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of the evil is physically impossible. "Our temper," say they, "is as much a part of ourselves, as the colour of our skin, or the conformation of our body; it is naturally inherent in us, and we cannot help it." As long as this is the conviction of the judgment, or the admission of a deceitful heart, it is almost vain to hope for a reformation. But let us reason with such persons.
It must be admitted, that there do exist constitutional tendencies to the exercise of particular passions: without being able to account for these effects, or whether the cause be wholly in the body or partly in the mind, the effects are too obvious to be denied. Nay, these constitutional tendencies are no less hereditary, sometimes, than direct physical disease. One man is naturally propense to passion; another to sullenness; a third to envy; a fourth to pride: all this is indisputable. But these tendencies are not uncontroulable: they are impulses, but not constraints; incitements, but not compulsions. It would subvert the whole system of moral obligation, to suppose that we were under a physical necessity of sinning, which we certainly should be, if inherent tendencies were beyond the power of moral restraint. That cannot be duty, which a man could not do if he would; nor can that be sin, which he cannot avoid by any exercise of disposition or will. If, therefore, we cannot help indulging revenge, envy, pride, unkindness, they are no sins: and, in this case would such vices have been condemned, if there were an impossibility in the way of avoiding them? Certainly not. It is no actual sin to have the liability; the guilt consists in indulging it.
If the existence of constitutional propensities be an excuse for their indulgence, the licentious man may plead it in justification of his sensuality; for he may have stronger incitements to his besetting sin, than many others who run not to the same excess of riot. But if licentiousness or cruelty cannot be excused on this ground, why should anger, revenge, or envy? Once let it be granted, that physical tendency is an excuse for any kind of sinful indulgence, no matter of what kind, and you at once overturn the whole system of Christian morals.
Besides, natural propensities, of the most impetuous kinds, have been, in innumerable instances, not only successfully resisted, but almost entirely vanquished. We have known persons, who were once addicted to all kinds of impure gratifications, but who have become as distinguished for chastity as they once were for lewdness; drunkards have become sober; men as furious as enraged tigers, have become gentleness itself. It is said of that eminently holy and useful man, Mr. FLETCHER, of MADELY, that "He was meek, like his Master, as well as lowly in heart. Not that he was so by nature, but a man of strong passions, and prone to anger in particular; insomuch that he has frequently spent the greater part of the night bathed in tears, imploring victory over his own spirit. And he did not strive in vain. He did obtain the victory in a very eminent degree. Yea, so thoroughly had grace subdued nature; so fully was. he renewed in the spirit of his mind ;-that for many years before his death, I believe he was never observed by any one, friend or foe, to be out of temper on any provocation
whatever. The testimony that Bishop Burnet bears of Archbishop Leighton, might be borne of him with equal propriety. After an intimate acquaintance with the Archbishop for many years, and after being with him by night and by day, at home and abroad, in public and in private; I must say, I never heard an idle word drop from his lips; I never saw him in any temper, in which I myself would not have wished to be found at death." What a character! What a testimony! But it is not the beauty, the inexpressible moral loveliness of it alone, which should be remarked, but the convincing proof which it furnishes, that a naturally bad temper may be subdued. Many instances of this kind have existed, which accumulate accusation and reproach upon the man who indulges in a sinful, constitutional tendency of any kind, under the mistaken idea, that it is not only absolutely invincible, but altogether irresistible.
That every thing which pertains to our physical nature will remain after our conversion, is true, for grace produces no change in the bodily organization; and that occasional ebullitions of inherent natural temper will occur in our renewed state, is allowed, for very few attain to Mr. Fletcher's eminence of piety; but if we are as passionate and revengeful, as proud and envious, as selfish and unkind, as we were before our supposed conversion, we may be assured that it is but a supposed conversion. It is nothing, that we go regularly to worship-it is nothing, that we feel under sermons— it is nothing, that we have holy frames and feelings; for a heart under the predominant influence of irascible passions, can no more have undergone the
change of the new birth, than one that is filled with a prevailing lasciviousness: and where the heart is renewed, and the badness of the temper is not constant, but only occasional-is not regnant, but only prominent,-it is, in so far as it prevails, a deduction from real piety.
True it is, that inherent natural tendency will require more vigorous resistance and unsleeping vigilance, more laborious effort, more painful mortification, more earnest prayer, on the part of those who are conscious of it, than is necessary on theirs in whom it does not exist. It is not uncommon for such persons to be contented with a few feeble struggles, and then to flatter themselves with the idea that there is more grace displayed in those efforts than in the conduct of others, who, being naturally good tempered, are never exposed to their temptations. To adorn religion, will certainly cost them far more labour than it does those of a better natural temper; just as a man afflicted with a weakly constitution, or a chronic disease, must take more pains with himself than one who has sound health-and he will, after all, look more sickly than the other; but as his bodily malady does exist, he must give himself this trouble, or he cannot rationally expect the least share of health: so it is with the soul, if the disease of an evil temper be there, immense and unwearied pains must be taken to resist and repress it. This is what is meant by our "plucking out a right eye, or cutting off a right hand;" by "denying ourselves;" by "mortifying the deeds of the body;" by "the spirit struggling against the flesh;" by "casting aside every weight, and the sin which doth most easily
beset us." The subjection of our temper to the controul of religion, is a thing which must be done. It is that to which we must apply, as to a matter of indispensable necessity; it is an object which we must accomplish by any mortification of feeling, and by any expenditure of labour. The virtues which we are about to consider, will spring up in no soil without culture; but there are some soils peculiarly unfriendly to their growth, and in which productions of an opposite kind thrive spontaneously, and grow with frightful luxuriance with these greater pains must be taken, and greater patience exercised, till at length the beautiful imagery of the prophet shall be realized" Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
But for effecting such a transformation, there must be a degree of labour and painstaking, which very few are willing to endure: "This kind goeth not forth but by prayer and fasting."
To obtain this victory over ourselves, much time must be spent in the closet-much communion with God must be maintained-much strong crying with tears must be poured forth. We must undergo what the apostle calls, by a term very appropriate, as well as strikingly descriptive, a "crucifixion ;"—
we must crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof;" we must keep," or as the word signifies, "beat under our body;"-we must bring our mind, from time to time, under the influence of redeeming grace;—we must ascend the hill of Calvary, and gaze upon that scene of love, till our cold