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ardly mind. This meeknefs is a christian grace wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. It is a ftream from the fountain of all excellence. A good temper, a good education, and just views of religion, muit concur in forming this bleffed state of the mind. It becomes a principle which influences the whole life. Though confiftent in all its operations with boldness and with fpirit, yet its chief characteristics are goodness and gentleness and long-fuffering. It looks with candour upon all; often condefcends 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 refpects our general behaviour, our conduct to our enemies, and our conduct to our friends.
With respect to his general behaviour, the meek 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 keennefs of paffion into the contentions of violent men: he keeps aloof from the contagion of party-madnefs, and feels not the little paffions which agitate little minds. He wishes and he studies to allay the angry paffions of the contending; to moderate the fierceness of the implacable; to reconcile his neighbours to one another; and, as far as lies in his power, to make all mankind one great family of friends. He will not indeed defcend one step from the dignity of his character; nor will he facrifice the dictates of his own confcience to any confideration whatever. But those points of obstinacy, which the world are apt to call points of honor,
he will freely and cheerfully give up for the good of fociety. He loves to live in peace with all mankind: but this defire 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 profeffion, he detefts as abomination. Thus you fee that though softness, and gentleness, and forbearance, and long-fuffering, are the chief characteristics of this virtue, yet at the fame time it is very confiftent with exertions of fpirit. When it acts, it acts with vigour and decifion. Mofes, who has the testimony of the Divine Spirit, that he was the meekeft man upon the face of the earth, yet when occafion prefented itself, felt the influence of an elevated temper, and flew the Egyptian who was wounding his countryman. A meeker than Mofes, even our Lord himself, though gentle and beneficent to all the fons 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 ferene than the face of the heavens; but when guilt provokes the vengeance of the Most High, forth comes the thunder to blast the devoted head.
Such is the influence of meeknefs on our general behaviour. It ought alfo to regulate our conduct to our enemies. There is no principle which more ftrongly operates in human nature than the law of retaliation. This appears from the laws of nations in the early state, which always ordained a punishment fimilar to the offence; eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life. This appears alfo from our own feelings; when an injury is done us, we natur
Our heart tells us, that the
ally long for revenge. person offending ought to fuffer for the offence, and that the hand of him who was injured, muft return the blow. Such are the dictates of the natural temper. But pursue this principle to its full extent, and you will fee where it will end. One man commits an action which is injurious to you; you feel yourfelf aggrieved, and feek revenge. If you then retaliate upon him, he thinks he has received a new injury, which he also seeks to revenge; and thus a foundation is laid for reciprocal animofities without end. Did this principle and this practice become general, the earth would be a field of battle, life would be a scene of bloodshed, and hoftilities would be immortal. Legislative wisdom hath provided a remedy for these disorders, and for this havock, 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 refigned into the hands of the civil magiftrate. But there are many things which come not under the jurifdiction of the laws, and the cognizance of the magistrate, which tend to disturb the public peace, and fet mankind at variance. Private animofities and little quarrels often arife, which might be productive of great disorder and detriment to fociety. Here, therefore, where legislative wifdom fails, religion steps in and checks the defire of vengeance, by enjoining that meekness of spirit which disposes not to retaliate, but to forgive. He, therefore, who poffeffes this fpirit, will not anfwer a fool according to his folly. He will not depart from his ufual maxims of conduct, because another has behaved im
properly. 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 thofe around him. Accordingly, inftead of harbouring animofities against those who have done him ill offices, he will be difpofed to return good for evil : remembering that our Lord adds at the conclufion of this chapter, "I fay unto you, love your enemies, that ye
may be the children of your Father which is in "Heaven; for he maketh his fun to rife on the "evil and on the good, and fendeth rain on the just "and on the unjust."
This meeknefs ought alfo to appear in our conduct towards our friends. In the prefent ftate of things, where human nature is fo frail, where the very best have their weak fide, and where so many events happen, which give occafion to the paflions of men to show themfelves, there is great fcope for the exercife of meeknefs and moderation. The faults of mankind, in general, prefent a most unpleasant fpectacle; but the failings of thofe we love, of those on whom we have conferred obligations, are apt to fill us with difguft and averfion. 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 fhall I forgive thee? Such, at the time, is the language of nature. But better views, and more mature reflection, will teach us to throw a veil over those infirmities which are infeparable from the best natures, and to frame an excufe for those errors, which proceed not from a bad heart.
In all these instances of meeknefs, Jefus of Nazareth left us an example, that we fhould follow his steps. In his general behaviour, he was meek, and lowly, and condefcending. 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 ftill followed by many, who have the affurance to call themfelves his difciples, they befought him to caufe fire to defcend from heaven, and confume 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 deftroy men's lives, "but to fave them." When he suffered his agony in the garden, in the hour and in the power of darknefs, when he befought his difciples to watch with him in this dreadful fcene, and when, instead of giving him comfort, they funk unconcerned into fleep; instead of reproving them with feverity, as their conduct deferved, he himfelf fought for an excufe for them "The fpirit indeed is willing, but the flesh "is weak." Though he was the friend of all mankind, yet he had enemies who fought his life. “I "have done," faid he, "many good deeds among
you, for which of thefe do you ftone me ?" And when, after perfecuting him in his life, they brought him to the accurfed death of the cross, his last words were, "Father, forgive them, for they know not " what they do." Go thou! and do likewife.
The fecond thing propofed was, To fhow the happiness annexed to this character, expreffed here by ❝inheriting the earth." The meek are not indeed