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Saviour, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him; till seven times ? Jesus saith unto him, I
say not unto thee, until seven times ; but until seventy times seven. Not, as if, after this number of offences, a man might then cease to forgive; but the expression of seventy times seven; is to show us that we are not to bound our forgiveness by any number of offences, but are to continue forgiving the most repeated offences against us. Thus our Saviour saith in another place, if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, sayivg, I repent ; thou shalt forgive him. If, therefore, a inan cease to forgive his brother, because he has forgiven him often already ; if he excuse himself from forgiving this man, because he has forgiven several others ; such a one breaks this law of Christ, concerning forgiving one's brother.
Now the rule of forgiving is also the rule of giving ; you are not to give, or do good to seven, but to seventy times seven.
You are not to cease from giving, because you have given often to the same person, or to other persons; but must look upon yourself as much obliged to continue relieving those, that continue in wants, as you were obliged to relieve them once, or twice. Had it not been in your power, you had been excused from relieving any person once; but, if it is in your power to relieve people often, it is as much your duty to do it often, as it is the duty of others to do it but seldom, because they are but seldom able. He, that is not ready to forgive every brother as often, as he wants to be for. given, does not forgive, like a disciple of Christ; and he, that is not ready to give to every brother, that wants to have something given him, does not give, like a disciple of Christ. For it is as necessary, to give to seventy times seven; to live in the continual exercise of all good works to the utmost of our power, as it is to forgive until seventy times seven.
The reason of all this is very plain, because there is the same goodness, the same excellency, and the same necessity of being thus charitable at one time, as at anoth
It is as much the best use of our money, to be al.
ways doing good with it, as it is the best use of it at any particular time ; so that what is a reason for a charitable action, is as good a reason for a charitable life. That, which is a reason for forgiving one offence, is the same reason for forgiving all offences. For such charity has nothing to recommend it to day, but what will be the same recommendation of it tomorrow; and you cannot neglect it at one time, without being guilty of the same sin, as if you neglected it at another time.
As sure, therefore, as these works of chartiy are necessary to salvation, so sure is it, that we are to do them to the utmost of our power; not to day, or tomorrow, but through the whole course of our life. If, therefore, it be our duty at any time, to deny ourselves any need. less expenses ; to be moderate and frugal; that we may have to give to those, that want; it is as much our duty, to do so at all times, that we may be farther able to do more good ; for, if it is at any time a sin, to prefer needless, vain expense, to works of charity ; it is so at all times; because charity as much excels all needless and vain expense at one time, as at another. So that if it is ever necessary to our salvation, to take care of these works of charity, and to see that we make ourselves in some degree capable of doing them; it is as necessary to our salvation, to take care to make ourselves as capable, as we can be, of performing them in all the parts of
Either therefore you must so far renounce your Christianity, as to say, you need never perform any of these good works ; or you must own that you are to perform them all your life in as high a degree, as you are able. There is no middle way, any more, than there is a middle way between pride and humility, or temperance and intemperance. If y you do not strive to fulfil all charitable works ; if you neglect any of them, that are in your power, and deny assistance to those, that want, what you can give, let it be when it will, or where it will, you number yourself among those, that want Christian charity. Because it is as much your duty to do good with all that you have, and to live in the continual ex
ercise of good works, as it is your duty to be temperate in all, that you eat and drink.
Hence also appears the necessity of renouncing all those foolish and unreasonable expenses, which the pride and folly of mankind have made so fashionable in the world. For if it is necessary to do good works as far, as you are able; it must be as necessary to renounce those needless ways of spending money, which render you unable to do works of charity.
You must therefore no more conform to these ways of the world, than you must conform to the vices of the world; you must no more spend with those, that idly waste their money, as their own humour leads them, than you must drink with the drunken, or indulge yourself with the epicure ; because a course of such expense is no more consistent with life of charity, than excess in drinking is consistent with a life of sobriety. When, therefore, any one tells you of the lawfulness of expensive apparel ; of the innocency of pleasing yourself with costly satisfactions; only imagine that the same person told you,
that you need not do works of charity ; that Christ does not require you to do good unto your poor brethren, as unto him; and then you will see the wickedness of such advice ; for to tell you that you may live in such expense, as to make it impossible for you to live in the exercise of good works, is the same thing, as telling you that you need not have any care about such good works themselves.
How the imprudent use of an estate corrupts the temper of
the mind, and fills the heart with frivolity; represented in the character of Flavia.
It has been observed, that a prudent and religious care is to be used, in the manner of spending our money, because the manner of spending our estate makes so great a part of the business of every day ; that, according, as we are wise, or imprudent, in this respect, the whole course of our lives will be rendered wise, or foolish.
Persons, well affected to religion, that receive instructions of piety with pleasure, often wonder, how it comes to pass, that they make no greater progress in that religion, which they so much admire. The reason of it is, because religion lives only in their head, but something else has possession of their hearts; therefore they continue from year to year mere admirers of piety, without ever coming up to the reality of its precepts.
If it be asked, why religion Joes not get possession of their hearts; the reason is, not because they live in gross sins, for their regard to religion preserves them from such disorders ; but because their hearts are constantly employed, perverted, and kept in a wrong state, by the indiscreet use of such things, as are lawful to be used.
The enjoyment of their estates is lawful; therefore it never comes into their heads, to imagine any great danger from that quarter. They never reflect, that there is a vain, and imprudent use of their estates, which, though it does not destroy, like gross sins; yet so disorders the heart, and supports it in such sensuality, pride and vanity, as makes it incapable of receiving the life and spirit of piety.
For our souls may receive an infinite hurt, and be rendered incapable of all virtue, merely by the use of innocent and lawful things.
What is more innocent, than rest and retirement ? Yet what more dangerous, than sloth and idleness ? What is more lawful, than eating and drinking ? Yet what more destructive of virtue ; what more fruitful of all vice, than indulgence ?
How lawful and praiseworthy is the care of a family! Yet how certainly are many people rendered incapable of all virtue, by a worldly and solicitous temper !
Now it is for want of religious exactness in the use of these innocent and lawful things, that religion cannot get possession of our hearts. It is in the prudent management of ourselves, as to these things, that the art of holy living chiefly consists.
Gross sins are plainly seen, and easily avoided by per. sons, that profess religion. But the indiscreet use of innocent and lawful things, as it does not offend our conscience; so it is difficult to make people sensible of the danger of it.
A gentleman, who spends his estate in sports; and a woman, that lays out her fortune upon herself; can hardly be persuaded, that the spirit of religion cannot subsist in such a way of life.
These persons may live free from debaucheries ; they may be friends of religion so far, as to speak well of it, and admire it in their imaginations; but it cannot govern their hearts, and be the spirit of their actions, till they change their way of life, and let religion give law to the spending of their estates.
For a woman, who loves dress; that thinks no expense too great, to bestow upon the adorning of her person, cannot stop there. For that temper draws a thousand other follies with it; and will render the whole course of her life, her conversation, her hopes, her fears, her taste, her pleasures, and diversions, all 'suitable to it.
Flavia and Miranda are two maiden sisters, who have each of them two hundred pounds a year. They buried