1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,…
To be "not easily provoked," to be slow in taking offence, and moderate in the expression of resentment — in one word, a good temper seems to be generally reckoned rather among the gifts of nature, the privileges of a happy constitution, than among the possible results of careful self-discipline. We speak of our unhappy temper as if it were something that entirely removed the blame from us, and threw it all upon the peculiar sensitiveness of our frame. The excuse is as absurd as it is mischievous. It is to say, "I have great need of self-control; therefore I will take no care about controlling myself; I have much to acquire of a truly Christian spirit; therefore I need take no pains in studying it." It is granted that there may be great differences of natural constitution, just as there are great differences of outward situation. A sickly frame may, in itself, be more disposed, than one which has always been healthy, to a fretful and irritable temper. Particular circumstances, also, may expose some to greater vexations than others. But, after all this is granted, the only reasonable conclusion appears to be, that the attempt to govern the temper is more difficult in some cases than in others, not that it is, in any case, impossible. I now proceed to lay down some rules for its government. The first I derive not only from the opinion that a bad temper is nothing else than the strength and waywardness of selfish feelings habitually indulged, but from the connection in which I find the apostle's description of that good temper which is one characteristic of charity — Charity "seeketh not her own." Now it appears to me that the reverse of this is pre-eminently true of a bad temper. It is continually seeking its own — its own convenience, ease, comfort, pleasure; and therefore it cannot bear that these things should be forgotten or interrupted.
1. The first rule, therefore, which I would mention for the government of the temper is, guard against the indulgence of a selfish feeling even in your best purposes; beware, even when you think you are entirely occupied with the welfare of others, lest there be some lurking self-will which is seeking to be gratified.
2. Another caution which will frequently be found of use, and particularly in our intercourse with those to whom it is of most consequence that our temper should be gentle and forbearing, is this: avoid raising into undue importance in your own minds the little failings which you may perceive in others, or the trifling disappointments which they may occasion you. How much uneasiness and provocation do we seek, both for ourselves and our friends, if we fret ourselves into anger on an occasion which requires, perhaps, only a gentle word; or if we think it necessary to wear a frown, when every purpose of correction might as well, if not better, be effected by a good-tempered smile.
3. Again, if you wish to follow after that charity which "is not easily provoked," do not forget, in the opposition or disappointment of which you may feel inclined to complain, to make due allowance for the situation, feelings, or judgments of others; do not forget that these cannot always be expected to be in unison with your own.
4. Another rule for the government of the temper, closely connected with the last, if indeed it can be separated from it, is, always put the best construction on the motives of others, when you do not understand their conduct. Do not let it be your immediate conclusion, that they must have intended to neglect or offend you, that they cannot possibly have a good reason for their behaviour.
5. It will further be a great help to our efforts, as well as our desires, for the government of the temper, if we consider seriously the natural consequences of hasty resentments, angry replies, rebukes impatiently given or impatiently received, muttered discontents, sullen looks, and harsh words. It may safely be asserted that the consequences of these and other varieties in which ill-temper can show itself, are entirely evil. The feelings which accompany them in ourselves, and those which they excite in others, are unprofitable as well as painful. They lessen our own comfort, and tend rather to prevent than to promote the improvement of others. After considering the effects of a bad temper, even when connected with good intentions, we shall be the more disposed to practise another method which may be mentioned, for correcting or guarding against it in ourselves. I have already advised a restraint to be placed upon hasty feelings of anger or dissatisfaction; but we should check the expression of those feelings. If our thoughts are not always in our power, our words and actions and looks may be brought under our command; and, if I mistake not, a command over these will be found no mean help towards obtaining an increase of power over our thoughts and feelings themselves. There are not wanting either reasons or rules for the government of the temper, even when we have serious cause for complaint or censure. Let it be that the language or conduct of another has done us real and great injustice. Is this more than we ought to expect, or to be prepared for bearing, in a world where, among other purposes, we are placed to be exercised by trials of Christian patience? A good temper is the natural and constant homage of a truly religious man to that God whom he believes to be love, and to dwell in those who dwell in love. To confirm us in the resolution of making our religion effectual as a help and a rule in the government of our tempers, we shall do well to consider, frequently, the proofs of its efficacy for such a purpose which we may find in the examples of those who have been remarkable for their meekness and patience. These examples will familiarise us with the fact, that such things have been borne; they will accustom us to consider a patient endurance of them a regular part of our religious duties; they will accustom us to think it the business of a Christian to watch over every weakness to which be knows himself subject. Cherish in your minds a spirit of prayer. The help of religion is best sought in connection with supplication to Him who is the source and end of religion. The calmness and seriousness of reflection are best secured by making the pause allowed for communion with our own wisest thoughts, a pause also for communion with Him who is the giver of wisdom.
(A. R. Beard.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,