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“ the providence of God, who is able to preserve you, “ and will (without any interposition of yours ) “ sufficiently avenge you. Nay, let the injury be
what it will, be it ever so great and unsupport« able, never apply your felves to magistrates and “ laws, to gratify a revengeful humour; never pro“ fecute merely for the sake of punishing; but either “ for the publick good (separate from all ends of
private paffion) or to obtain a necessary repara“ tion for the damages ye have really received. Nor “ is this all, that ye abstain from returning evil “ for evil; ye must even relieve the necesities of “ such an injurious person. If by his circumstan“ ces he be brought to beg of you, give him free
ly and cheerfully; if he desire to borrow, refuse “ not to lend him; laying aside all grudges at the 6 eyil he has done you : for my religion obliges
you to be charitable both to friends and ene6 mies.
I suppose in explaining of this paragraph farther there will be no need to prove here the lawfulness of wars, wherein the publick honour and interest is concerned : Nor that the prohibition does not extend to magistrates punishing ill men according to the laws of their country: for they are deputed by the authority of God, to whom vengeance belongs, * to execute wrath upon him that does evil, and they are not to bear the sword in vain. But that which seems in general to be the view of this whole paragraph, is to restrain all personal refentments and revenges, and to inculcate that we should not do an hard, a mischievous, or a vexatious thing to any one, because he hath done the like to us, where many times our own good is not so much considered as the others hurt; for the word dvdsávar signifies rather to oppose evil to evil, than to ward off an injury. But there being four distinct precepts or directions included here, we will confider them severally.
* Rom. xiji. 4.
I. The first is, what a Christian must do who is injured in his person, by blows, or words of contempt, expressed by striking on the one cheek. Now the laws of every country
taking cognizance of all injuries betwixt man and man, that carry a real damage along with them, and having provided such a satisfaction proportionable, as shall 'restrain the offender's insolence, vindicate the person wrong’d, and make up the damage he has suffered; we are first to consider whether the grievance we have to complain of, be such as the cool and unprejudiced justice of those laws have thought great enough to deserve a legal remedy. If it be such, our Saviour does not here forbid us to apply to the magistrate in defence and maintenance of our right; for he himself, when he was injuriously stricken by the high priest's servant, * protested in open court against such usage. But if it be so small an injury, that the laws have taken no notice of it, our holy Mafter requires that we should rather put it up, than offer to revenge it. And though the words are not to be taken in so strict and literal a sense, as if we were bound industriously to give an insolent offender opportunities for a second injury, and to folicit new abuses from him: yet thus far we must extend the precept, that no real or pretended fear or probability of his taking advantage, from our patience under one abuse, to add another, Ihould in any wise prompt us to revenge and retaliation. We must refer our felves to God, and bear with every thing that happens, rather than break through so plain, direct, and positive a command as we have here, not to return evil for evil. This will doubtless be thought an hard saying, by those who thro' a long indulged and humoured tenderness for themselves, have wrought the constitution of their minds to such a temper they can bear nothing. But who can help it? Religion, as it proceeds from God, must be an authoritative rule: our passions therefore are entirely to be govern'd by it, and not that rule bent to a compliance with our passions. 'Tis impossible to avoid reflecting here upon that most unchristian, barbarous, and senseless practice of duelling, whereby two lives, or more, are staked by way of satisfaction for affronts; which not only a disciple of Christ is bound to forgive, but even a prudent heathen would think it below him to regard. The great pretence is honour, but the notion of honour wretchedly mistaken and abused. True honour has by all wile men been thought to consist in such a greatness of mind, as carries a man above the resentment of contempts and injuries. And certainly it requires a greater share of courage to pass by an affront, than to revenge it, because the difficulty is greater. Now the proper object of courage is difficulty, as the proper spring and principle it issues from is' honour: and therefore the conquest of a man's paffion being harder, beyond comparison, than the indulgence of them, courage is most thewn in such a conquest, and that must be the truest honour, that inspires with such a courage; nor can any thing be more opposite to both, than is that peeyish weakness, that is ruffled and difcomposed at every affront, and enslaves men continually to their own pride and other mens ill-nature. But besidc this grand mistake of the duellist, in his notion of honour and courage, the practice of such men is as defective in common justice and equity: for what proportion is there betwixt the trifling injury that provokes them (too insignificant, it seems, for
* John xviii. 22, 23.
human laws to take the cognizance of) and the life of a man, in the destruction, or at least in the hazard of which they place their fatisfaction. Lastly, they consider not to how little purpose this wild scheme of fatisfaction really serves. Their end must be either revenge, reparation of the damage received, or defence of their reputation. If the firft, 'tis the revenge of a mad-man, that will fire his enemy's house the very next to him, which in all probability will communicate the flames to his own, and burn that too, or at least apparently endanger it. If reparation of the damage be aim'd at, or defence of reputation ; suppose he kill his enemy, what
does he get by it? or how does that retrieve his credit? Will that wash off the afperfion, take off the blow, or prove the lie to have been falsly given? Not at all. His suffering by the affront or injury, is still just as great as the offender's insolence left it. What I have hitherto faid, are arguments from réafon only, against fuch a practice: And I might add, it were enough to restrain a good and wife man from it, that thereby hc acts contrary to the laws of the land, in defiance of the government under which he lives, and is protected from whatever can reasonably be look'd upon as an injury that deserves to have any notice taken of it. But were this not fo, and that no arguments could be drawn from reason or human laws against duelling; if it was really dishonourable not to fight; if declining it would, as is sometimes objected, expose a man to farther abuses; if duels were not fought upon the account of such trifling injuries, as generally they are; if engaging in them would repair a loss, or wipe off a disgrace, or be indeed a suitable revenge to a revengeful temper; yet surely there is something that with a Christian should outbalance all, that duelling is directly contrary to his holy profession, which requires patience under disgrace
and reproaches. And no person deserves the character of a disciple of the suffering and forgiving Jesus, who acts contrary to the whole tenor of his religion, and facrilegiously usurps the right of God, who has reserved the power of vengeance to himself, having said, Vengeance is mine, I will repay.
II. The second precept, or direction, concerning our behaviour under wrongs, is when we are injured in our properties, when our goods or estates are taken from us either privately, or under colour of law, expressed here by the taking away of the coat. In this case there is a greater liberty of insisting upon redress and reparation, than in the former : the courts of justice are open, and the authority of the laws may be appeal'd to, and the injurious be forc'd to restitution. The precept here is not against all going to law: for courts to determine right of property and poffeffion, as they are neceffary, considering the violence and rapacious temper of some men, and contribute very much to the good order of the world, are doubtless agreeable in the nature, design, and use of them, to the God of order and justice. And being so, perhaps it may be thought there is no great danger in exceeding in the use we make of them; for since we owe a justice to our felves and our families, as well as to others; and since going to law is a lawful method of doing our selves right, how (may some say) can any man be to blame in taking all advantages the law will give him? But permit me the liberty of answering in the words of an Apostle, equally true of this as of what himself applies it to, law is good, if a man use it lawfully. Christianity has directed certain bounds and rules of moderation, which ought to be carefully obseryed in this
I Tim. i. 8.