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whether that They are all
A word, nay They are ever
1. Aa irtable and petulant disposition. There is in some persons an excessive liability to be offended; a morbid sensibility, which is kindled to anger by the least possible injury, injury be intentional or unintentional. combustible, and ignite by a spark. a look, is enough to infame them. ready to quarrel with any, or every body; and remind us of what Cromwell said of John Lilburne, "that he was so quarrelsome, that if he could find nobody else to quarrel with, John would quarrel with Lilburne, and Lilburne with John." The whole soul seems one entire sensitiveness of offence. Instead of "suffering long," they do not suffer at all; and instead of not being easily provoked, they are provoked by anything, and sometimes by nothing. Love will prevent all this, and produce a disposition the very reverse. It is concerned for the happiness of others; and will not wantonly afflict them, and render them wretched, by such an exhibition of unlovely and unchristian temper. It will remove this diseased sensibility, and, without blunting the natural feelings, will calm this sinful excitability. Many things it will not see or hear-judging them quite beneath its dignity to notice; others it will pass by, as not of sufficient consequence to require explanation. It will keep a strict guard over its feelings, holding the rein with a tight hand. Its first business is with the disposition itself. This is important for us to notice; for if we indulge the feeling of anger, it will be impossible to smother the flame in our bosom; like the burning materials of a volcano, it will at length burst out in fiery eruptions.
Here, then, is our first object: to gain that forbearance of disposition, which does not allow itself to be irritated or soured; to acquire that command, not only over our words and actions, but over our emotions, which shall make us patient and tranquil amidst insults and injuries-which shall keep down the temperament of the soul, and preserve the greatest coolness. Irritability, I know, is in part a physical quality; but it is in our power, by God's help to calm it. Love will make us willing to think the best of those with whom we have to do; it will disarm us of that suspicion and mistrust, which make us regard every body as intending to injure us; will cause us to find out pleas for those who have done us harm, and when this is impossible, will lead us to pity their weakness or forgive their wickedness.
What an enemy to himself is an irritable man! He is a self-tormentor of the worst kind. He is scarcely ever at peace. His bosom is always in a state of tumult. To him the calm sunshine of the breast is unknown. A thousand petty vexations disturb his repose, trivial, but withal, as tormenting as the gnats, which by myriads inflict their stings upon the poor animal which is exposed to their attack. Unhappy man, even though he so far succeed, as to restrain the agitations of his mind from bursting out into passion, yet has he the burning sense of torment within. Regard to his own happiness, as well as to the happiness of others, calls upon him to cultivate that love, which shall allay the inflammatory state of his mind, and restore a soundness which will not be thus wounded by every touch.
2. The next thing which love prevents, is immoderate anger; that anger which the apostle has described in the expression we are now elucidating, as amounting to a paroxysm of wrath; or which, in ordinary language, we call "being in a passion." It would be to oppose both reason and revelation, to assert that all anger is sin. "Be ye angry," saith the apostle, "and sin not." "A violent suppression of the natural feelings is not, perhaps, the best expedient for obviating their injurious effects; and though nothing requires a more vigilant restraint than the emotion of anger, the uneasiness of which it is productive is, perhaps, best allayed by its natural and temperate expression; not to say that it is a wise provision in the economy of nature, for the expression of injury and the preservation of the peace and decorum of society." A wise and temperate expression of our displeasure against injuries or offences, is by no means incompatible with Christian love; this grace intending only to check those furious sallies of our wrath, which are tormenting to ourselves and injurious to those with whom we have to do. Sinful anger is lamentably common, and is not sufficiently subdued among the professors of religion. In cases of offence, they are too often excited to criminal degrees of passion; their countenance is flushed, their brow lowers, their eye darts indignant flashes, and their tongue pours forth loud and stormy words of reviling accusations. To diminish and prevent this disposition, let us dwell much upon the evil consequences of it.
It disturbs our peace, and interrupts our happiness; and this is an evil about which we ought not to be
indifferent. A passionate man cannot be a happy man; he is the victim of a temper, which, like a serpent, dwells in his bosom to sting and torment him.
It destroys the comfort of those with whom he has to do his children often bear the fury of the tempest; his wife has her cup of conjugal felicity embittered by the venom; his servants tremble as at the rage of a tyrant; and those with whom he transacts the business of this life dread the gusts of his passion, by which they have often been rendered uncom fortable. He is a common disturber of the circle in which he moves.
It interrupts his enjoyment of religion, brings guilt upon his conscience, and unfits him for the season and the act of communion with God. A beautiful illustration of this part of the subject may be here introduced from one of the most striking of English writers: Prayer is the peace of our spirit, the stillness of our thoughts, the evenness of recollection, the seat of meditation, the rest of our cares, and the calm of our tempest; prayer is the issue of a quiet mind, of untroubled thoughts; it is the daughter of charity, and the sister of meekness: and he that prays to God with an angry, that is, with a troubled and discomposed spirit, is like him that retires into a battle to meditate, and sets up hís closet in the out-quarters of an army, and chooses a frontier garrison to be wise in. Anger is a perfect alienation of the mind from prayer, and, therefore, is contrary to that attention which presents our prayers in a right line to God. For so have I seen a lark rising from his bed of grass, and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to
heaven, and climb above the clouds: but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant--descending more at every breath of the tempest, than it could recover by the libration and frequent weighing of his wings; till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over, and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing as if it had learned music and motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the air about his ministries here below. So is the prayer of a good man: when his affairs have required business, and his business was matter of discipline, and his discipline was to pass upon a sinning person, or had a design of charity'; his duty met with the infirmities of a man, and anger was its instrument; and the instrument became stronger than the prime agent, and raised a tempest, and overruled the man; and then his prayer was broken, and his thoughts were troubled, and his words went up towards a cloud, and his thoughts pulled them back again, and made them without intention and the good man sighs for his infirmity, but must be content to lose the prayer; and he must recover it when his anger is removed, and his spirit is becalmed-made even as the brow of Jesus and smooth as the heart of God; and then it ascends to heaven upon the wings of the holy dove, and dwells with God, till it returns, like the useful bee, laden with a blessing and the dew of heaven."*
Sinful anger dishonours religion, and causes the
• Bishop Jeremy Taylor.