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learned to mince and soften their oaths, by leaving out the same of God, while yet it is implied, and consequency protaned, suca warnings cannot be considered as supertuoss. We perceive by our Lord's words, that it was common among the Jews to swear by heaven, by earth, by Jerusalem, by the tempie. by the sitar, by their own head, &c. &c. They had also some carious distinctions between swearing by the temple, and by the god of the sacie: the altar, and the gift upon the altar ; bat oor Lord, koking deep into the principles of things, considers then all as amoont.ng so the same thing—the profanation of God's boly same. Mait. Ille 16–22.
It is thus that oaths are used among men calling themse res Cirs. tians. In popish countries, your ears are contoral'y sincet by bearing people swear, not only by their saists, bat by jenis, his blood and his wounds : and even in protestant countries, these terrible oaths are turned into exclamations on many a troint occae sion. The words 'S blood, 'S zounds, &c. are no other ban !Lese old popish oaths minced, or contracted by the dread of expressly naming the blood and wounds of Christ. Every person who ises such language, may not be apprised of the meaning: but every thing of the kind cometh of evil. The same may be said of all such phrases as the following-Of faith, By my trota, l'pon my soul Upon my life, Upon my honour, and eren u pon my word. By on Lord's exposition of such language, in Matt. Izsvill. 16–22. these modes of speaking would be found to bear a relation to a and so to be a prufaning of his name.
How opposite to all this profane jargon, is the simple and di. fied language prescribed by our Lord S-Let your commun be Yea, yea ; Nay, nay; for whatsveter is more than these of evil. He that is conscious of a want of veracity, may fi cessary to confirm his words with oaths; but he that he speaketh the truth will have no occasion for resortin, mean and profane expedients.
le and digni. communication than these cometh .. may find it ne
that babitually resorting to such
ON RESISTING EVIL.
Matt. v. 3&42.
In the judicial law of Israel, it had been enacted as follows:--If men strive and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow, he shall be surely punished, according as the womun's husband shall lay upon him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. This law, in the hands of the magistrate, was equitable, and adapted to the general good: nor was it our Lord's design to undermine its authority. But by the glosses of the Jews, it had been perverted in favour of private retaliation and revenge. Against this principle our Saviour inveighs. He did not complain of the law in the hands of the magistrate, nor forbid his followers appealing to it for the public good : but they must neither take upon them to judge of their own cause, nor repair to a magistrate from a principle of revenge ; but must keep in view the good of the party, or at least that of the community. He does not crush any passion,* no not that of anger ; but merely requires that it be not selfish, but subordinate to the glory of God, and the good of man
* The passions are commonly confounded by infidel writers, with vicious prop ensities. The former is the name indeed by which they choose to denominate the latter ; and that with the obvious intent of apologizing for them. But they are, nevertheless, perfectly distinct. The first belong to us as creatures; the last as signers : the scriptures regulate the one, but prohibit the other. Elias was a man of like passions with other men ; but in praying for the giving or withholding of rain, he did not act under the influence of vicious propensity.
kind. And however unbelievers may affect to deride this precept, it so approves itself to the judgment of men in general, that you shall rarely know an individual appeal to justice, but under a profession, at least, of being influenced by some other motive than that of private revenge.
With respect to the precept of turning the other cheek to him that smiteh thee, it certainly does not mean that we should court insult, or in all cases submit to it, without any kind of resistance ; for this was not the practice of our Lord himself. When unjustly smitten before the high priest, he did not invite the repetition of the indignity; but on the contrary, remonstrated against it. If, said he, I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me? In this remonstrance, however, he was not influenced by a spirit of retaliation, but of justice to his own character, which, under the form of striking his person, was assaulted ; and what he said had a tendency to convict the party and the assembly. Such remonstrances are doubtless allowable to his followers. But the meaning of that precept is, that we render not evil for evil; but rather suffer injury, and that injury to be repeated, than go about to avenge ourselves. It is the principle, ratber than the act, which is inculcated ; yet even the act itself would be right in various cases ; and instead of degrading the party, would raise him in the esteem of the wise and good. When Greece was invaded by Persia, Themistocles, the Athenian General, by warmly urging a point in a council of war, is said to have so provoked the displeasure of Eurybiades, the Spartan, the commander in chief, that the latter lifted up his cane over his head in a menacing posture. “STRIKE, (said the noble Athenian,) BUT HEAR ME!" He did hear him, and the country was saved. And why may not a Christian act, or rather forbear to act, on the same principle, and for an intinitely greater end, even the eternal salvation of his enemies? What else has been the language of the noble army of martyrs from the beginning ? Have they not practically said to an enraged world, STRIKE, BUT HEAR US ?
Similar remarks might be made 'on the precept of giving our cloak to him that would sue us, and take away our coat. It is the principle that is to be regarded, rather than the act. It would be
far from just in many cases, to give place to the overbearing treatment of men; as it must tend, not only to ruin our own families, but to encourage the wicked in their wickedness. But the spirit here inculcated is of the greatest importance : it is that disposition wbich would rather put up with injury, than engage in litigious contests. All strife for victory, or for the sake of having our will of men, is here forbidden, as carnal and antichristian.
The precept of going two miles with him that would compel you to go with him one, teaches us to need no compulsion in works of benevolence ; but to be willing to do good to all men, even beyond their requests.
In harmony with this, is the practice of giving and lending to them that ask us. To suppose, that Christ is bere laying down a literal and universal rule of action, would be supposing him to inculcate a practice which must soon destroy itself, by putting it out of our power either to give or lend. But by this language he recommends a kind and liberal spirit, ready to do good to the utmost of our power. Such was the spirit of Christ himself towards an impoverished world, and such is the spirit of his religion ; selfish, nes , in every shape and form, is antichristian.
ON LOVE TO ENEMIES.
Matt. v. 43—48.
It was written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The construction which the Jews put upon this precept is easily discerned by the question of the self-justifying lawyer, And who is my neighbour? They excluded from that character, heathens and Samaritans, and indeed all those of their own country who were unfriendly towards them; and so considered the command to love their neighbours, as allowing them to hate their ene. mies.
In opposing this sentiment, our Lord did not oppose the law; but merely the selfish gloss of the Rabbies ; for the law did not allow of any such hatred as they cherished. Yet in comparing it with David's language in the Psalms, some Christian writers bave seemed willing to concede, that the Jewish gloss was really founded upon the spirit of the Old Testament, and bave represented the doctrine of love to enemies as peculiar to the gospel dispensation. Tbat it is more clearly taught, and powerfully enforced, by our Saviour, than it had been before, is allowed ; but the notion of his opposing his doctrine to that of Moses or David, is inadmissible ; for this had been to destroy the law, and to render the New Testa. ment at variance with the Old.
That good will to men, is both taught and exemplified in the Old Testament, is manifest from the joy expressed by David and the prophets, when predicting the conversion of the heathen. They even prayed, and taught their countrymen to pray, for the blessing of God upon themselves in subserviency to it. See Psal. lxvii. Isa. xlix. Nor are the prayers of David against his enemies at variance with this principle. If they be, however, the New Testament is also at variance with it: for the same kind of lan guage is used in Paul's Epistles, as abounds in David's Psalms. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.-Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil : the Lord reward hiin according to his works! Much confusion has arisen on these subjects, from not distinguishing between benevolence and complacency.
The one is due to all men, whatever be their character, so long as there is any possibility or hope of their becoming the friends of God: the other is not, but requires to be founded on characteri The Old Testament writers, being under a dispensation distinguished by awful threatenings against sin, dwell mostly upon the latter; avowing their love to those who loved God, and their hatred to those who hated him : the New Testament writers, living under a Vol. VIII.