Old Wisdom

Richard Baxter on Anger

Anger is good when it is thus used to its appointed end, in a right manner and measure: but it is sinful,

  1. When it riseth up against God or any good, as if it were evil to us: as wicked men are angry at those that would convert and save them, and that tell them of their sins, and that hinder them from their desires.
  2. When it disturbeth reason, and hindereth our judging of things aright.
  3. When it casteth us into any unseemly carriage, or causeth or disposeth to any sinful words or actions: when it inclineth us to wrong another by word or deed, and to do as we would not be done by.
  4. When it is mistaken, and without just cause.
  5. When it is greater in measure than the cause alloweth.
  6. When it unfitteth us for our duty to God or man.
  7. When it tendeth to the abatement of love and brotherly kindness, and the hindering of any good which we should do for others: much more when it breedeth malice, and revenge, and contentions, and unpeaceableness in societies, oppression of inferiors, or dishonouring of superiors.
  8. When it stayeth too long, and ceaseth not when its lawful work is done.
  9. When it is selfish and carnal, stirred up upon the account of some carnal interest, and used but as a means to a selfish, carnal, sinful end: as to be angry with men only for crossing your pride, or profit, or sports, or any other fleshly will.

In all these it is sinful.


Consider how much other sin immoderate anger doth incline men to.  It is the great crime of drunkenness, that a man having not the government of himself, is made liable by it to any wickedness: and so it is with immoderate anger.  How many oaths and curses doth it cause every day!  How many rash and sinful actions!  What villany hath not anger done!  It hath slandered, railed, reproached, falsely accused, and injured many a thousand.  It hath murdered and ruined families, cities, and states.  It hath made parents kill their children, and children dishonour their parents.  It hath made kings oppress and murder their subjects, and subjects rebel and murder kings.  What a world of sin is committed by sinful anger throughout all the world!  How endless would it be to give you instances!  David himself was once drawn by it to purpose the murdering of all the family of Nabal.  Its effects should make it odious to us.

And it is much the worse in that it suffereth not a man to sin alone, but stirreth up others to do the like.  Wrath kindleth wrath, as fire kindleth fire.  It is two to one but when you are angry you will make others angry, or discontented, or troubled by your words or deeds.  And you have not the power of moderating them in it, when you have done.  You know not what sin it may draw them to. It is the devil’s bellows to kindle men’s corruptions; and sets hearts, and families, and kingdoms in a flame.

–Richard Baxter, from A Christian Directory

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