« EdellinenJatka »
fire by exasperating words. A prudent silence will be more ef fectual to end a quarrel, than the most sharp and piercing reply that confounds the adversary. Julius Caesar would never assault those enemies with arms, whom he could subdue by hunger. * He that injuriously reviles us, if we revile not again, and he has not a word from us to feed his rage, will cease of himself; and like those who die with pure hunger, will tear himself. Hezekiah commanded his counsellors not to say a word to Rabshekah.
Try by gentle and meek addresses to compose the ruffled minds of those who are provoked. It is the observation of the wisest of men, “that a soft answer breaks the bones:" it is usually successful to make stubborn spirits compliant. Indeed some are so perverse in their passions, that the millest words will incense them; no submission, no satisfaction will be accepted; their anger causes mortal and immortal hatred. But these are so far from being christians, they are not heathens; but divested of all humanity.
If anger has rushed into the bosom, that it may not rest there, cancel the remembrance of the provocation. The continual reflecting in the thoughts upon an injury, hinders reconciliation. The art of oblivion, if practised, would prevent those resentments that eternize quarrels. † For this end, let us consider what may lessen the offence in our esteem: in particular, if very injurious words are spoken against us by one in a transport of anger, they should be more easily despised, when they seem more justly provoking; for they proceed from rage, not from reason; and no person, that is of a wise and sober mind, will regard them, but as words spoke by a sick man in the height of a calenture.
Now to make us careful to prevent or allay this passion, it will be requisite to consider the inclination and sway of our natures; some as soon take fire as dry thorns, and retain it as knotty wood. Now it is a fundamental rule of life, that our weakest part must be guarded with the most jealousy, and fortified with
* Idem esse sibi consilium adversus hostem, quod plerisque medicis contra vitia corporum: famæ potius quam ferro superandi.
+ Quare fert agri rabiem & phenetici verba? Nempe quia nescire videntur quid faciant. Sen. 1. 3. de Ira.
the strongest defence: there we must expect the most dangerous and frequent assaults of satan: there he will direct his battery, and place his scaling-ladders. Let therefore the following considerations settle in our hearts. How becoming an understanding creature it is to defer anger? For the passions are blind and brutish; and without a severe command of them, a man forfeits his natural dignity. What is more unreasonable, than for a man deeply to wound himself, that he may have an imaginary satisfaction in revenging an injury? Into what a fierce disorder is the body put by anger? The heart is inflamed, and the boiling spirits fly up into the head, the eyes sparkle, the mouth foams, and the other symptoms of madness follow. Inwardly, the angry man suffers more torments than the most cruel enemy can inflict upon him. A man of understanding is of a cool spirit. It was the wise advice of Pyrrhus,* to those whom he instructed in the art of defence, that they would not be angry: for anger would make them rash, and expose them to their adversary. He that hath not rule over his own spirit, is like a city broken down, and without walls;' and consequently exposed to rapine and spoil by every enemy. Satan hath an easy entrance into them, and brings along with him a train of evils. We are there. fore directed to watch against anger," and not to give place to the devil." Eph. 4. Consider how honourable it is to pass by an offence: it is a royalty of spirit; an imitation of God, in "whose eyes the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is of great price." The greater the offence, the greater the glory of pardoning it. How pleasant it is! "The soul is possessed in patience;" it is cool and quiet; there is a divine and heavenly consent of the mind, the will and affections. + The breast of a dispassionate man is the temple of peace. Besides, let us frequently remember our want of the divine compassion: there is no man so innocent, unless he absolutely forgets that he is a man, and his many frailties, but desires that the cause of his life, in the day of judgment, may be tried by the tribunal of clemency; for no man can then be saved but by pardon. The due consideration of this will
* Ne irascarentur. Ira enim perturbat artem: et qua neceat tantum, non qua careat aspicit, Sen, de Ir.
+ Nec est quisquam cui tam valde innocentiæ sua placeat, ut non stare in conspectu clementiam paratam humanis erroribus gaudeat. Sen, de Clem.
make us more hardly provoked, and more easily appeased with those who offend us.
Let us pray for the descent of the dove-like Spirit into our bosoms, to moderate and temper our passions. "Meekness is the fruit of the Spirit." Gal. 5. 22. There is a natural meekness, the product of the temperament of the humours in the body; this is a rare felicity: there is a moral meekness, the product of education and counsel; this is an amiable virtue: there is a spiritual meekness, that orders the passions according to the rule of the divine law, in conformity to our Saviour's example; this is a divine grace, that attracts the esteem and love of God himself. This prepares us for communion with the God of peace here, and in heaven.
To obtain this excellent frame of spirit, let us be humble in our minds, and temperate in our affections, with respect to those things that are the incentives of passion. The false valuations of ourselves, and the things of this world, are the inward causes of sinful anger. Contempt and disdain, either real or apprehended, and the crossing our desires of worldly enjoyments, inflame our breasts. Our Saviour tells us, he is "meek and lowly;" and meekness is joined with temperance, as the productive and conservative cause of it. He that doth not over-value himself, nor inordinately affect temporal things, is hardly provoked, and easily appeased.
Thirdly, I will consider the two other vicious affections, joined by St. John with the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of life; from which we must be purged, or we are incapable of the blessed relation of God's children, and of his favour. The infamous character of the Cretians, is proper to the ambitious, covetous and voluptuous; "that they are evil beasts, and slow bellies." Covetousness is a diffusive evil, that corrupts the whole soul. It is radically in the understanding, principally in the will and affections, virtually in the actions.
1. It is radically in the understanding. Men are first enchanted in their opinion of riches, and then chained by their affections. The worldly-minded overvalue riches, as the only real and substantial happiness; the treasures of heaven, which are spiritual and future, are slighted as dreams, that have no existence but in the imagination. They see no convincing charms in grace and glory: the lustre of gold dazzles and deceives them;
they will not believe it is dirt. Gold is their sun and shield, that supplies them with the most desirable good things in their esteem, and preserves them from the most fearful evils. Gain is their main design, and utmost aim: their contrivances and projects are, how to maintain and improve their estates; and the most pleasant exercise of their thoughts, is to look over their inventory.
2. Covetousness is principally in the will, the place of its residence; it is called, "the love of money:" there is an inseparable relation between the heart and its treasure. We are directed, "If riches increase, set not your hearts upon them." It is observable, that the eager desire to procure riches, is often subordinate to other vicious affections, either to prodigality or pride. Prodigality excites to rapine and extortion, from the violent motive of indigence, that is its usual attendant, and from the conspiring lusts of sensuality, which languish, unless furnished with new supplies and nourishment. Or pride urges to an excessive procuring of wealth, to maintain the state and pomp of the vainglorious. Now if these vicious affections are corrected, the inor'dinate desire of riches will be suddenly cured.
But covetousness, in its proper sense, implies the seeking riches for the love of them, not respectively to their use. From hence it is the most unreasonable affection, and more inexcusable than any that are derived from the carnal appetites. Now love is the leading affection, and produces,
(1.) Immoderate desires of riches: for what is loved for itself, is desired with an unlimited appetite. Covetousness, "like the grave, never says it is enough."
(2.) Immoderate joy in possessing them. A covetous man is raised and ravished above himself, in the sight of his treasures: he thinks himself happy without reconciliation and communion with God, wherein heaven consists. It was a convincing evidence of Job's sacred and heavenly temper, that he did "not rejoice because his wealth was great, and his hand had gotten much." Job 31. 25.
(3.) Anxious fears of losing them. The covetous suspect every shadow, are fearful of every fancy, wherein their interest is concerned. They are vexed with the apprehensions, lest they should be oppressed by the rich, robbed by the poor, circumvented by the crafty, or suffer loss by innumerable, unforeseen and inevi
table accidents. Content is the poor man's riches, when possession is the rich man's torment.
(4.) Heart-breaking sorrow in being deprived of them. If you touch their treasure, you wound their hearts. According to the rule in nature, what is possessed with joy, is lost with grief; and according to the degree of the desires, such will be the despair when they are frustrated. Poverty, in the account of the covetous, is the worst of evils, that makes men absolutely desolate. Blind unhappy wretches! Eternal damnation is the extremest evil. It is infinitely better to be deprived of all their treasures, and go naked into paradise, than to fall laden with gold into the pit of perdition.
3. Covetousness is virtually in the actions; which are to be considered either in the getting, saving, or using an estate.
(1.) The covetous are inordinate and eager in their endeavours, to get an estate. They "rise early, lie down late, and eat the bread of carefulness:" they rack their brains, waste their strength, consume their time; they toil and tire themselves to gain the present world: for when lust counsels and commands, violence executes. Their eyes and hearts, their aims and endeavours, are concentrated in the earth. "Who will show us any good?" is their unsatisfied inquiry. They are greedy and earnest to obtain great riches; for they measure their estates by their desires, and they will use all means, fair or fraudulent, to amass wealth. The lucre of gain is so ravishing, they will not make a stand, but venture into a house infected with the plague, to get
(2.) They are sordid in saving, and contradict all divine and human rights by robbing God, their neighbours and themselves, of what is due to them. A covetous man robs God, the proprietor, in neglecting to pay what he has reserved for works of piety and charity, as an acknowledgment, that all is from his bounty: he robs the poor, his deputed receivers: he defrauds himself; for God bestows riches for the support and comfort of our lives, that we may with temperance and thanksgiving enjoy his benefits: * he wants what he has, as well as that he has not.
(3.) They are defective in using riches. If they do works externally good, the spring and motive is vicious; and the ends
Avaro tam deest quod habet, quam quod non habet.