The Fountain of Life
The Fountain of Life opened up: or, a display
of Christ in his essential and mediatorial glory
by John Flavel
The Instructiveness of the Death of Christ, in his
seven last Words; the first of which is here illustrated
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not
what they do." Luke 23:34
The manner in which Christ died has already been opened
in the solitude and patience in which he died. The third, to wit, the
instructiveness of his death, now follows, in these seven excellent and
weighty sayings, which dropped from his blessed lips upon the tree, while
his sacred blood dropped on the earth from his wounded hands and feet; so
that on the cross he exercised both his priestly and Prophetic office
together, redeeming us by his blood, and instructing us by his words.
These seven words of Christ upon the cross are his last
words, with which he breathed out his soul. The last words of a dying man
are remarkable; the scripture puts a remark upon them, 2 Sam. 23:1. "Now
these be the last words of David." How remarkable are the last words of
These words are seven in number; three directed to his
Father, and four more to those about him. Of the former sort this is one,
Father, forgive them, etc. In which we have, First, The mercy desired by
Christ, and that is forgiveness. Secondly, The persons for whom it is
desired, [Them,] that is, those cruel and wicked persons that were now
imbruing their hands in his blood. And, Thirdly, The motive or argument
urged to procure that mercy from his Father, for they know not what they do.
First, The mercy prayed for, that is, forgiveness;
Father, forgive. Forgiveness is not only a mercy, a spiritual mercy, but one
of the greatest mercies a soul can obtain from God, without which, whatever
else we have from God, is no mercy to us. So great a mercy is forgiveness,
that David calls him blessed, or rather admires the blessedness of him,
"whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." This mercy, this
best of mercies, he requests for them, Father, forgive them.
Secondly, The persons for whom he requests forgiveness,
are the same that with wicked hands crucified him. Their fact was the most
horrid that ever was committed by men: they not only shed innocent blood,
but the blood of God; the best of mercies is by him desired for the worst of
Thirdly The motive or argument urged to procure this
mercy for them, is this for they know not what they do. As if he should say,
Lord, what these poor creatures do, is not so much out of malice to me as
the Son of God; but it is from their ignorance. Did they know who, and what
I am, they would rather be nailed to the cross themselves, than do it. To
the same purpose the apostle says, 1 Cor. 2:8. "Whom none of the princes of
this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the
Lord of glory." Yet this is not to be extended to all that had an hand in
the death of Christ, but to the ignorant multitude, among whom, some of
God's elect were, who afterwards believed in him, whose blood they spilt,
Acts 3:17. "And now, brethren, I wet that through ignorance you did it." For
them this prayer of Christ was heard. Hence the notes are,
DOCTRINE. 1. That ignorance is the usual cause of enmity
DOCTRINE. 2. That there is forgiveness with God for such
as oppose Christ through ignorance.
DOCTRINE. 3. That to forgive enemies, and beg forgiveness
for them is the true character and property of the Christian spirit.
These observations contain so much practical truth, that
it would be worth our time to open and apply them distinctly,
DOCTRINE. 1. That ignorance is the usual cause of enmity
"These things (says the Lord) will they do, because they
have "not known the Father, nor me," John 16:3. What thing does he mean?
Why, kill and destroy the people of God, and therein suppose they do God
good service, (that is) think to oblige and gratify the Father, by their
butchering his children. So Jer 9:3. "They proceed from evil to evil; and
have not known me, " says the Lord," q.d. Had they the knowledge of God,
this would check and stop them in their ways of wickedness? and so Psalm.
74:20. "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of
Three things must be inquired into, namely, what their
ignorance of Christ was. Whence it was. And how it disposed them to such
enmity against him.
First. What was their ignorance who crucified Christ?
Ignorance is two-fold, simple, or respective. Simple ignorance is not
supposable in these persons, for in many things they were a knowing people.
But it was respective, particular ignorance, Rom. 9:25. "Blindness in part
is happened to Israel." They knew many other truths, but did not know Jesus
Christ; in that their eyes were held. Natural light they had; yes, and
scripture light they had; but in this particular, that this was the Son of
God, the Savior of the world, therein they were blind and ignorant.
But how could that be! Had they not heard at least of his
miraculous works? Did they not see how his birth, life and death, squared
with the prophecies, both in time, place, and manner? Whence should this
their ignorance be when they saw, or at least might have seen, the
scriptures fulfilled in him; and that he came among them in a time when they
were big with expectations of the Messiah?
It is true, indeed, they knew the scriptures; and it
cannot but be supposed the fame of his mighty works had reached their ears:
First, Though they had the scriptures among them, they
misunderstood them; and did not rightly measure Christ by that right rule.
You find, John 7:52. how they reason with Nicodemus against Christ; "Are you
also of Galilee? Search, and see: for out of Galilee arises no prophet."
Here is a double mistake: First, They supposed Christ to arise out of
Galilee, whereas he was of Bethlehem, though much conversant in the parts of
Galilee: And, Secondly, They thought, because they could find no prophet had
arisen out of Galilee, therefore none should.
Another mistake that blinded them about Christ, was from
their conceit that Christ should not die, but live forever, John 12:34. "We
have heard out of the law, that Christ abides forever: and how say you, the
Son of man must be lifted up? who is the Son of man?" That scripture which
probably they urge against the mortality of Christ, is Isa. 9:7. "Of the
increase of his government and peace, there shall be no end, upon the throne
of David," etc. In like manner, John 7:27. we find them in another mistake;
"We know this man whence he is; but when Christ comes, no man knows whence
he is." This, likely, proceeded from their misunderstanding of Micas 5:2.
"His going forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Thus were they
blinded about the person of Christ, by misinterpretations of
Secondly, Another thing occasioning their mistake of
Christ, was the outward meanness and despicableness of his condition. They
expected a pompous Messiah, one that should come with state and glory,
becoming the king of Israel. But when they saw him in the form of a servant,
coming in poverty, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, they utterly
rejected him: "We hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we
esteemed him not," Isa. 53:3. Nor is it any great wonder these should be
scandalised at his poverty when the disciples themselves had such carnal
apprehensions of his kingdom, Mark 10:37, 38.
Thirdly, Add to this, their implicit faith in the learned
rabbis and doctors, who utterly misled them in this matter, and greatly
prejudiced them against Christ. "Lo, (said they) he speaks boldly, and they
say nothing to him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?"
They pinned their faith upon the rulers sleeves, and suffered them to carry
it whether they would. This was their ignorance, and these its causes.
Thirdly, Let us see, in the next place, how this disposed
them to such enmity against Christ. And this it does three ways.
First, Ignorance disposes men to enmity and opposition to
Christ, by removing those hindrances that would otherwise keep them from it,
as checks and rebukes of conscience, by which they are restrained from evil;
but conscience binding and reproving in the authority and virtue of the law
of God, where that law is not known, there can be no reproofs; and therefore
we truly say, That ignorance is virtually every sin.
Secondly, Ignorance enslaves and subjects the soul to the
lusts of Satan; he is "the ruler of the darkness of this world," Eph. 6:12.
There is no work so base and vile, but an ignorant man will undertake it.
Thirdly, Nay, which is more, if a man be ignorant of
Christ, his truths, or people, he will not only oppose, and persecute, but
he will also do it conscientiously, That is, he will look upon it as his
duty so to do, John 16:3. Before the Lord opened Paul's eyes, "he verily
thought that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Christ."
Thus you have a brief account what, and whence their ignorance was, and how
it disposed and prepared them for this dreadful work. Hence we learn,
INFERENCE 1. How falsely is the gospel charged as the
cause of discord and trouble in the world. It is not light, but darkness,
that makes men fierce and cruel: as light increases, so does peace, Isa.
11:6, 9. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard lie down
with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; and
a little child shall lead them; they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my
holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as
the waters cover the sea." What a sad condition would the world be in
without gospel light! all places would be dens of rapine, and mountains of
prey. Certainly we owe much of our civil liberty, and outward tranquility to
gospel-light. If a sword, or variance, at any time, follow the gospel, it is
but an accidental, not a direct and proper effect of it.
INFERENCE. 2. How dreadful is it to oppose Christ and his
truth knowingly, and with open eyes? Christ pleads their ignorance as an
argument to procure their pardon. Paul himself was once filled with rage and
madness against Christ and his truths: it was well for him that he did it
ignorantly: had he gone against his light and knowledge, there had been
little hope of him, 1 Tim. 1:13. "I was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and
injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly, and in
unbelief." I do not say, it is simply impossible for one that knowingly and
maliciously opposes and persecutes Christ and his people, to be forgiven,
but it is not usual, Heb. 6:4, 5. There are few instances of it.
INFERENCE. 3. What an awful majesty sits upon the brow of
holiness, that few dare to oppose it that see it! There are few or none so
daringly wicked, to fight against it with open eyes; 1 Pet. 3:13. "Who will
harm you while you are followers of that which is good:" q. d. who dare be
so hardy to set upon known godliness, or afflict and wrong the known friends
of it? The true reason why many Christians speed so bad, is not because they
are godly, but be cause they do not manifest the power of godliness more
than they do: their lives are so like the lives of others, that they are
often mistaken for others. Cyprian brings in the wicked of his time, thus
scoffing at professors, "behold, they that boast themselves to be redeemed
from the tyranny of Satan, and to be dead to the world, how are they
overcome by the lusts of it, as well as other men:" Look as the poverty and
meanness of Christ's outward condition was a ground of their mistake of him
then, so the poverty and meanness of our love to God, heavenly mindedness,
and mortification to this world, is a disguise to professors, and cause why
they are not more owned and honored in the consciences of men at this day.
For holiness, manifested in its power, is so awfully glorious, that the
consciences of the vilest cannot but honor it, and do obeisance to it, Mark
6:20. "Herod feared John, for he was a just man."
INFERENCE. 4. The enemies of Christ are objects of pity.
Alas, they're b1ind, and know not what they do. It is pity that any other
affection than pity, should stir in our hearts towards them. Were their eyes
but open, they would never do as they do: we should look upon them as the
physician does upon his sick distempered patient. Did they but see with the
same light you do, they would be as far from hating Christ, or his ways, as
you are, Simul ac desinunt ignorere, desinunt odisse; as soon as they cease
to be ignorant, they cerise to hate, says Tertullian.
INFERENCE. 5. How needful is it before we engage
ourselves against any person or way, to be well satisfied and resolved that
it is a wicked person or practice that we oppose? You see the world
generally runs upon a mistake in this matter. O beware of doing you know not
what! for though you do you know not what, Satan knows what he is doing by
you: he blinds your eyes, and then sets you to work, knowing that if you
should but see what you are doing, you would rather die than do it: you may
now do you know not what but you may afterwards have time enough to reflect
on, and lament what you have done: you may now do you know not what, and
hereafter you may not know what to do. O beware what you now do!
DOCTRINE. 2. That there is forgiveness with God, for such
as oppose Christ out of ignorance.
If all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to
men, then this, as well as others, Mat. 12:31. We are not, with Theophilact,
to understand that place of the certainty of pardon; much less, with Origin,
of the desert of it; nor yet, with Jansenius, of the facility at it, but
rather of the possibility of forgiveness: it shall be so to some; it may be
so to you; even those whose wicked hands had crucified Christ, may receive
remission by that blood they shed, Acts 2:23, 38. compared.
I have two things here to do: First, To open the nature
of the forgiveness, and show you what it is. Secondly, To evince the
possibility of it, for such as, mistakingly, oppose Christ.
For the First, Forgiveness is God's gracious discharge of
a believing penitent sinner, from the guilt of all his sin, for Christ's
It is Gods discharge: there is indeed fraternal
forgiveness, by which one man forgives another; so far as he is interested
in the wrong, Luke 6:87. There is also a ministerial forgiveness, whereby
the minister of Christ, as his mouth, and in his name, declares the pardon,
or ministerially applies the promises of pardon to penitent offenders, John
20:23. But none can absolutely and properly forgive sin, but God only, Mark
2:7. The primary, and principal wrong is done to him; Psalm. 51:4. " Against
you, and you only" (that is) you mainly or especially, " have I sinned."
Hence sins are metonimically called debts, debts to God, Mat. 6:12. Not that
we owe them to God, or ought to sin against him; but as financial debts
obliges him that owes it to the penalty, if he satisfy not for it; so do our
sins. And who can discharge the debtor, but the creditor?
It is gracious act to discharge. "I, even I, am he that
blots out your transgression for mine own name sake," Isa. 43:25. And yet
sin is not so forgiven, as that God expects no satisfaction at all; but as
expecting none from us, because God has provided a surety for us, from whom
he is satisfied, Eph. 1:7. "In whom we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace."
it is a gracious discharge from the guilt of sin. Guilt
is that which pardon properly deals with. Guilt is an obligation to
punishment. Pardon is the dissolving that obligation. Guilt is a chain with
which sinners are bound and fettered by the law. Pardon is that Aquafortis
that eats it asunder, and makes the prisoner a free man. The pardoned soul
is a discharged soul, Rom. 8:53. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of
God's elect? It is "God that justifies, who shall condemn? It is Christ that
It is God's discharge of a believing penitent sinner.
Infidelity and impenitence, are not only sins in themselves, but such sins
as bind fast all other sins upon the soul. "By him, all that believe are
justified from all things," Acts 10:43. So Acts 3:19. "Repent therefore,
that your sins may be blotted out." This is the method in which God
dispenseth pardon to sinners.
Lastly, It is for Christ's sake we are discharged; he is
the meritorious cause of our remission, "As God, for Christ's sake, has
forgiven you," Eph. 4:32. It is his blood alone that meritoriously procures
This is a brief and true account of the nature of
Secondly, Now to evince the possibility of forgiveness,
for such as ignorantly oppose Christ, let these things be weighed:
First, Why should any poor soul, that is now humbled for
its enmity to Christ in the days of ignorance, question the possibility of
forgiveness, when this effect does not exceed the power of the cause; nay,
when there is more efficacy in the blood of Christ, the meritorious cause,
than is in this effect of it? There is power enough in that blood, not only
to pardon your sins, but the sins of the whole world, were it actually
applied, 1 John 2:2. There is not only a sufficiency, but also a redundancy
of merit, in that precious blood. Surely then your enmity to Christ,
especially, before you know him, may not look like an unpardonable iniquity
in your eyes.
Secondly, And as this sin exceeds not the power of the
meritorious cause of forgiveness; so neither is it any where excluded from
pardon, by any word of God. Nay, such is the extensiveness of the promise to
believing penitents, that this case is manifestly included, and forgiveness
tendered to you in the promises, Isa. 55:7. "Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and
he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."
Many such extensive promises there are in the scriptures: and there is not
one parenthesis in all these blessed pages, in which this case is excepted.
Thirdly, And it is yet more satisfactory; that God has
already actually forgiven such sinners; and that which he has done, he may
again do: yes, therefore he has done it to some, and those eminent for their
enmity to Christ, that others may be encouraged to hope for the same mercy,
when they also shall be, in the same manner, humbled for it. Take one famous
instance of many; it is that of Paul in Tim. 1:13, 16. "Who was before a
blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious. But I obtained mercy, because I did
it ignorantly in unbelief. - Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that
in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern
to them which should hereafter believe on him to everlasting life." It is no
small encouragement to a sick man, to hear of some that have been recovered
out of the same disease, and that prevailing in an higher degree than in
Fourthly, Moreover, it is encouraging to consider, That
when God had cut off others in the way of their sin, he has hitherto spared
you. What speaks this but a purpose of mercy to your soul? You should
account the long-suffering of God your salvation, 2 Pet. 3:15. Had he
smitten you in the way of your sin and enmity to Christ, what hope had
remained! But in that he has not only spared you, but also given you a heart
ingenuously ashamed, and humbled for your evils: does not this speak mercy
for you; surely it looks like a gracious design of love to your soul.
INFERENCE 1. And is there forgiveness with God for such
as have been enemies to Christ, his truths, and gospel? Then certainly there
is pardon and mercy for the friends of God, who involuntarily fall into sin,
by the surprisals of temptation, and are broken for it, as ingenuous
children for offending a good Father. Can any doubt, if God have pardon for
such enemies, he has none for children? If he have forgiveness for such as
shed the blood of Christ with wicked hands, has he not much more mercy and
forgiveness for such as love Christ, and are more afflicted for their sin
against him, than all other troubles they have in the word? Doubt it not,
but he who receives enemies into his bosom, will much more receive and
embrace children, though offending ones.
How pensive do the dear children of God sometimes sit,
after their lapse into sin? Will God ever pardon this? will he be reconciled
again? May I hope his face shall be to me, as in former times? Pensive soul!
if you did but know the largeness, tenderness, freeness of that grace, which
yearns over enemies, and has given forth thousands, and ten thousands of
pardons to the worst of sinners, you Would not sink at that rate.
INFERENCE. 2. Is there pardon with God for enemies? How
inexcusable then are all they that persist and perish in their enmity to
Christ! sure their destruction is of themselves. Mercy is offered to them,
if they will receive it, Isa. 55:7. Proclamation is made in the gospel, that
if there be any among the enemies of Christ, who repent of that they have
been, and done against him, and are now unfeignedly willing to be
reconciled, upon the word of a King, they shall find mercy: But "God shall
wound the head of the enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as goes on
still in his trespasses," Psalm. 68:21. "If he turn not, he will whet his
sword; he has bent his bow, and made it ready; he has also prepared for him
the instruments of death: He ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors,"
This lays the blood of every man that perishes in his
enmity to Christ, at his own door; and vindicates the righteousness of God,
in the severest strokes of wrath upon them: This also will be a cutting
thought to their hearts eternally: I might once have had pardon, and I
refused it: the gospel trumpet sounded a parley: fair and gracious terms
were offered, but I rejected them.
Is there mercy with God and forgiveness, even for his
worst enemies, upon their submission; How unlike to God then are all
implacable spirits! Some there are that cannot bring their hearts to forgive
an enemy; "to whom revenge is sweeter than life." 1 Sam. 24:16. "If a man
find his enemy, will he let him go?" This is hell fire, a fire that never
goes out. How little do such poor creatures consider, if God should deal by
them, as they do by others, what words could express the misery of their
condition! It is a sad sin, and a sad sign, a character of a wretched state,
wherever it appears. Those that have found mercy, should be ready to show
mercy: and they that expect mercy themselves, should not deny it to others.
This brings us upon the third and last observation, namely,
DOCTRINE. 3 That to forgive enemies, and beg forgiveness
for them, is the true character and property of the Christian spirit.
Thus did Christ: "Father forgive them." And thus did
Stephen, in imitation of Christ, Acts 7:59, 60. "And they stoned Stephen,
calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my spirit. And he kneeled
down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
This suits with the rule of Christ, Mat. 5:44, 45. "But I say unto you, love
your enemies; bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and
pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that you may be
the children of God your Father which is in heaven."
Here I shall first open the nature of this duty, and show
you what a forgiving spirit is; and then the excellency of it, how well it
becomes all that call themselves Christians.
First, Let us enquire what this Christian forgiveness is.
And that the nature of it may the better appear, I shall show you both what
it is not, and what it is.
First, It consists not in a Stoical insensibility of
wrongs and injuries. God has not made men as insensible, stupid blocks, that
have no sense or feeling of what is done to them. Nor has he made a law
inconsistent with their very natures that are to be governed by it: but
allows us a tender sense of natural evils, though he will not allow us to
revenge them by moral evils: nay, the more deep and tender our resentments
of wrongs and injuries are, the more excellent is our forgiveness of them;
so that a forgiving spirit does not exclude sense of injuries, but the sense
of injuries graces the forgiveness of them.
Secondly, Christian forgiveness is not a politic
concealment of our wrath and revenge, because it will be a reproach to
discover it; or, because we want opportunity to vent it. This is carnal
policy, not Christian meekness. So far from being the mark of a gracious
spirit, that it is apparently the sign of a vile nature. It is not
Christianity to repose, but depose injuries.
Thirdly, Nor is it that moral virtue for which we are
beholden to an easier and better nature, and the help of moral rules and
documents. There are certain virtues attainable without the change of
nature, which they call homilitical virtues, because they greatly adorn and
beautify nature; such as temperance, patience, justice, etc. These are of
singular use to conserve peace and order in the world: and without them, (as
one aptly speaks) the world would soon break up, and its civil societies
disband. But yet, though these are the ornaments of nature, they do not
argue the change of nature. All graces, in the exercises of them, involve a
respect to God: And for the being of them, they are not by natural
acquisition, but supernatural infusion.
Fourthly, and lastly, Christian forgiveness is not an
injurious giving up of our rights and properties to the lust of everyone
that has a mind to invade them. No; these we may lawfully defend and
preserve, and are bound so to do; though, if we cannot defend them legally,
we must not avenge our wrongs unchristianly: This is not Christian
forgiveness. But, then positively,
It is a Christian lenity, or gentleness of mind, not
retaining, but freely passing by the injuries done to us, in obedience to
the command of God.
It is a levity, or gentleness of mind. The grace of God
demulces the angry stomach; calms the tumultuous passions; new- moulds our
sour spirits, and makes them benign, gentle and easy to be entreated; Gal.
5:22. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering,
This gracious levity inclines the Christian to pass by
injuries; so to pass them by, as neither to retain then revengefully in the
mind, or requite them when we have opportunity with the hand: Yes, and that
freely, not by constraint, because we cannot avenge ourselves, but
willingly. We abhor to do it when we can. So that as a carnal heart thinks
revenge its glory, the gracious heart is content that forgiveness should be
his glory. I will be even with him, says nature: I will be above him, says
grace: it is his glory to pass over transgression, Prov. 19:11.
And this it does in obedience to the command of God:
Their own nature inclines them another way. "The spirit that is in us lusts
to envy; but he gives more grace," James 4:5. It lusts to revenge, but the
fear of God represseth those motions. Such considerations as these God has
forbidden me; yes, and God has forgiven me, as well as forbidden me: they
prevail upon him when nature urges to revenge the wrong. "Be kind one to
another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's
sake has forgiven you," Eph. 4:32. This is forgiveness in a Christian sense.
Secondly, And that this is excellent, and singularly
becoming the profession of Christ, is evident; inasmuch as,
This speaks your religion excellent, that can mold your
hearts into that heavenly frame, to which they are so averse, yes,
contrarily disposed by nature. It is the glory of Pagan morality, that it
can abscondere vitia, hide and cover men's lusts and passions. But the glory
of Christianity lies in this, that it can abscindere vitia, not hide, but
destroy, and really mortify the lusts of nature. Would Christians but live
up to the excellent principles of their religion, Christianity shall be no
more out-vied by heathenish morality. The greatest Christian shall be no
more challenged to imitate Socrates, if he can. We shall utterly spoil that
proud boast, "that the faith of Christians is out-done by the infidelity of
Heathens." 0 Christians yield not to-day to Heathens! Let all the world see
the true greatness, heavenliness, and excellency of our represented pattern;
and by true mortification of your corrupt natures, enforce an acknowledgment
from the world, that a greater than Socrates is here. He that is really a
meek, humble, patient, heavenly Christian, wins this glory to his religion,
that it can do more than all other principles and rules in the world. In
nothing were the most accomplished Heathens more defective than this
forgiving of injuries: It was a thing they could not understand, or, if they
did, could never bring their hearts to it; witness that rule of their great
Tally: "It is the first office of justice, (says he), to hurt no man, except
first provoked by an injury." The addition of that exception spoiled his
But now Christianity teaches, and some Christians have
attained it, to receive evil, and return good, 1 Cor. 4: l2,13. "Being
reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we
entreat." This certainly is that meekness wrought in us by the wisdom that
is from above, James 3:17.
This makes a man sit sure in the consciences of others,
who, with Saul, must acknowledge, when they see themselves so outdone, "You
are more righteous than I," 1 Sam. 24:16, 17. Had we been so much injured,
and had such opportunities to revenge them, we should never have passed them
by, as these men did.
This impresses and stamps the very image of God upon the
creature, and makes us like our heavenly Father, who does good to his
enemies, and sends down showers of outward blessings upon them, that pour
out floods of wickedness daily to provoke him, Mat. 5:44, 45. In a word,
this Christian temper of spirit gives a man the true possession and
enjoyment of himself. So that our breasts shall be as the Pacific sea,
smooth and pleasant, when others are as the raging sea, foaming and casting
up mire and dirt.
INFERENCE 1. Hence we clearly infer, That the Christian
religion, exalted in its power, is the neatest friend to the peace and
tranquility of states and kingdoms. Nothing is more opposite to the true
Christian spirit, than implacable fierceness, strife, revenge, tumults and
uproars. It teaches men to do good and receive evil: to receive evil, and
return good. "The wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable,
gentle, and easy to be intreated; full of mercy and good fruits; without
partiality, and without hypocrisy; and the fruit of righteousness is sown in
peace of them that make peace," James 3:17,18.
The church is a dove for meekness, Cant. 6:9. When the
world grows full of strife, Christians then grow weary of the world, and
sigh out the Psalmist's request, "O that I had the wings of a dove! that I
might fly away and be at rest." Strigellius desired to die, that he might be
freed ab implacabilibus odiis theologorum, "from the implacable strife of
The rule by which they are to walk, is, "If it be
possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly
beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is
written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay it, says the Lord," Rom. 12:18, 19.
It is not religion, but lusts that make the world so unquiet, James 4:1, 2.
Not godliness, but wickedness, that makes men bite and devour one another.
One of the first effects of the gospel, is to Civilize those places where it
comes, and settle order and peace among men. How great a mistake and evil
then is it to cry out, when atheism and irreligion have broken the civil
peace; this is the fruit of religion! this is the effect of the gospel!
Happy would it be if religion did more obtain in all nations. It is the
greatest friend in the world to their tranquility and prosperity.
INFERENCE. 2. How dangerous a thing is it to abuse and
wrong meek and forgiving Christians? Their patience and easiness to forgive
often invites injury, and encourages vile spirits to insult and trample upon
them: but if men would seriously consider it, there is nothing in the world
should more scare and affright them from such practices than this. You may
abuse and wrong them, they must not avenge themselves, nor repay evil for
evil: true, but because they do not, the Lord will; even the Lord to whom
they commit the matter; and he will do it to purpose, except you repent.
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the
Lord," James 5:7. Will you stand to that issue? had you rather indeed have
to do with God than with men? When the Jews put Christ to death, "he
committed himself to him that judges righteously, 1 Pet. 2:22, 23. And did
that people get anything by that: did not the Lord severely avenge the blood
of Christ on them and their children? yes, do not they and their children
groan under the doleful effects of it to this day? If God undertakes, (as he
always does) the cause of his abused, meek, and peaceable people, he will be
sure to avenge it seven fold more than they could. His little finger will be
heavier then their loins. You will get nothing by that.
INFERENCE. 3. Lastly, Let us all imitate our pattern
Christ, and labor for meek forgiving spirits. I shall only propose two
inducements to it: the honor of Christ, and your own peace: two dear things
indeed to a Christian. His glory is more than your life, and all that you
enjoy in this world. O do not expose it to the scorn and derision of his
enemies. Let them not say, How is Christ a lamb, when his followers are
lions? How is the church a dove, that smites and scratches like a bird of
prey? Consult also the quiet of your own spirits. What is life worth,
without the comfort of life? what comfort can you have in all that you do
possess in the world, as long as you have not the possession of your own
souls? If your spirits be full of tumult and revenge, the spirit of Christ
will grow a stranger to you: that dove delights in clean and quiet breasts.
O then imitate Christ in this excellency also!