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hibits all private Revenge, reserving the Office of Vengeance entirely to the publick Magistrate, who is God's Avenger, and is possessed of the Sword of Justice for the Punishment of evil Doers. But,
Secondly,»I take our Saviour's chief Design here, to be the instructing of his Disciples in that better way, namely, the way of Patience and Forgiveness, that they should not only abstain from taking Satisfaction themselves, but also forbear seeking and prosecuting the legal Satisfaction before the Judges, which in strictness of Justice is lawful. This is certainly the Meaning of these Words, But I say unto you, that ye rehf not the evil or injurious Man; especially if we consider the several Instances of these sorts of Injuries immediately mentioned, bodily Injuries by smiting on the Cheek; Injuries in our Estate, by taking away our Coat; and Injuries in point of Liberty, by compelling us to go a Mile; all which our Saviour advises us to bear, though with the hazard of having a second Injury offered us, rather than avenge.
But because this Doctrine is liable to very great Exceptions, and therefore may be judged improbable by fome, to be the true Sense of our Saviour, however favoured by the Letter of the Words ; I shall therefore briefly consider, both the Inconveniencies and Conveniencies of it, after I have first added an Observation or two, tending to the better Explication of it.
The first Thing I would obferve, is, that our Saviour in these Words, But I say unto you, that ye resist not Evil, is preparing his Disciples, that is, all Christians, for that State of Persecution which
he knew they were to meet with in the World ; 9. d. Although this Privilege was allowed the Fews, that when they were injured, they might repair to the Magistrate, who was to do them right upon their Adversary, according to the Proportion of Wrong they had suffered from him; Life for Life, Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tootb ; yet ye, my Disciples, are to expect no such thing; Í foretell you that Persecution shall be your Lot, without any Privilege of Retaliation; and therefore ye are to prepare your felves to bear Injuries, without either avenging your selves personally, or expecting that the Magistrate will avenge you in the
way of publick Justice. And if this be the Sense, (as it is highly probable) then this Doctrine of suffering all manner of Injuries without Reparation, relates chiefly to Christians under a State of Persecution, when the Laws and Magistrates are against them, but not to Christians who enjoy the Protection of Laws and Government; for no doubt they may be righted by those Laws, as well as the Jews under the Law of Mofes. So that our Lord is here only preparing Christians for what was then immediately, and often afterwards, like to be their Lot, namely, the State of Persecution.
But then there is another thing I must likewise observe, which will justify this Doctrine, though it should be extended to all times of the Church ; prosperous as well as adverse, peaceable as well as persecuted; namely, that the Injuries here mentioned, are such as were reckoned the smaller fort of Injuries, such as none but a litigious Person would go to Law for; and some of these too, Injuries inflicted by the Oppressiveness
of the Law itself, in both which Cafes we may safely pronounce that Retaliation is prohibited. First, I say, in the case of light, tolerable Injuries; for to seek to right our felves by Law for such, shews a very impatient litigious Spirit ; and besides, the Remedy is worse than the Disease, it being much easier to bear with small Injuries, than to undergo the Charge and Trouble of righting our felves by Law. But then, Secondly, if the Injury is such as is brought upon us by Course of Law, as no doubt there be many such; one instance of which, is this taking away the Coat by Suit at Law in the Text, then there remains nothing but Patience; for the resisting the Laws, or the Judges, and Magistrates, in the Execution of them, though they happen to err, and to be guilty of Acts of Hardship and Oppreffion to particular Men, is certainly unlawful in itself, and prohibited by our Saviour to all Christians.
Having premised these Observations, for the
of Contention. And as to the future Inconveniencies; whereas fome may be apt to suspect that the patient bearing of one Injury, may invite another, I believe it will be found quite otherwise, that the revenging of one
Injury brings on another ; the one is like the withdrawing of Fewel or combustible Matter, which will soon put out the Fire; and the other is continually furnishing fresh Fewel, mixed with Oil and Gunpowder, and such enflaming Materials, as are apt to spread the Fire of Contention, but not to extinguish it.
So I am led insensibly to the third thing in our Saviour's Doctrine, which is his obviating of an Objection very natural to be started, namely, that this way of Patience will expose us to be abused and affronted still more and more, when Men know they can do it unpunished. Our Saviour answers this Objection very briefly, by advising us to venture the being further injured, the turring the other Cheek, the losing the Cloak as well as the Coat, the going two Miles instead of one, rather than flying to Revenge or Retaliation. For this I take to be the Meaning of all these Expressions, that we should rather venture the receiving of a second Injury, than revenge the first; for the Words are not to be interpreted literally, the turning of the Cheek being a proverbial Phrase for exposing one's self to an Injury, and patiently bearing it; fo Lam. iii
. 30. He giveth his Cheek to him that smiteth him, i. e. he patiently beareth Injuries and Affronts. But that it is not to be understood literally, when we are smitten on one Cheek, that we are to turn the other, appears from the Examples of our Saviour and of St Paul, who did not turn the other Cheek when they were smitten. Now that we had better venture the suffering a second Injury, than revenge the first, will appear, if we consider these two Things. 1. That the Evil of Suffering is not to
be compared with the Evil of Sin. The Preparation of the Mind to bear a second Injury, can at worst expose us only to the Evil of Suffering ; but the Study of Revenge exposes us exceedingly to the Evil of Sin. 2. Even as to the Evil of suffering Injuries, the not revenging pacifies the Wrath of the Adversary, and so makes an end of the Strife; but retaliating of Injuries perpetuates Strife, because then they study who Thall have the last ill Word, and who shall do the last ill Action.
III. I come now, in the last Place, as I proposed, to answer fome Doubts and Objections which rise from this Doctrine and to make Application of it. There are many
There are many Doubts of great Consequence have been started, and many dangerous
Errors have been broached from this Doc. trine of our Saviour's misunderstood and misinterpreted ; and these not speculative, but practical Errors, which are therefore the more necessary to be guarded against.
1. First, From this Doctrine of not resisting Evil, or the evil and injurious Man, some have inferred the Unlawfulness of Self-Defence in any Case whatsoever. But this Doubt may quickly be removed, by considering the Force of the Original Word, as it is explained by the most skilful in that Language ; for it doth not fignify to defend, but to refirt by way of Revenge; and therefore I conclude, that it is not lawful Defence, but Revenge, or retaliating Injury for Injury, which is here prohibited; the fame which Se Paul calls rendring Evil for Evil
. 2. Secondly, There are some Enthusiasts, Quakers, and Anabaptists, who, from this Doctrine,