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thrown by this conclufion, that where there is charity, there will not be a multitude of fins; and where there is a multitude of fins, 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, whose offences are covered by charity, and not to the charitable person, who grows rather indolent than happy through an excess of goods ness; 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, whilft others burn with resentment 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
any satisfaction. How happy'a condition will it be to be found at peace with ourselves and the world, when our great Master fummons us to appear! And who would not dread to be 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 affertion may still relate to the sins of others, and not to the fins of the charitable person. But what, you will say, may one man's fins be covered in the fight 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 do err from the truth, and one convert him ; let him know, that he which converteth the finner from the error of his way, shall fave a foul from death, and fall hide a multitude of fins. Where it is evident, that the fins to be covered are the sins of the soul to be saved from death; that is, the fins of the person converted from the error of his ways, and not the fins of the converter : and the doing so great a good to a brother, as the saving his soul, and hiding the multitude of his fins, is proposed as an incitement to every charitable person to. labour the conversion of a finner. Join other cases : It is very plain, how much fin and folly proceed from the mutual paffions of men labouring despitefully to vex and proyoke 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 fin against God. This the Prophet David saw and acknowledged in his own cafe, and blessed the happy instrument which prevented his hands from shedding blood. He had sworn in his wrath to destroy Nabal, and all his family with him ; but the wife of Nabal with gentle entreaties 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 Ifrael, which sent 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 faves him from the extravagancies which a warm opposition would hurry him into. And is it not a great encouragement to put on meekness and charity, fince by bearing with the light offences of our brethren against ourselves we may possibly save them from much greater offences against God, and be inftrumental 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 inftrumental charity is in covering the fins 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 own fins.
In the verse before the text the Apostle gives us this warning--The end of all things is at hand. To this folemn notice he subjoins a proper exhortation : Be
ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer; and above all things have fervent charity among yourselves. The reason of the latter part of this exhortation he gives in the words now under our confideration, For charity shall cover the multitude of fins. These things
laid together create a presumption, that the Apoftic might mean to instruct each man how to cover bis own fins, and to prevent the ill effects naturally to be feared from them, when the end of all things fhould coine. When we think of judgment, of whofe fins 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 fins but our own? Since therefore the Apostle calls on us to use the best means to cover the multitude of fins, in expectation of the great change that is at hand, whose fins 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 fins in the fight of God.
Befides, the exhortation to mutual charity being fubjoined immediately to the mention of prayer, may be a farther argument of St. Peter's intention to inftruct us how to hide our own offences. He well knew upon what condition our Lord had taught us to ask forgiveness of our fins : Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. This being the condition upon
pardon of God is promised, what have we to cover our sins in the sight of God without charity? that 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 farther : the nature and extent of charity confidered, there arises a farther argument to con
firm the charitable man in the hopes of pardon for his own transgressions ; for charity is the fulfilling of the law; it is the royal law, as St. James calls it, which whosoever fulfils shall do well. And in this view, St. Peter's advice, to have feruent charity, that it may cover the multitude of fins, is equivalent to Daniel's advice to Nebuchadnezzar : 0 King, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy fins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by Thewing mercy to the poor. Charity is indeed the breaking off of fin; 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 fins at the hands of God. But, to prevent mistakes in fo momentous a concern to ourselves, I beg leave to lay a few obfervations before you, which 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 li. cence for continuing in fin, nor gives any encouragement to hope for the pardon of fin, but upon repentance and amendment of life, we do but deceive 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 pala sages of Scripture, to the service of our inclin nations. You have seen. that the words. of the text. are capable of.diyers interpretations, and there.