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fore whom, if he should mark iniquity, who shall stand?” This latter consideration, if duly attended to, will produce the happiest effects.
Under an habitual sense of your daily offences against God, you will think less of those committed against yourselves, and be more ready to treat them with lenity. It will be often prudent and necessary for
you, entirely, to overlook the faults of those who are under your management and authority. This will save you a great deal of useless vexation, and your resentment, when it must be expressed, will have the better effect. By finding fault with every thing you see amiss, and suffering it to put you out of temper, you will acquire an habit of fretfulness and anger, that will keep you constantly sour and unhappy.
When your anger has by any cause been excited, endeavor, as soon as possible, to recover your serenity. Though the greatest danger is generally, from the first transports of this passion; yet, when it is cherished, for any length of time, after the occasion which produced it, there is great danger of its rankling into malice and revenge. And it is worthy of your notice, that this is more apt to be its effect, in those who are slow and phlegmatic in their temper, than in the quick and ficry.
The latter are to be dreaded, only in the moment of their rage, the others most, after you would suppose them to have cooled, and forgiven the provocation.
It is an excellent precept of the apostle, “Let not the sun go down upon thy wrath.” The force of which might probably depend on this consideration, that during the night, the mind being unemployed by those objects which entertain it through the day, is more apt to dwell
and to magnify real or supposed injuries; and to meditate measures of revenge. Or it might have reference to the time of the evening sacrifice, which was about sunset; and which required that all animosities and differences should be settled, before the solemnity could be properly attended. " If thou bringest thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother; and then come and offer thy gift.” This is certainly the strongest possible argument against continued anger and animosities, because it implies, that while our minds are discomposed and fretted with resentment, our religious offerings will not be accepted. Besides, he who lies down with
anger and ill-will, has not only been unfit for the devotions of the evening; but will most probably rise with the same temper, and be unfit for those of the
morning also, a case certainly, of equal guilt and danger to the soul.
In the management of this passion, it will greatly assist you to consider often the evils that attend it, the disquietude, fury and rashness it occasions, the shame it will often put you to, and the repentance and self-reproach, you must exercise, if you would hope to be pardoned even by
Make it a part of your daily devotions, to pray a suitable
temper towards others, under all provocations and offences. This will bring you into a habit of watching over your hearts; till you will acquire by degrees, at least, so far the government of this impetuous passion, as not to destroy your own peace, or be injurious to others.
And I particularly urge you, to endeavor to subdue it now while you are young, and your minds less liable to be ruffled and vexed, than they will probably be hereafter. Increasing cares, disappointments and infimities, may render you more suspicious of injuries, and induce a habit of fretfulness and intemperate resentments, that will make you not only contemptible, but wretched. “He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city." We come now to consider
5. Malice and revenge.
I have put these together, because the one almost unavoidably runs into the other.
Malice is properly continued anger, accompanied with hatred and ill-will. It is a black and malignant passion, which will allow no merit or good qualities, to those who are its objects. It disposes to misrepresent their best intentions, words and actions, and will make no allowance for their failings, however innocent and pardonable.
It prevents those good wishes and services which all men owe to one another, and without which the bonds of society must necessarily be dissolved. And what is still worse, it prompts to violent personal injuries; and takes pleasure to inflict them, however distressing to those who suffer them. When this is done, by way of satisfaction for injuries, real or supposed, it is properly revenge: And when I name this, I name almost the highest effort of a depraved and abandoned heart. It is the more vile and criminal, as it is deliberate, subtle, and determined in its measures, and therefore cannot plead hastiness of impulse, which may often be allowed as an apology for the violence of anger.
There is nothing indeed too black for such a temper, and no caution or vigilance can secure those who are its objects, from falling a prey to it.
From this view of these worst of passions, you will at once see the necessity of preventing them, if possible, from ever obtaining a place in your breasts. They are in themselves so deformed, and so effectually destroy those benevolent affections which form the dignity of the soul; and render it so unlike the standard of love and goodness, that you cannot treat them with sufficient abhorrence.
There is no injury you can receive, by whatever circumstances it may be aggravated, sufficient to justify you in repaying the authors of it, with malice and revenge. Where it is your duty to obtain redress of
any wrongs you may have sustained in your property, person, or reputation; pursue your measures with calmness and moderation of temper; free from that spirit of revenge which, in such cases, too commonly prevails, even where men act agreeably to the order which the public authority has prescribed. To prosecute those who have injured you, with a view to gratify your resentment, is as inconsistent with true benevolence, as it is contrary to the express statutes of the gospel. And yet, how common is it, for evil minded men, to put one another to unnecessary cost and trouble at law, chiefly with a view to gratify a splenetic and revengeful temper, while they justify themselves, and stifle the reproaches of conscience, by the pre