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William Penn. (1644–1718). Fruits of Solitude.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Part II

Of Charity

281. Charity has various Senses, but is Excellent in all of them.

282. It imports; first, the Commiseration of the Poor, and Unhappy of Mankind, and extends an Helping-Hand to mend their Condition.

283. They that feel nothing of this, are at best not above half of Kin to Human Race; since they must have no Bowels, which makes such an Essential Part thereof, who have no more Nature.

284. A Man, and yet not have the Feeling of the Wants or Needs of his own Flesh and Blood! A Monster rather! And may he never be suffer’d to propagate such an unnatural Stock in the World.

285. Such an Uncharitableness spoils the best Gains, and two to one but it entails a Curse upon the Possessors.

286. Nor can we expect to be heard of God in our Prayers, that turn the deaf Ear to the Petitions of the Distressed amongst our fellow Creatures.

287. God sends the Poor to try us, as well as he tries them by being such: And he that refuses them a little out of the great deal that God has given him, Lays up Poverty in Store for his own Posterity.

288. I will not say these Works are Meritorious, but dare say they are Acceptable, and go not without their Reward: Tho’ to Humble us in our Fulness and Liberality too, we only Give but what is given us to Give as well as use; for if we are not our own, less is that so which God has intrusted us with.

289. Next, CHARITY makes the best Construction of Things and Persons, and is so far from being an evil Spy, a Back-biter, or a Detractor, that it excuses Weakness, extenuates Miscarriages, makes the best of every Thing; forgives every Body, serves All, and hopes to the End.

290. It moderates Extreams, is always for Expediences, labors to accommodate Differences, and had rather suffer than Revenge: And so far from Exacting the utmost Farthing, that it had rather lose than seek her Own Violently.

291. As it acts Freely, so, Zealously too; but ’t is always to do Good, for it hurts no Body.

292. An Universal Remedy against Discord, and an Holy Cement for Mankind.

293. And lastly, ’T is Love to God and the Brethren, which raises the Soul above all worldly Considerations; and, as it gives a Taste of Heaven upon Earth, so ’t is Heaven in the Fulness of it hereafter to the truly Charitable here.

294. This is the Noblest Sense Charity has, after which all should press, as that more Excellent Way.

295. Nay, most Excellent; for as Faith, Hope and Charity were the more Excellent Way that Great Apostle discovered to the Christians, (too apt to stick in Outward Gifts and Church Performances) so of that better Way he preferred Charity as the best Part, because it would out-last the rest, and abide for ever.

296. Wherefore a Man can never be a true and good Christian without Charity, even in the lowest Sense of it: And yet he may have that Part thereof, and still be none of the Apostle’s true Christian, since he tells us, That tho’ we should give all our Goods to the Poor, and want Charity (in her other and higher Senses) it would profit us nothing.

297. Nay, tho’ we had All Tongues, All Knowledge, and even Gifts of Prophesy, and were Preachers to others; ay, and had Zeal enough to give our Bodies to be burned, yet if we wanted Charity, it would not avail us for Salvation.

298. It seems it was his (and indeed ought to be our) Unum Necessarium, or the One Thing Needful, which our Saviour attributed to Mary in Preference to her Sister Martha, that seems not to have wanted the lesser Parts of Charity.

299. Would God this Divine Virtue were more implanted and diffused among Mankind, the Pretenders to Christianity especially, and we should certainly mind Piety more than Controversy, and Exercise Love and Compassion instead of Censuring and Persecuting one another in any Manner whatsoever.