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MATTHEW v. 5.
“ BLESSED ARE THE MEEK: FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT
This beatitude, like the two preceding, contains a maxim which the world generally disbelieves. It pronounces a class of persons happy, whom, of all others, the children of men account contemptible and cowardly; and it promises them a reward, which, above all men on the earth, they are the most unlikely to enjoy. Be it so; we have it, notwithstanding, on divine authority,—“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The first beatitude in this chapter, checks the ambitious, and cheers the humble. The second reproves the mirthful and gay, but consoles the mourner with the promise of comfort. The one which forms the subject of the present lecture, tacitly condemns all rancour and revenge, by pronouncing a blessing on persons of an opposite spirit. We may, therefore, understand the passage thus ;-“Ye have been accustomed to regard the irascible and the haughty as happy persons. The men who would enslave kingdoms, and desolate empires; who would inflict summary punishment on their enemies; and resent the appearance of neglect with utter indignation, ye have accounted blessed. But in this ye are quite mistaken. They are not happy men. They
will always have something to irritate their passions, and mortify their spirit. The unoffending, the submissive,
, who have subdued themselves, and who can patiently endure great provocations, or suffer accumulated wrongsthey are the truly happy."
Before I proceed to discuss the amiable disposition which constitutes the subject of my text, I will briefly remind you, that the Saviour, in this, as well as the preceding verse, refers to the common opinion which the Jews had adopted, of the exclusive privileges which they expected to enjoy, under the reign of their approaching king. Their minds, it appears, were filled with the hope of executing vengeance on the Romans, who had invaded their country, and of the consequent restoration of their monarchial government to its original importance. In the person of the long promised Prince of Peace, they expected a mighty sovereign, of a warlike character, who would place himself at the head of their armies, go forth for the destruction of their adversaries, and exalt the land of Judea to surpassing greatness among the nations of the earth. In this way they expected to “inherit the earth.” Nothing, therefore, could more prejudice their minds against the Lord Jesus, than his lowly and unmilitary appearance. They saw in him, the reputed son of a carpenter, a companion of fishermen, walking in their streets without pomp or state; and, in their estimation, he was without “form or comeliness.” They therefore disdained him in their hearts, saying, “We know that God spake unto Moses; as for this fellow we know not from whence he is."
It would be unwise, for the sake of affecting novelty or originality, to reject the natural division which the passage presents. I shall, therefore, consider,
I. THE QUALITY OF MEEKNESS; AND,
I. THB QUALITY OF THAT MEEKNESS TO WHICH OUR LORD REFERS.
Meekness, in its common acceptation, means a gentleness of manner and of disposition. The Greeks call it an easiness of spirit; that is, a spirit which accommodates itself to every event and condition, however painful and trying ; thus making its possessor alike pleasant to himself and to others. A man of this temper, is contented in his station, and inoffensive in his behaviour. He has obtained a victory over himself, and his mind aspires not after things too high for him. He is under the influence of a grace
that is opposed to all those troublesome passions which arise from an extravagant self-esteem, and which will be constantly filling him with vexation and ill-humour. He can, therefore, sit unmoved amidst circumstances which would kindle a perfect storm in the breast of many, and transport them into rage. But we must distinguish this quality from that which closely resembles it.
There are some individuals of so mild and forbearing a disposition, who, from their happy temper, seem to be almost made up of meekness itself. I do not, however, consider that such persons come within the meaning of the term, as used in the Scriptures. Christian meekness is a fruit of the spirit of Christ, and flows from the renovation of the heart by that divine agent. Whatever portion of this virtue a man may naturally possess, and however it may resemble the fruit of religion in the heart, still the two principles widely differ. It may, indeed, be modified still “ that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” The mildest natural temper is often accompanied with enmity against the Most High; with dislike to his servants and his service; with an inordinate attachment to the world and its enjoyments; with covetousness sensuality, and selfindulgence. It is seldom uniform in its exemplification, or universal in its operation, but generally vanishes when
crossed in a tender point. The meekness of the text is not so. This is the fruit of that humbleness of spirit, and sorrow for sin, of which the two preceding beatitudes speak. As a violent spirit is the effect of pride and arrogance of heart, so a meek disposition always flows from Christian humility, and penitential sorrow. Hence, we often find, that the formal and self-righteous are peevish and morose; that their petulance and irritability are frequently proportioned to their devotional strictness, as if they were desirous of making themselves amends upon their fellow creatures, for that forced submission, and irksome homage, which slavish fear sometimes compels them to pay to their Creator.
Now, that we may present the excellent grace of meekness fully before you, and that you may be able to distinguish its true nature from that which bears a strong resemblance to it, but which is essentially different from it, I will endeavour to illustrate its exercise, both towards God, and towards man, and the imperative obligation every professor of the Christian religion lies under both to its observance, and exemplification.
First. I will briefly describe the exercise of Christian meekness in relation to the Most High. What does it include and import when viewed in connection with the dealings of Him who giveth “none account of his matters” unto men? My brethren, it is acquiescence with his ways, resignation to his will, and the subjection of the mind and judgment to the revelation he has made of his character and grace. It enables a man to receive, without a doubtful disputation,” or “vain jangling,” the “ingrafted word which is able to save the soul.” The meek man never complains of its precepts as too severe; its doctrines as too mysterious; or its grace as too rich and free. He consults the divine page, not for idle speculation, or unprofitable contention, but to “edify himself in love,” both towards God and his fellow men. He attends the ministry of the gospel, not for mere custom's sake, much less to censure and condemn, but for the holy purpose of learning the divine will, and worshipping the Father through the Son. And should providence seem to frown ; should the hand of affliction bear heavy upon us; should the loss of property, the desertion of friends, the struggle of poverty, sickness, bereavements, or neglects, be our's; with this heavenly grace, this temper of our divine master, we shall still be happy. It will shut the mouth of complaint, and teach us readily to acknowledge the justice of our sufferings. Thus, this spirit in Aaron led him to “hold his peace," under one of the severest strokes that ever wounded a parent's heart. You will also see it fully exemplified in Job, who, when the last dreadful messenger had told his tale of woe, exclaimed, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” In David, likewise, we have an instance of its influence.
Carry back the ark of God into the city, if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold, here I am, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.” And, as the master-piece, I refer you to Him, who was, without comparison, beyond all others “meek and lowly in heart.” Behold Him, in the garden of Gethsemane, at the commencement of the most tragic scene which heaven or earth ever saw! while, from the agony of his soul, “great drops of blood” fell from his body to the ground, you will hear him pray,“ Father! if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”
Secondly. Let us consider meekness in relation to man. Know, then, my brethren, that it is not cowardice, meanness, or servility, but the soft answer that turneth away wrath ; a magnanimity of mind that will bear an evil, rather than