« AnteriorContinuar »
pacity of bearing a part in that Everlasting State of Peace, and Love, and Benevolence. A Selfish Spirit is incapable of that State: He alone is qualified for it, whose Mind is here Cultivated with the Love of his Brethren, and that in such Advanc'd Degrees, that he does, with Pleasure, use the most effectual Means, within his Power of rescuing them from the Pressure of every Calamity. And whilst he contributes to their Temporal Happiness, he promotes his own Spiritual Perfection; for every Act of Love does inlarge the Affection it self, and carry it on to a still nearer Resemblance and Similitude of that Heavenly and Consummate Love, whereby Good Men will be for ever United to God, and to one another.
If any regard then is to be had to the Imitation and Resemblance of the Holy Angels, and of God himself, or to the Universal Approbation of Mankind; or, if there be any Worth in Faith, or Hope, or Gratitude to God, or the Sincere Love of Christ, and of our Neighbour : And if each of these Virtues does derive its own
Native Excellency upon Works of Charity; and, if the Perfection of each of these Virtues does so far depend upon such Works, (proportion'd to Mens Abilities) that without them ’tis Imperfect; we may hence reasonably conclude, that such Works are very Excellent, and highly conducive to our Salvation. And this suggests the third Enquiry proposed:
III. In what Sense we are to understand that Efficacy, which seems to be ascribed, by our Saviour in the Text, unto Works of Charity? That when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. This Encouragement may look, as if Works of Charity were a full Title to Eternal Bliss; as if he, who goes out of the World, adorn'd with the Glory of Them, may Claim Heaven as his Due, and must be admitted, without any regard had to his other Qualifications. But 'tis by no means to be concluded, that such Works are the Sole Means of Salvation, or, that they will be effectual to the Forgiveness and Acceptance of those, who perfift in the known Omillions of other Duties requir
ed, or in the wilful Commission of any Sin. The whole Course of the Scriptures plainly evinceth the Necessity of Universal Sincere Obedience. The Indulgence therefore of any Vice, does obstruct the Efficacy of Charitable Works; and that Obstruction must be removed, before they can be effectual to Salvation: And yet this is no derogation from their Excellency. Even the Merits of Christ are not efficacious of Salvation to those, who continue in the Dominion of any Sin; and much less can it be effected by any Performances of our own. Nor should we entertain the less Honourable Thoughts of Charitable Works on this Account, That Universal Obedience is Indispensably required; as if That alone were sufficient, and therefore They should not be urg'd, as so highly conducive to Salvation. For 'tis to be remembred, that though we should break the Habits of all our Sins, yet if we should fail of performing Works of Charity, answerable to our Capacity, we should still fall short of Forgiveness and Eternal Life. Even
when our Sins are abandon’d, * 'tis Charity that must advance us into the Number of the Righteous and Blessed.
But still’tis to be consider'd, that such Works are not the Proper and Meritorious Cause's of our Salvation; tho' they may seem to be so, from fome Expressions, both in the Holy Scriptures, and in the Writings of the Primitive Fathers. But since the Holy Scriptures ought to be their own Interpreters, and that Sense of a few Expressions, which is repugnant to the whole Tenour of the Gospel, cannot be the True Sense of such Expressions; and since this Truth runs through the whole Gospel, That Christ is the only Meritorious Cause of Salvation, or, as St. Paul t. exprefseth it, that Eternal Life is the Gift of God, thro’ Jesus Christ our Lord: It must needs be concluded, that every Expression, wherein Works of Charity seem to be represented as the Causes of Remission, does only denote, that through
* Dixi de iis quæ Vetantur. Dicam nunc breviter quæ Jubentur. Innocentiæ proxima est Misericordia. Illa enim malum non facit; hæc bonum operatur. Iúa Inchoat juftitiam; hæc Complet. Lactant. Epit. ** 7 Rom. vi. 23.
K :. the
the Merits of Christ, they recommend us to God's Favour. So likewise ought such Expressions, in the Primitive Fathers, to be interpreted agreeably to the Main Principles advanced by them. Thus; if St. Irenæus * represents Alms, as Loofing, or Freeing Men from former Sin, 'tis highly Reasonable to conclude, that he means only such a Redemption from Sin, as is Subordinate to, and Depends upon, the Redemption effected by the Merits of Chrift; because he does elsewhere t, under great Plainness and Fulness of Expression, declare the Obedience and Sufferings of Christ, to be the Cause of our Redemption from Sin and Death. And it would be very unreasonable to imagine, that any of the other Catholick Writers; in the First and Pureft Ages of Christianity, should mention the Merit of Charitable Works in such an Acceptation as would contradict the Fundamental Doctrines of the Gofpel, and of their OWN Writings. This is a very Just and Useful.
* ea quæ poffidentur, pauperibus divisas Solutio. fiem faciant præteritæ cupiditatis Adv. Hæref. L. 4. c. 26.
| L. 3. C. 18, 20. L. S. Ĉi 1, 2, 14. E alibi passim.