Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial that has come upon you, as though something strange were happening to you.
I. THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH TRIALS ARE PERMITTED. To many minds the trials which befall the good and the bad alike seem hardly consistent with the benevolent character of God. But it is forgotten that the end of the Divine government is not to secure to all men the greatest possible amount of enjoyment, but to place every man in a position of moral discipline, to give him an opportunity to resist temptation, to cultivate virtuous habits, to live an obedient and submissive and truly religious life. Not as if God were indifferent to the issue of such probation; on the contrary, he watches its process with interest, and delights to see the gold purified in the furnace, the wheat winnowed from the chaff. The hearer of the Word is put upon his trial, and events prove whether he will hear or forbear. The believer in Christ is put upon his probation, and it is seen whether his faith is strong and his love sincere. Time tries all.
II. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH TRIALS ARE TO BE ENDURED BY THE CHRISTIAN. St. Peter shows us that the true Christian temper under trials is that which regards all such afflictions as participation in the Master's sufferings. He who is one with Christ finds his satisfaction in being "as his Master, his Lord." He does not ask to be exempt from the experiences Jesus submitted to pass through before him. And he is sustained and cheered to know that, even in the heated furnace, there is One with him whose form is as the Son of God. Here is the true remedy for human restlessness and for human discontent. What we share with Christ we may accept with submission and gratitude.
III. THE ISSUE TO WHICH TRIALS ARE TO TEND. We are not left without light upon the future. As our Lord himself', even in his humiliation and woe, saw of the travail of his soul, and was satisfied; so are his followers justified in anticipating, not merely deliverance, but exaltation. The glory of the triumphant Redeemer shall be revealed, and they who have shared his cross shall then with joy sit down with him upon his throne. - J.R.T.
Think it not strange.
I. THIS WORLD IS IN REVOLT. Is it to be wondered at that the servants of the Divinely designated Prince should experience rough treatment at the hands of the rebel forces? It could not be otherwise.
II. ALONG THIS WAY THE MASTER WENT.
III. THIS IS THE WAY HOME. If we were universally beloved, and no voice were ever raised in hatred or calumny, we might truly question whether we were at all on the heavenward track. As mountain climbers after a snowstorm can tell the path by the line of posts placed at intervals along the mountain side, so may Christians tell that they are on the track of the Church by the antagonism manifested against their religion in Jesus Christ.
IV. THERE IS AN OBJECT IN SUCH SUFFERING. It is carefully designed by the skill of the great Artificer. There may have been many a previous secret prayer for growth in grace and usefulness, and the answer has come in the use of fire, file, and hammer, wielded by God, though furnished by the hatred of the sons of men. There is no other way of eliminating much of the selfish dross of our natures.
V. HEREIN WE PARTAKE OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS. His life in us meets the same treatment as it did in Him. Ah, it is good to share anything with Him. Sweet things are bitter when He is absent, and bitter things sweet if He is near.
VI. LOOK ON TO THE END. His glory shall be revealed! His sufferings quicken our anticipations of that blessed day. Too much comfort might make us think ourselves at home, so that we might not so ardently reach out our hands towards our coming glories.
VII. WE ARE COMPENSATED FOR SUCH SUFFERING BY THE PRESENCE OF THE SPIRIT OF GLORY. When such suffering lies heavily on the soul, God sees to it that it is no loser. What is lost from without is replenished from within. As water is thrown on the fire from the one side of the wall, a bright angel on the other pours in oil through a tiny aperture, till the flame breaks out as coals of juniper. Ah, what compensations are ours! The Jews who walk the streets of Tangier and other Moorish towns, the hatred of all the people, are said to have exquisitely furnished rooms within their ordinary looking dwellings, where they surround themselves with every luxury. So, as the spiritual man turns from the hatred of man to the special bestowments of God, he is compensated a hundred fold, When we have least human love, we have most of God's.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The Evangelist.I. THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRISTIANS ARE NEITHER "STRANGE," IN THEMSELVES, NOR SO TO BE RECKONED BY THEM.
1. The nature of their principles accounts for opposition from men of the world. These are principles of holiness. They condemn, by contrast, the men of the world. Christians must cease to be what they are, or the world cease to be what it is, for them to escape persecution.
2. The genius of their dispensation renders probable a greater share of outward ills to them than to the saints of the Old Testament. They have a fuller revelation of the mind of God, and are put more upon future hopes, and less upon present things. "Prosperity was the promise of the Old Testament; adversity of the New" (Mark 10:30).
3. The partial renewal of their character calls for a corrective discipline. The buddings of evil dispositions require nipping frosts to check their growth.
II. ALL THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRISTIANS ARE INTENDED FOR TRIALS TO "TRY" THEM.
1. They detect the presence of sin, as fire brings out the latent dross in metals.
2. They make manifest the sincerity of our profession. Persecutions and afflictions keep the church from being overrun with hypocrites.
3. They purify and improve our Christian virtues.
III. CHRISTIANS OUGHT TO "REJOICE," NOTWITHSTANDING ALL THEIR SUFFERINGS, AND EVEN BECAUSE OF THEM. "Think it not strange, but rejoice," etc.
1. They increase our spirituality. The overflowing of the Nile distressed Egypt for a time, but when it retired, left behind it fertility and abundance.
2. They furnish ground for the comfortable assurance of a gracious state. If the storm that uproots others leaves us standing, it gives evidence of being well-grounded in faith.
3. They enhance our future glory.Application:
1. Let this check the over anxiety of some Christians to avoid affliction, or to prevent themselves, if possible, from feeling it.
2. Let the subject correct our judgment respecting affliction.
3. Be brought by affliction to enter more deeply into the sufferings of Christ.
4. Let sympathy with others in their sufferings be promoted by our own.
1. And this word of yours implies, in the first place, that you are on the whole graciously dealt with; that the order of things which encircles you, and carries you forward, is on the whole merciful. For why else should you find fault with what afflicts you, as if it were a departure from that order? The hand of Providence — how much oftener it is open to give, than clenched to strike! Do you not prove yourselves unreasonable, there fore, if you chide with it, when it withholds your desire or admonishes you with its unwelcome dispensations? And this is one side of our subject that is worthy of attention. But there is another. It is, that the afflictions of life, though few when set by the side of the innumerable kindnesses that are so continuous as to be unregarded, are yet neither uncommon nor light. They form a regular part of the great system of heavenly appointments, in which we, with our changing circumstances and vanishing life, are included. They are more impartial than they are supposed to be. They spare none. They are not to be bought off by the opulent, nor fought off by the strong. "Think it not strange," so run the words of the apostle, "concerning the fiery trial that is to try you."
2. You there read what is the design in view. It is to prove and not to destroy you. You are tempted by pleasures and prosperity to see if you are weak enough to be seduced. You are searched by hurts and deprivations to see if you are strong enough to endure. If you are sick, secure the inward health that knows neither the fever of passion nor the consumption of care. If you are poor, learn to feel that everything else is destitution, if compared for a moment with the incorruptible wealth of conscious integrity, and the thoughts that turn confidingly towards God, and the substance that no reverses can make less.
(N. L. Frothingham.)
I. Now the first thing which I would argue from this alleged absence of "strangeness" from the dealings of God, is that there were more points of correspondence than of difference between the Christian and the Jewish dispensations. It is true that they could not co-exist, but not because they were in any measure opposed the one to the other. The dawn and the noon tide cannot co-exist; yet the one does not so much displace the other, as it is that other in a more advanced stage. The Mosaic economy was the Christian in its dawn, or in its bud, presenting the same truths, though in a more shadowy form, and proposing the same way of salvation, though with less clearness and precision. The Christian dispensation superseded the Jewish, but only in the manner in which history supersedes prophecy. And this must necessarily have been the case, if you only consider how God had from the first determined the plan of our redemption, and virtually announced it ere Adam was driven from Paradise. There was not one method of being saved in one age, and another in another, so far as the method of reconciliation is concerned; neither can there be thought to have been any such variation, so far as the method of application is concerned. In all ages there has been the same necessity for a renewal of nature in order to a meetness for the kingdom; and therefore must it be supposed that in all ages the dealings of God with a view to these ends have borne in the main the same features. But undoubtedly God had from the first made sorrow one of His chief engines in weakening attachment to the things of time and sense, and directing the affections towards heaven. Was it therefore for a moment to be expected, that because there came a dispensation of greater light, a dispensation of substance in place of shadow, sorrow was to depart and no longer to be used in preparing men for heaven? And, indeed, without tracing accurately a sameness in the dealings of God, we might venture to say that the discipline of affliction is indispensable in the case of depraved creatures like ourselves. It is not that under this economy, but not under that, sorrow is a wholesome thing for those whose nature is corrupt; it is rather that in every condition and estate, man cannot do without affliction, if he is to be kept up to the task of preferring the future to the present. Hard it may be, bitter it may be, but "strange" it can never be, that whilst "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked," God should constantly verify the saying, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous." "Are ye not men?" might be the address of the messenger of God: "are ye not sinners? and is it not your sanctification which is proposed? Oh! then, 'beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.'"
II. But possibly these remarks on what we may call the necessity for affliction, and therefore on the truth that it ought never to seem "strange," hardly clear up the point which is presented by our text. The case of those addressed by St. Peter is not that of men exposed to trouble in its ordinary sense, but of those on whom was coming a great onset of persecution. The "fiery trial which was to try them," was to result from the efforts of the enemies of Christianity to destroy by violence what they could not disprove by argument. What is strange, if it be not strange that heaven's best gift should be received with loathing; that the very remedy, which at an immeasurable cost God prepared for the evils which have pressed on this creation, should meet not only with scorn, but hatred; that they whom it is designed to benefit, should agree with themselves to cast it out from the earth? Yet the apostle does not hesitate to tell them in our text, that nothing "strange" had happened to them, when a "fiery trial" arose and they had to maintain their profession in the face of persecution and death. We close with this statement of St. Peter, and we wish you to see whether it may not be vindicated by almost self-evident reasons. The results which Christianity proposes, and which beyond all question it is calculated to effect, are those of a widespread peace and a dominant happiness: but the processes, through which it would work out these results, are those of self-denial and restraint, of mortified passions and curbed affections; and they who would be quite in love with the results, may be quite at war with the processes. There is not after all, anything surprising in persecution, whether in the bold shape it assumed in early days, or the more modified which it exhibits in later; it is, we might almost say, but a natural result of the rejection of Christianity — whether of the open rejection of the sceptical, or of the more covert of the indifferent. Doctrines which are not embraced must be disliked, when they are doctrines which would bind us to practices, which conscience secretly pronounces to be right, but which inclination vehemently opposes; and disliking the doctrines, men must also dislike those who hold them, for every believer is a reproach to the unbeliever, condemning by his example those whom it does not excite to imitation; and there is only a step from dislike to persecution. Persecution is but dislike in action the effort to remove what annoys by reproving. Then till Christianity be universal, persecution, in some form or other, is unavoidable. It is not the product of a dark age, rather than of a light; it is the product of human nature — the same in its corruption, acted upon by a system the same in its holiness.
III. But we cannot suppose that St. Peter used these remarkable words, in order merely to correct an erroneous impression which had been made on the minds of the first Christians — an impression as to the likelihood that Christianity would disarm rather than provoke opposition: we may further believe that he designed to offer a topic of consolation and support — to suggest what ought to reconcile the suffering to their lot. "You ought not," St. Peter seems to say, "to be amazed or confounded; you are called to no affliction which others have not sustained; and where there is nothing but what has been experienced, why should there be surprise, as though it were unexpected?" And truly the distressing thing to a believer would be, if he were able to show that God's dealings with himself were quite different from what God's dealings with His people had ordinarily been. Suppose the registered course of God's proceedings had been, that where there was belief in His Word there was comparative freedom from trouble, so that religion and temporal happiness went hand in hand: what fearful thing would it then be, for a Christian to find himself in trouble! It would not be the amount of the trouble, so much as its strangeness, that would overwhelm him. His inference would be — "Surely I am not one of the people of God: if I were, He would not deal with me in so unusual a manner." Or, to take what might be thought a more supposable case: let righteousness and peace of mind be almost invariably found together, so that a righteous individual is seldom, if ever, disquieted with doubts and apprehensions: if, then, a Christian feels himself depressed and cast down, his hopes darkened through the suggestions of his great adversary the devil, do you not see that the bitterest thing in his portion would be, not the depression, but the consciousness of this depression being a "strange thing" in a believer, and therefore almost an evidence of his not being a believer at all? But now take the opposite, which is the actual case, namely, that the Christian has nothing strange to undergo, nothing befalling him but what is common to believers; and do you not perceive that this very circumstance is full of consolation, and ought to do much towards producing in him patience and resignation? The tempest may rage, the sword may glitter, the destroyer may ravage; but he is calm, he is confident, because he can never "think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try him, as though some strange thing had happened unto him."
IV. And now, lastly, there is yet another remark which, in a practical point of view, is perhaps of greater importance than the foregoing. It may be questioned whether our translators have given the exact meaning of the original, in saying, "Think it not strange." The more literal meaning is, "Be not strange in fiery trial." It is not so much an opinion, as a deportment, to which the apostle has respect. What he enjoins on Christians is, that when the fiery trial came, they were not to receive it as an unexpected thing; they were not to be like strangers, but rather to show that they had been waiting the onset, and had prepared themselves to meet it. An old writer justly says, "Things certainly fall the lighter upon us when they first fall upon our thoughts." Arm yourselves therefore beforehand; it is hard to have your weapons to seek, when the foe is upon you.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. THE CONNECTION OF RELIGION WITH TRIAL — "Do not wonder at the burning which is to try you." It is no wonder; it is a natural consequence.
1. Is it likely God would commit the keeping of His honour and glory into the hands of untested witnesses?
2. Is it likely that God would give the work of saving souls to untried emissaries?
3. Is it likely God would admit to His eternal kingdom unproved citizens? By no means.
II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN TRIAL AND SUFFERING — "The burning." What more potent picture of suffering than that which is expressed by this terrible word?
III. THE CONNECTION OF SUFFERING WITH JOY. Strange apparent inconsistency! — "Think it not strange, but rejoice." We may gather —
1. That anything which brings us into harmony with Christ is to be desired. Suffering brings us into sympathy with Him. We appreciate the sacrifice which His atonement entailed when we feel something of its consequences.
2. That the only true way to triumph is through the vale of tears. Christ became Conqueror through submitting.
IV. THE CONNECTION OF JOY WITH GLORY — "For the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you."
(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)
The fiery trial which is to try you1. To try whether we have any truth of grace in us, whether we be sound or hollow.
2. To try what measure of grace we have, whether as much or more or less than we thought.
3. To purify and refine that measure of true grace that is in us. In the days of peace and prosperity, the best men are subject to gather soil, as standing waters putrefy, bodies without exercise prove full of gross humours.
Partakers of the sufferings of Christ
1. One element of suffering for sin, and that a most bitter one, of which Christ could have no direct experience, is conscious guilt. With all godly sorrow Jesus sympathises, but He knows nothing, and never can, "of the sorrow of the world that worketh death."
2. Another element in suffering for sin, of which a perfectly holy nature could have no experience, is a personal sense of Divine wrath. Betwixt the experience of a guilty soul writhing under the frown of God, and His, even in His darkest hour of sorrow, there is an impassable gulf.
3. Nor, finally, though Christ "tasted of death for every man," could He ever experience personally that which constitutes to the sinner the very bitterness of death — the fear of what comes after death. On the contrary, death to Jesus was an escape from protracted banishment to endless and unutterable union with His Father. It was the passing from a world in which all had been to Him toil and weariness and woe, to one on which the sweet memories of an eternity of joy were resting.Death to Jesus, in one word, was but a going home.
1. I now go on to inquire what kind of suffering for sin may be conceived of as noble and worthy, and so not impossible to a pure and holy nature.(1) Amongst these kinds of suffering I notice, first, that which a pure and holy nature must feel from the mere contiguity of evil. The mere spectacle of sin, the life-long contact of the sinless with the vile — implied on His part bitter suffering. To man or woman of pure mind and tender conscience it would be intolerable to be forced to read through an obscene book; what agony of mind then — what pain and distress of spirit more unendurable than sharpest bodily tortures — would be involved in a similar lifelong contact with sin, not recorded merely, but hideously displayed in act!(2) Another element of Christ's suffering for sin, in which, as we grow in kindred purity of nature, we shall learn to participate, is the reflected or borrowed shame and pain which noble natures feel for the sins of those with whom they are closely connected. Christ was not a mere spectator of the world's sin, He was deeply implicated in the fortunes of the guilty, related to them by the closest ties of kindred and affection. There is a borrowed humiliation which we feel from the sins of those who are dear to us; there is a keen and cruel pain which pierces a good and generous heart in the contemplation of a brother's wickedness, and which is second only, and in some respects not second, to the agony of personal guilt.(3) Once more, Christ suffered for sin, not only as bearing relatively its guilt, but also as its victim. In the persons of those He loved, sin transmitted to Him a borrowed humiliation; but it hurt Him more deeply than thus, for it rose up against Him, to hate and assail and destroy Him. And this to such a nature as His was the saddest thing of all.
(J. Caird, D. D.)
I. IN WHAT SENSE IS IT TRUE THAT THE CHRISTIAN CAN HAVE A PARTNERSHIP WITH THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST? In the first place it is not of the ordinary sorrows of life that the apostle is speaking; because he does not speak respecting the sufferings which Christ shares with us, but rather of certain sufferings which we share with Christ. There is all the difference in the world between those sorrows which are rather the sorrows of humanity, and which Christ, in becoming man, of necessity became a participator in, and those sufferings which belong to the Christian life, and which only Christian lives can share with Christ. And I think that just as those sorrows cannot be in any fair sense called the sufferings peculiarly of Christ, so the whole analogy of similar passages in the New Testament shows us that the apostle is speaking of the sufferings which we suffer as Christians. What, then, does he mean? If we exclude the sorrows of life which are common to all mankind, if we exclude the special sufferings of Christ on the Cross as our Redeemer, what are the sufferings which we are privileged to share with Christ? In one sense the work of Christ was complete; He wrought a perfect and complete work upon the Cross. But, on the other hand, there is a real sense in which the work of Christ is not complete. Christ may, if I may use the figure, be supposed to have formed a great steel plate, on which every line and letter is engraved, but still the work of striking off the impressions is left for the Church of Christ to do. He formed every feature of the Christian character which was to be stamped upon mankind; He wrought all that great and glorious work which was the great picturing of Divine love in the eyesight of man; but having wrought that, He left it to His disciples to carry forth that image to the world, and they were to impress it upon the characters of men; they were, in fact, to work out that which Christ had left them to work. He had given them the rule, they were to work out the examples; He had given them the great completed seed, they were to sow it into the hearts of men. Christ's Church is built up in suffering. There is not a truth which is incorporated in our creeds, there is not a single aphorism of Christianity which is dear to your hearts that has not been consolidated by the blood of suffering men and women. But there is another sense in which we may also share the sufferings of Christ. All Christian life is progressive. Against all the knots, and against all the awkward angles of character, the grace of God has to contend, and in contending with these it is purging out the evil and implanting the good. And as Christian life is thus progressive, so the capacity of sharing a certain order of Christ's sufferings is growing within us. If a pure-minded person were made by necessity to go through the obscene details of the police records, even physical agony would be preferred to that. And just so he who feels that his spiritual life is growing, that the sanctifying influences of the Spirit make him more enamoured of purity and more hostile to evil, begins to understand what intense pain Christ must have endured in daily contact with sin; and so he becomes a partaker in that degree of the sufferings of Christ. The judiciousness of the apostle's language is to be seen in this: he says, "Rejoice, in so far as" (and no further) "you are partakers of the sufferings of Christ." That is to say, he shows to them that their cause of rejoicing can only lie in this — their consciousness that they are suffering with Christ. He who feels that the spiritual life within him is growing may know that in proportion as he is conscious of that pain which sin must bring to the pure in heart he is able to share somewhat in the sufferings of Christ.
II. WHAT, THEN, ARE THE SOURCES OF THE JOY? These we have partly anticipated. The joy, and that which the apostle wishes the Christian to rejoice in, is precisely the thought that he is suffering with Christ. The faithful servant will feel that the hours are not merely wasted, but are positively dishonestly employed that are not being used in his master's service; and thus the Christian feels that his hours are not, indeed, his own, but belong to his Master; and even if those hours must be employed in pain, if constant conflict against the powers of evil be that which he is called upon to endure, he can rejoice, for it is for his Master. Not that he is indifferent to sorrow, but that he feels the sorrow is glorified by the fact that it is for Christ. And just as thus it is a joy to him to rejoice in suffering for Christ, so also is it so because he sees in it a witness of his own progress. Do I find sin a greater pain, do I find that the presence of it causes more agony than before? Then I am glad, for at least I can so far feel that I am growing in the image of Christ; I would rather feel sin to be ten thousandfold the agony it was before than that I should live a life which is utterly indifferent to Christian progress. And there is yet another reason of joy. The love which the Christian has is that which the apostle assumes. But what is one of the first features of love? Is it not to be linked with the object it loves? We always long to appropriate that which we love, because there is the straining desire of the soul to be drawn nearer to the object of its love. And so the Christian feels that the desire of his love is to be linked with Christ. And where is the link? Look round the world and answer, where can the link with Christ be? Is it in joy? I know no joy as long as sin reigns in the world. Is it to be found in the mere amusements of life? These are impossible. The only law by which the soul of man can be linked with Christ is the law of suffering; it is the very law of our physical being, it is the very law of society, it is the very law of God's universe, because of the strange distortions which sin has introduced, that all love is a bond in suffering. Not one has suffered; not one has loved without feeling that love and suffering are always co-relatives in life. It was not because your life was easy and smooth together that you loved one another so intensely; it is because you have fought together, because you have struggled together, because you were partners in the same sorrow and in the same care. And not merely thus; those who have suffered the same loss, for example — see what a freemasonry of love that establishes! But it is not merely this; it is more. It is not merely the same loss you are suffering. "For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon me"; but the sorrow which men endure together in establishing the same cause, is not that a link which binds them fast? None have suffered for Christ without loving Christ the more, and none have loved Christ the more without feeling Christ's love the more, and none have felt Christ's love the more without feeling that He has stooped down to their very side to be near them.
(Bp. Boyd Carpenter.)
Let none of you suffer as a murdererI. THE APOSTLE DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN DESERVED AND UNDESERVED SUFFERING. Many of the early martyrs brought on their own deaths through incautious and foolish utterances, or want of that meekness which ought to characterise a professor of the gospel.
II. THE APOSTLE URGES THE HIGHER RESPONSIBILITIES OF PROFESSORS OF THE GOSPEL. They possess a higher standard of moral conduct than the worldling.
III. THE APOSTLE REMINDS US OF THE TERRIBLE END OF THE FINALLY IMPENITENT. The shipwrecked mariner who has lashed himself to a spar, and is striving frantically to reach the shore, is far more likely to be saved than the sailor who stays on the burning vessel.
(J. J. S. Bird, B. A.)
A busybody in other men's business
1. Now it is certainly far from the design of the Christian religion to separate us one from another, to shut us up in our individual capacities, and confine our attention to our individual interests. Christianity, on the contrary, enjoins universal brotherhood and love; brotherhood and love, which are entirely at variance with the supposition that we take no concern in the affairs of our neighbour. The great general rule, in this as in every case of Christian casuistry, must evidently be fetched from the motive by which we are actuated. If it be honestly our aim to promote the Divine glory by promoting the good of our fellow men, we can scarcely go wrong, whether in the measure or the manner in which we concern ourselves in the affairs of other men. Whensoever there is opportunity of doing good to another, whensoever, more especially, his soul may be benefited through our instrumentality, then and there indeed it were worse than absurd to suppose it playing the busybody's part to concern ourselves in his affairs. Let no one, therefore, think to shelter himself under the plea that non-interference is a duty, and thus excuse himself from all public endeavour at discountenancing vice, defending truth, relieving misery, or propagating Christianity. It is at a far remoter point that interference becomes sinful. And we may begin our investigation by stating that probably St. Peter had respect to a species of meddling, which is sufficiently common, though hardly thought criminal. The one compound word in the Greek (for there is but one), which is rendered by us "a busybody in other men's matters," might be more literally rendered — a bishop in another man's diocese; as though what the apostle specially wished to denounce were that interference with constituted authorities, whether civil or ecclesiastical, which in those days and countries exposed men to punishment Just because those in power bring not forward the precise measures which these men think the best, they will break at once into injurious expressions; as though they must be better judges of what is good for an empire, who have no means of looking into all the intricacies of the machine, than others who are placed at the wheel, and have the power of observing the most secret springs. But it is a more private sort of meddling with which the busybody is generally occupied; he, or she, is prying into family secrets, as well as into state, and presuming to adjust the affairs of neighbours as well as the intricacies of government. The man who, unasked, obtrudes his opinions on others in matters in which they alone have any concern, who infringes the liberty of others where they have undoubted right to follow their own inclination, who sets up on every occasion for a teacher of others, as though he must be wiser and better informed, who is always for adjusting his neighbour's business, and is so disinterested that he will do it at the neglect of his own: such an one — one who is guilty whether in any or in all of these particulars — is emphatically a "busybody in other men's matters." The woman who plays the spy upon her neighbours, as though she were the constituted inspector of themselves and their households, who is not easy except she knows every particular of their domestic arrangements, who, if she have a visit to pay, is sure to talk over the affairs of the family she last left, only leaving herself time to find out something to tell at the house to which she goes next, who is critical alike upon character and upon dress, so that she will pronounce with equal fluency what people ought to do and what they ought to wear: such a woman is undeniably a "busybody in other men's matters."
2. But now you will inquire what great criminality, after all, attaches to the busybody, or with what show of justice he can be associated with those whom even human laws sternly reprobate and punish.(1) The busybody violates justice; because, by meddling with other men's affairs, does his best to deprive them of their office, which is certainly to manage their own business.(2) The busybody, again, is conspicuous in arrogance; for he who is always obtruding his advice is always proclaiming himself wiser than others.(3) The busybody neglects himself, and those affairs which are specially his own.(4) And who does more harm than the busybody? Half the dissensions in a neighbourhood are his or her work. The parties into whose affairs the busybody pries are naturally incensed or irritated by the interference; and in this feeling is evidently laid the foundation of enmity. Besides, what is found out by the inquisitiveness of the busybody is sure to be propagated by the industriousness of the tale bearer; so that the secrets of families become public talk, and chief friends are separated by injurious reports of things which were perhaps never done, or remarks which were perhaps never made. There is another assassin besides he who kills the body — he who wounds the reputation; and who does this more than the busybody?
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Scientific Illustrations.Some people do not understand how to cooperate for public ends without interfering with the privacy of domestic life. The seals teach a good lesson in this respect. They can work together at proper times; but they honour the sanctity of home. They live sociably, and in great numbers frequent the same localities. Although, in the sea, these animals cooperate in numerous herds, and protect and valiantly defend each other, once emerged from their favourite element they regard themselves on their peculiar rock as in a sacred domicile, where no comrade has a right to intrude upon their domestic tranquillity. If one of them approach this family centre, the chief — or, shall we say the father? — prepares to expel by force what he considers a foreign aggression; and there invariably takes place a terrible combat, which only ends in the death of the lord of the rock, or in the compulsory retreat of the indiscreet stranger. This proceeding is well worth the attention of every busybody. It is full of sense, and shows a discrimination between public cooperation for the common good, and officious interference in private life, which would do credit to even human beings.
Great Thoughts."Come, hurry up!" said the second hand of a clock to the minute hand; "you'll never get round in time if you don't. See how fast I'm going," continued the fussy little monitor, as it fretted round on its pivot. "Come, hurry up!" said the minute to the hour hand, utterly oblivious of being addressed by the second hand. "If you don't be quick you'll never be in at the stroke of one." "Well, that's just what our young friend there has been saying to you." At this point the clock pealed forth the hour as the hour hand continued, "You see we're all in time — not one of us behind. You take my advice: Do your own work in your own way, and leave others alone." Moral — Mind your own business.
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