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matter; or else our going to law may be as great a sin, as that man's injustice that gives occasion for it.
(1.) First then; let the injury we have suffered, or the right we sue for, be such as is really of great moment to us, and that not in our own judgment only (for pride or covetousness may impose upon us when we make the estimate our selves) but in the judgment of some wise, good, and peaceable neighbour, to whom we should discover freely our design of going to law, before we take one actual step in it, together with the reasons which we think make it neceffary and fit for us fo to do; and be ruled by his opinion, whether it may be worth our while to proceed or not. For 'tis a shame to Christianity, and even to the common bonds of good nature and good neighbourhood, that every trifling damage, every pitiful trespass, or every inconsiderable demand, should presently create a fuit at law. Let us remember that a Christian is obliged to be of a merciful and forgiving temper, to itudy his own peace, and the peace of those about him; which he can never be said to do, while he is acted by such a litigious fpirit. I suppose the precept of our Saviour here to be levelled especially at this very thing, the going to law upon trifling occasions, where the injury or loss is such as we can well bear, and is of little consequence to our fortunes or our families. However this certainly is the least that can be meant by it; and therefore if his authority have not influence to over-rule us in so small a matter, 'tis in vain to pretend to call our selves the disciples of Christ.
(2.) When we go to law, cven upon the most allowable occasions, it must be without any malice or desire of revenge in the heart. How grievous foever the wrong that has been done us is, whatever we have suffered, or are like to suffer by it, be
the justice of our demands, and the injustice of our adversary's refusal ever so great and apparent, let none of these things enfiame us to a thirst of returning evil for evil, so as to make that in any measure the principle we go upon in the suit ; remembring, that a Christian is not to use the law purely to punish or to hurt his adversary, but to do himself and his family justice.
(3.) We must take care during the whole time the contest is depending, and as well before it is commenced as after it is determined, that our behaviour towards him be with great meekness and civility, by no means giving our selves a loose of railing at him, and speaking ill of him; affronting or insulting him the while, as many do; who weakly imagine that a law-suit is justification enough for all the ugly things they can fay of an adversary, or the rudenesses they can shew to him. Nor is this all; we must be ready to believe the best of him, and willing, whenever he can be brought to it, to make up the difference by the arbitration of friends; or any other easy way, that may prevent the many temptations to evil, and the inconveniencies on both sides, which may be expected in continuing the fuit; choosing rather by such an arbitration to recede a little from our right, than obstinately to difpute it inch by inch with him, to the disturbance of peace
and charity. But if such an agreement be rejected on his side, and the law takes its course, then,
(4.) When the matter is brought to an issue, and the trial is over, we must be able to sit down cool and contented, whatever the determination be. Submitting to the loss of our cause, if it be given against us, without vexatiously carrying the fuit from court to court; in hopes at length to ruin an adversary with the expence, or weary him out with the trouble of attendance. I do not say, that
where there is evident injustice done, corruption of witnesses, or bribing of juries (not suspected only, but capable of sufficient proof) and this such as unquestionably turn’d the verdict against, which otherwise would have been for us. I do not say in these cases we are always bound to acquiesce (tho' if our loss or damage be tolerable, it may be our wisest way) but that we may lawfully try our right a second time, or (if it be of very great moment to us and we have strong presumption of justice on our fide) a third time, &c. But we must not do any thing like this for contention-sake, and to be troublesome, from a proud resentment of being cast, an obstinate humour of revenge, or a greedy appetite of what we sue for.
These rules are all necessary to be observed by every Christian who endeavours to right himself by law, and perhaps the acquiring such a temper as is requisite, may be a more difficult task, and give a man more uneasiness than the injury; and he might with less trouble and less danger sit down with the first loss. These considerations, if duly weighed, would, it is to be hopd, cure many Christians of that litigiousness, to which they are too much addicted, and which is certainly a very great crime in them. Christians cannot well err on the other hand, in suffering themselves to be ill treated; but they may be too severe in their exactions of justice, in always insisting on the letter of the law,
III. The third precept or direction, concerning our behaviour under wrongs, is with respect to the injuries received from superiors; when a man abuses the advantage be has over us by strength or power, to force us to do what he has no right to require of us; expressed here by compelling us to go with him a mile. In this case our Saviour commands us not to be surly and inflexible, tenacious of every little
privilege or exemption, which the laws have given us from such demands; but (if there be no moral evil in the thing) to do what is required, or twice as much, for the sake of peace, rather than tumultuously and clamorously to contest it. If to this it be objected, what then do the protection of laws, the notion of liberty, or the favour of special privileges, fignify, if we must give them up to the oppression of cvery insolent invader? I answer, in this, as under the former head of going to law, we are not forbid to maintain our selves in such legal advantages, as by the judgment of wise and good men, are of great consequence either to our felves or to the publick. Our Saviour ncver intended hereby to set aside the force of laws; but what I presume he would have us to do by this precept, is, that to impositions of little moment, which are personal only, affecting our own private liberty, and even these such tolerable injuries, that they are rather a mere breach of privilege than any real or considerable damage to us, we should patiently and calmly submit; the breach of charity and peace being like to end in much worse consequences than the breach of such a privilege.
IV. The fourth precept obliges us not only to that passive disposition which has been described, excluding resentment and revenge, or requiring patience and submission under the injustice of an enemy; but that we should so perfectly set aside the consideration of the injuries he has done us, as to Thew the same active generosity in doing good to him, as to those who never gave us provocation. We must do good to all men, whether friends or enemies, or indifferent persons; and this is here cxpressed by the two instances of giving and lending. If he that has injur'd us fall into poverty, and either need the relief of alms, or upon occasion,
when it may be serviceable to him, be so far humbled, as to desire to borrow money of us; we must give as freely to him what we can afford to give, and lend as freely to him what he would borrow, if we can spare it, as we would to any other indifferent person; not daring to refuse, upon any pique or resentment against him for what has formerly pass'd between us. That this is the true meaning of the precept, as it stands in this part of our Saviour's sermon, I have no manner of doubt, nor can I better illustrate it than by these verses from the Epistle to the Romans, which inculcate the very same thing. * Dearly beloved, avenge not your selves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, faith 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. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. As for the objection from the nature of friendship, and what distinction the Gospel allows us to make in favour of that, it will fall in to be considered in the next paragraph; as what concerns in general the duty of alm-giving will in that which follows it.