Psalm 18:35
We often hear of what are called self-made men; but here is something nobler by far - a God-made man. "Thy gentleness hath made me great." We learn from this text that -

I. MAN IS CAPABLE OF GREATNESS. At first, man was made great, for he was made in the image of God. But he sinned and fell. Still, the capacity remained. Hence there was misery. Ambition wrongly directed became a bane. Powers and cravings that rose above earthly things left the heart unsatisfied. To be great, man must be raised from his fallen state, and renewed in the spirit of his mind. Love is the spirit of greatness; service is its test, and power with man is its proof. He is the greatest who serves his brethren best in love.

II. THAT GOD IS ABLE TO MAKE MAN GREAT. It has been said that "some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them;" but this is a low and false view of greatness. It is of the earth, earthy. True greatness does not come from without, but from within; it is not a thing of circumstances, but of character; it does not depend upon the will of other men, but upon the spirit that dwelleth in us. We must be great in heart before we can be great in life. When God would make a man great, he not only gives him the right spirit, but submits him to a process of education and discipline. God has already made many great. Think of the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, and the exceeding great multitude of the saints of every kindred and tongue; all these would acknowledge, with glad and grateful hearts, that they owed everything to God. Their confession would be, "We are his workmanship" (Ephesians 2:10; Revelation 4:10).

III. GOD MAKES MEN GREAT BY HIS GENTLENESS. Force may overcome force, but it cannot win the heart. If we are dealt with in the way of terror and wrath, our tendency will be to resistance, a version, and alienation. Severity may be, at times, necessary, but it is not severity but love that conquers. Mark God's gentleness:

1. In his manifestation of himself in Christ.

2. In the love of the Spirit in the Word.

3. In the gracious discipline of Providence.

We have in the life of David a beautiful example of the way in which God makes a man great. In the Gospels we have the true doctrine as to greatness (Matthew 20:26), and illustrative facts of the most convincing kind. See how Matthew was called; how Zacchseus was raised to a nobler life; how Peter and the rest of the apostles were trained to humble and loving service in behalf of their fellow-men. These, and such as these, will be hailed as truly great men when kings and conquerors, and all the "laurelled Barabbases of history," who have lived only for themselves, are forgotten. - W.F.







Thy gentleness hath made me great.
When the coarse mind of sin makes up gods by its own natural light, those gods reveal the coarseness and the sin together. The God of revelation contrives to be a gentle being; hiding His power that He might put confidence and courage in the feelings of His children.

I. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY GENTLENESS? God's gentleness lies in His consenting to the use of indirection, as a way of gaining His adversaries. Instead of coming down upon man in a manner of direct onset, to carry His submission by storm, He gently lays siege to him, waiting for his willing consent. It is the very genius of Christianity itself to bring men to obedience by a course of loving indirection from what is revealed in that wondrous indirection of grace, the incarnate life and death of Jesus. But where is the gentleness of God in those inexorable forces of the external world? Is it such a God that moves by indirection? Yes, and all the more properly, because these terrible forces permit Him to do it. He can hide His omnipotence — can set His will behind His love for a time, because He has these majestic inexorabilities for the rear guard of His mercies.

II. THE END GOD HAS IN VIEW IN CONDESCENDING TO THESE GRACIOUS METHODS, — TO MAKE US GREAT. The Christian Gospel is a plan to bring down the loftiness of our pride and the wilfulness of our rebellion, but to make us loftier in capacity and power and personal majesty. This is true of our will and of our intellect. Then, how perverse are those who require God to convert them by force. Let us adjust our conceptions of the true scale of a Christian man by God's careful respect for our liberty, the detentions of His violated feeling, the sending of His Son, and the silent intercession of His Spirit. Be it ours to live with a sense of our high calling upon us.

(Horace Bushnell, D. D.)

The idea here is, goodness manifested in gentle dealings, in loving kindness and tender mercy — an exhibition of the goodness of God which had often awakened his heart's warmest gratitude and led him to ascribe praise to Jehovah. The idea of lowliness enters into the meaning of the word gentleness; it is indeed essential to it. Gentleness is put in contrast with greatness. There is first God stooping down to that which is lowly, and as the result of this, His condescension, we have the gentle tender rule of His loving administration.

I. THE GENTLENESS OF OUR FATHER'S RULE. It was due to the Father's gentleness —

1. That we were brought under His genial sway.

2. That we have been kept in the school of Christ. There He conquers our dulness and wilfulness by His gentleness.

3. The gentleness of the Divine rule is revealed to us in the experience of life. Illustrate from our days of sin, days of punishment, days of affliction, days of weariness, and the hour of death.

II. THE EFFECTS WHICH THIS GENIAL SWAY PRODUCES IN US. Sept. reads, "Thy discipline." The Chaldee paraphrase reads, "Thy word hath increased me." There are some Christians of whom you feel that their humility — so beautiful and sincere and unpretending and unobtrusive — is an honour to them. Do you know the secret of this their greatness It is the product of Divine culture. We know some Christians whose zeal for God and God's house is such that they are made honourable by it. It is because the Divine gentleness has been so sweetly realised as to create a passionate desire to make some expression of its gratitude. Saviour Divine! may Thy gentleness make us gentle — gentle in thought, in intent, in speech, in action, — that we may live gentle lives of loving devotedness to the God whose discipline and leadings are ever tender and kind!

(Edward Leach.)

It is remarkable that the Psalmist should speak of God as gentle, and of himself as great, and that he should ascribe his own greatness to God's gentleness, as the effect to the cause. This would appear to reverse the natural order of things. The greatness of God might well teach us a lesson of gentleness.

I. THE IMPORT OF THAT GENTLENESS WHICH IS ASCRIBED TO GOD. Contrast it with His infinite power and universal sovereignty. There is united in the Divine character surpassing gentleness and transcendant greatness. To what but the Lord's gentleness, forbearance, long suffering, and tender mercy is it owing that our rebellious and guilty race haw been so long spared and so graciously dealt with? But it is in the person of His well-beloved Son, the meek and lowly Saviour, that the gentleness of God is exhibited to us in a visible and palpable form. Was not the Spirit of Christ emphatically one of gentleness? Did not that lovely Spirit, so aptly typified by the similitude of a dove, characterise His every word and action? Such a combination of gentleness with fortitude; of meekness with dignity; of the tenderest love with the most inflexible firmness, belongs only to Immanuel. The delineation of the character is far above human power.

II. THE NATURE OF THE GREATNESS WHICH THE PSALMIST AFFIRMS TO BE THE EFFECT OF THE DIVINE GENTLENESS. Is it the grandeur of wealth, power, fame, or royal dignity to which he refers? His own testimony negatives the supposition. It is of moral greatness, as distinct from earthly grandeur, — greatness of principle, of soul, of destiny — that greatness which teaches man to contemn sensual indulgences, that greatness which consists in spiritual endowments, and heavenly relationships — this is the only greatness which really dignifies and ennobles a never-dying spirit. This true spiritual greatness is at once the evidence and the effect of a Divine nature. To such heavenly greatness God's gentleness would lead us by Christ Jesus. The one subject of our everlasting songs will be, the gentleness of God in Christ.

(W. F. Vance, M. A.)

Hengstenberg calls this Psalm the great hallelujah of David's life, and one with which he retires from the theatre of action. David was at his best when he wrote these words. There were times when he was not fitted to pen such an ode.

I. THE CHARACTER OF TRUE GREATNESS. The world has admired and even deified the human earthward side of greatness, and overlooked the spiritual, Godward side. Men have exalted power, wealth, intellectual superiority above character or moral greatness, founded in faith, purity, and trust in God. Since the religion of Jesus Christ has prevailed, men are beginning to put character in the light of His matchless Excellence. How far like Him is any admired character? It is a cheerful sign that Christian communities demand some degree of moral greatness in those called to posts of power. The greatest nations of the globe are Christian. The most influential statesmen are reverent in their attitude, if not professedly converted men. True greatness is moral goodness.

II. THE SOURCE OF THIS TRUE GREATNESS. David is here reviewing his life. He is getting at the force that wrought in all these years and led him safely on and up, that has developed an inward life as well as an outward opulence and power. It is God. "Thy gentleness hath made me great." This word "gentleness" is translated condescension or benignity. It is gracious kindness to one's referrer. The sun pours its fervid rays on the earth, kiting its flowers and fruits into beauty, and ripening its bounty year by year. So the face of God, like Divine sunshine, calls out of you and me all that is good and really great. We realise this fact as we muse on the Divine love, so unwearied and continuous through our lives. Let us all strive to realise that God's eye of love rests on us. He sees our joy and grief, our loss and gain, our sin and our sorrow. Let us ever keep the windows of our life open to Him. God's benignant grace makes us truly great.

(George E. Reed, D. D.)

The gentleness of God — it is a wonderful word: a word that never could have originated with man. There are gods of might, grim and terrible. Man has never invented a god of gentleness. Jove is but a hurler of thunderbolts. Unto us our God hath revealed Himself, and lo, He is our Father, Almighty and Everlasting, yet His chosen emblem is the Breath, the Dew, the Lamb, the Dove, — all that sets forth the gentleness of our God. How best may we get hold of this wondrous truth? Gentleness is many sided. The word is rendered condescension, goodness, patience — but gentleness is more than these, or less. With us it may be but a lack of energy, a lack of decision. What passes for gentleness may be only a colourless mixture of weakness and unconcern, a forbearance that amiably smiles at everything and everybody, because it is less trouble than doing anything else. But it is difficult to think of gentleness in an intense nature. How can such an one be gentle? It is David, the valiant champion and captain of Israel, brave, heroic, chivalrous David, the man, too, of fierce passions, who gives us this experience. He knew as well as any the power and majesty of the Most High. And yet as he looks back upon his life he sees that the greatness of it has grown up out of the gentleness of God. We see the gentleness of God bearing in this brave soldier its own fruit, making him gracious and gentle; and at such times it is that he rises to his highest greatness. For myself I think I get furthest into the heart of this truth when I think of gentleness as the grace of one who puts himself in our place, making himself so one with us that he understands how we feel, taking our weakness and our difficulty and doubt and fear as his own. God is our father and mother too — setting ever before Himself the loftiest purpose concerning us, yet ever seeing our weakness, feeling it, and stooping tenderly to help us. That is the gentleness of God. If I am to think of God as the sublime, the majestic only, what hope have I? What allowance can be made for weakness, for ignorance, for peculiar difficulties? But if the infinite love and gentleness of God do bring Him down to be one with me in my very flesh and blood, one with me in all the round of daily life and circumstance, then I may set out with confidence. If He understand me in all my peculiarities and needs, and be ever ready to help me, then may I triumph — His gentleness shall make me great. This perfect understanding of us away by ourselves, and this perfect sympathy with us, this separate love and separate help, is the very strength and sweetness of the Gospel of Christ. God is not consumed, as some have thought, with an incessant craving for His own glory. God is consumed with an incessant longing for the welfare and blessedness of His children. All things are set and perfectly adjusted to this end. You to whom the beginnings of the life of God are a perplexity, goodness is a despair — He calls you to Himself that His gentleness may make you great. His purposes concerning us are altogether too great to be won by force; they can only be fulfilled by His gentleness.

(Mark Guy Pearse.)

I. THE GENTLENESS OF GOD.

1. Not a quality men usually ascribe to God. The sense of sin is the prime cause of the dread of God.

2. Not a single, but a complex attribute. Its base is goodness. Its aspects and operations are manifold. It is always sympathetic, but it is not mere softness. It does not exclude severity when severity is demanded. God both hurls the thunderbolt and distils the dew.

II. THE EFFECT OF GOD'S GENTLENESS ON THE MORAL GREATNESS OF MAN. The faculties of man are great, his destiny is great, and the Gospel of his salvation is great. The character and conduct of man are often little, very little indeed; but the powers and possibilities of his nature cannot be trivial. The Divine gentleness seen in —

1. Convincing of sin.

2. Prompting to a better life.

3. Upholding the saint in his progress toward perfection. The afterlife of the believing man on earth needs the ministry of God's gentleness. In the fight with evil within, the soul not infrequently grows sick of itself, weary of its own infirmities, and loses all heart about its own predicted victories. In such hours the experience of God's great patience with us, when we have given up all patience with ourselves, is of priceless value.

III. CONCLUSION.

1. Other attributes besides the gentleness of God must contribute to the moral life and welfare of the soul. Rigour and tenderness are both requisite to the moral guidance and training of our race.

2. In the moral development and perfection of fallen men the gentleness of God discharges the highest function. The strong hand retains, the hand of gentleness elicits and fosters. Authority moulds from without; love inspires from within.

3. The aim of the moral activity of God in this planet is to ensure the moral greatness of man.

4. Let none fail to weigh the condemning power of God's gentleness. The sufficiency of any moral force to encourage, inspire, and exalt is the exact measure of its ability to condemn.

(H. Batchelor, B. A.)

Gentleness is love in action. Geologists tell us that the silent influences of the atmosphere are far more powerful than the noisy forces of nature: quiet sunshine than thunder, and gentle rain than earthquake. So the gentleness of God is His grandest excellence. His gentleness shows itself in the goodness which teaches us to know Him and inspires us to become like Him; in the mercy which, remembering that we are but dust, forgives our sins and blots out the record of our iniquity. The spirit of the New Testament reveals the gentleness of God as manifested in the life of our Saviour; for gentleness was the prevailing disposition of Jesus. Jesus was gentle in all His words, and meek in all His actions. In His disposition you have a picture of the spirit of the Almighty God. And His object is ever to make us truly great.

I. THE GENTLENESS OF GOD IN THE INSPIRATION OF HIS LOVE. Love is the strongest force we know. Impelled by it, the wife has not feared to suck the poison from the wound of her husband, and love has ever been willing to lay down its life to save its beloved. Love is refining and elevating in proportion to its purity and power. Even the love of a dog makes a bad man better than he otherwise would be. There is a hunger for love in the human heart. The prisoner for life is the better for the love of the rat who creeps about his dungeon. One of the worst characters portrayed by Charles Dickens is that of Bill Sykes — a creature apparently without natural affection — yet even he had a soft place in his heart, and was moved with pity when trying to drown his faithful dog. The most helpless being in this world is a newborn child; and it is this very helplessness that appeals so strongly to our love. But when you realise that you are loved of God, it makes you great in noble deeds. Love calls forth love. God's gentleness is known by its record in the Bible and by its inspiration in our carts. And so the New Testament tells me of a fact — that in the heart of God there is love for me. But what should be the result when we know that our Saviour laid down His sacred life for us? Surely, that love, when it is felt in our heart, shall make the feeblest man great.

II. NOTICE HIS GENTLENESS IN THE PLEADING OF HIS SPIRIT WITH EVERY MAN. The Holy Spirit pleads with every man; and we are taught not to grieve God by resisting that hallowed influence.

III. THE GENTLENESS OF GOD IN GIVING US THE POWER OF THE RISEN LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST. May God make us great —

1. In our friendship to one another.

2. In our obedience to God.

3. In our actions.

4. In bearing our trials. You are one of God's jewels. But the polishing on the wheel must be if it is to shine brilliantly.

5. In our homes. Let us put away our littleness of character, and our feebleness in charity, and all that makes us mean and unlovely. We should be great in action as in thought. It is far more noble to be great than to be a king. Be great because God in His gentleness intends to lead you to paradise to be kings and priests. Let your actions be worthy of your high destiny; and may the gentleness of God uplift you from sin, and make you His children, whose lives shall adorn the Gospel of our Saviour.

(W. Birch.)

Whatever may have been the special link of association in the Psalmist's mind between the dignity to which he had himself been raised and the condescension of the Most High, the text naturally suggests to our own minds the connection subsisting between the gentleness of God and the true greatness of man.

I. CONSIDER THE FACT OF THE DIVINE GENTLENESS; Gentleness is more than kindness. A man may be benevolent, and yet rude. He may do much good to others, and yet his well-doing may lack tenderness, and even his condescension may be a phase of his pride. But when we speak of the "gentleness" of any man or woman we speak of a quality into which enter the elements of humility, sympathy, simplicity, delicacy of feeling, calmness of spirit, patience, and long suffering. It is a quality which eludes definition. It is to be felt rather than described. Gentleness is, so to speak, an "expression" on the face of love, the power of which may be realised in a moment, but the characteristics of which can with difficulty be transferred to the canvas. Now, when we speak of the gentleness of God we speak primarily of a quality in the Divine nature, made known to us, as it could only be, by its manifestations, by the revelation of an actual feeling in the Divine heart. We know how the gentleness of the human heart expresses itself, — in smiles which steal their way into the soul as the sunbeams steal into forest nooks; in tones which fall upon the ear as dew upon the grass, or as "snowflake upon snowflake." And so, when we find in God's works and ways the characteristics of lowliness and tenderness, we ought not merely to say that God acts as if He were gentle, but we ought to trace these characteristics upwards to an actual quality in the Divine nature. Carrying, then, this principle with us, let us look at some of the modes in which the Divine gentleness is revealed. And —

1. The very language which I have just been using about the sunlight, the dew, the summer breeze, may suggest to us that God manifests His gentleness in the minuter forms and quieter aspects of nature. Creation reveals God: His wisdom, power, glory, but also, to some extent, His character. Not all things in nature thus reveal His character, but most do. We have in nature that which tells of what is grand and awful in Him. The vast mountains, with their wintry summits hidden in snow and mist; the ocean, lashed into fury by the tempest which strews upon its waters the wrecks of human industry; the earthquake and volcano, the thunder roar and lightning flash — these are manifestations of a majesty which is almighty to create or to destroy. But when, on the other hand, we walk out into the fields on some fresh spring morning, and see the buds opening in the hedgerows; or when, on the quiet summer eve, we stroll by some streamlet and hear the birds sing among the leaves which are gleaming in the sunset, then God seems nearer to us than in thunder roar or ocean tempest. Nearer to us, because the nearness is one which we can more easily bear — not of majestic power, but of quiet gentleness. How this gentle presence steals into our hearts amid the flowers. Yes; even if there were nothing else to testify to the gentleness of God, the flowers would bear their silent witness. Mere power could manifest itself in ten thousand other and grander ways. What must be the nature of Him who finds a delight in thus clothing the earth with beauty? Pluck one of the daisies at your feet, and think — the great God who made the worlds has made this little flower to grow! Must not He Himself, then, be gentle and lowly, even as He is mighty? "A fevered child hushed to sleep by its mother" look at that picture for a moment.

2. Another mode in which the Divine gentleness is revealed — namely, in the creation and maintenance of human affection. It is God who is the Inspirer of that love within the mother's heart. He it is who has constituted those relations which bind us to one another, and which tend to elicit the deepest and tenderest affection. And has not man been created in the Divine image? Would he have been constituted with these capacities of affection unless his Maker delighted in beholding their exercise? How near God draws to us in the gentle courtesies of home and friendship: more near than even in the quiet scenes of nature. How often does some daughter within a household become, through her loving ways, as "a smile of God" to her parents; and the cradle of a sleeping infant, as another "Bethel" to the grateful mother, a very "gate of heaven" to her soul, giving her new glimpses of the presence and tenderness of God. Yes, "out of the mouth even of babes and sucklings God," etc. And in friendship too, with its tender ministries and patient loving help — how this tells of the Divine sympathy, and of Him who "healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds." There could be no tenderness at all in us, if its archetype were not first in Him.

3. God has also manifested His gentleness in the gift and Person of His Son Jesus Christ. Here, indeed, the revelation of the Divine humility reaches its climax. We cannot kneel in imagination before the manger of Bethlehem without feeling how real is the lowliness of God. The incarnation of the Divine Son was itself a humiliation. And this incarnation, remember, was the answer of the Creator to the sin of His creatures. Men were forgetting and forsaking Him, and trampling His laws under their feet. And all this enmity of theirs He meets — not with another deluge, not with fire and brimstone from heaven; but with the gift of the only-begotten Son, to take upon Him their nature, that the Divine Life might thus be inwrought, as it were, into the very texture of humanity, and that the world might be saved. Oh, what patient humility is here! How gently did the great God thus steal into the midst of the human family in the form of this Bethlehem Child. And how all through His life on earth does He show the same lowly gentleness. I might speak to you of other modes in which God manifests His gentleness. I might remind you how tenderly He often deals with us in His providence — erecting barriers of circumstance which help to keep us in the path of safety; mingling mercy also even with His chastisements; laying a gentle hand on the wound which must be probed, and sweetening the bitterness of the cup which must be drunk. Think, too, of the gentleness implied in the gift of the Holy Spirit the Comforter, who wrestles with us when we are tempted to sin, rebukes our transgressions in deep whispers within the soul, and gives peace and consolation by His own indwelling presence.

II. THE EFFECT OF THE DIVINE GENTLENESS UPON OURSELVES. It "makes us great." It enlarges our being: helps us to the attainment of noble spiritual character. And He does this —

1. By raising our estimate of our own nature. So long as we think only of the greatness of God and of His holiness, our own weakness and sin make us feel almost as if our existence were a worthless thing. But when God draws near to us in His gentleness, and calls us His "children," then we begin to be conscious of the dignity of our being.

2. The gentleness of God "makes us great" by inspiring us with faith in Himself. Humility, not pride, is the godlike attribute; and faith in God is the root of all the highest creature greatness. For it is the key to self-conquest; and "he who ruleth his own spirit is," etc. What has not faith done in and by those who have been inspired with its might? (Hebrews 11) Now as faith is the secret of all this higher spiritual greatness, so the gentleness of God is the secret of this faith. We could not look up to God with a childlike confidence if He were merely in our thoughts "the Thunderer of Olympus." But, being lowly and gracious in His own nature, He so manifests His fatherly gentleness as to win our trust. And thus the Divine gentleness "makes us great," by awakening within us that faith which is the root of greatness.

3. The gentleness of God "makes us great," by inducing the development of all our highest capacities. It has been remarked that civilisation has proceeded with more rapid strides and has reached a higher stage on the broader plains of earth, amid the tamer and quieter aspects of nature, than in the neighbourhood of the loftiest mountains and the grander features of our world. See the contrast between the populations of India or South America and those that cover the plains of Europe. The theory is that, in presence of the more sublime phenomena of nature, the spirit of man is awed and crushed, so that his development is cramped and fettered; whereas, on the broader plains of the world, his spirit becomes freer, and he learns to master the forces of nature, instead of cringing before her like a slave. But, however this may be, we know from our own experience that men who are greater, wiser, nobler than ourselves, help us in proportion as they stoop to us and identify themselves with us. To be met with gentleness is to be mightily helped, if it be only the gentleness of a strength which we respect. And thus it is that the Divine gentleness induces the development of our noblest powers. So long as we think only of the majesty of God there is danger lest terror paralyse our souls. But it is far otherwise when we realise the Divine lowliness — when we feel that God is drawing near to us in tender sympathy, and encouraging us, as "dear children," to do our best for Him. Then our reverence for His greatness only makes our gratitude for His condescension the more intense; and this gratitude is a stimulus to all holy energy. Our meditation suggests two practical lessons —(1) Learn how you may yourselves become greater. Your whole being will shrivel if you worship a colossal fate or an almighty spectre. The devotees of mere power grow weak. Let awe and trust blend themselves in your souls.(2) Learn how you may help others to become greater. Treat them with gentleness, not with a weak softness — that will only enervate. Cultivate robustness of character. But see to it that you cultivate gentleness also. Has some poor ship dashed itself on the rocky coast, and would you save the crew with that strong thick rope of yours? Then attach to it the slender cord, and throw them that; that may bring them the strong rope, which will prove the means of their deliverance. Would you save men from a spiritual shipwreck? Would you strengthen souls in the hour of temptation? Then the stronger your own character is, the better; but let your strength avail itself of gentleness, and it will become the mightier to protect and redeem. Would you make men wiser? Then the wiser you yourselves are, the better; but your wisdom must in gentleness stoop to their ignorance, if you would educate and instruct them. Would you make men purer? Then the purer your own heart is, the better; but your purity must in gentleness bear pityingly and patiently with them, if you would arouse them to a truer self-respect, and lead them into a higher and holier life. It is the gentleness of greatness that makes men great.

(T. Campbell Finlayson.)

No one can glance, even in the most hasty manner, over this Divine song without observing the recognition of God's hand in all things by which it is pervaded.

I. And at the very outset we find rising out of these words the question, WHAT IS THAT GREATNESS WHICH IN THE CHRISTIAN IS PRODUCED BY GOD'S GENTLENESS? Scarcely two individuals have the same idea of greatness. All, indeed, will agree that it denotes preeminence, but each will have his own preference as to the department in which that is to be manifested. Some associate it with the deeds of the warrior on the battlefield, others with the triumphs of the orator, or the achievements of the artist, the poet, the philosopher, the man of science; others, with the acquisition of rank or wealth or power. But the greatness which God's gentleness produces may co-exist with many of these, but is independent of them all. For man is great in the proportion that he resembles the holy God who made him. Man's greatness, therefore, is greatness in holiness. It is a moral thing, for the truest manliness and the highest God likeness are convertible terms. Behold our Lord Jesus Christ. Is there anyone who imagines that His greatness was lessened by the fact that He laboured at the carpenter's bench and was one of the poorest of the people? Not among warriors, poets, artists, statesmen, or the like do we name Him; yet even in the estimation of those who deny His deity, He is regarded as the greatest of men. Why? Because of His preeminence in holiness. Now, true greatness in man is precisely what it was in Him who, because He was the God-man, was the archetypal man. It is moral excellence, the greatness of character, preeminence in holiness, and is such that no external meanness can obscure its radiance, and no blaze of earthly glory can outshine its brightness. Thus, whatever our outward sphere may be, to be truly great we must have an inward character of holiness manifesting itself in all our actions; and he will be the greatest who, wherever he may be, is likest Christ. Some years ago a poor Spanish sailor was brought into a Liverpool hospital to die, and, after he had breathed his last, there was found upon his breast tattooed, after the manner of his class, a representation of Christ upon the Cross. You call that superstition, and perhaps you are right; yet there was beauty ill it too, for if we could have in our hearts what that poor seaman had painfully, and with the needle point, punctured over his, we should be great indeed. Is not this, in truth, the open secret of Paul's preeminence? for he thus describes himself: "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifest in our body." The manifestation of the life of Jesus: that is greatness, and to get that we must bear about in the body "the dying of the Lord."

II. BUT HOW DOES GOD'S GENTLENESS MAKE US GREAT?

1. It is because the human heart is always more deeply affected by tenderness than sternness. See this in the reformation of criminals. If you attempt to drag a man by force his nature is to resist you; but if you attempt to attract him by love, it is equally in his nature to follow you. And this is the principle of the Cross of Christ. God might have left us justly to our sins; but He would make us great, and therefore Christ died. It is this which turns the heart to God as Sinai could never do. But the manifestation of this love attracts: in other words, His gentleness produces in me that love to Him which is the source and inspiration of holiness. But, passing from the general to the particular, you may see the words of the text verified in the manner in which God receives individuals into His love, and so begins in them the greatness of holiness. "The bruised reed He does not break; the smoking flax He does not quench"; and there is no one here whom He will not willingly and lovingly receive. Read those gentle and beneficent words which fell so frequently from His lips. Peruse such parables as that of the lost sheep, or that of the prodigal son. Ah! who can tell how many have been encouraged to go to Him by such declarations and invitations as these? And now, as they revert to the first faint stirrings of the new life in them which these words evoked, they can say with truth, "Thy gentleness hath made us great."

2. See this also in the manner in which God in Christ Jesus trains His people after they have come to Him He does not leave them to themselves. He teaches them yet more and more of His grace; yet, in truest tenderness, He teaches them as they are able to bear it.

3. And in His dealings with His people now. Terrible are, at times, their trials, but "He stayeth His rough wind in the day of His east wind," and if the thorn of trial be not extracted, there comes the precious assurance, "My grace is sufficient for thee; My strength is made perfect in weakness." The subject has a two-fold application. It presents Jehovah to the sinner in a very affectionate attitude. Think of it, my friend. God is tender toward you. How often you have provoked Him with your iniquities, your ingratitude, your procrastination! Yet He has not cut you down. You are living evidences of His gentleness. Finally, this subject shows the Christian how he should seek to bring others to the knowledge of Jesus. The gentleness of God should be repeated and reproduced in us, and we should deal with others with the same tenderness and affection as God hath dealt with us. Parents, seek the greatness of your children, that is their godliness, not by rigorous, unbending sternness, but in tender forbearance. You have heard of the mother who, as she was sitting on the brow of a hill, suffered her child unnoticed to wander from her side, until he stood upon the very edge of the beetling cliff. She was appalled when she discovered where he was, but her maternal instinct would not let her shriek. All she did was to open her arms and beckon him to her embrace, and the little fellow, unconscious of the danger in which he stood, ran to be folded to her bosom. So let it be with you. When you see your young people standing on some precipice of temptation, do not scold or blame or cry out about it; that will only push them over. Rather open to them the arms of your affection. Make home to them more attractive than aught else. Let your fatherhood and motherhood become more to them than ever and by your very gentleness you will make them great. Sabbath school teacher, this text speaks to you, and bids you, in your earnest efforts for your scholars' welfare, show to them the same gentleness that Jesus manifested when He took the children in His arms and blessed them. Do not lose your temper with them, but be gentle with them, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

(W. N. Taylor, D. D.)

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