Romans 12:19
Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God's wrath. For it is written: "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord."
Still Another TripletAlexander MaclarenRomans 12:19
Christian LoveT.F. Lockyer Romans 12:9-21
Christian SocialismR.M. Edgar Romans 12:9-21
The Christian's Duty to His Fellow-MenC.H. Irwin Romans 12:9-21
Avenge not YourselvesR. Wardlaw, D.D.Romans 12:19-21
Avenge not YourselvesBp. Heber.Romans 12:19-21
Charity and Kind Offices, the Best Conquest Over an EnemyD. Waterland, D.D.Romans 12:19-21
Evil OvercomeRomans 12:19-21
How to Conquer EvilG. H. James.Romans 12:19-21
How to Overcome an EnemyW. Tyson., J. B. Owen.Romans 12:19-21
Kindness to an Enemy IsJ. LythRomans 12:19-21
On Conduct Under WrongsJ. Grant, M.A., J. Lyth, D.D.Romans 12:19-21
On RevengeJ. Smedley, M.A.Romans 12:19-21
Overcome Evil with GoodC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 12:19-21
Overcoming Evil with GoodJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 12:19-21
Overcoming Evil with GoodRomans 12:19-21
Revenge, a NobleJ. Trapp.Romans 12:19-21
Revenge, Punishment OfBp. Taylor.Romans 12:19-21
The Best WarfareR. Newton, D.D.Romans 12:19-21
The Christian and His AdversariesJ. G. Rogers, B.A.Romans 12:19-21
The Christian's Conduct Under InjuryJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 12:19-21
The Great ConflictW. Jenkins, M.A.Romans 12:19-21
The Power of Good Over EvilBp. Boyd Carpenter.Romans 12:19-21
The Rule of the Christian WarfareHarry Jones, M.A.Romans 12:19-21
The Sinfulness of Private RevengeRomans 12:19-21
The Triumph of Christian LoveJ. Lyth, D. D.Romans 12:19-21
True Moral ConquestsD. Thomas, D.D.Romans 12:19-21
Value of Indirect EffortsHerbert Spencer.Romans 12:19-21
Vengeance Belongs to GodClerical LibraryRomans 12:19-21
Wrath Conquered by LoveD. A. Clark.Romans 12:19-21

The two clauses of this verse remind us of the two main emotions of the human breast, of their diverse nature, and their common association. Sorrow ever treads at the heels of joy. The sigh and the laugh may be heard at once. Scarce has prosperity brightened one threshold than adversity overshadows another. As in the plagues, there is light in Goshen and darkness in Egypt. If every house were painted to reveal the condition of the inmates, what startling contrasts would be seen side by side! It is of little use to try and measure the sum of happiness and of misery, to calculate which preponderates in life; better is it to adapt ourselves to these two prevailing states, and by appropriate words and deeds to evince our sympathy both with those who mourn and those who exult, not shrinking from distress nor envying the fortunate. Many reasons concur in recommending the apostle's injunction.

I. GOD HAS MADE MAN A SOCIAL BEING. He is the "God of the families of Israel." The Law commanded convocations, social observances; the people encamped not as individuals, but as households and tribes. Besides the appetites and affections that concern ourselves personally, there are others which respect our fellows and cannot be gratified without their presence. Love, gratitude, pity, all suppose their existent objects, so that the moral constitution of man exhibits the social capacities with which he has been endowed. There is a basis for sympathy in our physical nature. The appearance of one man acts and reacts on his companions. The mirthful induces merriment in the company, and the entrance of a gloomy countenance damps the spirits of a whole party. Infants are quickly affected by the attitude of those near them; and the lower animals are prone to frisk and leap when their masters are glad, and to be depressed by their melancholy. To shut one's self up in solitude, to take no notice of the circumstances of others, is therefore to sin against the laws of our being.

II. JESUS CHRIST HAS PROVIDED FOR THESE SOCIAL INSTINCTS IN THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HIS CHURCH. He has instituted a community of believers, united for mutual counsel and support. One by one we resort to the Saviour for individual teaching and healing, but "those that are being saved" are "added to the Church," and the visibility of the fact assists in that redemption from selfishness which is the essence of sin. "Bear ye one another's burdens" is the recognition of our unity. The limb which shares not in the thrill of pain or pleasure is on the way to atrophy, disunion, death. Love and service to the Head of the body bind the members together as an organism, and love ministers to trouble and enhances joy. Such sympathy cannot, however, be restricted to the members of the Church. Family ties lead to efforts for the salvation of outsiders, and a desire for the glory of the Lord and the enlarging usefulness of his kingdom prompts to imitation of his beneficence who came to lighten our woes and to augment our gladness.

III. OUR DEVELOPMENT UNTO PERFECTION DEMANDS THE CULTIVATION OF SYMPATHY. It was not "good" for Adam to be alone. A high pitch of civilization cannot be reached or maintained in isolation. Left to ourselves, we grow careless of refinement or progress. To shut ourselves up like flowers that close their petals at the rude blast, to crawl inside our shell, and, closing the aperture, to dwell simply on our own satisfactions and uneasinesses, is the pleading of mistaken self-love that overreaches itself and misses the pure happiness of sharing others' delights and of doing good. Spiritual growth is not attainable any more than physical strength by a life within-doors. Avoid the heat and the icy wind, and health suffers by too-great confinement. What lessons may be learnt from the successes and misfortunes of our neighbours! Their lot may be ours soon; it were well to be wise betimes. To look on others is to gaze at a mirror that reflects our own image.

IV. THE FULFILMENT OF THIS PRECEPT WOULD MATERIALLY LIGHTEN THE WRETCHEDNESS OF THE WORLD. The savageness of unrestricted competition vanishes where a due regard is paid to the happiness or suffering of our companions. Nothing like a visit from the employer to the homes of his servants, or a sight by the speculator of the misery his unjust gains have entailed, to abate the fierceness of greed and to remedy grievances and wrongs. The world sorely needs brotherly kindness. Then would men and nations realize that what elevates one raises all, what depresses one truly enriches none. We may note that obedience to the latter clause of the text is perhaps more needful than compliance with the former. The distressed require help, the prosperous can do without it. But any separation of the two duties weakens both. It is not always easy to congratulate a fortunate compeer, any more than to assist the unlucky. No doubt we like to bask in the sunshine, and to withdraw from gloom. But the "elder brother" refused to join in the household felicitations, and the Levite and the Pharisee "passed by" the wounded traveller. Guard against the mere indulgence of passive sympathy. The rejoicing and mourning of the text imply an active sympathy, and action forms habits of good will and benevolence as Butler has described. Copy the Redeemer. No ascetic or misanthrope was he, who multiplied the innocent gaiety of the marriage feast, and mingled his tears with those of the weeping sisters of Lazarus. Even a hearty grasp of the hand adds to joy, and a moistened eye comforts those that mourn. The poorest in point of worldly goods may be rich in God-like sympathy. Many a man has been saved from utter despair by the knowledge that another was interested in his welfare. - S.R.A.

Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath.
The prohibition urged by such considerations as —

1. Our own peace and happiness. There is nothing so wretched as the harassing disquietudes of angry and revengeful passions. The spirit of revenge is like the shelving rocks in the bottom of the deep, which cause the waters to boil in the foaming whirlpool — the spirit of forgiveness and love keeps the soul "Calm and unruffled as a summer sea."

2. Self-partiality unfits us for measuring correctly the amount of injuries done to ourselves, and consequently the amount of vengeance due. No man is a proper judge in his own cause.

3. We are very incompetent judges of the motives by which others are actuated. We may inflict "vengeance" where there ought to be approbation and grateful reward.

4. When we do exceed in our vengeance, what is the consequence? All such excess is injury. This injury calls for revenge in return. Thus there is no prospect but of perpetuated wrong, and interminable hostility. Thus there is wisdom in the interdiction — Divine wisdom in Deity retaining the right to recompense in His own hands. He, and He alone, can infallibly appreciate the amount of culpability; and can alone, therefore, apportion the punishments.

(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)


1. There is a public and authoritative revenge, belonging to such as are invested with a lawful authority. This is necessary, and is done by the authority of God. Thus the magistrate has power to revenge wrongs in the state (Romans 13:4), Church-rulers in the Church (2 Corinthians 10:6), and masters in families (Genesis 16:6). And persons wronged seeking redress from those to whom the public revenge belongs is a lawful thing (Luke 18:3).

2. There is a private and personal revenge which is sinful, viz., that —(1) Taken by those in authority, out of ill-will to the wrongdoer. They are revengers to execute (Romans 13:4) not their own wrath, but God's.(2) Sought from those in authority, which is neither necessary for the public good, nor the amendment of the offender, nor the safety of the parts hurt. Let those take heed who fly to their law pleading on every trifling occasion, just to gratify their own passion (Matthew 5:40).(3) Taken by those not in authority nor acting in a public capacity, but at the command of their passion.(a) By words. The tongue is as real an instrument of revenge, as the hands, swords, or spears.(b) By deeds (Proverbs 26:39).(c) By omission of duty owing to the offending party, contrary to ver. 20. Besiegers may revenge themselves as much by starvation as by storming.


1. It is directly opposite to the love of our neighbour, the fundamental law of the second table (Leviticus 19:18).

2. It is unjust violence, as assuming and exercising a power which God never gave us. And as unjust violence ever was so it will ever be highly dishonourable to God the Judge and Protector of all (Genesis 6:11). Men are not left like beasts, among whom the stronger command the weaker; but God has set laws for both.

3. It cannot reach the true ends of revenge, which God hath settled, viz., the amendment of the party offending (Romans 13:14), the public good (Deuteronomy 19:20), and the safety of the wronged (1 Timothy 2:2). Private revenge only irritates the party smarting by it, gives a scandalous example to others, and involves the revenger and others in much trouble.

4. It is void of all equity: for in it a man is accuser, judge, and executioner, all in his own cause. Who would reckon that fair in another's case?

5. It is an invading of authority, a taking out of their hand what God has put in it. Therefore the apostle immediately subjoins the duty of subjects and magistrates (chap 13.). Family revengers invade the Master's authority; Church-revengers the authority of the Church-rulers; and civil revengers the office of the magistrate.

6. It is an invading of the authority of God (Psalm 94:1; Nahum 1:2). He only is fit to have it in His hand: for He is omniscient; we know little, and are liable to mistakes; He is without passions, we are ready to be blinded by them: He is the common Father and Judge of all, most just and impartial, we are prejudiced in our own favours.


1. We may hence take occasion to lament —

(1)The state of human nature in general.

(2)The state of our nature in particular so ready to revenge.

2. It serves to reprove —

(1)Those who allow themselves in scolding those who they conceive have wronged them (2 Samuel 16:7, 8; Matthew 4:31; 5:22).

(2)Those who end their quarrels in blows and fightings (Matthew 26:52; Galatians 5:19-21.)

(3)Those who are sure to do an ill turn to those who have wronged them, if it lie in their power.

(4)Those who make no conscience of doing their duty to those who have wronged them, but carry towards them as if their offence loosed them from all bonds of duty to them, and so satisfy their revenge (Matthew 5:44-46).

3. Revenge not yourselves, but rather give place to the wrath of your adversary. To press this, I offer the following motives.(1) This is true excellency and bravery of spirit.

(a)In this ye will resemble the spirit Jesus was actuated by (1 Peter 2:23: Luke 23:34). "Ye shall be as gods" was the height of ambition that men aspired to very soon. Behold an allowable way how we may be like our Lord!

(b)Ye will show a generous contempt of the impotent malice of an evil world (Luke 21:19). The moon retains her brightness though the cur barks at her.

(c)Ye will show yourselves masters of your own spirit (Proverbs 16:32).

(d)Ye may overcome him that wrongs you (ver. 20).(2) Consider the wrong done to God by your revenging yourselves. Ye impeach —

(a)His justice, as if He, like Gallio, cared for none of there things.

(b)His wisdom, saying in effect that God's method of vengeance is not fitted to reach the end.

(c)His veracity, and refuse to believe His word, that He will repay.(3) Revenge is a most ensnaring thing. It is a sacrifice to passion, and involves the soul in guilt sometimes past remedy.

(4)It is inconsistent with peace with heaven and pardon (Matthew 6:15).

4. Objections:(1) The Scripture saith "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." Answer: That was the law, the execution of which was committed to the magistrate, and does not belong to private persons.(2) If we put up with one injury, we will get more. Answer: Ver. 20 says not so.(3) It is not manly not to revenge affronts and wrongs. Answer: It is childishness. It is brutishness; anger a dog, and he will be ready to fly at your face. It is foolishness (Ecclesiastes 7:9). Was David not manly that revenged not himself on Saul? Saul says otherwise (1 Samuel 24:18-21).(4) How then should we do in the ease of affronts and wrongs?

(a)Arm yourselves with meekness and patience.

(b)Learn to bear with one another, and to be always ready to forgive (Colossians 3:13; Matthew 18:21, 22).

(c)In matters of weight, where redress is necessary, apply to those for it who are vested with authority for that end (chap. Romans 13:4). Only do it not from a spirit of revenge.

(d)Where redress is not to be expected, put the matter in the Lord's hand, and wait for Him (Proverbs 20:22).

(e)Live by faith, keeping your eye on Christ the fountain of strength, the pattern of meekness, and on the judgment to come, when justice shall be done to every one.

(T. Boston, D.D.)

A letter from Lady Frederick Cavendish, written in answer to a request of the Rev. S. Lloyd, who had asked permission to dedicate to her a sermon upon the assassination of the Chief Secretary, said: "The Dublin disclosures do indeed teach the awful lesson contained in the last verse of the third chapter of 2 Samuel. You will, I am sure, forgive me if I beg you, before sending the MS. to the printers, to look through it first, with the special view of seeing if there is any word that could be turned into a desire for vengeance. You will readily understand how I must shrink from any such feeling. I would rather, as far as I reverently may, adopt the Lord's prayer on the Cross — 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' The law, I know, must take its course, for the sake of the unhappy country itself. I pray that neither the unspeakable greatness of my sorrow nor the terrible wickedness of those men may ever blind either myself or any of the English people to the duty of patience, justice, and sympathy in our thoughts, words, and deeds with regard to Ireland and its people at large." Revenge, meanness of: — Revenge is a cruel word: manhood, some call it; but it is rather doghood. The manlier any man is, the milder and more merciful, as Julius Caesar, who, when he had Pompey's head presented to him, wept, and said, "I seek not revenge, but victory."

(J. Trapp.)

On him that takes revenge, revenge shall be taken; and by a real evil he shall dearly pay for the goods that are but airy and fantastical. It is like a rolling stone which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.

(Bp. Taylor.)

I. THE OCCASION IS COMMON — arising out of

1. Human depravity in general; or —

2. The hatred of wicked men to that which is good.


1. Bear with patience.

2. Yield to the wrong.

3. Leave it to the judgment of God.


1. Is the prerogative of God.

2. Will certainly be executed.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

"What?" will be the reply, "when our memory is smarting with the sense of injury; when our neighbour has transgressed all the laws of God and man towards us, are we to show him that mercy which we do not receive? Are our hands to be tied by religion, while his are at full liberty? What security would there be then remaining for our property or our persons; and to what end are we to be mocked by these gifts of strength, or courage, which we are forbidden, even in self-defence, to employ?"

1. In answer to these objections, we may remark, first, that to repel or resist an injury is not forbidden. Self-defence is a very different tiring from revenge. The latter cannot plead necessity.

2. But, secondly, it is not only our duty to do our enemies no harm, we must if they need our assistance be reader to do them good, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink." And, strange as it may seem, this is the wisest as well as the most Christian course we can pursue. In the first place, by these acts of kindness we make our own task easier of combating our resentment and extinguishing every spark of malice in our hearts. Again, in point of safety, this is the best and surest course. If we are apprehensive of future injuries from our enemy, what method so likely to indispose him to mischief? But lastly, if it fall to conciliate him, there is One, at least, a mighty friend, a powerful defender, whose assistance we gain. God is on the side of the merciful. It is true, besides, that there is nothing to a proud temper so painful as to owe an obligation to an enemy.

(Bp. Heber.)

I. It is an important question, WHETHER THE OBJECT OF REVENGE BE REALLY AN ENEMY. Wrong may exist nowhere but in our own erring fancy, or diseased acuteness of feeling.

II. But if the conduct of our neighbour have given us substantial hurt, another necessary question will next arise: — WAS THE INJURY WHICH HE INFLICTED INTENTIONAL? It is not impossible that we regard as a deliberate affront that which was intended as an act of the warmest kindness. How often are the affectionate warnings of a wise counsellor construed by a headstrong youth into an assumption of superiority?

III. Suppose now that there exist both injury and malevolence; it yet remains for our attentive recollection, WHETHER WE WERE NOT, OURSELVES, THE FIRST AGGRESSORS? Did not our adversary inflict the wound in self-defence? in resistance of our improper deportment?

IV. But indeed, in point of prudence, whether we ourselves were the original aggressors or not, A RETORTED OFFENCE IS NEW MATTER OF PROVOCATION, and almost infallibly ensures a reiterated blow. It may be that the wrath of the foe has spent itself in the first assault. He may have been satisfied; he may have forgotten you. What folly then will it now be to rekindle that flame which had died away of itself.

V. In the next place it deserves continual remembrance, that REVENGE IS NOT BY ANY MEANS OUR PROVINCE. God alone is qualified to apportion the measure of retribution, because He alone has a full and exact view of the injury. Add to this, that there is something exceedingly preposterous and presumptuous in one sinful being's becoming the judge and executioner of another.

VI. If, however, it should be pretended, that thus wholly to transfer the exercise of recompense to the Almighty, or to His established vicegerent, is an effort of principle too difficult to be at all times expected from frail humanity, VARIOUS AND WEIGHTY CONSIDERATIONS YET REMAIN FOR OVERCOMING AN INCLINATION TO REVENGE. Hardly the most violent would deem resentment equitable, if the aggression, after inflicting a momentary pain, shall in the course of events, or by a combination of circumstances, have in any degree conduced to the advantage of the sufferer. That calumny which has humbled us in the opinion we had falsely conceived of ourselves, and reduced our mental stature to its just dimensions; any substantial injustice which has furnished us with experience of the deceitfulness of the world and introduced us to an acquaintance with true religion, ought surely to soften, even to dispel our ill-will towards the individual who hath been the unconscious bestower of these spiritual benefits.

VII. This view of the subject suggests another of similar nature; I mean THE PROPRIETY OF REGARDING THE WOUND WE HAVE SUSTAINED AS HAVING PROCEEDED ORIGINALLY FROM GOD; and him whom we call our enemy as no more than the weapon of Divine justice which chastises, or of Divine goodness which seeks our amendment. The injury, viewed in this light, is invested with an air of sacredness, and anger appears to border on rebellion and impiety.

VIII. Reflection on THE PRESENT CONDITION OF OUR ENEMY will further be highly useful in appeasing a vindictive disposition. Without any retributive severity on our part, he may already be sufficiently punished. Malignity is unhappiness.

IX. Or should our adversary be a stranger to these delicate sensations, it will be yet well to remember, that THE MORE DESTITUTE HE IS OF VIRTUE, SO MUCH THE MORE IS HE AN OBJECT OF DIVINE DISPLEASURE. Shall we seek to overwhelm misery by adding the venom and lash of our malevolence to the sting of conscience, or the blow of Heaven? And even if all things in the present world go on smoothly with him, ought we not next to reflect that this enjoyment is probably but temporary? It may only be a gleam of sunshine, preparatory to a terrible storm.

X. Yet if, in open defiance of all these cogent arguments, we will surrender ourselves to the inward fiend, and proceed to retaliate; we must not forget, when contemplating the present, or the probable recompense of our adversary's injustice, that BY THIS MEASURE WE RENDER OURSELVES LIABLE TO ALL THE SAME EVILS. We contract the internal disquietude and self-torment belonging to a malignant temper; we involve ourselves in the hazard of receiving present correction from above.

XI. This leads us on to that great evangelical motive, which is more weighty and persuasive than all those that have preceded it: "IF YE FORGIVE NOT MEN THEIR TRESPASSES, NEITHER WILL YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER FORGIVE YOU YOURS." Who is he that shall look this plain proposition in the face, and continue for another moment to foster rancour against an enemy?

XII. For practising the sacred, we may say emphatically, the Christian duty, which the various reasons now collected recommend, concluding motive presses itself upon our regard, in THE EXAMPLES HELD FORTH BY SCRIPTURE. Among these the leading one is that of God Himself; and it is brought forward by our Lord, indeed, when enjoining the love of enemies (Matthew 5:23, 24). Even under the Jewish dispensation instances of this virtue, as prompted by the native impulse of a pious or tender disposition, are not wanting. Joseph wept on the necks and amply provided for the wants of his unkind brethren. David forgave Saul for his inveterate and unprovoked hatred.

(J. Grant, M.A.)

Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.


1. As the Supreme Ruler.

2. As the fountain of law.

3. As the Judge of all.


1. This is essential to moral government.

2. Is affirmed by Scripture.

3. Abundantly sustained by example.

4. Will be terribly demonstrated in the last day.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Clerical Library.
A person happened to complain in the hearing of a pious man of some conduct which had been manifested towards him by his neighbours, and concluded by saying that he had a large portion of vengeance in store for them. "You have stolen it, then," was the answer; "for I know it does not belong to you of right, because God says, 'Vengeance is Mine; I will repay.'"

(Clerical Library.)

Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him




(J. Lyth, D.D.)



1. Treat him gently.

2. Minister to his need.

3. Especially seek his salvation.


1. These coals of fire may melt his heart.

2. Must awaken shame.

3. And if he repent not will attract the just vengeance of God.

(J. Lyth, D. D.)


so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. — Does that mean that thou shalt be taking the most effectual means of melting him into a state of penitences — "As artists melt the sullen ore of lead, By heaping coals of fire upon its head"? or is there an allusion to the melting of wax; or to the hardening of clay; or to the practice of throwing firebrands upon the heads of besiegers of cities? Possibly there may have been no conscious reference to any one of these things. For, altogether apart from any such references, fire is frequently employed in Scripture as the symbol of any strong passion, or of the instrument by which it finds expression or works out its purposed result. "Our God is a consuming fire." "Upon the wicked He shall rain snares," etc. But the fire of God which descended to consume His people's offerings was a token, not of kindling wrath, but of gracious acceptance. By a coal of that, the trembling prophet was purged from sin, and stood in assured favour. Love also, as well as anger, is as fire: the coals thereof are coals of fire, the fire-flame of Jehovah (Song of Solomon 8:6). The Lord Jesus baptized His people with the Holy Ghost and with fire. And obviously these coals of fire, heaped upon the head of an adversary, are not coals of burning vengeance, but coals of fervent love, the fire-flame of Jehovah, adapted to melt down his hardness, and to win him for ever to virtue and to God. And if the result be really accomplished, you will have conquered an enemy, won an adoring friend, and saved a soul from death.

(W. Tyson.)

How to overcome an enemy: — I once took a nugget to a gold-melter to be assayed. A friend in the trade explained to me that it was not enough to subject the metal in the crucible to the greatest heat from under the pot: this would only heat the gold to the furnace-heat, but could not melt it into fluid, until the charcoal was put on the top of the crucible as well as under it; and then it would be molten. "Thus," said he, "the Christian is bidden to soften down and subdue his hardest adversary in the Scriptural metaphor taken from our trade — 'If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for, in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head,' i.e., effectually melt and overcome him."

(J. B. Owen.)

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good

1. How evil may overcome us.

2. How we may overcome it.


1. It counteracts our evil propensities.

2. Assimilates us to Christ.

3. Promotes on earth the happiness of heaven.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

In the year 1818, Tomatoe, the king of Huahine, one of the South Sea islands, embraced the gospel. Some of the heathen islanders resolved on the destruction of him, and of those who, with him, had become followers of Christ. The enemy laid their plan, and had purposed to burn to death those whom they seized. But the plot was discovered; the small band of Christians were on the shore in readiness to meet their foes as they leaped from their canoes, and soon gained a complete victory. And now these heathens looked for nothing but death, and that a cruel death. How great, then, was their surprise when the Christians assured them that they meant not to touch a hair of their head, because Jesus had taught them to treat kindly their bitterest foes! They went further — they prepared a sumptuous feast, and asked the captives to sit down and partake. Some of these were so amazed as to be unable to taste. At last one of them arose (one of the heathen leaders), declared himself no longer a follower of helpless idols, stated his cruel intentions had he been successful, but that this utterly unlooked-for kindness of the Christians had fairly overcome him, so that he could only admire their humanity and mercy. The result of all was that in a few days every idol in the island had been cast away; for the heathen, melted by all this kindness, joined the Christians.

The text sets before us two things, and bids us choose the better. You must either be overcome of evil, or you must yourself overcome evil. The words remind me of the Scotch officer who said to his regiment, "Lads, there they are: if ye dinna kill them they'll kill you." Overcome, or be overcome. There is no avoiding the conflict; may we be as ignorant of what it is to be vanquished as the British drummer boy who did not know how to beat a retreat. With regard to the evil of personal injury —

I. THE COMMON METHOD IS TO OVERCOME EVIL WITH EVIL. "Give him a Roland for his Oliver." "Give him as good as he sends." "Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." "Be six to his half dozen." I might go on with a score of proverbs all inculcating the sentiment of meeting evil with evil.

1. This is a most natural procedure. You need not train your children to it; they will of their own accord beat the post against which they stumble. But to which part of us is it natural? To the new nature or the animal in us? "Good for evil is Godlike; good for good is man-like: evil for good is devil-like; evil for evil," — what is that? Beast-like. Surely we cannot allow the lower part of our triple nature to dictate to our heaven-born spirit. That returning evil for evil looks like rough and ready justice I admit, but is any man prepared to stand before God on the same terms?

2. It is very easy. If you make it a rule that nobody shall ever treat you with disrespect without meeting his match, you need not pray God to help you. The devil will help you, and between the two the thing may be very easily managed. But is that which is so easy to the very worst of men the right procedure for those who ought to be the best of men?

3. By many it has been judged the more manly course. Years ago a gentleman felt it necessary to wipe out an insult with blood. The spirit of Christianity has by degrees overcome this evil, but even now to be gentle is considered to be unworthy of a man of spirit. Now there is but one model of a Christian man, and that is the man Christ Jesus, and whatever is Christly is manly. Hear, then, how He rebukes John for calling for fire to consume the Samaritans, and Peter for assaulting Malchus, and His prayer for His murderers.

4. It does not succeed. Nobody ever overcame evil by confronting it with evil. Such a course increases the evil. When a great fire is blazing it is a strange way of putting it out to pump petroleum upon it. And what is worse, when we assail evil with evil it injures us most. Our enemies are not worth putting ourselves out about, and ten minutes of a palpitating heart, and of a disturbed circulation, causes us greater real damage in body than an enemy could inflict in seven years. Let us not so please our foes. Evil for evil is an edged tool which cuts the man who uses it: a kind of cannon which is most dangerous to those who fire it, both in its discharge and in its recoil. If you wished to destroy your enemy it would be wise to make him a present of it.

5. It does not bear inspection. If we cannot pray about it, or praise about it, or think about it on our death-bed, let us let it alone.


1. This is a very elevated mode of procedure. "Ridiculous!" says one; "Utopian," cries another. Well, if it be difficult I commend it to you because it is so; what is there which is good which is not also difficult? Soldiers of Christ love those virtues most which cost them most.

2. It preserves the man from evil. If evil assails you, and you only fight it with good, it cannot hurt you, you are invulnerable. If a man has slandered you, but you never return him a reproachful word, he has not hurt your real character; the dirt which he has thrown has missed you, for you have none to throwback upon him. The very thing your enemy wants is to make you descend to his level, but, as long as you remain unprovoked, you vanquish him. Believe me, you are provoking your adversary terribly if you are quite calm yourself, you are disappointing him, he cannot insert his poisoned darts, for you are clad in armour of proof.

3. It is the very best weapon of offence against the opposer. William Ladd had a farm in one of the states of America, and his neighbour Pulsifer's sheep were very fond of a fine field of grain belonging to Mr. Ladd, and were in it continually. Complaints were of no use, so one morning Ladd said to his men, " Set the dogs on those sheep, and if that won't keep them out, shoot them." After he had said that, he thought to himself, "This will not do. I had better try the peace principle." So he countermanded the order, and rode over to see his neighbour about those troublesome sheep. "Neighbour," said he, "I have come to see you about those sheep." "Yes," Pulsifer replied, "I know. You are a pretty neighbour, and a rich man, too, and going to shoot a poor man's sheep!" Then followed some strong language, but Ladd replied, "I am sorry for it; but, neighbour, we may as well agree. It seems I have got to keep your sheep, and it won't do to let them eat all that grain, so I came over to say that I will take them into my homestead pasture and I will keep them all the season." Pulsifer looked confounded, and, when he found that Ladd was in earnest, said, "The sheep sha'n't trouble you any more. When you talk about shooting, I can shoot as well as you; but when you speak in that kind way I can be kind too." The sheep never trespassed on Ladd's lot any more. That is the way to kill a bad spirit. It is much the same as when a certain duke proclaimed war against a peaceful neighbour, who was resolved not to fight. The troops came riding to the town, and found the gates open as on ordinary occasions. The children were playing in the streets, and the people were at work; and so, pulling up their horses, the soldiers inquired, "Where is the enemy?" "We don't know, we are friends." What was to be done under the circumstances but to ride home? So it is in life, if you only meet evil with good, the bad man's occupation is gone.

4. Sometimes it is the means of the conversion of evil men. Some years ago a wicked sailor was engaged in tarring a vessel, and there came along an old Christian man. One of the sailor's mates said, "Jack, you could not provoke that man." Jack was quite sure he could, and it became the subject of a wager. The wicked fellow took his bucket of tar, and threw it right over the good old man. The old man turned round and calmly said to him, "Christ has said that he who offends one of His little ones will find that it were better for him that a mill-stone had been tied about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea: now, if I am one of Christ's little ones, it will be very bad for you." Jack slunk back dreadfully ashamed of himself. What was more, the old man's quiet face haunted him; and those tremendous words broke him down before the mercy-seat. He asked and found pardon; he sought out the old man, confessed his fault, and received forgiveness. Now suppose the old man had turned round on him, who could have blamed him? But then there would have been no triumph of grace in the Christian, and no conversion in the sinner.

5. It reflects great honour upon Christ. When one of the martyrs was being tortured the tyrant said to him, "And what has your Christ ever done for you that you should bear this?" He replied, "He has done this for me, that in the midst of all my pain, I do nothing else but pray for you." Ah, Lord Jesus, Thou hast taught us how to conquer, for Thou hast conquered.Conclusion: Everything that is admirable may be said of this method of overcoming evil with good.

1. A Christian man is the noblest work of God, and one of his noblest features is readiness to forgive. The Emperor Adrian, before he reached the throne, had been grievously insulted. When he had attained the imperial purple he met the man who had used him ill. The guilty person was, of course, dreadfully afraid of his mighty foe. Adrian cried out, "Approach. You have nothing to fear; I am an Emperor!" Did this heathen feel that his dignity lifted him above the meanness of revenge? Then let those whom Christ has made kings unto God scorn to render evil for evil.

2. Good for evil is congruous with the spirit of the gospel. Were we not saved because the Lord rendered to us good for evil?

3. This spirit is the Spirit of God, and he that hath it becomes like to God.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. By his passions, which subdue his reason. He becomes the author of slavery to himself, and is his own tyrant.

2. An angry man is not only enslaved by his passions, but he is frequently overcome by his adversary. Fury and rage generally defeat their own designs, by taking men wholly off their guard, and leaving them open to the attacks of their more wary opponents.

3. A revengeful passionate man is in danger of being overcome in a yet worse sense; he is in danger of being hurried into such crimes as will not only affect his peace and reputation at present, but will hazard his eternal happiness hereafter.


1. He who finds himself naturally addicted to passion ought to guard perpetually against the first tendencies to resentment in his mind.

2. It will probably be of use to the persons for whose service this discourse is intended, to let them know the opinion of wise men concerning this spirit of revenge. And, in their sense, it is owing to a littleness of mind, while they who have studied human nature have observed that men of the weakest capacities are generally most liable to it. This is the concurring opinion both of ancient poets and philosophers; and hence it was, no doubt, that a great man observed, "that the vulgar wrote their injuries on marble, but their benefits on sand." It was also finely said by Cicero, that "Caesar forgot nothing but injuries"; and a distinguished person among the moderns, when his memory was appealed to for the support of an invidious story, replied, "he remembered to forget it."


1. Whenever you meet with anything shocking in the common behaviour of life, whenever you are alarmed by unpremeditated offences, remember your own frailties, remember your God, infinitely indulging to these frailties; and from these motives be forbearing, forgiving to others.

2. Happy is the man who can attain to this mastery of morality, and gain that command of passion and superiority of judgment which is necessary to carry him on sweetly through all the ruffles of human life. The possessor of such a temper may be said to have in him the virtue of the load-stone, he wins the affections of others to himself, draws them insensibly to his own point, and leads them, by degrees, into the same good-natured disposition he enjoys.

3. This amiable temper does not only conciliate the goodwill and esteem of men towards us, but peculiarly entitles us to the praise of being formed after the image of God.

(J. Smedley, M.A.)

The advice is short, comprised in a few words; but it is withal full and instructive, and carries a great deal of good matter in it. The apostle's manner of wording the thing is observable; for there is a particular force and beauty in the very expression. Being sensible that the forgiving an injury or the not revenging it is commonly looked upon as a kind of yielding to an adversary (which is what the pride of human nature is most averse to), he prudently anticipates the thought, and gives it quite another turn, insinuating that all desire of revenge is yielding and submitting to an enemy; is as much as confessing that he has disturbed us to that degree, that we are no longer able to command our temper and to be really masters of ourselves. Overflowing with rage and resentment upon such occasions is betraying a littleness of mind, and proclaiming our own defeat.

I. BE NOT OVERCOME OF EVIL. Suffer not any affront to get the better of you.

1. Let not any affront or injury have the superiority over your reason, considering yourself now only as a man, without taking in the additional consideration of your being a Christian also. A passionate furious warrior neither sees an advantage nor knows how to use it; while he is all fire, and no conduct, he does but expose his forces, and at length becomes himself an easy prey to the enemy. But a man of cool and steady courage, who does nothing precipitately, he is the man that maintains his ground, and comes off victorious in the end.

2. But further, to advance to a yet higher consideration, put the case thus: Suffer not any affronts or injuries to get the better of your piety, or of your duty towards God. God permits us not to revenge, or resent our own wrongs. This is no more than every master of a family will demand; that any disputes in his family among his servants be decided by him, and left to his censure and correction. But a question here arises by the way, whether, after a man has referred his cause to God, laying aside all thoughts of revenging himself, he may then pray to God to avenge him, or may take pleasure in observing that the Divine vengeance has fallen down upon his adversary. Much may be pleaded on both sides. What seems to me to come nearest to the truth, is as follows: The peace of the world is much concerned in this — that we never avenge ourselves but refer all vengeance to God. This is the main thing; and if this be carefully observed, we may be the less solicitous about the rest. There is a just pleasure which a good man may take, in seeing the Divine vengeance fall upon very bad men, because such men are enemies to mankind; and so rejoicing in their fall is rejoicing in the public goeth And for the same reason it may not be improper, in some cases, to beg of God to curb or punish them, in such a way as His wisdom shall see proper. And it is of such cases as these that I understand some Scripture-imprecations, if they be really such; which, besides, were pronounced by persons extraordinarily commissioned to imprecate, as from God. As to private injuries, in which the public is very little or not at all concerned, there, as I conceive, is no room left for rejoicing in the Divine judgments upon the adversaries; first, because we are very uncertain whether those judgments are brought upon them on any such account as we might fondly suppose; and next, because, as we are all sinners, we know not whether we ourselves are not justly liable to the same or greater.

3. Having shown how we ought not to suffer any offence or injury to get-the better of our piety towards God, I have but one step more to advance; namely, not to suffer it to prevail over our charity towards man. This article I make distinct from the former, inasmuch as not taking revenge upon an adversary is one thing, and doing him kind offices is another. I say then, let not any injurious usage of an enemy prevent our doing him good.

II. OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD. This implies all the kind offices towards an enemy which we are capable of doing, consistent with our own safety, or with our obligations to others. Our blessed Lord's instructions upon this head may serve as a good comment upon this part of the text (Matthew 44, 45).

1. The overcoming evil with good, may be understood of conquering an enemy by kindness, so that he may cease to malign us; for then the evil is overcome, as it is put an end to. Such a conduct contributes much to the peace of society, and to the general good of mankind, which is alone sufficient to recommend if with every wise and considering man. And that it may not be suspected that there is anything of tameness or mean-spiritedness in this conduct, the advantage in point of dignity and esteem really lies on the side of the good-natured and peaceable man. There is a greatness of mind shown in being above little piques and childish altercations. There is triumph and conquest seen in the command a man has over his own temper and passions.

2. That there is yet another kind of conquest to be obtained, by persevering in doing good against evil. For though you do not thus conquer the man's pride or ill nature, yet you conquer your own passions. There is a kind of contest and emulation in such a case which shall be first weary and vanquished, the malice and iniquity of one, or the patience and goodness of the other. He who abides in doing good against evil may be said to be a person of invincible kindness and generosity, unconquerable love and charity.

3. I know but one objection of any moment against this conduct, which is this: that it may seem to give too much encouragement to malicious men to persist in their iniquity, and may also strengthen their hands against ourselves to do us the more mischief. To which I answer that, were it really true that it carried this single inconvenience with it; yet, so long as there are innumerable conveniences on the other side, more than sufficient to counterbalance it, this single difficulty ought to be no objection against it. But I have this thing to add further; that the principles which I have been maintaining do not oblige a man to lay himself open to his enemy, or to give himself up into his power. He may do him kind offices, without making a friend or a confidant of him; may oblige and serve him without running into his arms. The Scripture bids us be kind and generous; and yet bids us also beware of ill men, and not to deliver ourselves up thoughtlessly into their hands. Love and charity are one thing, easiness and folly another.

(D. Waterland, D.D.)

A very good man once said, "If there is any one particular temper I desire more than another, it is the grace of meekness; quietly to bear ill-treatment, to forget and forgive; and at the same time that I am sensible I am injured, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good." But this sentiment, be it remembered, could be learned only from heaven. It did not belong to the systems of heathen philosophy. At the dawn of the age of mercy, a Pliny said, but had learned the sentiment from that very religion he affected to despise, "I esteem him the best good man, who forgives others, as though he were every day faulty himself; and who at the same time abstains from faults, as if he pardoned no one." But it was One from heaven who came down in all the amiableness of God, and taught the world principles of kindness; that to forgive is possible, and that the meek are blessed.

I. WHEN MAY IT BE CONSIDERED THAT ONE IS OVERCOME OF EVIL? This is a calamity that may doubtless happen to the good man, but is a matter of every day's occurrence to the multitudes of the ungodly. I remark, then, that a man is overcome of evil —

1. When ill-treatment excites the angry passions, and produces harsh and ill-natured language. This unhappy result was perhaps the very design of the onset. The foe has gained his whole object, and his antagonist is vanquished.

2. One is still more completely overcome of evil, when he settles down into confirmed hatred of the offender. By suffering anger to rest in his bosom, he becomes in God's esteem a fool.

3. One is overcome of evil when he indulges designs of revenge. We suffer ourselves to be driven from the delightful duty of doing good to all men, the only post where we can be happy.

4. We are overcome of evil, when the ill-treatment of one leads us to suspect the friendship of others. Our apprehensions are the very demons that break the tie of friendship, and dissolve the bonds of brotherhood. They beget distance, caution, jealousy, and neglect, and the result is abandonment and hatred.

5. We are more yet completely overcome of evil, when abuse begets habitual sourness of temper.

6. One is overcome of evil, when he attempts unnecessarily a public vindication of his character. I say unnecessarily, for it cannot be denied that a good man, without his wish, may be forced into such a measure. Often is this the very object which some malicious foe would accomplish.


1. He who would designedly injure us does himself a greater injury. There is in nature, or rather in the Divine purpose, a principle of prompt and powerful reaction. Let one attack your character, and sure as life he hurts his own. Let him spread an ill report, and that report will recoil upon his own reputation. Or would he merely disturb your peace, let him but alone, and his own peace is injured more than yours. God can give you a peace that nothing can disturb. If you must unjustly suffer, God can support you and comfort you, but this He will not do for the man who wrongs you. Now if the man who intended to injure us has wounded himself, then we should pity him, and pray for him, and not study a duplicate revenge.

2. If we resist evil we are invariably injured. The foe is the more courageous, the more fierce and prompt the repulse he meets with. He exhibits now a prowess that he could never have summoned, had he coped with mere non-resistance. A slanderous report is repeated and magnified, because it has been wrathfully contradicted.

3. It will calm us in an hour of onset to feel that wicked men are God's sword.

4. It will be a timely and sweet reflection, for a period of abuse, that ill-treatment is among the all things that shall work together for our good.

5. It should ever be our reflection in the hour of attack, that to be like Christ we must not resist evil

6. Finally, there is the direct command of God. No precept can be more binding than the text. A Christian is but a pardoned rebel, and may not avenge himself. And all others may well fear to be vindictive, lest wrath come upon them to the uttermost. With the same measure that we mete, it shall be measured to us again.


1. To do this will require the sacrifice of bad passions. The unrenewed heart has a keen relish for revenge.

2. If one treats us unkindly we must treat him well. If he defame, let us say the kindest things possible of him. If he hurt our interest, let us advance his. If he will not oblige us, we must do kindnesses to him. If he deals reproach, we must practise no retort.

(D. A. Clark.)

(children's sermon): — One of our most familiar proverbs tells us that "two blacks do not make a white," which means that whether other people do right or wrong, we must always try to do right. We must try to conquer badness by goodness.

I. OVERCOME EVIL TEMPERS WITH GOOD TEMPER. Some one is very cross with you. Your natural impulse is to be just as cross in return. But to do that is to own yourself beaten, and no Englishman likes to be defeated. Besides, it will be like pouring oil upon the flame of the angry person. Then try the opposite plan. Return a smile for a frown; courtesy for rudeness. It will not be long before you win the day. There was once a quarrel between the wind and the sun. Each claimed to be the strongest, and one morning they agreed to put their powers to the proof. A traveller had just set out well wrapt up in a warm overcoat, and the wind challenged the sun to see which of them could make him take off his coat. So it swept down from the N.E., and howled past the poor traveller; but the harder it blew, the closer he buttoned his coat, and at last the wind gave up in despair. Then the sun began to peep out, and as the wind fell, and the sunshine became, more powerful, the traveller loosed first one button and then another, until his coat was quite unfastened. And the sun kept on shining until the traveller took his coat right off. Then the wind acknowledged that the sun was mightier. It is just so in our lives. If one meets you who wears a shabby coat of ill-temper, your frowning won't make him lay it aside. But, if you meet him with a smile, he will soon throw it away in disgust.

II. OVERCOME EVIL WORDS WITH GOOD WORDS. In olden times the sword was the principal weapon in war, and soldiers used to learn to do very wonderful feats. They would split a splinter as it stood erect upon the table, or divide an apple upon your hand without letting the edge of the sword touch your palm. But the hardest feat was to cut through a down pillow. In the sieges of those days soldiers used great battering rams to knock down the walls. But those who were inside used to let down bags of chaff and beds, and the strokes, which would have made a breach in the solid walls, fell quite harmlessly upon these soft cushions. Both the sword and the ram found soft things to be the hardest to penetrate. The best defence against the weapons of anger is not harshness, but gentleness. A little boy was one day playing where there was an echo. "Hallo!" he shouted. "Hallo!" said Echo. "Who are you?" he asked. "Who are you?" was the reply. And he fancied that some other boy was mocking him, and became very angry. "Why don't you come out?" he cried. "Come out!" answered Echo. Quite exasperated, he shouted, "I'll fight you!" and the voice replied,: "Fight you!" Then the little fellow ran home and told his mother that there was a boy in the forest who mocked him and made fun of him and threatened to fight him. And his wise mother, who knew all about the echo, smiled, and said, "Run out again and shout, 'I love you,' and see what answer comes." So the child ran out and shouted "I love you," and Echo replied, "I love you." Is it not a beautiful lesson? If you make faces before the mirror, you see all the ugly looks reflected on its bright surface. And so the people around us often reflect our own temper and speech. "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

III. OVERCOME EVIL DEEDS WITH GOOD DEEDS. This is what the apostle especially refers to in our text. There was a publichouse where many young men used to gather on the Lord's day, and an old man named William Haywood was grieved to see so many treading the path of the destroyer. So he used to take his stand outside the windows, sing "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow"; and then, with earnest pleading, warn the revellers of their folly and sin, and point them to Christ. This made these wild young fellows very angry, and one day one of them, who had filled a pail with foul water, came behind him and emptied it on his head. They thought that would anger him beyond endurance, and that he would be ashamed to talk to them any more. But no. The old man exclaimed: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name!" And then, falling on his knees, he prayed for the reckless men. They were melted by his words, and slunk away; and the ringleaders became devoted Christians. Oh! if boys and girls would learn this lesson, what happy homes there would be! In most cases it seems to be quite otherwise. A brother and sister come to words about a mere trifle, and words lead to blows, and perhaps for many days these foolish children will spite one another, and make each other miserable.

(G. H. James.)

A delegate of the Christian Commission, passing among the wounded at Gettysburg, said to a wounded confederate officer, "Colonel, can I do anything for you?" "No!" was his defiant reply. The offer was repeated, after a time, with like result. The air became offensive from heat and wounds. The delegate offered to put cologne on his handkerchief. The officer, bursting into tears, said, "I have no handkerchief." "You shall have one," said the delegate, wetting his own, and giving it to him. The subdued rebel said, "I can't understand you Yankees: you fight us like devils, and then you treat us like angels. I am sorry I entered this war."

1. Christianity, it has been said, is deficient in the masculine virtues. Our answer is that in this chapter you have a catalogue of Christian virtues, and amongst them is one which does not always find a place even in the virtues of the world: the virtue of hatred. We are to abhor what is evil. Christianity is not deficient in contending power. She recognises that there is an enemy to be fought, and she is determined to contend against it.

2. But it may be said, "Hatred of evil is not victory over it; and it is an imbecile kind of virtue which contents itself with indignation and does not apply itself to some remedy." The apostle gives the remedy. Because we abhor evil we will not therefore be overcome by evil; we will not ally ourselves with any evil, even though we imagine that the alliance will give us a transient victory over it. The only weapon wherewith we will encounter it is good.

3. But is it possible to overcome evil with good?

I. THE TEACHING OF ALL OUR EXPERIENCE IS THAT THIS IS THE BEST METHOD OF ENCOUNTERING EVIL. There are two methods by which we may oppose evil; the one is the method of impulse, the other of reflection. In the first heat of virtuous indignation, we are inclined to cry out, "Away with such a fellow from the world; it is not fit that he should live." But that is only making the alliance, for the moment, with the evil, to overcome it. Now the other method is far better. It says, "I will not meet persecution with violence, falsehood with falsehood. Against falsehood I will present truth, against violence righteousness." Let me appeal to the simplest spheres within the experience of man.

1. Take the physical sphere. The ancient theory regarding disease was that the element of evil must be expelled at all costs, and the result of medical treatment was the utter weakening of the patient, his death often, in the endeavour to secure his cure. But a milder and a wiser spirit has gradually grown up, and men have come to see that they must support, by every means, the life within the man. Give the patient vigour, and the natural forces will cast off the evil.

2. How do you deal with your children? Are you trying to teach them to excel in any particular art by pointing out their faults and failures? You know that is not the way to success. You may criticise if you will; but the spirit of criticism has never educated any one. The spirit of appreciation, the spirit of imitation — these are the secrets of power.

3. It is true also in moral matters. There are three great enemies which assail us in the three different periods of our life.(1) The child has its enemy — the spirit of energetic force which is longing for some occupation. How long will you deal with the child whose mere animal restlessness has become troublesome to you? Do you believe in the virtue of teaching him to sit still? No; you give him something to do. You withhold him from the evil by giving him the good.(2) Later comes the other passion. The energy begins to show itself in attachments and enthusiasms to hero worship, or the worship of womanhood. Are you going to meet that with the everlasting "Nay"? If so, you create a miserable failure, because you give no fair opportunity for the sweet and ennobling attachments of life; you forget to overcome the evil by giving it the good.(3) Later on, life has lost the elasticity of youth, and you have reached the time when your great desire is quietude. There comes upon you sorrow and bereavement and loss, and your cry to kindly friends, who gather round you with their fussy sympathy, is, "Let me alone that I may bewail myself a little." The man of sorrow who has felt the vacant chaff well meant for grain that his fellows have flung as something to satisfy the hunger of his sorrow — do not tell him to forget, to cease to grieve; tell him that sorrow is the dowry of God upon the heart that can love, and that there is no experience of God that is not in itself the promise of some new power; and, therefore, the opportunity of some wider usefulness. Give him occupation; tell him of the activities of sympathy which are really the natural result and desires of the heart that sorrows truly, and his soul will wake up; he will see the life that he thought useless is useless no longer. You overcome, then, the evil by the good.

4. It is true also in the religious world. Israel's evil was idolatry. The prophets spoke and the prophets failed; and at last came the terrible penalty — the Exile, which purged out the old leaven. But there was no positive element in their religious life. When they returned they did not worship gods, but they idolised themselves, and Phariseeism grew upon the ruins of the overthrown idolatry of the past. Then came God manifest in the flesh, and men have since found in Him who is to be loved and reverenced, that there was the good that was to expel the evil.

II. IT IS IRRATIONAL TO SUPPOSE THAT WE CAN OVERCOME IT IN ANY OTHER WAY, for this reason: — There are three elements in the consideration; and he who seeks for mere antagonism to kill the evil —

1. Forgets the man. For what is your idea about evil? Is it a thing that is so part of man's manhood that his very individuality is concerned in it, or is it like a disease? The truth is that the evil is in the man; and hence your aim is not to kill the man, but rather to deliver him from the power of evil. To meet, therefore, evil by violence, by the spirit which makes an easy alliance with the very wrongs which are denounced of God, fails of its purpose, for it kills in its attempt to cure.

2. Forgets the law. If we have any faith in the moral order of the universe, our answer to every temptation to meet evil with evil is this, "I grant it might answer to-day; but am I sure it would answer in the long run?" Our Master was tempted for the great gain to do the little wrong. But His answer was No! and that must be ours. And why? Because the laws that govern the world are the laws of righteousness. It is never worth while to do evil that good may come.(1) This is written large upon the history of the world. You never can carry on the progress of the world if you, at every provocation and delay, impatiently grasp hold of the law, and subvert the very principles on which the world has been built.(2) It is written large in the story of the Church. Whenever she followed the arms of the enemy it turned against her; her right hand forgot her cunning; she became the travesty of her former self — no longer in gorgeous array, going forth conquering and to conquer, but livid with the power of that evil with which she became incorporated. You cannot challenge the victorious and eternal laws of God, and you can only meet and overcome the evil by the good.

3. Forgets God; for suppose we are tempted to make use of some transient evil to achieve some great good. The little falsehood, the little elasticity of conscience, declares that you do not believe that God is eternally good, and that you believe in the energy of evil more than in the energy of good. But the Cross tells us that victory lies in the hands of him who will use the Divine weapons and eschew the carnal ones; by that Christ overcame evil with good.

(Bp. Boyd Carpenter.)

There are —

I. ADVERSARIES OF THE GOSPEL. It is a mistake to say that these are now more numerous or formidable than they were. The "higher criticism," the antagonism of modern science to the Bible, etc., only present in a fresh form the difficulties that have always confronted the Christian. The enemies of truth may be more active, and we may be more thrown into contact with them, and so the evil may be more apparent, but there is no reason to believe that it is more widespread, or, save from the position of some of its advocates, more pernicious. The question is, How are we to deal with it so as to produce the best results? The true answer is that of the text.

1. We are overcome with evil if we indulge in a spirit of mere antagonism. Those against whom we have to contend need the gospel, and have the same right to a share in its provision as ourselves. A spirit of self-righteousness may dispose us to look down upon them, and a feeling of uncharitableness may lead us to provoke them with our denunciations. We may be more anxious to overwhelm an adversary than to win a soul. We forget that Christ bears with them, and so our zeal becomes unchrist-like.

2. But we are not less overcome with evil if we speak in a tone which betrays an indifference to the truth. Desire to win the champions of error, the effort to do them more than justice, must not degenerate into a latitudinarian charity. To shrink from the faithful exposure of error, lest the feelings of some should be wounded, to talk as though sincerity were everything, this is to abuse liberty, and thus to be overcome with evil.

3. There is a more excellent way, and that is to overcome error by confronting it with the truth. The effort of the Christian should not be always to meet objections, but rather to exhibit the gospel in its own simplicity. Many a heart, perplexed by the adversaries' subtleties, and bewildered by our best answers, would be won by a faithful proclamation of the truth.


1. There has been too much of a sectarian spirit in all ages. Not only have there been differences, but alienation of heart. There has been a disposition to disbelieve in the existence of goodness beyond our own pale. A spirit of rivalry has introduced itself, and men have done for the love of party what they would not do from pure Christian motive. And where a man's convictions are strong, it is very hard for him to appreciate the position of those who differ from him, and unless there be restraining influence, there will naturally be a strong display of feeling. But such restraining power there is, and its sway ought to be more widely felt. The children of one family, the redeemed, of one Saviour, should never, amid their differences, forget their essential unity.

2. But there is more danger here than in the war against scepticism, lest we yield too much to the demands of that charity which exists only so long as an opponent is content to hold his own opinions in abeyance. Many virtually say to all who differ from them, "Be silent on every point of separation, never raise your voice against what you deem to be evils, lest you offend us, and then we will meet you." This is no charity at all. The true language of charity is, "Hold your own opinions firmly; I may not be able to accept them, but I will believe your sincerity. I claim only the like liberty as my right; I will wear no trammels, and I will impose none; so long as we rejoice in a common salvation, march under a common banner, whatever be our other differences we will love as brethren." Truth is not ours to trifle with; to keep it hidden lest some friend might be "offended with something in its appearance. This indeed is to be overcome with evil. By faithfulness and all carefulness in relation to the scruples of our brethren; by firmness blended with gentleness, we shall best approve our own Christianity, and advance the interests of truth.

III. PERSONAL ADVERSARIES. Let a man take an earnest, upright, straightforward course, and he may expect to have some foes. Envy will raise up some who grudge him every honour. Differences of opinion too often degenerate into personal antagonisms, and there are, besides, these offences which, in our imperfect state, always will arise. It is very important that in them all the Christian should indicate that the spirit dwelling in him is other than that which has its place in the world. On the world's theory retaliation is justifiable. But to the Christian it stands condemned by the precepts and the example of his Lord. We who have had so much forgiven, must ourselves forgive. We must conquer hatred by a display of that charity that is not easily provoked, and which thinketh no evil. Be it ours then to overcome evil with good. There are two aspects in which we may ever regard human characters and deeds. The one is uncharitable; the other kind. The one presents every feature of another's character in the worst light; the other labours to discover the good.

(J. G. Rogers, B.A.)

I. THE COMMAND TO HOLD OUT. "Be not overcome of evil."

I. The Christian ought to be unconquerable, for he has an inexhaustible power to resist all onsets. If he desert not his position, his supplies cannot be cut off. This injunction was peculiarly appropriate to the Church at Rome, where power was almost deified. The apostle, no doubt, had this in view when he declared that the gospel was the power of God. He now urges the exercise of this latent power. Numberless assaults have been made on the Church of Christ, but it still thrives. It has sustained what were, apparently, many defeats; but it soon rallied, and gave fresh proofs of its invincibility.

2. Taken in its connection, the text gives prominence to suffering. Christians are discomfited when they lose the power of suffering in a Christlike spirit. The moment they begin to fight evil on its own low level, their high position is already taken. Vengeance is a weapon too dangerous for them to handle. In God's hand it is the flashing sword of justice; the Christian, however, is more likely to hurt himself than to wound his adversary with it. A hasty temper is a vulnerable point in a good man's character. "He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." A graphic portraiture that — a city easily sacked; falling a prey to the firstcomer; so is he who has lost control over himself. On the other hand, "He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city." He has subjugated his greatest enemy, and, as a consequence, is endowed with a vast power of resistance.

II. PAUL ADVANCES BOLDLY FROM THE DEFENSIVE TO THE OFFENSIVE. A besieged city remains unconquered as long as the hostile forces are kept outside the wails; but the besieging army must be repelled before it can claim a victory. In virtue of the resources available to him, the Christian is able to endure a long siege; but it is his imperative duty to advance and put to flight the army of the alien, for it is with the conqueror that Christ promises to share His throne. And inasmuch as we have a Captain made perfect through suffering, we are urged to follow on bravely in His steps. The lines on which the great conflict should be waged are clearly indicated in His life and death. His command to fight evil after His own example may be taken as a certain guarantee of His presence and assistance. Let this inspire us with undaunted courage in our direst extremities.

III. THE MEANS WHEREBY TO ACHIEVE THE VICTORY. Much liberty is afforded us in the choice of our weapons, for we are only confined to the world of good; and that is very large. But we are strictly forbidden to fetch any from the enemy's camp. Nor is there the slightest necessity for employing foreign arms, seeing that the most effective are manufactured in our own country. In the opinion of the world they are harmless; in moments of weakness we are tempted to distrust their efficacy; still the command holds good — "Overcome evil with good." Kindness is the only instrument we are permitted to use. This is the return fire, and it cannot but eventually silence the enemy's guns and that without slaying the gunners. The artillery of evil is poor compared with that of good. Touching instances are afforded of the subduing efficacy of good in the history of Saul and David. The weapons here prescribed were the weapons which the Saviour Himself wielded in His terrific conflict against the kingdom of evil. He died for enemies, and slew the enmity of man through His Cross, thus converting an enemy into a friend — the highest and completest victory imaginable.

(W. Jenkins, M.A.)

1. The world is a battlefield, and we are all not only under arms, but under fire. No man lives to himself; the whole fabric of society suffers for the misdeeds of one of its members. Every prodigal brings dishonour on the home, every deed of violence lessens our sense of personal security, every adulterer weakens the integrity of the marriage bond, every dishonesty hardens us against strangers, etc. Hence we are concerned not only in the evil done to ourselves, but in that done anywhere.

2. And we should be moved to protect the community as fellow-workers with Christ. Every true Christian has a touch of the knight errant in him. He is his brother's keeper, and this view of Divine chivalry is shared by many a one who has been blamed as busybody. When Christians first appeared people called them "the men that turned the world upside down."

I. BE NOT OVERCOME OF EVIL. Don't yield to it. Don't turn your back upon it and say, "It is no business of mine." What should we think of the man who shrank away from some great famine or pestilence without a kind thought or deed for the sufferers? However safe, he would be overcome of the evil. When we shut our eyes from any general trouble we yield to it. And when the evil threatens ourselves the rule still holds good.

II. OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD. We may not be content with a mere protest against evil. In the great battle we may not deliver our shot and then step back, saying, "I have done my part." We must hold on until we win or until the Captain calls us out of the ranks.

1. Suppose the evil we contend against is a personal one. A man has injured you. The world might say, "Get your revenge." The apostle says, "Conquer it by good." Never let the enemy say he has silenced you. Some day repay him with an unexpected thrust of goodness. And in order to do this you must fight against the evil in the man rather than against the man himself. Even when you are compelled to enforce the law against him, do not sting or degrade him.

2. Suppose the evil be general — the prevalence of immorality or infidelity. If you think you cannot do away with it altogether, do not yield to it yourself. If you live in a dirty street you can keep your own doorstep clean. If you can do no more you can be a Noah or an Elijah. You may have to fight single-handed, but with the power which backs you, you can do that. But you must strive lawfully — viz., by doing good. The best answer to deceit is fair dealing. Darkness flies before the light. Falsehood is built on sand, and will some day come down of itself. Don't, then, pull it down; but prove the strength of truth by building upon the rock.

(Harry Jones, M.A.)

(children's sermon): — To "overcome evil with good" is —

I. THE CHEAPEST WARFARE. War is One of the dearest things that men have to do with. The Napoleonic wars cost England £200,000 every day. It costs the nations of Europe, to keep up the preparations of war, £200,000,000 every year. What a frightful sum to pay, just for the sake of killing men. Why, with a very small part of that sum we could clothe and feed all the poor people in the world, and send missionaries wherever they were needed. But to "overcome evil with good" it is not necessary to buy guns, swords, etc. Kind words cost nothing; and kind actions cost next to nothing.

II. THE PLEASANTEST. The other warfares in which men engage are very unpleasant from —

1. The labour involved. Soldiers often have to make long and fatiguing journeys, with heavy burdens on their backs. Think of what British soldiers during the Indian Mutiny had to suffer, and Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign. But there is no toil or labour like this connected with this warfare. Here, the enemy against whom we have to fight is "Evil," and we may find it in the ugly dispositions, either in ourselves or those around us. We have no toilsome journey to undertake to find it.

2. The danger. But those who are engaged in the best warfare are perfectly safe. God takes care of them. "Who is he that can harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?"

3. The pain and suffering. But, in "the best warfare," no blood is shed; no bones are broken; no wives are made widows; no children made orphans. This warfare heals wounds, but never inflicts them. It saves life, but never destroys it.

III. THE MOST EFFECTUAL. Kindness will conquer when nothing else can. There is the greatest difference in the world between conquering by power and conquering by kindness. The former is like building a dam across a stream of water; the latter is like drying up its springs. The one is like keeping a lion from doing harm by chaining him; the other changing his nature and turning him into a lamb.

IV. THE MOST HONOURABLE. Beasts and men conquer by force, but God conquers by love. If we try to conquer by kindness or love, we are imitating God. Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon, tried to conquer the world by power, but they did not succeed. Jesus is trying to conquer the world by love. He is succeeding. He will succeed.

V. ALL MAY ENGAGE IN IT. When they are enlisting soldiers for an army, they will only take men, and men not too old, or too young. But old and young, women and children, sick and lame, may take part here, as well as strong men.

(R. Newton, D.D.)

These words imply —

1. That good and evil are in this world. This fact distinguishes this from other worlds. In heaven there is good only; in hell evil only. On earth both co-exist, though both coalesce.

2. That evil must be overcome. Its victory is ruin. No man, however bad, wishes evil to triumph.

3. That the way to overcome evil is by the force of good.

I. THIS IS THE ONLY EFFECTIVE METHOD. Can evil be overcome by evil, error by error, selfishness by, selfishness, anger by anger, etc.? The idea is a philosophical absurdity, and all history shows it to be an impossibility. Like begets like the whole universe through. This is the only effective method in overcoming evil.

1. Directed against ourselves from society. Are there those who seek our injury? Can we overcome them by resentment or violence? The constitution of the human mind must ever render such efforts futile. Here is the effective plan — "If thine enemy be hungry, feed him," etc.

2. As it is found existing everywhere in the world. Falsehood, profanity, dishonesty, etc., are to be put down only by good. Truth alone can conquer error, honesty, craft, etc.

3. As existing in our own hearts. Here it is to be overcome, not by tormenting ourselves by self-scrutiny, but by strengthening the good that is within us, and getting more. The traveller who would escape the mists that hang about mountain-sides must ascend the higher zones. So he who would escape the darkness of polluting thoughts and feelings, must struggle upwards into the purer atmosphere of good (Philippians 4:8). Evil within will only yield to the expulsive power of the good.


1. The evil of intellectual error God overcomes by the good of intellectual truth. The world's errors in relation to being and well-being, to virtue, duty, happiness, God, man, destiny, lie as a dark, oppressive atmosphere upon its heart. God overcomes this by a revelation of truth — the Bible.

2. The evil of enmity towards Him He overcomes by the good of His love toward it. Men are enemies to God by wicked works. Their opposition to heaven is their greatest crime and curse. "God so loved the world," etc.

3. The evil of corrupt life He overcomes by the good of a perfect life.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

You see that this wrought-iron plate is not flat; it sticks up a little towards the lips — "cockles," as we say. How shall we flatten it? Obviously, you reply, by hitting down on the part that is prominent. Well, here is a hammer, and I give the pinto a blow. Harder, you say. Still no effect. Another stroke, and another, and another. The prominence remains; you see the evil is as great as ever — greater indeed. But this is not all. Look at the warp which the plate has got near the opposite edge. Where it was flat before, now it is curved. A pretty bungle we have made of it. Instead of curing the original defect we have produced a second. Had we asked an artizan practised in "planishing," he would have told us that no good was to be done, but only mischief, by hitting on the projecting part. He would have taught us how to give variously directed and specially adjusted blows elsewhere, so attacking the evil not by direct but indirect action.

(Herbert Spencer.).

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