Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out and found one of his fellowservants which owed him an hundred pence, and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest ; and his fellow-servant fell down at his feet and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all ;—and he would not, but went and cast him into prison till he should

pay

the debt. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt because thou desiredst me, shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors till he should pay all that he owed unto him.” We can readily see the monstrous cruelty and ingratitude of the servant's behaviour“ Oughtest not thou also to have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee,” is an expression that goes to the heart. We must agree also in the justice of his lord's conduct when he delivered him to the tormentors till he had paid all that was due to him. It is impossible not to own it is what he deserved, but our business with it is to see,what also a little secret reflection will convince us of,

- that this is no other than the case of each and every one of us who does not from the heart forgive his brother their trespasses.

XV.

RECONCILEMENT OF DISPUTES.

PROVERBS XVII. 14.

The beginning of strife is, as when one letteth out

water. Therefore leave off contention before it be meddled with.

THERE is not found throughout the Book of Proverbs, or in any book indeed either of ancient or modern morality, a maxim which contains more of truth and wisdom, or which we see more frequently verified by instances of public and private misfortunes, than this of the text. The meaning is plain—as in a bank by which waters are confined, the first breach is generally small, easily prevented, or as easily repaired; but if the flood be suffered even for a short time to gain head and go on, the torrent soon gathers force and violence, continually working its passage wider, till it bears down every obstacle that opposes it, and overwhelms the country with deluge and ruins : admitting perhaps of no remedy which human art or strength can apply, or requiring operations so expensive as to impoverish all who are concerned in them,—so is it with the beginning of strife. Some small slight or neglect, some frivolous dispute, some

VOL. I.

L

affront scarcely perceptible, easily avoided, and at first as easily made up, commonly lays the foundation of those quarrels and animosities which, in private life, are sure to make those miserable who are involved in them ; and when they fall out between persons or parties of powerful and extensive influence, are apt to fill a whole neighbourhood with rancour, calumny, and confusion. The breach at first might have been closed up with little cost or trouble. It is seldom that the occasion of the dispute is worth a thousandth part of the uneasiness which each side suffers by it; or that there is any proportion between the importance of a quarrel and the heat with which it is carried on. A hasty, angry, or inadvertent word, or sometimes not so much as that, even a cold, suspicious, or unkind look, may be enough to give birth to a con'tention which in its progress and effects may involve a whole neighbourhood-may divide friends, disturb families, set up unnecessary parties and odious distinctions, put an end to all the comfortable intercourse of society; and, what is much more to be la. mented, to all charity and good-will and good offices one towards another. What does either side gain ? What do not both sides lose ? lose in the composure and tranquillity of their own minds, in the society of those about them, in the opportunities of performing and receiving kind offices, which render the journey of life easy and comfortable. As the causes of the bitterest quarrels are generally the most frivolous, so condescensions equally unimportant would'in the

early stages of the dispute generally close and heal them. A soft expression, a friendly countenance, a kind salutation, are all, probably, it would have cost to reconcile enmities which have since become fierce, implacable, and deep-rooted; but we must not condescend--we must maintain our right-we must not be wanting to our dignity--we are ready to accept acknowledgement, but we will not yield or give way first! We have declared our resolution, and it were meanness to give it in! Whilst both sides choose to argue thus, both sides may entertain an internal desire of reconciliation, and yet never be reconciled. The opportunity will soon be lost. The season of peace will soon be over. Offences are easily given, where both sides are on the watch to take them. Jealousy and suspicion are apt to convert undesigned words and actions into marks of what is already believed to be lurking within. One shyness is returned with another; every return becomes a fresh injury, and every injury requires a fresh retaliation. The distance between the parties is rapidly increasing, till all con. nexion and communication becomes odious to boththey no more approach each other, and therefore have no more opportunity, if they sought it, of bringing one another back to their former friendship--they are alienated incurably, and for life. A riveted hostility takes place : mutual reproach and mutual railing, invective, slander, and backbiting, are sure to follow. It is become a gratification and a triumph in each to depress and mortify the other. Thus are two neighbours and two friends set down for life to torment each other and themselves,--not without almost constant disquietude and heart-ache; I may say also, with a constant violation of God Almighty's laws. Are not the evils and calamities of life enow ? Is not the distress we suffer from sickness, from the loss of friends, from unavoidable misfortunes sufficient, that we must aggravate and magnify it by quarrels amongst ourselves ? Disputes of real moment and of serious consequence will sometimes arise between parties peaceably and amicably inclined; but such disputes, we may observe, are generally conducted with decency and with moderation. It is for small, and sometimes only imaginary affronts, from minute, or perhaps only suspected incivilities; from contests about insignificant forms and ceremonies; from a passion to be thought greater than some other, whom we have taken it into our heads to view with eyes of rivalship and jealousy—it is from causes like these that the bitterest quarrels take their beginnings. It is haughtiness and impetuosity of temper from which dissensions usually commence; that is to say, a hasty, peevish, or captious pride begins them; and that stiffness which borrows the name of firmness, dignity, or consistency of character, but which is in truth, and which we should probably call in another, mere obstinacy and stubbornness, continues them. At least these are the infirmities of temper to which many are subject; and these are the infirmities which if “ we would wish to see good days”-if we would wish

« ForrigeFortsæt »