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this way: and employing their reflection to excite the displeasure, which it ought to restrain, the longer they ruminate, the more untractable they grow. Now passion may be trusted very safely to suggest all the aggravating circumstances. Reason therefore should be called in, only to represent the alleviating considerations : of which we perpetually overlook so many and so important ones, that we should give those about us all possible encouragement to remind us of them. And if the person, by whom we think ourselves aggrieved, be one, with whom we have any close connection, or of whom we have ground to think advantageously; laying our complaint mildly before him, and hearkening impartially to his answer, may very possibly set all right, and place us on a better footing, than ever we were before. Admonish a friend: it may be he hath not done it; and if he have done it, that he do it no more. Admonish thy friend: it
may be he hath not said it: and if he have, that he speak it not again. Admonish a friend: for many times it is a slander; and believe not every tale. There is one, that slippeth in his speech; but not from his heart : and who is he, that hath not offended with his tongue? Admonish thy neighbour, before thou threaten him; and, not being angry, give place to the law of the Most High*. Only this caution ought to be observed in the case, that such, as are naturally warm and impatient, should but seldom risk à personal explanation at first: but rather employ some common well-wisher; on whose probity and prudence they can safely depend, that he will moderate, not inflame, matters by interposing. And when thus or any way, the subject of difference is rightly stated : if the other party be innocent, let us admit it with
Ecclus. xix. 13--17.
pleasure; if he own his fault, though not so fully as he should, let us receive his acknowledgment with generosity. And if, in return, he brings a charge against us: let us say with calmness what we have to say justly in our own favour; confess frankly with due concern, whatever hath been amiss; and where there is no room for a defence, attempt no palliation; but follow the injunction of Scripture: If thou hast done foolishly, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine. hand upon thy mouth*. It will be very dishonourable, and very strange in him, to treat us unkindly upon this. But if he doth, we must submit patiently to what we have brought upon ourselves; and not be guilty of a second misdemeanor, because our first is not handsomely forgiven us.
These rules we shall, every one of us, more or less, violate. But then, through God's grace, we may turn even our transgressions of them to our benefit, by gaining such experimental knowledge of ourselves, as will supply us with specific directions fitted to our own case; and on that account far surer to be successful at last, than any more general ones, that can be prescribed to us by others. And now, after thus delivering rules for the
prevention or cure of unwarrantable resentment, both which are works of no small difficulty, let me add in conclusion, that all around us ought to assist us in them: and particularly by conscientiously abstaining from throwing in our way any temptations to that sin.' The intemperate heat of the passionate is very blameable: but the deliberate wickedness of the cool and artful, who rouse them into passion, is abominable: and even the sportful teazings of malicious mirth, when employed against such, deserve no
* Prov. XXX. 32.
slight censure. St. Paul twice admonishes parents,
reap in mercy I.
MATTH. II. 16.
Then Herod, when he saw, that he was mocked of
the wise men, was exceeding wroth; and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two y and under; according to the time, which he had
diligently enquired of the wise men. The piteous history, contained in these words, is the sequel of that, immediately preceding, which informs us, that, on the birth of our Saviour in Judea, some Gentiles of learning and distinction came from the East to Jerusalem, by divine direction, to pay him homage: on which, Herod the king, understanding that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, sent them thither to find him; with a charge to bring him notice of the place where the child was, that he also might do him the same honour; designing really to destroy him, instead of paying him respect: but that, being warned of God, not to return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way*.
The sad consequences which followed their departure, are mentioned in the words of the text; and present to us a transaction of so remarkable a nature as well deserves a particular examination into it, and an explanation of the several circumstances attend. ing it. This is what I mean to give you in the following discourse: and if, in doing it, I should be led
to spend more time, in proportion, than usual, on points not immediately belonging to the great articles of Christian faith or practice : you will remember, that we ought to understand, not only the doctrines and precepts, but the history of the Gospel : especially as in the present unbelieving age, objections are too frequently made against the several parts of it, in their turns; and as a due consideration of every part will not only confirm us in the truth of it, but furnish abundantly more matter of pious and moral reflection, than at the first view it may seem to afford.
The text begins with acquainting us, that Herod when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth. Not that they had any design of provoking him, or exposing him to contempt. That is not the behaviour of good persons to the very worst. He had commanded them indeed to bring him word again, where the child was: but probably had too haughtily presumed on their compliance, though not his subjects, to think of asking a promise of them. Or had they made one, as they naturally enough might with a full purpose of keeping it; the warning, received from God, must entirely have superseded that obligation : of which, other things also might have hindered the performance. But unreasonable and vehement spirits hardly ever stay to inquire into such matters : whatever disappoints them, appears to them an indignity. And accordingly Herod was not only sorry, that his intention was frustrated, but exceeding wroth: imagined it no sin at all to contrive the murder of the harmless child whose birth had been notified to him; but an intolerable offence, that the wise men should, whatever their reason was, fail to be made his instruments for accomplishing it.