Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

are unhappily, both for him and for ourselves, become necessary. Nor can I see in all this any very extraordinary effort of generosity. To pride and rancour the effort may be very painful, but not to a well-disposed and a Christian mind. Enmity is frequently transient, and most commonly arises from ignorance, misconception, in regard to another's conduct and real character, and the intemperance of passion. Better information may remove the former, and the latter may be corrected and subdued by time and returning reason. How often has it happened that as friends have quarrelled, so enemies have at last contracted habits of friendship? Nothing, surely, can contribute so much to the return of peace, as not prosecuting enmity with virulence, or even with just rigour, retaining in the midst of it a disposition to do good to an adversary whenever we can with safety to ourselves, and not even fencing that safety with cowardly caution. By blessing them that curse us, we cannot be supposed to wish success to their malice and iniquity; for this would be to them a real curse; but to desire for them a reformation of their temper, and all the substantial blessings which result from virtue and piety. In this our own interest is nearly concerned. The good which we are required to do to them that hate us, can never be of that kind which would furnish them with the means of annoyance. For this, instead of a real benefit, would, by tending to foster their malice, be to them a fatal detriment. But the good required to be done, comprehends only the ordinary offices of humanity, and even those extraordinary acts of kindness which the extreme necessity of an enemy may demand. By such acts we evince the iniquity of his hatred, our own superiority to his malevolence, and our right to similar sentiments and conduct from him. We

We may thus disarm him, and if he still persist in his hostility, we prove to the rest of mankind how groundless it is, and by their approbation and concurrence with our side of the quarrel, provide security against his calumnies. and his attacks. Praying for them that despitefully use us and persecute us, we cannot be supposed to pray for the encouragement of spite, and the success of persecution, both of which are so contrary to the law of God and to the happiness of mankind, but for the cessation and complete amendment of the dispositions which dictate them, and produce all their horrid effects. By praying for such a happy change in our most virulent and cruel enemies and persecutors, we are immediately blessed in the temper which dictates the prayer, and if it is heard, we enjoy a second blessing in our external security and comfort. Hence, it appears that this injunction is, in all its parts, not only founded in the most elevated magnanimity, but is also most

conducive to the best interests of those who obey it. I cannot refrain from quoting, on this subject, a passage from Seneca, which, though expressed with much of the glittering point peculiar to that eminent writer, is both striking and just. “Is any one angry with you? Do thou challenge him with benefits. A quarrel, deserted by one of the parties, falls immediately to the ground. There can be no battle without a match. If both enter the lists, he is victor who first withdraws. He who has obtained the victory in the fight, has in fact been conquered. If your opponent hath struck you, retire. By returning the blow, you will furnish occasion for many succeeding ones, and an excuse for them. When

you

wish to be drawn back, it may not be in your power. Would any man desire to strike his enemy with such severity as to keep his hand in the wound, nor remove the impression from it when inflicted ? But such a weapon is anger: it cannot be plucked out."

When a heathen philosopher delivers such sen

a Irascitur aliquis ? tu contra beneficiis provoca. Cadit statim simultas ab altera parte deserta. Nisi par non pugnat. Si utrimque certabitur, ille est melior qui prior pedem retulit: victus est qui vicit. Percussit te ? recede. Referiendo enim, et occasionem sæpius feriendi dabis, et excusationem : non poteris revelli, cum voles. Numquid velit quisquam tam graviter hostem ferire, ut relinquat manum in vulnere, et se ab ictu revocare non possit? Atqui tale ira telum est: vix retrahitur. Seneca De Ira, lib. ii. c. 34.

timents, can a Christian consider his Saviour's precept to love our enemies, as either impracticable or too severe ?

III. The apostle, rising to the highest branch of human duty, which animates and rears the two others, declares that the grace of God, which bringeth salvation, dictates further, to live godlily. This branch comprehends all the duties of piety, or those which we owe to the Supreme Being. These are either internal or external. By the former are understood the opinions, sentiments, and affections, which we are bound to entertain in regard to the Deity; by the latter, the proper expressions of these in ordinary speech, in the offices of devotion, both public and private, and in the whole of our conduct. All these duties are prescribed even by natural religion, in as far as they result from the relation in which man stands to his Creator. But they are much more clearly unfolded, and more strongly enforced, by revelation, which has imparted to them a more engaging complexion, and a more marked and impressive aspect. For, by our religion, we are placed, in regard to the Supreme Being, 66 who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light,”a in a new and happy state. We are called out of the miserable condition of * aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, and of strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, into the city of the living God, and from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of his children and heirs ;" and, in consequence of “the Spirit of his Son, sent into our hearts,” are enabled to cry to our merciful and gracious Creator, Abba, Father ! From this blessed transition arise new duties toward God, which render piety infinitely more comprehensive, ennobling, and salutary, in its moral influence, than it could ever have been in a state of nature, even the best informed by science and literature; or ever was, under the Jewish dispensation, with its comparatively limited instruction.

a 1 Pet. ii. 9.

In order to live godlily, in the right sense of the expression, we must know God as he is discoverable either by the light of mere reason, or by the much brighter and more steady light of revelation. For, if we have no clear and accurate conceptions of his nature and attributes, it may be said of the worship which we offer to him, as our Saviour said to the woman of Samaria, “ Ye worship ye know not what. But the true worshippers must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father seeketh such to worship him in spirit and in truth.” b

b و

Å

Eph. ii. 12. Heb. xii. 22. Rom. viii. 21. Gal. iv. 6. b John iv. 22-24.

« НазадПродовжити »