J.C. Ryle on Charity:
The charity of the Bible does not consist in never disapproving anybody’s conduct. Here is another very common delusion! Thousands pride themselves on never condemning others, or calling them wrong, whatever they may do. They convert the precept of our Lord, “Judge not,” into an excuse for having no unfavourable opinion at all of anybody. They pervert His prohibition of rash and censorious judgments into a prohibition of all judgments whatsoever. Your neighbour may be a drunkard, a liar, a Sabbath-breaker, a passionate man. Never mind! “It is not charity,” they tell you, “to pronounce him wrong.” You are to believe he has a good heart at bottom! This idea of charity is, unhappily, a very common one. It is full of mischief. To throw a veil over sin, and to refuse to call things by their right names–to talk of “hearts” being good when lives are flatly wrong—to shut our eyes against wickedness, and say smooth things of immorality—this is not Scriptural charity
The charity of the Bible does not consist in never disapproving anybody’s religious opinions. Here is another most serious and growing delusion. There are many who pride themselves on never pronouncing others mistaken, whatever views they may hold. Your neighbour, forsooth, may be an Arian, or a Socinian, a Roman Catholic, or a Mormon, a Deist or Skeptic, a mere Formalist or a thorough Antinomian, but the “charity” of many says that you have no right to think him wrong! If he is sincere, it is “uncharitable” to think unfavourably of his spiritual condition! From such charity may I ever be delivered!
At this rate the Apostles were wrong in going out to preach to the Gentiles! At this rate there is no use in missions! At this rate we had better close our Bibles and shut up our churches! Everybody is right and nobody is wrong! Everybody is going to heaven and nobody is going to hell! Such charity is a monstrous caricature. To say that all are equally right in their opinions, though their opinions flatly contradict one another—to say that all are equally in the way to heaven, though their doctrinal sentiments are as opposite as black and white—this is not Scriptural charity.
Charity like this pours contempt on the Bible, and talks as if God had not given us a written test of truth. Charity like this confuses all our notions of heaven, and would fill it with a discordant, inharmonious rabble. True charity does not think everybody right in doctrine. True charity cries, “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not” (2 John 10).
I leave the negative side of the question here. I have dwelt upon it at some length because of the days in which we live and the strange notions which abound. Let me now turn to the positive side. Having shown what charity is not, let me now show what it is.
Charity is that “love” which St. Paul places first among those fruits which the Spirit causes to be brought forth in the heart of a believer. “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22). Love to God, such as Adam had before the fall, is its first feature. He that has charity desires to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength. Love to man is its second feature. He that has charity desires to love his neighbour as himself. This is indeed that view in which the word “charity” in Scripture is more especially regarded. When I speak of a believer having “love” in his heart, I mean that he has love to both God and man. When I speak of a believer having “charity,” I mean more particularly that he has love to man.
The charity of the Bible will show itself in a believer’s doings. It will make him ready to do kind acts to everyone within his reach–both to their bodies and souls. It will not let him be content with soft words and kind wishes. It will make him diligent in doing all that lies in his power to lessen the sorrow and increase the happiness of others. Like his Master, he will care more for ministering than for being ministered to, and will look for nothing in return. Like his Master’s great apostle, he will very willingly “spend and be spent” for others, even though they repay him with hatred, and not with love. True charity does not want wages. Its work is its reward.