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CHAPTER X.

BEAR IN MIND THE EXAMPLES OF WISE AND GOOD MEN.

1. I HAVE already adverted to many excellent characters, and shall have occasion to introduce others. Biography is generally allowed to be the most interesting study, as it is at once lightsome, edifying, and of practical utility. Sacred biography has the first claim to our regard;1 and next to this the lives of eminent Christians.2 Here we have a portraiture of actual life; here are delineated the excellences and the defects of men; here, too, we see how others have acted under circumstances similar and dissimilar to our own; and here also are displayed to our view, on the one hand, the folly and pernicious effects of ungoverned tempers; and, on the other, the charming influence and triumphant victory of the well

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1 Robinson's Scripture Characters is the best of the kind that I am acquainted with.

2 Foxe's Martyrology is excellent as regards Temper.

2. The sacred volume furnishes us with the most interesting characters, not only evincing the power of religion on the minds of individuals, but likewise how those individuals, by that same divine influence, conducted themselves toward others of an opposite disposition. What a fine example of a kind and forbearing temper have we in Abraham toward Lot: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between thee and me, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren." This passage deserves to be borne in constant remembrance, both for the principle it contains, and for the interesting exemplification of that principle which it supplies. Its adoption would cure half the maladies of the world, and supersede all angry and ruinous litigations.

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3. It is said of Daniel, that an excellent spirit was in him.2 Never spirit, perhaps, was more tried than his; yet we perceive no risings of anger, no complaining, and no attempts at revenge. When threatened with the den of lions, one might naturally have expected that he would shew palpable signs of disquietude, and with restless impatience have made some attempts to escape the dreadful ordeal; but, instead of this, we find him perfectly calm and unmoved, and, as usual, making his constant suit to the God of heaven and earth: and the result proved the wisdom of his conduct.

4. A similar temper was manifested by his companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when threatened with the burning fiery furnace. What an enviable quietude of spirit, what modest firm

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ness, what entire complacency in God amidst hosts of powerful enemies. Their answer to the king of Babylon bespeaks a nobleness of soul, an invincible fortitude, and a firm reliance in the God of Israel:'-We are not careful to answer thee, O king; if it be so, our God whom we serve, he will deliver us.1 What a striking exemplification is here of the truth of that scripture-" Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon thee; because he trusteth in thee." 2.

5. The same excellent tempers were manifested by Joseph, Job, Moses, Samuel, David, and the prophets and apostles. The scripture characters should be repeatedly read, and constantly borne in mind; and it will be our wisdom to imitate those who, through faith and patience, now inherit the promises. But we must especially recollect, that it was the power of religion on their minds that formed all the excellent features of their character. As men, they were of like passions with others; but as believers, they rose by the power of the Holy Spirit above the weaknesses of nature. Yet they are not exhibited to us as im maculate characters: the beauty and profit of their history is, that while on the one hand they sufficiently manifested that they were equally sin ful as others by nature, on the other they were striking monuments of the power of divine grace: and, to our comfort, that grace is still the same equally free in the gift, and equally effectual in its influence. Whoever, then, is sincerely desirous to regulate his mind and temper, will do well to read the Holy Scriptures with constancy, in order

1 1 Dan. ch. iii,

2 Isa. xxvi. 3.

the more readily to revert to the principles and examples there recorded.

16. Next to the scripture characters you will do well to acquaint yourself with the lives of eminent Christians. In addition to church history, we are highly favoured at this day with memoirs of good and wise men. But I must rather refer you to the works themselves than exhibit a long string of examples. I may remark, however, that biographical, like historical, writings, are not always impartial. There is often too much eulogium. In some there is too much effort to conceal the proper lineaments of character, while in others every thing is said to the praise of the individual, but not a word as to his constitutional or actual foibles, or how, or on what principles he governed himself. Such works must rather mislead than edify, as they exhibit fanciful rather than real characters. In reading biography, therefore, we should exercise the best discernment, distinguishing between what is natural and what is coloured.

7. I should think no Christian can have read the Life of the Rev. Henry Martyn without feeling charmed and edified. Some readers, however, would suppose that he had been blessed from his birth with the mildest and sweetest temper. But it was not so. He owed all to the grace of God. Till grace reached his heart, he was subject to the most violent passion. Such was at times the excess of his anger, that he once threw a weapon at one of his dearest friends, which passed close to his heart, and went into the wainscot behind him! All who were present were amazed at this narrow escape from the effects of passion and his friend exclaimed, Martyn, if you indulge these tempers

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you will be hanged for murder.' But turn we now to the brighter side, and view him as a dis tinguished missionary, standing for the defence of the gospel with almost inimitable meekness before rude, ignorant cavillers, enraged Brahmins and idolaters, proud Persians, reviling Jews, domineering Mahometans, sneering infidels, ignorant Papists, pseudo-Protestants, &c.; and let us adore God in this bright example of the power of his grace.

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8. At an early stage of his Christian course, he said on one occasion-'I see a great work before me now, namely, the subduing and mortifying of my perverted will. What am I, that I should dare to do my own will.' At another time he' remarks- We are lights in the world; how needful then that our tempers and lives should manifest our high and heavenly calling.'2 On one occasion he came in contact with an angry Brahmin ; but he was enabled to preserve remarkable patience and mildness, which had a very softening effect. Alluding to this circumstance in his Journal, he writes- This also I learnt, that the power of gentleness is irresistible. I never was more astonished than at the change of deportment in the hot-headed Brahmin.'3 On another occasion, through the false representations of the enemies of the gospel, all his schools were suddenly forsaken, and his motives misrepresented. While the people were gathered in crowds, he mildly explained his intentions: when such was the effect of temperate reasonings, and mild expostulations, that all apprehensions were removed as quickly

1 Life, p. 41.

2 Idem, p. 23.

3 Idem, p. 188.

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