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figned to make. However, regardless of their Refentment, he fixed his Eyes and Thoughts upon Heaven, and faw the Glory of God, and Jefus ftand- ver. 56. ing at the Right Hand of God; the affirming of which made his Adverfaries now take it for granted that he was a Blafphemer; and thereupon refolve his Death, without any further Procefs.
Q. How did St. Stephen fuffer Martyrdom ? A. He was foned; which was one of the four Punishments among the Jews inflicted for great and enormous Crimes; as Blafphemy, Idolatry, &c. The Witnefles, whofe Hands were to be firft upon him, putting off, according to Cuftom, their upper Garments, laid them down at Saul's Feet, while the Ver. 58. holy Saint was upon his Knees, recommending his Soul to God, and praying for his Murderers, that Ver. 63. the Guilt of his Death might not be laid to their Charge; and in this Manner, copying the Example of his Master, he fell asleep. The miraculous Converfion of St. Paul was a Proof of the Efficacy of St. Stephen's dying Prayers; and of that gracious Favour with which God was pleased to hear him.
Q. What became of his Body?
A. It was carried by devout Men to be buried; who, from a Senfe of the Lofs of fo pious and good a Man, made great Lamentation for him.
Q. What may we learn from the Obfervation of this Festival?
A. That a firm Belief and Perfuafion of another Life, is the great Support of a good Man under the Sufferings of this. That when Malice and Cruelty combine to deter Men from the Profeffion of the Truth, by inflicting the most barbarous Torments, the good Providence of God often makes them ineffectual, by affifting his faithful Servants with an extraordinary Communication of his Grace. That no Oppofition or Calumny from bad Men fhould difcourage Chriftians from doing all the Good they F 3
can. That we ought to fummon up all our Courage and Refolution, when we are engaged in the Defence of God's Caufe, always remembering that Patience and Moderation beft become the Advocates of Truth. That though good Men, when they die, depart into a State of Happiness, yet they are a Lofs to the World, which we may juftly lament, being deprived of the Advantages of their edifying Example. That we fhould be ready to forgive all the Injuries and Affronts we receive from others, and, by practifing it in ordinary Provocations, to prepare ourselves for the Exercife of it in greater. That if we will diftinguish ourselves to be the Difciples of Jefus, we must love our Enemies, blefs them that curfe us, and pray for them that defpitefully ufe us, and perfecute us, a Perfection of Charity peculiar to the Gospel Inftitution, in which St. Stephen copied the Example of his bleffed Mafter, which we might have thought impoffible to have been imitated, if the Saint of this Day had not convinced us of the contrary.
Q. Since the Love of Enemies is a Duty peculiar to the Chriftian Inftitution, wherein doth it confift?
A. In bearing a fincere Affection towards our Enemies, though they are malicious and implacable to us; and in being ready upon Occafion to give real Teftimony of it.
Q. Is it not enough to with them no Evil, and to do them no Harm?
A. Many devout Chriftians delude themselves in this Matter; for befides thefe Expreffions of Juftice, we are obliged to fhew them all Offices of Charity; because they are Men and Christians, our Neighbours and our Brethren. We ought to honour them for their Virtues, and pity them for their Miferies; to relieve their Wants, to conceal their Defects, and to vindicate their injured Reputation; to pray for them, and be placable towards them;
ready to remove all Mifunderstandings, and to take fuch Steps as may probably recover them to a true Senfe of Things.
Q. What is that Uncharitableness to our Enemies we are moft liable to?
A. Hard Cenfures and Sufpicions, fancying the worft Defigns, and putting the worst Interpretations upon all their Words and Actions: A reigning Sin among Adverfaries; too common among thofe who are otherwise serious and devout; and this not only against particular Perfons, but on all Hands, against
bole Bodies and Parties, who, in any Thing relating to the Times, are of different Opinions. Now this is contrary to the Nature of Charity, which is always inclinable to think the beft, and leans, fo far as the Thing will bear, to the Side of Favour, both in judging and fpeaking of all their Actions, It is alfo plainly contrary to our Lord' sRule, who warneth us not to judge, that we be not judged, because, Mat. xii. with what Meafure we mete, it will be measured to us 1 *. again.
Q. What makes it fo hard to forgive our Enemies?
A. It is our dwelling upon an Injury received, and hearkening to ill Suggeftions, that aggravate the Deed,and the Malice and Unworthinefs of him that offered it. This heightens our Refentment, and makes it difficult to bring our Minds into Temper; whereas if, when fuch Thoughts arife, we did not harbour nor give way to them, we fhould find Forgiveness much more easy.
Q. What Obligations do we lie under to the Performance of this Duty?
vi. 14, 15
A. The exprefs Command of our Saviour, the Au- Mat. x. thor of our holy Religion, requireth it from us. 44. He hath befides made Forgiveness of Injuries to be the Condition without which we can expect no Pardon of our Sins from him: He hath, in his own Perfon,
fet us a Pattern of this Virtue, which he practised
Q. Wherein confifteth the Reasonableness and Excellency of this Duty?
A. In that it tends to the Comfort and Happiness of our Lives; Patience and Forgivenefs affording a lafting and folid Pleafure. In that it reftrains, at prefent, a very tumultuous and unreasonable Paffion, and prevents many Troubles and Inconveniencies, which naturally flow from a malicious and revengeful Temper. It is the Perfection of Goodnefs to do Kindneffes, not only without Merit and Obligation, but in Defpite of Temptation to the contrary. It is an Argument of a great Mind, and the most valuable Conqueft, becaufe gained over ourselves. And thus God himself is affected towards thofe who are guilty of the greatest Provocations against him.
Q. But is not the Repentance of the Party that injures us, made the Condition of our Forgiveness?
A. Forgiveness is chiefly taken for abstaining from Revenge; and fo far we are to forgive our Enemies, even whilst they continue fo, and though they do not repent. Befides, we are to pray for them, and to do them all Offices of common Humanity and Charity. But fometimes Forgiveness doth fignify a perfect Reconciliation to thofe that have offended us, fo as to take them again into our Friendship; which they are by no Means fit for, till they have repented of their Enmity, and laid it afide; and Luke xvii. this is the Meaning of that Text, of rebuking our Brother if he trefpafs against us, and if he repent to forgive him.
Q. How are we to treat an Enemy that repents? A. We are not obliged to treat him with Marks offpecia! Efteem and Confidence, because this is founded upon particular Reafons and Fitness of Perfons,
as Likeness of Humour, Fidelity of Affection, Aptnefs for
Q. By what Measures ought we to judge of the
A. We ought not to be too frict and rigid in standing upon exact Proofs, but to be candid, and apt to interpret all Signs of it to the best Senfe, leaning to the Side of Love and easy Admittance. If they take Shame to themselves, and are so far humbled, as penitently to confefs their Fault, it is an Argument of their Sincerity, and, in the Cafe of the first Offence especially, a strong Prefumption that they will no more commit it.
Rant, O Lord, that in all my Sufferings here upon Earth for the Teftimony of thy Truth, I port under may ftedfastly look up to Heaven, and by Faith for Relibehold the Glory that fhall be revealed, and being gion. filled with the Holy Ghoft, may learn to love and bless my Perfecutors, by the Example of thy first Martyr St. Stephen; who prayed for his Murderers to thee, O bleffed Jefus, who ftandeft at the right Hand of God, to fuccour all those that fuffer for thee, my only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.