« AnteriorContinuar »
true self-love, by the which we are directed to re- SERM. gulate our charity; but a spurious brood of our folly XXVI. and pravity, which imply not a sober love of ourselves, but a corrupt fondness toward an idol of our fancy mistaken for ourselves.
A high conceit of our worth or ability, of our fortune or worldly state, of our works and achievements; a great complacence or confidence in some endowment or advantage belonging to us, a stiff adherence to our own will or humour, a greedy appetite to some particular interest or base pleasure ; these are those, not attendants of natural self-love, but issues of unnatural depravedness in judgment and affections, which render our practice so exorbitant in this regard, making us seem to love ourselves so immoderately, so infinitely; so contracting our souls, and drawing them inwards, that we appear indisposed to love our neighbour in any considerable degree: if these (as by serious consideration they may be) were avoided, or much abated, it would not be found so grievous a matter to love our neighbour as ourselves; for that sober love remaining behind, to which nature inclineth, and which reason approveth, would rather help to promote than yield any obstacle to our charity: if such perverse selfishness were checked and depressed, and natural kindness cherished and advanced, then true self-love and charity would compose themselves into near a just poise.
5. Indeed (which we may further consider) our nature is not so absolutely averse or indisposed to the practice of such charity, as to those may seem who view it slightly, either in some particular instances, or in ordinary practice: nature hath fur
SERM. nished us with strong instincts for the defence and XXVI. sustenance of our life; and common practice is depraved by ill education and custom: these some men poring on do imagine no room left for charity in the constitution of men; but they consider not that one of these may be so moderated, and the other so corrected, that charity may have a fair scope in men's hearts and practice; and they slip over divers pregnant marks of our natural inclination thereto.
Man having received his soul from the breath of God, and being framed after the image of his most benign parent, there do yet abide in him some features resembling God, and relics of the divine original; there are in us seeds of ingenuity, of equity, of pity, of benignity, which being cultivated by sober consideration and good use, under the conduct and aid of heavenly grace, will produce noble fruits of charity.
The frame of our nature so far disposeth us thereto, that our bowels are touched with sensible pain upon the view of any calamitous object: our fancy is distur ed at the report of any disaster befalling any person; we can hardly see or read a tragedy without motions of compassion.
The practice of benignity, of courtesy, of clemency at first sight, without any discursive reflection, doth obtain approbation and applause from us; being no less grateful and amiable to the mind than beauty to our eyes, harmony to our ears, fragrancy to our smell, and sweetness to our palate and to the same mental sense malignity, cruelty, harshness, all kinds of uncharitable dealing are very disgustful and loathsome.
There wanteth not any commendation to procure SERM. a respect for charity, nor any invective to breed ab- XXVI. horrence of uncharitableness; nature sufficiently" s Φιλανθρώ prompting to favour the one, and to detest the US other.
The practice of the former in common language hath ever been styled humanity; and the disposition from whence it floweth is called good-nature: the practice of the latter is likewise termed inhumanity, and its source ill-nature; as thwarting the common notions and inclinations of mankind, divesting us of our manhood, and rendering us a sort of monsters among men.
No quality hath a clearer repute, or is commonly more admired, than generosity, which is a kind of natural charity, or hath a great spice thereof: no disposition is more despised among men than niggardly selfishness; whence commonly men are ashamed to avow self-interest as a principle of their actions, (rather fathering them on some other cause,) as being conscious to themselves that it is the basest of all principlesh.
Whatever the censurers and detractors of human nature do pretend, yet even themselves do admire pure beneficence, and contemn selfishness; for, if we look to the bottom of their intent, it is hence they are bent to slander mankind as void of good nature, because out of malignity they would not allow it a quality so excellent and divine.
Wherefore, according to the general judgment and
b Επιτιμῶσι γὰρ τοῖς ἑαυτοὺς μάλιστα ἀγαπῶσι, καὶ ὡς ἐν αἰσχρῷ φιλαύτους ἀποκαλοῦσι. Arist. ix. δ.
Ὅσῳ ἂν βελτίων ᾖ, μᾶλλον διὰ τὸ καλὸν, καὶ φίλου ἕνεκα, τὸ δὲ αὐτοῦ παρίησι. Ibid.
SERM. conscience of men, (to omit other considerations,) our XXVI. nature is not so averse from charity, or destitute of propensions thereto; and therefore cherishing the natural seeds of it, we may improve it to higher degrees.
6. But supposing the inclinations of nature, as it now standeth in its depraved and crazy state, do so mightily obstruct the practice of this duty in the degree specified, so that however we cannot by any force of reason or philosophy attain to desire so much or relish so well the good of others as our own; yet we must remember, that a subsidiary power is by the divine mercy dispensed, able to control and subdue nature to a compliance, to raise our practice above our natural forces. We have a like averseness to other spiritual duties, (to the loving God with all our hearts, to the mortifying our flesh and carnal desires, to the contempt of worldly things, and placing our happiness in spiritual goods;) yet we are able to perform them by the succour of grace, and in virtue of that omnipotency which St. Paul assumPhil. iv. 13. ed to himself when he said, I can do all things by ἐν τῷ ἐνδυναμοῦντι. Christ enabling me.
2 Tim. i. 7. If we can get the Spirit of love, (and assuredly we may get it, if we carefully will seek it, with constant fervency imploring it from him, who hath promised to bestow it on those that ask it,) it will infuse into our minds that light, whereby we shall discern the excellency of this duty, together with the folly and baseness of that selfishness which crosseth it; it will kindle in our hearts charitable affections, disposing us to wish all good to our neighbour, and to feel pleasure therein; it will render us partakers of that divine nature, which so will guide and urge us
in due measure to affect the benefit of others, as now SERM. XXVI. corrupt nature doth move us unmeasurably to covet our own; being supported and elevated by its virtue, we may, surmounting the clogs of fleshly sense and conceit, soar up to the due pitch of charity; being beodídaкTO, taught of God to love one another and 1 Thess. iv. endowed with the fruits of the Spirit, which are Gal. v. 22. love, gentleness, goodness, meekness; and created Eph. v. 9. according to God in Christ Jesus to the practice of Eph. iv. 24. answerable good works.
Col. iii. 12.
7. There are divers means conducible to the abatement of difficulty in this practice, which I shall propose, referring the matter to issue upon due trial of them.
1. Let us carefully weigh the value of those things which immoderate self-love doth affect in prejudice to charity, together with the worth of those which charity doth set in balance to them.
Aristotle himself doth observe, that the ground of culpable self-love, scraping, scrambling, scuffling for particular interest, is men's high esteem and passion for, and greedy appetite of wealth, of honours, of corporeal pleasures: whereas virtuous persons, not admiring those things, will constantly act for honesty sake, and out of love to their friends or country; wherein although they most really benefit and truly gratify themselves, yet are they not blamed for selfishness c.
· Οἱ μὲν οὖν εἰς ὄνειδος ἄγοντες αὐτὸ, φιλαύτους καλοῦσι τοὺς ἑαυτοῖς ἀπονέμοντας τὸ πλεῖστον ἐν χρήμασι, καὶ τιμαῖς, καὶ ἡδοναῖς ταῖς σωματικαῖς· τούτων γὰρ οἱ πολλοὶ ὀρέγονται, καὶ ἐσπουδάκασι περὶ αὐτὰ, ὡς ἄριστα ὄντα· διὸ καὶ περιμάχητά ἐστιν· οἱ δὲ περὶ ταῦτα πλεονέκται χαρίζονται ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις, καὶ ὅλως τοῖς πάθεσι, καὶ τῷ ἀλόγῳ τῆς ψυχῆς-δικαίως δὴ TOTS OUTW piλaÚTOS verdiera. Arist. Eth. ix. 8. Vid. tot.