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“Some minds are temper'd happily, and mix'd
With such ingredients of good sense and taste
Nor can example hurt them.”
That gentleness is a link in the golden chain, or another important element in the christian character, is clear from the declarations of scripture. There are many passages in the New Testament which not only point out, but commend and inculcate this disposition.
Paul when writing to the Ephesians says, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice : and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” The apostle Peter urges the cultivation of the . temper of mind now under consideration : “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous." The spirit of religion and the spirit of the world are in wide contrast. The former breathes kindness, sincerity, affability, and gentleness; but the latter frequently evinces hatred, duplicity, irritation, and acrimony.
Gentleness, like every other fruit of the Spirit, is a heavenly principle implanted in the heart, and sheds a blandness and tranquillity over the whole conduct. Selfpossession, and a vigilant culture of this amiable virtue, are necessary to maintain an unimpeachable reputation. Inspiration enforces it. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life," Prov. iv. 23.
Gentleness is not only an important characteristic of a christian, but is also one of the properties by which the wisdom from above is distinguished. The apostle James, in his admirable description of heavenly wisdom, says, it “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." In explaining and illustrating gentleness as a fruit of the Spirit, we will notice,
I. IN WHAT IT CONSISTS.
1. Of a fixed principle in the heart. It is not dictated by nature, nor found in the researches of philosophy, nor gleaned from historical records; it springs not from the attainment of worldly wisdom, nor a studied politeness ; for many who have been favoured with a refined and liberal education, are very coarse, stingy, morose, and uncourteous in their manners. Others, in order to appear to advantage on certain occasions, assume an affected gentleness; they dress in a garb which is not their own, and therefore they act the hypocrite. A person may pass through the schools of literature, philosophy, and science; he may graduate in the university, possess a fund of classic lore, and be dignified with academical honours, and yet be destitute of this fruit of the Spirit.
But christian gentleness is not a shadowy, superficial thing, floating only on the surface of the conduct, but is the result of a heart renewed by grace, the evidence of a
divine principle; the development of a moral virtue; and the fulfilment of a delightful promise. “Anew heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes,” Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.
We cannot lay to much stress on, or exaggerate the importance of a proper government and regulation of the heart, for it is the pivot on which the conduct turns. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. The corduct is a comment on the state of the heart, an infallible sign of our moral and spiritual condition. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
The Saviour taught the same doctrine. " But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart.” We might as soon expect the branch to flourish when riven from the vine, the sun-flower to unfold its beauty on the snow of “Greenland's icy mountains ;” otherwise, look for the lily and the rose on the Arabian sands, try to find a rain drop on the bosom of the ocean, or a glow-worm on the disk of the sun, as expect pure and holy deeds from a corrupt heart; the one is contrary to nature, the other inimical to religion. “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ?” “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter: Can the figtree, my brethren, bear olive berries ? either a vine figs ?” “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit," Matt. vii. 18.
2. Mildness is included in christian gentleness. Not a sullen stupidity, or malicious silence; but a tenderness and caution which involves the sacrifice of no principle of religion. That there are many bold and profane attacks made on the profession and principles of religion, must be obvious to all who are capable of discernment; the rude sons of Belial make repeated attempts to pro
voke the followers of Christ, and excite them to anger and retaliation, and when they succeed in their malignant work it affords them cause for rejoicing. Neither is Satan backward in efforts to stir up resentment, and to disturb the tranquillity and courtesy by which the children of God are distinguished.
But christians must be mild, circumspect, and conscientious; for such conduct comports with their creed, and is compatible with the religion they profess. The mildness which they are to cultivate is not a passive tameness, nor a stoical insensibility which submits and surrenders to every invader, but it retains its consistency in every trial; it is a rational and intelligent gentleness. It shrink3 not in danger, it yields to no evil insinuation, concedes to no flattery. Some subjects are more easily comprehended when viewed in contrast, such for instance as storm and calm, rudeness and gentleness.
What a contrast is often observed at sea ! How interesting to stand on the shore, gazing at the ships, gliding on its expansive and unruffled surface ! But how aitered is the scene when the tempest rises! The heavens are darkened, the lightnings flash, the thunders roll; huge vessels are borne high on the ascending waves, then go down again to the depths, engulphed between fluctuating hills or foaming mountains; the sails are riven into shreds, the masts give way, and plunge into the agitated element; sailors, seized with the utmost consternation, stagger, and are at their wits end; hope is fled; anon they are struck with the frowning billows; they shriek, and disappear.
And how great is the contrast between the mild christian and the wild barbarian! How amiable the former! how pitiable the latter! The religion of Christ exerts a transforming influence on the minds of its possessors. It has turned the savage into a saint; changed the Indian's wigwam into a peaceable habitation; the sable
African's kraal into a bethel; and the ferocious cannibal of New Zealand into a gentle and submissive subject. Numerous instances of individual conversions, which have taken place in Africa, and in the Islands of the Great Pacific, are illustrative of the power and efficacy of the gospel. Take, for instance, the following cases, which may
be found in “Moffat's Missionary Labours and Scenes in Southern Africa;" and in “Pritchard's Success of the Gospel in the Pacific.”
Africaner was a great persecutor of the christian cause, a man of great prowess, a notable robber, a murderer. He was denounced as an irreclaimable savage, a firebrand, one of the accursed sons of Ham. He was regarded as a dangerous neighbour, and the common enemy. He was a terror, and an outlaw. One thousand rix-dollars had been offered for his head. His name carried dismay into the solitary wastes. “Look," said a wondering Namaqua chief, pointing to Africaner, “ there is the man, once the lion, at whose roar even the inhabitants of distant hamlets fled from their homes ! Yes, and I” (patting his chest with his hand) “have, for fear of his approach, fled with my people, our wives and our babes, to the mountain-glen or to the wilderness, and spent nights among beasts of prey,
rather than gaze on the eyes of this lion, or hear his roar."
But when he became a convert to the faith, he was meek, docile, sympathetic, charitable, and pious; and would have laid down his life, if necessary, for his missionary. He accompanied Mr. Moffat to Cape Town. On their way thither, Mr. M. informed a certain farmer, to whom the name of Africaner was familiar, that he ' a truly good man;" to which the farmer replied, “I can believe almost anything you say, but that I cannot credit. There are seven wonders in the world; that would be the eighth.” But being assured of the fact, and seeing Africaner standing before him