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the head of the obnoxious individual. Such are the dire. ful consequences arising from the indulgence of this infuriated passion, which should render it detestable in our estimation, and induce us to check the least tendency to it in our breasts.—That we may do so, let us consider,
III. The reasons by which we should restrain our anger within the bounds of moderation.
The occasions on which we have to express our displeasure against others are generally such, that a determined disapprobation of the offence committed, uttered in a temperate and dispassionate manner, (with a signification of our wish that it shall not be repeated, under pain of losing our favour,) will generally be more effectual to deter others from injuring us, than the most boisterous effusions of rage and indignation. Let us therefore reflect, that there is no necessity for exciting our feelings to a state of irritation, in order to keep mankind in awe; since a resolution on our part to resist steadily every encroachment on our rights, to defend ourselves by lawful means against their oppressions, will prevent them from provoking us, when they know that it will not be done with impunity.If reason is a better defence than passion against injurious treatment, and therefore should in a great measure supersede its indulgence; how much more unwarrantable is it to be exasperated at the petty faults and follies of those with whom we converse ? Sometimes these are so trifling as to be beneath our regard ; sometimes they proceed from unguarded negligence; and sometimes from ignorance in the persons who commit them. In such cases, it is surely unreasonable to be transported with passion, when there is no sufficient grounds to justify it.
Let us reflect also, that mankind hare their prejudices, their interests, and humours, which often prompt them to act in a manner which we cannot approve: but that this is only what might be expected from them, and therefore should not render us uneasy," as it must needs be that offences will come, as long as human nature is so much perverted. Let us therefore bear them, as our allotted trial in the present world, and in patience possess our soul
amidst the unavoidable provocations to which we are subjected. But we may allege, that we sometimes meet with reproaches which cannot be tolerated without resentment. We know, however, that those men who offer them are void of that sense of propriety which becomes them, and therefore are rather objects of contempt than indignation: and that we degrade ourselves by taking any notice of their brutal behaviour. Or, if others from whom we had reason to expect better treatment, sometimes offend us, it is perhaps in an evil hour, when their spirits are inflamed by passion or other incidental causes, and therefore we should impute their behaviour rather to the influence of circumstances, than to a malevolent intention. For provocations have no power to injure our feelings, unless from the conception we entertain of their nature; and if we thus resolve to regard them in such a light as has been represented, we may preserve our minds from the emo. tions of anger, and live peaceably with all men.-But if we will still indulge bitterness and wrath, let us be persuaded to conquer such an unruly passion, by representing to ourselves, how much vexation of mind it produces; how it exposes us to contempt from men, and renders us obnoxious to the divine displeasure. These are reasons which should check the impetuosity of our tempers, if we have any regard to our happiness, reputation, or peace of mind.
Besides, is it not much more noble to overcome the violence of our spirits, and maintain self-command, than to yield to every turbulent emotion which rises in our breasts? “ The discretion of a man deferreth his anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” To be angry about trifles is unmanly, to be transported with rage is brutish, and to be sullen or malicious is devilish; whereas to be forbearing and forgiving is godlike and divine. “ The wisdom that is from above is peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated.” It teaches us, that though another be rude and uncivil, we should not imitate him by a similar conduct, but “ let our moderation be known unto all men.”—Another reason for suppressing our anger is, because it renders us incapable of performing
the offices of life in an acceptable manner. A heart full of rage and spite can never offer an agreeable service either of a religious or social nature; and accordingly our Saviour enjoins, that “ if we bring our gift to the altar, and there remember that our brother hath ought against us; we must go our way, first be reconciled to our brother, and then come and offer our gist.” Our religion requires, that we should agree with our adversary quickly while we are in the way with him; and that all bitter. ness, and wrath, and anger, and malice, should be put away from us, as becometh saints.--Again, let us consider how many provocations the Almighty has received from us, which he is ready to pardon for Christ's sake; how he bears with our perverseness, and is still waiting to be gracious; and therefore we should also forgive the offences of our brethren. If God has remitted us ten thousand talents, is it a hard matter to excuse them a hundred pence?“ Let us not be overcome of evil, but let us overcome evil with good."-But the reason which, above all, should induce us to the exercise of clemency is, that it is the condition on which depends our forgiveness with God. For, saith the scripture, if we forgive not men their trespasses, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us.” As we all stand in need of the divine mercy, let us not exclude ourselves from it by implacable resentment: but “ let us put on as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another: if any man have a quarrel against another, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”—Finally, let us consider, that if we expect to mect in heaven, with those friends whom we now converse with on earth, we must be kindly-affectioned one towards another, for in that happy place no strife nor contention shall ever enter: and therefore “ let us now love one another with pure hearts fervently.” For, “ charity is not easily provoked,” but “ suffereth long and is kind : it beareth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things." Charity never faileth, but shall cement the hearts of the redeemed around the throne of God. Let us, then, learn to practise this virtue as we have opportunity, and we shall be
fitted to join that celestial society of saints made perfect, where peace and love unite for ever.- I now proceed,
IV. To the application of the subject, by giving some directions to subdue anger, and live peaceably with all men. For this purpose, let us acquire a superiority to those little circumstances, in our condition, which are often the occasions of creating uneasiness to weak minds. Let us not be fastidious about what we shall eat, or what we shall drink; nor be out of humour for the want of those attentions and civilities, which we might even have a right to expect. These things are unworthy of our regard and solicitude, and should never discompose us, if we would render our happiness independent of such trifling accommodation.-Let us also obviate every cause, which might be apt to vex our temper; let us consider what are the occasions which engender strife, and be careful to avoid them; let us forbear as much as possible all intercourse with the froward and impertinent, and never engage in controversy with those who may probably exasperate our feelings. “ Make no friendship,” says Solomori, “ with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go; lest thou learn his ways and get a snare to thy soul.”- Again, let us never search for materials to excite our anger, by enquiring after the faults of others; nor listen to the reports of tale-bearers, who officiously represent the opinions of others to our disadvantage. We would be free from a great many vexations, if we disregarded altogether the indiscretions of those with whom we are connected; and resolved to maintain our souls in peace, amidst the various accidental circumstances which happen around us. Whereas, he who is perpetually employed in discovering the offences of which others are guilty, is always exposed to daily irritations, and lives in endless perplexity from every accident which occurs. How much better is it to remain in ignorance of these insignificant trifles, which produce only “ vanity and vexation of spirit !"
If we would maintain equanimity of temper, let us subdue those emotions of pride, which would induce us to take offence where it is not offered, and which aggravates
real injuries beyond all bounds of truth and justice. Whereas, meekness would teach us to bear opposition and contradiction without resentment, by considering, that others have a right to express their sentiments as well as we; that candour obliges us to interpret their opinions in the most favourable sense; and that they should not be suspected of any design to affront us, merely because they may utter an unguarded word, which the warmth of passion has injudiciously dictated.- Whence another rule is necessary to be observed; that we suffer pot our thoughts to brood over the slight injuries we have received; but endeavour to forget them as soon as possible, and return to amicable habits with those who have offended us. This is only doing to others, what we would have them to do to us : for we surely would think it unreasonable, that they should resent every little instance of incivility of which we are guilty towards them, or be unwilling to forget any slight misbehaviour in our conduct. Wherefore, “let us avenge not ourselves, but rather give place unto wrath;" let us be reconciled to our brother, and love our neighbour as ourselves.-But if we be unavoidably engaged in altercation with those who have provoked us, let us endeavour to suppress the emotions of anger, by forbearing all violent and abusive language, which has a mechanical effect to increase the vehemence of the passion. Let us use gentle and mild expressions, and represent the subject of dispute in as calm and rational a manner as possible; which will generally have more effect to convince our adversary, than all the vociferations of passionate invective. For, as the wise man says, a soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” “ The beginning of strife is, as when one letteth out water: wherefore leave off contention before it be med dled with."- If, however, we cannot command our temper, when opposed by the petulance of the froward and reproachful; let us “ withdraw from the presence of an angry man, when we perceive not in him the lips of wis: dom.” This is in general the safest course that can be adopted for avoiding the excesses of rage and resentment, By this means, we allow the ferment of our spirits to sub