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Vindictive Justice Incompatible With Charity

Vindictive Justice Incompatible With Charity

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY Samuel Porter Williams


Romans, xii. 19.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath :
for it is written — Vengeance is mine^ I will repay ^ saith the
Lord.
BY Samuel Porter Williams


Romans, xii. 19.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath :
for it is written — Vengeance is mine^ I will repay ^ saith the
Lord.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Nov 19, 2013
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VIDICTIVE JUSTICE ICOMPATIBLE WITH CHARITYBY Samuel Porter WilliamsRomans, xii. 19. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath : for it is written — Vengeance is mine^ I will repay ^ saith the Lord. I a world like ours, where no man is free from imper- fection, and in which most are wholly selfish, there must be great forbearance somewhere. Else, every man's hand will be against his neighbour, and his neighbour's against him. In such circumstances, there could be no social happiness; and the race would be in danger of a speedy extermination. But, where all are probably culpable, in a greater or less degree, whose duty is it to give way ? Shall p/iz/^icrtZ strength decide the question, and the weaker, in every case, submit to the stronger — the aged and infirm, to the healthy and ro- bust ? Such a rule of duty would not only be grossly in- equitable, but productive of incessant warfare, to settle the question of superiority. It becomes, therefore, an obvious duty, to " follow peace with all men" — a duty, the performance of which is essen- 208 SERMO XV. tial to happiness. But perceiving the rooted depravity of the human heart, and that passion, instead of reason, governs the conduct of men ; the Governor of the world found it necessary to interpose his authority, and by positive statute, with the most awful sanction annexed, to settle for every in- dividual the question of duty. In that code of laws, which was given, through the Jewish Lawgiver, to mankind, it is written — "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." And
 
to remove all ground of complaint on the part of the in-  jured, it is added — to me belongeth vengeance and recom- pense. The feet of transgressors shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste : for the Lord shall judge his people ; neither is there any that can deliver out of his hand. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment ; I will render vengeance to mine ene- mies — I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh. In our intercourse with mankind, 'we hear much said of the importance of charity. Yet by many of those who high- ly commend it, it seems little understood ; and, unfortunate- ly for them, they who most rigorously exact it from others, are not the most ready to recommend it by their example. " Be ye not like them : for they say and do not." Hear the inspired description of its fruit. — " Recompense to no man evil for evil. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath ; for it is written — vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." I shall explain the text ; evince the reasonableness of the duty ; and apply the subject. I. Vengeance is the infliction of punishment, on those who have wronged us : or, the will, or wish, to see it inflict- ed. To avence ourselves, therefore, is to redress our wrongs SERMO XV. 209 of person, character, liberty, or property, by inflicting mer- ited punishment. But vindictive justice, belongs to God alone : it is incompatible, in man, with charity to his brother man. On this sentiment the exhortation before us is found- ed ; and not on the supposition, that he who oppresses, slan- ders, reviles, or defrauds us, does not deserve punishment.
 
But the honor of God, and the peace of society, forbid retal- iation. The redress of injuries hy private violence — by re- turning injury for injury — has no tendency to make the of- fender better, or to mitigate the evil we have actually suffer- ed. There is not, therefore, a rational motive to vengeance. But what is it, to "give place unto wrath ?" Is it to al- low the flame, kindled by the collision of others' passions with ours, to burn within our own breasts ; provided, it break not forth to another's consumptioii ? othing can be more absurd. This were to cultivate the corrupt tree, and only to pluck ofl* the blossoms — to cherish the will to re- venge, but to restrain the act. To " give place unto wrath," then, is a phrase, denoting the gentleness which yields to other men's fury, instead of exciting resistance to the pas- sions of the wicked : or, which opposes them, only with those soft words, which "turn away wrath" ; and to overcome vi- olence, by meekness ; and hatred with love. The very spirit of the law, as given us in the christian precepts ; and the words of the Apostle immediately following the text, confirm this view of his design. To bless those who curse us ; to do good to those who hate us ; is not to add provo- cation, or fuel, to the flame. Yet this is the mode which di- vine wisdom has prescribed, to win the souls of the wicked — to evince the superior excellence of the christian temper — and to propagate a religion, productive only of good will to men ; and, if such fruit be desirable, he only takes efficient measures to be wise, and useful, who thus gives place unto wrath. 27 210 SERMO XV. II. I proceed then, in the second place, to evince tiie reasonableness of the requisition ; and thus to enforce the duty. God is the sole and rightful sovereign of an- gels and of men. It is his lo govern without a coun- sellor, and without control. Be it remembered, then,

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