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The Faith that Overcometh the World.
by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Whitsuntide 

Rivingtons, London, 1875 [New Edition.]
First part of Sermon XIV. for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.
 Rom. xii. 16-21.    St. Matt. viii. 1-13.

And behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, LORD, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.  And JESUS put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean--ST.  MATT.  viii.  2,3.

THE Epistle for last week might be said to be on the subject of our duties to each other in the household of God and among friends; but that of to-day rather of our conduct among enemies.  Be not wise in your own conceits, for that is the origin of all ill-will to others.  Recompense to no man evil for evil.  To no man, what ever he may be, is it lawful in a Christian to return evil.  Provide things honest in the sight of all men.  St. Paul uses the same expression in another place, which may explain it: "Providing for honest things," he says, "not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men." [2 Cor.  viii.  21.]  If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.  That is, it may not be possible, because we are sometimes bound to maintain the truth at the expense of peace, and to support those who are unjustly treated; to which may be added, that, however peaceably-minded we may be ourselves, others may not be so; as the Psalmist laments, "I labour for peace, but when I speak unto them thereof, they make them ready for battle." [Ps. cxx. 6.]  Yet, notwithstanding all this, "Blessed are the peacemakers." And then; as if in sympathy for suffering Christians, the Apostle exclaims, Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, that is, in the Law of Moses, [Deut. xxxii. 35]  Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.  This passage is taken from the book of Proverbs, and is difficult to understand.  St. Chrysostom seems to think that the former part is addressed to the good Christian, exhorting him to do good to his enemy, leaving all requital to God; but that the latter part, of "heaping coals of fire on his head," is intended to alarm and warn the other, who is unkind to him who has forgiven and loved him.  For, doubtless, the sin against God must in that case be very grievous.  But St. Augustin more than once, in speaking of this text, says, that as of course it cannot mean that we are to do good to our enemy in order to bring down the vengeance of God upon him, which would be the part of malevolence, not of Christian good-will; it must be understood figuratively, by these means—you will melt your enemy by the fire of God's love, the coals from His altar, which we may consider to be the love of Christ crucified;  you will bring down his proud head to repentance. [In Ps. lxxviii. 14. De Doct. Chr. lib. iii. 24]  And the following verse seems to favour this interpretation, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.   


But the verse going before suggests rather the former explanation: "Vengeance is Mine," saith the Lord; "therefore do good to thine enemy, and let him fear the recompense of God ;" for, doubtless, very fearful is the condition of him who forgives not another who has forgiven him.   


And now we have, in the Gospel for the day, the constraining motives and reasons for all forgiveness...

...(for the second part, on the Gospel