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Of the truth of this observation, there are innumerable examples upon record. They were these false and unjust prepossessions which caused the Scribes and Pharisees to view even the blessed Jesus himself as a teacher of falsehood, a violator of the sabbath, an impostor and blasphemer, and as such to condemn him to a cruel and ignominious death. These prompted the Apostle Paul, before his conversion to the faith of Christ, to counteract, with all the energies of his soul, the propagation of that religion, of which he afterwards became the most active promoter, and most able advocate.
These, as our blessed Saviour had foretold, instigated the Jewish zealots in the first age of Christianity to persecute its adherents. “Yea, the hour cometh,” said Christ to his Apostles, “that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth a service to God." These, in short, have armed the fanatics of every age, against whateverin religion is most sacred and venerable. Theslaughter of priests, the subversion of altars, the destruction of religious edifices, have been the dreadful consequences of misguided zeal, acting under the influence of these baneful prepossessions.—But I will suppose they were not liable to these mental delusions, which might occasion them to mistake truth for error, and virtue for vice ; I will
suppose that their destructive efforts were never directed against any other persons than such as were in reality objects of the divine displeasure, still would the extirpation of them, oftentimes prove injurious to God's faithful servants. For are not the interests of the ungodly and of the righteous frequently blended together in such a manner, that the destruction of the one, would inevitably cause the ruin of the other? May not an impious and profligate husband be wedded to a pious and virtuous wife, whose comfort and support may depend upon his existence ? May not a worthless and unprincipled father be blessed with a family of innocent children, who would be left by his death in a deplorable state of want and wretchedness? May not the most wicked and abandoned of men, be in a variety of ways, so connected with individuals of unblemished character, as to plunge them by his fall into the deepest distress? Well then may the servants in the parable have been cautioned by their master not to gather up the tares, lest they should root up the wheat together with them. And well may Christ have intimated by it to his followers the important lesson of restraining their hands from violence against the opposers of his doctrines, and the transgressors of his laws, lest his faithful adherents might be implicated in their punishment.
There are other reasons moreover, for which the Divine founder of the Christian religion may have prohibited recourse to violence for the extermination of its enemies. He may wish to employ them as instruments of his justice, for the chastisement of sinners, or as instruments of his mercy, for the advantage of the just. So general and exorbitant are sometimes the crimes of guilty nations, as to demand an extraordinary interposition of the Almighty, to support the authority of his moral laws in the government of the universe.
This extraordinary interposition he then displayed in a most awful manner, when, because all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth, he overwhelmed the world with the waters of the deluge. This he also did, when, on account of the iniquities of their infamous inhabitants, he destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha. But he sometimes employs the wicked as ministers of his wrath, to execute vengeance on incorrigible offenders. Such were all the various armies of pagan idolators, of Assyrians, Babylonians, Syrians, Romans, who, at different periods were sent against the chosen people of God, who laid waste their country with fire and sword, led the inhabitants into captivity, demolished at length their temple and their city, and scattered the survivors of this last fatal catastrophe among the nations of the earth, where they still continue, after the long lapse of 1800 years, existing monuments of the judgments of God, visiting the sins of the fathers on their children from generation to generation. Not only the punishment of sinners, but the benefit of the virtuous, may also have been an object for which the Saviour of the world may have directed his disciples not to exercise violence against the opposers of his doctrines or the violators of his laws. He may have wished them to be tolerated, to furnish his chosen servants with opportunities of testifying the firmness of their faith, and to bring into action a variety of virtues which they would not otherwise have occasion to display. “For there must be also heresies," says St. Paul, “ that they also who are approved, may be manifest among you. (1. Cor. c. xi. v. 19.) And “ blessed are you,” says Jesus Christ “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you untruly, for my sake; be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.” (Matt. c. viii. v. 12.) But there is yet another reason for which our blessed Saviour may have delivered this specific injunction. He may have been actuated by views of mercy towards those very persons, whom, under the denomination of tares, he ordered them to spare. For although tares cannot naturally be converted into wheat, yet, the supernatural virtue of God's all-powerful grace, is capable of transforming the most abandoned of sinners into the greatest saints. Of this we have, among many others, a most striking instance in the conversion of St. Paul, who from a sanguinary persecutor of the Christian Religion, was changed, by the efficacy of the grace of heaven, into a most intrepid champion and promoter of its interests,
Such then, my friends, being the tolerant spirit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let us cherish and cultivate it to the utmost of our abilities. Let not the scene of prosperous and triumphant wickedness, which, not unfrequently presents itself to our view,deter the just from perseverance in virtue, or embolden the wicked in their career of crime. Let both remember, the former for their consolation, the latter with a view to their reformation and amendment, that the time of harvest, the great day of final retribution, will at length arrive, when the Son of Man shall send bis Angels, like the reapers in the parable, “who shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals and them that work iniquity, and cast them into the furnace of fire, (where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth) and that the just shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. C. xiii. v. 41, 42, 43.) Then will every appearance of disorder be removed for ever from the works of God. Then will his ways to man be completely justified. Then will it be clearly demonstrated to the world, that, in the language of the poet,
“ All discord 's harmony, not understood;
All partial evil, universal good."
Then, in the inspired words of the psalmist, will it be evidently seen and confessed, that “the Lord is just in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” How far that awful period may be distant from us, we know not. Thus much, however, we know, that to each individual amongst us the coming of the Lord is an event which is fast approaching, and that it will determine his lot for ever. Let us then, my friends, in compliance with the ad