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knowledge of salvation, and be our guide to bappiness on high, yet also regulates our conversation in the world, extends its benign influence to the circle of society, and diffuses its blessed fruits in the path of domestic life.
In farther treating upon this subject, I shall, in the first place, describe to you the character of meekness which is here recommended ; and, in the second place, shew you the happiness with which it is attended. I am, in the first place, then, to describe to you the character of ineekness which is here recommended.
Every virtue, whether of natural or revealed religion, is situated between some vices or defects, which, though essentially different, yet bear some resemblance to the virtue they counterfeit ; on account of which resemblance they obtain its name, and impose upon those who labour under the want of discernment. This meekness, which is here recommended, is not at all the same with that courtesy of manners which is learned in the school of the world. That is but a superficial accomplishment, and often proceeds from a hollow. ness of heart. It is also quite different from constitutional facility, that undeciding state of the mind which easily bends to every proposal ; that is a weakness, and not a virtue. Neither does it at all resemble that tame and passive temper which patiently bears insults and submits to injuries : that is a want of spirit, and arges a cowardly mind. This meekness is a Christian grace, wrought in us by the Holy Spirit: it is a stream from the fountain of all excellence. A good temper, a good education, and just views of religion, must concur in forming this blessed state of the mind, It becomes a principle which influences the whole life. Though consistent in all its operations with boldness and with spirit, yet its chief characteristics are goodness, and gentleness, and long-suffering. It looks with candour upon all ; often condescends to the prejudices of the weak, and often forgives the errors of the foolish.
But to give you a more particular view of it, we may place it in three capital lights, as it respects our general behaviour, our conduct to our enemies, and our conduct to our friends.
With respect to his general behaviour, the meeķ man looks upon all his neighbours with a candid eye. The two great maxims on which he proceeds, are, not to give offence, and not to take offence. He enters not with the keenness of passion into the contentions of violent 'men: he keeps aloof from the contagion of party-madness, and feels not the little passions which agitate little minds. He wishes, and he studies to allay the angry passions of the contending ; to mo: derate the fierceness of the implacable ; to reconcile his neighbours to one another; and, as far as lies in his power, to make all inankind one great family of friends." He will not indeed descend one step from the dignity of his character; nor will he sacrifice the dictates of his own conscience to any consideration whatever.'. But those points of obstinacy, which the world are apt to call points of honour, he will freely and chearfully give up for the good of society. He ļoves to live in peace with all mankind; but this de. sire too has its limits.' He will keep no terms with those who keep no terms with virtue. A villain, of whatever station, of whatever religious profession, he detests as abomination. Thus you see that though softness, and gentleness, and forbearance, and long-suf fering, are the chief characteristics of this virtue, yet, at the same time, it is very consistent with exertions of spirit. When it acts, it acts with vigour and decision. Moses, who has the testimony of the Divine Spirit, that he was the meekest man upon the face of the earth, yet when occasion presented itself, felt the influence of an elevated temper, and slew the Egyptian who was wounding his countryman. A meek, er than Moses, even our Lord himself, though gentle and beneficent to all the sons of men, yet when the worldly-minded Jews profaned the temple, he was moved with just indignation, and drove the impious from the House of God. Nothing is often more calm and serene than the face of the heavens ; bụt when guilt provokes the vengeance of the Most High, forth comes the thunder to blast the devoted head.
Such is the influence of meekness on our general behaviour. · It ought also to regulate our conduct ta pur enemies. There is no principle which more strong, ly operates in human nature than the law of retalia, tion. This appears from the laws of all nations in the early state, which always ordained a punishment similar to the offence ; eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life. This appears also from our own feel. îngs; when an injury is done us, we naturally long for revenge. Our heart tells us, that the person offend. ing anght to suffer for the offence, and that the hand of him who was injured, must return the blow. Such are the dictates of the natural temper. But pursue this principle to its full extent, and you will see where it will end. One man commits an action which is injurious'ta you ; you feel yourself aggrieved, and seek revenge. If you then retaliate upon hiin, he thinks he has received a new injury, which he also seeks to revenge ; and thus a foundation is laid for reciprocal animosities without end. Did this principle and this practice become general, the earth would be a field of battle, life would be a seene of bloodshed, and hostilities would be immortal. Legislative wisdom hąth provided a remedy for these disorders, and for this havoc which would be made of the human species. The right of private vengeance, which every man is born with, by common consent, and for the public good, is resigned into the hands of the civil magistrate. But there are many things which come not under the jurisdiction of the laws, and the cognizance of the magistrate, which tend to disturb the publiç peace, and set mankind at variance. Private animosities and little quarrels often grise, which might be productive of great disorder and detriment to. sociętyHere, theretore, where legislative wisdom fails, religion steps in ang checks the desire of vengeance, by enjoining that meekness of spirit, which disposes not to retaliate but to forgive. He therefore who possesses this spirit, will not answer a fool according to his folly. He will not depart from his usual maxims of conduct, because another has behaved improperly. Because his neighbour has been guilty of one piece of folly, he will not reckon that an inducement for him to be guilty of another. He will regulate his conduct by that standard of virtue which is within, and not by the behaviour of those around him. According: ly, instead of harbouring animosities against those who have done him ill offices, he will be disposed to return good for evil : remembering that our Lord adds at the conclusion of this chapter, “ I say unto you, « love your enemies, that ye may be the children of
your Father which is in Heaven ; for he maketh
the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and “ sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
This meekness ought also to appear in our conduct towards our friends. In the present state of things, where human nature is so frail, where the very best have their weak side, and where so many events happen, which give occasion to the passions of men to shew themselves, there is great scope for the exercise of meekness and moderation. The faults of mankind in general, present a most unpleasant spectacle ; but the failings of those we love, of those on whom we liave conferred obligations, are apt to fill us with disgust and aversion. If it had been an enemy who had done this, I could have borne it. I would have expected no better ; but thou, O my familiar friend, how sliall I forgive thee? Such, at the time, is the language of nature. But better views, and more mafüre reflection, will teach us to throw à veil over those 'infirmities which are inseparable from the best natures, and to frame an excuse for those errors which proceed not from a bad heart.
In all these instances of meekness, Jesus of Nazareth left us an example, that we should follow liis steps. In his general behaviour, he was meek and
lowly, and condescending. He went about doing good, and received testimony from his enemies, that " he did all things well.” To the errors of his friends, he was mild and gentle. When, moved by false zeal, in which they are still followed by many, who have the assurance to call themselves his disciples, they besought him to cause fire to descend from heaven, and consume a city, which believed not in his doctrines; all the rebuke he administered was, “ Ye know not “ what manner of spirit ye are of; the Son of Man “ came not to destroy mens lives, but to save them.' When he suffered his agony in the garden, in the hour and in the power of darkness, when he besought his disciples to watch with him in this dreadful scene, and when, instead of giving him comfort, they sunk unconcerned into sleep; instead of reproving them with severity, as their conduct deserved, he himself sought for an excuse for them : “ The spirit indeed is
willing, but the flesh is weak.” Though he was the friend of all mankind, yet he had enemies who sought his life.
“ I have done,” said he, many good deeds among you, for which of these do
you “ stone me?" And when after persecuting him in his life, they brought him to the accursed death of the cross, his last words were, “ Father forgive them, " for they know not what they do.” Go thou ! and do likewise.
The second thing proposed was, to shew the happiness annexed to this character, expressed here by - in
heriting the earth.” The meek are not indeed always to be great and opulent. Happiness, God be praised, is not annexed, and is not confined to the superior stations of life. There is a great difference between possessing the good things of life, and enjoying them. Whatever be his rank in life, the meek man bids the fairest chance for enjoying its advantages. A proud and passionate man puts his happiness in the power of every fool he meets with. fool' he meets with. A failure in
duty or affection from a friend, want of respect from a dependant, and a thousand little circumstances, which a