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MATT. V. 38. re have heard that it hath been said, an Eye for
an Eye, and a Tooth for a Tcoth. Ver. 39. But I say unto you, that ye refijt not
Evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right
Cheek, turn to him the other also. Ver. 40. And if any Man will sue thee at Law,
and take away thy. Coat, let him have thy Cloak
also. Ver. 41. And whasoever hall compel thee to go a
Mile, go with him twain. Ver. 42. Give to him that asketh thee, and from
him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away.
The First Sermon on this Text.
N these Words our Saviour goes on to another
Branch of Duty, wherein our Righteousness is to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees ; and taking occasion from the Law of Retaliation, which, in some Cases, was permitted to private Perfons by the Law of Moses, and in many more by their corrupt Interpretation, teaches his Difciples much higher Degrees of Charity, both in forgiving of Injuries, and in giving and lending
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to our Adversaries in Distress, than these Doctors taught. It is only the first of these, namely, the Forgiveness of Injuries, or the foregoing the Privilege of Retaliation, which I shall now treat of, leaving the other of Giving and Lending, to another Opportanity.
The Doctrine of Forgiveness, or foregoing the Privilege of Retaliation, is described here in the first four Verses which I have read, the Sense of which I take to be, as if our Saviour had said, Ye have heard of the Law of Retaliation, and of the Sense which is put upon it by the Scribes and Pharisees ; but notwithstanding that Doctrine, which was partly indulged you for the Hardness of your Hearts, and which has been extended by these Doctors, much farther than was intended in the Law of Mofès, I forbid you all private Revenge. The publick Magistrate is the Officer appointed by God for that Purpose, who is to do Justice, and give Reparation of Injuries between Man and Man, without Malice or Enmity to the Party offending : But it is not for every light Affront or Offence, ye are to trouble the Magistrate, or to seek Reparation of your Neighbour offending ; It is an higher Degree of Charity I require of you my Disciples, namely, that ye be readier to pardon, than to avenge Injuries, though in a lawful way. Ye may perhaps fancy, that by pardoning one Injury, ye shall invite another; but if it is fo, rather venture that, than give way to a revengeful Temper; for Persecution is like to be your Lot, Judges and Magistrates are like to be your Perfecutors themselves, and therefore ftudy Patience more than Reparation of Injuries.
From the Words thus paraphrased, there are these three Things I Thall briefly handle.
I. I shall enquire wherein the Doctrine of the Scribes and Pharisees was defective in this Mat
II. I shall endeavour to explain what higher Degrees of Duty our Saviour requires of us Christians, in the Point of Retaliation of Injuries.
III. I shall solve some Doubts and Objections which have been raised against this Doctrine, and conclude with a short Application.
1. To begin with the Doctrine of the Scribes and Pharisees, as to Retaliation of Injuries; it is true, it took its Rise from something in the Law of Mofes : There seems to have been a Permission to the Avenger of Blood, being one near of kin to the Person killed by Manslaughter, while his Heart was hot with Indignation, if he could overtake the Manlayer before he got to a City of Refuge, or if he catched him afterwards without the Bounds and Privileges of the City of Refuge, to avenge himself of him, and to kill him. And there were Directions for Punishments too, established by the Law, an Eye for an Eye, and a Tooth for a Tooth, but by the Jewish Doctors grofly perverted in the following Particulars. 1. Though Mofes is very express in it, that it was the Judges and Magistrates who were to inflict this Punishment of Retaliation, they allowed the injured Parties, either to avenge themselves, or to fell off the Punishment, by accepting of a pecuniary Mulet, or some other Reward and Compensation, to the great Discouragement of publick Justice. 2. They allowed of Retaliation for every the smallest Injury, leaving
no room for the Virtue of Patience. took no care to teach with what Spirit this Reparation was to be sought, not distinguishing between a just Defence or Reparation, and a Spirit of Revenge. In opposition to which Doctrines,
II. Our Saviour teaches these Three Things. 1. That we are to abstain from all private Revenge, let the Affront and Injury be ever so great ; there are publick Persons whose Office it is to be the Avengers of Wrong, and these are to be applied to, if we will needs right our felves. 2. But, Secondly, our Saviour goes on, and teaches his Disciples a better way how to demean themselves under the many Provocations and Injuries he foresaw they should meet with from the World, in the way of their Profession and Practice, and that is, the way of Patience and Forgiveness. 3. Thirdly, he obviates an Objection, which is very natural to be started, namely, that this way
of Patience will expose us to be abused and affronted still more and more, when Men know they can do it unpunished. To this Objection our Saviour answers, that of the two, returning of Injury for Injury, or hazarding the being farther injured, we should chuse rather to venture the being farther injured, as being liable to much fewer Inconveniencies than the other; at least, that in all lighter, more tolerable Injuries, this is the Course we ought to take, rather than to prosecute our Right at Law, and by that means involve our Neighbour and our felves in much greater Trouble.
This is the short of our Saviour's Doctrine concerning Retaliation of Injuries, in opposition to the Doctrine of the Scribes and Pharisees on that Subject. But it will be necessary to explain it
more distinctly, partly, because it is not obvious to every one that this is his Meaning, and partly because if it is, it will require some Pains to reconcile it to the Reasons and Opinions of the World.
The first Thing I asserted of our Saviour's Doctrine concerning the Retaliation of Injuries, is, that we are to abstain from all private Revenge, let the Affront or Injury be ever so great. This is the least that can be meant by thee Words, But
I say unto you, that ye resist not Evil; or rather, as it is in the (a) Original, that ye resist not the Evil or injurious Man; which is well explained by St Paul, by, not (b) rendering Evil for Evil, not repaying one Injury with another. For Understanding the Meaning of this Precept, as opposed to the Doctrine of the Scribes and Pharisees in this Particular, it will be requisite to acquaint you, that though by the Law of Moses, these Retalia.tions were not to be made, but by the Sentence of the Judge, as is plain from Deut. xix. 18, and 21. compared together; yet the Scribes and Pharisees, for their By-ends, allowed of private Revenges, particularly under Pretence of compounding and making up of Injuries, had found ways to exact great pecuniary Mulcts from the injuring Person, in lieu of this Eye for an Eye, and Tooth for a Tooth ; nay, in some Cases, as I told you, the Law itself allowed of private Revenge, as in Case of Manslaughter, if the Manslayer could be overtaken before he made his Escape to one of the Cities of Refuge. But now our Saviour pro
(2) Mi carlisñual to wornpa.
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(6) Rom. xii. 17.