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rightly in cases of morality and natural justice; and we find that men's reason and judgment fail in the very same proportion that vice and passion prevail. Did men judge perversely in all cases alike, nothing less than want of judgment and reason could account for it: but when we see them to have reason in most cases, and to be dark only in a few, we must search out some other cause. Now if we find that a man's reason and virtue forsake him in the same instances, and that where he judges perversely he acts perversely, and remarkably so in them only, we may learn what misguides or rather enslaves the mind, and how the freedom of reason may be restored : this beautifully illustrated in the cases of the covetous, voluptuous, and ambitious man : self lies at the bottom; it is not so much the vice, as self that is to be defended; and if you can separate these, the vice will soon fall under the common sentence of reason, and be left to be condemned with its fellows. By this honest, this holy art, did our Lord convince the lawyer, who put the question of the text to him, intending to admit no one as his neighbor that was not nearly allied to him, or at least of the same nation. Our Saviour stated a case to him by which his prejudices were silenced: thus he who excluded almost all mankind, owned even the Samaritan to be the Jew's neighbor, and thus confessed the Samaritan's right, in that relation, to expect and receive good offices from the Jew. Thus also did the prophet Nathan force David, in the very height of sin and extravagance, to give sentence on himself and his iniquity. The story of Uriah briefly told. Had the prophet openly taxed David with the murder, he would perhaps have justified himself, and said to the prophet as he had to the captain, the sword devoureth one as well as another ; or perhaps the prophet would have been rebuked for his intrusion, and forced to fly from the king's anger. But he complains to the king of a great oppression, which a very rich man had been guilty of towards a very poor one.
story of the ewe-lamb fully told. Then said the king, as the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die. The king having thus passed sentence, the prophet opened the secret, and said, thou art the man : the parallel fully drawn. The king therefore had no retreat for his justification : he had nothing left him but this plain confession, I have sinned against the Lord. Thus again our Saviour, under the parable of an householder and his vineyard, made the Jews bear witness to God's justice in rejecting their nation from being his people : this parable briefly related. It is not hard to force truth out of men, when you have once got beyond their prejudices, and separated the truth from all personal views and interests; for reason is clear enough, when unclouded by passion and affection : this made the heathen moralists clothe their instructions in the dress of fable : the reasons of this enlarged on, and illustrated in the case of a passionate man, who never reads the fable of the horse and the man, but he laughs at the horse's folly and his impotent desire of revenge. The consequences of these things are plain. I. The true art of convincing a man of his error is plainly to throw him as much as possible out of the case ; for the less he is himself concerned, the better he judges. You must not fret his prejudices, but decline them; not reproach him with the error you condemn, but place it so that he may see it in its true light. II. In private life, innocence is the only preservative of reason and judgment: guilt causes you to seek subterfuges, and misleads you in your opinion of yourself and your duty. III. If you find yourself involved in the case you are to judge of, instead of seeking new reasons and arguments to form your opinion by, look back and reflect what sense you had of the matter before it was your own; as your judgment will thus be more impartial : or consider, if possible, what is the sense of the sober and virtuous, whom you may more safely trust than yourself, where your passions are
concerned. At least suppose your enemy in the same circumstances with yourself; change places with him ; then consider what judgment you would make of him, and so judge of yourself. By these means perhaps we may preserye ourselves from the fatal influences which vice and passion have over the reason and understanding of mankind.
LUKE, CHAP. X.-VERSE 29.
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my
The precepts of the law and of the gospel being conceived in general terms, and expressed in the most easy and familiar manner, men of speculative minds, whose business is rather inquiry than practice, have taken so much pains to adjust the limitations and restrictions which they conceive to be applicable to the general rule, that in many cases the duty has been lost in the explication ; and the precept has been so pared and cut to the quick by exceptions, that it is no longer of any use or service in common life.
The law of God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves ;' the interpretation of which will better come from our hearts than our heads; for we cannot help feeling the sense of our duty as long as we attend to the motions of nature within ourselves : our own wants and infirmities will show us the matter and the extent of our obedience; and self-love will direct us in the practice and execution : but when men come to speculate on the point, and to define the exact bounds of love, and to determine nicely how far the notion of neighborhood is to be extended, the event too commonly is, that there is but very little love left to be disposed of among our neighbors, and that it may the better hold out, but very few neighbors left to share in our love. Call a covetous man to the exercise of this duty in an instance of charity; show him a man oppressed with poverty and hunger, clothed in rags, and destitute
of all the comforts and supports of life, and bid him love this poor wretch as himself : he will tell you, perhaps, the law is excellent and good, and he does love the man, and pities his misfortunes; but he has nothing to spare : he is not obliged to love another better than himself; and therefore it is unreasonable to expect that he should straiten and pinch himself to enlarge the conveniences of others : he grudges him no degree of love, and heartily wishes him at ease and in plenty ; but cannot afford any thing towards it out of his little. Or perhaps he will question on what title this man pretends to be his neighbor : he is sure he never saw him before, por ever heard that he lived near him; and if every body that will may claim to be his neighbor, there will be no end of it; and he may soon give his neighbors all he has, if every one that begs must be his neighbor. There is room in all other instances of our duty for the like subterfuges; and as long as men find comfort in such excuses for their negligence and disobedience, they will never want invention to furnish them. It
may seem strange perhaps that the laws of God should be liable to this usage: since being the transcript of perfect wisdom, and the work of him who not only knows, but foresees the secrets of all hearts, we might expect to find them so guarded and fenced about, and made so plain and express in all cases, that it should have been in no man's power to question the sense or meaning of the precept, or to cover his iniquity with the least umbrage of an excuse drawn from the interpretation of holy Scripture: but there are very good reasons to be given why the law of God is not so explicit and particular. Were the Scripture to descend into the consideration of all cases, and to state the exact bounds of our duty in all possible circumstances of life, we might say perhaps, with. out being much beholden to a figure of speech, that the world itself could not contain the things that should be written. A law extending itself to such variety of cases and circumstances would be altogether useless, and men might grow old in sin and iniquity before they could possibly learn their duty, or extract the rules proper for their own use, out of the infinite variety of laws, many of which have no respect to them or their circumstances.