Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tion to dwell on aggravating circumstances, or the tongue to run out in furious expressions, which greatly increase the inflammation, as the motion of the lion's tail is said to lash him into rage. For this wild beast within us we have a chain always ready at hand, and that is, the pain and danger he never fails to bring along with him. What baleful lightning he darts from our eỹes ! How frightfully he distorts our faces! How does he shake our limbs! Yet these are but the faint signs, often restrained as much as possible by shame, of inexpressible agonies within. Now, is such thunder to the mind, such an earthquake to the body, such a volcano vomiting fire, and threatening destruction to every thing near it, to be encouraged and prolonged ? are pangs, not unlike these of the damned, to be dwelt on, to be courted, to be pursued and aggravated, by a reasonable creature ? No, you will say, but anger, when violently provoked, breaks out like thunder, too suddenly to be checked. And I answer, its sallies do not prevent its agonies. They come together, and the one should instantly be applied as a cure for the other. The liver of this mental mad dog, should be taken with the soonest, as an antidote against the poison of his bite.

But supposing the resentment should be kindled only by tatlers and mischief-makers, who, for ends best known to themselves, have given the devil vacation, and undertaken for him this his most envenomed office; less consideration and caution will be required to quench it. Were anger ever excusable, these intentional brokers of mischief, of all human monsters, would be its, most justifiable objects; and indeed, of all others, sooner or later, they are the most apt to get a scorch from the over-boiling of the furnace, who are employed in the management of the bellows. Few disturbances arise among neighbours, which derive not either their original from the invention, or the greater part of their malignity from the malicious arts of these meddlers. Where there is no wood, the fire goeth out;' so where there is no tale-bearer, the strife ceaseth. As it is the listener who makes the tatler, it is impossible to account for his anger any other way, but by setting him down in the list of those fools, who, industrious to cut out mischief for themselves, retain a liar to regale their ears with fictitious causes of resentment, when mankind are grown too fond of peace, justice, and another's reputation truly, to furnish real ones.

In case however we have unhappily given way so far to the real or apparent motives of resentment, as to speak or act in a vindictive manner, and this hath provoked our enemy to new insults or injuries; we ought to deduct all such injuries; subsequent to our first act of revenge, from our apprehended cause of quarrel, and charge it to the account of our own indiscretion, pride and unchristion turn of mind. The original injury done us was probably but a small one ; this we repaid with interest; and that, our adversary hath retaliated with somewhat, in our opinion, too grievous to be forgiven. See what a fire is blown up out of a spark which a small kindness, or only a silent forgiveness, might have quenched, Supposing the adversary, as here I do, to have begun the mischief, Christianity, which owns no distinction between the

aggressor

and avenger

in point of guilt, ought long ago, to have put a stop to its progress, by that love in every man for every man, which nothing but passions, too outrageous for religion or nature to tolerate, can ever deface.

In the last place, we should do well to consider, that we have a common enemy, whose perpetual study it is, to expunge from our minds the beautiful image of God, who is love ; and to erect, in its stead, his own hideous and horrible image, made up of infernal hatred and malice. Our anger is but his engine, vomiting destruction at others, and recoiling with deadly force on ourselves. What else is his design, but to dash us one against another till a miserable shipwreck is made of peace, charity, and all our hopes ? To this work he halloo's the foolish part of mankind, as idle people do their dogs on one another, for sport; and, so infinitely ridiculous it is, that sport it might be to men, as well as devils, were the ill effects to end with this life. In the midst of your anger at your neighbour, who does you an injury, stay to consider coolly, whether God may not be angry with you for your greater provocations; and in consequence of that anger, may not have left this man loose upon you for a punishment, or rather perhaps for a trial, whereon is to depend your being forgiven, if you forgive; and even blessed, if you bless. Should this be the case, as possibly it may, you will find, that you yourself are your own enemy, that you have been the first mover of the injury you resent, and therefore should resent it against yourself in fear and trembling, not in anger against your neighbour. While therefore you have the tempter and yourself to be angry with, and God to fear, how can you give way to resentment against your weak brother, who is only the unhappy instrument of that suffering, which you have brought upon yourself? Who, but a fool, would stay to quarrel with one enemy for some petty injury done him in his character or fortune, who had to deal with two other enemies in an actual attack upon his life?

Having by reflections like these exercised from your heart the dæmon of anger, it will be the easier task to fill the vacancy with a spirit of a better nature, and infinitely more pleasing to yourself.

If the rigour of your resentment is relaxed, peace hath, no doubt, taken its place, and is ready to introduce to your now mollified and unrufied thoughts, her beautiful attendant, pity. And can you any where find a more moving object of your pity, than that man who is your enemy without cause ? His health, prosperity, and insolence, may impose upon you, and prevent your thinking him miserable. But hatred vented in iniquity and injury, is misery, is a corroding distemper, that cannot be cured without poison, that is, without doing mischief, which is poison to the soul of the doer. If you examine him through the eye of faith, which strips every thing of its worldly disguises, you will see him betrayed by his bad principles, torn by his ungovernable passions, and tortured with the stings of his guilty conscience; possessed by one of the most malevolent and rancorous devils; an object of God's indignation; and made over, if a woful repentance do not save him, to miseries infinitely more frightful, than those he already feels. Can

you see a soul in this condition without pity? If you can, you would not be grieved to see him in the torments of hell. You startle! and good reason. Yet your enemy actually suffers a share of those torments, and is hastening to a full completion of them. Does it not increase your pity, now that you are no longer angry, and add the compassionate fears of a

man and a Christian, to think, that you, though innocent, are unhappily the occasion of all this? That shudder you feel at the mention of his being damned on your account, shews you, all along, loved him, and wanted only your compassion to rouse your humanity and affection. What can your enemy do to you? He can only kill your body,' and probably wishes not to be so cruel; but if he does, with the weapon he aims at that, he runs himself through the soul ; for the point next himself is infinitely more sharp and deadly, than that which he turns on you. If he is, in other respects, a good man, how does your heart melt for him! and how does it tremble, in case the rest of his behaviour is of a piece with his treatment of you!

Allow him, however, some abatement of thein jury done you on account of ignorance, of the strong appearances of provocation on your part, and of those weaknesses in him, and all men, which you find, and lament, in yourself. He is not your enemy, but because he is just such a one as you

are.

Having by this allowance, which you must sometimes claim, as well as give, increased your good-natured concern for him; proceed next to strip yourself of the prejudices and bad opinions of him, which you entertained in the time of your late resentment. Go farther still, and do justice in your own breast to his good qualities, for who is so bad, as to have none? Perhaps he is, this instance only excepted, a good and amiable man. It may be, he was formerly your friend, nay, in some degree your benefactor. If you are not very unreasonable, you will listen to the good things others say of him, and if you are not extremely partial, you will by no means judge of the whole man by that part of his conduct, which relates only to yourself. You will not suffer it to be said, that you have a memory only for mischief.

But though he should not have been heretofore at any time your friend, perhaps hereafter he may, by receiving good only at your hands, for evil, and kindness for mistaken hatred, become the most zealous and useful of all your friends. We have instances of converted enemies, who have loved in proportion to their former hatred, and to the generosity, which made the change. Our Saviour hath observed, that he is apt to love most, who hath been pardoned most;' and

[ocr errors]

he means, when there is natural goodness of temper to work on. The pasionate, through an extraordinary redundance of warmth, are usually the most injurious, and as usually the most generous. It is worth your while to suppose your enemy to be of this cast, at least for sometime, till you can make an experiment on him, whether or no, the furnace of your charity and love may not melt him down into gratitude and affection for you. Heap the coals on his head,' and try him in that heavenly fire which God hath kindled up

in your heart by the best of all religions. On this charitable, perhaps highly rational supposition, you may entertain a certain degree of regard for him, or at least for what he may be. Do him the justice that a statuary does to a block of marble, wherein, rude and misshapen as it is, he sees the figure of an angel, and actually brings it out, but not without great labour, and the touches of a very delicate hand in paring away the rugged and superfluous parts, those parts, which might, at first, have hurt him, when he began to roll the unwieldly mass. As

you have ceased to resent, and began to pity, these two farther steps may help to improve that pity into some low degree of esteem and affection,

This affection may be carried a little farther by considering your enemy as the instrument of Providence, wherewith the great interests of your soul, and the solid glory you aim at, are more effectually promoted, than they can be by all the kindness of your friends. Neither your own estimate of yourself, which may be a little too favourable; nor the reproofs of your friend, which, through a tenderness too common, may touch but the surface of your faults, will teach you so well how to judge of your own infirmities, as the censures of an enemy, who will not spare, who will not fail to search every open you give him to the quick. It is high time for you to watch sharply over your own conduct, when you know the eye of malice is upon you, wishing for an opportunity to take advantage, and at once, to rejoice over you, and magnify itself against you.' But, what is more than all this, it is your eneiny only, who can put it in your power to forgive, to reward hatred with love, to do good for evil, and so to wipe out the dreadful score that is against you in the book of God.

« AnteriorContinuar »