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WHY DID THEY QUARBEL?
Why did they quarrel?
It would have been hard to tell. They were both Christian men: they had been fast friends, too, in worldly matters, as well as fellow-helpers in their Christian pilgrimage through the world; but it somehow came to pass that Eli Smith and Peter Eobinson " fell out by the way."
The wise man tells us that "a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city." It was so in this case. Their minister had in vain tried to reconcile the offending
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and offended brethren. Their best friends in the village had endeavoured to smooth down the ruggedness of their tempers, and bring them together again in love and unity: but it seemed as though these efforts only sprinkled oil on the flame of contention, and made it burn more fiercely. So the kindly-disposed wisely withdrew from the scene, remembering probably another proverb, which tells us that "he who passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears."
Meanwhile the ungodly people around were glad enough to take occasion, by the bitter animosity of Smith and Eobinson, to have their prejudices and hatred against religion confirmed. They, in effect, said to one another, "Ah I so would we have it." And they took care to fan the fire of resentment which burned in the bosoms of these two erring, alienated Christian friends.
You may suppose that this quarrel hindered the gospel of Christ. It hindered it in the souls of the two men. How can any man " grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour," when his heart harbours unholy passions? How can the blessed Spirit of peace and unity dwell in those who are contentious «nd discordant? It is not to be wondered at, then, that the graces of the Spirit became dim and beclouded in the souls of Eobinson and Smith. They could not but be conscious of this, each for himself: they felt that their communion with God in prayer was impeded; that their love to the ordinances ol religion and the means of grace had declined and waai declining; but they did not trace this sad declension tc its true source. Each fur himself believed that his quarre! was just and righteous.
And this unbrotherly, unchristian alienation hinderec the gospel of Christ in others. The spirit of contentioi spread. Among their Christian brethren were some who were weak enough to "take sides." Some said that Smith was in the right, and others, that Eobinson was not in the wrong, they were sure; and so there were two parties formed, and coolness began to spread among those who acknowledged the authority of that rule which says, " Love as brethren; be pitiful; be courteous." Then there were others who were disposed to think well of religion, young inquirers, who were seeking and were wishing to fini happiness and peace in Christ, and were driven back by the unseemly exhibition of -fellow-disciples scowling one upon another. In short, and without mentioning particular instances of the mischief wrought by this miserable quarrel, it bade fair (or foul) to put a stop to all Christian usefulness and exertion as far as its influence, or even the knowledge of it extended.
The quarrel had gone on for a year—a whole year. Think of this. Think of a Christian retaining anger in his bosom for a whole year, nourishing it there, Eke a serpent. Think of it? why, it won't bear thinking about.
Eli Smith thought about it, however. One day, when working by himself in his five-acre farm, it came into his mind that he was not a happy man, that he had no comfort in religion, and had not had for many weeks and months. It was true, he had not absolutely neglected his soul; he had gone regularly to public worship, had read the Scriptures, had not restrained prayer before God; but he was unhappy. He felt as though the light of his Father's countenance were withdrawn from him, and he was troubled. The more he thought about this, the more did a sense of desolateness steal into his heart. There was a hymn which had long been impressed on his memory; and at that moment it came into his mind. He could not sing; he had no spirit for that; but he repeated the lines to himself:—
"Oh for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
"Where is the blessedness I knew,
"What peaceful hours I once enjoyed"
Poor Eli could not get any further. His voice trembled so, his eyes filled with tears so fast, and sobs so impeded his utterance. He threw down his spade, cast a look around to make sure that no one saw him besides his God, and then fell down on his knees.
How long did he remain in this posture? I cannot tell; he did not know himself. What did he say? I do not know. Perhaps he said nothing with his lips; but I think that his heart prayed, and that the Holy Spirit helped his infirmities, with groanings which could not be uttered. And I know that when he rose from his knees, he left his spade where he had thrown it down, and hurried away towards Peter Eobinson's cottage.
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Eobinson, like Smith, was a farmer in a small way, and a market gardener, likewise on a small scale. He was working in his garden, hoeing up weeds, and thinking what a deal of trouble they gave him; and that if there were no weeds in the soil, nor seeds of weeds, how much pleasanter a world it would be—for farmers and gardeners, at any rate.
From thinking about weeds on earthly ground, Eobinson passed over in his mind to spiritual weeds in the human aoul. He was not very comfortable in his thoughts, for conscience and God's word bade him look within; but he shook off the impression; it was less unpleasant to him to look abroad; and he settled on his neighbour and former friend, Smith. There were weeds enough there; and if they could only be rooted up—
Peter came to a pause here; for he heard a quick footstep, and lo! when he raised his eyes, his neighbour and former friend stood before him.
"Now then," thought Peter, "what is all this about? A pretty fellow you must be to come tumbling in upon me in this way." He did not speak, however; but stood upright, with his hoe in his hand, and looking sternly at poor Eli.
"Robinson," said Smith, in a voice broken with emotion, "I am come to ask your pardon; I have been very ugly in my thoughts and words about you. I have sinned a great sin in keeping up malice in my heart against you, my Christian brother; and the good Lord has shown me— leastways I think and hope he has—"
He could not proceed any further with his penitent confession; but he held out his hand, as much as to say, "Let us shake hands and make up our differences."
Peter was taken by surprise: for a moment or two he hesitated and held back; but at last he took the offered hand in his own—coldly, however.
"I am glad," said he, "that you have come to a right view of the matter at last, Eli. It would have been better if you had thought of this a year ago; but better late than never. And since you ask me to forgive you, in a proper