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selves things here below in much too strong colours, and receive such deep impressions from them, as efface, for the time at least, all the dictates of prudence and of conscience. Indeed, over-much vehemence, even in matters that appear to have no tendency towards guilt, is both wrong in itself, and habituates men to the same vehemence on worse occasions. Nay, zeal for things that seem, or even are, good and laudable, if it exceed bounds, frequently misguides great numbers, either to mistake very strangely what they mean to aim at, or to use methods for attaining it, which are quite unjustifiable. This hath been so dreadfully the case in political and religious disputes, that every one disposed to uncommon heat about either, hath peculiar need to examine his heart, whether what he imagines to be necessary earnestness in the cause of God or his country, be not wholly or in part sinful impetuosity; and to watch carefully against that extreme; which may be as bad or worse than the lukewarm indifference of others.
Moderation then, about every thing relative to this world, is highly requisite for the practice of our duty. I proceed now to shew you,
II. That it is not less so for the present happiness of our lives.
Every one of our passions, appetites, and inclinations, when raised too high, is capable of giving us very uneasy agitations of mind : and some, if indulged at all beyond reason, are grievously painful to ourselves, and many ways prejudicial to those amongst whom we live. They of course will be enticed or provoked to the same unreasonableness, of which they have seen us guilty: and thus it is, that sins and sufferings propagate one another, and increase without end. But here I would consider more distinctly the bad consequences of immoderate desire and anger, fear and grief.
They, that will not restrain their desires, must often earnestly wish for satisfactions, which they cannot in the least hope to obtain : and this directly brings on repining, despondence, misery. And usually such, as do hope, will also fear; and continue, perhaps a long time, in a very disagreeable suspense between both. Or let hope, if it can, be so strong as to exclude fear; and full expectation give the utmost pleasure : not to say, that such pleasure, whilst it lasts, is tumultuous, wastes the spirits, and wears the frame; only think, how often, in a world so uncertain, it will vanish all at once; and what effects a sudden fall from this paradise must have on a mind impatient and undisciplined ! But supposing no such disappointment to happen: persons of an eager and restless temper, after gaining one point, are apt to be immediately just as solicitous about another: so they are always in pursuit, and never contented. What hath man of all his labour ; and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun? All his days are sorrows, and his travel, grief : yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This also is vanity * Very gentle and governable desires would sufficiently excite us to consider what is really worth acquiring, and to bestow upon it the labour which it deserves. Besides, not uncommonly people miss the object of their wishes, merely by over-great anxiety about obtaining it. And being anxious for any thing beyond its capacity of giving us true happiness, can do us no service ; but much harm it easily may. Now, that the several things which mankind run after so passionately do not make them happy, is a notorious
* Eccl. ij. 22, 23.
fact. Every day we see those, who have been the most successful in the race, as miserable as any : or we might see it, if we would, with the least reflection. And to what is it then, that they are sacrificing the real present enjoyment of their beings ?
Another passion, in which we are extremely prone to be excessive, and wretched by the excess, is anger. We let very small matters move us very greatly; sometimes imaginary faults of others : and so we disquiet and torment ourselves, as well as them, without any manner of cause. A little study of moderation would prevent all this, and more evil; would suppress that absurd unreasonableness, which puts us often out of humour, and now and then violently, without knowing why we are so: would teach us to distinguish (which we commonly forget to do) those who have not offended us from those who have; and would never allow us to punish the innocent with the guilty. For want of this, resentment boils within us, and perhaps flames out, to our extreme hurt in several respects, against such as very innocently, from accident or ignorance, or a just regard to themselves or their friends, or it may be a kind one to us, stand in the
any thing, that we want to do or have. But even supposing that men really treat us ill, yet it must be our wisdom and our interest to consider coolly, what alleviations may be pleaded : what mistake or inadvertence of theirs, what indiscretion of ours, or suggestion of others, may have occasioned the misdemeanor. And a calm temper will presume, that there may be alleviations, where none appear. Or if there were none, it would still reflect, that in . this world, things will go wrong, and human creatures act amiss : that we must prepare ourselves for such events, and not be shocked at them : that the offender
is our brother, whom we ought to love; and that, with all his faults, we are but too like him ; subject, if not to the same, yet to others; and possibly, all circumstances weighed, nearly as bad, or worse. Now such reflexions, made habitual, would contribute unspeakably to the tranquillity and comfort of our lives. Anger always gives pain to him who feels it: and we should avoid feeling that pain as much as we can. It rises also, with amazing suddenness, almost in spite of us, if once we give it vent, to the most unexpected and pernicious extremities. Even the lower degrees of it displease, and are intended to displease, the persons against whom it is expressed; this excites them to make such returns, as cannot fail to be uneasy to us, but often do us great and lasting and irreparable mischief: and from hence a very large part of the misery, that men undergo, proceeds. We have but seldom really considerable provocations; and therefore it is absurd to be affected, as if we had them frequently : and how considerable soever they may be, it is highly imprudent to let ourselves be hurried away, we know not whither, by a blind and injurious rage, the parent of innumerable inconveniences and fruitless repentance; instead of possessing our souls in patience * ; and endeavouring to remove, by meekness of wisdom t, whatever would make our passage through life uncomfortable. But we ought to be singularly mild towards those, who in reality give us no provocation; as they certainly do not, who only presume to differ from us in opinion, be it in religion or politics, or any other point. Yet such differences have produced more of that wrath of man, which worketh not the righteousness of God f, more bitter contentions, and more shocking barbarities, even amongst the professed * Luke xxi. 19.
t James iii. 13. # James i. 20.
disciples of the meek and lowly * Jesus, than almost any other cause hath done any where on earth.
Two other passions, nearly allied, which often run to a miserable excess, are fear and grief: as indeed, when desire of and delight in any thing of this world is too vehement, the apprehension of losing it, and concern for having lost it, will be vehement in proportion. And therefore we must endeavour to moderate the two former of these emotions, if we would moderate the latter effectually. But indeed we can often be much afflicted on parting with that in which we had little pleasure: and extremely disturbed with fear of what is by no means likely to happen; or if it should happen, would do us but little harm; and will certainly do us not the less but the more, for being immoderately disquieted about it beforehand, or grieved at it afterwards. But I shall dwell no longer on these two passions, because the weakness and wretchedness of indulging them is universally acknowledged; though that acknowledgment is far from putting men sufficiently on their guard against them. Only it should be added here, that avoiding excess of anxiety under the troubles of life, as it is a very common meaning of the word, translated moderation, was that in all likelihood, which St. Paul had chiefly in his mind. For it immediately follows: Be careful for nothing ; but in every thing, with thanksgiving, let
your requests be made known unto God: and the peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ +.
Here therefore I shall conclude this head. For there will be no end of reckoning up minutely the instances of being too strongly agitated by worldly things, and the mischiefs that follow it : precipitate * Matth. xi. 29.
+ Phil. vi, 6, 7.