Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

On being ill used

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:18-20)

Surely I forget who I am, and the place of my eternal abode—or else I would not be so grieved to be ill used in such a world as this. Would I have at once the smiles of Heaven—and the caresses of the earth? I should be satisfied to get through the enemy's country with my life, though now and then I suffer loss. I must not be surprised that I suffer, though innocent; for none were ever so innocent as our blessed Lord, yet none suffered more than did the prince of innocence. "It is enough for the disciple to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house 'Beelzebul,' how much more will they defame the members of his household!"

Why am I astonished at an usage which my Lord not only met with himself—but assured all his disciples that they should experience? How is it that I have fallen into this fond delusion—dreaming that nothing should hurt me while I was endeavoring to walk uprightly with him before whom are all my ways; and forgetting that often the saints have suffered for following after what is good?

I am yet in the world, and the god of this world is not my God, nor the men of this world my brethren; therefore no wonder that the world hates what is not its own. For shame! have I taken it amiss, that a few drops of that 'shower of malice and envy' which poured in full flood on the glorious Head, should fall on an unworthy member? How have I forgotten to imitate the divine pattern of humility, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when blasphemed, replied with meekness, interceded for his murderers, and prayed for his most monstrous foes! O to be more and more self-denied! If I thought as little of myself as I ought—I would not think much of being treated with indignity, and used contemptuously by others.

Though I may have recourse to the law for my protection and defense, yet surely it is often my duty to say, like humble David, "Let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him." How divinely sweet is the inspired advice, "Do not take revenge, dear fiends, but leave room for God's wrath!" Ah! says corrupt nature, must I meekly see myself abused, and not resent it? Must I not stand up in my own defense, and return his wickedness on his own head? No! says the apostle; vengeance belongs not to you; "for it is written, Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay!" Therefore let the matter alone, leave it to God, who knows when and how to plead your quarrel against your adversaries.

You must show you the excellency of the Christian religion, by feeding your enemy when hungry, and giving him drink when thirsty, until you have won him from his maliciousness. But, if he still retains his inveterate malice, your kindly acts will heap coals fire upon his head. Then let my behavior be such as is here enjoined, while, with the psalmist, I say, "Though they curse, You will bless." Keep ever fixed in your mind this maxim—That a greater pleasure springs from a free and frank forgiveness of injuries to the sanctified soul—than the most malicious bosom can feel in the most bloody revenge.

Has not the sun often shed his cloudless beams on those who blasphemed their Maker? Have not the clouds many a time watered their fields who never acknowledged the divine munificence? And has not all nature poured forth her riches, times innumerable, to those who walked contrary to the God who gave them? Did these things come by chance? No! They were the effects of God's unbounded goodness, which teems divinely free and vastly full on all—in spite of the ingratitude of the wicked—in spite of the daring impiety of the unjust.

The benevolence of God is seen in his conduct with the world. He makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and he lets rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. Copy, then, my soul, this amiable perfection. Deal with the whole world, as if everyone were your brother, or your friend; and though they may forfeit the name; let them never forfeit your kind regard.

As the sun changes not his course, though bursting clouds and bellowing thunders fight below; so, if you move in the celestial sphere of practical religion, you will never omit the duties of a Christian to any, though all should commit the hostilities of a vile enemy towards you. Let not the distress of your enemy afford you delight, nor the misfortunes of your inveterate foe infuse a secret pleasure in your heart. Sympathize with him in his calamity—who could laugh at yours. And, as far as is consistent with truth, preserve his good name, who, to the wounding of truth, has robbed you of yours. Remember benefits, forget injuries, forgive reproachful tongues, overlook affronts, wish well to every individual, pray for all for whom prayer ought to be made. Be a child of God in temper and conduct—in spite of corrupt nature, earth, and hell—aiming at perfection, as your father who is in heaven is perfect!