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Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament, adversity is the blessing of the New, which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's favour. Yet even in the Old Testament, if you listen to David's harp, you shall hear as many hearse-like airs as carols; and the pencil of the Holy Ghost hath laboured more in describing the afflictions of Job than the felicities of Solomon. Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes; and adversity is not without comforts and hopes. We see in needleworks and embroideries, it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and solemn ground, than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a lightsome ground: judge, therefore, of the pleasure of the heart by the pleasure of the eye. Certainly virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when they are incensed, or crushed; for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.-Bacon's Essays.
Amid the thorns and“ briars of this working-day world”. there is nothing which is so well calculated to smooth the roughness of our path, as the loving sympathy of a friend, who will rejoice with us when we rejoice, and weep with us when we weep, a friend who “loveth at all times.”3 “ The communicating of a man's self to his friend (says Bacon 4) works two contrary effects; for it redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in halves; for there is no man that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he joyeth the more; and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friend, but he grieveth the less."'5 Now hear Shakspere :
Sad souls are slain in merry company;
The grief that doth not speak
Macbeth, iv. 3.
1 As You Like It, i. 3. 2 Rornans, xii. 15. 3 Proverbs, xvii. 17.
4 Essay xxvii. 5 Cf. Cic. de A., vi. 22.
As says the Psalmist ; “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue.” 1
You do, surely, but bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your griefs to your friend.-Hamlet, iii. 2.
Fellowship in woe doth woe assuage,
Rape of Lucrece.
But in selecting our friends, there is need of the greatest caution; for, as Shakspere has it, “ It is certain that either wise bearing, or ignorant carriage, is caught, as men take diseases, one of another: therefore, let men take heed of their company.” ? This is precisely what is taught us everywhere in the Bible, and especially by S. Paul, when he tells us that “evil communications corrupt good manners." 4
Now just as we may safely affirm that it is a “miserable solitude” to want true friends, so may we unhesitatingly pronounce it to be the summit of misfortune, to be surrounded by false and hollow friends, who fall away in the time of our calamity, and, as rats are said to quit a falling house, forsake us in our utmost need.
Where you are liberal of your loves, and counsels
Psalm xxxix. 3. 2 King Henry IV., Part II., v. 1.
And give your hearts to, when they once perceive
Than such friends as these, even an open and avowed enemy is far better. So doubtless thought David, when he said, “ It was not an enemy that reproached me ... but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked into the house of God in company."!
When love begins to sicken and decay,
Such was the character of the friends of the afflicted Job: they were men, who, in the time of his distress, “ dealt deceitfully as a brook; and as the stream of brooks they passed away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: what time they wax warm, they vanish : when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place.” —Cf. Ecclus., xxii. 20.
Our Poet has aptly described such characters in “Much Ado about Nothing,” v. 1.
But no man's virtue, nor sufficiency,
And in another place, Romeo and Juliet, ii. 2–
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.
The patient man of Uz remonstrated with the “miserable comforters” i who mocked rather than eased his sufferings, and showed them in what way true friends ought to have acted under the doleful circumstances in which they found him. “I also could speak as ye do; if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you and shake mine head at you. But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief.”—Job, xvi. 4-6.
Had you such a loss as I,
Shakspere supplies us with a golden rule which bears upon and regulates the question of the offices of Friendship.
Never anything can be amiss,
Midsummer Night's Dream, v. 1. If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.—2 Cor., vïïi. 12.
The Poet tells us, that " a friend should bear his friend's infirmities, and not make them greater than they are ;” 2 and that it is not meet that every nice offence should bear his comment.” Julius Cæsar, iv. 3.—What sentiments could be in better keeping with the scriptural injunction that the strong should bear the infirmities of the weak? 3
1 Job, xvi. 2.
? Cf, Proverbs, xvii. 17.
3 Romans, xv. 1.
and that we should bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ,forgiving one another if any man have a quarrel against any, even as God, for Christ's sake, has freely forgiven us. What if God should so deal with us that “every nice offence should bear his comment”? Who among us should escape the penalty of his sins? But our Heavenly Father (Blessed be His name !) is not extreme to “mark iniquities”;if He were, none could stand in His sight. He knoweth whereof we are made, He remembereth that we are but dust ;4 or, to employ the language of Shakspere ;
We are all men, in our own natures frail.—King Henry VIII., v. 2.
Many are the places in Holy Scripture, and in Shakspere, where the evil consequences of envy and strife are set forth, and where the necessity of a due subordination of inferiors to existing powers is forcibly inculcated.
Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.5
How, in one bouse,
I always thought
King Henry VI., Part I., v. 1.
Ibid., iv. 1.
i Galatians, vi. 2. * 2 Colossians, iii. 13. 4 Psalm ciïi. 14. 5 James, iii. 16.
7 James, iy. I.
3 Psalm cxxx. 3. 6 Matthew, xii. 25.