A Treatise on Temper—its Use
By a Staffordshire Curate, October 1837
Temper as we find it,
Temper as it should be, and
How to improve the temper.
"Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23
Part 1. Temper as we find it.
1. The origin and prevalency of bad temper.
2. Varieties of temper.
3. Same subject continued.
4. Temper as we find it by observation and reading.
5. Temper as exemplified in the holy Scriptures.
6. Temper as we find it in church history.
7. Temper as we find it in profane history.
8. Miscellaneous remarks.
Part 2. Temper as it should be.
1. On the importance of a proper temper.
2. Temper is everything.
3. Temper as inculcated in the Scriptures.
4. On the temper of Jesus Christ.
5. On patience and experience.
6. On forbearance and endurance.
7. On the forgiveness of injuries.
8. On temper in the married and domestic state.
Part 3. How to improve and regulate the temper.
1. Preliminary observations.
2. Study human nature.
3. Regard to temper in education.
4. Cultivate self-restraint.
5. Avoid circumstances that excite temper.
6. Study equanimity of temper.
7. Study to keep cool and collected.
8. Cultivate reflection, contentment, and resignation.
9. Study the proper government of the tongue.
10. Bear in mind the examples of great and good men.
11. Cultivate temperance.
12. Take proper exercise.
13. Watch diligently.
14. Pray constantly.
Go, little book, without me, into the city; go into the great world; go where your author may not go; go to kings of the earth, and all people, princes, and all judges of the world; go to young men and maidens, old men and children. On all occasions and in all places preach, saying, "Temper is everything!" Let this be your text—and keep to your text.
Ah! go among the churches, and preach to those who preach, saying—Temper is everything! Go to all universities, academies and schools; go over the great waters; go to all continents and islands, and say everywhere—Temper is everything! Go, if you may, to the ladies—carry yourself courteously, and win them, if you can, to your principles—tell them in tones soft and sweet—Temper is everything! Go to the married—wish them much happiness—and assure them—Temper is everything! Go to the single, the old bachelors, and the old spinsters—the young masters and the rising misses, and say—Temper is everything! Go to all families, all fraternities, and all communities in thronged cities and retired villas; go to all places of business, all resorts of men, in church or theater, mart or inn, parliament or club, feast or funeral, birthday or marriage-day, and catechize them on—Temper is everything! Go forth, I charge you. And, oh little book—child of my strength, and companion of my afflictions, may a good report of you soon greet the ears of your aged parent, and cheer his declining days with trophies of your victories! Heaven speed you!
The first paragraph of Mason's Preface to his Treatise on Self-knowledge is equally adapted to my purpose: 'The subject of the ensuing treatise is of great importance; and yet I do not remember to have seen it treated with that precision, perspicuity, and force, with which many other moral and theological themes have been managed. And indeed it is but rarely that we find it professedly and fully recommended to us in a set and regular discourse, either from the pulpit or the press. This consideration, together with a full persuasion of its great and extensive usefulness, has excited the present attempt, to render it more familiar to the minds of men.'
Dr. Evans, it is true, published a large volume of Sermons on the Christian Temper, many of which are excellent and to the point: but Sermons do not constitute the most attractive mode of exhibiting a subject of this nature, nor do they consist with that literary freedom, which is, in a measure, indispensable. The author has deemed it advisable to enter more excursively, minutely, and practically, into the subject, for the moral and religious benefit of all classes and all characters in society.
The following treatise was originally composed in the winter months of 1831-1832, during which time the author was almost incapable of any public duty. He wrote it while reclining on the couch, and not without some spirited remonstrances from his friends, lest he should further impair his health, and perhaps his temper too. He is happy, however, to say, it had no injurious effects; for at the conclusion the former was all the better, and the latter, he trusts, was none the worse. Since that time, he has bestowed some pains in revising the manuscript; suppressing, on maturer reflection, many samples of bad temper, and supplying others less objectionable in print. As a subject of this nature would be very unpalatable to the irreligious part of the community, if executed in a dull, didactic, and monotonous style—so, for the sake of such and other characters, the more serious Christian must be content to tolerate occasional strains of humor.
Should any undertake to criticize, after an attentive reading of the whole, the author trusts he shall have sufficient good temper left to enable him to meet it with all due respect and gratitude. Let them only do it with a proper temper—and he will then believe they are, at least, no worse for reading the work. From all charge of personality, in the offensive sense, he distinctly claims exemption.
While he has elevated the standard of moral conduct, he has, with equal earnestness, contended for the essential doctrines of divine truth, as will be frequently observed. And while he has struck at the root of the evil, and confirmed his points with facts from real life, and the opinions of various authors, he has referred to the only efficient remedy for its removal. He lays it down as an axiom that truly gospel principles are the only solid basis of genuine morality. Surely the world, yes the Christian world—would be far happier, if due regard were paid to temper. May this feeble effort, through the divine blessing, contribute to this desirable end.
October 20, 1837.
Part 1.TEMPER AS WE FIND IT
Chapter 1.The Origin and Prevalency of BAD Temper.
2. Many years have I sojourned in this world of grief and sin; and although I have little to say in commendation of my own temper, I believe I am about coming to my senses. And I must say, the longer I live the more I see the importance of the apostolic rule, "As much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men."
3. I see clearly enough that ill-temper and incivility gain nothing whatever, but lose much every way. The importance, therefore, to oneself and to all around, of a right good temper, is clear as noon-day. Yet I believe not one in a thousand pays any due attention to the study and regulation of it.
4. Many will confess with Job, that "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward," who, notwithstanding, never seriously reflect on the testimony of John, that "the whole world lies in wickedness;" and neither feelingly deplore the miseries which sin has entailed on the human family, nor attempt to alleviate them.
5. The trials of men are as varied as their several situations in life, and one man knows comparatively nothing of the real trials of another. It is commonly and truly said, that, 'one half of the world knows little—how the other half lives.' Some have, in reality, but little to try them; yet they imagine that their troubles are greater than anybody's else! Others have very painful trials, and they not only conceive that there cannot be greater in the world—but feel some surprise that there should be any of such magnitude as their own! And yet, did they know, and could they but adequately conceive the real situation of many others—they would deem their own state comparatively a paradise! The truth is, this world is far more disordered than is generally imagined, insomuch that we can no more judge of the reality and amount of other people's griefs by their appearance, than we can determine what is lodged in the bowels of the moon, by gazing upon her disk.
6. In whatever direction we turn our eyes over the vast expanse of the world, or within the narrower circle of our own personal observation, we perceive irregular tempers and their baneful effects. In childhood and in manhood, in the cottage and in the palace, in the ignorant and the learned, we observe the wicked outbreakings of bad temper.
7. Original sin is the unquestionable cause of all the misery and all the angry ebullitions of temper. Look at man in his infant or maturer state; trace the rising youths through their nurseries and the schools, to their full settlement in the multifarious and respective positions in society, and whether they be rich or poor—the features of peculiar and discordant tempers are strongly marked.
8. The evil being radical, and deeply-seated in the constitutional nature of man—it can be no wonder that its effects are universal, that is co-extensive with the cause. It spreads like a cancer, and pervades and prevails like some poisonous virus through the 'one blood of all nations of men on all the face of the earth,' interfering with all the associations; and all, even the minutest, concerns of life—and effecting all natural sympathies and all common duties. Not the ties of friendship nor the claims of nearest kindred are respected, where pride and self-interest constitute the ruling temper. This is often painfully exemplified in that most solemn of all human events—the death of friends. How often have mourning families, retiring from the grave, quarreled with almost deadly hatred on the subject of the deceased's will.
9. How often too, in the case of the father dying without a will—has the eldest son lawfully seized the whole estate, to the harm of his mother and the younger family: whereas this son had already received an ample patrimony, and the others nothing—not even their education. And he must know too (even if he have no qualms of conscience about honor and honesty) that his late father would have thought it iniquitous to will and devise such a distribution! A person of this covetous temper will attempt to extenuate his wickedness, and justify himself by an appeal to the law; albeit that law in my opinion never was designed to sanction such conduct as this! What! can the humane and equitable laws of England authorize one child, who has already received more than a due portion—to grasp everything, and doom a widowed and kind mother and young brothers and sisters to absolute indigence? But even if he has the letter of the law on his side—where is his moral honesty or his filial or even natural affection? What an evil heart, what a hard conscience, what a bad temper—such a person must have! To obviate the occurrence of such a domestic calamity, it surely behooves every parent possessed of property to have always some kind of private will by him, even if not attested, until such time as he can arrange matters more to his satisfaction. This is the more necessary, as life is always in danger. To be wholly negligent in this matter—is a positive injustice to a family.
10. In matters of business one might suppose that relations would surely act in concert, without fraud or grudging temper, and that they might enter into bonds or partnerships among themselves rather than with strangers; but I need only remark, in brief, that daily events palpably indicate the reverse!
11. The cause, as above stated, being radical, deep, and universal; a person of experience is not accustomed to be much surprised at any extremes in human nature. In children and ignorant people we rather look for irregularities; and if our surprise is ever excited—it is at educated and respectable people; and still more if they sustain the holy office of Christian ministers.
12. Faithfulness demands that I should not be deterred by the outward respectability or office of any man, from exhibiting the practical confirmations of my subject; yet I would not willingly offend any person or denomination by any allusions, or by the expression of regret that too little regard is paid to the regulation of temper by many, in all religious sects. If I have occasionally made excursions for matter, beyond the precincts of my own community, it will be seen that I have not been less free with my own order.
Temper is a universal subject, and my object is to exhibit it irrespective of churchman or dissenter. For my own sake and that of other ministers; for the sake of our flocks and our cause, I deeply deplore that our sacred function is no security against improper tempers! The more considerate of our people will remember that we are but flesh, and will pray for us; but others will think and speak differently.
13. He who receives an appointment to the Christian ministry—is not necessarily a wise man; and if he is a learned man, which is not always the case, he is not necessarily of such experience and suavity of address, as to be fully suited to be the guardian of a parish or congregation. All men are not equally fit to enter on untried stations; much depends on their former mode of life. Those who have moved in a humble sphere—may become giddy by elevation; and those who have moved in a higher sphere—may be equally unfitted as to the temper of their minds. In either character, divine grace may soften the native passions—but both may fail in seeking and relying upon that grace. A young minister may enter on his appointment with superlative conceit of belonging to "the cloth." He may talk of "my people," "my pulpit," etc. with more majesty than is fitting. He may speak forth in positive and authoritative strains. In his fellowship with the people he may affect to be somebody; may evince a vast desire to rule others, and feel more wounded at a slight of his dignity—than at an open sin.
14. Candidates for the ministry are generally more taken up with books—than the study of human nature and human tempers. Up to the time of entering on their functions, it is obvious they can have seen but little of the world, especially in that light which is necessary to fit them for the pastoral care. When, therefore, they enter upon it, they would do well to recollect that they will have to do with people of various temperament —some twice their age, and perhaps thrice their experience; and others of superior worldly importance, and probably greater in learning. This will oftener be the case in towns; and if their lot be cast in a country place, they will do well rather to bear with rusticity—than to quarrel with it. In most places people will move their hats in proportion to the consistency of our character and the benignity of our manners. A young minister, forgetting his proper business, may fill his hands, distract his head, and chafe his spirit—with temporal matters, until he gets into such a position in the eyes of his flock as to lower rather than raise their respect, either for his judgment or his temper.
15. I shall feel great pleasure in relieving the gloominess of the picture in the further progress of this work; but as yet I have by no means finished the darker touches. Experience and good sense make some men wise and amiable—but not all. For example: A Christian minister applies to another to preach a charity sermon; but the one applied to afterwards discovers that another had been previously requested, to whom it was not convenient; and so he is offended, simply from the proud conceit that he was not asked first.
20. I might go on thus, multiplying examples, from the court downwards, exhibiting the noble, the honorable, the clerical, the legal, the medical, the trading, the working, and poorer classes—as greatly deformed with proud and invidious tempers.
21. I have adverted to the clerical world, not in sport nor in malice—but rather by way of proving lesser things by greater. I regard the evangelical ministers of Great Britain, taken as a whole, and making allowances for differences of opinion—as the most devout body of men upon earth. I argue then, that if in this body, so advantageously circumstanced, we discover such irregularities of temper, it would evince great ignorance of men and things, to suppose that any other classes of men are less sinful or less irascible.
22. Bad tempers are confined to no particular age or station of life. "The leaven of malice and wickedness" pervades the entire mass of the human family. The truth is, each brings his peculiar temper into the world, and each indicates his native disposition at an early age. A few are favored with judicious parents or guardians, are early initiated, and taught to behave themselves in a befitting manner; but many are so imprudently indulged by parents, misnamed fondness, that, before they attain the age of five or seven years, they will not endure wholesome discipline; but rave and push, and speak and act as they wish.
23. I am at a loss to conceive how respectable parents can justify such blind and ruinous indulgence. But they generally reap their own reward. Finding their children at length unmanageable, they resolve to send them to school, to be corrected for the very faults which they themselves instilled or overlooked! Here the little creatures have much to unlearn, to their own hearts' grief, and the no small trial of their tutors, whose best efforts are rarely successful.
24. It might be some palliation if the parental negligence ended at the period of sending their children to school: but the evil is aggravated by the injudicious cautions, prompted by false tenderness, and interfering with the reasonable discretion of a tutor. Some little urchins must not be corrected, 'lest it should break their tender hearts,' or 'displease their friends.' Some must not be corrected because they 'belong to great people,' or are 'heirs to great wealth.'' Others must not be corrected 'lest it should make them desperate, and incite them to commit self-destruction.' It can be no wonder therefore, that, on leaving these slight temporary restraints, and rising to adulthood, they should still retain tempers impatient of control.
25. Many are not only defective in their own tempers—but very addicted to find fault with other people's. Ignorant, vain, and selfish to the core of their own hearts—they pay no respect to age, and make no allowance for infirmities or troubles of others. This is the more to be deplored in the case of aged and sickly parents, who fall a prey to the unkind tempers of children whom they have carefully and liberally brought up.
26. In a work like this, I must unavoidably make frequent reference to the domestic circle and the marital relation; but so long as I keep within the bounds of truth and reason, I hope no one will charge me with unwarrantable freedom. I am sure it is not my wish to wound the feelings of anyone. And if the picture in any case should meet with its counterpart in my reader, I trust it will be received as intended.
27. What unhappy scenes do many large families present. All are high-spirited, and impatient of contradiction. Many a mother is harassed almost to death with a number of mismanaged and ungovernable children. This remark applies equally to the higher, middle, and lower ranks. Indeed no sensible person can wonder that youth unrestrained, should grow up into turbulent self-willed men.
28. 'I go into a family where there is nothing external to interrupt the happiness of its members, and nothing lacking that can essentially promote it; and I find everybody as intent on making troubles, as if it were their misery to have none. At breakfast, peace is disturbed, and the blessing of abundance forgotten, because an egg is not boiled enough—though five minutes and hot water would finish it. After breakfast, a walk or a ride is rendered thoroughly disagreeable, and the delights of scenery and sunshine disregarded, because no one will say whether they prefer to go up hill or down. At noon everyone begins to grumble because the day is so hot; which might be excused if it would cool them. At dinner, the gentleman is out of humor because the window is open; whereas nothing can be more easy than to get up and shut it. The lady is out of humor, because the butcher has sent beef instead of mutton, though no one at table cares whether they eat mutton or beef. The daughter is out of humor, because she is sitting on the wrong side of the table; though she has no reason on earth for preferring the other side—but because she is not sitting there. The boys are out of humor, because a shower prevents their going out; though, until it began, they had not realized that they wished to go out. The servant is out of humor, because the bell has rung a second time before he could answer it the first.
29. 'The evening in a family party of well-informed, accomplished, and agreeable people—did they happen to be in a good humor—could not pass otherwise than pleasantly. But here everything goes wrong. Mary is vexed because Sarah opens the instrument first. Sarah will not play because Mary is vexed, and Mary will not play for about the same reason—and so neither plays. Jane cannot do her work because Ann has lost her needle, though five hundred needles were offered to her choice, neither can she quietly leave her work undone.
30. 'I go into another family where the hand of adversity presses hard; where unaccustomed poverty has abridged the indulgences, and overhanging evil saddens the bosoms of its inhabitants. I see the father come home after a day of anxious exertion for his family, and instead of being greeted with cheerfulness and smiles, to lighten his bosom of its cares, or at least to requite him for their endurance, he finds nothing but superfluous ill-humor, and useless contradictions, and teasing importunities. 'Why this?', 'why that?', 'why not the other?' If he wants anything, it is the only thing that cannot be had; if he complains of anything, it is the very thing that must be; he cannot put so much as his hat or his stick down—but it is in the wrong place. His wearied mind is regaled with nothing but complaints.''
31. 'In this wandering state of life we meet with many occasions of trouble and displeasure, both great and trivial; and not a day passes but, from men or things, we have some cause or other for offence, as a man must expect to be jostled, and dashed, and crowded in a populous city. One man deceives our expectation, another delays it, and a third crosses it. If everything does not succeed to our wish—we presently fall out either with fortune—or with the person, the business, or the place, or ourselves.
Some men value themselves upon their wit, and will never forgive anyone that pretends to lessen it. Others are inflamed by wine; and some are distempered by sickness, weariness, watchings, care, love, etc. Some are prone to it by heat of constitution; but most dry and cold complexions are more liable to other affections, as suspicion, despair, fear, jealousy, etc. but most of our quarrels are of our own contriving.'
32. The deviousness of the human temper is strongly marked in the fickleness of friendship. It would not be difficult to adduce many corroborant examples in point—one will suffice. Between the Earl of Bristol and Lord Clarendon there had existed a close and intimate friendship, both in prosperous and adverse circumstances, and it was vainly thought to have been indissoluble; but the chancellor Clarendon, from motives of duty, having refused a favor to a court lady whom Bristol patronized, he henceforth thought of nothing but malice and revenge. It is humiliating to reflect how frail are the ties that bind men, how fleeting are our dearest delights!
To refuse the last favor in the chain of obligations, is frequently to cancel all the preceding. The Earl of Bristol was more inveterate against Clarendon for a trifling refusal in regard to a worthless woman, than if they had never been friends: but his resentment overshot its mark, and the charges which he alleged against him in the house of peers evidently partook more of private revenge than a love of public justice.
39. We often hear the remark, 'he's warm—but it's soon over,' 'he's random—but he's a good-hearted man,' 'he's hard—but he's honest.' Some of these remarks would equally apply to dogs, and have in fact been so applied in substance: 'he snarls—but he won't bite,' ' he's quiet—but when roused he's savage.' Now he would be a singular kind of person indeed, who needed no palliating qualities. I protest therefore against the inconsistency of excusing ill-natured people by such extenuating remarks. That a passionate man is forgiving, or a resentful man good-natured, amounts to nothing but an evidence of a disordered temper that will just gratify its malignity as occasion may serve!
40. Ebullitions of bad temper prevail in all classes. How frequently do we see men in distinguished situations, and endowed with learning, fortune, and talents—whose tempers, nevertheless, are very unamiable! Instead of that kind and dignified demeanor which always secures respect, and indicates true gentility, we are repelled by frigid indifference, or an imperious self-will which will neither brook a plea nor listen to reason! Happily we have many honorable and pleasing exceptions, especially among the noble and wealthy of the land. Majestic self-importance is the most alarming in those who have risen, by some fortuitous accident, from a low to a high station. Retaining much of their original ignorance and narrowness of mind, they are intolerably conceited and over-bearing!
41. Even the recreations, proper or improper, open or secret, which are confessedly selected for amusement, are poisoned with discordant tempers. If anyone would see a specimen of irrational jargon and ridiculous excitement, he need only witness an earnest game at cards. John Huss, speaking of his own character prior to his conversion, acknowledges, 'I frequently and freely played at chess, neglected my time, and often, unhappily, provoked others and myself into blamable heats of temper.'
42. A few years ago, two gentlemen of long and intimate acquaintance, and both equally fond of sporting with dog and gun, came to a rupture of friendship in the following manner. Only one had a game license, and he desired the other, as he had frequently done before, to go out with him for company, which he did. After some time the dog set against a thick low bush, and, though neither could see a bird, both fired at once at the bush and killed one bird. The question now was, who had hit it? Each warmly asserted his claim to the prize! But so enraged was the licensed man, that he reported his friend to the authorities—who was then charged heavy fines for hunting without a license! I have heard that he afterward repented of this unkind step, and rightly acknowledged that it was an ebullition of his passion. You see then there is no trusting passionate people, even in their sports!
43. If such be the conduct of grown and mature men, we can scarcely wonder to find the same evil tempers among young people, and even little children, both within doors and without, while at play! Instances are to be seen every day in schools and in families. A near friend of mine has frequently related that when quite young she had a most elegant wax doll; and being with a few companions one day at play, one of them was so envious and malicious that she took her opportunity to hold the face close to a hot fire until she completely spoiled it!
44. The quantum of unhappiness traceable to disordered tempers exceeds all power of calculation! And this is the more to be deplored as, in a great majority of cases—it has no earthly cause beside the innate depravity of the heart! Neither riches nor retinues, neither fine houses nor easy circumstances, contribute, of themselves—to mental happiness, or the amendment of temper!
The display of carriages, horses, and servants, may attract the stare of the vulgar—but the bird of peace rarely finds a footing in the breast of him who sits in a splendid coach. Instances are not lacking of great and noble people longing to exchange their princely mansions for a humble cottage, in order, if possible, to be emancipated from the galling manacles of splendid slavery and its attendant anxieties!
45. I am supported in these remarks by an author of the most amiable temper: 'O what multitudes, even amidst courts and palaces, are held in splendid vassalage by their own domineering passions, or the vanities of a bewitching world! Far less innocently, far more deplorably disordered, than the fettered madman—they are gnawed by the envenomed tooth of envy! They are agitated by the wild sallies of carnal ambition; or feel the malignant ulcer of jealousy, rankling in their breasts! In some, avarice, like a ravening harpy, gripes! (In classical mythology, the harpies were creatures with the bodies of birds and the faces of women. They flew quickly and were cruel and greedy!) In some, revenge, like an implacable fury, rages. While others are goaded by imperious lusts, through the loathsome sewers of impure delight; and left at last in those hated and execrable dens, where remorse rears her snaky crest, and infamy sharpens her hissing tongue!'
46. In our baptism we vowed, 'To renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh.' But how utterly is this engagement disregarded by those who are pushing, at all risks, after worldly distinctions, wealth, honor, and pleasures!
It is recorded of Socrates, that he looked upon it as a divine perfection, to be content with very little. He believed, that the less we are contented with, the nearer we approach to the divinity. Seeing the pomp and show displayed by luxury in certain ceremonies, and the infinite quantity of gold and silver in them, he exclaimed, 'See how many things do I not want!'
47. Making all due allowances for men in business and professions, we must yet deplore that excessive anxiety which so absolutely captivates the heart and makes them an easy prey to the enemy of the soul. Any single business, conducted by well-planned regulations, may generally be carried on in an even peaceful tenor; but the undertaking of numerous and discordant projects is sure to distract the head and the mind.
Some, in their greediness of gain, drive on with a spirit impatient of contradiction, and if crosses or losses occur, they rave like a wild bull in a net! To those who profess godliness, I may adduce a text or two. "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with the anxieties of life—and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap!" "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." "A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished!"
48. Another fruitful cause of unhappiness and bad tempers, is drunkenness, a practice which extensively and alarmingly prevails in this Christian country, even so as to call aloud for legislative interference. I am glad to know that the Temperance Society has in very many instances controlled this evil. Violent passions, sickness and wretchedness, madness and death—are sure and certain attendants in the multitudinous and unsightly train of this evil practice.
Although a person, who is not a member of such a society, may easily exercise temperance, commonly so called—yet he finds the due control of his native temper a more difficult task. But I see so many morose, churlish, bitter, and impatient spirits among those who pass for sober—that I am inclined to think the difference between these and open drunkards is less in the heart—than in the habit! The truth is, the evil principle impregnates both, and drink only brings to light what a sober sense of decency, in some measure, restrains.
49. I am borne out in these remarks by an author whose works evince more talent than virtue, for which reason I withhold his name. 'Nothing is more erroneous than the common observation, that men, who are ill-natured and quarrelsome when they are drunk, are very worthy people when they are sober. For alcohol, in reality, does not reverse nature, or create passions in men which did not exist in them before. It takes away the guard of reason, and consequently incites us to produce those symptoms which many, when sober, have art enough to conceal. Alcohol but heightens and inflames our passions, generally, that which is uppermost in our mind—so that the angry temper, the lustful, the generous, the good-humored, the avaricious, and all other dispositions of men are, in their cups, heightened and exposed!'
50. Having shown that there are such human defects as wrong tempers, traced them to their original source, followed the stream from infancy to manhood in different classes, asserted their universality, and adverted to a few of their subordinate causes—I reserve a fuller amplification for the subsequent pages.
Chapter 2.VARIETIES in the Human Temper.
1. 'Temper, in a moral sense, is the disposition of mind, whether natural or acquired. The word is seldom used without an epithet, as a good temper, or a bad temper, a happy or unfortunate temper.'' It would be an endless task to treat distinctly of every genius of temper, and every shade of difference, with its amplification from real life. In this part of the work I am to exhibit and delineate those multifarious tempers, which so greatly prevail and so sadly disfigure the human character.
2. The following LIST may serve as a task, to be read, sang, or said by any person when out of temper. It is true, many of the words are synonymous, but they are, for the most part, such as are in common use:
Abusive; Angry; Austere; Acrimonious; Arbitrary; Bad; Aggravating; Arrogant; Backbiting; Ambitious; Audacious; Bitter; Bloody; Irritable; Boasting; Fickle; Jarring; Brawling; Fiendish; Jealous; Brittle; Fierce; Keen; Brutish; Fiery; Lofty; Calumnious; Foolish; Loquacious; Capricious; Forbidding; Lordly; Captious; Fretful; Mad; Caviling; Froward; Malevolent; Censorious; Furious; Malicious; Choleric; Garrulous; Malignant; Churlish; Grumbling; Mischievous; Clamorous; Harsh; Morose; Combustible; Hasty; Mortifying; Contentious; Hateful; Mumpish; Contradictory; Haughty; Naughty; Crabbed; Heedless; Obdurate; Cross; Hot; Obstinate; Cruel; Humorous; Unruly; Daring; Hypocritical; Outrageous; Deceitful; Illiberal; Overbearing; Despiteful; Ill-natured; Passionate; Detracting; Inflammable; Peevish; Diabolical; Impatient; Perverse; Disagreeable; Imperious; Petulant; Discontented; Brash; Phlegmatic; Disdainful; Impetuous; Zesty; Hypocritical; Implacable; Precipitate; Disobedient; Inconstant; Presumptuous; Disorderly; Inhuman; Profane; Disputatious; Insolent; Proud; Domineering; Intractable; Provoking; Envious; Inveterate; Pugnacious; Evil; Irascible; Quarrelsome; Exasperating; Ireful; Fault-finding; Quick; Severe; Tyrannical; Rancorous; Short; Uncandid; Rebellious ; Snappish ; Uncivil; Refractory; Snarlish; Unforgiving; Repugnant; Sour; Unguarded; Resentful; Spiteful; Unkind; Reserved; Disputatious; Unmerciful; Resolute; Stern; Unreasonable; Restive; Stoical; Unruly; Retaliating; Stubborn; Unyielding; Revengeful; Stupid; Vain; Rigorous; Sulky; Vehement; Rude; Sullen; Vexatious; Rugged; Surly; Wicked; Sanguine; Suspicious; Vindictive; Saucy; Tantalizing; Violent; Savage ; Tart; Virulent; Schismatic; Taunting; Scolding; Teasing ; Whimsical; Scornful; Testy; Wicked; Scurrilous; Tormenting; Wrathful; Self-conceited; Touchy; Self-willed ; Turbulent; Tyrannical; Uncandid; Uncivil; Unforgiving; Unguarded; Unkind; Unmerciful; Unreasonable; Unruly; Unyielding; Vain; Vehement; Vexatious; Vicious; Vindictive; Violent; Virulent; Warm; Whimsical; Wicked; Wrathful; etc., etc.
3. The foregoing list will serve my young readers as a thermometer, or as a scale of degrees, by which, with the aid of a pin-prick, they may easily ascertain their own temperature! They might derive much innocent amusement by writing all the words in this and the good list (following later) on cards, then put them all into a bag and draw out. I regret to say the list of bad tempers is unavoidably much longer than the good one. He will be a singular character who cannot recognize his own resemblance in one or other, or both lists.
4. The varieties in people's tempers are as diverse and as palpable as those of their faces. One is naturally choleric, another mild; one is hasty of spirit, another cool and sedative. Mason thus writes: 'The difference of natural tempers seems to be chiefly owing to the different degrees of influence the several passions have upon the mind. For example, if the passions are eager and soon raised—we say the man is of a warm temper. If more sluggish and slowly raised—he is of a cool temper. According as malice, anger, or ambition prevail, he is of a fierce, churlish, or haughty temper. The influence of the softer passions of love, pity, and benevolence forms a sweet, sympathizing, and courteous temper.'
5. The same writer remarks further: 'Men, with regard to their bodies and bodily appetites, are pretty much alike; but with regard to their souls and mental tastes and dispositions, they are often as different as if they were quite of another species! They are governed by different views, entertained with different pleasures, animated with different hopes, and affected by different motives, and distinguished by as different tempers and inclinations—as if they were not of the same species. So that I am very ready to believe, that there is not a greater difference between an angel and some of the best and wisest of men; or between a devil and some of the worst and wickedest of men, with regard to their tempers and dispositions, than there is between one man and another!'
6. I shall not dwell, in order, on each appellation in the foregoing catalogue. It will suffice to notice only a few. ThePROUD temper, in my opinion, is the parent of all, and may be regarded as both the first and last link in the galling chain. Solomon strongly denounces the proud in spirit. "Only by pride—comes contention!" "He who is of a proud heart—stirs up strife!"
7. Some people talk of a necessary pride, a noble pride, a laudable pride; but I confess that I do not see how pride, as such, can lay claim to these compliments. PRIDE is the evil that first ruined man, marred the fair creation, and brought death and all our woes into the world!
There is also what some call little pride, otherwise, the pride of little minds. The latter phrase is correct enough; but the former is not quite so intelligible, as I possess no scale by which to measure the degrees and qualities of this malignant commodity. I conceive it is much the same size in principle—and that degrees and qualities have respect only to its manifestations and actual developments. Some poor and ignorant people will call those proud—whom they see well-dressed; and those humble, who, though rich, are plain or negligent in their attire. They might just as well judge of colors, as some have pretended, by mere touch. I judge no man by the texture of his cloth—or cut of his coat. I have seen more pride under a miser's hat—than under a fashionable bonnet! I have even known some dress poorly, from no other principle than spiritual pride, which is the most despicable of all pride! And they have done all but actually said, "Keep away; don't come near me, for I am too holy for you!" God says of them, "They are a stench in My nostrils" Isaiah 65:5
Having seen much pride in both the rich and poor, I will affirm that the difference is far more distinct in the outward appearance than in the temper of the mind. Nay, I have witnessed swellings of pride and bloating of vain-conceit under rags and poverty far more, and more offensive—than in genteel life.
8. It is amusing to see how some poor people of small abilities will strut and carry themselves with high and mighty bearing. Destitute of all sense of delicacy and propriety, they proceed with stern importance to execute their almost royal commission. I have known a London police officer, riding in a car—dash forward, regardless of all rules of road, and curse and storm at every obstruction, as if he were the only mortal who had a right of passage! But he is 'a policeman'.
9. Some poorer and more ignorant constables and churchwardens, on assuming office, lay the foundation of lasting ill-will by prematurely and unnecessarily exhibiting self-consequence: 'I am the officer here—and I will let you know that I will do my duty.' The only effect is a sneer against themselves. The same temper is seen in all grades, where there is a degree of superior power, from the governor of a workhouse—to the ruler of a province!
10. Instances are numerous—of people raised from the mere straw—to opulence, becoming the most dogmatic and overbearing. Rollin frequently expressed a surprise that men who rose from a poor condition—should be the most conceited and intolerant when elevated to wealth and power; and he adduced many examples in point. But our own history is by no means barren of similar characters.
For instance, Cardinal Wolsey, the would-be pope of Rome, who rose from a butcher's shop to all the most distinguished offices and honors, and was elevated high over all the heads of the nobles in this realm. Being gifted with some natural genius and talent, he might have maintained even his unnatural elevation with credit, had he possessed but an ordinary portion of humility; but prosperity, as is often the case, with a superlative conceit of his own abilities, turned his head. 'Having gained all that he could well aspire to, he became imperious and insolent in the highest degree!'
Many circumstances would naturally combine to reverse the fortune of one so unwarrantably elevated; and so it came to pass, that his fall was as remarkable and more rapid than his rise! How true is that scripture, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
11. We have a pleasing contrast with the above in Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex. Like Wolsey he was of humble origin, being the son of a blacksmith at Putney; and, like him, he soared with amazing rapidity into the higher regions of life; entered into the noblest and richest offices of state; but far unlike him in the temper of his mind and the carriage of his deportment. 'In his person, he was lovely: in manners, courteous. He was exempt from all pride or arrogance; and in his highest exaltation was easy of access, and remarkably affable. His charity was unbounded, and his kindness to his dependants made their services appear like offices of love and gratitude, not the compulsion of superiority and duty.'
His downfall, it is true, was similar to Wolsey's, and from a similar cause, namely, the revenge and malice of a lascivious king. But his case excited far greater sympathy, because his character, his principles, and his conduct had more effectually commanded the esteem of the public. After all, Wolsey's conduct is only in keeping with that of thousands, less distinguished among the poor, who have suddenly and unexpectedly come to property, and who, through pride and prodigality, have been soon reduced to greater indigence than before!
12. Little pride, as it is termed, appears sometimes in Christian ministers: I recollect two ministers, a few years ago, were advertised in the same bill to preach charity sermons at a chapel in Cambridge. One was a polished, educated man; the other was an elderly, plain man of great religious experience, and though he made little pretensions to literature, commonly so called, he always attracted large congregations. The former was so mortified to see his name coupled with the latter—that he had not sufficient prudence to conceal it, and did all but actually refuse to preach. The latter, ever indifferent to such trifles, far out-stripped him in the interest he gave and the collection he raised.
13. The sayings of an eminent minister are often verified: 'Good men—do many bad things!' 'Good men—are not always wise.' Alas! how pride impregnates the human heart, blinds our eyes, warps our judgment and misguides our conduct. Call it not little pride, or a just, or a necessary pride. The least spark is capable of inflaming a whole nation!
14. TheCONCEITED temper, which strangely bewitches many, is a close branch of the proud. They might have all the wisdom and tact in the world. A person of this stamp is 'wiser than seven men who can render a reason.' These wiseacres can do anything and everything; and everybody else is a fool! They are quite positive as to the correctness of their own opinions, and are sure and certain—that nobody sees so clearly, nor can act so cleverly—as themselves!
15. 'Two young ladies were trying to convince me the other day—that they were too wise to be happy. They wished to assert an independency of opinion, and that it was wrong to comply with anything, however immaterial in itself, against their judgment or inclination. When upon a party of pleasure with several young people, they choose to walk while others sit still, and to sit still while others walk. Wishing to lead rather than be led—they render themselves unamiable, when, by trifling compliances, they would secure universal esteem.'
16. The conceited temper is often developed in the manners, dress, walk, sitting, speaking, reading, display of learning, family connections, acquaintances, etc. It is disagreeable to see some ministers manifest conceited habits in the pulpit: so precise about their robes, hair, hands, white pocket handkerchief, wristbands, rings, eye-glass, movements, tone, pronunciation, criticism, self-importance, etc., etc. It is equally disagreeable to see a man adjusting his gold watch with its fine chain and seals (perhaps the only seals of his ministry), when there is a clock right before him! If he reads his sermon, both clock and watch are equally useless to him, as he must needs go through without regard to time. And perhaps at the end of the discourse, with equally juvenile conceit—he disentangles the pretty toy.
17. There is another species of conceit, which indicates a narrow spirit, and is the more disgusting as it prevails almost exclusively among ministers. I allude to the manner of shaking hands, which circumstance in itself adds doubly to the rudeness of the act, that is, to extend one or two fingers.
Some, both episcopalian and sectarian ministers, who happen, more from incidental circumstances, perhaps, than any superior merit, to have a better church or chapel, or better fortune in marriage, will offer one or two fingers to their inferior brethren, while to their equals they will give the hand, and to their superiors they will be as fawning as other people. Some will excuse themselves probably by saying, it is only a habit, and done without intention of offence, and I should partly believe it if they treated all alike; but where distinction of degrees is uniformly maintained, and individuals are complimented with from one to half a score fingers, according to the supposed size or merit of each—I must either attribute intelligence to the fingers, (!) or a fixed intention to the man who exercises such partiality. It surely would be more creditable wholly to refuse the hand than grudgingly extend a part: the former would be manly, the latter is insulting.
I once, in company with other clergymen of different degrees, waited on a vicar, of no great importance, certainly, who, on our departing, gave the full palm to my friends, (a rector and a vicar) but to me only two fingers. Why? because I had the misfortune to be only a poor pastor. Now only suppose I were made a bishop, and who knows but I may?—would I not then stand a chance of being honored with this vicar's whole hand? Albeit I would not be more essentially worthy, as to any virtue in the mitre, than I now am—but then I would be the bishop!
I have made it a rule since then, when anyone has offered me a part of his digits, either to give him the same number in return, or draw my hand to its proper place in my pocket. What proud, ridiculous conceit! in men of learning too; yes, in ministers of the lowly Jesus!
18. TheANGRY temper is known and read of all men. Seneca's book on this subject might shame many Christian professors. He writes: 'To descend to the particular branches and varieties of anger, would be unnecessary and endless. There is a stubborn, a vindictive, a quarrelsome, a violent, a froward, a sullen and morose kind of anger. And then we have this variety in complication: one goes no further than words; another proceeds immediately to blows, without a word speaking; a third sort break out into cursing and reproachful language; and there are those who content themselves with chiding and complaining.'
How often have we seen the sullen and morose anger developed in the domestic circle! Mrs. Malkin was often known to sulk through a whole day, and even for a week together, and would not speak a word! Thus, as if 'nursing her wrath to keep it warm,' she made things perfectly disagreeable; and momentarily she would break out into the opposite extreme of voluble passion!
I knew a person who, from a slight offence, took it in her head not to take her meals for three days! I also knew a servant who, if a cross word were spoken, would sullenly keep from dinner or other meals, from vexation! This is perhaps the most innocent mode of showing revenge; for though it does not save the master's table in the long run, it may yet be serviceable to the angry person to fast occasionally.
19. TheENVIOUS temper is another foul but prevalent defect of our nature; and though less visible than anger, it is not less vile in its principle, and is probably more pernicious in its effects!
20. 'Envy has no holidays,' says Lord Bacon. The distinguished Mrs. Hannah More has the following remarks: 'There cannot perhaps be a more lively and striking description of the miserable state of mind those endure, who are tormented with this vice. A spirit of competition has been supposed to be the source of the greatest improvements; and there is no doubt but the warmest rivalship will produce the most excellent effects. But it is to be feared that a perpetual state of contest will injure the temper so essentially, that the mischief will hardly be counterbalanced by any other advantages. Those whose progress is most rapid—will be apt to despise their less successful competitors, who, in return, will feel the bitterest resentment against their more fortunate rivals.'
21. An anonymous writer says, 'Envy and hate are the bane of the mind! He who repines at the success, and rejoices at the misfortunes of another—is a villain ready made and ripe for mischief. There is no discord so unpleasant as harsh tempers. One bad disposition produces another; and HABIT is the nurse that feeds and strengthens them all. He who indulges ill-tempers, warms and nourishes a nest of vipers to wound himself and his friends!'
22. 'The black ingredient which fouls our disposition—is envy. Hence our eye is seldom, I am afraid, turned upward to those who are manifestly greater, better, wiser, or happier than ourselves, without some degree of malignity. In fact I have remarked, that most of the defects which have revealed themselves in the friendships within my observation, have arisen from envy.'
23. Having treated of both anger and envy—let us now see the two compared by a masterly hand:
Anger is less reasonable and more sincere than envy.
Anger breaks out abruptly; envy is very deliberate.
Anger wishes to be understood at once; envy is fond of remote hints and ambiguities; but, as obscure as its oracles are, it never ceases to deliver them until they are perfectly comprehended!
Anger repeats the same circumstances over again; envy invents new ones at every recital!
Anger gives a broken, vehement, and uninterrupted narrative; envy tells a more consistent, though a falser tale!
Anger is excessively imprudent, for it is impatient to disclose everything it knows; envy is discreet, for it has a great deal to hide!
Anger never delays for proper times or seasons; envy waits for the lucky moment, when the wound it meditates may be made the most exquisitely painful, and the most incurably deep!
Anger uses more invective; envy does more mischief!
Simple anger soon runs itself out of breath, and is exhausted at the end of its tale; but it is for that chosen period that envy has treasured up the most barbed arrow in its whole quiver!
Anger puts a man out of his right mind; but the truly malicious generally preserve the appearance of self-possession, or they could not so effectually injure!
The angry man sets out by destroying his whole credit with you at once, for he very frankly confesses his abhorrence and detestation of the object of his abuse; while the envious man carefully suppresses all his own evil share in the affair!
The angry man defeats the end of his resentment, by keeping himself continually before your eyes, instead of his enemy; while the envious man artfully brings forward the object of his malice, and keeps himself out of sight!
The angry man talks loudly of his own wrongs; the envious man talks quietly of his adversary's injustice.
Anger is a violent act, envy a constant habit.
No one can be always angry—but a man may be always envious!
An angry man's enmity, if he is generous, will subside when the object of his resentment becomes unfortunate; but the envious man can extract food for his malice out of calamity itself—if he finds his adversary bears it with dignity, or is pitied or assisted in it!
The rage of the passionate man is totally extinguished by the death of his enemy; but the hatred of the malicious is not buried even in the grave of his rival; he will envy the good name he has left behind him; he will envy him the tears of his widow, the prosperity of his children, the esteem of his friends, the praises of his epitaph—nay the very magnificence of his funeral!
24. If there is a temper yet more diabolical in its nature, or more pernicious in its effects, than the envious—it is surely theMALICIOUS and REVENGEFUL. The envious may ruminate in secret over the matter of his discontent—but the malicious will, when practical, take some opportunity, no matter how secret, how base, or how destructive—of gratifying his evil nature! The mental language of such a person is, 'I'll have my revenge some way or other!' Alas! this 'some way' often proves the worst that could be adopted. Hamstringing cattle, damaging gardens, setting fire to buildings and other property, waylaying, maltreating, yes murder, etc. are too often the fiendish expedients adopted by the malicious and revengeful.
25. The following samples will suffice for thousands of a similar complexion:
'A man named Wolstoneholme was brought to the court in Manchester, this past January 9th, charged with having cut the gas-pipe belonging to the splendid shop of Mrs. Kemshead, silversmith, Market-street, which caused a most dreadful explosion, endangering life and destroying property which, it is stated, £4,000 will not cover! His only reason for his diabolical act—was that a little water had penetrated through Mrs. Kemshead's shop-floor, upon the ceiling which the fellow was painting.' Thus, in one moment, and by one deliberate act of malice, a most deserving widow is plunged into economic ruin.
26. On the day following the above, as the London papers state—a murder was perpetrated at Ratcliffe-highway by a man named Pegsworth, which evinces the malicious temper in a strong light. A respectable tradesman named Mr. Ready, had summoned Pegsworth to the Osborn-street Court—for a debt of one pound, which so enraged him that he resolved to stab him! Purchasing a large pig-knife, he proceeded to Mr. Ready's house: and concealing his foul design by affectedly adopting suave compliments—he was admitted from the shop to the parlor where Mr. Ready sat, being very sick. After a few minutes of common conversation, Pegsworth pointedly asked Mr. Ready if he intended to persist in enforcing payment, and being answered in the affirmative, the assassin instantly plunged the knife to the hilt into his breast, saying, "Take that!"
Alas, how fallen is human nature! The intimate knowledge of this truth—lessens our surprise at the vilest of human actions!
27. Malice and revenge are by no means confined to the poorer classes. King Henry VII could show this temper on occasion. The celebrated Sir Thomas More had scarcely completed his twenty-first year when he was returned to serve in Parliament. He so effectually opposed a subsidy demanded by the king, that one of the privy-council immediately reported to the king 'that a beardless boy had frustrated all his schemes.' King Henry was determined to be revenged: but as the son had nothing to lose, and had not exceeded the line of his duty, he visited his offence on the guiltless father; who on some frivolous charge was committed to the prison, and fined a hundred pounds before he could recover his liberty. This base instance of vindictive malice, which was intended to depress young More—only made him an object of importance in the eyes of the nation; and his conduct was such, that his enemies neither found means to ensnare him, nor had his friends reason to be ashamed of their cordial support.'
28. Henry VIII also showed his customary spirit of malicious revenge toward this same illustrious individual. He tried every device to bring Sir Thomas into his vile scheme for divorcing queen Catherine, and marrying Anne Boleyn; but failing in his object, he resolved to take signal vengeance; nor did he lack sycophants sufficiently subservient to pander to his lusts, though at the expense of sacrificing an honorable man. After a sham trial, destitute of evidence, he was condemned to be beheaded!
29. There is another temper which though at first sight it looks like the malicious—yet I must designate it theCOVETOUS. Many readers will recollect that lately (1836), a man who was keeper of the fire-engines in a southern county, and was entitled to six shillings a time for their use, was detected and brought to justice as an incendiary; and confessed that he himself had, in many instances, set fire to valuable property—for no other reason than to get his paltry fee! Well did Paul say, "The love of money is the root of all evil." I might adduce instances of sons murdering their fathers—for the sake of patrimony. For the same accursed lust for filthy lucre—many kings and heirs have been murdered in cool blood. The same vile principle incites the highwayman to murder his victim.
30. ThePASSIONATE temper is another most deadly evil, and often effects more mischief in one minute—than can be repaired through the longest life. Passion is the innate principle of the most degenerate nature, brought into active play without reflection or restraint. And yet no character is more easily excused: 'He's a very kind-hearted man at bottom.' 'It is true that he's easily put in a passion—but then it's soon off again, and he means no ill.' 'It is true that he's very hot-headed and impatient in an argument; but really he's a very liberal-minded man at bottom.' 'I assure you he means no ill to any man under heaven, and if you'll just allow him his own way, you may manage him very well.' Is not this strange reasoning?
81. Take the opinions of wiser heads than mine. 'It is the common expression that such a one is very good-natured —but very passionate. The expression indeed is very good-natured, to allow passionate people so much allowance. But I think a passionate man deserves the least indulgence imaginable. It is said, "It is soon over;" that is, all the harm he does is dispatched quickly, which, I think, is no great recommendation to him. I have known one of those good-natured passionate men, say in a mixed company, even to his own wife or child, such things as the most inveterate enemy of his family would not have spoken, even in imagination! Why should not that good-natured man, strive to master that sudden inclination to anger?'
32. 'One of these good-natured passionate men shall, in an instant, assemble together so many allusions to secret circumstances, as are enough to dissolve the peace of all the families and friends he is acquainted with, in a quarter of an hour—and yet the next moment he the best-natured man in the world!'
33. Some of this character, pretend to superior liberality of principles. They will talk as freely against king and rulers, right or wrong, as if they were vassals at their own feet; and will affect to defend common rights as if nobody had common honesty, but themselves. And though their vindictive passions often dethrone their reason, they deem their motives a sufficient counterpoise for all the madness of their zeal, and all the bad consequences of their senseless violence. Such men, like maniacs, may have their lucid intervals; but I always question the private and domestic virtues of those who can regularly fall into wrathful fits in their more public conduct. A thoughtless libertine may roll through his debaucheries in comparative obscurity; but the libertinism of a demagogue, like the Dead Sea, blights in its course—all that is vital in reason or commendable in principle.
34. It is an admitted principle that God has made nothing in vain; therefore the most harmful animals have their uses. Just so, harmful men may, like those animals, act according to their nature; but the difference is immense when it is taken into count that the one is endowed with reason—and the other is not. Let passionate people and furious agitators consider this, and see how low they are sunk!
35. I have before admitted that passionate libertine people frequently develop some excellent qualities—but these are greatly nullified by the preponderating admixture of their bad ones. Mrs. More's sentiments are very appropriate here: 'There is no error more common or more dangerous, than the notion that an unrestrained indulgence of pleasure, and an unbounded gratification of the appetites, is generally attended with a liberal, humane, and merciful temper. Nor is there any opinion more false or more fatal, or which demands to be more steadily controverted, than that libertinism and good nature are natural and necessary associates.' (A libertine is one devoid of any restraints, especially one who ignores or even spurns accepted morals, and forms of behavior sanctioned by the larger society. The philosophy gained new-found adherents in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, particularly in France and Britain.)
'I have known many of these pretended champions for liberty, in my time—yet I do not remember one that was not in his heart and in his family—a tyrant!'
Chapter 3. THE SAME SUBJECT, CONTINUED
1. ThePEEVISH temper is a petulant waspish disposition, and, in kinship, nearer than first cousin, to the passionate.
'A peevish fellow is one who has some reason in himself for being out of humor, or has a natural incapacity for delight—and therefore disturbs all who are happier than himself with pishes and pshaws, and other well-bred interjections at everything that is said or done in his presence. This degree of anger passes, forsooth, for a delicacy of judgment that won't admit of being easily pleased; but none above the character of wearing a peevish man's livery, ought to bear with his ill-manners.
2. Next to the peevish fellow is theSNARLER. This gentleman deals mightily in what we call irony. And as these sort of people exert themselves most against those below them, you see their humor best in their talk to their servants.
3. There is aRESTLESS dissatisfied temper: never at ease—but shifting perpetually from object to object, and pleased with nothing. Such a one will make no sacrifice for the comfort of others, nor ever believe others do enough for him. Nothing said or done can please him. He enters a good situation—but he sees another in a better; or he enters a profession and succeeds—but he sees another person still more fortunate. He is continually comparing what he has—with what others possess, and is never content. His house, his clothes, his food, his accommodations, the weather, etc. are seldom right! And often he is dissatisfied with his very self, and knows not what is the matter with him. This is the character of many who possess every reasonable comfort—but certainly not a reasonable temper.
4.SELFISHNESS is the preponderating ingredient in the tempers of many, and is a fruitful cause of great unhappiness. Everyone is bent on his gain from his quarter! Intent on his own individual gratification, he has no solicitude for the happiness of others. This self-appropriating principle, like the stinginess of the miser, impoverishes its possessor of that which is more valuable than gold, and is one main cause of our wishes proving abortive. It is a divine maxim, that he who gives sparingly—shall reap sparingly, which is exemplified in him who would not give the parings of his nails to make another happy.
This selfish principle is nearly allied to dishonesty, as it greedily takes what it can get, and willingly imparts to no one, not even its just debts. To the ears and hearts of such a person—the importunities of the needy have no access, except to excite a stern rebuff. To the pleasures of mutual fellowship, or the interchange of benefits, they are perfect strangers. Consequently that plain scripture is hard to be understood by them, "It is more blessed to give—than to receive." If such a character has, with another person, the alternate acceptance of a beneficial offer—then no peculiar circumstances, no priority of claim or merit, in the other person, will induce the selfish person to concede the advantage. Or if he can increase his income, or his farm—he cares not that his neighbors are thereby injured. He is so niggardly that he will sooner split a raisin—than give over-weight; or stretch the cloth until it rips—than give over-measure. Some of these characters may gain the dubious renown of being hard-working and honest—but in many cases, hardly honest would be nearer the mark.
5. In the domestic circle a selfish temper is destructive of all mutual happiness! 'If in a family composed of ten people, and everyone turns a different way to seek his own separate satisfaction, then small will be the portion which each individual will receive; but if everyone employs himself to promote the good of the rest, without some extraordinary misfortune, they will in general be successful.'
6. TheSTOIC temper is twin brother to the selfish, and is in reality, a compound of both, with a plentiful admixture of apathy. I throw overboard, as unworthy of notice, the distinguishing tenets of the Stoics, properly so called. Whatever be their pretended opinions about pain and trouble, or whatever their own sensibilities in these respects, they run no risk of losing caste by inconsistently evincing any symptoms of compassion toward those who sensibly know that pain and adversity are something more than a phantom of the imagination.
A twinge of stone will draw a groan even from the stoutest of them; but no depth of human misery can move a heart incased with steel. I speak not of the school of Stoics only—but rather of such as are to be seen every day and everywhere. They are so hardened with brutish pride—that they have not the sympathies common to humanity. They will just speak, or do a thing, if it suits their humor—and not else. They have just as much civility as an donkey! And though, with the ignorant, they may pass for wise, because they speak little and move slowly, like the donkey—yet I will do them the justice to say that they are no more burdened with wisdom than Tom Grunt's 'wise pig.'
7. TheRESERVED temper is a compound of stoicism and vain conceit, closely cemented with ignorance. Although a fool that holds his peace is accounted wise—yet we are not thus to compliment every worshiper of Tacita. A wise man is ignorant enough to know that extremes and eccentricities are no criterions of any excellent qualities.
To know the manner how, and the time when to speak, and when to keep silent—is a far more decisive token of wisdom.
What I mean by reserved temper, is that unnatural and unmannerly disposition which will neither communicate nor reciprocate, which disdains to give or receive its quota in the common socialities, and rather prefers to prey on its own poverty than encumber itself with an ordinary idea. 'Yes' 'No' 'Hum . . .' — are about the extent of his vocabulary. Neither the prattling of sweet children, nor the lively colloquy of the ladies, will unscrew his frigid lips or excite a sparkle in his unintelligent eye.
9. There is anUNKIND temper which would require a lengthened description. How utterly destitute of natural feeling are many parents; their little ones appear to have no place in their affections; constant beating and other ill-usage is the only rule of their conduct.
There have been many instances of unkindness to the sick, the aged, and the destitute, and in assigning delicate orphans to unfeeling masters. It is to be hoped, however, that the late Poor Law, and the Factory Bill, will, in a great degree, obviate these things, though they cannot alter human tempers. Second marriages, perhaps more than any other circumstance, have contributed to the eruption of unkindly tempers; and here also, the good are confounded with the bad. Before such contracts are made, it should always be well considered by the parties, that there cannot exist between a step-parent and children—that deep and reciprocal attachment which nature cherishes for its own offspring. As it is lawful and often proper to marry again, allowances should ever be made, and great forbearance exercised, on the part both of step parents and children. I have known cases where the fault has been far more in the children than in their adopted parents. I have known step-fathers to be more kind to children, than their own mothers.
10. The unkindness of many relations ought not to be passed by without a censure. How often have wealthy uncles and aunts turned their backs on orphan destitute nephews and nieces. Instead of seasonably administering even the cheap solace of a friendly look, they have frowned them from their doors; or if they have bestowed any actual assistance, it has been done with the most visible and dispiriting reluctance. I could adduce very striking confirmations. Instances are not lacking of providence so reversing circumstances, as ultimately to bring the hard-hearted and their once pampered children—to crouch for bread to those to whom they once refused the crumbs from a plentiful table!
11. Even sickness sometimes fails to command common attention from the nearest of kin! I knew a quiet, decent working man who had a Turkish-tempered wife. In his last illness, unable to help himself, or move the sympathy of his wife, he spat upon the wall, for which the unfeeling brute struck him on the face as he lay in bed until his eyes flashed with fire! And yet at his death, shortly after, she could cry and rave as though she had loved him tenderly! I could supply many other exemplifications of the unkind temper.
12. The unkind temper is both negative and positive:
Negative, as not possessed of natural sympathies nor exercising the common charities.
Positive, as evincing peculiar hardness of disposition, which prompts to wicked and outrageous violence.
It is truly said, "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel;" nor is their cruelty confined to the human species—but is liberally exercised toward dumb creatures, which God has made for the use—not the abuse, of man! Yes, many brutish animals, in human shape, find their chief amusement in cruelties of this kind, as dog-fighting, bull-baiting, etc. And what surer proof can we have of a depraved mind, and of a wicked temper!
13. Many people are possessed of a veryUNCHARITABLE temper. They will not only judge or condemn without evidence—but are radically and habitually addicted to depreciate others, detract from their just merits, or add what they well know must tend to their harm; and that too, upon the slightest, or upon no foundation whatever, except their own ill-conceit.
Some are genteel enough to do it with what is miscalled 'a concerned way,' which in reality, is fraught with more venom than an open attack! I hate innuendoes, hints, whispers, significant nods, looks, half-sentences, pretended confidence, etc. they are most disingenuous and unmanly, and palpably indicate an inward lurking of some evil thing in the heart—which, for their own interest, they are afraid or ashamed to divulge. Even if the matter were true, it would be more discreet to conceal it, or at least speak in proper English, than intimate it by such unmannerly signs! Or if false, it is only refined inhumanity thus to stab a fellow-creature in the dark!
14. TheSUSPICIOUS temper is a foul exuberance of the uncharitable heart, and more poisonous than a viper! Like envy, it corrodes the heart of its possessor, and inflicts upon its victims far more serious injury than any open charge could do. How often have respectable people been wrongfully suspected of crimes, as dishonesty, intemperance, etc. and secretly traduced among neighbors and acquaintances until some more sincere individual has kindly informed the accused of the report!
I say kindly, because, though the task is painful, the act is one of the best proofs of sincere friendship. Indeed we may justly doubt the sincerity of that person, who, while he avows himself a friend, will yet allow the most injurious, not to say slanderous, rumors to circulate, and that from a pretended delicacy that he would hurt the feelings of his friend. Such conduct betrays a sycophant under the garb of friendship. One may, perchance, stand against the most violent of open attacks—but who can elude 'the pestilence that walks in darkness?'
15.BACKBITERS and secret retailers of scandal are condemned both by God and men, and ought to be expelled, like secret smugglers, from all creditable society! Many have said truly, that it is far more safe to live in the heart of London than in a large village, or a small country town, where everyone's business is known to all, and where many idle gossips, from sheer distaste of more honest employment, engross their whole time and wits to get at the privacies of all families by every base device, and in raking together every morsel of their favorite spice, which they freely expose until its fragrance becomes vapid for lack of a fresher supply of the like commodity. I range this uncharitable temper under the same planet as the deceitful, the jealous, the unkind, the wicked, the vicious, etc.
16. I am again confirmed by Mrs. More: 'Some have the hypocritical habit of throwing out hints and innuendoes, which do more mischief than speaking out frankly; for whatever is left for the imagination to finish, will not fail to be overdone; every hiatus will be more than filled up, and every pause more than supplied. It is not uncommon for the envious, after having attempted to deface the fairest character so industriously, that they are afraid you will begin to detect their malice, to endeavor to remove your suspicions effectually, by assuring you that what they have just related is only the popular opinion; they themselves (as they affect) can never believe things are so bad as they are said to be; for their part, it is a rule with them always to hope the best; it is their way never to repeat ill of anyone. They will, however, mention the story in all companies, that they may do their friend the service of protesting their disbelief of it. More reputations are thus hinted away by false friends, than are openly destroyed by public enemies! An IF, or a BUT, or a mortified look, or a languid defense, or an ambiguous shake of the head, or a hasty word, or affectedly recalled expression, will demolish a character more effectually, than the whole artillery of malice when openly leveled against it!'
17. 'AgainstSLANDER there is no defense. Hell cannot boast so foul a fiend, nor man deplore so deadly a foe. It stabs without a sword—with a nod, with a shrug, with a look, with a smile. It is the pestilence walking in darkness, spreading contagion far and wide, which the most weary traveler cannot avoid. It is the heart-tearing dagger of the assassin. It is the poisoned arrow whose wound is incurable. It is as mortal as the sting of the deadly adder! Murder is its employment, innocence its prey, and ruin its sport!'
18. Poets, moralists, and divines unite in reprobating the slanderous temper. Shakespeare has the following strong—but just lines:
Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue
Out-venoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds, and does belie
All corners of the world, kings, queens, and states;
Maids, matrons; nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters!
19. The following remarks, though lengthy, are too appropriate to be omitted: 'There is no stronger proof of a little and contracted mind, than the constant indulgence of a habit of slander and backbiting. The individual who indulges this disposition, proclaims to the world—the baseness or the worthlessness of his character. It is beneath an honorable mind to manifest so base and so cowardly a spirit as to delight in speaking evil of a neighbor behind his back! And while it is revolting to every manly, and noble, and generous feeling, to see such a petty and paltry temper exhibited, it is at the same time diametrically opposed to every Christian principle. It is strictly forbidden in the word of God, and it is altogether unbefitting those who profess to be actuated by the high and sacred motives which the gospel of peace inspires.'
20. "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." This command must be considered as extending to the raising and propagating any malicious report whereby the character of our neighbor may be vilified, and his reputation injured.
It would be well if those who are in the constant habit of speaking evil of others, were to consider the magnitude of the guilt which they contract, by thus flying in the face of God's commandment, and setting, as it were, the sanctions of the Almighty Governor of the universe at defiance.
21. 'If every individual were determined to blacken the character of his neighbor, to raise injurious reports, and to endeavor to degrade him in the eyes of his friends, his acquaintance, and the world, there would be an end to confidence between man and man. All would be distrust and suspicion. God, in his infinite mercy, has seen fit, therefore, to guard the social order and welfare from being in this manner broken up and destroyed; and happy would it be for every individual who is inclined to indulge a spirit of slander, to reflect on the enormity of the guilt which he is contracting, to consider to what a fearful length of evil such a spirit might lead, if universally allowed to operate, without check and without remorse.
22. 'What grief and distress does this indulgence in slander often occasion to individuals. What can be more painful to a man of honorable principles, and of strict integrity—than to know that his character is blackened by the foulest aspersions cast upon it? How will the thought prey upon his mind! what anguish will it occasion, and how acute and severe will be his feelings! How lamentable are the consequences, too, when the voice of slander is employed to destroy the harmony of friends, and the sacredness of affection, raising suspicions and jealousies. It has snapped asunder the closest bands, and plunged individuals, who have been its subjects, into the deepest misery! What words can express, in terms sufficiently strong and indignant, the reprobation with which such conduct ought to be viewed; for it is imitating the father of lies himself, who is represented as being the accuser of the brethren. Perhaps the slanderer wears the mask of friendship towards those whom he is attempting to injure; and this only increases the malignity of the deed in a tenfold degree. It is like the viper which lies concealed in the grass, where no danger is suspected, until in one moment it infixes its envenomed sting, and diffuses its fatal poison through the frame!
28. 'It should be remembered, that the scandal which is so much in vogue at our social parties, partakes of the same detestable nature as the slanderous disposition of which we have been treating. It is totally unworthy of Christian professors; it is altogether beneath the dignity of their character, and its indulgence is as injurious to that right and proper frame of mind which it is desirable to maintain, as it is contrary to the rules of good breading, to the dictates of common sense, and to the will of God.'
24. There is anUNCIVIL or discourteous temper, which is far more common than it need be. I have already remarked that it gains nothing and loses much. How often has the pleasure of a journey been embittered by the incivility of coachmen, or the surly behavior of passengers. I have known respectable inns and public houses ruined by the stiff, stingy conduct of the landlord or landlady, or the servants. Many families are disordered through the prevalence of incivility, in one or more, or all its members. Indeed there can be no domestic peace, or order, or prosperity—where such evil tempers are indulged. I have known many servants remove perpetually from the best situations through their own uncivil and disobliging behavior. And not unfrequently does the incivility rest on the side of masters and mistresses. But neither wealth nor authority can be admitted, as an excuse for incivility, much less poverty and humbleness of station.
25. If people in all stations were more civil and courteous in their fellowship, life would be far more tolerable. Civility and kind demeanor have, as a general rule, a mighty influence. And even if our kindness is lost, we have the satisfaction of knowing that the blame is not ours. He is stubborn, indeed, on whom kind and courteous treatment has no softening effect. I can only say, such people, if after fair trial they will not be drawn, deserve to be driven from all human society, or to herd only with the stoical and reserved. Society is like a vast machine that requires art and management. Discourteousness would derange it—but a due regard to each part will secure its proper action.
26. Melville Horne has the following appropriate remarks in his letters on missions: 'No men are so brutish as not to distinguish between a friend and an enemy; and fierce lions have been subdued by the blandishments of gentle human kindness. Beyond all this we must look to the blessing of God, and the almighty grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.'
27. 'The moral of the fabled tradition of Amphion by his music drawing stones after him for the walls of Thebes; and of Orpheus taming wild beasts by his harp, alluded probably to the extraordinary power they were enabled to exercise over insensible and unyielding hearts.
28. I would especially urge my young readers, and all who are in subordinate situations, to study and practice civility, as highly conducive to their outward welfare and happiness. Remember these short maxims:
Civility costs nothing.
Civility gains friends.
Incivility loses esteem.
29. There is theJEALOUS temper; which may be regarded as the one that links the two ends of the disgusting chain. It rears its snaky crest among all classes of society. We see it in towns and villages, lurking in the hearts of petty tradesmen in the same line of business; yes, and even among different sects of Christians. We see it among gentlemen of the same profession; yes, and in the higher ranks of society. History informs us of battles by sea and land willfully lost through the piques and jealousies of commanders. How often has the wheel of state been impeded by the little jealousies of its directors: yes, we find this abhorred jealousy even among the most distinguished administrators of our laws.
30. The effects of jealousy are the most dreadful in the married state. Here it stalks like the monster 'death on bare-bones,' pushing at the point of his sword—his ill-fated victims to misery and ruin. Jealousy eats out all common affection, and embitters life in all its tenderest associations. It is a most unreasonable temper, as it harbors ill-will generally without any obvious or even probable cause; and founds base suspicions without the shadow of evidence, or at best on the imaginings of a depraved heart! It is a dishonest and dishonorable temper, as it robs the innocent of character and of peace, and whatever is most precious in life, adding all the aggravating circumstances of needless incivility and unmerited cruelty.
31. There is aDECEITFUL temper to which many people are greatly addicted. They are so fine and smooth-tongued to the face, that one would suppose they were the most honest, kind, and sincere people in the world! With affected frankness or pretended sympathy they will manifest, until they gain your confidence and elicit the secrets of your bosom; and after that, with a similar show of friendship, they will repeat to your greatest enemies all you have divulged, winding up their periods with, 'but you must not repeat what I tell you!'
They are not only two-faced—but many-faced. Mrs. Ballast showed the deceitful temper in the following manner. One day as she was attending to something in the kitchen, she saw a carriage with a lady moving toward the front entrance, at which she said, 'Why here's Mrs. A. coming; I'm sorry she's coming, for I don't want her!' However, she left the kitchen to meet the carriage at the door, and on seeing the visitor, she exclaimed, 'O, Mrs. A., how do you do? How glad I am to see you! Why did you not come sooner? I wish you had come to dinner. Come, walk in, I'm very pleased to see you!'
Some may affect to reduce this to the rule of common politeness. Indeed I am not ignorant of the empty chatter of the superficial fashionables, who, with the same breath, can utter, 'O, I'm extremely sorry,' 'O, I'm very glad,' etc. which expressions are not only vague—but deceitful and false beyond all endurance of an honest mind.
32. TheGRUMBLING temper is common through all the world. The English, say they, grumble at everything, fair or foul, hot or cold; and when nothing else presents itself, they grumble at their very selves. Grumble, grumble, is the law of the day, and forms the national characteristic. While we frankly acknowledge our propensity, we stoutly repel the charge that we are more addicted to this temper than themselves.
33. I might proceed in this manner through all the lengthy catalogue. The varieties of temper will be further exhibited in the subsequent pages, by the contrast of good with evil, and the production of examples from real life. I only add here, that we daily observe striking varieties, not only among men at large in their several peculiarities—but even in the same family of children; yes, and even in the same individual, we often witness great contrarieties! Sometimes mild—and at other times brawling and passionate. Phlegmatic in the morning—and cheerful in the evening. Morose at home—and smiling abroad. Distant to their own friends—and free and affable to strangers. Pleasant tempered when pleased—and furious when crossed.
34. Such being the nature of man, and such the state of things, it surely can be no cause of wonder that great unhappiness abounds through all the world! Much of this arises from too highly-formed expectations. Youth is the time of hope. Ignorant alike of themselves and of others, they eagerly look forward to perennial happiness; and even if their course is occasionally interrupted, they ballast themselves anew, not despairing in the main object.
At length the long-wished-for twenty-one arrives, and anon the happy day when Hymen smiles, and with infinite benignity adjusts the nuptial crown, and makes two, one—whose separation was their only misery; and no monster but death would be cruel enough to interfere with hopes thus far realized. So far so good; and O, might they always 'live according to this good beginning. But a new world now opens before them: evil propensities, that heretofore lay dormant, are now, by appropriate circumstances, brought into exercise; and peculiarities of temper are now openly manifested. It may be said emphatically that 'the eyes of them both are opened.' By degrees they find the world and human nature very different from what they had been accustomed to think. And if they have been deceived in this respect, it can be no wonder if they should prove to have been mutually deceived in each other.
35. 'Marital happiness, so necessary a foundation for the happiness of a family at large—is often blighted by the undue expectation of an uninterrupted continuance of that delight, hilarity and faultless conduct which the parties previously exhibited in the presence of each other. The lady supposes that she is always to be addressed in that style of fawning respect with which she is treated by her lover: the gentleman supposes that he is constantly to be received with smiles of unclouded good humor, from a being which his idea presents in undecaying youth and beauty. Both are disappointed, and each imagines the fault to be in the other, when there cannot be a doubt of its originating in the inordinate expectations previously indulged. If the intended husband will allow himself to consider that he has no right to expect a woman perfectly free from error; and the bride considers that no human creature is faultless; and each determine to bear with the imperfections of the other, the scene, too common in life, will be changed, and in process of time that shining prospect which hope often shows through a false medium, will be realized.'
36. In concluding this chapter, I will briefly acquaint my readers with a few particulars as to my mode of studying tempers, and accounting for their differences in different people: from which a sufficient reason may be drawn for my withholding my true name. For it must be obvious that if my female acquaintance knew I was the redoubtable Mr. Blank, mentioned below, I would run the risk of drawing on myself the greatest misfortune that can befall a man who highly esteems them, namely, a formal and absolute expulsion from their agreeable society: unless, indeed, their kind tempers should far outvie their indignation.
37. Sometimes, when in the social circle, being on the lookout for grist to my book—I have tried to draw the conversation to my favorite study; and I must say that on some occasions our discussions have done us no little credit: our sage remarks, penetration, solid arguments—and all maintained with excellent temper—have made up as pleasant an evening as any company of chitchat philosophers could desire. Owing to my habit of drawing conversation that way, some of my friends began to suspect that I had an object; and several expressed their conviction that I was contemplating a learned Treatise on Temper, so that I was rallied on the right and left: yet it really had a good effect on the body politic. By a sort of instinct they began to regard me as president of the council, and paid a flattering deference to my judgment. This laid me under some restraint to maintain the best possible temper, and had a similar effect on the several members, without diminishing the social pleasure. The scene has often been enlivened by such casualties as the following: Miss Pickle, fancying my eye was upon her, called out, 'Now, Mr. Blank, you're coming my temper—what do you think of my temper?' 'O, my dear Miss Pickle, your temper is very good just now; only don't lose it as you go home!'
38. On one occasion we had a profound discussion on the HAIR, as indicative of temper. Mr. Ammon said that people of red hair were generally considered bad-tempered; but he was certainly injudicious, forgetting the presence of our host's eldest daughter, Miss Betsy, (and her husband!) who had a fine covering of that color. I quickly tried to suppress the awkward feeling by assuring them that the remark was by no means generally correct, as I knew a lady with perfectly red hair, who had the sweetest and most amiable temper. Good feeling being restored, Miss Bate said she had often heard it remarked that people of sandy hair, or of a mixed color, and fawn-speckled, were generally bad-tempered. This remark threatened more mischief against the present heads than the former, several of them being of that description. 'Come, come,' said I, 'we must not talk of temper in this way: of course the present company are excepted, and out of the question.' So we laughed ourselves into good order again. To myself, at least, the conversation was very interesting, nor did I fail to take mental notes.
39. Mr. Cummins, a facetious excellent man, thought he would supply a salvo. He had 'heard it said that black hair was indicative of good temper.' This luckily fitted several of our heads. 'What do you think of it, Mr. Blank?' sounded from all sides of the room. But, my own head coming under this favorable description, I really had a struggle to put on a sufficiently grave countenance. I replied, 'If Mr. Cummins' remark is true, it is flattering to myself; and as you perceive my own covering is of the color under consideration, you must see how difficult it is for me to answer the question impartially. I will however assure you, that, although I lay claim to some portion of good temper—yet 1 must own it is intermixed with considerable alloy. This probably may be accounted for by the remark of Miss Bate as to sandy hair; for though my head is black, my whiskers are sandy, which I have often regarded as a defect in my appearance; and I am now resolved to shave them off. But here is our good friend, Mr. Tart, whose sable head and bushy whiskers appear uniform, and I should wish we may be favored with his opinion, or his wife's.' Instantly, Mrs. Tart, forgetting matrimonial propriety, exclaimed, 'O, Mr. Blank, I'm sure it's not true, for my husband is as cross as anybody; but you don't know that he blackens his whiskers, for they are more sandy than your own.' Just then the servant brought in the tea.
Temper as We Find it by Daily Observation and Reading.
Let my reader now have recourse to his own personal observation within the compass of his short life, and his brief reading. The examples I shall introduce may assist his recollection of similar and dissimilar instances. Every reader of the public newspapers is well aware that their general contents are little else than an expose of ungoverned tempers. What fierce disputes, what overbearing insolence, angry litigations, bullying, taunting, furious outrage, cruel revenge, robberies, murders, etc. do we behold in the daily news!
2. Some have made comparisons of the prevailing temperament of different nations—but upon what data or evidence, I am at a loss to conceive, except it be the different degrees of temperature in the climates. Were it not that I should exceed my intended limits, I could easily multiply facts from the histories of all nations to confirm this truth, that, whatever distinctions may exist in other respects—there is no radical difference as to the constitutional nature and propensities of men.
The Americans have yet to convince the world that their liberal hearts are less proud and selfish than the rest of their fellow-mortals. America is called the new world; but be it remembered that it is sown with the old seed, and planted with scions from the old stock. Human nature is human nature at New York, and is just as Yorkshire, or as in London itself.
9. We are supplied by all countries under heaven—with examples of violent hasty tempers, both among rich and poor!
10. The following facts are quite recent: 'Atrocious Cruelty—A brute in human form in Chesterfield, had the brutality to set a ferocious dog at his wife, who is far advanced in pregnancy. The beast fastened on her chin—but she beat him down; being again urged on, he fastened on her hip, the brutish husband holding her while the dog mangled her. The poor creature ran out on the road with the dog hanging to her arm by the teeth. She was released by the interference of the neighbors—but not before she had been dreadfully bitten: her hands were bitten through in several places, and she lies in a dangerous state!'
A young girl, for some trivial offence, threw an article at her mother's head and killed her! A man, in a fit of fury, killed his wife with a poker, because she refused to furnish him with money to buy drink! Another such intemperate brute, misnamed a father, seized a sweet infant and threw it on the fire!
We are informed of a man in Scotland, who, after drinking a shameful quantity of whisky, floored his companion, and stamped on his chest and killed him! Alas, drunkenness has destroyed more lives, and caused more misery than all the wars in the world, and bids fair to eclipse all the glory of this great kingdom!
11. A short time since, a farmer's servant was out with the team of horses, and one of the horses not just pleasing him, he viciously whipped it until it sunk to the ground: not yet content, this inhuman monster actually thrust the butt-end of his whip down its throat! and thus, in his diabolical fury, killed a fine animal said to be worth fifty pounds! He who can cruelly treat a dumb creature, will not fail to exercise similar severity toward those of his own species who may unfortunately be placed under his power.
12. The late incendiaries have proved a foul stigma to human nature: for the most trivial or imaginary offence, the grain which a bounteous providence had given, was willfully set on fire in the dead of night, to the terror and ruin of harmless and industrious people!
13. A short time ago, a young man, on being refused an extra glass of wine by his father, at bed time, fetched a gun from an adjoining room, and deliberately shot him to death! As is usual in such cases, it was attempted to prove mental derangement—but be was sufficiently sane to know what he was about. In truth, all violent temper is a species of madness; and I feel confident this individual was only like thousands of other young men, who are actually ruining body, mind and soul with alcohol. In my opinion a marked distinction should ever be drawn between these self-made mad-caps, and those who are deranged from physical causes. For many such instances, read the publications of the Temperance Society.
14. Cholericus was so extremely passionate and ill-humored that neither wife nor child could quietly live near him. His very looks would poison a world: and when he was angry—it was woe to them that were near. He was always crabbed and snappish, and would rarely give anyone a civil answer. He often worked himself into such qualms as to become convulsed and black in the face, and so suffocated with gall that he was thought to be dying. He did a short time since leave the world, leaving in it hundreds like himself—but not a friend who felt disposed to shed a tear.
15. Furiosus was extremely addicted to violent passions: sometimes for the smallest trifle he would fly into a dreadful rage, and swear horribly. One day he got into one of these vehement fits and terrified all around him; in the midst of which he was struck speechless and senseless, and continued so for two or three years—and then died! It is a little remarkable, that, during this respite, he sat in a state of idiotism, and had the habit of moving his arms, head and lips similarly to what he had done in his paroxysm.
16. Earl Stanhope, conceiving himself to be reflected upon by some remarks of the Duke of Wharton, was seized with a transport of anger: he undertook to vindicate himself, and spoke with such vehemence as produced a violent head-ache, which obliged him to retire. The next day he became lethargic, and being seized with a suffocation, instantly expired!
17. Felina was the wife of a respectable farmer: she was intemperate and ill-tempered; and, like many more, she conceived a groundless jealousy against her husband: and indeed such conduct as hers is enough to drive any mere worldly man from his home at least. One day a paltry domestic circumstance set her off, and she stormed and swore dreadfully, and then fell down dead!
18. I could extend this list considerably by instances which have occurred within my own observation. Sour tempers, like harsh acids, have a corroding effect, and are among the causes of bad health; and judging from the foregoing examples, not acid itself is more deadly or more speedy in its effects.
19. 'Perhaps it will be said there is nothing remarkable in people dying of passion, inasmuch as many have expired in a fit of joy. This is an overpowering sensation even as the other. But the fit of passion is a positive evil, and though death is distressing in a fit of joy, it rather excites sympathy than horror.'
20. If it is remarkable in human beings, it is to me still more so in brute creatures. A friend recently informed me that she had two chickens a few months ago, one of which would not allow the other to eat. One day she took up the masterful one while the other pecked a little; but it was so restless and wicked that at length it hung down its head and died in her hands! The same effects have often been witnessed in elephants, dogs, and other animals.
21. To return: if I must faithfully exhibit Temper as we find it, I must necessarily follow it into its recesses. Mr. Adam, in his searching book on 'Private Thoughts,' asks how it is that married people are so free to indulge their tempers one to the other, except that each feels confident the other will not make an exposure? This is verified every day. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that some have one temper at home—and another abroad; one temper and tone for kindred—and another for strangers. Many, while single, have manifested the most agreeable tempers—who have subsequently become habitually rude and harsh. Surely 'holy wedlock' did not infuse another nature—but most probably for the reason aforesaid.
22. One has heard the reflection—'such a one is a saint abroad—but a devil at home!' The family of the Vixens exemplify this remark: at home—how harsh and sullen—what constant janglings—what impatient airs! The parents are habitually cross and morose, and the children naturally merge into the same spirit. Now follow the discordant couple into another family; could ever a change be more striking! The countenance is relaxed, open, kind. The tart speech is exchanged for the diffusive language of civility and kindness; one looks pleasantly at the other with the appearance of mutual regard. It is now, 'Yes, my dear!' 'No, my love!' and such like hypocrisy.
23. Mrs. Restiff married a kind and considerate man of equal fortune to her own. They settled in business, with every prospect of comfort and success. Her education and training had been of that mirthful and superficial character which rarely answers any purpose for people in business. The management of a house had formed no part of her education; but even this would have proved but a small disadvantage, had she possessed any moderate portion of sound judgment and a right temper. She looked for greater attentions than consisted with their circumstances, and by the haughtiness of her demeanor she disgusted many excellent customers. While her husband was constantly studying her welfare, and that of the family, she as constantly studied her own whims and gossips. She was seldom pleasant or satisfied. She fancied she was ill-used and restricted; construed her husband's kindness into selfishness, and his mildness into indifference. Now and then she was talkative enough, and could make herself agreeable; but more generally she was sullen and peevish, and would be crying continually without any assignable cause; and frequently, when her husband crossed her wishes or restrained her extravagances, as needs he must—she gave loose to her tempestuous passions, and rendered the house most insufferable. It cannot be expected that any man, however vigilant, could bear up long against such discouragements. In five years they were brought to a painful strait, and after much trouble recommenced business in a far inferior way. This might have served as a corrective to anyone not totally devoid of reflection; but it only incited this virago to greater excesses of temper; and in a short time they were reduced to utter wretchedness—the sole fruit and natural consequence of a proud dissatisfied temper.
24. Ferocula was the wife of a tradesman who was daily accumulating money, and who—but for the expensive habits of his wife, and her violent disposition, might have acquired a considerable fortune. Ferocula, however, was determined to combine the character of a tradesman's wife with that of a fine lady. Her furniture must be of the most fashionable and costly kind, and her apparel of the first style of elegance. The lucrative business of her husband was soon found unequal to her extravagances. In vain did he and their friends remonstrate with her on the imprudence of her conduct. She was too proud to be instructed, and too imperious to be controlled. Her pride was mortified by the sense of her inability to preserve the appearance she had assumed, while the difficulties in which she had involved her family irritated her temper in the highest degree. And as she could not brook the diminution of her false respectability in the view of those with whom she bad been accustomed to mingle, nothing would satisfy but a removal to some town where the contrast of her appearance could not be recognized. She was not to be acknowledged as half a lady, in the circle in which she had attempted to move as a whole one. Her ridiculous proposal was at length agreed to; and all was sold off, and they removed to a considerable distance. They entered on a new line of business, with a fair prospect of success; but in a short time, and from the same cause—all came to ruin. Such, and much more, was Ferocula—proud, passionate and haughty—the reduction of whose family to affliction and poverty was the obvious result of her infamous temper.
25. My readers may fancy I am uniting several people by drawing imaginary characters under assumed names; but I sincerely affirm this is not the case. I can as easily write the proper names against the facts as the assumed ones.
26. Mr. Scrubbins, in his boyhood, was a shoeblack. He afterward became servant to a wine-dealer. His temper was so violent that he became furious at every obstruction to his will, and when he could not revenge himself on animate beings, he would seize a stick and beat the casks until his rage had spent his vigor.
27. By diligence he saved a little money, and eventually set up in the same business for himself; and being successful, he became a person of some importance in his neighborhood. But his publicity only served more fully to develop the perverseness of his temper. In filling a town office—he quarreled with the public, and with other local officers. When the poor applied for relief, he roughly ordered them away or threatened to kick them into the street.
28. As strange as it may appear, he made a great profession of religion, and, stranger still, became the principal leader in a congregation! No pope could exercise a more domineering temper than this conceited man did toward several respectable and talented ministers. On coming down to the vestry the minister was sure to experience an insulting attack, either for the length or the doctrine of his sermon. The following is only a sample: One day he pulled out his watch, and holding it to the minister's face, said, 'Do you see that!' and then grasping it firmly in his hand, and wielding his menacing arm, he said, 'Man, I'll tell you what—you are ruining the congregation by your long sermons, and such doctrines as they do not like—I have no patience with you, man!' In every church-meeting, his single aim was to be the Diotrephes, and to upbraid the minister!
29. Theophilus was an excellent godly man, and a faithful preacher. He was appointed over a congregation where old Scrubbins had the rule; but truly, never was a man more tried. He would frequently come home from a church-meeting, and, throwing himself on the sofa, cry out in an agony, 'Oh this fault-finder! Oh these church-meetings!' This excellent man eventually drooped beneath the weight of his anxieties, and fled to that land of rest, and to that church of which Hooker writes, 'all is order, all is peace.'
30. I wish I could add that Scrubbins possessed any relieving qualities. His countenance and his whole appearance told but too plainly that he was a crabbed, ill-tempered man, far more fit to be the keeper of bears and bull-dogs, than the leader in a Christian community! I have been informed that he died about three years ago in a dark and hopeless condition, keenly sensible of his "spiritual wickedness," but not so of the divine mercy!
31. I have mentioned the ill-tempered countenance; and certainly the natural form is not more varied than the mental indications. These are so prominent that we are generally impressed favorably or unfavorably at first sight. We must also take into account its changeableness: some can look very simpering and bland in company, who, at home, appear as altered as Proteus. Others have a visage as forbidding and inflexible as the rock of Scilla. Even infants can show their angry tempers through their diminutive, and otherwise lovely, countenances. Solomon has assured us, that the temper of the mind—has a strong influence upon the facial features: "Wisdom makes the face to shine;" and surely no part of wisdom is more likely to produce this amiable effect, than a placid serenity of soul.
But there are false features—as well as false principles. The countenance and manners of some very fashionable people may be compared to the inscriptions on their monuments, which speak nothing but good of what is within; but he who knows anything of the world, or of the human heart—will no more trust to the countenance or to the courtesy of an individual, than he will depend on the epitaph!
32. Frango is a widower, of a naturally brittle temper, which, in his married state, he indulged without restraint toward a wife of a very superior disposition. Her tender frame sunk at length under the pressure of her griefs. Happy spirit! she is no longer the victim of his unkindness! He is still living, and here the saying is verified,
God takes the good—too good to stay,
And leaves the bad—too bad to take away.
He still exercises the same harsh temper where he can. No housekeeper nor cook can give satisfaction for any length of time. The servants hate going into his room for anything: poor Charles is constantly cowed and scolded: if a shoe-lace is put wrong, or a strap of the harness is buckled a hole out of place, or the shaving water not sufficiently hot, he is sure of a smart brow-beating. Thus, married or single—bad temper is a common torment!
33. Navigus was captain of a steam-vessel—an intemperate and ill-tempered man. He left the with a hundred and nine people on board. The wind rose, the sea rolled, and the vessel was in the greatest jeopardy. The passengers were of course thrown into the deepest consternation; but the captain, regardless alike of their distress and respectability, remained below, indulging his appetite, unmoved. They naturally gave vent to every expression of anxiety—but he only stormed and swore! They remonstrated and entreated with an earnestness suited to their pitiable condition; but neither the peril nor the tears of his victims, neither the fearful gaping of the deep, nor the solemn prospects of eternity, made any impression on his impervious heart; he only became the more sullen and insulting! The danger increased every moment, and at length the vessel sunk, and only about twenty people, with amazing difficulty, were saved! Humanly speaking, nothing but the diabolical temper of this monster caused this dreadful catastrophe! Oh pause, my reader, and reflect what unrestrained human nature is capable of! This man was not insensible of the danger; but a ridiculous pride prompted him to affect indifference, and to disdain returning to the port.
34. I had prepared for this place, a considerable bulk of matter exhibiting temper in unequal marriages, separations, false gentility, high life above and below stairs, and exposing the dandies, prigs, pragmatics, etc. But, excepting a few particulars on the first head, I have deemed it best to suppress it, as it would swell my book, and, perhaps, reform nobody.
35. Constituted as is the frame of society, and as fickle as is human nature, there will unavoidably be many unhappy marriages. This is confirmed by the testimony of all history, both sacred and profane. Added to this, the marital compact is so peculiar in itself that there can be no guarantee for securing amity. Even if mankind were capable of forming a right judgment, and of foreseeing the consequences of such compacts, it would not eliminate unequal marriage; for we daily see young people rush forward in opposition to all solid advice; yes, and in opposition to their own better judgment! But they have leisure afterward to reflect and repent!
In all classes from the throne downward, we observe the same liability to mistakes and imprudences in this weighty affair; but none can judge of a given case—like the parties concerned, and even these will judge skewedly, each being confident that the fault is in the other.
There will be ordinary troubles in the very best conceived cases, and it is generally owing to the ill-temper and unreasonable impatience of parties with things ordinary and common to life—that their unhappiness becomes extraordinary and intolerable. This is ever likely to be the case—as long as neither party will either bear or forbear, either give or take, or make the least concession.
36. That the poor and ignorant should plunge into marital inequalities can excite no surprise, seeing that the wisest and greatest of men have been equally mistaken and equally imprudent! Milton seemed to have a deeper insight in the loss of 'Paradise', and the consequent unhappiness of the first pair, from his own marriage.
37. The accomplished Addison is another case in point: 'In 1716, he married the Countess of Warwick, after a long and anxious courtship; but he found no addition to his happiness in this splendid alliance. The Countess, it is said, presuming on her high rank, treated her husband with little respect; and he, conscious of a dignity which neither wealth nor power could confer, must have felt this vain insolence with peculiar keenness.'
38. It is recorded of the great and learned Sir Edward Coke, Lord Chief Justice of England, that he was most unhappy in this respect. 'Being left a widower with ten children, he turned his thoughts to another match of great fortune, and still greater connections. This was the widow of Sir William Hatton, and sister to Lord Burleigh. But this marriage, however it might aggrandize him—was fatal to his domestic felicity. Their discordant tempers were the source of mutual misery; and after many bickerings and partial separations, King James was obliged to become a mediator between them. But no authority can awaken the passion of love, or resume its extinguished flame, they lived but to curse their destiny; and Sir Edward sought solace in business and ambition, instead of those sweeter comforts, which a happy home can impart.'
40. The best of men are "subject to like passions" and weaknesses of temper, which many deplore in secret. It has been remarked—but perhaps with more sarcasm than truth, that Christian ministers often marry 'for worse' and not 'for better.' True it is, in many instances—but not more so than in other orders of men.
The late Dr. Gamaliel, author of one of the most valuable works in our libraries, had for his spouse a most haughty and furious tempered woman—a perfect shrew. She was a great person, commonly so called. Doubtless she had concealed her real self before marriage, as many others have done, and perhaps will do again; but after marriage she showed off with a vengeance. The good doctor, like many other studious men, was not sufficiently sharp-sighted in such matters. Often, when a person inquired at the door for the Doctor, she would go herself, and haughtily ask, 'What do you want the Doctor for?' or, 'What do you want the Doctor for?' She would not allow him a separate room for a study; and he actually wrote his great work at the top of the stairs!
41. I could name a Christian minister and writer now living, whose dear spouse, when alive, was even more obstreperous than Mrs. Gamaliel. She frequently hid his writings to vex him; sometimes she seized and crumpled them together; and at other times she threw tea or water upon them, and showed other airs which I will not record!
42. From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness, good Lord, deliver us!
Chapter 5.Temper as We Find it Exemplified in the Holy Scriptures
1. History is man's great book; but the Bible is our best and most sure record, and has the preeminent excellency of being faithful and impartial in its delineations of character. In this volume our attention is speedily arrested by the passionate and revengeful Cain, who, without the least provocation, vented his deadly hatred on his innocent and amiable brother. Proving the assertion that, 'one sin seldom goes alone,' he further aggravates his guilt by nourishing an unrelenting temper, and dares to insult the great God, saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Oh sad and early fruits of his parent's fall! Here the evil commenced.
'In Cain we behold a dissembling formal hypocrite, an unbeliever, a despiser of God, and a persecutor of his people; assuming for a season the form of godliness—but at last hurried away by the vilest passions into the most horrid complication of iniquity.'
2. Even Abraham's house was not wholly exempt from unsanctified tempers. And the domestic peace of Isaac's latter days was much disturbed by the vindictive temper of the profane Esau, who, in his conduct concerning his birthright, and his marriage, highly grieved his venerable parents!
3. Jacob appeared as if doomed to be the victim of other people's evil tempers. Scarcely any family was ever more disturbed, or any individual more tried. First with his brother Esau, then with his uncle Laban, and afterward with a large family of head-strong children. Simeon and Levi were, in a sort, denounced by him on his death-bed: "For in their anger they murdered men, and they crippled oxen just for sport."
4. The character of Joseph affords a pleasing contrast. It is not improbable that the boisterous conduct of his elder brethren in some measure induced the father to show a marked partiality for this "son of his old age;" and the more serious turn of Joseph's mind, added to the circumstance of his being the youngest, might lead to this favoritism. Still, it was injudicious in the parent to manifest it. But the most notable proof of the wicked temper of Jacob's sons—was their murderous treatment of their young brother, aggravated as it was by a deliberate lie to their aged and injured father. Joseph, on a subsequent memorable occasion, tacitly and, no doubt, with a sensible reminiscence, intimated his opinion of their tempers, when he charged them, "See that you do not argue along the way."
'It is a misfortune to parents to have a favorite; and yet, perhaps, they cannot entirely command their own affections. But surely they should study to conceal an undue attachment, and not proclaim it by any mark of distinction, which may tend to excite envy and contention. How much prudence and circumspection are necessary in the education of a rising family!'
5. The history of Job supplies a striking exemplification of the deceit and cruelty of self-interested temper. He had friends enough, and sufficiently fawning, while the sun of prosperity shone upon his path; but when adversity assailed him as an armed man, how was it then? Did his former "friends love at all times?" did they fly to his relief? did they nourish and cherish, soothe and alleviate? Ah! no! But as the prophet says, "the best of them is a briar, and the most upright is as a thorn hedge!" so it was here. His very wife took part with the adversary, and accused and tempted him. His kinsfolk failed in every natural duty; his familiar friends forgot him, and his servants insulted him.
6. What cruelty and stubbornness do we observe in Pharaoh and his task-masters toward the Israelites! And, again, what uneasiness did those Israelites occasion to the meek spirit of Moses by their refractory and rebellious 'tempers in the wilderness!'
7. The life of David was much chequered and embittered by incessant contact with violent deceitful and insubordinate tempers. During many years, his life was in constant jeopardy through the revengeful temper of the ungrateful Saul. And his ultimate advance to the throne of Israel did not screen him from severe trials. The seditious tempers of many influential subjects, the deceitful temper of Ahithophel, and the rebellious temper of his darling Absalom, were fruitful causes of disquietude: nor had he any counterpoise in the bosom of his family, to assuage his troubled spirit.
8. Time would fail to tell of the insurrectionary and impious temper of "Jeroboam who made Israel to sin;" of the exceedingly wicked temper of Ahab; and the equally atrocious temper of his wife Jezebel, who is emphatically denominated "this cursed woman!"
We may note likewise, the invidious and inveigling temper of Sanballat against the builders of the wall; the rancorous and diabolical temper of Haman in designing to murder all the Jews; the rash and daring temper of Jehoiakim in cutting and burning the scroll; the violent and cruel temper of the princes of Babylon against Daniel and his companions; the base and abominable tempers of the Herods; the barbarous and fiendish temper of Herodias, and her daughter, in demanding the head of John the Baptist to be brought on a platter, and their peculiarly callous tone of nerve in exultingly gazing upon it, and dancing over it with cannibal delight; the unreasonable and inveterate enmity of the Jews against the meek and lowly Jesus; the mad and brutish rage of the synagogue against the faithful and angelic-looking Stephen: they even "gnashed on him with their teeth;" the insolent temper of the worldly priest, Ananias, in commanding to smite the venerable Paul on the mouth; the aspiring temper of Diotrephes, who would have the pre-eminence, and would neither take in the brethren himself, nor allow others to do it!
9. The above, as will be perceived, is only a very rapid glance at facts, each of which might be largely amplified. The attentive reader will observe a striking contrast with the letter and spirit of the divine law. Pride, lust, covetousness, envy, and enmity to God and man—are the prevailing principles!
The foul spirit of hatred is most prominent, and may be further exemplified in the conduct of Ahab, who, in the midst of peace, was bent on an unjust war against the the king of Syria, and for this purpose he tried to draw Jehoshaphat into his unrighteous scheme. But Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, very properly advised him to inquire of the Lord through the prophets. Ahab forthwith assembled his own paid and very subservient prophets, who knew better than to be guilty of speaking contrary to their master's will. With a pretended show of sincerity, Ahab puts the question, "Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?" One and all very pliantly answered, "Go up—for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king!" Jehoshaphat was struck, as well he might be, at their unanimity, and rightly suspecting they were hirelings, he said, "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we might inquire of him?" Ahab answered, "There is yet one man, Micaiah; but I hate him, for he does not prophesy good concerning me—but evil." Jehoshaphat, however, prevailed with Ahab to have Micaiah called, who, when he came, seriously assured Ahab that all his prophets were deceived with "a lying spirit;" for it was not the will of God that he should go to battle against Ramoth-gilead. This of course enraged Ahab, and one of the servants showed his temper as well as his zeal for his master, by striking the prophet on the face. Ahab showed his temper too, by sending Micaiah to a loathsome prison, ordering that he should be fed "with the bread of affliction, and with water of affliction." For further particulars, see 1 Kings 22.
Mark the expressions: "I hate him!" Why? "because he does not prophesy good concerning me—but evil:" that is, 'he does not pander to my lusts, and succumb to my will, as do the other prophets.' Are there not many in the world who, like Ahab, take a mortal offence at the faithful preaching of the Lord's true prophets; and who would as readily give them the bread and water of affliction? "Prophesy unto us smooth things!" is strong evidence of a wicked temper, that would gladly pluck out the eyes of a faithful preacher. Such, my reader, is a small part of the testimony of the truest and best book in the world, concerning man and his tempers.
Chapter 6.Temper as We Find it in Church History
1. If you cast your eye over the page of ecclesiastical history, you will at every step reveal humiliating developments of the evil of the human temper.
2. Where will you find a character so lost to all sense of feeling and reputation, as Nero? His barbarous murder of his mother, his brother, and his tutor, was only of a piece with his treatment of the innocent Christians. It was not enough for this incarnate demon to sign the death-warrants of his victims; but he must needs devote and disgrace the royal gardens as the scene of their tortures; and not content with ordinary modes of despatch, he aggravated their sufferings by every vile contrivance! Many were enveloped in pitch and combustibles, and set on fire! And as a further proof of the innate depravity of his heart, this miscreant took delight in viewing the hellish illuminations from the windows of his palace.
3. The emperor Theodosius, as much as he has been extolled by some, gave sad proofs of a passionate evil temper. In a fit of anger he caused seven thousand Christians to be massacred in three hours, without trial and without distinction, at Thessalonica!
4. Time would fail to tell of the persecutions by Domitian, Trajan, Decius, Gallus, Valerian, Diocletian, Celsus, Galerius, Romanus, Porphery, Julian, Phocas, etc.
5. How lamentable have been the effects of religious controversy in all ages! How cruel were the persecutions of the wicked Arians, who, in Egypt and Lybia alone, murdered hundreds of Christians, tormenting them with all savage barbarity—and all because they would not receive their unscriptural doctrines!
6. The Goths and Vandals committed the most unheard-of cruelties upon the harmless Christians: 'Sometimes they freighted a leaky vessel with martyrs, and let it drift out to sea, or set fire to it, with the sufferers shackled on the decks!'
7. What an appalling folio is the history of the Popish inquisition! What horrible murders, open and secret! It is calculated that not fewer than fifty million people have fallen victims to that seven-headed and blood-thirsty monster! Some pretend to say the papists have become quite divested of this bloodthirsty spirit of persecution; but we need go no further than Ireland for a refutation. There is the germ of persecution, and it would germinate freely but for the high hand of the law!
No doubt those late Bible-burners and Bible-drowners are every way competent to re-act the tragedies of by-gone days!
'See what is now (1836) going on in the island of Achill, on the west coast of Ireland, where they are trying to starve the poor Protestants into embracing the abominations of the church of Rome. The influence of the priesthood, has prevented their people from selling the necessities of life to the Protestant population, which has reduced them to the greatest distress.'
8. Surely nothing but judicial blindness can prevent the papacy from seeing this identical and revolting feature of its image in Rev. 13:16, 17. "And he [the beast with seven heads] required everyone—great and small, rich and poor, slave and free—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. And no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name." Oh tell us not that popery is more tolerant. Other things undergo reform—but this "mystery of iniquity "is unreformable! The only remedy is its threatened overthrow into the sea. Recent publications by Blanco White and many others, who wrote from personal knowledge, sufficiently confirm these remarks. So also do recent discoveries; as we may instance, the finding of a naked man in a horrible dungeon within a Spanish convent, who had been constantly immured within that filthy hole, and shockingly punished for many years: and had it not been for the courage and humanity of some, he would inevitably have perished.
Oh tell us not that popery is more tolerant! Through age and sundry hard times, the beast has lost some of his best teeth—but his temper remains the same!
9. Who can read, without shuddering, the history of the Waldenses and Albigenses, who, during a long series of years, were most severely persecuted, pillaged, burnt out of house and home, and subjected to every species of cruelty and death, that the infuriated tempers of the popish emissaries could devise! And all for no crime except that they 'would not fall down and worship the image which the man of sin had set up! For they were the most peaceable, industrious, and godly people on earth.
10. Who can read, without emotion, the accounts of the Irish massacre in 1641? or the English massacres in the reign of Bloody Mary? What can possibly exceed in atrocity, the French Bartholomew massacre? We are informed, 'The rivers were reddened with blood, and blood ran through the street with a stronger current!' What untold cruelties followed! It seemed as if the devil and his legions were let loose with full licence to incite their votaries to torture and slay all the faithful in the land. Even tender godly women, yes, innocent children, were among the greatest sufferers! Oh where had reason fled! Alas! that man should be capable of such horrid deeds! Sorry proof this—that the Romish church is the only true church in the world!
11. The names and deeds of Gardiner and Bonner will ever be regarded by Englishmen as a foul stain upon our nation. Bishops, I cannot call them with any patience. I admit they had a royal commission (royal wickedness!) from their priest-ridden mistress to torture and murder the peaceable and God-fearing Protestants; but the ignominy of these Right Reverend monsters is aggravated by the fact that they were most willing agents, and evidently took pleasure in executing, yes, and in exceeding their hateful commission; which, by the bye, they had incited and procured. But even if they had not procured it, they might have tried to palliate or mitigate, instead of greedily seeking opportunity to betray and ensnare their victims, which showed the despicable enmity of their hearts, and their insatiable thirst for blood. They evinced the cunning and poison of the serpent—with the voraciousness of the wolf. Gardiner, one day, after untold cruelties, sat down to dinner with a joyful heart, at the retrospect! Here, however, his temper had its check, for 'scarcely had he taken a few mouthfuls, when he was seized with illness, and carried to his bed, where he lingered fifteen days, burning with a devouring fever that terminated in death!' Bonner also was similarly pursued by the vengeance of God.
12. It is not so much to the circumstances of those times that I allude, as to the individual character and temper of the men. Surely they might have softened and moderated things, or made some effort of that kind, or evinced some degree of reluctance to the bloody task! But no—they put themselves forward, sought power, and exceeded the power; they were unnecessarily rigorous, personally vigilant, headed the rabble to the scene of blood-shed, directed the movements, and gazed with joy on the fiery tortures of their defenseless victims!
13. In the persecutions against the non-conformists ministers much needless bad temper was evinced. Not content with seeing the wretched condition of two thousand conscientious ministers and their families turned adrift to the wide world, as if guilty of the most atrocious crimes, there were found in all parts of the country, brutish, time-serving sycophants, who were base enough to aggravate the sufferings of the unfortunate by every vile expedient. Selecting only one instance from thousands, I may state that not only did they resolutely prevent that good man, Oliver Heywood, from preaching the gospel in any place, public or private—but even when he attempted to worship with the conformists, they assailed him with all the weight of their malevolence. Surely these pliant consciences might have had some pity on the souls of their victims!
14. Such then is the human temper, where principle and common honesty have no sway. Who then will cry up the dignity and the goodness of human nature? Alas! it is fearfully lapsed and corrupted; and requires something more than moral precepts to rectify it. Be assured, that it is the same in all ages, and in all places! It is true all are not equally hurried away with wicked tempers, though the best men on earth are, in their nature, prone to them. Reflection has done much to control the evil propensities—but true religion is their only remedy!
Chapter 7.Temper as We Find it in Profane History
1. If in Sacred and Church History we are furnished with such lamentable fruits of evil temper, our surprise can scarcely be increased at similar discoveries in that department which only professes to embrace what relates to the civil and moral condition of men.
2. Every reader of ancient and modern history will acknowledge that temper is little else than one vast chain of development in its native propensities. The venerable John Newton very properly asks, 'What is the history of mankind—but a diffusive exemplification of the Scripture doctrines concerning the dreadful nature and effects of sin, and the desperate wickedness of the heart of man?'
3. Through all the ponderous folios we recognize little else than an incessant conflict of imperious and impetuous tempers: kings against kings, rulers against rulers, nations against nations, families against families, neighbors against neighbors, wars and fightings, strifes and bickerings, civil commotions, secret mutinies, open violence, kindred at variance, friends at quarrel, litigious animosities, rebellion against governments, regicide, parricide, fratricide, homicide, suicide, lawless outrage, intrigues, deceptions, frauds, thefts, cruelties, murders, etc. Such is the rapid glance at the main heads, each of which is filled up with sufficient seasoning of correspondent tempers.
4. We see kingdoms rise and fall; kings murdered by restless aspirants, and these, in turn, conspired against in like manner, insomuch that few crowned heads have expired on their pillow. 'We may illustrate this by a reference to the Roman history, beginning with Commodus, in the year 180, and ending with Valens, in 378. During this period, inclusively, there were thirty-eight emperors!
24 were murdered!
8 were killed!
5 died naturally,
You have only to divide the period of 198 years by 38, to ascertain the frail average of royal life in that age, which is considered by writers on prophecy to be the period of the red horse, spoken of in the book of Revelation.'
5. The earlier parts of our English history are scarcely less tragic than that of other nations; and the commotions which have transpired throughout Europe during the last fifty years, present but a dark and humiliating picture of the human temper!
6. Nothing can be wider from truth—than the vulgar notion that wealth and titles, and particularly royalty, necessarily make their possessors happy. That kings, even prosperous kings, are far from happiness, history abundantly shows. On this point I cannot quote a better or more credible author than M. Rollin:
'Philip, king of Macedon, and father of the great Alexander, had everything that could yield to his glory and happiness; but he found the utmost uneasiness at home; division and trouble reigning in every part of his family. The ill-temper of Olympias, his wife, who was naturally jealous, choleric, and vindictive, raised dissensions perpetually in the home, which made Philip almost hate life. Not to mention that, as he himself was not a faithful husband, it is said that he experienced on his wife's part, the infidelity he so had justly deserved.' Indeed his private character was in many respects most exceptionable. Ambition and personal indulgence were his ruling passions, and he cared not by what sort of means, he attained his ends. His planning the secret assassination of the great and amiable Philopoemen, is a foul and lasting stain upon his character, and indicates but too plainly the intriguing and wicked temper of the man.
7. Treating of Dionysius, the elder tyrant, who governed thirty-eight years, the same author writes: This history will present to our view a series of most odious and horrid crimes. On the one side we behold a prince, the declared advocate of justice, liberty, and laws—treading under his feet the most sacred rights of nature and religion, inflicting the most cruel torments upon his subjects, beheading some, burning others for a slight word; delighting and feasting himself with human blood, and gratifying his inhuman cruelty with the sufferings and miseries of every age and condition! I say, when we behold such an object, can we deny a truth, which the pagan world itself has confessed, and which Plutarch takes occasion to observe in speaking of the tyrants of Sicily, that God, in his anger, gives such princes to a people, and makes use of the impious and the wicked rulers, to punish the guilty and the criminal.
On the other side, when the same prince, the dread and terror of the country, is perpetually anxious and trembling for his own life, and abandoned by day and night to remorse and regret, can find no person in his whole state, not even his wives and children, in whom he can confide, who will not exclaim with Tacitus, "That it is not without reason the oracle of wisdom has declared, that if the hearts of tyrants could be seen—we would find them torn in pieces with a thousand evils; it being certain that the body does not suffer more from stripes and torments, than the minds of such wretches, from their crimes, cruelties, and the injustice and violence of their proceedings!"
8. There is in human nature, a lamentable proneness to tyranny. This is particularly apparent under circumstances of supreme power. But it raises our surprise to see the inconsistency of those who cry so loudly for liberty, albeit they have no unreasonable restraints except their own passions; yet when they themselves are advanced to power—they are even more intolerant than those whom they displaced!
The Grecian republic furnishes us with painful examples of this kind. They were never at rest. Not only were the different states perpetually at war—but the same state was seldom quiet in itself. Splendid monuments were reared up with avidity to the conceived deliverers; but, before the dust could well settle upon them, they were as zealously pulled down by succeeding demagogues. The history of the tyrants, or chief governors, is little else than a catalogue of conspiracies and murders: and all this under the semblance of liberty and justice.
Rollin writes, 'There is an excessive propensity in the mind of man to dominate his equals, and to rule over them imperiously, to carry him on to the last extremes of oppression and cruelty, and to make him forget at once, all the laws of nature and religion.
9. I have elsewhere treated of those passionate people who nevertheless have some redeeming qualities. The Athenians, as a nation, come under this character; and history supplies us with numberless examples of the same kind. 'The people of Athens are easily provoked to anger, and as easily induced to resume sentiments of benevolence and compassion.'
10. The great Alexander is not more renowned for conquering the world, than for the domination of his own passions. Like many passionate people, he was yet capable of noble and generous deeds, as in the case of Sysigambis. Rollin, in reference to him, writes as follows: 'A certain author compares anger, when united with power, to thunder; and, indeed, what havoc does it not then make? But how dreadful must it be when joined with drunkenness! We see this in Alexander. How unhappy was that prince, not to have endeavored to subdue those two vices in his youth; but even to have been confirmed in them from the example of one of his tutors! For it is asserted that both were the consequences of his education. But what can be more vile, or more unworthy a king—than drinking to excess? What can be more fatal or bloody than the transports of anger? Alexander, who had overcome so many nations, was himself conquered by those two vices, which throw a dark shadow over the glory of his brightest actions. The reason of this, says Seneca, is, he endeavored more to vanquish others—than to subdue himself; not knowing, that to triumph over our passions is, of all conquests, the most glorious.
11. The Persian history furnishes its quota of bad tempers. Let one character suffice: Cambyses from foul jealousy murdered his brother, Smerdis. He married his own sister; but because on a certain occasion she dropped a tear at the recollection of her brother's murder, Cambyses had the baseness to kick her on the belly in a state of pregnancy and killed her! After such excesses as these, we cannot wonder at any other instances of his rashness. Among the rest, he caused several of his followers to be buried alive, and daily sacrificed some of them to his wild fury! Such, and much more, was the unworthy son of the renowned Cyrus!
12. The same ferocious temper was strongly indicated by Phalaris, a tyrant of Agrigentum. He made use of the most excruciating torments to punish his subjects on the smallest suspicion. Perillus made him a brazen bull to offer human sacrifices upon, and when he had presented it to Phalaris the tyrant ordered the inventor to be seized, and the first experiment to be made on his own body. These cruelties did not long remain unrevenged: the people of Agrigentum revolted in the tenth year of his reign, and put him to death in the same manner as he had tortured Perillus.
13. Nabis, a celebrated tyrant of Lacedaemon, in his acts of cruelty and oppression surpassed even a Phalaris or a Dionysius. His house was filled with flatterers and spies, who were continually employed in watching the words and actions of his subjects. When he had exercised every art in plundering and punishing the citizens of Sparta, he added to his barbarities by inventing a machine which may be called an infernal one, representing a woman magnificently dressed, and exactly resembling his wife. Every time that he sent for any person to extort money from him, he would first converse with him, in the kindest and most gentle terms, on the danger with which the whole country and Sparta in particular, was menaced. In case the person spoke to was wrought upon by his words, he proceeded no further; but if he was refractory and refused to give him money, he would say, 'Probably the talent of persuasion is not mine; but I hope that Apega will be able to persuade you.' Apega was the name of his wife. He no sooner uttered these words—than his machine appeared. Nabis, taking him by the hand, raised him from her chair and led him to Apega. The hands, the arms, and breast of this machine were stuck with sharp iron points, concealed under the clothes. The pretended Apega embraced the unhappy wretch, folded him in her arms; and laying hers round his waist, clasped him to her bosom, while he uttered the most lamentable cries. The machine was made to perform these several motions by secret springs. In this manner did the tyrant put many to death, from whom he could not otherwise extort the sum he demanded.
14. Would one believe that a human being could be capable of contriving, in cold blood, such a machine, merely to torture his fellow-creatures, and to feed his eyes and ears with the cruel pleasure of seeing their agonies and hearing their groans? Alas! alas! man, in and of his own nature—is capable of any wickedness! Similar is the temper of those who use wheels, racks, and thumbscrews to torture their victims. Happily such barbarities are no longer known in our favored country.
15. 'As cruel as a Turk,' is a common expression; and the history of those infidels only requires to be read, to ascertain the propriety of the epithet. The history of the Jews is scarcely less shaded with cruel and avaricious tempers. The Carthaginians had something austere and savage in their disposition and genius, a haughty and imperious air, a sort of ferocity, which, in the first transports of passion, was deaf to both reason and remonstrances, and plunged brutally in the utmost excesses of violence!
16. It is no pleasant task thus to lay open the deformities of our nature. I trust I shall not be charged with having exaggerated. I could advance much more, not only on the enmity of man against man—but also on his enmity against God and divine truth. What I have written fully confirms the declaration of our ninth Article, that we are very far gone, as far as possible from original righteousness.
Chapter 8.Miscellaneous Remarks, Relating Principally to Christian Professors
1. It is so seldom we see temper distinctly treated as a thesis in any class of publications, that I felt gratified at the seasonable appearance of a paper expressly on this subject in the 'Christian Guardian,' the truths of which are too forcible not to meet with a response in the experience of many readers.
2. 'Permit me, Mr. Editor, to offer for your publication a few remarks on the Christian Temper, a subject of great importance to the young Christian in particular, the treatment of which I hope will prove useful to some of your readers. Religion meets in its progress, with every diversity of natural character and disposition, with which it has to grapple, and either subdue or mold to its purposes. On the one hand, selecting an instance from the unconverted, there is the amiable disposition of the young ruler, whom Jesus loved; and on the other, the proud and unbending spirit of Pharaoh; also, we have, on the one hand, the endearing character of the apostle John, and, on the other, the impetuous temperament of Peter and Paul; and between these extremes are almost an infinite number of gradations, each presenting its peculiar barrier to the influence of the Spirit of Jesus, and attended with its own dangers to the possessor of it.
3. 'My observations at the present are intended for the benefit of those who may be classed under the latter description, as being perhaps more inimical to the progress of grace in the soul, and certainly more harmful to the interests of religion in its manifestation to the world. I would treat the subject with all the care and tenderness which may be practicable, lest any unnecessary pain should be occasioned to those to whom the observations may apply; but at the same time I must ask, where is the scene of that warfare which is spoken of in the scriptures as invariably to be carried on by the disciples of Christ—if it is not observed in the subjugation of the high and headstrong passions of the human heart? What else are the motions of these tempers, but some of those temptations against which we are enjoined to put on the armor of God, and to resist steadfast in the faith? Are not such high and proud imaginations to be cast down and brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ? This I conceive must be done if we would approve ourselves the disciples of Christ.
4. 'But let me speak of some of the indications and fruits of this temper. The man who has the unhappiness of such a spirit is marked by the extremely rigid observance which he demands of certain rules which he has laid down, (say, for instance, the government of his family) and for the anger which is awakened by the slightest breach of them. If any member of his family, though such a one be anxiously desirous to conform to the rules of the household, as well from a conviction of the general utility of such regulations, as to preserve peace, should through some unforeseen occurrence be compelled to deviate from rule on any occasion; immediately displeasure is shown or expressed; the peace of the family is in a moment broken up; a still but painful gloom is thrown over the mind; every act being viewed in a wrong light, is misinterpreted; when the evening arrives family worship is felt to be a painful exercise; the flow of the affections being interrupted, an innocent and trivial wish expressed by anyone is harshly refused; and in short, the whole family is as it were, disorganized, and the several members of it are driven to retirement to pour out their souls with grief and tears to him who alone can console the afflicted breast.
5. 'This picture is not overcharged. But then it will be asked—can the individual who on such a trivial occurrence, occasions so much painful feeling, be a Christian? Are not the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, temperance? Is not charity characterized by suffering long and being kind? She does not behave herself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil, bears all things. Can variance, wrath, strife, have any place in the breast of a Christian? The case truly seems an anomaly.
But what says the apostle to the Corinthians? "I, brethren, could not, speak unto you as unto spiritual—but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. For you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions—are you not carnal and speak as men?" So then there may be a weak state of grace, with very unsubdued tempers. And I cannot but hope there is the principle of divine life in the souls of many whose case I describe. In the very same individuals are to be found many excellent qualities; and I think, in some of them unquestionable graces of the Holy Spirit.
6. 'The character I have described is scrupulously exact in an attention to divine ordinances, diligent in the use of means of grace. He embarks in many plans for promoting the cause of God, and the welfare of mankind; he pursues them with unwearied diligence and zeal; he is strictly upright in all his dealings, and eminently liberal in dispensing the gifts of providence to him; he deeply sympathizes with the wretchedness and wants of his fellow-creatures, though he is not careful to avoid needlessly paining the feelings of others in the manner of his administering to their relief.
People of this character are generally confident in their own opinions, inexorable in their demands when they think they are in the line of duty—and almost implacable when they think they have been wronged or unjustly dealt with. A lack of courtesy and urbanity marks all their deportment. In the treatment of their children, they carry their punishments to the verge of unreasonableness, thinking, with Solomon, that "he who spares the rod hates his son," in hope of ultimate benefit to the subjects of them—and yet they are moved to compassion and tenderness by symptoms of penitence and sorrow. What shall we say of such a character? Shall we deny him all participation in the brotherhood of Christ? I think not. But we see the gem in the roughest envelope—there is grace—but it has arduous foes to contend against.
7. 'We see a character of whom it has been said, 'It will be time enough to know in heaven.' But certainly such a professing Christian has much to do; his utmost diligence ought to be employed in endeavoring to control these unchristian tempers: and it is to inculcate this that I have troubled you.
The causes which have contributed to the formation of such a character, independently of nature, are manifold—but permit me to mention one, which probably is the principal, and that from which the rest flow: it is the having been 'a spoiled child.' The very circumstance of this being the cause of the evil alluded to, is that which renders the case more difficult to be dealt with. The excessive indulgence which has been conceded to the child—has permitted him to grow up in the unrestrained exercise of an arbitrary and dogmatic spirit; in such a conceit of his own wisdom and importance, that he is scarcely conscious of the existence of such a temper in his bosom, much less of the painful impressions produced upon the minds of others by its indulgence. And hence also arises the fact that such a man's experience is of so little use to him: that amidst the manifold proofs which he might derive every day from fellowship with mankind, that his is a spirit which it is neither lawful nor possible to gratify; he remains unconvinced and unimproved. The lesson most difficult to be taught him is, "The servant of the Lord must not strive—but be gentle to all men."
I have endeavored, however, to describe the character so near to the life, that some readers of this class will, I hope, be struck with the picture. Let me recommend such to compare themselves more carefully with the spirit and character of Christ; with his meekness, forbearance, and long-suffering, and with the descriptive and preceptive parts of God's Word. Let them inquire whether the same mind be in them—which was in Christ Jesus. Let such a one keep his mind open to conviction, and pray to be taught where he is defective. Let him carefully observe his own experience, and bear in mind, that with similar painful feeling to that which he endures from the contradiction and unbending dispositions of others towards himself, the minds of others are agitated; and then, I doubt not, if he really is a disciple of Christ, he will become more watchful over his own spirit—desire sincerely to have it subdued—be more humble and dependent on the grace of God, to preserve him in temptation, and to enable him to lay aside this his besetting sin. Thus will he learn to cultivate a disposition more in accordance with the gospel, and more ornamental to his profession.
And let him bear in mind, at the same time, that while he indulges such a temper as that described, he is grieving the Holy Spirit, and laying up for himself a course of corrective discipline, by which his heavenly Father will purge away the dross and render his own workmanship more conspicuous and unequivocal.' —Lector.
8. The following equally appropriate remarks are from the first volume of the Cottage Magazine: 'Nothing has been more shocking to me than the very little regard which is paid by many people professing religion—to the government of the temper. Many seem to think that a hot temper is one of those besetting sins, so much connected with the bodily frame, that it cannot be overcome, and therefore neither pray nor strive against it, in that real good earnest, or with that sincerity, faith and diligence, which are likely to succeed.'
9. 'I think the scandal brought upon religion by an angry spirit is not sufficiently considered. The duty of striving against it is so great and constant a piece of self-denial, that people are weary of always keeping a tight rein; and when they pray against it, they will, I have no doubt, find, if they diligently search their hearts, that they have not so fully made up their minds to strive for the grace they are asking for—as they must do if they wish for victory. It is much easier to kneel down and confess we are sinners, and ask of God to make us better, than it is, when we rise from our knees, to go into our families, or our business—and there fight against those rising passions which are constantly provoked.'
10. 'Another cause of bad temper is, that though we know our weakness, we do not fly from temptation, or guard against it when we cannot get out of its way. The great and leading cause is the desperate pride of our own hearts. The more proud a person is, the less can he bear contradiction, and the more will his spirit boil when anything crosses his inclination, or he thinks he is affronted, or not properly respected.'
11. 'When our Lord was explaining the commandments, he said that not only an impure look was adultery—but also that an angry thought had the nature of murder. If a professor of religion is daily breaking out into passions, or using bitter speeches, I am sure that person breaks the plain command of God as much as others. Indeed I cannot help standing in doubt of that man or woman who indulges in passionate habits. The scandal such a temper brings to religion is very great, because it is sure to be noticed by the family in which such people live, or the people with whom they work or associate.'
12. One temptation I must mention, which is so very deceitful that without diligent watch some are very apt to be overcome by it, and that is, when the offence comes in the shape of an attack upon religion, or the cause of God. We think then we ought to be angry, and that it is a holy indignation, when I believe it is, in general, little or nothing more than that our own spirits are ruffled by having our own notions spoken against. Beware, I beseech you, of this delusion; for this is especially a case wherein Satan is transformed into an angel of light.'
13. Melvill Home has a forcible remark on this subject:, 'We first baptize our secular interests and evil tempers into the name of the lowly Jesus, and then we contend for them with as much warmth and pertinacity, as though they involved our salvation. Is not this to fight for Barabbas, and to crucify Jesus?'
14. Milner, in his Church History, has the following appropriate passage: 'Few circumstances have tended to raise the human temper more than religious controversy. How watchful over bad tempers ought we to be in the very beginnings of all religious controversies! And in the progress of them, how does it befit us to pause often and examine ourselves, lest we should suppose we are doing God service, when in reality we are impelled only by heat, animosity and a desire of victory! And when there really happens to exist in our motives some little good, are we not extremely apt to magnify it, until the fancied picture completely veils from our eyes that large admixture of evil, which on the whole miserably predominates? And is not this a fruitful source of deception?'
15. The principle of evil is so deeply rooted in the human heart that, controversy or no controversy, it will operate as surely as leaven in the dough. But it is more especially disgusting in those who pretend to superior degrees of sanctity, as if they had exchanged human for the angelic nature. They would make us believe that they are strangers to sinful tempers: but how different is this from the testimony and examples of holy scripture, and the opinions of all really good and wise men. However depraved human nature may be, it is more honorable to confess what we are, than what we are not.
'Too many such there are in the world, who pretend to great and high attainments in religion—and yet are of such a touchy and fiery disposition, that there is no living quietly by them: nothing can please them; a man is afraid of having anything to do with them—for they are of such waspish, quarrelsome, and churlish natures.'
Part 2.TEMPER AS IT SHOULD BE
Since trifles make the sum of human things,
And half our misery from our foibles springs;
Since life's best joys consist in peace and ease.
And few can save, or serve — but all can please;
Oh! let the ungentle spirit learn from hence,
A small unkindness is a great offence.
Large bounties to bestow we wish in vain,
But all may shun the guilt of giving pain.
To bless mankind with tides of flowing wealth,
With power to grace them, or to crown with health,
Our little lot denies; but Heaven decrees
To all the gift of ministering to ease.
The gentle offices of patient love,
Beyond all flattery, and all price above,
The mild forbearance of another's fault;
The taunting word suppressed as soon as thought:
On these Heaven bade the sweets of life depend,
And crushed ill fortune when it made a friend.
A solitary blessing few can find;
Our joys with those we love are intertwined:
And he, whose wakeful tenderness removes
The obstructing thorn which wounds the friend he loves,
Smoothes not another's rugged path alone,
But scatters roses to adorn his own.
Small slights, contempt, neglect, unmixed with hate.
Make up in number what they lack in weight;
These, and a thousand griefs, minute as these,
Corrode our comforts, and destroy our peace.
— Hannah More
Chapter 1.On the Reasonableness and Importance of a Proper Temper
2. If you admit the foregoing part as a correct statement of the case, so far as it goes, you cannot, I would think, require another argument for the improvement of temper. However excellent may be your own temper, or fortunate your situation, you cannot shut from view those surrounding scenes of misery which, for the most part—result from evil tempers. The unhappiness which they bring into the domestic circle, the paralysis they give to its arrangements and to business, and the extreme disgrace and ruin which they often bring upon families and individuals, added to all other ordinary and extraordinary consequences of unsubdued tempers in all conditions of society, constitute a sufficient argument for some extensive and immediate improvement of temper.
3. I lay it down as an axiom, that the free indulgence of unkind tempers towards others—is a direct act of injustice, and a manifest breach of the second table of the law. It certainly is not doing to others—as we would desire that they should do unto us. It is a positive robbery of another's peace, which is more valuable than property itself. It is a causeless infliction of pain: and what right has anyone to do this? He who can deliberately domineer over others, gives undeniable proof of a hard heart. If he would keep his temper to himself, it would be less objectionable; but to despise, and strike, and abuse others without cause, shows him to be worse than the brute, to have no regard for his own character, and no respect for the feelings of his fellow-creatures. Dr. Johnson has well said, 'To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.'
4. As I gave you a list of the bad tempers, so I will here present you with a necessarily shorter, one of an opposite character, as the—
Affable, Conciliating, Forgiving, Agreeable, Considerate, Frank, Gentle, Amicable, Contented, Good, Benevolent, Courteous, Grave, Benignant, Delightful, Happy, Content, Diffident, Humane, Calm, Dispassionate, Humble, Candid, Endearing, Impartial, Charming, Equable, Kind, Charitable, Even, Lenient, Cheerful, Excellent, Lovely, Christian, Fascinating, Lowly, Civil, Forbearing, Meek, Merciful, Reasonable, Submissive, Mild, Sweet, Obedient, Resigned, Tender, Obliging, Sedate, Teachable, Open, Serene, Tranquil, Pacific, Serious, Unassuming, Patient, Quiet, Sociable, Unperturbed, Peaceable, Still, Yielding, Pleasant, Subdued, Winning, etc.
5. This is a string of far brighter jewels than any with which you can adorn the outward man. Preserve them as above all price, and aim to exemplify them at all times, and leave it to the ignorant and the vulgar to disfigure themselves with the deformities of crude tempers. We are bound by numberless considerations both from Scripture and reason—to cultivate the graces of temper, and by this injunction among the rest, and that for its own sake, "Even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price." Solomon too speaks of the same grace as an ornament to the neck. A man may have little wealth or learning—but if he has an agreeable temper—he will be far more respected than a churl, however rich or learned he may be. A bad temper is both a defect and a disgrace to its possessor.
6. Peace of mind should serve as an inducement to cultivate good temper: for what peace or pleasure can he enjoy whose heart is as a nest of wasps? He stings and annoys both himself and other people: he is seldom at ease in his own bosom, and contributes no solace to others. Yet even such a character as this may pretend to seek happiness, and quarrel with every person and everything that opposes his blind pursuit. But what a deception!
Mrs. More asks, 'Who then is happy?' and she answers her own question as follows: 'He alone, whether prince or subject, who, through the powerful and beneficial influence of revealed religion on his heart, is so impressed with things invisible, as to rise superior to the vicissitudes of mortality; who so believes and feels what is contained in the Bible, as to make God his refuge, Jesus his trust, and true practical godliness the object of his pursuit. To such a one his Bible and his closet are a counterpoise to all the trials and the violence to which he may be exposed.'
The Psalmist writes, "You shall hide them privily by your own presence from the provoking of all men: you shall keep them secretly in your pavilion from the strife of tongues.'
I would recommend Christian families frequently to incorporate this prayer in their devotions: "O Almighty God, who alone can order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; grant unto your people that they may love the things which you command, and desire that which you promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
7. The welfare of our circumstances demands the cultivation of good temper. Many have lost wealth and friends and comfortable situations purely through their own perverse tempers: whereas an agreeable and obliging demeanor has advanced others to favor and respectability.
8. The happiness of our families materially depends on good temper: for how can there be love or unanimity where the several members are constantly wrangling; and where, instead of affectionate association of hearts, all are distant and at variance, or only sociable by fits and starts?
9. Good temper is an essential ingredient of good friendship: for "how can two walk together except they be agreed," and what act can be more inimical or unfriendly than ill-nature or ill-temper? Bad temper 'separates chief friends;' but good temper wins and secures them.
10. The good of society depends much on good temper: for how can there be any neighborly fellowship, or pleasurable association, or common interest, where one is set against another, and each seeks his own will, and not the common good?
11. The honor and prosperity of our country is a weighty argument for the reformation of temper. It is foolish and senseless to boast of patriotism, while the heart is really set on nothing but sheer self-interest. Litigations, imprisonments, insurrections, fightings, robberies, frauds, murders, oppressions, cruelties, etc. would be little heard of—if temper were the general study of the nation.
12. The credit of religion, which is so generally professed, is a more special argument: there would not then be those angry cabals, disputes, oppositions, rivalries, strifes, and vain-gloryings.
13. The authority of the divine precepts is an imperative argument for the exercise of a right temper. It is here insisted upon with "line upon line and precept upon precept."
14. Whoever reflects seriously on his accountability to God, and how soon he may be called to answer for all his ungodly deeds, his hard speeches, and angry tempers—must surely see the reasonableness and importance of my advice. No reflecting man can for a moment believe that such unholy tempers as I have described, can be admitted into that world where, it is said, nothing that defiles can enter.
15. Nothing can be more unreasonable or unfitting than peevish and domineering tempers. God said to Jonah, "Do you well to be angry?" We shall do well to keep this question in remembrance. Who and what are we—that we should assume such high and mighty airs? We are but as worms of the earth, individually; but, collectively, we are all one family—bone of bone, flesh of flesh, and feeling of like feeling: why then should one exalt himself above another? Common sympathy and common honesty forbid it. Therefore we do not well—but ill, to be angry, and that without cause.
There is nevertheless an excusable anger, for it is not written, 'Be never angry,' but be "not soon angry." Yes, it appears there is a sinless or blameless anger; for it is written, "Be angry—and sin not." However, the angry man must not be left sole judge of his own spirit, as he may be too ready to justify himself, and to misappropriate that well-known question, "Is there not a cause?" It is sooner asked than answered.
16. Wicked tempers are foreign, and obviously detrimental, to the great business of life. There are real troubles enough in a world like this, without manufacturing others. To tie and bind ourselves with a chain of domineering tempers, is a folly bordering on insanity; and neither to be at peace in our own minds, nor allow others to be so, is intolerable wickedness.
Dr. Johnson has the following appropriate remarks: 'Life is short; no time can be afforded but for the indulgence of real sorrow, or contests upon questions really momentous. Let us not throw away any of our days upon useless resentment, or contend who shall hold out longest in stubborn malignity. It is best not to be angry; and best, in the next place, to be quickly reconciled.'
17. 'Natural dispositions may vary—but the cultivation of the Christian temper is of great importance in any who would obtain credit for the sincerity of his religious profession, or who would effectually recommend the religion he inculcates. It was by this sweetness of natural temper, and the cultivation of the Christian graces of meekness and condescension, courtesy and kindness, that Mr. Wood attracted so much attention, and conciliated so much good-will.'
18. Eugenes was the son of poor but reputable parents. He was a youth of good abilities and of an excellent temper. He always shunned the society of those who delighted in cruel hunting sports. He prevented many quarrels—but occasioned none. It was not to be expected that a youth of such promise should long remain unknown and unrespected. A merchant of Manchester who had suffered greatly through idle and uncivil servants, resolved to take Eugenes as one of his servants, whom he had known for some time. His chief fear was lest the youth should be corrupted by the bad example of his fellow-servants. But, like Joseph, Eugenes feared God; and though his Christian principles were subjected to the severest test, the God of Joseph kept him in his integrity.
At a proper age the chief responsibility was entrusted to his hands. By a vigilant eye to every department of duty, a hand ever employed, a mind ever devoted, with a kind but firm demeanor toward those under him, and the most obliging attention to everyone, he more than doubled his master's gains; and what was more valuable, he could most confidently leave everything to Eugenes' care while absent himself on business or pleasure: a thing which heretofore he never could do. So excellent a temper, coupled with strict honesty and industry was sure to meet with its proper reward. The grateful master, with such a sense of honor as British merchants can show, admitted Eugenes to a share in the business. In twenty years he accumulated a handsome fortune, and he now lives in a beautiful house within a short distance of Manchester. But many whom he knew in youth, and who had every chance to rise, are either decrepit or dead, through dissipation, or pining away in the poorhouse, loaded with sins before God and with disgrace before men: and are, perhaps, cursing both God and men for those miseries which they have brought upon themselves!
19. Every retail tradesman knows the value of such young men as are civil, attentive and obliging. Some shop-men do their masters a positive injury by their stiff, slow and awkward address. Of course it requires a little time and experience to acquire the requisite qualification; but, where the mind and temper are rightly disposed, difficulties will soon be surmounted.
20. People may boast of their honesty and good nature, or sound their own trumpet as they like; but the world is simple enough to look for proofs of both. Such boasters remind us of those conceited folks who talk so much about their poverty, only for the vanity of being contradicted. An honest man will lose no credit by saying nothing; but he who is ever boasting is a proper object of suspicion. I could exemplify this by facts—but I pass on to good nature, and again avail myself of Mrs. Hannah More's superior judgment:
'True good nature, that which alone deserves the name, is not a holiday ornament—but an every day habit. It does not consist in servile complaisance, or dishonest flattery, or affected sympathy, or unqualified assent, or unwarrantable compliance, or fake smiles. Before it can be allowed to rank with virtues, it must be wrought up into a principle; from an occasional disposition—into a habit. It must be the result of an equal and well-governed mind—not the start of casual gaiety, the trick of designing vanity, or the whim of capricious fondness. It is compounded of kindness, forbearance, forgiveness, and self-denial; it 'seeks not its own,' but is capable of making continual sacrifices of its own tastes, humours, and self-love. Politeness on the one hand, and insensibility on the other, assume its name, and wear its honors; but they assume the honors of a triumph without the merit of a victory; for empty politeness subdues nothing, and insensibility has nothing to subdue. Good nature, of the true cast and under the foregoing regulations, is above all price in the common fellowship of domestic society.'
21. Some will perhaps confound a reasonable with an unreasonable temper. If I chastise my son for a fault, or reprimand my servant for misconduct, my temper is not, on that account, to be called in question. Such principles would go to unhinge and nullify all law and all order. Needful correction is a duty: all I contend against is the unnecessary severity—the sinful anger—the passionate violence, and habitude of ill-temper. Therefore, I would advise, administer due correction, hope well of the effects, and let the cause pass into oblivion.
22. Due regard should ever be paid to the disposition of the offender. Mary may tear her frock, or fall down, or hurt her sister from mere accident and evince great sorrow on the account, in which case an admonitory word ought to suffice; but if she acts carelessly and willfully, and manifests no compunction, she merits more than a word. Or John may break the window, tear his book, or delay on an errand; but a distinction should ever be made between a willful and an unavoidable act. I might proceed in this strain through families, schools, factories, etc. The habit of striking at random without a moment's pause, indicates a wicked and unregulated temper. How often has one seen, that, when a weakly child has fallen and hurt itself—the mother, instead of soothing, has brutishly punished it!
23. I again say, the Christian, above all people, is imperatively bound to take heed what manner of spirit he is of. The following extracts from the Christian Guardian deserve his attention: 'Of the godly Robert Leighton it was said by Burnet, that, during a strict intimacy of many years, he never saw him for one moment in any other temper than that in which he should wish to live and die. What a lovely picture is this of sanctifying grace! How important for each reader if grace has wrought anything like it in his or her experience. Alas! how seldom, comparatively, do we see the influence of divine grace exhibited in the tempers of its professors! How easily are those ruffled by trifles—who have vowed to bear all things for Christ's sake. How soon is anger permitted to rule that heart—which has been publicly given to the Lord! How seldom do we see, when opinions differ, that forbearance of each other in love, which the Bible enjoins!
24. 'Shall we be content to have our profession lightly spoken of, through our unholy and unsanctified passions? Shall we so forget the great and blessed example of him we call Master and Lord? O let us rather be concerned for his glory, and then we shall watch that our conduct be agreeable, our spirits obedient, and our tempers conformable. Then may we expect that others will adore the grace, whose fruits they see in us, and acknowledge the influence of that religion which transforms the lion into a lamb, and makes unholy rebellious tempers give place to the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Our children, servants and apprentices, perceiving these excellent fruits, may probably be inclined to inquire into the nature of that grace which produces them.
25. 'Our religious profession will not commend us to every man's conscience, if what we say and do in our every day concerns—is unlike the gospel. Ungodly neighbors will watch our tempers, remember our hasty words, scrutinize our actions, and will carefully compare them with our profession of love to souls, and the name we bear; and if, after they have thus weighed us in their balances, we are found lacking in the grace of meekness, patience, or consistency, we must not be surprised if our efforts towards them should fail to win them to Christ.'
26. Andrew Fuller has truly said—'The tempers and lives of men are books for common people to read—and they will read them, though they should read nothing else!'
27. The proper regulation of our tempers is, in fact, a part and parcel of our religion: pride must be subdued, self-will must be controlled, the heart must be renewed, the mind must be sobered and the passions curbed—and this, to be effectual, is the province of divine grace. But much may be done by the well directed efforts of our moral ability: for though we are all subject to like passions, it will not be said that necessity is laid upon the will to break out into wicked passions. And even if men had no object beyond present or earthly comfort—the right ordering of the temper is not unworthy of their regard.
28. It has been asked, 'What kind of temper is most fitting for man?' Wise men are agreed that the SERIOUS temper is the most fitting, because the most conducive to his happiness, and the most consistent with that account which he must ultimately give at the bar of God. By the serious temper is meant such a one as is equally removed from melancholy on the one hand, and senseless giddiness on the other. Mr. Addison has the following remarks on this point: 'It must be confessed that levity of temper takes a man off his guard, and opens a pass to his soul for any temptation that assaults it. The merry part of the world are very amiable while they diffuse a cheerfulness through conversation at proper seasons and on proper occasions. On the other side, seriousness has its beauty while it is attended with cheerfulness and humanity, and does not come in unseasonably to pall the good humor of those with whom we converse.'
Chapter 2.Temper Is Everything
1. In strictness of speech—temper is not everything. The motto answers to many other modes of expression in which we intend a greater by a lesser; or a less by a greater, as: 'money is everything;' 'Love is everything;' 'Health is everything;' 'There is nothing like leather;' etc.
With this explanation I should say, that, as regards the moral conduct of man, the peace, good will, and good understanding between man and man—temper IS everything. This forms the title of a half-penny tract, which some of my readers may have seen, and which first suggested to me the writing of this larger treatise. But as many may not be acquainted with it, I will insert a few extracts, which will exhibit temper as we often find it, as well as intimate what it should be.
2. 'Taking a walk in the fields the other day, I met with an old woman, who inquired very particularly about her brother, who lived at a distance, and whom I had lately seen. I told her that he was very well when I saw him, and that providence had been very kind to him in providing him with a suitable wife. 'Well,' (said the old woman) 'I am happy to hear that, for he suffered a great deal, by his first wife.' 'Why,' (said I, with a degree of surprise) 'I have always heard that she was a pious woman, and I never heard anything objected against her, excepting her temper.' 'Temper!' (replied the old woman) 'well, temper is everything!'
3. I was so much struck at the expression, and the manner in which it was uttered, that I could not help reflecting upon it after I had parted from her. Returning home, I happened to call at the house of an acquaintance, and found the husband and wife engaged in a trifling dispute. It was the fault of those folks to have acquired such a habit of contradicting each other, that they seemed to take a pleasure in it; and the children had acquired so much of the spirit of their parents, that you seldom heard them open their mouths—but in an angry tone of voice. On this occasion the wife continued to maintain her ground, and the husband in a fit of ill-nature left the room. A few minutes afterwards a boy of about nine years of age quarreled with his sister, who appeared to be about eleven, and gave her a violent blow. The mother began to bluster, and the boy put on a surly countenance, and assumed such an air of defiance, as plainly indicated that he had no apprehension his mother's threats would be carried into execution. By this time my mind was completely irritated, and I came away muttering to myself, 'Well, I see that temper IS everything.'
4. 'A short time after this, I drank tea in a family where I expected to spend an agreeable evening—but I was greatly disappointed, owing to the following circumstance: the wife had received an intimation, some way or other, that her husband had given away more money to a charitable institution than she thought he ought to have done; and there was no pleasing her. She continued scolding her husband, and telling him that he would give away all he had; that he would reduce her and her family to beggary; and a great many things of the same kind. The husband bore it with a great deal of patience, and I made my visit as short as possible. Coming away from this scene with my mind much disturbed, I could not help repeating to myself all that evening, 'Well, I see that temper IS everything.'
5. 'I was lately called in to assist in settling a difference that had taken place between some people, and which might have been easily done, had either of the parties yielded to the other; but I could not prevail on either of them to give way in the least, and I left them, more than ever convinced, that temper IS everything.
7. The writer remarks further: 'The greater part of our unhappiness and misery appears to me to be referable to temper. When I see a man envious, angry, ambitious, revengeful, or stung with disappointment, uneasy himself, or the cause of uneasiness to others, I still say, temper IS everything. From the bad conduct of most people, one would be tempted to entertain a different opinion, and to think that temper was scarcely anything of their concern.
8. 'True Christianity always produces a gracious temper. The correction of the temper is of great importance to our own happiness, and the happiness of our families and connections. The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is of great price in the sight of God; and we can have no evidence that we are the children of God, without it.
9. 'Let not temper, which is here enforced, be mistaken. It is composed of firmness and delight; of peace and love; it manifests itself in acts of kindness and courtesy; a kindness not pretended—but genuine; an attention not deceitful but sincere. Such a person is unshaken in constancy—unwearied in benevolence—firm without roughness—and attentive without severity.'
10. I have now furnished you with the principal passages of the tract. It would be easy to carry on the exemplification by reference to facts in common life. The value of good temper appears in a strong light in the contrasted examples of two poor families well known to me. I would premise that the poor especially might very well dispense with bad tempers, as their circumstances are generally sufficiently trying from their condition. I have sometimes felt no very agreeable sensations in marrying the poor, many of whom had not a bed, and in several cases, not money to pay the fees.
11. 'Lothario' was a hard-working laborer: he had saved sufficient to set up house, and soon after marriage, he took a small farm. His wife was a strongly-built woman, and capable of any exertions—but intolerably idle, negligent, and dirty, with the usual accompaniment of bad temper. When he had occasion to go from home, or take a job of work at a distance—she would not take the least care of the land or the cows. He soon lost all he had earned, and returned to a poor cottage and to common day labor. He now began to visit the taverns; and the next report was that they quarreled.
One day I was sent for in haste, not knowing for what purpose. With as much delicacy as possible I mildly remonstrated, and desired each separately would tell me the cause of their unhappiness. The man wept much. The wife said he had been wasting his money, and neglecting his family. He answered that he had always done the best he could for his family, and had thrown into her apron several pounds only two nights before—his hard-earned wages during a few weeks from home; and that, as to going to the tavern—he said he was in fact driven to it, for she afforded him no comfort in his home; that on his arrival the other night, tired and hungry, he had asked her for something to eat—but she was sullen and would not prepare it!
I then turned to the wife to hear what reply she would make; but though she could talk freely enough when I first entered, she was now silent as one convicted and condemned; indeed, I well knew she could not deny the charge; for I had always found her house and herself in a dirty disordered condition, and the children ragged and sickly through neglect. She would beg clothes for them—but would neither wash nor mend; and she would gossip to other houses and leave the little ones to fend for themselves. Can it be any wonder then that a man so circumstanced, and with a wife thus wasteful and negligent, dirty and saucy, should have recourse to the tavern? He was, in a sense, as he expressed, driven to it; and I fear thousands more are thus driven. I do not pretend to deny that there were faults on both sides; I speak of facts only as I saw them through a course of years. We may again exclaim, temper IS everything.
12. On the other hand, I know a couple who are as happy as poor people can well be. The man is a coal miner, and, like people in his situation, is exposed to great hardships, having to go to work by three or four o'clock in the morning over bleak moors. When I have occasionally gone to his cottage, a little before his return, it has pleased me much to see the table spread with a plain clean cloth, and a meal being prepared; or a plate with bits of mutton or bacon cooking, and potatoes on the fire; or the tea cups would be set and the kettle boiling. The good man coming in tired, wet, and as black as coal would make him, and bearing a heavy lump of that article on his back, meets with a smiling welcome; the wife would run to help him off with his burden, and the children would prattle with delight— 'O, daddy is come home!' He would then apply to the pail of water which always stood in readiness; and afterward sat down to his baggin, as it is called, with as good an appetite and as easy a mind as a king might envy!
13. To a man thus circumstanced, the tavern has no attractions. His comfort is attended to; his earnings are economized; his wife and children are clean and decently clad; his fire-side is comfortable, and he can smoke his pipe in peace. Having to rise early, they must needs retire early to bed. When I have seen the cottage shut up at eight o'clock, I could not but mark the difference in many others, and particularly the taverns, in which I have found numbers of coal miners and laborers; some, perhaps, through the discomforts of home, and others, no doubt, from their own depraved choice.
14. These, you must be aware, are characters of real and every day life; and what I wish should be particularly observed, is the striking difference between two families in similar station. The former commenced life with fair prospects as working people; but were soon reduced to wretchedness through idleness and surly tempers; the latter were in the hardest condition—and yet lived most happily, proving that temper IS everything.
15. I believe it is very unusual for the married to thank the clergyman who tied the knot. It is sometimes sung, 'The parson is to blame—for he tied the knot!'
Chapter 3.Temper as Inculcated in the Sacred Scriptures.
1. The inspired volume not only gives a correct description of human nature and its conflicting passions—but it also supplies the best maxims for our guidance. All sensible men will allow an appeal to this divine oracle, as they must admit it to be the only satisfactory rule of all virtue, and the authentic standard of all true morals; albeit I am not preaching mere morality as the way to salvation, not having so learned the gospel.
2. I have already alluded to that excellent passage in Peter, "The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which is in the sight of God of great price," on which I will now offer a few remarks. It is a short but comprehensive description of the Christian temper, its character, and its estimate. A meek and quiet spirit must be:
First, of immense importance to ourselves, and to all around us.
Secondly, it is a real and most precious ornament in man or woman, rich or poor, far beyond any outward circumstances whatever.
Thirdly, it is a comfortable and encouraging consideration that such a spirit is highly esteemed of God: he approves it as a resemblance of his own image, and as a conspicuous trait in the character of his dear Son, who enjoined the same spirit upon all his followers.
Fourthly, the meek and quiet spirit is not inert, or sullen, or morose, or distant, or cowardly, or impatient; but cheerful and serene, satisfied and resigned to the will and providence of God.
3. How different would be the state of this world; yes, how different the state of Christian professors, and Christian families, if this ornament were more prominently exhibited. What numberless troubles would be spared to ourselves: our minds would be more at ease, our spirits less perturbed; and life, in all its departments, infinitely more tolerable and agreeable.
4. It will probably be objected that constant meekness and quietness will interfere with our usual cheerfulness, and render us gloomy and melancholy: no such thing; so far from this, it gives an improved tone and equanimity to the mind and temper, and a more sensible and abiding pleasure. He who neglects the proper government of his spirit, may assume, laugh, and cheer; while, inwardly, he is depressed and painfully anxious. Not so, he who enjoys the serenity of a truly meek and quiet spirit. His cheerfulness is rather an indication of a mind at ease, and a conscience purged from corroding guilt: or even if he is exercised with grievous trials, he endeavors to bear up in the strength of his God; and he can sometimes say with the apostle, "I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulations!"
5. 'We hear those complain most, that they can get no quiet, whose lack of it arises from the irruptions of their own passions! Peace is no external circumstance. It does not depend on one's situation, but on one's heart. True quiet is only to be found in the extirpation of evil tempers, in the victory over unruly appetites! It is found not merely in the absence of temptation—but in the dominion of piety. It arises from the cultivation of that principle which alone can effectually smooth down the swellings of pride, still the restlessness of envy, and calm the turbulence of impure desires. It depends on the submission of the will, on that peace of God which passes all understanding, on the grace of Christ, and the consolations of the Spirit. With these blessings—we may find tranquility in a poor hovel; without them—we may live a life of tumult in a palace.'
6. It is Christian piety then, and piety alone—which can effectually inspire and endow us with true meekness. Isaiah confirms this in the following texts: "The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance forever." "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." Then the grand secret of the whole is found in that scripture, "You will keep him in perfect peace—whose mind is stayed on you; because he trusts in you."
7. Romans 12:18. "If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men." PEACE, in every sense, of the word, is an invaluable blessing. What are all the wars and janglings among men—but hostility to the very principle of peace and love. The selfish, the dishonest, the dissolute, the idle—are all for war: this is their element, and peace has no place in their affections, and consequently forms no part of their study.
8. "I am for peace," said David; and a greater than David said, "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God." It would be well if all who profess the peaceful religion of the Prince of peace were of the same mind, and would 'study to be quiet.' The Rev. T. Charles was remarkable for his modesty and humility, and would readily make concessions for the sake of peace: 'He was a man of amiable temper, of much meekness and forbearance, and ever ready to give up minor points—so that peace might be preserved. He was of a social and cheerful disposition, tempered with prudence and discretion; also a tender and affectionate husband and parent; and having the advantage of an amiable and pious wife, it was their delight to promote each other's happiness and the comfort of those around them.'
It is recorded of Sir Isaac Newton, that his temper was remarkably mild and equable, and incapable of being ruffled by ordinary accidents. He was such a lover of peace, that he regretted whatever disturbed it as the greatest calamity that could befall him.
14. Thomas a Kempis, with his peculiar gravity and good sense, writes as follows, which serves as an excellent comment on the passage under consideration: 'Secure peace at home in the first place; and when your own heart is thus composed, it will then be proper to reconcile and make peace among your neighbors. And this indeed is a very worthy and reputable action; it brings greater and juster commendation to a man, and more benefit to those with whom he converses, than wit or learning, or any other of those so much admired accomplishments.
And as everything is set off by its contrary, so here; the mischief of a contentious disposition is inconceivable. For nothing can be so innocent, nothing so well or kindly meant—but such a man will be sure to fix some ill-interpretation upon it. But the good tempered will be as careful, on the other band, to take everything in the best sense it is capable of. For a peaceable man is not apt to suspect ill of any; but the peevish and discontented are racked and tormented with a thousand jealous whimsies, and neither are quiet themselves, nor content to let other people be so.
How much more just and reasonable were our proceedings, would we but pass a favorable construction upon the actions of others, and turn the severity of our censure upon our own. If you expect to be borne with—you must first learn to bear with, and exercise the good nature you expect from others. To get along with with men of goodness and kind temper, is but a very vulgar virtue. The difficulty is to carry matters smooth and inoffensively with men of rugged, intractable, and fiery dispositions, with those who make little conscience of what they do or say, and stick at nothing unjust or unfair in their dealings. And he who can do this is a truly great soul, and sets a noble and commendable pattern of Christian fortitude.
15. "Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:16-18
There one sort of people—who strive for peace and quiet with themselves and all the world.
And there is another very vile sort of wretches—who delight to fish in troubled waters; and are neither peaceful—nor will allow anybody else to be so! They are eternally troublesome to others—but much more tormenting to themselves!
And there are yet a third sort, who are not satisfied with giving no offence—but make it their business to reconcile others, where offence has been given; and to restore that peace which they were never instrumental of disturbing.
But when all is said and done, our earthly life is exposed to perpetual misery and contention! The utmost degree of peace we must expect to arrive at, does not consist in being free from injuries from others—but in bearing them with humility, and not being provoked to impatience and bitter resentments.
16. The late Rev. Brewer of Stepney was a man remarkable for a peaceable temper. He adopted certain maxims, by the constant observance of which he maintained, in all his civil, domestic, and sacred connections, the utmost harmony, peace, and union. He used to say, 'He was deaf—when he could hear; blind—when he could see; mute—when he could speak; that he extinguished all the fires he could, and never kindled any.'
17. One cannot but reflect on the great advantages of such a disposition. Men may call it weakness or effeminacy; but without it there is no real felicity. 'He who is determined to sacrifice everything to his passion, and will never submit in the least to any of his fellow-creatures, will find it not only a barrier to his felicity—but a stain upon his character.'
18. There is such a thing as being too peaceable. There is a wide difference between a man who has no energy or capacity, and one, who, in the midst of incessant conflicts, bears up with patience and meekness. There is then no danger of being too peaceable so long as truth and duty are not compromised: nor is a man to be charged with too warm a temper, if he earnestly and prudently contends for the faith, and for that which is right. Mrs. More again supports me: 'Servility of spirit is not gentleness—but weakness; and if allowed, under the specious appearances it sometimes puts on, will lead to the most dangerous compliances. He who hears innocence maligned without vindicating it, falsehood asserted without contradicting it, or religion profaned without resenting it, is not gentle—but wicked.'
19. Titus 1:7, "Not soon angry." Or , "Not quick-tempered." This is a short but comprehensive precept. Anger is a deadly passion, and the indulgence of it has led to the most awful and horrible consequences, as I have before shown. Temptations to its excitement are infinitely numerous and varied. In all the ordinary walks and avocations of life, public, domestic and private, in all our fellowship with men and with friends; even in our reading of books, papers and letters—anger is accustomed to rise, voluntarily or involuntarily. The eye is scarcely more susceptible of injury, or gun-powder of fire—than anger is of excitement. How important then it is that we should keep a tight rein upon this passion. Erasmus well says, 'Anger, hatred, and vain-glory lay snares for us, even when we are most piously employed.'
20. 'People of violent passions, who, if hurried away by the impetuous torrent either of excessive or unguarded anger, or of head-strong and irregular desires, are liable to the commission of irreparable evil, may, in a single moment, lay the foundation of irremediable ruin!'
21. 'We are here to encounter the most outrageous, brutal, dangerous, and intractable of all passions, the most loathsome and unmannerly; nay, the most ridiculous too; and the subduing of this monster (anger) will do a great deal toward the establishment of human peace.' In fact most of our quarrels are of our own making, either by mistake or by aggravation. Anger sometimes comes upon us—but we go oftener to meet it; and instead of rejecting it, we call it to us.'
23. Seneca relates, 'It is an idle thing to pretend that we cannot govern our anger; for some things that we do are much harder—than others that we ought not to do. The wildest affections may be tamed by discipline, and there is hardly anything which the mind will do—but it may do. There needs no more argument in this than the instances of several people, both powerful and impatient, that have gotten the absolute mastery of themselves in this point.'
24. This excellent heathen moralist adduces many striking examples of people who restrained their anger, which are the more remarkable as they were heathen, and may shame many who bear the higher title of Christians. The Christian has higher principles, higher precepts, and higher examples, and far greater encouragements than the heathen. Let him bear this in mind, and in all his weaknesses look to the Strong One for strength.
25. Matthew 5:43, 44. "It has been said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you." This text confirms what I before remarked, that the exercise of bad tempers is an infraction of the divine law. But the love of our neighbor is here carried to a degree that staggers human nature, and to which no religion beside the Christian ever inculcated. To love those who love us and do us good, seems natural and reasonable enough; and Jesus says that even the heathen do this. But to love those who heartily hate us, and speak all manner of evil things against us, and would willingly do us any mischief—I say, to love these, and to do them kindly services, to pray heartily for their welfare, and to bless them in the name of the Lord—is indeed the perfection of virtue—it is God-like!
26. Both Solomon and Paul inculcate the same virtue: "Bless those who persecute you: bless and curse not." "Live in harmony with one another. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry—feed him; if he is thirsty—give him something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:16-21
Taking these scriptures into one view, we have a clear confirmation of a sentiment which many eminent writers have expressed—that 'true morality is no where else to be found but in the Bible.' No other book gives it such prominency, and none so practically exemplifies it. Even the disciples murmured that their Master's sayings were hard; but while Jesus assured them that without him they could do nothing, the flesh being weak and sinful, he encouraged them by other sayings, as "With God all things are possible." "All things are possible to him that believes" that is, by the help of God, and the power of true faith in the atonement of Christ, we may do the will of God. So Paul affirmed, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."'
27. We are instructed then how to treat enemies, and everyone knows that the contrary is the general practice among men; and even the best of men come far short in this duty. Revenge is the rule in the world; blessing and forgiving, is the exception. "Recompense to no man evil for evil," is an apostolic injunction: thus far many will go, some from a kind and forbearing temper, and others only because they have not the ability or opportunity to return the evil, though sufficiently willing to do so. But the injunction is carried still higher, 'Love your enemies—bless them—pray for them —do good to them.' And to render the duty more solemn and important, Jesus incorporated it in that daily and incomparable prayer which he taught: "Forgive us our sins—as we forgive those who sin against us." We have here both a principle and a measure. If we expect God's forgiveness on no higher scale than this, we are as yet strangers to the sweet 'assurance of hope' by faith in the atonement of Christ.
28. 'By taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing over it, ho is his superior. To be able to bear provocation, is an argument of great wisdom, and to forgive it, of a great mind. Revenge stops at nothing that is violent and wicked. The histories of all ages are full of the tragic outrages that have been executed by this diabolical passion. A more glorious victory cannot be gained over another man than this: that when the injury began on his part, the kindness should begin on ours.' Solomon says, "The discretion of a man defers his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression."
30. Another distinguishing excellence of the holy scriptures, is, they supply appropriate instructions to all orders and conditions of men, from the highest rulers to the lowest servants. For rulers, take 2 Sam. 23:3. "He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." Rollin has an excellent passage bearing on this subject: 'From the throne to the lowest office in the state, whoever is charged with the care of ruling and conducting others, ought particularly to study the art of managing men's tempers, and of giving them that bent and turn of mind that may best suit his measures, which cannot be done by harshly domineering over them, by commanding haughtily, and contenting oneself with laying down the rule and the duty with inflexible rigor.
I know it is never allowable to break through rules; but it is always laudable, and often necessary, to soften and make them more pliant, which is best effected by mildness of demeanor and an insinuating behavior; not always exacting the discharge of a duty in its utmost rigor; overlooking abundance of small faults that do not merit much notice, and exacting upon those which are more considerable with favor and mildness; in a word, in endeavoring by all possible means to acquire people's affection, and to render virtue and duty amiable.'
31. We have read of magistrates who have evinced far more austerity than sympathy, not regarding the apostolic advice—to "show mercy with cheerfulness." And we have read of commanders who have conceived more virtue in the cat-o'-nine tails than in lenity and forbearance, supported with firmness and manly dignity. Judge Jeffreys would 'hang 'em all.' Historians aptly enough style him 'a bloody judge;' 'the sanguinary Jeffreys.' Thanks to kind providence, all our judges are not Jeffreys.
32. The courteous temper appears doubly important in men of power. If a man, for instance, is brought before a magistrate, it is not necessary for such magistrate to carry himself austerely in the examination; for no man ought to be treated and frowned upon as if guilty until proved so: and even when proved so, the law inflicts sufficient punishment without the addition of frowns in any official characters. The case is different where the magistrate thinks fit to dismiss it with a reprimand of the accused: and I must say it is a gratifying circumstance that our magistracy, as a body, act with praiseworthy forbearance.
33. So in the case of a bankrupt, if there is no appearance of dishonorable and dishonest conduct, a creditor may well abstain from aggravating the misfortune and mental pain of such an individual, by unmerited taunts and austerity. For the same reason a commissioner should content himself with a firm and temperate discharge of his duty, without frowning upon a man, of whose real character he is as yet ignorant. On the other hand, a fraudulent debtor deserves sharpness and all the pains of the law beside.
34. We have a fine exemplification of the union of a benignant temper with power, in Pericles, the distinguished general of the Athenians: 'He was a man who merits our highest admiration, whether we consider that lenity and moderation of temper which he constantly preserved amidst all the difficulties of public business and the violence of party contentions, or that real dignity of sentiment which appeared in his esteeming this, among his various excellences, to be the greatest, that, though his power was so absolute, he had never employed it to gratify his envy or resentment, nor had he ever behaved to an enemy as if he thought him inconsiderable. And, in my opinion, his kind and dispassionate nature, his unblemished integrity and irreproachable conduct during his whole administration, are of themselves sufficient to justify the appellation of Olympius.'
35. The life of a good man, whatever his station or success may be, cannot be written without pleasure, nor read without improvement; but when we find the purest principles, the most extensive learning, and the utmost amenity of manners, reflecting luster on preferment, the narrative becomes doubly interesting. Lancelot Andrews was the son of a mariner, who, by astonishing industry and engaging temper, rose to the valuable bishoprick of Winchester. Of his habits and manners many pleasing details are recorded. His filial affection was very strong, of which he gave many suitable proofs. His journeys from the universities to town he constantly performed on foot, until he had attained such a rank that he feared his love of this exercise would be ascribed to parsimony. Though a privy-Counselor in times of difficulty and danger, he never sunk his dignity by base compliances to arbitrary measures, nor irritated by useless opposition. So truly amiable was his character as a prelate and as a man, that it furnishes both an example an incentive to excellence. He was remarkably condescending and kind to all his poorer and deserving clergy. He took particular delight in delivering confined debtors.
36. There is not in existence so fine a description of temper as that given by Paul, under the word charity, 1 Corinthians 13:4. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." Such a passage needs no comment.
38. As I considered pride to be the first link in the chain of bad tempers, so I consider charity, orLOVE, as the first link in the good ones. It is emphatically said, "Love works no ill to his neighbor," whereas pride has engendered all the miseries in the world.
39. I will only detain you further here with Guyse's paraphrase on the last verse: 'Love covers the faults of others as much as may be consistent with duty; bears with their infirmities, and suffers many injuries, rather than retaliate them. It is much inclined to believe every good thing it hears of others, as far as there is any manner of ground for it, and will believe well of all its friends and acquaintance, and even of its enemies, until it has convincing reasons to the contrary. And, when things look suspicious, it hopes the best, as long as it can, and does not easily give up a case as desperate, when it appears to be very bad; but is willing to think that in due time, through the grace of God, it may be mended: and it continues firm and patient, and maintains a noble fortitude of soul under all the hardships and ill-usage it meets with."
40. Brotherly love is strongly inculcated in the scriptures: "Be kindly affectionate one to another, with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another." "Be at peace among yourselves." These passages will apply equally to physical brothers, and to Christian brethren. Very different would be the state of many families and religious societies, if this temper prevailed as it ought. That must be a sad state of things to which the following text applies: "But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you be not consumed one of another."
42. To return to brotherly love: 'It has been an antiquated saying, that brothers and sisters hardly ever agree. I believe there is too much truth in the assertion. Numerous exceptions, however, have been found, and brethren have dwelt together in unity. Where this takes place, it affords a pleasing scene, peculiarly gratifying to the parents, every way beneficial to the children themselves, and productive of good to mankind at large.'
43. 'What inexpressible delight when brothers and sisters of one family live together in all the harmony of friendship and good esteem, naturally delighted and charmed with each other's presence and society! Peace dwells in their bosom, and transport beats in their heart. They know how to alleviate each other's troubles and difficulties; they know how to impart and double each other's felicity and pleasure.'
44. It would be an endless task to adduce and illustrate all the scriptures bearing upon temper: I will only add a few unconnected passages.
Proverbs 14:17. "He who is soon angry deals foolishly."
Proverbs 16:18. "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." verse 28. "A froward man sows strife; and a whisperer separates chief friends." Verse 32. "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he who takes a city."
Proverbs 17:14. "Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out." Verse 20. "He who loves a quarrel loves sin. A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble."
Proverbs 21:24. "Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who deals in proud wrath."
Proverbs 22:10. "Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yes, strife and reproach shall cease. Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man you shall not go: lest you learn his ways, and get a snare to your soul."
1 Tim. 6:11. "Follow love, patience, meekness."
Titus 1:7. "A bishop," or any other Christian minister, "must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker."
Chapter 4.On the Temper of Jesus Christ
1. This stands pre-eminent and unrivaled. It is the opinion of all sensible men; yes, of many infidels too, that the moral character of Christ is unequaled. Some parts far exceed the reach of our imitation—yet in all that is imitable, the Christian is enjoined to copy him. "I have given you an example," said Jesus, "that you should do as I have done." "Follow me." "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." Peter says, "Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow his steps." John writes, "He who abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as he walked." The twelfth chapter of Hebrews is to the same effect, exhorting us to look unto Jesus under all our trials; considering how meekly and patiently he bore the cross, despised the shame, and endured the contradiction of sinners against himself.
2. 'As Christians, we are followers of Christ; and therefore bound to imitate Him, and copy after that most excellent pattern be has set us, who has left us an example that we should follow his steps—to see that the holy temper which was in him—is in us; and to reveal it in the same manner be did, and upon like occasions. To this he calls us, and no man is a Christian—any further than he is a follower of Christ, aiming at a more perfect conformity to that most perfect example which he has set us.'
3. The impossibility of attaining the perfection of the rule is no argument against our endeavoring to approach it as nearly as possible. And I believe that, by the divine strength, it is far more imitable than is commonly supposed. Were it not so, the imperative injunctions, "Follow me," "Learn of me," " Do as I have done," etc. would be inappropriate, because utterly impracticable.
4. Let anyone attentively examine the character of Christ as to temper in particular, and he cannot fail to be surprised and charmed at his meekness and patience, under aggravations, insults, indignities, buffetings and oppositions. On several occasions he manifested a holy indignation at the willful hardness and unreasonable conduct of the scribes and pharisees; but when, it is said, he looked on them with anger, it can no more be supposed that it was the ebullition of such sinful anger as we are subject to, than that God is chargeable with sin, when it is said that 'he is angry with the wicked every day.' The amiableness of his character is enhanced by the consideration, that, having in his human capacity, kindred feelings and sympathies with our own, their indication was nevertheless unattended with the least admixture of sin. It is written expressly that Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are—yet without sin." "While he was here in the flesh, he suffered by hunger and thirst, weariness and other natural infirmities of human kind, and by all manner of temptations and persecutions, and by inward and outward afflictions and trials, just of the same kind, and in the same manner as we ourselves are liable to them. . . And yet he bore and went through his own troubles without ever having misbehaved, or committed the least sin, though he was tempted to it."
5. When he saw fit, he answered his adversaries with singular point and propriety. At other times we find him perfectly silent when he could have no hope of doing good by speaking. At all times he evinced cool self-possession and discretion in word and deed. Revenge never appeared in him; calmness and forbearance never forsook him. No revilings of men, and no cruel treatment ever exasperated him. Though oppressed and afflicted, and though brought as a lamb to the slaughter—yet he opened not his mouth.
6. The advantage of looking at such an example, and learning of Christ, is very great, "And you shall find rest to your souls." What rest is comparable to that of the soul, or what peace like that of the mind? In a world of vexations, and with a nature so prone to irritation, it is important that we should have our minds well fortified with Christian principles. To feel meek and patient, cool and unperturbed, amidst the constant collision of opposing tempers—is indeed an enviable frame of mind. This is a victory which many of God's people have gained; having often, under peculiar trials, derived great support and encouragement from turning their eye to Him whose grace is of so sovereign an efficacy, and whose pattern is so bright. Indeed they are warranted to expect this, as they are members incorporate in that elect body, every joint and part of which has nourishment ministered from the head, who is Christ.
7. Paul was ever urgent in inculcating the Christian temper. The following is only one from many similar exhortations: "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4
Chapter 5.On PATIENCE and Experience
1. "In your patience possess you your souls," is the injunction of Him who exemplified this virtue in perfection. Paul writes, "You have need of patience." "Be patient toward all men." "Let patience have her perfect work." Luther said, 'Patience is the best of virtues.' Few men had more need of it. And we may well excuse his occasional warmth, when we consider the justice of his cause, the unreasonable spirits he had to deal with, and that, though he was but a mortal man, he accomplished, through the good hand of his God upon him, immortal good. Had his temper been of a sheepish time-serving turn, the glorious Reformation might, humanly speaking, have continued in abeyance to this day. Yet he did no more, in fact, than what the inspired Jude enjoined, namely, to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints."
3. 'No man, in any condition of life, can pass his days with tolerable comfort, without patience. It is of universal use. Without it prosperity will be continually interrupted, and adversity will be clouded with double darkness. He who is without patience will be uneasy and troublesome to all with whom he is connected, and will be more troublesome to himself than to any other. The loud complaint, the querulous temper, and fretful spirit, disgrace every character: we weaken thereby the sympathy of others, and estrange them from the offices of kindness and comfort. But to maintain a steady and unbroken mind amidst all the shocks of adversity—forms the highest honor of man. Afflictions supported by patience, and surmounted by fortitude, give the last finishing stroke to the heroic and virtuous character.'
4. Lewis IX, after a long absence from home, and many conflicts, said to our Henry III. 'I think myself more happy that God has given me patience in suffering, than if I had conquered the world.'
5. We have a fine instance of patience in the late venerable Thomas Scott: 'Having gone on a voyage when it did not sail at all punctually to the time which had been named, he sat down to read in the cabin. A gentleman, who had expressed much impatience and displeasure at the delay, at length addressed himself to him, observing that his quietness was quite provoking; that he seemed ready to put up with anything. His reply was, 'Sir, I dare say I shall get to the end of our voyage just as soon as you will."
6. Most people will sing to the praise and glory of patience; but judging by their conduct one would think it were only a commodity to be kept in a drawer as an article of infrequent use, although it is as needful every hour as clothing to the body!
7. 'Two words are more especially used in the New Testament to express this temper. One is 'a length of mind'. This our translators sometimes render patience, as in Hebrews 6:12. James 5:10; and sometimes 'long suffering', as in Romans 2:4; 9:22. 2 Corinthians 6:6. It is directly opposed to hastiness of spirit. The other word most frequently used for patience, is that in my text (Hebrews 9:36, 'abiding constant under afflictions'; or, sustaining the evils which befall us, with perseverance in our duty, in expectation of the deliverance and recompense promised in due time.'
8. 'Patience is not an insensibleness of present evils, or an indifference for future good. Patience secures the possession of our souls in every circumstance that tends to discompose our minds. This is to possess our souls in any trial of patience; to continue in an even frame, and ward off all impressions which would ruffle our minds, or put us out of the temper befitting us as men and as Christians. Patience will prevent hasty and rash conclusions either from present troubles, or from the suspension of desired good. Patience will fortify against any unlawful methods for accomplishing our deliverance or desires. It is the work of patience to restrain from any sinful expedient which may seem to promise relief. The patient man resolves rather to bear any trouble, than go out of God's way to ease himself. Patience disposes a man to go on in the way of duty, whatever discouragements may arise from the pressure of his troubles, or the deferring of his hopes. Let us be solicitous to have this necessary principle daily strengthened, to exercise it upon every proper occasion, and that it may have its perfect work. The full work of patience is the highest perfection of a Christian on earth. And let there be a general exercise of this grace upon every occasion, in all the proper instances of it, however it may be tried; in great as well as in less trials, and in small exercises as well as in great; for sometimes impatience breaks out in men upon trivial occasions, after they have been signal for patience in great and shocking calamities, and in unusual trials, as well as in those to which we have been accustomed.'
9. Experience demands a distinct consideration: without this, it would be mere sophistry to treat of patience, for the latter implies the former, as naturally as light at noon day implies a sun. If I stood musing in a field and nobody molested me, it would afford no proof of patience; but if a number of people assaulted me, and I still remained unmoved, the case would be different. So, in common life, if a man boast of his patience, who never had it tried, he is as raw an ignoramus as he who boasts of his prowess in war, who yet never saw a field of battle. Experience is the best, and, indeed, the only school for patience. For this sentiment we have the highest authority: Paul writes expressly, 'Tribulation works patience, and patience experience.'
10. There is an endless variety in the experiences of men: some from childhood have been allowed their own way without restraint; and now they are like bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke. Strangers to trouble, and unprepared to meet it, they evince the utmost impatience under every cross-providence.
11. Others, on the contrary, owing to various circumstances, particularly the early loss of friends, have always been subject to painful trials, something like Jabez of old. But I can adduce instances of people who attribute, under God, all their eminence to the use of their former adversities; and can say with David, "You who has showed me great and sore troubles, .... shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." Thus while the indulged person knows nothing and can bear nothing; he who has experienced, and patiently submitted to correction is brought to honor, and can urge his way through life with comparative ease and credit. "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning."
12. Burder has the following appropriate passage, 'What a load of injuries can some Christians digest, who have been frequent in sufferings and long exercised in the school of affliction. Not that they bear them out of baseness or cowardliness, because they dare not revenge—but out of Christian fortitude, because they may not; they have so conquered themselves that wrongs cannot conquer them.'
13. Paul distinguishing between skillful and unskillful Christians, describes the former as those 'who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised.' And, in his directions for a Christian minister, he gives this caution among others, 'Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride—he fall into the condemnation of the devil.' The appointment of an inexperienced minister over a congregation has often proved a source of great mischief both to himself and the people. Such a man seems to think that being the minister necessarily comprehends every fitness; albeit he knows as little of the true bearing of his own position, of men's tempers and how to treat them!
What Mr. Horne requires in a missionary will apply to many others: 'It is necessary that he should have been taught to exercise a good degree of gentleness, patience, and long-sufferance, by being accustomed to wrestle with the unruly wills of men, by seeing many of his well-meant efforts frustrated through invincible depravity, and by observing the failure of some of his most sanguine and reasonable expectations. Add to this, there is an art in managing men's minds which nothing but experience can teach; and that man will have little skill in ruling the tempest of the human passions, who has not learned to moderate the ardor of his own feelings, and who does not know when to press his point, and when to decline; when to command and when to entreat.
14. The Rev. Rowland Hill was accustomed strongly to urge on all who engaged in the sacred office, the necessity of maintaining Christian and heavenly tempers among their people. 'Some folks,' he would say, 'appear as if they had been bathed in crab juice in their infancy, which penetrated through their skins, and has made them sour-blooded ever since; but this will not do for a messenger of the gospel; as he bears a message, so he must manifest a spirit of love.'
15. The utility of experience combined with patience, is acknowledged by all sensible men. A mariner requires some portion of these qualities before he can steadily endure the perils of the seas. The Grecian and Roman soldiers acquired great patience and experience by their long marches and counter-marches, exposures and conflicts. The hero of Waterloo did not win his laurels, but by the same virtues. It has ever been the custom of wise governors to appoint men of tried patience and experience to the chief command. Many are the instances, both in ancient and modern history, proving the serious consequences of any general deviation from this rule.
16. Hannibal, with invincible patience and perseverance conducted his army and baggage over the Alps. Brindley, with natural genius and patience, experience and money, projected and finished his canals; and Brunei only wants the last of these to complete his tunnel under the Thames. Rail-ways, loco-motive engines, and steam, its multifarious applications, are not the achievements of fickle and impatient minds. The great Sir Isaac Newton acquired fame as much by his patience of investigation as by the astonishing results of his application. Lombe, Arkwright, Bolton, Wedgewood, Hutton, etc. may admonish men in business that eminence is not to be attained without patience, experience, and perseverance.
Chapter 6.On Forbearance and Endurance
1. 'Bear and Forbear' is a very ancient motto. Offences, great and small, must needs come with frequency in a world like this: but to chafe our spirits and assume revenge at every trifle—is unwise and pernicious. I admit it is sometimes necessary to speak sharply, or use correction, or go to law; but it is oftener otherwise: "All things are not expedient," said Paul.
2. It is morally impossible to move through life with any comfort or satisfaction, without a considerable portion of a forbearing and enduring spirit. 'The mind is the standard of the man,' and must govern—or be governed; bear up—or be borne down. Man is especially distinguished from the brute by the endowment of reflection and understanding. The proper exercise of these faculties will serve him on all occasions; but their abuse will lead to all unwarrantable extremes.
3. A wise man very properly advises, 'Consider how trifling any occurrence will appear fifty years hence.' Actual experience justifies this consideration: for if we only look back to any circumstance that severely tried and mortified us seven years ago, so far from retaining any vexation on that account, we feel as though we had forgot it! Nay, the lapse of seven months or of seven weeks, or even so many days, greatly abates the ireful excitement. In confirmation of this I could name several excellent people, who, under great provocation, have written warmly; but, on maturer reflection, have destroyed the letter, and written more mildly; and even a second and a third have shared the same fate, and the indignation has at length evaporated. Others have resolved to go to law; but after a pause, they have forborne, and preferred to endure the grievance.
4. This benefit of a pause was well understood in the patriarchal age. When Rebekah discovered that Esau's intention was to "kill his brother." "When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, "Your brother Esau is consoling himself with the thought of killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. Stay with him for a while until your brother's fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I'll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?" Genesis 27:42-45
5. Mr. Boswell, at a time when his mind was distressed by an accident common to life, talked of it to Dr. Johnson, at which he laughed, and said, 'Consider, sir, how insignificant this will appear a twelve months from now.' Boswell afterward remarked, 'Were this consideration to be applied to most of the little vexatious incidents of life, by which our quiet is too often disturbed, it would prevent many painful sensations. I have tried it frequently with good effect.'
6. It is the act of a wise man—to pause and deliberate. Many follow the first impulse of the moment without the least reflection; but as soon as they have given vent to their passion they feel a misgiving, are sorry, and beg pardon, chide themselves, and wonder that they are so easily overcome. Now all this would be obviated by a mental habit of forbearance on the one hand, and a willingness to endure a little on the other. The enemy well knows that if he cannot instigate us to act on the spur of the moment, his design would be frustrated. He well knows that deliberation is as water thrown upon the rising flame, or as oil upon the troubled waters.
7. 'Zaleucus, a Grecian lawgiver, among the duties which men owe to one another, lays down a precept which is very well adapted to preserve peace and unity in society, by enjoining individuals who compose it not to make their hatred and dissensions perpetual, which would evince an unsocial and savage disposition; but to treat their enemies as men who would soon be their friends. This is carrying morality to as great a perfection as could be expected from heathen.'
8. Bear and forbear is no prohibition against needful correction. But correction without discretion is only brutal passion. A parent in the first impulse of anger may beat his son black and blue; but would this improve the youth? In many cases it would ruin him, and the parent would rue his folly later. Regard should ever be had as well to the disposition of the individual, as to the cause, the time, the mode, and the measure of the correction: and the "profit" of the party should be specially kept in view. Happily for us, these principles are well recognized in the administration of our humane laws.
9. Seneca very appropriately writes, 'There is hardly a more effectual remedy against anger, than patience and consideration. Let but the first fervor abate, and that mist which darkens the mind will be either lessened or dispelled. A day, nay an hour, does much in the most violent cases, and perchance totally suppresses it. Time reveals the truth of things, and turns that into judgment, which at first was anger.'
10. We have before seen that one of the qualities of charity is—it bears and endures all things; and the apostle elsewhere exhorts the believers to forbear one another in love. What is man, that he should rise up against God and his neighbor? That he should be so fretful and peevish; so self-willed, and ready to requite? What is he, that he should rage and strive, and do even as he wills—but deny to others the license he assumes to himself? He will bear nothing that interferes with his own interest; others may bear or forbear as best they can.
11. The married state, above all other, perhaps, calls for the exercise of the foregoing motto. Jeremy Taylor writes, 'Man and wife must be equally concerned to avoid all offences of each other in the beginning of their relationship. Every little thing can blast an infant blossom, and a breath of the south wind can shake the little rings of the vine when first they begin to curl like the locks of a new-weaned boy: but when by age and consolidation, they stiffen into the hardness of a stem, and have, by the warm embraces of the sun, and the kisses of heaven, brought forth their clusters, they can endure the harsh storms of the north, and the loud noises of a tempest—and yet never be broken. So are the early unions of an unfixed marriage; watchful and observant, jealous and busy, inquisitive and careful, and apt to take alarm at every unkind word: for infirmities do not manifest themselves in their first scenes—but in the succession of a long society; and it is not chance or weakness when it appears at first—but a lack of love or prudence, or it will be so interpreted; and that which appears ill at first, usually affrights the inexperienced man or woman, who makes unfair conjectures, and imagines mighty sorrows—by the proportions of the new and early unkindness.'
12. Leighton has the following passage, which is equally appropriate: 'Nothing is more unfitting in a wife than an uncomposed turbulent spirit, that is put out of frame with every trifle, and inventive of false causes of disquietness and fretting to itself. And so in a husband, and in all, an unquiet passionate mind lays itself naked, and reveals its own deformity to all. The greatest part of things that vex us, do so, not from their own nature or weight—but from the unsettledness of our minds. How lovely it is to see a composed firm mind and carriage, that is not easily moved! I urge not a stoical stupidity; but that, in things that deserve a sharp reproof, the mind keep in its own station and seat still, not shaken out of itself as the most are; that the tongue utter not unfitting rash words, nor the hand act anything that reveals the mind has lost its command for the time. But truly the most know so little how to use just anger upon just cause, that it is easier, and the safer extreme, not to be angry—but still calm and serene as the upper region; not the place of continual tempest and storms, as the most are. Let it pass for a kind of sheepishness to be meek; it is a likeness to Him that was as a sheep before the shearers, not opening his mouth; it is a portion of his Spirit.
13. I believe that in many instances domestic janglings arise from the listless indulgence of a kind of involuntary habit of impatience, rather than from any lack of affection. If it were not so, we must necessarily conclude that there is little marital affection in the world. But for the honor of that "honorable state," and the encouragement of the single, I will affirm that the contrary is the truth.
Take the following couple of silly creatures as a sample: 'Mr. Ironside— We who write this are man and wife, and have been so these fifteen years: but you must know we have quarreled twice a day ever since we came together, and at the same time have a very tender regard for one another. We observe, this habitual disputation has an ill effect upon our children, and they lose their respect towards us from this jangling of ours. We lately entered into an agreement, that from that time forward, when either should fall into a passion, the party angry should go into another room, and write a note to the other by one of the children, and the person written to, right or wrong, beg pardon; because the writing to avoid passion is in itself an act of kindness. This little method, with the smiles of the messengers, and other nameless incidents in the management of this correspondence with the next room, has produced inexpressible delight, made our children and servants cheerful under our care and protection, and made us ourselves sensible of a thousand good qualities we now see in each other, which could not before shine out, because of our mutual impatience.'
14. A great master of the passions says, 'Small things affect little minds.' A passage from Seneca will illustrate this remark: 'How vain and trifling are many of those things that make us stark mad! A sluggish horse, the overturning of a glass, the falling of a key, the dragging of a chair, a jealousy, a misconstruction. How shall that man endure the extremities of hunger and thirst, who flies out into a rage only for putting of a little too much water into his wine? What haste is there to discipline a servant for it? The answer of a servant, a wife, or a child, puts some people out of all patience; and yet they can quarrel with the government for not allowing them the same liberty in public which they themselves deny to their own families. If they say nothing, 'tis contumacy; if they speak or laugh, 'tis insolence. . . . When we are abroad, we can bear well enough with foul ways, nasty streets, and noisome ditches; but a spot upon a dish at home, or an unswept hearth, absolutely distracts us! And what's the reason—but that we are patient in the one place, and amazingly peevish in the other!'
15. Human nature is so vitiated, the tempers of men are so various and fickle, and worldly things so changeable and conflicting, that it is, as I have before remarked, morally impossible to escape what may be termed a cross. Hence, it must be the wisest plan to form some mental resolve to bear and forbear. 'A burden becomes light—when it is well borne.' Impatience under it, only increases its weight. Count Eleazar very truly remarks, 'We must bear with something, if we have to live among mankind. Such is our frailty, that we are scarcely in tune with ourselves a whole day; and if a melancholy humor comes over us, we know not what we would have. Not to bear and not to forgive, is diabolical; to love enemies, and to do good for evil is the mark of the children of God.'
16. Heathen writers accord with Christian writers, on forbearance and endurance, as we have seen already. Aurelius has the following: 'Do not return the temper of ill-natured people upon themselves, nor treat them as they do the rest of mankind. Reform an injurious person if you can: if not, remember your patience was given you to bear with him. Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved!'
17. It is a common saying, 'What is well meant—should be well taken.' Mr. Holland has thus rendered it:
'Whatever is stamped with good intent,
Should be well taken, as well meant.'
But a poet better known, writes—
For every trifle scorn to take offence;
That always shows great pride or little sense.
Good nature and good sense must always join;
To err is human—to forgive divine.
18. It is related that a gentleman once went to Sir Eardley under the impression of great wrath and indignation at a real injury he had received from a person high in power, and which he was meditating how to resent in the most effectual manner. After relating the particulars, he asked Sir Eardley if he did not think it would be manly to resent it? 'Yes,' said the Christian knight, 'it will be manly to resent it—but it will be God-like to forgive it.' This had such an effect upon the gentleman that he came away quite a different man, and in a very subdued temper from that in which he went.
19. Lord Hunsdon, a distinguished nobleman in the court of Elizabeth, once said, 'To have courage to notice an affront—is to be upon a level with an adversary: to have the charity to forgive it—is to be above him.'
20. To the same effect Dr. B. Franklin advises, 'Forbear resenting injuries. Be not disturbed about trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.' Resentment is a very expensive vice. How dearly has it cost its votaries, even from the days of Cain, the first offender in this kind. 'It is cheapest to forgive—and save the charges,' says a Christian writer.
21. 'Banish all malignant and revengeful thoughts. A spirit of revenge is the very spirit of the devil! Nothing makes a man more like the devil; and nothing can be more opposite to the temper which Christianity was designed to promote. If your revenge is not satisfied—it will give you torment now; if it is satisfied—it will give you greater torment hereafter. None is a greater self-tormentor than a malicious revengeful man, who turns the poison of his own temper in upon himself.'
22. Dr. Evans remarks, 'All that is great and good in the universe is on the side of clemency and mercy. If we look into the history of mankind, we shall find that in every age, those who have been respected as worthy, have been distinguished for this virtue. Revenge dwells in little minds; a noble and magnanimous spirit is superior to it. Collected within itself, it stands unmoved by the impudent assaults of our enemies; and with generous pity, rather than with anger—looks down on their unworthy conduct.'
23. The Christian may take comfort under the greatest discouragements, from that scripture, "Blessed is the man that endures temptation; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him."
Chapter 7.On the FORGIVENESS of Injuries
1. To return good for evil, to treat enemies kindly, to exercise patience under injuries, and to abstain from revenge, are excellent qualities. But the point must be carried yet higher: for it is obviously one thing to endure an offence, and another to forgive it. It may however be generally presumed that where good is returned for evil, evidence is thereby afforded of entire forgiveness; but this, I think, is not necessarily the case; but even admitting such evidence to be conclusive, there are many inferior shades of character before we come to the one who does actually return good for evil, and who heartily prays for, and blesses his enemies. And even the character attains not such excellent temper—but by divine grace.
2. If we turn to the Word of God, we shall see the point carried to its perfection; but in a work of this kind I must be content with a lower standard as regards men; though certainly not as regards the divine law. "Jesus said to his disciples: Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" Luke 17:1-5
In another place we are informed that, after Jesus had treated on this subject, "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? Jesus says unto him, I say not unto you, until seven times—but until seventy times seven." As Jesus had said nothing about the number of times, it is probable Peter thought he had got an extreme case, which would be admitted as an exception from the strict rule; we may therefore judge of his surprise at the foregoing answer. Jesus finely illustrated the subject in the subsequent part of the chapter.
3. It will perhaps be said that confession of the offence is connected with its forgiveness; and therefore it is sufficient to forgive—only when an apology is offered. But this notion is successfully exploded by that one short, and well-known clause in the Lord's Prayer, which I adduced in a previous chapter, "forgive us our trespasses—as we forgive them that trespass against us." Observe, it is not said, as we forgive them who confess or apologize. And when injunctions are given to love our enemies, do them good, pray for and bless them—not a word is said about their confessing—but only their aggravating conduct.
4. The expression of forgiveness is often too vague to be depended on. A. has told in every company for these ten years past, how much he has suffered from B. always concluding with this doubtful adjunctum, 'But I forgive him, you know.' A moment's reflection might admonish him, that this constant blazoning of the offence— this perpetual back-stabbing, gives the lie to his profession of forgiveness. So on a death-bed, a man who has been remarkable for an unforgiving temper, may say, as is often the case, 'I am at peace with all the world; I forgive everybody.' But, as Dr. Watts has said of some death-bed repentances, 'if we can reasonably believe that such a one would have come to the same frame of mind at the same time, had he been in health, then we might venture to believe the case to be genuine.'
I really apprehend that some of these confessions about forgiving everybody are much like the conduct of some hard-fisted men, who, finding they cannot take their money with them, bequeath a portion to some charity; and thereby gain in death a fame which no acts of their life would secure, and which—but for kind death, would never have been heard of.
5. An unforgiving temper is abhorred both by God and men. It is amazing how far some can carry it. Vindix's eldest son married against his approbation, a woman of equal respectability: so offended was the father that he firmly resolved to disinherit and discard the son forever; and for nearly twenty years to the present hour he has been as good as his word. The son, as the father himself confessed, had never previously disobliged his parents—yet has suffered every change, and almost every adversity, that can befall man—unpitied by his own father, though not wholly so by the world, as bad as it is. Mother, sisters, and brothers, were interdicted, at their peril, to show him the least token of regard or assistance. If Vindix by accident meets his son in the streets, he screws up his countenance and rushes on as if the fruit of his loins were a toad! Friends and strangers have remonstrated to no purpose. Yet Vindix is a great professor of religion! Query: Does he ever repeat or join in the Lord's prayer? Who knows but that when he comes to see that such an unnatural temper is not quite convenient to be carried into another state, he may, as a peace offering to his conscience, and a passport for his soul, say, just before he expires, I forgive everybody!
Providence has made the circumstances, of the above fact so familiar to me, that, though the parties are now living, I would just as readily sign it as withhold my name. I run no risk of offending the injured son, who is now in a respectable situation; and the father is too far sunk in the esteem of reasonable men to be regarded, though he might rave like a wild bull in a net.
6. There doubtless are cases where a parent may conceive a just displeasure at the alliance of a child: but, never to relent, because, Herod-like, it would infract his oath; never to relax his rigor—but rather rejoice at all his misfortunes, and a thousand times wish him dead! to forbid the mother, on pain of the highest displeasure, to notice or assist the son of her womb, the once dear darling of her heart, and above all, to forbid the weeping suppliant son admission to the dying bed of that mother, and afterward to the funeral itself—Is a multiplication of iniquity which indicates a nature of more than common turpitude: and far exceeding any conceived defect which might be assigned as the cause of his displeasure. And then, to crown all, to retain a godly profession with this monstrous iniquity, is a contrariety which no rules of Euclid, and no reasoning of a Butler, can ever reconcile!
7. The above, it may be said, is an extreme case; but be assured it is not a solitary one. There are others, which, though inferior in degree, are equally unreasonable. 'Let not the sun go down upon your anger,' is not an authority to be slighted. To be constantly cherishing an irritation, or to have the mind always charged with a disposition to revenge, is, to say the least, an unenviable temper. Even if the offender makes no apology, it is better to pass it over in silent pity, as beneath the concern of a well-ordered mind.
It should ever be remembered, that forgiveness is a striking feature in the character of the great God, and is inculcated by him in the most positive and solemn terms. But such is the proud conceit of man, that he regards some paltry, and perhaps merited offences against his conceived dignity—as greater than his sins against God!
'I cannot forgive him, and I will not forgive him,' is the passionate language of this high and mighty 'man of the earth.' Alas! if the Most High God God were to adjudicate on this principle, and measure his pardons by the qualities and degrees of our offences, or only forgive us in exact proportion as we heartily forgive others, where would we be?
8. The following account of Dion, a heathen, the deliverer of the oppressed people of Syracuse, is charming, as well for the wisdom it conveys as the temper it exhibits; and might put many a Christian to the blush. Heraclides had acted in so seditious a manner against Dion and the state, as to induce everyone to cry aloud for his execution. While he lay prostrate at the feet of his superior, confessing his crimes and supplicating for mercy, the friends of Dion advised him not to spare a man of such vile and malignant disposition—but abandon him to the soldiers.
But Dion, to appease them, said, 'Other captains generally made the means of conquering their sole study: that, for his part, Dion himself had passed much of his time in the academy, in learning to subdue anger, envy, and all the jarring passions of the mind. That the sign of having conquered them is not kindness and affability to friends and people of merit—but treating those with humanity who have injured us, and in being always ready to forgive them. That he did not desire so much to appear superior to Heraclides in power and ability as in wisdom and justice; for in that, true and essential superiority consists. That if Heraclides is wicked, invidious, and treacherous, must Dion contaminate and dishonor himself by base resentment? It is true according to human laws, there seems to be less injustice in revenging an injury than committing it; but if we consult nature, we shall find both the one and the other to have their rise in the same weakness of mind. Beside, there is no disposition so obdurate and so savage, but may be vanquished by the force of kind usage.' Dion, influenced by these maxims, pardoned Heraclides.'
9. Aristides, the celebrated Athenian, is presented to us as a character high on the list of Grecian worthies. The plainness of his garb, added to the general simplicity of his habits, might not strongly prepossess a stranger in his favor; but all Athens sensibly felt his real worth, and in consideration of his great temperance and virtue they surnamed him Aristides the Just. He was rival to Themistocles, by whose influence he was banished for ten years. Plutarch writes, 'He gave manifest proofs of his great candor and moderation, even toward Themistocles himself. For though he had been his constant enemy on all occasions, and the cause of his banishment; yet when a fair opportunity for revenge was offered, upon Themistocles being accused of capital crimes against his country, he showed no resentment of the injuries he had received, refused to join with others in the prosecution, said nothing at all to his disadvantage, nor in the least insulted him in his misfortunes, as he had never envied him in his prosperity.' I shall offer no apology to Christian readers for adducing such noble characters from heathen nations.
10. We have a fine example of the forgiving temper in Cranmer. Gardiner and Dr. London were so indignant at his being in such high favor at court, particularly as it enabled him to push on the reformation, that they laid a scheme for his ruin. King Henry VIII had such regard for Cranmer that he was the first to acquaint him with the plot. He insisted that Cranmer should have the contrivance examined, and pointed out the method, to which the latter very reluctantly consented; and when the exposure was made, he would not press the king, though urged to do so, for any reparation. He was so noted for his readiness to forgive injuries, and to do good for evil, that it was commonly said, that the best way to obtain his favor—was to do him an injury. Of this he gave signal instances at this time, both in relation to some of the clergy and laity; by which it appeared that he was actuated by that meek and lowly spirit that becomes all the followers of Jesus Christ.'
11. We have an interesting indication of a great and benevolent mind, and of a humane temper, in Louis Philippe in his conduct to Fieschi, which comes seasonably to hand. If ever man deserved extraordinary punishment and every preliminary disgrace and torture, it surely was the author and actuator of the 'infernal machine.' But the following is said to have been written by the king's own hand on the margin of the report made to him, on the sentence of the peers for the execution of Fieschi and his associates: 'It is solely the sense of an imperative duty that leads me to give a sanction which is one of the most painful acts of my life; only in consideration of the frankness of Fieschi's confessions, and of his conduct during the trial, it is my will that the accessory part of the punishment be dispensed with, and I deeply regret that my conscience will not permit me to do more.'
12. The lightest task which I would impose upon people of a vindictive and unforgiving temper, would be to get by heart, and then write their own comment upon the following words from our Lord's sermon on the mount: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses."
Chapter 8.On the Importance of a Right Temper in the Married and Domestic State
1. The matrimonial relation is the first link of the chain in society, insomuch that all other relations and ties do properly depend on it. It is, as it were, the head-quarter of good and evil. Here temper is generally of a decisive character one way or the other; here is its main scope for action, and from hence emanate effects, good or bad, to the community at large. Here children catch the genius, or assume the turn that must mark their subsequent habits; here, in short, is the grand emporium and laboratory that must give a permanent cast to the rising dependants; and these, in their turn, will carry their peculiarities to circles of their own.
2. 'There is a relation of life much more near than the most sacred friendship, that is to say—marriage. This union is of too close and delicate a nature to be easily conceived by those who do not know that condition by experience. Here a man should, if possible, soften his passions; if not for his own ease, in compliance to a creature formed with a mind of a quite different make from his own. I am tender of offending the women, and know it is hard not to do it on this subject; but I must go on to say that the soul of a man and that of a woman are made very unlike, according to the employments for which they are designed. The ladies will please to observe, I say, our minds have different, not superior qualities to theirs. The virtues have respectively a masculine and feminine cast.... But to make this state anything but a burden, and not hang as a weight upon our very being, it is proper each of the couple should frequently remember, that there are many things which grow out of their very natures that are pardonable, nay, befitting, when considered as such—but without that reflection, must give the quickest pain and vexation. To manage well a great family, is as worthy an instance of capacity as to execute a great employment.'
3. What a beautiful picture does marital life present, when portrayed by a couple whose principles are similar, and abilities proportioned! whose dispositions are congenial, and tempers adapted; who are intent upon promoting, not his or her distinct happiness—but each that of the other. Between such a united pair, competition, except that of pleasing, will be unknown. No jealousy of each other's abilities or prerogative, no apprehension of undue restriction or conceited admonition will preclude that consultation in important affairs in either department, which will be mutually beneficial, and give lasting cement to their union.
4. 'A great deal of the unpleasantness between married people arises from the illiberal prejudice which men from the highest to the lowest cherish toward the other gender. The husband disdains to treat his wife as a rational creature, laughs at her decisions, and contemptuously follows his own opinion, without deigning to assign one reason for his rejection of hers. The wife, conscious that she merits a higher degree of consideration, retaliates his conduct, and holds his assumed superior importance in high contempt. Thus a foundation for continual bickering is laid between two people who are destined to pass their lives together, whose interests cannot be divided, who are not deficient in affection for each other, and who by a very little alteration of sentiment, and obligingness of manner, might lead a life of true harmony.'
5. I bear my protest against the practice of some ill-natured gentlemen who, while they outwardly affect to treat the ladies with great politeness, are constantly addicted to detraction. For the honor of the masculine gender I will hope the following production was drawn simply for amusement by some silly husband who had nothing in the world else to do. It is a pretended meteorological journal of his wife's temper for one week.
Monday. Rather cloudy, in the afternoon rainy.
Tuesday. Vaporish; brightened up a little towards evening.
Wednesday. Changeable, gloomy, inclined to rain.
Thursday. High wind, some peals of thunder.
Friday. Fair in the morning, variable until p. m., cloudy at night.
Saturday. A gentle breeze, hazy, a thick fog, a few flashes of lightning.
Sunday. Tempestuous and rainy, somewhat calmer towards evening.
6. The simpleton should have remembered that his beloved wife could as easily amuse herself in the same way, and with equally as good a chance of being correct. She might have lengthened his own lines something like what follows:
Monday. Cloudy, etc.; husband more cloudy and dull still.
Tuesday. Vaporish, etc.; so is he—no signs of clearing up.
Wednesday. Changeable, etc.; all for the worse, freezing rain.
Thursday. High wind, etc.; high words, blows, heads in danger.
Friday. Fair, etc.; no fair play, black frost, cold night.
Saturday. Gentle, etc.; only so out of his own house.
Sunday. Tempestuous, etc.; yes to my sorrow, no day of rest.
Every reasonable gentleman will allow that the above is a very proper retort.
7. I do not pretend to deny that gentlemen are often deceived in the angels of their choice. And what then? Are not ladies as often and as grievously deceived in the onetime avowers of an unalterable love? If husbands will discard their former terms of affection, and substitute such as my rib, my shrew, etc. they ought not to take it amiss if their loving wives copy their high example, and substitute my crab, my devil, etc.
8. It is recorded of Milton that he first married a shrew. The Duke of Buckingham one day, in his hearing, called her a rose. 'I am no judge of flowers,' observed the poet, 'but it may be so, for I feel the thorns daily.' I must however except against two things in our illustrious bard. It is recorded that on some disagreement his wife left him soon after marriage, which so provoked him that he paid his addresses to another! And further, to fill up this interval of time, 'he wrote with much acrimony against the existing laws of marriage; boldly maintaining that unfitness or contrariety of dispositions, or whatever was repugnant to marital society, was as solid a claim to divorce as any other.'
Against this doctrine I bear my protest. But even if we admit the doctrine, the ladies have an equal right to its benefits, as they are equally as good judges of 'contrarieties' as the gentlemen. Only imagine, my reader, that the above doctrine should be acted upon tomorrow morning throughout England alone, and all discordant couples be divorced! Good heavens! what stirring work there would be! I must now remind you that Milton married three wives. And surely, concerning the two latter, he either contradicted his own doctrine, or he was a singularly fortunate man to find no unfitness and no contrarieties in them.
9. 'The old proverb, 'let everyone look at home,' is applicable to our present purpose: here it is, that reformation is first wanted. Every family may be considered as a distinct society connected with the body politic; and if these societies be immoral or corrupt, such also must be the body. That there is much need both of public and domestic reformation, is a truth too obvious to be denied.'
10. The duties of the marital and other intimate relations, are minutely defined and enforced in the sacred volume. The following passage enjoins the temper due from a husband: "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them." Guyse's Paraphrase pointedly conveys the sense: 'Those of you that bear the relation of husbands ought to treat your wives with all tenderness, kindness, and affection: to delight in their company, and to do all that in you lies for their temporal and spiritual ease, comfort, and happiness, and not to exercise a severe and arbitrary lordship over them, or break out into furious and passionate expressions against them, or use them ill by words or blows, or go about to lay any hardships upon them that would be grievous to them.'
11. On the other hand, it scarcely need be said that the wife is pledged to return every reciprocal attention to her husband. Our marriage service admirably defines the principles and duties of the compact on both sides. In accordance with scripture, it enjoins the wife to love, cherish, and obey. Love is the grand principle, and in proportion as she loves, she will honor and reverence her husband. But although love is the foundation of good temper, it is possible for the most affectionate wife, from the debility of her frame or other cause, to fail in temper, though she may not fail in love. Temper then should be guarded and cultivated by all—but especially by those who are more subject its infractions.
'Much of the happiness of life,
Hangs on the temper of one's wife.'
A more sagacious poet writes,
'She who ne'er answers until a husband cools,
Or if she rules him, never shows she rules;
Charms by accepting, by submitting sways,
Yet has her humor most when she obeys.'
12. 'I am quite sure that any people may live happily and comfortably, who, when they become, as in time they must, acquainted and familiarized with each other's tempers and dispositions, make up their minds to concede a little now and then; for, as I have ever found it, the subject of disagreement between men and their wives are generally matters of very trivial importance in themselves.'
18. 'It has been justly observed by an elegant essayist, that more constant uneasiness arises from bad temper—than from bad fortune; as a bad temper embitters every sweet, and converts a paradise into a place of torment. On the contrary when candor and cheerfulness dwell in the domestic circle, when each individual cordially endeavors to contribute to the general happiness, it affords the most delightful picture of rational and heartfelt contentment. So much indeed, of the happiness of private and domestic life depends on the government of the temper, that the proper regulation of it ought to form a principal object of regard in every well conducted system of education.'
14. Mrs. C. Fry well remarks, 'If it be our duty, as it certainly is, to subdue as much as possible, and control our natural defects of temper, it is not less—nay, it is far more the duty of the young to bear with and excuse, and by all means to bear the defects of temper they perceive in others. Spoiled, perhaps, by an education not of their own choosing; soured, perhaps, by injuries not of their own deserving; or subjected by the hand of heaven to some organic disease, of mind as well as body; little does the lively healthful spirit know what these may suffer, from the restless humor that consumes their peace, from the disease that causes it, from the influence of external things upon their frame. Did we know what it is, after nights of sleeplessness, to arise to some charge to which, perhaps, our spirits are unequal—to find every nerve affected by the vapors of the morning—to feel every word that is spoken jar upon our senses as upon some fretted sore—to go wearily, though willingly through the day's work, struggling in vain against the evil humors that assail us—and to lie down at night defeated and ashamed and self-reproached for the days' impatience and ill-humor—we would learn a lesson which as yet perhaps we know not. And while we learned forbearance, indulgence, and compassion, we should probably learn more gratitude to God than we ever yet have felt; and instead of taking merit to ourselves for what was God's gift, be confounded and ashamed that we have used it so selfishly, and so thoughtlessly possessed it.'
15. What a different world would this be, if but an ordinary attention were paid to the regulation and government of temper! How truly wretched some people are in themselves, by a determined capricious indulgence of ill-humour. How unamiable their countenance; how impatient their eye; how sullen their aspect; how surly their language; how querulous their enunciation; how ready to pounce on every trifle, and to squeeze bitterness out of every incident. How perfectly disagreeable and insufferable are such to all about them. No one knows how, or when, or what to speak. One must wait until the ill-natured creature is in a fit humour, and when that will be, not even Moore's almanac itself can tell. One such peevish person in a house embitters the peace and destroys the pleasure of all the rest, and renders the house a little hell. Indeed such is the power, such the prevalency, and such too the unreasonableness of ill-temper, that it makes but little difference whether the married have children or not. It has often been remarked that the childless are the most unhappy; and I must confess I cannot contradict it. Children are certainly a source of great comfort, and by twining round our hearts, and engaging our attention, they soften down the hardness of temper, beguile time, give a grateful zest to life, and sensibly promote parental union.
16. But in speaking thus of the comforts which children bring, it will be generally supposed that I allude principally to young ones. It is truly lamentable that the parental joy should diminish as his beloved offspring advances to that maturity which, in reason, should augment the pleasure. Our first parents were thus disappointed in their first-born; so was Eli, and so was David in Absalom. It is not uncommon to cast the whole blame of the disappointment on the children; but I venture to affirm that, in a great majority of cases, such charge attaches chiefly, if not exclusively, to the parents—whose foolish indulgence, criminal negligence, and, perhaps, improper example, have been the direct cause. In Eli's case, for example, the blame was charged upon himself. Hence, what a serious responsibility devolves upon parents! 'Children and the fruit of the womb are a heritage and gift that comes of the Lord;' and should be early devoted to the Lord, and so trained by precept and example, as He himself has directed in his word.
17. It is foreign to my object to treat particularly on the education of youth. I rather urge to the duty, supplying such observations as relate principally to temper. The following remarks of Mrs. More are deserving of attention: 'There is a sensibility in our nature which, if ill-directed, will lead to pernicious consequences. Hence it is unwise, in training the young, to be constantly stimulating and extolling feelings naturally quick, as those feelings will be rendered too acute and irritable. On the other hand a calm and equable temper will become obtuse by the total lack of excitement: the former treatment converts the feelings into a source of error, agitation, and calamity; the latter starves their native energy, deadens the affections, and produces a cold, dull, selfish spirit; for the human mind is an instrument which will lose its sweetness if strained too high, and will he deprived of its tone and strength if not sufficiently raised.'
18. The tempers of many children are injured by what may be termed indolence, or rather culpable self-indulgence, on the part of the parents. 'I will not be teased with you,' is too often reiterated. Perhaps the mother is reading the paper or some light book, or sewing some trifle, and she drives the children, in no pleasant accents, to some other part of the house, bidding them to learn their lessons. The dear creatures go to the solitary room with unwilling step, looking at one another with unhappy sensations: I can easily imagine I hear one say to another, 'mother is cross.' Naturally wearied with long and senseless confinement, Mary wants to say her lesson—but John says, 'you must not go now, for mother is reading, and she will be angry.' Thus they can neither play nor say their lessons with comfort. At length the little creatures venture in: 'Come, come,' says the mother, as if suddenly roused from a reverie, 'what a time you are with those lessons—you can surely say them well now.' With impatient haste, and plentiful scolding, the lessons are hurried over; and then they are sent to play for the same reason that they were sent to their tasks, 'I cannot be teased now.' Again she seizes her book, draws to the fire, and remains absorbed until roused by some unwelcome occurrence—the entrance of a child, or a servant, or a visitor, or, for anything I know, her husband. It would be a wonder, indeed, if children so neglected, cowed and discouraged, should not cherish feelings, and acquire habits very harmful to domestic happiness. Is it just or decent for such an indolent parent to be calling them blockheads and rude children, after such negligence? and that too at an age when the first impressions of right and wrong should be carefully instilled?
19. Next to this early negligence of temper, I consider that a great portion of domestic unhappiness is owing to the suddenness with which a large majority enter on the marriage state. This defect may arise out of the nature and constitution of things, and is not to be easily remedied in a world so void of reflection. The evil may be charged, on the one hand, either to the remissness of parents with respect to sober advice, or their unreasonable interference, where the case does not properly call for it; or, on the other hand, it may be charged wholly to the self-will and vain folly of the children. It is ridiculous to see boys and girls, just entered on their teens, assuming the duties of adults; and, full ten years before they arrive at the commonest sense, enter on a state which requires the maturity of discretion—sanctioned too, or at least, not checked, by their parents. Moreover, many parents are so arbitrary, that, under a false pretention of ruling, they actually sour and harden their children, and give them an utter distaste of home; and hence it can be no wonder that they should take the earliest opportunity to relieve themselves, by any expedient: albeit a premature marriage is perhaps the most unwise step they could take. It is equally indiscreet in parents to attempt to force their union to objects, which, though wealthy or respectable, are the most unsuitable, because unbeloved. No such discordant union can bring any equivalent for the lack of that mutual affection and esteem which are so indispensable, and which no money can purchase.
20. There is yet one temper which I scarcely know how to name or where to place. I cannot class it with the good nor yet the bad tempers. You may call it the squeamish, the odd, or what you please. A very happy couple whose chief amusement, I dare say, rested on their own mutual resources, rising one morning from their slumbers, the husband, who had risen first, had his attention arrested by a deep drawn sigh from his beloved spouse, and instantly inquired what was the matter, when, in the affecting pathos of a Lancashire witch, she replied with an, 'Oh! dear, I'm very poorly.' 'What's the matter with you, my wench?' 'Oh! dear, I've got a terrible pain!' 'Well, tell me what's the matter?' 'Oh! I am so ill.' 'Do tell me, I say, what is the matter?' 'Oh! I have such a tight pain.' 'Do tell me, my dear wench, where is your pain?' 'Oh! I scarcely know—but—I—think—it is—in—my temper.' 'Oh then if that's all, I recommend a little cane sauce,' pointing to a cane which accidentally lay in the room.
21. Think not that I have introduced the above as a farce to a concluding scene; for though it were child's play, and develops nothing important, it at least reminds one of certain individuals whose only real pain—is in their temper! It brings to my mind a Mrs. Tarquin who evinced a very unhappy temper. Judging from the sallowness of her countenance, and apparent weakness, a stranger would have supposed she was in a bad state of health. But in reality her symptoms were not so much those of indisposition, as ill-disposition. The dim eye, knitting of the brow, compressed mouth, absorbed mind, abstinence from colloquy, short and studied answers, oblique look, listless gazing at the fire, nibbling and fingering of the lips, etc. were among the positive indications of some inward broodings of a temper not at ease. I well recollect, though now twenty years past, calling at the house, when the servant, instead of announcing, introduced me at once into the sitting-room, which visibly proved a most disagreeable surprise, as madam was evidently in her mumps, though her beloved husband was in the room. Now had the servant, as she ought, given but a moment's notice, appearances would have been reversed. I have ever regretted the circumstance on account of its creating a pain in the temper. Many, on the least crossing of their will, instantly receive a pain in the temper, and have a quick recourse to tears.
22. I trust I have advanced sufficient to establish a plea for a more fixed regard to the cultivation of a proper temper among all classes. And while I have in some degree exhibited temper as we find it, my readers may easily form their own ideas of TEMPER AS IT SHOULD BE.
Oh! blessed with temper, whose unclouded ray
Can make tomorrow cheerful as today.
PART 3.HOW TO IMPROVE AND REGULATE THE TEMPER
Chapter 1.Preliminary Observations
2. Every consideration involving our interest in this life, at least calls loudly for the better regulation of temper. For what is life, or what its enjoyment, where disorderly and oppressive tempers are allowed to dominate? I would say to all then: Curb your tempers by all means; do it, if only for the sake of your personal comfort; yes, do it for the sake of common justice and common courtesy. I may remind those who profess the religion of Jesus Christ of higher and more inspiring motives: for how can we adorn that sacred name with tempers at utter variance with his gospel? We are repeatedly and solemnly enjoined to follow peace, meekness, patience, longsuffering, and whatever is lovely and of good report.
3. Though I believe, with Luther, President Edwards, and our tenth Article, in the absolute bondage of man's will concerning divine things, I regard him as a morally free agent, capable of doing or not doing what properly comes within the scope of his power, and no more. I do not in this remark embrace that deep point of divine sovereignty acting on human agency, the agent yet being free, as in the case of Pharaoh, Judas, and many others. With this premise, I can entirely agree with the following sentiment of Dr. Johnson: 'I think a man's being in a good or bad humour, depends upon his will.'
4. Temper, like many other things, has its rise and progress. The external cause is conveyed to the mind by one of the senses; and, like a spark applied to powder, occasions a commotion within, according to our estimate or feeling of the offence. In witnessing some of these commotions we may well exclaim with James, "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindles!" We have a simile of this rise and progress in the conduct of Achan with the Babylonish garment: "I saw—I coveted—I took." James gives a similar illustration: "Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and, sin, when it is finished, brings forth death." He who is habitually ill-tempered needs but little excitement, and is therefore less deliberate than one of a reflective turn.
5. From the above remarks will appear the importance of keeping an adequate and constant guard upon the mind and the several avenues which lead to it: and we have evidence, by the examples both of heathens and Christians, how much lies within the moral capacity of man, if he will only act in earnest. Let anyone read the accounts of the last hours of Socrates and of Seneca, and he can hardly fail to be surprised at the meekness of the former, and the dignified resignation of the latter. These and many other heathen philosophers have pleasingly exemplified the degree of power which the natural man has over his own will, when he choses to exert it in earnest. They went as far as men can go without divine revelation, and the aid therein promised: for I still contend that after all that man can do by the degree of power, which, as a moral agent, he possesses over his own volitions, temper can only be properly and substantially rectified and sustained by divine grace. I say then to the man of this world, Do what you can that is morally good, and abstain what you can from what is morally evil, so far as you know good from evil. And what a different world it would be, if only this principle were acted upon: yet this is only acting by the light of nature, on which, let me desire you to turn to our eighteenth Article. To the man of God, I say, "To the law and to the testimony:" this word of God is your charter, and the vows of God are upon you to walk by this rule, and you know where your strength lies.
6. There is a very culpable indifference in some professors to the preceptive parts of the scriptures. This may arise either from false notions about the plenitude and universality of the divine mercy through Christ, or from equally false views of, and conclusions from the doctrines of grace. The enemy sowed these evil seeds in the church at an early period. The truth itself, however, remains unchanged and unchangeable. He who feels interested in these points, will do well carefully to compare Paul's epistle to the Galatians with the epistle of James.
7. Whatever class of doctrinal notions any man may adopt, if he yet willfully indulges ill-nature and angry passions, he must not think we uncharitable, if I question the reality of his religion. The habitual fruits of righteousness are widely different from his. A fair portion of sympathy, however, is due to those whose nervous system is debilitated by long sickness, or depressed with a series of troubles. Job, David, and Jeremiah felt this pressure at times. People so circumstanced require something more than moral suasion, human philosophy, or human support.
8. Mrs. Fry has the following sensible remark, which may be useful in this place: 'Whether we can help feeling out of humour I will not be positive; though, by the habit of reflection and resistance, I think we may. That we can avoid making others feel it, I am quite positive. I know one who from the langour of a consumptive habit, feels always ill and dispirited in the morning. When asked why she never speaks at breakfast time, she says it is lest, under those sensations, she may speak ill-naturedly I often hear ladies say in their families, 'Do not tease me today, for I am unwell.'
The candor of the confession on one part, and the shame of it on the other, might put an end to ill humour on both. That all can control their ill humours is certain, because all do when there is a necessity for it in certain companies, or in the presence of those we fear, or with whom we have some purpose to effect: either the ill-humour is conquered or it is concealed. However the venom may be rooted in our bosoms, the sting is put forth only at our pleasure; and strange as it is, we reserve it for our best and dearest, for the torment of our homes and the misery of our families!'
9. In a world so disordered, and with hearts so corrupt, there must need be offences, and trials of one's patience, and that too from our nearest and dearest friends. Hence, how few families are wholly and cordially at peace! In many cases the frowardness of one member disturbs all the rest: but where all the members of a house are impatient and irritable—cannot look pleasantly at one another—cannot give civil answers, or converse with openness and confidence—their situation is truly miserable! Then again, there are the ordinary occurrences of life in all houses— of the day, the hour, the business, the servants, the children, etc., and if, instead of mutual kindness and forbearance, there is a confirmed inclination to disagree, to find fault, to speak tartly, to be shy and reserved—then their situation must be truly unhappy. Alas! how frail and irritable is man! how 'soon angry,' how fretful, discontented, unyielding, self-willed! What numberless evils lodge within the human heart, and deface and defile the character of man! Mr. Adam has well observed, 'Mankind are perpetually at variance, by being all of one sect, namely, Selfists.'
10. But it is more especially lamentable that, notwithstanding man is more than sufficiently attended with real evils—yet the chief portion of his misery arises from the merest trifles. Hence we see many people pretty composed under circumstances of what may be considered positive trouble —as the loss of friends, for instance—but perfectly frantic at a misplaced word, or an opposing look. Many have endured the death of a wife, a husband, a parent, or a child—far better than a slight contradiction. These facts bear out an observation of Mr. Adam, 'The generality of mankind create to themselves a thousand needless anxieties!'
11. There is, if I may so speak, an active and a passive disquietude: the former is easily excited with every common incident, while the latter inwardly and silently broods over the dark side of things: the former is instantly touched at every real or imaginary provocation; the latter is a depression of the spirits, very susceptible of grief—but not equally free to express it. Then again, there is the undeniable fact, as remarked by the above deep-thinking writer, 'Never a day passes but the devil offers his service!' Unfortunately he well understands our vulnerable part, and possesses sufficient subtlety to entrap the unwary.
12. The ladies have read, in misleading authors, that 'smiles and tears are the irresistible weapons with which nature has furnished the weak for conquering the strong:' therefore it can be no wonder that some of them fly to this cheap and ready artillery, instead of laboring to furnish themselves with a reasonable mind, an equable temper, and a meek and quiet spirit. A woman who has recourse to tears as often as her will is frustrated, is but an unenviable companion: and in general she is selfish enough to seek her own will, without the honesty to contribute her due quota to the happiness of others.
13. Now if a proper temper is of any importance in the estimate of men, methinks every sensible person will gladly regard any remedy for its cure, and readily embrace any suitable advice for its better regulation. Philosophy can do much, as I have before intimated; and people, who are no philosophers in the strict sense, may accomplish much by the due exercise of reflection, and positive efforts of the mind. But they, who are endued with wisdom and grace from above, possess a decided advantage over others. They find their only remedy in, and derive their only supports from experimental religion.
Chapter 2.Study Human Nature in General, and Your Own Heart in Particular.
1. Say not that this is irrelevant, or foreign to the subject: here, indeed, is the source of the evil, 'Nothing is more unknown to man, than himself!' "Know yourself!" was a saying of Solon, which was thought worthy to be inscribed in gold on the front of the most renowned temple of Apollo, and is respected to this day by all wise men. Even Paul asked, "Know you not your own selves?" Self-knowledge is so important a science, that the excellent Mason thought it worthy to embrace a volume by itself—a work deserving much more than a common reading.
There can, in fact, be no proper self-government, without self-knowledge. Whoever, therefore, sincerely wishes to improve and regulate his temper, will do well to study, as a primary principle, his own temper and nature, and its peculiar bias or failing. He may, by the light of nature, come to the conclusion, as many heathen have, that man is greatly lapsed from his original constitution; but I must remind him that he can know nothing certainly and perfectly, any more than the heathen, except by the effectual teaching of the Holy Spirit, whose office and prerogative it is to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Common reason tells us that theft and lying, intemperance, and angry passions, and violence and murder—are evils flowing from our nature; but it is by a far higher light than the best human reason, that we come to confess with Paul— "the law is spiritual—but I am carnal."
2. I apprehend that few comparatively, even among Christian professors, really and seriously study human nature with any adequate attention. They read the scriptures and hear sermons, and listlessly fall in with common opinions without question or investigation, and tenaciously hold, it may be, the common errors about human capacity, dignity, clemency, etc. shudder at reports of the flagrant outbreaking of sin, and seem to wonder that men will do or even can do such abominable wickedness—regarding such extreme acts as contingent excrescences, rather than as the natural fruit of the old stock, which all the branches, more or less, bear. In fact they lose sight of those strong and positive declarations of God, that all flesh has corrupted its way; that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, so that none can fully know it; seeming to forget, too, that human nature is precisely and essentially the same in all, that all are prone to the same excesses, and have, in their pristine constitution, the seeds of the same iniquity.
4. A sensible writer in the Guardian, who, I apprehend, had little proper knowledge of religion, expresses himself as follows: 'I must confess there is something in the changeableness and inconstancy of human nature, that very often both dejects and terrifies me. Whatever I am at present, I tremble to think what I may be. While I find this principle in me, how can I assure myself that I shall be always true to my God, my friend, or myself?' No man indeed knows what he is capable of—if left to himself and the will of Satan. The Christian's antidote against such painful apprehensions, is in his assured hope and reliance in Him who has overcome the wicked one, and has pledged his word that he will preserve his people to the end.
5. Another elegant writer remarks, 'Would a man know himself, he must study his natural temper, his constitutional inclinations, and favorite passions; for by these a man's judgment is easily perverted, and a wrong bias hung upon his mind. These are the inlets of prejudice, the unguarded avenues of the mind, by which a thousand errors and secret faults find admission, without being observed or taken notice of."
6. I have already treated largely on the diversity of tempers; and it answers to reason that, without some attentive regard to one's own peculiar turn of mind, bias, or failing—we can never cultivate temper with any adequate success. He who is naturally warm, sanguine, or hasty, should be particularly on his guard under all circumstances. This special regard to our peculiar temper demands priority of attention to all other studies. To this effect a grave writer says, 'Include yourself, O my soul, within the compass of your own heart; if it be not large it is deep, and you will there find exercise enough. Concern not yourself with the wars and quarrels of public or private people. Take cognizance of those contests which are between your flesh and your spirit; between the law of your members and that of your understanding. Appease those differences. Teach your flesh to be in subjection, replace reason on its throne, and let piety be its Counselor. Tame your passions, and bring them under bondage. Put your little state in good order; govern wisely and holily those numerous tempers which are contained in so little a kingdom; that is to say, that multitude of affections, thoughts, opinions, and passions, which are in your heart.'
7. Dr. Evans, with great propriety commences his volume of sermons on the Christian temper with this text—'You know not what manner of spirit you are of.' The following are a few of his remarks: 'The design of Christianity is to rectify the inward temper of our souls, and to produce a change in our conversations. All the doctrines of it are revealed with this practical view, as well as the precepts, the promises, and the threatenings, which directly carry that aspect. Though we should have the clearest notions of truth, and should seem to be most fully persuaded of the divine original and authority of the gospel; yet, if our faith be a mere speculation in the head, without making us partakers of the divine nature, it will neither be honorable to God, nor advantageous to ourselves. It is therefore a matter of the great consequence to us all, to reveal whether we are formed to the Christian temper.
8. 'What spirit are we eminently of, by natural temper? Nothing is more obvious than the vast difference of tempers among mankind; and that not only arising from difference of education and of external impressions, which, without doubt, make no small change in the dispositions of men: nor yet owing merely to long habits and customs of vice on the one hand, or the peculiar grace of God on the other; which certainly make the greatest distinctions between man and man; but also a difference founded in natural constitution. We may see this in childhood, before the mind is molded by instruction, or example, or a course of practice; and on the contrary, it is hardly ever extinguished in riper years. Besides the general corruption of nature, apparent in some instance or other in all; some from the very first dawnings of reason reveal more than others, either a sour and ragged disposition, or a hastiness of temper, or some such disagreeable bias, which grows up with them to men. And though this may be considerably abated by a good education, and especially is much rectified by the grace of God in good men; yet, where it is the constitutional bent, it usually finds people more work for care and watchfulness all their days, than it does to others. If we turn our view the other way, there is early visible in some, an easiness and gentleness of disposition, an inclination to humanity and tenderness, or the like engaging turn of mind.
9. 'Now in this sense, it would be the wisdom of every man to know what spirit he is of, to study his own temper, which way that most naturally and readily carries him. For according to the tendencies of our constitution, if we carefully observe them, we may discover what temptations, in the ordinary course of life, need most to be provided against, and in what way we are most likely to be useful. Those sins most easily beset men, and are hardest to be overcome—which have constitution strongly on their side: a man may justly esteem them to be eminently his own iniquity. And as every sort of natural temper has its particular disadvantages and dangers, so no sort is without some advantages, which, if carefully attended to and improved, may contribute to our serviceableness in life.
Those of a sanguine make, are more exposed to the temptations of levity and sensuality, and therefore have most occasion to be more on their guard; but then they are better prepared for a cheerful activity in doing good, if they be right set. The heavy and phlegmatic, as they are more prone to indulge sloth and idleness, so, if they get over this temptation, they can with greater ease bear close and long application, than those of more quick and active spirits. The dark and the melancholy temper lays men open to unreasonable fears and despondencies, to malice and censoriousness, if the devil and a corrupt heart have the government of it; but under the direction of grace, it gives men a peculiar advantage for seriousness. The sweet and gentle disposition, as it exposes to more hazard from the impressions of ill company and seducing sinners, so it gives a truly good man no small advantage above his neighbors, as a commendatory ornament of religion to those with whom he converses. The knowledge, then, of our own spirits in this respect, as to the predominant natural temper to which the body disposes, is well worth our cultivating.'
10. I cannot dismiss this section without reminding parents that a great responsibility devolves on them. I seriously believe the ruin of many tempers may be justly charged to the undue severity, or the false tenderness, or the total negligence of parents! We shall do well to remember—
If good we plant not, vice will fill the mind,
And weeds take up the space for flow'rs designed:
Those very passions that our peace invade,
If rightly governed, blessings may be made.
Chapter 3.Let Regard Be Paid to Temper in All Methods of Education
1. I have already pointed out some defects of parents in the preliminary management of children, thereby rendering them very intractable subjects for the tutor or schoolmaster. But even if they were faultless, and their children entered school in ever so orderly a manner, there is still a risk by reason of the unfitness of many teachers, and the disorders of many schools and academies. Hence, many respectable parents, with a proper sense of the importance of education, have found it difficult to fix upon a school; and to avoid risk, have engaged a private tutor or governess. And even this measure has not always answered expectation, by reason either of the inexperience of such teachers, or the imprudent interference of the parents with their due authority.
2. It requires no ordinary wisdom and patience to become the teachers and guides of youth; and considering the incessant crossings to which such people are liable from the great variety of dispositions in their pupils, I can make every reasonable allowance. It is generally admitted that the more ignorant the teacher, the more impatient and austere is his conduct. And if he assumes the office rather for subsistence, than from a ruling predilection for training the young, his temper will sufficiently evince that his heart is not in the work.
3. Some, who assume the important office of teaching, are extremely unfit for the task; and, indeed, they are likely to be so, if they assume it chiefly for the conceit of 'taking pupils:' so cross, so short, so reserved, they goad and cow their pupils, however diligent or willing. Instead of encouraging and leading them by a reasonable help, they confuse and impede them with an overbearing and intemperate warmth; the effect of which can hardly fail to be very pernicious.
4. It will be acknowledged by all that there is a great diversity in the tempers of boys. Some are so incorrigibly idle and froward that they must be continually coerced, which must be very disagreeable to a right tempered master. But others are quite of a different disposition, and will do anything for a little commendation—but nothing with severity. Hence the necessity of a master's understanding and, in a fair degree, humoring the temper of his pupil.
6. To bestow praises without some degree of merit would be injudicious, not to say disingenuous; but where a master perceives that a boy is actually aiming and doing his very best to give satisfaction, he might safely enough commend his endeavors though not his performances. This would inspirit him to still greater diligence.
7. To return: The smallness of salary is the avowed reason with many young clergymen for taking pupils. The reason is plausible, though it implies no fitness. The inadequacy of salary is to be regretted, as well for the sake of our pastoral charge as for the positive inexperience of many who turn pedagogues. A young man, newly come from the drudging pursuits of college, who perhaps never composed a sermon in his life, and whose whole time and attention should now be occupied in the proper object of his sacred calling, may be competent enough to teach the classics; but, in general, a person so young and so circumstanced is ill-adapted for an office, which, it must be confessed, requires some knowledge of the world, of human nature, and human sympathies—which knowledge, I conceive, cannot be attained, in any adequate degree, before the age of thirty: nor even so early without actual experience in the associations common to life. Indeed, no man can properly tell what temper he is of, until tried in such a way as comes in direct contra-position to his own peculiar bias.
8. Many have injured their tempers by such constrained undertaking of tuition, and greatly defeated their usefulness as ministers. It would be easy to adduce cases in point. The following comes opportunely to hand, which, having run the gauntlet of the papers, (for Feb. 1835.) it can be no exposure to insert here, dropping the names:
'Dr.___, who keeps a school in Chelsea, was, on Friday, fined forty shillings, for chastising one of his pupils with unjustifiable severity. Having broken one stick, he used another, and was nearly three quarters of an hour in administering the punishment.'
9. If impatience and angry passions are found among men of education, and who, for the most part, have moved in respectable society—we may be assured the same evils are not less prevalent among inferior schoolmasters: there are, however, wise and excellent men in all classes of teachers.
10. I could instance teachers of the fine arts, who are as unfine as need be in their tempers. A short time ago a music-master was giving lessons to a young lady—not of the slowest capacity; but oh! his fine ear was so grated that he actually knocked Miss Betsy off the stool!
Mr. S___ is a dancing-master; and his poor temper dances to double quick time when the young tyroes make the slightest fault in the step, or omit but the fraction of the proper attitude. Miss Caroline was so teased one day about her heels and toes, shoulders and elbows, that she positively fainted, and requested of mamma that she might have no more dancing lessons.
11. The memoir of the venerable Scott, by his late son, is a work that will ever be read with profit by all Christian ministers and tutors. He was not more remarkable for his readiness to acknowledge a fault, even to his inferiors, than for his prompt and sincere expressions as to his conceived unfitness for tuition. After some experience, and feeling a disinclination to devote himself in that way, he says, 'I became convinced that I did not possess that patience, meekness, and self-command, which the instruction of youth, especially of indulged children, requires.' Yet, in after life, few men were more useful than he in this employment. We see him plodding at an advanced age in different foreign languages; in some instances going hand in hand, as it were, with the students who were designed for the missionary work, and showing no symptoms whatever of unreasonable impatience. This, in addition to uncommon assiduity as an author—particularly as a commentator—speaks much for his patient endurance, and unwearied diligence: for which, indeed, he has been aptly compared to the ox.
12. Captain James Scott, in his 'Recollections,' speaks in high commendation of the late Dr. Ingles, headmaster of the free grammar school which he attended: 'He was a strict disciplinarian, and one who never lost his temper. His favorite motto was, lenity with vigilance.
13. On the main question of education I prefer to adduce the sentiments of others. Mason writes, 'It has often occurred to my mind, what a pity it is that this most useful science (regulation of temper) should be so generally neglected in the modern methods of education; and that preceptors and tutors, both in public and private seminaries of learning, should forget that the forming the manners is more necessary to a finished education than furnishing the minds of youth.
14. Socrates, who made all his philosophy subservient to morality, was of the same sentiment: and took more pains to rectify the tempers—than replenish the understandings of his pupils; and looked upon all knowledge as useless speculation which was not brought to this end, to make us wiser and better men. And, without doubt, if in the academy the youth has once happily learned the great art of managing his temper, governing his passions, and guarding his foibles—he will find a more solid advantage from it in after life, than he could expect from the best acquaintance with all the systems of ancient and modern philosophy.
15. Dr. Fuller, in his Rule of Life, observes—'The pains we take in books or arts, which treat of things remote from the use of life, is but a busy idleness.' And what is there in life which youth will have more frequent occasion to practice, which they will afterwards more regret the lack of, and in which they need more direction and assistance, than the right government of their passions and prejudices?
16. Solon, the wise legislator of Athens, gave strict laws for the reformation and proper conduct of all classes in the state. He would neither allow the pertness of youth, nor the impertinence of adults. Among other things, it was forbidden to affront or give ill language to anybody in the temples, in courts of judicature, in public assemblies, and in the theaters, during the time of representation.
17. Lycurgus, the celebrated lawgiver of Sparta, has been compared to Solon. He established a severer discipline than ever prevailed in any other state in the world; and while I regard some of his regulations as needlessly rigorous and contrary to nature, I must commend those which relate to the mental training of youth, and the great respect which they were required to show to their parents, guardians, and superiors in years.
18. Mr. Birchall, an eminent schoolmaster of Manchester, has the following judicious remarks in his small Task Book: 'The government of the passions is as necessary to the future happiness of youth, as are the rudiments of science to their future improvement. A youth may, perhaps, in his own family indulge his passions; but when he comes abroad, society will no more submit to his caprices and whims, than the elements will yield to his wishes. Early restraint is therefore an important duty, which parents owe to their children.'
Chapter 4.Cultivate a Habit of Self-restraint
'Curb your soul,
And check your rage, which must be ruled—or rule.'
1. Man, as a moral agent, is capable of mental as well as bodily effort, and has power over his own actions, to do or leave undone many things. No necessity is laid upon him to swear, or strike, or rage; and although his propensity is to err—it is his privilege to exercise reason. Dr. Watts' lines for children were not designed to be forgotten on attaining man's estate:
Let dogs delight to bark and bite,
For God has made them so;
Let bears and lions growl and fight,
For 'tis their nature too.
But children you should never let
Such angry passions rise,
Your little hands were never made
To tear each other's eyes!
Human nature is brutalized by sin; but man is pre-eminently distinguished from the brute by the endowment of an understanding and a conscience. The latter convicts him of wrong from right, while the former serves as a guide to his volitions and actings. If then he follows the depraved incitements of his nature, he at once merges into an equality with the irrational animal, instead of acting upon the suggestion of his better judgment. Self-restraint then is absolutely indispensable in the management of our tempers.
2. The example of Mr. Adam is worthy to be recorded and imitated. A clergyman who resided in his family for more than six years, and had the opportunity of seeing him at all times and in a variety of circumstances, writes thus, 'I do not recollect ever to have seen his temper ruffled above once or twice in all the time that I lived with him. When anything happened of a trying or provoking kind, he used to turn upon his heel, and say nothing until he had thought it over, and examined whether there was indeed a just cause for anger or not. But this conquest of himself was not attained but by hard conflicts, and in the exercise of much labor, watchfulness and prayer. He was forced to dispute his ground inch by inch, and would often say—-If ever grace was planted on a crabstock, it was surely in me!'
3. I retain a lively recollection of the sweating days when I hacked at Latin and Greek at school. My stupidity was of the first order; and, thanks to providence, my tutor's patience was of the first order, for the like of it I have seldom seen. He was naturally of a quick temper; but I have often seen him, when quite wound up by one or other of us, rise from his chair and pace to and fro, until he regained his fortitude. Sometimes he would walk into the garden, or retire into another room "for a little moment," and by such acts of self-restraint he evidently recovered his self-possession.
I should think this process of examination would be a means of greatly allaying the anger—cause or no cause; for the feeling of anger must precede the effort to restrain it.
4. The venerable John Newton, of Olney, was naturally of a warm temperament; but by the influence of divine grace which was signally developed in him, and by the constant exercise of prayer and watching, he was enabled to maintain that uniform and admirable equanimity of temper by which he was distinguished.
5. Gilly, in his life of the distinguished and laborious Neff, writes, 'His temper, naturally violent and unbending, was completely subdued.'
6. The life of General Burn is a fine and interesting exhibition of the power of divine grace subduing the frowardness of the natural temper, and rendering him a truly patient and amiable character.
7. Addison writes of Lord Somers as follows—'One of the greatest souls now in the world is the most subject by nature to anger—and yet so famous for a conquest of himself this way that he is the known example when you talk of temper and command of a man's self. To contain the spirit of anger is the worthiest discipline we can put ourselves to. When a man has made any progress this way, a frivolous fellow in a passion is to him as contemptible as a froward child. It ought to be the study of every man for his own quiet and peace. When he stands combustible and ready to flame upon everything that touches him, life is as unpleasant to himself as it is to all about him.
8. The renowned Cyrus, king of Persia, is worthy to be revered as much for the excellencies of his character, as for the grandeur of his exploits. He was possessed of all the qualities requisite to form a great man; wisdom, moderation, courage, magnanimity, noble sentiments, a wonderful ability in managing men's tempers, and gaining their affections. He appeared the same, that is, always great, even in the slightest matters. Being assured of his greatness, of which real merit was the foundation and support, he thought of nothing more than to render himself affable and easy of access: and whatever he seemed to lose by this condescending, humble demeanor, was abundantly compensated by the cordial affection and sincere respect it procured him from his people.
Cyrus was beloved, because he himself had a love for others: for has a man any friends, or does he deserve to have any, when he himself is void of friendship? Nothing is more interesting than to see in Xenophon the manner in which Cyrus lived and conversed with his friends, always preserving as much dignity as was requisite to keep up a due decorum—and yet infinitely removed from that ill-judged haughtiness which deprives the great of the most innocent and agreeable pleasure in life, that of conversing freely and sociably with people of merit, though of an inferior station.
Cicero observes that daring the whole time of Cyrus's government, he was never heard to speak one rough or angry word. What a great encomium for a prince is comprehended in that short sentence. Cyrus must have been a very great master of himself, to be able, in the midst of so much agitation, and in spite of all the intoxicating effects of sovereign power, always to preserve his mind in such a state of calmness and composure, as that no crosses, disappointments or unforeseen accidents should ever ruffle its tranquility, or provoke him to utter any rash or offensive expression.
9. Mrs. Hannah More was in her natural temper ardent and rather impatient; but sensible that such a disposition, however favorable to genius, could neither accomplish great things nor direct slower understandings without self-command, she made it her first object to bring her passions under the control of reason and the constant exercise of judgment. The wisdom of this early restraint was subsequently proved under the severe exercises of temper to which she was called. In her laudable endeavors to reform and instruct the youth in the neglected parishes around her, she was painfully tried, and that from quarters whence she least expected.
12. Many discreet people have tried various methods of self-restraint. Some have made it a rule to walk aside, others to keep quite silent. Both plans are good in proportion as they succeed; but they are of little avail in those domestic circles where the querulous only take advantage to be more aggravating as they are evaded or disregarded.
13. I have read of an extraordinary practice which prevails among the superior class of Hindus, and which might perhaps be advantageously imitated in more civilized communities. They have in their houses an apartment called 'the chamber of anger,' in which any member of the family, who happens to be out of temper, shuts himself up until solitude has medicined his rage.
14. Seneca says, 'By calm looks, soft and slow speech, an easy and deliberate march, we may little by little, bring our thoughts into a sober conformity with our actions. Plato was about to strike his servant, and while his hand was lifted up, he checked himself, still holding it in that menacing posture. A friend who stood by, asked him what he meant. I am now (says Plato) punishing an angry man: so that he had left his servant, and chastised himself.
15. I might instance the modes of self-restraint said to have been practiced by Caesar and others. It is probable, however, that too much importance has been attached to the peculiarities of some of the ancient sages; yet they merit no small regard as moral lessons. The following axioms are in Jefferson's Rules of Life: 'Take things always by their smooth handle. When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.'
16. In the laws of Solon it was considered that 'to be not able to govern our passions and resentments, argues too intractable and licentious a disposition; as, on the other hand, to restrain them at all times, and upon all occasions, is a virtue beyond the strength of mere human nature, and a perfection reserved for the evangelical law.'
I do not clearly perceive whether the last expression be Solon's or Rollin's: if the former, I must confess it is remarkable, as it shows that even heathens felt the insufficiency of human agency in the proper management of temper. But whether it were Solon's or not, both Socrates and Seneca have sentences equally striking.
17. In treating of the restraint of temper, I do not mean that which is imposed or coerced by laws or threatenings, or any superior power; nor that which may be exercised from a mere sense of decency or respect; but that self-imposed control which is the result of sober reflection, and the free act of the will. Even little children will far sooner acquire a proper habitude of temper, if pleasantly encouraged and reasoned with, than by cold lectures, or the terrors of the rod.
Chapter 5.Avoid All Circumstances Which Most Easily Excite Your Temper
Avoid the principal causes: medicine comes too late, when the malady by long delays has gained strength.
1. All circumstances have not the like effect on all tempers, neither is temper always affected in the same degree with the same temptation. Yet there are peculiar circumstances and associations connected, more or less, with everyone, which more particularly excite the constitutional weakness. Everyone must be the best judge of his own case.
2. Mason judiciously advises, 'Especially you must attend to the occasions which most usually betray you into your favorite vices; and consider the spring from whence they arise, and the circumstances which most favor them. They arise doubtless from your natural temper, which strongly disposes and inclines you to them. That temper then, or particular turn of desire, must be carefully watched over as a most dangerous quarter; and the opportunities and circumstances which favor those inclinations must be resolutely avoided as the strongest temptations! For the way to subdue a criminal inclination is, first to avoid the known causes that excite; and then to curb the first motions of it. And thus, having no opportunity of being indulged, it will of itself in time lose its force, and fail of its usual victory.'
3. A higher authority says, "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man you shall not go: lest you learn his ways, and get a snare to your soul." Proverbs 22:24. A man that knows himself will be aware of his remote temptations as well as the more immediate ones. The petition in the Lord's prayer makes it as much a man's duty to be upon his guard against temptation, as under it. Nor can a man pray from his heart that God would not lead him into temptation, if he takes no care himself to avoid it.
4. Cecil's Remains is a work replete with excellent advice to all religious professors, and particularly to ministers. He thus admonishes us concerning our fellowship with the irreligious and refractory, 'Let them see that you have some secret in possession, which keeps you quiet, humble, patient, holy, meek, and affectionate, in a turbulent and passionate world.'
The following remarks are equally good, 'If a man has a quarrelsome temper, let him alone. The world will soon find him employment. He will soon meet with some one stronger than himself, who will repay him better than you can. A man may fight duels all his life, if he is disposed to quarrel.'
Again, 'Neither talents nor truth will apologize for pride, illiberality, or bitterness. Avoid therefore, irritating occasions and people, and particularly disputes and disputants, by which a minister often loses his temper and his character.'
5. Many ill-natured people will tease and aggravate others by speaking certain words, or referring to certain circumstances which they know will wound; this they do purposely, and with no other view than that base one of irritating. Others are habitually of a recriminating temper, and make it their study to torment all about them: all such characters ought to be shunned as the pests of society. The apostle has truly said, "Evil communications corrupt good manners." Then let those communications be avoided, that the manners, words, thoughts and tempers, be not corrupted.
Chapter 6.Study Equanimity of Temper
1. This is a very desirable quality; and, like others, it is not to be attained without some degree of attention. It was a noble frame of mind that led the apostle to say, in a season of great trials, 'None of these things move me.' In a world so changeable as this, it is a great advantage to possess a mind so fortified as not to feel any material alteration or painful sensation under sudden occurrences. This equanimity mainly results from a proper exercise of the thoughts.
2. 'The right government of the thoughts requires no small art, vigilance, and resolution. But it is a matter of such vast importance to the peace and improvement of the mind—that it is worth while to be at some pains about it. A man who has so numerous and turbulent a family to govern as his own thoughts, which are too apt to be at the command of his passions and appetites, ought not to be long from home! If he is—they will soon grow mutinous and disorderly, under the conduct of those two head-strong guides, and raise great clamors and disturbances on the slightest occasions. A more dreadful scene of misery can hardly be imagined, than that which is occasioned by such a tumult and uproar within, when a raging conscience or inflamed passions are let loose, without check or control.
3. 'This evening, after a little ease from the raging pain caused by so small an organ as an aching tooth (under which I have behaved so ill as to break two pipes and my spectacles) I began to reflect with admiration on those heroic spirits, which, in the conduct of their lives, seem to live so much above the condition of our nature, as not only, under the agonies of pain to forbear any intemperate word or gesture—but also in their general and ordinary behavior, to resist the impulses of their very blood and constitution. This watch over a man's self, and the command of his temper—I take to be the greatest of human perfections, and is the effect of a strong and resolute mind. It is not only the most expedient practice for carrying on our own designs; but is also very deservedly the most amiable quality in the sight of others. It is a winning deference to mankind, which creates an immediate imitation of itself wherever it appears; and prevails upon all, who have to do with a person endued with it, either through shame or emulation. I do not know how to express this habit of mind, except you will let me call it equanimity. It is a virtue which is necessary at every hour, in every place, and in all conversations; and it is the effect of a regular and exact prudence.'
4. 'Aristaus' is, in my opinion, a perfect master of himself in all circumstances. He has all the spirit that man can have; and yet is as regular in his behavior as a mere machine. He is sensible of every passion—but ruffled by none. In conversation he frequently seems to be less knowing to be more obliging, and chooses to be on a level with others rather than oppress with the superiority of his genius; in friendship he is kind, without selfishness; in business he is expeditious, without ostentation. With the greatest softness and benevolence imaginable, he is impartial in spite of all importunity, even that of his own good nature. He is ever clear in his judgment; but, in obligingness to his company, speaks with doubt: but never shows confidence in argument but to support the sense of another. Were such an equanimity of mind the general endeavor of all men, how great would be the pleasures of conversation!'
5. It was an excellent rule which a wise hear then prescribed to himself, in his private meditations: 'Manage all your thoughts and actions in such a manner as if you were just going out of the world. A man is seldom, if ever, unhappy for not knowing the thoughts of others; but he who does not attend to the motions of his own thoughts is certainly miserable.'
'Let us not anticipate evils: what cannot be avoided should be borne with fortitude, or at least with equanimity.'
7. Sir Isaac Newton's temper, it is said, was so equal and mild, that no accident could disturb it; a remarkable instance of which is related as follows: Sir Isaac had a favorite little dog, called Diamond. Being one evening called out of his study into the next room, Diamond was left behind. When Sir Isaac returned, after the absence of only a few minutes, he had the mortification to find that Diamond had upset a lighted candle among some papers (the nearly finished labor of many years) and almost consumed them to ashes. This loss, as Sir Isaac was then advanced in years, was irretrievable; yet without once striking the dog, he only rebuked him with this exclamation— 'O Diamond! Diamond! you little know the mischief you have done!' What a contrast is here to those brittle spirits that fire at every trifle, and execute vengeance without a moment's pause!
8. Equanimity will show itself in the meekness of our deportment. It was by the due exercise of this grace, that Moses was enabled to lead onward through the wilderness that great and restless army of the Israelites: hence, he is renowned as "the meekest man." The scripture testimony is, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." "Meekness repairs the mischiefs done by anger; and instead of the bloody spear, sends the olive branch of peace."
9. Mrs. More has some remarks on this subject, which I deem too valuable to be omitted: 'Meekness is imperfect if it is not both active and passive; if it will not enable us to subdue our own passions and resentments, as well as qualify us to bear patiently the passions and resentments of others. A meek spirit will not look out of itself for happiness, because it finds a constant banquet at home; yet by a sort of divine alchemy it will convert all external events to its own profit, and be able to deduce some good, even from the most unpromising: it will extract comfort and satisfaction from the most barren circumstances; it will suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.'
10. It will not be difficult to distinguish true from artificial meekness. The former is universal and habitual; the latter is local and temporary. Every young female may keep this rule by her, to enable her to form a just judgment of her own temper; if she is not as gentle to her chambermaid as she is to her visitor—she may rest satisfied that the spirit of gentleness is not in her. Who would not be shocked and disappointed to behold a well-bred young lady, soft and engaging as the doves of Venus, displaying a thousand graces and attractions to win the hearts of a large company; and the instant they are gone, to see her look mad as enraged tiger, and all the frightened graces driven from her furious countenance, only because her gown was brought home a quarter of an hour later than she expected, or her ribbon sent half a shade lighter or darker than she ordered?
A very overbearing woman, if she happens also to be a very artful one, will be conscious she has so much to conceal, that the dread of betraying her real temper will make her put on an over-acted softness, which, from its very excess, may be distinguished from the natural by a penetrating eye.
11. 'Among the various artifices of staged meekness, one of the most frequent and most plausible is that of affecting to be always equally delighted with all people and all characters. The society of these languid beings is without confidence, their friendship without attachment, and their love without affection or even preference. This insipid mode of conduct may be safe—but I cannot think it has either taste, sense, or principle in it.
12. 'A passionate woman's happiness is never in her own keeping: it is the sport and the slave of events. It is in the power of her acquaintances, her servants, but chiefly of her enemies—and all her comforts lie at the mercy of others. So far from being willing to learn of Him who was meek and lowly, she considers meekness and lowliness—as a despicable and vulgar baseness. And an imperious woman will so little covet the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, that it is almost the only ornament she will not be solicitous to wear.'
13. Equanimity shows itself likewise in the constancy of the mind. We have many striking instances of this in the sacred volume. Abraham, Moses, Job, David, and Daniel, and the apostles and martyrs, evinced a noble constancy. But even in the ordinary trials of life this constancy of mind is highly needful, to preserve us from the spirit of complaining, and to make us resigned and cheerful.
14. Thomas a Kempis has an appropriate passage, which I am unwilling to withhold: "Do not, my son, depend upon any present disposition of mind, with which you feel yourself affected; for this is fickle, and of short duration. Variety and change is what men must be subject to, so long as they carry the frailties of flesh and blood about them; and all their endeavors cannot so fix their hearts as to keep them constantly the same. Sometimes they find themselves disposed to mirth, sometimes to melancholy; now they are even and serene, by and by all over disorder and confusion. But the truly wise man, who is actuated by the spirit of God, gets above this changeable region of the lower world. He does not allow himself to be carried about with every blast and impulse of inconstancy—but settles on the basis of the one excellent end."
Chapter 7.Study to Keep Cool and Collected
1. Some people take fire in an instant, like powder—and speak or strike in a fury! Unprepared for any emergency, they are quite in a flutter, and in haste to revenge; and often feel so hot for the moment, that they would willingly murder the offending party. What cutting, bitter things have been spoken in such heats—things that have caused painful regret at leisure. What rashness has been committed at such times: fury has burst forth like lightning, and death has followed in its train. Like nervous horses, they plunge, and tear, and foam, without a moment's consideration.
2. The bad effect of such hasty passion is well shown in the fable of the farmer and his dog: He went into his field to mend a gap, leaving his child asleep in the cradle. On his return he found the cradle upside down, the clothes all bloody, and his dog in the same place, besmeared with blood. Convinced by the sight that the dog had destroyed the child, he instantly dashed out its brains with his hatchet: then turning up the cradle, he found the child unhurt, and an enormous serpent lying dead on the floor, killed by that faithful dog which he had put to death in blind passion.
3. Herod, the tetrarch of Judea, had so little command over his passion, that upon every slight occasion his anger would transport him into absolute madness. In such a desperate fit he killed Josippus. Sometimes he would be sorry, and repent of the folly and injuries he had done when anger had clouded his understanding; yet soon after, he would commit the same outrages; so that none about him were sure of their lives for a moment.
4. Two gentlemen were riding together, one of whom, who was very choleric, happened to be mounted on a high-mettled horse. The animal becoming a little troublesome, the rider commenced whipping and spurring with great fury. The horse, almost as wrong-headed as his rider, returned his treatment with kicking and plunging. The companion, concerned for the danger, and ashamed for the folly of his friend, said to him coolly, "Be quiet, and show yourself the wiser creature of the two!"
6. "Let nothing," says one, "be done too suddenly or angrily: let us be men of thought." It was the habit of more than one holy man, not to give a reply to any important query before he had made a pause, and put up a silent prayer.
7. The Rev. Clark, of Frome, was a man of a remarkably cool and peaceful temper. He was one day asked by a friend—how he kept himself from being involved in quarrels? He answered, "by letting the angry person always have the quarrel to himself." If this maxim were followed it would be a vast saving of expense, and would conduce to the comfort and honor of thousands.
8. "One of the most distinguishing qualities of Socrates was a tranquility of soul, that no accident, no loss, no injury, no ill-treatment, could ever alter. Some have believed that he was by nature hasty and passionate, and that the moderation to which he had attained was the effect of his reflections, and of the efforts he had made to subdue and correct himself, which would still add to his merit. Seneca tells us that he had desired his friends to apprise him whenever they saw him ready to fall into a passion, and that he had given them that privilege over him, which he took himself with them.
Indeed, the best time to call in aid against a hot passion which has so violent and sudden a power over us, is when we are yet ourselves and in cool blood. At the first signal, or the least hint, he either softened his tone or was silent. Finding himself exasperated against a slave, "I would beat you, says he, if I were not angry." Having received a box on the ear, he contented himself with only saying, with a smile, "It is a misfortune not to know when to put on a helmet."
Without going out of his own house, he found enough to exercise his patience in all its extent. Xantippe, his wife, put it to the severest proofs, by her capricious, passionate, violent disposition. It seems that, before he took her for his companion, he was not ignorant of her character; and he says that he had expressly chosen her, from the conviction that, if he should be capable of bearing her insults, there would be nobody, though ever so difficult to endure, with whom he could not live. If this was the view with which he married her, it was certainly fully answered. Never was woman of so violent and fiery a spirit, and so bad a temper. There was no kind of abuse and injurious treatment which he had not to experience from her. She would sometimes be transported with such an excess of rage as to tear off his cloak in the open street; and even one day, after having vented all the reproaches her fury could suggest, she emptied a pot of foul water upon his head, at which he only laughed, and said, that so much thunder must need produce a shower. (This was an eccentric—but certainly not a wise act. It is at variance with the advice of those who have enjoined to avoid the causes of excitement, and it would be presumptuous to act upon it as a general rule. It serves, however, to exhibit Socrates as a man of great self-control.)
9. Coolness and recollection are of great use in all the business of life, in all public speaking and social conversation. A sensible writer has said, 'The wrath that on conviction subsides into mildness, is the wrath of a generous mind. He who sedulously attends, pointedly asks, calmly speaks, coolly answers, and ceases when he has no more to say—is in possession of some of the best qualities of man. He who seldom speaks, and with one calm, well-timed word, can strike dumb the loquacious, is a genius of great self-control.'
10. He who can maintain this cool and collected frame of mind will more easily wend his way through the world than his ordinary neighbors. Indeed, without a little bending and concession it is impossible to move onward amidst the interruptions common to life.
Luther relates a story, that, two goats meeting on a narrow plank over a deep river, it being impossible for them to pass side by side, one of them very prudently couched, allowing the other to pass over him, so that neither of them might be in danger of falling into the stream. Mr. Cecil characteristically remarks that, 'the goat that thus couched was a greater gentleman than Lord Chesterfield.' The moral is a memento to people of precipitate dispositions, who, by discreet self-restraint, and well-timed moderation, meekness and condescension, may prevent much inward and outward evil. I have frequently seen coolness and recollection exemplified to the life, in people of little pretension to serious religion: and while I have admired their exemplification of their gentleness of deportment, and the pleasantry of their spirits under great provocations, I have silently wished that myself, and other professors, might always evince equal discretion, coolness and patience.
11. The advice of old George Fox to his Christian brethren—making allowance for peculiarity of sentiment and expression—is deserving of attention: 'Therefore, all friends, keep cool and quiet in the power of the Lord God, and all that is contrary will be subjected. . . Be still and cool in your own mind and spirit from your own thoughts, and then you will feel the principle of God to turn your mind to the Spirit, from whom life comes, whereby you may receive his strength and power to allay all blusterings, storms and tempests.'
We have seen or read of mere worldly men, who have kept cool and collected amidst troubles and assaults—but the Christian believer has the best warranty to keep unmoved and undismayed.
Chapter 8.Cultivate a Habit of Reflection, Contentment and Resignation
1. Reflection distinguishes man from beast: without it life would be dull and monotonous to him as it is to the brute. The pleasures of friendship, of books, of retirement, would be unknown; creation with all its charms, providence with all its goodness, and revelation with all its wonders—would be a blank. Some indeed have but just enough of this quality to answer their bodily needs, nor seem to care for anything beyond; and even others, of higher advantages, fail greatly in the exercise of this faculty. They may possess learning and talents, without exemplifying their practical utility, and thus remain as low and inert as the most uncultivated. My object is not so much to treat on reflection in reference to its scope and capabilities, as to bring it to bear on actual life, in the development of such tempers as befit reasonable men.
2. I have already alluded to individuals, who, under great provocation, resolved on revenge—but, after a little cool reflection, desisted; and who, from this triumph of better judgment over their feelings, have derived greater satisfaction, and, perhaps, made a better impression on their opponents, than would otherwise have been the case.
3. Small indeed is the portion of that man's happiness—who depends only on the favorable aspect of external circumstances.
Dr. Johnson writes: 'Without asserting stoicism, it may be said, that it is our business to exempt ourselves as much as we can from the power of external things. There is but one solid basis of happiness; and that is, the reasonable hope of a happy futurity.' 'Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be!'
When are we happiest, then? Oh, when resigned
To Whatsoever our cup of life may brim;
When we can know ourselves but weak and blind,
Creatures of earth! and trust alone in Him
Who gives, in his mercy, joy or pain—
Oh! we are happiest then!'
—M. A. Brown.
4. David is very appropriate, and is to be regarded, as well for his deep experience as his genuine inspiration: "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes." Psalm 37:1-7
We may remark from the above:
1. That we need not worry our minds too much about the events of life
2. The causes and instruments of our trouble shall soon vanish away
3. We need not think of revenge, for those who trouble us shall soon be beaten with their own rod
4. We need not envy the prosperity of others, nor be discontented at our own poverty, for God will certainly provide for us
5. We shall do well to be quiet and rest satisfied with God's appointment
6. We should let patience have its perfect work
7. We should resign ourselves wholly to God and his providence;
8. We should endeavor to bear up meekly under all trials.
5. God said to Jonah, "Have you any right to be angry?" This question deserves our consideration; and we would do well ever to put it to ourselves whenever the spirit of anger may rise. On cool reflection, we must acknowledge the folly of anger, particularly for trifles; and by the due exercise of such reflection, life would be more tolerable, and our mistakes and griefs would be fewer. The Psalmist has another passage, on which we may reflect with profit, "Certainly, man walks about like a mere shadow. Indeed, they frantically rush around in vain, gathering possessions without knowing who will get them." Psalm 39:6. O let us reflect how short and chequered is human life, and learn to desist from teasing and tormenting ourselves with trifles that will soon have no existence at all.
6. Reflect, my reader, on the numberless blessings you enjoy, and do not imagine that you have nothing but troubles and misfortunes. We have all more than we deserve from that patient and gracious God, against whom we have so often and grievously sinned. Let us rather study to be content and thankful, and in all our troubles to resign ourselves under his mighty hand, and seek his strength. Reflect withal, that your present trouble is but for a moment; and if you are a Christian, there remains for you a rest, the very prospect of which should induce you to regard all your present crosses as perfectly insignificant.
7. If there is such a thing as Fortitude, cultivate it by all means: 'The fortitude of a man who brings his will to the obedience of his reason, is conspicuous, and carries with it a dignity in the lowest state imaginable.'
8. 'What can be more honorable than to have courage enough to execute the commands of reason and conscience in the station assigned us? to be armored against poverty, pain and death itself? I mean so far as not to do anything that is scandalous or sinful to avoid them. To stand adversity under all shapes—with decency and resolution —to do this is to be great above title and fortune.'
9. Closely allied to fortitude is Constancy. This is a quality of pre-eminent value; and consolidates, in a great measure, all others. Many can bear up, for a time, under the greatest trials; but they who can calmly remain steadfast and immoveable under successive crosses—with feelings properly susceptible, and the mind duly reflective—have attained a high cultivation of temper, and are freed, consequently, from many sorrows common to less tutored minds.
10. 'Constancy is natural to people of even tempers and uniform dispositions; and may be acquired by those of the greatest fickleness, violence and passion, who consider seriously the terms of union upon which they come together, the mutual interests in which they are engaged, with all the motives that ought to incite their tenderness and compassion towards those who have their dependence upon them, and are embarked with them for life. Constancy, when it grows in the mind, upon considerations of this nature, becomes a moral virtue, and a kind of good nature, that is not subject to any change of health, age, fortune, or any of those accidents, which are apt to unsettle the best dispositions, that are founded in constitution, rather than in reason. Where such a constancy as this is lacking, the most inflamed passions may fall away into coldness and indifference, and the most melting tenderness degenerate into hatred and aversion.'
11. Dr. Goldsmith's impetuosity of temper was sometimes great—but this was corrected by a moment's reflection.
12. A proper habit of reflection leads to many important advantages, which, in fact, could never properly accrue without it. Contentment obviously springs from reflection: otherwise it would be merely the inert frame of an irrational creature. Resignation to the divine will, under crosses and disappointments, implies reflection: otherwise it would only be the state of an inanimate thing, or of a necessarily quiescent being. Patient endurance is another result of reflection: otherwise it would be but the slavish submission of an impotent being, who is denied the choice of his own actions.
Yet a state of slavery or servitude, or subordinate state of any kind, does not necessarily imply an absence of reflection; for numerous instances might be produced, of contentment, resignation, and patience, in people under the most depressed circumstances. Hence though a slave may be compelled to submit to the yoke, he may, nevertheless, possess a mind so far superior to his condition, and of such a reflective turn, as to reason himself into patient resignation to his lot.
18. But there is a class of ill-natured people who regard reflection as a bugbear, and all sober advice on that head as mere cant. For the suitable amusement of such, methinks the revival of the ducking-stool is a desideratum. And for the benefit of those who may be ignorant of this ancient and capital custom, I will supply some information, by inserting the following letter and the reply:
"Sir—I am convinced by a late paper of yours, that a passionate scolding woman like myself, is one of the most unbearable creatures in the world. But, alas! sir, what can we do? I have made a thousand vows and resolutions every morning, to guard myself against this frailty; but have generally broken them before dinner, and could never in my life hold out until the second course was set upon the table. What most troubles me is, that my husband is as patient and good-natured as any man living can be. Pray give me some directions, for I would observe the strictest and severest rules you can think of to cure myself of this distemper, which is apt to fall into my tongue every moment!"
Addison replies, "In answer to this most unfortunate lady, I must acquaint her, that there is now in town an ingenious physician of my acquaintance, who undertakes to cure all the vices and defects of the mind, by inward medicines or outward applications. I shall give the world an account of his patients and his cures in other papers, when I shall be more at leisure to treat upon this subject. I shall only here inform my correspondent, that, for the benefit of such ladies as are troubled with virulent tongues, he has prepared a cold bath, over which there is fastened, at the end of a long pole, a very convenient chair. When the patient is seated in this chair, the doctor lifts up the pole, and gives her two or three total immersions in the cold bath, until such time as she has quite lost the use of speech. This operation so effectually chills the tongue and refrigerates the blood, that a woman, who at her entrance into the chair is extremely passionate and angry, will come out as silent and gentle as a lamb. The doctor told me he would not practice this experiment upon women of fashion, had he not seen it made upon those of meaner condition with very good effect!"
16. There should at all events, methinks, be a pen in every convenient place, (even as there are pens for brutes that go astray,) in which all such shrews should be placed until the furious fit is over. I believe a very few trials would suffice to tame such hot-headed creatures. I do not see why the peaceful ones should be constantly subjected to pains and penalties, while these perpetual disturbers go free.
18. Let us reflect, who and what are we? Why all this self-importance, this rage and imperiousness? and what cause for it? Are not others of the same flesh and blood? Is it just, or fitting, or creditable, to exercise such lordly and revolting tempers— such domineering consequence? Does it conduce to our welfare, or the welfare of others? And will people of such irregular tempers esteem themselves to be good or godly? or can they persuade themselves that such angry and vindictive feelings and conduct are not offensive in the sight of God? or that they can enter with such unholy dispositions into the eternal state of peace, love, and glory? Let us act then as reasonable and reflecting men. Let considerations govern us.
'Death is an awful consideration with me,' said the excellent Mr. Cecil. Did people reflect upon the true end of their being, or did they act upon the golden principle of doing and saying to others just such things as they would have them do and say to themselves, it would go far to reform the whole world.
Chapter 9.Study the Proper Government of the TONGUE
1. Next to reflection, the faculty of speech is God's best gift to man: for of what practical use would be the former, without the latter? and vice versa. The organs of speech are as remarkable for their utility as they are wonderful in construction. Speech is of vast compass for good or evil. If used aright, it is an ornament indeed; but if otherwise, it is rather a curse than a blessing, and occasions every imaginable evil. Hence, both the sacred writings, and those of good and wise men, abound with directions and injunctions for the proper government of the tongue.
2. What a babel world is this! Could a man elevate himself above any town or city, and hear at once all the talk of the inhabitants—what a babbling, grumbling, and confused din it would be! What a theater, then, is the world at large, and what an admonitory consideration, that the great God hears all, and marks and remembers it!'
3. The Word of God is very express upon this subject. James's description of the tongue is as striking as it is true: "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison!" James 3:2-8
Every reader must frequently have seen the truth of that Scripture verified to the life, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly!" Proverbs 15:1-2
In every family and every community, we have repeated exemplifications of this text. What extensive unhappiness has resulted from harsh words! what alienations, litigations, and warfare! "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity!" Proverbs 21:23
4. It is truly said that "The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse!" Proverbs 10:32. This evil habit is natural to the wicked. But even good men are sometimes overcome with indiscretion of speech: the meek Moses spoke unadvisedly with his lips.
Saints are not always as meek as they ought to be: "God shall smite you, you whited wall," said the apostle Paul to the high priest. But as they draw nearer to heaven—their tempers are generally more heavenly: "Lord, lay not this sin to this charge," said the dying Stephen.
6. The following precepts should ever be remembered:
"Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit."
"Be not rash with your mouth—let your words be few."
"Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer every man."
"He who will love life and see good days—let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no deceit."
David made this resolve, "I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not in my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle."
The following may serve as a reason for discretion of speech: "In the multitude of words there lacks not sin; but he who refrains his lips is wise."
But the weightiest of all arguments is in the following words of Christ: "I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned."
6. Kind and temperate speech has a happy influence upon most people—it will repel and soften the most obdurate spirits! "A soft answer turns away wrath." If mild reproofs fail, sharp ones will be sure to aggravate. Dr. Dodd has well said, 'Passionate reproofs are like medicines given scalding hot: the patient cannot take them. If we wish to do good to those we reprove, we should labor for meekness of wisdom, and use soft words and hard arguments.'
7. Rollin relates an excellent story of Aesop, the fable writer, which I shall state in short:
'Aesop, though so wise a man, was the slave of Xanthus. One day his master designing to treat some friends, ordered Aesop to provide the best of everything he could find in the market. Aesop bought nothing but tongues, which he desired the cook to serve op with different sauces. When the dinner came, the first and second courses, and the dessert, were all tongues. Xanthus, in a violent passion, said, 'Did I not order you to buy the best foods the market afforded?'
'And have I not obeyed your orders?' replied Aesop, 'Is there anything better than a tongue? Is not the tongue the bond of civil society, the key of sciences, and the organ of truth and reason,' etc.
'Well then, (replied Xanthus, thinking to catch him,) go to market again tomorrow, and buy me the worst of everything: the same company will dine with me, and I have a mind to diversify my entertainment.'
Aesop the next day provided nothing but the very same dishes of tongues! The master was as angry now as on the preceding day; but Aesop justified himself, by telling him that the tongue was certainly the worst thing in the world. 'It is (said he) the instrument of all strife and contention, the fermenter of law-suits, and the source of divisions and wars; it is the organ of error, of lies, calumny, and blasphemy!'
8. We may learn a useful lesson from the cranes that live on Mount Taurus: 'The heights and recesses are said to be much occupied by eagles, who are never better pleased than when they can pick the bones of a crane. Cranes are very prone to cackle and make a noise, and particularly so while they are flying. The sound of their voice rouses the eagles, who spring at the signal, and often make the talkative itinerants pay dearly for their imprudent loquacity. The older and more experienced cranes, sensible of their besetting foible, and of the peril to which it exposes them, take care, before they venture on the wing, to arm themselves each with a stone, large enough to fill the cavity of their mouths, and consequently to impose inevitable silence on their tongues.'
9. 'Silence is my friend.
Impertinent and lavish talking is in itself a very wicked habit.
How often have I found reason to wish that I had not been in company; or that I had said nothing when I was there.'
10. 'I am resolved, by the grace of God, never to speak much—lest I often speak too much; and not to speak at all—rather than to no purpose; and never to deliver my words out to the world by number—but by weight; not by quantity—but by quality.'
11. 'Above all, be sure to set a guard on the tongue, while the fretful mood is upon you. The least spark may break out into a conflagration, when cherished by a resentful heart, and fanned by the wind of angry breath! Aggravating expressions at such a time, are like oil thrown upon flames, which always make them rage the more.'
12. Seasonable temperate speech is of great importance, especially when we come in contact with fiery-tempered people. Indeed, there is no better way of dealing with such, than either to give them pleasant words—or keep silent altogether. 'It is indeed a strong proof of a truly Christian spirit, when we can be contented to remain silent, although misrepresented, rather than prolong disputes which endanger Christian harmony.'
13. 'If the circumstances of the case leave it possible, it is best to keep silent under provoking language from others; because, if we speak at all, it is then a much more difficult thing to speak with calmness, or to give over when we find we are losing command of ourselves. You may think you could say something very quietly, that would stop those speeches that offend you; but depend upon it, it is a temptation which, nine times out often, will draw you on to your sorrow or your shame! Never be off your guard, and never face the smallest temptation in your own strength.'
14. "A soft answer turns away anger!" "A soft tongue breaks the bone!" These are truths which have been often proved.
15. The following circumstance is not inappropriate:
When Sir Matthew Hale dismissed a jury, because he was convinced it had been illegally chosen to favor the protector, the latter was highly displeased with him; and when Sir Matthew returned from the circuit, Cromwell told him in anger, that he was not fit to be a judge; to which all the answer be made was, that it was very true. Be it remembered, this Cromwell and his partisans were men of renown, famous for godliness above all the godly in the nation, or in the world, devoutly bent on correcting all abuses temporal and spiritual, and tolerating nothing but pure justice!
16. Augustine gives an excellent account of his mother's temper: 'My father was passionate—but his spirit benevolent. My mother knew how to bear with him when angry, by a perfect silence and composure; and when she saw him cool, would meekly expostulate with him. Many matrons in her company would complain of the blows and harsh treatment they received from their husbands, whose tempers were yet milder than my father's: then she would exhort them to govern their tongues, and remember the inferiority of their condition. And when they expressed their astonishment that it was never heard that Patricius, a man of so violent a temper, had beaten his wife, or that they ever were at variance a single day, she informed them of her plan. Those who followed it thanked her for the good success of it, and those who did not, experienced vexation.'
Chapter 10.Bear in Mind the Examples of Wise and Good Men
1. I have already adverted to many excellent characters, and shall have occasion to introduce others. Biography is generally allowed to be the most interesting study, as it is at once lightsome, edifying, and of practical utility. Sacred biography has the first claim to our regard; and next to this, the lives of eminent Christians. Here we have a portraiture of actual life; here are delineated the excellences and the defects of men; here, too, we see how others have acted under circumstances similar and dissimilar to our own; and here also are displayed to our view, on the one hand, the folly and pernicious effects of ungoverned tempers; and, on the other, the charming influence and triumphant victory of the well-ordered.
2. The sacred volume furnishes us with the most interesting characters, not only evincing the power of religion on the minds of individuals—but likewise how those individuals, by that same divine influence, conducted themselves toward others of an opposite disposition. What a fine example of a kind and forbearing temper have we in Abraham toward Lot: "Let there be no strife, I pray you, between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we be brethren." This passage deserves to be borne in constant remembrance, both for the principle it contains, and for the interesting exemplification of that principle which it supplies. Its adoption would cure half the maladies of the world, and supersede all angry and ruinous litigations.
3. It is said of Daniel, that an excellent spirit was in him. Never spirit, perhaps, was more tried than his; yet we perceive no risings of anger, no complaining, and no attempts at revenge. When threatened with the den of lions, one might naturally have expected that he would show palpable signs of disquietude, and with restless impatience have made some attempts to escape the dreadful ordeal; but, instead of this, we find him perfectly calm and unmoved, and, as usual, making his constant suit to the God of heaven and earth: and the result proved the wisdom of his conduct.
4. A similar temper was manifested by his companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when threatened with the burning fiery furnace. What an enviable quietude of spirit, what modest firmness, what entire submission to God amidst hosts of powerful enemies. Their answer to the king of Babylon bespeaks a nobleness of soul, an invincible fortitude, and a firm reliance in 'the God of Israel: "We are not careful to answer you, O king; if it be so, our God whom we serve, he will deliver us!" What a striking exemplification is here of the truth of that scripture, "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed upon you; because he trusts in you."
5. The same excellent tempers were manifested by Joseph, Job, Moses, Samuel, David, and the prophets and apostles. The scripture characters should be repeatedly read, and constantly borne in mind; and it will be our wisdom to imitate those who, through faith and patience, now inherit the promises. But we must especially recollect, that it was the power of religion on their minds that formed all the excellent features of their character. As men, they were of like passions with others; but as believers, they rose by the power of the Holy Spirit above the weaknesses of nature. Yet they are not exhibited to us as immaculate characters: the beauty and profit of their history is, that while on the one hand they sufficiently manifested that they were equally sinful as others by nature, on the other they were striking monuments of the power of divine grace: and, to our comfort, that grace is still the same—equally free in the gift, and equally effectual in its influence. Whoever, then, is sincerely desirous to regulate his mind and temper, will do well to read the Holy Scriptures with constancy, in order the more readily to revert to the principles and examples there recorded.
6. Next to the scripture characters you will do well to acquaint yourself with the lives of eminent Christians. In addition to church history, we are highly favored at this day with memoirs of good and wise men. But I must rather refer you to the works themselves than exhibit a long string of examples. I may remark, however, that biographical, like historical, writings, are not always impartial. There is often too much eulogy. In some there is too much effort to conceal the proper lineaments of character, while in others everything is said to the praise of the individual—but not a word as to his constitutional or actual foibles, or how, or on what principles he governed himself. Such works must rather mislead than edify, as they exhibit fanciful rather than real characters. In reading biography, therefore, we should exercise the best discernment, distinguishing between what is natural and what is colored.
7. I should think no Christian can have read the Life of Henry Martyn without feeling charmed and edified. Some readers, however, would suppose that he had been blessed from his birth with the mildest and sweetest temper. But it was not so. He owed all to the grace of God. Until grace reached his heart, he was subject to the most violent passion. Such was at times the excess of his anger, that he once threw a weapon at one of his dearest friends, which passed close to his heart, and went into the wainscot behind him! All who were present were amazed at this narrow escape from the effects of passion: and his friend exclaimed, 'Martyn, if you indulge these tempers you will be hanged for murder.' But turn we now to the brighter side, and view him as a distinguished missionary, standing for the defense of the gospel with almost inimitable meekness before savage, ignorant cavilers, enraged Brahmins and idolaters, proud Persians, reviling Jews, domineering Muhammadans, sneering infidels, ignorant Papists, pseudo-Protestants, etc; and let us adore God in this bright example of the power of his grace.
8. At an early stage of his Christian course, he said on one occasion, 'I see a great work before me now, namely, the subduing and mortifying of my perverted will. What am I, that I should dare to do my own will.' At another time he remarks, 'We are lights in the world; how needful then that our tempers and lives should manifest our high and heavenly calling.' On one occasion he came in contact with an angry Brahmin; but he was enabled to preserve remarkable patience and mildness, which had a very softening effect. Alluding to this circumstance in his Journal, he writes, 'This also I learned, that the power of gentleness is irresistible. I never was more astonished than at the change of deportment in the hot-headed Brahmin.' On another occasion, through the false representations of the enemies of the gospel, all his schools were suddenly forsaken, and his motives misrepresented. While the people were gathered in crowds, he mildly explained his intentions: when such was the effect of temperate reasonings, and mild expostulations, that all apprehensions were removed as quickly almost as they had been excited.'
Standing on the bank of the Ganges, he writes, 'I reflected, while looking at the stream gliding by, that all alike are carried down the stream of time.... we are now but just speaking to one another as we are passing along. How should this consideration quell the tumult of anger and impatience, when I cannot convince men!' But the temper of this good man was the most severely tried while traveling through Persia, toward Constantinople. Indeed it cannot easily be denied, that his life was sacrificed by the hardships he met with for some weeks prior to his dissolution. Only five weeks before his death, being much tried with self-willed, hard-hearted Turks, he remarked in his journal, as well he might, 'I had to mourn over my impatient temper towards my servants. There is nothing that disturbs my peace so much. How much more noble and God-like to bear with calmness and observe with pity, rather than anger, the failings and offences of others. O that I may, through grace, be enabled to recollect myself at the time of temptation! O that the spirit of God may check my folly, and bring the lowly Savior to my view at such times.'
9. The present century is as remarkable for redundancy of biographical writings as the last was for paucity. The memoirs of some of the greatest lights are compressed within four or five pages. The truly great and learned Parkhurst is an instance in point. It is thus recorded of him: 'Like many other men of infirm and sickly frames,
Mr. Parkluirst was also irritable and quick, warm and earnest in his resentments, though never unforgiving. But whether it be or be not a matter of reproach to possess a mind so constituted, it certainly is much to any man's credit to counteract and subdue it by an attention to the injunctions of religion. This Mr. Parkhurst effectually did: and few men have passed through a long life more at peace with his neighbors, more respected by men of learning, more beloved by his friends, or more honored by his family.' His second wife died in 1800, at the age of seventy-nine. The following testimony is worthy to be recorded: 'Never were modest worth, unaffected piety, and every domestic virtue, more strongly illustrated than in the character of this amiable and excellent woman. Her sweetness of temper, simplicity of manners, and charitable disposition, are seldom paralleled, and never excelled."
15. Rowland Hill is presented to us, by his biographer, in a most interesting view. No attempt is made to conceal either his eccentricities or his foibles. He was, in a sense, blunt in manner and in speech—but it was only the frank expression of truth and sincerity, which far exceeds all the fine, smooth and artificial strokes of mere sound and pretension. He might sometimes give a momentary pain to more refined feelings, or more superficial minds; but his intention was not to offend anyone. It was a habit with him to speak out, rather than mince the truth or cherish hypocrisy.
16. 'Mr. Hill was also an example to every Christian, in the retirement of his family. It was impossible to be the inmate of his house and not love him; he neglected none of those little acts of kindness, which make up the sum of human happiness in private life; and his uniform cheerfulness gave an inexpressible delight to the circle of his fireside. With respect to his conduct to his servants and dependants, the very words he used in eulogizing the memory of M. Rouquet, are applicable to himself. 'He beheld his servants as fellow-creatures, and knew that they had as much right to happiness as himself. Disdainful looks, proud, snappish, severe speeches, which some can make use of upon every supposed offence, were never seen or heard from him; hence none of those changes appeared among his servants, which so sadly disgrace the families of many. From the best of principles they were bound to serve him, and that principle was love.'
17. The unreasonable requests to which Mr. Hill was continually subject are almost incredible; and the patience with which he bore them all was truly surprising ... I do not recollect a single instance of his losing his temper when annoyed in this manner; nor do I ever remember him to have given way to uncontrolled irritability, under the most trying excitement. In this respect he was, in the retirement of his family, a happy example of the precepts he so forcibly inculcated in his public ministration.'
18. I would earnestly advise that youth should be accustomed to read somewhat elaborately the biographical sketches of such heroes and eminent Christians as have, in the midst of active life, most exemplified the excellences of temper. You must perceive I mean something higher, more true, and more incidental and explicit than the mere details of birth, parentage, occupation, talents, accomplishments, popularity, patronage, writings, where they lived, and where they died, and how they were buried, with some commonplace flatteries, totally unsupported by any proper evidence, and as likely to be false as true: and for these reasons unworthy to engross the reader's time.
Chapter 11.Cultivate Temperance
1. Intemperance, as I have before remarked, is a fruitful cause of vile and abominable tempers. The disturbers of the peace, the inhabitants of our prisons, the exciters of anarchy, the authors of schism, the promoters of crude and brutish sports—are almost invariably intemperate. Look at any company or mob excited with drink—what wickedness is there that such people will not commit? The publications of the Temperance Society exhibit appalling facts, and the newspapers are daily adding to their number.
2. But intemperance in eating and drinking is by no means confined to those who openly 'glory in their shame.' There are, what are vulgarly called, soakers: they are openly more regular indeed—but it is only regular intemperance: they must have a daily portion of one to three bottles of wine, or from six to a dozen glasses of spirits—and yet may not appear particularly inebriated. Who can wonder at any disorder of temper, of mind, or of body, under such criminal excess?
There is likewise the equally criminal habit of gluttony: every viand, every sauce, and every dish that misguided ingenuity can invent, is brought into requisition: plain wholesome ordinary food will not suffice; but something rare, far-fetched, and highly-seasoned. This fickleness of palate is not unattended with fickleness of temper. Some have been pleased to cast slurs upon 'parsons,' as the best connoisseurs of good dishes, and have exhibited them in prints as false as they are ludicrous. It is to be regretted indeed that some ministers, both in and out of the church, are too much addicted to dining and supping out, and indulge in fantasies for nice dishes; but the charge of gormandizing no more strictly applies either to 'ministers or aldermen' than to any other class in the community, whose means and chances will compass the indulgence.
Intemperance is not confined to the highest classes in society: if it were, there would be fewer bankruptcies than there are. Many very moderate tradesmen and agriculturists lash out far beyond what is justifiable. Even among the lowest ranks many are self-indulgent and intemperate as far as ways and means will admit. Many mechanics, laborers and servants will indulge until they cannot bend to their work; and if spoken to, they will show their ill-tempers. The greasy, bloated, pimpled face is a sure indication of over-feeding. An old fashioned poet has the following quaint but wholesome lines:
'To miss a meal sometimes is good,
It cools and ventilates the blood;
Gives nature time to cleanse her streets
Of all the crudities of meats.'
It is to be regretted that there are many among the poor who can seldom get a good full meal; but the condition of many of these is aggravated by the fact that they often spend their small casual pittance in drink, and thereby render themselves and their families doubly wretched! In their miserable abodes—the comfort of good tempers can be little known.
3. I may further remark, that, some people, while sober, are as quiet and well-behaved as need be; but as soon as drink takes effect, they become most crude and brutish. Some can scarcely transact any business, or speak in public, until they have had a glass. Others, while sober, are diffident, timid, and often cowardly and sheepish—insomuch that they can hardly open their lips in company; but after a glass or two, they get up good nerve, and can talk profusely, tell an anecdote, or joke with the ladies. Others, again, are naturally of a solid turn: they seldom drink for drinking's sake; but now and then, on a particular occasion, they take a glass or two which makes them so cheerful and chatty, that one is ready to wish they were always so. But I apprehend that, in nine cases out of ten, it is quite the reverse. As to sottish, open drunkards, they are as devoid of sense as of every amiable temper.
4. 'Temperance has been called the best physic. It is certainly conducive to health; and not only so—but cheerfulness likewise. As intemperance clogs the body, stupefies the mind, and wastes the property; so temperance is fruitful of a variety of blessings and comforts unknown to the voluptuous.'
5. 'As for myself, the only physic which has brought me safe to almost the age of man, and which I prescribe to almost all my friends, is abstinence. This is certainly the best physic for prevention, and very often the most effectual against a present distemper. In short, my recipe is, take nothing.
9. Of Philopoemen, the celebrated general, it is said that he was 'plain in his dress, and frugal in his diet. In conversation he suffered patiently the ill-temper of others, even when they used contemptuous expressions; and, for himself, he was particularly careful never to give the least offence to anyone. It was his study, during his life, to speak nothing but the truth; and indeed the slightest expressions of his were heard with respect, and immediately believed. And he was not obliged to employ a great many words to persuade, his conduct being a model of what everybody else ought to do.'
10. Having before alluded to the Temperance Society, I will here insert a few extracts from its publications, which I hope are becoming more read and respected. Dr. Brown of Edinburgh, in an excellent tract, numbers domestic misery among the effects of intemperance: 'No families, in fact, are so generally, so deeply, so hopelessly miserable, as those of drunkards; their houses are often so many little hells. The comfortless home, the black fire-place, the cold victuals, the wasted wages, the pawned furniture, the naked starving children, the deep-rooted hatred, the mutual recriminations, the ceaseless broils, the blows, the wounds, the murders, which are such common occurrences in the families of drunkards—form a source of misery which no tongue can utter—no imagination conceive.'
Solomon expresses the same thing in few words: "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?" Proverbs 23:29-35
11. Admiral Sir J. Brenton, in a speech at Greenwich, 'demanded, what could be more noble, more patriotic, more entitled to universal regard than the desire to promote family and domestic peace and harmony; and these might most certainly be obtained, if the poor could be persuaded to give up the use of spirituous liquors.'
12. Captain T___ had been addicted to intemperate drinking—but after joining the society, he became so altered for the better, that his wife informed her friends that 'he was a new man, and everything that she could wish; that he regularly attended a place of worship with her, and was now always good-tempered, and satisfied with everything.'
13. Serle, in his Christian Remembrancer, has written admirably against luxury and other inconsistences in religious professors. Indeed there can be little Christian temper, in those who eat and drink to the full, and even indulge to excess occasionally. How different was the example of Him whom they acknowledge to be their Lord and Master. How different too the example of the great apostle, who said, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection." But this luxury is doubly criminal in Christian ministers! Zion occasionally mourns over the lapses of even eminent and popular ministers, who have the indiscretion to accept nearly all invitations from worldly professors. The tempers of such free-living people are, in general, anything but Christian.
No duty is more insisted on than self-denial, which is not only to be exercised in regard to diet and other things—but also as regards our wills and tempers. Dr. Watts's caution to young ministers deserves a place here: 'Guard against a love of pleasure, a sensual temper, an indulgence of appetite, an excessive relish of wine and dainties: this carnalizes the soul, and gives occasion to the world to reproach but too justly.'
Chapter 12.Take Proper Exercise
"As the door turns upon his hinges—so does the slothful upon his bed!" Proverbs 26:14
Who temperance adds to exercise,
Health, nerve, and vigor are his prize.
1. Dr. Buchan has justly remarked that 'Temperance and exercise are the two best physicians in the world.' To the propriety of this apothegm, both nature and common reason assent. Many in the higher and middle ranks so confine and pamper themselves that they seldom feel really well or comfortable in body or mind. In the place of manly and mental exercise—they study only what may gratify a vitiated palate, and soothe a body that has become inert and unnerved by a long-continued process in such varied indulgences as a fanciful imagination can suggest. Such a course of self-pampering must tend to injure the temper. Our nature is such that we are prone to become surly with confinement, something like dogs that are chained; and by constant keeping indoors, we merge imperceptibly into little freaks, get a habit of knitting our brows, looking cross, finding-fault. Every incident, every word affects our nerves, and we become restless and discontented, and scarcely know what is the matter with us.
2. It is scarcely possible for women to take exercise like men; and considering how much they are confined, I must say it is much to their credit—that they are not far worse-tempered than they are. Men, by keeping indoors, eating, drinking, and dozing over the fire, become quite effeminized. They would then persuade us they are ill, read medical books, enumerate their ailments to all that come in, become fanciful in their diet, and become indulged. Were I their medical adviser, I would prescribe a month's servitude on a farm, rather than an idle jaunt to a fashionable restaurant. The fastidiousness of these domiciliary men is quite ridiculous. Nothing in the wide compass of reflection, and none of the varied charms in the field of nature seems to interest them. If they look through the window and see they are not enticed to walk out, nor disposed to disturb a weed in the garden: "It is cold, or damp, or going to rain, or a friend is to call," or they have a favorite book in hand.
3. To those who are in easy circumstances, I pretend not to point out any particular modes of exercise. Walking is generally practicable; but exercise is more beneficial, more satisfactory, and more rational, when connected with some useful object. There are some thousands of respectable females at the present day, whose chief exercise is among the poor, or going from house to house in behalf of the great Christian societies. Mr. Dudley will have it that Bible collectors enjoy peculiar advantages, in particular an exemption from rheumatism.
Exercise, of some kind or other, is essential to the health of the body, the free action of the mind, and the right tone of the temper. A brisk walk often effects wonders on our frame. It chases away the fumes of irritability, gives a delicious zest to plain food, makes life agreeable, and sleep refreshing.
4. 'Love work—if you do not need it for food, you do need it for physic. The idle man is more perplexed what to do, than the industrious in doing what he ought. Action keeps the soul in constant health; but idleness corrupts and rusts the mind.'
Chapter 13.Watch Diligently
1. The duty of a sentinel is acknowledged to be very important. Let him be faithful, and the garrison will not be easily surprised; or let him be negligent, and confusion or ruin must ensue. There is in us, as it were, a garrison—a turbulent and powerful company: and hence there is a need of something like a sentinel. There must be a self-oversight, a constant look-out, and a wise and vigorous policy. There are many ways of access into this garrison. The five senses are so many inlets to the enemy. We had need, like Job, to make a covenant with our eyes—not to look on anything that easily tempts; and, like David, we should constantly pray that God would set a watch upon our lips—that we offend not with our tongue. The avenues to the inner man require the strictest guard. To sleep is fatal, for Satan is ever wakeful, and most subtle in his devices. He is an accomplished general; if he cannot directly storm the citadel, he will try to undermine it; or if he cannot enter by the gates, he will try to scale the walls. Every moment—awake or asleep, at home or abroad, in public or in private—we are exposed to his fiery darts, or his secret intrigues! With all his bad qualities that merit our abhorrence, his vigilance, properly directed, deserves our imitation.
2. It behooves us therefore to watch against the first motions or suggestions of evil; and whenever the enemy is perceived to be making an inroad, to resist him with the whole force of our better will; or rather by the aid of that divine strength which it is the privilege of God's true people to possess. Peter's advice is this, "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!" "I say unto all, watch!" said Jesus. "Watch in all things." These injunctions should ever be present to the mind.
3. I have before remarked that passions have their rise, progress and consummation; and if not suppressed in their beginning, they will assuredly gain the mastery; and, as Bunyan represents, the giant will drag us to his castle, and make us pay smartly for our unguardedness. It is easier to check the first motion of anger—than to repair the consequences of its indulgence. A tight and constant rein should be kept upon the thoughts, the feelings, and the tongue. We should endeavor to shun those people, places, and circumstances, which most easily excite our tempers, and throw us off our guard.
4. Numberless are the circumstances in private and public life which easily excite our inflammable tempers. It is positively ridiculous to witness the rancor of party feeling in times of public elections for parliament—and that less from principle than some paltry self-interest. The scene is sometimes even more disgraceful where a Christian minister is the object of election. All that is vile and iniquitous in human nature is worked up to the pitch, like a stagnant pool whose lowest filth is raked to the top!
5. A sensible writer has the following advice: Of the temper of your mind, be particularly watchful. It is possible that on the most trifling occasion its tranquility may be interrupted, and if the first risings of tumult be not immediately suppressed, may be deprived of that composure and serenity which are essential to the health of existence. An uneasy, restless disposition, if once indulged, will produce petulancy and fretfulness of spirit; will hurry you into dangerous extremes; and, if not prevented, will at length terminate in bitter cavilings, reproachful censures, and in other evils entirely subversive of that happiness which marriage was intended to produce. But words are not the only causes of disquietude: an unkind deportment, or looks equally expressive of the severity and rancor of the heart, are productive of the same effects, and should therefore be carefully avoided. Very opposite to such a conduct is an easy, affable, and humble behavior; the fruit of gentleness, long-suffering and forbearance—virtues that demonstrate the warmth and sincerity of that love which suffers all things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil, but rejoices in sincere displays of sincerity and truth.'
6. 'It is to the very end of our days a struggle between our reason and our temper—which shall have the empire over us. However, this is very much to be helped by circumspection, and a constant alarm against the first onsets of passion . . . I sat down with an intention to represent to my reader how pernicious, how sudden, and how fatal, surprises of passion are to the mind of man; and that in the more intimate commerces of life—they are more liable to arise, even in our most sedate and indolent hours. Occurrences of this kind have had very terrible effects; and when one reflects upon them, we cannot but tremble to consider, what we are capable of being wrought up to, against all the ties of nature, love, honor, reason and religion, though the man who breaks through them all, had, an hour before he did so, a lively and virtuous sense of their dictates.'
7. 'In the circumstances in which you are placed it is of the utmost importance to cultivate command of temper, and to strive as much as possible to watch over your spirit and whole demeanor, lest by any means you should increase the offence of the cross.'
8. 'Watchfulness, which is always necessary, is chiefly so when the first assaults are made. For the enemy is most easily repulsed, if we never allow him to get within us; but upon the very first approach draw up our forces, and fight him outside the gate: and this will be more manifest, if we observe by what methods and degrees temptations grow upon us.
The first thing that presents itself to the mind is a plain single thought;
this thought is advanced into a strong imagination;
that again, enforced by a sensible delight;
then follow evil motions;
and when these are once stirred, there lacks nothing but the assent of the will, and then the work is finished.
Now the first steps to this are seldom thought worth our care; sometimes not taken notice of; so that the enemy is frequently got close upon us, and even within our trenches, before we observe him!'
9. I scarcely need inform my reader that by the garrison in man is meant the Heart, with its multifarious evils. He then who would imitate the vigilance of a sentinel, must, like him, have particular knowledge of his charge, and of the nature and position of its enemies and its dangers. Hence, concerning the true character, and the vulnerable points of this garrison we have the most ample and correct information.
He who cannot lie, and who knew what was in man, says, "From within, out of the heart of man— proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evils come from within, and defile the man."
Jeremiah sums up the same truth in fewer words, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked! Who can know it?"
How appropriate then is the advice of Solomon, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." Proverbs 4:23-27
The prayers of David on this subject deserve our attention and imitation: "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips! Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer."'
Chapter 14.Pray Constantly
1. What I remarked as to the union of temperance and exercise, will equally apply to watchfulness and prayer. Jesus himself has coupled them , "Take heed, watch and pray." It is the Christian alone, who has a proper sense of the privilege and efficacy of prayer. Yet, even the best Christians may be infrequent, brief, and cold in this holy exercise. Nevertheless he is fully sensible of his entire dependence on divine strength. He freely confesses, with the apostle, "By the grace of God I am what I am!" Again, "I can do all things—through Christ who strengthens me!" To encourage us in the exercise of prayer, we have many precious promises. Jesus said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, and my strength is made perfect in weakness." Again, "God is able to make all grace abound toward you."
2. In the exercise of prayer it is proper, and highly important that we should have some specific subject and object—some individual need, or particular request: then, in the spirit of faith, we may "come boldly to the throne of grace—that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." A particular failing, or a besetting sin, or any peculiar temptation, may be among the subjects of our petitions. To confirm this, the apostle speaks of "Watching unto prayer with all perseverance." From which we clearly infer that prayer is not to be a heedless transitory effusion of the lips, as if the thing asked were a matter of indifference: and it should not only be statedly exercised in the closet—but also at any "time of need."
3. Wise and good men are agreed that prayer is an excellent means for amending and sustaining the temper. The famous Dr. Boerhaave was once asked by a friend, who admired his patience under provocations, 'whether he knew what it was to be angry, and by what means he had so entirely suppressed that impetuous and ungovernable passion?' He answered with the utmost frankness and sincerity, 'that he was naturally quick of resentment—but that be had by daily prayer and meditation, at length, attained to this mastery over himself.'
4. 'If anyone is convinced that he has in these respects (wrong tempers) offended, and is truly, desirous to get the mastery over his temper, I recommend him to adopt such methods as will certainly be found of use. Prayer is of course the foremost; but it must not be a prayer which is done with, as soon as offered. There must be earnest persevering prayer; we must resolve to sacrifice pride and self-will to duty, however dear it may cost us, and then wait for the answer to our prayers, and when the temptation conies, put up a short prayer at the moment, and fight manfully in the divine strength.'
5. The great and godly Mr. Toplady not only contended earnestly for the doctrines of grace—but also for the practical proofs of its reigning in the heart—ever holding that He who had determined the end—had also constituted the means, and insisted upon fruits.
3 The following passage is very appropriate to the point in hand: "O believer, if you are by nature hasty, vehement, and easily inflammable, call in superior aid. He who, in the days of his flesh, rebuked the raging of the winds, and stilled the tossings of the sea, can, by the sweet compulsive influence of his gracious Spirit, restrain you within the bounds of holiness, and speak the stormy heart into a perfect calm. I have read of a heathen, who, when he found himself unduly fermented by the kindlings of inward wrath, would never utter a single word until he had first run over in his mind all the letters of the alphabet. I have read of a Christian, who, when endangered by similar temptations, would not allow himself to speak a syllable until he had silently repeated the Lord's prayer. Reader, go, and do likewise. Repeat this prayer to God, in the spirit of supplication, and your victory over passion will be more than probable."
1. I trust I shall not be thought tedious on a subject so manifestly important to the whole world. I have not written simply to please nor to offend—but rather with a sincere wish to do good. I have stated truth and facts without exaggeration or needless severity.
2. Many, particularly the young, in desiring to have their portrait painted, are induced principally by a vain conceit of personal beauty; or, if conscious that they possess none, they will yet have it painted as a set-off. If one profile is disfigured, they very naturally present the other. Considerable attention is likewise paid to the dress; and, withal, the very best look is assumed. These preliminaries being settled, the artist, on his part, is equally anxious to set off his subject to the best possible advantage. He well knows that a strict adherence to truth would detract from his interest. The picture is at length brought home, and, after trying first one wall and then another, it is fixed in the conceived best situation. The owner affects to be pretty well satisfied on the whole; and, perhaps, good manners laying a tax on her humility, she says, awkwardly enough, 'It's too pretty for me,' albeit, had it been less so, her temper would have been less easy! Friends coming in are attracted by what was intended to attract; and not just thinking that the image before them was designed to resemble the party present, exclaim, 'O, how beautiful! O, admirably done! What a pretty mouth!' etc. It will not be difficult to conceive, that, while different VISITORS express one or other of these eulogies, the living original may possibly feel some very agreeable sensations; and we may also conceive, that if the picture had not really pleased, its owner would have assigned for its residence an obscurer apartment.
3. In the picture I have drawn of human temper, I have studiously avoided whatever is fastidious, unnatural, or flattering. If on some parts I have impressed a deeper gloom, I have gladly relieved others with more agreeable tints. But as there are some who can see no excellency in pictures of real merit—who would admire the cartoons of Cruikshank, more than the masterpieces of Raphael; or the vulgar caricatures in the shop windows, more than the 'Line of beauty' of Hogarth—so, it may be, the pretended connoisseurs will be too hoodwinked to discover any merit in mine. Be it so; I still have confidence in the opinion of the good and the thinking part of mankind.
4. I would again caution those who mistake their own tempers. Do not imagine, that because you are naturally still and quiet, you are therefore good tempered; for it may be only an indication of constitutional inertion and apathy! Some of this class would have it supposed that, because they are more mild and still than others, therefore they are more pious, which, to say the least, is a woeful deception, and a species of ignorance of which the thinking part of the heathen were not guilty! It would be just as consistent to say, that a quiet, gentle horse—almost too stupid to move— is more religious horse, than a nervous one. No mere natural quietness or amiableness is to be substituted for those tempers which true religion alone produces.
'Mr. Roscoe, I fear, has no just perception of the nature of true religion, though he is, in his own estimation, a very religious man. He is so lovely in his temper, so kind in his disposition, and so benevolent in his spirit, that everyone esteems him who knows him: but I fear he substitutes all his exterior amiability in place of the atonement of Jesus Christ, and thinks that nothing more is necessary for salvation than an occasional attendance at the parish church.'
5. Others think they are good-tempered, because they are generally cheerful and merry: they are ever giggling and laughing, cause or no cause, and often very untimely and indecently; yes, they can do it as freely at a death—as at a wedding; and at church—as in a theater; and they will scarcely endure the company of solid, serious people; but, cross them in their wills or favorite diversions, and they will cry as loud as they laughed.
Sally, on engaging a servant's place, included in the list of her own recommendations, a very good temper: "Nothing ever puts me out of temper!" said she: but sure enough nothing could be more untrue, for it was soon revealed that she was good-tempered only when and so long as she was pleased, and allowed her own way! After a short stay, she was actually dismissed on account of her insubordinate temper!
Not only may you mistake your own temper—but likewise that of other people. Many, at first sight, appear very placid, free, and smiling, and you might suppose they were uniformly the same in their private and domestic character; but your conclusion might be most erroneous! You may sometimes hear a minister hold forth in most loving strains, and may hence be ready to extol him to the skies for his heavenly temper; but here also you may be extremely wide of the mark! Yes, you may even imagine that the writer of this book, on the very subject of temper, must of course be possessed of a good temper; and yet it would be far more rational, yes, and far nearer the truth, to infer that he never could have produced a work of this nature, had he not himself a defective temper, and some experience of its exercise. Therefore judge not from outward appearances.
On the other hand, you are not to ascribe that to bad temper—which is only the firm exercise of a rightful authority, as in a parent to his child, or a master to his servant in all proper cases.
6. From all I have advanced, this undeniable conclusion must obviously result: namely, that man—every man—is entirely fallen from God, and from original righteousnesses; that he is, of his own nature, only inclined to evil, and is as unwilling as unable to return to God, and prepare himself for the kingdom of heaven! This consideration ought to stop all boasting of his own natural goodness and capacities: that all are born in sin, which is evident, as well by the declaration of holy scripture, as also by the well-known fact, that children, as soon as they can will, act, or speak—invariably show an innate propensity to evil, which grows with their growth—and supplies a manifest proof that all are affected and implicated in the original transgression of Adam. And although some have not proceeded to the same excess as others in open iniquity—yet the best of men are sufficiently guilty in themselves to merit God's wrath and indignation, and will freely confess that they are daily coming short in all their best obedience to His holy laws: and if so with the best of Christians, much more with the unregenerate.
7. A question then arises: "How shall we escape the divine vengeance justly due to sin? Will it satisfy offended justice if we reform for the future? or will our future obedience be such as to reach to an atonement for the past?" Satan and a deceived heart may suggest such a doctrine; but it is contrary to the whole tenor of the Holy Scriptures.
8. The same holy book, and the same excellent articles, clearly point out the only remedy for sin and sinful tempers; but it is not my intention, nor indeed my province, at present, to enter fully on so important a subject. I have guarded through all the volume, in some measure, against false notions of human nature, and have referred to the experimental religion of Jesus Christ as the only antidote! I would urge upon my readers a more attentive and more constant perusal of the sacred writings: this one book, with the author's own blessing, is abundantly sufficient for instruction in righteousness and the way of salvation.
9. I will hope the perusal of this treatise may induce some to devote more attention to the study and cultivation of TEMPER. It is a manly and Christian study, and deserves a decided preference to all ordinary subjects. Ministers might introduce it more frequently in their discourses. Parents, masters, and teachers should introduce the subject occasionally in the way of familiar conversation, kind admonition, relating anecdotes, or reading suitable portions from history and biography. Pieces of poetry, similar to those adduced in this volume, should be committed to memory, and required of young people to be repeated when out of humour.
I would earnestly urge this study upon all descriptions of people. Regard it as a primary business; give your mind to the subject, and you will not fail to reap an ample reward—even a large increase of peace to your own mind. It will also materially smooth your passage through this turbulent world. Therefore, in all your transactions with men—in all social interaction—in all oppositions or crossings of your will—in all conditions of life—in adversity and prosperity—in sickness and in health—be assured, that, in a moral sense: TEMPER IS EVERYTHING!