« PreviousContinue »
all Times provided against desiring insatiably and grieving immoderately, and being angry unreasonably; at all Times prepared against all Accidents, and armed against all Temptations by long Confideration, much Resolution, and great Experia
And so we proceed, II. To consider some of the Benefits and Ad. vantages of ruling our Passions in this Manner. The wise Man has a very remarkable Proverb; He that has no Rule over his own Spirit is like a City that is broken down, and without Walls; a City in this Condition will be liable, at all Times, to be surprised by the Enemy : And, in like Manner, as long as we live in this World, there will be Provocations, Temptations to Lust, and Revenge, and Envy, there will be Crosses and Disappointments; there will be doubtful and suspected Sayings; there will be Fewel for our Passions administered in great Abundance, wherever we converse, or have any Business to tranfact : And therefore for a Man to have no Rule over his Spirit is to be exposed to the perpetual Torment either of furious Wrath, or gnawing Envy, or bitter Sorrow, or miserable Fear, or impatient Desire, &c. which, besides the Uneasiness they give to the Mind, do feldom fail to fhake the Constitution of the Body; to waste the Flesh, and four the Blood, and poison the Spirits ; and by that Means impair the Health, bring on Diseases, and shorten the Compass of Man's Life. But well were it for us, if the Consequence of unruly Passions were only felt in this Life : The fad Consideration of all is, that, by the Influence of these, we contract a vast Heap of Guilt, and are liable to the angry Justice of God, whose Authority we all the while contemn, and whose just and holy Precepts we break : For every Excess of Passion, and every wrong Use of our Affections, are so many Violations of the Laws
of God, which, without a fincere and timely Repentance, will make all that are guilty of them endlessly miserable in the World to come.
On the contrary, he who has got the Rule and Dominion over his Passions and Affections is like a City whose Walls are compleat, and so regularly fortified that they despise the rudest Affäults of the most desperate and enraged Enemy; or, rather, is like the Steadiness of a Rock, which holds irs Place, and is immoveable, though never so violent and boisterous Waves beat furiously against it, The Blandishments of Sense are no Allurements to him; because he has learnt that external Pleasures are short and transitory, leave no agreeable Reflection, and are no Manner of Advantage to us when they are past. The Disappointments of Life make no uneasy Impression upon him, because he remembers that all Things of this Nature are under the Appointment of wise Providence, which in other Respects has been abundantly bountiful to him, and small we receive Good at the Hand of God, and not receive Evil? The Apprehension of Pains sits light upon him, because he considers, that, if they be violent, they will probably be short ; if not, they are mixed with long Intervals of Ease, and that, when they are quite past, they leave no unpleasant Reflection : Nay, the very Prospect of Death, of a violent and unnatural Death, for the Sake of Righteousness, loses its Terror, upon Thoughts of the Honour and Approbation to be expected from God and good Men, as well as their own Consciences, if they continue firm ; and, on the contrary, the Remorse, Shame, and Fear of future Punishment, if their Hearts fhould fail them when they come to the Conflict, and have not Courage enough to resist unto Blood.
Thus is the Man, who, by Reason and Reflec, tion, has taught himself the Art of ruling his Passions, to all the Temptations, both of Pleasure or Pain, that do every-where surround him, inaccelfible. And, if we proceed to the more immediate Offices of Religion, we shall find, that the Thing which occasions the Practice of Virtue and Piety to be so uneasy and irksome to us, is not so much their Contrariety to the Temper of our Minds, as the ill Use we have made of our natural Powers, and their Pre-engagement to Vice : Because, when we are once come to ourselves, and have reduced our Affections to their natural Order, Religion then will become agreeable to us, and the Service of God our perfe&t Freedom. For how plain and smooth will our Way then lie before us, and what inconceivable Delight shall we take in walking in it, when, by the Grace of God, and the Assistance of his good Spirit, we are come to that happy Pass as to have no Errors or Extravagancies in our Passions and Affections, but find all their Motions regular and right! When we shall admire and love, defire and bope, for nothing with great Earnestness, but to be like God, and his Divine Son, our blessed Redeemer, in Purity and Holiness bere, that so we may become capable of the blissful Enjoyment of them hereafter : And, in the mean Time, rejoice in nothing so much as in the Testimony of a good Conscience; hate nothing so much as Sin,
which indeed is the greatest and most destructive Evil; dread nothing so much as to be surprised and overcome by it in any Instance; and find ourselves never so deeply affected with Sorrow and Compunction of Spirit, as when we have been so unhappy as to be betrayed into it: When our Passions, I say, are brought into this Course, they will now filently and smoothly on, and bring us to the Enjoyment of our supreme Good; which we shall then pursue without any Perturbation. Therefore.
III. To lay down some Rules for the Acquisition of this good Government of our Passions, one of our principal Cares must be to refift them in the Beginning, before they become inordinate ; to check and rebuke all malicious and revengeful, all unclean and lascivious, all covetous and repining Thoughts, at their first starting up in our Minds ; because there is no dallying with corrupt and impure Imaginations, nor any knowing how great a Fire, a small Spark of this Nature, when let alone, may be able to kindle. To the same Purpose it may be adviseable to inure ourselves to cross our Passions when there is no Danger, and to restrain our Appetites sometimes from ordinary and lawful Enjoyments, that we may do it with more Ease when dangerous Temptations shall assault us And withal it will be neceffary to Ay all Occasions that may incense the Passion whereunto we are naturally inclined : For can a Man take Fire in bis Bofom, and his Cloaths not be burnt? Or, if he wil- . lingly goes into the Company of infected Persons, can he blame any but himself, if he falls into their Diseases ? Our more particular Vigilance must therefore be employed againft that Sin which does so easily befet us; against that Passion which we must have least in our Power, because it arises most from our Complexion ; always remembering to make it our ardent Supplication to God, that he, who giveth Wisdom liberally, and upbraideth not, would teach us the Wisdom of governing our Passions, and, by the Strength and Allistance of his blessed Spirit, give us the Victory over them; that, passing our Lives in all Peace and Quietnefs, we may, in the Conclusion of them, be found meet to be partakers of the Inheritance of the Saints in Light, and to be conducted into that happy Place where the War between the Law in our Minds and the Law in our Members, between the Dictates of our Reason and
the Propensities of our Passions, will expire in an everlasting Peace.
in our Nature, that which occasions the greatest Perturbation, and is therefore more peculiarly called Pasion, is Anger. Anger however, as we had Occasion to observe before, is not always culpable: It is only fo indeed when it either arises from an unwarrantable Cause, or proceeds to an excessive Degree ; and this the Evangelical Grace of Meekness is designed to restrain : For Meekness is that Temper or Disposition of Mind whereby a Man so moderates and commands the Passion of Anger, as not to be carried to any such Excess of it as may either discompofe himself or injure his Neighbour. After therefore we have, 1. Shewn the Nature and Reasonableness of this Duty, we shall, 2. Suggest some Considerations that may be of Use to inforce the Practice of it.
I. Among all our natural Passions there is none wherein both our own and our Neighbour's Happiness is so often and so much concerned as in that of Anger : So often, because it is a Thing of daily Incursion; and so much, because it endangers the Strength and Stability both of private and publick Peace; and, consequently, such a due Moderation of this passion as may secure both, is a very considerable Instance of that Charity which the Apoftle tells us is the fulfilling of the Law. The Jewish Law indeed, which admitted of a Retaliation of Injuries, made little or no Provision for this Virtue, which was equally excluded from the System of Heatben Morals, but our blessed Saviour, who came to advance human Nature to its utmost Perfection, makes Humility and Meekness the two