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44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

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44. Love your enemies. This single point includes the whole of the former doctrine: for he who shall bring his mind to love those who hate him, will naturally refrain from all revenge, will patiently endure evils, will be much more prone to assist the wretched. Christ presents to us, in a summary view, the way and manner of fulfilling this precept, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, (Matthew 22:39.) For no man will ever come to obey this precept, till he shall have given up self-love, or rather denied himself, and till men, all of whom God has declared to be connected with him, shall be held by him in such estimation, that he shall even proceed to love those by whom he is regarded with hatred.

We learn from these words, how far believers ought to be removed from every kind of revenge: for they are not only forbidden to ask it from God, but are commanded to banish and efface it from their minds so completely, as to bless their enemies. In the meantime, they do not fail to commit their cause to God, till he take vengeance on the reprobate: for they desire, as far as lies in them, that the wicked should return to a sound mind, that they may not perish; and thus they endeavor to promote their salvation. And there is still this consolation, by which all their distresses are soothed. They entertain no doubt, that God will be the avenger of obstinate wickedness, so as to make it manifest, that those who are unjustly attacked are the objects of his care. It is very difficult, indeed, and altogether contrary to the disposition of the flesh, to render good for evil. But our vices and weakness ought not to be pleaded as an apology. We ought simply to inquire, what is demanded by the law of charity: for, if we rely on the heavenly power of the Spirit, we shall encounter successfully all that is opposed to it in our feelings.

This is undoubtedly the reason why monks, and other bawlers of the same class, imagined that these were advices, and not precepts, given by Christ: for they took the strength of men as the standard, for ascertaining what they owe to God and to his law. And yet the monks were not ashamed to claim perfection for themselves, having voluntarily bound themselves to attend to his advices. How faithfully they support the title to which they lay claim I do not now say:420420     “Je ne touche point pour le present combien ils s'acquittent vaillament et fidelement de ce dont ils se vantent de paroles.” — “I say nothing, for the present, as to the valiant and faithful manner in which they accomplish what they boast of in words.” but the folly and absurdity of alleging, that they are only advices, will appear from many considerations. First, to say that he advised his disciples, but did not authoritatively command them, to do what was right, is to dishonor Christ. Secondly, to represent the duties of charity, which depend on the law, as matters on which they are left at liberty, is highly foolish.421421     “C'est une chose tant et plus absurde, que les devoirs de charite, qui dependent de la Loy, soyent mis en la liberte des hommes, de les faire, ou de les laisser.” — “It is an exceedingly absurd thing, that the duties of charity, which depend on the Law, should be put in the power of men to do them, or to let them alone.” Thirdly, the words ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, but I say to you, mean in this passage, “I denounce,” or “I command,” and cannot, with propriety, be rendered, “I advise.” Lastly, that it is an express command of what must necessarily be obeyed, is proved, without any difficulty, from the words of Christ: for he immediately adds,




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