A Christian’s Best Revenge

Ephesians 4:26; Psalm 37:8; Romans 12:19-21
       Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.
       Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
       Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith 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 upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Revenge is a passion unbecoming the children of God.

ADAM CLARKE (1760-1832): Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, Matthew 5:44. This is the most sublime piece of morality ever given to man. Has it appeared unreasonable and absurd to some? It has. And why? Because it is natural to man to avenge himself, and plague those who plague him; and he will ever find abundant excuse for his conduct, in the repeated evils he receives from others; for men are naturally hostile to each other.

WILLIAM BUELL SPRAGUE (1795-1876): Look at the revengeful man. He has received, or supposes he has received, some injury; and he imagines that his honour is tarnished; and he cannot rest till he has made provision to brighten it up by some revengeful act—perhaps by attacking his adversary in the street—perhaps by calling him into the field, in the hope of shedding his blood. Rely on it, there is, in all these cases, not only mental excitement but mental agony: the spirit which can prompt to such an act or such a project, is worthy of a fiend; and it cannot have possession of a human bosom without being a tormentor. And even where from considerations of timidity or of policy, there may be no external demonstration of the revengeful spirit—though it may never be felt in any offensive act, nor heard even in a whisper, yet it will be nothing better in the soul than an imprisoned fury; or, if you please, a serpent holding the whole inner man continually in his deadly coils.

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): Malice is mental murder.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Liquors are soured when long kept; so, when we dwell upon discontents, they turn to revenge. Purposes of revenge are most sweet and pleasant to carnal nature: “Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually,” Proverbs 6:14―that is to say, he is full of revengeful and spiteful thoughts.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): We must rid ourselves of the spirit of retaliation, of the desire to defend ourselves and to revenge ourselves for any injury or wrong that is done to us―“Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

RICHARD ROGERS (1550-1618): Many a man might have eschewed murder, if he could have withdrawn his heart from wrath and revenge.

J. C. PHILPOT (1802-1869): We need patience when anything is said or done to hurt our minds, wound our feelings, irritate our tempers, and stir us up to revenge.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): Call to remembrance God’s infinite patience and longsuffering with yourself.

WILLIAM ARNOT (1808-1875): The best practical specific for the treatment of anger against persons is to “defer it.” Its nature presses for instant vengeance, and the appetite should be starved…When your clothes outside are on fire you wrap yourself in a blanket, if you can, and so smother the flame: in like manner, when you heart within has caught the fire of anger, your first business is to get the flame extinguished.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): This is hard work indeed, in the very fire to keep the spirits cool, and clear of wrath and revenge. But it makes him that by grace can do it, a glorious conqueror. Flesh and blood would bid a man call fire from heaven, rather than mercy to fall upon them that so cruelly handle him. He that can forgive his enemy is too hard for him, and gets the better of him; because his enemy’s blows do not bruise his flesh, but the wounds that love gives, pierce the conscience.

DAVID DICKSON (1583-1662): The most satisfactory revenge which the godly can desire of their persecutors and mockers, is to have them made converts, to have them recalled from the vanity of their way and brought to a right understanding of what concerns their salvation.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Let me give you two illustrations of men who, we must all agree, put this teaching into practise. The first is about the famous Cornish evangelist, Billy Bray, who before his conversion was a pugilist, [a boxer], and a very good one. Billy Bray was converted; but one day, down in the mine, another man who used to live in mortal dread and terror of Billy Bray before Bray’s conversion, knowing he was converted, thought he had at last found his opportunity. Without any provocation at all he struck Billy Bray, who could very easily have revenged himself upon him and laid him down unconscious on the ground. But instead of doing that Billy Bray looked at him and said, “May God forgive you, even as I forgive you,” and no more. The result was that that man endured for several days an agony of mind and spirit which led directly to his conversion. He knew what Billy Bray could do, and he knew what the natural man in Billy Bray wanted to do. But Billy Bray did not do it; and that is how God used him.

THOMAS FULLER (1608-1661): The noblest revenge is to forgive.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The other is a story of a very different man. Hudson Taylor, standing on a river bank in China one evening, hailed a boat to take him across a river. Just as the boat was drawing near, a wealthy Chinese came along who did not recognize Hudson Taylor as a foreigner because he had affected native dress. So when the boat came he struck and thrust Hudson Taylor aside with such force that the latter fell into the mud. Hudson Taylor, however, said nothing; but the boatman refused to take his fellow-countryman, saying, “No, that foreigner called me, and the boat is his, and he must go first.” The Chinese traveller was amazed and astounded when he realized he had blundered. Hudson Taylor did not complain but invited the man into the boat with him and began to tell him what it was in him that made him behave in such a manner. As a foreigner he could have resented such treatment; but he did not do so because of the grace of God in him. A conversation followed which Hudson Taylor had every reason to believe made a deep impression upon that man and upon his soul.

STEPHEN CHARNOCK (1628-1680): Upon what stock does revenge grow, but upon a false idea of the nature of honour?

THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): It is more honour to bury an injury than to revenge it.


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