Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

Revenge rejected

Such is the corruption of human nature, such is the weakness of grace in this imperfect state, that, though most true believers can act the Christian in some things, it is rare to find the man who can act the Christian in all things. When we are only spectators of the conduct of others—it is easy to prescribe, like an apostle, and enforce the golden rules of the gospel. But, when the attack touches our very selves—we become troubled and want to retaliate. We are not aware of the beam our own eye—while a tiny mote is clearly seen in our neighbor's. I am a man, a sinner; and to guard against sinful revenge is the design of this meditation. Being a man—I must expect to suffer from one hand or other; and being a sinful man—under my sufferings I may sin.

The malice done to me may be—causeless, cruel, unrelenting, and done on purpose—so that my natural spirits boil at the remembrance, and breathe retaliation to the guilty offender. But the character of the Christian is meekness, and the person who expects to arrive at heaven, must have his conversation in heaven, even while dwelling on the confines, and contending with the fire brands of hell.

The precept and example of the King of saints shall ever be my pattern in the present earthly state. "Love your enemies," says the gracious Teacher. "Let me heal his ear, who lost it while leading on the wicked crowd to apprehend me as a thief"—says the divine Redeemer. These are lessons worthy of a God to give, and worthy of all the sons of God to imitate.

The military hero, under the eye and by the command of his prince, scales walls, takes cities, runs in the face of danger, and defies death itself. And so the Christian hero, prompted by the presence and the precept of Heaven, should study to conquer self—and all is won. "Love the brethren," says an apostle; I hear all the saints add Amen, for "we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren." But "love your enemies," (I feel corrupt nature reluctant!) is the I say of the great Apostle and High Priest of our profession; and to do so would prove, not only that we have passed from death to life—but that grace is very lively.

It is a shame for me to take so much offense, or dwell so much on, what a fellow-creature, who is on the same level, or only a little superior to me, has done to me; and yet never reflect on my offence against God, who is infinitely exalted above me—beyond conception and thought. If I am injured, the law is broken; if the law is broken, God is dishonored. That God is dishonored, and not that I am injured—should be the cause of my sorrow, and the burden of my soul. He cannot greatly offend against me, though he should spue out his bitterest malice; for it matters not, though the potsherds of the earth, while striving with the potsherds of the earth, should destroy each other. But I shall greatly offend against God, who is over all blessed forever—if I render evil for evil—since he has expressly forbidden it.

How often have I wasted precious time, by revolving in my mind all the aggravations of the injurious treatment to myself; while I am forgetful that every day I have offended God in a much greater degree! Forgetful, also, that I have daily received from him such tender mercies as might make me forget all the mischief that my fellow-creatures could do to me.

That malice must owe its birth to hell—which could wish the hated people condemned to everlasting flames. I assert that there is not a saint on in prayer—but can wish his greatest enemy a share in the common salvation, and a mansion in the highest heavens. How contemptible, how inconsistent, then to wish him a kingdom and a crown—and yet secretly wish that he may have a thorn in his foot, (trouble in person, family, character, or estate,) while traveling there.

"Follow peace with all men"—enemies not excepted. Though some individuals break this command with respect to me, yet I am not less bound to observe it towards them. Moreover, why should I, who have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, peace of conscience, and shall shortly enter into an eternity of peace—have an uproar of war kindled in all the powers of my soul, by the impotent bravadoes of a fellow worm? Suppose there is nothing good, nothing amiable about my opponent, that can make me love him for his own sake; yet I am to love him for God's sake, because my God commanded me so to do. "God is love;" this the whole creation knows, while his sun shines on the evil and on the good, and his rain falls on the just and the unjust; and "he who dwells in love, dwells in God."

Shall any temptation, shall any unjust treatment from others, provoke me from my high abode to sit down on the ash-heap of anger and revenge? Whenever I cease to dwell in love, and to be all love to friends and foes, (no matter how they have abused me,) then I cease to dwell in God. Revenge is as if a royal personage should descend from his throne, and wade to his armpits in filthy muck to pursue a fly, or kill a frog! With what a strange appearance would he again ascend his throne! And how shall I return from a worse situation to my divine dwelling-place?

Again, have I never received any favors or benefits from my abuser? or, have there never been acts of friendship between us? Why, then, is all this forgotten in the heat of my anger? It should be my study, and would be my glory—never to forget a kindness, and never to remember an injury. This may be called foolish by the world—but I am sure it is the spirit of Christianity. Moreover, can I suppose myself so perfect, as to receive so much ill usage, and return none? Then, if I have said or done anything amiss in the excess of my passion, as no doubt I have, should not I make some allowance for this in the folly of my friend? especially if agitators come between, who always represent things in the worst light.

I may be apt to think, that, had my haters the least appearance of the grace of God about them, I could then frankly forgive them. But, would not this be the cruelty of a fiend? If they have no interest in God, are they not doubly the objects of my most tender compassion? If a man has lost only a hand—will I pity him? but if he has lost eyes, legs and arms—will I storm in cruel rage against him? If the brethren abuse me—I must pity the error, and forgive them. If the ungodly abuse me—I must commiserate their very state, and pray for them. And, indeed, this would be the only way to render love for hatred, and good for evil. Henceforth, therefore, I will carry my bitterest enemies to the throne of grace, and implore the best of blessings on my most monstrous foes!

If a man abuses or harms me in the rage of anger, I must feel nothing for my own maltreatment—but a real concern for my frantic friend, and hope that the crisis of anger will end, and that he will be restored to the use of his reason. Or, if another person would attempt to do me a mischief all the year round, then, with deeper compassion, I consider my unhappy acquaintance as a confirmed lunatic, or miserable bedlamite. Even so I should look on the man who abuses me ill in a fit of passion, as in a mental delirium, and pity him—and on him that maltreats me from month to month, and from year to year, as a mental lunatic, and commiserate his mournful situation from the bottom of my soul.

If I will not forgive a fellow-creature a small debt—how can I daily plead with heaven to be forgiven of my unpayable debt of sin. And yet, unless I am daily favored with richer pardons than the remission of any given sum, I am undone forever.

As it is noble to help the needy with our charity—and not wait until importuned; so it is truly noble to forgive juries—though neither asked to do it, nor thanked for it. When an offending person confesses his fault, and begs pardon, it is praise-worthy to pardon; and yet we can do no less, because we are victorious over him in his submission. But it is much more noble, from a sense of duty, to forgive stubborn offenders—because then we obtain victory over ourselves, which is the best of all conquests. To indulge resentment and revenge may gratify my carnal flesh—but cannot benefit my soul here or hereafter. But to forgive and forget enemies and injuries, will be no grief of mind to me when I arrive at the heavenly state, mingle among saints and angels, and dwell in the presence of God.

Alas! my meditation is not finished until my resentment is no more! O how few years bring us to our latter end! and why should we keep our anger forever and our contentions while we live? It is comfort to me, that some years ago we were reconciled.

And O how feeble is the wrath of a mortal, who cannot defend himself from a moment's sickness! Now he is taken up with the great concerns of the next world, and that for eternity. And in a little while, I shall also arrive at my fixed state, and be taken up with eternal things. O that the precious time, and precious thoughts, which I employed on what I accounted malice towards myself—had been spent in heavenly meditations! Then I would have brought food out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong. May this be a caveat to me in all time coming, that whatever maltreatment I may get from a fellow-creature—to overlook it, and to acknowledge Heaven in all, and to meditate on heaven for all. Thus shall I behave like a child of God, and a candidate for glory. O how foolish is it to fear a fellow worm or a grasshopper—as if the Most High did not rule over all the actions of men!

To live in view of eternity would make me think little of the love or the hatred—the affection or affronts—of my fellow creatures; since in a little while, they shall go from me, or I from them—into the invisible world—and I cannot tell how soon!