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practices he dislikes, without an open and violent rupture. He will consider it as his duty to gain upon them by mildness, and to reclaim them, as far as he can, from what is evil, by calm persuasion, rather than to attempt reforming them by acrimony and censure.
If it thus appears to be our duty to extend our study of peace throughout the wide sphere of all who are around us, it will naturally occur, that there is a certain narrower sphere, within which this study ought to be particularly cultivated; towards all those, I mean, with whom nature or providence has joined us in close union, whether by bonds of friendship, kindred, and relation, or by the near.er ties of domestic and family connexion. There, it most highly concerns every one to put in practice all the parts of that peaceable and amicable behaviour, which I before have described; to guard against every occasion of provocation and offence; to overlook accidental starts of ill humour; to put the most favourable interpretation on words and actions. The closer that men are brought together, they must unavoidably rub, at times, the more on one another. The most delicate attentions are requisite, of course, for preventing tempers being ruffled, and peace being broken, by those slight failings, from which none are exempt. It is within the circle of domestic life, that the character of the man of peace will be particularly distinguished as amiable; and where he will most comfortably enjoy the fruits of his happy disposition.
Having now explained the precept in the text, and shown what is included in living peaceably with all men, I come next to suggest some considerations for recommending this peaceable disposition.
II. 1. Let us recollect, in the first place, as a bond of union and peace, the .natural relation which subsists among us all as men, sprung from one Father, connected by one common nature, and by fellowship in the same common necessities and wants; connected, as Christians, closer still, by acknowledgment of the same Lord, and participation of the same divine hopes. Ought lesser differences altogether to divide and estrange those from one another, whom such ancient and sacred bonds unite 1 In all other cases, the remembrance of kindred, or brotherhood, of a common parent, and common family, tends to soften the harsher feelings, and often has influence, when feuds arise, to melt and overcome the heart. Why should not a remembrance of the same kind have some effect with respect to the great brotherhood of mankind? How unnatural and shocking is it, if, on occasion of some angry expression or trifling affront, to which sudden passion or mistaken report has given rise, a man shall deliberately go forth with the barbarous purpose of plunging his sword into his brother's breast! What a reproach to reason and humanity, that a ridiculous idea of honour, derived from times of Gothic grossness and ignorance, should stain the annals of modern life with so many tragical scenes of horror.
II. 2. Let the sentiment of our natural connexion with each other as men, dispose us the more to peace, from a reflection on our common failings,' and the mutual allowances which those fadings oblige us to make. A sense of equity should here arise, to prompt forbearance and forgiveness. Were there any man who could say, that he had never, in the course of his life, suffered himself to be transported by passion, or given just ground of offence to any one, such a man might have some plea for impatience, when he received from others unreasonable treatment. But if no such perfectly unexceptionable characters are to be found, how unjust is it, not to give to others those allowances, which we, in our turn, must claim from them !—To our own failings, we are always blind. Our pride and self-conceit render us quarrelsome and contentious, by nourishing a weak and childish sensibility to every fancied point of our own honour and interest, while they shut up all regard to the honour or interest of our brethren. From the high region of imaginary self-estimation, let us descend to our own just and proper level. Let us calmly reflect on the place we hold in society, and on the justice that is due to others. From such reflections, we shall learn to be more humble in our claims, and more moderate in our pretensions; and many of the causes of animosity and contention will die away.
II. 3. Let us consider, in the next place, how trifling and inconsiderable, for the most part, the causes are of contention among mankind, and how much they deserve to be overlooked by the wise and the good. When we view the eagerness with which contests are agitated in society, and look to the bitterness and wrath they so often occasion, one would think, that all were at stake; and that there could be no life, no happiness, on earth, unless to him who was victorious in the contest. And yet, in how few instances has there been any just ground for this mighty ferment of spirits !—You have been slighted, perhaps, by a superior; you have been ungratefully treated by a friend; a rival has over-reached you by fraud, or overcome you by more powerful interest. Amidst the bustle of life, amidst the interfering and crossing of various pursuits and interests, are not such incidents to be expected by every one, as evils belonging to the common lot of humanity? Of what small moment to your real happiness, are many of those injuries, which draw forth your resentment? They may affect in some degree your worldly interests; but can they deprive you of peace of conscience, of the satisfaction of having acted a right part, of the pleasing sense of being esteemed by men, and the hope of being rewarded by God, for your generosity and forgiveness?—In the moments of eager contention, all is magnified and distorted in its appearance. A false light is thrown on every object. But let the hour of violence pass over; let the course of time bring forward recollection and calmness, and you will wonder at your former violence: the grounds of former contention will seem as dreams of the night, which have passed away. Act, then, now the part of a Christian, by anticipating that period of coolness, which time will certainty bring. You will then cease to break the peace of society with your angry contentions. You will show that magnanimity which belongs to those, who depend not for their happiness merely on the occurrences of the world. 'He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.'
II. 4. Let us now consider the different consequences of a contentious spirit, and of a peaceable disposition, with respect to our happiness and enjoyment. The foundation of happiness must certainly be laid within our breasts. If one be pained and uneasy there, external circumstances, how flourishing soever, avail him nothing; and what feelings are more uneasy ami painful than the workings of sour and angry passions? Great and manifold as the natural and unavoidable distresses of our present state are, they are small in comparison of the evils which men bring upon themselves, and bring upon one another, by variance and discord. I speak not now of public calamities, of faction and ambition raging through the world, and hostile armies laying waste the earth with desolation and bloodshed. Confining our views solely to private life, how miserably are all its comfort and order destroyed by those jealousies, feuds, and animosities, that so often break the peace of families, tear asunder the bonds of friendship, and poison all that social intercourse, which men were formed to entertain with one another! From a small chink which some rude hand has opened, the bitter waters of strife easily flow. But of this we may be assured, that a full portion of their bitterness shall be tasted by him who has let them forth. Never was any man active in disquieting others, who did not at the same time disquiet himself. While the tempest which he has raised, may be bursting on his neighbour, he will be obliged to feel the hurricane raging in his own breast; and from his restlessness, impatience, and eagerness, joined with anxious trepidations and fears, will often suffer more than all that he can inflict on his adversary.
From such painful sensations the man of peace is free. A mild, unruffled, self-possessing mind, is a blessing more important to real felicity, than all that can be gained by the triumphant issue of some violent contest. Never was a truer axiom pronounced by any mouth, than what was uttered by the Wise Man of old, 'Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." [Prov. xv. 17.] With a scanty provision of the good things of this world, a wise man may be contented and happy; but without peace, all the luxuries of the rich lose their relish. While among the sons of strife, all is tempestuous and loud,—the smooth stream, the serene atmosphere, the mild zephyr, are the proper emblems of a gentle temper, and a peaceable life. Nor is this merely a poetical allusion. The ordinary language of discourse,—where the terms are so often employed, of a storm of passion,—a calm mind,—a rough or a fiery temper,—-plainly show that all men are sensible of some analogy between a peaceable disposition, and those scenes of external nature that are universally agreeable and pleasant. The condition of those who are living in unity with their brethren, is likened by the psalmist David 'to the dew of Hermon; the dew that descended on the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.' [Psalm exxxiii. 8.]
II. 5. Let us consider, in the last place, how strongly the precept in the text is enforced by the most sacred religious obligations. You all know what a high place charity, under all its forms of meekness, forbearance, and forgiveness, possesses in the Christian system. To bring authorities in support of this, were to recite a great part of the New Testament before you. The God whom we worship, is known by the title of 'the God of peace.' That evil spirit who is opposite to him, is described with all the characters which express malignity; 'the enemy, the accuser, the liar, the destroyer.' When Christ came into the world as our Saviour, he is styled the 'Prince of Peace.' The blessings which were proclaimed at his birth, were, 'peace upon earth, and good will towards men.' The whole of his life was one continued exemplification of all the virtues that characterize the meek, the peaceable, and the forgiving spirit. Never was any one's temper tried by so many and so great provocations: never did any one retain, under these provocations, such a calm and unruffled tenour of mind: insomuch that the Apostle Paul, on an occasion of earnest entreaty to the Corinthians, * beseeches them by the meekness and gentleness of Christ,' as the most noted and well-known part of his character. [Cor. x. 1.] What can be said higher of any virtue, than that it is the quality, under the denomination of which the son of God chose to be known, when he dwelt on earth? Let us add, that it is also the distinguishing character of God's own spirit. The Holy Ghost is called the 'Spirit of Peace.'—' Meekness, gentleness, and long suffering,' are expressly denominated * his fruits;' and on a certain memorable occasion, his appearance was marked with signals, that express the mild and quiet spirit as distinguished from violence. When Elijah, the great prophet, was called to go forth and stand before the Lord, 'behold a great and strong wind rent the mountains, but the Lord was not in the wind: and, after the wind, an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake, a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. After that, there came forth a still small voice.' When Elijah heard it, he knew the symbol of God's Spirit: he wrapped his face in his mantle,' and worshipped. [1 Kings six. 11, 12,13.]