Page images
PDF
EPUB

in all the just executions of their authority : this is due from subjects to princes.

Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, in singleness of heart as unto Christ, with good-will, doing service as to the Lord, and not to men. Your faithful, diligent and cheerful service is their due.

Let those that labour in the word and doctrine be counted worthy of double honour, i. e. of respect and maintenance : it is due to them in the church where they are set as elders, if they rule well. I mention these hints but very briefly, and for the most part in the language of scripture, as instances wherein these characters of superiority demand honour and duty from inferiors.

I grant there may be other obligations to respect and honour our superiors, in some of these cases, besides the mere law of justice : but this law of commutative justice that I am now treating of, obiiges us to it. The light of nature and scripture both suppose and oblige parents to take care of their children, to advise and instruct, nourish and provide for them; therefore obedience and honour become their due. The command of submission given to subjects, supposes and obliges princes and rulers to protect and defend them from all injury. The precept of cheerful and willing obedience given to servants, supposes and obliges masters to do the same thing's unto them, that is, to treat them with goodvill, and cheerfully give them their food and clothing, or their wages and hire, Ephesians vi. 9. Nature and scripture suppose ministers and teachers to be capable and willing to give good advice, counsel, and instruction to those who are younger, or who accept of their teaching; therefore let respect and honour be paid where it is due.

It is the foundation and rule of commutative justice in all these instances, that whilst inferiors are obliged to pay due regards to those that are above them the superiors a re equally obliged to confer those benefits on persons of a lower character, which the law of God, and the light of nature require ; but some of the cases I lave mentioned, fall in naturally under the following particulars.

· II. Another instance of commutative justice, is the particular kindness that is due to rear relations. This is a very beautiful and a pleasant part of life, where it is well managed, this affectionate and delightful exchange of good turns one for another.

Now that it is due to all near relatives, according to the appointment of God, will be made evident in this manner.

God, the great Creator of all things, could have produced all men immediately by his own power, and have made them arise up in several successions of time, without such a propagation or dependence one upon another, if he had pleased ; and then there would have been none of these tender and engaging relations of father, son, and brother. But the wise Creator hath ordained otherwise ; he hath appointed such methods for the building of families, and continuing mankind in the world, as binds every soul of us by the ties of nature to one another. acts xvii. 26. Of one blood hatlr God made all the nations of the earth. And those that are nearer a-kin to one another, especially in the game family, as brethren and sisters, ought to look upon themselves under more peculiar and mutual obligations to do kindnesses to each other in the first place, according to their capacity. The obligation lies on each party, because it lies upon the other. My brother is bound to love and help me, therefore it is my duty to help and love my brother : for a brother is born to adversity, Proverbs xvii. 17. It is the sovereign will of bueaven, that there should be such near relations, who should be bound by the law of crea ion and duty to protect, to support and assist one another in a time of adversity : this is the design of God the Creator in the course of his providence, in his subdivisions and propagation of all the families of the earth.

And as it is a piece of justice to confer this mutual help.which is due to near relations, so there is something of justice too in our distinguishing acts of kindness and assistance according to difference of necessity, and according to difference of merit. I cannot believe I am bound to love or serve every brother or every sister, with equal degree of affection and kindness, whatsoever their character be, whether virtuous or vicious : nor to bestow equal benefits upon them, where there is not equal necessity ; this can never be of a divine appointment. And though there is some duty, some kindness, some assistance always due to those that are our near relatives, yet this very rule of justice obliges us to give more respect or love to those that are in themselves more honourable and worthy, and those who merit

our lands, may reasonable expect it. This will further appear from the next partioular.

III. Another instance of justice is love to those that love us, and gratitude to those that have done us good: Those that have been serviceable to us in the concerns of our souls or our bodies, demand kindness from us, and returns of service, according to their benefits, and our capacity.

Let us first take notice of the gratitude that is due for spiritual benefits. The Christian Galatians who were converted from idolatry and heathenism, and reconciled to God by the preaching of St. Paul, had such a powerfal and penetrating sense of their obligations to him, that if it were possible, saith the apostle, I bear you record, ye would have

more

at

plucked out your own eyes, and given them to me. Gal. iv. 15. And when the sanie apostle writes to Philemon, who was converted to the faith by his ministry, le gently insinuates the obligations he was under; thougb I do not think proper to tell thee, saith he, how thou owest unto me even thine own self, ver. 19. St. Paul speaks upon this principle in many places of his epistle. 1 Cor. ix. 11. “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” And when he gives an account of the contribution which the Christians of Macedonia and Achaia made for the poor saints at Jerusalem, he expresses himself thus; it hatlı pleased them verily to make this contribution, and their debtors they are ; for if the gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things; because it was from the Jews that the gospel first came forth, and was preached among the gentiles.

There is some sort of gratitude due also to those who by their writings, or more especially by their conversalion or instructions, have improved our understandings, and added to our knowledge in things natural or moral, as well as divine. There are some persons in the world, who have advanced their intellectuals in a very sensible manner by the company of their friends, but they have so much of pride and self reigning in them, that they refuse to acknowledge it; they would fain have the world believe, that it is the rich soil of their own understanding has produced this harvest of itself ; they are ambitious and fond to have it thouglit that their notions are all their own. Though they plumed themselves with borrowed feathers, they are unwilling to confess whence they received them, and pretend they are bwing to nature only. But pride is a secret vice, and a cursed spring of injustice in more instances than one, as I shall shew hereafter.

After the benefits bestowed on our souls, we ought to consider what is due to those that have served our bodies, or our natural life. Those that have healed our diseases, that have saved us from imminent dangers and calamities, or present death ; those that have fed or clothed us, or supported life when we were poor and destitute ; all these deserve particular kinds of remembrance, and due returns of service. Those that have either vindicated our honour, or increased our reputation, and spread our good name in the world, stand entitled also to some agreeable returns of benefit.

Do not let us imagine then, that gratitude is a mere heroic virtue, that we may pay or not pay at our pleasure ; for nature dictates it to us as a piece of strict commutative justice and equity of dealing between man and man. We may be very properly said to treat our neighbour unjustly, if we refuse to serve him again, who hath first served us, when his distressed circumstances shall require our assistance.

There are some cases indeed wherein the person who is obliged by his neighbour's kindness, cannot possibly make a return equal to the benefit received, without ruining himself and his family, or exposing himself much more than his neighbour did to serve him. There are cases wherein the person who hath obliged us, may over-rate his kindness, and undervalue all our acknowledgments; he may require most unreasonable returns, and think he is never sufficiently recompensed. There are cases also wherein the benefactor may repent of his past services, may endeavour to take away the benefit bestowed, may without reason commence a resolute enmity, and do what in him lies to cancel all former obligations;

« PreviousContinue »