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An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism by Beecher

Forbid retaliation and revenge


maxim of peace and charity respects the subject of _retaliation_. Whatever may be said respecting the literal construction of some of the rules of the gospel, no one can deny that they do, whether figurative or not, forbid retaliation and revenge; that they do assume that men are not to be judges and executioners of their own wrongs; but that injuries are to be borne with meekness, and that retributive justice must be left to God, and to the laws. If a man strikes, we are not to return the blow, but appeal to the laws. If a man uses abusive or invidious language, we are not to return railing for railing. If a man impeaches our motives and attacks our character, we are not to return the evil. If a man sneers and ridicules, we are not to retaliate with ridicule and sneers. If a man reports our weaknesses and failings, we are not to revenge ourselves by reporting his. No man has a right to report evil of others, except when the justification of the innocent, or a regard for public or individual safety, demands it. This is the strict law of the gospel, inscribed in all its pages, and meeting in the face all those unchristian and indecent violations that now are so common, in almost every conflict of intellect or of interest.

Another most important maxim of peace and charity imposes the obligation to guard our fellow-men from all unnecessary temptation. We are taught daily to pray, "lead us not into temptation;" and thus are admonished not only to

avoid all unnecessary temptation ourselves, but to save our fellow-men from the danger. Can we ask our Heavenly Parent to protect us from temptation, while we recklessly spread baits and snares for our fellow-men? No, we are bound in every measure to have a tender regard for the weaknesses and liabilities of all around, and ever to be ready to yield even our just rights, when we can lawfully do it, rather than to tempt others to sin. The generous and high-minded Apostle declares, "if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth;" and it is the spirit of this maxim that every Christian ought to cultivate. There are no occasions when this maxim is more needed, than when we wish to modify the opinions, or alter the practices of our fellow-men. If, in such cases, we find that the probabilities are, that any interference of ours will increase the power of temptation, and lead to greater evils than those we wish to remedy, we are bound to forbear. If we find that one mode of attempting a measure will increase the power of temptation, and another will not involve this danger, we are bound to take the safest course. In all cases we are obligated to be as careful to protect our fellow-men from temptation, as we are to watch and pray against it in regard to ourselves.

Another maxim of peace and charity requires a most scrupulous regard to the reputation, character, and feelings of our fellow-men, and especially of those who are opposed in any way to our wishes and interests. Every man and every woman feels that it is wrong for others to propagate their faults and weakness through the community. Every one feels wounded and injured to find that others are making his defects and infirmities the subject of sneers and ridicule. And what, then, is the rule of duty? "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." With this rule before his eyes and in his mind, can a man retail his neighbour's faults, or sneer at his deficiencies, or ridicule his infirmities, with a clear conscience? There are cases when the safety of individuals, or public justice, demands that a man's defects of character, or crimes, be made public; but no man is justified in communicating to others any evil respecting any of his fellow-men, when he cannot appeal to God as his witness that he does it from benevolent interest in the welfare of his fellow-men--from a desire to save individuals or the public from some evil--and not from a malevolent or gossiping propensity. Oh, that this law of love and charity could find an illustration and an advocate in every female of this nation! Oh, that every current slander, and every injurious report, might stand abashed, whenever it meets the notice of a woman!

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