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groans of the wounded and dying;-all this is more humane and merciful than delighting in sin. Could we look down upon the burning lake, and see there how the miserable ghosts are tossed upon the billows of the burning deep, and hear their dreadful exclamations," Who can dwell with devouring fire? who can dwell with everlasting burnings?"-should we, then, divert ourselves with sin? Charity does thus look upon their misery, so far as her imagination goes, and feels a cold horror and a shivering dread. She mourns over sin wheresoever she sees it, and weeps for those who never weep for themselves. This is her declaration, as she looks around upon the sins of mankind—“ Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law."
Love cannot delight in the misconduct of an enemy or a rival. This, perhaps, is the precise meaning of the Apostle, in the expression we are now illustrating. Few of us are without some one or more who are considered by us, or who consider themselves, in the character of an opponent, or a competitor; and in such cases there is great danger of our being pleased with their moral failures. It is not often that any, except those who are more than ordinarily depraved, will allow themselves to go so far as to tempt an enemy to sin, in order to gain the advantage over him. Yet there are some such, who will lay snares for his feet, and watch with eager hope for his halting: and when unable to accomplish this by their own personal exertions, will not scruple to engage accomplices in the work. Weaker and junior agents, who probably may know nothing, or know but little of the purpose
for which they are employed, may be drawn, by the master-spirit of mischief, into the confederacy, and be made the instrument of tempting an immortal creature to sin against God, and ruin his own soul. This is the climax of revenge, the highest pitch of wickedness, and the greatest refinement of human malice. It is to extend the mischief of revenge to another world; to call in the aid of devils, and the quenchless fire, to supply the defects of our ability to inflict misery in proportion to our wishes; and to perpetuate our ill will through eternity. To tempt men to sin against God, with a view to serve ourselves by degrading them before the world, unites much of the malevolence of a devil, with as much of his ingenuity.
But if we cannot go to such a length as to tempt an opponent or rival to sin, yet, if we feel a delight in seeing him fall by other means; if we indulge a secret complacency in beholding him rendering himself vile, blasting his reputation, destroying his popularity, and ruining his cause; if we inwardly exclaim, "Ah! so would I have it-now he has done for himself—it is all over with him—this is just what I wished and wanted ;"-we delight in iniquity. And, oh, how inexpressibly dreadful to be seen with a smiling countenance, or an aspect which, if it relax not into a smile, is sufficiently indicative of the joyful state of the heart, to run with eagerness to proclaim the intelligence of the victory we have gained by that act of another which endangers his salvation: how contrary all this to the charity which delights in happiness!
Perhaps we only go so far as to be pleased that
the object of our dislike has been himself injured in a way similar to that in which he has injured us. Although we may not allow ourselves to inflict any direct injury in the way of revenge, nor to engage others to do it for us, yet if we see him ill treated by another person and rejoice; if we exclaim, "I do not pity him, he has deserved it all for his behaviour to me, I am glad he has been taught how to behave to his neighbour;"-this is contrary to the law of love-it is a complacency in sin. Nor is the case altered, if our joy be professedly felt on account of the consequences which the sin has brought upon him. We may sometimes attempt to deceive ourselves, by the supposition that we do not rejoice in the iniquity that is committed, but only because it has been succeeded by those fruits which the misconduct has merited. We interpret it into a proof that God has taken up the cause of injured innocence, and avenged us of our adversary.
There are many circumstances and situations which more particularly expose us to the violation of this law of charity. In the case of two different denominations in religion, or two congregations of the same party in a town, between whom a misunderstanding and schism have been permitted to grow up and to operate, there is imminent danger of this unchristian spirit. Alas, alas! that the bosom of men should be liable to such sentiments! Oh! shame, deep and lasting shame, upon some professing Christians, "that such unhallowed emotions should ever be excited in their bosoms !" "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets
of Askelon, lest
the daughters of the Philistines rejoice-lest the
daughters of the uncircumcised triumph." Let it not be known that the bad passions of the human heart build their nests, like obscure birds, round the altar of the Lord; or, like poisonous weeds, entwine their baleful tendrils round the pillars of his house. We do not mean to say, that any good man can rejoice in the open immorality and vice of an opponent; but are there not many, in all large communities, who, though of Israel in one sense, belong not to it in reality? And where the failure does not proceed to the length of a more awful delinquency, but consists merely of some minor breaches of the law of propriety, are not even the best of men sometimes exposed to the temptation of rejoicing over them, if their cause is promoted by them? The weaker party, especially, if they have been ill used, treated with pride and scorn, oppression and cruelty, are very apt to take delight in those instances of misconduct by which their opponents have brought upon themselves the prejudice of the public.
Rival candidates for fame, or power, or influence, whether in ecclesiastical or secular affairs, are liable to the sin of rejoicing in iniquity. Hard, indeed, is it for such hearts as ours to repress all feelings of secret complacency in those acts of a competitor by which he sinks, and we are raised, in public esteem. That man gives himself credit for more virtue than he really possesses, who imagines he should find it easy to weep over the follies and miscarriages of the rival who contends with him for what it is of much importance he should obtain, or of an enemy who has deeply injured him. Job
mentions it as a convincing proof of his integrity, and a striking display of good conduct:-" If I rejoiced in the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him." And it was a fine manifestation of the generosity of David, that instead of rejoicing over those sins which, in the conduct of Saul, brought on the catastrophe that elevated him to the throne of Israel, he bewailed them with as sincere and pungent grief, as he could have done had Saul been the kindest of fathers. That we are in danger of the sin we are now considering, is also evident from the exhortation of Solomon-Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth.” Charity, if it had full possession of our hearts, and entire sway, would not only repress all outward exhibitions of this delight, but all inward emotions; would make us dread lest an opponent should fall into sin; would not allow us to see him go unwarned to transgression, but compel us to admonish him of his danger; and would make us cheerfully forego the greatest advantage to our cause or reputation, that we might gain by his misconduct. This is the holiness of love, and the proof of a genuine hatred of sin; for if we mourn only over our own sins, or the sins of our friends, or of our party, there may be something selfish in our grief after all; but to mourn over iniquity, when, though it does harm to another, it may, in some sense, promote our cause, is, indeed, to hate sin for its own sake, and for the sake of him by whom it is condemned.
We go on now to show in what love does rejoice :