ON THE VICE OF ANGER
Consider first, that anger, in the sense in which it is numbered amongst the capital sins, is an inordinate love or desire of revenge, and is a mortal sin, as often as the evil it wishes, or the vengeance or punishment it pretends to take, is considerably contrary either to justice or to Christian charity; that is, to that love we owe to every neighbour, by the law of Christ, even to our greatest enemies. Our anger, or desire of revenge, is contrary to justice whenever the person we are angry with has not deserved the punishment we desire to inflict; or, though he has deserved it, if we do not observe the order of justice; but make ourselves both judges and executioners too, by taking revenge for ourselves, by our own private authority, which is never allowable. Our anger and desire of revenge is contrary to fraternal charity; when, let the cause be ever so just, we prosecute or punish the offender, not out of the love of justice, but out of hatred or ill-will to the person; or merely to gratify a disorderly passion – in such cases as these our anger and revenge are criminal, because it strikes at one or both of those principal virtues of justice and charity; and where either of these is grievously wounded, there is no soundness in the soul.
Consider 2ndly, that anger, passion, and desire of revenge, when deliberately consented to, are also infinitely opposite to those other favourite virtues of Jesus Christ, meekness, humility, mercy, peace, patience, long-suffering, renouncing our own will, bearing the cross, and the like; which are all of them strongly recommended in his gospel, and jointly make up the amiable character of his disciples. These are the livery of his servants, by which he expects they should be known and distinguished. These we are to learn of him, Matt. xi. 20. If we do not endeavour seriously to study and practise these lessons, he will not own us for his disciples; if we do not wear his livery, he will not acknowledge us for his servants. But O! how irreconcilable is this passion of anger, when it reigns in the soul, with every one of these Christian virtues! It directly destroys all meekness, and consequently humility, its individual companion; for anger generally springs from pride and self-love; it is a stranger to mercy, according to that of Solomon, Prov. xxvii. 4. Anger hath no mercy; it is even a short madness, that is capable, for the time it lasts, of inflicting the worst of evils, or desiring the worst of judgments: it breaks peace both with God and our neighbour, and banishes it from our own souls; it is the mortal enemy of patience and long-suffering, for it will endure to suffer nothing; much less will it admit of the renouncing of our own will, or of our submitting to take up the cross: because these are virtues that strike at its very root, and destroy it wherever they meet with it, and therefore it cannot endure them. And shalt thou, my soul, any longer indulge a passion that robs thee at once of all these lovely virtues; and instead of a servant and a disciple, makes thee an enemy of Jesus Christ?
Consider 3rdly, what a train of other evils and sins usually accompany or follow this passion of anger; what oaths, curses, and blasphemies; what affronts, reproaches, and injuries; what quarrels, strife, and brawls; yea, sometimes bloodshed and murder too; what malice hatred, and revenge; besides the scandal that is given those we are angry with; the robbing them not only of their peace, but also of the grace of God, by provoking them to sin, as one fire is apt to enkindle or nourish another; not to speak of many other sad effects of this vice, which is frequently pernicious to the health of the body as well as that of the soul, and makes them that are slaves to it insupportable both to themselves and to all that have any dealings with them. O my soul, let us ever detest this infernal fury which daily produces so much mischief in the world, to the eternal damnation of innumerable souls.
Conclude to give ear to the heavenly lessons against anger and revenge, so often inculcated in Holy Writ – to learn them well, and to follow them in practice, Rom. xii. 17, &c., ‘Render to no man evil for evil; if it be possible, as much as in you, have peace with all men. Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved, but give place of wrath; for it is written, revenge is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. But if thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat,’ &c. ‘Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,’ Eph. iv. 24, 26, &c. ‘Put on the new man,’ &c. ‘Let not the sun set upon your anger; let all bitterness, and anger, and indignation, and clamour, and blasphemy, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind to one another,’ &c. Gal. v. 19. ‘The works of the flesh are manifest; enmities, contentions, emulations, wrath, quarrels, dissensions,’ &c. ‘Of which I foretell you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness,’ &c. O how happy are those souls in whom the Spirit of God produces these fruits! But how miserable are they in whom the opposite spirit brings forth those other dead works of the flesh, the end of which is the second death!