we have not only so high a pattern, but so excellent a motive
I. Then, it might endear this Christian virtue unto us, that God propones himself as the pattern of it, that Christ holds out himself as the rare example of it for our imitation. It is what doth most endear God to creatures, and certainly it must likewise appreciate them one to another.1 John iv.7, 8: "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." Matt. v.44, 45, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Eph. v.1, 2: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savour." John xiii.35: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." Now the following of so rare an example, and imitating of so noble and high a pattern, doth exalt the soul into a royalty and dignity, that it dwells in God and God in it.1 John iv.16. This is the highest point of conformity with God, and the nearest resemblance of our Father. To be like him in wisdom, that wretched aim, did cast men as low as hell, but to aspire unto a likeness in love, lifts up the soul as high as heaven, even to a mutual inhabitation.

II. It should add an exceeding weight unto it, that we have not only so high a pattern, but so excellent a motive, "God so loved," and "herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins," therefore, "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another," 1 John iv.9, 10, 11. "Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us," Eph. v.2. Here are the topics of the most vehement persuasion. There is no invention can afford so constraining a motive, God so loving us, sinful and miserable us, that he gave his only begotten Son, that we might live through him, and Christ so loving us, that he gave himself a sacrifice for sin. O then! who should live to himself, when Christ died for others? And who should not love, when "God spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all?" "God commendeth his love to us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," Rom. viii.32, and v.8 and xiv.7, 8.

III. Join to this so earnest and pressing a command, even the latter will of him to whom we owe that we are, and are redeemed. That is the burden he lays on us. This is all the recompence he seeks for his unparalleled love, "This is my command, that as I have loved you, ye love one another," John xiii.34. Your goodness cannot extend to me, therefore I assign all the beneficence and bounty ye owe to me, I give it over to these whom I have loved, and have not loved my life for them. Now, says he, whatsoever ye would count yourself obliged to do to me, if I were on the earth among you, do it to these poor ones whom I have left behind me, and this is all the testimony of gratitude I crave. Matth. xxv.34 to 40: "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer, and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." "These ye have always with you, but me ye have not always." It is strange how earnestly, how solicitously, how pungently he presses this exhortation, John xiii.34, 35, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another," and xv.12 and l7, "This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you. These things I command you, that ye love one another," and his apostles after him, 1 Thess. iv.9, "But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you, for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." Coloss. iii.14, "And above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." 1 Pet. iv.8, "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves, for charity shall cover the multitude of sins." But above all, that beloved disciple, who being so intimate with Jesus Christ, -- we may lawfully conceive he was mured to that affectionate frame by his converse with Christ, -- has been most mindful of Christ's testamentary injunctions. He cannot speak three sentences but this is one of them. All which may convince us of this one thing, that there is a greater moment and weight of Christianity in charity than in the most part of these things for which Christians bite and devour one another. It is the fundamental law of the gospel, to which all positive precepts and ordinances should stoop. Unity in judgment is very needful for the well being of Christians. But Christ's last words persuade this, that unity in affection is more essential and fundamental. This is the badge he left to his disciples. If we cast away this upon every different apprehension of mind, we disown our Master, and disclaim his token and badge.

IV. The apostle Paul puts a high note of commendation upon charity, when he styles it the bond of perfection. "Above all things," says he, "put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness," Col. iii 14. I am sure it hath not such a high place in the minds and practice of Christians now, as it hath in the roll of the parts and members of the new man here set down. Here it is above all. With us it is below all, even below every apprehension of doubtful truths. An agreement in the conception of any poor petty controversial matter of the times, is made the badge of Christianity, and set in an eminent place above all which the apostle mentions, in the 12th verse, "bowels of mercies, kindness, gentleness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering." Nay, charity itself is but a waiting handmaid to this mistress.

But let us consider the apostle's significant character he puts on it. It is a bond of perfection, as it were, a bundle of graces, and chain of virtues, even the very cream and flower of many graces combined. It is the sweet result of the united force of all graces. It is the very head and heart of the new man, which we are invited to put on, "Above all put on charity." All these fore-mentioned perfections are bound and tied together, by the girdle of charity and love, to the new man. When charity is born and brought forth, it may be styled Gad,(407) for a troop cometh, chorus virtutum,(408) "a troop or company of virtues" which it leads and commands. Charity hath a tender heart, for it hath "bowels of mercies," -- such a compassionate and melting temper of spirit, that the misery or calamity, whether bodily or spiritual, of other men, makes an impression upon it. And therefore it is the Christian sympathy which affects itself with others' afflictions. If others be moved, it moves itself through comfort and sympathy. This is not only extended to bodily and outward infirmities, but, most of all, to infirmities of mind and heart, error, ignorance, darkness, falling and failing in temptation. We are made priests to God our Father, to have compassion on them who are ignorant and out of the way, for that we ourselves are also compassed with infirmity, Rev. i.6 and Heb. v.2. Then, love hath a humble mind, "humbleness of mind," else it could not stoop and condescend to others of low degree, and therefore Christ exhorts above all to lowliness. "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." If a man be not lowly, to sit down below offences and infirmities, his love cannot rise above them. Self-love is the greatest enemy to true Christian love, and pride is the fountain of self-love, because it is impossible that, in this life, there should be an exact correspondence between the thoughts and ways of Christians. Therefore it is not possible to keep this bond of perfection unbroken, except there be a mutual condescendence. Self-love would have all conformed to it, and if that be not, there is the rent presently. But humbleness of mind can conform itself to all things, and this keeps the bond fast. Then charity, by the link of humility, hath meekness chained unto it, and kindness. Love is of a sweet complexion, meek and kind. Pride is the mother of passion, humbleness the mother of meekness. The inward affection is composed by meekness, and the outward actions adorned by gentleness and kindness. O that sweet composure of spirit! The heart of the wicked is as the troubled sea, no rest, no quiet in it, continual tempests raising continual waves of disquiet. An unmeek spirit is like a boiling pot, it troubles itself and annoys others. Then, at length, charity, by lowliness and meekness, is the most durable, enduring, long-suffering thing in the world, "with long suffering, forbearing one another in love." These are the only principles of patience and longanimity. Anger and passion is expressed in scripture under the name of haste, and it is a sudden, furious, hasty thing, a rash, inconsiderate, impatient thing, more hasty than speedy. Now the special exercises and operations of these graces are in the 13th verse, "forbearing one another, and forgiving one another," according to Christ's example. And indeed these are so high and sublime works, as charity must yoke all the fore-mentioned graces, unite them all in one troop, for the accomplishing of them. And the great and sweet fruit of all this is comprehended in the 15th verse, "The peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which ye are called in one body." Peace with God is not here meant, but the peace which God hath made up between men. All were shattered and rent asunder. The Lord hath by his Son Jesus Christ gathered so many into one body, the church, and by one Spirit quickens all. Now where love is predominant, there is a sweet peace and harmony between all the members of this one body. And this peace and tranquillity of affections rules and predominates over all these lusts, which are the mineries(409) of contentions, and strifes, and wars.

V. Add unto this another special mark of excellency that this apostle puts on charity, or Christian love. "The end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned," 1 Tim. i.5. If this were duly pondered, I do believe it would fill all hearts with astonishment, and faces with confusion, that they neglected the weightier matters of the law, and over stretched some other particular duties, to fill up the place of this, which is the end, the fulfilling of the law. It appears by this that charity is a cream of graces. It is the spirit and quintessence extracted out of these cardinal graces, unfeigned faith, a good conscience, a pure heart. It is true, the immediate end of the law, as it is now expounded unto us, is to drive us to believe in Jesus Christ, as it is expressed, Rom. x.4. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." But this believing in Christ is not the last end of it. Faith unfeigned in a Mediator is intentionally for this, to give the answer of a good conscience in the blood of Christ, and to purify the heart by the water of the Spirit, and so to bring about at length, by such a sweet compass, the righteousness of the law to be fulfilled by love in us, which by divine imputation is fulfilled to us. Now consider the context, and it shall yield much edification. Some teachers (1 Tim. i.4.) exercised themselves and others in endless genealogies, which, though they contained some truth in them, yet they were perplexing, and brought no edification to souls. Curiosity might go round in such debates, and bewilder itself as in a labyrinth, but they did rather multiply disputes than bring true edification in the faith and love of God and men. Now, says he, they do wholly mistake the end of the law, of the doctrine of the scripture. The end and great purpose of it is love, which proceeds from faith in Christ, purifying the heart. This is the sum of all, to worship God in faith and purity, and to love one another. And whatsoever debates and questions do tend to the breach of this bond, and have no eminent and remarkable advantage in them, suppose they be conceived to be about matters of conscience, yet the entertaining and prosecuting them to the prejudice of this, is a manifest violence offered to the law of God, which is the rule of conscience. It is a perverting of scripture and conscience to a wrong end. I say then, that charity and Christian love should be the moderatrix of all our actions towards men. From thence they should proceed, and according to this rule be formed. I am persuaded if this rule were followed, the present differences in judgment of godly men, about such matters as minister mere questions, would soon be buried in the gulf of Christian affection.

VI. Now to complete the account of the eminence of this grace, take that remarkable chapter of Paul's, 1 Cor. xiii., where he institutes the comparison between it and other graces, and in the end pronounces on its behalf, "the greatest of these is charity." I wonder how we do please ourselves, as that we had attained already, when we do not so much as labour to be acquainted with this, in which the life of Christianity consists, without which faith is dead, our profession vain, our other duties and endeavours for the truth unacceptable to God and men. "Yet I show you a more excellent way," says he in the end of the former chapter. And this is the more excellent way, charity and love, more excellent than gifts, speaking with tongues, prophesying, &c. And is it not more excellent than the knowledge and acknowledgment of some present questionable matters, about governments, treaties, and such like, and far more than every punctilio of them? But he goes higher. Suppose a man could spend all his substance upon the maintenance of such an opinion, and give his life for the defence of it, though in itself it be commendable, yet if he want charity and love to his brethren, if he overstretch that point of conscience to the breach of Christian affection, and duties flowing from it, it profits him nothing. Then certainly charity must rule out external actions, and have the predominant hand in the use of all gifts, in the venting of all opinions. Whatsoever knowledge and ability a man hath, charity must employ it, and use it. Without this, duties and graces make a noise, but they are shallow and empty within. Now he shows the sweet properties of it, and good effects of it, how universal an influence it hath on all things, but especially how necessary it is to keep the unity of the church.

Charity "is kind" and "suffereth long," ({GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER KAPPA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER RHO}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER THETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ETA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMEGA}), it is longanimous or magnanimous and there is indeed no great, truly great, mind but is patient and long suffering. It is a great weakness and pusillanimity to be soon angry. Such a spirit hath not the rule of itself, but is in bondage to its own lust, but "he that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city." Now, it is much of this affection of love that overrules passion. There is a greatness and height in it, to love them that deserve not well of us, to be kind to the unfaithful, not to be easily provoked, and not soon disobliged. A fool's wrath is presently known. It is a folly and weakness of spirit, which love, much love cures and amends. It suffers much unkindness, and long suffers it, and yet can be kind.

"Charity envieth not." Envy is the seed of all contention, and self-love brings it forth. When every man desires to be esteemed chief, and would have pre-eminence among others, their ways and courses must interfere one with another. It is this that makes discord. Every man would abate from another's estimation, that he may add to his own. None lives content with his own lot or station, and it is the aspiring beyond that, which puts all the wheels out of course. I believe this is the root of many contentions among Christians, -- the apprehension of slighting, the conceit of disrespect, and such like, kindles the flame of difference, and heightens the least offence to an unpardonable injury. But charity envieth not where it may lie quietly low. Though it be under the feet of others, and beneath its own due place, yet it envieth not, it can lie contentedly so. Suppose it be slighted and despised, yet it takes it not highly, because it is lowly in mind.

"Charity is not puffed up, and vaunteth not itself." If charity have gifts and graces beyond others, it restrains itself, with the bridle of modesty and humility, from vaunting or boasting, or any thing in its carriage that may savour of conceit. Pride is a self admirer, and despises others, and to please itself it cares not to displease others. There is nothing so incomportable(410) in human or Christian society, so apt to alienate others' affections, for the more we take of our own affection to ourselves, we shall have the less from others. O these golden rules of Christian walking! Rom. xii.10, 16, "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." O but that were a comely strife among Christians, each to prefer another in unfeigned love, and in lowliness of mind, each to esteem another better than himself! Philip. ii.3. "Knowledge puffeth up," says this apostle (1 Cor. viii.1) "but charity edifieth." It is but a swelling and tumour of the mind, but love is solid piety and real religion.

Then charity doth nothing unseemly, "behaveth not itself unseemly," 1 Cor. xiii.5. Vanity and swelling of mind will certainly break forth into some unseemly carriage, as vain estimation, and such like, but charity keeps a sweet decorum in all its carriage, so as not to provoke and irritate others, nor yet to expose itself to contempt or mockery. Or the word may be taken thus, it is not fastidious. It accounts not itself disgraced and abused, to condescend to men of low estate. It can with its Master bow down to wash a disciple's feet, and not think it unseemly. Whatsoever it submits to in doing or suffering, it is not ashamed of it, as that it were not suitable and comely.

"Charity seeketh not her own things." Self denial and true love are inseparable. Self love makes a monopoly of all things to its own interest, and this is most opposite to Christian affection and communion, which puts all in one bank. If every one of the members should seek its own things, and not the good of the whole body, what a miserable distemper would it cause in the body? We are called into one body in Christ, and therefore we should look not on our own things only, but every man also on the things of others, Philip. ii.4. There is a public interest of saints, mutual edification in faith and love, which charity will prefer to its own private interest. Addictedness to our own apprehension, and too much self overweening and self pleasing is the grand enemy of that place to which we are called into one body. Since one Spirit informs and enlivens all the members, what a monstrosity is it for one member to seek its own things, and attend to its own private interest only, as if it were a distinct body!

Charity "is not easily provoked." This is the straight and solid firmness of it, that it is not soon moved with external impressions. It is long suffering, it suffers long and much. It will not be shaken by violent and weighty pressures of injuries, where there is much provocation given, yet it is not provoked. Now to complete it, it is not easily provoked at light offences. It is strange how little a spark of injuries puts all in a flame because our spirits are as gunpowder, -- so capable of combustion through corruption. How ridiculous, for the most part, are the causes of our wrath! For light things we are heavily moved, and for ridiculous things sadly, even as children who fall out among themselves for toys and trifles, or as beasts that are provoked upon the very show of a colour, as red or such like. We would save ourselves much labour, if we could judge before we suffer ourselves to be provoked. But now we follow the first appearance of wrong, and being once moved from without, we continue our commotion within, lest we should seem to be angry without a cause. But charity hath a more solid foundation. It dwells in God, for God is love, and so is truly great, truly high, and looks down with a steadfast countenance upon these lower things. The upper world is continually calm and serene. No clouds, no tempests there, no winds, nothing to disturb the harmonious and uniform motion, but it is this lower world that is troubled and tossed with tempests, and obscured with clouds. So a soul dwelling in God by love, is exalted above the cloudy region. He is calm, quiet, serene, and is not disturbed or interrupted in his motion of love to God or men.

Charity "thinketh no evil." Charity is apt to take all things in the best sense. If a thing may be subject to diverse acceptations, it can put the best construction on it. It is so benign and good in its own nature that it is not inclinable to suspect others. It desires to condemn no man, but would gladly, as far as reason and conscience will permit, absolve every man. It is so far from desire of revenge, that it is not provoked or troubled with an injury. For that were nothing else but to wrong itself because others have wronged it already, and it is so far from wronging others, that it will not willingly so much as think evil of them. Yet if need require, charity can execute justice, and inflict chastisement, not out of desire of another's misery, but out of love and compassion to mankind. Charitas non punit quia peccatum est, sed ne peccaretur,(411) it looks more to prevention of future sin, than to revenge of a bypast fault, and can do all without any discomposure of spirit, as a physician cuts a vein without anger. Quis enim cut medetur irascitur? "Who is angry at his own patient?"

Charity "rejoiceth not in iniquity." Charity is not defiled in itself, though it condescend to all. Though it can love and wish well to evil men, yet it rejoiceth not in iniquity. It is like the sun's light that shines on a dunghill, and is not defiled, receives no tincture from it. Some base and wicked spirits make a sport to do mischief themselves, and take pleasure in others that do it. But charity rejoices in no iniquity or injustice, though it were done to its own enemy. It cannot take pleasure in the unjust sufferings of any who hate it, because it hath no enemy but sin and iniquity and hates nothing else with a perfect hatred. Therefore whatever advantage should redound to itself by other men's iniquities, it cannot rejoice, that iniquity, its capital enemy, should reign and prevail. But it "rejoiceth in the truth." The advancement and progress of others in the way of truth and holiness is its pleasure. Though that should eclipse its own glory, yet it looks not on it with an evil eye. If it can find out any good in them that are enemies to it, it is not grieved to find it and know it, but can rejoice at any thing which may give ground of good construction of them. There is nothing more beautiful in its eyes than to see every one get their own due, though it alone should come behind.

Charity "beareth all things." By nature we are undaunted heifers, cannot bear any thing patiently. But charity is accustomed to the yoke, -- to the yoke of reproaches and injuries from others, to a burden of other men's infirmities and failings. We would all be borne upon others' shoulders, but we cannot put our own shoulders under other men's burden, according to that royal law of Christ, Rom. xv.1. "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" and Gal. vi.2. "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ," that is the law of love, no question.

Charity "believeth all things." Our nature is malignant and wicked, and therefore most suspicious and jealous, and apt to take all in the worst part. But charity hath much candour and humanity in it, and can believe well of every man, and believe all things as far as truth will permit. It knows that grace can be beside a man's sins. It knows that itself is subject to such like infirmities. Therefore it is not a rigid and censorious judger; it allows as much latitude to others as it would desire of others. It is true it is not blind and ignorant. It is judicious, and hath eyes that can discern between colours. Credit omnia credenda, sperat omnia speranda. "It believes all things that are believable, and hopes all things that are hopeful." If love have not sufficient evidences, yet she believes if there be some probabilities to the contrary, as well as for it. The weight of charity inclines to the better part, and so casts the balance of hope and persuasion; yet being sometimes deceived, she hath reason to be watchful and wise, for "the simple believeth every word." If charity cannot have ground of believing any good, yet it hopes still. Qui non est hodie, cras magis aptus erit,(412) says charity, and therefore it is patient and gentle, waiting on all, if peradventure God may "give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth," 2 Tim. ii.25. Charity would account it both atheism and blasphemy, to say such a man cannot, will not find mercy. But to pronounce of such as have been often approven in the conscience of all, and sealed into many hearts, that they will never find mercy, that they have no grace, because of some failings in practice and differences from us, it were not in sobriety but madness. It is certainly love and indulgence to ourselves, that make us aggravate other men's faults to such a height. Self love looks on other men's failings through a multiplying or magnifying glass, but she puts her own faults behind her back. Non videt quod in mantica quae a tergo est.(413) Therefore she can suffer much in herself but nothing in others, and certainly much self forbearance and indulgence can spare little for others. But charity is just contrary. She is most rigid on her own behalf, will not pardon herself easily, knows no revenge but what is spoken of 2 Cor. vii.11, self revenge, and hath no indignation but against herself. Thus she can spare much candour and forbearance for others, and hath little or nothing of indignation left behind to consume on others.

"Charity never faileth." This is the last note of commendation. Things have their excellency from their use and from their continuance; both are here. Nothing so useful, no such friend of human or Christian society as charity, the advantage of it reacheth all things. And then, it is most permanent and durable. When all shall go, it shall remain. When ordinances, and knowledge attained by means and ordinances, shall evanish, charity shall abide, and then receive its consummation. Faith of things inevident and obscure shall be drowned in the vision of seeing God's face clearly. Hope of things to come shall be exhausted in the possession and fruition of them. But love only remains in its own nature and notion, only it is perfected by the addition of so many degrees as may suit that blessed estate. Therefore methinks it should be the study of all saints who believe immortality, and hope for eternal life, to put on that garment of charity, which is the livery of all the inhabitants above. We might have heaven upon earth as far as is possible if we dwelt in love, and love dwelt in and possessed our hearts. What an unsuitable thing might a believer think it, to hate him in this world whom he must love eternally, and to contend and strive with these, even for matters of small moment, with bitterness and rigidity, with whom he shall have an eternal, uninterrupted unity and fellowship? Should we not be assaying here how that glorious garment suits us? And truly there is nothing makes a man so heaven-like or God like as this, much love and charity.

Now there is one consideration might persuade us the more unto it, that here we know but darkly and in part, and therefore our knowledge, at best, is but obscure and inevident, ofttimes subject to many mistakes and misapprehensions of truth, according as mediums represent them. And therefore there must be some latitude of love allowed one to another in this state of imperfection, else it is impossible to keep unity, and we must conflict often with our own shadows, and bite and devour one another for some deceiving appearances. The imperfection and obscurity of knowledge should make all men jealous of themselves, especially in matters of a doubtful nature, and not so clearly determined by scripture. Because our knowledge is weak, shall our love be so? Nay, rather let charity grow stronger, and aspire unto perfection, because knowledge is imperfect. What is wanting in knowledge let us make up in affection, and let the gap of difference in judgment be swallowed up with the bowels of mercies and love, and humbleness of mind. And then we shall have hid our infirmity of understanding as much as may be. Thus we may go hand in hand together to our Father's house, where, at length, we must be together.

chapter i the beauty and
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