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·and regular, not subject to the efforts of passion or resentment; it must preside with a superiority over all the desires of our heart, that neither wantonness and lust, nor anger and
revenge, norcovetousness and ambition, may carry us aside from the ways of righteousness and equity in our dealings one with another.
This description distinguishes the virtue of the gospel from what the world means by good-nature, which seems to be a quality resulting rather from the constitution, than from the reason of a man, and is frequently subject to great efforts of passion and resentment; to the desires of ambition and lasciviousness, and other vices, which have no society, which can have none, with Christian charity. Good-nature has oftentimes something that wants to be corrected in the very principles of it; sometimes it is an agreeable and easy weakness of mind, or an indolence or carelessness with respect to persons and things. But charity is reason made perfect by grace: it is a beneficence which arises from a contemplation of the world, from a knowlege of the great Creator, and the relation we bear to him and to our fellow-creatures : it is that reason into which all duties owing from man to man are ultimately resolved; and when we choose to say in a word what is the character, the temper, or the duty of a disciple of the gospel, “charity' is the only word that can express our meaning.
The same sort of actions materially considered, do oftentimes proceed from very different principles. Liberality and hospitality are natural effects of charity, which inspires us with the tender emotions of compassion and benevolence towards our fellow-creatures : but it is no very uncommon thing for men to be liberal out of pride, and hospitable out of vanity; to do their alms before men, that they may be seen of them ;' and of such our Saviour's judgment is, that they shall have no reward of their Father, which is in heaven.'
This leads to an inquiry, by what means we may certainly distinguish the principles from which our actions are derived, without which we can have no well-grounded confidence towards God, how specious soever the appearance may be which we make in the eyes of the world ? The ready answer to which inquiry is, that we must consult our own hearts, and examine what passes in them, in order to form a right judgment on the
motives of our own actions. But if we consider what is meant by searching the heart, we shall find that to search the heart, and to examine into the motives and principles of our actions, is one and the same thing ; and therefore this direction does not set us one step forward in the inquiry. Besides, it is no easy matter to come to the knowlege of our own hearts, since from experience it is plain that men do impose on themselves at least as often as they do on the world ; and find an ease and satisfaction in doing the things which shall yield no fruit in the great day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed. And though in actions which require deliberation, and are not undertaken without a previous debate had with ourselves on their expediency or inexpediency, an honest man may judge of his own motives and sincerity; yet a thousand things there are which men do habitually, and with so much ease and readiness, as not to attend to the influence of any particular motive at the time of doing the action. Charitable persons do not, in each single instance of charity, set before their minds the connexion of that action with the honor of God and the good of the world ; nor can they perhaps be able to say what particular motive led to each act of charity. A man of a regular chastity and sobriety does not every day, nor perhaps every month, reason himself into the observation of these duties, and exert the motives in his heart, on which the practice of these duties is founded; nor can he answer, should he be examined to the point, how far his virtue is owing to this or the other motive, or how far to his natural temperament and constitution. And since no one virtue consists in a single act, or in any certain determinate number of single acts, but in a regular and habitual conformity to the rules of reason and morality; which conformity the more habitual it is, the less we feel of the influence of any particular motives; it is hardly possible for men to estimate the good or evil of their actions, by considering the immediate and sensible connexion between each action, and the motives producing it. For, as many motions of the body, which depend on the acts of our will, are exerted with the greatest reason, and yet' the reason of exerting them is but seldom by any, and by some hardly ever attended to; so in nioral actions a man of confirmed habitual goodness does many things right, without recurring back by reflexion to the special grounds and reasons of duty, in which the morality of such actions is founded.
For these reasons, and for others which might be assigned, it seems to me to be a very distracting method, to put people on inquiry into the motives of all their particular actions; and still more unreasonable it seems to be, to exclude sincerity from all actions that are not immediately influenced by a special consideration of the proper motives of religion ; because in this case, the more naturally and habitually men do good, the more reason they will have to doubt of their sincerity.
We must therefore search after a more equitable and more practicable way of judging of our sincerity. Our Saviour tells us, we must • love our neighbor as ourselves ;' making hereby that love, which naturally every man bears to himself, to be the standard of that love and charity which we ought to have to one another. As therefore it is sufficient to love our neighbor as ourselves; so likewise it will be sufficient evidence of the sincerity of our charity, if we can give as good proof of our love towards our neighbor, as we ordinarily can do of our love towards ourselves.
Now certain it is, that the principle of self-preservation does generally act so uniformly in men, that they do the things most necessary to their own well-being without much thought and reflexion on the reasons for so doing; nor do we ever suspect men so far in the sincerity of their love to themselves, as to question whether the things which they do rightly for their own preservation, proceed from proper motives, and out of a due regard to their owy well-being.
What the principle of self-preservation is with respect to ourselves, the same is charity with respect to our neighbor : and the more real and vigorous this principle is, the more easily, and with the ss deliberation, does it exert the acts of love and beneficence towards our fellow-creatures. Hypocrites and dissemblers, and self-interested persons, have always a design in what they do; and therefore they necessarily deliberate whether it be worth their while to do good to others or no; and can therefore assign to themselves a particular reason for any good office they perform to their neighbor: and it is a great presumption that a man acts on a general principle of charity and humanity, when he lives well towards others, without having a particular reason to assign in every instance for so doing.
It is either a principle of self-love, or a principle of charity, that inclines us to do good to others. Where men act out of self-love, and seek to promote their own interest, to gratify their own vanity or ambition by serving others, there is so much design in what they do, that they cannot but be conscious of the reasons which prevail with them : and where there are no such reasons to be assigned, what cause is there for men to suspect their own sincerity, or to imagine that the love they show to others proceeds from any thing but a good principle ?
It is therefore, if not a certain rule, yet at least a very reasonable presumption, that we act on a true principle of charity, when we seek the ease, and satisfaction, and comfort of others, without being conscious to ourselves of any selfish views to our own interest in what we do,
But to prevent mistakes, I would not be understood, by laying down this rule, to condemn men always in the good they do to others with a view to themselves : for surely it is as reasonable to exchange good offices, as other less valuable conveniences of life; and indeed the happiness of civil life consists in this mutual exchange of good offices: and therefore, where men serve others in an honest way, expecting only honest returns, this justice must at least be done them, to own that they are fair traders, and deal in a good commodity. The Apostle to the Hebrews exhorts us to provoke one another to love and to good works;' and the best way to provoke others to love, is to show love towards them.
But the surest way to know whether we are influenced as we ought to be by a principle of charity, is to consider not this or that particular action, for very bad men may sometimes do very good things; nor yet to consider our behavior with respect to particular persons, for the worst of men are capable of strong passions of love for particular relations and acquaintance; but to reflect on our carriage towards all in general, and in all instances: for if the principle of charity be in us, it will discover itself in a uniformity of all our actions; as the principle of selfpreservation makes men seek their own good, not at one time
more than another, or in one instance more than another, but at all times and in all instances equally.
If therefore we find that our sentiments of tenderness and humanity are confined to certain persons, to our relations or particular friends, to the men of our own sect or party: we may be sure that such sentiments are the product of some partial and narrow views, and not the genuine offspring of true charity, which is in its nature extensive and universal, and reaches as far, nay much beyond the power we have of doing good : or if we find that in some instances we are apt enough to deal justly and mercifully with our neighbors, but that in others we are regardless of mercy and justice, and value not the credit, or reputation, or contentment of our brethren, but are ready to sacrifice them all to our own passions and corrupt inclinations; our being vile in some instances is a certain indication that our being good in others is not owing to a principle of charity, but to something else, which we may call by any other name rather than virtue. If you love not the world, and the good things of it, so much as to injure your neighbor for the sake of making a gain to yourself, it is well. If you can part with your own for the relief of the necessities of such as are indigent, it is better. If, besides this, you have a friendly temper and disposition, and love to see all about you easy and happy, it is a great step towards being perfect. But still if lust prevails, and leads you to violate the wife or the daughter of your friend, how dwells the love of God or of your neighbor in you? For charity is 'the fulfilling of the law : for this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'
The rule which I am endeavoring to establish, in order to enable men to judge of the principle on which they act towards others, is the very same which the Apostle to the Corinthians has in effect described in the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle; where, speaking of spiritual gifts, and showing that without charity they are of no use to the possessors thereof, his subject led him to give the certain marks and characters of that charity which he so highly exalted. What then is it? Is