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I COR. xiij. .7. Believeth all things, Hopeth all things, Endureth all things.
Go on to the next Property of Cha-
the former Property, so this also must be understood with some Limitation. Charity doth not absolutely believe all things without any
difference or distinction.
For First it doth not believe things that are apparently otherwise. It doth not believe things against clear and undeniable Evidence to the contrary:
2. Neither doth she believe where there are but greater and stronger probabilities to the contrary. In these Cases 'tis not the Property of Charity to believe. Because,
1. This were most Irrational. Charity is guided and led by the Light of right
Reason in all its actings; but it should be blind if it fhould believe against clear Evidence, or against stronger probabilities for the contrary to what the be lieves. There can be no obligation from Charity to such a blind and irrational belief.
2. In these Cases it were not only irrational but impossible to believe. For the understanding cannot but follow the Light and Evidence which it hath ; Ptis not in the power of any Man to offer violence to his own Reafon, and to be of such a belief only because he will. Well then, setting aside these cases, Charity believeth all things, that is, all things for the best, and as inclining toward the better part still. To the end we may the better understand how far this property of Charity extends, I shall endeavour to give you the whole Latitude and Compass of it in these ensuing particulars.
1. Where things that are Good or Evil concerning any Man, that tend to his Commendation or Disparagement, that concerns his Guilt or Innocency, are barely propounded, and nothing offered by way of Proof or Evidence, one way or t’other, there Charity be
lieves the best concerning every Man, till she sees reason for the contrary. Charity seeks not to raise Suspicions and Jealousies, nor sets a Mans Wits a-work to invent Reasons and Arguments to incline it to the worser part: but takes
things fairly as they lye before it, and " makes the best of them for the advantage of the party concerned.
2. Where things of this Nature are doubtfully propounded, where there are many Reasons and Probabilities for the one side and the other, and the
whole matter is almost equally poised, 1 or where 'tis hard to judge on which
fide the probabilities are greater, yet if there seem to be but the least advantage for the better fide, there Charity helps to turn the Scale that way, and inclines a Man to believe the best, till he be overpowered by Arguments for the contrary.
3. Even where there seems to be į greater probability for the worse than
the better, yet still Charity fhews its willingness to believe the best, and so in some Sense, I mean, in Affection and Desire believes it. And this its Affection and Desire to believe the best, it discovers several ways.
1. By being troubled that she sees not such full and clear grounds of such a belief, as she desires.
2. By suspending all peremptory and absolute determination of the business
, till further enquiry be made, and things be better cleared.
3. By being Heartily glad to see Reason to believe, and to find things cleared for the better fide. 4. Hoping things may
be cleared up better, which at present have an ill Face and too much appearance of that which Charity Heartily wilheth may be otherwise. This is the Nature of Charity; she believeth all things for the best where there is any tolerable grounds of belief, or any the least credibility in things;and where she cannot believe, she is troubled that she cannot, and desires to be rid of her disbelief, upon any justifiable grounds, or reasonable Terms.
To apply this briefly. Use. This also may further discover to us, how very small those measures of Charity are which we have arrived at. How should we blush to consider how little of this property of Charity is discoverable in us,
1. We are so far from believing all things that have any credibility in them, for the advantage of our Neighbour, so far from believing the best concerning him, that we most readily believe the very worst, and that upon the weakest and most uncertain grounds. Any idle Story or flying Report that tends to the Defamation and Reproach of our Neighbour, how ready are we to entertain it, and give credit to it ! Yea though it be against a Person whose Innocency and Integrity we never had the least Reason to question.
2. Where things are too apparently amiss, we are so far from being troubled that there should be any thing against him, the Evidence of the Truth whereof is such, that we cannot but believe it, that we seem to be glad that we have somewhat to charge him with, from which he cannot easily be cleared. We hug and cherish our belief of the truth of what he is charged with, and are unwilling to forgo it; and therefore we imploy our felves to pick up and scrape together Arguments by which we may be farther confirmed in our ill opinion of him, and by which we may confirm others therein. Are these practices the