain these Qualities, in such a manner, as the Limits, expedient for this Discourse, will allow ; far from such, as so noble and profitable a Şubject deserves.
The First of these is, that Charity suffereth long. By which is meant, that They, who have this Virtue, arę not apt quickly, and upon Night Occasions, to conceive a displeasure, much less to meditate Revenge against those who behave themselves ill toward them. They consider, how subject to Failings Mankind are, how easily betrayed by Infirmity, and Surprise, and Passion, to Things that mis-become them: They make just Allowances for Inadvertencies and Indiscretions, and suppress their Resentments for the Wrongs that are manifest, so long as they continue to be tolerable. And herein they differ from the Jealous and Captious, the Peevish and Hafty; who either fancy themselves injured or affronted, when nothing like it was done or intended; Or take Fire at every little Provocation or Neglect.
2. The Charitable Person is kind. He is so far from rendring evil for evil, that he labours to overcome evil with good. His Temper and Conversation are sweet and obliging ; As he is now in taking just Offence, so he is sure never to give any. His constant Aim and Endeavour is to be as beneficial as possibly he can. Quite contrary to that devilish and malicious Dispo
sition, too visible and common in the World; which is continually employed in Mischief; disturbing the Quiet, and obstructing the Advantage of its Neighbours; and rendring Men, whom Nature and Religion intended for mutual Helps and Comforts, continual Plagues and Torments, to each Other.
3. Charity envieth not. A Perfection still higher than the former. For Many, who with-hold their Hands from doing harm, can yet be well enough pleased with seeing it done ; especially to those, for whom they have no Affection. But He, that is truly Charitable, takes a real Satisfaction in the Happiness of Others. If God vouchsafes them larger Measures of Knowledge, or Virtue, or Riches, or Credit, or Honour; In a Word, of any Blessing, Temporal or Spiritual: He grudges it not, murmurs not at it, is perfectly contented with the Preference this gives such above himself, and feels a fresh Delight, in observing the Glory of the Giver advanced, and the Ends of the Gift answered. This is his Desire, this his Joy, whoever they be, who are chosen for the Instruments of bringing it about, and how much soever his own Endowments, and Reputation, shall happen to be eclipsed, by Their brighter Luftre. •
4. As Charity regulates our Affection towards Others, so does it likewise moderate that to our Selves. And therefore the next Quality, by which it is diftinguished, is that of not Vaunting. The Word is, in the Original, obscure and ambiguous, but seems here chiefly to denote Sedateness and Prudence, Meekness and Modesty: Not being rash and forward, and affuming; Not exercising our selves in Matters 100 high for us, as David expresses it, (Psal. cxxxi.) nor thrufting into Business, above our Capacity and proper Sphere. By this we preserve Order and publick Peace, and contentedly keep within the Bounds of that Station, which the Providence of God hath called us to.
Private Men are satisfied with Obeying, and Those who have no lawful Authority, with Learning; The One does not aspire to Government in the State, nor the Other usurp the Office of Teachers in the Church: For, where these Things are inordinately arrrogated, the Persons guilty of it, betray a Spirit manifestly defective in this Divine Virtue; by aiming at Posts, which they are by no means qualified for, and so introducing Mischief and Confusion.
5. Nor does Charity only restrain Men from pretending to Talents they have not, but prevents their being exalted even with those they have. It teaches them to consider these, as they are, Gifts and Graces. If these are Spiritual, and such as Religion is immediately concern'd in, I have taken another Occasion to shew, that they minister very great Epin.com 1 Cor.
2d Sunday after Ground for Humility and Thankfulness, Epiphany. and all imaginable Care to answer the Purposes they are intrusted with us for; but not the least, for Vanity and Self-conceit. If they be those of Person, or of Fortune, we have yet less reason to be proud of them. Because the Value and Consequence of these to us is not near so much, the Freedom of the Gift is the same, and the Dangers and Temptations attending them, are more. So great an Abuse it is of Blessings of every sort, to be high-minded upon their account : So right a Use of them to fear, lest, by our Negligence and Mif-employment, they prove at last to have been bestowed in vain.
It may perhaps be enquired, how Pride and a High Conceit of our own Merit or Abilities, which seem to determine in our selves, and to hurt no Body else, come to have
the Duty of Charity, which manifestly regards some other person. The Reasons are but too evident, whether we apply them to the Love of God, or that of our Neighbour. It must be opposite to Charity in the former Sense, as
it lessens His Goodness in our Eyes, by the very fame Proportions that it raises our Own. For, the more we attribute to our own Strength or Desert, the more we plainly take off from the largeness of his Mercy, and consequently from our Obligations to love and serve him, in return for that Mercy. And Pride can never consist with Charity in the latter Sense, because bigb and great are in Truth relative Terms, and imply a Comparison with something else: So that it is not possible for a Man to represent himself thus, without representing his Brethren at the same time little and low. The consequence whereof must needs be, failure in the Affection first, and then in all the outward Marks of it, which are, but he who proceeds upon a false Computation does not reckon to be, their due. And here we perceive, how just the Apostle's Method is, and how suitable to the Nature and Order of Things, when he goes on to instance, as the next Character of Charity,
6. That it Doth not behave it self unseemly. It brings Men off from that Haughtiness and Scorn in Conversation, which is so nauseous and offensive, and so cere tain an effect of their being too full of themselves, For in this, as in all other Cases, a Man's Deportment will be governed by the reigning part of his Mind; and, where that is the Passion of vicious Self-love, no other Person must expect fair Quarter. Quite otherwise the Virtue, we are contemplating. It renders Men erfgaging and acceptable ; chuses much rather to forego or overlook a great deal, than to insist upon what it might in rigour require ; It exceeds all the Polishings of the World, because what They direct for Decency and Appearance, This practises sincerely. It is courteous without Affectation, conde'scending without Interest or Design, and, (according
to St. Chryfoftom's Interpretation of the Word) it thinks no good Office, though never so mean, be