The Nature, Properties, and Acts of Charity
Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us…

I. "Loving our neighbour" doth imply that we should value and esteem him: this is necessary, for affection doth follow opinion; that is not amiable, which is wholly contemptible; or so far as it is such.

II. Loving our neighbour doth imply a sincere and earnest desire of his welfare, and good of all kinds, in due proportion: for it is a property of love, that it would have its object most worthy of itself, and consequently that it should attain the best state whereof it is capable, and persist firm therein; to be fair and plump, to flourish and thrive without diminution or decay; this is plain to experience in respect to any other thing (a horse, a flower, a building, or any such thing) which we pretend to love: wherefore charity should dispose us to be thus affected to our neighbour. We should wish him prosperous success in all his designs, and a comfortable satisfaction of his desires; we should wish him with alacrity of mind to reap the fruits of his industry; and to enjoy the best accommodation of his life.

III. Charity doth imply a complacence or delightful satisfaction in the good of our neighbour; this is consequent on the former property, for that joy naturally doth result from events agreeable to our desire. Charity hath a good eye, which is not offended or dazzled with the lustre of its neighbour's virtue, or with the splendour of his fortune, but vieweth either of them steadily with pleasure, as a very delightful spectacle.

IV. Correspondently, love of our neighbour doth imply condolency and commiseration of the evils befalling him: for what we love, we cannot without displeasure behold lying in a bad condition, sinking into decay, or in danger to perish; so, to a charitable mind, the bad state of any man is a most unpleasant and painful sight. Is any man fallen into disgrace? charity doth hold down its head, is abashed and out of countenance, partaking of his shame; is any man disappointed of his hopes or endeavours? charity crieth out alas, as if it were itself defeated; is any man afflicted with pain or sickness? charity looketh sadly, it sigheth and groaneth, it fainteth and languisheth with him; is any man pinched with hard want? charity, if it cannot succour, it will condole; doth ill news arrive? charity doth hear it with an unwilling ear and a sad heart, although not particularly concerned in it. The sight of a wreck at sea, of a field spread with carcasses, of a country desolated, of houses burnt and cities ruined, and of the like calamities incident to mankind, would touch the bowels of any man; but the very report of them would affect the heart of charity. It doth not suffer a man with comfort or ease to enjoy the accommodations of his own state, while others before him are in distress; it cannot be merry while any man in presence is sorrowful; it cannot seem happy while its neighbour doth appear miserable: it hath a share in all the afflictions which it doth behold or hear of, according to that instance in St. Paul of the Philippians: "Ye have done well, that ye did communicate with (or partake in) my afflictions"; and according to that precept, "Remember those which are in bonds, as bound with them."

V. It is generally a property of love to appropriate its object; in apprehension and affection embracing it, possessing it, enjoying it as its own; so charity doth make our neighbour to be ours, engaging us to tender his case and his concerns as our own; so that we shall exercise about them the same affections of soul (the same desires, the same hopes and fears, the same joys and sorrows), as about our own nearest and most peculiar interest. So charity doth enlarge our minds beyond private considerations, conferring on them an universal interest, and reducing all the world within the verge of their affectionate care; so that a man's self is a very small and inconsiderable portion of his regard.

VI. It is a property of love to affect union, or the greatest approximation that can be to its object.

VII. It is a property of love to desire a reciprocal affection; for that is the surest possession and firmest union which is grounded on voluntarily conspiring in affection; and if we do value any person, we cannot but prize his goodwill and esteem. Charity is the mother of friendship, not only as inclining us to love others, but as attracting others to love us; disposing us to affect their amity, and by obliging means to procure it.

VIII. Hence also charity disposeth to please our neighbour, not only by inoffensive but by obliging demeanour; by a ready complacence and compliance with his fashion, with his humour, with his desire in matters lawful, or in a way consistent with duty and discretion.

IX. Love of our neighbour doth imply readiness on all occasions to do him good, to promote and advance his benefit in all kinds.

X. This indeed is a property of charity, to make a man deny himself, to neglect his own interest, yea to despise all selfish regards for the benefit of his neighbour. To him that is inspired with charity, his own good is not good, when it standeth in competition with the more considerable good of another; nothing is so dear to him, which he gladly will not part with on such considerations.

XI. It is a property of love not to stand on distinctions and nice respects; but to be condescensive, and willing to perform the meanest offices, needful or useful for the good of its friend. He that truly loveth is a voluntary servant, and gladly will stoop to any employment for which the need or considerable benefit of him whom he loveth doth call. So the greatest souls, and the most glorious beings, the which are most endued with charity, by it are disposed with greatest readiness to serve their inferiors.

XII. Charity doth regulate our dealing, our deportment, our conversation toward our neighbour, implying good usage and fair treatment of him on all occasions; for no man doth handle that which he loveth rudely or roughly, so as to endanger the loss, the detriment, the hurt or offence thereof. Wherefore the language of charity is soft and sweet, not wounding the heart, nor grating on the ear of any with whom a man converseth; like the language of which the wise man saith, "The words of the pure are pleasant words"; such as are "sweet to the soul, and health to the bones"; and, "The words of a wise man are gracious." Such are the properties of charity. There be also farther many particular acts, which have a very close alliance to it.

1. It is a proper act of charity to forbear anger on provocation, or to repress its motions; to resent injuries and discourtesies either not at all, or very calmly and mildly.

2. It is a proper act of charity to remit offences, suppressing all designs of revenge, and not retaining any grudge.

3. It is a duty coherent with charity, to maintain concord and peace; to abstain from contention and strife, together with the sources of them, pride, envy, emulation, malice.

4. Another charitable practice is, being candid in opinion, and mild in censure, about our neighbour and his actions.

5. Another charitable practice is, to comport with the infirmities of our neighbour; according to that rule of St. Paul, "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves"; and that precept, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."

6. It is an act of charity to abstain from offending, or scandalizing our brethren.

(I. Barrow, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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 sweetsmelling savour.

WEB: Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.

The Love of Christ Seen in His Best Gift
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