Matthew 5:43. Ye have heard that it hath been said In this, as is in the former instances, our Lord, intending to comprehend not only the law itself, but the explications of it given by the Jewish doctors, and said to be derived by tradition from the mouth of Moses, does not say, Ye know, but, Ye have heard, that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy God enjoined the former part of this precept, Leviticus 19:18, and the scribes added the latter, abusing, it seems, the commands for destroying the Canaanites, to countenance such an addition, though this was in direct contradiction to many other scriptures. See Exodus 24:4-5; Leviticus 19:17; Proverbs 25:21. But I say unto you, Love your enemies To the narrow charity of the Jews, confined to their own brethren and men of their own religion, Christ here opposes his admirable precept, enjoining us, if we would be his genuine disciples, to love even our enemies; and that, by showing a sincere affection and good will to them who bear enmity or ill will to us; by manifesting our beneficence to them who, by their actions, show their hatred to us; by doing good to them for evil; by blessing them who with their mouths curse us; and by praying for God’s blessing upon them who revile and persecute us, as his followers. And this love he recommends, 1st, from the manifest absurdity of the Jewish doctrine, which made them no better, in this respect, than those sinners, publicans, and heathen, whom they allowed themselves to hate, &c.; 2d, that they, who boasted of it as their peculiar glory that they were the sons of God, might show that they really were so by their imitating His goodness who is kind to the unthankful and evil; 3d, because this would render his followers complete in the great duty of love and mercy to others, as he adds in the last clause. The following paraphrase on the different clauses of the passage may, perhaps, give the reader a clearer and fuller view of its meaning. Explaining what he intends, when he says, Love your enemies, he adds, Bless them that curse you Give them kind and friendly language who rail, act, or speak evil of you; say all the good you can to, and of them. Do good to them that hate you Repay love in thought, word, and deed, to those who really bear ill will to you, and show it both in their words and actions; and embrace every opportunity of promoting their welfare, both temporal and spiritual. And pray for those which despitefully use you, &c. Besides doing all in your own power to advance their happiness, endeavour, by your prayers, to engage God also to befriend and bless them. The expression επηρεαζοντων υμας , is by some rendered, who falsely accuse, or traduce you; but more properly by Dr. Doddridge, who insult over you. The word is plainly used by St. Peter, (1 Peter 3:16, the only other place in Scripture where it occurs,) to express abusive language. Both it and the other terms here used express the highest degree of enmity, for what can be worse than cursing, and calumny, and insults, and persecutions; yet we are commanded to love, and bless, and do good to those who express their enmity to us even by these things; and this doctrine Christ enforces from the noblest of all considerations, that it renders men like God; for he adds, that ye may be the children of your Father As if he had said, Being thus benevolent toward all the bad as well as the good, ye shall be like God, and so prove yourselves to be his genuine offspring; for he maketh his sun common to them who worship and them who contemn him; and lets his rain be useful both to the just and to the unjust; alluring the bad to repentance, and exciting the good to thankfulness, by this universal and indiscriminate benignity of his providence. For if ye love them which love you, &c., and salute your brethren only, &c. These are common things, practised by people of the worst character; which therefore do not distinguish you from others, nor prove you to be of a truly pious and virtuous disposition, but as being only indued with the essential principles of human nature, so that no peculiar reward can await you for doing them. The phrase τι περισσον ποιειτε , rendered in our translation, What do ye more than others? but which Dr. Campbell renders, Wherein do you excel? is thought by him to refer to what our Lord had declared, Matthew 5:20, concerning the necessity of our righteousness excelling, or abounding more than that of the scribes and Pharisees. Thus, he thinks, our Lord’s expostulation is rendered more energetical by the contrast; as if he had said, I told you your righteousness must excel that of the scribes and Pharisees, but if you do good to your friends only, it will not excel even that of the publicans and pagans. Perhaps, in the phrase, If ye salute your brethren only, our Lord might glance at those prejudices which different sects had against each other, and might intimate that he would not have his followers imbibe that narrow spirit. And “would to God,” says a pious divine, “that the hint had been more attended to, among the unhappy subdivisions into which his church has been crumbled; and that we might at least advance so far as cordially to embrace our brethren in Christ, of whatever party or denomination they are! Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father, &c. Imitate especially the divine goodness, as it is promiscuous, and extends to the evil as well as the good. This seems to be chiefly what is here intended; the love to friends, brethren, and countrymen implying only a very imperfect imitation of God; we are to labour after a more complete resemblance to him, in loving enemies. Our Lord, therefore, afterward expressed himself in a parallel discourse on the same subject in a rather different manner, saying, Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful, Luke 6:36. But, it is probable, he used a greater latitude of expression here, to remind us of our obligations to imitate the blessed God in all his moral perfections. The exhortation undoubtedly refers to all that holiness which is described in the foregoing verses, which our Lord, in the beginning of the chapter, recommends as happiness, and in the close of it as perfection. And it must be observed, that the words in the original, εσεσθε ουν υμεις τελειοι , express a promise, rather than a precept: Ye shall therefore be perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. And how wise and gracious is this, to sum up, and, as it were, to seal all his commandments with a promise! even the proper promise of the gospel, that he will put those laws in our minds and write them in our hearts! He well knew how ready our unbelief would be to suggest, This is impossible! And therefore stakes upon it all the power, truth, and faithfulness of Him to whom all things are possible.
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