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I. In the first place, we will consider what is the meaning of the word "moderation." And though the coherence alone may not be sufficient to determine the precise meaning, yet it is not fit that we should quite overlook it. "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Synty che, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again, I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men; the Lord is at hand; be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God."
In our language, the word "moderation" may denote moderate affection for worldly things, and contentedness of mind with a small portion of the good things of this life, and satisfaction in a low or middling station, or whatever the condition be which we are in, without aspiring after great things.
But that is not the direct intention of the apostle here. And there are some other places where the original word is used, which will lead us to the proper meaning of it. Tertullus pleading in behalf of the Jews against Paul, entreats the attention of the governor in this manner, as in our translation: "I pray thee, that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency, a few words." Acts xxiv. 4. Where the original word for "clemency" is the same, which here in the text is rendered "moderation:" and therefore we are led hereby to understand mildness, equity. Again: "Now I Paul beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ," 2 Cor. x. 1.
That therefore is the sense in which we are to take the word in this place. It is equivalent to mildness, equity, gentleness; and, it is easy to be perceived, this virtue has some respect to offences and injuries, or to such persons and things, as are some way offensive and provoking.
II. In the second place we should consider what is implied in this direction, or exhortation, as given to christians "Let your moderation be known unto all men."
They will, I apprehend, fulfil and obey this precept, if their moderation, that is, their mildness, be conspicuous, eminent, and remarkable.
And it may be supposed that the moderation, or the mildness, the equity, the gentleness of any men will be conspicuous and well known in the world, if it appear in their
conduct toward many persons, upon a variety of occasions, in different circumstances, and if it be general among them not in some few only, but in many, in all, or most of them. 1. The mildness of any body of men, or of christians, will be conspicuous and well known, if it appear in their conduct toward many persons.
Divers particulars do here offer themselves to our observation: for we may soon perceive several branches of this virtue particularly recommended by Paul in his epistles.
And doubtless, one instance of mildness, meekness, and patience, is carrying it well toward those that differ from us, and treat us as enemies, or in an unkind and unfriendly manner. As a learned interpreter says, the apostle here considers the Philippians as in a state of persecution; to which state gentleness or meekness is peculiarly suited; and therefore the meaning of this exhortation is, However you 'suffer, let your moderation and gentleness be conspicuous to all men, and particularly to those at whose hands you 'suffer.' Or, as another writer paraphraseth the text, with its subsequent motive to obedience: Be not rigorous in 'insisting upon your utmost right, nor impatient in suffering wrong; but let your temper and composure of mind be 'manifest to all sorts of people, and upon all occasions. For consider that the Judge is not far off, who will cer⚫tainly make you amends for all your condescensions, and reward all your patience.'
It is very likely that this is one thing here particularly intended by St. Paul, and, indeed, it is what must tend to render men's mildness well known and conspicuous in the world: if they behave and carry it well under sufferings, or toward those who are injurious to them, and are the instruments of their sufferings: when they forbear opprobrious and abusive language, and keep their temper, and behave decently toward all men suitably to their several characters; whether magistrates, and others of superior rank, or toward those of mean condition; when they can express good will toward those who persecute them for innocent opinions, which they think they have good reason to believe and profess.
If men, instead of allowing themselves the liberty of reproachful language, and loud and clamorous complaints upon such occasions, do with evident tokens of sincerity express their good-will toward those who evil entreat them, praying that they may be convinced of their mistake, and that the favours of Providence may be poured down upon them; this is a very laudable and amiable behaviour.
Farther, men's moderation will be eminent and conspicuous, if under such sufferings they show mildness and equity toward their enemies and persecutors of all sorts. We can take hard usage better of some than of others. The same treatment is more offensive and provoking in one man than in another. It might be more grievous and afflictive to the christians in the time of the apostles, to suffer persecution from the Jews than from the Gentiles. With the former they agreed in many points. They worshipped the same God. They received their ancient scriptures; and believed in him whom their prophets foretold; whilst the Gentiles knew not God; and the gods they worshipped were esteemed by the christians as well as the Jews to be no gods, but idols and vanities; and one great design of their religion was, to detect the falsehood and absurdity of all idolatrous worship, and overthrow it.
It may be also more grievous and offensive to be persecuted by former friends, and the members of our own family. And to be mild and patient under injuries from them, will show great moderation.
Another branch of moderation toward such as differ from us is, mildness and gentleness in all debates and arguments for the truth of our religion; which we find recommended in the writings of Christ's apostles. Says St. Peter: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, 1 Ep. iii. 15. That direction seems to be addressed to christians in general. St. Paul, speaking more especially of those who are in the ministerial office, says: "And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth," 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25.
Whether it be any just ground of offence, that others differ from us or not; yet men are apt too often to take it amiss, that others differ from them, and yield not to the force of those arguments, which convince and satisfy themselves. It is therefore a branch of mildness, and very laudable, to bear patiently with those who differ from us in point of religion, and calmly to propose our best arguments, and be willing to renew those methods of conviction which hitherto have been ineffectual.
Moreover, knowledge, or the opinion of it, puffeth up. The bare knowledge of some truths, which others are ignorant of, is made the ground of a haughty and insolent
behaviour. The Jewish people scorned subjection to heathen magistrates; and there was danger that christians would follow their example. Some christian servants were ready to despise their heathen masters; which is the reason of divers exhortations in the apostolical epistles. "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work; to speak evil of no man, to be gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient," Titus iii. 1—3. "Servants, obey in all things your masters, according to the flesh," Col. iii. 22. "Servants, be obedient unto them which are your masters, according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ," Eph. vi. 5.
It is also a part of gentleness to do good to all men in distress, whether agreeing in sentiment with us, or not; considering them as sharers with us in the same human nature, though they do not partake in the same spiritual privileges with ourselves. As St. Paul's directions are: "And let us not be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men; especially unto them who are of the household of faith," Gal. vi. 9, 10.
This is one branch of moderation, equity, and mildness; to carry it well toward enemies, and those who are of other sentiments in things of a religious nature, and do good to them if they are in any respect indigent and necessitous.
There are other branches of moderation and equity relating to those who are of the same religion with us; who believe in one God, as we do, and are servants and followers of one Lord, even Jesus Christ. "Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God," 1 Cor. x. 32.
The equity and moderation to be practised by the strong and weak christians, one toward another, is a point largely and particularly treated by the apostle in the fourteenth and fifteenth to the Romans, and in some chapters of his epistles to the Corinthians. "Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another who is weak eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth," Rom. xiv. 1-3. This is mildness, this is moderation in matters of small moment.
There is another branch of mildness recommended by St. Paul, to be practised upon occasion of some falls, or actions
plainly contrary to the christian doctrine and profession. Such persons, if they are not hardened, are to be treated with gentleness. "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted," Gal. vi. 1. "If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed-Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother," 2 Thess. iii. 14, 15.
And the Corinthians, who had offended so greatly, the apostle directs to be received and comforted upon repentance. "Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest such an one should be swallowed up with over-much sorrow," 2 Cor. ii. 6, 7.
There is a mildness to be shown to our brethren from whom we receive some injuries, or who are defective in some regards due to us. "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another: if any man have a quarrel against any. Even as Christ forgave you, so do ye," Col. iii. 13.
And to the Corinthians St. Paul writes in this manner : "Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, no not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? For brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" 1 Ep. vi. 5-7. Such instances as these there are of moderation and mildness toward one another, or our christian friends and brethren.
Carrying it well toward each other, notwithstanding a different sentiment and practice in matters of less moment.
In case of falls, or transgressions against plain precepts of the gospel, and the just rules of all true religion, receiving such upon repentance:
Reproving and admonishing those who offend, in some instances with mildness:
Gentleness toward those who offend, or are defective in their behaviour toward us:
And submitting to some loss and damage, if it be of no great consequence; without occasioning a great deal of disturbance about small matters.
And that is one thing included in this direction; moderation toward many persons; and persons of different characters and relations to us; those who are not of the same religion, and on that account are, in some respect, our ene