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CHAPTER VI.

ON FORBEARANCE AND ENDURANCE.

1. BEAR and FORBEAR is a very ancient motto. Offences, great and small, must needs come with frequency in a world like this: but to chafe our spirits and assume revenge at every trifle is unwise and pernicious. I admit it is sometimes necessary to speak sharply, or use correction, or go to law; but it is oftener otherwise: "All things are not expedient," said St. Paul.

2. It is morally impossible to move through life with any comfort or satisfaction without a considerable portion of a forbearing and enduring spirit. The mind is the standard of the man,' and must govern or be governed-bear up or be borne down. Man is especially distinguished from the brute by the endowment of reflection and understanding. The proper exercise of these faculties will serve him on all occasions; but their abuse will lead to all unwarrantable extremes.

3. A wise man very properly advises, 'Consider how trifling any occurrence will appear fifty years

hence.' Actual experience justifies this consideration for if we only look back to any circumstance that severely tried and mortified us seven years ago, so far from cherishing any vexation on that account, we feel as though we had forgot it; nay, the lapse of seven months or of seven weeks, or even so many days, greatly abates the ireful excitement. In confirmation of this I could name several excellent persons, who, under great provocation, have written warmly; but, on maturer reflection, have destroyed the letter, and written more mildly; and even a second and a third have shared the same fate, and the indignation has at length evaporated. Others have resolved to go to law; but after a pause, they have forborne, and preferred to endure the grievance.

4. This benefit of a pause was well understood in the patriarchal age. When Rebekah discovered that Esau's intention was to kill his brother," She sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said unto him, Behold, thy brother Esau, as touching thee, doth comfort himself, purposing to kill thee. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice; and arise, flee thou to Laban my brother, to Haran; and tarry with him a few days, until thy brother's fury turn away; until thy brother's anger turn away from thee, and he forget that which thou hast done unto him: then I will send and fetch thee from thence," 1

5. Mr. Boswell, at a time when his mind was distressed by an accident common to life, talked of it to Dr. Johnson, at which he laughed, and said, Consider, sir, how insignificant this will

1 Gen. xxvii. 42.

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appear a twelvemonth hence.' Boswell afterward remarked, Were this consideration to be applied to most of the little vexatious incidents of life, by which our quiet is too often disturbed, it would prevent many painful sensations: I have tried it frequently with good effect.'

6. It is the act of a wise man to pause and deliberate. Many follow the first impulse of the moment without the least reflection; but as soon as they have given vent to their passion they feel a misgiving, are sorry, and beg pardon, chide themselves, and wonder that they are so easily overcome. Now all this would be obviated by a mental habit of forbearance on the one hand, and a willingness to endure a little on the other. The enemy well knows that if he cannot instigate us to act on the spur of the moment, his design would be frustrated. He well knows that deliberation is as water thrown upon the rising flame, or as oil upon the troubled waters.

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7. Zaleucus, a Grecian lawgiver, among the duties which men owe to one another, lays down a precept which is very well adapted to preserve peace and unity in society, by enjoining individuals who compose it not to make their hatred and dissensions perpetual, which would evince an unsocial and savage disposition; but to treat their enemies as men who would soon be their friends. This is carrying morality to as great a perfection as could be expected from heathens.' 2

8. Bear and forbear is no interdict against needful correction; for correction without discretion is only brutal passion. A parent in the first

Table Talk.

2 Rollin, vol. iv. p. 214.

impulse of anger may beat his son black and blue; but would this improve the youth? In many cases it would ruin him, and the parent might rue his folly at leisure. Regard should ever be had as well to the disposition of the individual, as to the cause, the time, the mode, and the measure of the correction: and the "profit' "1 of the party should be specially kept in view. Happily for us, these principles are well recognised in the administration of our humane laws.

9. Seneca very appropriately writes, "There is hardly a more effectual remedy against anger than patience and consideration. Let but the first fervour abate, and that mist which darkens the mind will be either lessened or dispelled. A day, nay an hour, does much in the most violent cases, and perchance totally suppresses it. Time discovers the truth of things, and turns that into judgment which at first was anger.'

10. We have before seen that one of the qualities of charity is-it beareth and endureth all things; and the apostle elsewhere exhorts the believers to forbear one another in love. What is man that he should rise up against God and his neighbour? that he should be so fretful and peevish; so self-willed, and ready to requite ? What is he that he should rage and strive, and do even as he listeth, but deny to others the license he assumes to himself? He will bear nothing that interferes with his own interest; others may bear or forbear as best they can.

11. The married state, above all other, perhaps, calls for the exercise of the foregoing motto:

1 See Heb. xii. 10.

Jeremy Taylor writes- Man and wife are equally concerned to avoid all offences of each other in the beginning of their conversation. Every little thing can blast an infant blossom, and a breath of the south can shake the little rings of the vine when first they begin to curl like the locks of a new-weaned boy: but when by age and consolidation, they stiffen into the hardness of a stem, and have, by the warm embraces of the sun, and the kisses of heaven, brought forth their clusters, they can endure the storms of the north, and the loud noises of a tempest, and yet never be broken. So are the early unions of an unfixed marriage; watchful and observant, jealous and busy, inquisitive and careful, and apt to take alarm at every unkind word: for infirmities do not manifest themselves in their first scenes, but in the succession of a long society; and it is not chance or weakness when it appears at first, but a want of love or prudence, or it will be so expounded; and that which appears ill at first, usually affrights the inexperienced man or woman, who makes unequal conjectures, and fancies mighty sorrows by the proportions of the new and early unkind

ness.'

12. Archbishop Leighton has the following passage, which is equally appropriate: Nothing is more uncomely in a wife than an uncomposed turbulent spirit, that is put out of frame with every trifle, and inventive of false causes of disquietness and fretting to itself. And so in a husband, and in all, an unquiet passionate mind lays itself naked, and discovers its own deformity to all. The greatest part of things that vex us, do so, not from their own nature or weight, but from the un

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