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DISSERTATION III.

ON THE DUTY OF JUDGING CANDIDLY AND FAVOURABLY OF OTHERS, AND OF HUMAN NATURE.

QUAM TEMERE IN NOSMET LEGEM SANCIMUS INIQUAM!

DISSERTATION III.

ON THE DUTY OF JUDGING CANDIDLY AND FAVOURABLY OF OTHERS, AND OF HUMAN NATURE.

1 COR. xiii. 5.

Charity thinketh no evil.

THE meaning which several commentators have given to these words is, that charity is not censorious, that it thinketh favourably of others when there is room for it, and thinketh not hardly of them, unless a manifest reason requires it: and in this sense I shall at present take them, without entering into other interpreta

tions.

In this sense they certainly represent to us a Christian duty, and we may boldly appeal to all the world, whether this be not an amiable disposition, and whether we should not be glad to find it in all those with whom we have any intercourse and acquaintance. And yet this part of charity, which consists in thinking no evil, hath not escaped censure, but hath been represented rather as an injudicious weakness than as a good quality. I shall produce the objection which hath

been made to it, and then show how weak, how foolish, and how wicked it is.

"The laws of Christian charity,' says this celebrated writer, which require us rather to give a favourable turn to the actions of our neighbour than an unfavourable one, are quite contrary to reason.

"For it is as certain as any thing can be, that man is infinitely more prone to evil than to good, and that there are infinitely more bad than good actions done in the world.

"It is therefore beyond degree more probable that an action is bad than that it is good, and that the secret motives which produce it are corrupted than that they are honest.

According then to the dictates of reason, if we know that a man hath done an action, and are ignorant of his motive and intent, we should judge it to be far more probable that he acts from bad than from good causes.

• And yet the laws of charity require that, unless we have a very probable evidence of the wickedness of an action, we should rather conclude it to be good than bad.

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Thus charity directs us to do just the contrary to the dictates of reason: and indeed this is not the only sacrifice which religion requires us to make of our reason "."

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a J'aurois bien des choses à dire, si je voulois examiner pourquoi les loix de la charité, qui nous engagent à donner plûtot un

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