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Although therefore he is far from intending you any kindness, yet as he is become your watchman, your monitor, and, if you do not yourself hinder him, the greatest promoter, among men, I mean, and that at his own expense, of the noblest Christian graces in your mind, and consequently of your eternal happiness and glory; you ought to consider him in the light of an involuntary benefactor, as the step next heaven in Jacob's ladder; and while, in a triumph of joy, you prepare to set your foot on it, should kiss it as a martyr does his stake, and pour the overflowings of the love you owe to God, on this effectual, though unhappy, medium of approach to him.
Consider again, if God created, and Christ died for, and united your enemy to himself, as well as you, whether you can call yourself a Christian, till your love of Christ extends itself to this his member. Do you hope, that the righteousness of Christ should atone to divine justice for your transgressions, and make you an object of love to God, if you will not allow that righteousness to atone with you for the transgressions of your brother, and make him an object of your love? Is he not a member of Christ? Can you love the head, and not love the members also ? Are not you, your enemy, and we all, one body of Christ ?' Is it not love alone that unites us ? Love to the head and the whole body? And if it is, is he not cut off from that body, who hath not this love? If no other argument can prevail on you to love your enemy, love him for the sake of Christ, in whose unbounded love to you both, all sense of his unkindness ought to be lost; and in its place, the sweet, the tender, the loving spirit of Christ kindled up within you
, towards this invader of what? Why, of that property you
, hold only by permission; or of that honour you have no real title to; or of that life no constitutional health can ensure you for a single moment. If the commands, if the merits of Christ, weigh more with you than the injuries of men, you will forgive, you will pity, you will love your enemy, whom that blessed redeemer is yet perhaps ready to receive, in case you will grant his pardon, admit him to your heart, and afford his weakness that assistance, which no other mortal hath it in his power to impart. Does the Saviour of man, and the Son of God, wait for this step in
you? And can you delay a single moment to make it? No, you have pronounced the pardon of your
fellow-creature and fellow-Christian, and having thus past a compassionate sentence on him, have, in the sight of infinite mercy confirmed the sentence on yourself.
After having gone so far, you will be ready to hear and obey the farther directions of Christ, which cannot be too difficult for virtue so truly noble as yours. If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone ; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnessess every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church ; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.'
Him, whom you call your enemy, Christ calls your brother, and desires you to go to him in the affectionate spirit of a brother, in order to a good-humoured examination of his behaviour to you. Look up therefore to the command and example of Christ. Pitch your soul far above the little pride of ceremony. Wait not a moment for forms, nor for the first step on your adversary's part, who, poor man ! is too weak to make any; but armed with an obstinate resolution to overcome evil with good,' and to perform what your blessed master commands, fly to him in the spirit of Christian humility and meekness; tenderly, patiently expostulate with him on the grounds of his displeasure and its effects. Rather plead your own innocence, than harshly insist on his hatred or injustice; convince him by the most solemn protestations of your readiness to do him every good office in your power, and that you have no earthly interest, no point, but peace and love in view. The task assigned you is, I own, no easy one.
But surely it is as pleasant as it is difficult. If your resolution should begin to stagger, think of that pleasure, and remember, you have already so far conquered your pride and passion, as to pity and love your adversary. Remember the glorious purpose of your overture. Remember, you go in the name, at the command, and by the example, of Christ. Remember, you are the hero and champion of his cause against
that of perverseness and malice; and going not to a ball, but a battle, wherein humility is to encounter with pride, and a steady gentleness with perhaps outrageous sallies of brutality. Remember, the more he chafes, the more he hardens himself against reason, the more glorious will be your victory over him, or at least over yourself, and the common enemy
to the dignity of the Christian character. Let no fury nor fierceness of his shake your resolution, nor drive these considerations for a moment, from your view. Arm your soul with patience, with pity, with love; summon all the vigour of your religion to your assistance. Receive every unkind thing he says on the woolpack of a soft answer, which may turn away or deaden his wrath, though coming from his, from the mouth of a cannon. Let your pity and love spread themselves over your face in tender looks, and infuse honey into all your words. A carriage so soothing, managed with proper address in giving way, or bearing up, as occasion points your course, is too much to be resisted by any one, not absolutely lost to nature.
If you pursue your purpose with perseverance, as one who loves, and not as one who undertakes a task; and if you pray earnestly to God for his assistance, you will probably gain your brother, not only to yourself, but to God; or, in case you do not, one thing you cannot fail of, and that is, God's high approbation of your great attempt. It may be reasonably questioned, whether his all-seeing eye beholds any thing in this world so pleasing to him.
But if all this should prove ineffectual, and, as our Saviour saith, your poor obstinate brother will not hear you, then take with you one or two more of those common friends, whom he most regards, and try whether he will hear that reason, and those expressions of your love, from them, which he is so deaf to in
mouth. These men, though no orators, will say more in three words, than you, had you the tongue of an angel, can do in ten thousand. Every thing however that passes between you, being evidenced and established by the report of these friends, as competent witnesses, will, at worst, justify your character, and give you all the advantage you can desire in the next step to be made, if this proves unsuccessful, which is,
To tell it unto the church,' and so leave it with those whose office it is to impart or refuse the communion of Christ and his body. But in case he shall neglect to hear
' the church,' and shall despise the interposition of Christ and his members; then let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican,' as one with whom you can, no longer, have any brotherly or Christian intercourse. Nevertheless, after all, you are not allowed to challenge him into the field. You may shun, but not shoot him, for you are not at liberty to put every heathen or publican to death, wherever you can find him.
Supposing, however, that in any of these steps you do go home to his heart and prevail, which it is most highly probable you will, the love of him, which you could not, ere this, perfectly bring your heart to, will now be the pleasing consequence. Your enemy will henceforward be your friend; and as it was, in some measure, goodness of heart in him, not unlike your own, that won bim, one of your most faithful and affectionate friends. That man, whom lately you could hardly help representing to yourself as a monster, is now a good man, and loves you as he does his own life. Mark the sudden redness on his face ! the eager shaking of his arms! when he runs to embrace you. Did you ever taste such pleasure ? Indulge it in another, and a yet more affecting light. Your poor Christian brother, who was, some hours ago, in the gall of bitterness, in the bond of iniquity,’in the jaws of the great devourer, is now set at liberty, is now re-united to Christ and you,
and that by an act of yours, so truly glorious in itself, so exquisitely sweet on reflection to your good-natured heart, and what is still more, so singularly acceptable to the God of peace and love, that we may safely pronounce you a greater conqueror than Cæsar, and an happy man; for by one high effort of goodness you have wiped out the account of all your sins, and saved the soul of your brother alive, for which all good men love you, for which God loves you, for which heaven rings with a loud hallelujah.
Is revenge so sweet? The rage, with which one at enmity with his brother, turns on the assailant of that brother; and the warm embrace with which they meet in foreign countries, who hated each other at home; shew, that a
considerable degree of love may lie a long time dormant under a quarrel, and concealed even from the heart it warms. It is this which breaks forth in such tears of tenderness, and transports of joy, on a thorough reconciliation of wellhearted enemies, as no enjoyment of our nearest relations, or most beloved friends can produce.
And are we not all brothers, all strangers and pilgrims' in this world? Why then do we not fight for one another against the common enemy? Why do we not fly into each other's arms, on the first reflection after a quarrel? Can a mere accident of seeing a brother assaulted, or of meeting our adversary in a distant country, as if our love and hatred were only local, do more than the love of Christ, than obedience to his law, than the whole of our religion, in the breast of a Christian ? of a Christian who owns that
every other Christian is by nature 'bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh;' and by the baptism, the gospel, the charity of Christ, soul of his soul, and spirit of his spirit? Oh! it is too shameful a reproach to our professions, and to the name we borrow from the most benevolent of all beings, to be endured so much as in thought. Let us renounce Christianity, before we begin to hate, or cease to love a Christian.
O good God, the God of peace and love, teach us, we beseech thee, to know that thy speaking peace to us, and receiving us as thy beloved children at the last day, depends on our speaking peace and shewing love to one another, as our brethren. Teach both our understandings and hearts this lovely, this important lesson, for the sake of Christ Jesus, the mediator of our peace, with thee; to whom, in the unity of the ever blessed and glorious Trinity, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for ever