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overcome of evil; nay, you will be induced to go on to a higher degree of perfection, and “ overcome evil " with good.”
He that commits sin, by way of retaliation for an injury received, degrades himself to a level with the offender; and instead of correcting, confirms him in his crimes. On the contrary; by a rigid adherence to truth and integrity in our dealings with the most inveterate foe; by moderating our resentful passions, and treating him with kind offices, when he stands in need of our assistance; the superior charms of virtue become so apparent, that the obdurate heart will in time be softened, and the injurious hand held back from offending. This sentiment the apostle thus expresses in the verse which immediately precedes the text; “ If " thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him s drink : for in so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire " on his head”-thou shalt melt him down by the warmth of thy beneficence, into ingenuous compunction and relenting gratitude; as the artificer, by heaping fire upon it, melts the hard metal. He who violates the positive injunction of the Gospel, “ bless them that “ curse you;” he who returns railing for railing, exasperates resentment, and adds fuel to the devouring flames of anger: but how often has a soft answer turned away wrath? When David was hasting to take ven. geance on the churlish Nabal, the meek and prudent Abigail met him, “and bowed herself to the ground, “ and said, Let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in " thine audience.” Her whole intercession on this occasion, is a beautiful specimen of mild and persuasive eloquence; and the conclusion of it is particularly affecting: “And it shall come to pass, when the Lord “ shall have done to my lord according to all the good “ that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have
appointed thee ruler over Israel, that this shall be no
grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, “ either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my “ lord hath avenged himself.” And the happy result of this meek intercession was; “ David said to Abigail, , “ Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee “ this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, “ and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day “ from coming to shed blood, and from avenging my" self with mine own hand.”
In our intercourse with the world, should our pearls be sometimes cast before swine, who not only trample them under their feet, but turn, and rend us : should our gentleness and benevolence be received with insensibility, and instead of subduing the violence of the ill-disposed, only render them more forward in offending; we have the consolation to reflect, that we have so far at least overcome evil, as not to be provoked by it into a violation of our duty : we have displayed the superiority of virtue; and when the day of retribution comes, it will be seen how infinitely superior is our reward.
But, with our best endeavours to do well, were God to be extreme in marking what we have done amiss, who could stand justified in his sight? Betrayed by the infirmity of our nature, seduced by the subtilty of temptation, or overborne by the violence of pain, what frail mortal can lay his hand on his bosom, and say, “I am pure; I have never fallen in
“ the conflict; I have never been overcome of evil ?” Conscious of our weakness and our guilt, let us, with true penitent hearts, acknowledge our transgressions, and entreat God not to enter into judgment with his servants; let us be most vigilant against that particular evil which most powerfully besets us; let us fly to that atoning blood which was shed to take away the sins of the world; weary and faint, let us go, from day to day, to that fountain of living waters which, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, has been opened for the strengthening and refreshing of our souls. Thus shall we proceed towards the heavenly mansions, with the consolations of humble penitence, though not with the confidence of perfect innocence. And, by the grace of God provided in the Gospel, the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls, is secure. For, the good tidings of great joy, the birth of a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, are announced to the fallen race of Adam: repentance and remission of sins are preached in the name of this Saviour, not to the perfectly righteous, (for such are no where to be found,) but to penitent sinners. If it be now so degrading, and, to every heart of the least sensibility, so afflicting, to be entirely overcome of evil, and brought into a state of abject bondage to sin; how thoroughly wretched must be the sinner's fate in the regions of remediless woe, where good never enters ; where penitence is of no avail ; where the domination of our cruel adversary is in a great degree uncontrolled! Let us turn from this dreary scene, and rise upon the wings of faith and love, to those blessed mansions, where evil finds no admission; where there is need of no repentance, for there is no sin; where the Lord God omnipotent reigneth in the perfection of bliss and glory; and where the righteous are his delight, through the boundless ages of eternity.
The Wages of Sin is Death.
ROMANS vi. 23.
The wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
WHEN Moses, the man of God, had been representing to the people of Israel the blessings that would ensue from obedience, and the mischiefs that would be incurred by violating the divine law which was given to them, he concludes his address with this solemn appeal; “I call heaven and earth to record this
day against you, that I have set before you life and “ death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, " that both thou and thy seed may live." In like manner, the holy apostle, in the conclusion of this chapter, with awful solemnity lays before his Roman converts the vastly different consequences of a vicious and a godly life; he tells them, that they had no fruit -no real permanent advantage in those vices, whereof they were ashamed when brought to a more considerate state of mind: that the end of those things is death : that since they were made free from sin by repentance, and become the servants of God by faithful obedience