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regard Gideon as one highly renowned in the feats of war but his defeat of all the Midianitish hosts with only three hundred men, armed with pitchers, lamps, and trumpets, is less worthy of admiration, than the self-possession he exercised towards the offended and objurgatory Ephraimites. Solomon has weighed as in a balance the different characters, and has decided in favour of him whose victory is over his own spirit: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city"."
In the transaction before us we see,
I. Whence it is that unreasonable men take offenceThere is scarcely a society or even a single family to be found, where the different members walk in perfect harmony together: in most circles there are frequent disagreements: one or other of the members is unreasonable in his expectations, and by the unquietness of his own dispositions spreads dissatisfaction and disquietude all around him. The inquiry, "Whence come wars and fightings among you?" St. James answers by an appeal to our own experience; "Come they not hence, even from the lusts that war in your members"?" The chief sources of offence are discernible in the conduct of the Ephraimites. It arises,
1. From the pride of our own hearts
[The Ephraimites had evidently a high conceit of their own dignity, and were offended that Gideon had not paid as much deference to them, as they supposed themselves entitled to. And from this root of bitterness it is that so many disputes arise. Only by pride cometh contention," is the testimony of God himself. See the proud man, swelling with a sense of his own importance: if you differ from him in judgment, or act contrary to his will, yea, if you do not comply with his humour in every thing, he is quite indignant, and bursts forth into a rage. Even the best-meant endeavours cannot always please him as an inferior, he cannot brook the least restraint: as a superior, he never thinks that sufficient homage is paid him and as an equal, he cannot endure that others should c Prov. xiii. 10.
a Prov. xvi. 32.
b Jam. iv. 1.
exercise the liberty which he arrogates to himself. To what an extent this domineering principle will prevail, we may see in the instance of Nebuchadnezzar; who, because of the conscientious refusal of the Hebrew youths to bow down to his idol," was full of fury; and the form of his visage was changed against them; and he ordered the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual," in order to destroy them. Truly there is no principle in the heart more adverse to the peace and happiness of mankind than this.]
2. From envy at others-
[Great honour accrued to Gideon and the Abi-ezrites from the victory that had been gained: and the Ephraimites were grieved that others should possess a glory, in which themselves had no share. Hence they broke forth into revilings against Gideon. The same principle also prevails more or less in all "The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy1:" and how nearly it is allied with wrath, we see from those words of Eliphaz, "Wrath killeth the foolish man; and envy slayeth the silly one." The examples of Cain, and Joseph's brethren, and Saulk, sufficiently mark the murderous tendency of this malignant passion. One evil peculiar to it is, that it makes excellence itself the object of its attack; as Solomon has observed, "For every right work a man is envied of his neighbour'." Hence that pointed question, "Who can stand before envy m?" Not the benevolence of the Apostles, nor the blameless conduct of our Lord himself, could ward off its malignant shafts and wherever it exists, it will be attended with "strife, railings, evil surmisings, and perverse disputings"."] 3. From impetuosity of spirit
[The Ephraimites would not give themselves any time for reflection or inquiry, but instantly began with violent invectives. It should seem that they were a hasty people, full of pride and wrath and on another occasion precisely similar to this, they suffered for it in no slight degree; for no less than two and forty thousand of them were slain in consequence of it. Had they been at the pains of making inquiry, they would have found that Gideon had committed no offence at all: he had acted altogether by the direction of God: and so far was he from being at liberty to increase his army by the accession of the Ephraimites, that he was necessitated to reduce the thirty-two thousand troops which he had raised to
three hundred. Thus it is that innumerable quarrels arise, when a moment's inquiry would shew, that no reason for them exists, or at least no reason for such resentment as is felt by the offended person. Behold David, when Nabal had refused him the refreshments which he desired: nothing short of the death of Nabal and all his adherents was deemed a sufficient atonement for his offence. But when Abigail had brought David to reflection, he found that his vindictive purposes were highly criminal; and that, if his anger was not groundless, it far exceeded that which the occasion called for. In a word, this hastiness of temper prevents men from listening to the dictates of reason, and makes them deaf to every consideration of truth and equity.]
The readiness with which unreasonable men take offence, makes it important to inquire,
II. How judicious men may pacify it
Truly admirable was the conduct of Gideon on this occasion: and his success may well recommend it to our imitation. Indeed the general rules deducible from it are as good as any that can be suggested. When a person is offended at us without a cause, we should endeavour, as far as circumstances will admit of it, to calm his mind,
1. By patience and forbearance
[Not a word of recrimination dropped from the mouth of Gideon. He might perhaps have justly said, that when the Ephraimites knew his determination to oppose the Midianites, they had never offered their services, or come forward to assist him in the undertaking: but, when the danger was over, they were ready to impute evil to him for omissions which were chargeable only on themselves. But he did not so much as glance at any thing that might either betray irritation in his own mind, or strengthen it in theirs. Though "they did chide sharply with him," he bore it with a meekness that was truly amiable and praiseworthy. Now this was an excellent way to conciliate their minds, even if he had deserved all the blame that they imputed to him: Solomon justly observes, that "yielding pacifieth great offences 9." It is recrimination that fans the flame, and causes it to burst forth into destructive quarrels. The common progress of disputes may be seen in the case of Israel and Judah after the death of Absalom; where, each of them justifying his own cause, the result was, that the dispute on both sides grew, till the accused were more incensed q Eccl. x. 4.
P 1 Sam. xxv. 32-35.
than even the accusers; and "the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel'." Silence therefore is the best remedy, at least till the offended person is so far calmed as to listen readily to the voice of reason and though the advice of Solomon appears at first sight as paradoxical and absurd, yet it is the best that can be offered; "Leave off contention before it be meddled with":" for it will be difficult enough to leave it off when once it is begun.]
2. By humility and self-denial
[Gideon might justly have said, "If God has been pleased to honour me, why should that give any umbrage to you?" But he forbore to take to himself the credit that was his due, or to claim from them the approbation he had merited at their hands. Thus he hid from them the light which had pained their eyes, and cast a veil over the actions which had provoked their jealousy. This was a striking instance of that "charity which vaunteth not itself, and seeketh not her own." This is a disposition which tends no less to the preservation of our own happiness than it does to the conciliating of those who are offended at us for when once we are willing to forego the honour to which we are entitled, it will appear a small thing to us to be censured without a cause; seeing that such censures only reduce us to the place which we were previously in our own minds prepared to occupy. And it will almost invariably be found true, that, as men are ready to hate those who arrogate honour to themselves, so will they be more easily reconciled to those who are humble and unassuming.]
3. By commendation and love
[Gideon, instead of loading his adversaries with blame, was glad to search out causes for commending them. The Ephraimites, though they offered not themselves in the first instance, were of great service in pursuing and destroying the routed foe. They took the two hostile princes, Oreb and Zeeb: and though this was only the gleaning of Gideon's vintage, yet does Gideon speak of it as incomparably greater than any thing that had been done by him. And it is particularly deserving of notice, that this was the word which produced the desired effect; "Then their anger was abated, when he had said that." Thus it appears, that "a soft answer turneth away wrath ";" and that, if we would blunt the edge of other men's displeasure, we should study to conform ourselves to that sublime precept; "Let nothing be done through strife and vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves."]
r 2 Sam. xix. 41-43. u Prov. xv. 1.
Prov. xvii. 14. t 1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5. x Phil. ii. 3.
On this subject we would found a word or two of
1. Be cautious not too hastily to take offence
[Innumerable circumstances may exist, which, if known to us, would make us form a very different judgment of men and things, from that which at first sight we have entertained". To weigh, and consider, and inquire, is the part of true wisdom: but to be precipitate is a certain indication of folly]
2. If offence be taken at you, labour to the uttermost to pacify it
[This was a leading feature in the character of Jesus"; and it must be so in that of all his followers b.
our enemies, and heap coals of fire on their heads," is the Christian's duty: therefore, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."]
y See this illustrated Josh. xxii. 11-34.
a Jam. i. 19, 20.
z Eccl. vii. 9.
b Eph. iv. 1-3. and Col. iii. 12, 13.
c Rom. xii. 20, 21.
FAINT, YET PURSUING.
Judg. viii. 4. Faint, yet pursuing.
THERE are those who speak of Gideon as a type of Christ. But, excepting as a deliverer raised up in an extraordinary manner to Israel, there is scarcely sufficient correspondence between him and our blessed Lord to justify such a representation of him. As an example to the Church in all ages, and especially as illustrating for our benefit the power and efficacy of faith, we can have no hesitation in commending him to your most particular attention: for he is not only set forth in Scripture under that character in common with many other eminent men, but, together with David and Samuel, he is proposed to us as a pattern which we are bound to follow : Seeing that we are encompassed with such a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with