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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 ad- . versary 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, tender-hearted, 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 railingseek 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 : “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 forgiven elves. I
'ne our own offences all disclosed
ght to imagine, again, ourselves obstin
veri venge, in a denial of satisfact
ing treated, disdaining give,
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 usa 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 loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out and found one of his fellow-servants which owed him an hundred pence, and he laid hands on him, and took him by the
, throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest ; and his fellowservant fell down at his feet and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all ;—and he would not, but went and cast him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt because
thou desiredst me, shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors till he should pay all that he owed unto him.” We can readily see the monstrous cruelty and ingratitude of the servant's behaviour—“ Oughtest not thou also to have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee,” is an expression that goes to the heart. We must agree also in the justice of his lord's conduct when he delivered him to the tormentors till he had paid all that was due to him. It is impossible not to own it is what he deserved, but our business with it is to see what also a little secret reflection will convince us of,—that this is no other than the case of each and every one of us who does not from the heart forgive his brother their trespasses.
RECONCILEMENT OF DISPUTES.
PROVERBS XVII. 14.
The beginning of strife is, as when one letteth out water.
Therefore leave off contention before it be meddled with.
There is not found throughout the Book of Proverbs, or in any book indeed either of ancient or modern morality, a maxim which contains more of truth and wisdom, or which we see more frequently verified by instances of public and private misfortunes, than this of the text. The meaning is plain—as in a bank by which waters are confined, the first breach is generally small, easily prevented, or as easily repaired; but if the flood be suffered even for a short time to gain head and go on, the torrent soon gathers force and violence, continually working its passage wider, till it bears down every obstacle that opposes it, and overwhelms the country with deluge and ruins : admitting perhaps of no remedy which human art or strength can apply, or requiring operations so expensive as to impoverish all who are concerned in them,—so is it with the beginning of strife. Some small slight or neglect, some frivolous dispute, some affront scarcely perceptible, easily avoided, and at first as easily made up, commonly lays the foundation of those quarrels and animosities which, in private life, are sure to make those miserable who are