Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
I. THE PRINCIPLE.
1. As to moderation in certain habits.
(1) An ancient moralist tells us that virtue is a medium between two extremes. The extreme opposite to a vice is not a virtue, though everything opposite to virtue must be vice. Virtue is a road which has a hedge and ditch on both sides. Frugality, e.g., is such a road. If you break through the hedge on one side, you fall into wastefulness; if on the other, into covetousness. Humility is another: pride on one side, servility on the other. Magnanimity is bordered by cowardice and rashness.
(2) But while virtue is moderation between opposite vices, there is no place properly speaking for moderation in virtue. No man should think of being moderately magnanimous or humble. Neither can there be any moderation in vice — moderate avarice or extravagance.
(3) Yet foolish as it looks, there is a great deal of this sort of moderation, and much of what the world calls respectability is nothing else. Many a tradesman would eschew a great fraud, and yet be guilty of minor acts of dishonesty. He would not refuse to pay his creditors, but he thinks nothing of wearing down the health of his servants by over labour. He would not lie, but he has no scruples in over or understating the truth.
(4) The proper province of moderation is to regulate those powers, principles, and tendencies in man which have no evil in themselves, but which become evil by absence of restraint; e.g. —
(a) The desire of knowledge; the cause and consequences of the first offence should teach us the need of putting a check upon it.
(b) So also the desire of power. Acquisitiveness is a natural propensity. If there were no such desire, what would become of the interests of society and civilization? But there is nothing that becomes more destructive when not held in by Christian principles.
2. As to moderation in certain feelings. The other phase of meaning in the word is gentleness. It includes the control of anger. Indignation against evil is virtuous, but resentment, even against an evil doer, is the opposite.
II. THE MANIFESTATION. That our moderation may be known unto all men —
1. It must be decided. There must be no pressing towards the borders of excess, even though not touched. No hard driving at a bargain which would look like avarice. No such demands on servants as would look like oppression; no indulgence which would look like sensuality.
2. It must spring from principle. A man may be moderate in one thing, and not in another. An ascetic in eating and drinking, may be licentious. A man who has no ambition may be avaricious.
3. It must he habitually exercised. How many in their religious connections profess principles which are outraged in the home or in the shop.
III. THE MOTIVE. "The Lord is at hand." We tell men of the injuriousness of evil ways: as they make their bed they must lie upon it. But while forceful, it is an appeal to self-love in its lowest form, and habits formed upon it do not rise higher than mere prudence. Here is the Christian motive.
1. The judgment of the last day is approaching. This anticipation awakens an awful sense of responsibility.
2. But the Lord is an actual presence now. His judgment is passing on us at this moment; and we are now responsible. But is He not a Saviour as well as Judge? at hand to forgive the penitent and help the believer.
(J. Stoughton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.