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Mat. VII. 12.
'Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that Men Jhould do to you, do ye even so to them : for this is the Law and the Prophets,
The First Sermon on this Text.
IN the End of this Sermon on the Mount, we have several general Exhortations of our Saviour's, all tending to remove whatever might obstruct the good Effects of it among his Hearers; I mean, whatever might hinder their putting in Practice what he had enjoined them.
One Thing, which might have hindred their setting about that holy Practice, namely, the Want of Strength and Ability for it, we have heard how he obviated, by directing them to Prayer, as the certain Way and Means to obtain such a Measure of Grace as should enable them, to observe his Precepts, though ever so perfect.
Another Thing apt to deter Men from attempting the Christian Obedience here required, is the great Number of Duties enjoined, that it is not easy to suppose any one's Memory could retain them all, or that we should always have the Presence of Mind to put them in Practice r"adjly upon all Occasions; besides the many
Rules Rules concerning the Degrees of Perfection, to which that Obedience is required. For our Saviour had not offered to enumerate or speak to them all, but had only treated of such as were either defectively explained by the fewi/h Doctors of those Days, or had been delivered imperfectly by Moses himself, because of the Hardness of their Hearts; or wanted to be cleared from some Blemishes, which the bad Examples of the Scribes and Pharisees had incorporated and intermixed with them. For preventing and answering this Defect of Memory, which likewise darkens the Understanding, our Saviour furnishes us here with a short Compend of our Duty. In the Words immediately preceding, he had given them a right Notion of God, as of a loving Father, able and ready to relieve them upon their Application to him. This Notion, among other good Effects of it, was exceedingly adapted to stir them up to the Love of God, which is the Sum and Substance of the first Table of the Law; and now in' the Words I have read, he teaches them the Sum and Substance of their Duty to their Neighbour; required in the second Table. And this he infers by way of Consequence, from what he had taught of the Love pf God to those who address him. The foregoing Words were: If ye then being Evil, know how to give good Gifts unto your Children, how much more Jhallyour Father which is in Heaven, give good Things to them that ask him f Then follow the Words of the Text: Therefore all Things whatsoever ye would that Men should do to you, do ye even so to them for this is the Law and the Prophets*
In which Words we may observe these Three Things.
1. The Dependance of this Rule on the foregoing Doctrine, in the Particle therefore.
2. The Rule itself: All things whatsoever ye would that Men should do to you, do ye even so to them.
3. Our Saviour's honourable Character of this Rule. For this is the Law and the Prophets.
I. I begin with the Dependance of this Rule • on the foregoing Doctrine. Therefore all Things whatsoever ye would that Men should do to you, do ye even so to them, q. d. Since God so loves his Creatures, fee that ye imitate him in this, and that ye love your Neighbours as yourselves; by treating them, as ye would wish they should treat you in the like Circumstances. As to the Dependance of this Rule on the former Doctrine, it may be accounted for by a threefold Consequence: namely, by Way of Imitation of God in his Goodness; and by Way of Gratitude to him for it: and from his Relation of a loving Father to us; which makes us all Brethren.
1. By Imitation of his Goodness, q. d. If God delights so much in loving his poor Creatures, and in doing them good; therefore if ye would approve yourselves as the genuine Children of God, study in this to resemble your heavenly Father, namely in doing good to all, and in loving all, as ye would wish to be loved and to be done well by yourselves. As there is no better Mark of a Child's being genuine, not spurious, than his resembling him, who should be 'Vol1. IV, N his his Father; so there is no surer Mark of a Child of God, than the resembling him in his Love and Goodness to his Creatures. And so the Consequence, I think, may be well accounted for; that since God loves us as a tender Father doth his own Child, therefore we mould love one another with a very intent Love, such as this is, which we have all for ourselves; that whatsoever we would that Men should do to us, we should do so to them.
2. Another Way, this Precept may follow from the former Doctrine, is, by Way of Gratitude for God's Love and Goodness to us; q. d. If God is so exceeding kind to you, the best Way ye can mew your Gratitude for it, (since we cannot better gratify him by any of our Services,) is to be kind to one another; so kind, as to set our Self-love and our Love of our Neighbour upon the same Footing.
3. Thirdly, This Doctrine follows well from the Relation of God, as a loving Father to, us his Creatures; for if he is our Father, then we are all Brothers and Sisters. If he is so nearly related to us as a Father, we are nearly related to one another as Brethren. -So much for the Connexion, denoted by the Particle Therefore.
II. I proceed next to the Rule itself. All Things 'whatsoever ye would that Men jhould do to you, do ye even so to them. For understanding of this Rule, (the Shortness of it making it liable to Misinterpretation,) there are several Things to be gathered from the Circumstances, which will serve to guard us against the Mis-understanding, and Misapplication of it,
2 j . First
1. First then, We are to consider that this whole Discourse of our Saviour's, is a Discourse of Christian Duties; and that this Compend is brought in both to refresh their Memories, as to the Duties our Saviour had already described in this Sermon, and to- supply that Part of Duty, which he had not spoke to. And therefore the Words, AU Things whatsoever ye would that Men jhould do to you, must be limited to the Point of Duty. The all'Things here, is all Duties; q. d. If ye would know in all Cafes and Circumstances whatsoever, what is your Duty to your Neighbour, take this Rule for it; suppose yourself in his Place, and him in your's, and thest ask your self the Question, what you would desire and expect of him as his Duty to you in such and such Circumstances; and, according to the impartial Answer of this Question, do ye so by him. The Question then we are here to put to ourselves, is only a Question of Duty, and of nothing else. This one Consideration cuts off all other foolish and unreasonable Desires, which; from the general Sound of the Words, might seem to be here meant, and is to be limited to such Desires as we reasonably think, and expect should be complied with in Point of Duty by our Neighbour towards us, in the like Circumstances.
2. These Words, which I added last, concerning the Equality of the Circumstances, must be cajefuiiy minded, to prevent a dangerous Error in the Interpretation of this Rule. For it was never our Saviour's Design to se$ all Men Us on the Level, by taking away all Distinction between Princes and Subjects, Masters and Servants, Parents, and Children, and in short, be
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