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Last week, we began our series following Scougal through his applications of Jesus’ command to love our enemies. He began by focusing our attention on how the love Christ commands, “excludes all harsh thoughts and groundless suspicions”. He showed us how those “groundless suspicions” contrast with divinely rooted love which, “hopeth all things,” and, “believeth all things”.


As he continues, he emphasizes that a true love for our enemies keeps all anger in check. If we become angry, we must make sure that our anger is a) clearly warranted and b) “governed by discretion and kept within the bounds of reason”. It is so easy for us to become outraged by something which is not even wrong, but merely unusual or hard to understand. But even when we are right to be upset about something, there are biblical principles by which me must manage our anger. Scougal makes several references to passages which teach us these principles, but he gives no references. If you’re up for it, try to find any of the verses he alludes. Please leave your findings as a comment if you do!


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Luke VI. 27.

But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies.

Again, the love which we owe to enemies, excludes all causeless and immoderate anger: it suffereth long and is not easily provoked; endureth all things.

Our Saviour tells us, that whoso is angry with his brother without cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and if his anger exceed the cause he is equally guilty. All anger is not vicious; we may be angry, and not sin. This passion, as all others implanted in us by God, is innocent when kept within its due bounds: it has its proper office in the mind, as the spleen in the body; but its excess and distemper swells into a disease. To make it allowable, it must not exceed the value of the cause, nor the proportion of the circumstances. It must be governed by discretion, and kept within the bounds of reason, that it break not forth into indecent expressions, or violent and blamable actions. And further, it must not be too permanent and lasting; we must not let the sun set upon our anger.

Plutarch tells us, that the Pythagoreans were careful to observe the very letter of this precept: for if anger had boiled up to the height of an injury or reproach, before sunset they would salute each other, and renew their friendship; they were ashamed that the same anger which had disturbed the counsels of the day, should also trouble the quiet and repose of the night, lest, mingling with their rest and dreams, it should become prevalent and habitual in them. And sure, we owe an infinitely greater deference to the precepts of our blessed Saviour, and his holy apostles, than they did to their master’s reasoning and advices. And though we should not take this precept in its strictest and literal signification, yet this we must know, that the same passion and resentment which was innocent and rational in its first rise, may become vicious and criminal by its continuance. Anger may kindle in the breast of a wise man, but rests only in the bosom of a fool.

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As we examine the sermon “The Indispensable Duty of Loving Our Enemies”, we see that, after Scougal makes a thorough exposition of the Luke 6:27, he then tells us how to love our enemies. He writes, “the nature and measures of this love will more fully appear, if we consider what it does exclude, and what it does imply.” This excerpt is the first of five excluded qualities.


As I read this, the deception of my own heart began to unfold. I realized how often
I sin in my heart against people whom I wouldn’t even classify as “enemies”. I deeply appreciate how Scougal uses his keen understanding of the human condition alongside his encyclopedic knowledge of God’s word to apply a simple passage in a very convicting way.

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Luke VI. 27.

But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies.

First, then, it excludes all harsh thoughts and groundless suspicions. The Apostle telleth us, that charity thinketh no evil; that it hopeth all things, believeth all things. To entertain, with pleasure, every bad report of those who have offended us, and to put the worst construction on their doubtful actions, is both a clear evidence of our hatred, and an unhappy method to continue it. Were once the love we recommend seated in the soul, it would soon cast out those restless jealousies, sour suspicions, harsh surmises, and embittered thoughts; and display itself in a more candid and gentle disposition; in fair glosses, and friendly censures; in a favourable extenuation of greater faults, and covering of lesser. It would make a man interpret all things in the best meaning they are capable of; and choose rather to be mistaken to his own prejudice, by a too favourable opinion, than to his neighbour’s, by a groundless jealousy. And even in this sense, it may be, that charity covereth a multitude of sins.

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increase_mather.jpgYou are the blessed God,
happy in yourself,
and the source of happiness in your creatures.
Our maker, benefactor, proprietor, upholder,
You have produced and sustained us,
supported and indulged us,
saved and kept us.

In every situation, you meet our needs and miseries.
May we live by you,
live for you,
and never be satisfied with our Christian progress
until we resemble Christ;
May conformity to His principles, temper, and conduct
grow hourly in our lives.
Let your love constrain us into holy obedience,
and render our duty our delight.

If others deem our faith folly,
our meekness infirmity,
our zeal madness,
our hope delusion,
our actions hypocrisy,
may we rejoice to suffer for your name.

Support us by the strength of heaven
that we may never turn back or desire false pleasures
that wilt and disappear into nothing.
As we pursue our heavenly journey by your grace,
let us be known as a people with no aim
but that of a burning desire for you,
and the good and salvation of others.

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It may come as a surprise to many, but as the Puritans enjoyed mental immersion in every Biblical topic, the idea of love was no exception. Perhaps the modern church fools itself to reckon it is much more whole-hearted in its pursuit of love, but this is a vast deception. Jonathan Edwards preached voluminously on the topic and many others often wrote or preached about it.

 

 

The real difference between modern approaches to the idea of love, and Puritan ones, is not a matter of how heartfelt they or we are, but of how precise. As you read these excerpts from Scougal’s sermon entitled “The Indispensable Duty of Loving Our Enemies”, you may find that, not only does Scougal compel heartfelt affection, but thoughtful affection as well.

LUKE 6:27

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies.

While we travel through the wilderness of this world, much of the comfort of our pilgrimage depends on the good correspondence and mutual services and endearments of our fellow-travellers: therefore our blessed Savior, whose precepts are all intended for perfection and felicity, fitted to procure to us both the good things of this world, and that which is to come, has taken especial care to unite the minds of men in the strictest bonds of friendship and love: he has been at great pains by his precepts, and by his example, by earnest persuasions and powerful motives, to smooth our rugged humours, and calm our passions, and take off the roughness from our natures, which hinders us from joining together. To love those who have obliged us, is that which nature might, teach, and wicked men practise; to favor those who have never wronged us, is but a piece of common humanity: but our religion re­quires us to extend our kindness even to those who have injured and abused us, and who continue to do and wish us mischief, and that we never design any other revenue against our most bitter and inveterate enemies, than to wish them well, and do them all the good we can, whether they will or not; for unto “those that hear him,” Our Savior says, ” Love your enemies.”

The persons whom we are commanded to love are called our “enemies”. Lest we should mistake them, they are clearly described in the following words: the fountain of their enmity is within – they are those “who hate us”, who envy our happiness, who wish our misery, and abhor our persons and society. But were this fire kept within their breast, though it might scorch themselves, it could not prejudice us; but “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”, their malice sharpens their tongues. They are farther described, as those that “curse us”; they vent their wrath in oaths and impreca­tions, secret calumnies and open reproaches: nor are their bands always bound up, they “use us despitefully” and procure us mischief.

Now, if our love be extended to all these, we shall hardly find any whom we dare exclude. Of our private enemies there can be no question, but what shall be said of the enemies of our country, and of our religion?

First, for the enemies of our country, I see no warrant to exclude them from our charity: we may indeed lawfully oppose their violent invasion, and defend our rights with the sword, under the banner of the public magistrate; but all this may be done with as little malice and hatred, as a Judge may punish a malefactor: the General may be as, so void of passion as a LORD Chief Justice, and the soldier as the executioner. But charity will oblige a Prince never to have recourse to the sword, till all other remedies fail; to blunt the edge of war by sparing as much as may be the shedding of innocent blood, with all other barbarities that use to accompany it, and to accept. of any reasonable capitulation.

We come, next, to the enemies of our religion. Indeed there are many who are so far from thinking them to be among the number of those whom they are obliged to love, that they look upon it as a part of their duty to hate them: their zeal is continually venting itself in fierce invectives against Antichrist, and every thing they are pleased to call Antichristian and they are ready to apply all the prophecies and imprecations of the Old Testament in their very prayers against those that differ from them; and ordinarily the animosities are greatest where the differ­ences are least; and one party of a reformed Church shall be more incensed against another, than either against the superstition and tyranny of Rome, or the carnality of the Mahometan faith: yea, perhaps, you may find some who agree in, and only differ in several ways of expressing, the same thing, and yet can scarce look on one another without dis­pleasure and aversion.

But, alas! how much do these men disparage that religion for which they appear so zealous! How much do they mistake the spirit of Christianity! Are the persons whom they hate, greater enemies to, reli­gion, than those who persecuted the Apostles and martyrs for professing it? And yet these were the persons whom our Savior commanded his disciples to love, and him­self did pray for those that crucified him: and severely checked the disciples, when, by a precedent brought from the Old Testament, they would have called for fire from heaven on those that would not receive them, telling them, they knew not what spirit they were of. They did not consider by what spirit they were prompted to such cruel inclinations; or, as others explain it, they did not yet understand the temper and genius of Christianity, which is”pure and peaceable, gentle and meek, full of sweetness, and full of love.”

If men would impartially examine their hatred and animosities against the enemies of their religion, I fear they would find them proceed from a principle which themselves would not willingly own. Pride and self-conceit will make a man disdain those of a different persuasion, and think it a disparagement to his judgment, that any should differ from it. Mere nature and self-love will make a man hate those who oppose the interest of that party which himself has espoused. Hence men are many times more displeased at some small mistakes in judgment, than the greatest immoralities in practice. Yea, perhaps they will find a secret pleasure in hearing or reporting the faults or scandals of their adversaries.

Cer­tainly the power of religion rightly prevailing in the soul, would mould us into another temper: it would teach, us to love, and pity, and pray for the person, as well as hate and condemn the errors they are supposed to espouse: it would make us wish their conversion, rather than their confusion, and be more desirous that God would fit them for another world, than that he would take them out of this. We may indeed wish the disappointment of their wicked purposes; for this is charity to them, to keep them from being the unhappy instruments of mischief in the world; but he that can wish plagues and ruin to their persons, and delights in their sins, or in their misery, has more of the devil than the Christian.

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In preparation for a worship set tonight, I’ve taken a prayer from the Valley of Vision and (gently) put it into somewhat more contemporary (and plural) language. I thought it might be an encouragement to some of you.

Give us a deeper trust,
that we may lose ourselves-
to find ourselves in you,
the ground of our rest,
the spring of our being.
Give us a deeper knowledge of yourself as
Saviour, Master, Lord, and King.

Give us deeper power in private prayer,
more sweetness in your Word,
a more steadfast grip on its truth.
Give us deeper holiness in speech, thought, and action;
and let us not seek moral virtue apart from you.

We have no master but you,
no law but your will,
no delight but yourself,
no wealth but that which you give,
no good but that which you bless,
no peace but that which you bestow.

We are nothing apart from what you make us.
We have nothing apart from what we receive from you.
We can be nothing apart from your grace which adorns us.
Quarry us deep, dear Lord,
and then fill us to the point that we overflow with living water.

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Henry Scougal is my favorite Christian writer. Scougal was a Scottish Puritan who became a professor at the Unversity of Aberdeen at 19, a pastor at 23, professor of Divinity in the King’s college at 24, and died at 27.

 

At one webpage we read that Scougal “was led to the study of theology, in the hopes of finding in it a balm for disappointed affections; and this is in so far countenanced by the tenor of several passages of his writings.” This is exemplified in many passages such as this one, found in his most famous work “The Life of God in the Soul of Man”:

That which imbitters love, and makes it ordinarily a very troublesome and hurtful passion, is the placing it on those who have not worth enough to deserve it, or affection and gratitude to requite it, or whose absence may deprive us of the pleasure of their converse, or their miseries occasion our trouble.

These sorts of passages did not exist merely to vent discouraging thoughts about love, but as a spring-board for Scougal to clarify that the one perfect object for our love is God:

The true way to improve and ennoble our souls is, by fixing our love on the divine perfections, that we may have them always before us, and derive an impression of them on ourselves; and, “beholding with open face, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.”

Scougal has a profound gift for taking Biblical teaching and drawing out clear principles by which we can gain a better understanding of God, Scripture, and ourselves.

Due to my admiration for his writing, I’ll include an excerpt every now and then with the heading: “A Minute for Henry”. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

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I’m presently reading a biography entitled, John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father, written by Francis J. Bremer.

 

 

As the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a devout believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, Winthrop is fascinating to me. While he is little more than a local judge during his adult life in England, he becomes a profoundly important person in history through his leadership of the early Puritans. It seems that, for Winthrop, being a local judge was essential preparation for leading a little theocracy that would grow to become the most powerful nation in the world.

I have felt both sympathy and admiration for Winthrop as I see his faith develop through social, political, and personal challenges. He acted with integrity and conviction in the face of an system that was capitulating to shallow doctrine and superficial church programs.

I was particularly moved today as I read an excerpt from a letter he wrote his wife, Margaret, amidst the constant planning and preparation he and the rest of the Mass. Bay leaders went through before they set sail from England. I was struck by the depth of his love for her and the honesty with which he expressed himself.

“I have nothing to write thee of,…having so fit an opportunity, I could not let it pass without a letter to my best beloved. I know thou wilt consider how it is with me in regard of business, which so takes up my time and thoughts as I can no more but let thee know that I have a desire to still be writing to thee.”

I love what Winthrop says to his wife. There’s no ornamental language to make me question whether or not he was sincere. He simply loves his wife and shares his heart with her.

Later on, we read,

“On his February visit John and Margaret agreed on a way that would bring them together though miles apart. Perhaps suggested by Imogen’s vow to think regularly of her beloved in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, they pledged each other to enter into a dialogue of the spirit each Monday and Friday between the hours of five and six. On his way back to London he wrote to Margaret urging her to ‘remember Monday and Friday between 5 and 6,’ and he would continue to do so through the long separation that awaited them. On April 3 he wrote that ‘when 5 of the clock came I had respite to remember thee (it being Friday) and to parley with thee, and to meet thee in spirit before the Lord.'”

Since he must remain in London most of the time with the rest of the colonial architects, he and his wife agree on specific times when they will think about each other within the context of prayer and meditation with God. The Almighty serves as a cell-phone tower, as it were, for both of them to have communion.

The clarity of contemporary opinion about any doctrinally strict historical figure (but especially the Puritans) gives mud a run for the money. The Puritans, among other erroneous assumptions, are often thought to have been emotionless. To say someone is Puritanical is to say they are all head, no heart…or all law, no grace. At times, some leaders certainly erred on the side of legalism (you try starting your own country sometime); but to characterize Puritans as legalistic based on those superfluous details (a la Nathanial Hawthorne) would be like characterizing Hitler as a great leader since he invigorated Germany’s depressed economy.

The reason why popular culture neglects to see the romantic passions of the Puritans is because such passions were elevated to a spiritual level- the Puritans weren’t content with mere fleshly indulgence (though they certainly saw it as essential). Sexual gratification, despite what Cosmopolitan may teach, is a far more difficult matter to sustain when it is not only a means, but the end of a romantic relationship. This vapid mentality leaves no room for Winthrop’s confession, “I had respite to remember thee…and to meet thee in spirit before the Lord” . Such words are unintelligible to a culture of drive-through, instant hot, yet conveniently disposable romance.

The love commercialized in our media is ultimately dissatisfying; but the love found in the expressions the Puritans’ guide for life, the Bible, led them to a permanent sense of trust, faithfulness, and contentment.

Song of Solomon 3:5

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field,
That you will not arouse or awaken love until she pleases.

Colossians 3:14

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

1 John 4:8-11

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love on another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love on another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

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