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stand, by giving place unto wrath, the withdrawing out of the way, and leaving our Enemy to be angry alone ; forbearing to heap new occasions of heightning the Difference, and so constraining his Passion to cool and
go out, for want of fresh Fewel to keep the Fire in. But when, to that Quietness and Composure of Spirit, we add the nobler and more heroick Virtues of Love and Mercy; when we seasonably relieve the Extremities and Amictions, which, measuring others by himself, he had reason to expect, we should have insulted over, and rejoiced in. This, like the Fire used by some Artificers in preparing of Metals, cannot fail to make the hardest Heart give, and relent, And thus our Meekness and Charity recommend themselves, by the very same Considerations, that run Men upon Fury and Revenge. The Design common to both is, to get the better of your Enemy : The Difference between them this; That Violence is not only sinful, but generally unsuccessful; but Sweetness and Humanity are both innocent, nay highly virtuous; and also so well fitted for this end, that, in the nature of the thing, one can scarce conceive it more than barely possible, that it should ever be dirappointed.
But, in regard this Text is brought hither from the Old Testament, and therefore most reasonably interpreted, by the Idioms in common Use there ; and, in regard Coals of fire are generally made use of, to denotę some very severe Effects of God's Wrath, upon the Person on whom they fall; therefore Many have supposed That to be the proper Importance of this place also; and the Wrath to be given place to, that of God, to whom we should reserve the Punishment of them that injure us. Thus St. Chryfoftom particu
larly, though seeming chiefly to favour Orat. 46.
the former Construction, does yet incline
In loc. Tom. 5.
scension to Mens Infirmities. So making the Apostle in effect to say; Better it were, that you should utterly lay all Thoughts and Desires of Revenge aside; but, since that is a Perfection of Virtue, not to be expected from All; know; that even those Desires are more likely to be satisfied this way, than the other. For, the less you meddle in your own Quarrel, the more God will'assert your Right. And if your Kindness does not bring an Enemy over, his Crime is the more inexcufable, and his Punishment will be aggravated in proportion. So that, did angry Men consider at all, they would forbearavenging themselves, as the proper Course of exposing their Enemy to a sharper and more mighty Revenger, than it is possible for Them, or any other Creature, to be.
But, Can it then consist with the Design of the Apoftle, or with the Temper of Christianity, to do Acts of Charity with a spightful Intent, and, under the Mask of Kindness, to work the greatest Mischief? Were not the Cruelty of letting an Enemy starve in his Extremity, more desirable to Him, more fair and ingenuous in it self, than such a treacherous Relief? And can it become Them, who are commanded to love those that hate them, to contrive, or so much as to comfort themselves with the prospect of, their more certain Ruin? By no means most assuredly. We must lament, and pray, and strive against this Consequence. We mult not delight in, we must not, without Horror and serious Concern, think upon, that Indignation, which our bitterest Adversaries treasure up to themselves, by their hardness and impenitent Heart. Their Eternal Sufferings cannot, upon any Terms, be matter of just Satisfaction; nor their Temporal, in any other respect, than that of tending to their Humiliation, and effectual Reformation; to the change of their Minds and Methods, and preventing their blacker Guilt, and sorer Punishment hereafter. And with thefe Limita2
tions it is, that we are to understand the Judgments of God called down upon thcir Enemies, by David, and other holy Men. With these, I say, Where they speak of their own particular Case; And not with a Spirit of Prophecy. For then they speak of themselves and their Adversaries, in a far different Capacity, as Types of Christ, and of his Persecutors. In a word, we must do all we can, by Forbearance, Long-suffering, and Gentleness, to reclaim and reconcile our Enemies. But if they still continue so implacable, that Their Profperity and our Safety can no longer stand together, we then are permitted to wish, and endeavour, and to bless God for, those Sufferings, which their Perverseness hath rendred the only means, for Our Security and Preservation. And thus the giving place to our Great Defender's Wrath, may become a Duty, truly meek and Christian. Thus the Coals of Fire, (of which their Rancour is the proper Cause, our Charity, our Patience, but the accidental Occasion, of Heaping upon their Heads, ) may be a very innocent Subject of Consolation, and Joy to us.
3. The Third Motive, urged here against Retaliation of Injuries, hath a more direct Reference to our Selves, and is included in those last Words of the Chapter, Be not overcome of evil; but overcome evil with good. When Men contend in mutual Affronts and Ill-turns to one another, the thing Each aims at, is to come off Conqueror at last. But in such Cases Both are disappointed, because in truth Both are fubdued. For there is One Point, which every Man is strictly obliged to be jealous of; and while this is maintained, his Honour cannot suffer. For, What is Honour, truly understood, but a Greatness of Mind, which scorns to descend to an ill and a base thing? So long then, as our Virtue continues unblemished, and Conscience cannot reproach us; we are always superior in the Combat. But, when Reason and Religion give ground, and Passion gets the upper-hand of these; our Impotence betrays it self, and we are beaten from the Post, which it was our Duty, upon no Terms, to give up. It is not the Voice of the Christian only, but of all Philosophy in general, that true Nobleness of Spirit is better seen, in despising, than in returning Injuries; in a constant Tranquillity of Temper, than in Rage and Resentment. And the modern Men of Honour, with their false Notions, would, by the best and wisest of the Ancients, have been exploded and disdained, as the weakest, most despicable, and poor-spirited of Wretches. So much more necessary a Consideration it is, what may be fit for Us to do, than what may be just for Others to suffer. So much indeed a greater Vexation it is to any Enemy, to rob him of the pleasure of disturbing us ; to shew how much we Night, and are above, his impotent Malice; than to give our Selves, and Him, the trouble, of paying him never so home in his own kind. So much more likely, to put an end to his fruitless Attempts of making us uneasy; which is the Sense of overcoming Evil with Good. For no Man loves to run his Head against a Wall, or be always labouring in vain. But especially, so much more to our own Security and Advantage, who are sure to continue impregnable, while we retain our Temper and our Virtue; while we keep the Reins of Passion in our own Hand, and insure to our felves an Almighty Protector, not only to take our Part at present, but, which is better still, to reward and crown us for striving lawfully, even when suffering wrongfully.
And shall I need to say now, that all these Duties follow naturally upon our Union into One Body in Christ? Where is the Tenderness, the mutual Amity, the Care and Pity, due to those Parts, whose Weakness hinders the discharge of their respective Offices, between Men, who call themselves Members, but contradict that Profession, by spighting, and grieving, and tearing, and devouring one another? Where the Cor-, respondence with, where the Obedience to, that Head, who hath commanded us to love our Enemies, who was continually doing good to his Enemies, and so far from being taken off by those Provocations they did, by all that their most enraged Malice could, give him, that at last he willingly died for his Enemies; who now ftands at the Right-hand of God, interceding for his Enemies ; whose merciful Providence sustains his Enemies ; and who is ready to receive, and embrace, and save his Enemies to the uttermost; who courts them, and offers Reconciliation, notwithstanding the great, the daily, the numberless Offences. repeated boldly, presumptuously, maliciousy, against him? This is our Pattern. And if we do not follow it, he will not be to any saving purposes, our Head. This is his Spirit, which they who have not, are not of his Body ; and They, who are not of that Body here, do hope in vain to be reckoned of it hereafter. Of such Importance is it, that we lay this Relation to Heart very attentively, and give all Diligence to answer the several Engagements it brings us into. To which End, that my Discourses upon this Subject may in some measure conduce, I shut the whole up with a Prayer, taught us by our excellent Church, and very pertinent to the matter we have in hand:
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole Second Coll. for
Body of the Church is governed and sanctifiGood-Friday
ed; Receive our Supplications and Prayersz
which we offer before tbee for all Estates of Men in thy Holy Church, that every Member of the same; in bis Vocation and Ministry, may truly and godly serve thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.