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of those who have offended us. We view our own case with all the partiality of self-love, and cannot easily persuade ourselves that we act upon unjust impressions. The faults of our enemy we magnify into crimes, and consider that we are justly entitled to do him an injury.
But if we would cherish that benevolent disposition, which is essential to the very idea of Christianity, we should often find that enmities originate in some mistake or mis-representation, and that a few acts of kindness and forbearance would lead to conciliation and friendship. This disposition would gradually, if not instantly, subdue the most inflexible hatred ; and the very worst of men must give way to him, who, after all their malicious attempts, has returned them good for evil, and benevolence for malice and ill-will.
To forgive our enemies and to do good to them that hate us, is the perfection of human nature ;-it is the highest advancement of that “charity which is the bond of perfectness.” If we love those only who love us, it is but justice and gratitude ; 6 for sinners also love those that love them."
Under the Mosaic dispensation, we find illustrious examples of forgiveness and forbearance. Joseph forgave his injurious brethren, and revenged not the evil they had done him. He knew that God had sufficiently punished them, in all the misgivings and apprehensions of their alarmed consciences,--in the dread that every where attended them as being
verily guilty concerning their brother.” Moses,
amidst the obloquies and murmurings of the Israelites, still “ possessed his soul in patience,”-still, by active benevolence and earnest prayer, continued to be their guide and their friend. David, though assailed at once by the indignities, the malice, and the persecutions of Saul, retained his fidelity and loyalty :—and his son Solomon was commended by the Almighty, because, in his celebrated prayer, he had forborne to supplicate for vengeance upon his adversaries. “Because thou hast not asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment, behold, I have done according to thy words. I have given thee a wise and understanding heart."
“Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Who is there that hears these words, and is not reminded of our Saviour's dying prayer for his implacable enemies ? Father, forgive them ; for they know not what they do.” If the Saint, in the agonies of death, could thus piously implore the Almighty to pardon his murderers ;-if our blessed Redeemer, who had wept over Jerusalem, while it was thirsting for his blood ;--if he, in whom sorrow and affliction were consecrated, could, when expiring in the keenest torture, and loaded with the sins of a rebellious world, intreat his heavenly Father's pardon for those who had nailed him to the cross, and were insulting him at the moment of his dissolution,-shall not we, who deserve not the least of God's mercies, much less the forgiveness of our numerous transgressions,—who
were born in sin, and offend the Almighty every hour, -shall not we forgive our brethren, when ignorance, misconception, or even the little vexations that are incident to man's life, have withdrawn their affections from us? Can we look up to heaven, and behold, by faith, the glory that shall be revealed ? Can we offer up our prayers to God, while we forgive not them that trespass against us? Our Saviour has taught us not to expect the forgiveness of our own sins, if we do not forgive one another the offences of which, as men, we may at any time be guilty. For when we say “ forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us,” we do, in fact, beseech the Almighty not to pardon us, while our enmity remains. To impress this truth the more deeply in our minds, our Lord, immediately after the recital of the prayer, adds this remarkable and awful caution—“ If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you ;—but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” " He shall have judgment without mercy,” says St. James, “who hath shewed no mercy.” This is represented, in a most lively manner, by our Saviour's parable of the wicked servant, who, when his lord had just cancelled the vast debt of ten thousand talents, dragged to prison his poor fellow-servant for the insignificant debt of a hundred pence. His lord, it is added, afterwards delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due, because he had not compassion on his fellow-servant.
“Our heavenly Father maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” He bestows even on the wicked, the gifts of his common providence, and is ready to forgive, for his blessed Son's sake, their numberless offences. In the very thing, then, that to our inclinations appears the most difficult, we have the Almighty himself for our example. And this example should operate the more forcibly, when we reflect that our offences against Him are greater and more numerous than any man can be guilty of towards us,--and that the consequence of an unforgiving disposition will be, the loss of God's favour and the provocation of his judgments.
Can we meditate upon God's love, and the beneficence of his blessed Son, and not employ our prayers and efforts to imitate them ?
A revengeful spirit is not only unchristian, but it is base ;-and obstinacy is always the mark of a weak? and conceited mind. Our faculties are too imperfect to enable us to ascertain fully the motives of other men's conduct; and, therefore, in blaming them too harshly for their behaviour towards us, we may do them an injustice, and vex ourselves unnecessarily. Besides, we should bear in mind the jeopardy in which such a temper will place us.
« He that revengeth, shall find vengeance from the Lord, and he will certainly retain his sins. Forgive, therefore, thy neighbour that hath hurt thee ; so shall thy sins also be forgiven, when thou prayest. One man beareth
hatred against another, and doth he seek pardon of the Lord ? He sheweth no mercy to a man like himself; and doth he ask forgiveness of his own sins ? Cease from anger, then, and forsake wrath ; fret not thyself because of the man who bringeth evil devices to pass."
If we ought to be kindly affectioned to our enemies, how much more so ought we to be to others !-to those who are united with us by the bonds of friendship, the ties of kindred, and the divine obligations of Christianity ; - to whom we are associated by “one Lord, one faith, one baptism !” For whatever degree of kindness is required towards our enemies, much more, we are certain, is due to our friends and benefactors.
Hence we perceive the excellency and reasonableness of our holy religion,-advancing so highly as it does, our duty, in things that tend to our happiness. No other religious system has contributed so powerfully to the exaltation of human nature, or been so eminently calculated for the peace and welfare of mankind in general :-for, in the first place, we are strictly forbidden to do an injury, and afterwards are awfully warned against revenging it.
Our Saviour, who “ knew what was in man,” and was, therefore, aware of the reluctance with which we perform this duty, urges it with such powerful arguments as we cannot resist, unless we disregard the mercies of God. “ If thou bring thy gifts before the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother