ŇYe have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.Ó Matthew 5:43-48
ŇYe have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemiesÓ (v.43)
In this verse, and the rest to the end of the chapter, our Saviour goeth about to purge the general commandment of the second table, touching the love of our neighbour, from the corrupt interpretation of the Jewish teachers, and to restore it to his true and proper meaning. And as in the former, so here, He first lays down their false doctrine touching this commandment (v.43). In laying down their false interpretation, He propounds the law of Moses touching brotherly love (Lev. 19:18), Thou shalt love thy neighbour; which must here be understood in their false sense, who by neighbour, meant a friend; as if God had said, thou shalt love thy friend. Then he adjoineth their tradition gathered from the law of God misconceived; namely, to hate a manŐs enemy.
In these Jews we may observe two manifest abuses of Scripture which ought not to be in any teachers; to wit, misinterpretation and a false collection.
1. The Word they misconstrue, is neighbour, which in the Old Testament is taken two ways: either strictly and more properly for a familiar friend and acquaintance, in which sense it is commonly taken; or more generally, for anyone that in any kind of society is near unto us, as by consanguinity, habitation, office, traffic, or being only in the same place with us; for so is the Samaritan said to be neighbour to the man that fell among thieves, because he found him lying in the way where he travelled, and had compassion on him (Luke 10:33). Now the Jewish teachers leave the general signification of the word, which expressed the true meaning of the Holy Ghost, and take the special signification, and so restrain this law of love to friends only. Whereby we see how necessary it is that the tongues wherein the Scriptures were penned should be well known and understood; for the mistaking of the signification of a word by the Jewish teachers, caused a manifest error to be taught among them for truth. And this maketh greatly for the honour of the schools of learning, where the studies of the tongues is professed. And herein also another thing may be noted in the Jewish teachers, that in the time of Christ they were ignorant in their own tongue, and therefore no marvel though at this day they know not the proprieties thereof, seeing their commonwealth is decayed, and they dispersed among all people.
2. Their second fault is a false collection and consequent, that because a man must love his friend, therefore he must hate his enemy. This is against the rules of logic; for unless the contraries be equal, a consequent will not thence follow in this sort.
Here then observe the necessity of the study of human arts, and among the rest, especially of the art of logic, whereby we may discern between true and false collections. Again, here observe an infallible note of a false teacher; to wit, to temper the Word of God to menŐs natural affections, and so to expound it as they may both stand together. The Jews were a people that loved their friends entirely, and hated their enemies bitterly. Now answerably do these teachers expound this law, whereby they overturn both the law of God, and the salvation of the people. Thirdly, mark here the fruit of corrupt doctrine, namely, to corrupt good manners. The Jews were a people that did much brag of their ancestors and privileges, and in regard of themselves condemn all foreign nations; yea, they hated them, and therefore they were hot in contention with Peter for going to Cornelius a Gentile (Acts 11:2). Now this their malice proceeded partly from nature and partly from the false doctrine of their teachers, which was that they might hate their enemies. The like may appear in many practices of popery to this day; for when that superstition was aloft, the people were taught a distinction of times and places, in regard of holiness, the fruit of which doctrine sticks fast in the hearts of many unto this day; for they think churches and chapels to be more holy than other places, and therefore some will not pray but when they come into some such place. And do they not make great difference of dates and times? All which are fruits of popery. In regard whereof, we see it is necessary that the purity of religion in faith and manners should be strongly maintained by the sincere ministry of the Word; for many disorders in menŐs lives come from the unsound handling of the Scriptures. Whereby, we may see GodŐs unspeakable mercy and goodness towards us, in vouchsafing us an holy ministry, wherein the purity of doctrine is, and hath been long, and may be still through GodŐs mercy maintained and published. This ought to move us to all thankfulness unto God, and to endeavour to shew the fruit of this true religion in all holiness and piety, both of heart and life towards God and man.
ŇBut I say unto you, Love your enemies: Bless them that curse you: do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which hurt you, and persecute you.Ó (v.44)
Here our Saviour Christ propounds His answer unto the former false doctrine of the Jewish teachers, for the hating of an enemy. Wherein first he lays down a general rule, containing the sum of His whole answer, saying, Love your enemies; then He expounds that rule in the sme verse; and after proves it (vv. 45,46). Of these in order.
For the first, Love your enemies. In this rule, two things must be known: (1) What is an enemy? (2) What it is to love an enemy. Both these are evident in the words following, wherein Christ expounds this rule: Bless them that curse you etc. An enemy, then, is anyone that of hatred doth wrong to his neighbour, either in word, by cursing or evil speaking; or deed, by striking and persecuting him. But what is it to love our enemy? Love properly is an affection of the heart, whereby one is well pleased with another. But here more generally, love comprehendeth these two things: First, to be lovingly affected in heart towards an enemy; secondly, to use an enemy lovingly in speech and action. So it is taken (1 John 3:18), Love not in word and tongue only, but in deed and truth. And (Rom. 13:10), Love is the fulfilling of the law. For the first, love in the heart comprehendeth all good affections that one man beareth to another; as mercy, compassion, meekness, and desire to do unto them what good we can; as it is more plainly expressed (Luke 6:36), Be ye therefore merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful. And for the second, that kind usage which love expresseth in word and deed, is here set out unto us in three branches: First, bless them that curse you; where is commanded all good speech, both unto our enemy, and of our enemy. The second, Do good to them that hate you; where is prescribed all loving usage in action, by affording them help, relief and comfort, any way we can. The third, Pray for them that persecute you; that is, for their good estate in this life, so far forth as it serveth for GodŐs glory, and for their conversion and salvation in the world to come.
See the evidence of these things in examples: For the affection of the heart, take ChristŐs example, who so loved His enemies, that He was contented to shed His own heartŐs blood for them, and to suffer the pangs of hell upon the cross for their salvation. For love in courteous speech, see DavidŐs practice towards Saul, his professed enemy. For though David had him in his hands, and might have killed him sundry times; nay, though he was provoked thereunto by his servants (1 Sam. 24:7; 26:9,10), yet he spared him, and with all terms of reverence towards Saul appeased his servants, calling Saul his master, and the LordŐs anointed. Thus lovingly also in speech did Paul behave himself to Festus and Agrippa (Acts 26:25,27), though they were heathen men, and his enemies. For doing good in action to an enemy, read (Exod. 23:4,5), If thou meet thine enemyŐs ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt bring him to him again; and if thou seest thine enemyŐs ass lying under his burden, wilt thou cease to help him? Thou shalt help him up again with it. And (Prov. 25:21), If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; if he thirst, give him drink. See the practice hereof in Elisha (2 Kin. 6:19-23), when God delivered them into his hands, that sought his life, he brought them to Samaria; and when the king of Israel would have slain them, he forbade him; nay, he caused the king to refresh them with bread and water, and so sent them to their own master. For praying for our enemies, we have the example of the prophets, our Saviour Christ (Luke 23:34), and of Stephen (Acts7:60), who prayed for those that put him to death.
Objection 1: It will be said that the Scripture elsewhere seems to make against this; as (Psa. 139:21,22), Do not I hate them, O Lord (saith David) that hate thee; and do not I earnestly contend with them that rise up against me? I hate them with an unfeigned hatred; whereby it seemeth that in some cases a man may hate his enemies. Answer: First, we must put a difference between our enemyŐs cause and his person. Their evil causes and their sins must be hated, and we must give no approbation thereto; but yet their persons, being GodŐs creatures, and bearing His image in some sort, must be loved. Again, enemies be of two sorts: private and public. A private enemy is he that hateth a man for some private cause in himself, or concerning his affairs; and such an one we must love, and not hate, as Christ here commandeth. A public enemy, is he that hates a man for GodŐs cause, for religion and the gospelŐs sake; and these public enemies be of two sorts: curable and incurable. If our public enemies be curable, we must pray for their conversion, hating their conditions. If they be incurable, and we have plain signs of their final impenitence, then we may hate them, for so we hate the devil. So Paul saith (1 Cor. 16:22), If any man love not the Lord Jesus, Anathema Maranatha, let him be finally and wholly accursed. And yet this we must know, that we ought to direct our hatred to their sins, and for their sins hate their persons, and no otherwise. Now David in that psalm, speaketh not of private, but of public enemies, who hated not only him, but God also in His religion, and were also incurable.
Objection 2: But the practice of GodŐs children seems to be otherwise; for David often curseth his enemies, and prayeth for the destruction of them and theirs (Psa. 109:9,10), and Peter wisheth (Acts 8:20) that Simon Magus may perish with his money; and Paul prayeth the Lord to reward Alexander the coppersmith according to his doings (2 Tim. 4:14). How can this stand with the test? Answer: There be divers interpretations of these facts. Some say (which is true) that in DavidŐs psalms, his curses are in proper sense, prophecies of the destruction of public incurable enemies of GodŐs church, and are only propounded in the form of prayers. Again, David, Peter and Paul, were enlightened by GodŐs Spirit, and saw into the final estate of these their enemies whom they cursed, and therefore do they wish for their confusion, not for their own cause in way of private revenge, but upon a desire of the furtherance of GodŐs glory in the execution of His justice upon them whom He had forsaken. And it is not unlawful for GodŐs children to pray that God in justice would glorify His name in the just punishment of impenitent sinners that be cruel enemies to His church.
Objection 3: God gave commandment to His people the Jews (Deut. 7:2) to destroy the Canaanites, and to root out their enemies out of the land. Now, how could He love them, whom they must so cruelly kill? Answer: We must only love the Lord absolutely, and others in God, and for God; that is, so far forth as it standeth with His pleasure; and therefore when He commandeth to kill, we may lawfully kill. And this we may do by way of punishment appointed by God, not only without hatred, but in love, both forgiving the wrong which concerns us, and also praying for grace and mercy for the party, if he belong to God.
Objection 4: There be some that sin unto death, for whom we are forbidden to pray (1 John 5:16); and therefore we may not always pray for our enemies. Answer: ChristŐs commandment to pray for our enemies admitteth this exception: unless they sin a sin unto death; but that sin is hardly known of the church of God; and therefore private men must not in a conceit thereof, cease this duty to pray for their enemies. Thus then is this text to be understood: Love your enemies, that is, your private enemies, and do good unto them, unless God command you otherwise, and pray for them, if they sin not that sin unto death.
Here is confuted the old received doctrine of the church of Rome touching the love of our enemies, as coming near to the doctrine of these Pharisees. They teach that a man is bound always not to hate his enemies; but for loving them in good usage outwardly, a man is not bound, save in two cases: First, when our enemy is in necessity and danger of life, then he may be relieved and helped. Secondly, in the case of scandal, when as by helping or relieving him we give offence unto others. But out of these two cases to shew kindness to an enemy, is a matter of counsel and perfection. But this doctrine is damnable, flat against this text, and the practice of GodŐs servants expressed in His Word; and therefore we must renounce it, and acknowledge that we are bound in conscience, on every occasion, to shew our love in word and deed unto our private enemies.
Secondly, hereby is condemned the common practice of men in these days; which is to wrong their private enemies any way they can, by word or deed. Some will rail them as Shimei did on David (2 Sam. 16:7), and as Rabshakeh did on Hezekiah, and the people of God, yea, on God Himself (Isa. 36:4,6,12). This is a damnable practice, flat against this commandment of Christ, and His holy practice (1 Pet. 2:23). Nay, Michael the archangel durst not blame the devil with cursed speaking, when he strove against him (Jude 9).
Thirdly, that fruit of rancour is here likewise reproved whereby men will profess they will never forget their enemies, though they do forgive them. It is indeed agreeable to our corrupt nature, to keep a grudge long in mind, and to revive old wrongs; but this commandment of Christ condemneth this practice, and bindeth us both to forgive and forget; and therefore we must labour to beat down this spirit of revenge, and endeavour to love our enemies in word and deed.
Fourthly, here also see that it is not lawful to possess enmity to any manŐs person, for we should love every man. But how can we love him to whom we profess ourselves enemies? Christianity and private enmity cannot stand together; and therefore we must labour to abandon out of our hearts the hatred of any manŐs person, and strive to shew forth loving usage, even towards our enemies, though it be against our nature, both by speaking well of them unto others, and shewing kindness unto them, both in word and deed. We must pray for them, and go so far in all good duties towards them, that by our well-doing, we may heap coals of fire on their heads (Rom. 12:20); that is, cause their conscience like a fire to burn within them, accusing them of their ill-dealing towards us, and not suffering them to rest till they lay away their enmity and maliciousness against us.
Fifthly, this commandment of loving our enemies in word and deed, shews it to be unlawful for any man to utter evil speeches of another, at any time, unless the occasion be just, and he be lawfully called thereunto; for love covers a multitude of sins, but disgracing speeches are fruits of hatred. Though Saul were DavidŐs professed enemy, and sought his blood, yet David never reviled him; and we ought to follow his good example.
ŇThat ye may be the children of your father in heaven; for he maketh his son to arise on the evil, and the good; and sendeth rain upon the just and unjust.Ó (v.45)
1. Because it is against manŐs nature to love his enemy, therefore our Saviour Christ enforceth His disciples hereunto by the benefit they shall reap hereby in manifesting themselves to be the children of God; for He spake to those that were GodŐs children, thus persuading them to love their enemies. That which will make you known to be GodŐs children, that you must do; but by loving your enemies, you shall make it manifest that you are GodŐs children. This He proveth in the words following, because it is a property of God so to do; for He maketh the sun to arise on the evil and on the good etc.
(1) Here, first observe a true note of the child of God; namely, to imitate God his heavenly Father in loving his enemies, and expressing the same kind usage both in word and deed, praying for them, and relieving them in their necessities. And because it is so blessed a thing to be the child of God, we must therefore hereby stir up ourselves to the conscionable performance of this duty.
(2) Secondly, from the ground of this reason we are taught that we ought principally to employ ourselves to those things, by the doing whereof, we may get assurance that we are the children of God; as also to shun the doing of all such things as declare us to be the children of Satan; that is, all sins which are indeed works of darkness and of the devil. In the evil day, whether it be of death, or of affliction, when no man can comfort us, this will be our only joy unto our hearts, which will swallow up all fear, that we know ourselves to be GodŐs children; for then the Lord will acknowledge us for His own. But if by sin, we live like the devil, God will refuse us, and so we fall wholly to the devil. Let us therefore practice those things whereby this ground of comfort may be treasured in our hearts.
(3) Thirdly, note here the style and title of honour which Christ giveth unto God. He calls Him not only their father, but their father which is in heaven. This He doth to stir up reverence in His hearers towards God, and so have GodŐs children done (Dan. 9:4), before that holy prophet pours out his prayer unto God for his people, he sets out the Lord with most glorious titles: O Lord God, great and terrible, which keepest covenant and mercy etc. And Jeremiah praying unto God, spends three or four verses in setting out GodŐs great power and majesty (Jer. 32:17-19). So Hezekiah in his prayer for the people, calls the Lord, The good God; which no doubt he did to stir up reverence in his own heart, and in the people, towards God. Whereby we are taught, when we have occasion to mention the name of God, to do it with all reverence, and to use some titles of honour therewithal, to stir up ourselves and our hearers to a gracious awe of heart towards GodŐs majesty. But lamentable is the practice of the world in this behalf; for everywhere the name of God is tossed in menŐs mouths like a tennis ball; some in the midst of their laughter use, O God, O Lord, for breathing words; but others spare not to make GodŐs glorious name the ensign of their rage and fury, in bloody and blasphemous oaths; but void of grace are all such.
For He maketh His sun to rise on the evil, and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust.
Here Christ propounds the property of God in doing good and shewing kindness to His enemies, to prove that by so doing, we shall shew ourselves to be His children.
(1) Wherein, first observe the manner of ChristŐs speech. He saith not, He hath caused the sun to rise, and hath sent rain etc., but speaking of the time present, He doth now cause the sun to rise, and sendeth rain. So likewise (John 5:17), My Father yet worketh, and I work together with Him. In which phrase is expressed a notable work of GodŐs heavenly providence; namely, that after the creation of all things, whereby God gave being unto the creatures, and power and virtue to do the things for which they were created; He doth by His providence still preserve that being, and so in every particular creature. It is God that gave being to the sun at the beginning, and it is He that ever since continueth the being of the sun, with the light and virtue thereof; and the same is true of all creatures, and of ourselves; (Acts 17:28) For in Him we live, move and have our being. He is not like a carpenter who builds an house and then leaves it, but still He preserves the things He hath created. Herein He may well be compared to a spring or fountain, which causeth the rivers to flow while it sendeth out waters, but when it is stopped, they are dried up; even so, whiles God continueth the being and use of a creature, so long they are; but if He withhold His hand from them, they cease to be, and the use of them continueth no more. Thus it is with us, both in regard of our souls and bodies, with the faculties, powers and graces thereof; but (1 Cor. 4:7) what hast thou that thou hast not received from Him? Who (Heb. 2:3) beareth up all things by His mighty Word?
Now hence we must learn these duties: First, to seek to know Him that is daily about us, and preserveth us in soul and in body, from hour to hour. Secondly, to cleave unto God with our hearts, and to set our affections of love, fear, joy, and hope, wholly upon Him, because He is the author and continuer of our being, whatever it be. Thirdly, to obey our God in all things; for shall He give being to our bodies and souls, and shall we dispose of them after our pleasures, to offend Him, who doth wholly support us, and that continually?
(2) Secondly, here note Christ saith, His sun, not the sun; teaching us that the sun which shineth in the firmament, is GodŐs sun, not menŐs. God Himself is the sole author and governor thereof, He continueth that being which it hath, and the power and virtue which is shewed forth. And the same thing by proportion must be understood of all other creatures both in heaven and earth, the moon and stars, all beasts and cattle, yea, and we ourselves are GodŐs creatures, and He is our Creator, our Lord and our Governor (Psa. 50:12), The whole world is mine, and all that is therein. Now hence we must learn two things: First, not to abuse any creature to our lust, as food, raiment etc., but to use whatsoever we enjoy to GodŐs glory, according to His will. Secondly, to endeavour to be led by the creatures which we enjoy, to the knowledge of our Creator, for they are His. But alas, the practice of the world is otherwise, men suffer themselves by the creatures to be drawn from God; for some make their belly their God; to others, riches and pleasures are their God.
(3) Thirdly, ChristŐs saying of the Father, that He maketh His sun to arise on the evil and on the good, doth shew us the common bounty which God vouchsafeth to His creatures, both good and bad; for the rising and shining of the sun is an excellent work of God, by which many other blessings are conveyed to the creatures; for first, everything upon the earth receiveth heat and warmness from it, nothing is hid from the heat thereof (Psa. 19:6). In which regard it may well be called the universal fire of the whole world. Secondly, the sun serveth notably for the distinction of times, by day and night, weeks, months, quarters and whole years, whereby we know the term of times from the beginning, and so may do till the end of the world; in regard whereof it may well be called the clock of the whole world. Which things considered, may make us to blush and be confounded in ourselves for that light regard we have had of so excellent a creature, whereby God conveys so manifold blessings upon the earth. Let us therefore learn to bless God for the sun, and to express our thankfulness by all good duties.
And sendeth rain on the just and unjust. Here is noted the second common blessing bestowed of God upon the world; to wit, the falling of the rain upon the ground, both of good and bad. Now here first observe the form of speech here used by Christ, saying, God raineth. (Deut. 11:14) The Lord giveth rain in due season, the first and latter rain. This work is attributed to God for weighty causes; First, to shew that the same God who ordained in the beginning that the clouds should water the earth, doth by His own power uphold the continuance of the same blessing unto this day; and indeed, if He should not will the continuance hereof, it would for ever cease to rain upon the earth. Secondly, to teach us that God disposeth of the rain that falleth, restraining and enlarging it at His pleasure, either for the blessing, or the punishment of the place whereon it falleth, and that many times without the help of second causes. (Lev. 26:3,4) If ye walk in mine ordinances, I will send you rain in due season. (v.19) But if you will not obey me, I will make your heaven as iron and your earth as brass. (Amos 4:7) I have withheld the rain from you, and caused to rain upon one city and not upon another; one piece was rained upon, and that which was not rained upon withered.
Here then we must learn:
(i) First that we ought to pray unto God for His rain of blessing; that is, fruitful seasons; and also to be thankful unto God for seasonable weather when we receive it, because He sendeth it.
(ii) This must teach us to obey and serve God, for He hath the clouds in His hands like a sponge, and when He will He presseth out the rain thereof. Now, if we obey Him, He will cause it to fall upon the earth for a blessing; but if we rebel against Him, He will either hold it back, or pour it down upon us for a curse.
(iii) Seeing God sendeth down the rain, we may gather that no man can certainly tell, by the course of the heavens, the particular season of the weather day by day. If the rain depended wholly upon the celestial bodies, then should it fall alike in all places that be of like position to the heavens; but that is not so, for God ordereth it according to the state of the people upon whom it falleth, either for a blessing or a curse, as we have heard.
(iv) Hence we may gather that neither witches by the help of Satan, nor yet Satan himself, can cause rain, as many think; for it is God always that raineth. The devil indeed is the prince of the air, and by GodŐs permission he may join himself unto a storm, and make it more terrible and hurtful; as he did in the destruction of JobŐs cattle and children, by fire from heaven, and by a mighty wind (Job 1:16,19); but yet he cannot make the matter of wind or of rain; that is proper to God.
(v) Doth God rain upon the earth? Then we may well consider why the land is so often plagued with unseasonable rain; it is no doubt for our disobedience, as we have heard (Lev.26:19); and the contempt of the Word among other sins, is one main cause of this judgment. Now if we would either remove or prevent this plague at any time, we must turn unto the Lord, and repent of our sins, for thereto we are called by this judgment (Amos 4:7). And if we do turn, then will the Lord send a gracious rain upon our land; but if we will not turn, we shall have another rain, the rain of Sodom and Gomorrah; for (Psa. 11:6) Upon the wicked God will rain snares, fire and brimstone. And this is certain, where God sends His judgments for the contempt of His Word, and yet men do not repent, there (Jer. 24:10) one judgment is but the forerunner of a greater, till they be consumed. And sith experience teacheth that after inundations of waters, usually comes plague and pestilence; for the preventing of these judgments, let us repent.
(4) The last point to be here observed is this: In what terms our Saviour Christ expresseth, who be the friends of God, and who be His enemies. His friends He calleth good and just; His enemies, evil and unjust. Now that we may discern of our estate towards God in that behalf, we must see what a good and just man is.
In every such an one, two things are required: First, true faith, whereby a man lays hold on Christ for His righteousness, sanctification and redemption; and for the obtaining hereof, he must deny himself, and become nothing in himself, that he may be all in Christ. Secondly, true conversion of the whole man unto God, from all sin, so as his heart must be renewed and disposed to please God in all things. And because these things are inward and secret, therefore to make them known, there is further required, that a man carry in his heart a resolute and constant purpose, from time to time, never to sin against God; and this purpose of heart he must testify by a godly and conscionable endeavour of life, to please God in all things; for this is the fruit of true faith, and of sound inward conversion. And in regard hereof, were Enoch, Job, David, Zechariah and Elizabeth called just. But he that wants this constant purpose, and a daily endeavour, from a believing and penitent heart to please God in all things, is a wicked person, and as yet GodŐs enemy.
By this, first, we see how many are deceived everywhere, with civil honesty; for if a man live uprightly among his neighbours, and do abstain from murder, adultery, oppression and such like sins, he is presently counted a good man. Such an one indeed may be counted an honest man civilly, as Abimelech was (Gen. 20:6), but yet this outward honesty makes not a man just and good in the sight of God, so as He reputes him for His friend; thereto are required true faith and true repentance, testified by new obedience.
Secondly, here also see that neither the knowledge of GodŐs Word, nor the hearing of it with some gladness, and bringing forth some fruits, nor yet to be able to conceive a prayer for the form thereof; that none of these (I say) no nor all of these, do make a man the friend of God indeed, for all these may be in an evil man, who hath a purpose in his heart to live in some sin, in whose heart as yet there is no true faith, nor sound repentance; without which (as we heard) no man is just in the sight of God, nor accounted for His friend. And therefore we must not content ourselves with these things, but labour to be good and just indeed. When affliction shall befall us, or death approach, we would give all the world, if it was in our hands, for good assurance that God were our friend. Now then, let us labour for true faith and repentance, and testify these by a constant purpose, and a godly endeavour to please God in all things, through the whole course of our lives; and then will the Lord esteem us for His friends.
ŇFor if you love them that love you, what reward shall ye have? Do not the publicans even the same?Ó (v.46)
2. In these words our Saviour Christ propounds a second reason to persuade His disciples and hearers to love their enemies; and to the end it might take the deeper root in their hearts, He repeats the same again in the next verse, which in effect is the same with this. The words are plain, if we know what publicans were. Publicans therefore were officers that gathered toll and tribute, taxes, and rents of the Jews, for the Roman emperor, to whom the Jews were in subjection. Now in the gathering of it, they used much injustice and oppression; for which cause they were hated of the Jews, above all other people, and esteemed most basely of. Now (saith Christ) though these publicans be void of all good conscience, yet they will love their friends, of whom they are loved. And hence Christ reasons thus: If you my hearers do but love them that love you, ye do but as these publicans do; but you must do more than such ungodly persons do; and therefore you must love your very enemies.
Here first observe that Christ doth not forbid one friend to love another, for then he should be contrary to himself; but here He condemns carnal love, whereby one man loves another only because he is loved again, which in effect is nothing else but for a man to love himself in another. And here to note the true manner of loving our neighbour, this rule must be remembered, that all the commandments of the second table must be practised in and with the first commandment, touching the love of God. Thus father and mother must be honoured in God, and for God; and thus one man must love another in God, yea, though he be his enemy, because he is GodŐs creature, and bears His image, as well as he himself doth; yea, he is by God commended to our love. This must be the ground, though for other respects our love may increase towards our brother.
What reward shall ye have? Here Christ would teach us singular wisdom for the ordering of our lives; namely, that we give ourselves especially to the doing of such things as with God have promise of reward. What moved Moses to refuse to be called the son of PharaohŐs daughter, to forsake the pleasures and riches of Egypt, and to chose to suffer affliction with GodŐs people? The Word of God is plain (Heb. 11:25,26), He had respect to the recompense of reward. But this doctrine is not regarded, else how should all places abound so much with idle persons, and such as give themselves wholly to gaming and company keeping, to sports and delight. Now what reward can these look for at GodŐs hands, unless it be the wages of sin, which is eternal death? Let us therefore beware of such a course, and learn to abound in good works, which are things good and profitable.
Do not the publicans even the same? Our Saviour ChristŐs intent in this instance, is to shew that His disciples, and so all professors of the gospel, must go beyond all other people in duties of love. Indeed their whole life should be spent in the practice of this virtue (Eph. 5:2). Walk, that is, lead the course of your life, in love; and the state of the church is to dwell in love (1 John 4:16). The reason is great, for Christians of all others receive the greatest measure of love from God, through Jesus Christ, and therefore they must abound in this grace; first towards God, and then one towards another. This is the badge of the Christian, and the grace of our religion, and therefore let us shew it forth.
ŇAnd if ye be friendly to your brethren only, what singular thing do ye? Do not even the publicans likewise?Ó (v.47)
ChristŐs drift in these words, is further to enforce the duty of love, to the same effect with the former verse. The word translated be friendly, betokens the friendship which was shewed in that country in salutations, by embracing. Now saith Christ, the very publicans will kindly embrace their friends, therefore you must do more.
We observed before three branches of kind usage to be shewed towards an enemy; to wit, to speak well of him, to pray for him, and to do him good. Now here we may annex a fourth, even friendly salutation. This Christ enjoined to His disciples, when He sent them to preach: When you come into an house, salute the same (Matt. 10:12), although it may be afterwards they cursed it, because it was unworthy. And here we must learn to be kind and courteous in salutation to our professed enemies.
Objection 1: This is to countenance them in their sin and wrongdoing unto us. Answer: In saluting an enemy, we must put a difference between his person and his sin. We must shew kindness to his person, but not countenance his sin. Nay, when we embrace his person, if occasion be offered, we must disgrace his sin.
Objection 2: (2 John 10) If any man bring not this doctrine, bid him not God speed. Answer: John there speaks of such persons as are enemies to God, His truth, and to His church; and such indeed we must not embrace. (2 Kin. 3:14) Elisha saith to Jehoram the idolatrous king of Israel, that he would not have looked upon him, nor seen him, had it not been for reverence of Jehosaphat the good king of Judah then present. But private enemies, of whom Christ here speaketh, must always be kindly used in salutation. And yet there is a case wherein this kind salutation may be denied to one that is not a public enemy; to wit, when a superior omitteth it as part of chastisement and correction upon the inferior. Thus David denied liberty to Absalom to come in his sight for a time, after he had pardoned him for killing Amnon (2 Sam. 14:24). But among equals and private men, this must be practised; yea, we must salute kindly, though they salute us not again.
ŇBe ye therefore perfect, as your father which is in heaven is perfect.Ó (v.48).
Here Christ infers an excellent consequent from the former reasons, wherein He exhorts His disciples to perfection in all the duties of love. In it observe two parts: a commandment to be perfect, and a pattern thereof in God. For the first, why doth God command that which no man can perform, for who can be perfect? Answer: God gives this and such like commandments for divers causes: First, in regard of His elect, for to them GodŐs commandments serve as means of obedience, God by His grace enabling them to do that which by command He requires; for as in the creation GodŐs commandments gave being to the creatures, so it is after a sort in the regeneration, as here, be ye perfect, is a means to make GodŐs children perfect. Secondly, in regard of the wicked, as well to restrain corruption in them, for the peace of His church, as also to leave them without excuse, seeing the best works they do are short of that which they are bound to perform.
To come to the virtue commanded, which is, perfection in the duties of love. Perfection in general, is twofold: of the law, and of the gospel. Perfection of the law is when a man loves God and his neighbour according to the rigour of the law. This is in no man in this life, but this shall be in GodŐs elect in the life to come. Perfection of the gospel is that endeavour of obedience which God accepts in Christ, at the hands of His children. This distinction the apostle maketh (Phil. 3), for first he saith he hath not attained to perfection (v.12), meaning the perfection of the law; and yet after he speaketh of himself and others, as being perfect (v.15). Let us (saith he) as many as be perfect, be thus minded; that is, as many as be perfect according to the gospel. Thus were Noah, Abraham, Job, Zechariah and Elizabeth perfect, that is, sincere and upright before God, both in heart and life; and this is that perfection which Christ here requireth.
Further, this evangelical perfection hath two parts: either of manŐs nature, or of his actions. The perfection of manŐs nature is by regeneration; for as in original sin, is both guilt of AdamŐs sin imputed, and corruption inherent, which is the seed of all sin; so in regeneration, which is the renewing of a manŐs corrupt nature, there is an abolishing of corruption, and a restoring of grace in every part and faculty of the soul. For look how far corruption spread itself by AdamŐs sin; so far doth grace extend by regeneration. Of this perfection, there be three branches: First, an upright judgment in the mind, whereby a man understands and believes not only the grounds of religion, but every other doctrine truly grounded in the Word, and is ready to receive it, as it is further revealed; this in sincerity and in judgment; whereby it is plain that to hold only the grounds of religion, and for other points, to follow the times, is a great imperfection and want of sincerity. Secondly, a pure and honest heart, whereby a man is free from any purpose to live in sin; and on the contrary is inclined to everything that is good. Thirdly, a good conscience, giving testimony according to the Word, and so excusing, that a man may say with Paul (1 Cor. 4:4), I know nothing by myself; meaning, for which he should condemn himself. And look where nature is renewed, there these three are never wanting.
Perfection of manŐs actions standeth in two things: First, in bewailing his wants and imperfections, known and secret; for it is a degree of perfection to bewail our imperfection. Secondly, in setting himself from a sincere heart, to obey God in all His commandments, as occasion is offered (Psa. 119:6) I shall not be confounded when I have respect to all thy commandments; and this indeed is the perfection of the Christian. Half obedience is nothing; for as James saith (Jam. 2:10), He that falls in one commandment of purpose and custom, is guilty of all, because if occasion were offered, he would break all the rest.
But it will be said, a man may have both these, and yet want much of perfection. Answer: A thing is said to be perfect two ways: either in parts, when it hath all the parts of perfection, though in weak measure; or in degrees, when he hath a full measure of perfection in every part. A child new born is a perfect man in regard of his parts, having all the parts and members of a man; but it is not perfect in degree, till every part grows up to his perfection. Now the child of God when he is regenerate, hath all parts of perfection, both in soul and body, though in weak measure; but in this life he is not perfect in degrees, which is that full measure the law requireth. (2 Chr. 15:17), the heart of Asa is said to be perfect towards God all his days; and yet the high places were not taken away; yea, he failed in seeking to the physician and not to God (2 Chr. 16:12). Asa then had perfection of parts, but to perfection of degrees he attained not in this life; and therefore he failed in these particulars, through the weakness of sanctification, which here is not finished until death.
So then it is plain, there is a perfection in the child of God, though joined with much weakness, even in this life, his nature is perfect, being renewed in soul to sound judgment, to an honest heart and a good conscience. His actions are perfect in GodŐs acceptance through Christ, whilst he bewails his imperfection, and endeavours sincerely to please God in all things. This is that which Christ enjoins to His disciples; this we must labour for, if we will resemble our heavenly Father. We can get no higher in this life; but let us attain to this, and in the life to come we shall be perfect in degrees, for then our regeneration shall be accomplished.
But herein men fail and come short of their duty; as first, all those that spend their strength and wit to get the things of this world. These men little think of this perfection which the Lord requires in His children. It may be they will hear the Word, but yet their hearts are so glued to the earth and earthly things, that they savour not of regeneration, they know not what it means. But if they will be GodŐs children, they must follow Jehosaphat (2 Chr. 17:6), who lifted up his heart to the ways of the Lord; for that is the means to come to perfection.
Secondly, those also are reproved that content themselves with a small measure of knowledge, and do not strive after perfection, as Christ requireth. How can they have a sound judgment, which study not to know the doctrine of Scripture?
Thirdly, that general want of Christian perfection is here reproved, when men content themselves to yield to the outward duties of the first table, that concern GodŐs worship, and yet neglect the duties of the second table, that concerns their brethren in general, and pertain to their functions and callings in particular. This is a common fault in magistrates, ministers, parents, masters, servants, etc.; they will be Christians in the church, but they neglect to shew the power thereof in their callings; but this is a grievous want of sincerity, which makes them far unlike their heavenly Father; for He is ever like Himself, and therefore look what men profess in GodŐs worship, that must they practise in their callings. A magistrate must be a Christian upon the bench, as well as in the church; in the administration of justice, as well as in the congregation; and so must ministers, masters and all estates. God allows not of that service in the church, that serve their wicked lusts at home (Jer. 7:9,10). GodŐs sacrifices under the law must be whole and sound, not halt and lame or maimed; and such should our obedience be under the gospel, with sincere respect to all GodŐs commandments. It profited Herod little to bear John gladly, and to do many things, so long as he kept his brotherŐs wife; nor Judas to follow Christ, while his heart was upon the bag. Let our practice of religion therefore shew forth the truth of our public profession, and so shall we in some sort resemble our heavenly Father.