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justice—the abhorrence of sin with pity to the sinner-and tenderness to an enemy with fidelity to God. And how exalted is its genius! It rises with majestic grandeur and benignity over Judaism; not, indeed, by opposing its design, but by enlarging, explaining, and purifying it of all the inconvenient and local ceremonies with which it was encumbered, and delivering it from the burdensome superstitions by which the degeneracy of the seed of Abraham had oppressed and perverted it. As is usual in the progress of error, the most unmeaning rites were held in the highest estimation, and the most salutary and equitable regulations converted to sinful ends. But the Son of God has condescended to teach us a purer system, --not destroying the spirit and tendency of the former, but completing and adorning it. And how reasonable and mild is its spirit! Wherefore was the law of retaliation given? It was a permissive measure, which the passions of the Jews rendered expedient. But it is hard to conceive of any man requiring the magistrate to inflict it, unless in the spirit of revenge. For what other design could he have, but the infliction of an injury on the aggressor? Supposing, in the observance of the law, the judge wounds the man that has wounded me-his wound would not heal mine, nor the striking out of his tooth restore mine to its place. But the gospel shows us, that we must endure the evil rather than return it. And hence we see how little of this religion there is among us! How frequently the claims of the gospel are pleaded in vain, even before wealthy professors of godliness! And how few have learnt to forgive, “ even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven them!" How many would resist the application of an old enemy for relief in his distress with utter indignation! Ah! this is not the Christianity we receive from Christ—it is any thing rather than the evangelical morality of the gospel. But, finally, how necessary is
dirine aid! Without it, we know nothing, enjoy nothing, and do nothing as we ought. Abuse not, however, the remark: I make it for the purpose of directing you to the source of all-sufficient strength, that you may become “ strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” that so ye may fulfil all his will and pleasure. “ If
“ If ye being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him."* Amen.
• Luke xi. 13.
MATTHEW v. 43–45.
“ YE HAVE HEARD THAT IT HATH BEEN SAID, THOU SHALT
LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR, AND HATE THINE ENEMY: BUT
“ The law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ.”* In these words the Evangelist puts the two dispensations in perfect contrast, not only as respects priority of introduction, and the authors by whom introduced, but also the peculiar character which belongs to each : the one was the symbol ; the other the blessing signified by it. In the pages of another inspired writer, we likewise read of the decided superiority of the latter above the former: “For even that which was made glorious, had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which was done away was glorious,
* John i. 17.
much more that which remaineth is glorious.”* But whence comes it to pass, that if both are from above, they are not of equal perfection? Can a system of religion, allowed to be the gift of God to his creatures, and delivered to them under circumstances of more than ordinary interest, bear any marks of defect? As it was of divine authority, it could not indeed have any positive imperfection belonging to it, but it must have been holy, just, and good. There was, however, a comparative imperfection attending it, and this appears in its limitation; its tenderness to the infirmities and perverseness of men; its silence respecting some parts of his duty; its adoption of expedients to meet the violent passions of the heart, as in the case of divorce; the locality of its operation, and the insufficiency of its provisions to meet the anxiety of the distressed, are so many instances of this truth. But no such imperfection can be discovered in the gospel of Christ: that neither allows the slightest deviation from the paths of rectitude, discovers any tenderness to sin, or shows the least indulgence to the unpliable dispositions of the sinner. It has, however, been sometimes affirmed, that the rigour of Moses disappears from Christ, and that the requisitions of the gospel are better adapted to human frailty ; but this is an error ;—the reverse is the truth, as the passage before us clearly demonstrates. Nor is this opposed to the grace that reigns in the gospel ; it is rather necessary to it. For as the “ Son of God was manifested to take away our sins," and as his “grace is sufficient” to transform the tiger to a lamb, there was an infinite propriety in enlarging to its utmost extent the rule of our duty, both to show the riches of the Redeemer's grace, and check the presumption which the human heart is but too ready to cherish.
* 2 Cor. ii. 10, 11.
These reflections are suggested by the sentiments of the words which I have now to explain. The Saviour, having removed the corruptions which the Scribes and Pharisees had introduced into the Jewish law of murder, adultery, perjury, and recenge, now rises to the height of Christian morality—the exercise of kindness and love to an enemy. “ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, love your enemies."
I. LET US CONSIDER THE PRECEPT TO WHICH OUR LORD REFERS.
II. THE POSITIVE DIRECTIONS WHICH HE GIVES US; AND,
III. THE POWERFUL MOTIVE HE ADDUCES FOR OUR OBEDIENCE.
I. THE PRECEPT TO WHICH OUR LORD REFERS.
It is taken from the law of Moses, and follows in course the subject of the preceding lecture : “ Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people; but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”* So far we have the same precept under both dispensations. But even here the Jews were in error. They confined the term “neighbour,” to those persons who were either of their nation, or religion, and overlooked the fact, that the Egyptians are called their neighbours,t and that they were commanded as such to love them. Let us hear the divine injunction on this point : “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you, shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the
• Lev. xix. 18.
+ Exod. xi. 2.