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that there may be no possibility of mistaking the like
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 thąt 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 froin 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? 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
unpierced heart—let these prove to what degree he was capable of feeling the malice of his enemies. And can we still say that to love our enemies is impossible, that the requirement is unreasonable and cannot be complied with? How possible it was the sacred Preacher knew, by the sad experience of that very hour in which he issued the command. For there was he, sitting in the midst of his own world, the most hated being in it; persecuted, and reviled, and about to be destroyed; surrounded by enemies who meditated his destruction, and followers who were ready to forsake him at its approach. And it was for love he came there and it was for love he sate upon that mount and spake. Love was in his bosom the only rival of the grief that reigned there; and it seemed that they increased and grew together. Love shed tears for his persecutors that he shed not for himself; and while his enemies held such wide possession of the earth, that he found not where to shelter his own head, love found him space enough to scatter blessings so profusely, he seems not to have regarded on what heads they lighted. And when he came to the 'extremity we spake of, and had no more to do but to offer his last prayer, what was the tenour of it? “Father, requite them?” That would have been our's--that would have been what we call just and natural—but it was not his.
And surely now. we can no more deny that it is possible to love an enemy; and if it be difficult to us, it is not that in the nature of things it is so, but that in us there is some disposition that creates the difficulty, and offers resistance to the divine command. Thence arises, as it appears to me, the closing injunction that bids us overcome the imperfection in ourselves which is all the difficulty in the way of our obedienoé to these precepts, and assimilate our dispositions to his, to whom it had proved so possible to love his bitterest foes. And in enjoining this, the Saviour assumes that there is reason why those to whom he was speaking, his disciples,
should in this be distinguished from others, and exchange the resentful nature which in common with others they originally had, for one more assimilated to that of their heavenly Father. As if he saw them ready to declare, as we do, that they could not love their enemies, he seems, as it were, thus to interrupt their thoughts : “ That is your imperfection; and imperfection in this kind is sin; and sin must be resisted and subdued, until you be perfected. For if it be not so, what are you more than others? What do you, to lay claim to a greater name, and a better principle, and a higher destiny? Publicans and sinners can plead their nature-heathens can love as selfish nature dictates. What is the new profession you have taken up, the new dignity with which you have been invested as the children of God, the new name you have assumed as the followers of Christ, if you are still to use the excuse of your debasement, and indulge the propensities of your degradation ?" To apply it in few words to ourselves, what has redeeming grace and mercy done for us, if we continue in disposition even as others, and hold ourselves excused by saying it is our nature?
THE LISTENER.-No. XXV. I was travelling once over a distant land-a land it had been by the way I travelled, of bleakness, and barrenness, and danger. If sometimes I had loitered where there were flowers budding, fair as the first and fairest of our Spring, while I yet waited in expectation of their blowing, I saw them wither in the sunshine, fade and pass away. If ever amid the parched and thirsty soil, I had looked upon the bursting of a pure, clear spring, quickly there came to it some unclean thing, and muddied and polluted what had risen so pure. And often as beneath some shadowing tree, I had laid down to rest, or ever I had shod myself again to hasten forward, the cold north wind had come and stripped that tree, and robbed
it of its beauty and of its shade. It was a wretched land, and they that dwelt in it were like the land they dwelt in. Their well-seeming virtues rarely bore the bloom they promised, but failed at the moment of expected fruition—their wisdom, however rife it seemed to flow, flowed not far before it became mixed with error and empoisoned-their enjoyments were the evanescent verdure that could not outstand the first cold touch of sorrow. And surely I had felt pity for them as I passed, and mourned that they had not a better land to dwell in.
Having travelled thus some considerable way, I reached a spot, seeming more fair for the rude path that led to it, and beautiful in the contrast of its fertility with the coldness and barrenness of the land I had passed
There was no barrier, that I perceived, between them; and yet were they distinct as the darkness of night from the broad light of noon. Why the inhabitants of the adjacent country did not pass on to it, I perceived not: but I concluded it was appropriated property -the hereditary possession, probably, of a people too powerful to need a land-mark, or an armed out-work against the encroachments of their neighbours. Certainly I saw that no desire was manifested on either part, to take possession of the other's land ; and unequal as seemed to me the destiny of each, each appeared contented to abide their portion. I entered with delight on the rich scenery of this pleasant land. I do not know that I need particularly to describe it: it was like the best spots in our native country—those that industry has toiled to cultivate, and some tasteful hand has taken pleasure to adorn. It was like to those wide, estates, that being appropriated to some powerful and rich possessor, who finds his pleasure in them and does with them what he will, manifest in every part the influence of his interference. It was no fairy-land I speak of, where magick suns gave birth to golden fruits, or necromantic power charms the elements to stillness. But it was one where forethought had provided every thing,