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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 hi therto 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. 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 received 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 lesser 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 enemies, 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
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 circumstances 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
Let me add a few remarks.
1. Christians have the most forcible arguments and inducements, 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 osberving 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 long-suffering 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, disobedient, 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.
ON KEEPING THE HEART.
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
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 are things of the greatest use and importance; which earnestly proceeds from a full persuasion of the truth and worth of the things said,
an apprehension that those to whom they are offered are too apt to neglect them, or too liable to be misled after all; and from an ardent desire of the welfare of those who are addressed to. "My son, attend to my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes keep them in the midst of thine heart; for they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh," ver. 20-22. As if he said, I must again once more repeat my request, that you will take heed to my advice, and seriously consider these exhortations which
proceed from a sincere affection for your welfare. Peruse them over and over, keep them perpetually in mind, and lay them up in your memory as a precious treasure. For they will contribute greatly to the happiness of all who become thoroughly acquainted with them: they will be of use to men of every temper, and in every condition; and prove an admirable support • under troubles and afflictions."
Then follows a methodical monition, consisting of several parts; first, directing the government of the heart, or the mind, and its powers; then the lips and eyes, and the feet. Ver. 23. 66 Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life." That is, the counsels I give you are such as these: in the first place, and above all things, set a strict guard upon your thoughts and affections, and all the inward motions of your soul; for the good or bad conduct of life depends very much upon this, and consequently your welfare or misery, here and hereafter.
Ver. 24. "Put away from thee a froward mouth: and perverse lips put far from thee." Avoid sinful words, and be upon your guard not to transgress with your lips: for as some interpreters' suppose, here is a twofold admonition; not to sin with the tongue ourselves, nor to hearken to the evil speeches of others. Set a watch upon thy ears, and upon thy mouth; nor speak things contrary to truth, righteousness, or religion; not listening to those that do, but banishing such as far as possible, from all friendship and familiarity.'
Ver. 25. "Let thine eyes look right on: and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. That is, as some paraphrase and explain these words: Direct all thine actions by a good intention to a right end, and keep thy mind fixed upon the way that leads to it. Or, as others, The eyes also are dangerous inlets to the heart: therefore watch them well, that they do not 'gaze about, and fasten upon every object that invites them: but let them be fixed upon one scope, as thy thoughts ought to be, and from which let nothing divert them.'
Ver. 26. "Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." Act not without thought and consideration; but weigh and consider well beforehand, especially in things of any moment, or that are liable to doubt and suspicion, whether they are agreeable to the rule of right; then thy works and actions will be such as will bear to be canvassed and examined: you will be able to reflect upon them with pleasure afterwards, and they will also be approved by others that are wise and virtuous.
Ver. 27. "Turn not to the right hand, nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil :" hereby many understand to be meant: Flee extremes: avoid superstition on the one hand, and neg⚫lect of religion on the other:' but it seems to me that the direction may be as well understood to contain an admonition to steadiness in religion and virtue: And do not suffer yourselves to 'be drawn aside from the path of virtue, or to divert at all upon any consideration from the • straight line of duty: let no consideration whatever, neither enticements of friends, or provo'cations of enemies, prosperous or cross events, move you to depart at all from the way of your duty; and most studiously preserve yourselves from doing any kind of iniquity.”
So is this context.
Our design at present is, to consider the leading direction in this exhortation, " Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." And I shall speak briefly to the several particulars in the text.
I shall consider,
I. What is meant by the heart.
II. What we are to understand by keeping it.
III. The manner in which the heart ought to be kept: "with all diligence."
IV. The argument and reason why we ought so to keep the heart: "out of it are the issues
* See Patrick.