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the Gospel; that Meekness and Candor, that Brotherly Love and Charity, that is the Peculiar Characteristick of Christi. anity; Charity is the Life and Spirit of it, that shines in every Part; it influences and governs the whole Christian Life; all the Thoughts, Words, and Actions of the True Christian.
Now amongst the many Acts of Goodness, that Christian Charity teaches us, and requires of us, some of them, which most concern our present Subject, are such as these.
1. Chistian Love and Charity teaches us, and requires of us, to fairest Interpretation upon other Men's Actions ; and make · the best Construction we can, even of the worst Actions ;
if either Youth or Ignorance, Mistake or Surprize, or any Thing else be to be pleaded in Favour or Excuse. Charity is not Jealous; endeavouring to flur and discredit Mens good Actions, by Surmizes of fome secret Evil, or bad Design, or sinister Ends, couch'd under them ; but making candid Interpretations of every Thing, and always Judging the Best.
How then do They observe this Rule of Charity, that rashly Censure and Condemn without any just Grounds, by
vain Surmizes or ill-natured Constructi. ons; extenuating the Good others do,and aggravating the Evil ? Suspecting Men that live regularly and vertuously, not to be truly more Vertuous, but more Cun. ning and Cautious, than their Neighbours: Not truly more Pious and Conscientious; but more Designing or Vainglorious, than other Men: Thus taking every Thing by the worst Handle, and suspecting some ill Principle or Motive in all the Good they do.
2. Christian Love and Charity does greatly delight to see Goodness and Vertue flourish and prosper : And as Chriftian Love and Charity transforms us into the Nature of Angels, so it makes us, like them, desire and labour for the Good and Salvation of All; and ready to bear a Part in the Joy of that Heavenly Host, at the Conversion of a Sinner.
Nor can a Good Christian be an indifferent Spectator of the Evils that befal others, whither Natural or Moral. Charity will incline a Man not only to pity the Amictions and Calamities, but does truly grieve at the wretched Inconsideration, the Mad. ness and Stupidity of Men, that will wilfully rush upon their own Ruin, and will mourn, and pray for them in secret to their Heavenly Father,
What kind of Christians then areThey, or what is their Rule of Charity, that are so far from concerning themselves for the Good and Amendment of others, that they rejoice to find out any fowl Miscarriages ? that delight to hear and whisper abroad Men's Sin and Shame, carrying the Secret from Place to Place, for the Entertainment of such as are ready to partake with them in their malicious Joy? and please themselves with spitefully descanting on the Story. But is not this a very unchristian Entertain. ment, to make Mens Misfortunes and Miseries the Sport and Pastime of our idle Hours? Yet I appeal to common Observation, whither this Censorious Humour does not make up a considerable Part of Visiting Conversation.
But a true Christian Spirit would rather choose to Conceal and draw a Veil over Mens Sins or Infirmities, than Pub. lish and Proclaim them. I do not mean, that a Man must shut his Eyes and not fee; or not see the Faults that he does see. No; Reproof is a christian Duty as well as Charity ; nay, when Occasion requires, it is a necessary Act of Charity; and the more charitable a Man is, the more careful will he be to warn Men of their Danger ; He will try all Means; admonish, reprove, earnestly exhort and
intreat, when he sees Men madly undoing themselves. But then he will do it Prudently and Privately, in such Manner as may be most likely to Reclaim the Sinner, and not put him to an open Shame : And if he knows any Good of him, as there shall be Occasion to speak of him Abroad, he will choose to show him to others in his Best Colours. I do not mean that we are bound to speak well of others, contrary to our Conscience and Knowledge; but that if we will speak at all of them, Charity obliges us to speak the Best of them that we truly ly can, and as well as the Case will bear.
Not but that in fome Cafes we may be obliged to Discover the. Faults we know; that is, when the Cause of God or Religion is concerned, or when they are of Dangerous Consequence to the Pub, lick, or very injurious to Ourselves or Others; But then we muft be very fure of the Truth of all that we Publish, as also of the Certain Ill Effects or Conse. quences of it; otherwise, we only New our Ill-nature and Uncharitableness to the Person, under Pretence of Love and Good Will to the Publick.
'Tis Certain, the Honour of God, and the Interest of Religion and Vertue, in the World, is what All Men ought to
have, and Good Men will have, a Zeal and Concern for; But where a Vein of UncharitableReflection runs throughout, slantingly aiming at some or other Neighbour, the Zeal will not be able to consecrate the Malice.
3. Charity is ready to Suppose and Believe and Hope the Best. Charity not only takes in all that live within any Rules of Decency and Order, as always Supposing Good Adions to proceed from Good Principles and Good Intentions ; But where Things do not at present Appear so well, Charity is yet willing to hope well, and to hope even against Hope. Nay, when Men Appear so very Bad, that we can neither Think nor Believe well of them, yet we may still charitably Hope, that even the Worst of Sinners may amend, and become wiser and better Men: And Charity will be glad to administer what it may to their Repentance and Salvation.
The Sum is this; Christian Love and Charity teaches and requires us, to be Candid Interpreters of Men's Words and Actions; to turn all to the Best Sense ; to be ready to excuse or mitigate Men's Faults, or to stifle and conceal them, where the Discovery of them ferves to no good End; to turn the Best Side of