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1. Labour to get a sight of your interest in Christ. Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. This makes a man bold as a lion, 2 Tim. i. 12. This carried the martyrs through death; they knew in whom they had believed. This inflames love, which is of mighty influence to carry persons through tribulation. To a person in trouble, and under doubts, it is like the ship which carried Paul and his companions, when it stuck fast, and remained immoveable. This is a spring of joy, and will make the soul abhor sinful capitulations for deliverance.
2. Labour to get yourselves wrapt up in a promise for a time of tribulation, Gen. xxxii. 12. When the waters of trouble are coming on, he is a wise man who cleaves to a branch of the tree of life. A promise has been meet and drink, and all to a Christian; even a song to them in distress. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied. 3. Acquaint yourselves well with the Scriptures. says David, "Thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affiction." The Scriptures are written for this end, for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. A good Scripurist, a good Christian in an evil day: only you must study to experience the power of them on your hearts.
4. Let there be no standing controversy betwixt God and you. If you regard iniquity in your heart, the Lord will not hear you. A guilty conscience in an evil day, is a sad companion, as it was with Joseph's brethren. It puts a sting in the outward trouble. Therefore renew your repentance, and mourn over your backslidings, and apply to the blood of Jesus.
5. Study the practice of mortification. Labour to be mortified to your wordly goods, Jer. xlv. 5. The poor man must have grace to be mortified to his cottage, as well as the rich to their mansions. You must also labour to be mortified to your ease, Heb. xi. 25. It were not unreasonable for people at such a time, to ask themselves how they could take with Jacob's bed, Gen. xxviii. 11. Micaiah's food, 1 Kings xxii. 27. Peter's attendants, John xxi. 18; and the three children's lodging, Dan. iii. You must be mortified to your life, Luke xiv. 26. Die to your life now, if you would have that peace. Be familiar with Job's acquaintance, Job xvii. 14. Amen.
Exercise and Addition, February 28, 1712.
ANGER NOT TO BE SINFULLY INdulged.
EPHESIANS iv. 26, 27,
Be angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath; neither give place to the devil
THE apostle is now on some particulars of the old man that is to be put off, and of the new man which is to be put on. In the former verse he dehorts them lying, and exhorts to the speaking of truth. In the text, he lays before us our duty with respect to anger. We may take up the words in three parts: 1. We have the passion kept within its due bounds. Commended say some: allowed or permitted rather, say others. "Be angry." 2. The inordinate passion
simply condemned in its beginnings, as well as in its progress, "sin not;" namely, in your passion. It is condemned particularly in its progress and continuance. "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." 3. The reason why the inordinate passion is condemned it is a giving place to the devil.
The first thing laid before us in the text is, anger kept within its due bounds: "Be angry, and sin not." Some will have these words token out of Psal. iv. 4, which we render, "stand in awe." The Hebrew word, some translate simply, be moved. It signifies to be moved, either with anger or fear. The septuagint reads it, be angry, &c. Thus our English rage, answers it both in sound and sense; and accordingly our translators render the same word rage, Prov. xxix. 9; Dan. iii. 13. Yet, on the other hand, it cannot be denied, but it signifies also to be moved with fear, Isa. xxxii. 11, "be troubled," &c.; Deut. xxviii. 63, "a trembling heart." But if you consider the scope of both places, they seem to be very different. The Psalmist proposeth that, "stand in awe," or moved," as a check to his enemies sinning in persecuting the godly man, whom God has set apart for himself. The apostle proposeth his "sin not," as a check on the passion of anger in ourselves, that it go not out of order. Therefore, I suppose, that if the apostle has any eye in this, to that of the Psalmist, it is not by way of citation, but at most an allusion.
I see little reason why these words should be taken rather as a concession or permission, than a command. It is nowise like that,
Gen. ii. 16. It is not left to our option, whether to be angry or not, when there is a just cause. Coldness in God's matters, is hateful stupidity. The passions in the soul, are as winds in the air. If the winds blow not at all, or too calmly, they leave the ship at a great disadvantage; though it is sad when they blow so violent as to dash her upon the rocks. And what though anger in itself is neither good nor evil? The same may be said of love and other passions which are not in themselves evil, as envy is; yet doubtless it is a command, "Love as brethren." The apostle here, is directing us in practice, not what to think of anger in the abstract; which is never found in a subject, but vested with its due circumstances, and then it is either holy, good and just; or else it is irregular and impious. Thus the meaning must be, be holily angry, but not sinfully.
As for what is merely natural in anger, depending upon the body only, we leave it to philosophers to explain it. As for what concerns the soul and conscience in it, I take anger to be a commotion of the spirit, with hatred of, and grief for an injury, and desire of revenge; or to express it more softly, a desire of the vindication of the injured party. Every one may consult his own breast, and find it so. I shall consider this as in holy anger. And there is in it, 1. A commotion of the spirit, which ariseth from the apprehension of a real injury; for if it be only imaginary it is sinful. This is necessary to stir up a man's desire to see the wrong rectified. All commotion of a man's spirit is not sinful. Whoever feels this holy anger in him, will find it answers the name, an anger, vexation, or trouble of spirit. As Lot, whose soul in his anger against the sins of the Sodomites, "was vexed with their filthy conversation." So did Paul encounter the stoics at Athens, not with stupid apathy, but "a spirit stirred in him," Acts xvii. 16. Cast into a holy paroxysm, as the word signifies. Yea, our Lord himself, vented this in his angry looks: "He looked round about him with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts," Mark iii. 5. Nay, behold the holy height of it in the Holy One, when he said to them that sold doves in the temple, "Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise." It was good Eli's want of this zeal, which was the ruin, first of his sons, and then of himself, 1 Sam. iii. 13. He restrained them not, (Hebrew). Did not thraw his brows, or gloom upon them. Old age, it is like, had wrinkled them; but he had not as uuch zeal as to wrinkle them in holy anger against sin, and so he restrained them not.
2. There is hatred in it, not at the persons but at their sins,
whether they be our own sins or others. In this respect it is called indignation, 2 Cor. vii. 11. This is most desirable, when it is kept purely on this object. That is not the part where we are in hazard of excess, seeing we are commanded to abhor that which is evil, as we would do hell itself.
3. There is grief in it, Mark iii. 5. This naturally follows on hatred of the thing, which likewise ariseth from a just apprehension of the evil of it in a gracious soul. And from both ariseth,
4. A desire of the vindication of the right and honour of the party injured. This is that which the word Opyiɛɛ, used in the text, most properly points at, being derived from opyn, which they say is from opεyoμaι, to desire. The vindication of the right and honour of the party injured, is that which naturally occurs as the object of this desire in anger. Now where that cannot be done but by punishment or revenge, there is an holy anger, an appetite after revenge, which in its due circumstances is a good thing, being an execution of justice, Rom. xii. 19. But seeing God has not appointed all to be ministers of justice, holy anger will not carry the man without his sphere, and therefore it is still but an appetite of revenge by the hand that has right, and power to inflict it, and not of that carnal revenge which may satisfy an exorbitant passion, but that which is in a way of justice necessary to vindicate the right and honour of the injured. But where the party angry has power to revenge all disobedience, this holy anger sets him on the work; as it was with Moses, Exod. xxxii. 19-29, and Phinehas slaying Zimri and Cosbi, and Jesus driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple. But seeing there are not a few cases in which holy anger is very necessary, and yet the humiliation of the party, or confession of the fault may salve the honour of the injured, and a soft answer may turn away wrath; in holy anger that desire will not proceed farther, and therefore I called it, in the general, only a desire of the vindication of the right and honour of the injured, and not simply a desire of revenge.
This we may discribe holy anger to be a commotion of the spirit, arising from the apprehension of a real sinful evil, with hatred of it, grief for it, and a regular desire of the vindication of the right and honour of the injured, for the destruction of sin. Thus much for holy anger. I proceed to the
Second thing, which is sinful anger condemned. And,
I. We are to consider it in its rise, and the passion transgressing due bounds, which makes it sinful, however short, while it lasts. Sin not, says the apostle. There is no door opened for sin in any case, but the particular here aimed at, is that we sin not in our
anger; that a fire from hell rise not in our breasts, instead of a fire from heaven. We must not suppose that these words import a power in man, by any grace given in this life, to order his anger in any case, so as to be sinless in the eye of the law. The most pure fire that ever burnt in the heart of any man but the mau Christ, wanted not its smoke. But though the law of God is not the measure of our strength, yet it is the rule of our duty, and whatsoever in any case goes beyond the bounds of it is sin. It aims not at the extirpation of the passion of anger out of our hearts, but says unto it hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be staid. But if the passion break over the bars, and be as the letting out of waters, be in whom it will, the text shews them their transgression that they have exceeded; even meek Moses in his holy anger, breaks the tables. Though the defects in holy anger may be here condemned, yet sinful anger seems to be that which the apostle calls apopуioμos, and we render wrath, whereby he shews what he meant by his saying, sin not. He says not, let not the sun go down επι τηοργη, on your anger, but επι τη παροργισμω, upon your wrath; your unjust and sinful anger, which exceeds the due bounds of anger, as the preposition in the word imports. Now for clearing of what this sinful anger is, we must consider the due boundary of holy and just anger, and what is beyond these is sinful.
1. The grounds of holy anger are just and weighty, such as God's dishonour by our own sins, and the sins of others 2 Cor. vii. 11, Exod. xxii. 9. It must then be sinful anger, when it is without a just ground. "Whosoever," says our Lord, "is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment." Without a cause, ŋ, that is rashly, without any cause at all, or vainly, upon a light or trival cause, which is indeed no just cause of anger. But the judgment is weak and yielding, and gives way to the passions in both senses we are said to take God's name in vain.
2. The degree of holy anger is proportioned to the fault.. Thus God himself is angry at all sins, yet there are some sins to which he reserves the fierceness of wrath. When the anger then in respect of degrees, exceeds the measure of the offence, and men are carried so far beside themselves, as to turn about the cart wheel on the cummin that might be beat out with the rod, then it is sinful anger; and therefore good Jacob, when a-dying, curses the wrath of the brethren of iniquity, against the Shechemites because it was cruel, destroying a whole city for one's fault. Such was David's anger against Nabal, 1 Sam. xxv., to execute, which, though he had vowed himself by vow, yet when he comes to himself he breaks, and blesses God for preventing him.