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SECT. V. A man that commits a sin by mistake may be accepted of God, but a hypocrite cannot.

THE condition of human nature is such, that a great many men (who, in other respects, are not the worst of men, and yet, either by bad education, or for want of teachers or books, which might bring them off from their errors; or because they have not capacity enough to understand the controversies amongst Christians, and to form a judgment of them), lead their lives, as it were, in utter darkness. Such persons, as they sincerely believe and obey what they are taught concerning the Christian religion, so far as their capacity reaches, are more the objects of compassion than of anger, considering the natural state of mankind. Their religion, indeed, is very lame and defective, and abounds with mistakes, but yet they themselves are very sincere. Wherefore it is highly probable that He, who does not reap where he has not sown, will, out of his abundant equity, pardon those who are in such circumstances; or certainly will inflict a much lighter punishment upon them.

But if we consider that there are men to be found who have not wanted either education or teachers, either books, or capacity to understand who have the best and who the worst side of the question in controversies of religion; and yet have followed the wrong side, only for the sake of the wealth, or pleasure, or honours, that attend them in this present life; we cannot but have great indignation against such men, nor can any one presume to excuse them, much less to defend such a purpose of life, without the most consummate impudence. Whence it is easy to apprehend, that if we ourselves, whose virtue is very imperfect, could not pardon such persons, how much more severe will the infinite justice of God be against those who have knowingly and designedly preferred a lie to the truth, for the sake of the frail and uncertain good things of this present life.

God, out of his abundant mercy, is ready to pardon such 289ignorance as does not proceed from vice; to pity our imperfect virtues; and to allow for the errors of such as are deceived; especially if there was no previous iniquity, nor no contempt of religion: but, as our Saviour assures us, he will never pardon those who, when they knew the truth, chose rather to profess a lie. We see that such a hypocrite as this is by no means acceptable to men; for nobody would choose a person for a friend, who, to gain any small advantage to himself, would trample under foot all the rights of ancient friendship. Whence it follows, front what has been said, that there is not a baser nor more dangerous piece of iniquity, than the crime of those who, in matters of the highest moment and concern, dissemble that which they really think is the best, and openly favour them who , are in the wrong. This is what reason itself teaches us, and what is confirmed by the Christian religion, and has the consent of all sects of Christians whatsoever.

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