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MATT. XI. 29.
Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
HE great business of man, is, the regulation of his spirits ;-the possession of such a frame and temper of mind, as will lead us peaceably thro' this world,and, in the many weary stages of it, afford us, what we shall be sure to stand in need of,-rest unto our souls.
-Rest unto our souls!—it is all we want- the end of all our wishes and pursuits; give us a prospect of this, we take the wings of the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth, to have it in possession: We seek for it in titles, in riches and pleasures,-climb up after it by ambition,come down again, and stoop for it by avarice,— try all extremes; still we are gone out of the way, nor is it till after many miserable experiments, that we are convinced at last, we have been seeking every where for it, but where there was a prospect of finding it; and that is, within ourselves, in a meek and lowly disposition of heart. This, and this only, will give us rest unto our souls -Rest from those turbulent and haughty passions which disturb our quiet :--Rest from the provocations and disappointments of the world, and a train of untold evils too long to be recounted, against all which, this frame and preparation of mind is the best protection.
I beg you will go along with me in this argument. Consider how great a share of the uneasiness which take up and torment our thoughts, owe their rise to nothing else, but the dispositions of mind which are opposite to this character.
With regard to the provocation and offences which are unavoidably happening to a man in his commerce with the world,—take it as a ruleAs a man's pride is,...so is always his displeasure;
-as the opinion of himself rises,-so does the injury, so does his resentment: It is this which gives edge and force to the instrument which has struck him, and excites that heat in the wound, which renders it incurable.
See how different the case is with the humble man: One half of these painful conflicts he actually escapes; the other part falls lightly on him : He provokes no man by contempt; thrusts himself forward as the mark of no man's envy.; so that he cuts off the first fretful occasions of the greatest part of these evils; and for those in which the passions of others would involve him, like the humble shrub in the valley, gently gives way, and scarce feels the injury of those stormy encounters which rend the proud cedar, and tear it up by its roots.
If you consider it, with regard to the many disappointments of this life, which arise from the hopes of bettering our condition, and advancing in the world, the reasoning is the same.
What we expect....is ever in proportion to the estimate made of ourselves. When pride and selflove have brought us in their account of this matter,....we find, that we are worthy of all honors, fit for all places and employments: As our expectations rise and multiply, so must our disappointments with them; and there needs nothing more, to lay the foundation of our unhappiness, and both to make and keep us miserable. And in truth, there is nothing so common in life, as to see thousands, who, you would say, had all the reason in the world to be at rest, so torn up and disquieted with sorrows of this class, and so incessantly tortured with the disappointments which their pride and pas
sions have created for them, that tho' they appear to have all the ingredients of happiness in their hands, they can neither compound or use them : .....How should they? the goad is ever in their sides, and so hurries them on from one expectation to another, as to leave them no rest day or night.
Humility, therefore, recommends itself as a security against these heart-aches, which, tho' ridiculous sometimes in the eye of the beholder, yet are serious enough to the man who suffers them, ....and, I believe, would make no inconsiderable account in a true catalogue of the disquietudes of mortal man: Against these, I say, humility is the best defence.
He that is little in his own eyes, is little too in his desires, and consequently moderate in his pursuit of them: Like another man, he may fail in his attempts, and lose the point he aimed at,.... but that is all ;.....he loses not himself, he loses not his happiness and peace of mind with it :Even the contentions of the humble man are mild and placid. Blessed character!.....when such a one is thrust back, who does not pity him?-when he falls, who would not stretch out a hand to raise him up ?
And here, I cannot help stopping in the midst of this argument, to make a short observation, which is this....When we reflect upon the character of humility, we are apt to think it stands the most naked and defenceless of all virtues whatever, the least able to support its claims against the insolent antagonist who seems ready to bear him down, and all opposition which such a temper can make.
Now, if we consider him as standing alone,.... no doubt, in such a case he will be overpowered and trampled upon by his opposer; but if we consider the meek and lowly man as he is.......... fenced and guarded by the love, the friendship,
and wishes of all mankind,....that the other stands alone, hated, discountenanced, without one true friend or hearty well-wisher on his side....when this is balanced, we shall have reason to change our opinion, and be convinced, that the humble man, strengthened with such an alliance, is far from being so over-matched, as at first sight he may appear;` nay, I believe, one might venture to go farther, and engage for it, that in all such cases, where real fortitude and true personal courage were wanted, he is much more likely to give proof of it, and I would sooner look for it in such a temper, than in that of his adversary. Pride may make a man violent, but humility will make him firm And which of the two, do you think, likely to come off with honor ?-he who acts from the changeable impulse of heated blood, and follows the uncertain motions of his pride and fury, or the man who stands cool and collected in himself, who governs his resentments, instead of being governed by them, and, on every occasion acts upon the steady motives of principle and duty?
But this by the way ;-though, in truth, it falls in with the main argument; For, if the observation is just, and humility has the advantages where we should least expect them, the argument rises higher in behalf of those which are more apparently on its side. In all which, if the humble man finds, what the proud man must never hope for in this world, that is, rest to his soulso does he likewise meet with it from the influence such a temper has upon his condition, under the evils of his life, not as chargeable upon the vices of men, but as the portion of his inheri tance by the appointment of God. For if, as Job says, we are born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, surely it is he who thinks the greatest of these troubles below his sins, and the smallest favors above his merits, that is likely to suffer
the least from the one, and enjoy the most from the other: It is he who possesses his soul in meekness, and keeps it subjected to all the issues of fortune, that is the farthest out of their reach. No-He blames not the sun, tho' it does not ripen his vine, nor blusters at the winds, tho' they bring him no profit. If the fountain of the humble man rises not so high as he could wish, he thinks, however, that it rises as high as it ought, and, as the laws of nature still do their duty, that he has no cause to complain against them.
If disappointed of riches, he knows the providence of GoD is not his debtor; that tho' he has received less than others, yet, as he thinks himself less than the least, he has reason to be thankful.
If the world goes untoward with the humble man, in other respects, he knows a truth which the proud man does never acknowledg and that is, that the world was not made for him; and therefore, how little share soever he has of its advantages, he sees an argument of content, in reflecting how little it is, that a compound of sin, of ignorance, and frailty, has grounds to expect.
A soul thus turned and resigned, is carried smoothly down the stream of providence ;-no temptations in his passage disquiet him with desire, no dangers alarm him with fear: Though open to all the changes and chances of others, yet by seeing the justice of what happens, and humbly giving way to the blow, though he is smitten, he is not smitten like other men, or feels the smart which they do.
Thus much for the doctrine of humility; let us now look towards the example of it.
It is observed by some one, that as pride was the passion through which sin and misery entered into the world, and gave our enemy the triumph of ruining our nature, that therefore the Son of GOD, who came to seek and to save that which