« AnteriorContinuar »
and may in reality feel no vehement emotions, this alone is far from proving us innocent. If ill will be the principle of our conduct towards any of our fellowcreatures; if we suppress their merit, undervalue their good actions, give a bad turn to such as are capable of a better, aggravate their failures, and do them all the harm that we safely and quietly can; it is no alleviation, but the contrary, that we are able to do it without losing the command of ourselves. And there are some of so calm a malice, that they can plot and execute such mischief, as the most passionate man, in the very fit
fit of his passion, would recoil at; and yet preserve to others, and perhaps to their own minds, the shew of being very good-tempered. But this deliberate silent hatred, as it is the deepest rooted and most durable, so it is the most horrible depravity of all others, and the farthest distant from that spirit of forgiveness, without which, we shall not be forgiven.
Let us therefore in malice be children: but in understanding, men* : let us not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good t. • 1 Cor. xiv, 20.
+ Rom. xii. 21.
EPHESIANS IV. 26.
Be ye angry, and sin not.
The due bounds of anger, with the common excesses of them, have been described in my two last discourses: and therefore I now proceed,
II. To dissuade you from them, by shewing you . their bad effects; of which you cannot but have seen many already: but still it will be needful to set forth part of them more distinctly, and add others to them.
Some ill consequences of immoderate anger we feel immediately from the very workings of it within
For the passion, prone as we are to indulge it, is essentially uneasy. The goodness of God hath constituted our inward frame in such a manner, that the kind affections are all attended with delight: but those emotions, which tend to give others pain, produce it first in ourselves; to restrain us from ever indulging them further than is necessary. The lowest degree of displeasure, as the mere word implies, must be unpleasing; presents unwelcome thoughts and views of things to the mind, which more or less unfit it, so long as they last, for the cheerful and easy enjoyment of life. But if it rise to any heighth, its agitations are acutely miserable: they rack and tear our souls; and, if they return frequently, consume our health and vigour: though indeed, were we ever so strong to bear them, there is no happiness in being able to support the renewal of torments. Then, be
sides this inseparable feeling, there must often, as it is very fit there should, be a second, for the time almost intolerable, that of failing in the mischief, to which our fury prompts us. And yet success in it will only, after a short-lived inhuman transport, bring on a greater variety of dreadful sufferings. For there quickly succeeds a state unspeakably painful, of rage at ourselves instead of others; or at least of exhausted spirits, dejection at the remembrance of our wickedness and folly : bitter, and it may be, fruitless, anguish for the cruel things, that we have said or done. And the longer it is, before we reflect thus, the more matter we hoard up to make reflection frightful, when it comes.
Indeed one single consideration might be enough to prove anger a wretched condition; that our enemies are always endeavouring to put us into it: whom it is an innocent revenge to mortify, by resolving to disappoint them: and preserve ourselves in a calm, whatever storms we see around us. Не. . who doth this, hath found the true secret for passing his days with comfort, and conducting his affairs happily. Such a one sees on all sides of him, and apprehends every thing just as it is: makes the most of each favourable opportunity: and gives disadvantageous circumstances the best turn, of which they are capable. But passion so infatuates men, that they run directly upon evident ruin without
perceiving it: nor will they always avoid it, when they do perceive it. A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil : but a fool rageth, and is confident*. At best, they often lose a point of consequence by their warmth about a trifle: disoblige in a fit of peevishness their most zealous friends, and sometimes turn
Prov. xiv. 16.
them into the most dangerous adversaries. For past intimacies furnish peculiar means of doing hurt for the future: and a brother offended is harder to be won, than a strong city*. Then, at the same time that they provoke needless enmities, they give all their enemies needless advantages: often betraying their own designs, perpetually forwarding those of their opposers. For while they rashly press on upon others, they lay themselves open without defence, and verify the saying of the wise king: He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down, and without wallst. Nothing requires more coolness, than what usually raises the most heat: meeting with unreasonable opposition. They who cannot pass by small injuries unnoticed, will generally draw down great ones upon their own heads. For anger on such occasions, however just, serves only to make bad people worse, and afford them handles for doing more effectually what they wish. Kindle not therefore the coals of a sinner, lest thou be burnt with the flame of his fire. Rise not
Rise not up in anger at the presence of an injurious person, lest ke lie in wait to entrap thee in thy words I.
Another grievous disadvantage of a passionate temper is, that it hinders men from receiving advice. Not every one dares, and no one hath encouragement, to give it them for they will seldom bear the intimation of an error in what they do, or an ob jection to what they propose. Nay, too commonly, alledging reasons against a thing, increases their positiveness in favour of it. For anger joins the two unfittest companions in the world, rashness and obstinacy. Or, if good counsel chances to be once followed, the same impatience, which hath brought • Prov. xviii. 19. + Prov. xxv. 28. Ecclus viii. 10, 11.
60 them into one difficulty, will soon bring them into another, as bad. So that, to use Solomon's words, a man of great wrath shall suffer punishment : for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again*. What usually inflames our resentments is the desire of promoting our own schemes and interests. Now, on the contrary, this is the very inducement, which should moderate and check them. For however triumphantly outrageous people may seem to bear down all before them for a time: yet it is ever the cool head, that carries the point at last. Better is the end of a thing, than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of foolst. But supposing persons of this turn to have at heart, not their own private interest, but public good: very often their heat will mislead them to do evil instead of it; and that, most dreadful evil. For the strong impression of being in the right, under which they act, inclines them to run greater lengths in what is wrong, than any thing else could. And thus the wrath of man worketh not, even when he may intend it, the righteousness of Godt. Indeed were a design ever so well chosen, and harmlessly carried on, yet few things are so likely to hinder the success of it, as too great vehemence: which hath also this further inconvenience, that after they, whom it animates, have spent their first fire, they are the aptest of all others to flag and despair, and abandon their undertaking.
But, besides that we thus embarrass and disappoint ourselves, we ought to reflect, what sort of figure we make to others. Generally people endeavour to hide their frailties: but he that is hasty of spirit, proclaims • Prov. xix. 19. + Eccl. vii. 8, 9.
James i. 20.