Page images

mies, and averse to us; and to those who are of the same religious sentiments in the main.

2. Another thing included in this direction may be, practising moderation upon a great variety of occasions. Indeed this has been already shown under the former particular; for I have mentioned various instances of mildness, both toward unbelievers and to believers.

But all occasions for the practising of equity can scarce be enumerated; however, a man of a mild and equitable principle will be ready to show it, when the circumstances of things require it; he will be slow to wrath, backward to judge and censure; he will remember the Lord's command; "Judge not, that ye be not judged:" and St. Paul's direction; "Judge nothing before the time:" he will not be over-ready to receive charges against any, or credit disadvantageous reports and surmises. Equitable persons have also a respect to the stations and characters of men, agreeably to that direction of St. Paul to Timothy," Against an elder receive not an accusation but before two or three witnesses," 1 Ep. v. 19. This is another thing included in ' this direction; Let your moderation be known unto all men, show it, and practise it upon many occasions.

3. Show moderation in every circumstance, not only when you are in adversity and affliction, but also when you are in prosperity and honour; not only when you are few in number, and weak in comparison of others who differ from you, but when you are in power and are the most in number. If in change of circumstances you are not changed, nor your outward conduct altered, it will appear, that your minds are governed by some reasonable principle of action; but if men who were once, to appearance, meek and quiet under afflictions, become arrogant and imposing, upon their being exalted, their former submission and peaceableness will be imputed to fear and an abject mind, not unto mildness of temper, or a serious regard to the rule of right.

And as change of circumstance for the better is very apt to affect men's minds, good men need directions and cautions in such a case. The gentiles who received the word of the gospel from the apostles of Christ, were doubtless at first much pleased with the kind regard shown them, and thankful for the privileges vouchsafed them; but yet, when their numbers increased, and their freedom from the law of Moses was better established, they soon began to show some tokens of scorn and disdain that were not becoming. St. Paul perceived it, though himself the apostle of the gentiles, and the great patron of their liberty; and therefore

inserted that argument in the epistle to the Romans: "And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou a wild olive wert grafted in among them,-boast not against the branches; but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.-Be not high-minded, but fear," Rom. xi. 17, 18, 20.

4. The moderation or mildness of christians, or any other people, will be conspicuous and known to all men, when it is a prevailing temper, and is general among them, in men of every relation, and every condition.

When they who teach the principles of religion, strive not to act with a high hand, and advance their authority, but recommend and enforce their doctrine and their admonitions by reasons and arguments, and renew and repeat their instructions for the sake of those who are not so tractable, or so acute and ready as others: labour, both in season and out of season; behave not as lords of other men's faith, but helpers of their joy, and their servants for Christ's sake, to assist their proficiency in knowledge and virtue; and as St. Peter's expressions are," not as lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock," 1 Ep. v. 3; and when they who are instructed and taught, suffer the word of exhortation, considering that they who act faithfully in their office of teaching others," watch over their souls, as they that must give account:" and are desirous" that they may do it with joy, and not with grief," Heb. xiii. 17; for that would not be profitable for any.

And St. Paul directs the Corinthians with regard to Timothy, though young and unexperienced, or not equally experienced with some of greater age: "See that he may be with you without fear for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do let no man therefore despise him," 1 Cor. xvi. 10. It may be a branch of equity to esteem some men "highly in love for their work's sake," 1 Thess. v. 13, without indulging too nice a taste, and censorious critical remarks upon every performance.

In like manner with regard to some private relations: it will tend to render men's moderation and mildness conspicuous in the world, when it is generally practised among them: when parents endeavour to bring up their children" in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, without provoking them to wrath," Ep. vi. 4; and when children cheerfully acknowledge the just authority of parents, and obey them in all things, so far as can be done with a good conscience: and when others, intrusted with the education and care of inspecting young persons, break not their tender spirits by

unreasonable harshness and severity, but excite and encourage them by reason, good words, and kind usage: and they of younger years show themselves some indication of their being sensible a regard and respect is due to those who instil knowledge into their minds, and appear to be concerned to lay the foundation of their future welfare and prosperity in soul and body.

When masters give unto their servants that which is just and equal, forbear threatening; and when servants answer not again, and are faithful and diligent in the service, not only of those masters who are exceeding good and tender, but even of those likewise who at some times are froward and severe.

When, finally, men of every condition, high and low, those who have fewer advantages of reading and observation, as well as others learned, knowing, and acquainted with the world; when even these also join in approving moderation and equity, and can say something in favour of the several branches of moderation before mentioned, with regard to men of different sentiments, or to those who fall and offend, or are injurious in some instances; as, that there is between all men a parity or equality of nature: that we are all weak and fallible; that Jesus Christ our Lord bid us not to judge, lest we be judged; that our Lord graciously received Peter and the other apostles, though in the time of his great temptation they were offended in him; that the christian religion was at first propounded and spread in the world, upon the ground of reason and evidence, without human power and authority; and that they apprehend the setting before men the evidences of its truth, which appear in the New Testament, will be the most effectual way to advance the true interest of religion. That Christ said, "his kingdom is not of this world:" and that he bid his disciples to consider themselves as brethren, and not to exalt themselves one above another: that in the New Testament men are directed to try or prove all things, which must suppose a right to judge upon evidence, as things appear to men, after serious and impartial examination and consideration.

These are particulars by which the moderation of any sect or body of men will become conspicuous, and known to all men ; when they show moderation and equity to many persons, upon various occasions, in different circumstances, and when it is a prevailing general virtue among them. Let me add a few remarks.

1. Christians have the most forcible arguments and in



ducements, and the best assistances of any men, for the practice of moderation, mildness, and equity. Forasmuch as they have had experience of the mercies of God, and Christ Jesus, in forgiving them, and showing toward them great mildness, tenderness, and equity: they have also been taught to love one another, and all men, so as no other men have been taught: and the principles of love will mightily dispose to mildness and gentleness; for "love suffereth long, and is kind; it is not easily provoked, is not puffed up; it beareth all things; believeth all things; hopeth all things," 1 Cor. xiii. moreover, they know and expect the righteous judgment of God," who will render to every one according to his work." The Lord is at hand, and will do right to those who are injured: and the virtue of those who suffer patiently, and endure according to the will of God, shall be fully rewarded. The observing the rule immediately preceding this text, will be of use here: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." If men are well pleased with themselves, and are easy in their own minds, and have cause to rejoice in God, as their defence and portion, few things can happen that will transport them beyond the bounds of moderation and equity.

2. The practice of mildness and moderation does not imply an approbation of any thing that is evil, any more than the long-suffering and forbearance which God exercises toward sinners, ought to be understood to countenance, and be an approbation of their evil ways. But this is a state of trial, not of judgment or retribution; and as the divine longsuffering is designed to afford men an opportunity, and to lead them to repentance, so the mildness practised by men one toward another, will conduce to the peace of society, the present welfare of particular persons, and will be an excellent means of reclaiming men from errors, both in judgment and practice.

3. We may hence infer, that moderation will be for the honour, interest, and advantage of the christian religion. I say, that from this direction of the apostle, we may reasonably conclude, that mildness, or moderation, or equity among christians, will be to the honour of their religion: otherwise, certainly the apostle had not directed christians to let their "moderation be known to all men." Some might possibly be apt to think that rigour, harshness, severity, might be more useful than moderation and mildness. But since, as before observed, mildness toward men is not an approbation of any thing that is wrong; and men may be differently treated according to their different conduct; [they who are

unruly are to be warned; and still some may be reproved with authority] moderation, or mildness, in the several instances above named, will not be hurtful, but advantageous.

If any men, any societies or bodies of men, are remarkable for mildness and moderation towards one another and other men, it will conduce to their honour and interest; others will be invited and induced to join themselves to them, and take upon themselves the observation of the mild rules of virtue taught by them, joined with much meekness, moderation, and forbearance toward those unruly, disobe dient, and misled upon many occasions.

And indeed, we may be assured, that moderation or mildness is a great virtue, it being often commanded and enforced under many other words in the writings of the apostles, besides those which have been quoted in the several parts of this discourse. "For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness," Gal. v. 22. And St. James says, "The wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy," James iii. 17.



Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. iv. 23.

THE aphorisms and maxims, counsels and directions, of this book of Proverbs, are oftentimes put down, without any dependence on each other, or particular regard to the order of things; in this chapter there is a connection; and the precepts here delivered, recommend themselves to our attention and regard, not only by their internal worth, and real usefulness, but also by the order in which they are placed, and the full and copious manner in which the argument is treated.

To observe only the latter part of the chapter, from ver. 20 to the end. First, there is a very earnest and affectionate call to men, especially the younger, carefully to attend to, and keep the advices delivered, assuring them that they

« PreviousContinue »