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lawful, will many times run into danger and inconvenience; because the utmost extremity of lawful is so near to that which is unlawful, that he will often pass into unlawful undiscernibly. Virtues and vices have not, in all their instances, a great landmark set between them, like warlike nations separate by prodigious walls, vast seas, and portentous hills; but they are oftentimes like the bounds of a parish; men are fain to cut a cross upon the turf, and make little marks and annual perambulations for memorials : so it is in lawful and unlawful, by a little mistake a man may be greatly ruined. He that drinks till his tongue is full as a sponge, and his speech a little stammering and tripping, hasty and disorderly, though he be not gone as far as drunkenness, yet he is gone beyond the severity of a Christian; and when he is just past into unlawful, if he disputes too curiously, he will certainly deceive himself for want of a wiser curiosity.
But 2. He that will do all that he thinks he may lawfully, had need have an infallible guide always by him, who should, without error, be able to answer all cases of conscience, which will happen every day in a life so careless and insecure; for if he should be mistaken, his error is his crime, and not his
A man in this case had need be very sure of his proposition; which because he cannot be, in charity to himself, he will quickly find that he is bound to abstain from all things that are uncertainly good, and from all disputable evils, from things which, although they may be in themselves lawful, yet, accidentally, and that from a thousand causes, may become unlawful. “ Pavidus quippe et formidolosus est Christianus,” saith Salvian, " atque in tantum peccare metuens, ut interdum et non timenda formidet :" A Christian is afraid of every little thing; and he sometimes greatly fears that he hath sinned, even then when he hath no other reason to be afraid, but because he would not do so for all the world.”
3. He that resolves to use all his liberty, cannot be innocent, so long as there are in the world so many bold temptations, and presumptuous actions, so many scandals, and so much ignorance in the things of God, so many things that are suspicious, and so many things that are of evil report; so many ill customs and disguises in the world, with which if we resolve to comply in all that is supposed lawful, a man may be in the regions of death, before he perceive his head to ache;
and, instead of a staff in his hand, may have a splinter in his elbow.
4. Besides all this; he that thus stands on his terms with God, and so carefully husbands his duty, and thinks to make so good a market of obedience, that he will quit nothing which he thinks he may lawfully keep, shall never be exemplar in his life, and shall never grow in grace, and therefore shall never enter into glory. He, therefore, that will be righteous by the measures evangelical, must consider not only what is lawful, but what is expedient; not only what is barely safe, but what is worthy; that which may secure, and that which may do advantage to that concern that is the greatest in the world.
And 2. The case is very like with them that resolve to do. no more good than is commanded them. For l. It is infinitely unprofitable as to our eternal interest, because no man does do all that is commanded at all times; and, therefore, he that will not sometimes do more, besides that he hath no love, no zeal of duty, no holy fires in his soul; besides this, I say, he can never make any amends towards the reparation of his conscience. “Let him that stole, steal no more;” that is well; but that is not well enough; for he must, if he can, make restitution of what he stole, or he shall never be pardoned; and so it is in all our intercourse with God. To do what is commanded is the duty of the present; we are tied to this in every present, in every period of our lives; but, therefore, if we never do any more than just the present duty, who shall supply the deficiencies, and fill up the gaps, and redeem what is past? This is a material consideration in the righteousness evangelical.
But then, 2. We must know that in keeping of God's commandments, every degree of internal duty is under the commandments; and, therefore, whatever we do, we must do it as well as we can. Now, he that does his duty with the biggest affection he can, will also do all that he can; and he can never know that he hath done what is commanded, unless he does all that is in his power. For God hath put no limit but love and possibility; and therefore whoever says, Hither will I go, and no further; this I will do, and no more; thus much will I serve God, but that shall be all; he hath the affections of a slave, and the religion of a Pharisee, the craft
of a merchant, and the falseness of a broker; but he hath not the proper measures of the righteousness evangelical. But so it happens in the mud and slime of the river Borborus, when the eye of the sun hath long dwelt upon it, and produces frogs and mice which begin to move a little under a thin cover of its own parental matter, and if they can get loose to live half a life, that is all; but the hinder parts, which are not formed before the setting of the sun, stick fast in their beds of mud, and the little moiety of a creature dies before it could be well said to live : so it is with those Christians, who will do all that they think lawful, and will do no more than what they suppose necessary; they do but peep into the light of the sun of righteousness; they have the beginnings of life; but their hinder parts, their passions and affections, and the desires of the lower man, are still unformed; and he that dwells in this state, is just so much of a Christian, as a sponge is of a plant, and a mushroom of a shrub: they may be as sensible as an oyster, and discourse at the rate of a child, but are greatly short of the righteousness evangelical.
I have now done with those parts of the Christian righteousness, which were not only an imepoxă or excess, but an AVTUTOIXEiwos to the pharisaical: but because I ought not to conceal any thing from you that must integrate our duty, and secure our title to the kingdom of heaven; there is this to be added, that this precept of our blessed Saviour is to be extended to the direct degrees of our duty. We must do more duties, and we must do them better. And in this, although we can have no positive measures, because they are potentially infinite, yet therefore we ought to take the best, because we are sure the greatest is not too big; and we are not sure that God will accept a worse, when we can do a better. Now although this is to be understood of the internal affection only, because that must never be abated, but God is at all times to be loved and served with all our heart; yet concerning the degrees of external duty, as prayers, and alms, and the like, we are certainly tied to a greater excellency in the degree, than was that of the Scribes and Pharisees. I am obliged to speak one word for the determination of this inquiry, viz. to how much more of external duty Christians are obliged, than was in the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. In order to this, briefly thus.
I remember that Salvian, speaking of old men summing up their repentances, and making amends for the sins of their whole life, exhorts them to alms and works of piety; but inquiring how much they should do towards the redeeming of their souls, answers with a little sarcasm, but plainly enough to give a wise man an answer: “ A man,” says he, is not bound to give away all his goods, unless, peradventure, he owes all to God; but, in that case, I cannot tell what to say; for then the case is altered. A man is not bound to part with all his estate ; that is, unless his sins be greater than his estate ; but if they be, then he may consider of it again, and consider better. And he need not part with it all, unless pardon be more precious to him than his money, and unless heaven be worth it all, and unless he knows justly how much less will do it. If he does, let him try his skill, and pay just so much and no more than he owes to God: but if he does not know, let him be sure to do enough.” His meaning is this : not that a man is bound to give all he hath, and leave his children beggars; he is bound from that by another obligation. But as when we are tied to pray continually, the meaning is, we should consecrate all our time by taking good portions out of all our time for that duty; the devoutest person being like the waters of Siloam“, a perpetual spring, but not a perpetual current; that is always in readiness, but actually thrusting forth his waters at certain periods every day. So out of all our estate we must take for religion and repentance such portions, as the whole estate can allow; so much as will consecrate the rest; so much as is fit to bring when we pray for a great pardon, and deprecate a mighty anger, and turn aside an intolerable fear, and will purchase an excellent peace, and will reconcile a sinner. Now in this case a Christian is to take his measures according to the rate of his contrition and his love, his religion and his fear, his danger and his expectation, and let him measure his amends wisely; his sorrow pouring in, and his fear thrusting it down, and it were very well, if his love also would make it run over. For, deceive not yourselves, there is no other measure but this ; so much good as a man does, or so much as he would do, if he could,-so much of religion, and so much of
h S. Hier. in Comment. Isai, viii. Isidor. lib. xiii. Orig. cap. 13.
repentance he hath, and no more: and a man cannot ordinarily know that he is in a savable condition, but by the testimony which a divine philanthropy and a good mind always gives, which is to omit no opportunity of doing good in our several proportions and possibilities.
There was an alms which the Scribes and Pharisees were obliged by the law to give, the tenth of every third year's increase;
this they always paid, and this sort of alms is called dinalocúvn, righteousness' or justice;' but the alms which Christians ought to give, is xágis, and it is áyánn, it is
grace,' and it is love,' and it is abundance; and so the old rabbins told : “ Justitia propriè dicitur in iis quæ jure facimus; benignitas in iis quæ præter jus.” It is more than righteousness, it is bounty and benignity, for that is the Christian mea
And so it is in the other parts and instances of the righteousness evangelical. And, therefore, it is remarkable that the saints in the Old Testament were called gubeis, right men;' and the book of Genesis, as we find it twice attested by St. Jerome, was called by the ancient Hellenists, Bißaos sudéwv,' the book of right or just men,' the book of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob'. But the word for Christians is xgnoto, 'good' men, harmless, and profitable; men that are good, and men that do good. In pursuance of which it is further observed by learned men, that the word åpet», or ' virtue,' is not in the four gospels; for the actions of Christ's disciples should not be in gradu virtutis' only, virtuous and laudable; such as these Aristotle presses in his . Magna Moralia;' they must pass on to a further excellency than so: the same which he calls apáteis tõv npów, they must be sometimes, and as often as we can, in 'gradu heroico;' or, that I may use the Christian style, they must be 'actions of perfection.' Righteousness' was the ouvávuuoy for alms' in the Old Testament,--and TeðɛlóThs, or perfection,' was the word for alms' in the New; as appears by comparing the fifth of St. Matthew and the sixth of St. Luke together; and that is the full state of this difference in the inquiries of the righteousness pharisaical and evangelical.
I have many more things to say, but ye cannot hear them
Comment. in Isai. xii. and lib. vi. in Ezek. xviii.