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the Mind which stands rightly dispos'd to all Acts of Charity ; in this Sense all People may be equally charitable. But if we take Charity for Alms-giving, or a liberal Afliftance of the Poor, in this Sense it is false, that all People may be equally charitable.
Now as it is the Habit of the Mind, that constitutes the Excellency of Charity, so this is the Charity to which Christians are called, and in which they may all be equally perfect.
AGAIN, are not all People oblig'd to be equally honest, just, and true and faithful? In these Virtues all are to be eminent and exact in the same Degree, there are no Abatements to be made for
any Order of People.
Now as to the external Exercise of these Duties, there may be
great Difference. One Man may have great Business in the World, and be honest and faithful in it all; another may have small Dealings and be honest in them; but provided that there be in both of them the same Justice and Integrity of Mind, they are equally honest, tho' their Instances of Honesty, as to external Acts of it, are as different, as great Things are different from small.
But as it is the Habit of the Mind, which is the Justice which Religion re
quires, so in this Respect all People may be equally just.
Now this may serve to fhew us in what Respect all people may be equally virtuous, and in what Respect they cannot.
As to the external Instances or Acts of Virtue, in these they must differ according to the Difference of their Circumstances, and Condition in the World; but as Virtues are considered as Habits of the Mind, and Principles of the Heart, in this Refpect they may all be equally virtuous, and are all call’d to the same Perfection.
A MAN cannot exercise the Spirit of Martyrdom, till he is brought to the Stake; he cannot forgive his Enemies till they have done him Wrong, till he suffers from them. He cannot bear Poverty and Distress till they are brought upon him. All these Acts of Virtue depend upon outward Causes, but yet he may have a Piety and heroick Spirit equal to those who have died for their Religion. He may have that Charity of Mind which prays for its Enemies, he may have that Meekness and Resignation to the Will of God, as disposes People to bear Poverty and Distress with Patience and humble Submission to the Divine Providence.
So that they are only the external Instances and Acts of Virtue, which depend upon outward Causes and Circumstances of Life ; a Man cannot give till he has something to give; but the inward Piety of the Heart and Mind which constitutes the State of Christian Perfection, depends upon no outward Circumstances. A Man need not want Charity because he has no Riches, nor be destitute of a forgiving Spirit, because he has no Persecutors to forgive.
ALTH Otherefore we neither are, nor can be all in the same Circumstances of Life, yet we are to be all in the same Spirit of Religion ; tho' we cannot be all equal in Alms-giving, yet we are to be all alike in Charity; tho' we are not all in the same State of Persecution, yet we must be all in the same Spirit that forgives and prays for its Persecutors; tho' we are not all in Poverty and Distress, yet we must all be full of that Piety of Heart which produces Meekness, Patience, and Thankfulness, in Distress and Poverty.
From these Considerations it is easy to apprehend, how Persons may differ in Instances of Goodness, and yet
be equally good; for as the Perfection of Piety is the Perfection of the Heart, so the Heart may have the same Perfection in all States and
Conditions of Life. And this is that Pera fection which is common to all States, and to which all Orders of Christians are equally called.
AGAIN, There may be another Difference of Virtue founded in the different Abilities of Persons; one may have a more enlightened Mind than another, and so may see farther into his Duty, and be able to practice it with greater Exactness, but then as his Goodness seems to contist in this, that he is true and faithful to what he knows to be his Duty, so if another is as true and faithful to that Measure of Light and Knowledge which God has given hili, he seems to be as good a Man, as he that is true and faithful to a greater Light.
We can hardly reconcile it with the Divine Goodness to give one Man two Talents, and another five, unless we suppose that he is as high in his Master's Pleasure who makes the right use of two, as he that makes the right use of five Talents.
So that it fill holds good, that it is the Perfection of the Heart, that makes the Perfection of every State of Life.
It may perhaps be farther objected, that the different Degrees of Glory in another Life, supposes that good Men and such as
are accepted of God, do yet differ in their Degrees of Goodness in this Life,
I GRANT that it does.
BUT then this is no Proof that all Men are not called to the same Goodness, and the same Perfection.
PERHAPS it cannot be said of the best of Men that ever lived, that they performed their Duty in such Perfection in all Instances, as they might have done.
Now as it suits with the Divine Mercy to admit Men to Happiness, who have not been in every Respect so perfect as they might have been, notwithstanding that he gave them such a Rule of Perfection so it equally suits with the Divine Mercy to admit Men to different Degrees of Happiness, on Account of their different Conduct, though he gave them all one common Rule of Perfection.
Did not God pardon Frailties and Infirmities, the best of Men could not be rewarded. But consider now, does God's pardoning of Frailties and Infirmities in the best of Men, prove that the best of Men were not called to any other Perfection, than that to which they arrived ? Does this prove that God did not call them to be stri&ly good, because he receives them to Mercy with some Defects in Goodness? No, most surely: