« AnteriorContinuar »
and never put yourselves in the “seat of the scorner.” Thus, by the divine blessing, you will “ adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things.”
Finally. This practical subject is of importance to all who profess the Christian name. To you, I say, be vigilant and circumspect. Your conduct is narrowly watched, and you are required to be examples to others. It were better for you to renounce the religion of this blessed book, and avow infidelity, than expose the dear name of the Redeemer to the contempt of the wicked. Wipe away the reproach which the profane may cast on you, by a holy conversation and an upright life. The world says of professors : “ although they will not swear, yet they will lie and deceive.” Live down, ye Christian masters, and servants, and children, this infamous slander, by the practice of obvious and unsuspecting integrity in all your words and deeds; and thus "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” And while you seek salvation through the cross, study to follow the unblemished example of Him who died upon it, and “ in whose lips there was no guile.” Amen.
Matthew v. 38-42.
“ YE HAVE HEARD THAT IT HATH BEEN SAID, AN EYE FOR
AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH: BUT I SAY UNTO
In these words our Saviour goes on to another branch of Christian duty, in which “our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.” There are some directions in the passage which I fear, through the depravity of our nature, and the deceitfulness of the heart, are generally unpalatable, even to professors. But to practice them will be the most certain road to true happiness : for, notwithstanding their unpopular character, they are eminently adapted to promote the well-being and peace of all men. Hitherto our Lord has principally spoken of those moral precepts, which are designed to restrain from the commission of sin, and which might be described in one word as “ prohibitions.” Now, he proceeds to the illustration and enforcement of such as have special respect to that “ love, which is the fulfilling of the law.” Thus early did He demonstrate the truth of the angelic annunciation, —“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
The words of my text contain an allusion to the Jewish law of retaliation; and, referring to its gross perversion by their learned doctors, the Saviour may be considered as speaking thus: “Ye have been told that personal injuries might be avenged by inflicting equal hurt on the aggressor -'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' It is true, that the magistrate beareth not the sword in vain, nor must he connive at sins, in any degree, which come within his jurisdiction to punish; but, notwithstanding, I forbid you all private revenge. Nor are you, for every slight offence, to seek reparation of your offending neighbour. I require you to forgive injuries, rather than resent them; to exceed the letter of charity, rather than come short of it; and even if the persons who have done you any disservice and unkindness, should become needy, and solicit either donations or loans, you are not to withhold your hand on account of their improper treatment of you." Admirable and generous morality! What a world will this become, when its spirit is diffused, and its maxims exemplified, through all the habitations of human life!
Favour me, therefore, with your particular attention, while I state,
I. THE LAW Of Moses AS IT WAS ORIGINALLY GIVEN.
II. THE PERVERSION OF THIS LAW BY THE JEWS; AND,
Luke ii. 14.
III. THE DIRECTIONS RELATIVE TO IT WHICH THB SAVIOUR DELIVERS.
I. THE LAW OF MOSES ON THE SUBJECT OF RETALIATION.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” And there are three places in the Old Testament where this doctrine is clearly laid down. The first case refers to violence: “And if any mischief follow: then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”* The second to justice: “And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast. And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour: as he hath done, so shall it be done to him: breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth : as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again. And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death. Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the Lord your God.”+ And, the third, to a false witness, who should endeavour, by an unjust deposition, to bring an innocent person to punishment. It was ordained, that he should suffer the very penalty which would have been inflicted on the accused, had he been convicted of the alleged offence. “ If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong.
Then both the men between whom the controversy is shall stand before the Lord, before the priests, and the judges, which shall be in those days; and the judges shall make diligent inquisition, and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and bath "testified falsely against his brother ; then shall ye do unto
• Exod. xxi. 23-25.
him as he had thought to have done unto his brother : so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity, but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”* This last verse is a direction to the magistrate, that he should not allow any “favour or affection ” to operate in his breast, to the ueglect of this law; but that he administer it faithfully whenever the case required it.
Now, from these passages, we learn three things relative to this law. The first is, that it was of divine authority. It came from the Supreme Governor of all things—the holy Lord God Almighty, and was the most ancient mode of punishing the guilty. The Greeks and the Romans adopted it, either from the Jews, or else, as some have conjectured, from observing the methods of Providence. Thus, when Simeon and Judah assembled their forces to complete the destruction of the Canaanites, “ they took Adonibezek prisoner, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes.” This extraordinary punishment reminded him of his cruelty towards those kings whom he had conquered and enslaved, and he uttered the remarkable confession “ Three score and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me.”+ The second circumstance is, that the law was exclusively to be inflicted by the judge. It was a divine direction to him, as to his duty, whenever a case came before him in his official character ; and no private individual was at liberty to strike out the eye, or the tooth of any one who had struck out his. There was to be a solemn and impartial investigation of the injury, and the punishment was in
* Deut. xix. 16--21.
+ Judges i. 7.