« AnteriorContinuar »
land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”* And in another passage of their statute law, they are commanded to follow the divine pattern which was set before them : “ For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward : he doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger.” + Now, by the stranger, we must understand, every one to whom the Great Parent of all flesh extendeth the bounties of his providence ; that is, the whole human family whom he feeds and clothes. Besides, the word " neighbour” occurs twice in the moral law-in the ninth and tenth commandments, where we are forbidden to “bear false witness against” him on the one hand, and to “ covet any thing that is his” on the other. Now, surely this cannot mean only such persons as were of their own country or religious profession; for every human being is entitled to justice, whatever be his faith or his nation. Had they, therefore, understood their own laws, they would have seen that they were required to love all mankind.
But their principal error lay, not in limiting the term “ neighbour” to Judea and Judaism ; but in supposing that they were authorized to “ hate their enemies," by which they meant, all men who were not Jews by birth or proselytism. There is, however, no such precept in their law, as, that any individual of the human family should be hated : the very contrary is the fact. Let us hear what their sacred writings express on this subject : “ If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and
• Lev. xix. 33, 34.
† Deut. x. 17--19.
wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.”* Hence it appears, that they were to be kind even to the beast of a man whom they esteemed an enemy. But this is not all. In other places of their scriptures, they were commanded to be charitable to their enemies : “ If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.”+ So, likewise, " Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth; and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: lest the Lord see it, and it displease him.”† The recorded conduct of some, eminent believers is in perfect agreement with these directions. Thus saith Job: If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him: neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.”'S The words imply the sin he should have committed, if he had been thus guilty. David also behaved with meekness towards his adversaries : “
Yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy." || Now, with these precepts in their view, and with these examples before them for their guidance, it seems impossible that they could ever have concluded, that they were to “ hate their enemies." I know that, in their political character, they were frequently commanded to make no peace and form no alliance with idolatrous nations ; such, for instance, as the Canaanites, with whom they were prohibited from making any covenant, and to whom they were to show no mercy. But these were exceptions to the rule, and afforded no just ground for the indulgence of malignant passions towards others. So far from these special cases giving any countenance to rancorous feeling, they are a strong argument against it. For they show the Jews this fact, that these were peculiar
instances of hostility; and that unless they were distinctly bidden, they were not allowed by the Almighty to cherish the least particle of it in their bosoms. The whole, therefore, of the precept, “thou shalt hate thine enemy," appears to have been an unauthorized and wicked comment of their own : and their history too plainly evinces, that they did not suffer this wretched law to grow obsolete, for they carried their contempt of all other nations to the utmost limit of bitterness and hatred. But whatever may have been the Jewish law, we are at po loss to determine our duty by the law of Christ, which I shall now endeavour to set before you. Let us therefore notice,
II. THE CLEAR AND POSITIVE DIRECTION WHICH THE TEXT GIVES US.
“ But I say unto you, love your enemies." Strange commandment! Who can love an adversary? To love a man who has done us service, is a dictate of nature, and wicked men may obey it; to oblige an individual who has never done us wrong, humanity might teach us; but to extend kindness to those who have bitterly opposed us, and who continue to seek our hurt --who can perform this? But this is Christianity, and also the law of Christ, which we are bound to obey. Let us, therefore, enquire, to whom this love of benevolence is to be shown; and in what manner it is to be exemplified.
First. To whom is this love to be shown ? The text replies, to an “enemy.” It is not enough that we love our kindred, connections, familiar acquaintance, and benefactors, with all others that belong to our party, or live in the same place; but all men-strangers, foreigners, heathens, enemies. There is no limitation, exception, or restriction: and, therefore, our Lord proceeds to explain whom he intends by this term.—They are such as curse us. The word means a solemn imprecation of evil on another : an execration of his name. This
be done by discourse ; but the probability is, that our Lord was now beginning to prepare the minds of his disciples for those excommunications and anathemas which they would receive from their persecutors. Looking forward to the time when they would be required to plead his cause before their bitter enemies, he had present to his mind's eye, the hard and cruel usage they would encounter from their councils and ecclesiastical assemblies; and we may view it, therefore, as a kind of indirect intimation of the treatment they would endure in this ungodly world. Next, he describes them to be such as hate us,--persons who envy our happiness, abhor our persons and conduct, and wish us evil. And, last of all, they who despitefully use us, and persecute us.—These are men who do us injury, either by abusive language, or injurious actions. Put all these terms together, and let the spirit of execration, malignity, insolence, and oppression, dwell in the breast of any one individual against you, and a more finished portraiture of an enemy it seems impossible to conceive. Ah! depraved indeed must our nature be, or it could not be capable of such ferocity as this. Yet the existence of such savage and fiend-like passions, hath been often developed in the breast of man !
Secondly. The way in which they are to be treated.“ Love your enemies.” But how? Not with the love of tender attachment and complacency, as we do our most intimate friend,—this is impossible. Surely we are not required to divulge the secrets of our bosom before them, or delight in their society. Our Lord loved his enemies, but he did not make them his peculiar friends and companions: that was the high privilege alone of those who loved him. The law commanded the Jews to love their neighbour as themselves; and from hence we may infer, that, by the exhortation before us, we are to love our enemies accord
ing to the same measure, with a love of beneficence, kindness, and good-will: ready to do them any service in our power, and promote their welfare as far as we have opportunity. It is, in fact, a cordial desire to render them all the good we can, both as to time and degree.
A reference to what precedes, as well as what follows, this divine command, will serve to explain it. The Saviour has been delivering some strictures on the Jewish law of murder and revenge; and he gives us sublime advice as to our spirit therein. The passage before us is a counterdirection to the motions and doctrines of the Pharisees on these points. Thus, instead of cherishing anger, we are to cultivate love; and in the place of revenge, we are to show forgiveness and benevolence. We are to return “ good for evil,” and reward hatred with kindness. All groundless suspicions, all bitter thoughts and uncharitable opinions, all revengeful feeling and vindictive resentment, all virulence and malice,-must be suppressed. There must be, likewise, a forgetfulness of injuries—a moral obliteration of all remembrance of unkindness and harm. How often we hear it said, “ I forgive, but I shall not forget my enemy.” Do they who use such language mean, that, although they pass over the offence now, they will remember to visit it on the offender at a future time? Or do they intend, by such an observation, that they will do him neither barm or good-pardon his fault, but recollect its commission? Better avow the rancour of the heart at once, than attempt to smother it by such an unchristian profession. The postponement of the execution of your unforgiving determination, painfully deepens the colour of the crime, by making it the more deliberate. Anger may be kindled for a moment in the breast of the wise, but it will only “rest in the bosom of a fool.” It is recorded of the disciples of Pythagoras, an ancient philosopher, who lived upwards of five hundred years before Christ, that if