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Cautions and Rules concerning Zeal.

1. If zeal be in the beginnings of our spiritual birth, or be short, sudden, and transient, or be a consequent of a man’s natural temper, or come upon any cause but after a long growth of a temperate and well-regulated love — it is to be suspected for passion and forwardness, rather than the vertical point of love.209209Καλον ξε ζμλονσφαι εν τψ καλψτ παντοτε.—Gal. iv. 18.

2.That zeal only is good which in a fervent love, hath temperate expressions. For let the affection boil as high as it can, yet if it boil over into irregular and strange actions, it will have but few, but will need many excuses. Elijah was zealous for the Lord of Hosts, and yet he was so transported with it, that he could not receive answer from God till by music he was recomposed and tamed; and Moses broke both the tables of the law by being passionately zealous against them that broke the first.

3. Zeal must spend its greatest heat principally in those things that concern ourselves; but with great care and restraint in those that concern others.

4. Remember that zeal, being an excrescence of divine love, must in no sense contradict any action of love. Love to God includes love210210Phil. iii. 6. to our neighbour; and therefore no pretence of zeal for God’s glory must make us uncharitable to our brother; for that is just so pleasing to God as hatred is an act of love.

5. That zeal that concerns others can spend itself in nothing but arts and actions and charitable instruments, for their good; and when it concerns the good of many that one should suffer, it must be done by persons of a competent authority, and in great necessity, in seldom instances, according to the law of God or man; but never by private right, or for trifling accidents, or in mistaken propositions. The Zealots, in the old law, had authority to transfix and stab some certain persons, but God gave them warrant; it was in the case of idolatry, or such notorious huge crimes, the danger of which was insupportable, and the cognizance of which was infallible; and yet that warrant expired with the synagogue.

6. Zeal may be let loose in the instances of internal, personal, and spiritual actions, that are matters of direct duty, as in prayers, and acts of adoration, and thanksgiving, and frequent addresses, provided that no indirect act pass upon them to defile them, such as complacency and opinions of sanctity, censuring others, scruples and opinions of necessity, unnecessary fears, superstitious numberings of times and hours; but let the zeal be as forward as it will, as devout as it will, as seraphical as it will, in the direct address and intercourse with God there is no danger, no transgression. Do all the parts of your duty as earnestly as if the salvation of all the world, and the whole glory of God, and the confusion of all devils, all that you hope or desire, did depend upon every one action.211211Lavora, come se tu avessi a compar ogni hora; Adora, me se tu avessi a morir allora.

8. Let zeal be seated in the will and choice, and regulated with prudence and a sober understanding, not in the fancies and affections;212212Rom. x. 2. for those that will make it deep and smooth, material and devout.

The sum is this; that zeal is not a direct duty, nowhere commanded for itself, and is nothing but a forwardness and circumstance of another duty, and therefore is then only acceptable when it advances the love of God and our neighbours, whose circumstance it is.213213Tit. ii. 14; Rev. iii. 16. That zeal is only safe, only acceptable, which increases charity directly; and because love to our neighbour and obedience to God are the two great portions of charity, we must never account our zeal to be good but as it advances both these, if it be in a matter that relates to both; or severally if it relates severally. St. Paul’s zeal was expressed in preaching without any offerings or stipend, in travelling, in spending and being spent for his flock, in suffering, in being willing to be accursed for love of the people of God and his countrymen. Let our zeal be as great as his was, so it be in affections to others, but not al all in angers against them: in the first there is no danger — in the second there is no safety. In brief, let your zeal (if it must be expressed in anger) be always more severe against thyself than against others.2142142 Cor. vii. 11.

*The other part of love to God is love to our neighbour, for which I have reserved the paragraph of alms.


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