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Religious Duty, till thou hast put on a more Christian Spirit, and reconcileable Disposition. That Malice, and Ill-will thou harboureft in thy Heart ; that Difference and Breach of Charity, or that Injury thou hast done to thy Brother, will unhallow thy Gift, and pollute the Altar of God, and send up from thence a displeasing and noisome Savour : So that the plain Sense and Coherence of the Words, is this.
Since I now tell you how great the Guilt of Immoderate Anger and Revenge, is, As many of you as now bear me, and intend to become my Disciples ; I charge you to beware of such Things. Or if at any time (through the Hastiness and Inadvertency of Nature, or the Violence, and Precipitation of Paffion) you be surprized, and betrayed into them; forthwith acknowledge and bewail
your Infirmity ; seek Reconciliation speedily ; let not the Sun
dowon supon your Wratb ; let bim that was first in tbe Offence, be first also in making up the
stand not upon the Pun&tilio's of Honour, and Distance ; account it no Disparagement to own your selves guilty of an Over. fight, or Fault ; nor think it a shame to ask Forgiveness, or to make Reftitution, where you bave done a Wrong. This, I presume, may
be fufficient, to explain the Meaning, and Design of thefe Words of our Saviour. Give me leave now to draw out the Argument of them, into what I think very much concerns the Christian Life, by speaking to these Heads.
I. Of the Nature of Christian Reconciliation,
or what that implies.
II. Of the great and indispensable Obligation
we are under to seek for it. Go, and be reconciled to thy Brother.
III. What is to be done by both Parties in
order thereunto, If thou remembrest that
thy Brother bath ought against thee. I. Of the Nature of Chridian Reconciliation.
When the Saviour of the World came into it, he found it in a very corrupt and degenerate State ; the Minds of Men very disorderly and unpeaceable; governed by an universal Sway of Passion and Revenge, and exceedingly averse to the Passive Duties of Meekness, Charity, and Forgiveness ; his great Design therefore being to restore the lapsed State of Mankind, and to reconcile the World to God
3 he thought it necessary, in order thereunto, first to reconcile the Wills and Affections of Men to one another, that so they might rejoice together in the same common Friendship here, and be made Partakers of the fame common Salvation hereafter: To this purpose,
you see, he here made it the first Precept of Śhis Gospel, and laid it as the Foundation,
whereupon we are to superstrud all the other Ś Christian Virtues and Graces.
I am very sensible, that it is an unpleasant Argument, and a Difficult Task, I have undertaken: The Generality of Christians give too great an Indulgence, indeed a boundless Liberty to the passion of Revenge: God knows, we are all of us very tender and sensible of an Injury; but extreamly averse to Patience and Forgiveness; Nay, I am apt to think, that many look upon these Duties, as things purely Indifferent and Voluntary, which may be done, or left undone at Discretion, without incurring any great Guilt, or Danger: But certainly this is a very great Mistake, for they have not only the Force and Obligation of an express Command of Christ, but the Transgression of them will render us Self-Condemned before our Judge: For he that serioufly considers how much he daily owes to the Mercy and Patience of Heaven; in what need he himself stands of Favour and Pardon: How much more heinoully he hath provoked God, than his Brother can posfibly offend him: I say, he that seriously confiders this, will find it no Difficult or Unreasonable Duty, to Forgive, and seek Reconciliation from others. Do we complain that the Offences against us, are many, and frequently repeated? Oh! Ours against God are vastly more: Who can tell how oft be Offendeth? God is a Righteous Judge, strong and Patient, and God is Provoked every Day. Do we pretend that the Injuries done to us are very Heinous and Provoking ? Ours against God are infinitely more so. In our Cale, it is buč
Man offending against Man, betwixt whom there is no essential Difference ; who are equal in the Endowments of Nature, and what in-equality foever there may be in point of Birth or Estate, of Honour or Dignity; yet these are but Contingent, and Fortuitous, depending purely upon some Lucky and Acciden
tal Hits. But God is very highly exalted a1 bove the Sons of Men ; He is the only Poten
tate, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. And this is the very Reasoning of our Saviour in the Parable of the King who took Accompt of his Servants. 0 Thou wicked Servant ! I forgave thee All that Debt, because thou desiredst me 5 32, 33. shouldest not thou also have bad Compassion on thy Fellow-Servant, even as I bad Pity on thee? Upon this very reason is built that Petition, which we daily offer up to God in the Prayer of our Lord. Forgive us our Trespasses, as we forgive them that Trespass against us. And how dare we so often take that Prayer into our Mouths, whilst our Hearts are hot, and reeking with Revenge? If we will not forgive Men their Trespasses, how can we expect that God should forgive us our Trespasses? But to come to the more Diftinét Nature of this Chriftian Duty, which I think chiefly implies these Three Things.
1. That we do not seek Revenge, or return those Evils upon our Adversary, which he hath done to us. 2. That we forgive him froin our Hearts, without retaining any secret Grudge, or returning it upon him, tho'it may
chance to come into our Power, and we have the Opportunity to do it. 3. That we Recompence good unto himn, if he stand in need of our Alistance or Charity.
1. Christian Reconciliation requires that we do not seek Revenge, or return those Evils
upon our Adversary, which he hath done to us. If we are Cominanded to be reconciled to our Adversary, 'tis easy to understand that we are thereby forbidden all practices towards him that are inconfiftent with Love and Peace; And therefore we must lay down all Thoughts of Revenge; Forbear all Acts of Hostility ; All recompensing Evil for Evil : This our Saviour exprefly Teaches at the 39th and 40th Verses of this Chapter. But I say unto you,
tbat refill not Evil ; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy 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 bave tky Cloak also. Which Words are not meant Literally, and Absolutely, as if we were to fit down contentedly under all Injuries; and tamely yield our Goods to every Bold and Rapacious Invader : But they were spoken Proverbially, and are to be understood only fo, as to restrain Christians from private Revenge, and moving Suits for smaller Losses and Indignities, such as our Lord there mentions. So Patient must the Servant of the Lord be to all Men ; Not rendring Evil
for Evil, nor Railing for Railing, but contrariwise Bleffing.