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by with a generous disregard, or softned by christian charity. I am sensible how hard it is for an angry man to persuade himself, that this, or that particular occasion (be it , what it will) that moves him, has all its force and inflammation from his own pride, or excessive tenderness of himself. The heart is deceitful above all things, and will frame a thousand excuses to screen its own corruption; but what else is it owing to, that men take fire so presently, if a piece of respect to them happen (with or without design) to be omitted? If one whom they fancy to be an inferior (and whom will not a proud person think so?) step before them, or place himself above them; if a word or two be dropt in conversation, that seems to reflect upon them; if all they say be not entirely credited, or all their notions complied with, and all they do approved : How many contempts, tho' real perhaps, yet trifling, are resented, which ought much rather to be despised! And, which is worse, how angry will some men be when they are told of their faults, tho' in a mild and prudent way, and only from a kind intention of reclaiming them. Now what are all these and other resentments of this kind, but the issue of mens pride, and undue value of themselves? Every body will allow it so in another's case, how hardly soever he is brought to believe it in his own.
And therefore anger upon such grounds must be irregular and unjustifiable. As to the matter of real and considerable injuries, I do not fay 'tis altogether unlawful to be moved by them; but the less we are so, the better: For there is nothing more insisted on in the christian religion, than patience and meekness, even on these occasions. The only anger that is without question warrantable (beside what I took notice of above, in the case of a just authority insulted or contemned) is that which arises from a good man's love of
God, and detestation of fin. When he hears the holy name of God blasphemed or trifled withi; his holy word prophaned; his being, his providence, or his truths denied; lewd language or indecent jests delivered; or uncharitable reflections vented against an innocent neighbour; when he sees the divine laws trampled upon, religion scandalized, debauchery and vice prevailing; then indeed he does well to be angry: His Lord and Master, upon whom he depends for his daily bread in this life, and his eternal happiness hereafter, is affronted; and who that has a sense of piety and gratitude can bear it? Sin we are not only allowed, but required to bate; and therefore, tho' we commiserate the finner, we may and must be angry at his fin. Thus much for the causes of anger; let us now see how it is to be governed, with respect to the measure or degree.
(2.) Our second rule therefore must be this, that our anger be not greater than the offence deserves. We must carefully confine it within such bounds, that it may not exceed the merits of the cause : For so far as it exceeds them, so far it is without cause ; and therefore unreasonable and unchristian. I confess, there is no measuring out our resentments by grains and scruples, in an exakt proportion to every accident that excites them: But there must be such a general regulation, as that it shall not be in the power of trifling and small offences to create in us a great uneasiness; nor of any offence at all, to blow us up into forms and tempests. Indeed, were we to judge of the importance of things by the weight they ordinarily make upon the spring of men's palfions, it would be hard to fix upon any accident, how minute soever, that would be allowed to pass for a trifle. Nay, even those things that really are of moment, and will justify some greater roughness, do so easily hurry us into extremes, that there
will need much grace, and much philosophy, and constant watchfulness, to temper, and restrain our heat. Even zeal for God, when it degenerates into fierceness and fury, becomes unwarrantable; and how
great soever any personal provocation, or private injury may be, there are degrees of anger, that are absolutely, and at all times unlawful. Revenge is one of these (of which I shall have occasion to say more hereafter in another chapter) and the other is, what we properly enough, by way of emphasis, call passion; which beside the apparent danger it brings to such as fall in our way, or are about us during that extravagancy, is also disgraceful to human nature; carries us out of our selves, to do and fay what shamefully betrays our weakness, and renders us contemptible, instead of making us considerable.
But farther, (3.) Another rule whereby we ought to govern our anger is, That we are not to retain it longer than reason requires. And it is retained longer than reafon requires, if it continue after the fault is acknowledged or amended, pardon asked; or due fatisfaction given or offered. Or fuppofing the offence was trivial, if it continue any longer, than while we are under the first furprise; that is, if it continue after such time, wherein we might recollect our selves, and so compose and settle our minds; there is nothing more contrary to Christianity, than to be implacable and morose, even after just cause of anger; and so our Saviour suggests in his answer to St. Peter's question, * Lord, how oft Mall my brother fin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times ; but, until seventy times seven, viz. So often forgive him, as he repents of what
#Mat. xyiii. 21, 22.
he hath done. And so we learn from those other words, t If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trefpass against thee seven times in a day, and feven times in a day turn again to thee; saying, I repent, thou Malt forgive him. Where our Lord gives a special caution, that our anger do not remain with us a day, an hour, nay, a minute longer than there is just reason for it, as knowing how dangerous a passion it is; how apt to grow rankerous and inveterate; and how much advantage the great tempter hath against us. And this is that which St. Paul suggests, + Be angry and fin not, let not the sun go down upon your wrath, neither give place to the devil.
II. The second article in which our Saviour has improved the sixth commandment, is the extending it to restrain all foornful and contemptuous reviling, and cenforious language. These are indeed the effects of anger, which too generally shews it felf this way, and therefore if anger, considered only as an inward resentment, or as expressed in certain over-acts, tho’ short of these, must be restrained and moderated by the rules given under the former head; there is no room to doubt, but that such exorbitant efforts of it, as we are now to speak of, must be yet more heinous in themselves, more deeply offensive to God, and more carefully to be avoided by every Christian. The word Raca is used to fignify an empty, witless, or contemptible fellow; and the word fool does usually represent to us in the Scripture language, a dissolute or wicked man. And fo I take the meaning of this part of the paragraph to be, that words of reproach and contempt, add very much to the guilt of sinful anger. But fanderous reviling, as calling a man an impious wretch, + Luke xvii. 3, 4. # Eph. iv. 26.
and the like, is yet a more grievous offence, and will accordingly be punished. Harsh words of any kind are to be very sparingly used, not without a great deal of caution and discretion; where just authority corrects, and where it may serve the ends of virtue. But such harsh words as these must never come from us, but under the strictest regulations of temper, intention and truth. My meaning is, they are never to be the effects of pasion, never uttered maliciously to depreciate and expose Men; and never apply'd without the most sensible and certain evidence. It is not the using of such words in any account whatsoever that is here forbidden, but when the use of them proceeds from causeless or immoderate anger, and from principles of spleen and malice. St. James makes use of the expression, * O vain man, which is no other than the English of Raca; and our Saviour himself speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees, † Ye fools and blind; and frequently calls them hypocrites. From which we may certainly draw this conclusion, that when thofe whole office and authority it is to reprove or to instruct, think fit to express themselves in fuch words, and do it out of a truly charitable intention, and in a calm and serious manner; by reprefenting thus to the consciences of those they speak to, the folly and wickedness of a sinful 'course; and fhewing them their own just character, where sharpness may be likely to do good; 'tis no offence at all against this precept. But when it is done merely to expose and ridicule, to vex and exafperate, to vent our anger, or to gratify our pride, it is a most unchristian practice. But let us a little more particularly consider,
(1.) The sin of scoffing and derision, those arrows, as the Psalmist calls them , even bitter words,
* James ii. 20.
Mat. xxiii. 17, 19.