"A certain king in the East was noted for his cruelty, so that he was more dreaded than loved by his people. One day, after he had been out hunting he caused an officer to publish that he, the king, was now sensible of his faults and henceforth meant to rule his subjects with justice and gentleness. He kept his promise so faithfully that they gave him the surname of The Just. Some years afterwards one of his favorite ministers took occasion to ask him what had so soon brought about that great change in his conduct. The king, with much kindness, thus explained it: 'You may remember l had been out to hunt just before making the public promise of better government. One of the dogs strayed from the pack to chase a fox and bit him through the bone of the leg. The poor fox went limping to his hole and the dog set off at full speed to rejoin the pack. One of my footmen wantonly threw stones at the dog and broke his leg. A runaway horse passing by at the time, mistook the motion of the man's arm for an attempt to catch him, and therefore kicked out and broke the footman's leg, and the horse, frightened at the shout that was raised, dashed off to a wood, slipped his foot into a hole and got his leg broken.
"Here was a chain of retribution. I was forcibly struck at seeing how each was paid back for his deed of violence, and it set me to thinking what a load of evil I was heaping up that should fall one day upon my own head. It was this reflection that worked such a great and instant change in my conduct."
Thus it is in our lives. Every cruel, unjust, or even foolish action we commit brings its own punishment and suffering. We may, like the drunken Rip Van Winkle in Jefferson's play, try to evade this law of retribution, by excusing ourselves for every fresh dereliction by saying, "It won't count this time," but the act is nevertheless registered on the credit side of nature's "ledger," and some day, sooner or later, it will have to be debited. And when the time of reckoning comes, we shall find ourselves cast into a prison of our own building, manacled with chains forged by ourselves, and shall "by no means come out thence, till we have paid the uttermost farthing."
Everyone knows the story of the unfilial son, who, tired of his aged father's presence in his house, determined he would be rid of him, so proposed lodging him in the work-house, there to end his days. So one day the son got the feeble old man upon his back, in this way intending to carry him to the poorhouse gates. But the road was is uphill, and the burden heavy, and the son's back began to ache, so reaching a milestone he laid down his load to rest awhile. At this the old man burst into tears, and at last, it in answer to his son's gruff questionings, he elicited the following reply.
"Many years ago," said the old man, "I did exactly the same to my father as you are doing to me. I grew tired of him. I had prospered in life, and when friends and acquaintances came to visit me, I was ashamed of him, and of his old-fashioned it ways. So I persuaded myself he would be better off in the workhouse, and one early morning I got him out of bed, telling him we were going for a walk. We started in the direction of the workhouse, but my father got weary, so to hasten on I got him up on my back. Soon I found my weight almost more than l could carry, so I decided to take a short rest, and this is the very spot where I put my father down all those years ago, and which has brought the whole scene vividly to memory. I know I am being punished for my cruelty, and that I richly deserve punishment."
No one can escape this law of retribution. The breaker of man-made statutes, who has escaped the "long arm of the law," has yet to reckon with a higher and more just law, a law whose immutability cannot be evaded. One thing is absolutely certain, we cannot escape from the consequences of our acts. Every thought or deed, whether good or bad, receives its due requital. Every good act is its own reward; every evil act its own punishment, and in exact proportion as the act is good or evil.
Like begets like. Good begets good; evil begets evil. The fruits of evil are sorrow, pain, and discontent. The fruits of good are joy, peace, and happiness.
The law of retribution in unerring in its workings; "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."