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CCXIII.

SER M. ture of goodness is to diffufe and communicate itfelf, and the more it is communicated, the more glorious it is. And therefore knowledge and power may be în a nature most contrary to God's; the devil hath these perfections in a high degree.

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To receive good from others is no certain argument of virtue and merit, for the unworthy and unthankful often receive benefits: but to be good and do good, is the excellency of virtue, because it is to refemble GoD in that which is the moft amiable and glorious of all his other perfections. And therefore when Mofes defires "to fee God's glory," Exod. xxxiii. he tells him, that "he will caufe all his goodness to pafs before him." Without goodness the power and wisdom of God would be terrible, and raife great dread and fuperftition in the minds of men. Without goodness power would be tyranny and oppreflion, and wisdom would degenerate into craft and mischievous contrivance. So that a being endowed with all power and wildom, and yet wanting goodnefs, would be a dreadful and omnipotent mifchief. We are apt to dread power, and to admire knowledge, and to fufpect great wifdom and prudence; but we can heartily love and reverence nothing but true goodness. It is not the infinite power and knowledge of Gob confidered abftractedly, and in themfelves, but thefe in conjunction with his great goodness, that make Him at once the moft awful and amiable Being in the World. Which is the reafon why our SAVIOUR, Matt. v. 48. fpeaks of the mercy, and goodness, and patience of GOD, as the top and fum of the divine perfections; Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in "heaven is perfect." How is that? In being "good to the evil and unthankful, as God is, who makes his fun to rife, and his rain to fall, not only on the

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"juft, but unjust." And therefore St. Luke renders SER M. it, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father which "is in heaven is merciful." To be good and merciful as Gop is, is to be perfect as he is because it is to imitate him in that which is his chief perfection.

Gratitude is one of the nobleft virtues, and our goodness to men is gratitude in its to Gop. It is an acknowledgment of the bleffings we have received from GOD; the beft ufe we can make of them, and the best requital we can make to him for all his benefits. For we can give him nothing again, because he ftands in need of nothing. But a truly grateful perfon, who hath a kindness done to him by one that is out of all capacity and reach of requital, will require whether there be any of his family and relations to whomi he may fhew a kindness for his fake. Yea benefits have often been requited by thankful perfons, upon thofe who did but refemble their benefactors, though they were no ways related to them. Though we can do nothing to Gop, yet we may do it to men, who are "made after the image of Gop. We may fhew kindness to his relations, and to thofe of his houshold and family, to his creatures, to his fervants, to his friends, and to his children here in the earth.ban

Befides that our goodness to others like ourselves is an argument of great confideration, and prudence i it is a fign that we know ourselves, and confider what we are, and what we may be; it fhews, that we have,a due fenfe of the indigence and infirmity of human na ture, and of the change and viciffitude of human affairs; it is a juft fenfe and acknowledgment of our ftate, that we are infufficient for our own happiness, and must depend upon the kindnefs, and good-will, and friendship of other men; that we all either do or may ftand in need of others one time or other: for

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SERM. he who is now in the greatest plenty and abundance of CCXIII. all things, and thinks "his mountain fo ftrong, that "he can never be moved," may by a fudden revolution of fortune, by a thousand accidents, be thrown down from his height of profperity, into the depth of mifery and neceffity.

And as it is an argument of confideration, fo, of great prudence. He that is good to others, apt to commiferate their fad cafe, and to relieve them in their ftraits, takes the wifeft and fureft way that can be, to encline and engage others to be good to him, when it fhall fall to his lot to ftand in need of their kindnes and pity. Upon this account our SAVIOUR Commends the prudence of the unjust steward, who laid in for the kindness of others, against himself should have occafion for it.

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And though it fhould happen otherwise, and that we should have an uninterrupted tenor of profperity which few or none have) or that coming to stand in need of others, our kindness should meet with no equal returns, yet it would not be quite loft. For as Seneca truly fays, delectat etiam fterilis beneficii confcientia, though our charity fhould fall upon ftony and barren ground, and we should find no fruit of it from thofe whom we have obliged, yet there is a pleafure in being confeious to ourselves, that we have done well, what was worthy and generous, and what became wife and confiderate men to do whatever the event and fuccefs be: for fetting afide all felfift refpects, purely out of humanity and charity, and a generous compaffion, we fhould be ready, as we have opportunity, to do good to all that stand in need of our kindness and help.

So that a difpofition to do good is the beft and happieft temper of mind, because it is the nearest resem

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CCXIII.I

blance of the divine nature, which is perfectly happy: S ERM. it is a grateful acknowledgment of our obligations to GOD, and all that we can render to him for his benefits; it is an argument of great wifdom and confideration; it gives ease end fatisfaction to our minds: and the reflection upon any good that we have done, is certainly the greatest contentment and pleasure in the world, anda felicity much beyond that of the greateft fortune of this world; whereas the spirit contrary to this is always uneafy to itself; the envious and malicious, the hard-hearted and ill-natured man carries, his own torment and hell about him, his mind is full. of tumultuous agitations and unquiet thoughts: but were our nature rectified, and brought back to its primitive frame and temper, we fhould take no fuch pleasure in any thing as in acts of kindness and compaffion, which are fo fuitable and agreeable to our nature, that they are peculiarly called humanity, as if without this temper we were not truly men, but fomething else difguifed under a human shape.

II. "To give," is an argument of a more happy ftate and condition, than " to receive." To receive from others is an argument of indigency, and plainly shews that we are in want and neceffity; either that we stand in need of fomething, or that we think we do, and either of thefe conditions is far from perfect happiness but to give, is an argument of fulness and fufficiency, that we have more than is neceffary for ourselves, and fomething to spare.

To receive kindness from others, fuppofeth we stand in need of it; and to ftand in need of it, is to be in a ftate of being obliged and indebted. Obligation is a dear thing, and a real debt which lies heavy and uneafy upon a grateful mind: fo much obligation as any man hath to another, fo much he hath loft of his own

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CCXIII.

SER M. liberty and freedom; for it gives him that hath obliged us, a fuperiority and advantage over us. And what Solomon fays of the borrower, that "he is a "fervant to the lender," is in proportion true in this cafe, that the receiver is a fervant to the giver.

But to be able to benefit others, is a condition of freedom and fuperiority, and is fo far from impairing our liberty, that it fhews our power: and the happiness which we confer upon others, by doing them good, is not only a contentment to ourselves, but we do in fome fort enjoy the happiness we give, in being confcious to ourfelves that we are the authors of it. And could we but once come to this excellent temper, to delight in the good that others enjoy, as if it were our own (and it is our own, if we be the inftruments of it, and take pleasure in it) I fay, could we but once come to this temper, we need not envy the wealth and fplendor of the moft profperous upon earth; for upon thefe terms the happiness of the whole world would in fome fort be ours, and we should have a fhare in the pleasure and fatisfaction of all that good which happens to any man any way, especially by our means.

To depend upon another, and to receive from him, and to be beholden to him, is the neceffary imperfection of creatures but to confer benefits upon others, is to refemble Gon, and to approach towards divinity. Ariftotle could fay, that by narrowness and selfishness, by envy and ill-will, men degenerate into beafts, and become wolves and tygers to one another; but by goodness and kindnefs, by mutual compaffion and helpfulness, men become gods to one another. To be a benefactor, is to be as like Gop as it is poffible for men to be; and the more any one partakes of this divine quality and difpofition, the liker and the nearer he is to GOD, "who is good to all, and whofe tender mercies are over all his other works."

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