“What a wicked world we live in! If happy, we are envied; if miserable, we are condemned; and in every condition slandered. With the Psalmist of old I may say, “The mouth of the slanderer is opened against me.” With him I may add, “They have spoken against me without a cause.” O that, with him, I could also say, “But I gave myself to prayer!”
I am not the first that have suffered innocently. The man after God’s own heart, in the darkest day of his distress (for slander has no pity), and in the midst of his life-guards, is attacked by a subject [i.e. Shimei, II Samuel 16:13], and has the most virulent speeches thrown out against him, accompanied with dust; and the most bitter reproaches, sent home with volleys of stones! David, thou wast never more like a king, nor more like the King of heaven, than now, who maketh his sun to shine on the good and the evil, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. I read, I admire, and would imitate: “Let him alone, let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him.” Such patience under ill usage, at any other time, would not have been prudent; but now it is like a king, like a saint, like an angel, like God.
From David, I cast mine eye to David’s Lord, the God of angels, who, by his own creatures, and to his very face, is called a devil. He whose miracles set his divinity above doubt, is accused as a deceiver, condemned as an imposter, and executed as a malefactor; yet hear his prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The patience of the type, and the prayer of the antitype, let me study to imitate.
How cautious should we be in believing detracting stories, since nothing can be liker truth, yet nothing more untrue, than the slander I complain of. But, O, how sweet the testimony of a good conscience! It is an impenetrable shield against all the poisoned arrows of reproach. When the soul can call in the heart-searching God to witness its innocency, well may it triumph, knowing that “the curse causeless shall not come.” But how difficult is it to be of a meek and forgiving spirit, when despitefully used! To love an enemy, and forgive an evil speaker, is a higher attainment than is commonly believed. Christianity in theory, and Christianity in practice are very different things. It is easy to talk of Christian forbearance among neighbours, but to practice it ourselves proves us to be Christians indeed. The surmises of a few credulous persons need not trouble that man, who knows his cause is soon to be tried in court, and he openly acquitted. So the evil language of evil times need not greatly disturb me, since, in the day of judgment, “my judgment shall be brought forth as the noon-day.” While I pray for pardon to my slanderers, I also plead that their evil speeches may not be established on earth.
The circumstances of David change, but not his heavenly temper. Hence the abandoned Benjamite neither finds him the desperado when driven from Jerusalem, nor the tyrant when returning in triumph. “I have sinned,” says the prostrate rebel [II Samuel 19:19ff.]; “I pardon,” says the prosperous king. “What! my lord,” cries Abishai, “shall not Shimei be slain, that cursed the Lord’s anointed?” “No; shall my restoration be laid in blood? May not I pardon? for am not I king this day in Israel?” Thus David will not avenge his personal injury; but, as Shimei’s malediction was a breach of the law of heaven, commits the matter to Solomon, and his wickedness at last found him out.
My passion runs in a wrong channel; for my grief should be greater, that the malicious slanderer sins against God, against his own soul, and against the truth, in his elaborate lies, than for all the mischief his bitter reproaches can do to me.
Every time the military man enters the field of battle, he must either stand his ground, or come off with disgrace; so under every trial, my graces must either reap advantage or loss. Therefore my present duty is, not to slander my slanderers, not to meditate revenge, or rejoice when evil finds them; but, first, to justify God in all things; then to forgive, pray for, and love mine enemies; thirdly, to study that I may be reproved in, chastised for, or instructed about; and, lastly, that every grace (faith in God, patience under the rod, humility of mind, and meekness towards all) may improve under the present providence.”
This article appeared in the Covenanter (Belfast) July 1841, extracted from James Meikle’s ‘Solitude Sweetened,’ Works, Vol. I, Meditation XVIII, pg.34-36.
MEIKLE, JAMES (1730–1799), surgeon and devotional writer… James…when about sixteen years old joined the ‘Secession,’ a body which had separated from the established kirk of Scotland in 1732. A wish to study at Edinburgh for the ministry remained unfulfilled owing to his poverty and the death of his father in February 1748, which left his mother and two sisters dependent on his exertions… his difficulties grew, and in December 1757 he resolved on entering the royal navy. After passing at Surgeons’ Hall in London he was appointed second surgeon’s mate to the Portland, a 50-gun ship, in April 1758. Although he was distressed by the abandoned conduct both of the officers and the crew, they grew to respect him. He employed himself much in reading and writing; many of the ‘Meditations,’ which afterwards appeared in ‘The Traveller’ and in ‘Solitude Sweetened,’ being composed at this time… In July 1789 he was ordained to the eldership in the congregation of Biggar…”
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 37, pg.214,215.