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to injure us. The contrary apprehension is begotten by the gloominess of the mind. And we are sometimes so ungenerous as to believe ourselves abandoned by a whole list of friends, because one has proved treacherous. Thus we are plunged into distress, are ready to say that all men are liars, and by our groundless suspicion, and consequent coldness and distrust, produce the very miseries we forebode. Our apprehensions are the very demons that break the tie of friendship, and dissolve the bonds of brotherhood. They beget distance, caution, jealousy, and neglect, and the result is abandonment and hatred. Thus in an evil hour we draw upon ourselves the very miseries we might avoid, and the foe is suffered to inflict a wound deeper and deadlier than he had hoped to. The bonds of friendship are sundered, the peace of the mind is destroyed, the interests of Zion are injured, and the foe sits and smiles in his ambush at the miseries we inflict upon ourselves. We are overcome of evil.

5. We are more yet completely overcome of evil, when abuse begets habitual sourness of temper. When God does not prevent by his grace, long protracted injuries, inflicted by insidious foes, are prone to produce this unhappy result. The spirits are jaded by adversity, and become expert in transferring odium from one person or thing to another, till very soon it can be expanded over the whole creation of God. There is begotten an acid temper, and the very landscape is robed in gloom. The irritated master wreaks his vengeance upon the unoffending slave. The innocent child dreads the return of his ill natured father, and the very wife turns pale, when some foe has kindled anger in the bosom of her husband. The indulgence of one unkind affection, like some leprosy, infuses its poison through the whole soul. The eye it looks through becomes a contaminated medium, and transfers its own disease to every object of its vision. The man had a friendly heart, but he becomes a misanthrope; he did enjoy society, but would now be content with a hermitage; he prized Christian fel. lowship, but he doubts now whether piety itself can make an honest man. How evidently is such a man overcome of evil.

6. One is overcome of evil, when he attempts unnecessarily a public vindication of his character. I say unnecessarily, for it cannot be denied that a good man, without his wish, may be forced into such a measure. Often is this the very object which some malicious foe would accomplish. He knows perhaps, what is too true, that the best character will suffer by handling, and when he cannot catch the good man in crime, will compass his wishes if he can so

cence.

fix imputation, as to force him to go into a proof of his inno

Conscious that he cannot himself establish the positive, he would put the virtue he hates upon proving the negative, or of perishing

He issues his libel, invents circumstances that shall favor it, employs all the truth he can, in corroboration of his falsehood, and where truth fails to fill out the picture, he scruples not to employ a lie.

He would try both your temper and your reputation. Screened from view, he would cast filth upon you, and amuse himself and others to see you wipe it off. He hopes there may be some spot indelible, or that you may sin in the act of establishing your innocence.

Now the snare is laid. But calmness, and reflection, and prayer, may easily be victorious. Good character cannot be hurt but by its owner. The tongue of slander may injure for a moment the stranger, but good conduct will invariably sustain good character. And it has come at length to be noted as a suspicious circumstance, when we court the aid of law and counsel to defend our reputation. It was a shrewd remark of Dr. Mather, “The malice of an ill tongue cast upon a good character, is like a mouthful of smoke blown upon a diamond, which at present may obscure its beauty, but is easily rubbed off and the gem restored to its pristine lustre.” “Depraved as the world is,” said a man of long experience, “ let them have your character, and though they may handle it roughly, they will ultimately restore it whole as they found it." But let them see that their attacks enrage you, and put you off your guard, or place you in a quixotic attitude of arming yourself for a conflict with a shadow, and their object is accomplished, and you are overcome of evil.

II. How may we save ourselves from the shame and injury of being thus vanquished? It is possible, no doubt, to obey the injunction of the text, as well as any other in the whole list of precepts. There are exertions which if we make, with a proper sense of our dependence on God, will enable us in the most evil day to stand. Let us then, in the

1. Place, bear it strongly in mind, That he who would designedly injure us, does himself a greater injury. There is in nature, or rather in the divine purpose, a principle of prompt and powerful reaction. Let one attack your character, and sure as life he hurts his own. Let him spread an ill report, and that report will recoil upon his own reputation. He will be considered a slanderer. If one act will not fix upon him this stigma, that very impunity will induce him to repeat the deed, till the character he deserves will adhere to him. Thus he suffers, and not you.

Or would he merely disturb your peace, let him but alone, and his own peace is injured more than yours. God can give you a peace, that nothing can disturb. If you must unjustly suffer, God can support you and comfort you, but this he will not do for the man who wrongs you. His, on reflection, will be the shame, and the guilt, and the remorse, of a deed which God will not justify. The wound he intended for you, will rankle in his own bosom.

Now if the man who intended to injure us, has wounded himself, then we should pity him, and pray for him, and not study a duplicate revenge. There opens upon us the delightful opportunity, to bind up his wounds, and pour in oil and wine, and we may have luxury to forget and forgive-a luxury which the whole herd of evil doers never tasted.

Or be it our temporal interest they would hurt, or our influence, there is but this one issue to all the operations of malevolencethe curse lights upon the perpetrators. Their violent dealings shall come down upon their own head. They are taken in their

own snare.

2. If we resist evil, we are invariably injured. The foe is the more courageous, the more fierce and prompt the repulse he meets with. He exhibits now a prowess that he could never have summoned, had he coped with mere non-resistance. A slanderous report is repeated and magnified, because it has been wrathfully contradicted. The presumption is that when the mis-statement shall have varied its shape and attitude, it can be imposed upon the credulous as a new fact, that shall go to corroborate the old. And let resistance be kept up, and soon the insulated charge becomes a long catalogue of crimes, that go to establish each other, and render unquestionable the whole series of allegations. Now it is hoped that the world will say, such a host of imputations cannot want for some foundation in fact. The charge of intemperance corroborates that of fraud and falsehood. The testimony of two liars, when they substantially agree, and there has been no concert, may establish the truth.

Thus charges which are all false, and are multiplied by resistance, are made to prop each other, till there is begotten suspicion that never need have been. And the needless attempt at investigation fixes the impression, that character is crumbling, and that a still bolder push will be accompanied with complete success. Thus by wrestling with the blast, we are liable to be discomfited, when had we lain down and been quiet, the storm would have beat upon us a little, and passed over, and we should have seen the sun again in all his brightness. The foe intended to render us unhappy, and he learns that he has, and hopes most cordially that another onset may undo us. But let him see that you remain unmoved, that his attack has not even discomposed you, that

you are invulnerable as the rock, and he must be the veriest idiot if he draws another arrow from his quiver. Hence, said the poet,

“ Tempest will rive the stiffest oak,

Cedars with all their pride are broke,
Beneath the fury of that stroke,
Which never harms the willows."

3. It will calm us in an hour of onset, to feel that wicked men are God's sword. From him we deserve all the evil that the most malicious foe can inflict. True, men are none the less free agents, and accountable, because they are the rod and the staff in the hand of the Lord. But it would argue a want of submission to parental restraint, should the child seem angry at the rod. It is our consolation to know that God holds our enemies in his hand, directs every wound they shall inflict, and has promised to restrain their wrath, when it will not praise him. He has put his hook in their

nose, and his bridle in their lips, and will in due time, when he has sufficiently humbled his people, lead their enemies back by the way

that they came. Hence, when ungodly men would do us injury, it should rather awaken our pity for them, than our anger against them. We have a divine illustration exactly in point, and conscious ill desert should ever lead us to say with David, in reference to Shimei, “Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.” “Why doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins ?" If the men who injure us are to be the instruments of our sanctification, and then, unless the grace of God interpose, are to be the objects of his everlasting displeasure, be their designs never so base, how can we feel otherwise than pitiful and kind?

4. It will be a timely and sweet reflection, for a period of abuse, that ill-treatment is among the all things that shall work together for our good. Trials may come from a quarter unexpected, and from those who owe us the kindest treatment. We took sweet counsel with them, and went to the house of God in company. Be it even so, still faith assures us that their injuries will bless

us,

will sanc

tify us, and help us on in our preparation for the enjoyment of God in his kingdom. This one question settled, and I will inflict no wound upon my adversary. He is doing me everlasting good, and though he mean not so, still I cannot injure him who is constrained to be my benefactor. I will forgive him before he asks forgiveness, and will exert myself to induce him to pass on to heaven with me. And if unsuccessful, still the promise, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” will bear my spirits up through the darkest and dreariest hour.

5. It should ever be our reflection in the hour of attack, that to be like Christ, we must not resist evil. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” He passed meekly through torrents of abuse. It poured in upon him, wave after wave, but he stood, a rock. When they would catch him in his words, he spoke wisely and kindly. When they would stone him, he inquired for which of his kind deeds they did it. When that fiend of midnight betrayed him, after joining in the Pascal supper, and having long borne the badge of discipleship, how meekly . he inquired, “Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?" Now would we be followers of the Lord Jesus, the track is plain ; we must not suffer ourselves to be overcome of evil.

Finally, there is the direct command of God. No precept can be more binding than the text. To indulge a vindictive spirit is an infringement upon the Divine prerogative. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” There is a day of retribution appointed, and one is constituted judge who cannot err. In the hour of conflict we have only to refer men to that day when every wrong will be rectified. And if our sufferings are prolonged, still the years of heaven will run on till they are all forgotten. A Christian is but a pardoned rebel, and may not avenge himself. And all others may well fear to be vindictive, lest wrath come upon them to the uttermost. With the same measure that we mete, it shall be measured to us again.

III. How may we overcome evil with good ? To do this will require the sacrifice of bad passions. The unrenewed heart has a keen relish for revenge. Not the most delicious food pleases the palate better. But this malicious appetite the grace of God must subdue, ere the heaven-born principle in the text can be adopted : a sufficient reason why the heathen have never imbibed the spirit of meekness. Parents taught their children to retain anger. In

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