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This, then, is the sum of what we have delivered. Do we find ourselves visited with pious affections, with serious and awful apprehensions of futurity, with devout and holy thoughts of God, of Jesus Christ, and of our salvation, let us be thankful for them, as for the greatest of blessings.
But do we find these thoughts vanish, leaving no solid impression behind them; or do we find that they do not at all break off our course and habits of sinning, or interrupt us in the wicked practices into which we have fallen, or rouse us from the moral sloth and unprofitableness in which we are sunk,-let us bring to remembrance this solemn text-" Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord! shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father." By no means let us undervalue the good thoughts and good motions which we feel, or have felt, but it is necessary we should know that we are yet far short of the mark; that something is done, and that of great importance, but that more is still wanting that we must earnestly and laboriously strive so to fasten these good intimations upon the heart, so to imprint them deeply upon the soul, as that they may convert our behaviour, beget in us amendment, strengthen our resistance of temptation, break off our evil habits, and at length conquer every obstacle, and every adversary both spiritual and fleshly, which would stop and turn us out of our way in our progress to a heavenly reward.
THE FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES.
MATT. VI. 15.
If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
THE forgiveness of injuries is commanded in Scripture, not simply as other duties are, but in a manner peculiar to itself; that is, as the absolute condition of obtaining forgiveness ourselves from God-a most awful consideration, and expressed in terms which cannot be mistaken or explained away"if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses." Words cannot be plainer or more positive. Nor is this allfor in the prayer which our Lord taught his disciples, and which from thence is called the Lord's prayer, we are instructed to petition God to forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; which is as much as to acknowledge that so far from expecting forgiveness of our offences, we are not even to ask it upon any other terms than our forgiving the offences committed against us. Some wonder why this forgiving temper, which they reckon
no better than tameness, or want of spirit, should be ranked so high by our Saviour, and hold so prominent a place amongst the duties of his religion— should be of more account with him than the most shining and splendid virtues. But such people do not sufficiently consider the importance of this duty, or the difficulty of it. By its importance, I mean its use to mankind; for what are half the vexations of life, the uneasinesses in families, betwixt neighbours, and all the strife and contention we see in the world owing to, but to the want of it? and how are they to be healed and put a stop to, but by one of the parties at least setting an example of forgiveness? As long as each is determined to be even with his adversary, there can be no end of provocation or offence. Every retaliation is looked upon as a fresh affront, and requiring consequently a fresh act of revenge; so that upon this principle hatred must be immortal-an offence once given, or a quarrel once begun, must breed a train of perpetual ill turns, of constant spite and malice in the persons concerned. And this disposition is as painful to a man himself as it is mischievous to his adversary; for there is no enjoying any solid quiet, or comfort of heart, while a man hateth his brother—whilst he bears a grudge against, or is seeking to be revenged of any one. It likewise makes this a duty of greater real value, that it is very difficult. When we have received an injury or affront, we are naturally set on fire by it-we consider constantly how to be revenged upon our
enemy, and make him, as we say, repent it. This is either natural, as I said, or become so by our education-fashion-habit. Now this propensity, which is one of the strongest belonging to us, must by degrees, and with great pains and reflection, be got the better of. And we have not only this to struggle with, but also the opinion of the world, which is apt to have a mighty influence upon us. Other virtues
are a credit and an honour to a man, but this is not on the contrary, the world are more likely to reproach him as mean-spirited and cowardly for sitting down under an insult or affront, and tamely forgiving the author of it. As I said before, therefore, it is no wonder our Saviour should lay so much stress, and set so high a value, upon a duty which is so necessary to the peace and quietness of the world-which yet is so very difficult to be performed; and one which there is so little inducement to perform besides the considerations of religion.
To explain this duty farther, it may be necessary to mention some particulars which we may be apt to confound with it, but which are not any real parts of it. First, then, the forgiveness of offences should not imply that offences should not be punished when the public good requires it, that is, when the lawful punishment of the offence is necessary, either to correct and amend the delinquent himself, or others by his example. This duty only requires, that such offences should be punished and prosecuted out of a pure regard to the public safety, and to answer the
ends of punishment, and not to gratify revenge. There is no moral similitude between what we make a man suffer out of a cool consideration and a sense of what is necessary, and what is done out of spite or anger. There is this solid difference betwixt the two states-the one will be as painful to us as the other is pleasant. The two things arise from quite different motives-are of a separate nature-and Christ's command, which respects the one, has nothing to do with the other; so that the magistrate may do his duty in punishing offenders, and private persons may do their duty in bringing public offenders to justice, without interfering with this command of our Saviour's. At the same time, however, it should be remarked and understood, that where no substantial good end is to be answered by it—that is, where the offence is trivial or inadvertent, or where lenity will not be likely to invite the repetition of it, or encourage others in it-in such circumstances to pursue an offence with the utmost rigour and severity of the law savours more of private spite than public justice. Now if there be a mixture of private grudge in such severity, it is a breach of our Saviour's command, though there be law, perhaps, to colour and cover it.
Secondly; nor does this precept hinder us from applying, upon proper occasions, to the laws of our country to recover some right that is denied us, or satisfaction for some wrong that is done us; for there would be no living in the world, if the good must