ŇYe have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.Ó Matthew 5:38-42.
ŇYe have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.Ó Matthew 5:38
Here Christ returns to the commandments of the second table, intending to restore the same to their proper sense, and withal to confute the erroneous interpretation thereof given by the Jewish teachers. And first he cometh to a particular judicial law of Moses pertaining to the sixth commandment, touching the requital of like for like; in which, as in the former, he first sets down the words of the law of Moses, but yet to be understood with the erroneous interpretation of the Scribes and Pharisees (v.38). Then He gives the right sense of that law, and withal confuteth the false interpretation of the Jewish teachers (vv. 39-41).
For the first, the words of MosesŐ law here set down, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth (Exod. 21:24), whereto, as to the former, Christ prefixeth this preface: It hath been said, thereby giving us to understand that He is about to lay down the law of God in the false sense of the Jewish teachers. For the better perceiving whereof, we must observe the true meaning of that law, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; wherein the Lord requireth requital of like for like, not by every private man, but by the public magistrate. As if a man did put out his neighbourŐs eye, then the magistrate should put out his eye; and strike out his teeth that strikes out his neighbours teeth. This appears to be so, because revenge is directly forbidden to every private person, and plainly appropriated to the judge (Deut. 19:18-21). But the Jewish teachers expounded this law of private revenge as though God had said to every private man, If thy neighbour pluck out thine eye, pluck out his again, and if he strike out thy tooth, strike thou out his tooth. This is the false interpretation of the Jews.
Question: How could they so far overshoot themselves in so clear a case, seeing in all the books of Moses, it is plainly referred to the magistrate? Answer: There may be two reasons given thereof: First, it is a natural opinion that a man may revenge himself in his own cause privately, and not wait for recompense of the magistrate; and answerable hereunto, there is a mighty strong desire of revenge in every manŐs heart by nature, when he is injured. Now it is likely that these Jews followed their corrupt nature, and heady affections, in the interpretation of this law. Again, the Jewish people were mightily given to revenge by their natural disposition, as may appear by the law of the cities of refuge, and by mentioning of the revenger of blood; which plainly imports that the Jews would have blood again of him that shed blood, whensoever they met with him. Now the Jewish teachers framed their doctrine to the common disposition and behaviour of their people, and so falsified the truth of God, as many times it falls out that the common practice of men makes sin to seem no sin.
1. In the person of these Jewish teachers, we may see the policy of the devil, whose intent is, and hath been in all ages, to overturn religion; and to this end, he endeavours to cause men to temper religion to their natural disposition and common opinion in outward manners; whereby he overturneth both religion and people. This appears in other points among the Jews, as well as in this case of revenge. They were a people given much to covetousness, as may appear by the law of toleration for taking usury of strangers, and by their hardness of heart, so much reproved by all the prophets. Now the devil perceiving this to be their natural disposition, makes GodŐs doctrine of salvation seem to them a doctrine of earthly benefits; for he caused them to dream of an earthly king for their Messiah, and of an earthly flourishing kingdom under him. Thus also hath the devil dealt with all other heathen people. The Romans in Italy have been ever grossly addicted to superstition, sorcery and idolatry, as heathen writers do testify. Now though God vouchsafed them His true religion in the primitive church, yet the devil perceiving their natural disposition to superstition, hath so tempered the truth of God among them, with a natural and superstitious religion, that now they abound as much in idolatry and superstition as ever they did when they were heathen. The like malicious practice doth the devil shew among the Protestants, where the gospel is truly preached; for though he cannot (as he desires) corrupt religion in the mouths of the teachers; yet he weakens it greatly in the hearts of men, both teachers and hearers, causing them so far forth only to receive it, as it is suitable to their nature and disposition; but where it crosseth their humours, there to leave it. Is not this evident? For he that embraceth the truth with his heart will frame his life according to it, but generally the entertainment of religion is only formal; for though men profess it, yet they live in their sins, they make it to jump with their natural disposition having indeed a shew of godliness, but they want the power thereof, and so in them religion is vain (Jam. 1:26). Whereby we must be advertised to take heed of this policy of the devil, and whereas he labours to transform religion to menŐs dispositions, we on the contrary must endeavour in all things to transform ourselves into religion, obeying that form of doctrine whereunto we are delivered (Rom. 6:17).
2. Secondly, in these Scribes and Pharisees we observe the property of a bad teacher; namely, to transform himself and his doctrine to the customs and manners of the people, whenas the people should be transformed into His doctrine and practice, according to godliness. Hereof the Lord admonisheth Jeremiah (Jer. 15:19), Let them return to thee, but return not thou to them; for it was the practice of the false prophets in his time thus to strengthen the bands of the wicked (Jer. 23:14); and it is a common fault in many teachers that they frame themselves, both for doctrine and practice to the custom and manners of the people; but this is the devilŐs policy, whereby he overthroweth religion, and destroyeth menŐs souls.
ŇBut I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.Ó (v.39)
In this, and the three next verses, Christ confutes the false interpretation of this law. The sum of His answer stands in two points: the first is an inhibition: resist not evil; which is explained by three examples in the words following; the second, is a commandment to requite good for evil (v. 42).
1. For the first, by evil is meant, the injury or wrong that is done to man; or more properly, the evil one, that is the evil man that doth the wrong. Resist not; that is, rise not against the evil one, to requite like for like, according to the injury he hath done unto thee. So much the word signifieth. Now Christ forbiddeth not resisting evil by a lawful defence, but by way of private revenge; for He speaketh to His disciples, and to private men, saying, I say unto you which hear (as St Luke hath it, Luke 6:27). Yet further to clear this interpretation, we must know the scripture mentioneth two kinds of revenge, public and private. Public revenge is when the magistrate according to justice, and the law of God, punisheth an evil person that wrongeth his brother. Private revenge is when those that are no magistrates will revenge themselves on such as do them wrong. The public revenge is allowed by St Paul, calling the magistrate (Rom. 13:4), GodŐs minister for the executing of revenge upon evildoers. Private revenge is forbidden by the same apostle (Rom. 12:17), Revenge not thyself. Now by this doctrine it is plain that our Saviour Christ here forbidding revenge, meaneth not public, but private revenge.
(1) First, here we see those men confuted who think it unlawful for a Christian to be a magistrate, to execute revenge upon malefactors by the sword, or to make war against the common enemies. These men are deceived, by mistaking this text, which forbiddeth only private and not public revenge.
(2) Secondly, here we see that all private revenge is flatly condemned as a sin against the sixth commandment. This point must be remembered, because it is our natural opinion, and our hearts desire to requite like for like in private causes, when we are injured.
Now that we may see more into this sin, we are to know that private revenge is twofold: inward and outward. Inward private revenge is a purpose in the heart to do a man an evil turn. This is commonly called the bearing of a grudge, and it is here condemned. Outward revenge is when the spite of the heart comes into action, either by word or deed. By word, when a man gives out threatening speeches; as that he will sit on his skirt or be even with him, if it lie in his lot, and such like; or useth cursing speeches, as a plague take thee, a murrain or pestilence light upon thee; or raileth or chideth, calling another knave, villain etc. By deed and action, men shew outward revenge, when they be at a word and a blow, using to fight and to strike one another by way of private revenge. Hereto also we may refer an ordinary bad practice of some magistrates and superiors, though (it may be) few think it to be a fault; to wit, when the magistrate doth aggravate the punishment upon a malefactor, for some private grudge he beareth to him; for then he useth private revenge. As also when parents or masters correct their servants and children in fury and rage; for though they be public persons in this regard, yet to give correction in a choleric mood, is to ease the heart by way of revenge.
Here then we must learn that we may not requite evil for evil, in thought, word or deed, to those that do wrong, any manner of way, but must rather suffer injury, and refer the revenge unto God that judgeth righteously. And because this duty goes against our natural disposition, I will use some reasons to persuade our hearts to yield unto it.
(i) First, the apostle teacheth out of Deuteronomy (Rom. 12:19), that vengeance is the LordŐs. If then we have private revenge ourselves, we rob God of His right, and so sin against the first commandment.
(ii) Secondly, in the next words, he addeth, and I will repay, saith the Lord; where God takes upon Himself to be our debtor in the case of injustice, and therefore when we are wronged, we must not be rash to revenge ourselves, but must wait with patience upon the Lord; laying down our injury at His feet; for He will repay in due time, to them that have wronged us.
(iii) Thirdly, consider the examples of worthy men in this case; for our Saviour Christ never sought revenge, but bare wrongs patiently, committing also to Him that judgeth righteously, leaving us an example to do likewise (1 Pet. 2:20-23). Yea, when He was cruelly and unjustly crucified, He prayed for His persecutors (Luke 23:34). Steven also prayed for them that stoned him (Acts 7:60); and David, though a king, would not suffer revenge to be taken on Shimei that cursed him (2 Sam. 19:23); neither would he ever touch Saul, who sought his life, though he had him often in his hands (1 Sam. 24:5-10); nay, but his heart smote him for cutting off the lap of his coat; so far was he from seeking revenge.
(iv) Fourthly, in the fifth petition, we pray, Forgive us our sins, as we forgive our trespasses; but if we carry grudges in our hearts, we pray God not to forgive us, but to condemn us; for we will not forgive, but be revenged on them that offend us. Now this is a most fearful case, that a man should pray for vengeance upon himself.
(v) Fifthly, it is not meet in common reason, that the same party should be the accuser and the judge; and yet, if a man might revenge himself, this should be so; and therefore if we would be ChristŐs disciples, we must arm ourselves with patience, in suffering wrong, and refer revenge to God that judgeth righteously.
Yet, some will say, If we always put up and suffer wrong, we shall never be at quiet, but shall be abused. Answer: Though in our own person we may not revenge ourselves, yet we may crave the help of the magistrate, either for the preventing, or for the punishment of wrong done unto us; for the magistrate is GodŐs lieutenant, to relieve the oppressed, and to execute vengeance on malefactors. Thus did Paul (Acts 23:17) send to the chief captain, to prevent a conspiracy that the Jews intended against him, and (Acts 25:10) appealed to Caesar, to avoid the danger of the Jews at Jerusalem; and yet when wrong is done unto us, we must bear it patiently, without seeking private revenge, although the wrong were doubled or trebled upon us.
(3) Thirdly, our Saviour Christ, in calling the wrongdoer an evil one, giveth us to understand that it is the property of an evil man to do wrong unto others; and this title is given to the wrongdoer, to teach us that we must suffer wrong patiently, though he be an evil man that offereth it unto us. It is the property of a good man to do good continually, but to do wrong is the mark of an evil man, who herein is like the devil; which must teach us not to do wrong to anyone, in his body, goods, or name; either by word or deed; but rather apply ourselves to do all the good we can to everyone within the company of our calling. Hereby we shall see what our estate is, for if in our callings we set ourselves to wrong others, either by word or deed, we are in the sight of God, evil men. Such are our usurers and extortioners, and all those that use fraud and deceit in their callings. But if we would shew ourselves to be good men, approved of God in Christ, then we must reserve our bodies and souls, and all that we have, to the good of others. Although men by nature be like to savage beasts (Isa. 11:6,7), as lions, wolves, cockatrices etc., whose property is to devour and hurt other creatures, yet when it pleaseth God to receive them to mercy, and to place them in His kingdom, then they lay aside their cruel nature, and live peaceably one with another; for in the mountain of GodŐs holiness, none shall hurt or destroy (v.9). It is a prophecy of ChristŐs kingdom, that therein the sword and the spear, which be weapons of war, shall be turned into scythes and mattocks, which are instruments of common good in time of peace; whereby was signified that when men are converted, and become true children unto God, they lay aside all malice, and give themselves to do good, and become serviceable unto all for the good of all. This was notably verified in Paul (Acts 9:21), who of a persecutor became a preacher; yea (1 Cor. 9:22) he became all things to all men, that by all means he might win some. And thus doing, we are like to our heavenly father, who doth good to all; but if we give ourselves to wrongdoing, we are evil ones, and herein like to the devil himself.
(4) Fourthly, Christ here forbidding private revenge, which is unlawful, doth hereby establish that revenge which is lawful and just. Now lawful revenge (to speak somewhat hereof) is the work of a just and lawful power requiring evil for evil. This just revenge is twofold: divine and human. Divine revenge is the work of GodŐs absolute power taking vengeance upon offenders. Of the lawfulness of this revenge in God, there is no question; only this we must remember: that God executes this vengeance daily, in the manifold miseries of this life, and likewise in the just condemnation of the impenitent after death. Indeed as a father He chasteneth His church and children, for vengeance in Christ becomes nurturing; but as a severe judge He plagues the wicked, pouring vengeance upon them, both temporal and eternal. Human revenge is the ordinance of God, whereby men being thereunto called by God, do execute vengeance in the name of God; and it is twofold: extraordinary and ordinary. Extraordinary is when men are extraordinarily stirred up by the Spirit of God to execute vengeance upon offenders in the name of God. Thus Phineas slew Zimri and Cosbi (Num. 25:7-9); and thus many of the Judges of Israel, especially Ehud (Jud. 3:27) and Samson (Jud. 14:19, and chap. 13), took revenge on the enemies of GodŐs people. Thus Elijah the prophet slew BaalŐs priests (1 Kin. 18:40), and destroyed their two captains and their fifties with fire from heaven (2 Kin. 1:10,12). Thus Peter killed Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), and Paul struck Elymas with blindness (Acts 13:10). This kind of revenge is now rare, for we are not to look for extraordinary instincts. We know Christ rebuked His disciples (Luke 9:54,55) for seeking to execute this extraordinary revenge upon the Samaritans. And therefore when we have a conceit hereof in ourselves, we may justly suspect what spirit it is that moveth us. Ordinary revenge is that which men ordinarily put into execution in the church and commonwealth, according to GodŐs will, being thereto called by God. And it is twofold: lesser or sovereign. Lesser revenge is the inflicting of lawful correction upon offenders in word or deed, not reaching to the case of life and death. This kind of revenge is committed to parents over their children and masters over their servants, to schoolmasters over their scholars and tutors over their pupils. Sovereign revenge is that whereby the magistrate may lawfully punish men according to their offences in body, goods or life itself. This I call sovereign, not simply, but because it is the highest that agreeth unto man, being of life and death. This revenge is executed partly in peace and partly in war. In peace, by the confiscation of goods, by imprisonment, banishment and (if the offence deserve it) by taking away of life, for the good of the public state. In time of war, whenas (not for every case) but for the just repelling or requiting of wrongs, war is made against the enemies of the state. Now though it belong to the magistrate only, to execute public revenge, yet every private man may have the benefit hereof, and may upon just cause use the magistrateŐs help for his revenge; as first, if his cause be weighty wherein he is wronged; secondly, if it be necessary; and thirdly, if it be for his just defence, for the common good, and the punishment of the offender; and the magistrate in these cases may lawfully, nay, he must put in execution revenge for private men; for without this, neither church nor commonwealth, nor any society could stand.
Thus we see what just revenge is. Now considering it is the ordinance of God, this must admonish us to eschew all outward offences, that we may so escape the just revenge of the magistrate; and also to make conscience of all sins, that so we may avoid the vengeance of God. And thus much of the general rule.
Now because this general rule might seem to be hard, therefore Christ explains the same in three particular examples, wherein He shews how men are to behave themselves when they are wronged. The first example is in these words:
(1) Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also
Under which are comprehended all injuries done to menŐs bodies, not only by blows and words, but also in the contempt of their persons, signified by striking on the right cheek; for usually men strike with the right hand, which directly should alight on the left cheek, and if the right cheek be smitten, it is commonly with the back of the hand, which is a blow with contempt. Now, say a man is abused in his body, even by blows of contempt, yet he must not revenge himself, but turn the other cheek also; which words must not simply be understood but by comparison thus: Rather than thou revenge thyself, and resist the evil one that hath stricken thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other; for this particular example comprehendeth in it the general rule of not resisting evil by private revenge; and that it may not simply be taken may hereby appear: first, because Christ should then command the sufferer to give further occasion of wrongdoing to the evil man, which is not His meaning; again, Christ Himself who gave this rule, did not so practice it, when He was smitten by the servant of the High Priest (John 18:22,23).
(i) First, by this example, Christ condemneth the common practice of challenging the field for personal wrongs, and of taking that challenge when it is given; as also the fighting the single combat; for Christ teacheth that a man must take many wrongs before he seek to revenge himself by any such course. If it be said that it is a disgrace to refuse a challenge; we must know that true grace and credit standeth in yielding obedience unto God, and not in sinning against Him for the saving of our reputation with men.
(ii) Secondly, the common practice of fighting and quarrelling is here condemned. Many hold it unlawful to give the first blow, but yet if another strike them, they think they may strike again. But this Christ here condemns, and His own example is against it; for when He was smitten before the High Priest (John 18:22,23), He smote not again. When Paul was smitten (Acts 23:2,3), he only defended himself in word, but smote not again. And Christ checketh Peter for taking the sword (John 18:10) to resist the officers that apprehended Him in the garden; indeed He permitted His disciples to wear weapons, yet not for revenge, but for their just defence only.
(iii) Thirdly, Christ here condemneth their opinion that make it a matter of praise for a man that he will not turn his face from a man. It is indeed the praise of the magistrate to be courageous, and not to fear the face of man. But yet a private man, be he never so strong, ought to turn his face from the adversary, unless it be in the case of his necessary defence; for a man must suffer double or treble wrong rather than revenge himself. If any shall think this to be a great disgrace, still he must remember that our chiefest honour consisteth in approving ourselves unto God by obeying His will, who here commandeth us rather to turn our backs and flee, than to resist in our own revenge.
Question: But what if a man be assaulted, either on the highway, or in his house; may he not then resist to save his life and goods? Answer: In such a case, he may do two things: First, he may to the uttermost of his power, defend himself and his goods; for the text speaketh not against defence, but against revenge. Secondly, if a man can see no way to escape, either by flight, or calling for help of the magistrate, then he is to stand so far in his own defence, that he is rather to kill than be killed; for in this case, God puts the sword into a private manŐs hand, and makes him a magistrate, to execute revenge upon his adversary; and thus might a man lawfully kill a thief in the night without the guilt of blood (Exod. 22:2).
(iv) Fourthly, hence observe that no private man may lawfully kill a prince, though he should tyrannically destroy both church and commonwealth; for this rule must square the actions of private men, they must rather bear double and treble wrong, than by way of private revenge resist the evil one. The revenge of evil magistrates must be referred to God, to whom it justly belongeth, as David did (1 Sam. 26:10; Psa. 43:1).
(v) Lastly, in this first example of particular injury, we may see one property of an evil man; namely, to be given to fighting, quarrelling and contending. Such an one may think himself a goodly fellow, but yet he that uses his strength to ordinary quarrelling, and wrongdoing to others, is here made an evil one by the sentence of our Saviour Christ; and therefore such as excel in strength, if they would be approved of Christ, must make conscience of quarrelling and fighting, and offer violence to no man.
(2) ŇAnd if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.Ó (v.40)
Here Christ propounds the second example of wrong done to men, wherein He forbids the party wronged to revenge himself; to wit, being injured in his goods, either privately, or under colour of law, for both these may here be well understood. By coat, is properly meant the inner garment; and by cloak, the outward; but here the words are not so strictly to be taken, but indifferently for any divers garments; for in Luke they are thus set down: And him that would take away thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also. And ChristŐs meaning is this: If one unjustly contend with thee, to take from thee one garment, let him have another also, whether coat or cloak, or such like thing. And yet this commandment is not simply, but comparatively to be understood; to wit, rather than a man should seek private revenge, he must not only suffer the loss of one garment but of more, and so of other temporal goods.
Out of this example, we may learn these instructions:
(i) First, that Christians must be quiet and patient, and not give to contend; whether it be privately, or openly by suit at the law. This contention Paul reproved in the Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:3), and chargeth the Phillippians that nothing be done among them by contention (Phil. 2:3); which is a notable rule; for though men be at difference, yet there ought to be no contentions either in word or deed, all things ought to be done in love, and so strife shall cease; that wrangling spirit is not of God, whereby men strive to put down others in words. When a man hath spoken his mind, he ought to cease, for multiplying of words is against Christian civility, and everywhere condemned in the holy Scripture.
(ii) Secondly, here is condemned, not the lawful, but the common use of lawing, whereby men for every trifle will trouble the courts. This argues a contentious spirit, and a mind that is given to revenge, which beseemeth not Christians, as Paul sheweth (1 Cor. 6:1,2,5,6); and yet it is the common practice in these our days, from whence come such unchristian speeches as this: I will be revenged on him, or else I will spend all that I have. But the truth is that rather than a man should go thus to law, he ought to suffer double and treble loss.
(iii) Thirdly, here Christ teacheth that in all our dealings we must have a principal regard unto charity, and rather seek to maintain this grace in our hearts, than our outward worldly goods.
(iv) Fourthly, we are here taught to prefer our own peace and quietness before our temporal goods; yet not simply, but in this respect: that hereby we may have fitter time with quietness to employ ourselves in the worship of God, and so edify ourselves in holiness and piety. This duty concerneth them especially which have much dealing in the world, and thereupon many occasions of anger and vexation; for such unruly passions make a man unfit for GodŐs service; it is the meek and lowly heart that receives the blessing from the Lord (Matt. 11:29).
(v) Lastly in this example, is set down unto us a second property of evil men; namely, to be given to wrong their brethren in their goods, either privately, or under colour of law. Such a one was Zaccheus before his calling, when he gathered tribute and custom for the Roman emperor, he used forged cavillation for his own gain (Luke 19); and these our days abound with those that enrich themselves by pilling and polling of their brethren; but all such are unjust and evil persons, by the judgment of our Saviour Christ.
(3) ŇAnd whosoever will compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.Ó (v.41)
Here Christ propounds the third example of wrongdoing, by superiors towards their inferiors, wherein the party wronged is likewise forbidden to make resistance by way of private revenge. For the understanding whereof, we must know that as in our commonwealth we have postmasters, so in other countries, especially in Persia, there were like officers, who by authority from their kings or emperors, might take menŐs cattle, nay, men themselves, and use them for travel and carriage at their pleasure. And it is likely that the Jews had got this custom among them after their captivity, as may in part appear (Matt. 27:32) by their compelling Simon of Cyrene to bear ChristŐs cross when they met him. Now Christ speaks here of the abuse of this authority; saying that if a man compel thee wrongfully, under colour of the magistrateŐs authority, to go with him one mile, go with him twain; that is, rather than by resisting thou shouldest revenge thyself, go with him two miles; whence He gives to all inferiors a commandment to bear patiently the wrongs that are done unto them by their superiors, and rather to suffer a double wrong than to seek to revenge themselves by private resistance.
Here then we see a just ground of reproof of inferiors for sundry practices of impatience towards their superiors; as first, when a man is attacked by an officer, to make violent resistance. This practice swerveth from the rule of Christ; for say thou art attacked wrongfully, yet thou oughtest to acknowledge GodŐs ordinance in magistracy, and to obey the same, without offering private revenge. Secondly, it often falls out that landlords, and men of wealth, oppress the poor, by enclosing of common lands, and such like; now hereupon the poorer sort use to rail against them, and to curse them; but this practice is also here forbidden by our Saviour Christ; for albeit the rich men sin grievously in oppressing the poor, yet the poor must suffer rather double or treble wrong, than by cursing speeches seek private revenge.
Again, in this example, we may see a third kind of wicked men; to wit, all such as being superiors, do wrong and violence to their inferiors; as cruel magistrates, oppressing landlords, cavilling officers, usurers and such like. These are here called evil ones by our Saviour Christ; and therefore they must learn to shew mercy, and leave off wrong and violence, if they look to escape to be judged as evil ones at the last day.
Thus we see the three particular examples of wrongs wherein men may not revenge themselves privately. Now from them all jointly considered, we may note two points:
(1) First, that the calling of a Christian is a state of suffering (1 Pet. 2:20,21), If ye take it patiently when ye suffer wrong for well-doing, this is praiseworthy; for ye are hereunto called; and therefore, if we would declare ourselves to be the true members of Christ, we must shew forth patience in bearing wrongs, without seeking revenge. This was ChristŐs lesson to His disciples, for having told them of afflictions to come, He bids them (Luke 21;19), to possess their souls with patience. So when the Spirit of God sets down the afflictions of the church, He adds this as an item (Rev. 13:10; 14:12): Here is the patience of the saints. We therefore must labour to repel all malice and rancour when we suffer unjustly, remembering this rule of Christ: that rather than we offer private revenge, we must suffer the doubling and trebling of the wrong. It is true indeed that this is hard for flesh and blood to do; but if we be but flesh, that is, natural men, why do we profess ourselves to be Christians? For he that hath not the Spirit of God, is none of His (Rom. 8:9). And if we be in the Spirit, we must obey the motions thereof, and learn of Christ, who was meek and humble, and following Him, we shall find rest for our souls.
(2) Secondly, when Christ sets down these three examples of suffering wrong, He applies Himself to the present outward estate of the Jews. Which was this? For one man to suffer wrong of another in his body, and in his goods, and yet to rest contented, without relief or amends. Now the cause of this their miserable condition, was their servitude to the Roman emperor, who a little before ChristŐs coming, had removed the sceptre from Judah, and made Judah a province tributary unto Rome, so as they were not ruled by a prince of their own, but by a foreign enemyŐs deputies.
In this estate we may see the miserable condition of any people that are in bondage to a foreign enemy. Their lives are every way miserable; for besides their personal bondage, they are constrained to suffer losses and wrongs in goods, in their names, without all remedy or relief. The consideration hereof must teach us: First, to be heartily thankful unto God for the happy outward peace which with the gospel of GodŐs grace we now enjoy under our sovereign, being free from subjection unto any foreign power. Secondly, to pray earnestly unto the Lord for the good estate, life and health of our prince, by whom under God we enjoy such joy and prosperity; as also for the continuance of GodŐs holy hand of protection to preserve the whole land against all foreign power whatsoever. Thirdly, to repent unfeignedly of all our sins, that so we, turning unto God from them, He may continue unto us those happy days of peace wherein we have freedom from subjection to foreign tyranny; for our sins are our greatest foes, they lay open the ports of our lands, and the gates of our cities to the spoiling enemy; they will pull down our strong walls, and take away the strength of our armed men. No enemies can do us so much harm as our own sins; and therefore we must humble ourselves for them, and if we have not repented, now we must begin; and if we have begun, we must proceed and renew the same more and more. If we had felt the misery of subjection to foreign power, as these Jews now did, it would touch us; and therefore before these evils come upon us, let us meet our God by true repentance, that so He may keep from us this fierce wrath.
2. ŇGive to him that asketh; and from him that would borrow of thee, turn not away.Ó (v.42)
Christ having forbidden private revenge, doth here command the requital of good for evil, in two particular examples of well-doing taken from giving and lending; by both which, though not expressly, yet in sense and meaning Christ would teach us His hearers thus much: Let that man be what he will, do thou good unto him for evil.
(1) For the first, Give unto him that asketh etc. These words must not be taken simply, but in this sense: Give unto him that asketh on a just cause being poor, though he cannot requite thee again, nay, though he had done thee wrong, and were thine enemy. This exposition is plain (Luke 6), for having set down his commandment for giving (v.30), he renders this reason thereof in effect: Because they cannot requite thee again (v.34), which plainly imports that it must be to the poor.
(i) Here now first observe the form of ChristŐs words: they are commanding, Give to him etc.; whence I gather that a man is bound in conscience upon the pain of death to give alms and relief (Matt. 25:41,42). Christ adjudgeth some to hell for the neglect of this duty. Now there could be no such curse if there were no commandment that did bind their conscience to do that, for want whereof they are condemned. Again, in the sixth commandment, we are bound to do all duties that may preserve our neighbourŐs life, of which sort is giving relief unto the poor, without which they cannot live. If it be said that Daniel (Dan. 4:27) made almsdeeds no commandment, but a matter of counsel unto Nebuchadnezzar; I answer that things commanded may be propounded by way of counsel. So doth Christ to the church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:18) I counsel thee to buy of me gold etc. Again, Daniel used this form of speech to the king: Let my counsel be precious unto thee (Dan. 4:27); not because it was no commandment, but because he would so temper his speech that it might better take place in the stout heart of this proud king. And when as Paul (2 Cor. 8:8), speaking of alms saith, I speak not by commandment, it is to be understood not simply of alms-giving, but of the measure thereof, as the former verse doth plainly shew.
Here then we see those men confuted which say that they may do with their own what they will. This is not so, for menŐs goods are not their own simply, but GodŐs also; and they indeed are but the LordŐs stewards to dispose of them as He commands. Now His will is that part thereof should be given to them which want.
Secondly, we see here also that those men sin grievously who are so covetous that they will give nothing to the poor. Sell they will, and lend also, upon a good pawn, for their own advantage; but by free gift they will part with nothing. These are miserable persons, who do what they can to condemn themselves; for GodŐs commandment binds men in conscience to give unto the poor, and that freely. Yet here we must know that not only they who give freely do a work of mercy; but also they who lend and sell, whenas their lending and selling will as much profit the poor as giving. This in effect is alms-deeds here also commanded; and therefore Joseph is commended, not only for giving, but for selling corn to the Egyptians and others in time of dearth.
Thirdly, this being a commandment binding conscience, must stir us up to do all good duties of relief with cheerfulness, that so meet and decent provision for the poor may not only be begun, but also continued; for it is acceptable unto God.
(ii) A second point here to be observed is, what kind of commandment this is: Give to him that asketh. GodŐs commandments be of two sorts: affirmative and negative; and in the moral law the one is always comprehended in the other. Now this commandment is affirmative, which must be noted, because negative precepts lay a straiter bond upon the conscience than the affirmative; and therefore are the precepts of the moral law for the most part propounded negatively; for the negative precept binds a man to obedience always, and to all every time; as when God saith, Thou shalt not kill, a man is never exempted from obedience hereunto; but an affirmative commandment, though it bind always, yet not to all times, as this of Christ for giving alms, it binds not all men, but only those who are enabled to give; yet not the rich to all times, but then only when just occasion of giving is offered. And the same may be said of every affirmative commandment, as of keeping an holy rest unto the Lord, it binds a man for ever, but not at all times, only for the seventh day, and such like.
Yet further to lay open this commandment touching alms, we will herein handle eight points:
(a) Who is to give
(b) What is to be given
(c) To whom must we give
(d) In what order
(e) How much
(f) In what place
(g) At what time
(h) In what manner we must give
(a) For the first: The person that is to give is not everyone, but such as God hath set apart for this duty; for (Matt. 25:42,43), some are there made to receive, as the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick etc., and others are made fit to give clothing, food, comfort, and such like. And St John telleth us who is made fit to give (1 John 3:17), namely, He that hath the goods of this world; not only he that hath abundance, but even he that hath but a small portion of worldly goods; and therefore the thief that stole for want is forbidden to steal, and commanded to labour, that he may have to give to him that wanteth (Eph. 4:28). And the poor widow is commended of Christ (Luke 21:2,3), that of her penury gave to the treasury but two mites. Now in a giver there must be two things: first, a right unto the good he giveth; for a man may not give that which is not his own; secondly, a present full propriety in the things he giveth (unless it be in the case of necessity); and by this are children and servants excluded from giving, unless they have some things of their own, or do it by command.
Question: Whether may the wife give relief unto the poor without the husbandŐs consent? An ancient answer is this: that many wives in giving are AbigailŐs in regard of their husbands, who are like unto Nabal; and therefore they may give. And yet some other ancient divines add this: that the wife cannot give, where all consent of her husband is wanting, because both she and all her possessions belong unto him principally; yet here we are to know that there is a double consent of the husband; (1) expressed in open words, whereupon there is no question but that the wife may lawfully give; and (2) secret, which is threefold: First, when the husband doth not dissent; secondly, when he gives consent generally; as when he allows her to give, but names not any particular; thirdly, when the wife hath a probable conjecture and presumption that if her husband did know, he would allow of her giving. And in these cases of secret consent, the wife may also give. But if she have not his consent any of these ways, she may not lawfully give, unless in these cases: (1) that she hath something private of her own, either by exception before, or by grant after marriage; (2) that her giving serves to preserve the life or good estate of her husband and family, as AbigailŐs did when she gave to David; (3) that the necessity of the receiver requires present relief; for extreme necessity dispenseth with propriety.
(b) What is to be given? Namely, alms. Here two questions are to be scanned: (1) What is alms; (2) Whereof alms are to be raised.
(1) For the first: Alms is a free gift, tending to preserve the temporal life of our neighbour. First, I call it a gift, understanding it largely, because forgiving to them that are not able to pay, is an alms deed. Secondly, I say free, to distinguish it from subsidies to princes, and tithe-giving for the stipends of the minister, and such like. These are gifts, but no free gifts; for the people receive protection from the magistrate for their subsidies, and instruction from the minister for their tithes. Thirdly, I say, the end of alms is to preserve temporal life; to distinguish it from spiritual gifts, which concern the soul. The papists make all works of mercy whether they concern the body or soul, to be alms; but alms properly are gifts that tend to preserve this natural temporal life.
(2) Whereof are alms to be raised? First, of our own goods; for a man ought not to give that which is another manŐs; and therefore those that owe more than they are worth, cannot give alms, but are rather fit to receive; for all that they have in right and conscience belongs to some others. Secondly, our alms must be our firstfruits; things wholesome and good, and such as are fit for the person relieved. They must not be the refuse of our goods, which we know not else what to do with. (Neh. 8:10), Part of the fat, and of the sweet must be sent to them for whom none is provided. Thirdly, alms must be of goods lawfully given; for evil-gotten goods must be restored, either to the owner (if he be known), or to some of his kindred, or to the magistrate; which shews that the usurer ought rather to restore, than to give alms of his gain of usury. Fourthly, our alms must be given of our own, with difference and discretion. Every manŐs goods for the most part may be distinguished into four degrees: First, some are necessary to preserve life, without which a man and his family cannot live. Secondly, some are necessary to manŐs estate, as those goods which a man putteth in practising the duties of his calling; such are books unto the student, and tools unto the tradesman. A third sort are such as are requisite for the decency of a manŐs estate, and such are those that make a man walk in his calling with comfort, ease, profit and delight. The fourth sort of things are superfluous; that is, all that portion which a man may want, and yet have things necessary for this life, and estate, and for the decency thereof. These two last degrees are in Scripture called abundance. And answerably, there are two degrees of poverty: the first is common want, when a man can live without receiving alms, but yet very hardly; the second is extreme want, when a man without relief cannot possibly maintain life. Now in common want we must give of our abundance; that is, both of our superfluity, as also the riches that serve for decency. (Luke 3:11), He which hath two coats, let him part with him that hath none. Now he that hath two coats, is not he that hath a coat and a cloak, for so had St Paul (2 Tim. 4:13), and yet he retained them lawfully for his use; but ChristŐs meaning is that he which hath things necessary, and besides something over, serving for decency and superfluity, must give thereof to him that lacketh. And in extreme necessity, he must give of those goods which pertain necessarily to his life and estate; for our neighbourŐs life must be preferred before our own temporal goods and outward estate. Paul (2 Cor. 8:3) testifieth of the Macedonians that in the extreme necessity of the saints, they gave to their power, yea, and beyond their power. Upon this ground the Christians in the primitive church (Acts 4:34,35) sold their possessions for the relieving of the poor brethren in extreme want; rather diminishing their own temporal estate, than suffering the poor to want that were in extreme necessity. This rule ought always to be regarded and practised, especially in times of want. As for those that make advantage of a dearth, and enrich themselves by GodŐs judgment on the poor, they are most miserable and wretched people, quite void of every spark of that gracious disposition which was in Christ, who being rich, even king of heaven and earth, made Himself poor, that through His poverty, He might make others rich (2 Cor. 8:9). It is the will of God that we should bear one anotherŐs burdens, and help to lift up the poor that are pressed down with the judgment of God; which we shall do, when we give not only of our abundance in common want, but even of our necessaries in the extreme want of the poor.
(c) To whom must we give? Answer: To the poor. This needs no proof; yet in these poor, two things are required: First, they must be truly poor; that is, such as are indeed either in common or extreme want. And of such St John saith (1 John 3:17), If any have this worldŐs good, and seeth his brother have need, if he shut up his compassion from him; how dwelleth the love of God in him? Secondly, they must be such as cannot help themselves (Lev. 25:35), If thy brother be impoverished, and have a trembling hand, thou shalt relieve him. The man of a trembling hand, is one that is not able to maintain himself. Of this sort are orphans, widows, the aged, sick, blind, lame, maimed in service, and such like; all these must be relieved. But the case stands otherwise with that kind of poor, which we call lusty beggars, who are able to provide for themselves, if they would take pains. St PaulŐs rule belongs to them (2 Thess. 3:10), If they will not work, they must not eat; that is, they must not be maintained on the alms of the church.
Question: What must such lusty poor do? Answer: They must be employed in some lawful calling, wherein they may labour to get their own bread, and not eat the common food of those that are poor indeed. For the church and commonwealth are as a manŐs body, wherein every member hath his several office, for the good of the whole body. And indeed every man should have not only a general calling of a Christian, but a particular calling also, wherein he must employ himself for the common good. It is against the Word of God, and the light of nature, that any should live having nothing to do. Adam in his innocency was enjoined to work in the garden; and our Saviour Christ before His baptism (Luke 2:51 with Mark 6:3), lived under his parents in a particular calling, till He was thirty years old; whose examples we must follow.
Question: What is our duty towards these lusty beggars? Answer: From PaulŐs rule (2 Thess. 3:10), we may gather that we must not ordinarily and of custom relieve them. Indeed upon present necessity they are to be relieved, but yet with this advertisement, that they look not for it again, but that they provide for themselves by labouring in some lawful calling; for this common relieving at menŐs doors, makes so many idle vagabonds and rogues as there are.
(d) In what order must we give our alms for distinction of persons? Answer: Touching order in relieving, the Holy Ghost hath laid down three rules: First, by St Paul (1 Tim. 5:8), He that provideth not for his own, and namely for them of his own household, is worse than an infidel; whence this order may be observed, that (1) a man must give to them that be of his own household and family; (2) to his own blood, kindred and alliance; (3) unto strangers. The second rule is this (Gal. 6:10): Do good unto all, but specially to the household of faith: first, believers must be relieved, and then all others, good or bad. The third rule is given by Moses (Deut. 15:10), We must first relieve our own poor, that is, such as live among us, and then give unto strangers, if our ability will afford, and their necessity do require.
(e) How much must we give? Touching the measure of our alms, there is no particular commandment in Scripture; but yet these general rules may thence be gathered: First, that a man is not bound to give all that he hath (Prov. 5:15,16), Drink the waters of thine own cistern, and flowing streams out of the midst of thine own well; let thy fountains disperse themselves abroad; where under an allegory borrowed from waters, the Holy Ghost directeth a man for the disposing of his riches; namely, comfortably to enjoy his own goods, and yet to bestow some part thereof on them that want; and (Luke 3:11), Let him that hath two coats, give (not both) but one to him that wanteth; where we see them justly rebuked that in prodigality do riotously lavish and spend all that they have; for if a man may not give all, much less may he spend all wilfully. Secondly (2 Cor. 8:13), A man must not so give to others that he himself be grieved, and they be eased altogether. Thirdly, alms must be according to the giverŐs ability, and withal answerable to the necessity of the poor, whether in food, raiment or harbour. So Paul saith, speaking of common relief (2 Cor. 9:12), the ministration of this service supplieth the necessity of the saints. And St James requires that in relief such things be given (Jam. 2:16) as be needful to the body. And (Deut. 15:8), If thy brother be poor, thou shalt open thy hand unto him, and lend him sufficient for his need which he hath.
(f) In what place must alms be given? Touching the place we must know this: that it is a disorder not beseeming GodŐs church, to give relief to wandering beggars at our doors. This may appear by these reasons: (1) It is GodŐs commandment (Deut. 15:4), that among his people there should be no beggars. If any man ask, how the poor were then relieved? I answer, God took sufficient order for their provision; for first, the husbandman (Lev. 19:9) must not gather his grapes clean, nor yet his cornfield, but leave the after-gathering and gleaning for the poor. Secondly, besides the (Num. 18:26) tithes for the priests and Levites, every three years (Deut. 14:28,29) tithes were to be gathered and kept for the poor and for strangers. Thirdly, every seventh year the land was to rest, and all that is brought for that year, with the fruit of the vineyard and olives, was for the poor (Exod. 23:11). Again, in the New Testament the apostles ordained that in every church there should be deacons, that is, men of wisdom and discretion, who were to gather for the poor, and likewise to dispose of that which was given, according as every man had need; in which very order of provision for the poor, the Lord forbids all wandering begging. (2) These wandering beggars are the shame and reproach of the people where they are suffered; for it argueth want of care of good order in governors, and want of mercy in the rich, that they gather all to themselves, without regard how the poor should live. (3) In relieving these wandering beggars, there is this double want in the giver: he cannot tell what to give, nor how much; because he knows not the state of the party that beggeth. Now in alms-deeds there ought to be a double discretion: the giver ought to know both his own ability, and also the necessity of the receivers. (4) Common relieving at menŐs doors makes many beggars, and maintains a wicked generation; for these wandering beggars are for the most part flat atheists, regarding nothing but their belly, separating themselves from all congregations; and from begging, many fall to stealing; or else they take such pleasure therein that they will never leave it, no not for a yearŐs rent. This is known to be true by experience. All which things duly considered, must move the magistrates and every other in their place, to see that better order be observed for the poor than door-relieving to all that come. And sith good laws are made in this behalf, men ought in conscience to see the same observed and kept; neither can any man without sin transgress the same. Indeed, if good order were not provided for the poor, it were better to relieve them in their wandering course, than to suffer them to starve; for so dealt Christ and His disciples with the poor, when good order failed among the Jews, they relieved them in the highways and streets.
(g) At what time must alms be given? Answer: Hereof the Scripture speaketh little, yet this may be gathered thence: First, that relief must be given when present occasion requireth; therefore Solomon saith (Prov. 3:28), Say not to thy neighbour, Go and come again tomorrow, if thou now have it. Secondly, that the Sabbath day is a fit time for the giving of release for the poor; for the apostle (1 Cor. 16:2) commandeth the Corinthians that each one should lay aside upon that day, according as God had prospered him the week before, that which he would give for the poor; where by the way, it may be observed that daily giving at menŐs doors was not allowed by the apostles. Also touching tradesmen this may be added: from this, that the apostle makes contribution for the poor a Sabbath dayŐs work; that whereas they use to employ part of the LordŐs day, both morning and evening in serving their customers for their own private benefit, this cannot be warranted; only this they may do; upon the Sabbath they should sell unto none, but to such as buy of necessiy, and then they may not make a private gain of their sale, but must turn that work of mercy for the poor, either selling without gain, if it be a poor body that buys; or giving the gain of that which they sell to the rich, for the relief of the poor. This indeed will hardly be obtained at tradesmenŐs hands, but yet they must know that the whole Sabbath day is the LordŐs, wherein He will be worshipped with delight, neither ought men to do therein their own works, nor seek their own wills, nor speak their own words (Isa. 58:13).
(h) In what manner must alms be given? Answer: Hereof more is to be spoken in the chapter following; yet from this text these things may be observed: First, that alms-giving must be free; the giver must neither look for recompense at the hands of man, nor think to merit anything thereby at the hands of God. That popish conceit deprives a man of the true comfort of the Spirit in this work of mercy; none but Christ by His obedience could ever merit at GodŐs hands. Secondly, our hearts in giving must be touched with charity, and the bowels of compassion. We must give with cheerfulness; for without love, all that we give is nothing (1 Cor. 13:2), and the Lord loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Now if we conside the poor as our own flesh, and see GodŐs image in them, this will move us to pity. Thirdly, in the person of the poor we must consider Christ Jesus, and give unto them as we would give unto Christ. This will move us to give, and that cheerfully; for in the day of judgment Christ will make it known that He comes for relief to the rich in the person of the poor; to the merciless He will say (Matt. 25:45), Inasmuch as ye did it not unto them, ye did it not unto me; but to the merciful thus: Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Fourthly, our alms must be given as a pledge of our thankfulness unto God for the blessings we enjoy; for all we have cometh from God, and of His hands it is, whatsoever we give (1 Chr. 29:14). Now He professeth that when men do good, and distribute to the poor, He is well pleased with such sacrifices (Heb. 13:16).
(iii) Having seen what this duty of alms-giving is, and how it must be performed, we must now stir up ourselves to put the same in practice. And to move us hereunto, consider the reasons following:
(a) We all desire to be counted righteous. Now if we would be such indeed, we must visit the fatherless and widows, we must do good, and give alms to the poor; for this is pure religion and undefiled before God, as St James saith (Jam. 1:27). To come to the church and hear the Word, and to receive the sacraments are good things; but without mercy to the poor they are not regarded, but hated of God (Isa. 1:13-15).
(b) If a man should offer unto us a piece of ground to manure and till for our own reaping, we would take it kindly and bestow both pains and seed upon it. Behold the poor are sent of God to the rich, as a piece of ground to be tilled; and when they give to the poor, they sow upon the ground, Now as Paul saith in this case (Gal. 6:7), look as a man soweth, so shall he reap. We therefore must sow liberally, that we may also reap liberally.
(c) (Prov. 19:17) He that hath mercy upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord. We would easily be moved to lend, if we had an honest man to be surety unto us, for returning of our own with advantage. Well, the Lord offers Himself to the rich to be surety for the poor. Who then will fear to lend, having so good a debtor?
(d) If these promises will not move us, let us consider the fearful curses threatened against the merciless and hard-hearted; for as he that giveth to the poor shall not lack, so he that hideth his eyes from them shall have many curses (Prov. 28:27). And he that stoppeth his ears at the crying of the poor, he shall cry and not be heard (Prov. 21:13). And the woeful sentence of condemnation shall be pronounced upon the wicked for the neglect of this duty (Matt. 25:41).
(iv) Further, from the words, Give to him that asketh, we may learn that it is the will of God that among His people there should be a propriety of goods, and that all things should not be common in that behalf; for the Lord would have some to have to give, and some to want that they might receive; which would not be, if all things should be common both for use and propriety, as some have fondly imagined. If any man think it was so in the primitive church, because it is said (Acts 4:32), they had all things common, he is to know that the community was in such things only, as men had then freely given for the common good. And yet even then, none was compelled or bound in conscience to give all his substance in that sort; for there (Acts 5:4), Peter tells Ananias that his possession, while it remained unsold, appertained to him; and after it was sold, the price thereof was in his own power to dispose of as he would. Objection 2: All things belong to believers, as Paul saith, All things are yours (1 Cor. 3:21), and therefore ought to be common. Answer: The apostle meaneth that they had right in Christ to all things, and did enjoy them by hope; but yet the fruition of them in actual propriety is not had before the day of judgment.
(v) Again, if giving to the poor be a duty of everyone, whom God enables hereunto, then no man may voluntarily disable himself from it; whereupon the popish practice of undergoing voluntary poverty falls to the ground as unlawful; for thereby they disable themselves unto this duty. Indeed the papists make this a state of perfection, but David judged begging to be a curse (Psa. 109:10), else he would not have spoken of freedom from beggary as of a blessing, which he doth (Psa. 37:25), I never saw the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging.
(vi) Lastly, in this commandment see the error of those men that give themselves wholly to gather riches to themselves, being like to the mole which is always digging in the earth; for God requires that a man should give as well as get, nay he must get to give, and not to keep; for God is more glorified by giving, than by keeping; and herein His children resemble their heavenly Father, who receiveth nothing of any man, and yet giveth liberally to everyone that asketh, without reproaching any (Jam. 1:5).
(2) And from him that would borrow of thee, turn not away.
These words contain ChristŐs second precept touching requiting good for evil, taken from lending and borrowing. To know the meaning of this rule, three points are to be handled: (i) What it is to lend; (ii) To whom men must lend; (iii) In what manner.
(i) For the first, what lending is, is well known by common experience. It is a civil contract or bargain, in which money, corn, or such like goods, pass from man to man, both in regard of use and title; yet so as the borrower is bound in conscience to return the thing lent unto him, or else that which in value is equal unto it.
(ii) To whom men must lend. This circumstance is not here expressed by Matthew, but must be supplied out of Luke (Luke 6:34,35), where Christ forbids them to lend as sinners do, to receive the like again; but (saith He) love your enemies, and do good, and lend looking for nothing again; where it is plain that lending must be to such as are truly poor, and not able to lend again like for like. For the better understanding whereof we are to know that in human societies there be three sorts of men: First, such poor as are unable to provide for themselves things necessary, by reason of some impotency, as sickness, age, lameness or such like; and these are commonly called beggars. A second sort are these, which being poor have yet a trade, wherein they can provide for themselves some part of their maintenance, and yet by reason of their poverty, still want some things necessary, which of themselves they cannot procure. The third sort are rich men, such as have worldly goods in abundance, not only sufficient for their necessaries, but much overplus. Now to each of these belongs his peculiar duty. To the first sort of poor that have the shaking hand (as Moses speaketh, Lev. 25:35), alms are due, and they must be relieved by giving freely, as we have shewed in the former precept. To the second sort of poor belongs lending properly, specially then, when their necessity requires. To the rich, neither gift nor loan is due; but on the contrary, they ought to give and lend to the poor, maintaining themselves by the honest labour and industry of their lawful callings.
(iii) In what manner must men lend? Answer: With a willing mind, without any shew of grudging, either in speech, or by turning away the head or body; as it is here said, From him that would borrow of thee, turn not away; which property in the lender is yet further expressed by Luke saying, Lend, looking for nothing again; where Christ doth not simply forbid men to look for that which they lent; but His meaning is, to shew with what affection and disposition of heart men ought to lend; namely, having respect only to the good of the party borrowing, and not to the restitution of the thing lent; as when a poor man comes to borrow, we must reason thus with ourselves: This man is poor, and it may be will not pay me again; not thus: This man is painful although he be poor, and is like to pay me again, and therefore will I lend. This (saith Christ) is the practice of sinners, who lend, because they look to receive the like. Be thou therefore moved to lend upon a good desire to help the poor, and let not thy mind be running upon the loss or safe return of the thing lent. Thus is that clause of Christ, looking for nothing again, to be understood, and not to be applied to the gain of usury, whereat Christ aimeth not in this place.
(a) First, here observe that to lend unto the poor, is a commandment of God binding the conscience of the rich; it is not left free to the rich manŐs choice, whether he will lend or not, who are so far from lending to the poor that they hoard up their store till a time of death, that then they may enrich themselves by poor menŐs want; and thus they increase GodŐs judgment upon the poor, and as it were (Isa. 3:15), grind their faces, and (Amos 9:11) tread upon them, as the Holy Ghost speaketh. But they shall one day find that they ought to have lent unto the poor in their necessities; yea, and when the hand of God in common want lieth more heavily upon the poor, they ought then to open their hands more liberally towards them. It is a usual and common practice, that when a man begins to decay in his estate, no man will lend him anything; but because he begins to decay, therefore they withdraw their help, lest he should not pay them again. But this ought not to be so; it is ChristŐs commandment that the rich by lending should sustain such an one, as by reason of want is ready to fall into decay.
(b) Secondly, this command of Christ binds the rich, not only to lend, but to lend freely without taking any increase; for they must lend, not looking for any again; yea (Exod. 22:25), the Lord expressly forbids to take increase of the poor; where we see the common practice of usurers condemned to the bottom of hell, who lend unto the poor upon bonds for increase; these are they that live on the blood and life of the poor, whose sin is everywhere condemned, and ought to be hated as bloodshed itself. But the rich will say that they are entreated so to do, and are greatly thanked for so lending. Answer: This excuse will not serve the turn; for SaulŐs armour-bearer was a murderer for killing his master, though Saul earnestly besought him so to do (2 Sam. 1:9,16).
(c) Thirdly, here further learn that a man must lend, and yet not always take again the principal; indeed he may require and receive his own, else there should be no lending but all giving, which two are here distinct; but yet when the poor that borrowed is fallen into further poverty, the rich must turn his lending into giving, and forgive the principal or part thereof, as their several estates shall require (Deut. 24:10-12). A man may take a pledge for his debt of the poor, but yet if the pawn be a thing necessary to the poor manŐs life, he must not take it, or at least not retain it till the sun setting.
(d) Fourthly, some may here ask (seeing Christ bids us lend looking for nothing again), whether may a man at no time with good conscience receive increase for his lending? Answer: Lending is twofold: of due, or of courtesy. Lending of due is the loan of the rich unto the poor, when his necessity compels him to borrow; and for this a man cannot with good conscience take any increase. Lending of courtesy is when one rich friend lends unto another. This is not forbidden in the Word of God, but is left to a manŐs own liberty and discretion, neither hath it any promise of reward. Now in this case of courtesy, I do not find in Scripture that all taking of increase is simply condemned; nay, in some cases, both the law of nature, and the laws of all countries do allow it. As first, when the increase is given only in way of thankfulness, as a blessing to requite in kindness a good turn received; for ingratitude is abhorred of all; and the law of nature requires to do good for good; and all divines, both Protestant and papists, do allow this kind of increase. Secondly, when a man sustaineth damage by his lending, he may receive increase by way of satisfaction for his loss. Thirdly, when a man is contented to adventure his principal in the hand of him that borroweth it, then also may he take increase; like as a man may receive hire for his horse, or for the use of any other goods, standing to their loss (Exod. 22;14).
Thus we see what the will of God is for giving and lending unto the poor. Now hence the poor may receive instruction. First, hereby all may learn that God will have some poor among His people to receive and borrow of the rich; which may serve to persuade the poor to be contented with their mean estate, esteeming it to be the best for them, because God in His wisdom and providence hath ordained it. Secondly, the poor must take occasion from their outward poverty, to seek to be rich in God through grace (Jam. 2:5), Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, that they should be rich in faith? Herein they may match, and go beyond the richer sort; which is a matter of great joy (Jam. 1:9), Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted; that is, with God, who counts them rich (Rev. 2:9). Thirdly, hence the poor must learn to carry themselves submissively towards the rich, of whom they receive great help and comfort by their giving and lending (Prov. 18:23), The poor (saith Solomon) uttereth supplications; noting their humility, which reproves many poor, who are so proud-hearted and ungrateful that they will not afford the rich a good word. But this beseemeth none, much less those that are to live by the rich (Psa. 101:5), Him that hath a proud look and high heart, I cannot suffer.