Imágenes de páginas

sions, though they be in themselves small injuries, they are difficult to be borne. Under such slight injuries therefore, our Lord orders his disciples to be passive, rather than resist them to the utmost. Viewed in this light, his precept is liable to no objection; it being well known that he who bears a slight affront, consults his honour and interest, much better than he who resists or resents it; because he shews a greatness of mind worthy of a man, and uses the best means of avoiding quarrels, which oft-times are attended with the most fatal consequences. In like manner, he who yields a little of his right rather than he will go to law, is much wiser than the man who has recourse to public justice in every instance; because in the progress of a law-suit, such animosities may arise as are inconsistent with charity. To conclude, benevolence, which is the glory of the divine nature, and the perfection of the human, rejoices in doing good. Hence the man that is possessed of this god-like quality, cheerfully embraces every occasion in his power of relieving the poor and distressed, whether by gift or loan. Some are of opinion, that the precept concerning alms-giving and gratuitous lending, is subjoined to the instances of inju ries which our Lord commands us to bear, to teach us that if the persons who have injured us fall into want, we are not to withhold any act of charity from them, on account of the evil they have formerly done us. Taken in this light, the precept is generous and divine. Moreover, as liberality is a virtue nearly allied to the forgiveness of injuries, our Lord joined the two together, to shew that they should always go hand in hand. The reason is revenge, will blast the greatest liberality, and a covetous heart will shew the most perfect patience to be a sordid meanness of spirit, proceeding from selfishness.

He proceeded, in the next place, to consider the doctrine of the Jewish teachers concerning benevolence. 43. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. The passage in the law referred to is Lev. xix. 18. "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the chil dren of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; I am the Lord." The clause, and hate thine enemy, is not in the law, but the doctors pretended that it was deducible from the first part of the precept, which seems to limit forgiveness to Israelites. Besides, they supported their opinion by the tradition of the elders, and the precepts concerning the idolatrous nations *.


Precepts concerning the idolatrous nations.] Their aversion to the Edomites and Egyptians indeed was so far tempered by the law, that the third generation of such of them as were proselytes, might be incorporated into the congrega tion, Deut. xxii. 7, 8. But for their other idolatrous neighbours, they had express laws which forbade them ever to be pardoned, particularly the Canaanites, Deut. vii. 1. the Midianites, Numb. xxxi 2. the Amalekites, Exod xvii. 14


In opposition to this narrow spirit, our Lord commanded his hearers to shew benevolence according to their power, unto every individual of the human species, without respect of country or religion; benevolence even to their bitterest enemies. 44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies; that is, charitably and sincerely wish unto your enemies all manner of good, both temporal and spiritual:-bless them that curse you; give them kind and friendly language, who rail at or speak evil of you :-do good to them that hate you; cheerfully embrace every opportunity of promoting the welfare of your enemies:-and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; besides doing all in your own power to advance their happiness, study by your prayers to engage God also to befriend and bless them. The particulars mentioned are certainly the highest expressions of enmity; for what can be worse than cursing, and calumny, and insults, and persecutions? yet we are commanded to love, and bless, and do good to, and pray for our enemies, even while they persist in their enmity against us. * This doctrine of loving


And for the Moabites, they were never to receive them into their body politic, nor to do them any good, Deut. xxiii. 3. The Israelites finding themselves thus expressly commanded by their law, to hate and extirpate the heathens who lived in or near to Canaan and observing that there was no precept enjoining kindness to the rest, they considered all the heathens in one light, and thought themselves under no obligation to do offices of humanity to any of them, unless they embraced the Jewish religion. Nay, they looked on them as enemies, of whom they were ordered to avenge themselves, as often as they had an opportunity. Their malevolence to all mankind but their own nation, was so remarkable, that the heathens took notice of it. Tac. Hist. lib. v. 5. Their fidelity is inviolable, and their pity ready towards one another; but unto all others they bear an implacable batred. This character which Tacitus gives of the Jews, is agreeable to that given them by a better and more impartial judge, I mean the apostle Paul, 1 Thess. ii. 15. Who bath killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us, and they please not God, and are contrary to all men. They were so excessively haughty, that they would not so much as salute a heathen or Samaritan; none but brethren received the least mark of respect from them; a behaviour which rendered them odious to all their neighbours. The Jews dishonoured God exceedingly, in pretending that his law countenanced such ferocity; the precepts which they laid so much stress on, having no reference at all to the disposition that particular persons among the Israelites were to bear to particular persons among the heathens. They only prescribed what treatment the Israelites were to give those nations as bodies politic, in which capacity it was most just that they should be destroyed, because of their abominations, and because they might have tempted God's people to idolatry, Lev. xviii. 25,—28. But the Jews, overlooking the reason of those precepts, extended them most absurdly to the heathens in general; ; nay, and to private enemies among their brethren also.

Even while they persist in their enmity.] This may be thought contrary to the precept, Luke xvii. 3. where forgiveness seems to be enjoined only on condition the injurious party repents: If thy brother trespass against thee rebuke bim, and if he repent forgive bim. But the difficulty will disappear, when it is remembered, 3 M



our enemies, so far as to do them good, Jesus enforced from the noblest of all considerations, that it renders men like God, who is good to the evil and unthankful. 45. 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. Being thus benevolent towards all, the bad as well as the good, ye shall be like God, and so prove yourselves his genuine offspring; for he maketh his sun common to them who worship, and them who contemn him, and lets his rain be useful both to the just and to the unjust, alluring the bad to repentance, and stirring up the good to thankfulness, by this universal and indiscriminate benignity of his providence. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47. And if ye salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? do not even the publicans so? These are common things practised by people of the worst characters, which therefore do not prove you to be of a virtuous disposition, but only endowed with the essential principles of human nature, so that ye merit no reward at all for doing them. 48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven (see on Matt. vi. 9.) is perfect. The perfection of the divine goodness is proposed to our imitation, as it is promiscuous, extending to the evil as well as the good, and not as it is absolutely universal and infinite; for in these respects the imitation of it is impossible †.


that in the two passages different persons and different duties are spoken of. In the sermon, the duty we owe to mankind in general who injure us, is described; but in Luke we are told how we are to behave towards an offending brother, one with whom we are particularly connected, whether by the ties of blood or friendship The forgiveness we owe to mankind, is in the sermon said to consist in the inward affection of benevolence, civil language, good offices, such as we would have done to them had they never injured us, and hearty prayers; all which men may receive, even while they persist in their enmity. Whereas the forgiveness due to a brother implies, that he be restored to the place in our friendship and affec tion, which he held before he offended. But in order to this, his repentance is justly required; because without a sense of his offence, and due evidence of his reformation, he is both unworthy and incapable of being restored. See the Paraphrase and Commentary on Matt. vi. 12.

Cicero, in his oration for Marcellus, has a sentiment not unlike this. "Verum animum vincere, iracundiam cohibere, victoriam temperare, adversarium nobilitate, ingenio, virtute præstantem, non modo extollere jacentem, sed etiam amplificare jus pristinam dignitatem: hæc qui faciat, non ego eum summis vitis comparo, sed simillimam Deo judico."

The manner of our Lord's citing the doctrines which he chose to speak of, deserves our notice. He does not say, ye know that it was said to them of old time, as he would have done if nothing but the written law had been in his eye; but he says, ye have beard that it was said; comprehending not only the law itself, but the explications of it, which the doctors pretended to have derived from the mouth of Moses by tradition. Ye have beard that it was said to the ancients, namely


Thus the doctrine and precepts of the disciples, the righteousness which they preached, was to excel the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Our Lord spake next of the righteousness which the Jewish teachers practised, shewing that his disciples, especially such of them as were instructors of others, ought to excel them in that respect also. The particulars which he mentioned, though few, are of great importance, viz. alms-giving, prayer, fasting, heavenly-mindedness, candid judging, and selfreformation. He began with alms-giving, because in the branch of his discourse immediately preceding, he had exhorted them to beneficence toward their enemies, from the example of the divine goodness. Matth. vi. 1. Take heed that ye do not your alms (sλnuocun, your works of mercy) before men, to be seen of them, otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. He does not forbid us to do works of charity publicly, for on some occasions that cannot be avoided, but to do them publicly with a view to be seen of men, and to be applauded for them. 2. Therefore, when thou dost thine alms, do not * sound_a_trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. The praises of men which they are so fond of, is all the reward such hypocrites shall ever obtain.. 3. But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth: Let not thy most intimate friend know what thou dost; perform these offices as privately as thou canst, and never speak of them afterwards, unless there be good reasons for making them known. 4. That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly: Perform works of charity from no other principle but a love of


by Moses in the law, Thou shalt not kill; also ye have heard from the doctors,
the explication of this precept, which they pretend Moses gave to the ancients
by word of mouth. But I say unto you, in opposition to these false interpretations
which your doctors would impose on you as infallible. In our translation it is,
ye have beard that it was said by them of old time. However, the sense of the pas-
sages, and the opposition of the clauses, But I say unto you, require that gx1015
should be translated, not by, but to them of old time, in the dative case.
nection throws a beautiful light on our Lord's sermon, shewing us, that it was
not his intention to set his own precepts in opposition to the precepts of the law,
but to set his explications of those precepts, which the disciples were afterwards
to teach, in opposition to the interpretations which the doctors gave of them, and
which they pretended to derive from Moses by tradition.

This con

Ver. 2. Sound a trumpet.] From this it would appear, that in our Lord's time. persons who affected the reputation of being extremely charitable, some times sounded a trumpet when they distributed their alms, on pretence, no doubt, of gathering the poor to receive them, while their real intention was to proclaim their own good works, and receive glory of men. Wherefore, as his disciples were to do no work of charity from the motive of vanity, he absolutely forbade this custom of the hypocrites.

[ocr errors]

goodness, and a regard to the will of God, who looks on (so CAT is used, Matth. v. 28.) in secret, and will reward all thy good deeds openly, at the judgment. Thus, if thou be content to forego at present the applause of the few to whom thou art known, and who are not competent judges of true worth, it shall be abundantly compensated to thee hereafter, by the admiration. and love of all the beings in the universe, who have any relish of virtue, or are capable to judge of it.


VI. 5. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypscrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.-Our Lord is here treating of private prayer, for which reason his rules must not be extended to public devotion. 6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly: Perform thy private devotions without noise or shew, by which it will appear, that thou art influenced by a sense of duty; see on ver. 4.-7. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.-8. Be not ye therefore like unto them; for your Father knoweth what things


Ver. 5. Love to pray standing, &c.] Probably the Jews of old observed stated hours of prayer, as the Mahommedans do at this day. The scripture mentions three of them -The third bour, answering to our nine o'clock, when the morning sacrifice was offered. The sixth hour, answering to our twelve o'clock. At this hour we find Peter praying on the house top, Acts x. 9, 30. The ninth bour, answering to our three o'clock in the afternoon, at which the apostles Peter and John are said to have gone up to the temple, Acts iii. I. The three are meutioned together, Psal. Iv. 17. Evening, and morning, and at noon will I pray. Alsa it is recorded of Daniel, that he prayed three times a-day, Dan. vi. 10, 13. At these hours, therefore, the hypocrites took care to be in some public meeting or other (Ev uvayayais) perhaps in the market-place, or in some court of justice, or in a corner where two streets met, and where there was a concourse of passengers to behold their devotions, which they performed before all present, with a vanity extremely offensive to the great Being whom they pretended to worship.,

t Ver. 7. Heard for their much speaking] Thus we find the priests of Baal erying from morning till noon, ✪ Bual, bear us! which Elijah interpreted aright when he said to them, Cry aloud, for he is a god; either be is talking, or be is pure suing, or be is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked. Hence it appears what the vain repetitions were which Christ forbade his disciples to use in their prayers; namely, such repetitions as proceeded from an opinion that they were to be heard for their much speaking, after the manner of the heathens. This opinion, implying a denial either of the power, or the knowledge, or the goodness of him whom we worship, is highly injurious to him; and therefore repetitions in prayer, flowing from it, are culpable. But repetitions proceeding from a deep sense of our wants, and which express a vehement desire of the divine grace, Jesus by no means prohibits, else he would condemin his own practice, Matth. xxvi. 39, 42, 44. § 134.

« AnteriorContinuar »