Love Disposes Us Meekly to Bear the Injuries Received from Others
Charity suffers long, and is kind. - 1 Corinthians 13:4
The apostle, in the previous verses, as we have seen, sets forth how great and essential a thing charity, or a spirit of Christian love, is, in Christianity: that it is far more necessary and excellent than any of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, that it far exceeds all external performances and sufferings, and, in short, that it is the sum of all that is distinguishing and saving in Christianity the very life and soul of all religion, without which, though we give all our goods to feed the poor, and our bodies to be burned, we are nothing. And now he proceeds, as his subject naturally leads him, to show the excellent nature of charity, by describing its several amiable and excellent fruits. In the text, two of these fruits are mentioned: suffering long, which has respect to the evil or injury received from others; and being kind, which has respect to the good to be done to others. Dwelling, for the present, on the first of these points, I would endeavor to show,
THAT CHARITY, OR A TRULY CHRISTIAN SPIRIT, WILL DISPOSE US MEEKLY TO BEAR THE EVIL THAT IS RECEIVED FROM OTHERS, OR THE INJURIES THAT OTHERS MAY DO TO US.
Meekness is a great part of the Christian spirit. Christ, in that earnest and touching call and invitation of his that we have in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, in which he invites all that labor and are heavy-laden to come to himself for rest, particularly mentions, that he would have them come to learn of him; for he adds, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” And meekness, as it respects injuries received from men, is called long-suffering in the Scriptures, and is often mentioned as an exercise, or fruit of the Christian spirit (Gal. 5:22) — “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering;” and Eph. 4:1, 2 “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering,” etc.; and Col. 3:12, 13 — “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
In dwelling more fully on this point, I would — I. Take notice of some of the various kinds of injuries that we may receive from others; II. Show what is meant by meekly bearing such injuries; and, III. How that love, which is the sum of the Christian spirit, will dispose us to do this. And,
I. I would briefly notice some of the various kind of injuries that we may or do receive from others. — Some injure others in their estates by unfairness and dishonesty in their dealings, by being fraudulent and deceitful with them, or at least by leading them to act in the dark, and taking advantage of their ignorance; or by oppressing them, taking advantage of their necessities; or by unfaithfulness towards them, not fulfilling their promises and engagements, and being slack and slighting in any business they are employed in by their neighbors, aiming at nothing but just to meet the letter of their engagements, and not being careful to improve their time to the utmost in accomplishing that which they are engaged to do; or by asking unreasonable prices for what they do; or by withholding what is due, from their neighbors, unjustly, neglecting to pay their debts, or unnecessarily putting their neighbors to trouble and difficulty to get what is due from them. And besides these, there are many other methods in which men injure one another in their dealings, by an abundance of crooked and perverse ways, in which they are far from doing to others as they would have them do to themselves, and by which they provoke and irritate and injure one another.
Some injure others in their good name, by reproaching or speaking evil of them behind their backs. No injury is more common, and no iniquity more frequent or base, than this. Other ways of injury are abundant, but the amount of injury by evil-speaking of this kind, is beyond account. Some injure others by making or spreading false reports about them, and so cruelly slandering them. Others, without saying that which is directly false, greatly misrepresent things, picturing out everything respecting their neighbors in the worst colors, exaggerating their faults, and setting them forth as far greater than they really are, always speaking of them in an unfair and unjust manner. A great deal of injury is done among neighbors by thus uncharitably judging one another, and putting injurious and evil constructions on one another’s words and actions.
Persons may greatly injure others in their thoughts, by unjustly entertaining mean thoughts, or a low esteem of them. Some are deeply and continually injurious to others, by the contempt they habitually have of them in their hearts, and by their willingness to think the worst about them. And, as the outflowing of the thoughts, a great deal is done to the injury of others by the words; for the tongue is but too ready to be the wicked instrument of expressing the evil thoughts and feelings of the soul, and hence, in the Scriptures (Job 5:21), it is called a scourge, and is compared (Psa. 140:3) to the fangs of some very poisonous kinds of serpents, whose bite is supposed to cause death.
Sometimes men injure others in their treatment and actions towards them, and in the injurious deeds they do them. If clothed with authority, they sometimes carry themselves very injuriously toward those over whom their authority extends, by behaving very assumingly and magisterially and tyrannically toward them. Sometimes those who are under authority, carry themselves very injuriously toward those who are over them, by denying them that respect and honor which are due to their places, and thus to themselves while they occupy them. Some carry themselves very injuriously toward others by the exercise of a very selfish spirit, seeming to be all for themselves, and apparently having no regard to the good or benefit of their neighbor, but all their contrivance is only to better their own interests. Some carry themselves injuriously in the manifestation of a very haughty and proud spirit, as though they thought they were more excellent than all others, and that nobody was at all to be regarded except themselves alone. This appears in their air and talk and actions, and their greatly assuming behavior in general, all of which are such, that those about them feel, and justly feel, that they are injured by them. Some carry themselves very injuriously by the exercise of a very willful spirit, being so desperately set on having their own way, that they will, if possible, bend everything to their own will, and never will alter their career, nor yield to the wishes of others. They shut their eyes against the light or motives others may offer, and have no regard to anyone’s inclination but their own, being always perverse and willful in having their own way. Some carry themselves injuriously in the course they take in public affairs, acting not so much from a regard for the public good, as from the spirit of opposition to some party, or to some particular person, so that the party or person opposed is injured, and oftentimes is greatly provoked and exasperated. Some injure others by the malicious and wicked spirit they cherish against them, whether with or without cause. It is not an uncommon thing for neighbors to dislike and even hate one another; not cherishing anything like love to each other in their hearts, but whether they acknowledge it or not, in reality hating one another, having no delight in each other’s honor and prosperity, but, on the contrary, being pleased when they are cast down and in adversity, foolishly and wickedly thinking, perhaps, that another’s fall is their own elevation, which it never is. Some injure others by the spirit of envy they show toward them, cherishing ill-will toward them for no other reason than for the honor and prosperity they enjoy.
Many injure others from a spirit of revenge, deliberately returning evil for evil, for real or imaginary injuries received from them. Some, as long as they live, will keep up a grudge in their hearts against their neighbor, and whenever an opportunity offers, will act it out in injury to him in the spirit of malice. And in innumerable other particular ways which might be mentioned, do men injure one another; though these may suffice for our present purpose. But,
II. I would go on to show what is meant by meekly bearing such injuries, or how they ought meekly to be borne. — And here I would show, first, the nature of the duty enjoined; and then why it is called long-suffering, or suffering long. And,
1. I would show the nature of the duty of meekly bearing the injuries we suffer from others. And,
First, it implies that injuries offered should be borne without doing anything to revenge them. — There are many ways in which men do that which is revengeful: not merely by actually bringing some immediate suffering on the one that may have injured them, but by anything, either in speech or behavior, which shows a bitterness of spirit against him for what he has done. Thus, if after we are offended or injured, we speak reproachfully to our neighbor, or of him to others, with a design to lower or injure him, and that we may gratify the bitter spirit we feel in our hearts for the injury that neighbor has done us, this is revenge. He, therefore, that exercises a Christian long-suffering toward his neighbor, will bear the injuries received from him without revenging or retaliating, either by injurious deeds or bitter words. He will bear it without doing anything against his neighbor that shall manifest the spirit of resentment, without speaking to him, or of him, with revengeful words, and without allowing a revengeful spirit in his heart, or manifesting it in his behavior. He will receive all with a calm, undisturbed countenance, and with a soul full of meekness, quietness, and goodness. This he will manifest in all his behavior to the one that has injured him, whether to his face or behind his back. Hence it is, that this virtue is recommended in the Scriptures under the name of gentleness, or as always connected with it, as may be seen in Jam. 3:17, and Gal. 5:22. In him that exercises the Christian spirit as he ought, there will not be a passionate, rash, or hasty expression, or a bitter, exasperated countenance, or an air of violence in the talk or behavior. But, on the contrary, the countenance and words and demeanor will all manifest the savor of peaceableness and calmness and gentleness. He may perhaps reprove his neighbor. This may clearly be his duty. But if he does, it will be without impoliteness, and without that severity that can tend only to exasperate. Though it may be with strength of reason and argument, and with plain and decided expostulation, it will still be without angry reflections or contemptuous language. He may show a disapprobation of what has been done, but it will be not with an appearance of high resentment, but as reproving the offender for a sin against God, rather than as for the offense against himself: as lamenting his calamity, more than resenting his injury, as seeking his good, not his hurt, and as one that more desires to deliver the offender out of the error into which he has fallen, than to be even with him for the injury done to himself. The duty enjoined also implies,
Secondly, that injuries be borne with the continuance of love in the heart, and without those inward emotions and passions that tend to interrupt and destroy it. — Injuries should be borne, where we are called to suffer them, not only without manifesting an evil and revengeful spirit in our words and actions, but also without such a spirit in the heart. We should not only control our passions when we are injured, and refrain from giving vent to outward revenge, but the injury should be borne without the spirit of revenge in the heart. Not only a smooth external behavior should be continued, but also a sincere love with it. We should not cease to love our neighbor because he has injured us. We may pity, but not hate him for it. The duty enjoined also implies,
Thirdly, that injuries be borne without our losing the quietness and repose of our own minds and hearts. They should not only be borne without a rough behavior, but with a continuance of inward calmness and repose of spirit. When the injuries we suffer are allowed to disturb our calmness of mind, and put us into an excitement and tumult, then we cease to bear them in the true spirit of long-suffering. If the injury is permitted to discompose and disquiet us, and to break up our inward rest, we cannot enjoy ourselves, and are not in a state to engage properly in our various duties, and especially we are not in a state for religious duties — for prayer and meditation. And such a state of mind is the contrary of the spirit of long-suffering and meekly bearing of injuries that is spoken of in the text. Christians ought still to keep the calmness and serenity of their minds undisturbed, whatever injuries they may suffer. Their souls should be serene, and not like the unstable surface of the water, disturbed by every wind that blows. No matter what evils they may suffer, or what injuries may be inflicted on them, they should still act on the principle of the words of the Savior to his disciples (Luke 21:19) — “In your patience possess ye your souls.” The duty we are speaking of also implies, once more <![endif]>
Fourthly, that in many cases, when we are injured, we should be willing to suffer much in our interests and feelings for the sake of peace, rather than do what we have opportunity, and perhaps the right, to do in defending ourselves. — When we suffer injuries from others, the case is often such that a Christian spirit, if we did but exercise it as we ought, would dispose us to forbear taking the advantage we may have to vindicate and right ourselves. For by doing otherwise, we may be the means of bringing very great calamity on him that has injured us, and tenderness toward him may and ought to dispose us to a great deal of forbearance, and to suffer somewhat ourselves, rather than bring so much suffering on him. And besides, such a course would probably lead to a violation of peace, and to an established hostility, whereas in this way there may be hope of gaining our neighbor, and from an enemy making him a friend. These things are manifest from what the apostle says to the Corinthians concerning going to law one with another — “Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Cor. 6:7) Not that all endeavors in men to defend and right themselves, when they are injured by others, are censurable, or that they should suffer all the injuries that their enemies please to bring upon them, rather than improve an opportunity they have to defend and vindicate themselves, even though it be to the damage of him that injures them. But in many, and probably in most cases, men ought to suffer long first, in the spirit of the long-suffering charity of the text. And the case may often be such, that they may be called to suffer considerably, as charity and prudence shall direct, for the sake of peace, and from a sincere Christian love to the one that injures them, rather than deliver themselves in the way they may have opportunity for. Having thus shown what is implied in this virtue, I would now show, briefly, (Please click here to continue reading, Love Disposes Us Meekly to Bear the Injuries Received from Others)