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Chapter XXVII.

Wherefore Our Enemies Are To Be Loved.

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.Matt. 5:44, 45.

The first cause why enemies ought to be loved, is the express commandment of God by his Son; for which he gives this reason, “that we may be the children of our Father in heaven,” that is, “of him that loved us when we were yet his enemies.” Rom. 5:10. As if he had said, “Unless you love your enemies, you cannot be the children of the heavenly Father: and he that is not God's son, what father shall he have?” This commandment of the Lord is little practised; alas! how backward we are in bringing forth such fruits as become the children of God! If we be his children, truly we ought to study the great lesson of loving our enemies, that so, in some degree, we may express the character of our Father in heaven.

2. The Scripture says, “He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death.” 1 John 3:14. And why does he abide in death? Because he has not yet received that vital principle which is to be derived from Christ. The spiritual and heavenly life consists in faith towards God, and in love to our neighbor. Thus, St. John says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” 1 John 3:14. Whence it is manifest, that love is an undoubted sign and effect of spiritual life or restoration to life in Christ; as hatred to men is an infallible proof of spiritual death and separation from God. And this spiritual death here, will end in eternal death hereafter; of which our Lord faithfully warns us.

3. Whoever, therefore, suffers his 90 heart to be filled with wrath and bitterness against his neighbor, ought to know assuredly, that even his best performances, his prayer and attendance on divine worship, and other works of that nature, are altogether vain, and of no account before God. St. Paul says, “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:3.

4. It is, on the other hand, the property of a noble and divine mind, to pardon injuries. Behold how long-suffering God is, and how easily he is reconciled. Ps. 103:8. Consider the example of Christ, the Son of God, who, in the midst of his exquisite torments, like a patient lamb, did not so much as “open his mouth.” Isa. 53:7. Contemplate the nature of the divine Spirit, who appeared in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16), with a view that by such a representation he might teach us a dove-like meekness of mind, and recommend to us that tender simplicity of manners, which becomes a true Christian. With what patience did Moses bear the reproaches of the people, thus deserving to be called “very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Numb. 12:3. Remember also the conduct of David, and with what lenity of mind he heard the curses of Shimei. 2 Sam. 16:10.

5. True love teaches us to be angry with none but ourselves. True peace consists not in having much wealth, but in bearing patiently whatever goes against our nature. Should a madman rail at the sun, and curse it for being nothing but darkness, the sun would never be darkened by his reproachful language, but continue his course, and enlighten the world as before. So do thou also, and remember that there is no sweeter or better revenge than to forgive. Such wise and excellent rules were practised by many of the heathens themselves. Pericles, the Grecian orator, having patiently heard a man revile him for the space of a whole day, when night came on, kindly invited him to his house, and entertained him in a friendly manner, saying, “It is easier to speak evil of virtue than to possess it.” Thus Phocion, general of the Athenians, when he had deserved well of his country, but through envy was adjudged to death, and was now about to undergo the sentence, being asked if he had any commands for his son, generously made answer: “None, except that he never take measures to revenge this injury, which I suffer of my country.” The Emperor Titus being told that two brothers had conspired to cause his death, scrupled not to invite them both to sup with him; and in the morning went with them to the theatre, and placed himself betwixt them, to behold the play. Thus with marvellous clemency he overcame, at last, their baseness. And when Cato had committed suicide, Julius Cæsar said: “I have lost a glorious victory; for I had intended to forgive Cato all the evil that he has done to me.”

6. But after all, as to the man who cannot be influenced by the unspeakable patience and meekness of the Son of God himself, to forgive and to love his enemies, him neither the example of the saints, nor of heathens, will ever be able to melt into love and forbearance. For what greater injustice and barbarity can be conceived, than that the Son of God should be so shamefully treated by the children of men, be scourged with stripes, crowned with thorns, spit upon, and loaded with all 91 the marks of scorn and derision; and lastly, be nailed on the cross? Nevertheless, he was able to bear, with an unshaken firmness, all the affronts and indignities which the malice of men was able to contrive; nay, and freely to pardon all this barbarous usage, and to pray, “Father, forgive them!” Luke 23:34.

7. And, truly, it was to this very end that our blessed Redeemer set his example before our eyes, that it might be an all-healing medicine for such spiritual diseases as have seized upon us; particularly, that it might abase all pride and loftiness, strengthen what is weak, supply what is defective, and correct what is evil and out of order. Can the distemper of pride be so violent, as not to be healed by the profound humility and lowliness of Christ? Heb. 5:8. Can avarice and covetousness prove so stubborn, as to baffle a remedy derived from that sacred poverty which appeared in Jesus Christ? What wrath is so fierce and vehement, that his meekness and lenity cannot mollify it? What desire of revenge so bitter and barbarous, which his patience cannot assuage and compose? What inhumanity so great and cruel, which the love of Christ cannot warm into a sweet and compassionate temper? And what heart can be so hard and obdurate, as not to be melted with the tears of Jesus Christ himself?

8. Who would not heartily wish to be made like God the Father, his Son, and the Holy Ghost, and to carry within him the excellent image of the sacred Trinity, which chiefly consists in love and forgiveness? For it is the highest of all the divine properties, to show compassion and mercy, to spare and to pardon, to be kind and gracious: and that must be undoubtedly one of the sublimest virtues, which makes us bear the nearest resemblance to the Most High God, and to all such persons as are the most conspicuous for goodness and virtue.

9. Lastly, the highest degree of virtue is, when a man, overcoming himself, is ready at any time to forget injuries, to pardon offences, and to show acts of favor and clemency. “He that is slow to anger,” says Solomon, “is better than the mighty: and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.” Prov. 16:32. This is the highest step of the soul's ascension in her spiritual exercise; and when she has attained it, she rests in God, and is perfect in him.

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