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the feelings towards the action, which the character of the action is suited to excite and to exercise. In other words, it leaves us at liberty to despise, or to detest the sin, while it forbids us to resist the sinner. But even with this limitation, is every kind of resistance, and under all circumstances, forbidden? He certainly resists evil, who in any case bears testimony to his own, or to the innocence of another. And what was the conduct of our Lord, when one of the Jewish officers struck him with the palm of his hand?" If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me ?” (John xviii. 23.) This was indeed the extent of our Lord's resistance. We behold him, through his ministry, followed, and watched, and as opportunity offered, persecuted by the envious, the jealous, and the malignant. We see him enduring all the insults and the cruelties of a mock trial. He is buffeted and scourged; for the sport of the multitude, invested with the badges of royalty; derided, and spit upon. Yet when reviled, he never reviles again; when suffering, he' never threatens; but commits himself to Him who judgeth righteously. Is this the law of christian forbearance? Is this a right interpretation of the precept, resist not evil?
There is nothing at once so unostentatious, and so imposing, as the morality of the gospel; its morality, I mean, fairly interpreted, and well
understood. We admire it in our Lord, and in his apostles; unless indeed, for such is the influence of habit,-even in this exhibition of it, it excites no strong emotions. But who dares to measure his own du̟ties by this exalted standard ? How distinct is it from the prevailing morality of the christian world! We mean not to indulge the language of cant; but we may ask, was the patience and forbearance of Jesus Christ greater, under the insults and injuries he received, than may reasonably be demanded, or than the spirit of his religion demands, of his disciples? Has he, or has he not, in these scenes of injury and of provocation, given us an example, that we should walk in his steps; that we should do, as he has done?
"The truth is," says Paley, and he will not be accused of cant, "there are two opposite descriptions of charatcer, under which mankind may generally be classed. The one possesses vigour, firmness, resolution; is daring and active, quick in its sensibilities, jealous of its fame, eager in its attachments, inflexible in its purpose, violent in its re
"The other is meek, yielding, complying, forgiving; willing to suffer; silent and gentle under rudeness and insult; suing for conciliation, where others would demand satisfaction; giving way to the pushes of impudence; conceding and indulgent to the prejudices, the wrongheaded
ness, the intractability of those with whom it has to deal.
The former of these characters is, and ever has been, the favourite of the world. Yet so it has happened, that, with the founder of christianity, this latter is the subject of his commendation, his precepts, his example; and that the former is so, in no part of its composition. This, and nothing else, is the character designed in the following remarkable passages. Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also ; and if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak aland whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Love your enemies; bless them that curse you ; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you. This certainly is not common place morality. It is very original. It shews at least, (and it is for this purpose we produce it,) that no two things can be more different than the heroic, and the christian character.
"If this disposition inculcated by Christ were universal, the case is clear, the world would be a society of friends. Whereas, if the contrary disposition were universal, it would produce a scene of universal contention. The world could not hold a generation of such men.
"If it be said that this disposition is unattainable, I answer, so is all perfection. But
ought therefore a moralist to recommend imperfections ? The instances cited by our Saviour in the text, are ratker to be understood as proverbial methods of describing the general duties of forgiveness and benevolence, and the temper we ought to aim at acquiring, then as directions to be specifically observed. specific compliance with the precepts would be indeed of little value; but the disposition which they inculcate is of the highest No one taught forgiveness and forbearance with a deeper sense of the obligations of these virtues, than did Paul. Yet he did not himself neglect the means of safety, and of self-defence. He took refuge in the laws of his country, and in the privileges of a Roman citizen, from a conspiracy of the Jews, (Acts xxv. 11.) and from the clandestine violence of the chief captain. (Acts xxii. 25.) But on one hand, christianity excludes all vindictive motives; it forbids every action, and every feeling of revenge. And on the other, a law suit is not inconsistent with the gospel, when it is instituted, "for establishing some important right. 2. For the procuring a compensation for some considerable damage. 3. For the preventing of future injury.” For in these cases, not only may it be,—and so it must be, -instituted without an emotion of resentment, but the institution of it may be indispensable to the cause of righte ousness and truth.
Ainsworth on Deut. xix.
The prohibitions of the Gospel for the good of Man.
And Mor: and Polit: philosophy. B. 3. ch: x.
21 and Exod; xxi. 25. Light foot and Grotius on the text. Paleys Evidences. P. 2. ch: ii.
THE PROHIBITIONS OF THE GOSPEL FOR THE GOOD' OF MAN.
"My yoke is easy and my burden light." Correspondent with this declaration of the blessed Saviour, is the assertion of the apostle Paul "Godliness, is profitable to all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.' And a. mong the innumerable ciroumstances, that recommend the christian religion to our favorable regard, this certainly ought not to be overlooked, that it happily accommodates itself to our condition in this world and has a natural tendency to confer joy and pleasure in this life, as well as immortal happiness in the life to
ment is never to be trusted unless we are acquainted with the subject on which we decide-and it is therefore indispensably requisite that men should be habituated to the government of religion, and imbibe its spirit before they can partake of its joys or have correct ideas of the happiness it is calculated to afford.
It is true the enemies of religion make a very different representation of this subject, and endeavor to persuade themselves and others, that the christian yoke is too galling and heavy to be imposed on the neck of any rational being.
Possibly men of corrupt habits and ungovernable passions may have felt themselves fully justified in entertaining these sentiments concerning the nature of religion, because they on some occasions felt its restraints to be tedious and burthensome.
But under such circumstances we affirm that they are wholly incapable of forming a correct decision. Our judge
A person who has been confined in total darkness during the whole period of his existence, would probably experience much more pain than pleasure, on being introduced to light-and yet we should all immediately pronounce him wholly incompetent to decide on the comparative pleasures of those different states, until his organs of vision had through long habit, become capable of the easy discharge of those offices for which they were originally created.'
The reasons are precisely similar why we should reject the opinions of men, who do not possess the spirit of the gospel, and yet decry its precepts as rigid and severeThey have never possessed that state of mind, or disposition that would enable them to participate in the joys of religion, and in direct opposition to their assertions are the declarations of Jesus Christ and his apostles, the wise and the good of every age and nation, that religion, so far from oppo
The prohibitions of the
sing, is in the highest degree friendly to our enjoyments in this life" that length of days is in her right hand, and in her left, riches and honour; that all her ways are pleasantness and all her paths are peace."
Gospel for the good of Man.
Notwithstanding the insinuations of its enemies, or the. unwarrantable representations of its mistaking friends, yet the yoke of christianity is incomparably easier, its burden is infinitely lighter, than those which the world imposes.This will be satisfactorily ap parent if we consider-That all those pursuits which christianity forbids, are injurious to our real happiness even in this life.
Those ancient philosophers, who confined their speculations to this present state of existence; and even Epicurus himself, the sole principle of whose philosophy was pleasure, strongly inculcated upon their disciples, the necessity of temperance and moderation. They taught that pleas ure, to be obtained, must not be sought with too much avidity; and to be long enjoyed, must be tasted with caution.
What philosophy recommended, christianity enjoins, and enjoins too with the most solemn sanctions, that we may thus obtain our highest happiTo be convinced of this let us view but for a moment, the progress of vice in either of its forms. Take for example intemperance-a vice, alas, as common as it is degrading. Its unhappy subject is at first secret and solitary in its indulgence-but conVol. VI. No. 10.
cealment soon becomes impossible-This fatal appetite, like a poison, that gradually pervades the system, obtains supreme dominion over his mind; it stifles all the feelings of nature, and breaks down the barriers of shame. In vain does he contemplate the dreadful consequences that threaten him; in vain does be resolve and re-resolve to stop in his career. The loss ofevery thing that tends to make existence desirable-the tears and distresses of his family and friends cannot check him. For these apprehensions and feelings become too horrible to be borne, and are drowned in deeper intoxication. His reputation is gradually blasted; his affairs disordered ; his constitution broken down ; he becomes an object of perpetual mortification and disgust to his friends, and he sinks prematurely into the grave-a prey to horror, despair, and the wretched victim of his own folly.
If there is any vice, that peculiarly degrades human nature, it is debauchery. It enervates at the same time, the body and mind. It entirely obliterates every elevated and benevolent sentiment, and makes its subject the slave of the most selfish and degrading appetites. What then are the enjoyments of a mind continually agitated by the most brutal and debasing passions, and sunk to the lowest point of infamy and degradation? ·
"Whenever the love of gaming becomes a passion," says Logan, "farewell to tran
306 The prohibitions of the Gospel for the good of Man.
quillity and virtue. Then succeed days of vanity, and nights of care; dissipation of life; corruption of manners; inattention to domestic affairs; arts of deceit, lying, cursing, and perjury. At a distance, poverty, with contempt at her heels, and in the rear of all, despair bringing a halter in her hand."
Does avarice confer a cheerful serenity to the mind; or does it cloud it with anxiety, and render it the sport of the conflicting passions of desire and fear?
Ambition seldom crowns its votaries with those honours which allured them to the race of worldly greatness. Envy is ever ready to blast their fairest expectations. The long wished for prize, which appeared just within their grasp, may be snatched. Men frequently appear to be caught up from the crowd by the whirlwind of popular favor, merely to render their fall more conspicuous and disgraceful. And after all his profusion of expense, of intrigue, of exertion and anxiety, the votary of worldly honours has usually the mortification to find at the close of life, that he has been running in an enchanted circle, and has just arrived at the precise point, from which he started in the commencement of his
Thus if we will consider any of those pursuits which religion forbids, we shall invariably discover, that they all terminate in disappointment or pain. At the precise point where religion interposes to check our pursuit, then our happiness ends and misery begins. The precepts of christianity never prohibit any enjoyment, unless that prohibition has a manifest tendency on the whole, to produce our greatest happiness, even in the present life. But our holy religion not only forbids
Are we not then much indebted to religion, which presents the most powerful restraints to indulgences so fatal? indulgences, which in prospect scarcely deceive, and in possession bring ruin and
But religion not only prohibits these vices but also a devotion or excessive attachment to any pleasure, however innocent it may be generally esteemed. A life devoted to frivolous amusements and unmarked by active duties is highly censured in the gospel
and if there be any of this description who may peruse this-we would ask, whether the intervals of amusement do not leave you a prey to listlessness and stupidity-whether your highest enjoyments are not embittered by some trifling circumstances; some petty competition, that disappoints and disturbs you; whether you are not frequently disgusted with your amusements and yourself; whether in fact you are not frequently reminded by your painful experience, that happiness is only to be found in quietness and composure, and is absolutely inconsistent with bustle and dissipation of mind ?