Exhortations to Justice and Mercy.
27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them
which hate you, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully
use you. 29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also
the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat
also. 30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh
away thy goods ask them not again. 31 And as ye would that men should do
to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love
you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for
sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope
to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive
as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping
for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the
children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the
evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
These verses agree with Matt. v. 38, to the end of that chapter: I say
unto you that hear (v. 27), to all you that hear, and not to disciples
only, for these are lessons of universal concern. He that has an ear, let
him hear. Those that diligently hearken to Christ shall find he has something
to say to them well worth their hearing. Now the lessons Christ here teacheth
I. That we must render to all their due, and be honest and just in all
our dealings (v. 31): As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also
to them likewise; for this is loving your neighbour as yourselves. What
we should expect, in reason, to be done to us, either in justice or charity,
by others, if they were in our condition and we in theirs, that, as the
matter stands, we must do to them. We must put our souls into their souls'
stead, and then pity and succour them, as we should desire and justly expect
to be ourselves pitied and succoured.
II. That we must be free in giving to them that need (v. 30): "Give
to every man that asketh of thee, to every one that is a proper object
of charity, that wants necessaries, which thou hast wherewithal to supply
out of thy superfluities. Give to those that are not able to help themselves,
to those that have not relations in a capacity to help them." Christ would
have his disciples ready to distribute, and willing to communicate, to
their power in ordinary cases, and beyond their power in extraordinary.
III. That we must be generous in forgiving those that have been any
way injurious to us.
1. We must not be extreme in demanding our right, when it is denied
us: "Him that taketh away thy cloak, either forcibly or fraudulently, forbid
him not by any violent means to take thy coat also, v. 29. Let him have
that too, rather than fight for it. And (v. 30) of him that taketh thy
goods" (so Dr. Hammond thinks it should be read), "that borrows them, or
that takes them up from thee upon trust, of such do not exact them; if
Providence have made such insolvent, do not take the advantage of the law
against them, but rather lose it than take them by the throat, Matt. xviii.
28. If a man run away in thy debt, and take away thy goods with him, do
not perplex thyself, nor be incensed against him."
2. We must not be rigorous in revenging a wrong when it is done us:
"Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, instead of bringing an action
against him, or sending for a writ for him, or bringing him before a justice,
offer also the other;" that is, "pass it by, though thereby thou shouldest
be in danger of bringing upon thyself another like in dignity, which is
commonly pretended in excuse of taking the advantage of the law in such
a case. If any one smite thee on the cheek, rather than give another blow
to him, be ready to receive another from him;" that is, "leave it to God
to plead thy cause, and do thou sit down silent under the affront." When
we do thus, God will smite our enemies, as far as they are his, upon the
cheek bone, so as to break the teeth of the ungodly (Ps. iii. 7); for he
hath said, Vengeance is mine, and he will make it appear that it is so
when we leave it to him to take vengeance.
3. Nay, we must do good to them that do evil to us. This is that which
our Saviour, in these verses, chiefly designs to teach us, as a law peculiar
to his religion, and a branch of the perfection of it.
(1.) We must be kind to those from whom we have received injuries. We
must not only love our enemies, and bear a good will to them, but we must
do good to them, be as ready to do any good office to them as to any other
person, if their case call for it, and it be in the power of our hands
to do it. We must study to make it appear, by positive acts, if there be
an opportunity for them, that we bear them no malice, nor see revenge.
Do they curse us, speak ill of us, and wish ill to us? Do they despitefully
use us, in word or deed? Do they endeavour to make us contemptible or odious?
Let us bless them, and pray for them, speak well of them, the best we can,
wish well to them, especially to their souls, and be intercessors with
God for them. This is repeated, v. 35: love your enemies, and do them good.
To recommend this difficult duty to us, it is represented as a generous
thing, and an attainment few arrive at. To love those that love us has
nothing uncommon in it, nothing peculiar to Christ's disciples, for sinners
will love those that love them. There is nothing self-denying in that;
it is but following nature, even in its corrupt state, and puts no force
at all upon it (v. 32): it is no thanks to us to love those that say and
do just as we would have them. "And (v. 33) if you do good to them that
do good to you, and return their kindnesses, it is from a common principle
of custom, honour, and gratitude; and therefore what thanks have you? What
credit are you to the name of Christ, or what reputation do you bring to
it? for sinners also, that know nothing of Christ and his doctrine, do
even the same. But it becomes you to do something more excellent and eminent,
herein to out-do your neighbours, to do that which sinners will not do,
and which no principle of theirs can pretend to reach to: you must render
good for evil;" not that any thanks are due to us, but then we are to our
God for a name and a praise and he will have the thanks.
(2.) We must be kind to those from whom we expect no manner of advantage
(v. 35): Lend, hoping for nothing again. It is meant of the rich lending
to the poor a little money for their necessity, to buy daily bread for
themselves and their families, or to keep them out of prison. In such a
case, we must lend, with a resolution not to demand interest for what we
lend, as we may most justly from those that borrow money to make purchases
withal, or to trade with. But that is not all; we must lend though we have
reason to suspect that what we lend we lose, lend to those who are so poor
that it is not probable they will be able to pay us again. This precept
will be best illustrated by that law of Moses (Deut. xv. 7-10), which obliges
them to lend to a poor brother as much as he needed, though the year of
release was at hand. Here are two motives to this generous charity.
[1.] It will redound to our profit; for our reward shall be great, v.
35. What is given, or laid out, or lent and lost on earth, from a true
principle of charity, will be made up to us in the other world, unspeakably
to our advantage. "You shall not only be repaid, but rewarded, greatly
rewarded; it will be said to you, Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom."
[2.] It will redound to our honour; for herein we shall resemble God
in his goodness, which is the greatest glory: "Ye shall be the children
of the Highest, shall be owned by him as his children, being like him."
It is the glory of God that he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil,
bestows the gifts of common providence even upon the worst of men, who
are every day provoking him, and rebelling against him, and using those
very gifts to his dishonour. Hence he infers (v. 36), Be merciful, as your
Father is merciful; this explains Matt. v. 48, "Be perfect, as our Father
is perfect. Imitate your Father in those things that are his brightest
perfections." Those that are merciful as God is merciful, even to the evil
and the unthankful, are perfect as God is perfect; so he is pleased graciously
to accept it, though infinitely falling short. Charity is called the bond
of perfectness, Col. iii. 14. This should strongly engage us to be merciful
to our brethren, even such as have been injurious to us, not only that
God is so to others, but that he is so to us, though we have been, and
are, evil and unthankful; it is of his mercies that we are not consumed.