ŇBlessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth   Matthew 5:5

 

This is the third rule of Christ touching happiness; which as the former, containeth two parts: first, the parties blessed; secondly, wherein this blessedness consists.

 

 

I. For the first; the parties blessed are the meek. That we may know aright who are meek, I will somewhat lay open the virtue of meekness, and briefly handle these four points: first, what meekness is; secondly, what are the fruits thereof; thirdly, wherein it must be shewed; fourthly, the cause and ground thereof.

 

1. Meekness is a gift of GodŐs Spirit, whereby a man doth moderate his affection of anger, and bridle himself in impatience, hatred and desire of revenge.

 

2. The fruits of meekness are principally two:

 

(1) First, it makes a man with a quiet and patient heart to bear GodŐs judgments; which is a worthy grace of God, and the greatest fruit of meekness (Lev. 10:3). When AaronŐs two sons Nadab and Abihu were burned with fire from heaven, which was a grievous judgment, he went to Moses to know the cause thereof, who told him that God would be glorified in all that came near Him; which when Aaron heard, he held his peace, and was not moved with grudging or impatience. So David being in great distress through the hand of God upon him, doth notably shew forth this grace, saying, I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because Lord, thou didest it (Psa. 39:9).

 

(2) Secondly, meekness causeth one with a quiet mind to bear the injuries men do unto him; yea, to forgive and forget them; and to requite good for evil, referring all revenge to God that judgeth righteously. When DavidŐs enemies laid snares for his life, uttered sorrows, and imagined deceit against him continually (Psa. 38:12); yet by this virtue he suffered all patiently, being as a deaf man that heareth not, and as the dumb which openeth not his mouth (Psa. 38:13); so far was he from private revenge. And our Saviour Christ set forth Himself a pattern of this virtue, saying. Learn of me, that I am meek and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:29). Herein He left Himself an example that we should follow in His steps, who when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He was buffeted, He threatened not, but referred all to the judgment of Him that judgeth righteously (1 Pet. 2:23); yea, he prayed for them that crucified Him. So did Stephen (Acts 7:60), Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. So Zachariah the son of Jehoiada, being stoned, said only this: The Lord will see and require it at your hands (2 Chr. 24:22).

 

3.  Wherein must this meekness be shewed? Answer: Not in the matters of God, when His glory is impeached; for therein we must have zeal as hot as fire; but in the wrongs and injuries that concern ourselves. Moses was the meekest man upon the earth in his time (Num. 12:3), and yet when the Israelites has made a golden calf, in zeal to GodŐs glory (Exod. 32:19,27), he brake the two tables of stone, and put to the sword that same day three thousand men, of them that had so dishonoured God. David also that held his tongue at his own wrongs, did consume away with zeal against his enemies that forgat GodŐs Word (Psa. 119:139). And our Saviour Christ, who as a lamb before the shearer, opened not his mouth (Isa. 53:7) for the wrongs done unto Himself; did yet in rescue of His FatherŐs glory, make a whip of cords and drove the buyers out of the temple, who made His FatherŐs house a den of thieves (Matt. 21:12,13).

 

4. The cause and ground of this meekness is affliction and poverty of spirit, as the order of these rules declareth; where it is placed after poverty of spirit, and mourning; and therefore Psa. 37:11, whence these words are borrowed, the meek person is called by a name that signifieth one afflicted; to teach us that he that is meek indeed, is one who by affliction and distress, hath been brought to mourn for his offences; for hardly can he be meek and patient in spirit, that hath not been acquainted with the cross (Lam. 3:27-29). The church commendeth this bearing of the cross in youth, because it maketh a man to sit quietly alone, to put his mouth into the dust, and to give his cheek unto the nippers.

 

Doth blessedness belong to meek persons? Hereby then we are admonished to labour for the moderation of all our affections, especially of anger, hatred and revenge; and to beware of all hindrances to this blessed virtue, as choler, hastiness, grudging, impatience under wrongs, with all railing, reviling, chiding and brawling, and all such threatening speeches, which come too oft in practice, that we may forgive, but we will never forget. Yea, in action we must avoid all quarrelling, fighting, contending, and going to law on every light occasion; for true meekness admits none of all these to take place with GodŐs children. And to induce us hereunto, consider first ChristŐs precept and example, bidding us, Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly. Again, consider GodŐs own dealing with us, we daily wrong Him by our offences, and yet He bears with us; shall we then be unlike our heavenly Father, that we will straight revenge the wrongs that others do unto us? (Col. 3:12,13) As the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on the bowels of mercy, gentleness, lowliness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forebearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against another; even as God for ChristŐs sake forgave you, so do ye. Lastly, the fruition and practice of this grace hath the promise of blessedness belonging to it; and therefore as we would be happy, so we must get the spirit of meekness into our hearts, and express the virtue and power thereof in our lives.

 

Objection 1. Here some will say, If I put up all injuries, I shall be counted a dastard and a fool. Answer: In this case learn of Paul, to pass little for manŐs judgment (1 Cor. 4:3); but be careful to get and practice this grace of meekness, and then Christ will pronounce thee blessed, which ought more to prevail with thee than all menŐs estimation in the world; and so it will, unless thou love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:43).

 

Objection 2. Again, it will be said, The more I use to put up wrongs, the more shall I have still done unto me. Answer: That is only so with wicked men; for who else will wrong thee, if thou follow that which is good (1 Pet. 3:13)? Yet say they do, thy patient suffering is praiseworthy with God (1 Pet. 2:19); and, he will take the matter into his hand; yea, Christ Jesus, who judgeth not by the sight of the eye, He will rebuke aright for all the meek of the earth (Isa. 11:4).

 

Objection 3. But yet thou sayest, This is the way to lose all that a man hath, and to be thrust out of house and harbour. Answer: Nothing less; for Christ here saith, the meek shall inherit the earth. Doubt not but Christ will make good His word; and therefore if thou respect these outward things, labour to get and exercise the spirit of meekness.

 

 

II. Wherein doth this blessedness of the meek consist? Namely, in their inheriting of the earth. And this is a great happiness, for a man to be lord of the whole earth. But how can this be true, sith many of GodŐs dearest servants have been strangers on this earth (Heb. 11:13), thrust out of house and land, and constrained to wander in mountains and deserts, afflicted and miserable, yea, destitute of convenient food and raiment (Heb. 11:37,38)? Answer: The meek are here called inheritors of the earth, not for that they always have the possession thereof; but: First, because God gives a meet and convenient portion of the earth, either to them, or to their posterity; thus He dealt with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they had sufficient for themselves, and a promise of great possessions, which their posterity did enjoy. Secondly, if it fall out that meek persons died in want, or banishment; yet God gives them contentment, which is fully answerable to the inheritance of the earth; so Paul saith to himself, and other apostles (2 Cor. 6:10), they were as men having nothing, and yet possessing all things; meaning through contentment, with the peace of a good conscience. Thirdly, the meek have this inheritance in regard of right, being the members of Christ, who is Lord of all. Hence Paul saith to the believing Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:21,22), All things are yours, whether it be Paul, or Cephas, or the world, things present, or things to come, all are yours, and ye ChristŐs. Fourthly, the meek are made kings by Christ, and after the last judgment, they shall rule and reign with Him for evermore (Rev. 5:10). And in these two last respects, the meek are more properly said to be the inheritors of the earth.

 

Objection: Yet here it will be said again, that wicked and carnal men are oftentimes the greatest lords of the earth; as Nimrod in his time, and the Turk at this day. Answer: The right unto the earth is twofold: civil and spiritual. Civil right is that which stands good before men by their laws and customs; and in regards thereof, men are called lords of such lands as they have right unto the courts of men; and so the Turk at this day is a mighty lord of a great part of the whole world. Spiritual right is that  which is warrantable and approved with God Himself, and such right and title had Adam to all the world, before his fall, which he lost by his sin, both from himself, and all his posterity; but yet in Christ, the same is recovered to all the elect. And of this right Christ here speaketh, when he calleth the meek inheritors of the earth; in regard whereof, the Turk and all unbelievers and ungodly persons are usurpers of those things, which otherwise civilly they do lawfully possess.

 

Here then is an excellent privilege of all the true members of Christ, that in Him they are lords of the earth; whereby:

 

1. First, we may see how far most men do overshoot themselves in seeking earthly possessions; for the matter is, without all regard of Christ, to hunt after the world. But this is a preposterous course, these man set the cart before the horses; for seeing all our right to the earth was lost by Adam, and is only recovered by Christ, doubtless till we have part in Christ, we cannot with the comfort of a good conscience, either purchase or possess any inheritance upon earth. In regard of certainty, men desire to hold their lands in capite, that is, in the prince, as being the best tenure; but if we would have a sure title, and hold a right in capite, we must labour to become true members of Christ, and hold our right in Him, for He is the prince of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5), and Lord of all the world; and till we be in Christ, we shall never have an holy and sanctified right to any worldly possessions.

 

2. Secondly, this serves for a bridle against all immoderate cares for the world; for if we be members of Christ, and meek persons, then the inheritance of the earth is ours; what need have we then to care so much for worldly pelf [wealth], as most men do, who never think they have enough?

 

3. Thirdly, this serves for a just rebuke of all those that seek to enrich themselves by cruelty, lying, fraud and oppression; for if thou be in Christ, thou hast right to the whole world; what need then hast thou to use unlawful means to get that which is thine own? But sure it is, thou hast no part in Christ, while thou givest thyself to these courses; for if thou hadst, thou wouldest be content with whatsoever God sends in the use of lawful means (Phil. 4:11).

 

4. Lastly, hence all GodŐs children may learn to comfort their hearts against the fear of any punishment for the name of Christ; for keep Christ sure, and whithersoever thou art sent, thou art upon thine own ground; for the whole earth is thine, and in Christ one day thou shalt possess it, when all tyrants shall be banished into hell. Now being on thine own ground, what need hast thou to fear?