Thomas Watson, 1660
An exposition of Matthew 5:1-12
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Matthew 5:5
We are now got to the third step leading in the way to
blessedness, Christian meekness. 'Blessed are the meek'. See how the Spirit
of God adorns 'the hidden man of the heart, with a multiplicity of graces!
The workmanship of the Holy Spirit is not only astonishing—but various. He
makes the heart meek, pure, peaceable etc. The graces therefore are compared
to fine needlework, which is intricate and various in its textures and
colors (Psalm 45:14). In the words there is the duty of meekness—and that
duty like the dove, brings an olive leaf in the mouth of it—'they shall
inherit the earth'.
The proposition I shall insist on, is that meek people
are blessed people. For the right understanding of this, we must know
there is a twofold meekness. Meekness towards God, meekness towards
1. Meekness towards GOD, which implies two
things: submission to his will; flexibleness to his Word.
 Submission to God's WILL: when we react
calmly, without swelling or murmuring, under the adverse dispensations of
providence. 'It is the Lord's will. Let him do what he thinks best' (1
Samuel 3:18). The meek-spirited Christian says thus: 'Let God do what he
will with me, let him carve out whatever condition he pleases, I will
submit.' God sees what is best for me, whether a fertile soil or a barren.
Let him chequer his work as he please, it suffices that God has done it. It
was an unmeek spirit in the prophet to struggle with God: 'I do well to be
angry to the death!' (Jonah 4:9).
 Flexibleness to God's WORD: when we are
willing to let the Word bear sway in our souls and become pliable to all its
laws and maxims. He is spiritually meek who conforms himself to the mind of
God, and does not quarrel with the instructions of the Word—but with the
corruptions of his heart. Cornelius' speech to Peter savored of a meek
spirit: 'Now here we are, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord
has given you' (Acts 10:33). How happy is it when the Word which comes with
majesty, is received with meekness! (James 1:21).
2. Meekness towards MAN. Basil calls this 'the
indelible character of a gracious soul.' 'Blessed are the meek'. To
illustrate this, I shall show what this meekness is. Meekness is a
grace whereby we are enabled by the Spirit of God to moderate our angry
passions. It is a grace. The philosopher calls it a virtue—but the apostle
calls it a grace, and therefore reckons it among the 'fruit of the Spirit'
(Galatians 5:23). It is of a divine extract and original. By it we are
enabled to moderate our passion. By nature the heart is like a troubled sea,
casting forth the foam of anger and wrath. Now meekness calms the passions.
It sits as moderator in the soul, quieting and giving check to its
distempered motions. As the moon serves to temper and allay the heat of the
sun, so Christian meekness allays the heat of passion. Meekness of spirit
not only fits us for communion with God—but for civil converse with men; and
thus among all the graces it holds first place. Meekness has a divine beauty
and sweetness in it. It brings credit to true religion; it wins upon all.
This meekness consists in three things: the bearing of injuries, the
forgiving of injuries, the recompensing good for evil.
1. First, meekness consists in the BEARING of injuries.
I may say of this grace, 'it is not easily provoked'. A meek spirit, like
wet tinder, will not easily take fire. 'Those who seek my hurt spoke
mischievous things—but I, as a deaf man, heard not' (Psalm 38:12, 13).
Meekness is 'the bridle of anger'. The passions are fiery and headstrong;
meekness gives check to them. Meekness 'bridles the mouth', it ties the
tongue to its good behavior. Meekness observes that motto, Bear and forbear.
There are four things opposite to meekness.
 Meekness is opposed to ANGER. 'Do not be
quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools'
(Ecclesiastes 7:9). When the heart boils in passion, and anger (as Seneca
says) sparkles forth in the eye, this is far from meekness. 'Anger resides
in the lap of fools'. Anger may be in a wise man—but it resides
in a fool. The angry man is like gunpowder. No sooner do you touch him
but he is all on fire. Seneca calls anger 'a short fit of madness'.
Sometimes it suspends the use of reason.
How unfitting is rash anger! How it disguises and
disfigures! As Plato counseled the great revellers and drinkers of his time,
that they should view themselves in a glass when they were in their drunken
humor, and they would appear loathsome to themselves, so let a man disguised
with passion view himself in the glass, and sure he would ever after be out
of love with himself. 'The face swells with anger, the veins become black
with blood'. 'Let not the sun go down upon your anger, neither give place to
the devil' (Ephesians 4:26, 27). Oh, says one, 'he has wronged me and I will
never give place to him!' But better give place to him than to the devil. An
angry spirit is not a meek spirit. Not but that we may in some cases be
angry. There is a holy anger. Only that anger is without sin—which is
against sin. Meekness and zeal may stand together. In matters of
religion, a Christian must be clothed with the spirit of Elijah, and be
'full of the fury of the Lord' (Jeremiah 6:11). Christ was meek (Matt.
11:29)—yet zealous (John 2:14, 15). The zeal of God's house ate him up.
 Meekness is opposed to MALICE. Malice is
the devil's picture (John 8:44). Malice is mental murder (1 John 3:15). It
unfits for duty. How can such a man pray? I have read of two men who lived
in malice, who being asked how they could say the Lord's prayer, one
answered, he thanked God there were many good prayers besides. The other
answered, when he said the Lord's prayer he left out those words, 'as we
forgive those who trespass against us'. But Augustine brings in God
replying, 'Because you do not say my prayer, I will not hear yours'. Were it
not a sad judgement if all that a man ate should turn to poison! To a
malicious man all the holy ordinances of God turn to poison. 'The table of
the Lord, is a snare; 'he eats and drinks his own damnation'. A malicious
spirit is not a meek spirit.
 Meekness is opposed to REVENGE. Malice is
the scum of anger, and revenge is malice boiling over. Malice is a vermin
which lives on blood. Revenge is Satan's nectar and ambrosia. This is the
savory meat which the malicious man cooks for the devil. The Scripture
forbids revenge: 'Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves' (Romans 12:19).
This is to take God's office out of his hand, who is called 'the God of
recompenses' (Jeremiah 51:56) and the 'God of vengeance' (Psalm 94:1). This
I urge against those who challenge one another to duels. Indeed, spiritual
duels are lawful. It is good to fight with the devil. 'Resist the devil'
(James 4:7). It is good to duel with a man's self, the regenerate part
against the carnal. Blessed is he who seeks a revenge upon his lusts. 'Yes,
what revenge!' (2 Corinthians 7:11). But other duels are unlawful. 'Avenge
not yourselves'. The Turks, though a barbarous people, in ancient times
burnt such as went to duel, applying hot coals of fire to their sides. Those
who were in heat of revenge were punished suitably with fire.
Some may object. 'But if I am thus meek and tame in
bearing of injuries and incivilities, I shall lose my credit. It will be a
stain to my reputation.' I answer: To pass by an injury without revenge is
no eclipse to a man's credit. Solomon tells us it is the glory of a man to
'pass over a transgression' (Proverbs 19:11). It is more honor to bury
an injury than revenge it; and to slight it than to
write it down. The weakest creatures (such as the bee) soonest sting
with every provocation. The lion, a more majestic creature, is not easily
provoked. The bramble tears. The oak and cedar are more peaceable. Passion
imports weakness. A noble spirit overlooks an injury.
Again, suppose a man's credit should suffer with those
whose censure is not to be valued. Yet think which is worse, shame or sin?
Will you sin against God to save your credit? Surely it is little wisdom for
a man to venture his blood that he may fetch back his reputation, and to run
into hell to be counted valorous!
Not but that a man may stand up in defense of himself
when his life is endangered. Some hold it to be unlawful to take up the
sword upon any occasion—but without question a man may take up the sword for
self-preservation, else he comes under the breach of the sixth commandment.
He is guilty of self-murder. In taking up the sword he does not so much seek
another's death, as the safeguard of his own life. His intention is not to
do hurt—but to prevent it. Self-defense is consistent with Christian
meekness. The law of nature and religion justify it. That God who bids us
'put up our sword' (Matthew 26:52) yet will allow us a sword in our own
defense, and he who will have us 'innocent as doves' not to offend others,
will have us 'wise as serpents' in preserving ourselves.
Though revenge may be contrary to meekness—yet not but
that a magistrate may revenge the quarrels of others. Indeed, it is
not revenge in him—but doing justice. The magistrate is God's lieutenant on
earth. God has put the sword in his hand, and he is not 'to bear the sword
in vain'. He must be 'for the punishment of evildoers' (1 Peter 2:14).
Though a private person must not render to any man 'evil for evil' (Romans
12:17)—yet a magistrate may; the evil of punishment for the evil of offence.
This rendering of evil is good. Private men must 'put their sword into the
sheath'—but the magistrate sins if he does not draw it out. As his
sword must not surfeit through cruelty, so neither must it rust through
partiality. Too much lenity in a magistrate is not meekness—but injustice.
For him to indulge offences, and say with a gentle reproof as Eli, 'Why do
you such things? Nay, my sons, for it is no good report that I hear' (1
Samuel 2:23, 24), this is but to shave the head that deserves to be
cut off. Such a magistrate makes himself guilty.
 Meekness is opposed to EVIL-SPEAKING. 'Let
all evil-speaking be put away' (Ephesians 4:31). Our words should be mild,
like the waters of Shiloah which run softly. It is too usual for passionate
spirits to break out into opprobrious language. The tongues of many are
fired, and it is the devil who lights the match. Therefore they are said in
Scripture to be 'set on fire of hell' (James 3:6). Men have learned of the
'old serpent, to spit their venom one at another in disgraceful revilings.
'Whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hellfire' (Matthew
5:22). Under that word 'fool', all vilifying terms are by our Savior
forbidden. Let us take heed of this. It is hateful to God. God is not in
this fire—but in the still small voice (1 Kings 19:12).
Some may say—but did not the apostle Paul call the
Galatians 'fools'? (Galatians 3:1). When Paul uttered those words, it was
not by way of reproach—but reproof. It was not to defame
the Galatians but to reclaim them; not to vilify them but
to humble them. Paul was grieved to see them so soon fall into a
relapse. Well might he say 'foolish Galatians' in a holy zeal, because they
had suffered so much in the cause of religion, and now made a defection and
fell off. 'Have you suffered so many things in vain?' (verse 4). But though
Paul, guided by the Spirit of God, did give this epithet to the Galatians,
it is no warrant for us when any have wronged us to use disgraceful terms.
Meekness does not vent itself in reviling. It does not retaliate by railing.
'Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the
devil he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a
railing accusation; but said, The Lord rebuke you' (Jude 9). Some understand
by Michael, Christ—but more truly it is meant of one of the chief of the
angels. The contest or dispute between the archangel and the devil was about
the body of Moses. Some divines say that when God disposed of Moses' body,
he employed the archangel to inter him so secretly that his burying place
might not be known. It is likely if his dead body had been found, the
Israelites might have been ready in a preposterous zeal to have worshiped
it. The devil opposes the archangel and contends about the dead body—but the
archangel 'dared not', or, as some read it, he could not endure to 'bring a
railing accusation'. It seems the devil provoked him with evil language, and
would fain have extorted passion from him—but the archangel was mild, and
said only, 'The Lord rebuke you'. The angel would not so much as rail
against the devil. We may learn meekness of the archangel: 'Not rendering
railing for railing' (1 Peter 3:9).
Not but that a Christian ought prudentially to clear
himself from slanders. When the apostle Paul was charged to be mad, he
vindicated himself. 'I am not mad, most noble Festus' (Acts 26:25). Though a
Christian's retorts must not be reviling, they may be vindicating. Though he
may not scandalize another—yet he may defend himself. There must be
Christian prudence, as well as Christian meekness. It is not
mildness, but weakness—to part with our integrity (Job 27:6). To be silent
when we are slanderously traduced, is to make ourselves appear guilty. We
must so affect meekness, as not to lose the honor of innocence. It is lawful
to be our own defenders. The fault lies only in this—when we retort injuries
with reproachful terms, which is to pay a man back in the devil's coin.
2. The second branch of meekness is in FORGIVING of
injuries. 'And when you stand praying, forgive' (Mark 11:25); as
if Christ had said, 'It is to little purpose to pray, unless you forgive.' A
meek spirit is a forgiving spirit. This is a herculean work. Nothing more
crosses the stream of corrupt nature—than forgiving injuries. Men forget
kindnesses—but remember injuries. I once heard of a woman who lived in
malice, and being requested by some of her neighbors when she lay on her
deathbed, to forgive, she answered, 'I cannot forgive though I go to hell'.
Forgiveness is cutting against the grain of human nature. Some can rather
sacrifice their lives than their lusts—but forgive we must, and forgive as
God forgives. Forgiveness must be:
 Really. God does not make a show of
forgiveness and keep our sins by him. He 'blots out' our debts (Isaiah
43:25). God passes an act of oblivion (Jeremiah 31:34). He forgives and
forgets. So the meek spirit not only makes a show of forgiving his
neighbor—but he does it from the heart (Matthew 18:27).
 Fully. God forgives all our sins. He does
not for 'fourscore write down fifty'—but he gives a full release. 'Who
forgives all your iniquities' (Psalm 103:3). Thus a meek-spirited
Christian forgives all injuries. False hearts pass by some offences—but
retain others. This is but half forgiving. Is this meekness? Would you have
God deal so with you? Would you have him forgive your trespasses, as you
 God forgives often. We are often sinful!
We run every day afresh upon the score—but God often forgives. Therefore he
is said to 'multiply pardon' (Isaiah 55:7). So a meek spirit reiterates and
sends one pardon after another. Peter asks the question, 'Lord, how many
times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven
times?' (Matthew 18:21) Christ answers him, 'I tell you, not seven times,
but seventy times seven' (verse 22).
Some may object that such an affront has been offered,
that flesh and blood cannot put up. I answer: 'Flesh and blood cannot
inherit the Kingdom of God' (1 Corinthians 15:50). Christians must walk
contrary to their natural dispositions, and with the sword of the Spirit
fight against the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:24).
Again, you may say: But if I forgive one injury I shall
invite more. I answer: It argues a devilish nature to be the worse for
kindness; but suppose we should meet with such monsters—yet it is our duty
to be ready to forgive (Colossians 3:13). Shall we cease from doing good
because others will not cease from being evil? If the more you forgive
injuries, the more injuries you meet with, this will make your grace shine
the more. Another's vice will be a greater demonstration of your virtue.
Frequent forgiving will add the more to the weight of his sin, and the
weight of your glory. If any shall say to me, I strive to excel in other
graces—but as for this grace of meekness, the bearing and forgiving of
injuries, I cannot arrive at it; I desire in this to be excused. What do you
talk of other graces? Where there is one grace, there is all. If meekness is
lacking, it is but a counterfeit chain of grace. Your faith is a fable: your
repentance is a lie; your humility is hypocrisy.
And whereas you say you cannot forgive, think of your
own sin. Your neighbor is not so bad in offending you—as you are in not
forgiving him. Your neighbor, in offending you—but trespasses against a
man—but you, refusing to forgive him, trespass against God. Think also of
your danger. You who are implacable, and though you may smother the fire of
your rage—yet will not extinguish it, know that if you die this night, you
die in an unpardoned condition. If you will not believe me, believe
Christ. 'If you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in
heaven forgive your trespasses' (Mark 11:26). He who lives without
meekness, dies without mercy!
3. The third branch of meekness is in RECOMPENSING GOOD
FOR EVIL. This is a higher degree than the other. 'Love your
enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who
despitefully use you' (Matthew 5:44). 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him'
(Romans 12:20). 'Not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on
the contrary, giving a blessing' (1 Peter 3:9). This threefold cord of
Scripture should not easily be broken. To render evil for evil is brutish;
to render evil for good is devilish; to render good for evil is Christian.
The heathen thought it lawful to wrong none unless first provoked with an
injury—but the sunlight of Scripture shines brighter than the lamp of
reason. 'Love your enemies.' When grace comes into the heart, it
works a strange alteration. When a scion is engrafted into the stock, it
partakes of the nature and sap of the tree and brings forth the same fruit.
He who was once of a sour disposition, given to revenge, when he once
partakes of the sap of the heavenly grace, he bears holy fruits. He is full
of love to his enemies. Grace allays the passion—and melts the heart into
compassion. As the sun draws up many thick noxious vapors from the earth and
sea, and returns them in sweet showers, so a gracious heart returns all the
unkindness and discourtesies of his enemies with the sweet influences and
distillations of love. Thus David, 'They repay me with evil for the good I
do. Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I even fasted and prayed for
them.' (Psalm 35:12, 13). Some would have rejoiced;
David wept. Some would have put on scarlet; David put on
sackcloth. This is the rarity or rather miracle of meekness. It repays good
for evil. Thus we have seen the nature of meekness.
Meekness shows us the badge of a true saint. He is of a
forbearing, meek spirit. 'He is not easily provoked'. He takes everything in
the best sense and conquers malice with mildness. I would to God all who
profess themselves saints were bespangled with this grace. We are known to
belong to Christ when we wear his livery. He is a saint whose spirit is made
so meek that he can smother injuries, and bury unkindnesses. A flow of tears
better befits a Christian, than a passion of anger. Every saint is Christ's
spouse (Canticles 4:8). It befits Christ's spouse to be meek. If any injury
is offered to the spouse, she leaves it to her husband to revenge. It is
unseemly for Christ's spouse to fight.
Let me beseech all Christians to labor to be eminent in
this superlative grace of meekness. 'Seek meekness' (Zephaniah 2:3). Seeking
implies we have lost it. Therefore, we must seek and cry after it to find
it. 'Put on therefore as the elect of God, meekness' (Colossians 3:12). Put
it on as a garment, never to be left off. Meekness is a necessary ingredient
in everything. It is necessary in instruction: 'In meekness
instructing . . .' (2 Timothy 2:25). Meekness conquers the opposers of
truth. Meekness melts the heart. 'Soft words' are softening. Meekness is
necessary in hearing or reading the Word. 'Receive with meekness the
engrafted Word' (James 1:21). He who come to the Word in anger or malice,
gets no good—but hurt. He turns wine into poison, and stabs himself with the
sword of the Spirit! Meekness is needful in reproof. 'If a man is
overtaken with a fault, restore such a one with the spirit of meekness'
(Galatians 6:1). The Greek word is 'put him in joint again'. If a bone is
out of joint, the surgeon must not use a rough hand that may chance break
another bone. But he must come gently to work, and afterwards bind it up
softly. So if a brother is overtaken with a fault, we must not come to him
in a fury of passion—but with a spirit of meekness labor to restore him.
I shall lay down several MOTIVES or arguments to meeken
the spirits of men.
1. Let me propound EXAMPLES of meekness.
 The example of Jesus Christ. 'Your king
comes unto you meek' (Matthew 21:5). Christ was the exemplar and pattern of
meekness. 'When he was reviled, he reviled not again' (1 Peter 2:23). His
enemies' words were more bitter than the gall they gave him—but Christ's
words were smoother than oil. He prayed and wept for his enemies. He calls
us to learn of him: 'Learn of me, for I am meek' (Matthew 11:29). Christ
does not bid us (says Augustine) learn of him to work miracles, to open the
eyes of the blind, to raise the dead—but he would have us learn of him to be
meek. If we do not imitate his life—we cannot be saved by his death!
 Let us set before our eyes the examples of some of
the saints who have shined in this grace. Moses was a man
of unparalleled meekness. 'Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the
men who were upon the face of the earth' (Numbers 12:3). How many injuries
did he put up? When the people of Israel murmured against him, instead of
falling into a rage, he falls to prayer for them (Exodus 15:24, 25). The
text says, they murmured at the waters of Marah. Sure the waters were not so
bitter as the spirits of the people—but they could not provoke him to
anger—but to petition. Another time when they lacked water, they fell
arguing with Moses. 'Why have brought us up out of Egypt—to kill us and our
children with thirst?' (Exodus 17:3). As if they had said, If we die we will
lay our death to your charge. Would not this exasperate Moses? Surely it
would have required the meekness of an angel to bear this—but behold Moses,
meekness. He did not give them a harsh word! Though they were in a storm—he
was in a calm. They lambaste him—but he prays. Oh that as the spirit
of Elijah rested upon Elisha, so may some of the spirit of Moses, this meek
man (or rather earthly angel), rest upon us!
Another eminent pattern of meekness was David.
When Shimei cursed David, and Abishai, one of David's lifeguard, would have
beheaded Shimei. 'No!' says king David, 'Let him alone, and let him curse'
(2 Samuel 16:11). And when Saul had wronged and abused David and it was in
David's power to have killed Saul while he was asleep, (1 Samuel 26:7,
12)—yet he would not touch Saul—but called God to be umpire (verse 23). Here
was a miracle of meekness.
 The examples of meek heathen. Though their
meekness could not properly be called grace, because it did not grow upon
the right stock of faith—yet it was very beautiful in its kind. When one
reviled Pericles and followed him home to his gate at night, railing
upon him, he answered not a word—but commanded one of his servants to light
a torch, and bring the railer home to his own house. Frederick, Duke of
Saxony, when he was angry, would shut himself up in his closet and let none
come near him, until he had mastered his passion. Plutarch reports of the
Pythagoreans, if they argued in the day, they would embrace and be friends
before sunset. Cicero, in one of his Orations, reports of Pompey the Great,
that he was a man of a meek disposition. He admitted all to come to him so
freely, and heard the complaints of those who were wronged so mildly, that
he excelled all the princes before him. He was of that sweet temper that it
was hard to say whether his enemies more feared his valor, or his subjects
loved his meekness. Julius Caesar not only forgave Brutus and Cassius, his
enemies—but advanced them. He thought himself most honored by acts of mercy
and meekness. Did the spring-head of nature rise so high, and shall
not grace rise higher? Shall we debase faith below reason? Let us
write according to these fair copies.
2. Meekness is a great ornament to a Christian.
'The ornament of a meek spirit, which is so precious to God' (1 Peter 3:4).
How lovely is a saint in God's eye, when adorned with this jewel! What the
psalmist says of praise (Psalm 33:1), the same may I say of meekness. It is
'lovely for the righteous'. No garment is more befitting to a Christian,
than meekness. Therefore we are bid to put on this garment. 'Put on
therefore as the elect of God, meekness' (Colossians 3:12) A meek spirit
brings credit to the gospel, and silences malice. It is the varnish which
puts luster upon holiness, and sets off the gospel with a better gloss.
3. This is the way to be like God. God is meek
towards those who provoke him. How many black mouths are opened daily
against the Majesty of heaven? How do men tear his Name! vex his Spirit!
crucify his Son afresh! They walk up and down the earth as so many devils
covered with flesh—yet the Lord is meek, 'not willing that any should
perish' (2 Peter 3:9). How easily could God crush sinners, and kick them
into hell! But he moderates his anger. Though he is full of majesty—yet full
of meekness. In him is mixed princely greatness and fatherly mildness. As he
has his scepter of royalty, so his throne of grace. Oh how should this make
us fall in love with meekness! Hereby we bear a kind of likeness to God. It
is not profession which makes us like God—but imitation. Where
meekness is lacking, we are like brutes. Where it is present, we are like
4. Meekness is a noble and excellent spirit. A
meek man is a valorous man. He gets a victory over himself! Anger arises
from weakness of character. Therefore we may observe old men and children
are more choleric than others. Anger argues weakness of judgement—but the
meek man who is able to conquer his fury, is the most strong and victorious.
'He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; controlling one's
temper, is better than capturing a city' (Proverbs 16:32). To yield to one's
anger is easy. It is swimming along with the tide of corrupt nature—but to
turn against nature, to resist anger, to 'overcome evil with good', this is
truly Christian. This is that spiritual chivalry and fortitude of mind that
deserves the trophies of victory and the garland of praise.
5. Meekness is the best way to conquer and melt the heart
of an enemy. When Saul lay at David's mercy and David only cut
off the skirt of his robe, how was Saul's heart affected with David's
meekness? 'Saul called back—Is that really you, my son David? Then he
began to cry. And he said to David—You are a better man than I am, for you
have repaid me good for evil. Yes, you have been wonderfully kind to me
today, for you could have killed me. May the Lord reward you well for the
kindness you have shown me today' (1 Samuel 24:16-19). This 'heaping of
coals' melts and thaws the heart of others. It is the greatest victory—to
overcome an enemy without striking a blow. The fire will go where the
wedge cannot. Mildness prevails more than fierceness.
Anger makes an enemy of a friend. Meekness makes a friend of an enemy. The
meek Christian shall have letters testimonial even from his adversary. It is
reported of Philip, king of Macedon, that when it was told him Nicanor
openly railed against his Majesty, the king instead of putting him to death
(as his council advised), sent Nicanor a rich present, which so overcame the
man's heart, that he went up and down to recant what he had said against the
king, and highly extolled the king's mercy. Roughness hardens men's hearts;
meekness causes them to relent (2 Kings 6:22). When the king of Israel
feasted the captives he had taken in war, they were more conquered by his
meekness—than by his sword. 'The bands of Syria came no more into
the land of Israel' (2 Kings 6:22)
6. Consider the great promise in the text.
'The meek shall inherit the earth'. This argument perhaps will prevail with
those who desire to have earthly possessions. Some may object, 'If I forbear
and forgive, I shall lose my right at last and be turned out of all.' No!
God has here entered into bond, 'The meek shall inherit the earth'. The
unmeek man is in a sad condition. There is no place remains for him but
hell, for he has no promise made to him either of earth or heaven. It is the
'meek shall inherit the earth'.
How do the meek inherit the earth—when they
are strangers in the earth? (Hebrews 11:37).
The meek are said to inherit the earth, not that the
earth is their chief inheritance, or that they have always the greatest
 They are the inheritors of the earth because, though
they have not always the greatest part of the earth—yet they have the best
right to it. The word 'inherit', says Ambrose, denotes the
saints' 'title to the earth'. The saints' title is best, being 'members of
Christ', who is Lord of all. Adam not only lost his title to heaven when he
fell—but to the earth too; and until we are incorporated into Christ, we do
not fully recover our title. I do not deny that the wicked have a civil
right to the earth which the laws of the land give them—but not a sacred
right. Only the meek Christian has a Scripture-title to his land. The saints
hold their right to the earth in their head, Christ, who is 'the prince of
the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5). In this sense, he who has but a
foot of land inherits more than he who has a thousand acres, because he has
a better and more juridical right to it.
 The meek Christian is said to inherit the earth,
because he inherits the blessing of the earth. The wicked man has
the earth—but not as a fruit of God's favor. He has it as a dog has poisoned
bread. It does him more hurt than good. A wicked man lives in the earth as
one that lives in an infectious air. He is infected by his mercies. The fat
of the earth will but make him fry and blaze the more in hell. So that a
wicked man may be said not to have what he has, because he has not the
blessing; but the meek saint enjoys the earth as a pledge of God's love. The
curse and poison is taken out of the earth: 'The meek shall inherit the
earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace' (Psalm 37:11),
on which words Augustine gives this gloss: 'Wicked men' (says he) 'may
delight themselves in the abundance of cattle and riches—but the meek man
delights himself in the abundance of peace. What he has he possesses with
inward serenity and quietness.'
When it is said the meek shall inherit the earth, it does
not intimate that they shall not inherit more than the earth. They shall
inherit heaven too. If they should only inherit the earth, then (says
Chrysostom) how could it be said, 'Blessed are the meek'? The meek have the
earth only for their sojourning-house: they have heaven for their
mansion-house. 'He will beautify the meek with salvation' (Psalm 149:4). The
meek beautify religion, and God will beautify them with salvation. Salvation
is the port we all desire to sail to. It is the harvest and vintage of
souls. The meek are those who shall reap this harvest. The meek shall wear
the embroidered robe of salvation. The meek are lords of the earth and
'heirs of salvation' (Hebrews 1:14).
7. Consider the harm of an unmeek spirit.
There is nothing which makes such room for the devil to come into the heart
and take possession, as wrath and anger. 'Let not the sun go down upon your
wrath, neither give place to the devil' (Ephesians 4:26, 27). When men let
forth passion, they let in Satan. The wrathful man has the devil for his
bedfellow. Passion hinders peace. The meek Christian has sweet quiet and
harmony in his soul—but passion puts the soul into a disorder. It not only
clouds reason—but disturbs conscience. He does not possess
himself, whom passion possesses. It is no wonder if they have no peace of
conscience, who make so little conscience of peace. Wrathfulness grieves the
Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30, 31), and if the Spirit is grieved, he will be
gone. We do not care to stay in smoky houses. The Spirit of God does not
love to be in that heart which is so full of the vapors and fumes of
8. Another argument to cool the intemperate heat of our
cursed hearts, is to consider that all the injuries and unkind usages we
meet with from the world, do not fall out by chance—but are disposed of by
the all-wise God for our good. Many are like the foolish cur,
which snarls at the stone, never looking to the hand that threw it; or like
the horse, who being spurred by the rider, bites the snaffle. If we looked
higher than instruments our hearts would grow meek and calm. David looked
beyond Shimei's rage: 'Let him curse, for the Lord has bidden him' (2 Samuel
16:11). What wisdom is it for Christians to see the hand of God in all the
barbarisms and incivilities of men! Job eyed God in his affliction, and that
meekened his spirit. 'The Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of
the Lord!' (Job 1:21). He does not say, The Chaldeans have taken
away—but 'The Lord has taken away'. What made Christ so meek in his
sufferings? He did not look at Judas or Pilate—but at his Father. 'The cup
which my Father has given me' (John 18:11). When wicked men revile
and injure us, they are but God's executioners. Who is angry with the
And as God has a hand in all the affronts and
discourtesies we receive from men (for they but hand them over to us), so
God will do us good by all, if we belong to him. 'It may be' (says David)
'that the Lord will look upon my affliction, and requite me good for his
cursing' (2 Samuel 16:12). Usually, when the Lord intends us some signal
mercy, he fits us for it by some eminent trial. As Moses' hand was first
leprous before it wrought salvation (Exodus 4:6), so God may let his people
be belepered with the cursings and revilings of men, before he shower down
some blessings upon them. 'It may be the Lord will requite me good for his
cursing this day.'
9. Lack of meekness evidences lack of grace.
True grace inflames love and moderates anger. Grace is like the file which
smooths the rough iron. It files off the ruggedness of a man's spirit. Grace
says to the heart as Christ did to the angry sea, 'Peace, be still' (Mark
4:39). So where there is grace in the heart, it stills the raging of passion
and makes a calm. He who is in a perpetual frenzy, letting loose the reins
to wrath and malice—has never yet felt the sweet efficacy of grace. It is
one of the sins of the heathen to be 'implacable' (Romans 1:31). A
revengeful cankered heart, is not only heathenish—but devilish. 'If you have
bitter envying and strife in your hearts, this wisdom descends not from
above—but is devilish' (James 3:14, 15). The old serpent spits forth the
poison of malice and revenge.
10. If all that has been said will not serve to master
this bedlam-humor of wrath and anger, let me tell you, you are the people
whom God steaks of, who hate to be reformed. You are rebels
against the Word. Read and tremble: 'Now go, write it before them in a
table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come forever
and ever; that this is a rebellious people, children that will not hear the
law of the Lord' (Isaiah 30:8, 9). If nothing yet said will charm down the
wrathful devil, let me tell you, God has charged every man not to
meddle or have any league of friendship with you. 'Make no friendship with
an angry man, and with a furious man you shall not go' (Proverbs 22:24).
What a monster is he among men, that everyone is warned to beware of, and
not to come near, as one who is unfit for humane society! Make no league,
says God, with that man. If you take him into your society, you take
a snake into your bosom. 'With a furious man you shall not go'. Will you
walk with the devil? The furious man is possessed with a wrathful devil.
Oh that all this might help to meeken and sweeten
But some will say, 'It is my
nature to be angry and passionate!' I answer:
 This is sinful arguing. It is secretly to
lay our sin upon God. We learned this from Adam. 'The woman whom you gave to
be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat' (Genesis 3:12); rather
than Adam would confess his sin, he would blame it upon God. 'The woman you
gave me'. As if he had said, 'If you had not given this woman to me—I would
not have eaten.' So, says one, 'It is my nature; this is the froward,
peevish nature God has given me.' Oh no! you charge God falsely. God did not
give you such a nature. 'He made man upright' (Ecclesiastes 7:29). God made
you straight; you made yourself crooked. All your affections at first, your
joy, love, anger were set in order as the stars in their right orb—but you
misplaced them and made them move in an evil way. At first the affections
like several musical instruments well tuned, made a sweet consort—but sin
was the jarring string which brought all out of tune. Vain man, do not plead
that it is your nature to be angry; thank yourself for it. Nature's spring
was pure—until sin poisoned the spring!
 Is it your nature to be fierce and angry?
This is so far from being an excuse, that it makes it so much the worse. It
is the nature of a toad to poison that makes it the more hateful. If a man
were indicted for stealing, and he should say to the judge, 'Spare me; it is
my nature to steal', were this any excuse? The judge would say, 'You deserve
the rather to die'. Sinner, get a new nature. 'Flesh and blood cannot enter
into the kingdom of God'.
What shall I do to be possessed of this excellent grace
1. Often look upon the meekness of Christ. The
scholar that would write well, has his eye often upon the copy.
2. Pray earnestly that God will meeken your spirit.
God is called 'the God of all grace' (1 Peter 5:10). He has all the graces
in his gift. Sue to him for this grace of meekness. If one were patron of
all the livings in the land, men would sue to him for a living. God is
patron of all the graces. Let us sue to him. Mercy comes in at the door
of prayer. 'I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel to
do it for them' (Ezekiel 36:26, 37). Meekness is the commodity we need. Let
us send prayer as our factor over to heaven to procure it for us; and pray
in faith. When faith sets prayer on work, prayer sets God on work. All
divine blessings come streaming to us through this golden channel of prayer!