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him, is a monster of selfishness. And if a man say never so much (I cannot do so), yet while he confesseth that this should be his desire, it sufficeth to the decision of our present case.
2. He that will not confess that it is better that he himself should die, than all the church of Christ, or the whole kingdom die, is unreasonably selfish in the eyes of all impartial men. The gallant Romans and Athenians had learnt it, as one of their plainest, greatest lessons, to prefer their country before their lives : and is not that to love their countries better than themselves. :
3. For the same reason many of them saw, that it was the duty of a good subject, or a gallant soldier, to save the life of his king or general, with the loss of his own: because their lives were of more public utility. And the ground of all this was these natural verities :
- The best should be best loved.'- Goodness must be measured by a higher rule than personal self-interest.' • Multitudes are better than one.' &c.
4. All men acknowledge that a man of eminent learning, piety, wisdom, and usefulness to the church or world, should be loved and preserved rather than a wicked, sottish, worthless child of our own. Yea God himself requireth that parents procure the death of their own children, by public justice, if they be obstinately wicked ; Deut. xxi.
5. The same reasons plainly infer, that I ought rather to desire the life of a much more worthy useful instrument for the church and state than my own; and so to love a better man better than myself, if I be acquainted sufficiently with his goodness.
And if this be all so sure and plain, hence observe,-
2. How few true Christians are; and how defective and imperfect grace is in the best. Alas! how strange are many Christians to the extent of this duty, and how far are we all from practising it in any eminent degree !
3. Wherein it is that nature's corruption most consisteth; and what is the chief part of the nature and work of sanctifying grace and reformation.
4. Whence come all the oppressions, injuries, persecu
tions, frauds and cruelties on the earth: For want of loving men's neighbours as themselves : otherwise how tenderly would they handle one another! How easily would they pardon wrongs! How patiently would they bear the dissent of honest, upright Christians, who cannot force their judgments to be of other men's mould and size! How apt would men be to suspect their own understandings, of weakness, presumption, or error, rather than to rave with the fury of the dragon against all others, who think them to be mistaken! How safely and quietly might we live by them in the world, if they loved their neigbours as themselves! I do not say now, How plentiful would men be in doing good to others ? I am but pleading a lower cause, How seldom they would be in doing hurt? But, alas, miserable Britain ! it was in thee that one extraordinary emperor, Alexander Severus was betrayed and murdered, who made that Christian precept his motto, and wrote it on his doors, and books, and goods, “Do as you would be done by.” In thee it is that love hath been beheaded, while nothing hath been more acknowledged and professed. If love be treacherous, hurtful, envious, scandalous, ensnaring, and plotting for men's destruction: If love teach proud and vicious sots, to take themselves for deities, and oracles, and all for vermin that must be hunted unto death, who bow not to their carnal, erroneous conceits, and do not with the readiest prostitute consciences, serve their carnal interests and ends : If love be known by reviling those that are much better than ourselves; and stigmatizing the faithfullest servants of Christ with the most odious character that lies can utter: If it was love that called Paul a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among the people, and represented Christ as an enemy to Cæsar and his followers, as the filth and offscouring of the earth; then happy age in which we live; and happy they which are possessed with the proud and factious spirit. But if it be otherwise, alas, where be they, and how few that love their neighbours, or betters, as themselves?
5. You see here what a plague sin is to the earth, and how great (a punishment may I call it, or rather) a misery to the sinner, and to the world.
6. And you see how joyful and heavenly a life we should
live, if we did but follow God's commands : and what a felicity love itself is to the soul.
7. And you see by what measure to try men's spirits, and to know who are the best among all the pretenders to goodness in the world. Certainly not the most censorious, contemptuous, backbiters and cruel, that seek to make all odious that are not for their interest: but those that most abound in love, which faith itself is given to produce.
Object. All this is true; but still we find it a thing impossible to love our neighbour equally with ourselves: Can you teach us how to do it?'
Answ. It is that I have been teaching you in the ten directions before set down: but it is this which I have reserved to the close that must do the work indeed, and without it nothing else will do it.
Direct, 11. Make it the work of all your lives, by faith in Christ, to bring up your souls to the unfeigned love of God, and then it will be done. For then you will love God above all, and love God in all; and love yourselves and your neighbours principally for God: then God's image, and glory, and will, will be goodness or amiableness in your eyes; and not carnal pleasure, honour, or commodity. And then it will be easy to you to love that most, which hath most of God. You will then easily see the reason of this seeming paradox, and that the contrary is most unreasonable. You will then be as Timothy, who had a natural love to others, as others have to themselves, and who sought the things of Jesus Christ, when all others (even the best ministers too much) sought their own; Phil. ii. 20,21. You will understand Paul's charge, Phil. ii. 3-5. “In lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on
but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” You will learn of Christ to take your nearest friend for a Satan, that would persuade you to save or spare yourself (yea, your life) when you ought to lay it down for the glory of God, and the good of many, (Matt. xvi. 22, 23.) SELF and own are words which would then be better understood, and be more suspected : and the reason of the great Gospel duty of self-DENIAL would be better discerned.
Therefore set yourselves to the study of God, especially in his goodness; study him in his works, and in his word, and in his Son, and in the glory where you hope everlastingly to see him: and if you once love God as God indeed, it will teach you to love your brethren, and in what sort, and in what degree to do it. For many ways are we taught of God to love one another : Even, 1. By the great and heavenly teacher of love, Jesus Christ: 2. And by God's own example, Matt. v. 44, 45. 3. And by the shedding abroad of his love in our hearts by the spirit of love; Rom. v. 5. 4. And by this actual loving God, and so loving all of God in the world.
Object. . But by this doctrine you will prepare for the Levellers and Friars, to cast down, or cry down propriety.'
Answ. 1. There is a propriety of food, raiment, &c. which individuation hath made necessary. 2. There is a propriety of stewardship, which God causeth by the various disposal of his talents, and which is the just reward of human industry, and the necessary encouragement of wit, and labour in the world : none of these would we cast down, or preach down. 3. But there is a common abuse of
propriety to the maintenance of men's own lusts, and to the hurt of others, and of all societies ! This we would preach down if we could : but it is love only which must be the Leveller. In the primitive church, love shewed its power by such a voluntary community ; Acts iv. And all politicians, who have drawn the idea of a perfect commonwealth, have been fumbling at other ways of accomplishing it: but it is Christian love alone that must do it. Unfeignedly love God as God, and love your neighbours really as yourselves, and then keep your proprieties as far as this will give you leave.
I will conclude with this considerable observation; that though it is false which some affirm, that individuation is a punishment for some former sin (for how could a soul not individuate sin?) And though sensitive self-love, which is the principle of self-preservation, be nu sin itself; nor doth grace destroy it; yet the inordinacy of it is the sum and root of all positive sin, and an increaser of privative sin : and this inseparable sensitive self-love, was made to be more under the power of reason, and to be ruled by it, than
now we find it in any the most sanctified person; even as Abraham's love of the life of his only son, was to be subject to his faith.
And holiness lieth more in this subjection, than most men well understand. And the inordinacy of this personal self-love, hath so strangely perverted the mind itself, that it is '
not only very hard to convince men of the evil of any selfish principles or sins ; but it greatly bindeth them, as to all duties of public interest, and social nature : yea, and maketh them afraid of heaven itself; where the union of souls will be as much nearer than now it is, as their love will be greater and more perfect. And though it will not be by any cessation of personal individuation, and by falling into one universal soul; yet perfect love will make the union nearer, than we who have no experience of it, can possibly now comprehend. (And when we feel the strongest love to a friend, desiring the nearest union, we have the best help to understand it.) But men that feel not the divine and holy love, are by inordinate self-love, and abuse of individuation, afraid of the life to come, lest the union should be so great as to lose their individuation, or prejudice their personal divided interests. Yea, true believers, so far as their holy love is weak, and their inordinate sensitive selflove is yet too strong, are from hence afraid of another world, when they scarce know why ; but indeed it is much from this disease ; which maketh men still desire their personal felicity, too partially, and in a divided way, and to be afraid of losing their personality or propriety, by too near a union and communion of souls.
How by Faith to be followers of the Saints, and to look with
profit to their Examples, and to their End.
The great work of living in heaven by faith, I have said so much of as to the principal part in my “Saints' Rest,” that no more of that must be expected here. Only this subject which is not so usually and fully treated of, to the people as it ought (being one part of our heavenly conversation), I think meet to speak to more distinctly at this time.