First part of Sermon XIV. for the Third Sunday after Epiphany.
Rom. xii. 16-21. St. Matt. viii. 1-13.
And behold, there came a leper
and worshipped Him, saying, LORD, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.
And JESUS put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou
clean--ST. MATT. viii. 2,3.
THE Epistle for last week might be
said to be on the subject of our duties to each other in the household of God
and among friends; but that of to-day rather of our conduct among enemies. Be
not wise in your own conceits, for that is the origin of all ill-will to
others. Recompense to no man evil for evil. To no man, what ever he may be, is
it lawful in a Christian to return evil. Provide things honest in the sight of
all men. St. Paul uses the same expression in another place, which may explain
it: "Providing for honest things," he says, "not only in the sight of the Lord,
but also in the sight of men." [2 Cor. viii. 21.] If it be possible, as
much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. That is, it may not be
possible, because we are sometimes bound to maintain the truth at the expense of
peace, and to support those who are unjustly treated; to which may be added,
that, however peaceably-minded we may be ourselves, others may not be so; as the
Psalmist laments, "I labour for peace, but when I speak unto them thereof, they
make them ready for battle." [Ps. cxx. 6.] Yet, notwithstanding all this,
"Blessed are the peacemakers." And then; as if in sympathy for suffering
Christians, the Apostle exclaims, Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but
rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, that is, in the Law of
Moses, [Deut. xxxii. 35] Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in
so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. This passage is taken
from the book of Proverbs, and is difficult to understand. St. Chrysostom seems
to think that the former part is addressed to the good Christian, exhorting him
to do good to his enemy, leaving all requital to God; but that the latter part,
of "heaping coals of fire on his head," is intended to alarm and warn the other,
who is unkind to him who has forgiven and loved him. For, doubtless, the sin
against God must in that case be very grievous. But St. Augustin more than
once, in speaking of this text, says, that as of course it cannot mean that we
are to do good to our enemy in order to bring down the vengeance of God upon
him, which would be the part of malevolence, not of Christian good-will; it must
be understood figuratively, by these means—you will melt your enemy by the fire
of God's love, the coals from His altar, which we may consider to be the love of
Christ crucified; you will bring down his proud head to repentance. [In Ps.
lxxviii. 14. De Doct. Chr. lib. iii. 24] And the following verse seems to
favour this interpretation, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with
But the verse going before suggests
rather the former explanation: "Vengeance is Mine," saith the Lord; "therefore
do good to thine enemy, and let him fear the recompense of God ;" for,
doubtless, very fearful is the condition of him who forgives not another who has
And now we have, in the Gospel for
the day, the constraining motives and reasons for all forgiveness...
...(for the second part, on the Gospel)