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HEN one person expresses hatred to another, or attempts
to injure him, the first feeling of the person so hated, or liable to be injured, is usually of an angry kind. He hates in turn, or he stands indignantly up for his rights.
This is natural, just as it is natural for a child to creep before he can walk, or lisp before he can speak. But as creeping and lisping at first do not form any objection to walking and speaking afterwards, so are those angry feelings which so readily occur to us, no argument why we should not come to treat those who hate or injure us in a different manner. If we always find that kindling up in anger, and returning evil for evil, prolongs mischief to ourselves as well as to the other party, but that we stop mischief, and make ourselves happy, by a kind and forgiving behaviour, there is no reason why we should not prefer the latter mode. The one plan is, in fact, as natural as the other, although with most persons it is not the one first thought of.
But is it really best to treat our enemies kindly? This is the great question. We shall endeavour to prove that such is the case.
It is matter of common observation that, when unloving words or looks are resented by the like, a complete division takes place between the parties. The hatred of the first person is deepened : he becomes a more unpleasant neighbour than he was before. And, because bad words have been used to him, his pride is touched, and he determines to shew no symptom of relenting. But if, on the contrary, the object of his antipathy had refrained from angry words
or looks, and addressed him in a friendly manner, his first feelings, which were probably of a slight kind, would have given way, and he would have been at once reconciled. Thus the evil would have been cut short at the very first, and those would have been friends who otherwise would be sure to become enemies, perhaps for the remainder of their lives. Now, if we consider how many disadvantages attend our having the ill-will of our neighbours, we shall be at no loss to see how important it is for us to prevent them by all proper means from becoming our enemies. And not only this, but let us also reflect on the sad fact, that our neighbour is unhappy in being our enemy; we are concerned to see that we do not become, however innocently, as we may think, the cause of his being haunted by unpleasant feelings. We are therefore bound, out of kindness to him, to act in such a way as to save him from the wretchedness of becoming our enemy. People will say it is difficult to be kind to one who has looked, or spoken, or acted harshly towards us. But a moment's reflection on what are his interests in the case, will go a great way to enable us to check angry feeling, and to call up the kind forgiveness which is so sure to win him to our friendship. It is not, in reality, difficult to act in this way when the other party has no just cause for being angry with us. The serenity of a mind at peace with itself rather disposes us to be forgiving. Should the case be otherwise, and we feel any cause for reproaching ourselves, then we are doubly called upon, by due expressions of contrition, to do all that in us lies to restore the broken peace. Though the anger of the offended person should appear unreasonably great, still it is our duty to seek to appease it, so that permanent enmity should be prevented.
It is equally evident that little or no good is ever got by using force, or even threatening to use it, for the assertion of our rights. Questions about right usually arise without any ill design on either side. The circumstances are usually such as to make it difficult to say how the right lies. At first there is mere difference of opinion on the subject. It would then be easy to come to a friendly agreement about it, or to find a friend to decide between the parties, to the satisfaction of both. But if one shews undue eagerness about the matter, the other is apt to become keenly interested also. The selfish feelings are then called into play. If the love of property does not take the lead, pride will do so; and each thinks it would be disgraceful to give in to the other. Thus arise fights among children and savages, wars among the so-called civilised nations, and lawsuits among individuals who think themselves Christians. Immense damage is the consequence to all, happiness is put to flight for the time, and often the object of dispute is lost to both parties. Now, if any one were to make a point of always trusting to reason and good feeling alone, if it became understood regarding him that he would take no other means of prosecuting his own interests, would it be for his hurt or his advantage? The just answer to this question, in our opinion, is, that a few very bad people would now and then take advantage of his gentleness to injure him, but the most would act quite differently. Their benevolence, their sense of justice, their very pride would be engaged to make them treat the rights of that person tenderly. In the long-run he would find himself a gainer, if not in actual property, at least in the comparative peace of his life ; for he would have avoided many troublesome contentions, and enjoyed a more than usual share of the esteem of the good, besides possessing, what is more precious than all, the consciousness of having done his best to promote sweetness, instead of sourness, in society.
LOVE IS POWER—BETWEEN MAN AND MAN. An affecting and beautiful example occurs in the history of David. Pursued by Saul in the wilderness of Engedi, he was lying concealed with his few followers in a cave, when the king and his party entered. David might have killed the king if he had chosen, and his friends advised him to do it. But he resolved upon a better course. He only cut off the skirt of Saul's robe. When the king had departed, David followed and called after him. The rest may be told in the language of Scripture. “And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself. And David said to Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt? Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the Lord had delivered thee to-day into mine hand in the cave : and some bade me kill thee ; but mine eye spared thee : and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the Lord's anointed. Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand : for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee : but mine hand shall not be upon thee. As saith the proverb of the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked : but mine hand shall not be upon thee. After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea. The Lord therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand. And it came to pass when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David ? And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I : for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shewed this day how that thou hast dealt well with me : forasmuch as when the Lord had delivered
me into thine hand, thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day.' *
What took place on this occasion is accordant with what we know of human nature in all ages and nations. Seneca relates an anecdote of the Roman emperor Augustus, which comes to precisely the same purpose. After many plots had been formed against him, and suppressed by the usual forcible means, the emperor was informed of one planned by Cinna, for putting him to death when engaged at sacrifices in the temple. He was greatly disquieted ; and the more so, as a young nobleman, for whom he had a regard, was engaged in the conspiracy. It distressed Augustus to find that the taking of his life should be thought good service by however small a portion of the Roman people. He almost thought it would be better for him to die at once, than retain a life which only could be preserved by continually visiting others with death. Finding him so much troubled, his wife Livia entreated that he would for once hear a woman's counsel. 'Do,' said she, like a physician who, when common remedies fail, tries the contrary. You have got nothing hitherto by severity. Try now what mercy will do. Forgive Cinna, who, being discovered, can now do you no harm. The act will reward itself in reputation.' (It is a pity she thought not of superior motives.)
Augustus resolved to follow his wife's advice. He called Cinna before him, and, dismissing all attendants, told him that the plot was discovered. He then reminded him of former clemency, and lectured him on the folly as well as wickedness of his design. 'Well, Cinna,' said he at last, the life I gave you once as an enemy, I will now give you as a traitor and parricide, and this shall be the last reproach I shall ever address to you. For the time to come, there shall be no other contention betwixt you and me than which shall outdo the other in point of friendship.
The intending parricide was confounded by this generosity. Promoted by Augustus to the consulship, he became faithfully attached to him, and in the end made the emperor his heir. And this was the last conspiracy ever formed against Augustus.
During the early years of the reign of Louis Philippe in France, similar conspiracies were of continual occurrence, and the intending assassin was invariably punished with death. At length a more merciful plan was adopted; the criminal was only condemned to imprisonment. From that time, as in the case of Augustus, attempts to cut off the king's life totally ceased. What force could not do, was accomplished by gentleness.
To shew the same principle in a totally different sphere of life, we quote from the Manchester Times an anecdote of the late William
Grant, of the firm of Grant Brothers, a man remarkable for the great liberality of his nature. “Many years ago, a warehouseman published a scurrilous pamphlet, in which he endeavoured, but very unsuccessfully, to hold up the house of Grant Brothers to public ridicule. William remarked that the man would live to repent what he had done; and this was conveyed by some tale-bearer to the libeller, who said : “Oh, I suppose he thinks I shall some time or other be in his debt; but I will take good care of that.” It happens, however, that a man in business cannot always choose who shall be his creditors. The pamphleteer became a bankrupt, and the brothers held an acceptance of his which had been indorsed to them by the drawer, who had also become a bankrupt. The wantonly libelled men had thus become creditors of the libeller! They now had it in their power to make him repent of his audacity. He could not obtain his certificate without their signature, and without it he could not enter into business again. He had obtained the number of signatures required by the bankrupt law, except one. It seemed folly to hope that the firm of “the brothers" would supply the deficiency. What! they who had cruelly been made the laughingstocks of the public, forget the wrong, and favour the wrong-doer? He despaired. * But the claims of a wife and children forced him at last to make the application. Humbled by misery, he presented himself at the counting-house of the wronged. Mr William Grant was there alone, and his first words to the delinquent were : “Shut the door, sir!”-sternly uttered. The door was shut, and the libeller stood trembling before the libelled. He told his tale, and produced his certificate, which was instantly clutched by the injured merchant. “ You wrote a pamphlet against us once?” exclaimed Mr Grant. The supplicant expected to see his parchment thrown into the fire. But this was not its destination. Mr Grant took a pen, and writing something upon the document, handed it back to the bankrupt. He, poor wretch, expected to see “rogue, scoundrel, libeller," inscribed; but there was, in fair round characters, the signature of the firm. “We make it a rule," said Mr Grant, “never to refuse signing the certificate of an honest tradesman, and we have never heard that you were anything else.” The tears started into the poor man's eyes. “Ah," said Mr Grant, “my saying was true! I said you would live to repent writing that pamphlet. I did not mean it as a threat; I only meant that some day you would know us better, and be sorry you had tried to injure us. I see you repent of it now.” “I do, I do!" said the grateful man; “I bitterly repent it.” “Well, well, my dear fellow, you know us now. How do you get on? What are you going to do?” The poor man stated that he had friends who could assist him when his certificate was obtained. “But how are you off in the meantime?” And the answer was, that, having given up every farthing to his creditors, he had been compelled to stint his family of even common necessaries, that he might be