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Here I may ask, what can be more obvious than that the humble and benevolent temper required and exemplified by the Saviour, is totally incompatible with that bitterness, reviling and contention which is so frequently manifested by different sects of Christians one towards the other ? Let the principle of spiritual dignity be duly esteemed-let Christians know and feel that he only " who hum bleth himself shall be exalted,” and let the meek and benevolent spirit of the Messiah be manifested by the people of the several sects in their treatment of each other; then it will be seen that the spirit of the Gospel is a remedy for those contentions which have so long been a reproach to Christians, and a stumbling block to unbelievers.
Water is no better adapted to extinguish material fire than humility is to put out the fires of contention among brethren. But all liquids are not adapted to quench fire. Brandy, if poured on ever so abundantly, would increase the flame. In like manner party spiritwhich too frequently passes for religion, only serves to increase the flames of strife, and to destroy the happiness of society.
Humility disposes a person to be jealous of himself, and to observe his own imperfections. The humble man will naturally discover many defects in himself, which are not visible to others, and which perhaps he cannot see in them. Hence it will be an object of his care not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think,” and to be one of the number of Christians who comply with another of
Paul's exhortations:“ Doing nothing through contention or vain glory; but in humility of mind esteeming others better than yourselves." Philippians ii. 5. Newcombe's translation.
Humility is not only meek but benevolent and forgiving. It seeks to "overcome evil with good." Hence it is certain, that the more there is of humility among Christians, the less there will be of contention. Many of the contentions among Christians are occasioned by that unruly evil the tongue "which setteth on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire of hell." Now what can be named short of death or paralysis, which is more sure to restrain the tongue from sarcasm and evil speaking, than humility of mind ? The more humble a man is the more conscious he is of his own liability to errors of the understanding and of the heart; and this consciousness united with benevolence will dispose him to be candid towards others, and to do unto them as he would that they should do unto him. To illustrate the nature of humility, I will state a supposable
In a time of great excitement and party strife, a minister sits down to write a sermon in vindication of some disputed doctrine, which he believes to be of great importance. But having failed to call humility to his aid, he writes under the influence of party passions. As he proceeds, he grows warmer and warmer, with feelings of contempt or resentment towards all who have opposed his doctrine. He is not contented with producing arguments in its favor ;
he must give vent to his passions against dissenters. He boldly accuses them of gross errors in their interpretations of the Scriptures; and imputes these errors to the wickedness of their hearts; and fails not to reproach them either as heretics or as bigots. Thus, while he wantonly calumniates others as destitute of the gospel temper, he evinces a deplorable defect in his own heart. But prior to the time for delivering his discourse, some affecting event of providence occurs that calls him to deep reflection, occasions a favorable change of feeling, gives humility leave to rise and speak for herself. Hence occurs the following soliloquy
• What have I written for a sermon to be delivered by myself, as the ambassador of Him who was and lowly of heart ?" He exercised forbearance towards his erring Apostles, during the whole course of his ministry, though he knew them to be in gross errors of opinion ; yet I have reproached hundreds of his professed disciples as his enemies; and have said much to excite against them the contempt of others. But why all this rashness? They indeed differ from me in their interpretations of some passages of Scripture ; but if this be a good reason for me to be offended with them, why may not they as justly be offended with me? Are not some of them at least possessed of as good talents as myself? May they not have had as good advantages for acquiring knowledge? and how do I know that they have been less honest and impartial in their inquiries than I have been in mine? How has it happened that I have been so forward to accuse them, and yet so backward in regard to suspecting myself? Could this be the work of humility or benevolence? Have I done to others as I would that they should do to me? Even taking it for granted that they are bad men, is my sermon adapted to do them or any body else any good? Will it not give far more proof of wrong in me than of wrong in them? I indeed have accused them ; but I have done it with a temper which is the reverse of what is required in the gospel of every disciple of Christ. I will therefore 'revise the sermon, and erase every word which shall appear to me inconsistent with that love which worketh no evil to its neighbor.'
Such I think would be the natural operations of humility, is allowed to speak in the supposed case; and this illustration is capable of being applied in a great variety of different circumstances. If Christians would but listen to the dictates of humility, instead of the suggestions of self-esteem and party passions, it is very certain that most of the occasions of strife would be avoided -a more salutary character would be given not only to sermons, but to conversations, and to the various publications on religious subjects. Should the tongue and the pen be duly subjected to the control of such a disposition as induced even the Son of Man to come not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many," it might soon be found a possible thing for men of different opinions to be united in affection, and to love one another with a pure heart fervently.
The tender affection which existed between Jesus and his Apostles, while they differed so greatly in opinion on some important subjects, is a proof that unity of opinion is not essential to mutual affection. He indeed had occasion to reprove his apostles for their ambition and contention; but he did it in such meekness and love that it occasioned no alienation. Though he well knew their errors of opinion, he did not go about the country denouncing or reproaching them, either as heretics or as bigots. Notwithstanding all their imperfections Jesus loved them to the end of his ministry; and never perhaps did he evince towards them more sincere and tender affection than in his last interview with them, and in his prayer
for them, prior to the crucifixion. In what way then can Christians of the present age better evince love to Christ, than by imitating this benignant and forbearing example, and by obeying his commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you ?" However high may be our opinion of his natural dignity, or however confident and loud we may be in asserting that opinion, this will not insure his approbation.
“meek and lowly of heart," and it was his “ meat and drink” to do his Father's will. If the same mind is in us that was in him, we shall be acknowledged as his friends and disciples indeed. Without this we shall be found wanting. For thus saith our Lord and Judge--"Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven."