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thee." Aim not merely at acts of justice, but do acts of mercy also. Be willing to give, and ready to communicate. Say not that either thy money or any other worldly possession is thine own; but let the spirit of a large and liberal benevolence, and the feelings of a warm and expansive love dictate whose it shall be. Give, therefore, or lend, as a prudent charity may suggest; and "not grudgingy, for God loveth a cheerful giver." "Give to him tha asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away."
Such is incontestibly the meaning of these sayings of CHRIST. Are we then of this spirit? Have we learned in the school of His gospel to bear affronts quietly and meekly; to forgive all men heartily and freely; to take cheerfully less than our due; to condescend to serve even the unthankful and the unreasonable; to give and lend, bountifully and largely and, moreover, do we deny ourselves, that we may have to give to him that needeth?
These are the duties enjoined upon us as Christians. This is the nature of the morality of the gospel. There is a scantiness in the virtue of worldly persons; they may tolerably honest and just; they may not demand more than their due; but they are also strict in claiming their own. They may wish to hurt no one; but they also insist, that no one shall hurt them. They may give to those from whom they hope to receive something again; as well as to those whom they particularly love: but they cannot endure to do good to the forward, or intruding; or to the unthankful, or unreasonable. They would not do mischief to any one; but they have not learnt to exercise that determined spirit of kindness and condescension, which is absolutely neces sary in such a world as this, if ever we would hope to achieve any great good. The virtue which is here recommended to them by CHRIST is too high and heroical for
It is important to remark, that the doctrines of the gospel dispose exactly to the same spirit which is inculcated by
these sayings of our SAVIOUR. CHRIST may be considered as foretelling by means of the various precepts delivered in His sermon on the mount, what should be the character of His followers; when they should be more fully instructed in the truths of His Gospel, and more plentifully endued with the gift of His Holy Spirit. Selfishness is obviously the root of those evil tempers which He has here condemned and how is selfishness more effectually to be cured than by the contemplation of that great evangelical truth, "ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price?"* "live therefore no longer to yourselves, but unto Him that hath died for you."
ST. MATTHEW, V. 43—48.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them that 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.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.
HERE OUR SAVIOUR again insists on the necessity of a more than ordinary virtue in His followers; and again reproves the scanty as well as false morality of the Scribes and Pharisees. "Ye have heard," saith He, "how it hath
* 1 Cor. vi. 20.
been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy." This saying was doubtless common at that time among the Jews. The people assumed, (for how easily do we adopt the errors of our teachers,) that the Old Testament had taught this doctrine. But the Old Testament had said only, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour;" the Pharisees had added, as their inference from these words, "and thou shalt hate thine enemy." Declarations of Scripture had become united in many minds with sayings of the Pharisees; in the same manner in which certain truths of GOD, and sayings of men, are now frequently confounded by credulous and unthinking persons. "But I say unto you," says CHRIST, "love your enemies." This precept was not altogether new. The Old Testament breathed the same spirit, though the New speaks more plainly on this and other points, both of faith and of practice. The word "neighbour," in the Old Testament, when rightly interpreted, has a very large signification. Literally taken, it stands for any one who lives near to us. It is however very naturally applied to all with whom we have any intercourse. It here signifies any one who comes within the sphere of our notice, and within the reach of our benevolence. The command to love our neighbour implies therefore that we are to love all men, not excepting our very enemies; and it is worthy of observation that our SAVIOUR has supplied us with this explanation of the term, by means of the parable of the good Samaritan; a parable which He employed for the reproof of one who had asked the question, "Who is my neighbour?" and who was not aware that even a Samaritan, though of an abhorred sect, might be the neighbour to a Jew. We are then to love, not our friends only, but strangers; and not strangers only, but our very enemies. "Bless them," says He, "that curse you: do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." How high does Christian morality rise in respect to the point before us! This precept is one which may be considered as peculiarly Christian. It is not like
human morality; it is eminently divine. The language of the natural man is that of the Scribes and Pharisees: "I will love my neighbour, and hate my enemy." He is willing to do the one, if he may be allowed also to do the other. The publicans indeed, as CHRIST here says, loved their friends; and yet they were accounted the vilest of the people. There can be little praise, therefore, in such virtue as this. It is a virtue to which many of the most corrupt men are equal. "Love" then, says CHRIST, “your enemies; 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."
The goodness, which CHRIST teaches, is not that of the natural heart of man; but it is like the goodness of GoD, perfect and universal. God is good to all; and we should initate His perfections. We should be "perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect." We should at least aim at perfection like His; and should not content ourselves with that lame and partial virtue with which men are satisfied.
Let us, then, often ask ourselves, whether we fulfil this precept of CHRIST. Do we love our enemies? Do we love those who have injured us, and those whom we think likely to injure us? Do we love men of another nation, of another party, of another religion, of another sect, of another way of thinking in some most interesting particu lar? If our nation be at war, do we love even those with whom we may think it our duty to contend in battle? Neither public nor private enemy ought to be excepted from this universal law of love.
And how happy would the world become, if a strict obedience were paid to this precept of CHRIST. Men withhold their kindness from their neighbour, because that neighbour has not yet been kind to them: each waits for some act of condescension in the other party. But let us, if we are Christians, take the lead in showing kindness to
every supposed as well as real adversary. "If our enemy hunger, let us feed him; if he thirst, let us give him drink ;" for in so doing, we shall quickly subdue his enmity against us; and, as the Apostle expresses it, "shall heap coals of fire on his head."*
ST. MATTHEW, VI. 1—4.
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth :
That thine alms may be in sccret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
THE Pharisees did all to be seen of men. They gave alms, they prayed, they performed all their good deeds on this corrupt principle. "Verily," therefore says our SAV10UR, they have their reward;" that is, they have their reward now; they shall have no reward hereafter. GOD looks not so much at the act done, as at the motive for doing it. Though the deed be good, yet if vanity, if mere regard to character, or any other false principle, prompt us to it, we shall go unrewarded by GoD. What could be more right than for the Pharisee to give alms? yet the Pharisee, as we are here assured, would have no reward from his Father which is in heaven.
* Romans xii, 20.