« VorigeDoorgaan »
and to put off, all, all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, though he says "the wrath of God cometh on the "children of disobedience", Eph. iv. 31.-Col. iii. 6, 8. which shews that wrath is not essentially evil. When the faults are specified which Christian converts are expected to put away, these faults are always meant,which they actually had (taken collectively) before conversion, either as Jews or heathens; the way therefore to get a right idea of any particular fault mentioned, is not to take the word expressing it in its strict literal or verbal sense; but according to the kind and degree of it prevailing in fact. The Jews had been carnal, both in their religion and morals; John iii. 6.-1 Cor. iii. 3.-Gal. v. 13, 17, 24. the Heathens had been desperately vicious. Rom. i. 24, to the end. Col. iii. 7.
24. Some evil effects of anger, when abused, fall upon the object of the passion: but texts need not be. produced to prove that the scriptures recognize these, Because every text, in which the abuse of anger is forbidden, or discouraged, implies their existence. When anger is called cruel or outrageous, it must be supposed to inflict evil on its object; and so when it is said to produce strifes, tumults and murders. Surely Oppression maketh a wise man mad". Eccles. vii. 7. says Solomon. And this applies to the evils of anger as they affect the world at large. When anger is blamed in scripture, there is in reality, an evil pointed out, and a cause of that evil assigned; but such cause and effect are only mentioned popularly, not linked together systematically, in a scientifical manner. What that friendly harmony is, which we have said anger interrupts, the Psalmist could not but feel, when he says, "Îtis "not an open enemy that hath done me this dishonour, "for then I could have borne it;"- "but it was even thou, my companion, my guide and mine own fami"liar friend. We took sweet counsel together, and "walked in the house of God as friends". Psalm lv. 12, 14, 15.
And the scripture by calling philanthrophy love of our neighbour, acknowledges the power of intercourse in generating kind affections. Social commerce, for
purposes of justice, or goodness, is also spoken of in such a manner as to shew the mischief of disturbing it. St. Paul tells us we are members one of another, Eph. iv. 25. and St. Peter enjoins our being all subject one to another: 1 Pet. v. 5. How anger may disturb this mutual dependance is not unfrequently intimated. "A "wrathful man stirreth up strife". Prov. xv. 18. and xvii. 19. "Strife causeth trangression". "The "wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of "God". Contentions are called "debates", and discouraged, or forbidden: those at law are spoken of by St. Paul; and those at war by St. James. "There is
utterly a fault among you, because ye go to Law one "with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? "Why do ye not suffer yourselves to be defrauded"? 1 Cor. vi. 7.-" From whence come wars and fightings amongst you? come they not hence, even of your "lusts that war in your members"? James iv. 1.
The continual growth of Resentment is described in the book of Proverbs; "The beginning of strife is as "when one letteth out water". Prov. xvii. 14. To which might be added, what has before occurred, about bearing a grudge, and anger resting in the bosom of fools. The means also by which the flame of discord is hindered from dying away, are particularly men. tioned. "Where no wood is there the fire goeth out; 66 so where there is no tale-bearer the strife ceaseth. "As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so is contentious man to kindle strife". Prov. xxvi. 66 20, 21. And when we consider, that the causes of anger and strife here mentioned are also the effects of them, we cannot be at a loss to conceive, that they may continually multiply. If they produce that which engenders the same, there can be no limit to their increase. Nay should the bad consequences arising from vicious anger be once stopped, yet the angry man is but too apt to begin all again, by fresh excesses. "A man "of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou "deliver him, yet thou must do it again". Prov, xix.
The ordinary ill offices arising from faulty anger are
included in those things which we are commanded to put away; amongst which evil-speaking, with malice, and blasphemy, (meaning detraction) are particularly mentioned. As to the bad effects of vicious resentment on the angry, it will be sufficient if we found only the name of "bitterness"; "the heart knoweth his own bitterness", Prov. xiv. 10.-Gal. v. (compare verse 20 with 22.) but can never know it otherwise than as misery and therefore this feeling is opposed to the sentiment of "joy."
Nor can hardness of heart be a more pleasing feel. And when anger is vicious, and so makes men do wrong things, deserving vengeance and detestation, then may we say of the angry man, that he fleeth "when no man pursueth"; Prov. xxviii. 1. that he is afraid where no fear is: Psalm liii. 6. much more when he sees revenge actually at hand, ready to strike a deadly blow.
25. Having taken notice of the effects of resentment, we may recollect what was said about the regulation of it: comparing it with the expressions of scripture. If we want to have only one rule to follow, it should be this; let anger always act under the direction of benevolence. When our Lord says, "I say unto you "love your enemies", Matt. v. 44. his meaning must be the same. And what St. Paul calls Charity is not popularly distinguished from what we now call benevolence: when he tells us that this virtue "suffereth long, "and is is not easily provoked",-" beareth "all things"-" endureth all things", 1 Cor. ch. xiii. it is the same thing as saying, that enlarged and enlightened benevolence should be our guide with regard to what we ought to fear, and what provocation we ought to indulge.
As to the question whether we should, if it were in our power, annihilate anger, nothing more need be produced than what appeared in considering its good effects; every instance of its good effects, in any particu lar situation of things, is an argument against destroying all its powers, whilst that situation continues. And
what was lately observed may be of use here, that when the Christian converts were commanded to put away anger and wrath, with their evil consequences, a comparison was really instituted, between what they had been before conversion, and what was expected of them in their new character. And therefore, that what was really ordered to be put off was that vice to which they had actually been habituated; they were so to regulate every passion that it should not stand in the way of any duty. g) There was no more occasion to caution men against annihilating the passion of anger, than to caution them against leaving the race of mankind to die away, and vanish from the earth.
We gave an idea of a man's giving the rein to his resentment, as far as it would assist him in doing his Duty, and in maintaining order, without suffering it to hurry him beyond the bounds which his reason prescribed; and this idea is sufficiently supported by the sacred writers, ascribing such conduct to the Deity; which they never would have done, if they had thought it essentially vicious. Nor must it be said, that the Deity could restrain what might overpower human weakness; if we conceive the Deity to have human passions, we must be uniform, and ascribe to him also human government of those passions: we must not confound figurative language with plain; we must not make the same agent, in the same train of thought, to be in some respects man, and in others God. If any one is afraid to depend upon this argument, he may recollect what is said concerning God's repenting that he had made man, Gen. vi. 6. And that he had made Saul king. 1 Sam. xv. 35.—Or he may consider that Christ, who is our pattern, and St. Paul who was inspired, have left us instances of Indignation and Resentment. How cautious every man should be, lest his passions hurry him into sin, has been attentively laid down, Part i. 40. where it was observed, that it would be imprudent in ordinary men to give scope to their warmer passions. See also Part v. 22.
That anger is not invincible appears sufficiently from our being commanded to put it away; and from the
general declaration, that God will not suffer men to be tempted above that they are able, but will with the temptation make, a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it: 1 Cor. x. 13. this declaration includes trials of every kind, bodily and spiritual.
26. We may come then to those practical Rules which seemed likely to suggest right methods of conducting ourselves in cases of provocation to anger, when without them we might have been unthinkingly carried into vicious conduct.
The first was, to furnish ourselves with good principles and resolutions. The two great pillars of Virtue, under the Christian economy are Faith and Love the former well adapted to make us endure all things, the latter to make us conciliate the kind affections of our brethren, and interpret their actions with mildness and candor. St. Paul intimates to the Colossians, that the way to be presented to God "unblame"able and unreproveable in his sight," is to "continue in the faith grounded and settled". Col. i. 22, 23. He prays ardently for the Ephesians, that they may be rooted and "grounded in love". Eph. iii. 17. And when we are possessed of these principles in some degree, we must carefully look forward to the dangers which we may have to encounter; we must provide forces sufficient to oppose any host that may come to attack us: we must compute exactly what fortifications we may have occasion to construct, Luke xiv. 28–32. lest we should expose ourselves to the sarcastic taunt, "this man began to build, and was not able to finish”.
27. Suspending the indulgence of our resentment is perfectly agreeable to those parts of scripture, where we are commanded to be slow to anger; not to be easily provoked. The wise man says, "the discretion of a man deferreth his anger". Prov. xix. 11. "Go not "forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do "in the end thereof". "He that hath no rule over his "own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and "without walls".
28. In order to avoid being guided by prejudice,