Christian Heroism
Proverbs 16:32
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city.

I. WHAT IS IT TO RULE THE SPIRIT? Spirit is used sometimes for the thoughts of the mind, the passions of the heart, the emotions of sense, phantoms of imagination, and illusions of concupiscence. To rule the spirit is never to suffer one's self to be prejudiced by false ideas, always to see things in their true point of view, to regulate our hatred and our love, our desires and our inactivity, exactly according to the knowledge we have obtained after mature deliberation that objects are worthy of our esteem or deserve our aversion that they are worth obtaining or proper to be neglected. Consider man —

1. In regard to his natural dispositions. Man finds himself the slave of his heart, instead of being the master of it. He finds himself indisposed to truth and virtue, and conciliatory to vice and falsehood. Who does not feel in himself and observe in others a resistance to the practice of virtue? By virtue understand an universal disposition of an intelligent soul to devote itself to order, and to regulate its conduct as order requires. To avoid vice is to desist from everything contrary to order, from slander and anger, from indolence and voluptuousness, and so on. We bring into the world propensities hostile and fatal to such obligations. Some of these are in the body, and some are in the mind. As we feel in our constitution obstacles to virtue and propensities to vice, so we perceive also inclinations to error and obstacles to truth. Every vice, every irregular passion, includes this error, that a man who gratifies his passion is happier than he who restrains and moderates it. The disposition of mind indicated by the term "ruling the spirit" supposes labour, constraint, and exercise. A man who would rule his spirit must recreate himself.

2. In regard to surrounding objects. Society is composed of many enemies, who seem to be taking pains to increase those difficulties which our natural dispositions oppose against truth and virtue. Everywhere around us are false judgments, errors, mistakes, and preju-dices — prejudices of birth, education, country, religion, friendship, trade or profession, and of fortune. What efforts must a man make to hold his soul in perpetual equilibrium, to maintain himself against so many prejudices! As the men around us fascinate us by their errors, so they decoy us into vice by their example. To resist example we must incessantly oppose those natural inclinations which urge us to imitation. To resist example we must love virtue for virtue's sake.

3. In regard to the habits which man has contracted. Most men have done more acts of vice than of virtue; consequently we contribute by our way of living to join to the depravity of nature that which comes from exercise and habit. What a task, when we endeavour to prevent the return of ideas which for many years our minds have revolved!

II. PROVE THE TRUTH OF THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT. By one who takes a city Solomon means a man who lives upon victories and conquests — a hero in the world's sense. He that ruleth his spirit discovers more fortitude, more magnanimity, and more courage. Compare the worldly with the Christian hero in four particulars.

1. The motives which animate them.

2. The exploits they perform.

3. The enemies they attack.

4. The rewards they obtain.The enemy whom the Christian combats is his own heart; for he is required to turn his arms against himself. He must actually deny himself. Let us religiously abide by our principle. The duty of an intelligent soul is to adhere to truth, and to practise virtue. We are born with a disinclination to both. Let us not be dismayed with the greatness of the task of ruling our spirit. "Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world." Grace comes to the aid of nature. Prayer gains strength by exercise. The passions, after having been tyrants, become slaves in their turn. The danger and pain of battle vanish when the eyes get sight of conquest. How inconceivably beautiful is victory then!

(J. Saurin.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.

WEB: One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; one who rules his spirit, than he who takes a city.

The Way of Righteousness
Top of Page
Top of Page