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ger? with him who has the hearts of all men in his ́ "rule and governance," and who can dispose and turn them as seemeth best to his godly wisdom. This is the only way in which we can exercise our benevolence in such a case, and therefore in this way we are commanded to exercise it. We must, indeed, take care, that our conduct be conformable to our Intercession; and therefore if, contrary to probability, an occasion present itself, in which we are capable of hurting him who in most things is our superior, we must be consistent, and faithfully act the part of those who have prayed for his welfare in simplicity and sincerity of heart. On such an occasion our superior changes his relative station, and we must endeavour to do him good.
35. Whosoever considers these two verses of our Saviour's Sermon on the Mount in the light in which they have now been represented, as containing a general precept, and giving directions for our conduct in a few of the most important particulars comprehended under it; if he allows that they all are founded on the best and most rational principles, must, at the same time that he acknowledges the supreme excellence of the Christian Religion, admit, that an enemy, though immediately an object of resentment, is by no means an improper one of benevolence and Love.
36. Another passage of Scripture to be considered separately from those which confirm the conclusions of reason and experience, is the concluding part of the twelfth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. We may begin with the sixteenth verse, as our Church begins from that verse in the Epistle for the third Sunday after the Epiphany; but our attention will be fixed chiefly on the twentieth verse:" if thine enemy hunger, feed "him; if he thirst, give him drink for in so doing "thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head". Here the practical direction is deemed clear in its meaning, but the reason assigned for relieving an enemy has occasioned some difference of opinion.
Many have understood by heaping coals of fire on the head of an enemy, increasing his punishment;
but others have found difficulty in admitting this sense. They seem shocked at the idea of any man's doing good with an intention or expectation that the good shall operate as an evil upon the object of his beneficence. They allege, that such motive is contrary to the scope of the Apostle's exhortation; that it must embitter the mind of him who acts from it; and they think, that the Apostle may have had the idea of a crucible, in which metals are melted down, by means of coals heaped on all sides and on the top. (m) A thought seeming to receive strength from what immediately follows, about overcoming evil with good: or softening and melting the hard hearts of the malevolent.
To me it seems, that the benevolent spirit of these interpreters has contributed more towards the reception of this meaning than their critical acuteness; though in other instances they shew great sagacity and judgment. I must confess, that the increase of punishment appears to me the most natural, and the best supported sense of the metaphorical expression, heaping coals of fire; nor do I discern any force in the objections made to that sense, which can reasonably hinder its being adopted.
38. Let us state the case regularly. writes, about a thousand years before the birth of Christ, in the following manner; if thine enemy be
hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of "fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee". Prov. xxv. 21, 22. That the expression" coals of fire" and others similar to it, are generally used for punishment, is allowed by all: that it is used so in this passage of the Book of Proverbs, is sufficiently clear from the word reward being opposed to heaping coals of fire. Now though we saw no reason why Solomon should propose such an inducement to an act of kindness, we must think that he had some good reason; at least one which must have been good in his time, and in his religion; and this must make us extremely cautious how we put any forced construction upon his words, in order to avoid any notion seeming to us dangerous. The Jews were vindictive; which might be partly owing to the
causes already assigned, Art. 30. and partly to the slow progress of civilization: revenge is always a vice of barbarism. Solomon acts a discreet part with respect to their vindictive spirit; he does not attempt to extinguish it all at once; he does not absolutely deny the rectitude of punishment; but he cautions the Jews not to let it prevent acts of common humanity; and exhorts them to avoid being themselves the avengers of their own wrongs. It must be more safe, he intimates, to let such a very dangerous office devolve upon that perfect Being, who alone judgeth righteous judgment; according to what they had been taught long before Solomon's time by their Lawgiver Moses himself. Vengeance is mine-or, " To me belongeth vengeance and recompense".
This advice must be seasonable, whether any of the people really thought retribution indispensible, or whether they sheltered a desire of revenge under that principle. We may conceive Solomon to have been acquainted with their notions, and to have endeavoured to turn their enmity into a channel where it could do no harm. Suppose that justice' we may conceive him to say, according to your notion of it, must be satisfied, yet Jehovah is able to satisfy it, and will surely omit nothing that ought to be done; de not therefore use your enemy cruelly; do not suffer him to perish for want of bread and water. You may supply him with the necessaries of life, and punish him afterwards, if that seems absolutely necessary: should he abuse your bounty, he enhances his crime, ⚫ and there is no doubt, or none that needs perplex you, that Jehovah will increase his punishment'. Can any thing be better imagined, or more wisely urged, than such a direction as this? It is highly probable that we do not see the allusion in the metaphor of burning coals, or coals of fire, exactly in the same light in which Solomon saw it; that must depend, like other allusions, on minute facts and familiar customs; but we seem to have, on the whole, sufficient reason to conclude, that Solomon did really mean increasing punishment, when he used such a metaphorical expression.
Those who favour the allusion to a crucible, should shew what progress the arts had made in the time of Solomon perhaps that might not be difficult, as far as concerns the present question, because gold and silver are mentioned as used in very early times; though they could not be useful till they were melted. Neverthe less it may not be wholly improper to observe, generally, that to prove any thing concerning the time of St. Paul would not be sufficient; it would fall short of what is here required. On the whole we may submit it to the candid, which comparison the wise man was most likely to have in his mind, when he spoke of coals of fire; that to punishment, or that to melting and softening the heart; the one so in use as to be generally understood, the other so unusual, that we have not a single instance of it in the Old Testament. In language all depends upon custom; and not less in figurative language than in plain. Indeed did we find coals coals of fire used figuratively, as often for softening the heart as for punishment, the mention of reward as its opposite would still determine the sense here; reward being directly opposed to punishment, and in no way to the melting of the affections. And whatever is the right comparison in the Book of Proverbs, is also the right one in the quotation from that book by St. Paul. The interpreters of St. Paul, who favour the comparison of the crucible, are, I think, though they may not be aware of it, apt to treat his expressions now before us, as originally his, not as quoted; and they are apt to neglect the word "reward",
They may say, that in strictness, they are not interpreting the words of Solomon, but those of St Paul, or at most those of Solomon as adopted by St. Paul; but surely the Apostle would not quote words of the wise inan which signify punishment, and use them as meaning quite a different thing; softening the heart or affections: He must quote them as well known to his Jewish converts, and as what must be received for Scripture even by the Gentiles. Therefore it is more reasonable to suppose, that St. Paul meant to convey some such idea as this; You must treat your enemies with.common humanity; for even the Jews, notwithstanding
the hardness of their hearts, were under obligation to 'do this; shall it not much more be done by the disciples of the mild and forgiving Jesus'? and supposing St. Paul to have quoted the Book of Proverbs only for the sake of this argument, and to have thought that Christians might as well be humane and merciful for mercy's sake, without any idea of the ungrateful being punished; though he might possibly have stopped short when he had delivered Solomon's precept concerning the relieving of an enemy, yet it would have been very unnatural for him to have made a partial quotation by omitting the motive alleged, even if he had thought it peculiar to the old Law: hor would such omission have answered any purpose, as the passage was well known, and as he was quoting the Jewish Scriptures. Did those who differ from us take this ground, and shew that St. Paul meant only to quote the words, as part of the Old Law, and to improve upon them. they would have at least a good foundation, whatever they might be able to build upon it.
39. Let us then, in order to avoid any difficulty arising from the difference between the old and new Law, take the words as St. Paul's originally, and see whether, on that supposition, there is any thing material to be objected to the sense which we conceive to have been Solomon's; that is, to coals of fire meaning punishment, either on account of the Interpretation, or of the consequences which would follow from adopting
In considering whether we interpret the words of St. Paul in a fair and reasonable manner, it should be kept in mind, that every argument has to effect something in the mind of him to whom it is addressed; it has to clear up some obscurity, to obviate some difficulty; and nothing would serve better to shew that a certain sense of words was not the right one, than to prove, that according to that sense the word could answer no purpose: nor, on the contrary, would any thing better justify a sense than shewing the purpose which it would or might answer. Now the great support of revenge in the minds of men who profess to observe their Duty,