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HOW FAR THE PRECEPT TO LOVE OUR ENEMIES IS PRACTICABLE.
To love an enemy is the distinguishing characteristic of a religion which is not of man but of God. It could be delivered as a precept only by Him who lived and died to establish it by his example.
At the close of that season,1 in which human frailty has commemorated sufferings which it could not sustain, it cannot, surely, be incongruous to consider, what approaches we can make to that divine love which these sufferings expressed, and how far man, in imitation of his Saviour, can bless those who curse him, and return good for evil.
We cannot, indeed, behold the example but at a distance; nor consider it without being struck with a sense of our own debility: every man who compares his life with this divine rule, instead cf exulting in his own excellence, will smite his breast like the publican, and cry out, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Thus to acquaint us with ourselves, may, perhaps, be one use of the precept; but the precept cannot, surely, be considered as having no other.
I know it will be said, that our passions are not in our power; and that, therefore, a precept, to love or to hate, is impossible; for if the gratification of all our wishes was offered us to love a stranger as we love a child, we could not fulfil the condition, however we might desire the reward.
But admitting this to be true, and that we cannot love an enemy as we love a friend; it is yet equally certain, that we may perform those actions which are produced by love, from a higher principle : we may, perhaps, derive moral excellence from natural defects, and exert our reason instead of indulging a passion. If our enemy hungers, we may feed him, and if he thirsts, we may give him drink: this, if we could love him, would be our conduct: and this may still be our conduct, though to love him is impossible. The Christian will be prompted to relieve the necessities of his enemy, by his love to God: he will rejoice in an opportunity to express the zeal of his gratitude and the alacrity of his obedience, at the same time that he appropriates the promises and anticipates his reward.
But though he who is beneficent upon these principles, may, in the Scripture sense, be said to love his enemy; yet something more may still be effected: the passion itself in some degTee is in uur power; we may rise to a yet nearer emulation of divine forgiveness; we may think as well as act with kindness, and be sanctified as well in heart as in life.
Though lore and hatred are necessarily produced in the human breast, when the proper objects of these passions occur, as the color of material substances is necessarily perceived by an eye before which they are exhibited; yet it is in our power to change the passion, and to cause either love or hatred to be excited by placing the same object in different circumstances; as a changeable silk of blue and yellow may be held so as to excite the idea either of yellow or blue.
No act is deemed more injurious, or resented with greater acri mony, than the marriage of a child, especially of a daughter, without the consent of a parent: it is frequently considered as a breach of the strongest and tenderest obligations; as folly and ingratitude, treachery and rebellion. By the imputation of those vices, a child becomes the object of indignation and resentment: indignation and resentment in the breast, therefore, of the parent, are necessarily excited: and there can be no doubt, but that these are species of hatred. But if the child is considered as-still retaining the endearing softness of filial affection, as still longing for reconciliation, and profaning the rites of marriage with tears; as having been driven from the path of duty, only by the violence of passions which none have always resisted, and which many have indulged with much greater turpitude; the same object that before excited indignation and resentment, will now be regarded with pity, and pity is a species of love.
Those, indeed, who resent this breach of filial duty with implacability, though perhaps it is the only one of which the offender has been guilty, demonstrate that they are without natural affection; and that they would have prostituted their offspring, if not to lust, yet to affections which are equally vile and sordid, the thirst of gold, or the cravings of ambition: for he can never be thought to be sincerely interested in the felicity of his child, who, when some of the means of happiness are lost by indiscretion, suffers his resentment to take away the rest.
Among friends, sallies of quick resentment are extremely frequent. Friendship is a constant reciprocation of benefits, to which the sacrifice of private interest is sometimes necessary: it is lommon for each to set too much value upon those which he bestows, and too little upon those which he receives; this mutual mistake in so important an estimation, produces mutual charges of unkind ness and ingratitude; each, perhaps, professes himself ready to forgive, but neither will condescend to be forgiven. Pride, therefore, still increases the enmity which it began; the friend is considered as selfish, assuming, injurious, and revengeful; he conse quently becomes an object of hatred; and while he is thus considered, to love him is impossible. But thus to consider him, is at once a folly and a fault; each ought to reflect, that he is, at least in the opinion of the other, incurring the crimes that he imputes; that the foundation of their enmity is no more than a mistake , and that this mistake is the effect of weakness or vanity, which is common to all mankind : the character of both would then assume a very different aspect, love would again be excited by the return of its object, and each wrould be impatient to exchange acknowledgments, and recover the felicity which was so near being lost.
But if, after we have admitted an acquaintance to our bosom as a friend, it should appear that we had mistaken his character; if he should betray our confidence, and use the knowledge of our affairs, which perhaps he obtained by offers of service, to effect our ruin: if he defames us to the world, and adds perjury to falsehood; we may still consider him in such circumstances as will incline us to fulfil the precept, and to regard him without the rancor of hatred or the fury of revenge.
Every character, however it may deserve punishment, excites hatred only in proportion as it appears to be malicious; and pure malice has never been imputed to human beings. The wretch, who has thus deceived and injured us, should be considered as having ultimately intended, not evil to us, but good to himself. It should also be remembered that he has mistaken the means; that he has forfeited the friendship of Him whose favor is better than life, by the same conduct which forfeited ours; and that to whatever view he sacrificed our temporal interest, to that also he sacrificed his own hope of immortality; that he is now seeking felicity which he can never find, and incurring punishment that will last for ever. And how much better than this wretch is he, in whom the contemplation of his condition can excite no pity? Surely if such an enemy hungers, we may, without suppressing any passion, give him food: for who that sees a criminal dragged to execution, for whatever crime, would refuse him a cup of cold water?
On the contrary, he whom God has forgiven must necessarily become amiable to man: to consider his character without prejudice or partiality, after it has been changed by repentance, is to love him; and impartially to consider it, is not only our duty, but our interest.
Thus may we love our enemies, and add a dignity to our nature, of which pagan virtue had no conception. But if to love our enemies is the glory of a Christian, to treat others with coldness, neglect, and malignity, is rather the reproach of a fiend than a man. Unprovoked enmity, the frown of unkindness, and the menaces of oppression, should be far from those who profess themselves to be followers of Him who in his life went about doing good; who instantly healed a wound that was given in his defence; and who, when he was fainting in his last agony, and treated with mockery and derision, conceived at once a prayer and an apology for his murderers: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
Advtitturtr, Xo. 48. CARAZAN, THE MERCHANT OF BAGDAD.
Carazan, the merchant of Bagdad, was eminent throughout all the East for his avarice and his wealth: his origin was obscure as that of the spark which, by the collision of steel and adamant, is struck out of darkness; and the patient labor of persevering diligence alone had made him rich. It was remembered, that when he was indigent he was thought to be generous; and he was still acknowledged to be inexorably just. But whether in his dealings with men he discovered a perfidy which tempted him to put his trust in gold, or whether in proportion as he accumulated wealth he discovered his own importance to increase, Carazan prized it more as he used it less; he gradually lost the inclination to do good, as he acquired the power: and as the hand of time scattered snow upon his head, the freezing influence extended to his bosom.
But though the door of Carazan was never opened by hospitality, nor his hand by compassion, yet fear led him constantly to the mosque at the stated hours of prayer; he performed all the rites of devotion with the most scrupulous punctuality, and had thrice paid his vows at the Temple of the Prophet. That devotion which arises from the Love of God, and necessarily includes the Love of Man, as it connects gratitude with beneficence, and exalts that which was moral to divine, confers new dignity upon goodness, and is the object not only of affection but reverence. On the contrary, the devotion of the selfish, whether it be thought to avert the punishment which every one wishes to be inflicted, or to insure it by the complication of hypocrisy with guilt, never fails to excite indignation and abhorrence. Carazan, therefore, when he had locked his door, and turning round with a look of circumspective suspicion, proceeded to the mosque, was followed by every eye with silent malignity; the poor suspended their iupplication when he passed by; and though he was known by every man, yet no man saluted him.
Such had long been the life of Carazan, and such was the character which he had acquired, when notice was given by proclamation, that he was removed to a magnificent building in the centre of the city, that his table should be spread for the public, and that the stranger should be welcome to his bed. The multi tilde soon rushed like a torrent to his door, where they beheld him distributing bread to the hungry and apparel to the naked—uis eye softened with compassion, and his cheek glowing with delight Every one gazed with astonishment at the prodigy; and the murmur of innumerable voices increasing like the sound of approaching thunder, Carazan beckoned with his hand ; attention suspended ;hc tumult in a moment, and he thus gratified the curiosity which had procured him audience.
"To Him who touches the mountains and they smoke, the Almighty and the most merciful, be everlasting honor! fie has ordained sleep to be the minister of instruction, and his visions have reproved me in the night. As I was sitting alone in my harem, with my lamp burning before roe, computing the product of my merchandise, and exulting in the increase of my wealth, I fell into a deep sleep, and the hand of Him who dwells in the third Heaven was upon me. I beheld the Angel of death corning forward like a whirlwind, and he smote me before I could deprecate the blow. At the same moment I felt myself lifted from the ground, and transported with astonishing rapidity through the regions of the air. The earth was contracted to an atom beneath; and the stars glowed round me with a lustre that obscured the sun. The gate of Paradise was now in sight; and I was intercepted by a sudden brightness which no human eye could behold: the irrevocable sentence w-as now to be pronounced; my day of probation was past: and from the evil of my life nothing could be taken away, nor could any thing be added to the good. When I reflected that my lot for eternity was cast, which not all the powers of nature could reverse, my confidence totally forsook me ; and while I stood trembling and silent, covered with confusion and chilled with horror, I was thus addressed by the radiance that flamed before me:
"' Carazan, thy worship has not been accepted ; because it was not prompted by Love of God; neither can thy righteousness be rewarded, because it was not produced by Love of Man: for thy own sake only hast thou rendered to every man his due; and thou hast approached the Almighty only for thyself. Thou hast not looked up with gratitude, nor iround thee with kindness. Around thee, thou hast, indeed, beheld vice and folly; but if vice and folly could justify thy parsimony, would they not condemn the bounty of Heaven? If not upon the foolish and the vicious, where shall the sun diffuse his light, or the clouds distil their dew? Where shall the lips of the Spring breathe fragrance, or the hand of Autumn diffuse plenty? Remember, Carazan, that thou hast shut compassion from thine heart, and grasped thy treasures with a hand of iron: thou hast lived for thyself; and, therefore, henceforth for ever thou shalt subsist alone. From the light of Heaven, nnd from the society of all beings, shalt thou be driven; solitude shall protract the lingering hours of eternity, and darkness aggravate the horrors of despair.' At this moment I was duven by