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DEVISE not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.
Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and deceive not with thy lips.
He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man
of understanding holdeth his peace.
Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.
A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.
IN an enlarged sense, as intimated by our Saviour in the parable of the kind Samaritan, all men to whom we can render kind offices, may be regarded as our neighbours; but in a restricted sense, the term is applied to those who dwell in our more immediate vicinity. In most cases, this nearness of residence leads to association, which if sustained on friendly principles, becomes a source of pleasant intercourse and mutual comfort. If, on the other hand, it be interrupted by feuds and collisions, it becomes a source of grievous annoyance. Individuals of different dispositions and characters, and not unfrequently of different forms of religion and pursuit, and strangers to each other, except so far as accidental residence has made them acquainted, need special rules for the regulation of their intercourse.
Where intimacy may not be desirable among neighbours, there should at least be respectful behaviour and civility. Pride and superciliousness offend and provoke enmity, while politeness and kindness disarm it; and surely it is worth while to secure the good will
of the most obscure, when it can be obtained at so little cost.
The feelings of good neighbourhood are essentially promoted by a mutual disposition to perform good offices. Many occasions will occur in which our inclination in this respect will be tested; and if we never suffer such to pass by without evincing a readiness to assist those who need our aid, we will most likely awaken a desire to return the good will we manifest.
Forbearance too, in this relation, is a virtue which may often be exercised with good effect. There may possibly be those around us whose temper is unsocial and hostile, and whose acts towards us are injurious. To meet them in the same temper will only aggravate the evil. It is better to suffer injury than to retaliate it. Wrath soon cools when met with mildness, and hostility loses its edge when opposed only by kindness. If every little affront is to be indignantly resisted, and if every act of injustice is to create litigation, neighbourly harmony must be for ever sacrificed. Forbearance is true economy, as it saves the expenditure of feeling, time, and money.
The peace of a neighbourhood is often sacrificed by giving currency to idle gossip and detraction. An evil report against our neighbour should never be lightly entertained, and our efforts should ever be employed to repress the love of scandal in others.
Each of the maxims of the wise man recited above, may be pondered with advantage. They are the result of experience, and inculcate that friendly feeling which is, in fact, the great preservative of harmony in neighbourly intercourse.
May I ever keep it in mind that those by whom I
am surrounded, are, like myself, weak and sinful, from whom perfection is not to be expected. As I need. forbearance, so may I extend it to others, and in all things may I do to others as I should wish them to do to me. Let it be my invariable rule to do all the good I can to those around me, and never incur their ill will when I can win their esteem. Even if my enemies, I should sympathize rather than exult in their calamities; and if they should revile, defame and persecute me, it is my duty to pray for them. May the recollection that they and I are soon to stand before the tribunal of God, repress every bitter feeling, and induce an imitation of the gentleness and meekness of Christ. Religion is to be recommended by example as well as by word, and so acting, if I shall fail to secure their regard, I shall at least escape self-reproach.
SAY not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee.
Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.
He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down and without walls.
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.
THE reader of the New Testament must, in a particular manner, be struck with the frequency and emphasis with which the grace of meekness is inculcated. The whole demeanour of our blessed Lord in all the variety of situations in which he was placed during his personal ministry, was a practical exemplification of the precept, "avenge not yourselves;" and his explicit teaching, as well as that of his immediate disciples, was, "resist not evil, but overcome evil with good." When our Lord "was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously," and in so doing he set us an example that we should follow in his steps. Infidelity has paid the highest compliment to Christianity in alleging, that this is a morality too pure for the state of the world.
To revenge injury is the natural prompting of the unsanctified heart; and on the contrary, forbearance towards the injurious, both in spirit and act, is a virtue of most difficult attainment. What a powerful curb must we impose on our passions! With what vigilance must we guard against the first symptoms of their ebullition! How fervently must we pray for
strength from on high to help our infirmity! And yet withal how often will we be called to deplore our ill success in learning of Him who "was meek and lowly in heart!" Still there is no grace which is more needed, and upon the exercise of which there will be more frequent calls. Between the open and insidious assaults of enemies, and the imperfections of friends, the spirit will be tried to the utmost, and we will find how difficult it is to imitate the suffering Redeemer, or him who was the first martyr in his cause. Yet to this we should attain; for this we should discipline ourselves, not merely on account of the great temporal advantages resulting from this spirit, but because we thus resemble the Lord, who makes it indispensable that the disciple should be as his Master.
Remember, my soul, that thou art placed in a world of trial, where thy graces are to be matured by triumphs achieved over opposing vices. Injuries will be inflicted, that thou mayest have an opportunity of showing forth thy meekness and forbearance. Others will have occasion to exercise forbearance towards thee; learn then to exercise it towards them. When thou art tempted to resentment and retaliation, call to mind the infinite obligations thou art under to God for his long-suffering to thee. How often hast thou provoked him, how greatly hast thou dishonoured him, how ungratefully hast thou requited his kindness! and yet he has been slow to anger and of great mercy. If he has forborne so long with thee, under extreme provocation, canst thou not forbear with thy brother under comparatively slight injury? It is God's prerogative to avenge; it is thy duty to recompense evil to no man, but to wait on God who is able to save thee.