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Condition, that no Indulgence, no Charter can be good, that wants this Clause.
Under these Limitations then, let us consider how far we may apply this sovereign Remedy of Charity to our own Sins.
We may consider our Sins as past, present, and to come. With respect to our past Sins, it is out of our Power to recall them: With respect to our present, it is in our Power to forsake them : With respect to those to come, it is in our Power to prevent or avoid them. To begin with the last : No Sort or Degree of Charity can so far vacate the Duties of Virtue and Religion, as to make it unnecessary for us to avoid the Occasions of Sin for the Time to come. To reform Mankind is the End of the Gospel; and it is the constant Call of God to us, speaking by the Voice of Nature and Revelation, That denying all Ungodliness, we should live righteously and soberly in this present World. It is absurd therefore to suppose, that either Nature or Revelation can dissolve our Obedience to God, or shew us a Way how we may safely give scope to Sin, and promise ourselves the Pleasures of Iniquity with Security. Nay, Charity itself, could it possibly entertain so malicious a Thought against God, as to lay
for itself an Opportunity of finning against God with Impunity, would cease to be Charity; and our very Remedy, so applied, would turn to Poison in our Hands.
Secondly, As to our present Sins: As it is in our Power, so it will ever be our Duty, to forsake them; and nothing can dispense with this Obligation. We must not therefore pretend to balance our Good and Evil together, and fondly imagine, that our Virtues do so far exceed our Iniquities, that we may safely enjoy them. Our Saviour tells us, that when we have done oyr utmost, we must say that we are unprofitable Şervants, Where then is our Claim to so much Merit and Righteousness, as may render it
for us to do less than our utmost, and may entitle us to the Reward of the Servants of God, whilst we wilfully continue the Seryants of Sin? Such a Pretence once allowed would render Repentance unnecessary, would vacate the Terms of the Gospel, and, by setting up one new Rennedy for Sin, would sender ineffectual all that ever Nature or Revelation prescribed.
Thirdly, As to our past Sins : It is not in our Power to recall them. Here therefore the Goodness of God has provided a
Remedy, that we may not perish everlastingly: This then is the only Case in which we have any Encouragement to seek for a Cover for our Sins. If we are indeed sincere in defiring to serve God and save ourselves, we may forsake our present Iniquities, and avoid them for the future; and therefore to propose After-remedies would be to encourage Sin : But, for our past Offences, we cannot recall them ; here therefore a Remedy is necessary, and here the Goodness of God has provided one. Repentance and Amendment of Life is the Remedy provided ; and since Charity is the Perfection of the Law, to forsake Sin, and to live by the Rules of Charity, is the surest, the most effectual Way to obtain Pardon. Under these Restraints let not the Sinner be discouraged in his Hopes, that Charity Mall cover the Multitude of Sins ; for his Hope shall be confirmed to him by Him, who is true and. faithful, and cannot deceive.
But even in this case there is need to guard against Mistakes : For, though returning to our Duty, and the Works of Charity, is the best Amends we can make for the Guilt of past Offences; yet Charity will not be accepted of God in lieu of Justice. If we
have injured and defrauded our Neighbour, our Debt to him will not be paid by Charity to another. An hundred Pounds given to the Poor will not atone for a thousand, nor even for an hundred, gained by Extortion or Oppreffion. We must do Justice before we pretend to be charitable, even in this Sense, and refund our wicked and ungodly Gains, before
Part of our Wealth can be made an acceptable Sacrifice to God. It is too common for Men to compound such Debts as these, and to imagine they fanctify their Extortion by laying out Part of it for the Glory of God, as they love to speak ; but it is the highest Infolence and Affront to God to think to bribe his Justice, and to obtain his Pardon, by such a Piece of Corruption
human Court would condemn. Go to any Court of Justice, tell them that you have by Fraud and Extortion got a thousand Pounds from one Man, but you are willing to give an hundred to another who is in great Want: What would they say to you? Would they not tell you,
your Charity was Hypocrisy, a Pretence to cover Iniquity? And shall not God judge righteously, who knows your Fraud, whether you will own
it, or not?
In a word : Charity will not atone for - Want of Justice. Owe no Man any Tbing, says the Apostle, but to love one another. First pay the Debts of Justice, and then think of Charity; at least, till the Debts of Justice are discharged, do not imagine that your Charity will cover the Multitude of Sins,