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think, it becomes them to revenge; or bear Evils they can so easily avert. In fhort, the Doctrine of our Saviour does not fuit with their Humour, and therefore they will not be oblig'd by it. The Inconveniencies, that must neceffarily attend the Obfervers, may fufficiently, they hope, excufe the Obfervance of it.
Now though no Injunction can be more pofitive than that in the Text, Refift not Evil, usher'd in with Words which challenge the utmost Attention, but I fay unto You; yet least this Precept fhou'd either by weak Men be misunderstood; or afford Advantage to bad Men from the Readiness of fuch as are of a quiet and easy Temper to comply with them; least Infolence and Injustice, which ought ever to be fupprefs'd, fhou'd find Encouragement, and the best Rule be perverted to the worst of Ends; least Men fhou'd do Evil, and hope notwithstanding to go unpunish'd; It may not be thought altogether unneceffary to fhew, how the Words, Refift not Evil, are to be taken. For it is not here to be fuppos'd, that we fhou'd lay ourselves open to the Infults of all, who wou'd willingly grieve, or oppress us; It is not to be imagined, (fo neceffary is Self-Prefervation) that we fhou'd not provide against Dangers, which threaten us, or
fence off Evils, we fee coming upon us; Therefore I fhall confider
First, the Nature of thofe Evils, which we may lawfully refift, and the Courfe we are to take in refifting them.
Secondly, what we are commanded not to refift, and the Motives to this Duty.
But before I proceed to treat of these Heads, I fhall lay down this general Rule; That no private Revenge, let the Injury be what it will, is at any Time, or upon any Account justifiable.
Indeed to ftand upon our own Defence is not only allowable, but very often requifite and neceffary; but perfonally to revenge ourselves is unlawful.
Which will appear from the following obvious Reasons.
1. No one certainly ought to affume a Power which does not belong to Him. It is only for the Powers that are ordained of God, to execute the Authority that is given by God. Since then we are fenfible, that Vengeance is of the Lord alone, or of fuch as have a Power delegated to them from Him; we must not encroach upon their Prerogative, and take their Office upon us, who alone are poffefs'd of the Sword of Juf
tice for the Punishment of Evil-doers. For all private Perfons, let the Constitution of the Government they are in be what it will, are so far upon an Equality, that no Confideration will warrant their revenging themselves one upon another.
2. Moreover, we know, that Revenge is properly a Judicial Act, and no one is ever allow'd at the same Time to be a Party and Judge. For in Cafe of Injuries receiv'd, when we appeal to a Person, who can do us Juftice, we are not therefore redrefs'd, because We think our Complaint juft, but because He whom we appeal to, finds we have been wrong'd. We may very likely have the Right, but we must leave another to give it, on our Side. Let Him decide the Cause, whom God has made Judge; Let Him put the Laws in Execution, whom God has entrufted with so great an Office.
3. Another Reason to be given against private Revenge is, That it can never answer the End, which shou'd be propos'd in taking it. For in revenging Injuries a fpecial Regard ought to be had to these Things.
That it may have fuch an Influence upon injurious Perfon, as to make him fenfible of his Fault. That it may difcourage others from making the like Attempt. That it may be a
Security for the future to the Person injur’d.
But He who takes private Revenge, is not likely to compass any of these Ends, but on the contrary rather provokes, and enrages his Adverfary, gives Offence to Others, and brings more Trouble upon Himfelf.
So that if we had no Refpect either to Chriftianity, Reason, or Justice, the bare confulting our own Eafe, and Quiet, fhou'd fo far prevail upon us, as to make us harbour no Thoughts of private Revenge.
But if this was once a receiv'd Opinion, and the Law wou'd give Way to it, That every Man might, when he conceiv'd Himself to be injur'd, without making an Appeal to another's Judgment, redress Himself as he thought fit, either by Craft, or Violence; the Sacred Ties of Religion wou'd foon be diffolv'd, Virtue utterly extirpated, and Iniquity establish'd. Confufion, Defolation, Rapine, and Blood, and even worfe Confequences than these, if worse can be conceiv'd wou'd quickly enfue. For if Men were to fit Judges in their own Cause, and no Law reftrain'd them from doing themselves Right in their own Way; if all, who thought they had Reason to complain, might put their own Sentence in Execution, not only Right to our Poffeffion, wou'd be precarious, but even our Lives always in Danger.
This therefore being premis'd, and prov'd, That all private Revenge whatfover is utterly unlawful, I come now to confider,
1. What thofe Evils are, which we are allow'd to refift, and the Way we are to take in refifting them.
Herein are included all Such in general as are too great to be born; Such as Christianity does not forbid, right Reafon directs, and common Justice obligeth us to refift: - Such as, though levelled at a private Man, strike at the Foundation of Government, and tend to the Violation. of Laws, without which there can be no Security in any Common-Wealth:-Or, in short, all fuch Injuries as shall be judg'd, by the Wisest and Beft of Men, not fit to be pass'd by.
It is neceffary that the violent fhou'd be refirain'd, and the unjust punished, as well that They may be reclaimed, as that Others, observing their ill Success may be prevented from finning. For as Men seeing others finning profperously, meeting with neither Punishment, nor Reprehenfion, are apt to follow the fame Course, expecting to meet with the fame Indulgence; So it holds on the other Side alfo, that they are frequently deterr'd from doing ill, when they confider the Shame and Punishments, that are both the Attendants,