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Laftly, From the earnest Expectation of the Creature to be deliver'd from the Bondage of Corruption, let us learn to long much more for the Adoption of Sons, and to be inftated into the glorious Liberty of the Children of God. In a word, let the prefent Sufferings of this Life take off our Hearts from all things here below, and fet us a waiting and preparing for that incomparable and tranfcendent Glory, that fhall be reveal'd in us hereafter: To which God of his infinite Mercy bring us all, thro the Merits of Jefus Chrift. Amen.
The GOSPEL for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity.
St. Luke vi. 36-43.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father alfo is mersiful: judg not, and ye shall not be judged; con. demn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven, &c.
HIS Gofpel for the Day is taken out of our Bleffed Saviour's Divine Sermon on the Mount, as 'tis deliver'd by St. Matthew and St. Luke. The Part or Portion of it felected for this Day's Meditation, contains the great Duty or Vertue of Mercifulness, which is here recommended to us in all its Branches: it begins thus; Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father alfo is merciful. The word there fore fhews it to be an Inference from the foregoing Verse; wherein our Saviour bids us to love our Enemies, to do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again, and your Reward fall be great, and ye shall be the Children of the Higheft, for he is kind to the Unthankful, and to the Evil: And from thence infers, Be ye therefore merciful, &c. Where we have a Precept and a Pattern; the Precept is to be merciful, the Pattern is, as your Father alfo is merciful. St. Matthew expreffes it by being perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, Mat. 5. 48. to fignify
fignify that Mercifulness is the Perfection of all Vertues, call'd therefore by the Apoftle, The Bond of Perfectness; and likewife that 'tis the higheft Perfection of a good Chriftian, making the Man of God perfect, and thorowly furnished to every good Word and Work. Now this Mercifulness confifts both in giving and forgiving; the former relates to the Wants and Neceffities, the latter to the Trefpaffes and Failings of one another; giving to the one, and forgiving of the other: both which are to be briefly confider'd.
The First Branch of Mercifulness confifts in giving, and that relates to the Wants and Neceflities both of Body and Soul. As for the Wants of the Body, that stands in need of Food, Phyfick and Rayment; and therefore the Acts of Mercifulness here are to feed the Hungry, to give Drink to the Thirsty, to clothe the Naked, to vifit the Sick, to redeem Captives, to entertain Strangers, and the like. These are recited by our Saviour, in his Account of the Proceedings of the laft Day; and the good Samaritan is commended for taking care of the diftrefs'd Traveller, by pouring in of Wine and Oil into his Wounds, and making other Provi fion for him, with a Charge to all Men to go and do likewife. As for the Wants of the Soul, that ftands in need of Counfel, Comfort, Admonition and Encouragement and therefore the Acts of Mercifulness here are to inftruct the Ignorant, to counfel and fettle doubting Perfons, to admonish Sinners, to comfort the Afflicted, to fupport the Weak, to correct the Obftinate, to preferve Men from Sin, and the Temptations leading thereunto, and the like: All which are requir'd and expected of us, according to the fe veral Places and Stations wherein God hath fet us.
Moreover, there are Acts of Mercifulness that relate to Mens Goods and good Names: Thofe that refpect Mens Goods, are to preferve them as far as we may from Rapine and Robbery, to relieve the Opprefs'd, to undo heavy Burdens, to fee the Needy and Neceffitous have Right, and to promote as much as we can by our Intereft and good Word the Prosperity of all Men. To this the Apostle directs, Gal. 6. 10. As we have Opportunity, let us do good to all Men, efpecially unto them who are of the Houfhold of Faith. Again, there are Acts of Mercy and Charity to Mens good Names, as to discountenance evil Reports, to vindicate honest Mens Reputation from Slander, Detraction and Defamation, and to give every one the juft Praifes of his Worth and good: Works.
Thefe Acts of Mercifulness are to be extended to all Men, high or low, Friends and Foes; for our Saviour commands us to love our Enemies, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them that despitefully use and perfecute us: for fo the Pattern here added to the Precept obliges to, for we are bid to be merciful, as our Father alfo is merciful; that is, to follow his Example, who is kind to the Unthankful, and to the Evil: He maketh the Sun to fhine upon the Good and Bad, and the Rain to defcend on the Juft and Unjuft; he fcatters his Bleffings promifcuously upon all Perfons, and thereby teaches us to make no Distinction in the common Offices of Humanity and Charity. Solomon tells us, that a good Man is merciful to his Beaft, he will not overlade or overwork him but as the Providence of God takes care for Oxen, fo will he provide Neceffaries for all Creatures that ferve him, and are under his Care. But much more is our Compaffion to be fhew'd to the bodily Wants, and the Neceffities of Mens Souls, who are made after the Image of God, and are of the fame Kind and Nature with our felves, whofe Needs are to be supply'd out of the Abundance of thofe Talents which God hath entrufted us withal. Moreover, a good Man will be tender of the Credit and Reputation of others, and will be merciful in his Cenfures and Judgment of other Men; fo we are directed in the next words, Judg not, and ye shall not be judged, condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: Which words condemn not the publick Office of a Judg, nor forbid the condemning of Criminals upon a fair Hearing in Courts of Judicature, for thefe act in God's Name, and by his Authority, and what they do herein is abfolutely neceffary for the Publick Peace, Order and Safety of the Commonwealth: And fo are indeed Acts of Mercy highly conducing to the Publick Welfare, by countenancing Vertue, and fuppreffing Wrong. But the judging here condemn'd, is private Perfons rafh judging and cenfuring one another without any Authority; and paffing Sentence upon the Actions of others, without any Examination of the Matter, to which they have no Right or Call. This is a Practice too common in the World, moft Peoples Difcourfe in their impertinent Vifits confifting of Tales and Stories of their Neighbours, whereby they play away their Reputation, and please themselves in one another's Follies and Weakneffes. Neither is this Practice lefs mifchievous and malicious, thus to deftroy the Credit of others by rafh Judgment and Cenfures; it hinders the Good
Good and Welfare of Neighbours, undermines the Peace and Comfort of Society, begets Hatred, Difcord and Contention, increases Law-fuits, promotes Revenge, and does unfpeakable Mischief; befide, it ufurps the Authority of God, and invades his Tribunal: And therefore the Apostle asks the Cenfurer, Who made thee a Judg? and who art thou that judgest another? To his own Mafter he ftandeth or falleth: and having no fuch Power committed to thee, Why dost thou judg thy Brother? God hath appointed a Day wherein he will judg the World in Righteousness; and therefore lay afide thy weak and partial Judgment, and judg nothing before the time: for thee to meddle herein, is to take too much upon thee, and to forestal the Day of Judgment. But if the Sinfulness and Injustice hereof will not difcourage Men from it, let the Danger of it deter them from this evil Practice. Our Saviour's Caution in St. Matthew is, Judg not, that ye be not judged; implying, that they fhall have Judgment without Mercy, who fhew no Mercy: Men will repay their Cenfures upon them, and will judg as harfhly of them as they do of others; but God will repay them much more, and pass the feverest Sentence upon them for taking the Right of Judicature out of his hands, and judging of his Servants. But our Saviour here in St. Luke encourages Men to forbear this Practice from Motives of Mercy, which will be fhew'd to them that fhew it to others; Judg not (faith he) and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned. Men are not fo forward to speak or judg hardly of those that are wont to fpeak and judg favourably of others; nor will they condemn or pafs Sentence upon fuch as put the best Conftruction on others Actions, and give to every one their due Commendation. The good Effects of their Mercy and Charity are commonly return'd into their Bofom: Give therefore (faith our Saviour) good Words, and good Works to others, and it shall be given to you, and that in good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, Jhall Men give into your Bofom: which referring to all forts of Commodities, dry and li quid, fignifies the plentiful Returns that will be made for all the Acts of Mercy and Loving-kindness; for with the fame Meafure that ye mete withal, it shall be meafur'd to you again. They that trade in evil Reports and hard Cenfures, will be furely paid home in their own Coin; and they that deal in good Words and kind Actions, fhall have the Kindnefs of both abundantly repaid by God and Man: in which
both Scripture and Experience may fully confirm us. This is the first Branch of Mercifulness, which confifts in giving, and directs us to fhew mercy to the Bodies, the Souls, the Goods, and good Names of all Men,
The Second Branch of this Vertue confifts in Forgiving; to which we are here likewife call'd and encourag'd in these words, Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Where by forgiving we are to understand the paffing by of Injuries, efpecially Cenfures, Contumelies, and all forts of Indig nities; which we are to be fo far from revenging, as not to fuffer them to cool or leffen our Charity towards them that do them, but rather to heap the Acts of Mercy and Charity upon the heads of fuch Enemies, as well as Friends. To this we are frequently exhorted: Dearly Be loved, avenge not your felves, but rather return Good for Evil; fo that if thine Enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him Drink; for thereby thou falt heap Coals of Fire upon his head, not to confume, but to melt him into Love and Kindness. And if we thus forgive others, we fhall be forgiven our felves. Men are commonly willing to pardon the Faults and Failings of thofe, who are willing to pardon others; but God will be much more fo, for he hath made our forgiving of others the Condition of his forgiving of our Offences; and if we perform our part, we may be fure God will not fail of his. And therefore,
If the World fhould be fo wicked and fhort-fighted, as to reproach any for his Kindnefs, and return him nothing but Evil for his Good-will; yet let him not be dismay'd? our Saviour met with fuch Ufage from the World, and was rewarded for it with a Crown of Glory; and fo fhall we too, if we perfevere to the end in Well-doing. This he illuftrates here by a Parable, faying, Can the Blind lead the Blind? Shall they not both fall into the Ditch? If we follow the blind Guidance of the World, muft we not be led into great Errors and Dangers? Can it be thought that the Difciple should be above his Master? And if he met with the Cenfures and Contradiction of Sinners againft himself, may we hope wholly to escape them? Is it not fufficient for the Servant to be treated as his Lord? Yea, Every one that is perfect shall be as his Master: and if he was made perfect by Sufferings, fhall we grudg to arrive at it the fame way?