Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

The Forgiveness of Injuries

To forgive our enemies, and forget the injuries which have been done to us, is a noble, though very difficult duty. And from the opposition it meets with from within, I find that it is above the natural man to perform. Nature would make less resistance to it—if forgiveness were less godlike and divine. There are some men who have done me injuries; and, alas! I find that I can scarcely recollect their names without remembering their injuries injuries against me—though done to me years ago—presenting themselves as if they had happened yesterday! This shows the bitterness and resentment of my mind, and the deep impressions such things make there; while the continual and abundant mercies of the Most High God are shamefully forgotten! But now let me compose my mind, and reconcile this to the duties of Christianity.

The whole law hangs on this—to love God and my neighbor; and if I love the one, I shall love the other. But if I don't love him whom I can seen—how can I love him whom I have not seen? Now, 'my neighbor' is not he who does kind things to me; for such the worst of sinners love and regard. But my neighbor is everyone round about me. Whatever they do to me, that cannot cancel a relation that is indissolvable. When they defame me—I must speak well of them. When they revile me—I must entreat them. Though they would starve me—I must feed their hunger. Though they strip me—I must kindly clothe their nakedness. Though they curse me—I must bless them. Though they persecute me—I must pray for them. Though they rise up in war against me—yet I must not slay them—but protect them, pour oil into their wounds, and supply their necessities.

Yet this universal forgiveness is not, by a too extensive clemency, to oppose the exercise of justice in respect of murderers, nor infringe the moral law with regard to those that should die. But, alas! instead of being in danger of erring on this side—I am on the opposite extreme. For while I should forgive what they do against me, and pray for forgiveness of that whereby they have sinned against God—I neither forgive them myself, nor seek forgiveness from God to them.

Now, if I should thus behave with the evil men of the world who wrong me—how should I behave with the saints, who are the excellent ones of the earth? However they may deal with me in this world, that cannot loosen the tie, or dissolve the brotherhood, which is firm in Christ—of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Can a trivial difference break a bond that is firmer than flesh and blood? They can never much harm me in worldly things, who are for Christ in spiritual things. And though the 'old man' should argue between us, yet the 'new man' shall ever be friends. If the contention between corruption and corruption is so sharp, that conversation for a time is broken off—yet I shall talk with them in love, and embrace them in affection. We should only esteem one another like friends separated for a time—who will have greater joy at meeting.

Here we are in the body of Christ—and therefore should bear one another's burdens. We cannot live like angels in this imperfect state; why then should I strike like a serpent—at the failings of others? Will the hand refuse to feed the mouth, because the foot has stumbled? Is it lovely for the members of one body to fight with one another? Is it lovely for one Christian to cast off his duty to love—because another Christian has some failings? If every Christian in the world despised and abused me—I should still love them, and delight in them.

For when the sanctified ones are all assembled before the throne, there should eternal harmony reign; and concord and love prevail. There differences should be swallowed up in the divine overflowings of eternal love. Why then, on any account, should my affection be cold towards them—towards whom it shall glow forever, when they are arrayed with the divine likeness of the Son of God? Let me therefore bury all my injuries in the deepest oblivion, be reconciled to my friends, however badly they have dealt with me. And if ever I remember anything they have done amiss, let it be only to magnify the goodness of God, who excels so far the best of creatures, and outdoes in sympathy and kindness the most tender-hearted friend.

Whether the difference be civil or religious, the time approaches, O saint! when you and I shall forget our sharp contests, as waters that flow away. When we meet on the heavenly Mount Zion, we shall meet as angels, and embrace each other as seraphim. When we put on the perfection of the triumphant state, we shall put off sinful self, the narrow spirit, and uncharitable thought. In the light of glory, we shall see eye to eye; and as we are all united to Christ—so we shall be united to one another, being all one in him. Were not shame the daughter of sin, which therefore ceases when sin is no more—surely we would blush that ever the your and mine about perishing things, should hinder us—who shall see the whole world in flames, from conversing about that after state, those new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness, that perfect plenitude that remains for both.

Come then, and let us precede eternity—by throwing differences of every kind away, and becoming one in harmony and grace. Let us crucify self, and the better part will reunite. It is not strange that men of such passions should sin against one another—but it is strange that Christian men should live and die holding grudges. Let it not, then, my soul, fail on your side. Forgive, forget, remember injuries no more than if they had never been done you. Triumph in oblivion. Be valiant in conquering pride, wrath, and revenge. Expect not the concession on his side—who has done you wrong; but you yourself should yield, and win him by your gentle and Christian behavior under your injuries. Fix your eye on that future tranquility which shall be enjoyed in heaven, and that will instruct you how to guide yourself now.

Anger resides only in the bosom of fools! Entertain not a disposition of mind that you would gladly be done with, when going into eternity. Think little of yourself—and you will not take it badly that others think the same. Strive for the highest degree of Christian purity, gospel-perfection, attainable below. Lift up your eye to the other world, and in all things remember, prepare, and look out for the coming of the Lord—who will be the joy and peace of his people to eternity!