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S E R MO N IV. .171
them can neither be Required by the Law of Charity, nor Consistent with it:
Indeed a Mutual Good Opinion amongst men is so Agreeable, and Lovely, and Desirable, and, in Most casses so Necessary, that we should be exceeding Cautious of sailing in it, or Diminution of it; that we should be to the Utmost Careful of Preserving and Defending it, as long as ever there is the least Foundation for it to stand on, and, that we should be heartily Grieved and Afflicted, when, in any Instance, it must of Necessity be excluded.
Many other branches of Charity are Necessary duties, even towards the Worst of men, whether in respect of Faith or Manners. We are Indispensably bound, most Sincerely and Affectionately to Commiserate their Condition; to weep and mourn- for the manifest Danger they are in, though they Themselves are not sensible of it; to offer up our most Ardent prayers to God, for their Conversion, and, to contribute towards that Conversion, according to our Capacities and Op
portunities. But still we May, and Ought to be thus Affected to them, without running into an Approbation of them. Habitual and Notorious Sinners have no more Right to our Intire Good Opiniony than to our Imitation of them. For Charity does not Oblige us to Abandon Common Sense; and our Blessed Lord, the Perfect Pattern of Charity hath taught us, that the tree is known by his fruit. Nor can it ever Consist with Charity, which ever Implies an Intire Love ofGod, Throughly to Approve of His Open Enemies.
And the casse is much the same, in respect of Those who Offend against the Rules of Belief, as of Thofe who break in upon the Rules of Æton. But of some have Compassion, mating a Difference. Charity will not suffer any one to throw off a Good Opinion of Thofe, who, though they be Attempted, and Shaken, and become Weak in Faith, by the Insinuations and Artifice of Deceivers, have not yet cast off their First faith, but appear Modest, and Humble, and Tractable, and Desirous to come unto the know
SERMON IV. '173
ledge of the Truth. But is any man takes up Heretical opinions, in Opposition to the Mysteries plainly proposed to our Belief in the Scripture, and remains Obstinate and Perverse, and Incorrigible in the Profession and Vindication of such his Opinions, and in the' Disbelief and Difavowance of those Mysteries, which God hath required us to Believe; we are no more obliged, by the Law of Charity*, to entertain an Intire Good Opinion of him, than we are by the Rule of Faiths to become Unbelievers with him.
We cannot Avoid thinking, though we cannot be Easy under the Thought, that men are Infidels, when they Profess themselves to be so: And Charity, which always supposeth a Stedsast Faith, and an Inviolable Love of God, and of the Truth, can never Consist with a . Perfect Approbation of Thofe, who do Resolutely and Notoriously Disobey and Dishonour God, by Disbelieving, and RejeBing, and Opposing the Truths, which he Expreslly Requires them to Believe. And This, which is so Clear in it Self, appears under as Full a Light, in the
Scriptures, Scriptures.) the Rule of our Duty, in This,as* in every Other Particular. What 0pinion could St. Paul, so Eminent for his Charity, * and filled with the Holy Ghosts be supposed to have of Elymas the Sorcerer, when he thus Address'd himself to hini: 0 full of all Subtilty, and all Mischief thou Child of the Devil, thou Enemy of all righteousness! And what Opinion could our Blessed Saviour himself be supposed to have of the Corrupted Scribes and Pharisees, when he Denounced the severest Woes against them, and styled them, + Blind Guides and Hypocrites, Serpents and a Generation of Vipers. .
It will easily Appear, that there is no room for this notion, which is apt to arise from Good Nature, or, from a Worse Principle, in some mens minds, That we should still retain a Good Opinion of those, who Differ from us in matters of Judgment and Pure Belief, because in Heaven all Differences of Sentiments and Opinions will be Reconciled,
* Acts. xiii. 9, Io. t Matt. xxiii. 23, 24, 33.
and and all mens Thoughts, which, upon Earth were wont to Clash and Interfere, will be reduced to an intire Agreement. A Declaration of this kind, concerning mens Different opinions in this life, should not be made in General terms, but under some Distinctions and Restriction. For, though it be very plain, That mens Differences concerning things Temporal must cease with the Things themselves, and will not Debar them of God's Mercy, provided that such Differences be not attended, either with such Outward Behaviour, or such Inward Dispositions as are Forbid in the Gospels and, That mens Different Opinions concerning Those things of Religion^ which are Indifferent in their Nature., and are not become Necessary because Commanded by Proper Authority, are consistent with their Salvation: And, though it be Inconsistent with the Joys of Heaven > that there should be any Differences of Opinion There; yet This does not at all concern the Wretched cafe of those, who are Obstinate and Inflexible, in Disbelieving, and Contradicting, and Oppo