« AnteriorContinuar »
to us, and in being ready upon Occasion to give real Testimony of it.
Q. Is it not enough to wish them no Evil, and to do them no Harm?
A. Many devout Christians delude themselves in this Matter: for besides these Expressions of Justice, we are obliged to shew them all Offices of Charity; because they are Men and Christians, our Neighbours and our Brethren. We ought to honour them for their Virtues, and pity them for their Miseries; to relieve their Wants, to conceal their Defects, and to vindicate their injured Reputation; to pray for them, and be placable towards them; ready to remove all Misunderstandings, and to take such Steps as may probably recover them to a true Sense of Things.
Q. IVhat is that Uncharitableness to our Enemies we are most liable to?
A. Hard Censures and Suspicions, fancying the worst Designs, and putting the worst Interpretations upon all their Words and Actions : A reigning Sin among Adversaries; too common among those who are otherwise serious and decout ; and this not only against particular Persons, but on all Hands, against whole Bodies and Parties, who, in any Thing relating to the Times, are of different Opinions. Now this is contrary to the Nature of Charity, which is always inclinable to think the best, and leans, so far as the Thing will bear, to the Side of Favour, both in judging and speaking of all their Actions. It is also plainly contrary to our Lord's Rule, who warneth us not to judge, that we be not judged, because with what Matt. vii. Measure we mete, it will be measured to us again.
1, 2. Q. What makes us so hard to forgive our Enemies ?
Ā. It is our dwelling upon an Injury received, and hearkening to ill Suggestions, that aggravate the Deed, and the Malice and Unworthiness of him that offered it. This heightens our Resentment, and makes it difficult to bring our Minds into Temper; whereas if, when such Thoughts arise,
we did not harbour nor give way to them, we should find Forgiveness much more easy.
Q. IVhat Obligations do we lie under to the Performance of this Duty?
A. The express Command of our Saviour, the Author of our holy Religion, requireth it from us. He hath besides made Forgiveness of Injuries to be the Condition without which we can expect no Pardon of our Sins from him: He hath, in his own Person, set us a Pattern of this Virtue, which he practised to the Height, rendering Good for Evil to all Mankind.
Q. IVherein consisteth the Reasonableness and Excellency of this Duty?
A. In that it tends to the Confort and Happiness of our Lives; Patience and Forgiveness affording a lasting and solid Pleasure. In that it restrains, at present, a very tumultuous and unreasonable Passion, and prevents many Troubles and Inconveniences which naturally flow from the malicious and revengeful Temper. It is the Perfection of Goodness to do Kindnesses, not only without Merit and Obligation, butin Despite of Temptation to the contrary. It is an Argument of a great Mind, and the most valuable Conquest, because gained over ourselves. And thus God himself is affected towards those who are guilty of the greatest Provocations against him.
Q. But is not the Repentance of the Party that injures us, made the Condition of our Forgiveness?
A. Forgiveness is chiefly taken for abstaining from Revenge; and so far we are to forgive our Enemies, even whilst they continue so, and though they do not repent. Besides, we are to pray for them, and to do them all Offices of common Humanity and Charity. But sometimes Forgiveness doth signify a perfect Reconciliation to those that have offended us, so as
to take them again into our Friendship; which they Luke xvii. are by no Means fit for, till they have repented of 2, 4,
their Enmity, and laid it aside: and this is the Meaning of that Text, of, rebuking our Brother if he trespass against us, and if he repent to forgive him.
Q. How ought we treat an Enemy that repents ? A. We are not obliged to treat him with Marks of special Esteem and Confidence, because this is founded upon particular Reasons and Fitness of Persons, as Likeness of Humour, Fidelity of Affection, Aptness for our Affairs, or the like. But when we ourselves are only concerned, and the Thing is not of that Weight as to be jealous over it, and we have no other cause but that Offence to exclude him from it; it is a Christian Act to admit a returning Penitent to the same State he held before he offended us. And this is according to St. Paul's Direction to forgive others even as God Eph. iv. 32. for Christ's Sake forgiveth us.
Q. By what Measures ought we to judge of the Repentance of our Enemies:
A. We ought not to be too strict and rigid in standing upon exact Proofs, but to be candid, and apt to interpret all Signs of it to the best Sense, leaning to the Side of Love and easy Admittance. If they take Shame to themselves, and are so far humbled, as penitently to confess their Fault, it is an Argument of their Sincerity, and, in the Case of the first Offence especially, a strong Presumption that they will no more commit it.
THE PRA Y ER S.
I. GRANT, O Lord, that in all my Sufferings here For Sup; upon Earth, for the Testimony of thy Truth, I may sufferings stedfastly look up to Heaven, and by Faith behold for Relithe Glory that shall be revealed, and being filled sion. with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless my Persecutors, by the Example of thy first Martyr St. Stephen; who prayed for his Murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right Hand of God, to succour all those that suffer for thee, my only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.
II. For Rege- ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only
begotten Son to take our Nature upon him, and as at this Time to be born of a pure Virgin; grant that I, being regenerated and made thy Child by Adoption and Grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit, through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, World without End. Amen.
III. For Cha- TEACH
me, O blessed Jesus, to lay aside all wards our angry and revengeful Thoughts against my bitterest Enemies. Enemies, because thou requirest it, and hath shewn
me the Way by thy own perfect Example ; who tookest Pity upon fallen Man, when he was in a State of Enmity against thee; and without Importunity or Application didst admit him to Terms of Pardon and Reconciliation, and didst pray for thy Persecutors under the Sense and Smart of those Sufferings they inflicted, in the very Agony and Bitterness of Death. Teach me therefore to bear all their Malice with Meekness and Patience, and to return all Offices of Charity for the Affronts and Indignities they offer to me. Make me placable and ready to forgive, and candid in interpreting all the Marks and Signs of their Repentance. And do thou, O blessed Jesus, forgive them, and recover them to a right Sense of Things, and make them ready to be reconciled; that I being enabled by thy Grace to tread in the Steps of thy first Martyr St. Stephen, may receive that Pardon from thee, which I readily grant to them, and without which I am undone to all Eternity. Grant this, O Lord Jesus, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all Honour and Glory, World without End. Amen.
IV. GRACIOUS God, shew Mercy, I humbly intreat for our thee, to all those that persecute me, though they neither shew Justice nor Mercy towards me; Pity their Ignorance, remove those Prejudices that blind their Eyes, sweeten and mollify their Spirits, that they may no longer be carried away with Malice and bitter Passions : Dispose them by Kumility and Meekness, and by a sincere Love of Truth and Righteousness, to a joyful Reception and Acknowledgment thereof; that they may lay aside their Errors, and instead of persecuting, resolutely profess thy holy Religion. And by whatever Means thou shalt think fit to work their Recovery, let their Repentance prevent thine eternal Vengeance, through the Merits of our dearest Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST.
A. As to his Country, he was a Galilean, the Son Mat. iv. of Zebedee and Salome, younger Brother to St. James, with whom he was brought up in the Trade of Fishing, and with whom he was called to be a Disciple and au Apostle of our Saviour. He is thought by the Ancients to be far the youngest of all the Apostles, being under thirty Years old when he was first called to that Dignity. And his great Age seems to prove as much; for dying about an hundred Years old in the third of Trajan, he must have lived above seventy Years after our Saviour's Suffering.