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being at hand in the Verse before the Text, immediately exhorts to Sobriety, Prayer, and Charity, that we may not be found in the Number of those, who are beating their Fellow-servants, or abusing the Gifts of God to Luxury and Intemperance.
Charity therefore, as it naturally inclines us to overlook and to forgive the Offences of our Brethren, so it puts us into that State of Peace and Serenity of Mind, which is necessary to enable us to prepare for the Reception of our great Judge.
In this Sense of the Words, St. Peter's Affertion agrees exactly with the Accounts given us of Charity in other Places of Holy Scripture. St. Paul is very particular in describing the Properties of Charity; and tells us, that it suffereth long, and is kind, and is not easily provoked; but beareth all Things, endureth all Things. What is it now that Charity suffereth, beareth, and endureth? Not its own Offences surely, but the Offences and Provocations of others. Men who are void of Charity can be kind enough to themselves, and are apt to bear but too long with their own Offences: But this is not the Praise of Charity, to overlook its own Faults; but it is its Glory to
bear with the Faults of others, and to suffer much, and yet not be much provoked. And what is this but, in the Expression of Solomon and St. Peter, to cover a Multitude of Sins; to draw a Curtain over the Infirmities of our Brethren, and to spread our own richest Garment over the Nakedness of our Friends?
Besides, the Expression here made use of by St. Peter, The Multitude of Sins, leads to this Interpretation. When our Saviour exhorted his Disciples to forgive Men their Trespasses, St. Peter put the Question to him, Lord, how oft shall my Brother fin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven Times? Our Lord answered, I say not unto thee until feven Times, but until feventy Times feven. From which Answer St. Peter could not bụt learn, that it was the Property of Charity to cover the Multitude of our Brother's Sins; to forgive him, not only when he offended against us seven Times, but even when he transgressed seventy Times seven: A large Number; and the larger, because it is not set down to mark the precise Number of Offences which Charity may forgive, but rather to denote, that there is no Number which Charity ought not to forgive.
Moreover, it is much more reasonable to think, that a truly charitable Man should meet with a Multitude of Sins in other People for the Exercise of his Charity, than that he should have a Multitude of his own to cover. We meet with no such Description of Charity in Holy Writ, as may lead us to imagine that it is consistent with a Multitude of Sins, Charity is the fulfilling of the Law, as the Apostle to the Romans informs us; and it proceeds, as he farther acquaints us in his Epistle to Timothy, out of a pure Heart, and of a good Conscience, and of Faith unfeigned. Now, how can the Multitude of Şins, spoken of in the Text, be consistent with fulfilling the Law? How can it be fupposed to dwell in a pure Heart? to be joined with a good Conscience? and to have Fellowship with Faith unfeigned? We may alk the same Questions here, which the Apostle to the Corinthians does in another Case: What Fellowship hath Righteousness with Unrighteousness? and what Communion bath Light with Darkness? and what Concord bath Christ with Belial ? So that, considering how inconsistent these Things are, the Hopes which Men conceive of compounding their Sins by the means of Charity, are in
great Danger of being overthrown by this Conclusion, That where there is Charity, there will not be a Multitude of Sins; and where there is a Multitude of Sins, there can hardly be true Charity to hide them,
If you think that the Text, according to this Interpretation, holds forth no great Comfort or Encouragement to Charity, since the Benefit accrues to others, whole Offences are covered by Charity, and not to the charitable Person, who grows rather indolent than happy through an Excess of Goodness; it must, on the other Side, be considered, how blessed a State it is to enjoy a Calm, whilst the World around us is failing in a Storm; to fit free from the Torments of Anger and Revenge, whilst others burn with Refentment and Indignation; to have the Mind at Liberty to look into itself, and to look up with Pleasure to its great Creator, whilst others facrifice both their Reason and their Religion to the Transports of Passion. It is this happy Temper alone, that can bring us to expect our great Change with faction. How happy a Condition will it be to be found at Peace with ourselves and the World, when our great Master summons us to appear! And who would not dread to be
161 called from Quarrels, Contentions, and Strifes, to stand before the Judgment-seat of God?
Secondly, There may be Reasons for expounding the Text of the Judgment of God, and yet the Apostle's Assertion
may late to the Sins of others, and not to the Sins of the charitable Person. But what, you will say, may one Man's Sins be covered in the Sight of God by another Man's Charity ? Yes, they may; and in this Sense the very Expression of the Text is made use of by St. James : -Brethren; if any of you from the Truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the Sinner from the Error of his Way, hall save a Soul from Death, and Mall kide a Multitude of Sins. Where it is evident, that the Sins to be covered are the Sins of the Soul to be saved from Death ; that is, the Sins of the Person converted from the Error of his Ways, and not the Sins of the Converter: And the doing so great a Good to a Brother, as the saving his Soul, and hiding the Multitude of his Sins, is proposed as an Incitement to every
charitable Person to labour the Conversion of a Sinner. Join other Cases : It is very plain, how much Sin and Folly proceed from the mutual Passions of Men labourVOL. III.