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I am resolved, by the grace of God, so to be angry, as not to sin; and, therefore, to be angry at nothing but sin.
THE former part of the resolution is founded in the express command of St. Paul, ‘Be ye angry, and sin not.’168168 Eph. iv. 26. And the latter is an explication of, as well as an inference drawn from it. For, if anger be not only lawful, but a duty, as is here supposed, when it does not involve us in sin; the only difficulty is, to know how that passion ought to he qualified, to justify the exercise of it without being guilty of sin: and the circumstances or qualifications required for this are, first, That it be placed upon a due object; and, secondly, That it do not exceed its proper bounds.
Now, as nothing can deserve my anger, but what is disagreeable to my nature, and offensive to the author of it, so nothing but sin can properly he called its object. The chief thing that I am to aim at in my actions, is the honouring, serving, and pleasing of God; and how can I serve and please God in being angry at any thing but what I know is displeasing to him? I may be scorned, reproached, and vilified among my equals, or accused, condemned, and punished by my superiors; and these are treatments that are but too apt to raise and transport men into anger and revenge: but then, before I suffer this passion to boil up in me, I ought to consider whether I have not behaved 156myself so as to deserve this sort of treatment; if I have, then there is no injury or injustice done me thereby, and therefore, I ought not to be angry at it: if I have not, I must not be angry at the persons who act thus falsely and unjustly against me, but only at their sin; for, to speak properly, it is not the person that offends me, but the sin. And this, not because it is injurious to me, but because it is offensive and displeasing to God himself: for to be angry at any thing but what displeases God is to displease God in being angry. Whenever, therefore, I receive any affronts or provocations of this nature, I am resolved, by God’s grace assisting my endeavours, never to be moved or troubled at them, further than they are in their own nature sinful, and at the same time abstracting the sin from the persons, to pray for the pardon of those that are guilty of it; and not only so, but, according to the command and example of my Saviour, even to love them too.
But, how shall I be sure to be angry at nothing but sin, and so not to sin in my anger, when every petty trifle or cross accident is so apt to raise this passion in me? Why, the best method I can take, is, that which the wise man directs me to, ‘not to be hasty in my spirit,’169169 Eccles. vii. 9. but ‘to defer my anger’ according to ‘discretion.’170170 Prov. xix. 11. So that, whensoever any thing happens, that may incense and inflame my passion, I must immediately stop its career, and suspend the acts of it, till I have duly considered the motives and occasions that raised it. And as this will be a very good means to regulate the object of my anger, so likewise the measure of it: for, he 157that is slow to wrath, takes time to consider, and by consequence, puts his passion under the conduct of his reason; and, whoever does so, it will never suffer it to be transported beyond its proper bounds: whereas he whose anger is like tinder, that catches as soon as the spark is upon it, and who uses no means to stop its spreading, is presently blown up into a furious flame, which, before it is extinguished, may do more mischief than he is ever able to repair; for, no man knows whither his anger may hurry him, when once it has got the mastery of him. In order, therefore, to prevent the fatal consequences of this passion, I now resolve never to speak or do any thing, while I am under the influence of it, but take time to consider with myself, and reflect upon the several circumstances of the action or object it arises from, as well as the occasion and tendency of it; and, as oft as I find any thing in it displeasing to God, to be regularly angry at that, to correct, rebuke, and reprove it, with a zeal and fervour of spirit, suitable to the occasion; but still, to keep within the bounds of the truly Christian temper, which is always distinguished by love and charity, and exercises itself in meekness and moderation. And, oh! what a sedate and contented spirit will this resolution breed in me! How easy and quiet shall I be under all circumstances? Whilst others are peevish and fretful, and torment themselves with every petty trifle that does but cross their inclinations, or seem to be injurious to them: or fall into the other extreme, of a stoical apathy or insensibility; I shall, by this resolution, maintain a medium betwixt both, and possess my soul in peace and patience.158
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