« הקודםהמשך »
the earth, that our Saviour delivers the - precepts now before us. “ I say unto you
resist not evil; but if any one smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” No one can imagine that this injunction, and those of the same kind that
follow, are to be understood strictly and - literally; that we are to submit, without - the least opposition, tó every injury and - every insult that is offered to us, and are absolutely precluded from every degree of self-preservation and self-defence. This can - never be intended; and the example of -St. :, - Paul, who repelled with proper spirit the - insult offered him as a Roman citizen, very clearly proves that we are not to permit ourselves to be trampled on by the foot of - pride and oppression, without expressing a just sense of the injury done to us, and endeavouring to avert and repel it. It cannot therefore be meant, that if any one, by a cruel and expensive litigation, should deprive us of a part of our property, we should not only relinquish to him that part, but request him also to accept every thing . L2
else we have in the world. Nor can it be meant, that if a man should actually strike us on one cheek, we should immediately turn to him the other, and desire the blow to be repeated. This could not possibly answer any one rational purpose, nor conduce in the least to the peace and happiness of mankind, which were certainly the objects our Saviour had in view; on the contrary, it would tend materially to obstruct both by inviting injury, and encouraging insult and oppression. Common sense therefore, as well as common utility, require that we should consider the particular instances of behaviour under the injuries here specified, as nothing more than strong oriental idioms, as proverbial and figurative expressions, intended only to convey a general precept, and to describe that peculiar temper and disposition which the Gospel requires ; that patience, gentleness, mildness, moderation, and forbearance, under injuries and affronts, which is best calculated to preserve the peace of our own minds, as well as that of the world at large; which tends to soften
resentment and turn away wrath; and without which, on one side or the other, provocations must be endless, and enmities eternal.
All therefore that is here required of us is plainly and simply this, that we should not suffer our resentment of injuries to carry us beyond the bounds of justice, equity, and Christian charity; that we should not (as St. Paul well explains this passage) recompense exil for evil*, that is, repay one injury by committing another; that we should not take fire at every slight provocation or trivial offence, nor pursue even the greatest and most flagrant injuries with implacable fury and inextinguishable rancour: that we should make all reasonable allowances for the infirmities of human nature, for the passions, the prejudices, the failings, the misapprehensions, of those we have to deal with; and without submitting tamely to oppression or insult, or giving up rights of great and acknowledged importance, should always show a disposition to conciliate and forgive; and rather to recede and give way a little in certain in
* Rom. xii, 17.
stances, than insist on the utmost satisfaction and reparation that we have perhapš a strict right to demand.'.
The chapter concludes with another remarkable precept, which may strictly be called a new commandment; for in no moral code is it to be found, till our Lord gave it a place in his.
The precept is this : “ Ye have heard it has been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine eneny. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully’use you, and persecute you ; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust *,”
So noble, so sublime, and so benevolent a precept, was never before given to man; and it is one strong proof, among many others, of the originality of our Saviour's character and religion. ..
The Jews were expressly commanded to love their neighbour; but this injunction was not extended to their enemies, and they * Matth. v. 43--45.
therefore thought that this was a tacit per-, mission to hate them; a conclusion which seemed to be much strengthened by their being enjoined to wage eternal war with one of their enemies, the Canaanites, to show them no mercy, but to root them out of the land. In consequence of this, they did entertain strong prejudices and malignant sentiments toward every other nation but their own, and were justly reproached for this by the Roman historian; “ apud ipsos misericordia in promptu, adversus omnes alios hostile odium *.” that is, towards each other they are compassionate and kind; towards all others they cherish a deadly hatred. But it ought in justice to be observed, that this remark of Tacitus might have been applied, with almost equal aptitude, both to his own countrymen the Romans, and to the Greeks, for they gave to all other nations but themselves the name of barbarians; and having stigmatized them with this opprobrious appellation, they treated them as if they were in reality what they had wantonly thought fit to call them. They treated them
* Tacit. Hist. v. 5.
1. L 4