The text is a part of the Epistle for the day, chosen, you may conceive, because 'the Lord,' that is, the time of His coming, 'is at hand.' A fit preparation, thought by the Church, for Christmas now so near, to prepare us how to entertain the happy day, the joyful news of our Lord Christ's coming in the flesh. To entertain it, I say, not with excess and riot, but moderation; not with rude tricks and gambols, but softness and meekness; not in vanity of clothes, but modesty; not in iniquity, but equity, somewhat departing from our own right, and seeking occasions to do others right; that all men may see and know we behave ourselves like servants expecting their Lord's coming, according to all the several senses of the word piek_j, translated 'moderation' in the text, but stretching further than any one English word can express it.
A word chosen by the Apostle [St. Paul] to comprehend the whole duty (if it might be) of a Christian preparing for his Lord, in the midst of much affliction, and long-wearied expectation, backed with an assurance that the Lord was now hard by a-coming to deliver them. The poor Philippians were some-what sad, or sad-like, by the persecutions they suffered from the unbelieving Jews and Gnostic heretics that were among [47/48] them; many were daily falling off by reason of them; and much hurt those 'dogs,' as the Apostle calls them, 'the concision,' that is, those heretics, had done or were likely to do them. But for all that, says he, 'Rejoice,' and again, 'Rejoice,' in the verse before the text; rejoice, too, that all men may see it, see your joy in the Lord, and in your sufferings for him, yet so that they may see your 'moderation' in it too: that as you are not sad, like men without hope, so you are not merry, like men out of their wits, but as men that know their Lord is nigh at hand, as well to behold their actions as to free them from their sufferings, to see their patience and moderation as well as their trouble and persecution.
A persuasion it is, or exhortation to patience and meekness, and some other Christian virtues (which, by examining the word, you will see anon) from the forementioned consideration. A persuasion to moderation, from a comfortable assurance of a reward 'The Lord at hand' to give it. A persuasion to prepare ourselves, because our Lord is coming; a persuasion so to do it that all may know what we are a-doing, and what we are expecting; that they may see we are neither ashamed of our religion nor of our Lord; that we neither fear men's malice nor our Lord's mercy; that we are confident he is at hand, ready to succour and rescue all that patiently and faithfully suffer for Him, to take vengeance on his enemies, and deliver his servants out of all. The time is now approaching, even at the doors.
And if we apply this, as we do all other Scriptures, to ourselves, to teach us moderation, and whatever else is contained under the word which is so rendered, and draw down the Lord's being at hand in the text to all Christ's comings in flesh, in grace, in glory, it will no way disadvantage the text, but advance it rather, improve the Apostle's sense and meaning to all Churches and times, to prepare them all to go out and meet the Lord, when or howsoever he will come unto them.
And if we apply this, as we do all other Scriptures, to ourselves, to teach us moderation, and whatever else is contained under the word which is so rendered, and draw down the Lord's being at hand in the text to all Christ's comings in flesh, in grace, in glory, it will no way disadvantage the text, but advance it rather, improve the Apostle's sense and meaning to all churches and times, to prepare them all to go out to meet the Lord, when or howsoever he shall come unto them.
And 'moderation' must be it we must meet him with, he the times what they will, come to the Lord how or when he please, know we the time or know it not: be what will unknown, our moderation must be known. And yet his coming, as [48/49] unknown as it may be, must be considered: always in our minds it must be, that the Lord is, one way or other, continually at hand.
Indeed I must confess the times were troublesome and dangerous when the Apostle thus exhorted and comforted the Philippians: but the best times are dangerous; danger there is as much of forgetting Christ prosperity, as of falling from him in adversity: and as much need there is of moderation when all happiness flow in upon us, as when all afflictions fall upon us: so the advice cannot be unseasonable. And though we called the text S. Paul's advice, or the Christian's duty in sad times, and his comfort in them; and so divide the words, yet they will reach any times, ours to be divide the words, yet they will reach any times, ours to be sure, which, call we them what we will, much danger there is in them of falling away from the true faith of Christ, and so as much need of the Apostle's counsel and comfort in them.
Yet take the division of the words in the most proper sense.
I. S. Paul's counsel, or the Christian's duty in sad times. In the first words, 'Let your moderation be known unto all men;' that it be, is the Christian's duty; that it should be, is S. Paul's counsel.
II. The Christian's comfort in such times; or of S. Paul's comforting them with it, in the following, 'The Lord is at hand.' With this they are to cheer up their spirits, and S. Paul tells it unto that purpose; which will afford us a third point to be considered.
III. The connexion of them; that our moderation is therefore to be known to all men, because our Lord and the Lord of all men is at hand to see what we do, and do to us according to our doings: therefore set down here indefinitely, only 'The Lord is at hand,' without determining how, or where, or when, or to what purpose, that we might be the more careful in our duty, more universal in our moderation.
And the Apostle dealing thus indefinitely, and but silently pointing at the sad condition of the times they saw, we shall take leave to be as general, and not bind the counsel or the comfort to sad times, though so they would fit us too, as well as the Philippians. The advice is good, and the comfort [49/50] sweet, both necessary at any time whatsoever. I begin with S. Paul's counsel, or the Christian duty for moderation. 'Let you moderation,' &c. Three points I shall consider in it. (i.) Let there be 'moderation.' (ii.) Let it be 'known.' (iii.) Let it be known 'unto all men.' Let our moderation be, be manifested, be extended unto all.
(i.) Let there be moderation, or let our moderation be' let moderation be ours, be our practice; that stands first to be considered. And the word so rendered has divers significations, all indifferently applicable both to the context, and the Christian's duty against his Lord's coming.
The word is tÕ _pieik_j, and first and primarily signifies equity. So Aristotle takes _pieikeia. A duty as fit for Christianity as any; not only to be just, but equal; no, to prefer equity before justice; to depart somewhat from our own right rather than exact the extremity of justice; rather to let go a coat or a cloak than go to law about it; rather to take a blow, an affront, an indignity, no, turn the cheek for a second, than draw a sword; for a third, turn the other cheek, rather than venture turning out of heaven for turning violently again upon them, out of a false opinion of gallantry and valour; rather go a mile or two above our stint and share, than to make disturbance for it. This our Master's counsel and command too, to all His disciples, confirmed to us by His example. Tribute paid by Him that was not due, only lest He should offend them.
Indeed it is not equity, but iniquity, in them that require more than is right; yet it is a point of a Christian sometimes (in petty matters always) not to stand rigorously upon our right, when there is like to come nothing but continual dissension and long-lived enmities by exacting it.
So far should we be from doing so, that we should be ready by all fair compliances to remove all unneighbourly contention from among us, if the parting with trifles, giving way a little, or the forgiving small trespasses, will do it. More than so there is _pieikeia, in seeking occasions and opportunities to do good. Our blessed Lord 'went about doing good,' says St. Peter; from city to city, says St. Matthew; from one place to another, 'all the cities' of Judea over; from one opportunity to another, seeking [50/51] distressed souls, to good unto; unto one point of that _pieikeia, that 'gentleness of Christ,' by which St. Paul beseeches the Corinthians, his was, not to leave sinners as they deserve; ours not [to] deal with our brethren always as they perhaps deserve of us, but deal better with them than so; to proffer them some condescensions, seek some such ways and means to reconcile them to us.
This is truly Christian, if to be like Christ be truly Christian, and as fit it is for such times as the Philippians then were in; nothing more fir in the times either of growing heresies, or pressing troubles, than to descend a little to win the one, and give a little to void the other.
And as well it answers to our English rendering it, 'moderation.' Equity is nothing else but a moderating that summum jus, a bringing rigorous right to moderate terms, and so striving to be good to them with whom the contestation is; to overcome them into peace and agreement with us, and so void the trouble and vexation that else is like to come from them to us, and likely from us to them again, that we be not found smiting our fellow-servants, fighting with one another when our Lord Jesus comes. A fit virtue this, to answer that part of the text too, the Lord's being 'at hands.'
A second interpretation there is that suits as well; for 'humanity' and 'civility' it is taken. And truly Christianity teaches not to be uncivil, allows not uncivil language, not so much as a 'thou fool;' threatens 'hell fire' to such a tongue; allows not that which is less, a 'Raca,' any kind of expression of contempt, or vilifying our brother. Such a fault must come before 'the council;' we must be brought to the council-table, for it, of God and Christ, and fined at what they please for the misdemeanour, thought the common law peradventure will not reach to punish it. It is none of Christ's religion that teaches men to be uncivil; no, not to return one incivility with another; no, 'not revile again though we be reviled,' says St. Peter, and brings Christ for an example. Others doing us wrong, nay shrewdly persecuting us too, will not authorize us to do it, to requite our very persecutors with any incivility. A good memorandum for those who make it an especial sign of their being better Christians than others, to be rude and uncivil to their betters, [51/52] to be saucy and unmannerly to any, to all that run not riot with them into the same madness and folly, sacrilege and heresy; that cannot be content to do men wrong, and rob them of their dues, but must do it with ill language and incivility. They forget, sure, 'the Lord is at hand;' that there is any such thing as a Lord, any superior above them, either at hand or afar off, either in this world or in the other. The Apostle's _pieikeia is for moderation in this point too, civil and handsome terms, gestures, and carriage; that we should carry ourselves like men, at least, if we will not like Christians. And for such times as the text refers to, it is but seasonable 1. That the sufferers do not increase their sufferings with their own incivilities, or corrupt or dishonour them by so doing: and, 2. That those that cause them to suffer, do not enhance the others' sufferings; remembering that themselves also are but men, and the spoke of the wheel, (as that captive king observed,) which is now above, may by and by be below again; especially if it be true (as true it is) that the Lord is at hand, his chariot is coming after, and the mother of Sisera, the greatest captain, need not ask, Why tarry the wheels of it so long, why is it so long a-coming? It will come and will not tarry. It is happy if it come not on us whilst we are ranting and railing against any whomsoever.
There is a third significance of the word, for 'modesty;' so the Latin renders it, modestia. As fit a posture for sad times, for any times be the Lord at hand, or be he not as any whatsoever. Not the peculiar virtue of women only, though of them, but of men too; a special way to win our adversaries, to win infidels to Christianity, when they shall behold our conversation in all sweetness and composure, our bodies comely and decently appareled, our gait sober, our gesture grave, our eyes modest, our countenance composed, our speech discreet, our behaviour all in order: when they shall see us merry without lightness, jesting without scurrility, sober without sullenness, grave without doggedness, composed without affectedness, serious without dullness; all our demeanour wholly bent to all Christian well-pleasingness, at all times, with all companies, upon all occasions, in all places and businesses. This is nothing but 'moderation' [52/53] neither; we may keep the English still, moderation in our gait and habit, and discourse and motion; modesty, that is 'moderation,' in them all.
Yet there is a fourth acceptance of the word, for that sweet and meek, and gentle temper of the mind, whereby we carry ourselves patiently and unmoved in persecution, not rendering evil for evil to them who persecute us, not vexing and tearing ourselves upon it, not studying revenge, or returning mischief, but, on the contrary, good for evil, blessing for cursing, prayers for imprecations; committing our cause and ourselves to God, who judges righteously. This is the true Christian 'moderation,' that to which we are called, says St. Peter; that of which Christ gave us an example, suffered as well for that, to give us an example of it, as anything else; that to which belongs the blessing, from this Lord who is at hand. It is the very vocation of a Christian; the very design of the Christian's Lord; a blessedness there is in the very doing it; when and whilst we so suffer, we are blessed, even before that 'great reward in heaven;' bidden therefore 'to rejoice and be exceeding glad' upon it, bidden by St. James to 'count it all joy;' bidden by St. Paul, in the verse before the text, to 'rejoice' and 'rejoice again' upon it. No, so exceeding joy, it seems, the Christian feels in it, that he is fain upon the back of it in this very verse to call us to be 'moderate' in the expressing it, to call us for moderation in it, lest we should even burst with it, or overflow into some extraordinary effusions of it, and so provoke more affliction by it. Rejoice the Apostle [St. Paul] would have us, in our sufferings for Christ, but yet with 'moderation;' be meek and patient and contented, and resigned in them, yet not as we were senseless, careless, or desperate, but discreet and 'moderate' in them all; neither so sensible of them, nor anxious in them, as to forget others, and our respects due to any of them; nor so senseless and careless [as] to forget ourselves, and the care due unto ourselves. This the 'moderation' most proper to the persons and time, persons under persecution, and in the time of being so, the most seasonable advice; and as seasonable to be given when 'the Lord is at hand;' moderation to be observed in the expectation of His coming. They were [53/54] not too hastily to expect it. The Thessalonians were almost shaken in mind and troubled by so hasty a conceit, that the 'day of Christ was a t hand;' that Christ was just then a-coming. St. Paul was fain to stop their haste, to moderate their expectation, to tell them, though the day was near, it was not so near as they supposed it; they must be content to expect the Lord a little longer; some things were to be done first. So necessary seems moderation in this point too, lest, expecting the Lord too soon, and failing of Him, they should be shaken, and fall away from Him, as if he had deceived them; quit their faith and religion for want of 'patience' and 'moderation.' Thus you have four senses of piekeia, Thus you have the four kinds of moderation: equity or clemency, humanity or civility, modesty or sobriety, and meekness or gentleness.
It follows next that they be showed, that we show them all, that we make them known. 'Let your moderation be known.'
(ii). For sufficient it is not always to do well; we must be known to do it; though not do it to be known, yet be known to do it. Indeed, when we fast or pray or give alms, or do any good work, we must not do it that we may appear to men to do so; yet it must appear to men, for all that, sometimes that we do so. 'Ye,' that is, you Christians 'are the light of the world,' and a light is not to be put 'under a bushel, but on a candlestick, to give light unto all that are in the house. Let your light therefore shine before men.' Shine so before them that they may see your good works, see and glorify, glorify God who has given such graces unto men; glorify Him again by taking thence an example of such things to themselves. There have been, are still, doubtless, many who brag much of faith and holiness and purity; no, of meekness and moderation too; but if we call them to St. James's, 'Show us them,' as he requires them, 'by their works,' we may say, as Christ said of the lepers who were cleansed, There are scarce found one of the ten that show that return of glory unto God; if one, they count him but a Samaritan. No true Israelite, for it: though St. James says expressly, faith is 'dead,' where there is no such expression; and for those other virtues, the very action is so evidently outward, that they must needs be known [54/55] where they are; they cannot be hid are not the virtues they pretend to, if not known. It were strange to hear of equity or civility or modesty or moderation that could not be seen; ridiculous to call him merciful or equitable who shows it not by some condescension; to style him civil whose behaviour is nothing less, him modest who shows nothing but immodesty, him meek who expresses nothing but fury, and impatience. These are virtues we must needs see, wherever they be.
It is reported of St Lucian the martyr, that he converted many by his modest, cheerful and pious look and carriage; and of St. Bernard, that 'there appeared a kind of spiritual grace throughout his body;' there shone a heavenly brightness in his face; there darted an angelical purity and dove-like simplicity from his eyes; so great was the inward beauty of his inward man, that it poured out itself in his whole outward man abundantly over all his parts and powers; no motion in them but with reason and religion. Where such virtue is, it will be 'known,' must be too: must so be expressed that men may know and feel the benefits and effects. Let your 'moderation' speak for you, whose servants you are, what Lord you are under, what is your expectation and your faith.
(iii). Nor is it, thirdly, enough to have it known to one or two, to a few, or to the household of faith alone. 'To all men,' says the Apostle [St. Paul], Jew and Gentile, friend and foe, brethren and strangers, the orthodox and heretics, good and bad, Christian and infidel. 'Condescend to men of low estate,' the very lowest, says our Apostle. 'Provide things honest in the sight of all men; live peaceably with all men;' do all possible to live so. 'Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that by your good works which they shall behold, they may glorify God in the day of visitation;' full of equity, that they may not speak evil of you as rigorous and unmerciful; full of courtesy and civility, that the doctrine of Christ be not blasphemed for a doctrine of rudeness and incivility; full of modesty, that the adversary speak not reproachfully of the word of truth, have no occasion to do so by your immodesty; full of moderation, that [55/56] all good men may glorify God for your professed subjection to the Gospel of Christ--to those hard points in hard times, to meekness and moderation, when your adversaries are so violent and immoderately set against you. Known must our moderation be in all parts, that all may know the purity of our profession, the soundness of our religion, the grace of God appearing in us, the adversary be convinced, the Christian brethren incited by our examples to the same grace and virtue.
One note, especially, we are to carry hence, that it is no excuse for our impatience, harshness, or any immodest or immoderate fierceness against any, that they are men of a contrary opinion, we use so ill. Men they are, and even under that notion moderation to be used towards them; much more if we acknowledge the same Lord, or his being any way near either to reward or punish. And so I pass to the second general, the Christian's comfort, that holds up his head in the bitterest storms, and makes him moderate quite through them all 'The Lord is at hand.'
Now the Lord is several ways said to be at hand, many ways to be near us.
He is at hand, or near us, by His Divine essence, 'not far,' says St. Paul, 'from every one of us,' He is everywhere; we therefore nowhere, but that He is near us.
He is near us (2) by His humanity. The taking that upon Him has brought Him nigh indeed, to be bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.
He is nearer us yet (3) by His grace: one with us, and we with Him; one Spirit, too, He in us and we in Him.
He is at hand and nigh us (4) in our prayers. So holy David: 'The Lord is nigh unto them who call upon him, all such as call upon him faithfully.'
He is nigh us (5) in His word, in our mouths, and in our hearts, by the word of faith that is preached to us. We need not up to heaven, nor down to the deep, says the Apostle, [St. Paul], to find out Christ; that eternal Word is nigh enough us in His word.
He is nigh us (6) in the sacraments; so near in baptism as to touch and wash us; especially so near in the blessed Sacrament of His Body and Blood as to be almost touched by [56/57] us. There He is truly, really, miraculously present with us, and united to us. It is want of eyes if we discern not His body there in that, or see not His power in the other.
He is at hand (7) with His judgments; 'Behold the Judge stands at the door.' Just before He had said, 'The coming of the Lord draws nigh;' but at the second look he even sees Him 'at the door.' Now of this coming, two sorts we find expected, even in the Apostles' times; His coming in judgment against Jerusalem to destroy His crucifiers, the unbelieving Jews, and the apostate Christians, the Gnostic heretics, who together with the Jews persecuted the Church of Christ; and His last coming at the general judgment. We may add a third: His being always ready at hand to deliver His faithful servants out of their troubles.
Nor do any of the other comings want their comfort; it is a comfort that God is so near us in His essence, 'so that in Him we live, and move, and have our being;' our life and being are surely the better by it. 2. It is a great comfort that our Lord would vouchsafe us so great an honour as to become like one of us: to walk and speak, and eat and drink, and be weary, and weep, and live, and die like one of us. 3. It is an inward and inexpressible comfort, that He will dwell in us by His grace and Holy Spirit; make us holy as Himself is holy. 4. It is a gracious comfort that He suffers us so ordinarily to discourse with Him in our prayers. 5. It is an especial comfort, and that such a one as He affords not to other nations, to give us by His word the knowledge of His laws; to reveal unto us His whole will and [57/58] pleasure. 6. It is a comfort, to a miracle, that He will yet draw nearer to us, and draw us nearer to Himself, by the mysterious communication of Himself, His very Blood and Body to us. No greater establishment to our souls, no higher solace to our spirits, no firmer hopes of the resurrection of our bodies, than by His thus not only being at hand, but in our hands, and in our mouths. I speak mysteries in the spirit, but the comfort never a whit the less: the joy of the spirit far the greater ever. But all these comforts heaped together, what comfort in the world like the faithful Christians's? all so great, so certain, so nigh at hand.
And yet if I take hint from the Church's choice of this text for the front of the Epistle this day to her children, and say, the Lord may be said to be at hand too, because the feast of His coming, that coming which gave rise to all the rest, the original of all the rest of His gracious comings, is at hand to us, I shall not strain much; and to those who truly love His appearance, who can really endure to hear of His coming, any day that will put them in mind of His being at hand must needs be a comfort, a day of good tidings; and this, as well as well as any of the rest, will afford us an argument to persuade to moderation, to make it known to all men whatsoever at the time when the grace of God appeared to all men whatsoever. Which passes me over to the third general,--the connexion of the Christian's duty from the comfort of the Lord coming. And so many persuasive arguments there are from it as there are comings; so many reasons to persuade moderation, as there are ways of our Lord's being at hand; nay, one more, and it shall go first, because it stands so.
'The Lord' it is we do it to--to the Lord, and not unto men: let that go for the first reason. It is to Him, and for His sake, we are enjoined it. St. Paul thought it a good argument to persuade servants to their duties, to do their services with a good will too; and we all are servants, and here is our Lord.
Here, 2, and 'at hand,' on every hand. We cannot go out of His presence. Let that teach us righteousness and equity, modesty and moderation; to do all things as in His presence. [58/59] Would we but think this when we go about anything, did we but consider seriously the Lord was so near us, heard us and looked upon us, our words would be wiser and actions better. We dare not look an immodest look, not speak an uncivil word nor do any iniquity, or anything out of order. 'The Lord is at hand,' and sees what we are doing; let all then be done with moderation.
3. The Lord has taken on our nature, and come nearer; yet given us by it an example so to do; to be so moderate as to wash even Judas' feet. To do good, to be civil and modest and moderate even towards them who are ready to betray us, who will do so the next hour, have bargained for it already. He came so nigh us in our nature, that we might so come nigh Him in His graces; took our nature, that we might take up His example; drew so nigh us, that we might not draw off our affection from our brethren, but serve them in love, how ill soever they serve us; He took hands and feet to be at hand, to teach our hands and feet how to behave and moderate themselves towards, others.
4. He is at hand with His grace to help us; there is no excuse of impossibility. 'By Him I can do all things, says [St. Paul], by Christ who strenghtens me.' Be it never so hard, His grace is sufficient for us, sufficient to enable us to all grace and virtue, even the hardest, and in the most difficult exigencies and occasions. This He offers to us; offers it abundantly, more abundant grace. Let us accept it then, and walk worthy of it, in all modesty and moderation.
5. He is at hand to our prayer; let us then desire the grace we just now spoke of. Deny us He will not; do but knock, and He comes presently. 'To him who knocks,' says he, 'it will be opened.' Let us but come with meek and patient spirits, in love and charity with all men, forgiving them that we may be forgiven, and speed we shall; be merciful and moderate towards us: moderate at least the punishments due to our iniquities. 'The Lord is at hand' always to hear such a man's prayers; learn we therefore moderation.
6. The Lord is near us in His word. This is His command and will, must therefore be performed. If the will of the Lord be so, that we must suffer for righteousness' sake, [59/60] let every answer to our persecutors be with 'meekness and fear,' says S. Peter; 'for happy are you,' says he, and therefore 'be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;' moderate your passions and your fears, and esteem yourselves happy by so suffering, by so doing. It is your Master's revealed will that so it should be; it is His way to draw nearer to Himself, by working you to the image of His sufferings.
7. The Lord is at hand, the Judge is coming. At hand to reward us for all our sufferings, all our patience and moderation, all our modest and civil conversation, all our righteousness and mercy. Not one sparrow, not the least feather of a good work shall fall to the ground, not one half farthing be lost, not a hair of any righteous action perish; He is at hand to take all up that nothing be lost. At hand he is, 2, to deliver us out of the hands of all hat hate us: if temporal deliverance be best, to give us that; if not, to deliver us however into glory. At hand, 3, to take revenge upon his enemies, to repay his adversaries. He came presently after the Epistle to do so to Jerusalem, to destroy the incredulous Jews and apostate heretics, those persecutors of the Christian faith; came with a heavy hand, that they fell to their utter ruin and desolation. Thus He being at hand to reward and punish may well serve as an argument to persuade us to be patient for so short awhile, to be moderate both in our fears and desires, in our words and in our actions, to bear awhile and say nothing, to endure a while and do nothing; for One there is a-coming, no, now at hand to deliver us, to plead our cause, to revenge our quarrel: let us commit it to Him. He is the Judge of all the world, and judges right. Let us do nothing but with moderation, and not think much to show it unto all, when we are sure to be rewarded for it, and those who observe it not, are sure to be punished.
8. The Lord is at hand in the blessed Sacrament; and that is also now at hand, but a week between us and it. And moderation of all kinds is but a due preparation to it, some special act of it to be done against it. 'Righteousness and equity is the habitation of his seat,' says David; the Lord sits not nor abides where they are not. The holy Sacrament [60/61] that is His seat. a seat of wonder, is not set but in the righteous and good soul, has no efficacy but there. Modesty and humility are the steps to it; into the modest and humble soul only will He will be vouchsafe to come. All reverence and civility is but requisite in our addresses unto it. But moderation, meekness, and patience and sweetness, and forgiving injuries is so requisite, that there is no coming there, no offering to the altar, till we be first reconciled to our brother. Go, 'be first reconciled to your brother,' says our Lord Himself; so that now if we desire a blessing of the blessed Sacrament unto us, if we desire the Lord should there come to us, 'let our moderation be known to all men' before we come. Let us study the art of reconciling; let us not stand upon the points of honour or punctilios with our brother, upon quirks and niceties; let us part with somewhat of our right; let us do it civilly, use all men with courtesy and civility, express all modesty and sweetness in our conversation; all softness and moderation, patience and meekness, gentleness and loving-kindness towards all, even the bitterest of our enemies; considering 'the Lord is at hand;' the Lord of righteousness expects our righteousness and equity; the Lord in His body, and looks for the reverent and handsome behaviour of our bodies; the Lord of pure eyes, and cannot endure any unseemliness or intemperance either in our inward or outward man; the Lord who died and suffered for us, and upon that score requires we should be content to suffer also anything for Him, not to be angry, or troubled, or repine, or murmur at it, or at them who cause it. At the holy Sacrament He is so near at hand, that He is at the Table with us; reaches to every one a portion of Himself, yet will give it to none but such as come in a universal charity, with all the forementioned moderations.
Give me leave to conclude the text as I began it, and fix the last argument upon the time. The time is now approaching wherein the Lord came down from heaven, that He might be the more at hand. Fit it is we should strive to be the more at hand to Him, the readier at His command and service; the time wherein He moderated Himself and glory as it were to teach us moderation, appeared [61/62] so to all, that our moderation also might appear to all, of what size, or rank or sect whatsoever.
I remember a story of Constantia, Queen of Arragon, who having taken Charles, Prince of Salerno, and resolving to sacrifice him to death, to revenge the death of her nephew Conradinus, basely and unworthily put to death by his father, Charles of Anjou,--sent the message to him on a Friday morning, to prepare himself for death. The young prince (it seems, not guilty of his father's cruelty) returns her this answer: That, besides other courtesies received from her Majesty in prison, she did him a singular favour to appoint the day of his death on a Friday, and that it was good reason he die culpable on that day whereon Christ died innocent. The answer so much moved Constantia, that she send him reply: 'Tell Prince Charles if he take contentment to suffer death on a Friday because Christ on it, I will likewise find my satisfaction to pardon him also on the same day that Jesus signed my pardon, and the pardon of his executioners, with his blood. God forbid I shed the blood of a man on the day my Master shed his for me! I will not rest upon the bitterness of revenge: I freely pardon him.'
Behold a speech of a queen worthy to command the world, worthy a Christian indeed. To apply it, is only to tell you, we may often take excellent occasions of virtue and goodness from times and days, and bid you go and do likewise. The time that is at hand, is a time to be celebrated with all Christian joy and moderation; some particular and special act of charity, equity, modesty, meekness, moderation, to be sought out to be done in it, or to welcome it; the feast of love to be solemnized with a universal charity; the Lord at hand to be honoured with the good works of all our hands. His coming to pardon and save sinners, to be accompanied with a general reconciliation and forgiveness of all enemies and injuries, of a moderation to be exhibited unto all. Let your moderation then keep time as well as measure, be now especially shown, and known and felt, and magnified by all with whom we have to do; that thus attending all His comings, He may come with comfort, and carry us away with honour; come in grace and hear us, [62/63] come in mercy and pardon us, come in His word and teach us, come in Spirit and dwell with us, come in His sacrament and feed us and nourish us, come in power and deliver us, come in mercy and reward us, come in glory and save us, and take us with Him to be nearer to Him, more 'at hand,' to sit at His right hand for evermore.