At a Court holden at the Hospital of Bride­well, on Thursday the 16th. of August, 1694. being Election Day.


THat the Thanks of This Court be given to Mr. Atterbury for his Sermon on This Day, preach'd in the Chapel of This Hospital; and that He be Desired to Print the same.

J. Mount.

The Power of Charity to Cover Sin. A SERMON Preach'd before the President and Governors of Bridewell and Bethlehem, in BRIDEWELL-CHAPEL, August xvi. 1694. Being the ELECTION-DAY.

By FRANCIS ATTERBURY, Student of Christ-Church, and Chaplain in Ordinary to Their MAJESTIES.

LONDON, Printed by Tho. Warren, for Thomas Bennet, at the Half-Moon in St. Paul's Church-Yard, MDCXCIV.

The Power of Charity to cover Sin. A SERMON Preach'd at BRIDEWELL-CHAPEL. August 16th. 1694.

I St. PETER iv. viii.Charity shall cover a multitude of Sins.

GOD be thanked, the frequent Returns of such Pious Meetings as These in this Rich and Chari­table CITY, have made the General Argument of CHARITY, its Nature, and Chief Proper­ties, its several Grounds and Reasons, so well understood, that to Entertain You with a Discourse at Large, on That Subject, would be a very needless and useless Attempt. So many Eminent Pens have gone before in This Way, as have left it very difficult for those who come after, either to say any thing which They have not said, or not to say That much worse which They have.

Upon This Account; and because indeed I take General Discourses, for the most part, to be like Large Prospects, where the Eye is lost by the wide Compass it takes, and sees so many Things at once, that it sees nothing distinctly; I have chosen at present to point Your Thoughts onely on One Particular Property of This Great Vertue, which has been not often handled, I think; and even Then, not always well understood: It is That which the Apostle St. Peter pro­poses to Us in Those Few Words I have read to You,— Charity shall cover a multitude of Sins.

Few as They are, They will sufficiently employ our Thoughts at This Time, if we consider in the First place, the several Senses that have been given of 'em, and satisfie our selves, which of These it is that ought to be taken: If, Secondly, We free That One True Genuine Meaning of the Words from the Exceptions that lye against it. If, Thirdly, We establish the Truth laid down upon its Proper Grounds and Reasons. And if, Lastly, We make some few useful De­ductions from it. After this is done, the Little Time that is left will properly be spent in Applying what has been said more immediately to the Occasion of This Present As­sembly.

I. Charity shall cover a multitude of Sins.

There is scarce Any man, I believe, who hears These Words, that is not ready to frame to Himself This Sense of 'em; ‘That the Vertue of Charity is of so great Worth in the Sight of God, that Those Persons who possess and exercise it in any Eminent manner, are peculiarly Enti­tuled to the Divine Favour and Pardon, with regard to numberless Slips and Failings in Their Duty, which They may be Otherwise guilty of. This Great Christi­an Perfection, of which They are Masters, shall make many Little Imperfections to be over-look'd and unob­serv'd; it shall Cover a multitude of Sins.

This, I say, is the Account, which every man naturally gives himself of These Words, upon the First Hearing 'em; and it is for That very Reason probable, that This is the True and Genuine Account of 'em. For, supposing the Original Text to be well and clearly render'd in Our Version, It will, I am of opinion, by generally found, that That Sense of any Passage, which, after attending to the Force of the Words, and to their Coherence with what goes before, and what follows, First occurs to the Mind, is by much the Justest and Truest.

This has not however been always thought a Good Rule in the present Case. For several Pious and some Iu­dicious men, finding the Words, in their plain and familiar meaning, to carry somewhat a suspicious sound with 'em, and to border a little (as They Thought) on the Roman Catholic Doctrine of Works Meritorious, have therefore ta­ken some Pains to give a Different Interpretation of 'em.

I shall Offer First to Your View These mistaken Senses, ere I come to That which I think we should rely upon; because They certainly propose Clear and Apposite Truths to us, tho' perhaps not Truly arising from the Passage now before Us.

First then, the Words have been understood to contain an Account of that Particular Instance of Charity, which we call Good-Nature: by which we pass by little Slights and Injuries, interpret Things to the Best Sense, are not apt to Take or Return an Affront, not forward to Publish or Be­lieve an ill Report of any One: by which we turn our Eyes always toward the Best side of a man, and choose rather to look on his Vertues, than his Failures; and by which we constantly interpose our Good Offices, where-ever we Think They may be Serviceable, either to the composing Old Dif­ferences, or Preventing New Ones. And This Sense is grounded upon a suppos'd Relation there is between These [Page 4] Words in St. Peter, and Those in the Proverbs; Hate stir­reth up strife, but Love covereth all Sins.

Now, tho' indeed, in Our Translation, and in the Original Hebrew, as it Now stands, there is some Similitude between these Two Passages, yet in the Septuagint-Version, (from whence the Apostles usually Quoted) they are not so Like, as to make it probable that the One ought to be Expounded by the Other.

To strengthen, which Criticism, we may observe, that This Sense of the Words is by no means Full enough to bear the Weight of that Solemn Preface with which the Apostle introduces 'em: But above all things (says He, in the Words immediately before the Text) have fervent Charity among your selves: for Charity shall cover a multitude of Sins. If they were above all things to have Fervent Charity among themselves, it could not be for This Reason alone, because Charity would render 'em inoffensive towards Others, and not easie to be offended Themselves. For tho' This be a very good Degree of Vertue, and very fit to be enjoyn'd, because not frequently practis'd; yet can it not deserve that peculiar Emphasis and Stress that is here laid upon it. Espe­cially, if we consider it as succeeding the mention of those more important and necessary Duties to which the Apostle exhorts 'em in the preceding Verse, the being sober, and watching unto Prayer: Above all which, it cannot be sup­pos'd, that the Duty of conversing with one another ac­cording to the Rules of Humanity and Good-Nature should be enjoyn'd.

The Words therefore have, in the second place, been thus also interpreted. Charity shall cover a multitude of Sins, i. e. says the excellent Grotius; it will have a mighty Influence in reclaiming Sinners from the Errour of their Ways; the Consequence of which is, That the Sins of Men thus re­claim'd are pardon'd or cover'd. Charity, which is an ex­alted. Love of God and our Neighbour, will make us indu­strious [Page 5] in procuring Glory to the One, by the Salvation of the Other. It will create a mighty Zeal for the Interests of Vertue, and the Honour of the Gospel, and the Good of Souls; and it will run through all the Difficulties that lie in the way towards so good an End, with Readiness and Pleasure. It will not be frighten'd from making Attempts even on Those of the first Rank in Wickedness, the Worst and most Hardned of Men, because it knows that Their Re­volt from Sin to Vertue (if it can be compass'd) will be of mighty Consequence to Religion, and will probably draw whole Troops of Common Sinners along with it: The Sense They have of their Own Sins being cover'd, will make Them also eager, in their Turn, to cover those of Other Men.

This is a very Good and Pious Sense of the Words, but (I believe it will be allowed me) no very Easie and Natu­ral One: They must be rack'd before they can be brought to confess This Meaning. However it was what That Ju­dicious Person was led into by a Former Explication He had made of a Parallel Place in St. Iames; which I shall crave leave to produce at length, and to comment upon, because I take it to be the Key of the Text, which easily and readi­ly lets us into its True Meaning.

Brethren (says St. Iames at the Conclusion of his Epistle) f any One of You do Err from the Truth, and One Convert him, let him know, that he which converteh a Sinner from the Errour of his ways, shall save a Soul from Death, and shall hide a Mul­titude of Sins. He intended to shut up his Epistle with re­commending to 'em One of the most important and useful Vertues, That of endeavouring the Conversion and Refor­mation of Men. And He intended also to stir 'em up to the Exercise of That Vertue by the most powerful Motives he could think of: What are They? Why first, That He who converteth a Sinner from the Errour of his way, should consider that he saveth a Soul from Death; and then, se­condly [Page 6] and chiefly, That he shall [also] cover a multitude of Sins. Whose Sins? What those of the Converted Persons? Nay, but That is already express'd, and much more than that in the foregoing Motive, He shall save a Soul from Death: for surely the saving a Soul from Death, necessarily includes and presupposes the Remission of its Sins. It must then be meant, of His Sins who makes, and not of His who be­comes the Convert: And Thus indeed, this Last Clause car­ries a New Motive in it, distinct from That of the Former; and such an One as rises above it, and touches those more nearly to whom it is address'd; and was therefore sit to be propos'd in the Last place, and to be left as a sting in the Minds of Those to whom the Epistle was written. As if he had said at length, ‘Let Him know, that He shall, by This Means, not onely save a Soul from Death, (though This it self be a very Great and Desirable Thing) but shall also (which more nearly concerns him) secure to him­self on this account the Pardon of many Sins.’

Now the Words here of St. Iames are exactly the same with Those of St. Peter in my Text; and the Occasion up­on which They are introduc'd, and their Dependence on the Context is much the same in both Places; except only that They are used in my Text as a Motive to Charity in gene­ral, but in St. Iames, with regard only to One main and eminent Branch of it, the Conversion of Souls: What therefore St. Iames means by 'em, is meant also by St. Pe­ter: and therefore That most Obvious and Easie Sense, which I mention'd at the Entrance on This Discourse, is, in all probability, the Truest: And, as such, I shall take the Liberty here once again to repeat it. It is This, ‘That the Vertue of Charity is of so great Value in the sight of God, that They who possess and exercise it in any Eminent Manner, are peculiarly entit'led to the Divine Favour and Pardon, with regard to numberless Slips and Failings in Their Duty, which They may be [Page 7] Otherwise guilty of. This great Christian Perfection of which They are Masters, shall make many Little Im­perfections to be over-look'd and unobserv'd: It shall co­ver a multitude of Sins.

I fear I have been tedious in setling the Sense of the Words: but it was no more than was requisite, in so im­portant a Point, so little insisted on from the Pulpit; and which may be thought liable to some Just Exceptions.

II. These I am now in the second Place to propose, and shall endeavour to remove. The Doing of which will give me an Occasion of clearing the Sense, and limiting the Bounds of this Truth more exactly and fully.

The Great Exception against This way of Expounding the Text, is, that it gives too great a Colour to the Roman Catholic Doctrines of Merit and Supererogation; and seems to lessen the Worth of That Onely True and Proper Satis­faction for Sin made by our Saviour on the Cross. For, at This Rate, what need of Remission of Sin in every Case by the Blood of Christ, since We our selves are in Good Mea­sure capable of making the Atonement? We, who have it, it seems, in our power, by the Exercise of a Particular Ver­tue to secure a Pardon to our selves for Neglecting all the Rest; and can blot out the Remembrance of an Ill-spent Life, by a few Acts of Charity at the Close of it. As if God were so much beholden to us for our Good Deeds, as to be bound for Their sakes to forgive us our Ill Ones! Or, as if the Per­formance of Our Duty in One Case, could make any man­ner of Amends to Him for our Non-performance of it in Another! This, say They, is very Easie and Comfortable Divinity!

To take off the Force of This Objection, it will be re­quisite to consider these Two or Three several Things.

First, We must Explain our selves a little more particu­larly, what we mean by that Charity, to which the Promise [Page 8] of the Text is made; What it is in the Nature and Extent, and what in the Intention and Degree of it.

As to its Nature and Extent, it must be understood to signifie not barely Acts of Relief to the Poor and Needy, as the Vulgar and Confin'd Use of the Word imports; but more largely, all the several ways of Universal Benesicene and Kindness, by which one Man can be serviceable to an­other. Further, it expresses not the Outward Material Act onely, but must be suppos'd to take in also, the Vital Form of it, that Inward Principle of a Sincere Love towards God and Man, from whence it regularly slows, and separated from which, the meer external Act is a Lifeless and Useless Performance. And Then, even of Charity thus Largely un­derstood, it is not a Common Degree that is meant here; 'Tis to a Fervent Charity, to a mighty and extraordinary measure of it, that this mighty and extraordinary Blessing belongs.

Secondly, Even of Charity thus Qualify'd; it is not said, That it shall cover a multitude of Sins, how Gross and Hainous soever; The Words of the Text do by no means carry us to assert thus much concerning it: but only (as You have heard 'em Explain'd to You) seem to say, that it shall be our Excuse for many Lesser Neglects and Failings in our Duty, many Sins of Infirmity, Surprize, and Daily Incur­sion: In a word, for such Offences onely, as are consistent with a state of True Charity; and sure Those cannot be very Gross and Presumptuous Ones. For He, who lives in the Perfect Exercise of that Fervent Charity, which the Text speaks of, abounding Inwardly and Outwardly in all the various Instances and Expressions of it, and in those several Vertues and Graces which do naturally and necessarily attend it: I say, who ever he is, that is throughly possest and acted by this Divine Principle of Love, he cannot be sup­pos'd capable of the Grossest Commissions, while he is under the Guidance of it: And as for Those, he had fallen into be­fore the attainment of this Gift, They were certainly re­mitted [Page 9] also and cover'd before the attainment of it; else, doubtless, he had never attained it. So that no Great Guilt of any kind can well be thought to harbour in that Breast, where true Charity dwells.

Indeed, it is not universally certain, that when-ever God remits the Guilt of Sin, he remits the Punishment too, (The Temporal Punishment, I mean) For Wicked Men, upon their Return to Vertue, do not seldom find, to their Cost, that a Sin may be pardon'd, and yet all the Ill Consequences of it not prevented; and can therefore often trace the Steps of their Former Misdoings, in the several Evils of Life that afterward befall 'em. And in This Sense therefore it may be, and is probably true, that Charity shall cover many Sins, even of the first Magnitude; i.e. it shall prevent the Temporal Inflictions due to 'em, and often, even after Par­don obtain'd, following upon 'em: But it properly re­moves the Guilt onely of those Frailties and Infirmities of a lesser size, which can be thought consistent with a state of Charity. And therefore to except against the Doctrine laid down, as encouraging the Charitable Man to expect Remission of all manner of Sins, how great and how nume­rous soever, is to load it with a Difficulty which does not, and cannot belong to it. But

Thirdly, Even as to These slighter Omissions and Fail­ings, it is not pretended, that They are done away by Acts of Mercy and Charity in any sense, but what includes the Application of the Merits of our Saviour's Blood, the onely Fountain of Satisfaction for all Kind of Sins, for the Least as well as the Greatest. It is True indeed, that the Blood of Christ is that alone which expiates Sin: But This hin­ders not, but that God may make such and such Acts of Ours the Conditions and Grounds (as it were) of applying the Virtue of that Blood to us. And Thus Our Good Works, tho' they are not the Meritorious, yet may they become, if I may so speak, the Occasional Cause of Pardon [Page 10] and Grace to us. And if This be establishing the R. C. Doctrine of Salvation by Works, then has our Saviour Himself, I fear, establisht it, in that Divine Form of Prayer, in which he has taught us to say, Forgive Vs Our Trespasses, as We forgive Those that Trespass against Vs. As We forgive Those! i.e. Inasmuch as, on That very account (among Others) because we forgive Those that trespass against Us. Where we see the Exercise of One Great Instance of Cha­rity, Forgiveness of Enemies, is made the Ground of our asking and expecting Forgiveness from God.

Fourthly and Lastly, It follows not, that because so Vast a Recompence is promis'd to a Fervent Charity, that there­fore the Exercise of it is in the way of Supererogation, so that we might have let it alone without Fault or Blame. We may be strictly, and by the very Letter of the Law, oblig'd to it; and yet it may include so high a pitch and perfection of Vertue, and one so seldom attain'd, that God may think fit, where-ever it is attain'd, mightily to reward it; and to encourage us in doing our Duty in some One Great Point, by an assurance, that in many smaller Ones he will not be Extream to mark what is done amiss by us. Our Gracious Ma­ster deals with Us in This Case, as a Man oftentimes does with his Servant; If he be Trusty and Faithful to him in a Business of Great Concern and Moment, (tho' it be but his Duty to be so) yet shall That piece of Eminent Service ex­cuse a Thousand Neglects and Failings upon Other Oc­casions.

There is yet a Second Objection, tho' indeed so slight an One, as, after the Former has been remov'd, is scarce worth mentioning. It is taken from that Saying of our Saviour's, That They will Love much, to whom much has been for­given.— Just contrary to which the Text as expounded by Us, seems to say, That They who do love much, shall have much Forgiven 'em. But These Two Truths are easily re­concil'd. For it is not hard to understand, How That, which [Page 11] is the Cause of a Thing in One Respect, may be the Effect of it in another. And accordingly it may be very true, that He who is Forgiven much, will, for that very reason, Love much: And it may be as True, that He who thus Loveth much, because much hath been Forgiven him, shall, on that very account, have much more Forgiven him. 'Tis just the same Case as between Me and My Friend. I may passionate­ly love him, because he has pardon'd me the Great and Many Injuries I formerly did him, while we were at En­mity: And again, the Knowledge he has of my Love may incline him to pass over any Future Injuries I may happen to do him.

III. The Doctrine being thus fix'd at Large, and freed from Exception, I go on, as I propos'd, in the Third place, to enquire into the Grounds and Reasons of this Wondrous Efficacy, so particularly attributed to the Exercise of Cha­rity: For we read not that God has annexed this Promise to any Other Grace or Vertue of the Christian Life whatsoever, but to This onely, That it shall cover Sin; Of which These several Accounts may with some Probability be given.

First, That This was really a Fitter and Properer Re­turn to be made to Charity, than to any Other Vertue; be­cause it adjusts and proportions the Reward of Acting to the Act it self; and makes the Duty of Man towards God, and the Blessing of God upon the Performance of That Duty, to have a near Relation and Resemblance to One ano­ther. I explain my self Thus— The Chief Employment, the highest Point and Perfection of Charity is, to pass by the Offences and Injuries of Men; to pardon the Malice of our Enemies, and the Ingratitude of our Friends. To Him therefore that attains to this Heighth of Vertue, God has ve­ry aptly and suitably promis'd, that his Faults and Offences too shall be pardon'd: As he deals with his Neighbour, so will God deal with Him: Mercy shall be shew'd upon [Page 12] Him, who shews Mercy: If we forgive Other Men Their Trespasses, then will our Heavenly Father forgive Us Our Trespasses also.

There is, You see, here a strict Analogy betwixt the Re­ward annex'd, and one Great Instance of the Vertue en­joyn'd: which is God's Method of putting us in Mind of what we are to Doe, by his Promises as well as his Com­mands; and of exciting Us to endeavour after a Perfection, not easily attain'd, by assuring Us, that the Exercise of it, shall, in the very same kind, return doubly and trebly into our Own Bosome.

But, Secondly, the Good and Charitable Man is peculiarly entit'led to the Pardon of many Sins, because he is in a pe­culiar manner liable to incurr the Guilt of many: either from that Natural Frame and Make of his Mind, that dispo­ses him to this Vertue; or from the very Exercise of the Vertue it self. Charity is grafted always on Good-Nature, and a Sweetness of Disposition: which though it be a Tem­per of Mind very lovely and desireable; yet is it such an One, as in the Circumstances of our present Imperfect State has its Infirmities; and is what makes Conversation dange­rous to us in a World where we are surrounded with Tem­ptations. It hinders us from arming our selves with that obstinate Resolution of Mind, that stubborn incomplying Vertue, which is requisite to preserve a Man undefiled and blameless. It makes Us easie and yielding to Common Cu­stomes, and Receiv'd Opinions; Ready to comply with a Thousand things (of which we are not exactly well satis­fied) upon the pure score of good Nature, and because we cannot allow our selves to be troublesome. And being found and known to be of this Easie and Complying Temper, This very thing will invite Ill Spirits, and Ill Men, to make their Attempts upon us.

And then the Exercise of the Vertue it self, especially where the Principle of it is strong, lays us open to several [Page 13] Failings. It makes us omit oftentimes the Duties incum­bent on us from our Professions and Callings; and perhaps neglect to take care of Those, whom it is the First Point of Charity to take care of, our Children and Families. It warms us with such a Zeal for doing Good, as breaks out sometimes into Acts, not reconcileable to the Rules of Dis­cretion, Decency, and Right Reason; and which do real Dis-service to the Cause of God, instead of promoting the Honour of it. St. Francis's Charity went a little too far, when it employ'd it self upon Birds and Beasts; the Vertue was not at all beholden to him for being shew'd in such a Dress, as, instead of rendring it desireable in the Eyes of Men, made it look ridiculous. Indeed Love (the Spring Head of Charity) as it is the sweetest of All Passions, so is it One of the strongest too; and, if it have the Reins but once given to it, will go near to run away with its Rider: That is, If a Due Care be not taken of it, it will exalt our Fancy so high, and disorder it so much, as to put it out of the Reach and Rule of the Governing Powers of the Mind. And then what wild Work does there follow upon it! In­stead of Wise and Rational Ways of Beneficence, foolish Undertakings and unpracticable Designs! Instead of a man­ly and sober Form of Devotion, all the Extravagant Rants and silly Freaks of Enthusiasm! Witness the Lives of many a Good Saint to whom the Church of Rome has allowed a place in her Calendar. Finally, the Charitable Man, who Loves every thing, does not fail sometimes to Love his own Vertue too; I mean, that he is apt to over-rate the just Price of it, and too much to undervalue every thing else in comparison of it. A Man may be so much struck with the Beauty and Excellence of Charity, as to forget, that Faith al­so is a Vertue as well as That, and thereupon to make ship­wrack of it. Thus, I say, the Good and Merciful Man being particularly dispos'd toward some Infirmities, is a par­ticularity comforted with a Gracious Assurance of their Par­don.

Thirdly, God seems on purpose to have plac'd this Mark of Distinction upon Charity, to shew, us how tender and careful He is of Our Welfare; what Bowels of Love and Compassion he has for Us: Since That is His Favourite Vertue, the Vertue he chiefly delights in, and delights to reward, the Exercise of which is most sweet and comfort­able, most useful and advantageous to the Sons of Men. He design'd by This Convincing Instance of his Goodness to prove to us, that he was not an hard and rigorous Master, that enjoyn'd us Commands, for his Own sake, and purely for the pleasure of being Obey'd; but that his great Intention was to twist our Duty and our Happiness together: And therefore by how much more our Ease and Happiness was concern'd in the Practice of One Vertue than of that of an­other, so much stronger Tyes and Engagements to it was he resolv'd to lay upon us.

Fourthly, Charity is particularly available to procure a Re­mission of the Guilt of Sin, and a Relaxation of the Punish­ment due to it: because it particularly engages the Prayers of all Good Men, in our Behalf; and of all Those Persons to whom the Instances of our Goodness extend. A Kind and Beneficent Man as He is a Common Blessing to Every Bo­dy, so is He blest in Common by Every One that knows him: All Men are ready to Implore the Mercies of God, Spiritual and Temporal, upon the Merciful-minded; espe­cially the Poor and Miserable, (whose Prayers God has in a particular manner promis'd to hear) are constant and earnest Intercessors at the Throne of Grace for him. So that, whereas the Possessors of other Vertues stand chiefly upon Their Own Bottom for the obtaining Pardon and Grace, Every Man almost becomes a Supplicant for the Merciful and Liberal: And no wonder therefore if such United Re­quests prevail. But

Fifthly, and principally, God has made This Promise to Charity, and to no Other Grace of the Christian Life, because it is really the chief and most Excellent of Graces: and the [Page 15] most Excellent Thing ought to have the most Excellent Re­ward. It is the first Perfection of the Mind, preferable to Faith and Hope, in Dignity, in Use, and in the Length of its Duration, as St. Paul has taught us to reason concerning it. It is call'd the Great Commandment, the End of the Law, and the Fulfilling of the Law: and it is really what it is call'd. For where This Divine Grace is enjoy'd in any full and eminent measure, there no Moral Attainment of any kind, can be to­tally wanting. Charity is the Queen of Vertues, and the Rest are of Her Retinue and Train, as it were; constantly attend­ing on Her, appearing and disappearing with Her: and well therefore, as a Queen, is the invested by God with that Sovereign Prerogative, the Power of Covering Sin. It is Her Nature to be comprehensive of, and abounding in many Du­ties; and therefore is it Her Reward also to be a Skreen for many Failings. Charity is said in Scripture to establish a True Friendship, and to create a Real Likeness between God and Man: God passes by the Faults therefore of the Charitable, as a Friend does those of his Friend; and the Great Resemblance of the Divine Nature, that shines out in him, hides all Lesser Unlikenesses, and makes 'em not to be discern'd.

'Tis difficult to stop on so Noble a Subject; and yet more difficult to express ones self becomingly and well: The Tongues of Men and Angels, as they are said to be a Worth­less Gift, in comparison of Charity, so are They not All able to set out Half the Worth and Excellence of it. St. Paul has done something towards it, in the XIIIth. of the Ist. to the Corinthians, and to Him I refer You.

IV. It remains now that I should make Those Few In­ferences I intended from the Whole; and then direct All that has been said particularly upon the Occasion of this Present Assembly. And

First, The Truth we have been upon suggests to us One Argument against Their Opinion, who hold Iustification, and all the Graces of the Gospel to be conveyed to us by Faith [Page 16] alone; in such a sense as excludes any manner of Regard to be had to our Works in it. For if Justification be a putting a Man into a state of Favour with God by remission of Sin, and Acts of Charity be Works, then do Works contribute to Justification. This Point goes generally for a Speculative Nicety, not worth insisting upon: But sure They who think it so, have not well consider'd, what Influence it has experimentally had upon Practice and a Good Life, in many of its Assertors. Some Spiritual Libertines of the Antinomian Way, have by it undermin'd the very Design of the Gospel; and set us free from the Necessity of being Pious, Just, or Good, in any other Principle, but that of pure Gratitude onely. And in Those who do not go to these Mad Heighths, yet the Perswasions They have about Justifying Faith, are observ'd mightily to lessen their Esteem for Good Works: and from esteeming them less, to come to practice 'em less, God knows, is a very Easie step, and almost an unavoidable One! Witness the Celebrated Institutions of a Great Divine, where Faith is the solemn Subject of every Page, but Charity scarce mention'd at all, never insisted on: And accordingly as Charity is little mention'd there, so are the Rules of it little observ'd; which do not, I think, at all consist with a bitter invective way of Writing.

Which leads me to a

Second Inference also, That if a Spirit of Charity shall co­ver a multitude of Sins, then may we assure our selves, that the contrary Temper, a Spirit of Hatred, Malignity, and Ill Will, shall cover a multitude of Vertues; i.e. They shall be no Vertues to Him that has 'em: Neither God nor Man shall regard 'em as such, if Charity does not Crown 'em. Charity covers many Sins, because it is so noble and so ex­cellent a Vertue: What Vertue then beyond this can there be found, of price enough, to cover the Sin of Unchari­tableness?

Thirdly, From the Promise made in the Text, We may learn the wondrous Goodness and Condescention of God. [Page 17] He has a right to all the highest Instances and Degrees of Vertue that it is possible for us to put on; and when we have practis'd 'em to the utmost, we have done but what we were strictly oblig'd to do: And yet so far he is pleas'd to abate of this Right, as to accept the Performance of One Great Duty in lieu of the Omission of many Others. An Act of Grace and Kindness which is enhans'd to Us, by consider­ing, that Reason never did or could make this known to the Heathen World; although the Gospel has now Reveal'd it to Us. Nay, remarkable it is, (as I observ'd to you before) that this Great Duty, which is to compensate as it were, for all Our Failings, is the most pleasant and delightful Employ­ment that belongs to us; the most agreeable to our Nature, and the most useful to our Fellow-Creatures. Let us not complain therefore of the strictness of the Rule we are to walk by, and of the Hardships, which in our Christian War­fare we are to undergo. The Rule is strict indeed,— but then, as Great Helps and Assistances are given us to live up to it, so great Abatements and Allowances (we see) are made at last, if we do not. There are indeed Difficulties to be undergone: But sure the Labour of Love is none of 'em.— That, as it makes a kind of Atonement to God for all the Faults we commit, so does it make an Amends to Us for all the Troubles we are at, in every other part of our Duty. It gives an Easiness to that Yoke, and a Lightness to that Bur­then which is laid upon us.

Fourthly and Lastly, If the Doctrine laid down be good, then have we in it the plainest and most quickning Motive in the World to the Exercise of this great Duty of Charity,— such an One, as exceeds the United Force of all the Argu­ments that ever were offer'd in this Case; and of whose Power if a Man can be insensible, all Other Motives will doubtless be lost upon him. The wise Son of Syrach thought he had made a reasonable Plea for Charity, when he said, Lay up Thy Treasure according to the Commandments of the most High, and it shall bring Thee more Profit than Gold. Shut up [Page 18] Alms in thy Storehouses, and it shall deliver Thee from All Af­fliction, It shall fight for Thee against Thine Enemies better than a mighty Shield, or a strong, Spear. But how Flat, and Cold, and Unmoving is All This, when compar'd with the Life and Energy that is in Those Few Words;—It shall cover a multitude of Sins!

This Motive indeed has been carry'd too far, and abus'd to ill Purposes by Men of another Communion, who, by the Help of it, have made the most Impure and Profligate Wretches hope for a General Forgiveness of all Their Sins, so They were but Liberal enough to the Church in their Wills; and setled such a Revenue upon it, as should make a Good Number of Holy Fathers think it worth their while to say Daily Masses for the Soul of the Depatred.

And how Gross a way soever This is of Expounding the Text, it has prov'd a very Gainful One to Those who made use of it; For perhaps half the Wealth of the C. of R. may justly be attributed to it. A strong Perswasion of the Truth of this Exposition, seems to have been that very Foundation­Stone, on which a very Great Part of Her Charitable Build­ings have been Erected.

The Ministers of the Reform'd Church indeed dare not go so far in inviting You to Works of Charity and Mercy: But This They dare, and do affirm,—That a true Principle of Charity, is that Qualification of Mind, which of all Others is most grateful and acceptable to God; and such as at the Day of Final Retribution He will have a Particular Regard to, so as to make no severe Scrutiny into that Man's Faults and Failings, who has Eminently Liv'd and Pra­ctis'd by it. And This They Think sufficiently intimated by Our Saviour's Account of the Process of that Day: Where the Onely Head of Inquiry he mentions, is, What Good and Charitable Deeds we have done to any of our Poor Brethren: Which implies thus much at least; That That will be the Chief Point upon which we shall be examin'd; and that Our Acquittal as to Neglects in Other Parts of Our Duty, will [Page 19] depend very much upon Our being able to give a good An­swer to it.

And I hope this Assurance it self, is a sufficient Encourage­ment to Charity, without Our needing to strain the Words of the Text to such a Gross Sense, as no Wise Man can be­lieve that they ought, and no Good Man would wish that they might be taken in.

V. There is indeed One Further Sense of the Words, than has Yet been mention'd; to which they may however be in­nocently and truly extended. They have been hitherto con­sider'd only as containing a Particular Promise to Particular Men: They may be understood also with regard to Those Blessings which Publick Charities procure on Publick States and Communities. For it is true also, that Acts of Charity shall Cover the Sins of Cities and Kingdoms, as well as Those of Private Men, if Cities and Kingdoms unanimous­ly agree to perform 'em.

Our Fathers, it is to be thought, were of This Opinion; and were powerfully acted and influenc'd by it, in erecting These Charitable Foundations.

They could not but see that the Wealth of the Church, though it was really grown too Great, and was by some Rich Lazy Orders in it scandalously employ'd; yet had been retrench'd, on This Account, beyond what needed: and had not been apply'd afterwards to any Religious or Publick Use; but was squander'd away for the most part upon Fa­vorites, and upon such as fell in with the Honest Zeal of Our First Reformers, not out of any Principle of Conscience, but the mere Design of enriching Themselves. The Sense of This, doubtless, affected deeply the Good and Pious Men of Those Times; and made them very Earnest and Active to procure some part of These Church-Spoils to be set aside to Charitable Uses: that Retribution, as it were, might, by This Means, be made to God, of what had been torn away in too Large Proportions from his Worship and Ser­vice: To speak plainly— that by a True Spirit of Charity [Page 20] Those Sins might be Cover'd, which a Spirit of Lust and Avarice, under the Pretence of Reforming the Abuses of Charity, had caus'd!

And These Endeavours of Theirs God bless'd so wonderfully, that some Millions of Money were, in a Few Years, contributed towards erecting and endowing in all Parts of our Country, Hospitals and Houses of Chari­ty. This sufficiently baffled the Caluminies, and stopp'd the Mouths of Our Adversaries of the Church of Rome; Who cry'd Us down, as Men that were Reforming away Good. Works, and turning all Religion into a Notional Faith. How Other Protestant Countries have freed Themselves from that Imputation I am not able to say: sure I am, Ours deli­ver'd it self so well of it, as to turn the Edge of the Objecti­on back upon the Church of Rome it self; that first manag'd it against us: For upon a Fair and Impartial Computation it appears, that there were Greater Expences upon Publick Works of Charity (such I mean as we are at present dis­coursing of) in Sixty Years after the Reformation, than had been in Five times that Number of Years, while Popery stood: some have added, than there were from the Conqu [...]st down to King Edward the Sixth; that Good and Excellent Prince, the Great Promoter and Encourager of These Works; and Who is not to be mention'd, without particular Ho­nour, in This House, which acknowledges him for Her Pious and Munificent Founder.

I cannot but observe to You here, that it was the Ruling Part of This Great City, with a Good Bishop of London, and Martyr for the Protestant Religion, at the Head of 'em, that Together stirr'd up that Young Prince to set upon so publick­spirited a Design. And it is natural for me also at the same Time to wish, that That Honourable Body may thus hear­tily always continue to join Their Endeavours and Interests with Those of Their Right Reverend Diocesan, in promoting Publick Charities, and Publick Blessings of any kind, either in Church or State.

Indeed it must always be remember'd, to the Honour of That Great Body, That as Her Foundations of Charity (such as we are speaking of) are larger, for ought I can find, than Those of any Other City in the Christian World; so They were All rais'd and endow'd, either directly by Her Own Members; or, if by Other Hands, yet at Her earnest and importunate Suit. So that the Fabricks and Revenues of This Kind, that belong to Her, are not onely (as in Other Parts) the Useful Ornaments of the Place, but so many standing Monuments also of the Great Piety, and Unparal­lell'd Bounty of Her Ancestours. It was They who sollici­ted the Cause of the Poor and the Infirm, the Lame and Wounded, the Vagrant and Lunatick, with so particular an Industry and Zeal, as had those Great and Blessed Effects, which we at This Day see and feel. A Zeal, never to be forgotten by Men! and which we hope God also will never forget! But, when he comes down to Visit for the many Ill Effects of Wealth misapplyed, will, for the sake of it, Vi­sit in Mercy; and consider the Multitude of Her Charities as well as That of Her Sins; Graciously allowing the One to be in some Measure a Cover to the Other!

But I have not Room to speak of All These Benefactions at large, and am call'd upon, by the Occasion of this Present Assembly, to say somewhat more particularly of Those of This Place.

I think it, by no means, a fit and decent thing to vye Charities, and to erect the Reputation of One upon the Ru­ines of That of another: This is, for the sake of Charity to forget the True Character, and Essential Properties of it; which are, as St. Paul tells us, to be kind, and not envy, not to vaunt it self, or be puffed up, not to behave it self unseemly. However, This, I think, I may say, with Modesty and Truth, to the Advantage of That Charity to which we be­long; That, though the Bottom of Wealth it stands on be not so Large as that of Others, yet is it in the Design of it so Comprehensive and Full, as not any where, I think, to be parallell'd.

Here are Supplies to Outward Want and Necessity liberally imparted; The Poor and Fatherless, not only taken Care of, but so bred up, as to be able to be useful to the Common­wealth, and perhaps to take care of many Others. Here Idle, Useless, (and therefore Necessitous) Persons are taught the Rest of Lessons, Labour; inur'd to it, and made aquaint­ed with it; and then sent out with such a Stock of Industry, as will do 'em more real Service than any Other Kind of Benefaction, if They will but make use of it and improve it.

Here, Loose Men and Women are reduc'd by wholsome Discipline, and Vagrants by Confinement: Punishment it self is made an Instrument of Mercy and Goodness; and as Meat is in some measure provided for the Belly, so is there a Rod for the Back of Fools. This Particular Instance of Charity would deserve to be enlarged on: It is a Noble and untrodden Subject; and may ask Your Patience, on some Other Occasion: But the Time to which I am confin'd, is now almost run out; and there are yet Other Instances be­hind to be Insisted on. For

Here, not only External Necessities are relieved, but Inward Wants also are supply'd; not Ill Manners only are out­wardly corrected, but Ill Dispositions also are better'd, Ill Minds reform'd. And One single Instance in this kind is not confin'd to the Person that receives the Benefit, but is a Real Piece of Service to an whole Community. It puts a stop to a spreading Plague; nay, it gets Ground upon it, by making Those, who have had the Infection, turn Physicians to Others, by their Example, and Future Good Manners.

Nay, Here, Men recover their Understandings as well as Their Vertues; that is, They recover Their Very Selves; and are made once again Members of the Rational Creation, able to See and Know their Duty, and to Guide themselves by that Knowledge of it; to pay once again their Rational S [...]vice to God, and to maintain a Civil Intercourse with Men.

And, on this Particular Head, that Worthy and Learned [Page 23] Person, deserves a Grateful mention, who has, by his Emi­nent Skill assisted the Hospital to be Charitable in This Way, to much greater Numbers of Lunaticks, than have been known to be Cur'd in Former Times.

So that this Great Receptacle of Miserable Objects of every kind, seems to be like that Medicinal Pool at Be­thesda, where there were Vertues proper for every Malady, all Infirmities were equally Cur'd in Those who had the Happiness to get into it. I can carry the Parallel no further, I thank God,— For the Prudence and Vigilance of its Governours, as it hitherto has, so, I question not, always will take Care, that (Contrary to what happen'd to the Impotent Man in That Story) They who have most need of the Pool, shall ever have the Happiness to get first into it. Impartiality is the Soul of Mercy as well as Justice; and adds Further Degrees of Use and Beauty to the most Useful and Beautiful Thing in the World.

To give You therefore the true Character of This Great Benefaction, in little—Charity is That which comprizes al­most all Kinds of Vertues; and This Foundation, That, which takes in almost all Sorts of Charities!

But tho' all the Chief kinds of Beneficence are here pur­su'd, yet many Miserable Objects in Each Kind are not possible to be reach'd, with that present Stock of Charity, which belongs either to This Hospital, or to all Her Other Rivals in This Labour of Love, put together. God open the Hands of the Rich, and direct the Hearts of the Mer­ciful, to build upon the Foundation Their Forefathers have laid; and to supply what is wanting, to compleat Their De­signs: Approving Themselves Thus, the True Heirs of their Piety and Bounty, as well as of their Wealth: Else, These Great Buildings and Endowments of Theirs, like the Vertuous Acts and Atchievements of the First Founders of Noble Families, will become a Reproach, rather than be an Honour, to a Degenerate and Worthless Posterity.

Consider with Your selves how God has blest this City for [Page 24] the sake of the mighty Works that have been done in Her— I say, for the sake of 'em.—For let a Man carry his Thoughts back to that Time, when these Good Designs were first set a foot and fram'd, and He shall find that from Thence the Rise and Growth of This City in Trade, Wealth, Interest, and Greatness, is precisely to be dated.

May it grow on in the same Proportion! and by the same Means also! That is, May there still be found such a Num­ber of Charitable Persons in it, as will Continue the Cha­racter that has hitherto belong'd to it; and by That means secure the Continuation of God's Blessings upon it. May Charity go on to have its Perfect Work, not Living meerly upon the Old Stock, not continuing at a stay, but Growing and Increasing still, as the Necessities of Some Men increase, and the Abilities of Others to Relieve 'em! And thus spread­ing it self to a wider Compass, it shall assuredly also procure a Greater Share of God's Mercies, and cover a greater Mul­titude of Our Sins.

That This may be the Case, the Good and Merciful God grant, through the Great Steward and Dispenser of his Mercies, Christ the Righteous! To whom with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, be ascrib'd, as is most due, all Honour, Adoration, and Praise; Now and Ever! Amen!


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