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torian tells you, The man was churlish and evil in his doings.
The character of the churl, here ascribed to Na. bal, is drawn at large, by the prophet Isaiah, chap. xxxii. 5—" The vile preson shall no more be called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful ; for the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil. He deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right: But the liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand.”
1. The repulse, which Nabal gave to David's messengers, shews him to have been of a contract. cd, illiberal mind.
If the happiness of man consisted in the abundance of the things which he possesses, Nabal had been happy. But, quite the reverse, an abundance, without discretion to use it, capacity to enjoy it, and benevolence to apply it, tends only to misery. To a narrow and covetous soul, it is a source of jealousy, anxiety and fear.
Mankind are placed in a mutual connexion, with, and dependence on, one another, that there might be occasion and opportunity for the mutual exercise of kindness and beneficence. To do good and communicate, to relieve impotent distress, to cheer the desponding heart, to rescue the sons of virtue from the temptations of want, and spread peace and contentment among the poor and amicted, is one of the highest pleasures of a generous mind. Riches in the hands of one who possesses such a • soul, are a blessing to himself and to those around him. While they enable him to increase the hap
piness of others, they make an addition to his own. He remembers the words of our Lord, recorded by Saint Luke, It is more blessed to give, than to receive. Job, in the day of his adversity, reflected with heartfelt satisfaction, that he had delivered the poor who cried, and the needy who had none to help them; that he had caused the widow's heart to sing for joy, and the blessing of those, who were ready to perish, had come upon him.
The churl, incapable of doing good, is more miserable in proportion to his abundance. His only enjoyment is mere animal gratification ; and this is often accompanied with regret. He is vexed with perpetual suspicions of the envy and ill intentions of his neighbours. If he gives, it is with reluctance. His alms are extorted, rather than bestowed. He reflects upon them with pain. He upbraids those who have received them. He accuses himself with folly and imprudence, and resolves to guard in future against such waste and misapplication. The action which, in good men, would be a virtue, becomes a vice in him, by the evil passions which it awakens; and that which would gratify their benevolent feel. ings, is a torment to him, by crossing the intentions of his illiberal heart..
2. Ingratitude was conspicuous in the character of Nabal. He rendered evil for good.
David politely suggests the good offices which. his people had done for Nabal, while his flocks were abroad in the fields.. Nabal’s shepherds confess the justice of the representation. "The men,” say they,
were very good to us; we were not hurt, neither lacked we any thing; as long as we were conversant with them in the fields ; but they were a wall to us. by. night and by day.”
The smallest sense of obligation would have prompted a voluntary acknowledgment, to those who had yielded him such friendly protection ; at a
time too, when their necessities were urgelit, and they had power to have taken, with impunity, whatever their occasion required. But instead of this, to reject their decent application, and revile them as a gang of runaway servants, was a striking proof of a base and ungrateful heart.
The happiness of mankind much depends on reciprocal courtesies. It is often in our power to render essential services to our neighbours, without sensible inconvenience to ourselves. A liberal mind rejoices in such opportunities. Who of us, on recollection, will not find, that he has frequently received unsolicited benefits from those around him? We easily feel and remember an injury : But the kindnesses done us are more numerous than the injuries. Men seldom offer a direct, intentional wrong, unless they are pressed with great temptations, or, impelled by accidental passions; and these usually are transient. But there are a thousand little office's of goodness, which they voluntarily perform because they come naturally in their way, and fall in with the common feelings of humanity. It would tend much to cement friendship, unite neighbourhood, and preserve the peace of society, if instead of seriously no . ticing every trivial and casual wrong, we shall re. mark, acknowledge, and requite the good turns which are done us. The man who finds that his goodness is well accepted, feels
himself repaid, and is encouraged to repeat it. But indifference and inattention in those whom he has studierl to 0blige, mortifies his feelings, and damps the rdor of his benevolence.
Besure, if a substantial kindness is done us, in the time of our calamity, to neglect the benefactor, in the day of our prosperity and his misfortune, is a degree of ingratitude not easy to be borne. Indif. ference, in such a case, wounds more deeply, than a positive injury in another : A positive injury, in
this case, will wound more deeply still
. Nabal's ingratitude was provoking ; the scurrility added to it was intolerable.
It was a noble spirit of gratitude, as well as pie. ty, which the patriarch Joseph expressed, when being solicited by his master's wife to an act of lewdness, he replied, “Behold my master knoweth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand, neither hath he kept back any thing from me, but thee, because thou art his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?” It is remarked much to the dishonour of one of Pharaoh's of ficers, to whom Joseph had shewed kindness, when they were fellow prisoners, “ that in the days of his prosperity, he remembered not Joseph, but forgat him.”
Gratitude feels a kindness, retains a sense of it, delights to acknowledge and requite it. The pleasure which it has felt in kindnesses received, prompts it to communicate like pleasure to others. The saine habitual disposition which excites returns of favour to a benefactor, operates in a way of liberality to the indigent. He who experiences the satisfaction of receiving a seasonable benefit, without a heart to give to others, in similar want, the same satisfaction, is a stranger to the power of gratitude.
3. Nabal was a man of brutal manners, and ungoverned passion.
The answer which he returned to David's polite request, discovered the savage more than the man. “Who is David ? Who is the son of Jesse? There be many servants, now adays, that break away every man from his master. Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and the Aesh which I have killed for my sheerers, and give them to men, whom I know not whence they be?” Whatever allow. ance may be made for a harsh expression under a
sudden provocation, such cool, unprovoked scurrility, such railing in return for civility, indicates a heart thoroughly vitiated and depraved.
Religion requires, that our speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that we be gentle to: all men, courteous, and easy to be entreated.
Many of the contentions, which happen between neighbours and friends, arise from the ungoverned petulence of the tongue. Men, subject to gusts of passion and rashness of speech, often create to. themselves enemies, and disoblige and alienate their friends. But with a man, whose temper and language are generally lawless and ungoverned, no friendship can be formed ; no society can be maintained, “ Make no friendship,” says Solomon, “ with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go, lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” It is not an easy matter to preserve our temper, while we converse with one who has no comniand of his own. The sparks of his fire, will easily kindle in us, for we all have combustible materials about us. If we have treated him with friendship, his ill nature is the more provoking. Solomon therefore advises, that we form no unne. cessary connexion with men of lawless passions and insolent manners, lest we lose the command of our own tempers, and be hurried into a dangerous contention.
To call others by opprobrious names, exposes us to the judgment of God. Revilers are ranked among the odious characters, which are excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Christianity forbids us to render railing for railing ; much more to begin the railing. On the contrary, it teaches us, that being reviled we should bless; being defamed, we should entreat. In the present weakness of hu. man nature, such a command of ourselves will often be found difficult. Lest, therefore, we incautiously