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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 foresee 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 murmur 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 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 whole body should be cast into hell*.” Every one must immediately 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 * Matt. v. 29, 30.
to a great extent, and exercised with the most capricious 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 .legitimate 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, whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever 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 * Matt. v. 31, 32.
piness 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 cloke 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 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 murder, allows private revenge". It was to check this furious ungovernable passion, so universally 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 * Koran, v. 2. c. 17. p. 100.
* Matt, v. 38–41. + Levit. xxiv. 20. Deut. xix. 21.