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ROMANS xii. 21.
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
THIS is one of those golden rules of our religion, by following which we shall very much help on that
peace on earth, and good-will towards men, which is one of the main designs of the Gospel.
In explaining and enforcing this golden rule, I shall be obliged, as a matter of course, in a certain measure, to enter into the heart, and see about the state of those secret springs of action, which lie out of sight
of human gaze.
For the heart is everything in religion. A worldly man can put on a shew of devotion, and not only make rules of conduct, but keep them, as far as we can see, much better, perhaps, than many Christians; but unless the keeping of good rules springs from a right motive; although it may do good on earth, it will not end in any advantage in heaven. We all know enough of the truth of the Gospel to be sure of this.
It would be a good thing if the golden rule of the text was printed over every house door in the parish; and that people as they went in and out, would not only read it, but mind it. It would be a better thing, a far better thing, if it was printed in the fleshy tables of our hearts, by the Spirit of the living God, that, as our spirits went in and out, doing the work of life, they might note it, and heed it continually——“ Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."
May He who, when He was reviled, reviled not again ; when He suffered, threatened not; by whose name we are called; by whose stripes we are healed; may He be pleased, in His great goodness and mercy, so to soften, and so to shape, our evil hearts; that, henceforth, casting away malice, we may love one another as brethren, and “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Attend, my brethren, I pray you, for a few short minutes whilst I try my best to set before you golden rule of the Gospel.
Let men alone; let them follow their own inclinations; and, I fear they would not find out this golden rule for themselves; but, should they by any means find it out, they would not be disposed to obey it ; why, my brethren, under the Gospel, where everybody knows the rule, and most profess to abide by it ; where can you find the people who follow it up, by regular and consistent practice? There are very few such people to be found ; one here, and one there, only. What
is the reason of this? The reason is plain. Men's hearts, or nature, do not properly approve the rule, and therefore they do not try to keep it. Revenge is sweet to many; and the law of retaliation, as it is called, is adopted and carried out by most men. “Strike me, and I'll strike you. Hurt me, and I'll hurt you. You shall have as good as you give.” Thus men talk, and thus men act. The majority of mankind act thus, following the impulse or dictate of their unsubdued and evil nature. Alas! for our fallen state ; some go much farther, especially in Religion. “For the love that I have unto them,” many a godly man doing good to his fellows, might say—“Lo ! now, they take my contrary part." Returning, actually returning evil for good, and hatred for good-will. How can you explain the treatment received by our Saviour Christ, except in this way? His whole life was one mighty work of love ; and the men amongst whom He did that work, reviled, persecuted, and cruelly killed Him. Away with such a fellow from the earth," they said, “it is not fit that He should live.” In vain was there a barrier raised against their impetuous fury. In vain did Pilate say—“Why, what evil hath he done ?" for they cried only so much the more—“ Let Him be crucified.” And as the Author fared, so did His religion. What a fury the world was in, as from, city to city, and from country to country, the religion of Jesus, like an angel of light, gently moved along ! Deaths could not be invented cruel enough, wherewith