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the sufferer from being pressed to death. When he sees oppression and violence practised among his neighbours, the justice of his soul directs him to take the part of the injured person, and his own moderation and goodness inclines him to do it in such a manner, as may calm and suppress the resentment of the oppressed, and soften and melt the oppressor into compliance with the rules of justice. Thus he reconciles them both, without giving offence to either.
When any sects of christians seem to be carried away with the furious torrent of some prevailing notions, or some unnecessary practices, some special superstition, or a contentious spirit, the moderate man tries to shew how much of truth and goodness may be found amongst each party, where all agree to hold Christ Jesus the head; though he dares not renounce a grain of truth or necessary duty, for the sake of peace, and he would contend earnestly, where providence calls him, for the essential articles` of faith which were once delivered to the saints; for he knows the wisdom that is from above is first pure, and then peaceable; James iii. 17. Yet he takes this occasion to prove that some truths or some practices, are articles of less importance to the christian life; that they are not worthy of such unchristian quarrels; and thus he attempts, as far as possible, to reconcile the angry disputers. Sometimes he has the happiness to shew them both that they fight in the dark; he explains their opinions and their contests, and puts the best sense upon both of them: And when he hath brought them into the light, he makes it appear that they are friends and brethren; and that religion and the gospel are safe on both sides, if they would dwell together without fighting, but that it is sorely endangered by their battles. So St. Paul dealt with the Jewish and gentile christians, and assured them that they both belonged to the kingdom of God, and the church of Christ, though they quarrelled about flesh, and herbs, and holy-days. How lovely, how glorious, how desirable is such a character as this!
I confess when a party-spirit runs high among the different sects of religion, or the different divisions of mankind, this most amiable virtue is called by the scandalous names of indifferency, and lukewarmness, and trimming; and it sustains a world of reproaches from both the quarrelling parties. Moderation, though it is the blessed principle, which awakens and assists men to become peace-makers, yet at the same time when it enters into the battle to divide the contenders, it receives an unkind stroke. from either side. This the reconciler expects, and he bears it for the sake of union and love.
The moderate man in cases of private property or interest,
does not insist upon the utmost of his own right with a stiff and unyielding obstinacy, but abates of his just pretensions for the sake of peace; and what he practises himself, he persuades others to practise in the like contests. This is that moderation and gentleness, which the great apostle recommends à few verses before my text. Phil. iv. 5. Let your moderation be known unto all men. And our blessed Lord himself gives the moderate man this illustrious encomium, blessed are the meek, who submit rather than quarrel, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God; Mat. v. 5-9. Happy souls whom the God of truth, and the God of peace, acknowledges for his children, and to whom he promises a large inheritance!
And let it be observed also, that whatsoever hard usage the sons of peace may meet with, while the ferment of parties is hottest, and the storm is high, yet when the clamour and rage are sunk and calm, when the party-fury hath spent itself, and is grown cool enough to suffer men to bethink themselves, and to see all things in their true colours, then the man of moderation stands approved of men as well as of God; the divine virtue appears in its own lovely form, and receives a becoming share of honour.
III. Humility is a lovely virtue. It is beautiful and becoming for a man to divest himself of all affected grandeur, and not to exalt his head above his neighbour. O that we were all clothed with humility! It is an ornament that becomes sinners well. Let us put it on with our daily raiment, and strive to vie with each other which shall practise this grace in the greatest perfection.
How unlovely a carriage is it to boast ourselves of any superior quality we possess, or to assume lofty airs, because we have more money than our neighbours! To aggrandize ourselves in our own esteem, in our own language, in our behaviour, because we fancy ourselves to be better dressed, or better fed than our fellow-creatures! And if we have a little honour put upon us by the providence of God, it is a criminal vanity for us to grow haughty and insolent upon that account. I am in pain whensoever I hear a man treat his servant as he does his dog: as though a poor man were not made of the same clay, nor born of the same ancient race as his master: As though Adam, whose name is dust, was not our common father, or a lord had not the same original as other men.
Nay, the nobler possessions of the mind, ingenuity and learning, and even grace itself, are no sufficient ground for pride. It is a comely thing to see a man exalted by many divine gifts, and yet abasing himself. It is a lovely sight to behold a person
well adorned with virtue and merit, and glorified in the mouths of all men, and yet concealing himself: To see a man of shining worth drawing, as it were, a curtain before himself, that the world might not see him, while the world do what they can to do him justice, and draw aside the veil to make his merit visible. Not that a man of worth is always bound to practise concealment; this would be to rob mankind of the blessing God has designed for them, and to wrap up his talents, in the unprofitable napkin. But there are occasions wherein a worthy and illustrious person may be equally useful to the world, and yet withdraw himself from public applause. This is the hour to make his humility
How graceful and engaging is it in persons of title and quality to stoop to those that are of a mean degree, to converse freely at proper seasons with those that are poor and despicable in the world, to give them leave to offer their humble requests, or sometimes to debate a point of importance with them: Not all the dignity of their raiment can render them half so honourable as this condescension does; for nothing makes them so much like God. The High and Holy One, who inhabits eternity, stoops. down from heaven to visit the afflicted, and to dwell with the poor. And surely, when we set ourselves before the divine Majesty, we are meaner and more contemptible in his eyes, than it is possible for any fellow-creature to be in ours; he humbles himself to behold princes.
It must be allowed indeed, that where God and the world have placed any person in a superior station, and given him a sensible advancement above his fellow-creatures, he is not bound to renounce the honours that are his due, nor to act beneath the dignity of his character and state. This would be to confound all the beautiful order of things in the natural, civil, and religious life. But there are cases and seasons that often occur, when great degrees of humility may be practised without danger of sinking one's own character, or doing a dishonour to our station in the world. There is an art of maintaining state with an air of modesty,, nor is there any need to put on haughty and scornful airs, in order to secure the honours of a tribunal, or the highest offices of magistracy. I have known a man who acted in an exalted station with so much condescension and candour, that all men agreed to love and honour him so far, that it was hard to say, whether he was most honoured, or most beloved.
How amiable a behaviour is it in younger persons, when respect is paid to age, and the honour is given to the hoary head that nature and scripture join to require; Lev. xix. 32. "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old
man and fear thy God: I am the Lord. Though the charac ter of the aged person, in respect of riches, quality, and learning, may be much inferior, yet the wisdom that is naturally supposed to be derived from long experience, lays a foundation for this superior honour. And I look upon it as a part of the shame and just reproach of our day, that there is such a licentious insolence assumed by youth to treat their elders with contempt. But so much the more lovely is the carriage of those who, in spite of evil custom, treat old age with reverence, and abhor the pert and petulant indignities that some of their companions cast upon the writings and counsels of their ancestors.
And here I beg leave also humbly to admonish my fathers, that they practise the lovely grace of condescension, when they converse with those that are young. I entreat them to permit a youth of an inquisitive genius, to propose an argument for some farther improvement of knowledge, or to raise an objection against an established doctrine, and not to answer him with an imperious frown, or with the reproaches of heresy or impertinence. I beseech them to indulge the rising generation in some degrees of freedom of sentiment, and to offer some demonstration for their own opinions, besides their authority, and the multitude of their years. The apostle Peter's advice may be addressed to persons of all ages and characters; 1 Pet, v. 5. Ye younger, submit yourselves to the elder: Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. If we have more knowledge than others, how lovely is our conduct, when we teach and instruct them, not like sovereigns of their faith, and dictators to their understanding, but in a way of friendly conversation, and mutual improvement? If any thing occurs to be debated, it is a sign of modesty to yield to the force of argument, and not to resolve before-hand to be infallible and obstinate, as though we were exempted from the common frailty of human nature, and free from all possibility of mistake. While we are arguing with others, in order to convince them, how graceful a thing it is, when we have the power of the argument on our own side, to keep ourselves from insult and triumph! how engaging a behaviour toward our opponent, when we seem to part as though we were equal in the debate, while it is evident to all the company, that the truth lies wholly on our side!
Yet I will own there are seasons, when the obstinate and the assuming disputant should be made to feel the force of an argument, by displaying it in its victorious and triumphant colours: But this is seldom to be practised, so as to insult the opposite party, except in cases where they have shewn a haughty and insufferable insolence. Some persons perhaps can hardly be taught
humility without being severely humbled; and yet where there is need of this chastisement, I had rather any other hand should be employed in it than mine.
IV. Meekness is another of the lovely graces. This is contrary to wrath and malice, and all the angry passions, as humility stands in opposition to pride. As there are generally some secret workings of pride in the heart, when a man gives indulgence to his wrathful passions; so where a person has thoroughly learned the practice of humility, the grace of meekness is easily attained, and indeed it seems to be a necessary consequent of it.
How lovely is the character of a man, who can hear himself censured and reviled, without reviling again! Who can sustain repeated affronts, without kindling into flame and fury. Who has learned to bear injuries from his fellow-creatures, and yet withhold himself from meditating revenge! He can sit and hear a strong opposition made to his sentiments, without conceiving an affront: He can bear to be contradicted without resenting: And as he never loves to give offence to any man, so neither is he presently offended. It is only the more peevish and feeble pieces of human nature, that are ready to take offence at trifles, and many times they make their own foolish jealousies a sufficient ground for their indignation.
We cannot expect to pass through the world, and find every thing peaceful and pleasant in it. All men will not be of our mind, nor agree to promote our interest. There are savages in this wilderness, which lies in our way to the heavenly Canaan; and we must sometimes hear them roar against us. Divine courage will enable us to walk onward without fear, and meekness will teach us to pass by without resenting. We should learn to feel many a spark of angry fire falling upon us, from the tongues of others, and yet our hearts should not be like tinder ready to catch the flame, and to return the blaze. The meek christian, at such a season, possesses his soul in patience, as good David did, when Shimei sent his malice and his curses after him: The saint at that time was in an humble temper, and said, Let Shimei curse. We should not render evil for evil, but according to the sacred direction of scripture, endeavour to overcome evil with good; Rom. xii. 21.
Anger is not utterly forbidden to the christian; yet happy is he that has the least occasion for it. In Eph. iv. 26. the apostle gives this rule: Be ye angry, and sin not. As if he would have said, when the affairs of life seem to require a just resentment and anger, look upon it as a dangerous moment, and watch against a sinful excess. Let us never give a wild loose to our wrath, but always hold the reins of government with a strong hand, lest it break out into forbidden mischief. When we