LOVE TO ENEMIES
It was written in the law of Moses, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The construction which the Jews put upon this precept is easily discerned by the question of the self-justifying lawyer, “And who is my neighbour?” They excluded from that character heathens and Samaritans, and indeed all those of their own country who were unfriendly towards them; and so considered the command to love their neighbours as allowing them to hate their enemies.
In opposing this sentiment, our Lord did not oppose the law; but merely the selfish gloss of the rabbin; for the law did not allow of any such hatred as they cherished. Yet, in comparing it with David’s language in the Psalms, some Christian writers have seemed willing to concede that the Jewish gloss was really founded upon the spirit of the Old Testament, and have represented the doctrine of love to enemies as peculiar to the gospel dispensation. That it is more clearly taught and powerfully enforced by our Saviour, than it had been before, is allowed; but the notion of his opposing his doctrine to that of Moses or David is inadmissible; for this had been to “destroy the law,” and to render the New Testament at variance with the Old.
That good-will to men is both taught and exemplified in the Old Testament is manifest from the joy expressed by David and the prophets, when predicting the conversion of the heathen. They even prayed, and taught their countrymen to pray for the blessing of God upon themselves in subserviency to it.—See Psal. 67; Isa. 49. Nor are the prayers of David against his enemies at variance with this principle. If they be, however, the New Testament is also at variance with it; for the same kind of language is used in Paul’s Epistles as abounds in David’s Psalms. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.”—“Alexander, the coppersmith, did me much evil; the Lord reward him according to his works!” Much confusion has arisen, on these subjects, from not distinguishing between benevolence and complacency. The one is due to all men, whatever be their character, so long as there is any possibility or hope of their becoming the friends of God; the other is not, but requires to be founded on character. The Old Testament writers, being under a dispensation distinguished by awful threatenings against sin, dwell mostly upon the latter, avowing their love to those who loved God, and their hatred to those who hated him; the New Testament writers, living under a dispensation distinguished by its tender mercy to sinners, dwell mostly upon the former: but neither of these principles is inconsistent with the other. We may bear the utmost good-will to men as the creatures of God, and as being within the limits of hope; while yet, considered as the Lord’s enemies, we abhor them. If we love others as we love ourselves, that is all that is required; but the love which a Christian bears to his own soul is consistent with his abhorring himself as a sinner. Our Lord exemplified both these dispositions at the same time. In denouncing the damnation of hell against the scribes and Pharisees, you would think him void of every feeling but that of inflexible justice; yet, looking upon the same people in reference to their approaching miseries, he burst into a flood of tears. The same spirit possessed the apostle Paul towards his countrymen. When they rejected the gospel, he did not scruple to apply to them the awful prophecies of Isaiah, “Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive,” &c.; yet the same apostle solemnly declares that he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart on their behalf. So far from an abhorrence of the wicked in respect of their wickedness being inconsistent with genuine benevolence, it is necessary to it. The compassion that is void of this is not benevolence, but the working of disaffection to God, and of criminal partiality towards his enemies.
Excerpt from: “Love to Enemies” in Illustrations of Scripture: The Sermon on the Mount.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 573–574). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.