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can, for the reducing the Apostle's Exhortation into Practice, as it doth concern us at this Day.
But that you may see plainly what I drive at, I will yet state the Matter a little more particularly.
Our Cafe in this World, is this; The Laws of Vertue and Religion, do allow Men'alloréam fonable Liberties in the Gratification of their Natural Passions and Appetites, and in the Use and Enjoyment of all the good Things of this Life. But all unreasonable Gratifications, all Excesses and immoderate Liberties are forbidden by Religion, and therefore are finful and criminal. · If now in all Cases a Man could readily and certainly fix the precise Bounds and Landmarks of what is reasonable and moderate, and what is unreasonable and excesive in the Use of his Liberty; so as that upon all Occasions, and in all Emergencies, he could say within his own Mind, Thus far I may lawfully and innocently go in the Gratification of such an Appetite, or in the Enjoyment of such a Pleasure, or the like; but if I proceed a Step farther, I become a Transgresor: I say, if this was the Case of
a Man, in the Use of his Liberty, it would be ( no hard matter for any well-disposed Person
to take all that Liberty that was moderate and lawful, and to forbear all that which is exceffive and unlawful.
But now this is not always an easie Matter to be done. . For many Cafes happen, in which - à Man cannot precisely determine VOL. I.
where it is that his lawful Liberty ends, and where it is that it begins to be extravagant and excesive. So that while a Man is only defigning to gratifię his Desires in lawful Inftançes, he is often carried beyond his Bounds, and proceeds to Excess.
This now, I say, is, one great Occasion of Sin to Mankind; and yet there is no avoiding of it, because it is such a one as doth necessarily arise from the Nature of Things.
Thus for Instance: It is certainly very lawful for a Man to drink Wine and strong Drink, not only for his Health's Sake, when his Constitution doth require it; but also for Chearfulness, and the Enjoyment of his Friends. But, on the other side, Drunkennėss and Intemperance are grievous Crimes, and utterly forbid by our Religion. Whilft now, a Man on one hand hath a Desire to take that Liberty, that is allowed him, and to gratifie his natural Inclination to Mirth and Pleasantness, or to shcw Civility, as he terms it, to his Coma pany, and on the other hand, he has no cer, tain unalterable Measures to proceed by, for the stinting himself in this Case; (as surely it is a very hard Matter to prescribe or define, cither to a Man's self or others, the exact Pitch or Limits where Temperance ends, and Intemperance begins :) by this means, I say, he is often betrayed into Siu. Thinking with himself, that there is a great Latitude and Compass in the Exercise of Temperance and $obịiety (as indeed there is,) and that therefore ho may go on, fome Time Jonger with the
Company; the Wine by this means steals upon him, and he is, before he was aware, fallen into the Sin of Intemperance and Excess.
And thus it is, not only as to the Use of our Liberty in Things allowed, but as to the Performance of our Duty in Things commanded.
Every Man is sensible, that it is a principal Law of our Religion to be Charitable, and to give Alms out of our Substance. But now it is not so easie a Matter for any Man to define, and set out the Quantum, or the precise Proportion of Alms, which every one is bound
give; so as to be able to pronounce, that if a Man give so much, he performs his Duty, and is a Charitable Man, for one in his Circumstances; but if he gives less than that, he is Covetous and Uncharitable. Now, I say, because this Duty of Charity is thus indefinitely left, and there is such an Affinity and Undistinguishableness between the least Measures of Charity, and the Sin of being uncharitable ; Men do from hence often take Occasion to fall short in the Performance of it. And as in the fortner Instance I gave about Drinking; they áre apt to take more Liberty than is allowed them; so in this, they are apt' to do less than is commanded them. For if they do but give fomething to the Poor out of their Yearly Income, they think they give enough to satisfie the Command of Charity; and so they make no Conscience of saving and boarding without End or without Measure. l'..
There are a Hundred more Inftances besides these Two that I have named, wherein there is such a Latitude left to our Practices, and the Difference between Lawful and Unlawful, Duty and Sin, lies in so small a Compass
, that it is hard to separate and distinguish them, unless a Man be both very wise and very honeft.
We have not any Law of God, which defines how often we are to pray; or when it is our Duty to fast; or to what Degree we may be
angry; or how we are to govern ourselves as to the Quantity or Kinds of our Meat and Drink; or how far we may comply with the Cuftoms of the World; or how fplendid we may be in our Apparel and Equipage; or what Games and Recreations may be used, and how often; or what Rules we are to go by in Buying and Selling, and our other Dealings with Men; or how far we may seck our own, when our Right cannot be obtained without Prejudice to our Neighbour. In these, I say, and abundance of other Cafes, we have no express particular Laws of God to steer and measure our Actions by; nor indeed is it possible we should have : Because what is fit and reasonable to be done in these Cases, admits of fo great a Difference from the infinite Variety of the Circumstances of particular Men.
What now must we do in these Cases? How muit we order ourselves, that we may perform our Duty, and keep out of Sin?
Why, Why, in Answer to this, I say, We have only general Rules to direct us in thefc Matters; and those Rules we are to apply to our own particular Cases.
In this Latitude that Things are left in, we are to use our Liberty as carefully and as prudently as is possible; taking our Measures from the Principles of Reason, and the general Rules of the Gospel. Now what those ge
neral Rules and Measures are, it is my BusiE ness at this Time to treat of.
And T hree Things I have here to propose for the Use of our Liberty, which will, I think, be a sufficient Direction to us in all Cases of this Nature; and which if we do carefully obferye, we shall never use our Liberty for an Occasion to the Flesh; but we shall both come up to what is our Duty, and shall likewise avoid all those Sins which Mankind are so frequently betrayed into, through the too great Affinity that there is between Vertue and Vice, and the indiscreet Exercise of their Liberty upon Occasion thereof.
And the First Thing I would possess you all with, and which indeed, as it is the most general, so it is the best Advice that can be given in this Matter, is this ; That we would endeavour to be heartily honest and serious in the Business of Religion : That we would sincerely devote ourselves to the Service of God: That we would purifie our Minds, as much as may be, from all sensual and selfish Principles; and in all our Actions and Pursuits have more respect to the doing our Duty, and the approv