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self how often yielding to evil will answer its proper ends. That man who does not in the first instance try to overcome evil by some yielding to it, has no pretension to be honoured with the title of a good Christian.
22. In fact, it is probable, the difficulty before mentioned, has the greatest weight in hindering men from yielding to evil; I mean the dread of the imputation of cowardice. On this difficulty a good deal has been already said; but with relation to the passage before us it may be added, that he who voluntarily exposes himself to a second insult after receiving a first, cannot do it from cowardice; it is not required of him by the agressor; he has nothing to fear from him if he does not do it, and something if he does. If our Lord had commanded his disciples, on receiving a blow, to run away from the striker, obedience to his commands might then have been construed into cowardice; but surely not, when the Christian is to bear one blow firmly, keep his station, and offer, for the sake of public peace. to bear another. Many a man will return blows at random in the moment of provocation, even through fear; but no man through fear will present his cheek to the smiter unnecessarily.
And the Christian is the less to be suspected of cowardice, when he yields to evil in this manne, his yielding properly will have the effect of courag upon his adversary; it is plain enough, that the person who receives the stroke, may, in this case, be as brave as he who gave it. And if bravery is known to exist, it will be expected to appear at the proper time, and will therefore have its proper effects. In a popular tumult the peasant attacks with fury the steady veteran; the veteran bears his intemperate and ill-directed rage, and firmly maintains his station; is he therefore a coward? What man returns every blow of drunkenness, or of childish anger ? no brave man; and why should more notice be taken of the paroxyms of passion,which occasion the blow when it proceeds from vice? In short, to associate the conduct of the true Christian with cowardice, when he is insulted, can only be the dictate of fashionable prejudice, prevailing in some particular time
and place; it cannot be the effect of solid and perpetual fitness and reason.
23. If, after all, a man is so perverse as not to enter into the excellence of our Saviour's doctrine, but to think it somewhat strange and uncouth, I would offer to such a one a few additional considerations.
The rule of yielding to evil, especially on the first provocation, is only one amongst a number. A man acts at one time from one rule, and afterwards from another. And on many occasions he finds rules, which were good separately, to interfere, and impede each others operations:-all that he can do, when this happens, is to combine and oppose them, in such a manner as to produce the greatest aggregate of good. In doing this he may find that no one of his Rules is to be carried to its full length. (f)
Moreover, though the Head of the Christian Church has a right to command submission to evil, no member has a right to claim it when he himself is the offender. (Part v. 13. Part vi. 37.) It would indeed be absurd if a man might strike you on the right cheek, and then say, if you are a true Christian turn to me the other also; his doing this would take away all the suppositions on which, to all appearance, the rule was given; would destroy all the foundations on which the precept was probably built.
24. Although our Saviour expressed himself briefly, what he said might be drawn out to a considerable length, if all those suppositions and limitations which he left to common sense, were to be expressed. A short paraphrase of his words might answer our present purpose, without being too tedious. In this world my disciples must, like other men, or at first more than • other men, be liable to insults and provocations; their ⚫ first movement will be, to repel them with force and passion; but I exhort and enjoin them to try, in the ⚫ first place, some concession and submission; but let not their submission be mean and cowardly; let it be ⚫ noble, generous, and brave; such as no man would
⚫ make in order to save himself from danger; such as must appear to proceed from philanthropy and a love of peace :-nor do I enjoin this submission as an evil, or as an encouragement to evil; but as the best remedy for evil. If unhappily men should prove so savage as to prevent its succeeding, other remedies may be tried; but I prescribe this with⚫out mention of such supposed failure; as otherwise men would not be aware how much more frequently and effectually evil would be checked by a great and magnanimous yielding to it, than by a petulant and impatient resistance.'
25. The doctrine of the passage before us would be accepted more readily, and more agreeably to its real meaning, if the relative nature of justice and mercy were clearly seen. They are so related, that when one of them is spoken of the other is implied: but justice is followed in the ordinary course of things, mercy in ex. cepted cases; hence when justice is recommended singly, it is because some danger appears of hurtful remissness or indulgence; when mercy is recommended singly, there appears a danger of carrying justice to an extreme of rigour and severity; and of applying it to cases for which it was not intended. This, well considered, would have hindered the Jews from misapplying the Laws of retaliation; it might also tend to prevent misapplication of our Saviour's doctrine, which is opposed to their unreasonable strictness.
26. As the passage before us has been urged by some Christians against national war in general, and has been owned by a celebrated Prelate to occasion à great difficulty, (g) a word should be said on the Duty of Nations towards each other. It does not appear to me to differ from the Duty of individuals. Conces sions, manifesting a serious regard to peace, adopted in such a manner as to shew courage, magnanimity, firmness, as well as enlarged humanity, are as right in nations as in private men. In both they are indefinite duties, and therefore to be guided by discretion. They arc indeed generally pretended to; and the pretension
to them gives birth to embassies and memorials; it implies also their rectitude. If a well-meaning sovereign seems sometimes to neglect them, it is because War is virtually begun by his enemy before it is openly declared.
27. There is a minute difference between St. Matthew and St. Luke in one particular. St. Matthew supposes the garment to be taken from the owner by process at Law; St. Luke by violence. Consistently with which, St. Matthew speaks of the under garment as taken by Law; (h) and the upper one as offered by the sufferer: St. Luke of the upper garment as taken by force, and the under one as offered to the invader. This difference between the Historians confirms our idea of the indefinite nature of the Duty in question. A violent stripping might be a great provocation, especially if we suppose it very unseasonable; as in cold, rain, or at a season of shew and parade; and there seems a possibility that it might sometimes be owing to a good motive; such as cloathing the naked, discouraging luxury, restoring to the right owner, suiting different shapes or sizes, as the young Persian prince did; not to mention necessity.
28. Before we conclude our remarks, it may be proper to take some notice of the verse that follows what has been already adduced. "Give to him that "asketh thee; and from him that would borrow of "thee, turn not thou away". This precept seems to be connected with the foregoing; both because the stile of injunction is continued, and because immediately after it our Lord passes on to a new error of the Jewish Traditions. Yet it does not appear to relate to abuses of the Laws of retaliation. It is, however, a continuation of advice, or command, to yield, and to what may in some sense be called evil: for importunate supplications to give and to lend, when the petitioner seems to have no claim ortitle to our assistance,areattacks which we are strongly tempted to repel; and not without anger. The three first instances might be supposed to satisfy what had been quoted about eye for eye and tooth for tooth; and it might appear natural to proceed
to another instance of yielding to evil, similar in many respects to the former. Most men are provoked, or discomposed, by petitions for money; but even good men feel impatient under interruptions of their beneficent plans, and fretful when they are obliged to refuse : they also are in a degree provoked by appearances of impudence and idleness. Still it is their duty to yield; or to try the expedient of yielding, as far as their judgment and discretion will allow. This is a very different thing from repelling the petitioner unexamined, with rudeness and indignation.
The observations made on the foregoing instances of yielding may be applied to this: that it is discretionary, no one denies; because if it were taken as definite, the institution of property would be wholly frustrated; all that one man possessed would be transferred to others, and that without any regard to their merits or their wants. Which confirms what has before been advanced on the indefinite nature of the preceding. But though the duties of giving and lending are discretionary and occasional, yet every man should have a sincere and earnest desire to perform them, which nothing should be able to restrain but the fear of preventing the greatest good.
Here again the expression of our Lord is short and spirited, and calculated to strike the rich and avaricious (i) Scribes and Pharisees; but probably not such as he would have used to the charitable, or benevolent; or to the extravagant.
When a man yields to the importunities of a petitioner for money, he may be supposed to do it on a kind of condition, that what he gives shall be applied to proper purposes; to the relief of real distresses: and therefore in case of continued abuse of his bounty, he may not be under obligation to repeat his donations.
The excellence of this instance of yielding might be dwelt upon; the petitioner, who at first irritates us by appearing in a suspicious form, may really apply to us from very good motives, and we should suspend our resistance were it only on that account: but if we are