« ZurückWeiter »
conclude the 'utter Unlawfulness of all punishing of Malefactors, even by the publick Magistrate, because we are here forbid to resist the injurious Person. But this Mistake may easily be removed, if we consider who the Persons were, to whom our Saviour addressed all this Discourse, namely, private Christians, and others in a private Capacity, without offering one word of the Magistrate's Office, or any other particular Relation of Men. What our Saviour is here prohibiting, is only private Revenge, without any the least Design of encroaching upon the Magistrate's Office, as indeed this Enthusiastical Doctrine would cut it off altogether, and so diffolve all Governments, and reduce the World to a State of Anarchy and Confusion. It were an easy thing, by many Arguments, to confute this false Interpretation ; but, for Brevity's fake, I shall only refer you to that one Passage of St Paul, Rom. xiii. 4. where he tells Malefactors what they are justly to expect from the Sword of the Magistrate, as he is the Minister of God: But if thou do that which is Evil, says he, be afraid, for he beareth not the Sword in vain; for he is the Minister of God, a Revenger to execute Wrath upon him that doth Evil. And our Saviour, by confessing that (a) if his Kingdom had been of this World, bis Servants would have fought, grants plainly the Power of the Sword to earthly Princes.
3. Thirdly, There are others who, acknowledging the Necessity of the Magistrate's Office, and likewise that the punishing of Criminals is his
(a) John xviii. 36,
Duty, deny that it is lawful for Christians to exercise that Office, they being forbid by our Saviour to resist Evil. But this proceeds from the fame Mistake, namely, from their not considering that our Saviour is here only teaching the Duty of private Christians, and forbiding private Revenge ; he is only exhorting to a patient bearing of the Injuries offered to ourselves, without aiming in the least to exempt us from the Duty of protecting and defending others, where it is our Duty so to do, as it is certainly, if we are Magistrates, and for that very End invested with the Power of the Sword.
The same Answer will serve them, who, by these Words, Refilt not Evil, think all War is prohibited to Christians; for if our Saviour is only teaching the Duty of private Christians, without meddling with the Office of Rulers and Magistrates, all that can be gathered from hence, as to this Matter, is, that private Persons are not to usurp the Magistrate's Office, or to rise in Arms, without the Command of the lawful Magistrate, whom they may certainly obey in the execution of Justice.
4. Lastly, Some have made a Doubt from these Words of my Text, whether we are not totally prohibited going to Law, since our Saviour requires us rather to bear with Injury after Injury. To this Doubt, I have these two or three Things to answer. I. That our Lord seems to me to recommend, first, the way of Patience and Charity, if by that means Quarrels can be made
without a Suit at Law. 2. That many tolerable Injuries ought to be passed by, without seeking legal Reparation; and it is chiefly of
these lesser Injuries our Saviour feems to treat in this Text; and the Example of St Paul confirms it, who though in smaller Injuries he troubled not the higher Powers, yet when his Life was in danger, once accepted of a Guard of Soldiers (a); another time appealed to Cæfar (b). 3. That when in Matters of great Importance, we are necessitated to go to Law, we do it only with an Eye to Justice, and our own Reparation, without any malicious revengeful Design against our Adversary. In observing which Rules, we shall be so far from going contrary to this Text, that we shall directly answer the Design and Intent of it.
Having thus answered the Doubts which occur from the Text, my last Business is to exhort you seriously to comply with the main Scope and Purport of it, namely, to correct that vindictive Temper which inclines us to private Revenge and Retaliation of Injuries, and to put in practice the much neglected Duty of forgiving one another, as we expect Forgiveness at the Hand of Almighty God. It is a very sad thing, that we Christians are so great Strangers to the true Spirit of Christianity ; that in this particular of resenting and revenging Injuries, there is no Heathen or Jew acts more contrary to the Spirit of Christ and the Gofpel than we do. We think it below us to put up the least Injury or Affront, and do even much exceed what our Saviour reprehends in the Jews, who would have Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth; for as if these were low Revenges, by the Maxims
(a) Act, xxiii.
(6) Act xxv. II.
some that are called Christians, our Neighbour's Heart's Blood is thought but a reasonable Satisfaction for a rash injurious Word,
the least contumelious Action, I wonder upon what Hope such Persons can expect Remission of the many thousand Talents of their Sins at the Hands of Almighty God, when they will not forgive their Christian Brother a few Pence of his Failings to them. I shall conclude with that most Christian Exhortation of St Paul to the Colofians; (a) Put on therefore (as the Elect of God, holy and beloved) Bowels of Mercies, Kindness, Humbleness of Mind, Meekness, Long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any Man have a Quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. To which I cannot forbear adding another Exhortation of his to the Ephesians, to the fame Purpose; (b) Let all Bitterness, and Wrath, and Anger, and Clamour, and Evil speaking, be put away from you, with all Malice, and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's fake, bath forgiven you.
Now to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, be all Praise, Honour, and Glory, Might, Power, and Dominion, for ever and ever. Amen.
(a) Col. iii. 12.
(6) Eph. iv. 31.
MATT. V. 42. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him
that would borrow of thee, turn not thou
The Second Sermon on this Text.
Words immediately preceding, how our Saviour, in correcting the Abuses which the Scribes and Pharisees had put upon the Law of Retaliation, taught his Disciples much higher Degrees of Charity, both in forgiving of Injuries, and in doing Good for Evil, by giving and lending to their Adversaries in Distress.
Of the first of these, the Forgiveness of Injuries, or the foregoing the Privilege of Retaliation in that respect, I then discourled, and intend to proceed now to the other, the doing Good for Evil ; Give to him that asketh thee, says he, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.
The Words I understand as belonging to the same Subject, q. d. In order to the Christian treating of an Adversary, it is not enough, not to retaliate his Injuries, but ye must further gain him VOL. II.