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lated the case with him, and complained of the injury; "Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?"* Hence it appears that we must understand the precepts of our Lord in the sense he practised them. This view of his character was the subject of prophecy, and it was described in language not altogether dissimilar to the text: "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair."+ And this is the way in which we are to observe them-not by inviting "the smiters" to scourge us, but by patiently bearing those stripes which are unjustly laid upon us; not by provoking a second blow, but by not returning the first: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again: when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."+
"And if any
Secondly. As it respects your property. man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." Our Lord here, by an allusion to the common dress of the Jews, shows us how we are to behave under any trifling loss which we might sustain by the hand of injustice and oppression. By the "coat" might be understood the vest, or girdle, with which the orientals confined their mantle to their persons. From its difference in size it must have been of inferior value to the cloak,-which was a loose upper garment, wholly covering them. Now this supplies us with a strong idea of the nature of this duty. We are not only to suffer a trifling loss, but even to submit to a greater, rather than keep alive the fire of contention; and to relinquish some
* John xviii. 23.
+ Isaiah 1. 6.
1 Pet. ii. 21-23.
what of our lawful claims, instead of urging them" to the uttermost farthing." And more than this-for we must remember that it refers to the law of retaliation; although we should lose that which is very material to our comfort and existence, yet we must be content to let it go, and more after it, without the least attempt to render the like injury to him who takes it. This is sublime and celestial morality!
The third case refers to our liberty. "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. "By general consent, this verse alludes to the custom of the Persians, relative to their posts. The word which is here "compel to go," should be rendered compel to carry; for when Judea was one of the provinces of Persia, the king exacted certain service of the Jews, by pressing them to carry all letters and baggages belonging to his court through the country, as there was occasion. The distance which each individual had to travel with the appointed burden was one mile, when he was relieved, and others proceeded with it. Among the Jews, however, their doctors were excused from such service; but the Saviour intimates, that He would not have any of his disciples insist on such exemption. This, therefore, seems the meaning of the precept," If any one should press thee to go a mile with him, on any public account, go with him double that distance, rather than make any formidable opposition." Now where shall we turn for an occasion on which to exemplify this? We see it in some of those encroachments which are made by public authority on our comforts and liberty. And how are we to treat them? Certainly not by offering violent resistance to "the powers that be, and which are ordained of God." The direction teaches us to suffer many things that are wrongfully imposed upon us, rather than use any force against those who impose them. It would, indeed, be idle to suppose,
that we are forbidden the honest and lawful adoption of proper means, either to shake off oppressive exactions, or for the protection of personal and national privileges. The man who would relinquish, without an honourable struggle, his natural freedom, is the meanest of creatures, deserves the execration of his species, and ought to be for ever a slave. The religious, political, commercial, and scientific prosperity of every organized community, is inseparably connected with civil freedom, and he is the greatest enemy to humanity, and the vilest traitor to his country, who would tamely surrender it to the grasp of usurpation and tyranny. Christians are not required to meddle with politics, especially in matters which have but a remote connection with the interests of religion; yet if they are unwilling, when called upon, to "stand fast" in the defence of "the liberty wherewith" the Christian faith hath taught them they are "free," they are wholly unworthy its enjoyment. But the maintenance of what is right, and suffering patiently what is wrong, are two different things. The former I am bound to do, both in my civil and religious capacity; and the latter I am commanded also to endure, rather than encourage opposition to governments, or mingle in tumultuous expressions of disaffection. The men who value true liberty, and who have most of its spirit, will seek the welfare of the land by all constitutional and peaceable means; and the more we have of the spirit of our Lord and Master, the more shall we cordially "fear God, and honour the king."
The fourth and last particular refers to charity. This is the crowning virtue of the whole. Must we submit to a second stroke, rather than resent the first-to lose our chief garment rather than contend at law-to travel two miles rather than refuse to go one; this is much, too much for our unrenewed nature. But we have much
not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome
evil with good."*
Taking the direction, which the last verse contains by itself, it forms a fine and celestial maxim of benevolence and good-will to man. But when the precept is viewed in connection with an adversary, and we see that it teaches us not only to cease from revenge, to submit to ill-treatment with patience, and to overlook the wrong he has done us, but to give to him when he needs it, and to lend to him when he requests it—what a picture of benevolence is here? Surely this is God-like-for "he commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us!"+ Happy, happy world, didst thou know "the things that belong to thy peace!"
Of course this divine injunction must be understood with some modification. There must be prudence in "giving to him that asketh," and there must be the exercise of discretion in lending to him "that would borrow" of us. There are cases where giving would be sinful-such as, when you know the supplicant intends to employ the alms he might receive for wicked purposes. And the same of loans, when the party would only use them in support of extravagance, pride, and idleness. And, doubtless, in both cases, the generous contributions of the "liberal man" are often much abused. We are, likewise, to give according to our ability, that which is our own and not another's. offering, saith the Lord."+
"I hate robbery for a burntBut where there is one that
Rom. xii. 19-21.
+ Rom. v. 8.
Isaiah lxi. 8.
errs on the score of excessive generosity, there are hundreds who err on the other side. It would be well if the hearts of many were as full of love as their heads are of doctrines: what an improvement would then take place in the moral world! Ponder, my brethren, these Scriptures: "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty."*"Thou shalt surely give to thy brother, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land."+ I wish these plain counsels were more regarded by modern professors. There are thousands in our churches who always find the means, when they desire them, to decorate their persons, ornament their houses, and gratify their passions in almost every way that is not decidedly immoral-and perhaps in some that are; but as for the support of religion, the extension of the gospel, and the relief of the sick and destitute-they cannot afford any thing! Well, a reckoning day will come, and of their stewardship they must give an account. May the curse of covetousness and the withering love of money never fall on us!
But I must close. How practical is real Christianity! It does not consist in forms of devotion, impressions on the imagination, zeal for the interests of a party, or correct notions of divine doctrines, important as they may be-but in an active, patient, submissive, and forgiving spirit, full of humility, kindness, charity, and love. It leads all who are under its influence to mingle mercy with
Prov. xi. 24.
+ Deut. xv. 10-11.