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the crowds that surround them; and encounter much fewer difficulties and calamities in their progress through life than more active and enterprising men. This even tenor of life may indeed be called by men of the world flat, dull, and insipid. But the meek are excluded from no rational pleasure, no legitimate delight; and as they are more exempt from anxiety and pain than other men, their sum total of happiness is greater, and they may, in the best sense of the word, be fairly said to inherit the earth.

I shall now proceed to notice such other passages of this admirable discourse, as appear to me to deserve peculiar attention and consideration.

The first of these is that which begins with the 21st verse: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you, that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." And again in the same manner at the 27th verse: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery; but I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."

I put these two instances together, because they both enforce the same great leading principle, and both illustrate one great distinguishing excellence of the morality taught by our Saviour; namely, that it does not content itself with merely controlling our outward actions, but it goes much deeper, it imposes its restraints, it places its guard exactly where it ought to do, on our thoughts and on our hearts. Our Lord here singles out two cases, referring to two different species of passions, the malevolent and the sensual, and he pronounces the same sentence, the same decisive judgment on both; that the thing to be regulated is the intention, the passion, the propensity. Former moralists contented themselves with saying, thou shalt not kill. But I (says our Lord) go much farther; I say thou shalt not indulge any resentment against thy brother, thou shalt not use any reproachful or contemptuous language towards him; for it is these things that lead and provoke to the most atrocious deeds. Former moralists have said, thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say, let not thine heart or thine eye commit adultery; for here it is that the sin begins; and here it must be crushed in its birth.

This is wisdom, this is morality in its most perfect form,

in its essence, and in its first principles. Every one that is acquainted with men and manners must know that our Lord has here shown a consummate knowledge of human nature; that he has laid his finger on the right place, and exerted his authority where it was most wanted, in checking the first movements of our criminal desires. Every one must see and feel, that bad thoughts quickly ripen into bad actions; and that if the latter only are forbidden, and the former left free, all morality will soon be at an end. Our Lord therefore, like a wise physician, goes at once to the bottom of the evil; he extirpates the first germ and root of the disease, and leaves not a single fibre of it remaining to shoot up again in the heart.

It was obvious to forsee that the disciples, and the people to whom our Saviour addressed himself, would consider this as very severe discipline, and would complain bitterly, or at least murmer secretly, at the hardships of parting with all their favourite passions, of eradicating their strongest natural propensities, of watching constantly every motion of their hearts, and guarding those issues of life and death, those fountains of virtue and of vice, with the most unremitting attention. But all this our divine master tells them is indispensably necessary. All these cautions must be used, all this vigilance must be exercised, all this self-government must be exerted, all these sacrifices must be made. It is the price we are to pay (besides that price which our Redeemer paid,) and surely no unreasonable one, for escaping eternal misery, and rendering ourselves capable of eternal glory. He therefore, goes on to say, in terms highly figurative and alarming, but not too strong for the occasion, "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy body should be cast into hell."* Every one must see that the eye to be plucked out is the eye of concupiscence, and the hand to be cut off is the hand of violence and vengeance; that is, these passions are to be checked and subdued, let the conflict cost us what it may.

This naturally leads our divine teacher, in the next verse, to a subject closely connected with one of our strongest passions, and that is, the power of divorce. Among the Jews and the Heathens, but more particularly the latter, this power was carried to a great extent, and exercised with the most ca

*Matth. v. 29, 30.

pricious and wanton cruelty. The best and most affectionate of wives were often dismissed for the slightest reasons, and sometimes without any reason at all. It was high time for some stop to be put to these increasing barbarities, and it was a task worthy of the Son of God himself to stand up as the defender and protector of the weak, of the most helpless and most oppressed part of the human species. Accordingly he here declares, in the most positive terms, that the only ligitimate cause of divorce is adultery. "It has been said, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. But I say unto you, whosever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosever marrieth her that is divorced, committeth adultery.* This has, by the experience of ages, been found to be a most wise and salutary provision, and no less conducive to the happiness than to the virtue of mankind. And we are taught by the fatal example of other nations that wherever this law of the Gospel has been abrogated or relaxed, and a greater facility of divorce allowed, the consequence has constantly been a too visible depravation of manners, and the destruction of many of the most essential comforts of the married state.

The passage to which I shall next advert, is the following: "Ye have heard it has been said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also; and whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."†

By the Mosaic law, retaliation was permitted; an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, might legally be demanded.‡ Among the ancient heathens, private revenge was indulged without scruple and without mercy. The savage nations in America, as well as in almost every other part of the world, set no bounds to the persevering rancour and the cool deliberate malignity with which they will pursue, for years together, not only the person himself from whom they have received an injury, but sometimes every one related to or connected with him. The Arabs are equally implacable in their resentments; and the Koran itself, in the case of a murder, allows private revenge.Il

It was to check this furious, ungovernable passion, so uni

*Matth. v. 31-32.

Levit. xxiv. 20. Deut. xix. 21.

+ Matth. v. 38-41.

|| Koran, v. 2. c. 17. p. 100,

versally prevalent over the earth, that our Saviour delivers the precepts now before us. "I say unto you resist not evil; but if any one smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." No one can imagine that this injunction, and those of the same kind that follow, are to be understood strictly and literally; that we are to submit, without the least opposition, to every injury and every insult that is offered to us, and are absolutely precluded from every degree of self-preservation and self-defence. This can never be intended; and the example of St. Paul, who repelled with proper spirit, the insult offered him as a Roman citizen, very clearly proves that we are not to permit ourselves to be trampled on by the foot of pride and oppression, without expressing a just sense of the injury done to us, and endeavouring to avert and repel it. It cannot therefore, be meant, that if any one, by a cruel and expensive litigation, should deprive us of a part of our property, we should not only relinquish to him that part, but request him also to accept every thing else we have in the world. Nor can it be meant, that if a man should actually strike us on one cheek, we should immediately turn to him the other, and desire the blow to be repeated. This could not possibly answer any one rational purpose, nor conduce in the least to the peace and happiness of mankind, which were certainly the objects our Saviour had in view; on the contrary, it would tend materially to obstruct both, by inviting injury, and encouraging insult and oppression. Common sense therefore, as well as common utility, require that we should consider the particular instances of behaviour under the injuries here specified, as nothing more than strong oriental idioms, as proverbial and figurative expressions, intended only to convey a general precept, and to describe that peculiar temper and disposition which the Gospel requires; that patience, gentleness, mildness, moderation, and forbearance under injuries and affronts, which is best calculated to preserve the peace of our own minds, as well as that of the world at large; which tends to soften resentment and turn away wrath; and without which, on one side or the other, provocations must be endless, and enmities eternal.

All therefore, that is here required of us is plainly and simply this, that we should not suffer our resentment of injuries to carry us beyond the bounds of justice, equity, and Christian charity; that we should not (as St. Paul well explains this passage) recompence evil for evil,* that is, repay one injury by

*Rom. xii. 17.

committing another; that we should not take fire at every slight provocation or trivial offence, nor pursue even the greatest and most flagrant injuries with implacable fury and inextinguishable rancour that we should make all reasonable allowances for the infirmities of human nature, for the passions, the prejudices, the failings, the misapprehensions of those we have to deal with; and without submitting tamely to oppression or insult, or giving up rights of great and acknowledged importance, should always show a disposition to conciliate and forgive; and rather to recede and give way a little in certain instances, than insist on the utmost satisfaction and reparation that we have perhaps a strict right to demand.

The chapter concludes with another remarkable precept, which may strictly be called a new commandment; for in no moral code is it to be found, tilf our Lord gave it a place in his.

The precept is this: "Ye have heard it has been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."*

So noble, so sublime, and so benevolent a precept, was never before given to man; and it is one strong proof, among many others, of the originality of our Saviour's character and religion.

The Jews were expressly commanded to love their neighbour; but this injunction was not extended to their enemies, and they therefore thought that this was a tacit permission to hate them; a conclusion which seemed to be much strengthened by their being enjoined to wage eternal war with one of their enemies, the Canaanites, to show them no mercy, but to root them out of the land. In consequence of this, they did entertain strong prejudices and malignant sentiments toward every other nation but their own, and were justly reproached for this by the Roman historian; "apud ipsos misericordia in promptu, adversus omnes alios hostile odium :" that is, towards each other they are compassionate and kind; towards all others they cherish a deadly hatred. But it ought in justice to be observed, that this remark of Tacitus might have been applied, with almost equal aptitude, both to his own

Matt. v. 43-45.

+ Tacit. Hist. v. 5.

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