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the question should be asked as to the conduct of a man in a state of society different from our own, still I should have no question of what would be demanded of a man of religion
man of religion and morals. I speak, you observe, of a man of religion and morals; for they who on every other subject notoriously have neither, will of course make rules for themselves. It is one of the dreadful consequences of a life of habitual libertinism and irreligion, that a man will not be believed when he pleads scruples of conscience on this subject, who has gloried in haying none on any other. But with regard to a man of religion, or even of high morals, his course appears to me to be as clear as the path of the sun in a cloudless sky. The regard of the world, considered as a means of usefulness, is, I admit, an unquestionable good. But it is not so great a good that it may not be purchased at too high a price ; and it is assuredly bought too dear, when it costs us the violation of the laws of God, of reason, and humanity. No man can have the right to take away the life of his antagonist, or to expose his own, merely to gain the suffrages of the world. It will not do to admit, that the eternal principles of right may be superseded at the command of fashion and prejudice. It is better for us, at any hazard, to obey the voice of God rather than of man; and if necessary, to give up the regard of the world, rather than resign the consolations of innocence.
II. Having considered the occasions and the
means of justifiable retaliation, it remains only to say a few words on the temper with which it should be exercised. After all the conditions which make retaliation justifiable are complied with; after we are satisfied that the injury of which we complain is intentional; that it is of a magnitude seriously to affect our powers of usefulness; that there is no oth
; er way of maintaining our rights, and that we have such lawful means of retaliation as will ensure to us redress and security; still, before they are used, the christian is called on once more to pause and to examine himself. He must first empty his heart of all malice; of every particle of that unholy, that accursed spirit, which unlike every other principle or passion of our nature, has for its very end and object the misery of our fellow creatures ; which broods over the memory of its wrongs ; which delights in the anticipation of the pain it is about to inflict; which gluts its pride, and inflames its animosity, with the fancied supplications of humbled enmity. The pure genius of christianity forbids this unhallowed spirit of revenge
every degree, under all its forms, upon every occasion. The gospel allows no retaliation, which is not consistent with a forgiving spirit, with a feeling of sorrow and regret that we are compelled to resort to it. Even when retaliation is in itself justifiable, it ceases to be so, and becomes deeply criminal, if it be exercised with a revengeful temper.
This is the sense in which the Apostle intended his direction in the text to be understood, and
in this he imitated the preaching and example of his Master. Our Saviour, as has been well remarked, who estimated virtues by their solid utility, and not by their fashion or popularity, prefers the forgiveness of injury to every other. He enjoins it oftener; with more earnestness; under a greater variety of forms; and with this weighty and peculiar circumstance, that the forgiveness of others is the condition on which we are to ask from God forgiveness for ourselves. Of him who hopes to be forgiven, it is indispensably required that he should forgive. Can it then be possible that
any human being should be found, who remembers how much he has to be forgiven, and who yet
has no charity, no pity, no forgiveness, for his offending fellow-sinner! Can we remember how many offences God has endured from us without blotting us from the earth; that He has endured our insensibility, our ingratitude, our numberless sins; and yet cannot we endure the slightest injury from our neighbour, but we must burn with anger and
revenge, and perhaps think it necessary to wipe out the offence in his blood! My friends, let us pray God to forgive us, if we have ever felt this spirit. Let us, as we value his favour, extinguish our unholy animosities, and learn charity for each other's failings. Let us seek to love one another as Christ loved us; that we may not be wholly unworthy to be admitted at last to those blissful mansions, where peace and love abide eternally.
PROVERBS, xv. 33.
Before honour is humility. ALTHOUGH it has undoubtedly been the effect of the diffusion of christianity, to refine and elevate the standard of morals throughout the world, it is still not to be denied, that the christian estimates many characters and events very differently from the man of the world. Some of the virtues, which christianity esteems of the highest value, and to which she promises her richest rewards, are unhonoured if not despised by the world; and in return, many of those qualities which the world considers of the highest dignity, christianity pronounces to be among the most dangerous and detestable vices. The world, for example, binds its wreath of glory around the brow of the sanguinary conqueror of empires; but christianity looks down on his triumphs with horror and disdain; and reserves her brightest laurel for the lowly, unassuming conqueror of himself. The world gives its admiration to the successful cultivator of science, even though he may
be destitute of some of the fairest of the virtues; but christianity gives him none of her respect, , however rich may be his powers, and however illuminated his understanding, if he have neglected to cultivate that knowledge which she values above all others, the knowledge of God and of his own heart. In the estimation of the world, wealth is allowed to compensate for the absence of almost every amiable quality ; but christianity regards affluence, unsanctified by goodness, with abhorrence, and pronounces the
poorest being that walks the earth, blessed and honourable, if his heart be rich in piety and virtue. The world praises him as a man of spirit and of honour, who bears no injury without instant and ample revenge ; but christianity crowns him with her highest honours, who can pity and forgive, and do good to his most deadly foe. The world, in fine, gives its homage to the splendid exterior of pride and vain-glory; but christianity approves and acknowledges the man of sincere humility alone. “ Whosoever exalteth himself,” saith Jesus, “ shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
There is no subject on which the christian, and the man of the world, are more completely at issue than on this. Our Saviour, by all his words and actions, raises the virtue of humility to a rank which no teacher of morals ever before