Page images

with Kindnesses, by giving, or lending, or shewing any other Kindness in your Power, as his Circumstances shall require,

In speaking to the Words, there are these three Things I shall endeavour to Thew.

I. In general, from the Context, that it is the Duty of Christians to do Good for Evil.

II. That if our Adversary is in Want, we ought to bestow our Bounty upon him, as upon other Objects of Charity and Beneficence.

III. That if he is not in such Want, as to need our Bounty by way of Charity, yet if his Circumstances are such, that he wants our Help out of any Straits and Difficulties, by lending, or any other Favour and Courtesy, we ought readily to afford it, and not shew our felves hardhearted, difficult, or morose, upon such Occafions.

I. In general, that it is the Duty of Christians to do Good for Evil. This is to be gathered chiefly from the Connexion and Purport of this Discourse ; for all this is brought in upon

the Law of Retaliation, in which the first thing recommended by our Saviour, is the not revenging or retaliating of the Injury, the not rendering Evil for Evil. But we are not to stop there, but to proceed to do Good for Evil; or as the Apostle St Paul excellently words it, Rom. xii, at the last Verse, to overcome Evil with Good.

This, no doubt, at first sight, must appear a very strange Doctrine to the unrenewed Nature of Man, which delights in nothing more than in contriving and executing all Mischief against an Adversary. And indeed it seems a little hard and

unreasonable, unreasonable, that we should not only not retaliate Injuries, but likewise treat the injurious Person with all manner of good Offices. If this be the way of treating him that injures us, how must we treat our Friends and Benefactors ? For clearing of this Difficulty, there are a few things I would offer to your Consideration.

1. That there are many good Offices we owe to all Mankind, from which the Injuries of others to us do not exempt us; and yet that these come far short of the more exalted Love which we owe to our Friends: For if it were a sufficient Excuse from Duty to our Neighbour, that he has injured us, it might be in the Power of the injurious Man to suspend all the Laws of God, which teach us our Duty to one another. All then that we plead for, when we exhort you to render Good for Evil, comes to this, Not that you should immediately chuse the injurious Man into the Number of your Friends, till, by his after-Expressions of Kindness, he shews himself worthy of such a Trust; but only that ye do him those good Offices which we owe to all Men, or to that

particular Station and Relation in which he is placed.

2. Let us consider when our Neighbour has injured us, that though the not retaliating the Injury, is a most excellent Christian Duty, yet the Work of gaining and recovering him entirely, is not compleated, unless we go on to pay him all the good Offices which are due from one kind Neighbour to another. The bare negative part of good Neighbourhood, that is, the abstaining from doing Evil to the injurious Man, though it be a Сс 2


on, till

good beginning, it will be apt to miscarry, except it is pursued with following Acts of Beneficence: and therefore, as we reckon him an unwise Man who does his Work by halves, who begins his Building, but stops short in the middle, and never finishes; the same may be applied to the bare not retaliating of Injuries, if we do not proceed to back that good beginning with farther Acts of Charity, Courtesy, and Kindness, such as are due from one Christian Man to another.

3. Let us consider that the regaining of an Adversary, being a Work of very great Difficulty, requires a steady diligent Hand to carry it he is entirely recovered from his Enmity and ill Temper of Mind. Such a great and difficult Work as this is, must not be stinted by the Punctilio's of Honour, fallly so called, but must wade through good Report, and bad Report, through many Affronts, Neglects, and Provocations, towards the finishing of it.

So much for the general Doctrine, That we are to render Good for Evil.

IL I proceed now to the Second, which relates more particularly to our Adversary in Want; Give to him that asketh thee; or rather, give to him when he asketh thee; for by the Connexion, I I am induced to believe the Discourse goes on still of the injurious Man, concerning whom we are directed, first, not to retaliate his Injuries, but rather to venture the receiving of a second Wrong, than avenge

the first. Then we are commanded not to neglect any Acts of Beneficence that he may want, and is willing to accept at our Hands. And those Wants are here described to be of two forts, such as may be supplied by giving, and by


389 lending; and in both Cases, our Duty to our Adversary is directed : First, if he is in Want, and will vouchsafe to ask, or accept of any Supply from thee, give it him. But if his Circumstances are such, as put him rather upon

borrowing than asking, shew not thy self averse from his Relief in that sort of Courtesy or Obligation. But we are now upon the firft of these, give to him when he asketh thee; the Meaning I take to be, g. d. If he that has formerly injured thee, comes to be in Want, so as to ask any Supply of thee, let not any Resentment of Injuries hinder thee from performing the fame Acts of Charity to him, as if he had not injured thee. It is .no wonder that Charity is reckoned up

in the first place, as a very proper thing to gain an Adversary, there being no Duty whatsoever more endearing, than a Readiness to relieve our Neighbour in his Distress, especially such a Neighbour, who, by his former Behaviour, had Reason to expect rather Disservices, than Acts of Kindness and Charity from us. But the great Difficulty is, to bring our corrupt Natures to perforin this endearing Duty to our Adversaries; for it meets with several Impediments, both on the part of him from whom this Charity is expected, and on the part

of him on whom it should be bestowed; which therefore ought to be removed.

1. First, on his part who should thew this Charity, there are his own real or pretended Occasions; there are Remainders of Covetoufness; and especially in this Case, there are Remainders of Malice and Relentment, all which do easily step in to hinder this noble piece of Charity in relieving of Enemies, and such as have injured us,


Сс 3

As to the first of these, our own real or pretended Occasions; this is a bottomless Gulph, which as it obstructs all Charity in general, so more especially this to our Enemies, and those who have injured us, because it is an easy thing for such Persons to pretend, if they have any thing to spare, which they seldom have, it must go to their Friends, and not to their Enemies. There is nothing more easy than to find Reasons and Pretences for not parting with what we have, For either Mens Rank, and Quality, and Station in the World, or at least the Compliance with all the expencefal Fashions that are brought up, will require it for their present living, or fomething must be laid up for Sickness and Old Age, and other Accidents incident to Human Life ; or their Children, or other Relations, must be

provided for, and that not Moderately, so as by God's Blessing on their own Industry, to procure them an honest Livelihood; but Estates must be purchased, or laid up for them, and nothing trusted to God's Providence. If these be good Reasons to keep what we have, then the Door is shut to all Charity, not only to Enemies, but to all others whatsoever. But on the other Hand, if we can learn to confine our Wants within the Bounds of Nature and Grace ; if we can trust Providence with the future, and in the mean time are desirous to do good to all, as we have Opportunity: If we can observe the Rules of Frugality and Contentment, without aiming after the top of the Fashion, which will engage us deep in extravagant Expences; we need never want something more or less to give for the occasions of Charity, to help not only our Friends


« PreviousContinue »