« AnteriorContinuar »
and of such a rule! Enmities and wrath, and strife, would cease, whilst the return of good for evil would finally produce a reciprocity of good! And we are assured, that thus it shall be before this world has fulfilled the great destiny towards which it is in
progress, when, (as the Prophet Isaiah most eloquently expressed it,) “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid ; and the calf, and the young lion and fatling together, and a little child shall lead them;"-when “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain saith the Lord.” Men, more hostile and unrelenting, and unforgiving towards their fellow-men, than are the beasts of the field, which a blind instinct exasperates, shall all partake of the same kind and gentle nature; and the earth which they inhabit, no longer under curse, shall be called “ the holy mountain of the Lord.” This is that happy period, which, in scholastic theology, is called the millenium, or the thousand years of an earthly paradise, but which, in Scripture language, designates only a long space of time to commence at an appointed season, previous to the dissolution of this present world. And how is this great change to be effected ? This also, is distinctly mentioned by the Prophet, “for, the earth,” says
he, “ shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” It is “ the knowledge of the Lord,” or the general prevalence of Christian truth “ which shall perform this.”
My Christian friends, we may lay it down as a maxim, or self-evident truth, that the instrument by which the Lord effects any thing, at any time, is equally powerful in his hand, to do the same thing, at all times. It is not surprising then, that although the instances of its effectnal operation may
precept in the text should even now have some to respect it, and some to obey it, and that moral actions, more especially of this nature, should find, in the religion of Christ, their appropriate and most powerful, and in many instances, their only support. I shall proceed to illustrate this important truth, in the case before us. We are here enjoined to give meat and drink even to an enemy suffering under the want of both these primary necessaries of life, “if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink,” and to this is annexed what may at first sight, and in its obvious import, appear a motive little suited to such an end,
for, in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."
There is, however, in the text, though it is
not so directly expressed, a previous motive which contains a more immediate and personal obligation to the same duty. It is to be found in the Christian contemplation of the word
enemy." The Apostle is here exhorting the persons to whom he wrote, to humility, to brotherly love, and finally, that “as much as in them lay,” they should “live peaceably with all men.” He had been “ beseeching” them to do so, “by the mercies of God” manifested to themselves, “ in that while” they
were yet sinners, and ungodly and enemies, Christ died for” them. Now, suppose this most illustrious instance of Divine love, to have made a due impression on the heart of any man, and to have led him, as, in such a case, it naturally would lead him, to reason seriously on the character and condition of those enemies, for whom the Scriptures inform us that Christ died, and what would be the consequence? Would it not be the conviction, and the consciousness of his own share in the
general accusation? Would it not be the abasing recollection of those numerous instances of neglect, of provocation, and of enmity, by which he had himself shewn his insensibility, and his ingratitude to the exceeding great love and mercy of his God?
And would not convictions so solemn and so just, as these necessarily lead him to associate with the word
enemy,” (more especially when he himself became an unmerited sufferer from any enemy) his own right and title to the same appellation ? For standing, as he does, between God, his greatest benefactor, on the one hand, and man, let it be even his greatest enemy on the other, can it escape him that the most unprovoked and cruel injuries he can sustain at the hand of any fellow-creature, bear not the most distant comparison, in point of offence, with what may appear the most trifling sin he has himself committed against the holy and spiritual law of that glorious Being, who is “ of purer eyes than to behold iniquity !" To what extent can human “envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness” make him suffer, in comparison of what he should suffer, were God to “ enter into judgment with himself for the very same ?” And when this awful contrast is further aggravated, by the consideration, that it is in our own breasts we should often search for the cause of much of the enmity we impute to others; for the resentment, or the impatience, or the intolerance of our wounded pride; for that spirit of retaliation, and that resistance to conciliation, which we sometimes maintain, even when overtures of peace are made to us by a penitent offender.
When we lay these things to heart, and view the matter in this lighț, how greatly must it mitigate the offence of our greatest enemy ; what a different complexion must his transgression assume-how much of our sympathy should he share--and how small a portion of our wrath should remain for him, when we contemplate pur own concern in the business, and weigh the utmost that could be said in our favour, against all the wrath that might so justly be treasured up against ourselves at the judgment of the great day?
Can such a solemn personal account as this leave any room for hatred of others in our breasts ? Or, can a sense of deşerved wrath, at the hand of God, consistently co-exist with the desire to avenge private wrongs so comparatively small? Surely, every such desire must subside, and be annihilated in the consciousness of that commiseration, and mercy, and for, bearance, which we ourselves daily experience in our much more awful state of enmity against God!—and the endeavour to promote peace on earth, must naturally flow from our desire, and our hope of obtaining peace with Heaven!
These few observations form a needful preliminary to the precept in the text.- For, before we can do good to an enemy in the true