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DUTY TO ENEMIES.
REJOICE not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth:
Lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.
IF the blessed Jesus, who was a living exemplification of all the virtues and graces of human character in its purest state, could not pass through the world without enemies, who hated both his doctrine and his person, and reviled, defamed, and persecuted him even to death, how can his disciples expect to be exempt? It is enough that the disciple should be as his Lord.
Men may be our enemies causelessly, through misapprehension of our character, or in consequence of some supposed injury; and their hostility may be more or less bitter and unrelenting, and lead them to acts affecting our peace, reputation, property, or life.
Under these circumstances what should be our conduct? Should we retaliate, wish them evil, or seek their injury? The gospel forbids it. The temper of the true Christian revolts at it. On the contrary, we should endeavour to appease their anger, disarm their hostility, and win their esteem and love. True magnanimity, so far from saying "an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth," dictates a conciliating course. How much better to triumph over an enemy by love, than by revenge! How much better to assuage, than to
add new exasperation to his feelings! It was said of an eminently good man, who was habitually controlled by the spirit of the gospel, that there was no surer way of obtaining from him acts of kindness than to do him an ill turn. It would indeed be difficult to continue to be the enemy of such a man.
To return good for evil is the Christian's maxim. If an enemy is in want, minister to his necessities, and let the veil of charity shade from remembrance the injuries he has inflicted. If in the course of providence, calamities befal him, so far from triumphing in his disasters, be the first to extend to him sympathy and a helping hand. Should such a temper as this prevail, how soon would the fires of rancorous hate and deadly feud be extinguished!
My soul, keep before thee the example of the blessed Jesus at all times, that thou mayest be able to cherish feelings of universal good will to men. Under the contradiction and persecuting hate of sinners, he was mild, patient, uncomplaining, and forgiving. Aim to be like him. The world that hated him he loved, and he died for their redemption; and why canst thou not pray for those who despitefully use thee? In a slanderous world thou mayest not expect that all men will speak well of thee; in a selfish world thou mayest not hope to enjoy the friendship of all; in a sinful world thou canst not escape collisions and injuries; but thy best policy and truest wisdom will be, to love thine enemies, and to do good to them that hate thee.
IN an enlarged sense, temperance relates to the moderation of all the sensual appetites; and in its more common acceptation, it is opposed to gluttony on the one hand, and to the excessive use of intoxicating drinks on the other.
The appetite for food, with its attendant gratification, has been wisely ordained by the Creator, to induce us to use the means for the preservation of life; and it is abused and perverted from its right end when we minister to it solely for the sake of animal gratification. The art of man has been taxed in the invention of luxuries to regale the palate; and many, reversing the rule, live to eat, instead of eating to live. Immoderate indulgence in eating, instead of invigorat
ing, enfeebles the constitution, which God has given us; and is a sin against nature, as well as an express violation of the divine command. It is irrational and immoral, inasmuch as it sensualizes the whole man, obscuring and impairing the intellect, and entailing the most fearful bodily diseases. Nature demands a simple and moderate diet; with more than this, its wonderful and complicated machinery is disordered and eventually ruined.
Intemperance in drinking, if not a more common vice, is perhaps more directly injurious. Intoxicating drinks are first resorted to for the exhilaration they produce, and frequent indulgence confirms a habit, which imperiously demands gratification. Nature may be so accustomed to act under artificial stimulants as to refuse to act without them. Where this disease or vice in the system is superinduced, drunkenness is the result, under the influence of which the most terrible ravages are committed on the human system. The land has become loathsome from the effects of this vice. The bloated visage, the staggering gait, the imbecile intellect, with a long array of fatal diseases, are its prominent results, so far as the physical frame is concerned; and in its moral influence, it disqualifies the mind for serious thought, stupefies the conscience, inflames the passions, hardens the heart, and becomes an inlet to all the other vices. The drunkard, while he becomes a hateful object on earth, necessarily cuts himself off from the hope of heaven. His ruin is total, involving both body and soul.
Now as no man deliberately resolves to become a drunkard, but is gradually seduced into the habit, through a vain self-confidence that he can restrain his
indulgence within proper limits; and as those who fall, may attribute their ruin to the insidious nature of the vice, which makes its approach by almost imperceptible advances, self-preservation dictates the propriety of TOTAL ABSTINENCE. No one can become a drunkard who wholly abstains, and no one can be sure that he will not become a drunkard, if he indulges. The maxim may well be accommodated to this subject"touch not, taste not, handle not."
May I remember that He who hath created me, hath called me to higher objects and pursuits, than the mere indulgence of animal appetites. Having food convenient for me, may I therewith be content; and may I never resort to a dangerous beverage to repair exhausted energies, or to obtain oblivion for my woes. I am accountable to my Maker for every injury which I may inflict on the nature he hath given me; and I grievously sin when I so indulge my appetites as to unfit me for his service. May I be temperate in all things, and avoid those convivial scenes in which I might be tempted to transgress the rules of moderation. While I pity those who are slaves to their appetites, may I strive to awaken within them the determination to act as rational and immortal beings, and to avoid those vices of gluttony and drunkenness, which will otherwise bring upon them the double ruin of body and soul.