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The wisdom that is from above, is-gentlers

SERMON

VI.

To be wise in our own eyes, to be

wise in the opinion of the world, and to be wise in the sight of God, are three things so very different, as rarely to çoincide. One may often be wise in his own eyes, who is far from being so in the judgment of the world; and to be reputed a prudent man by the world, is no security for being accounted wise by God. As there is a worldly happiness, which God perceives to be no other than disguised misery; as there are worldly honours, which in his estimation are res proach; so there is a worldly wisdom, which in bis sight is foolishness. Of this

worldly

VI.

worldly wisdom the characters, are given SERMON in the context, and placed in contrast with those of the wisdom which is from above. The one is the wisdom of the crafty ; the other that of the upright. The one terminates in selfishness; the other, in charity. The one is full of strife and bitter envying's; the other, of mercy and of good fruits. One of the chief characters by which the wisdom from above is distinguished, is gentleness, of which I am now to discourse. Of this there is the greater occasion to discourse, because it is too seldom viewed in a religious light; and is more readily considered by the bulk of men, as a mere felicity of nature, or an exteriour accomplishment of manners, than as a Christian virtue, which they are bound to cultivate. I shall first explain the nature of this virtue; and shall then offer some arguments to recommend, and some directions to facilitate, the practice of it,

I BEGIN with distinguishing true gentleness from passive tameness of spirit; and from unlimited compliance with the manners of others.

That passive tame-
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ness,

VI.

SERMON ness, which submits, without struggle, to

every encroachment of the violent and assuming, forms no part of Christian duty; but, on the contrary, is destructive of general happiness and order. That unlimited complaisance, which on every occasion; falls in with the opinions and manners of others, is so far from being a virtue, that it is itself a vice, and the parent of many vices. It overthrows all steadiness of principle; and produces that sinful conformity with the world which taints the whole character. In the present corrupted state of human manners, always to assent and to comply, is the very worst maxim we can adopt. It is impossible to support the purity and dignity of Christian morals, without opposing the world on various occasions, even though we should stand alone. That gentleness, therefore, which belongs to virtue, is to be carefully distinguished from the mean spirit of cowards, and the fawning assent of sycophants. It renounces no just right from fear. It gives up no important truth from flattery. It is indeed not only consistent with a firm mind, but

real

VI.

it necessarily requires a manly spirit, and a SERMON fixed principle, in order to give it any value. Upon this solid ground only, the polish of gentleness can with advantage be superinduced.

It stands opposed, not to the most determined regard for virtue and truth, but to harshness and severity, to pride and arrogance, to violence and oppression. It is, properly, that part of the great virtue of charity, which makes us unwilling to give pain to any of our brethren. Compassion prompts us to relieve their wants. Forbearance prevents us from retaliating their injuries. Meekness restrains our angry passions ; candour, our severe judgments. Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manners ; and, by a constant train of humane attentions, studies to alleviate the burden of common misery. Its office; therefore, is extensive. It is not, like some other virtues, called forth only on peculiar emergencies ; but it is continually in action, when we are engaged in intercourse with men. It ought to form our address, to regulate our speech, and to diffuse itself over our whole behaviour,

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SERMON

I must warn you, however, not to confound this gentle wisdom which is from above,' with that artificial courtesy, that studied smoothness of manners, which is learned in the school of the world. Such accomplishments, the most frivolous and empty may possess. Too often they are employed by the artful, as a snare; too often affected by the hard and unfeeling, as a cover to the baseness of their minds. We cannot, at the same time, avoid observing the homage which even in such instances, the world is constrained to pay to virtue. In order to render society agreeable, it is found necessary to assume somewhat, that may at least carry its appearance.' Virtue is the universal charm. Even its shadow is courted, when the substance is wanting. The imitation of its form has been reduced into an art; and, in the commerce of life, the first study of all who would either gain the esteem, or win the hearts of others, is to learn the speech, and to adopt the manners, of candour, gentleness, and humanity. But that gentleness which is the characteristic of a good man, has, like every other virtue, its seat in the

VI.

heart:

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