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3. The end of holy anger which it is directed, is the glory of God and the good of our neighbour, Prov. xiii. 24; John ii. 16, 17. Sinful then it must be, when it is a fire lighting on others, to make them sacrifices to cursed self, to satisfy the desires of a proud (Hebrew, a wide heart, Prov. xxvii. 25.) which will never think it gets enough from others. "Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who
dealeth in proud wrath."
4. The effects of holy anger directly and indirectly, are just and good, for the man has rule over his own spirit, and no holy affection is inconsistent with another. It fits him for his duty to God and men, as may be seen in the case of Moses praying for the people, Exod. xxxii. The anger then must be sinful when its effects are hellish, as when it breaks out in clamour and evil speaking, Eph iv. 31. Even meek Moses fell into a fit of this sinful anger, "Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips." The anger is sinful also, when it leaves a man no more master of himself, and unfits him for duty, 1 Tim. ii. 8.
Hence it appears there is a twofold sinful anger: 1. There is an anger, which is originally, and in itself sinful; that, where there is no just ground at all to be angry, to which men's weakness of judgment and strength of passion often expose them. Such was Jonah's anger, at the withering of the gourd. This anger is like a river which hath quite left its proper channel, and so cannot but be very pernicious. 2. There is an anger accidentally sinful, where there is indeed just ground to be angry, but by reason of the corruption of men, is carried beyond the proper bounds. As a river which indeed still covers the ordinary channel, but so swells as to overflow all its banks. Such was David's anger against Nabal, 1 Sam. XXV. 21, 22. Each of these is a πрооруισμos, a sinful anger, of which we must beware. But what if it arise in us, as it may in the best? Why then the flame must be quickly quenched, which is the second thing to be considered anent sinful anger. The progress and continuance of it is condemned. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. There seems to be some emphasis in that your wrath; it points at the wrath of man, that worketh not the righteousness of God. It is that wrath of which Satan is father, and our own corrupt heart the mother. A hellish offspring that should be stifled in the birth, or be taken as soon as possible and dashed against the stones, and not be allowed to live till the sun go down. It is strange fire not brought from the altar, but from the common hearth of a proud corrupt heart, and must be quenched speedily. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath; which is not to be understood as if it might lawfully be kept up till the sun go
down for what is sinful in its rise, must still be more so in its continuance. But it is a proverbial speech, the import of which we may take up in these two things: 1. As the sun with his scorching heat hasteth to go down, so should we, whose passion sooner by far comes to its height than the sun, make haste to lay it aside. 2. As the sun going down brings on the night, which calls men to set themselves to the putting off their clothes, and going to rest; so should we set ourselves to put off the old man, and by all means to put off anger with our clothes, that we take it not into the bed with us, where it is most dangerous. For, whereas as the light affords variety of objects to us, and so is a friend to the diverting of wrath, the darkness of the night keeps these out of our sight, and so leaves the very spirit to feed on that chiefly which first raised it, and so it gets leave to range through the several methods of revenge; and so it is said of the wicked "that he deviseth mischief upon his bed." This I take to be the main thing aimed at in the expression.
Lastly, We shall consider the reason. "Neither give place to the devil." That is, and give not place to the devil. It is a general precept, but is here particularly aimed at, the matter of sinful anger. Some read it, to the calumniator; thereby understanding the occasion given to the wicked to reproach piety, because of the sinful passions of professors, and the effects thereof. This is a sad truth indeed, but we take it rather as our translation reads it, to the devil; who must needs have a particular love to sinful anger it is so like hell, wherein men are on fire with a scorching heat, but in gross darkness. It refers, 1. To the rise of sinful anger. To give place to it, is to admit the devil. He will strive to have place, and so tempt us to it; but our yielding to the temptation is to give him place. 2. It refers to the progress and continuance of it. The more it is harboured, the devil is the farther admitted. He loves to fish in muddy water. When he has got the fire kindled, he employs his bellows to blow it up, and always to make the flame greater and greater, to the destruction of ourselves and others.
DOCTRINE I. Men not only may, but ought to be angry where there is just ground for it. We know no just ground for anger, but the things which are sinful. As for the injuries done to us, or our fellow creatures, they are not real injuries, if they be not sins against the Lord; for no man can break in upon the second table, but he must break through the first.
REASONS. 1. Because in that case, the love and respect which we owe to God, who is dishonoured, require it.
2. The love which we owe to ourselves or others who are injured, requires it. For in that case, it is as it were said, who is on the Lord's side, and on the side of souls that are in hazard.
Use I. Let us then be filled with holy indignation against ourselves, because of the sins of our nature, hearts, lips, and lives.
2. At the dishonour done to God by others. Alas! we are very quickly set in a flame, if but a word seem to reflect on us; but how cold are we in matters that dishonour God. O! that we could spend these arrows, firebrands, and darts, of which we are otherwise liberal enough on our own and others sins.
DOCTRINE II. Men should beware that the fire of sinful anger kindle not in their breasts.
REASONS. 1. Because it is evil in itself, and dishonourable to God; being the vomit of a proud heart and an unmeekened spirit. 2. Because it is not only evil, but a mother of evil; and is not only an inlet to many mischiefs to ourselves and others, but drives men to them to act with vigour. An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.
USE. Guard against sinful anger; against being angry without just cause. Let judgment always lead the way to your passion. He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding; but he that is hasty of spirit, exalteth folly. Exalts, hangs up a sign of folly at his own door, that every one may know that a fool dwells within. Again, when you are angry on good grounds, be on your guard lest your anger degenerate into a sinful passion. We may be easily carried too far, and when the furnace of the heart is hot, if we take not heed, it may soon come to that to scorch and burn up ourselves and others too, instead of consuming their, or our own evils. Self is most ready to creep in, and justle out all respect to the honour of God, and have sad effects. Even in anger upon a just cause, we are like man standing on the edge of a steep rock, the ground is firm, but the head is ready to grow giddy, and he to fall headlong.
Consider the evil of sinful anger. 1. It is a degree of murder. "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment." It is a sword that stabs two at once, the angry man and the party against whom he is angry. 2. It is a fit of madness, in which a man hath no rule over his own spirit, till he come to himself, for he goes out of himself in anger. 3. It makes a man most unlike Christ, who was meek and lowly. 4. It has most bitter effects. It mars our access to God in prayer; makes us most unmeet for divine communications, as the troubled water cannot receive the image of the sun. It exposes us to Satan, as a city that is
broken down and without walls, to the enemy; and makes men intolerable to others, if they be not all the more masters of patience.
DOCTRINE III. If sinful anger do enter our breasts, we must endeavour to extinguish it quickly, and beware of nourishing it.
It reproves those, who when once that devil is raised in them, can hardly be got laid again; men of an implacable temper, whose anger is like fire in iron or other solid matter, long ere it be laid aside. If once it get unto them, it must go to bed and rise with them too. Yea, many who will not only let the sun go down on their wrath, but keep it up weeks, months, and years. Once do them an injury, they will never forget nor forgive. Be not then hasty in thy spirit to be angry, for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.
Let us learn then, to quench this spark quickly, when it falls on us. This may be enforced from
DOCTRINE IV. That the admitting and lodging of sinful anger in our hearts, is a giving place to the devil. For remedies,
1. Let us consider our own vileness and unworthiness, and how often we are provoking the Lord, and so turn our anger against ourselves. "For we ourselves also, were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived; serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy; hateful, and hating one another.
2. Let us consider these things with which we are so ready to be hurried away, are the trials of our patience, and we are on our trial for heaven.
3. Let us propose to ourselves the example of the meek and lowly Jesus. "He suffered, leaving us an example that we should follow
Lastly, Out of a sense of our utter inability to resist the least temptation, look to Jesus for strength, and by faith draw strength from him. When the temptation is like to catch us, let us lay hold of the promise, and of Christ in the promise. Without this, nothing will avail, acceptably to prevent or suppress it; and this is the reason, why sometimes Christians bear great affronts and injuries better than small ones. For in the latter, they trust to themselves; in the former to Christ. No wonder all goes to wreck, when men instead of the golden shield of faith made by the true Solomon, they like fools think to do with the brazen ones of their own stock. Amen.
Ettrick, July, 13, 1707.
CHRIST THE PHYSICIAN OF SOULS.
MATTHEW ix. 12,
They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
In the ninth verse we have an account of Matthew's conversion, upon which he invites Christ to his house, and entertains him. Matthew was a publican, a collector of custom, it seems by Mark's account, chap. ii. at Capernaum custom-house, on the sea side, who gathered custom of passengers over the water, and of those whose employment lay in the sea of Galilee. Christ's going into his house, encouraged others of his fellow officers to converse with Christ, who very readily admitted them, ver. 10. This offended the Pharisees, and they quarrel his disciples for it, ver. 11. Old hypocrites are often great enemies to young converts. But Christ defends his own conduct, by the reason in the text, namely, it is not the fault, but the duty of the physician to be with the sick. As if he had said, I am the physician, they are the sick, therefore it is my duty to be with them. We may take up the text in these two propositions :
1. They that be whole need not a physician; a physician's work is to cure diseases, but they that have no diseases have no need of him, with such he has nothing to do. This refutes the error of the Socinians, who hold that Christ would have come, though mau had not sinned. But withal, he doth here tacitly upbraid the Pharisees with their self conceit, looking on themselves as whole and so standing in no need of him.
2. The sick need the physician. He takes it for granted, that because they were sinners, they were spiritually sick; he owns himself to be the spiritual physician, and therefore concludes that they stood in need of him. Where should the physician be, but among the sick, with them only is his employment.
DOCTRINE I. Sin is the sickness of the soul. It is the disease of the soul, that makes the sinner a sick man.
Here I shall first confirm the point; secondly, shew what it is in sin that sickens the soul; and thirdly, consider the properties of this sickness.