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I BEGIN with distinguishing true gentleness from passive tameness of spirit, and from unlimited compliance with the manners of others. That passive tameness, which submits, without opposition, to every encroachment of the violent and assuming, forms no part of Christian duty; but, on the contrary, is destructive of general happiness and order. That unlimited complaisance, which, on every occasion, falls in with the opinions and manners of others, is so far from being a virtue, that it is itself a vice, and the parent of many vices. It overthrows all steadiness of priciple; and produces that sinful conformity with the world, which taints the whole character. In the present corrupted state of human manners, always to assent and to comply, is the very worst maxim we can adopt. It is impossible to support the purity and dignity of Christian morals, without opposing the world on various occasions, even though we should stand alone. That gentleness therefore which belongs to virtue, is to be carefully distinguished from the mean spirit of cowards, and the fawning assent of sycophants. It renounces no just right from fear. It gives up no important truth from flattery. It is indeed not only consistent with a firm mind, but it necessarily requires a manly spirit, and a fixed principle, in order to give it any real value. Upon this solid ground only, the pol ish of gentleness can with advantage be superinduced.
It stands opposed, not to the most determined regard for virtue and truth, but to harshness and severity, to pride and arrogance, to violence and oppression. It is properly, that part of the great virtue of charity, which makes us unwilling to give pain to any of our
brethren. Compassion prompts us to relieve their Forbearance prevents us from retaliating their injuries. Meekness restrains our angry passions; candour, our severe judgments. Gentleness corrects whatever is offensive in our manners; and, by a constant train of humane attentions, studies to alleviate the burden of common misery. Its office, therefore, is extensive. It is not, like some other virtues, called forth only on peculiar emergencies; but it is continually in action, when we are engaged in intercourse with men. It ought to form our address, to regulate. our speech, and to diffuse itself over our whole beha viour.
We must not, however, confound this gentle "wisdom which is from above," with that artificial courtesy, that studied smoothness of manners, which is learned. in the school of the world. Such accomplishments, the most frivolous and empty may possess. Too often. they are employed by the artful, as a snare; too often affected by the hard and unfeeling, as a cover to the baseness of their minds. We cannot, at the same time, avoid observing the homage, which, even in such instances, the world is constrained to pay to virtue.. In order to render society agreeable, it is found necessary to assume somewhat, that may at least carry its appearance. Virtue is the universal charm. Even. its shadow is courted, when the substance is wanting. The imitation of its form has been reduced into an art; and in the commerce of life, the first study of all. who would either gain the esteem, or win the hearts. of others, is to learn the speech, and to adopt the manners, of candour, gentleness, and humanity. But that gentleness which is the characteristic of a good man, has, like every other virtue, its seat in the heart; and let me add, nothing except what flows from the heart, can render even external manners truly pleasing. For no assumed behaviour can at all times hide the real character. In that unaffected civility which springs from a gentle mind, there is a charm infinitely more.
powerful, than in all the studied manners of the most finished courtier.
True gentleness is founded on a sense of what we owe to HIM who made us, and to the common nature of which we all share. It arises from reflections on our own failings and wants; and from just views of the condition, and the duty of man. It is native feeling, heightened and improved by principle. It is the heart which easily relents; which feels for every thing that is human and is backward and slow to inflict the least wound. It is affable in its address, and mild in its demeanour); ever ready to oblige, and willing to be obliged by others; breathing habitual kindness towards friends, courtesy to strangers, long-suffering to enemies. It exercises authority with moderation; administers reproof with tenderness; confers favours with ease and modesty. It is unassuming in opinion, and temperate in zeal. It contends not eagerly about trifles; slow to contradict, and still slower to blame; but prompt to allay dissension, and to restore peace. It neither intermeddles unnecessarily with the affairs, nor pries inquisitively into the secrets of others. It delights above all things to alleviate distress; and, if it cannot dry up the falling tear, to sooth at least the grieving heart. Where it has not the power of being useful, it is never burdensome. It seeks to please, rather than to shine and to dazzle; and conceals with care that superiority, either of talents or of rank, which is oppressive to those who are beneath it. In a word, it is that spirit and that tenour of manners, which the gospel of Christ enjoins, when it commands us, " to bear one another's burdens; to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep; to please every one his neighbour for his good; to be kind and tender-hearted; to be pitiful and courteous; to support the weak, and to be patient towards all men.”
Trial and execution of the EARL of STRAFFORD, who fell a sacrifice to the violence of the times, in the reign of CHARLES the First.
THE earl of Strafford defended himself against the accusations of the house of Commons, with all the presence of mind, judgment, and sagacity, that could be expected from innocence and ability. His children were placed beside him, as he was thus defending his life, and the cause of his royal master. After he had, in a long and eloquent speech, delivered without premeditation, confuted all the accusations of his enemies, he thus drew to a conclusion. "But, my lords, I have troubled you too long: longer than I should have, done, but for the sake of these dear pledges, which a saint in heaven has left me."-Upon this he paused; dropped a tear; looked upon his children; and proceeded." What I forfeit for myself is a trifle: that my indiscretions should reach my posterity, wounds me to the heart. Pardon my infirmity.-Something I should have added, but I am not able; and therefore I let it pass. And now, my lords, for myself. I have long been taught, that the affictions of this life are overpaid by that eternal weight of glory, which awaits the innocent. And so, my lords, even so, with the utmost tranquillity, I submit myself to your judgment, whether that judgment be life or death: not my will, but thine, O God, be done!"
His eloquence and innocence induced those judges to pity, who were the most zealous to condemn him. The king himself went to the house of lords, and spoke for some time in his defence; but the spirit of vengeance, which had been chained for eleven years, was now roused; and nothing but his blood could give the people satisfaction. He was condemned by both houses of parliament; and nothing remained but for the king to give his consent to the bill of attainder. But in the present commotions, the consent of the king would very easily be dispensed with; and imminent danger might attend his refusal. Charles, however, who loved Strafford tenderly, hesitated, and seemed reluctant; trying every expedient to put off so dreadful an office, as that of signing the warrant for his execution. While he continued in this agitation of mind, and state of suspense, his doubts were at last silenced by an act of great magnanimity in the condemned lord. He received a letter from that unfortunate nobleman, desiring that his life might be made a sacrifice, to obtain reconciliation between the king and his people adding, that he was prepared to die; and that to a willing mind there could be no injury. This instance of noble generosity was but ill repaid by his master, who complied with his request. He consented to sign the fatal bill by commission; and Strafford was beheaded on Tower-hill behaving with all that composed dignity of resolution, which was expected from his character.
An eminent instance of true fortitude.
ALL who have been distinguished as servants of God, or benefactors of men; all who, in perilous situations, have acted their part with such honour as to render their names illustrious through succeeding ages,