Page images

ungovernable affections, and made me a prey to devouring passions.

These are thoughts which all of us will one day certainly entertain. What, therefore, we shall then in vain wish to have done, let us now do, whilst it is yet in our power. If there be any root of bitterness among us, let us root it up.. -If any trespass, offence, or injury, have for a time warmed our temper, and inflamed our resentment, yet let them not always dwell upon our minds :—there is a time to forgive, as well as to resent:—therefore, in the beautiful language. of scripture, let "not the sun go down upon our "wrath," lest we should not rise to-morrow, to have it in our power to be reconciled to our brother. Let us heartily and in earnest take up the fervent prayer of our Litany, "May it please "thee, O God, to forgive our enemies, perse"cutors, and slanderers, and to turn their "hearts!" And, as we hope to be forgiven ourselves at the last great day, let each of us lay his hand upon his heart, and with sincerity add, "Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us!"



MATT. VI. 12.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.


HAVE already, in part, considered the nature and tendency of this petition; perhaps sufficiently to convince every dispassionate hearer of the reasonableness and necessity of forgiving injuries: I cannot, however, yet take a final leave of the subject; partly, on account of its importance, but more especially, through a desire to curb and restrain that impetuous and implacable spirit of revenge, which is so opposite to the whole tenor of the Gospel, and so destructive of the peace and harmony of civil society.

To enforce, therefore, the doctrine contained in this petition of the Lord's Prayer, still farther, I shall consider first, what the duty of forgive


ness requires from us; and, scecondly, suggest some rules and considerations, which may be of use in restraining the violence of our resent


And 1st, The duty of forgiveness undoubtedly requires, that we do not seek revenge, or return those injuries upon our adversary, which he hath done to us. For, if we are commanded in the Gospel to be reconciled to our adversary, it is sufficiently clear, that we are thereby forbidden all practices towards him, which are inconsistent with peace and affection. And this is the express doctrine of our Saviour himself, in words which cannot be mistaken: "But I

[ocr errors]

say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."-So patient must the servant of the Lord be to all men; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing.

And we must further remark here, that in the estimation of these things, we must not follow the dictates of our own pride or passion, which account nothing little, but magnify every indignity into an unpardonable fault. These will be ready to whisper to us, that every trespass deserves a prosecution, and every reproachful word

a stab:

a stab but in these cases, neither pride, nor the foolish opinions of honour and gallantry should be our counsellors :-these we solemnly renounced. at our baptism, when we were made Christians they must either, therefore, be subdued by us, or we break our compact with God, and therefore forfeit the benefit of the christian covenant.

2dly, In christian reconciliation it is farther required, that we forgive him that hath injured us, from our hearts, without retaining any secret grudge against him, or any wish to return injury for injury. The providence of God hath given us such natures, and placed us in such circumstances in life, that we have not only daily opportunities, but also the strongest engagements, to shew mutual kindness and goodwill. We are all made of one stock: we resemble each other in the features and proportions of our bodies: we stand in need of each other's help we make voluntary contracts, and enter into the bonds of civil society, of which love is the heart. And, upon these natural tendencies to mutual good-will, our Saviour hath superinduced the stronger obligation of the christian law, which teacheth us to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, and to pray for them that despitefully use us: so that not only all retaliation



taliation of injuries is expressly forbidden, but we are not even to wish our enemy harm, to cherish revengeful passions against him in our heart, to curse him secretly, or to triumph and rejoice at those calamities which befal him in the world.

3dly, It is farther required, that we recompense good to our offending brother, if he stand. in need of our assistance and charity. It is not enough to forbear the return of injuries, but we are obliged also, by the laws of Christianity, to exercise zeal and positive acts of mercy towards him; to feed him, if he be hungry; to clothe him, if he be naked; to comfort him, if he be dejected and in affliction.

[ocr errors]

But perhaps you will say,-he needs no such assistance, his condition in life is prosperous,

[ocr errors]

-or his malice is such, that he is not to be mollified by any thing I can do. If so, the sin lies at his own door; his blood shall be required, bnt thou hast delivered thy soul. Still, however, there is one way left, whereby thou mayest prevail over his obstinacy, and do him good in spite of himself: thy prayers are in thine own power; he cannot refuse the assistance of them; he cannot defeat that charity thou shewest for him in this way. To that heaven, then, which


« PreviousContinue »