Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
It is hard to form a true estimate of any man's happiness; because happiness depends most upon those things which lie most out of sight. Our good or ill breeding is chiefly seen abroad; our good or ill nature at home.
I. THE REASONABLENESS AND ADVANTAGES OF DOMESTIC UNION. Quietness under one's own roof, and quietness in our own conscience, are two substantial blessings. Abroad, we must more or less find tribulation; yet as long as our home is a secure and peaceful retreat from all the disappointments and cares of the world, we may still be tolerably happy. There cannot be a greater curse than to have those of one's own household one's greatest foes; when we neither can live happily with them, nor must think of living apart from them. Love is a tender plant; it must be kept alive by great delicacy, it must be fenced from all inclement blasts, or it will soon drop its head and die. To see a well-regulated family acting as if they were one body informed by one soul is a beautiful scene, and amiable even in the sight of that Being who maketh men to be of one mind in a house. The greatest advantage of a friendly behaviour to domestics (i.e., home people), is, that thereby we contract and cultivate that habit of benevolence which is a necessary qualification for everlasting happiness. The habitual sweetness of our temper, or the habitual badness of it, is not so much contracted by the great and considerable accidents of life, as by our behaviour in little things which befall us every day. Men of a generous education have a more refined humanity, passions more softened and civilised, than those in very low life, where rudeness, ill-manners, and brutality too often prevail. By studying to promote the happiness of those in our home circles, we mould ourselves into those habits which are productive of our own happiness, both here and hereafter.
II. SOME RULES FOR PRESERVING DOMESTIC UNION.
1. Do not delude yourselves with any visionary notions of perfection. Consider men, as they really are, with all their numerous imperfections, and not as you could fondly wish them to be. There are not many who can stand the test of a close inspection. Their virtues shine upon us at a distance. It is upon nearer approach that we descry their failings. Familiarity, though it does not beget contempt, where there is real worth, yet always takes off admiration.
2. Learn to make proper allowance, and to represent failings with all the softenings of humanity. Other men's passions are always insupportable to those that are entirely devoted to their own. The fuller of imperfections any man is, the less able is he to bear with the imperfections of his fellow-creatures.
3. There is a particular tenderness due to persons under any recent affliction, because men are more susceptible of resentment, in proportion to the greatness of their distress.
4. Be sure to observe and practise the rules of good manners. By good manners I mean an assemblage of moral virtues expressed in our outward demeanour, a combination of discretion, circumspection, and civility, submission to our superiors, condescension to our inferiors, affability to all, and a strict regard to decency in all our actions. If you have any talent for saying keen and satirical things, be superior to the talent you possess, by showing how little stress you lay upon it, when it comes into competition with your good-nature.
5. Never make any reply to a person till his passion abates, and the ferment subsides.
6. Avoid what fools call spirit, and men of sense call haughtiness. Persons of sense and virtue will seldom differ about things that are plainly essential to the happiness of the family. Be not ashamed to confess that you have been in the wrong. It is but owning that you now have more sense than you had before.
7. Religion is absolutely necessary to preserve domestic union. Be, then, seriously and solidly good yourselves. Reverence yourself, if you would have your inferiors do so.
(J. Seed, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
WEB: Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a fattened calf with hatred.