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rior piety, placing justice not in legal innocency, or not being condemned in judgment of the law and human judicature, but in the righteousness of the spirit also: for the first acquits us before man, but by this we shall be held upright in judgment before the Judge of all the world. And, therefore, besides abstinence from murder or actual wounds, Christ forbids all" anger without cause against our brother," that is, against any man.
28. By which not the first motions are forbidden; the twinklings of the eye, as the philosophers call them, the propassions and sudden irresistible alterations; for it is impossible to prevent them, unless we could give ourselves a new nature, any more than we can refuse to wink with our eye when a sudden blow is offered at it, or refuse to yawn when we see a yawning sleepy person: but by frequent and habitual mortification, and by continual watchfulness, and standing in readiness against all inadvertencies, we shall lessen the inclination, and account fewer sudden irreptions. A wise and meek person should not kindle at all, but after violent and great collision; and then, if like a flint he sends a spark out, it must as soon be extinguished as it shows, and cool as soon as sparkle. But, however, the sin is not in the natural disposition. But when we entertain it, though it be, as Seneca expresses it," cum voluntate non contumacik," without a determination of revenge, then it begins to be a sin. Every indignation against the person of the man, in us is pride and self-love; and towards others ungentleness, and an immorigerous spirit. Which is to be understood, when the cause is not sufficient, or when the anger continues longer, or is excessive in the degrees of its proportion.
29. The causes of allowable anger are, when we see God dishonoured, or a sin committed, or any irregularity, or fault in matter of government; a fault against the laws of a family or good manners, disobedience or stubbornness; which, in all instances where they may be prudently judged such by the governor, yet possibly they are not all direct sins against God and religion. In such cases we may "be angry." But then we may also sin, if we exceed in time, or measure of degree.
S. Hieron. Epist. ad Demetriad.
Seneca, lib. ii. de Ira, c. 4.
30. The proportion of time St. Paul expresses, by "not etting the sun set upon our anger." Leontius Patricius' was one day extremely and unreasonably angry with John, the patriarch of Alexandria; at evening, the patriarch sent a servant to him with this message: "Sir, the sun is set." Upon which Patricius reflecting, and the grace of God making the impression deep, visible, and permanent, he threw away his anger, and became wholly subject to the counsel and ghostly aids of the patriarch. This limit St. Paul borrowed from the psalmist; for that which in the fourth Psalm, verse 5, we read, "Stand in awe, and sin not," the Septuagint reads, "Be angry, but sin not." And this measure is taken from the analogy of the law of the Jews, that a malefactor should not hang upon the accursed tree after the sun was set and if the laws laid down their just anger against malefactors as soon as the sun descended, and took off his beams from beholding the example; much more is it reasonable that a private anger, which is not warranted by authority, not measured by laws, not examined by solemnities of justice, not made reasonable by considering the degree of the causes, not made charitable by intending the public good, not secured from injuriousness by being disinterested, and such an anger in which the party is judge, and witness, and executioner. It is, (I say,) but reason, such an anger should unyoke, and go to bed with the sun, since justice and authority laid by the rods and axes as soon as the sun unteamed his chariot. Plutarch reports, that the Pythagoreans were strict observers of the very letter of this caution"; for if anger had boiled up to the height of injury or reproach, before sun-set they would shake hands, salute each other, and depart friends; for they were ashamed that the same anger, which had disturbed the counsels of the day, should also trouble the quiet and dreams of the night, lest anger, by mingling with their rest and nightly fancies, should grow natural and habitual. Well, anger must last no longer; but neither may a Christian's anger last so long; for if his anger last a whole day, it will certainly, before night, sour into a crime. A man's anger is like the spleen; at the first it is natural, but in its excess and
Leontius Cypr. Episc. in Vita ipsius, c. 14.
m Εἴ ποτε προαχθεῖεν εἰς λοιδορίαν ὑπ ̓ ὀργῆς, πρὶν ἢ τὸν ἥλιον δῦναι, τὰς δεξιὰς ἐμβάλο λοντες αλλήλοις καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι διελύοντο. -- Plutarch.
distemper it swells into a disease: and, therefore, although to be angry at the presence of certain objects is natural, and therefore is indifferent, because he that is an essential enemy to sin never made sin essential to a man; yet, unless it be also transient, and pass off at the command of reason and religion, it quickly becomes criminal. The meaning is, that it be no more but a transient passion, not permanent at all; but that the anger against the man pass into indignation against the crime, and pity of the person, till the pity grows up into endeavours to help him. For an angry, violent, and disturbed man, is like that white bramble of Judæa, of which Josephus reports, that it is set on fire by impetuous winds, and consumes itself, and burns the neighbour-plants. And the evil effects of a violent and passionate anger are so great, so dangerous, so known to all the world, that the very consideration of them is the best argument in the world to dispute against it; families and kingdoms have suffered horrid calamities; and whatsoever is violent in art or nature, hath been made the instrument of sadness, in the hands of anger.
31. The measure of the degree is to be estimated by human prudence, that it exceed not the value of the cause, nor the proportion of other circumstances, and that it cause no eruption into indiscretions or indecencies. For, therefore, Moses' anger, though for God and religion, was reproved, because it went forth into a violent and troubled expression, and showed the degree to be inordinate. For it is in this passion as in lightning, which, if it only breaks the cloud and makes a noise, shows a tempest and disturbance in nature, but the hurt is none; but if it seizes upon a man, or dwells upon a house, or breaks a tree, it becomes a judgment and a curse. And as the one is a mischief in chance and accident, so the other is in morality and choice: if it passes from passion into action, from a transient violence to a permanent injury, if it abides, it scorches the garment or burns the body; and there is no way to make it innocent, but to remove and extinguish it; and, while it remains, to tie the hands, and
n Iræ Thyesten exitio gravi
Stravere, et altis urbibus ultimæ
Stetere causæ cur perirent
Funditus, imprimeretque muris
Hostile aratrum exercitus insolens, Horat. lib. i. Od. 16.
pare the nails, and muzzle it, that it may neither scratch, nor bite, nor talk. An anger in God's cause may become unhallowed, if it sees the sun rise and set: and an anger in the cause of a man is innocent, according to the degrees of its suddenness and discontinuance; for, by its quickness and volatile motion it shows, that it was, 1. unavoidable in its production; or, 2. that it was harmless in the event; or, 3. quickly suppressed: according to which several cases, anger is either, 1. natural; or, 2. excusable; or, 3. the matter of a virtue.
32. The Vulgar Latin Bible, in this precept of our blessed Saviour, reads not the appendix, without a cause," but indefinitely," he that is angry with his brother;" and St. Jerome affirms, that the clause, " without a cause," is not to be found in the true Greek copies: upon supposition of which, because it is not to be imagined that all anger, in all causes and in all degrees, is simply unlawful; and St. Paul distinguishes being angry from committing a sin, "Be angry, but sin not;" these words are left to signify such an anger as is the crime of homicide in the heart, like the secret lusting called by Christ" adultery in the heart;" and so here is forbidden, not only the outward act, but the inward inclinations to murder, that is, an anger with deliberation and purpose of revenge; this being explicative and additional to the precept forbidding murder: which also our blessed Saviour seems to have intended, by threatening the same penalty to this anger or spiritual homicide which the law inflicted upon the actual and external; that is, judgment or condemnation. And because this prohibition of anger is an explanation and more severe commentary upon the sixth commandment, it is more than probable that this anger, to which condemnation is threatened, is such an anger as hath entertained something of mischief in the spirit. And this agrees well enough with the former interpretation, save that it affirms no degree of anger to be criminal, as to the height of condemnation, unless it be with a thought of violence or desires of revenge; the other degrees receiving their heightenings and declensions, as they keep their distance or approach to this. And besides,
• Καὶ πάσῃ ὀργῇ ἕπεσθαί τινα ἡδενὴν τὴν ἀπὸ τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ τιμωρήσασθαι. — Arist. 2. Rhet.
by not limiting or giving caution concerning the cause, it restrains the malice only, or the degree; but it permits other causes of anger to be innocent besides those spiritual and moral, of the interests of God's glory and religion. But this is also true, whichsoever of the readings be retained. For the irascible faculty, having in nature an object proper to its constitution and natural design, if our anger be commenced upon an object naturally troublesome, the anger is very natural, and nowhere said to be irregular. And he who is angry with a servant's unwariness or inadvertency, or the remissness of a child's spirit and application to his studies, or on any sudden displeasure, is not in any sense guilty of prevaricating the sixth commandment, unless, besides the object, he adds an inequality of degree, or unhandsome circumstance, or adjunct. And, possibly, it is not in the nature of man to be strict in discipline, if the prohibitions of anger be confined only to causes of religion; and it were hard that such an anger, which is innocent in all effects, and a good instrument of government, should become criminal and damnable; because some instances of displeasure are in actions not certainly and apparently sinful. So that our blessed Saviour, forbidding us to be "angry without a cause," means such causes which are not only irregularities in religion, but deflexions in manners; and an anger may be religious, and political, and economical, according as it meets with objects proper to it in several kinds. It is sometimes necessary, that a man carry a tempest in his face and a rod in his hand; but for ever let him have a smooth mind, or at least under command, and within the limits of reason and religion; that he may steer securely, and avoid the rocks of sin for then he may reprove a friend that did amiss, or chastise an offending son, or correct a vicious servant. The sum is this: There are no other bounds to hallow, or to allow and legitimate anger but that, 1. The cause be religion, or matter of government: 2. That the degree of the anger, in prudent accounts,
› Si ira non fuerit, nec doctrina proficit, nec judicia stant, nec crimina compescuntur. — S. Chrysost.
Si nulla ira ex virtute surgeret, Divinæ animadversionis impetum per gladium Phinehas non placâsset. S. Greg. lib. v. Moral.
Πιθανότατοι γὰρ ἀπὸ τῆς φύσεως δι ἐν τοῖς πάθεσίν εἰσι, καὶ κυμαίνει ὁ κυματιζόμενος, καὶ χαλεπάινει ὀργιζόμενος, κ. τ. λ. - Arist. Poetic.