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Words of pity without correspondent sympathy and actual relief, where we can afford it, are pretence and mockery. We are to love, not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. The two together constitute the Christian's duty towards the afflicted—a heart prompt to feel, a hand kind to relieve.
The second class of virtues enjoined in the text, are those which arise from our ordinary obligations in life, and the numerous infirmities which attend them. They may be comprehended under LOWLINESS OF SPIRIT. The first is HUMILITY; for this is the parent of all good actions. Pride is the poison of the soul: it hardens the heart; it is the cause of contention ; it is the enemy of all the duties which we owe to others, and is directly opposed to that disposition which bears with their errors and weaknesses. God resisteth the proud, but he giveth grace unto the humble. The man who has truly repented of sin and received with deep selfabasement the ineffable gift of righteousness in Christ Jesus, will be prepared to walk humbly, first with his reconciled God, and then with all around him. Such a penitent has the seed and preparation of all other graces. He considers that if he has in himself any thing good, it proceeds not from his own power, but from the mercy of God; that this good is very little compared with what he ought to have, and what others
have; that it has been misused in various ways, and is so mingled with sin and infirmity as itself to need the divine forgiveness. A true Christian will therefore never take occasion from his works of charity of being vain and presumptuous; but will conduct himself with humbleness of mind, will condescend to men of low estate, will reckon himself to be unworthy of the least of all God's mercies, and will be ready, like his Lord, to wash the feet of his fellow-disciples.
Meekness and long-suffering are the daughters of humility. Christian MEEKNESS is not a merely natural softness and tenderness of mind, which commonly errs as much on the side of sinful compliance as other dispositions do on that of severity, but is a supernatural grace which renders a man tractable in his common intercourse with others, which prevents him from being soon exasperated with their follies, or smaller faults, and which moderates anger, so as to repress that which is unjust, and to temper that which is right and lawful. The meek shall inherit the earth. Nothing so much tends to make life pleasant and tranquil amidst the little vexations and disappointments which human frailty perpetually occasions, even in the best regulated families, as this engaging disposition. For since we do not live with perfect men, but with those who are fallible, and who have very different judgments and tempers, meekness is, as it were, a shield
thrown around us, which blunts or turns aside the shafts of prejudice and unkindness.
To more considerable faults, however, we are to oppose LONG-SUFFERING, which differs from the former grace chiefly as it may seem to regard continued and more harassing infirmities or even injuries done us by others. Meekness bears with the daily and ordinary mistakes of those around us; long-suffering endures protracted and heavier evils. It is easy, and especially when we are before the eyes of others and have the hope of speedy relief, to meet a short and occasional inconvenience with a Christian temper. But a long and unremitted annoyance, something that crosses our turn of mind or interferes with our plans, that presses hard upon us, that wounds us in the most tender part, and seems to us to be the most grievous and painful occurrence possible; this is often a rigorous trial of religious principle. To exercise long-suffering on such an occasion, to view the hand of God in the permission of it, to pray for the right use of it in extinguishing our undue love of the world, and confirming our disposition of submissive obedience to the will of God,, is a triumph of divine grace and an indication of a Christian mind.
But the servant of God may at times have to encounter wicked and contumelious persons, and then the preceding principle of lowliness
of spirit must appear in THE FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES, which may be considered as including the spirit of the remaining duties of our text, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any. Where the fault committed against us is not outrageous, we must exercise forbearance; where it has proceeded to an open breach, we must endeavour to repair the evil by forgiveness.
FORBEARANCE is the act of enduring to the utmost the provocations which we may suffer in word or deed. It appears to relate to troubles and difficulties more considerable and bitter than those which are strictly within the reach of meekness and long-suffering. When we are assailed by such greater injuries, we are not immediately to rise to punish the offender, but we must try in the first instance to conquer him by lenity, and to bring him back to a reasonable mind by kindness. We must avoid a hasty judgment and an irritated temper. We must hope all things. We must show that the offence does not throw us off our guard, and vex and fret our minds; we must proceed to remedial measures, and rather err on the side of delay, than on that of precipitation. Ye have heard, said our Saviour, that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him
the other also. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
It is, however, possible that our duty to God may forbid our any longer forbearing another; the injury may occasion an open breach of friendship, and we may be reluctantly compelled to appeal to the protecting arm of authority. We are then called to the exercise of FORGIVENESS, forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any. More is contained in this than in the former. For a man may possibly bear an injury because he cannot revenge it, or because he judges it to be inexpedient to do so, though the desire of revenge may still rankle in his heart. The Apostle, therefore, commands us, not only to endure injuries, but also to eradicate the very desire of revenge from the mind, to love the offender, and to act towards him as if the fault had never been committed. Lawful methods of obtaining security against malicious persons, and of guarding against their assaults, are, indeed, allowed to us. But the disposition to forget and forgive the provocation, however great, and to testify that forgiveness in every way not inconsistent with other duties, is an indispensable command. We are constantly to pray, Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. After delivering