Page images
PDF
EPUB

ور

در

“ whether there be knowledge” to the greatest extent that a mortal ever possessed, it will there be a mere vapour, and “shall vanish away. » For, what we know, or what we prophecy here, is but partial and imperfect ; bụt when we attain to perfection in all such points hereafter, “then that which is in part,” or only partial, “ shall be done away.” Then,-except charity-all things upon which mankind are apt to value themselves, will appear but childish trifles, and will be "put away.” Certainty then will take place of faith ; clear instruction will possess the mind, instead of dark and glimmering knowledge ;-but charity will ever remain, to shew us our resemblance to God, and to unite us with Him through all eternity.

SERMON XXII.

ON THE DUTY OF FORGIVENESS.

Acts vii. 60.

-Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.

This was the exclamation of the dying martyr St. Stephen, on behalf of his wicked and furious murderers. That active servant of God was one of the seven Deacons whom our Saviour's Apostles, in the infancy of his Church, had appointed to assist them in the inferior duties of their ministry. The supernatural power that enabled him to perform wonders and miracles, excited the indignation of the Jews; and " and there arose certain of the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.” When the wisdom and spirit that guided his utterance were found irresistible, his persecutors framed a false accusation against him, and brought him before the council. “ This man,” said the perjured witnesses,

US.',

ور

[ocr errors]

“ ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law. For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered

In answer to this accusation, he proceeded to enumerate some of the principle facts recorded in the Old Testament ;-and, in the most spirited manner, charged his assailants with having resisted the Holy Ghost, as their fathers did.

66 Which of the prophets,” said he,“ have not your fathers persecuted ? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One ; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers :—who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

At the poignant application of this charge, they were so enraged, that “ they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly to heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” “ Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord.” “ And they stoned Stephen calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, · Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

The Gospel promises remission of sins to every person who sincerely repents of his own transgressions, and who, imitating the admirable example of that Christian Martyr, freely forgives the injuries and

در

ور

persecutions of his enemies. By the Mosaic law, the Jews were commanded to love their neighbours, under which description they usually comprehended only the individuals of their own tribe or nation : but the enlarged precept of loving our enemies, was reserved to adorn a more excellent dispensation,—and is peculiar to the Christian religion. Our Divine Master enjoins not only the inward affection of love to our adversaries, but also the outward acts of blessing them, when they curse us,—of doing good to them, when they hate us,—and even of praying for them, when they despitefully use us, and persecute us.

As this duty, commanded by our Saviour, and so piously performed by St. Stephen, may seem repugnant to our inclinations, I shall endeavour to shew hat it is reasonable and excellent, — advantageous, and not so difficult as it appears to be.

Benevolence is the most congenial, tranquil, and heart-cheering affection with which the Divine wisdom has endued us :—but hatred, malice, and revenge, are the most corroding and destructive passions. Imagine, indeed, the angry man meditating revenge. The tempestuous rage of his mind hurries him into acts of indiscretion and injury ;-the restless agitation of his spirits destroys his own comfort, and affects him with a temporary madness. He executes his malicious purposes ; and afterwards his conscience loudly upbraids him for it. Besides, the revenge of one injury is but an invitation to another, -of which it is, indeed, naturally productive. It may give rise to revenge upon revenge, and injury upon injury, till the whole temper is in danger of becoming malevolent, and life a continued scene of cruelty and rage :- so that he who retaliates the injuries he has received, generally brings double mischief upon himself, and is haunted by the tormenting reflections of his vindictive mind.

The opposite temper of forbearance and forgiveness has none of these bad consequences ; but averts even the occasion of them. Instead of impelling us to acts of outrage, it makes us “ kindly affectioned one towards another." It preserves and heightens those charities of life, without which the world would be a scene of discomfort and solitariness. It ensures to us the great advantages of self-possession, of social barmony, and of in ward peace. 66 He that is slow to anger,” says the wise king, “is better than the mighty ; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.”

“ The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”

When we are under the influence of our angry passions, we transgress the bounds of justice and discretion. Justice and discretion would require from our enemy, those concessions only which would bring bim to the reasonable temper of prudence and charity ;-but it unfortunately happens, that when we give way to our passions, we are, in a measure, incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, and are driven to indulge our own feelings at the expense

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »