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CH A P. XV.
Of the loving of Enemies.
MATTH. V. 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48.
Te have heard, that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine
enemy. But I say unto you, 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. 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. Por if ye love them which love you, what
reward have ye? Do not even the publi
cans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do
you more than others? Do not even the pub
licans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father
which is in heaven is perfect.
HE foregoing paragraph, it may
be thought, has drawn out the duty of forT
giving of injuries to a mighty length : It obliges us to abstain from all retaliati
ons of evil in private; it forbids all violent and angry prosecutions in courts of law, and justice; it charges us to run the hazard of suffering many injuries one after another, rather than fence our felves against them, by a spirit of revenge; nay, it enjoins us so far to forget the evil that has been done us, as to relieve the injurious person, if he should afterwards fall into distress. One would be apt to think, that whosoever can do all this, acquits himself sufficiently as a generous Christian : And yet there is something more and higher expected from us, which the present paragraph requires. 'Tis not enough, it seems, that we forget what is past, and be ready to do good to an adverfary hereafter, as it may lie in our way: But even now, while the injury is a doing, while his malice has us actually in chase, while our good name lies bleeding fresh by his vile and venomous refections, and we are suffering every day by all the mischiefs he can do to our other interests; nay, and if his power and cruelty extend so far, even while our bodies are tormented, or our lives expiring by them; we must love and bless him, pray for him, and do him good; and this is the truc ftandard of 1 Christian's perfection in charity. Our Saviour takes occasion the rather to urge this, because of a popular and prevailing error amongst the Jews; who having read that their ancestors were commisfioned by God, as ministers of his justice, utterly to destroy the seven nations, that possessed the land of * Canaan before them; to blot out the remembrance of Amalek under heaven, and were discharged from secking the peace and prosperity of the Ammonites, and the Moabites, considered not that these were special cases, fixed by the divine command, and grounded upon reasons both of state and religion; but drew an inference very falfly from them to their own private and personal quarrels, and advanced it into a maxim, that though in general, they were to love their neighbours, yet they not only might, but ought to hate their enemies, especially such as were enemies to their law and worship. This their doctors taught with much aflurance, and the people received it with a malicious readiness, as being naturally violent and revengeful, But our Saviour here corrects their mistake; and requires his followers, on the contrary, to bchave themselves with the greatest meekness and beneficence to all that injure them, to pray for their enemies converfion, and to do them good, even tho' they are despitefully abused, and perfecuted by them at that instant, whether for religion, or for any private or personal cause.
* Deut. vii. 12, OC.
Deut. xxv. 19. Deut. xxiii. 3, 4.
6 Ye know (says he) that by the law, ye are « commanded to love your neighbours, a word, 66 which in its due extent and latitude comprises all “ mankind, and all mankind in general is really in« tended in it. But your doctors have distinguished
away the force of the precept, and narrowed " the signification of the word, to a fellowship “ in the same religion, civil polity, or private “ friendships, and in this sense teaching you to " love your neighbours, have falsly form'd an anti" thesis, that you may hate your enemy. On the
contrary, I tell you, that even the worst enemy ye
have is your neighbour, and whatever his religion, his country, or his usage of you be, ye
are bound to love him, even at the time that he “ is most injurious and abusive. Does he curse, or
« rail at you, and speak evil of you? Do ye in re“ turn with well to him, and lay all that ye can " justly say in commendation of him. Does he “ pursue you with implacable hatred, is he daily “ doing you all the mischief in his power, or does
he persecute you for the testimony of a good
conscience, with all the fury and cruelty that hell “ can inspire? Do all the personal good offices ye “ can to him upon all occasions; contrive to bene« fit him, as he does to injure you; pray earnestly " and every day to God for his good estate in this < world, and such a thorough conversion as may “ bring him happily to the next. By this ye will ma" nifelt yourselves to be the sons of God, whose pro“ vidence is equally exercised over all his creatures, “ not differencing in this present state of things, o the righteous from the wicked, but making his
fun to shine on the evil and on the good, and Csending rain on the just and on the unjust. For “ if your love reaches only to your friends, to “ those who are, or may be beneficial to you, what
reward can ye expect for this? Nature and self"interest prompt you to it, and even the Publi“ so much despise, can practise it. And if
ye be only respectful to those of your own fa“ mily or neighbourhood, common civility and
good manners oblige to this, and it is no more u than the worst of men attain. But I would have
you Christians, who are the sons of God by a“ doption, to imitate your heavenly Father in a
more extended charity and universal benevo: C lence.
Our blessed Saviour here not only gives his Disciples the true meaning of that precept, Thou Malt love thy neighbour as thy self, extending neighbourhood to all the world, and love to the most exalted degrees of kindness; but what we may observe to be usual with him, when the duty goes much
against the grain of human nature, and the common practice of mankind (as in this of loving our enemies, and in that of not laying up treasures upon earth) he condescends to give reasons for our obedience, from the usefulness and excellence of what is commanded. Let us therefore consider,
I. The duty it self of loving our enemies.
Lord has condescended, to urge and encourage
1. The duty it self of loving our enemies. The meaning of the word love, in this place, is best explain’d by our Saviour himself, in those three inItances of friendship and affection, blessing, doing good, and praying for them; as the contrary instances of cursing, hating, and despitefully using and perfecuting, explain what is here to be understood by an enemy.
(1.) ÉIRST then, We are obliged to bless them: The word used here is žurováte, which implies both the speaking them civilly to their faces, and speaking well of them behind their backs. Tho' they reproach, revile and flander us, treat us, when present, with the most contemptuous and insulting, the most scurrilous and bitter language; and when we are absent, make it their business daily to lessen and defame us, and to say all the ill things of us, they can either hear, imagine, or invent: Our conduct is to be directly the reverse of this; we must answer them in the most civil and courteous, the most obliging and good-natured terms; and whenever we have occasion to speak of them in company, we must labour to conceal their faults, where charity and justice do not require us to discover them; we must put the best construction upon their actions, and the fairest glofs upon their characters,