Proverbs 20:22.) There can be no question at all, for the testimony of human history is everywhere and at all times the same, as to -
I. OUR DISPOSITION UNDER SIN, IN VIEW OF OUR ENEMIES. These two passages indicate it. It is both passive and active.
1. A disposition to rejoice at their discomfiture; to exult in the secret places of the soul when we hear of their failure, of their defeat, or even of their suffering.
2. A disposition to inflict some injury on them by our own effort. The impulse of the man who is struck is to strike again; that of the man who is cheated is to take the next opportunity of overreaching the treacherous neighbour; the prevalent feeling, under the long reign and malignant influence of sin, is to compass, in some way or other, the humiliation, or the loss, or the anger of the man who has injured us. We rejoice when our enemy falls; we do more and worse than that - we do our best, we use our ingenuity and put forth even our patient labour, to bring about his overthrow. So common, so universal, is this sentiment of revenge and retaliation, that no one is in a position so speak severely of his neighbour or to condemn him harshly. Yet we understand now -
II. ITS UNWORTHINESS OF OUR NATURE. It was not to cherish such thoughts as these, nor was it to act in such a way as this, that our Divine Father called us into being, and gave to us our powers.
1. We were made to love and to pity; and for us to harbour in our souls a feeling of positive delight when we witness the misery or misfortune of a brother or a sister is really inhuman; it is a perversion, under the malign power of sin, of the end and purpose of our being.
2. We were made to help and bless; and for us to expend the powers with which we are endowed to injure, to inflict suffering and loss, to send as far as we can on the downward road a human heart or human life, - this is wholly unworthy of ourselves, it is a sad departure from the intention of our Creator. We see clearly -
III. ITS OFFENSIVENESS TO GOD. "Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him."
2. It is altogether unlike his own action; for he is daily and momently blessing with life and health and innumerable bounties those who have forgotten or disregarded or even denied him.
3. There are two aspects in which it must be obnoxious to him.
(1) He is the Father of our spirits, and how can he look with anything but sorrow on antagonism and hatred between his children?
(2) He is the Holy and the Loving One, and how can he see with anything but displeasure the hearts of men filled with the feelings of malevolence, the hands of men occupied in dealing bitter blows against one another? What, however, is the way by which this deep-rooted disposition can be expelled, and another and nobler spirit be planted in our souls? What is the way to -
IV. THE WORTHIER AND NOBLER SPIRIT. The one way to rise above vindictiveness and retaliation and to enter into the loftier and purer air of forgiveness and magnanimity is to connect ourselves most closely with our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. To have our hearts filled with that transforming love to our Father and our Saviour which will make us to become, unconsciously and gradually, like him in spirit and behaviour.
3. To let our minds be filled with the knowledge of his will, by patient and prayerful study of his Word and of his life. - C.
Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth.
Homilist.Johnson makes a distinction between vengeance and revenge. Injuries, he says, are revenged; crimes are avenged. The former is an act of passion, the latter of justice.
I. The OBJECT of revenge. "Thine enemy." Men are enemies to men. Humanity is not as it came from the hand of the Great Father of mankind. Sin has made the brother a foe. If man had no enemy, he would have no revenge. In heaven no such passion burns.
II. The GRATIFICATION of revenge. "Let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth." The fall, the ruin of the enemy, is bliss to the revenging soul. But if unmanly, still more un-Christian. What said Christ? "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink," etc.
III. The AVENGER of revenge. "Lest the Lord see it, and it displeaseth Him, and he turn away His wrath from him."
1. Man's revenge is displeasing to God. It is opposed to the benevolence of His nature; it is contrary to the teachings of His Word.
2. Man's revenge may cause God to interpose, and relieve its victim. "He turn away His wrath from him." Coverdale renders the words thus, "Lest the Lord be angry, and turn His wrath from him to thee." Thus it was with the enemies of Samson (Judges 16:25-30).
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