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Preached before the Lord Mayor at St. Paul's Cathedral,
Nov. 5, 1712.
LUKE, CHAP. IX.--VERSES 54. 55.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord,
wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
What provocation the disciples had to call fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans, may be learned from the 51st and following verses : “ And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received
up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because bis face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did ? But he turned and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.' The hatred between the Jews and Samaritans was founded in a religious controversy; and had proceeded so far, that all offices of common humanity had ceased between them; insomuch that when our Saviour asked a woman of that country but for a little water to drink, she marvelled at it, and said, "How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria ?' John iv. 9. The reason of her wonder is added in the next words ; for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.'
From the 20th verse of the same chapter we may gather what the foundation of this quarrel was: Our fathers,' says the woman, “worshipped in this mountain ; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” This account is likewise confirmed by Josephus, who tells us that there were perpetual quarrels and animosities between the Jews and Samaritans, occasioned by a contest concerning the holiness of their temples; the one affirming the temple at Jerusalem to be holy, and that all Jews ought to send their offerings thither; the others affirming the same concerning the temple in Mount Gerizim.
It was about the time of the Passover that our Saviour took this journey to Jerusalem, as we may collect from what is said in the 51st verse : • And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.' The time that our Saviour was received up, we know, was at the Jewish Passover; and this time being come when this journey was made, shows it to be about the time of the celebration of this feast. And this may account, together with what has been already said, for the unkind reception which the disciples met with in Samaria. The Samaritans finding them on a journey to Jerusalem about the time of the Passover, concluded that they were going to celebrate the feast there, and consequently were such as esteemed the temple of Jerusalem to be the true place of worship, and were despisers of the temple in the mount of Samaria. For this reason they refused to afford them any entertainment in their village, but sent them out to prosecute their journey without the necessary refreshments for it. This raised the indignation of the disciples: they immediately call to mind the story of Elias; it was in Samaria that Elias had destroyed the captains and their fifties with fire from heaven; the place itself prompted them to imitate the noble vengeance that had once before been executed there : they knew that a greater than Elias was there now, and had been more barbarously treated : why not then the like exemplary punishment? Why should not the fire of heaven come down to consume the enemies of God's own Son, as once it did to destroy the enemies of his prophet? Warm with these thoughts, and full of resentment for their Master's honor, they apply to him, “Lord, wilt thou that we command
our own case.
fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did ? But he felt other resentments than theirs; and turned about, and calmly rebuked them, saying, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.'
I have been the larger in setting forth the circumstances of this story, because in so many instances they are applicable to
It was hatred that grew out of a religious controversy, that bred the treason of this day; it was fire, though not from heaven, that was called for to decide the dispute : it was zeal for Christ, but not according to knowlege,' that prompted to the revenge: the revenge was bloody and unchristian ; and to every one concerned in it does the voice of Christ reach, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.'
It would be endless on this occasion to run into the controversies that are between us and the church of Rome : the case we have this day to plead with them, wants not the support which the righteousness of our cause might afford it. Let them be the disciples: let us be the Samaritans; mistaken, nay, obstinately mistaken in our religion : let them have all the advantage that the parallel in the text can afford them : let them call us heretics, schismatics, aliens from the body and church of Christ : yet, after all, their furious rage and their cruel thirst after blood intitle them to the reproof of their Lord, · Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.'
Not all the boasted advantages of their church can justify them in the cruelty they use towards their fellow-creatures, Have they a zeal and love for Christ? So had the disciples, Are they provoked by the indignities offered to him? So were they. Have they faith enough among them to work miracles in his name; and will they from thence justify their practice ? The same faith had the disciples; Wilt thou,' say they, • that we command fire to come down from heayen ? You see their faith: they wanted nothing but the Lord's permission to do the thing: and yet, their faith notwithstanding, we learn from the unerring voice of truth that their spirit was not right within them. But when we have considered our Saviour's judgment in this
and how far it extends, we shall be better able to judge to what kind of spirit the dark contrivance of this day is to be ascribed.
The case has been already stated, and I need not repeat it: my business at present shall be to consider how far this reason of our Saviour's excludes all use of temporal punishments in matters of religion. And,
I. I shall briefly show that it holds in all cases with respect
to church power.
II. That the argument does not affect the civil magistrate's power ; nor tie up his hands from interposing with the civil sword in matters proper for his jurisdiction ; however they may be pretended to be allied to religion.
III. I shall apply what is said to the present occasion.
I. As to the persons on whom the disciples would have ex-ecuted vengeance, they were on two accounts the objects of their wrath. They were apostates from the true religion, and had erected a temple to themselves on the mount of Samaria. Besides this, they had very inhumanly treated them and their Master. The rule of charity is so very plain in Scripture, and the duty of forgiving injuries so express, that I think personal affronts and injuries can with no color be pleaded to justify persecution. And therefore the whole weight of the argument lies on the honor of God and religion ; from which topics the doctrine of extirpating heretics fetches its main support. But to this argument our Saviour has furnished us with a short but full reply, ver. 56. “The Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. The honor of God is best consulted by complying with the gracious designs of his providence; and the honor of religion best secured, by promoting the ends of it: and since our Saviour has told us that the design of his coming into the world, and the end of the religion he taught, was not to destroy, but to save men's lives; there can be no greater indignity offered to God, no greater contempt shown of Christ, or blemish cast on religion, than to make religion, which was designed to save men, the means and instrument of destroying them. The argument reaches to all methods of propagating religion which are hurtful or injurious to men, as well as merely destroying them by the fire or sword; for the * Son of man' no more came to injure or abuse men, than he did to destroy them : and therefore the argument is equally strong against injuring or abusing our fellow-creatures in order
to propagate the faith, as it is against destroying them. And very strong it must be in both cases, since it is our Saviour's own argument.
It is true that all punishments do not come under the notion of injuries or abuses ; since many are calculated for the benefit of offenders, to reclaim them to a better mind and better manners : and consequently all punishments will not come within this argument of our blessed Saviour ; and therefore, notwithstanding what has been said, it may still be pretended that there is room for the exercise of temporal punishments (for of such only I speak at present) in the case of religion ; since some punishments may be subservient to the end of religion, and may help to set forward the salvation of men.
But however good a reason this may be for exercising temporal punishments in the cause of religion, it can signify nothing in the present case, unless the church bé vested with a power of dispensing temporal punishments : for this reason cannot create a power where it is not; it can only direct the exercise of it where it is. And therefore, to those who urge
the niency of temporal punishments in matters of religion, we answer with our blessed Saviour, 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.' The kingdom of Christ is not of this world ; nor is it to be erected or supported by worldly power : he has not intrenched on the civil magistrate's authority, or granted any part of their commission to his disciples. When St. Peter drew the sword in his defence, he commanded him to put up. the sword again into its place, with this threatening, - For all they who take the sword, shall perish with the sword.' And in his answer to Pilate he declares, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence:' John xviii. 36.
This may serve to show the meaning and extent of our Saviour's argument; and how contrary it is to the genius and spiri of the Christian religion to found its faith in temporal punishments. The powers which are derived to the church from Christ the head of it, are purely spiritual : the punishments she inflicts are of the same nature; and the effect of them generally suspended till the offender comes to another world. It is just