Images de page

ardly 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, muit 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 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 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 wilhes and he studies to allay the angry passions 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 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 honor,



he will freely and cheerfully give up for the good of fociety. He loves to live in peace with all mankind : but this desire 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 detests as abomination. Thus


see that though softness, and gentleness, and forbearance, and long-suffering, 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 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 serene 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 meekness on our general behaviour. It ought also to regulate our conduct to our enemies. There is no principle which more strongly 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 similar to the offence; eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and life for life. This appears also from our own feelings ; when an injury is done us, we naturally long for revenge. Our heart tells us, that the person offending ought 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 to you; you


yourself aggrieved, and seek revenge. If you then retaliate upon him, he thinks he has received a new injurys which he also seeks to revenge ; and thus a foundation is laid for reciprocal aniniosities 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 hostilities would be immor. tal. 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 resigned in. to 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 public peace, and set mankind at variance. Private animosities and little quarrels often arise, which might be productive of great disorder and detriment to society. Here, therefore, where legislative wisdom fails, religion steps in and checks the desire of vengeance, by enjoining that meekness of spirit which disposes not to retaliate, but to forgive. He, therefore, who polsesses 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. Accordingly, instead of harbouring animofities against those who have done him ill offices, he will be dispofed 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 his fun 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 fide, and where so many events happen, which give occasion to the passions of men to show themselves, there is great fcope 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 have 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 shall 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 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 his 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 befought 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 men's lives, “ but to save them.” When he suffered his agony in the garden, in the hour and in the power of darkness, when he befought his disciples to watch with him in this dreadful scene, and when, instead of giving him comfort, they funk unconcerned into sleep; instead of reproving them with severity, as their conduct deserved, he himself fought for an excuse for them : “ The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh “ is weak.” Though he was the friend of all man

he had enemies who fought 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

“ Father, forgive them, for they know not “ what they do.” Go thou ! and do likewise.

The second thing proposed was, To show the happiness annexed to this character, expressed here by “ inheriting the earth.” The meek are not indeed

kind, yet


« PrécédentContinuer »