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itself; we must seek to have more of this heavenly virtue. Love cannot be either passionate or revengeful. Love is full of benevolence and good-will, and therefore cannot allow itself to indulge those tempers which are unfriendly to the happiness of mankind. Let us seek to strengthen this parent principle, which will prevent the growth of whatever is evil, and promote the advancement of all that is excellent.
One caution may here be suggested for the encouragement of those who are particularly tried with an irritable temper, and that is--not to despond; if, in the work of mortification, they meet with many defeats, do not be in a passion with yourselves, for being in a passion, for this will only increase the evil you are anxious to destroy. Go calmly, yet courageously, to the conflict; if victorious be not elated, if defeated be not disheartened. Often you will have to mourn your failures, and sometimes be ready to imagine that you are doomed to the hopeless task of Sysiphus, whose stone always rolled back again, when, by immense labour, he had urged it nearly to the summit of the hill. Do not expect an easy or a perfect conquest. Mourn your defeats, but do not despair. Many, after a few unsuccessful efforts, give up the cause, and abandon themselves to the tyranny of their passions. In this conflict, unsuccessful struggles are more honourable than unresisting submission.
3. Love will of course prevent revenge.
Revenge is a term that a Christian should blot out from his vocabulary with his own penitential tears, or with the drops of his gratitude for the
pardon he has received from God. There is no passion more hostile to the very genius of Christianity, or more frequently forbidden by its authority, than this; and there is none to which the depravity of human nature more powerfully excites us. The volume of history is stained, from the beginning to the end, with the blood which has been shed by the demon of revenge. Mankind, in every age and country, have groaned under the misery inflicted by this restless and cruel spirit, which no mischief can satisfy, no suffering appease. Revenge has converted men into wild beasts, and inspired them with a wish to tear each other to pieces. It is not likely that such a temper as this would meet with the least toleration or sanction in the religion of the meek and lowly Jesus, whose person was an incarnation, and whose Gospel is an emanation, of love. Revenge is admitted by some as justifiable to a certain extent by the reasoning and conduct of the world, the principle is allowed, yea honoured, and only condemned in its most vicious excess. Wars, duels, railings, private animosities, that do not infringe on the peace of society, are all justified on this ground. Mankind alter the golden rule, and do unto others, not as they would that others should do, but as others do unto them in a way of evil; and this, so far from being blamed, is generally applauded as honourable and dignified. In the estimate of the people of the world, the man who refuses to resent an injury which he has received, is a poor mean-spirited creature, unworthy to associate with men of honour.
But whatever may be the maxims of the world,
revenge is certainly forbidden by every page of the Word of God. "The discretion of a man deferreth his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression." Private revenge was certainly forbidden under the Old Testament, and still more explicitly under the New. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," said our Lord, "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” * The same sentiments are enjoined by the apostles. "Recompense to no man evil for evil. If it possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably, with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." These passages are decisive upon the point, that revenge in any form, or in any measure, is forbidden by the Christian religion.
The misfortune of many is, that they mistake the
• Matthew v. and vi.... + Rom. xii. 17-21.
meaning of the term revenge-or rather they confine its application to the grosser, more mischievous, and more violent expressions of wrath: they think that nothing is revenge but cutting or maiming the person, openly slandering the reputation, or wantonly injuring the property. Such, it must be admitted, are fearful ebullitions of this destructive passion; 'but they are not the only ways in which it expresses itself. There are a thousand petty acts of spite and ill will, by which a revengeful spirit may operate. If we refuse to speak to another by whom we have been injured, and pass him with silent or manifest scorn; if we take delight in talking of his failings, and in lowering him in the opinion of others; if we show ill will to his children or relations on his account; if we watch for an opportunity to perform some little act of annoyance towards him, and feel gratified in the thought that we have given him trouble or pain;—all this is done in a spirit of retaliation, and is as truly, though not so dreadfully, the actings of revenge, as if we proceeded to inflict bodily injury. The spirit of revenge simply means returning evil for evil, and taking pleasure in doing so. It may go to the extremes of calumny and murder, or may confine itself to the infliction of minor wrongs; but if we, in any way, resent an injury with ill will towards the persons who committed it, this is revenge.
A question will here arise, whether, according to this view, we are not forbidden to defend our persons, our property, and our reputation, from the aggressions of lawless mischief? Certainly not. If an assassin attempt to maim or to murder me, I am
allowed to resist the attack, even to extremity; for this is not avenging an evil, but an effort to prevent one. If our character in society be aspersed, we must endeavour, by peaceful means, to gain an apology and exculpation; and if this cannot be obtained, we are authorized to appeal to the law: for, if calumny were not punished, society could not exist. If, however, instead of appealing to the law, we were to calumniate in return; if we were to inflict bodily injury on the aggressor, or take delight in injuring him in other ways; this would be revenge: but to seek the protection of the law, without, at the same time, indulging in malice,this is self-defence, and the defence of society. If we are injured, or are likely to be injured, in our property, we must try, by all private and honourable means, to prevent the aggression; be willing to settle the affair by the mediation of wise and impartial men, and keep our minds free from anger, ill will, and malice, towards the aggressors: and, as a last resource, we are justifiable in submitting the cause, if it cannot be settled by any other means, to the decision of a court of justice. No Christian should resort to the tribunal of public justice till every method of private adjustment has failed.
As it respects the propriety of Christians going to law with each other, the testimony of the apostle is decisive. "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, to go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge