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offices of humanity as they have opportunity, not apt to take exceptions at little things, or to use the advantages of their power to revenge every small provocation offered them; hereby they display their meekness, as well as their humility. When, upon advantages gained, upon securities from their enemies' power which they had not before, they do not insult, or behave unseemly, but with temper and moderation, and shew a greater disposition than ever to charity and reconciliation; this shews a power over their own spirits, or eminent meekness.
4. Meekness is particularly to be expressed by a temperate and calm behaviour in matters of religion. To break out into anger and passion here, appears as if we thought that "the wrath of man worketh the righteousness of God;" which St. James assures us that it cannot do, chap. i. 20. Men who pretend to knowledge in religion beyond their neighbours, Mill confute their own pretensions, if they have not learned this lesson of it, James iii. 13. "Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you?" Many of the Jews, to whom he wrote, made great pretences to this in matters of religion; the apostle, therefore, says to them, "Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom." Let him exemplify the works to which wisdom directs with meekness, or let him shew, by his charity and meekness to his brethren, that his wisdom is superior ; and, thereupon, he goes' on to shew, that all bitter zeal is "earthly, sensual, and devilish," and hath no alliance with the wisdom which comes from above. We have no other method prescribed or allowed by the gospel even to those who most obstinately oppose it, but "meekness to instruct those who oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth," 2 Tim. ii. 25. And instead of any effects of rage and passion to bring' men to our sentiments, we are taught to ** be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh us a reason of the hope that is in us," the grounds of our persuasion, "with meekness and fear," 1 Pet. iii. 15. The same spirit and temper is to be carried into Christian societies themselves, and offenders against the law of Christ are to be treated, and their recovery endeavoured, "in the spirit of meekness," Gal. vi. 1. So that, though possibly there hath not been a greater violation of this holy temper through every age, in any one instance, than in matters of religion ; yet, indeed, there is no ease wherein the exercises of it is more indispensably required.
II. I am to shew our obligations, as Christians, to the exercise of this grace. And certainly much more of real Christianity lies in it, than most people are willing to think. The following considerations may shew the importance of meekness.
1. It is a frequent precept of the gospel. This plainly appears from many passages already mentioned, in giving an account of its nature, and might be made more evident from others. It is pressed upon us, as an eminent branch of that walk which becomes our Christian calling, Eph. iv. 1,2. "L, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called." If you would know how that is to be done, the practice of humility and meekness lead the van in the apostle's direction: "With all lowliness and meekness." If this command be habitually neglected, it will prove us insincere, and as truly as any other instance of stated disobedience.
2. It is represented as essentml to a true Christian, as much as any other particular grace or virtue: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his;" and if we have the Spirit, we have his fruits in us: now, this is one of his necessary fruits. And it is remarkable, that when the apostle reckons up several of them, he not only mentions meekness itself by name as one, but indeed, the greatest part of his instances are either branches of meekness, or very nearly allied to it, such as "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness," or beneficence, Gal. v. 22, 23. And among "the works of the flesh," to which these are opposed, we find "hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, envyings," ver. 20, 21. Again, "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." But the apostle represents meekness as a necessary branch of the new man, and recommends it as such in the text. So that really a man may as truly be a genuine Christian without faith in Christ, as without prevailing meekness.
The necessity of it will farther appear from that solemn declaration of our Saviour himself, in Matt. v. 22. "I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, ltacah, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire." Our Saviour is here vindicating the spiritual nature of the sixth command, which forbids murder, from the corrupt glosses of the Scribes and Pharisees. They taught men to think that the gross acts of sin, only made men liable to punishment; and so, particularly, that "whosoever should kill should be in danger of the judgment," ver. 21.; or that actual murderers only would be punished as breakers of this command. But Ch rist lets his hearers know, that though such only might fall under punishment from men, yet there are evils which fall far short of downright murder, by which men will be liable to punishment from God, and that in proportion to the degree of their offence.
I apprehend that in every instance he mentions, he intends the punishments of another life: but to express the proportion of punishment answerable to the heinousness of the offence, he seems to allude to the several degrees of punishment, to which the Jews thought offenders liable; common offenders, to punishments by the ordinary judges, which they had in all their cities, called here "the judgmentbolder criminals, to greater severities inflicted by their higher counsel or sanhedrim, called here "the counseland the most hardened and profligate of all, to the miseries of another life, ailled here "hell lire." Now, alt the offences he mentions, and against which he denounces severe threatenings, are only so many steps of unbridled passion. "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause," whoever indulges rash and causeless anger, will, without repentance, fall under the anger of God, and "whosoever shall say to him, Racah," which signifies a vain, empty, worthless fellow, he who suffers his passion to carry him on to mock and deride others, shall be still more severely punished. "But whosoever shall say, Thou fool," which word signifies in scripture, not only a defect of understanding as we commonly mean by it, but a profane, wicked, or vile man; so that the meaning is, he who shall allow his passion to transport him so far as to revile and slander others, to represent them as not only fit to be despised, but even to be abhorred, he shall meet with still sorer punishment. You see, then, that Christianity is so far from allowing the indulgence fe of passion, that Christ here expressly declares, that it excludes from the kingdom of heaven, and exposes to the wrath of God. his character. He calls us himself to "learn of him, because he was meek and lowly," Matt. xi. 29• Not only to receive the rather his instructions in general upon this account, as these are recommending qualifications of a teacher, but particularly to learn these excellencies from him, as our pattern in them. Hence St Panl beseeches Christians "by the meekness and gentleness of Christ," as known and conspicuous branches of his character, 2 Cor. x. 1. And so they certainly were.
3. Meekness hath particular characters of honour put upon it in the gospel. It is a principal ornament, 1 Pet. iii. 4, which makes a person's face to shine, and his profession to be amiable. And in the same place it is declared to be "in the sight of God of great price," a temper with which he is highly pleased. And no wonder, since "he that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than(he that taketh a city," Prov. x. 32. He is the most glorious conqueror, who has obtained a victory over himself. A peculiar blessedness is pronounced upon such. Christ is pleased to single out this virtue for one of his beatitudes, at the beginning of his preaching the gospel, Matt. v. 5. "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
As he proceeded afterwards to declare the necessity of it to our inheriting heaven, ver. 22. as hath been already observed; so he was pleased to begin with a recommendation ot it, from its subservience to our present comfort, by repeatingan ancient promise made to it, Psal. xxxvii. 11. that " the meek shall inherit the earth." It has a natural tendency, in me ordinary state of the world, to promote men's temporal interest, and ease, and reputation. While unbridled passions tend to make all about us our enemies, they must be of a very brutal nature, indeed, who will be outrageous against a man that studies to walk harmless and blameless, and to give offence to none. The meek, at least, will be free from those vexations and troubles of life, which hasty, froward people, bring upon themselves, as the fruits of their own provocations. They have the security of God's providence and promises for so much of the good things of the earth, as shall be for their real welfare; and if they meet with unjust and ungrateful returns, they may confidently rely upon God as their protector and avenger, who is ready to "rise to judgment to save the meek of the earth," Psal. lxxvi. 9- And whether they have a larger or a less share of outward good, yet they are prepared, by the mastery of their passions, to enjoy more comfort ra what they possess, than those who interrupt their enjoyment bj the tumult of their own minds.
4. We have Christ's example here to recommend and enforce the exercise of meekness. This was a bright part t»
He had, indeed, the natural affection of anger in him, and could express it upon proper occasions. He looked round about on his captious enemies with anger, Mark iii. 5. He had the affection itself, as a proper affection of human nature; without that he could not have been a proper pattern to us of the due regulation of it; and the regulation, not the extirpation, of it, is required of us, that we "be angry, and sin not." In this he was a perfect pattern to us. But,
He was never angry without a cause. We do not find him often angry, but only upon some extraordinary occasions. Nor was he ever transported into indecent passion. The hardest words he spoke, were owing to his knowledge of hearts and to his prophetical character, not to the transports of passion.
He usually chose to turn away wrath, or prevent it, by soft and gentle answers, by mild expostulation and calm reasonings, rather than by severe expressions. We find instances of this upon the most injurious charges. When he was charged by some of the Scribes with no less blaspheming, upon his pronouncing pardon to a man sick of the palsy, Matt. ix. 2, 3. he cooly justifies himself by appealing to his miraculous power of healing, as a proof of his authority to pronounce absolution to the man. And when, in the same chapter, ver. 11. ho was reproached by the Pharisees for undue familiarity with publicans and sinners, he chose the way of mild reasoning ,with them, acquainting them with the peculiar need such people had of his good offices, and the design of his coming to save miserable sinners, ver. •12, 13. When the same sort of people censured his disciples, Matt. xii. for plucking the ears of corn on the Sabbath-day, when they were hungry, he only gives them irrefragable proofs of the lawfulness of such a practice in their circumstances, from allowed examples, from the