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too heavily. We did as well, perhaps, as the abilities, which God hath given us, permitted: and if so, we are not to blame. But if we were imprudent, let us grow prudent now; not torment ourselves fruitlessly, which would be fresh folly, but labour composedly to retrieve our false steps, as far as we can.
But it may be we grieve, not for indiscretions merely, but for sins. And this grief should certainly be the heaviest, which is usually the lightest. Yet, though in most persons it very much wants to be increased; in some it needs to be restrained and regulated. Self-reflection was given us, not barely to make us uneasy, but, by so doing, to amend us. If it rises to a higher degree, than contributes to our amendment, it is undergoing so much misery to no use. And if we carry it so far as to obstruct our amendment, it is adding greatly to our former guilt. Excess of concern either for the weak or the wicked things that we have done, may sink us into despondency, may drive us to intemperance, may incite us to yet more desperate courses. Therefore we should by no means be impatient with ourselves: (for it is commonly a mark of pride: we cannot bear the imagination of having acted wrong:) but should humbly acknowledge our faults and infirmities, beg wisdom and strength from God's Holy Spirit for the sake of his blessed Son; and in the faith of that assistance, without which we can do nothing, meekly and perseveringly labour to do better. By this method we shall learn self-knowledge and watchfulness; improve by our very falls in skill to stand, recover our character amongst men, acquire a lively hope of acceptance with God, and be at peace within.
3. The next cause of impatience, mentioned before, was fear. Now fear supposes the evil appre
hended to be at some distance: perhaps the distance is so great, that we need not yet provide against it: and why should we disquiet ourselves before the time? But admitting the danger to be nearer : though doubtless this passion was wisely and kindly implanted in us by our Maker for precaution, yet we must keep it within bounds; else we shall be incapable of using effectual precaution; indeed shall contribute to bring on the very thing we dread. If we preserve our minds in a condition to take proper measures, it may never come near us; or though it do, may never fall upon us. Future bad events, as well as good, are extremely uncertain. Our pleasure is often diminished, by the latter uncertainty. Why should not our uneasiness be calmed by the former? Have not we often seen others, have not we often been ourselves, grievously frightened with the prospect of what after all did not happen? Let us oppose terror with hope. Or, if the agitation, produced by the conflict between the two, makes our case worse, as in some minds it seems to do; let us lay aside hope, and take it for granted that the misfortune we expect will befal us: yet it may continue a much less time, than we expect. Or if not, it may however be much more tolerable. Fear is a strange magnifier. People say, they are positive, they are certain, that they shall never be able to go through what is approaching. They are not certain, they cannot be certain before-hand. Human nature will
At least, surely
endure much more, than we imagine. God can strengthen us, if he will. declares, God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will, with the temptation also, make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it*. Most men have found, and the
1 Cor. x. 13.
timorous will own it, that they have frequently suffered a great deal more by the apprehension of heavy strokes, than by the infliction. Why should we not learn then to moderate our apprehensions? Look steadily at the thing feared: examine the worst of it: but observe also the mitigations and remedies, and apply them. They are various in themselves, and useful in various degrees, according to the difference of circumstances: and the particulars cannot be reckoned up here. Only, do nothing wicked by way of prevention; for sin is worse than any temporal suffering. Set not your thoughts wholly on guarding against one danger; for there are many: nor against them all; for your attention ought to be divided amongst the several duties of life, that none may be neglected. Want not to be securer, than the state, in which we live, will allow: but let it suffice you, that the world is governed by the providence of God. Pray to him, and cheerfully put your interests into his hands, and all will end well. Be not afraid of sudden fear-when it cometh: for the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken. The fear of the wicked shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted. The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, shall be safe.
These assurances hold good more especially with respect to one fear, that of death, which deserves to be mentioned separately. We should always live in the thought of it: but many live in the dread also; and dread it on occasions where there is not even the smallest hazard of it. And sometimes their very alarms, sometimes the useless and hurtful precautions, which they take in consequence of them, * Prov. iii. 25, 26. + Prov. x. 24.
Prov. xxix. 25.
hasten it. These things are evidently in a high degree unwise: and a moderate use of reason, one should think, might check them. But be we ever so prudent, it will come. And numbers are terrified with the great pain, which they fancy it must bring with it. But this, as far as ever we have room to judge from appearances, is quite a groundless imagination; and there are very few who have not undergone, perhaps many times over, more bodily sufferings already, than they will in the hour of their dissolution. Still were death to end our being, the view of it to good persons would be a melancholy one indeed. But, God be thanked, our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel*. Impenitent sinners, I own, instead of comfort, have only cause from hence for unspeakably worse terror. And strong warnings of it are kindly given them in Holy Writ. Be not afraid of them, that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, fear him. Nor is there, in the whole creation, any cure for this fear, but repentance and faith, and Christian obedience to God's laws: and these are a perfect cure. For our blessed Redeemer hath condescended to die, that they who believe in him and keep his commandments may live in happiness for ever: or, to express it in the words of Scripture, that, through death, he might destroy him, that had the power of death, that is, the devil: and deliver them, who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage.
4. The last trial of our patience, of which I pro+ Luke xii. 4, 5. Heb. ii. 14, 15.
2 Tim. i. 10.
posed to speak, is anger. With ourselves we are seldom angry enough, when we do amiss: and yet we may be too angry at our own faults, as well as too much grieved for them. Of this latter excess I treated under the second head; and the observations and directions, there laid down, may without difficulty be applied here. I shall now, therefore, discourse only of anger against others: and that more briefly, because I have lately treated that subject at large. Take notice then of the following motives for moderating this passion. Impatience of pain, excess of sorrow and fear, hurt only or chiefly ourselves, with whom we have the best right to make free; and seldom provoke any one else to do us harm; but excess of anger injures others, which is a great sin: and excites them to revenge, which is a great folly in us. We have surely failings and sufferings enough besides; and need not add to them thus. But indeed, without looking so far, anger in its very nature is tormenting: and when immoderate or frequent, sours our tempers, imbitters our lives, wears out our frame, lowers our character, lessens our influence, thwarts our interests, multiplies our difficulties, hurries us into dangers, even of our lives, in more ways than one. Plainly therefore we are concerned, on many accounts, to restrain it within the limits of reason and religion, by every method in our power: by serious considerations of duty to him, who requires it of us, and of gratitude to him, who is so patient and long-suffering towards us; by cultivating good-will to our fellow-creatures, by reflecting on the frailty of human nature, on our own innumerable frailties and errors, in behaviour to others: which we doubtless must wish to have gently passed over by