Remarks on Matthew 5:17-48

Matthew 5:17‑48  •  32 min. read  •  grade level: 8
We have seen our Lord's statement of the character and then of the position proper to the heirs of the kingdom of heaven. We have found him pronouncing those “blessed” whom man would have counted it folly to have so thought. Our Lord has shown us the perfect pattern of the same blessedness; for what could have sounded more unreasonable, specially to a Jew, than to hear One deliberately and emphatically call those blessed and happy, who were despised, scorned, hated, persecuted, yea, thought ill of, and treated as malefactors? No doubt, it was expressly for righteousness' sake and Christ's sake. But then, to the Jew, the coming and reception of the Messiah wore ever looked forward to as the crown of his joy—that most auspicious event on which all was to turn for Israel, both as to the accomplishment of God's promises made to the fathers, and the fulfillment of the magnificent predictions which involve the overthrow of their enemies, and the humiliation of every Gentile, and the glory of Israel. And, therefore, to suppose that the receiving of Him who was the Messiah would now entail inevitable shame and suffering in the world, was, indeed, an enormous shock to all their most cherished expectations. But our Lord insists upon it, declaring such and such only to be blessed—blessed with a new kind of blessedness far beyond what a Jew could conceive. And this is part of the privileges into which we, too, are brought by faith of Christ. The instruction of our Lord, in the sermon on the mount, only comes out in stronger forms now that He has taken his place in heaven. The enmity of man has also come out to its full measure. It has not been merely the world's enmity. The Jews themselves were the bitterest persecutors of the children of God. And so the last book of the New Testament shows us that those who take the name of Jews, without the present living reality, would remain to the end the most hostile to all true testimony of Christ on the earth.
In the portion before us, we enter upon a most important subject. If there was this new and amazing kind of blessedness, so foreign to the thoughts of Israel after the flesh, what was the relation to the law of Christ's doctrine, and of the new state of things about to be introduced? If Messiah came from God, did not the law—given by Moses, indeed, but from the same source If Christ brought in that which was so unexpected even by his disciples, what would be the bearing of this truth upon what they had previously received through God's inspired servants, and for which they had His own authority? Weaken the authority of the law, and it is clear that you destroy the foundation on which the gospel rests, because the law was of God as certainly as the gospel. Hence came in a most weighty question, especially for an Israelite: what was the bearing of the kingdom of heaven, of the doctrine of Christ respecting it, upon the precepts of the law? The Lord opens this subject (from verse 17 to the end of the chapter we have the question entered into) with these words: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets.” They might have thought so from the fact of His having introduced something not mentioned in either; but “think not,” He says, “that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” I take this word “fulfill” in its largest sense. In His own person the Lord fulfilled the law and the prophets, in His own ways, in righteous subjection and obedience. His life here below exhibited its beauty for the first time without flaw. His death was the most solemn sanction which the law ever did or could receive; because the curse it pronounced upon the guilty the Savior took upon Himself. Rather than that God should have dishonor there was nothing the Savior would not undergo. But, besides, our Lord's words warrant, I think, a further application. There is an expansion of the law, or δικαίωμα, giving to its moral element the largest scope, so that all which was honoring to God in it should be brought out in its fullest power and extent. The light of heaven was not let fall upon the law, and the law interpreted, not by weak, failing men, but by One who had no reason to evade one jot of its requirements; whose heart, full of love, only thought of the honor and the will of God; whose zeal for His Father's house consumed Him; and who restored that which he took not away. Who but he could expound the law thus, not as the scribes, but in the heavenly light? For the commandment of God is exceeding broad, whether we look at the end of all perfection in man, or the sum of it in Christ.
Far from annulling the law, the Lord, on the contrary, illustrated it more brightly than ever, and gave it a spiritual application that man was entirely unprepared for before He came. And this is what the Lord proceeds to do in part of the wonderful discourse that follows. After having said “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled,” He adds, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Our Lord is going to expand the great moral principles of the law into commandments that flow from Himself, and not merely from Moses, and shows that this would be the great thing whereby persons would be tested. It would no longer be a question of the ten words spoken on Sinai merely; but while recognizing their full value, He was about to open out the mind of God in a way so much deeper than had ever been thought of before, that this would henceforth be the great test.
Hence He says, when referring to the practical use of these commandments of His, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” —an expression that has not the smallest reference to justification, but to the practical appreciation of and walking in the right relations of the believer towards God and towards men. The righteousness spoken of here is entirely of a practical kind. This will strike many persons rather sharply. They may be somewhat perplexed to understand how practical righteousness is made to be the means of entering into the kingdom of heaven. But let me repeat, the sermon on the mount never shows us how a sinner is to be saved. If there was the smallest allusion to practical righteousness where a sinner's justification is concerned, there would be ground to be startled; but there can be none whatever for the saint who understands and is subject to God's will. God insists upon godliness in His people. “Without holiness I no man shall see the Lord.” There can be no question that the Lord shows in John 15. that the unfruitful branches must be cut off, and that just as the withered branches of the natural vine are cast into the fire to be burned, so fruitless professors of the name of Christ can look for no better portion. Bearing fruit is the test of life. These things are stated in the strongest terms all through scripture. In John 5:28, 2928Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28‑29), it is said, “The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” or “judgment.” Clearly, there is no disguising the solemn truth that God will and must have that which is good and holy and righteous in His own people. They are not God's people at all who are not characterized as the doers of that which is acceptable in His sight. If this were put before a sinner as a means of reconciliation with God, or having sins blotted out before Him, it would be the denial of Christ and of His redemption. But only hold fast that all the means of being brought nigh to God are found in Christ—that the sole way by which a sinner is connected with the blessing of Christ is by faith, without the works of the law—only maintain this, and there is not the least inconsistency nor difficulty in understanding that the same God who gives a soul to believe in Christ, works in that soul by the Holy Ghost to produce what is practically according to Himself. What does He give him the life of Christ for, and the Holy Ghost, if only the remission of the sins were needed? But God is not satisfied with that. He imparts the life of Christ to a soul, and He gives that soul a divine person to dwell in him; and as the Spirit is not the spring of weakness or of fear, “but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” God looks for suited ways and for the exercise of spiritual wisdom and judgment in passing through the present trying scene. While the disciples might be looking up with ignorant eyes to the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, our Lord shows that this sort of righteousness will not do. The righteousness that goes up to the temple every day, that prides itself upon long prayers, large alms, and broad phylacteries, will not stand in the sight of God. There must be something far deeper and more according to the holy, loving nature of God. Because with all that appearance of outward religion, there might be always, as there generally was, in fact, no sense of sin, nor of the grace of God. This shows us the all-importance of being right, first, in our thoughts about God; and I can only be so by receiving the testimony of God about His Son. In the case of the Pharisees we have sinful man denying his sin, and utterly obscuring and denying God's character as the God of grace. These things were rejected by the outward religionists, and their righteousness was such as you might expect from people who were ignorant of themselves and of God. It gained reputation for them, but there it all ended; they looked for their reward now, and they had it. But our Lord says to the disciples, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Allow me to ask, How is it that God accomplishes this in regard to a soul that believes now? There is a great secret that does not come out in this sermon. First of all, there is a load of unrighteousness in the sinner. How is that to be dealt with, and the sinner to be made fit for and introduced into the kingdom of heaven? He is born again; he acquires a new nature, a life which as much flows from the grace of God as the bearing of his sin hung upon the cross of Christ. There is the foundation of practical righteousness. The true beginning of all moral goodness in a sinner is the sense and confession of his lack of it, nay, of his badness. Never have we anything right with God in a man till he gives himself up as all wrong. When he is brought down to this, he is thrown upon God, and God reveals Christ as His gift to the poor sinner. He is morally broken down, feeling, owning that he is lost, unless God appears for him; he receives Christ, and what then! “He that believeth hath everlasting life.” What is the nature of that life? Practically, perfectly, righteous and holy. The man is then at once brought into the kingdom. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” But when he is born again he does enter there. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The Scribes and Pharisees were only working on and by the flesh; they did not believe that they were dead in the sight of God, neither do men now. But what the believer begins with is, that he is a dead man, that he requires a new life, and that the new life which he receives in Christ is suitable to the kingdom of heaven. It is upon this new nature that God acts, and works by the Spirit this practical righteousness; so that it remains in every sense true, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
But the Lord does not here explain how this would be. He declares that what was suitable to God's nature was not to be found in human Jewish righteousness, and that it must be for the kingdom.
Now he takes up the law in its various parts, at least which was to do with men. Here He does not enter into relation with God, but first of all takes up that which flows from human violence, and after this the great flagrant example of human corruption; for violence and corruption are the two standing forms of human iniquity. Before the flood such was the condition of men “The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” Here then in verse 21 we have the light of the kingdom cast on the command, “Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” The law took cognizance of this extreme form of violence; but our Lord gives length, breadth, height, and depth to it. “But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” That is, our Lord treats as now coming under the same category with murder in the sight of God every kind of violence, and feeling, and expression, anything of contempt and hatred, whatever expresses the ill feeling of the heart, any putting down of another, or annihilating other persons as far as character or influence is concerned; all this is no better than murder in God's searching eye. He is expanding the law; He is showing now One who looks at and judges the feeling of the heart, showing that it is not at all a question merely of the consequences of violence to a man—for there might be no very bad effect produced by these words of anger, but they proved the state of the heart—that is what the Lord is dealing with here. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” He is not yet showing the Christian in his entire separation from the Jewish system. These words clearly show a connection with Israel, though the principle of a Christian; for the altar has no reference to the Lord's table.
“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; least at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” I believe that Israel was guilty of that very sin Israel as a people—that they did not agree with the adversary quickly. There was the Messiah, and they, being adversaries of Him, treated Him as their adversary and compelled God to be against them by their unbelief. The position of Israel morally, in the sight of God, was very much the one shown us here. There was a murderous feeling in their heart against Jesus. Herod was the expression of it at his birth and it went through all the ministry of Christ, and the cross proved how utterly there was that unrelenting hatred in the heart of the Jews against their own Messiah. They did not agree with their adversary quickly, and the judge could only deliver them to the officer to cast them into prison, and there they remain until this day. The Jewish nation, from their rejection of the Messiah, have been shut out from all the promises of God; as a nation they have been cast into prison, and there they are to remain till the uttermost farthing is paid. In Isaiah we have the Lord speaking comfortably to Jerusalem. “Cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.” That is, that, while we come into this now; while we through the grace of God receive the fullness of blessing through Christ Jesus now; yet I cannot doubt that there is this blessing in store for Jerusalem; that God in His mercy will one day say to her, You have had punishment enough: I do not mean to make you any longer the witness of my vengeance on the earth. And why is Israel not permitted to this day to amalgamate with the nations? There they remain, kept apart from all other people by God. But God has in store for them this great mercy. “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem... for she hath received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins.” This figure we find elsewhere beautifully set forth in the case of the man guilty of blood, who fled to the city of refuge provided by God. But the book of Numbers shows us that there the man abode, out of the land of his possession, till the death, not of the man-slayer, but of the high priest that is anointed with oil. The priesthood of our Lord is referred to there. When the Lord has completed His heavenly people and gathered them in where they do not need the activity of His intercession; when we are in the full results of all that Christ has wrought for us, the High Priest shall then take His place, not at the right hand of God, but as the Priest upon His own throne. Then will be the termination of his present heavenly priesthood, and blood-guilty Israel will return to the land of their possession. I have no doubt that this is the just application of that beautiful type. I cannot understand what proper interpretation there could be of the death of the High Priest anointed with oil, if you appropriate it to a Christian now; but apply it to the Jew, and nothing is more plain. Christ will terminate that character of priesthood that he is engaged in for us now and will take up a new form of blessing for Israel.
We have then the Lord closing this subject with the light that the kingdom of heaven throws upon the sin of killing, and the extension of the sin to every expression of the heart's anger. This is a very solemn thing when we know how little importance we attach to our words and how apt we are to excuse any explosion of strong feeling. They are clearly here shown in their full contrariety to the nature of God.
But there is another thing—the corrupt element that is in the heart of man—the heart lusting for that which it has not. This is taken up in the next word of our Lord. “Ye have heard that is was said by them of old time thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee 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.” (Ver. 27-30.) That is, whatever in our walk, or in our ways, or in our service, whatever it might be that exposes a soul to the danger of yielding to these unholy feelings, must never be spared. There must be the excision of everything that is hurtful to the soul, the members of the body, such as the eye and the hand being only used as showing the various ways in which the heart might be entangled. The cutting off of these members sets forth a heart thoroughly exercised in self-judgment; not prompted to excuse itself by saying that it had not actually committed the sin; but whatever exposed to it must be given up. Following this, our Lord shows as to the dissolution of the tie of marriage, “It hath been said whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement. But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (Ver. 31, 32.) That is, our Lord shows that though there might be the most serious difficulties, still this human relationship receives the strongest sanction of the Lord. Though an earthly relationship, the light of heaven is thrown upon it, the sanctity of marriage held up, and the possibility of allowing anything to interfere with its holiness entirely put down by Christ, save only where there was that which interrupted it in the sight of God, in which case the act of separation would be only a declaration of its being broken by sin in the sight of God already.
The next case (ver. 33-37) brings us into a different order of things: it is the use of the name of the Lord. Here the reference is not to judicial oaths—all oath administered by a magistrate. In some countries this might savor of heathenism or of popery, and no Christian ought to take such an oath. But if the declaration were simply the authority of God introduced by the magistrate to declare the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I do not see that the Lord in any wise absolves the Christian from his obligation to competent authority. The matter here is expressly private communication between man and man. “Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white nor black.” None of these was a judicial oath; they were the asseverations of common life among the Jews. If our Lord had meant to forbid the Christian from taking judicial oaths, would He not have instanced the oath that was usual in the courts of those days? But it was not so. All the oaths that He brings before us were what the Jews were in the habit of using when their word was questioned by their fellow-men, not what was employed before the magistrate. For my own part, so far from thinking that a Christian is doing right in refusing a judicial oath, I believe that he is doing wrong not to take it, provided the magistrate required his testimony. If the magistrate does not acknowledge God in the oath, still the Christian is bound to acknowledge God in the magistrate. He is one who is, to the Christian, a servant of God in the outward things of this world. Even the Assyrian was the rod of God, all the while that he thought only of carrying out his own purposes against Israel. Much more the magistrate, let him be who or what he may, represents the truth of God's external authority in the world, and the Christian ought to respect this, more even than the men of the world, and therefore the oath is a holy thing and not to be refused. The Christian, doubtless, has no business with prosecuting another himself. On the contrary, he owes it to Christ and His grace to let the world, if it will, abuse him; he may protest by word against it, and then leave it with the Lord. When our Lord Himself was dealt with unrighteously, He convicts the person of it, and there it ends, as man would think, forever. There is no such thing as seeking to get present reparation of His wrongs. So should it be with Christians. There may be the moral conviction of those that do the wrong, but the taking it patiently is acceptable with God.
There is no way in which the Christian so shows how much he is above the world, as when he seeks not the world's vindication in anything. If we belong to the world, we ought all to be volunteers. If the world is our home, a man is called upon to do battle for it. But for the Christian this world is not the scene of his interests, and why fight for what does not belong to him? If a Christian fight in and with the world, (save his own spiritual warfare), he is a mere mercenary. It is the duty of men, as such, to fight, if need be, and repel wrong; and if the Lord uses the world in order to put down revolution and make peace, the Christian may well look up and give thanks. It is a great mercy. But the grand truth as to this, which the believer has to get firmly settled in his own soul, is this, “they are not of the world.” But to what measure are they not of the world? “They are not of the world even as I am not of the world.” In John 17 where our Lord repeats this wondrous word, He speaks in view of going to heaven, as if He no longer were on earth at all. Thus, in the spirit of one away from the world, He says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” A little before He had said, “Now I am no more in the world.” This going up to heaven is what gives its character to the Christian and to the church. A Christian is not merely a believer, but a believer called to the enjoyment of Christ while He is in Heaven. And, as Christ our Head is out of the world, so the Christian is in spirit lifted above the world, and his business is to show the strength of his faith as above his mere natural feeling. Nothing makes a man look so foolish as having no side in this world. Christians do not like to be nonentities; they are apt to wish one way or another to have their power felt. But this is what the Lord delivers us from. To return, then, it is below our calling to indulge even in strong statements. “Let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” It is worthy of note, as a practical proof of the distinction here drawn, how our Lord acted when he was before the High Priest, He was silent till the High Priest put the oath to Him, then at once He answers; and He shows us the right pattern there.
But He comes next to the case of any practical injury that may be done us. It is not that it is wrong for a man to punish according to the injury that has been inflicted upon another. “An eye for an eye, and a tooth For a tooth,” is perfectly righteous; but our Lord is showing that we ought to be much more than righteous, we ought to be gracious; and he presses this as the climax of this part of the discourse. First, He had strengthened the righteousness of the law, extended its depth, and put aside its license; but now He goes further. He shows that there is a principle in His own ways and life which teaches the Christian that he is not to seek retaliation. “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 thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” It is clear the Lord has no reference here to what governments have to do. The New Testament is written for the Christian, for that which has a separate existence and a peculiar calling in the midst of earthly systems and peoples. It belongs to those who are heavenly while they are walking through the earth. We become such by the reception of Christ now, and to such the Lord says, “Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” There personal injury is meant. Perhaps the evil to the person may be ever so intended and undeserved, but it is to be overcome with good. Show that you are willing to take even more for Christ's sake. “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” There the law is evoked;—that is, a man lays a claim, perhaps falsely, to one part of your clothing, and if he “will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” Here it was not exactly a man appealing to the law, but the public officers themselves. “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” The great principle our Lord shows is this—whether it is human violence, or the law applied ever so hardly or tryingly, that while, according to the law, you might go one step, according to the gospel you would go two. Grace does twice as much as the law, whatever may be the point in hand. Grace is never intended in any wise to supplant obligations, or to lower responsibilities; but, on the contrary, to give power and force to everything that is righteous in the sight of God. The law might say, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” Here there is not only the endurance of that which is positively wrong, but grace that gives more than is asked. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” And this is one way of practically showing how far we value grace. It is not a question of the mere letter of our Lord's words. If you were to limit it merely to a blow on the face, it would be a very poor thing; but the word of Christ is that which conveys to me the spirit that pleases God, and gives me the reality of grace. And grace is not the vindication of self, nor the punishment of a wrong that is done, but the endurance of evil, and the triumph of good over it. Christ is speaking of what a Christian has to put up with from the world through which he passes. He is to receive tribulation as the discipline which God sees to be good for his soul; the great spectacle before men and angels—that there are men on this earth who are allowed and rejoice to suffer for Christ, because they have learned to give up their own will, to sacrifice their own rights, and to suffer wrongfully, looking onward to the day when the Lord will own whatever has been their sorrow for His sake, and when all evil shall be judged most solemnly at His appearing and kingdom.
But now a word as to what follows. It is most weighty, the very pith and essence of that which, concerns our relation towards others here below; the great active principle from which all right conduct flows. This is the question of the true character and limits of love. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.” (Ver. 43.) This was the expression that the Jews drew from the general tenor of the law. There had been the sanction of God for the extermination of their enemies; and from that they drew the principle, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.” It was not a question merely about loving the neighbor, which was a duty of common righteousness. But here was a thing that no righteousness would ever have discovered, because it goes beyond the law—it is grace. In a thousand practical instances the question is not whether the thing is right. We often hear Christians asking, is such a thing wrong? But that is not the sole question for the Christian. He is never at liberty to do what is wrong, and most surely he does the thing that is right. But supposing there is a wrong done him, what is to be his feeling then? If there is enmity to him in another, what is he to cherish in his heart? “Love your enemies ... do good to them that hate you ... that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven:” thus showing that they belonged to such a parentage in practical ways, “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Ver. 44-48.) This has no reference to the question of whether there is sin in our nature or not. There is always the evil principle in a man as long as he has got the flesh in him. But what the Lord teaches here is this: Our Father is the perfect pattern in His ways with His enemies now, and he calls upon us to be thorough in that smile grace and love in which our Father deals. It is in pointed contrast with the Jew, or with anything that had ever been introduced before. Abraham was not called to walk in this way. He was, I believe, justified in arming his servants for the recovery of Lot; and the Israelites in lifting up the sword against the Canaanites. But we are never so to feel or act under any circumstances. We are called on, as the rule of Christian life, as that which governs our thoughts, and feelings, and ways, and supplies us with true feelings for our guidance day by day, to walk upon the principle of gracious long-suffering. We are in the midst of the enemies of Christ, of our enemies too because of Him. It may not come out at once nor always. Persecution may pass out of fashion, but the enmity is always there; and if God were only to remove certain restraints, the old hatred would burst out with greater violence than ever. Nevertheless, there is only one course open to the Christian who desires to walk as Christ walked, “Love your enemies,” and this really, not by a show of smooth ways or words. A Christian might know very well that, in certain cases, to go and speak to an angry person would only draw out bitterness of wrath, and there the right course would be to keep away; but under all circumstances there should be the desire of his good, to seek the blessing of our adversary. To do real kindness, even if it should never be known by a creature upon earth, to the one who has injured me, is the only thing worthy of a Christian man; and this we are called upon to do, specially towards those who despise and persecute us. We ought to ask the Lord to give us the opportunities of showing love to those that hate us. When the provocation occurs, we should have it settled in our souls that the Christian is here for the purpose of expressing Christ; for, indeed, we are His epistle, known and read of all men. We ought to desire to reflect what Christ would have done under the same circumstances. We are never at liberty to indulge in anything else.
May the Lord grant that this may be true of our own souls, first in secret feeling with Him, and then as manifested lowly and unselfishly towards others. Let us remember that there is no battle for us that is ever decisive with others, but what is an outward reflection of the secret victory over self with the Lord. Begin there, and it is surely won in the presence of men, though we may have to wait for it.