And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelled in his own house.…
I. WHAT GRATITUDE IS, AND UPON WHAT THE OBLIGATION TO IT IS GROUNDED. This virtue includes —
1. A particular observation, or taking notice of a kindness received, and consequently of the goodwill and affection of the person who did that kindness. For still, in this case, the mind of the giver is more to be attended to than the matter of the gift; it being this that stamps it properly a favour and gives it the noble and endearing denomination of a kindness.
2. That which brings it from the heart into the mouth, and makes a man express the sense he has of the benefit done him by thanks, acknowledgments, and gratulations; and where the heart is full of the one, it will certainly overflow and run over in the other.
3. An endeavour to recompense our benefactor, and to do something that may redound to his advantage, in consideration of what he has done towards ours.
II. THE NATURE AND BASENESS OF INGRATITUDE. There is not any one vice or ill quality incident to the mind of man, against which the world has raised such a loud and universal outcry, as against ingratitude. It is properly an insensibility of kindnesses received, without any endeavour either to acknowledge or repay them. To repay them, indeed, by a return equivalent, is not in every one's power, and consequently cannot be his duty; but thanks are a tribute payable by the poorest. For surely nature gives no man a mouth to be always eating, and never saying grace; nor a hand only to grasp and to receive: but as it is furnished with teeth for the one, so it should have a tongue also for the other: and the hands that are so often reached out to take and to accept, should be sometimes lifted up also to bless. The world is maintained by intercourse; and the whole course of nature is a great exchange, in which one good turn is and ought to be the stated price of another.
III. THE PRINCIPLE FROM WHICH IT PROCEEDS. In one word, it proceeds from that which we call ill-nature.
1. A proneness to do ill turns, attended with a complacency, or secret joy of mind, upon the sight of any mischief that befalls another.
2. An utter insensibility of any good or kindness done him by others.
IV. THOSE ILL QUALITIES THAT INSEPARABLY ATTEND INGRATITUDE, AND ARE NEVER DISJOINED FROM IT.
1. Pride. The original ground of our obligation to gratitude is that each man has but a limited right to the good things of the world, and that the natural and allowed way by which one is to obtain possession of these things is by his own industrious acquisition of them. Consequently, when any good is dealt to him any other way than by his own labour, he is accountable to the person who dealt it to him, as for a thing to which he had no right or claim by any action of his own. But pride shuts a man's eyes against all this, and so fills him with an opinion of his own transcendent worth, that he imagines himself to have a right to all things, as well those that are the effects and fruits of other men's labours as of his own. So that if any advantage accrues to him by the liberality of his neighbour, he does not look upon it as a free and undeserved gift, but rather as a just homage to that worth and merit which he conceives to be in himself, and to which all the world ought to become tributary.
2. Hard-heartedness, or want of compassion. It was ingratitude that put the poniard into the hand of Brutus, but it was want of compassion which thrust it into Caesar's heart.
V. SOME USEFUL CONSEQUENCES, BY WAY OF APPLICATION, FROM THE PREMISES.
1. Never enter into a league of friendship with an ungrateful person: that is, plant not thy friendship upon a dunghill; it is too noble a plant for so base a soil.
2. As a man tolerably discreet ought by no means to attempt the making of such an one his friend, so neither is he, in the next place, to presume to think that he shall be able so much as to alter or ameliorate the humour of an ungrateful person by any acts of kindness, though never so frequent, never so obliging. Flints may be melted, but an ungrateful heart cannot; no, not by the strongest and the noblest flame. I limit not the operation of God's grace; but, humanly speaking, it seldom fails but that an ill principle has its course, and nature makes good its blow.
3. Wheresoever you see a man notoriously ungrateful, you may rest assured that there is in him no true sense of religion.
(R. South, D.D.).
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house.