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sit down under every wrong that the bad do them: this in the event would be putting the good in absolute slavery and subjection to the bad. But then to justify our conduct in this case, that is, to make it consistent with our Saviour's precepts, the right in question must be some serious right, of value worth the contest, and not merely to show that we are in the right and our adversary in the wrong, rather than for any thing that depends upon either. And likewise, when we are necessarily engaged in a contest of this kind, to proceed with calmness, civility, and good temper, which hurts no cause, and not with anger or passion; and also to accept the cheapest and most easy method that will answer the ends of justice; for what is beyond this must be merely to berate and distress our adversary; and springs, we may depend upon it, from malice and revenge at the bottom. In short, it is easy enough to distinguish in ourselves when we act in those contests, which are almost unavoidable, with a Christian spirit, and when otherwise. If we, instead of trying every fair expedient to avoid and terminate the dispute amicably, are hastily engaged in it-if we go more for victory and triumph to depress and expose our adversary, than for any thing else—if we take delight in putting him to trouble, vexation, and expense, we are far, very far, let his conduct have been what it will, from acting in that mild relenting temper which our religion inculcates and insists upon.-Neither,
Thirdly; when another has offended against us,
are we bound to overlook his offence, or to continue to him the opportunity of repeating it. If, for instance, a person has cheated or deceived us, we are not obliged to trust him again; because that would probably encourage him to persist in his bad practices, which is doing him as much harm as it can do us.-Nor,
Fourthly; ought we so to forget men's bad behaviour, as to caress and countenance all characters alike to preserve no respect or distinction for virtue -to testify no dislike or indignation against vice. Men, good as well as bad, act with some view to the opinion of the world and the loss of character; the being ill received and looked upon is often the only punishment which the wicked fear: so that it seems to be necessary, in order to uphold and maintain the interests of virtue in the world, to treat the vicious differently from the virtuous-to withhold or withdraw our civilities or communications from such as would only disgrace the acquaintance of honest men. This sort of discipline is what St. Paul authorises, and even enjoins: "I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one, no not to eat." But what we do on this score is easily distinguished from what we do out of revenge, by this mark-that we should do the same had the person who offended us acted in like manner to any other; because if it be the guilt and not the injury
which offended us, the offence will be the same whether we are the objects of it or another. These are the chief cases in which we can make others suffer for their faults, without disobeying our Saviour's command to forgive them.
With regard to the command itself, let it be observed, that it certainly extends not merely to trifling offences or imaginary affronts, but to real and actual injuries. Thy brother is supposed to have transgressed against thee-to have done thee wrong, and to have behaved ill; so that the common excuse, that your adversary began first, that he was in fault, or most to blame, is no excuse at all for quarrels and resentment: I mean, upon the principles of our Saviour's command.
This duty, the forgiveness of injuries, is rather in the nature of a disposition, than a single act; that is, does not so much consist in determining expressly to forgive this or that particular injury, as in working ourselves into such a softness and mildness of temper as easily and readily to forgive injuries. "Be ye kind," says St. Paul," one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another; even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you." Is that fulfilled whilst we recompense evil for evil, and return railing for railing-seek and study only to be even with our adversary,—whilst we try to do him an ill turn when the opportunity comes in our way, and when we cannot bear the sight and the thoughts of him without pain-whilst we refuse to allow him the
praise or merit really due to him—whilst we cannot see his success without mortification, or his misfortunes but with secret pleasure? As long as we continue in this disposition, at least whilst we continue without endeavouring to correct it, we have not the spirit of Christ: we have not complied with his command.
There are several considerations, which properly attended to and applied, may help to mollify our hatred, and bring us by degrees to that tenderness of heart and temper which makes so great a part of a good Christian:-I will mention two. The first is, that the only way of overcoming evil is with good. The most generous and effectual method of subduing our adversary's animosity, and making him sensible of his error and unkindness, is to repay it with kindness and good offices on our part. He that requites one ill turn with another is only even with his adversary when he has done. He that forgives it is above him; and so his adversary himself will confess one time or another. And thus does St. Paul exhort us: 66 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. If thine enemy hunger, give him meat; if he thirst, give him drink; so shalt thou heap coals of fire upon his head"-a singular expression, but very just and beautiful when rightly understood. It was the custom to melt down hard metals by heaping coals of fire upon the head of the vessel they were put into. And so St. Paul comes to speak of heaping coals of fire upon your adversary's head to melt his heart. But the great consideration
of all, and which should never fail, one would think, to produce this forgiving temper within us, is that we stand in so much need of forgiveness ourselves. Imagine our own offences all disclosed and brought to light; imagine, again, ourselves obstinately persevering in revenge, in a denial of satisfaction, refusing to be intreated, disdaining to forgive, extreme to mark and to resent what is done or said amiss; imagine, I say, this, and you can hardly paint to yourself a greater instance of arrogance and absurdity. It must be intolerable, if any thing is, in the sight of God. This sentiment is described by our Saviour, in one of the finest parables in the whole book; which I desire to leave upon your minds, as being what we should always bear about us-a lesson which it is a shame to be ignorant of; and impossible, one would think, to forget. It is to be found in the latter part of the 18th chap. of St. Matthew.
"The kingdom of heaven," that is, God's dealing with mankind under the Gospel," is," says our Saviour, "like unto a certain king which would take account of his servants; and when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents; but, forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and