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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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That calm and unruffled temper with which a good man bears the evils of life. "Patience, " says an eminent writer, "is apt to be ranked by many among the more humble and obscure virtues, belonging chiefly to those who grown on a sick bed, or who languish in a prison; but in every circumstance of life no virtue is more important both to duty and to happiness. It is not confined to a situation of continued adversity: it principally, indeed, regards the disagreeable circumstances which are apt to occur; but prosperity cannot be enjoyed, any more than adversity supported without it. It must enter into the temper, and form the habit of the soul, if we would pass through the world with tranquillity and honour." "Christian patience, " says Mason, "is essentially different from insensibility, whether natural, artificial, or acquired. This, indeed, sometimes passes for patience, though it be in reality quite another thing; for patience signifies suffering. Now if you inflict ever so much pain on the body of another, if he is not sensible of it, it is no pain to him; he suffers nothing; consequently calmness under it is no patience. This insensibility is sometimes natural. Some, in the native temperament of their mind and body are much less susceptible of pain than others are.

There are different degrees of insensibility in men, both in their animal and mental frame; so that the same event may be a great exercise of patience to one man, which is none at all to another, as the latter feels little or no pain from that wound inflicted on the body or mind which gives the most exquisite anguish to the former. Again; there is an artificial insensibility: such as is procured by opiates, which blunt the edge of pain; and there is an acquired insensibility; or that which is attained by the force of principles strongly inculcated, or by long custom. Such was the apathy of the Stoics, who obstinately maintained that pain was no evil, and therefore bore it with amazing firmness, which, however, was very different from the virtue of Christian patience, as appears from the principles from which they respectively proceeded; the one springing from pride, the other from humility." Christian patience, then, is something different from all these. "It is not a careless indolence, a stupid insensibility, mechanical bravery, constitutional fortitude, a daring stoutness of spirit, resulting from fatalism, philosophy, or pride:

it is derived from a divine agency, nourished by heavenly truth, and guided by Scriptural rules." "Patience, " says Mr. Jay, "must be displayed under provocations. Our opinions, reputation, connexions, offices, business, render us widely vulnerable. the characters of men are various: their pursuits and their interests perpetually clash: some try us by their ignorance; some by their folly; some by their perverseness; some by their malice. Here, then, is an opportunity for the triumph of patience.

We are very susceptive of irritation; anger is eloquent; revenge is sweet: but to stand calm and collected; to suspend the blow which passion was urgent to strike; to drive the reasons of clemency as far as they will go; to bring forward fairly in view the circumstances of mitigation: to distinguish between surprise and deliberation, infirmity and crime; or if infliction be deemed necessary, to leave God to be both the judge and the executioner; this a Christian should labour after: his peace requires it. People love to sing the passionate; they who are easily provoked, commit their repose to the keeping of their enemies; they lie down at their feet, and invite them to strike. the man of temper places himself beyond vexatious interruption. 'He that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down, and without walls, ' into which enter over the ruins serpents, vagrants, thieves, enemies; while the man who in patience possesses his soul, has the command of himself, places a defense all around him, and forbids the entrance of such unwelcome company to offend or discompose. His wisdom requires it. '

He that is slow to anger is of great understanding; but he that is hasty of spirit, exalteth folly.' Wisdom gives us large, various, comprehensive views of things; the very exercise operates as a diversion, affords the mind time to cool, and furnishes numberless circumstances tending to soften severity. His dignity requires it. 'It is the glory of a man to pass by a transgression.' The man provoked to revenge is conquered, and loses the glory of the struggle; while he who forbears comes off victor, crowned with no common laurels. A flood assails a rock, and rolls off unable to make an impression; while straws and boughs are borne off in triumph, carried down the stream, driven and tossed. Examples require it. What provocations had Joseph received from his brethren? but he scarcely mentions the crime: so eager is he to announce the pardon. David says, 'They rewarded me evil for good; but as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth.' Stephen, dying under a shower of stones, prays for his enemies: 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.'

But a greater than Joseph, or David, or Stephen, is here. go to the foot of the cross, and behold Jesus suffering for us. Every thing conspired to render the provocation heinous; the nature of the offence, the meanness and obligation of the offenders, the righteousness of his cause, the grandeur of his person; and all these seemed to call for vengeance. The creatures were eager to punish. Peter drew his sword; the sun resolved to shine on such criminals no longer; the rocks asked to crush them; the earth trembles under the sinful load; the very dead cannot remain in their graves. He suffers them all to testify their sympathy, but forbids their revenge; and, lest the Judge of all should pour forth his fury, he cries, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!'

2. Patience is to be displayed in suffering affliction. This is another field in which patience gathers glory. Affliction comes to exercise our patience, and to distinguish it. 'The trial of your faith worketh patience, ' not only in consequence of the divine blessing, but by the natural operation of things; use makes perfect; the yoke is rendered easy by being worn, and those parts of the body which are most in action are the most strong and solid; and, therefore, we are not to excuse improper dispositions under affliction, by saying, 'It was so trying, who could help it?' This is to justify impatience by what God sends on purpose to make you patient.

3. Patience is to be exercised under delays. We as naturally pursue a desired good as we shun an apprehended evil: the want of such a good is as grievous as the pressure of such an evil; and an ability to bear the one is as needful a qualification as the fortitude by which we endure the other. It therefore, equally belongs to patience to wait, as to suffer. God does not always immediately indulge us with an answer to our prayers. He hears, indeed, as soon as we knock; but he does not open the door: to stand there resolved not to go without a blessing, requires patience; and patience cries, 'Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.' We have, however, the most powerful motives to excite us to the attainment of this grace.

1. God is a God of patience, Romans 15:5 .

2. It is enjoined by the Gospel, Romans 12:12 . Luke 21:19 .

3. The present state of man renders the practice of it absolutely necessary, Hebrews 10:36 .

4. The manifold inconvenience of impatience is a strong motive, John 4:1-54 : Psalms 106:1-48 :

5. Eminent examples of it, Hebrews 12:2 . Hebrews 6:12 . Job 1:22 .

6. Reflect that all our trials will terminate in triumph, James 5:7-8 . Romans 2:7 . Barrow's works, vol. 3: ser. 10; Jay's Sermons, ser. 2. vol. 1:; Mason's christian Morals, vol. 1: ser. 3; Blair's Sermons, vol. 3: ser. 11; Bishop Horne's Discourses, vol. 2: ser. 10; Bishop Hopkin's Death Disarmed, p. 1: 120.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Patience'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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Patience of God