nocent passion, and consequently allowable just occasions." But if the precept of St. Paul, "Be ye angry and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath;" and the example of Christ, who, it is said looked round upon the captious Jews with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, be duly and impartially considered, I am persuaded no shadow of doubt can remain on the point. The conduct of Him, whose soul was immaculate, and whose life was, confessedly, pure and unblemished, supplies, in this instance, an argument which bears down all opposition, and completely decides the question. In fact, the absence of resentment may, in certain cases, be evil in itself, and the cause of much moral evil in others. "Eli," says Mr. Scott, the commentator, ought to have shown anger as well as grief, when informed of the vile conduct of his sons, and to have expressed it by severe coercive measures. Thus, parents and masters, as well as magistrates, may sin in not feeling and expressing just displeasure against those under their care. And anger is only sinful when it springs from selfishness and malevolence, when causeless, or above the cause, and when expressed by unhallowed words or actions."


But, while the Stoics and some others have gone too far in one direction, the great mass of mankind are chiefly in danger by falling into the opposite extreme. The irascible passions, when fed with fresh fuel, and fanned into a flame, usually spread desolation and ruin on every side. Where pride, wrath, animosity, strife, and revenge predominate, it seems almost as if the furies of hell were let loose. The sober dictates of reason, and the mild suggestions of benevolence, are drowned and lost in the storm which shakes and agitates the soul. It were

easy, by an induction of melancholy facts, to demonstrate the mischief done by the excesses of this passion, but it is of more importance to point out the means by which they may be restrained and subjugated. While many, indeed, habitually indulge and vent their anger, they set at nought all the reproof and advice which is addressed to them, even in their coolest moments. The only plea they use is such as might induce us to believe they had studied no where but in the school of the fatalist. They allow they are hurried away by the impetuous torrent, but cannot help it; they act like madmen, but it is impossible to master an unhappy constitution. It is really wonderful that any man should thus acknowledge that he has totally lost the use of reason, and is become the mere creature of impulse, the slave of inordinate and irresistible passion. But the plea is as false as it is shameful. No constitutional tendencies can release us from the use of those means and motives, by which evil is to be prevented or subdued. "Let us," says Dr. Paley, "consider the indecency of extravagant anger; how it renders us while it lasts, the scorn and sport of all about us, of which it leaves us, when it ceases, sensible and ashamed; the inconveniencies and irretrievable misconduct into which our irascibility has sometimes betrayed us; the friendships it has lost us; the distresses and embarrassments in which we have been involved by it; and the repentance, which on one account or other, it always costs us. 22

It is not enough to chain this ferocious wild beast within-a taming process ought to be adopted; it is not sufficient to suppress the violence of this raging demon-an effectual exercise should be employed, for the purpose of expelling the fiend. We

know that reason acting upon the basis of religious principle, and faith drawing her resources from the fulness of Divine grace, can do wonders. The Christian, imbibing the spirit of the Gospel, is called to put away all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, with all malice; and to be kind, tender-hearted, gentle, and forgiving towards others. How often, under the influence of genuine religion, has the lion been changed into a lamb, and the vulture into a dove. "That eminent physician, Herman Boerhaave, being asked by what art he could preserve such calmness and self-possession amidst manifold provocations, he replied, that he was naturally of a warm and irritable temper, but had brought it under subjection by daily watchfulness and prayer. Not a few examples might, without much difficulty be adduced, to show the efficacy of the same means. The precepts, examples, and promises, of the Gospel, duly and perseveringly applied, under the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit, are capable of bringing every faculty, feeling, and thought, into sweet subjection and obedience to Christ. The natural tendencies of the constitution may still remain, and at times appear, but they are modified and controlled by principles of higher origin and greater power. And when the passions yield to reason, and reason itself bows implicitly to the authority of heaven, the reign of grace commences in the human soul, which is carried on through righteousness unto eternal life. by Jesus Christ our Lord.


ALTERNATE labour and rest seems the state best fitted to promote both the virtue and hapiness of mankind Idleness, if not itself positively criminal, is the fruitful parent or fostering nurse of crimes. It is found to prevail most, either in uncivilized tribes, or in nations where wealth has accumulated into large masses. Savages are all averse to regular employments; and men of affluence, in countries highly refined, discover a strong tendency to the same habit. If idleness be judged of from its effects, it must be unequivocally condemned. The court of Areopagus, at Athens, had a power to punish the idle, and exerted a right to examine how every citizen spent his time; and at this day, in China, the precepts which enjoin industry are deemed imperatively binding upon all classes. It is surely desirable, that, among ourselves, habitual sloth should bear the deepest brand of infamy. Lazy people are a blot and a burden to society. It is because great numbers waste their time in ease and soft indulgence, that so many are tied down to the most oppressive and intolerable hardships. The idle man is constantly exposed to the worst temptations, and seldom possesses promptitude or spirit to resist them; he, therefore, becomes first.a slave to his sensual passions, and next a contriver and an agent of fraud and villainy. Idleness is the hot-bed of those noxious and prolific vices, which have spread so much disgrace over our land. Those who follow no useful employment, or do this only at uncertain intervals, usually give themselves up to slander, drunkenness, lewdness, gaming, swindling, and theft. Prisons may be

crowded, and their wretched tenants sent to the hulks, or suspended at the gallows, to make room for other culprits; but how little can the rough hand of justice effect towards abating crime, while the source whence they spring remains untouched? The miserable system of management in most of our parishes, offers, in fact, a sort of bounty upon idleness. The worthless fellow, who loiters away his time by day, and pilfers by night, often gets nearly as much from the overseers for the support of his family, as the wages of the sober industrious labourer. While this strange and unnatural system continues in operation, the ordinary motives to good conduct in the lower orders are cut up by the root. And yet every body stands aghast at the growing degeneracy of our artisans and peasants. But have we any real ground for wonder when certain causes produce customary effects, either in the natural or the moral world? I am far from intending to enter into any political speculations, but keeping at a due distance from topics which divide the opinions of statesmen, it is surely a point on which there can be no room for controversy, that idleness ought to be universally marked with the stigma of disgrace. Unless the educated and the virtuous part of the community do this, they swell the mass and quicken the movement of crime in the lower classes. The point appears to me of such deep and vital importance, that it ought never to be lost sight of, either in the distribution of parochial and charitable relief, or in any of the various ways in which the poor may be made to feel the value of character. The miseries which attend or follow idleness, would baffle the best powers of description. And on this head, we ought not to confine ourselves to the squalid and

« VorigeDoorgaan »