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bear with those that wrong us. But examining, we find it is not so. It is more, much more than all of these, and requires a harder effort at our hands. The gentle spirit, softened by the benevolences of life; the cultivated spirit, refined out of its native coarseness of feeling; the suffering spirit, subdued into pity by affliction, find it no such hard lesson to forego their resentment, so far as it might rest with them to inflict the punishment; and feel it more congenial even, with their ennobled nature, to leave the culprit to some other chastisement. There is so much that is beautiful, kind, and compassionate, in the tone that high cultivation has given to society-there is so much rude generosity remaining, even in the coarse bosom of the hind or the savage, that when the first impulse of resentment has subsided, very many, from mere natural feeling, would rather throw aside the weapon of revenge, and extend the hand of reconciliation to the offender. Can the law of God demand more? Have we not already exceeded the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, abrogated the heathen principle of retaliation, committed our open enemies to the established law, and our secret enemies to the justice of Heaven and their own remorse? We do not go about now with the stiletto in our bosoms, and the concentrated poison in some secret corner of our garments-Are we not become in this at least the disciples of Christ and the children of our Father which is in heaven? Read and see.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies." Forgiveness is not love-forbearance is not love—a cold, repulsive aversion is not love. The utmost stretch of generous pardon, and patient endurance, and abdication of our rights for the sake of peace, such as in the preceding verses is described, would not in themselves amount to love though we cannot well expect to find them where it is not. Love, such as here by the Preacher designated, is blessing, good, prayer-not for those who
have misused us some time, our enemies reconciled and pardoned-but for those who hate us now, and curse us now, and still go on to misuse and persecute us.
The hardness of this precept is so obvious when thus set forth, so absolutely contrary and impossible to our natural propensities, that it is perhaps unnecessary to say any thing to prove that we fulfill it not, or to describe in what manner we come short of doing so. There is a certain language that we hold about forgiving injuries, without forgetting them-a sort of reckoning of the debt, when we do not mean to exact it-a mounting of party colours, when no battle is intended--a something that says to all who observe us, "These are , my enemies and I am theirs--there is hatred between us, though we keep the peace." So much as this may be exteriorly perceived, where there is no outward wrong on either side; and when the polish of society induces us to accord, and to receive, its prescribed civilities from these objects of our aversion. But what are exterior signs, compared with the secret emotions of the heart? Those deep intriguing, outlawed things, that in the proud security of the bosom's closeness, carry on their projects in defiance of the eye of man, and too much forgetfulness of the eye of Heaven? Is it love there? Is it love that is pleased when the enemy receives a wound-smiles delightedly at the whisper that attaints his character-believes with unwillingness any circumstance that may promise his advantage-and though standing neuter in the battle, triumphs in any issue that defeats his purposes? Was it love that was so morose, sullen, contradictious, when we came accidentally into the society of yonder persons, and were constrained for a season to abide their presence? If not, I fear we have not yet reached even the passive virtue of forgiveness. But this is no mere passive virtue that our text is treating of. Our Saviour has put an extreme case, and he has brought the duty to its extremity-he has wrought his portrait highly,
that there may be no possibility of mistaking the likeness. He commanded that we be actively employed in doing good to those who are actively employed in doing ill to us. While our enemies are making busy with their curses-perhaps openly and to our faces saying unkind and bitter things, wounding us by their laugh, or depressing us by their frown; or perhaps secretly carrying about their curses to undermine our happiness and alienate onr friends-our employment is to bemost strange one, as nature feels!-to be asking or bestowing blessings on their heads, openly or secretly endeavouring their good. And when, no more content with words of mischief and wishes for our harm, our enemies are enabled to proceed to actual hurt, misuse us openly, and persecute us successfully, then we are driven to our last resort--perhaps we have no means, or no lawful means of defiance, and the aggressors are so potent or so subtle, that no one will come in to help us, or stand against them on our behalf. Then we know what alone remains for us to do. We must go to the tribunal of our Father for the aid that earth denies-we must carry our ruined cause to the last resort of justice: unhelped of any man, unable to help ourselves, grossly injured without redress; deeply suffering without a remedy, we must betake ourselves to Heaven as the only refuge that remains. But what are we to do when we come there? Ask for retribution on our enemies? That is not said. Ask for fire to consume them, a sword to smite them, a rod to chastise them? These are not said. It is said, "Pray for them." It might seem our very proper errand there to pray against them; so committing our cause to him who judges rightly, and wishing no more punishment than their due. But nothing of all this is said, and we are bidden to pray for them; to plead, as it were, their cause rather than our own, and implore a pardon for the guilt of which we came to accuse them. And we would dwell a little on this part of the command; because if we can sincerely fulfill it, the
difficult remainder will become considerably more easy. We cannot possibly hate those for whom we sincerely pray; nor can we secretly desire a curse where we honestly implore a blessing. But be it remembered, that to ask a blessing on our enemies is not necessarily to desire it-and to offer a formal petition is not to pray sincerely. Therefore the connexion is reciprocal; and neither can we pray sincerely for those we hate, nor honestly implore a blessing where we secretly desire ill. First, then, it is desirable we look to ourselves, whether it is our habit when we are injured, to speak of it in prayer to God, desiring first that he will soften and amend the hearts of our enemies, and next that he will not lay it to their charge. And then it is desirable to watch our feelings and actions afterwards, to see if we mean what we have said: that is, whether we would like to convey to our enemies any sort of blessing that providence may send; whether we are willing to carry back the answer to our own petitions, in the form of some good we can do them, or some kindness we can show them, or some means that may appear of softening and amending their rancourous dispositions. If from this prayer we meet our said enemies by the way, what is likely to be our manner or feeling towards them? That will depend exactly on the honesty of our intercession. If it be haughty, bitter, aggravating, then surely we were hypocrites in the prayer.
'Tis a hard saying, who can bear it? We may by principle command our outward actions: we may forbear the word-perhaps we may even controul the look of bitterness-but what can we do with the silent, still emotions of a bosom deeply wounded, writhing in agony for the suffered wrong g? Are its emotions within our controul? Can we force the heart to love the thing that breaks it? Alas! we feel where we have come to: and the precept lies like a letter of condemnation on the bosom of every one of us. How can we help ourselves? It is out of nature, out of reason-impossible! Well, then, we must return to the text of the Preacher, and tell him
so. And what is his reply? Is that impossible that has been done? Is it out of reason that the children should do what the Father does? Out of nature it may be-but then it is that very nature that must be changed, or ever the Father's features can be acknowledged in the child. Our Father which is in heaven has been reigning six thousand years over a whole world of enemies. Their active malevolence has outstood the utmost activity of his goodness, and the hand of reconciliation has been proffered them in vain. Through all that time he has sent his sun to shine upon the earth; and what sees he by its light, but the base misuse of all that he has given, the open, undissembled breaking of his laws, and, the busy activity of men to defeat his purposes for the furtherance of their own? He has sent his rain upon these sons of injustice, and what have they done with it? They have taken of its produce to make themselves other gods and other lords, that they may serve them, and sacrifice to them their time, their health, their bosoms' best affections in idolatrous devotion, to the utter forgetfulness of him to whom they all are due. Well might he bid his sun to rise no more; or, as of old hẹ proved he could do, bestow the light on the dwellings of his people only. Well might he commission the rain to fall no more, and leave to sterility the misused earth. We do not say that God loves all his enemies-there is no reason that he should, as there is with us-though how he can love them he has amply proved-but he shows them unbounded kindness, unsparing liberality, unwearying forbearance: and we have been those enemiesthe recipients of that ill requited good we say it is impossible to render to those that hate us.
Say that the Father's feelings never could be what the children's are-though offended, he could not be pained-though insulted, he could not be injured. He has lost nothing by the world's defection. What is it to him that the children of Abraham have forsaken the God of their fathers, when of the very stones beneath his feet he can raise up other children to Abraham that will