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ing despitefully to vex and provoke each other; and how much might be prevented on both Sides, had one of them only Reason and Discretion enough to put an end to Strife. This Part the charitable Man is ever ready to act; and when he does, his passionate Adversary owes it to his Goodness, that in his Anger he did not sin against God. This the Prophet David faw and acknowledged in his own Case, and blessed the happy Instrument which prevented his Hands from thedding Blood : He had sworn in his Wrath to destroy Nabal, and all his Family with him ; but the Wife of Nabal with gentle Intreaties put a Stop to his Revenge, and saved him from committing the great Crime. David no sooner recovered himself from his Passion, but he saw how much he was indebted to his Petitioner; and cried out, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which fent thee this Day to meet me; and blessed be thy Advice, and blessed be thou, which haft kept me this Day from coming to shed Blood, and from avenging myself with mine own Hand. This Speech every passionate Man may have Reason to make to his charitable Neighbour, who gives way to his Wrath, and by gentle and kind Treatment saves him from the Ex
travagances, which a warm Opposition would hurry him into. And is it not a great Encouragement to put on Meekness and Charity, since by bearing with the light Offences of our Brethren against ourselves, we may possibly fave them from much fences against God, and be instrumental in delivering them from that Judgment, which, by their own Bitterness of Spirit and Thirst after Revenge, they would certainly draw upon themselves ?
Were we to go through the several Works of Charity, and consider it instructing the Ignorant, encouraging the Weak, rebuking the Presumptuous, in a word, giving an helping Hand to every good Work; it would appear, in many Instances, how instrumental Charity is in covering the Sins of others. But I hasten to the
Third and last Inquiry, What Encouragement we have from Reason and Scripture to expect, that by Charity we may cover our
In the Verse before the Text the Apostle gives us this Warning The End of all Things is at hand. To this solemn Notice he subjoins a proper Exhortation : Be ye therefore Sober, and watch unto Prayer; and above all
fervent Charity among yourselves. The Reason of the latter Part of this Exhortation he gives in the Words now under our Consideration, For Charity shall cover the Multitude of Sins. These Things laid together create a Presumption, that the Apostle might mean to instruct each Man how to cover his own Șins, and to prevent the ill Effects naturally to be feared from them, when the End of all Things should come. When we think of Judgment, of whose Sins do we think, or for whose Offences do we tremble, but our own? When the Preachers of the Gospel warn us of the great Day of the Lord, it is a strong Call to Repentance, and for whose Sins but our own? Since therefore the Apostle calls on us to use the best Means to cover the Multitude of Sins, in Expectation of the great Change that is at hand, whose Sins can we more naturally think on than our own ? And if this be indeed the Case, then is Charity recommended to us, as a proper Means to cover or excuse our own Sins in the Sight of God.
Besides, the Exhortation to mutual Charity being subjoined immediately to the Mention of Prayer, may be a farther Argument of St. Peter's Intention to instruct us how to
hide our own Offences. He well knew upon what Condition our Lord had taught us to ask Forgiveness of our Sins : Forgive us our Trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. This being the Condition upon which the Pardon of God is promised, what have we to cover our Sins in the Sight of God without Charity ? that Charity which beareth all Things, endureth all Things, which hideth the Trespasses of our Brother from our Eyes, and for that Reason will cover our own Offences, when the Lord shall come to judge the Earth.
But farthér: The Nature and Extent of Charity considered, there arises a farther Argument to confirm the charitable Man in the Hopes of Pardon for his own Transgreffions: For Charity is the fulfilling of the Law; it is the Royal Law, as St. James calls it, which whosoever fulfills shall do well. And in this View, St. Peter's Advice, to have fervent Charity, that it may cover the Multitude of Sins, is equivalent to Daniel's Advice to Nebuchadnezzar: 0 King, let my Counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy Sins by Righteousness, and thine Iniquities by Shewing Mercy to the Poor. Charity is indeed the breaking off of Sin ; it is Righteousness and
Mercy; it is the essential Part of that Repentance to which the Promises of Life are made in the Gospel.
For these Reasons it may be allowed, that the Apostle meant to exhort us to Charity, as a proper Means to obtain Forgiveness of our Sins at the Hands of God. But, to prevent Mistakes in fo momentous a Concern to ourselves, I beg leave to lay a few Observations before
may help to set this Matter in a clear Light,
First, We must not so expound this Text, as to make it contradict the general Terms of Pardon and Reconciliation proposed in the Gospel of our Saviour : And therefore, since the Gospel allows no Licence for continuing in Sin, nor gives any Encouragement to hope for the Pardon of Sin, but upon Repentance and Amendment of Life, we do but deceiye ourselves when we give way to other Hopes, and, by the Help of a strong Imagination, wrest the Words of St. Peter, and other like Passages of Scripture, to the Service of our Inclinations. You have seen that the Words of the Text are capable of divers Interpretations, and therefore they cannot be so strong in any one Sense, as to controul the Meaning of more plain and ex