Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame (Proverbs 25:8).
That is a good maxim,—” Do nothing till thou hast well considered the end of it.” Many might have prevented shame, and poverty, and destruction, had they duly considered the possible and probable consequences of their words and conduct. Beasts have not the gift of reason and foresight, and therefore mind only present ease and comfort; but rational beings should act with reason, and not incur lasting misery, to gratify a fit of humour, or a transient passion.
If men considered the consequences of every important action before they entered upon it, it would cut off ninety-nine out of an hundred of the law-suits with which the world is pestered. If it be the desire of saving or gaining money that pushes men to go forth to strive with their neighbours at the bar, they should consider, that going to law is little better than fishing with a golden hook. A few fishes may possibly be caught, but something may be lost of more value than many fishes. If men are instigated by their pride to go to law, (and pride is the real cause of many more pleas than covetousness,) they should consider well, whether they are most likely to gain or lose the cause, or, if they gain it, whether the gain will compensate the loss of time, and money, and temper, which are inseparable from law-suits. That sense of honour which leads so many into contention, would keep them out of it, if it were under the regulation of prudence. That pride which plunges men into the gulph of the law, must end in the most galling remorse, when the cause is last, and shame, instead of honour, is gained by it.
Contention of every kind ought to be avoided by us. Before we venture to gratify our rage by strife and debate, it is necessary for our peace and comfort, to consider with coolness, whether we have reason on our side. Self-love will tell us that we have met with wrong, although no real injury was done, or intended to us; and we cannot expect that the other party, or the judge, (if the matter be referred to a judge,) should have the same bias in our favour with ourselves.
The reading for today is an excerpt from “Exposition of the Book of Proverbs” by George Lawson.