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So likewise with respect to another and a different precept which follows. 42. “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou
away.” This is a general exhortation to a charitable spirit and a liberal practice; but does not supersede discretion or discrimination. Literally followed, it would destroy first the morals, and then the welfare of the whole community. But St. Paul has prescribed the limits within which it should be practised, when he lays down a general maxim, condemning those who would abuse the liberality of their neighbour, that “every man shall eat his own bread ;” and that “ if any will not work, neither shall he eat."2 The divine ordinance is, that every man should be maintained by his own industry, and not depend upon the industry of others. If in the course of providence, a man's own industry should fail to support him, then the precept comes into operation, Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.
Why, then, we might ask, are such strong expressions used, if they are not to be followed in the letter, but in the spirit only ?
On the same principle as when a branch is bent strongly in one direction, we bend it as strongly in another, in order that it may be brought into that middle
which we intend it to retain. The natural disposition tends to revenge, to retaliation, to selfishness, to covetousness; and it is to be turned to submission, to forgiveness, to charity, to liberality, by setting before us, in striking instances, the conduct which is agreeable to our heavenly Father. There is little danger of our erring on the side of concession ; little danger of our becoming too bountiful, too ready to part with our own for the use of others.
It is certain, that expressions strong like these-resist not evil: let thy cloke be taken from thee: yield to those who compel thee unjustly: give to him that asketh thee~expressions like these would not be used, if the danger were not the other way, if our natural course would not take a very different direction, and lead us to be too impatient when suffering wrongfully, too eager to seek compensation, too tenacious in maintaining supposed rights, and too apt to look about for reasons why we should refuse to “ give to him that asketh.”
2 Thess. iii. 10–12.
Even when the natural disposition is controlled by divine grace, and the angry and selfish passions are kept in subjection; we shall find need for constant circumspection and earnest prayer, that our spirit may be“ peaceable, full of mercy and good fruits :” that our practice may be in conformity with the royal law, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them.”3
FORGIVENESS OF ENEMIES REQUIRED IN CHRISTIANS.
MATT. V, 43448.
43. “ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse yon,
do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully
use you, and persecute you ; 45. “ That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven :
for He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
The words, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, are found in Leviticus xix. 18. It would have been strange indeed, if the second clause, thou shalt hate thine enemy, had made a part of any general law pro
8 Ch. vii. 12.
ceeding from God. How little then were the Scribes and Pharisees to be trusted, who thus perverted divine truth by their traditions ! How truly were they called, " blind guides !” But I say unto you, love
enemies. This too is required in the Old Testament. “ If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. Our Lord points it out as the characteristic duty of his religion. He came not to destroy the moral rules which had been before laid down : but He restores the most important precepts of the law of Moses, which the Pharisees had either perverted, or kept out of view. He himself set the first example of the spirit which He here prescribes, when He prayed in behalf of those who had hurried Him to execution, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." His disciple Stephen followed Him with a similar petition, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.
It may be asked, perhaps, how can we comply with this precept? To love our friends is easy: but to love our enemies is unnatural. The answer is, that we must take means with ourselves to overcome the feelings of dislike, or the impulse of passion. We must not dwell upon the malice which others have shown: we must not make it the subject of discourse and complaint. We must call to mind all the excuses that may be found for them. We must, above all, pray for a forgiving spirit: pray that a sense of God's mercy, and of the goodness of Christ, may be so fixed and rooted in our hearts, that they may expand in love to all mankind. Thus ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. His children, renewed after his likeness. For this is the way in which God acts towards men; and therefore the way in which men ought to act towards one another. "God sends
1 Ex, xxi. 4, 5. 2 Luke xxiii. 34. 3 Acts vii. 60.
the blessings of his providence upon all; upon the just and the unjust : upon those that serve Him, and those that serve Him not. We have daily experience that He does, For what a spectacle is this world! In arms against God, their righteous governor ; refusing his laws, opposing his dominion. Even in a country like ours, so particularly enjoying the means of grace, how small is the number of those who really live to his glory! Every trifle amuses, employs, engages them, and God is forgotten. Worse still, He is defied : defied by open sin; by cursing ; by blasphemy; by transgression of his laws. Yet God, though“ strong," is
patient;" though“provoked every day,” He does not bring down that vengeance upon his enemies which they incur, or even call down upon themselves. He bears long with them: so long indeed, that men are emboldened to continue in their wickedness, instead of profiting by that mercy and long suffering, which ought to lead them to repentance.
"Sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily.” He “is not willing that any should perish :” and therefore He makes his sun to shine upon
the evil and
upon and sendeth rain upon the just and on the unjust. This thought should incline all Christians to bless those that persecute them, to pray for those who despitefully use them. A blessing often accompanies such a spirit of meekness: as was signally exemplified on an occasion which deserves to be recorded, when the simple prayer of a negro slave for his master, which the master unexpectedly overheard, was the means of converting his heart “from the power of Satan unto God.”
In all this, however, nothing unreasonable is required : we are not expected to cherish sentiments which it is impossible we should command. The natural inclination of man would lead him to pense evil for evil.” Against this the divine injunction is directed, and demands, that we “overcome evil with
good.” We are not enjoined to seek out our enemies as our chief companions ; but to be benevolent, instead of revengeful, towards them.
For, such again is the example set before us for imitation. Our Father which is in heaven maketh his sun to rise upon the evil and upon the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and on the unjust : He bestows his common and ordinary blessings upon all alike. But for his faithful servants, for the good, the just, He does this, and more also ; He has a greater treasure of mercies in store for them: for the promise is, “ If any man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” So the Christian loves all men, “honours all men,” as the creatures of his God, “ made in his own image;" but this does not hinder his especially loving those who are united to him by the peculiar ties of kindred, obligation, similar sentiments, or reciprocal affection. 46. “ For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do
not even the publicans the same ? 47. “ And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ?
Do not even the publicans so ? 48. “ Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven
is perfect.” This passage indisputably requires, that the sincere and earnest servants of Christ should be known from others by a different course of conduct. The publicans —those who professed nothing, and of whom nothing was expected, are ready to assist and benefit their friends and relations. And if the disciples of Christ were to do nothing more, for what purpose are they called, and justified, and sanctified? What proof is there that they have “put off the old man, and been renewed in the spirit of their mind”?
We are here reminded, how dangerous it is to make common practice a rule for ourselves. When the
4 John xiv, 23.