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word, meant by being swift to hear:' [Jam. i. 19.] that is, making use of all proper means and opportunities for understanding our duty. And this extends, not only to our frequenting those public assemblies, where it is explained and enforced by an order of men set apart by God for that purpose, but also to those other private helps of reading and meditation, consulting with good books, and conversing with good friends, who have the skill and the charity to inform us where we are ignorant, to set us right where we are mistaken, and to encourage and quicken us, where we are cold and remiss. In all which, the greater care is requisite, because this is the spiritual food of our souls; and therefore, like that which sustains our bodies, ought to be our daily bread.
2. The second is modesty, or being slow to speak:' [ver. 19.] not taking upon us to be teachers through a vain conceit of our own sufficiency. For multitudes there always are, who, professing themselves to be wise, take the most effectual course to become fools. Because indeed it is never to be expected, that they should improve in learning, who imagine they have no further improvements to make, and are more importunate to be heard than forward to hear.
3. A third direction is the government of our passions, particularly that of anger. To this purpose St. James adds, 'slow to wrath,' at the 19th, and recommends its opposite virtue, meekness, at the 21st verse. The necessity hereof is declared at the 20th verse, by saying that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.' This is a seasonable reproof, to all of any persuasion, who make the warmth of their zeal, either a pretence or a real occasion of gratifying the bitterness of their own disposition. For it acquaints us, that the nature of Christianity is mild and gentle, peaceable and beneficent; that it is intended to cool and calm, not to kindle or inflame our passions. And that, be our intentions ever so sincere, the method of promoting religion is certainly wrong, and the business of it never to be done by heat and fury, uncharitableness and contention.
Permit me here to name one sort of wrath, which, in a special manner, obstructs the word. It is that, which takes it amiss to be admonished or reprehended, and counts them its enemies, who tell the truth when men resent it as a wrong and indignity, and harden themselves yet more, as oft as those
vices are exposed, of which their own conscience upbraids them with the guilt. If this be done, as it ought always to be, with solid reasoning, and in general terms, the preacher only discharges his duty. If it be done with spite and particular reflection, so as to expose the man, rather than the vice; this is a weakness so below his character, as should provoke pity, rather than anger. But there can be no reason, in either case, why the party, who feels himself concerned, should not amend his fault, and make some profit even of another's indiscretion.
4. Another direction here, is to lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness;' which signify sensuality and fleshly lusts. It is evident, that these desires are so irreconcileable with that purity of heart and life, enjoined by the Gospel, that it is impossible for any one, who indulges and addicts himself to them, to have any value for, relish of, or benefit by, the saving truth of it.
Lastly, let us observe the significance of that metaphor, which commands us to receive the ingrafted word [v. 21.] grafting incorporates one sort of plant with a tree of another; by which means the old stock is not destroyed, but a new quality so superinduced, that the fruit is from thenceforth changed, and made more generous. Thus the word must be thoroughly joined to us, and made of a piece with us; it must penetrate, and mingle with, and influence, every faculty of our minds. The wild suckers, which sprout from the old sour stock, must be cut low and kept under, that the new scion may receive nourishment, and shoot more vigorously. Thus nature is not taken away; but its luxuriances pared off. Our appetites are not extinguished; but improved, and turned to nobler objects. Our affections (according to the Collect for the Day,) from being being unruly, alter their taste; and from henceforth love that which God commands, and desire that which he does promise:' and by making this happy change in our originally corrupt temper and inclinations, and so becoming a principle of a new and nobler product, we have our fruit unto holiness, and the end, everlasting life.' And thus it is, that the ingrafted word' becomes able to save our souls.
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
ST. JAMES i. 19.
-Let every man be slow to wrath.
[Text taken from the Epistie for the Day.]
ANGER is, at first, an offence taken at an ill behaviour, an emotion of mind raised at the sense of injuries done to us or to others. The use of anger is to stir us up to self-preservation, and to put us upon our guard against injuries. When it hath done this, it hath performed all that belongs to it; for what measures we may take to effect this, how we may secure ourselves, and how we should behave towards those who offend us, these are points concerning which we must not consult our passions, but our reason; which was given to us to moderate our passions, and to prescribe laws for our actions.
What I have to offer upon this subject, will be contained,— I. In showing the ill effects and consequences of sinful
II. In giving some directions how we may restrain it. 1. Amongst many motives, which should induce us to moderate and restrain our passions, this is one, whilst that anger, it lasts, is a most uneasy passion. They who are under its dominion, are like the troubled sea; their thoughts are in an unnatural violent commotion; they can take no satisfaction in any thing; they can apply themselves to no business, and to no amusement; they are forced to dwell upon those objects only, which disturb and torment them. A painful memory of injuries received, a violent abhorrence of those who have offended them, a fierce desire of revenge, an anxious impatience till it be accomplished, all join together to afflict them. Thus do they use themselves as ill, as even their worst enemies could wish.
2. As anger makes us very uneasy, so doth it no less disgrace us by its deformity: by a strange alteration which it produces in the whole man; and by a thousand follies and indecencies, obvious even to the observation of a child.
It makes us also contemptible or odious to those, with whom This passion is difficult to be concealed and dis
sembled and he who is subject to it, frequently discovers it to all who come in his way. He will, therefore, be slighted and shunned by those, who have no particular obligations to him for anger, with the follies, the rudeness, the noise, the malice, and the impertinence, which attend it, is highly disagreeable to us. We dislike it in others, though we can overlook and excuse it in ourselves. The passionate person will soon weary out those, over whom he has no authority. They who are dependent upon him, who neither can leave him, nor dare to slight him, will be forced to submit and to bear as well as they can, the ill treatment which they daily receive from him: they will fear him; and they will perhaps obey him more than they ought, and comply with any thing that he proposes, though absurd and unreasonable, and carefully conceal their dislike: but friendship and esteem and love, he must not expect from them.
3. By anger, men are often incited to acts of vile injustice and unmerciful severity. Anger desires immediate revenge: it blots out of their minds all notions of right and wrong: it frequently extinguishes every sentiment of humanity; and sometimes, overcoming the dread of shame and of suffering, it hurries them on to deeds of violence, which are punished by human laws; or if they escape that punishment, are severely condemned by conscience and reason, when they return and resume their lost authority. Or if by fear and self-interest, they are kept from running into such enormities, they take another sort of revenge, speaking evil of those at whom they are offended, endeavouring to blast their reputation, and to raise them up enemies, aggravating their faults, detracting from their good qualities, pursuing them with lies and slanders, and opprobrious language, with all the secret ill offices and little arts of mischief, which malice, ever fruitful in invention, can suggest. This behaviour not only corrupts the mind, and robs it of its peace, and spoils the temper; but produces returns of illwill and malice, and establishes mutual hatred and uncharitable
How often, by outrageous and frantic anger, persons are hurried on to murder others, or to lay violent hands upon themselves, is a thing as lamentable, as it is common and notorious.
Under this head we may observe, that anger leads, directly and almost unavoidably, not only to slandering and reviling, but
to profane conversation, to oaths, and curses, and blasphemies. These are the usual effects of this furious passion, and the manner in which it gives itself vent and present relief.
4. Another bad consequence of anger is, that it produces an irreligious, impious temper. Such persons will be angry not only with men, but with the course of things and with the dispensations of providence, that is, with God himself. When trouble, or loss, or disappointments betal them, they will lose all patience, and entertain injurious thoughts even of their Maker.
The calamities which befal us, are often of such a nature, that they render us incapable of exerting the active and social duties. In such a situation, all that we are able to do, is, to be as little troublesome to others as we possibly can; to acknowledge the goodness of God; to love him and to trust in him; and to set an example of faith and patience and resignation to all about us.
These, if they are less honourable in the sight of men, and less admired than some other shining virtues, yet are not less valuable in themselves, nor less profitable to us. God highly approves them; and a great reward is due to them. They are never found in furious and passionate minds. Such persons, therefore, when they are in adversity, add to the weight of their sorrows, and become at that time the most useless of creatures, neither serving God, nor their neighbour, nor themselves.
5. Lastly, if the evil habits, which the soul contracts whilst it is united to the body, continue after its separation from it, which there is reason to fear,-a mind, easily provoked and full of resentment, always discomposed and dissatisfied, must be unfit for the society of spirits, who have no such turbulent passions, and for a place in the mansions of love and peace.
These are the ill effects and pernicious consequences of sinful anger whence it is evident, that, if we value our ease and reputation here, or our future happiness, we must strive against it, and keep it in subjection; which was the second point to be considered.
II. Let us offer the following remedies against sinful anger. 1. A serious consideration of the ill effects and consequences of sinful anger; what a restless, fretful, and tormenting passion it is; how much it disgraces them by its deformity, and renders them more like beasts than men; how it causes them to