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MATTHEW v. 5.
Blessed are the Meek : for they mall inherit the Earth.
HAVING treated on the Beatitude of the Poor in spirit, I proceed in the order which I proposed to take, to discourse on that of the Meek. These two dispositions are so closely related, that they are oft associated in holy Scripture ; and indeed in some instances they are put indifferently the one for the other. Thus the prophetic clause of Isaiah, « To publish good tidings to the Meek,” is rendered by the Evangelist, “ To preach the Gospel to the Poor a." But as some distinction of character seems designed in this place, it may be proper to regard it through the present discourse. Now as I have understood the Poor in spirit in relation to God and with a reference to the things of heaven, so I would understand the Meek in relation to
* Ifa. lxi. 1. Luke iv, 18.
men and with a reference to the things of earth; an acceptation, which derives some countenance from their respective Beatitudes: To the Poor in spirit is assigned the Kingdom of Heaven, and to the Meek the Inheritance of the Earth.
It cannot escape our observation, that the recompence here proposed of a temporal inheritance has a singular aspect in the series of Beatitudes, since to every other character the blessedness assigned is, not indeed entirely, but in the principal and final aim, of a spiritual nature and in the life to come. Perhaps the fingularity of this exception may be removed, if we attend to that peculiar structure of language in which this series is given. It is agreeable to the sententious style of Hebrew Poetry, which our Lord appears to have adopted on this occasion, to distribute into separate, yet parallel clauses two parts of a proposition, which are to be understood in union. On this principle we may accept the two first of these Sentences, as if they were thus disposed : “ Blessed are the Poor in spirit, and the Meek: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven, and they shall inherit the Earth :” They, who cultivate thefe two kindred difpofitions, shall be blest both in temporal and in spiritual things; they
have the promise both of this life and of that which is to come.
I propose this remark for the confideration of those who are studious of the holy Scriptures. But as this acceptation is probably new, and may therefore be liable to the imputation of being more fanciful than solid, I do not presume to ground the argument of this discourse upon it. Nor indeed is it necessary to have recourse to any novel and unapproved interpretation ; since the sentence before us will admit of a plain and clear construction as a distinct and independent text. In this point of view I shall now discourse upon it; though it may not be without its use to keep in our remembrance the near relation which it bears to the preceding Beatitude of the Poor in spirit. And I trust, that on a close examination of the blessedness assigned it will be found to harmonize sufficiently with the reft.
Understanding therefore the Meek with a relation to men and a reference to the things of earth, I conceive them to be such as are uniformly mild and placid, forbearing and forgiving in their communion with their fellow-creatures, such as cultivate an equal mind in the extremes and vicissitudes of life, being content and satisfied in every station,
· S 2
being moderate in prosperity and patient in adversity.
This quality was not overlooked by the Heathen Philosophers; but it was very feebly cultivated in the general practice of the Heathen world. It was too much the manner of men, uncorrected by divine instruction and unenlightened with celestial truth, to be turbulent and violent in asserting their own cause and infringing the rights and properties of others, to give way to pride and arrogance in the heights of prosperity, to impatience and discontent under troubles and afflictions. Even the wisest and the best of Heathen Sages, who has written a code of moral law making some approach to the Christian institutes, was singularly deficient in that equanimity, which he commended in theory, being too much .elated with a prosperous tide of fame and fortune, and still more extravagantly dejected, when he came to experience an unforeseen reverse.
The quality of Meekness was much better taught under the dispensation of the Law. It was also frequently commended and proposed for cultivation in the Psalms and in the Prophets. But like its sister virtue Humility it obtained but a feeble hold upon the practice of the Jews. And though exempli
fied in some of their superior men, especially their Lawgiver himself, who “ was very meek above all men upon the face of the earth b." yet in later times it seems to have been dismissed, if not from the doctrine, however from the practical cultivation of those, who professed to be their Teachers and their Guides.
It remained for our Lord, a superior Teacher of righteousness, to give this quality its proper influence on the heart and practice of mankind. He has made it a primary difposition of all who would be truly his disciples, and he has attached a blessing to those that are invested with this moral grace : Blessed are the Meek : for they fall inherit the Earth.
The virtue thus proposed to the cultivation of his followers is first exemplified in the tenor of his own character and conversation. The mildness of his manner in executing his divine mission is thus represented by the Prophet of the Gospel ; “ He shall not cry aloud nor lift up his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he shall not break, and the dimly burning flax he shall not quench." All which was remarkably ful
Numb. xii. 3.
c Ifa. xlii. 2, 3. Mat. xii. 19, 20, S 3