The Bravest Hero!
George Everard, 1885
"Better a patient man than a warrior — a man who controls his temper, than one who takes a city." Proverbs 16:32
"He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." Proverbs 16:32
This is scarcely the verdict which the world would give; for there are honors, and rewards, and titles always ready to be showered upon those who are successful in military feats. They take their place at once among the great ones of the land, and are praised and flattered wherever they go.
But the One who always judges right, and can see beneath the surface, adjudges the prize to a conqueror in another sphere. For He knows that the battle with self is a far harder one than that with any external foe. And he who comes off a victor in that strife, shall win the brightest crown.
Let us look at the enemy with which we have to contend, and then at the means by which we may tread him under our feet.
The foe we have to fight is an unruly spirit and temper. And it is no trifling one. Take a striking passage which presents a great contrast to the words above: "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control." (Proverbs 25:28).
Imagine such a city, and enemies round about on every side. Soldiers and horsemen may ravage the fields, destroy the flocks, cut down the trees, carry off the spoil, and kill and slay those within the city at their pleasure.
Such is the soul of man where there is no control over the spirit, and where ill-tempers are permitted to break forth as they will. In a dozen quarters temptation may assault you, and you cannot withstand it.
Then with these evil tempers there comes the loss of all peace, a constant failure in any attempt to rise to a better life, and a conscience never at rest. And, beyond all this, an uncontrolled temper opens the door to the most violent language, sometimes to oaths and cursing, and even to cruelty and murder. In numberless cases it has blighted all the fair prospects of a useful and happy life, and has done a vast amount of harm to those around. It may be but a spark which has fallen on another heart, and this, too, has kindled into a flame, and none can trace how far the injury spreads.
On this point I will quote the words of the present pastor of London in a sermon preached in Rugby School Chapel:
"Of all things that are to be met with here on earth, there is nothing which can give such continual, such cutting, such useless pain as an undisciplined temper:
the touchy and sensitive temper which takes offence at a word;
the irritable temper which finds offence in everything, whether intended or not;
the violent temper which breaks through all bounds of reason when once roused;
the sullen temper which wears a cloud on the face all day, yet never utters a word of complaint;
the discontented temper always brooding over its own wrongs;
the severe temper which always looks at the worst side of whatever is done;
the willful temper which overrides all scruple to gratify a whim.
What an amount of pain have these caused in the hearts of men if we could but sum up their results!
How many a soul have they stirred to evil impulses;
how many a prayer have they stifled;
how many an emotion of true affection have they turned to bitterness;
how hard they sometimes make all duties;
how painful they make all daily life;
how they kill the warmest and sweetest of domestic charities!
The accumulated pain caused by ill temper must, I truly believe, if added together, outweigh all other pains that men have to bear from one another!
It is a true witness. We cannot calculate the injury wrought by this sin to ourselves or to others. It becomes a stumbling-block to everyone who dwells under the same roof. In five minutes, it breaks down the work wrought by days of prayer and effort. Above all, it brings great dishonor on the Savior's name, and grieves the Holy Spirit of God.
Blessed is the lad who knows how to keep down the rising temper, and to manifest in place of it the meek and gentle spirit of Christ.
But how shall you guard against this foe? How shall you, day by day, manifest something of the self-restraint — something of the gentleness of the Lord Jesus?
Let the peace of God bear sway within the citadel. This is one of the great essentials. You need a quiet, happy spirit within. You need God's own peace to rule in your conscience, and over the whole territory of the inner man.
If you know this peace which is found only in Christ,
if you know the comfort of perfect reconciliation with God through His blood,
if you abide in the peace of His presence and safe-keeping —
then you will have a power and a strength to resist an outburst of hasty feeling that you never can have otherwise.
The peace-taker will ever be the peace-maker. The one who by faith accepts the peace which Jesus gives — will in the main be prepared, by word and deed, to bring peace wherever he goes.
Beware of hasty judgments on men's character and actions. Remember how much may be behind that you do not know. Hear the other side before you are so confident that a great wrong has been committed against yourself or someone you love.
Beware of proud, high thoughts . . .
of your own wisdom,
of what is due to you from others,
of your own superiority in any respect over those connected with you.
If we only remembered our failings and our frailties, if we only were more accustomed to sit down in a lower place, and to think of the mistakes we have made and the weakness we have exhibited, and the little we know compared to what we do not know — we would often be far less tempted to speak or act in a fit of passion or anger.
Then never forget that the greatest help to a calm, equable spirit — is to recognize the nearness of the Lord Jesus.
If someone whom you greatly respected, or one under whose authority you were placed, were in the room with you — you would hesitate before you manifested the rising temper, or permitted it to get the better of you.
O that you would recognize the fact that Christ is always in the room, that He marks the angry scowl, and the fierce or passionate word which you are ready to speak! Look to Him, my young friend, to give you the victory. Live before Him — and then you will in this and every other respect become like Him.
"Hold me up — and I shall be safe." "Keep me as the apple of Your eye."