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be either scorned, or slighted, or shunned, or feared, or hated by their acquaintance and friends; how it produces injurious language, malicious calumny, and acts of violence; how contrary it is to that benevolent disposition, which the Gospel requires from every Christian:-these things, if they are frequently called to mind, and seriously considered, will certainly restrain immoderate anger; because such reflections will awaken in us passions, which are contrary to anger, and not consistent with it: they will raise the fear of disgrace, the fear of disobliging our friends, and of making enemies, the fear of offending God, the fear of present detriment or future punishment.
2. Another remedy for anger is the study of ourselves, an intimate acquaintance with our defects, especially with those which concern others. We should be wise and happy indeed, if we never gave any person just cause of uneasiness. But we are not so perfect. Through levity, inadvertence, hastiness, and self-love, we misbehave ourselves on many occasions, and stand in need of pardon. The remembrance of this ought to check our anger. We know that we likewise offend, and would willingly have our faults overlooked and excused. Why then should any one expect more from others, than he would give them leave to require from him?
3. The imperfections of men, and the necessity of making proper allowances for those imperfections, should induce us to moderate our anger.
We should not expect to be treated according to the rules of equity and humanity, as if we lived in a society of philosophers, or of true Christians; and should not lose all patience upon an injury or provocation, as if some unusual evil had befallen us; and as if any one who hath seen thirty years, could wonder at any thing of that sort. We should learn to restrain our anger by banishing the foolish hope of escaping rudeness, ingratitude, and ill-usage, by expecting that men will be men, and by pitying rather than resenting those faults, at least, which produce no great mischief. The world is a hospital of infirm creatures, labouring under various diseases of the mind; and we should bear with their follies and defects, as with the frowardness of persons in pain.
4. Another remedy for anger, which reason suggests to us, is, to resolve with ourselves not to give way to it upon trifling provocations.
It is with this as it is with our other passions. When they are often suffered to rise and take possession of the mind, they gather strength and grow more impetuous: when they have never been very violent and are seldom troublesome to us, they are easily restrained. We may hope to govern this passion without great difficulty, if we can suppress it, when the cause which excites it is little and insignificant. If we could, upon all such occasions, be masters of our temper, we should not often be provoked; for they who are frequently angry, are so because they are disturbed at very trifles. By learning thus to resist smaller temptations to anger, we shall be able at last to receive greater injuries, not unmoved indeed and unconcerned, but neither seeking nor wishing for revenge, nor losing our peace of mind, nor making ourselves miserable.
And if we could consider calmly and seriously, without prejudice and partiality, what are those offences which ought to be esteemed small and unworthy of our notice and unfit to raise our wrath, we should find that the greater part of affronts, wrongs, and indignities, as we call them, are of this nature; that we make them grievous by thinking too well of ourselves and too ill of others, and setting too high a value upon things on which our happiness depends not, or ought not to depend. He who could exercise his reason in forming just judgements of things, who could love and esteem, or fear and shun them, as upon a careful survey he found them to be valuable or pernicious, such a person would be seldom provoked and disturbed, and would be placed almost out of the reach of injuries.
5. Lastly, they who would govern their anger, must resist and restrain it at the first, in its beginnings, before it acquires strength and breaks out into extravagances. Anger, at its first rise, is an involuntary, unavoidable passion. Be it so ;yet we can refrain from speaking, knowing that we shall talk indiscreetly, if we give a loose to our tongue: we can shun those who have offended us, knowing that the sight of them may overpower our better resolutions; we can deprive ourselves of the means and opportunities of revenge, by change of place and by endeavouring to employ and divert ourselves some other way, and thus we can give our passion time to cool, and go out, for want of fuel.
These are the means which reason discovers and recommends, as proper to assist us in subduing sinful anger. The holy
Scriptures lay before us many motives to excite us to gain this victory over ourselves;—
By teaching us the little value of temporal good things in comparison with those, which are promised to us in a better world, they show us plainly that what raises anger, and strife, and malice, and animosities, amongst men, is generally beneath the notice of a Christian.
By revealing the love and mercy of God to us sinners, they remind us, that we should not entertain in our minds spite and hatred and revenge; but forgive one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us.'
By informing us that we are all servants of the same Master, that we have all the same calling, and the same hopes,-they show us that we ought to live together as brethren, in a mutual exchange of good offices; as it becomes those, who expect to live together for ever hereafter.
By assuring us, that the future recompense consists chiefly in an improvement of our good dispositions, and in a resemblance to God, they discover to us the absolute necessity of not suffering anger, or any other disorderly affection, to bring us into bondage. Such bad habits will leave a deep and lasting impression upon the soul, and make it not fit to dwell in the presence of God, nor capable of enjoying the rewards of virtue.
What hath been said of anger may, in a great measure, be applied to all our other inclinations. They have all their use: but they are only then useful, when they are under the dominion of reason. When they are suffered to break loose from that state of subjection, they promise pleasure, but they always give pain.
The art of governing the passions is more useful and more important than many things, in the search and pursuit of which we spend our days. Without this art, riches and health and skill and knowledge will give us little satisfaction; and whatsoever else we be, we can be neither happy, nor wise, nor good.
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
DOERS, NOT HEARERS.
ST. JAMES i. 22.- -Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man, beholding his natural face in a glass. 24. For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. 27. Pure religion, and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
[Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.]
THE design of this portion of scripture is to prove, that ‘receiving the word,' in the very best preparation of mind, is not sufficient. In enforcing the Apostle's argument, I shall endeavour to show, first, What the being a doer of the word' does really import; and, secondly, How gross and fatal that deceit is, which they, who take up short of this, put upon themselves.
I. I begin with explaining, what 'a doer of the word' does really import.
1. Now, here we are to consider, in the first place, that the word is a term of large extent, and comprehends the whole of that, which God hath revealed and prescribed to us. Consequently, to be doers of the word,' it is requisite that we take the law as we find it laid before us. It is from hence David pleads his own sincerity, and grounds his hope and trust: Then shall I not be ashamed (says he) when I have respect unto all thy commandments.' [Psal. cxix. 6.] It is this evidence of our love, and this claim to his, that our blessed Saviour means, when telling his disciples, Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.' Hence it is, that in the latter end of this chapter, that man's religion is declared to be vain, who, upon making conscience of some other duties, is beguiled into a false opinion of his own sanctity, though, at the same time, he bridle not his tongue : [James i. 26.] a failing, greatly to be lamented, and very usual among many,
who express a more than ordinary zeal for the outward and solemn exercises of religion. Constant and devout attenders upon public prayers, and sermons, and sacraments; sober in their conversation, regular and exemplary in their families, just in their dealings, even to a nicety; yet even these persons are oftentimes malicious detractors, bold censurers, and bitter backbiters. And of these it is, that the Apostle in particular repeats his observation, that they deceive their own hearts:' -because the men who allow themselves such liberties, do naturally, and almost insensibly, fall into that fatal mistake, of judging their own state by wicked and malicious comparisons. From labouring to persuade their company into that opinion, they at last come to persuade themselves, that they are so much better, in proportion as their slanders or reflections have made other people appear worse.
But although this be a deceit, peculiar to the vices of the tongue; yet all, in general, deceive themselves, who do not take the word of truth,' in its utmost comprehension. If, therefore, we speak comfort to our minds, upon not being grossly and notoriously wicked; indulging, in the meanwhile, those lusts, which no eye sees; if we give readily into those commands, to which interest or inclination dispose us, but start back from others, which contradict our favourite vices, flattering our consciences with a false hope, that the Lord' will 'pardon his servant in this thing;' such an obedience is but almost Christian:' and though with the rich young man in the gospel, we be not far from the kingdom of God; yet are we not in it, nor, upon these terms, ever like to come at it. For, properly speaking, this is not to observe and submit to God's, but to make our own law, and choose our own condition. Quite contrary to a state of subjection, which allows of no reserve in this case. Nor is any man a 'doer of the word' in earnest, and to purpose, whose heart cannot give him that testimony of the Psalmist, I hold straight all thy commandments, and all false ways I utterly abhor.'
2. They who are really doers of the word,' do it because it is the word. My meaning is, they are good upon a principle of religion, and in obedience to his authority, who hath commanded them to be so. It is, indeed, the glory of religion, and will prove one day the heaviest condemnation of all who despise or neglect it, that it is accommodated to all the present