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NATURE, OFFICES, AND MEASURES,
RULES OF CONDUCTING IT,
IN A LETTER TO THE MOST INGENIOUS AND EXCELLENT
MRS. KATHARINE PHILIPS.
NATURE, OFFICES, AND MEASURES,
THE wise Ben Sirach advised that we should not consult with a woman concerning her of whom she is jealous, neither with a coward in matters of war, nor with a merchant concerning exchange; and some other instances he gives of interested persons, to whom he would not have us hearken in any matter of counsel. For wherever the interest is secular or vicious, there the bias is not on the side of truth or reason, because these are seldom served by profit and low regards. But to consult with a friend in the matters of friendship, is like consulting with a spiritual person in religion; they who understand the secrets of religion, or the interior beauties of friendship, are the fittest to give answers in all inquiries concerning the respective subjects; because reason and experience are on the side of interest; and that which in friendship is most pleasing and most useful, is also most reasonable and most true; and a friend's fairest interest is the best measure of the conducting friendships: and therefore you who are so eminent in friendships, could also have given the best answer to your own inquiries, and you could have trusted your own reason, because it is not only greatly instructed by the direct notices of things, but also by great experience in the matter of which you now inquire.
But because I will not use any thing that shall look like
can easily reprove, than by declining your commands, seem more safe in my prudence, than open and communicative in my friendship to you.
You first inquire, how far a dear and a perfect friendship is authorized by the principles of Christianity?
To this I answer; that the word 'friendship,' in the sense we commonly mean by it, is not so much as named in the New Testament; and our religion takes no notice of it. You think it strange; but read on before you spend so much as the beginning of a passion or a wonder upon it. There is mention of “friendship with the world," and it is said to be "enmity with God;" but the word is no where else named, or to any other purpose in all the New Testament. It speaks of friends often; but by friends are meant our acquaintance, or our kindred, the relatives of our family, or our fortune, or our sect; something of society, or something of kindness, there is in it; a tenderness of appellation and civility, a relation made by gifts, or by duty, by services and subjection; and I think I have reason to be confident, that the word 'friend' (speaking of human intercourse) is no otherways used in the Gospels or Epistles, or Acts of the Apostles: and the reason of it is, the word friend is of a large signification; and means all relations and societies, and whatsoever is not enemy. But by friendships, I suppose you mean the greatest love, and the greatest usefulness, and the most open communication, and the noblest sufferings, and the most exemplar faithfulness, and the severest truth, and the heartiest counsel, and the greatest union of minds, of which brave men and women are capable. But then I must tell you that Christianity hath new christened it, and calls this charity. The Christian knows no enemy he hath; that is, though persons may be injurious to him, and unworthy in themselves, yet he knows none whom he is not first bound to forgive, which is indeed to make them on his part to be no enemies, that is, to make that the word enemy shall not be perfectly contrary to friend, it shall not be a relative term and signify something on each hand, a relative and a correlative; and then he knows none whom he is not bound to love and pray for, to treat kindly and justly, liberally and obligingly. Christian charity is friendship to all the world; and when friendships were the noblest things in the world,