World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
39. Do not resist evil. There are two ways of resisting: the one, by warding off injuries through inoffensive conduct; the other, by retaliation.412412 “L'une par laquelle nous empeschons qu'on ne nous outrage, sans mal-faire a personne de nostre coste: l'autre, par laquelle nous rendons mal pour mal.” — “The one, by which we prevent attacks from being made on us, without doing ill to any person on our part: the other, by which we render evil for evil.” Though Christ does not permit his people to repel violence by violence, yet he does not forbid them to endeavor to avoid an unjust attack. The best interpreter of this passage that we can have is Paul, who enjoins us rather to “overcome evil by good” (Romans 12:21) than contend with evil-doers.413413 “Plustost que de rendre la pareille a celuy qui nous a mal-fait.” — “Rather than return the like to him who has done us wrong.” We must attend to the contrast between the vice and the correction of it. The present subject is retaliation.414414 “Il est ici parle de la facon de faire de ceux lesquels rendent la pareille a ceux qui les ont offensez.” — “The subject here spoken of is the manner of acting of those who render the like to those who have offended them.” To restrain his disciples from that kind of indulgence, he forbids them to render evil for evil. He afterwards extends the law of patience so far, that we are not only to bear patiently the injuries we have received, but to prepare for bearing fresh injuries. The amount of the whole admonition is, that believers should learn to forget the wrongs that have been done them, — that they should not, when injured, break out into hatred or ill-will, or wish to commit an injury on their part, — but that, the more the obstinacy and rage of wicked men was excited and inflamed, they should be the more fully disposed to exercise patience.
Whoever shall inflict a blow. Julian,415415 Julian, the Roman Emperor, generally known by the name of Julian the Apostate. The inveterate hatred of this man to the very name of our blessed Savior has gained him a painfully conspicuous place in ecclesias-tical history. — Ed. and others of the same description, have foolishly slandered this doctrine of Christ, as if it entirely overturned the laws of a country, and its civil courts. Augustine, in his fifth epistle, employs much skill and judgment in showing, that the design of Christ was merely to train the minds of believers to moderation and justice, that they might not, on receiving one or two offenses, fail or lose courage. The observation of Augustine, “that this does not lay down a rule for outward actions,” is true, if it be properly understood. I admit that Christ restrains our hands, as well as our minds, from revenge: but when any one has it in his power to protect himself and his property from injury, without exercising revenge, the words of Christ do not prevent him from turning aside gently and inoffensively to avoid the threatened attack.
Unquestionably, Christ did not intend to exhort his people to whet the malice of those, whose propensity to injure others is sufficiently strong: and if they were to turn to them the other cheek, what would it be but holding out such an encouragement? It is not the business of a good and judicious commentator to seize eagerly on syllables, but to attend to the design of the speaker: and nothing is more unbecoming the disciples of Christ, than to spend time in cavilling about words, where it is easy to see what the Master means. But in the present instance, the object which Christ has in view is perfectly obvious. He tells us, that the end of one contest will be the beginning of another, and that, through the whole course of their life, believers must lay their account with sustaining many injuries in uninterrupted succession. When wrong has been done them in a single instance, he wishes them to be trained by this example to meek submission, that by suffering they may learn to be patient.