« PoprzedniaDalej »
to bear one another's burdens ; to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep; to please every one his neighbour for his good ; to be kind and tender-hearted; to be pitiful and courteous ; lo support the weak, and to be patient towards all men.
Having now sufficiently explained the nature of this amiable virtue, I proceed to recommend it to your practice. Let me, for this end, desire you to consider the duty which you owe to God; to consider the relation which you bear one to another; to consider your own interest.
I. Consider the duty which you owe to God. When you survey his works, nothing is so conspicuous as his greatness and majesty.When you consult his word, nothing is more remarkable, than his attention to soften that greatness, and to place it in the mildest and least oppressive light. He not only characterises himself as the God of consolation, but, with condescending gentleness, he particularly accommodates himself to the situation of the unfortunate. He dwelleth with the humble and contrite. He hideth not his face when the afflicted cry. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth
their wounds. When his Son came to be the Saviour of the world, he was eminent for the same attribute of mild and gentle goodness. Long before his birth, it was prophesied of him that he should not strive, nor cry, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets ; that the bruised reed he should not break, nor quench the smoking flax :* And after his death, this distinguished feature in his character was so universally remembered, that the Apostle Paul, on occasion of a request which he makes to the Corinthians, uses those remarkable expressions, † I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. During all his intercourse with men, no harshness, or pride, or stately distance appeared in his demeanour. In his access, he was easy ; in his manners, simple; in his answers, mild ; in his whole behaviour, humble and obliging. Learn of me, said he, for I am meek and lowly in heart.-As the Son of God is the pattern, so the Holy Ghost is the inspirer of gentleness. His name is the Comforter, the Spirit of Grace and Peace. His fruits, or operations on the human mind, are, love, meekness, gentleness, and long-suffering. I Thus, by every discovery of the God-head, honour is conferred upon gentleness. It is held up to our view, as peculiarly connected
with celestial nature. And suitable to such discoveries, is the whole strain of the gospel. It were unnecessary to appeal to any single precept. You need only open the New Testament, to find this virtue perpetually inculcated. Charity, or love, is the capital figure ever presented to our view; and gentleness, forbearance and forgiveness, are the sounds ever recurring on our ear.
So predominant, indeed, is this spirit throughout the Christian dispensation, that even the vices and corruptions of men have not been able altogether to defeat its tendency. Though that dispensation is far from having hitherto produced its full effect upon the world, yet we can clearly tracę its influence in humanizing the manners of men. Remark, able, in this respect, is the victory which it has gained over those powers of violence and cruelty which belong to the infernal kingdom. Wherever Christianity prevails, it has discouraged, and, in some degree, abolished slavery. It has rescued human nature from that ignominious yoke, under which, in former ages, the one half of mankind groaned. It has introduced more equality between the two sexes, and rendered the conjugal union more rational and happy. It has abated the ferociousness of war. It has mitigated the rigour of despotism, mitigated the cruelty of punishment; in a word, has reduced mankind, from their ancient barbarity, into a more humane and gentle state. Do we pretend respect and zeal for this religion, and at the same time allow ourselves in that harshness and severity, which are so contradictory to its genius ? Too plainly, we show, that it has power over our hearts. We may retain the Christian name; but we have abandoned the Christian spirit.
II. Consider the relation which you bear to one another. Man, as a solitary individual, is a very wretched being. As long as he stands detached from his kind, he is possessed, neither of happiness, nor of strength. We are formed by nature to unite; we are impelled towards each other, by the compassionate instincts in our frame; we are linked by a thousand connections, founded on common wants. Gentleness, therefore, or, as it is very properly termed, humanity, is what man, as such, in every station, owes to man. To be inaccessible, contemptuous and hard of heart, is to revolt against our own nature ; is, in the language of scripture, to hide ourselves from our own flesh. Accordingly, as all feel the claim which they have to mildness and humanity, so all are sensibly hurt by the want of it in others. On no side are we more vulnerable. No .complaint is more feelingly made, than that of the harsh and rugged manners of persons with whom we have intercourse. But how seldom do we transfer the cause to ourselves, or examine how far we are guilty of inflicting on others, whose sensibility is the same with ours, those very wounds of which we so loudly com
But, perhaps, it will be pleaded by some, That this gentleness on which we now insist, regards only those smaller offices of life, which in their eye are not essential to religion and goodness. Negligent, they confess, on slight occasions, of the government of their temper, or the regulation of their behaviour, they are attentive, as they pretend, to the great duties of beneficence; and ready, whenever the opportunity presents, to perform important services to their fellow-creatures. But let such persons reflect, that the occasions of performing those important good deeds very rarely occur. Perhaps their situation in life, or the nature of their connections, may in a great measure exclude them from such opportunities. Great events give scope for great virtues; but the main tenor of human life is composed of small occurrences. Within the round of these, lie the materials of the happi