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But I must dive down into men's hearts, and seek for the cause, why this golden rule, so good, so excellent, is so little obeyed, even amongst Christians. What do I behold? Deceit, malice, enmity, even against God; master passions of the human heart. One man declares that there is no God. See how corrupt his heart is; he has done abominable wickedness. Another confesses God, but heeds not his laws. There may be ten commandments, or ten hundred, he obeys not one with intent. Stout in sin and unbelief, he lives a worldly, profitless, wicked life. But I must not attempt to individualize. The spirit and the heart, of all men are one; one and the same, in kind. The Divine Spirit actuating the heart of man, renews, changes, beautifies and ennobles it; and the image of the Redeemer is stamped henceforth upon it. The new law of love and of life becomes a ruling principle. Is it enjoined—“Be not overcome of evil ?” The faithful Christian adopts it forthwith, makes it his own by habit, as well as by free choice. A conflict, nevertheless, there is, and there must be, between the renewed and the unrenewed heart. As God hath divided between the light and the darkness, so hath He put enmity between the seed of the Serpent, (all wicked people,) and the seed of the woman (Christ and His people.)
Look at the Prophets; look at the Apostles; above all, look at our Saviour Christ. See with what an overflowing torrent of persecution they were swept away
from the earth. Yet see, how they conquered, nevertheless. The gentleness and the meekness of Christ have made more converts in the world, and gained more victories, than all the united efforts of tyranny and oppression ; of pride and revenge. We are called on, if we are real Christians, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto Him; that as He was meek, so should we be; as He loved His enemies, even giving Himself for their salvation, so should we love our enemies; as He was without guile and malice and enmity, so should we be also; as He was not overcome by evil, neither should we be ; and as He overcame evil with good, we ought to go and do likewise.
This shall ever be my course, brethren, by the grace of God! No spirit of petty pride, no bitterness of malice, no evil thinking, or evil wishing, shall ever corrode my heart with regard to you, or to any round about you. If you mistake my motives, I will freely forgive you, may God forgive you too. If you speak evil of me, malign me, treat me with contempt, despise my message from the Lord to you, I deserve it all, and more than all, but God knoweth, you do it unjustly. If I thought one of you was my enemy (secretly I mean) openly, I know not that I have an enemy; I would fight you—with love, with kindness, with attentions, with prayers to God on your behalf; and never would I cease till I had gained the victory, God being willing, and my helper. The golden rule is printed on
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my heart, and all the defilement you can cast on me, shall not blot it out—"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Construe not my language into the language of boasting. Vile, sinful, unworthy man that I am, boasting ill becomes me. But regard my words as the words of sincerity and truth. And if it be my resolve to act out towards you this golden rule, let it be your resolve to act it out towards me, and towards one another. You are aware, my brethren, I speak with all freedom and confidence, you are aware that there is a vast amount of open sin amongst us; quarrelling, wrangling, lying, fighting, drunkenness, and unclean living. You are aware also that there is a much greater amount of secret sin. Think of your own as an individual; perhaps also you know some more. What hatred, malice, spite, malignity, what unbelief and hardness of heart; what hypocrisy and deceit! The devil urges on all these evil spirits, these evil things. His golden rule is—“Sin, and let sin.” Jesus Christ condemns all these things. His golden rule is——“ Love, and let love ;” and, in the turmoil and strife of nations another golden rule is the rule of the text. not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
In a few short years, and all your open sins, and all your secret sins, will be done. You will have cast up your mighty debt to God, and closed the account. Your children and children's children will walk over your graves, and read the epitaphs on your tomb
stones, and say—“Alas, my father! Alas, my brother!” and you be altogether unconscious. But in the short interval of time that is granted you, Oh ! let me entreat of you to forsake your sins; to believe in God, and serve faithfully the Lord Jesus Christ; to acquaint now yourselves with God and be at peace ; to lay aside all evil ways and doings, and walk humbly before Him; and, as one topic of reflection, and one rule of action, especially forces itself now on our attention, learn not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good. Never shew a weak or a petty spirit, by saying—“I don't like this ;” and “I don't like that. I won't be abused by this one, or maligned by the other.” Be manly, but above all, be godly. Did Abel like to be slain, or Isaiah sawn asunder ? Did Stephen like to be stoned, or Paul buffetted ? it pleasant, think you, for the Blessed Jesus to experience the cruel treatment that the wicked put upon Him; to have His sacred hands and feet nailed to the accursed tree, and Himself made a spectacle of scorn and shame to the assembled thousands ? Talk not of this burden and that; of this enemy and the other. Take up your cross, and bear it after Jesus.
Let us all, by the grace of God, conquer ourselves ; our own cold and evil hearts ; our own unbelief and selfishness; and then go forth to conquer others ; not with harsh words, or stern spirits ; but with loving kindness and tender mercies, and may we never be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Amen.