Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,…
I. NOT THAT EVERY STRIKING AND FIGHTING IS HEREBY FORBIDDEN. For —
1. Every man is bound to contend in his place for the truth — for religion, truth, and sound doctrine against falsehood, error, heresy, and superstition.
2. The ruler and people may by lawful war repel openly either idolatry or injury from Church or commonwealth, for if it had been altogether unlawful, John Baptist would have advised the soldiers rather to have given over their calling and taken no wages at all than to have been content with their wages.
3. Private men may seek the face of the ruler to prevent or redress an injury, and thus contend in judgment, which is no sin unless it be for trifles or of revenge: so Paul appealed to Caesar, and helped himself by the benefit of law.
4. It is lawful for every Christian, in defect of the magistrates' aid, in the lawful defence of themselves, lives, and goods, to become magistrates unto themselves, in which case they may without sin both strike and slay, so as desire of revenge and intent of bloodshedding be absent.
5. Neither is domestical discipline excluded by this precept, whereby fathers and masters may, if the fault require, put on severity in their just corrections of their servants and children.
II. But the sin here condemned is when men suffer their lusts so far to sway, as they not only follow the things which make to Christian peace, BUT ARE ENEMIES UNTO CONCORD AND BROTHERLY LOVE — men of such violent affections as are ready, not only to return injury with injury, but with seventy-fold revenge; right Lamechs and rough Ismaels, whose hand is against every man; men of a word and a blow, fitter for the camp than the congregation of Christian men. Now, what an hateful thing is it that a Christian should be indited at the Lord's bar for a common barrator and quarreller? How unlike should he be to God, who is a God of peace, and loveth peace and the sons of peace? How far from having any part in the merit of Christ, who hath dearly by His precious blood bought the reconcilement of all things? How unanswerable were it unto this profession of Christianity, which cannot become a kingdom divided against itself? How prejudicial to Christian duties, both interrupting prayers and withstanding the acceptation of them, when the gift is brought without a reconcilable mind? How doth this course in Cain's way violate all bonds both of nature and grace? signing a man to be out of the commission, out of the natural fraternity in the first Adam, and much more out of the spiritual in the second, yea, arguing such fierce men to be rather of the serpents' and crocodiles' seed, between which and man God hath put an enmity, than of men, seeing they have put off all respect of creation, of adoption, of flesh, and of faith.
III. If any ask, But BY WHAT MEANS SHALL I AVOID THIS SIN OF CONTENTION AND QUARRELLING?
1. Bridle the tongue, for this is an immediate follower of evil speaking, and it runneth from the tongue into the hand.
2. Let the consideration of our common brotherhood be a means to cut off contention (Genesis 13:8).
3. Consider what a scandal it is to profane scorners of religion that such as profess themselves scholars of Christ should live together like dogs and cats (as we say), and by ungodly quarrels and heartburns be still building up the works of the devil which Christ hath destroyed; why should such a thing be heard in Gath and Askelon? why should Priamus and his son laugh us to scorn?
4. Get a low conceit of thyself and be small in thine own eyes, for whence riseth contention and strife but from the lust in the members, namely, the inordinate bearing of a man's self above that which is meet? Only by pride (saith Solomon) man maketh contention, and, indeed, experience showeth that the most suits at this day are not so much for right and equity as for victory.
5. Because some in their own temper are of more mild and quiet spirits, and rather lie open to this sin by others' instigation than their own propensity and disposition. That rule of Solomon is worth noting, to take heed of parttaking, of meddling, and mingling oneself in other men's strifes and contentions, for this were to take a dog by the ears or a bear by the tooth.
(T. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,