« AnteriorContinua »
regard to the occasion, degree, and continuance of it. But let us not presume to extirpate any of those affections, which the wisdom of God has implanted in us, which are so nicely balanced, and so well adjusted to each other, that by destroying one of them we may perhaps disorder and biesh the whole frame of our nature.
To these arguments, those who adopt the opinion that anger should be entirely suppressed, reply.
You tell us, anger is natural to man; but nothing is more natural to man than reason, mildness, and benevolence. Now with what propriety can we call that natural to any creature, which impairs and opposes the most essential and distinguishing parts of its constitution? Sometimes indeed we may call that natural to a species, which, being found in most of them, is not produced by art or custom. That anger is in this sense natural, we readily grant; but deny that we therefore cannot, or may not, lawfully extinguish it. Nature has committed to our management the faculties of the mind, as well as the members of the body; and, as when any of the latter become pernicious to the whole, we cut them off and cast them away; in like manner, when any of our affections are become hurtful and useless in our frame, by cutting them off we do not in the least counteract the intention of Nature. Now such is anger to a wise man. To fools and cowards it is a necessary evil; but to a person of moderate sense and virtue, it is an evil which has no advantage attending it. The harm it must do him is very apparent. It must ruffle his temper, make him less agreeable to his friends, disturb his reason, and unfit him for discharging the duties of life in a becoming manner. By only diminishing his passion, he may lessen, but cannot remove the evil; for the only way to get clear of the one is by dismissing the other.
How then will anger be so useful to him, as to make it worth his while to retain it in any degree? He may defend his own rights; assist an injured friend; prosecute and punish a villain. I say, his prudence and friendship, his public spirit and calm resolution, will enable him to do all this and to do it in a much more safe, proper, and effectual manner, without the assistance of anger, than with it. He will be de
spised and neglected, you say, if he appear to have no resentment. You should rather say, if he appear to have no sedate wisdom and courage: for these qualities will be sufficient of themselves, to secure him from contempt, and maintain him in the possession of his just authority. Nor does any thing commonly lessen us more in the eyes of others, than our own passion. It often exposeth us to the contempt and derision of those who are not in our power; and if it make us feared, it also makes us proportionally hated by our inferiors and dependants. Let the influence it give us be ever so great, that man must pay very dear for his power, who procures at the expense of his own tranquillity and peace.
Besides, the imitation of anger, which is easily formed, will produce the same effect upon others, as if the passion was real. If therefore to quicken the slow, to rouse the inattentive, and restrain the fierce, it is sometimes expedient, that they believe you are moved, you may put on the outward appearance of resentment. Thus you may obtain the end of anger, without the danger and vexation that attend it; and may preserve your authority, without forfeiting the peace of your mind.
However manly and vigorous anger may be thought, it is in fact but a weak principle, compared with the sedate resolution of a wise and virtuous man. The one is uniform and permanent like the strength of a person in perfect health; the other, like a force which proceedeth from a fever, is vio-lent for a time, but soon leaves the mind more feeble than before. To him, therefore, who is armed with a proper firmness of soul, no degree of passion can be useful in any respect. And to say it can ever be laudable and virtuous is indeed a sufficiently bold assertion. For the most part we blame it in others and though we are apt to be indulgent enough to our own faults, we are often ashamed of it in ourselves. Hence it is common to hear men excusing themselves, and seriousty declaring they were not angry, when they have given unquestionable proofs to the contrary. But do we not commend him who resents the injuries done to a friend or innocent person? Yes, we commend him; yet not for his passion, but for that generosity and friendship of which it is the evidence. For let any one impartially consider which of these characters he esteems the better; his,
who interests himself in the injuries of his friend, and zealously defends him with perfect calmness and serenity of temper; or his, who pursues the same conduct under the influence of resentment.
If anger then is neither useful nor commendable, it is certainly the part of wisdom to suppress it entirely. We should rather confine it, you tell us, within certain bounds. But how shall we ascertain the limits, to which it may, and beyond which it ought not to pass? When we receive a manifest injury, it seems we may resent it, provided we do it with moderation. When we suffer a worse abuse, our anger, I suppose, may rise somewhat higher. Now as the degrees of injustice are infinite, if our anger must always be proportioned to the occasion, it may possibly proceed to the utmost extravagance. Shall we set bounds to our resentment, while we are yet calm? how can we be assured, that, being once let loose, it will not carry us beyond them? or shall we give passion the reins, imagining we can resume them at pleasure, or trusting it will tire or stop itself, as soon as it has run to it's proper length? As well might we think of giving laws to a tempest; as well might we endeavour to run mad by rule and method.
In reality, it is much easier to keep ourselves void of resentment, than to restrain it from excess, when it has gained admission; for if Reason, while her strength is yet entire, is not able to preserve her dominion, what can she do when her enemy has in part prevailed, and weakened her force? To use the illustration of an excellent author, we can prevent the beginnings of some things, whose progress afterward we cannot hinder: We can forbear to cast ourselves down from a precipice, but if once we have taken the fatal leap, we must descend, whether we will or no. Thus the Mind, if duly cautious, may stand firm upon the rock of tranquillity; but if she rashly forsake the summit, she can scarce recover herself, but is hurried away downward by her own passion with increasing violence.
Do not say, that we exhort you to attempt that which is impossible. Nature has put it in our power, to resist the motions of anger. We only plead inability, when we want an excuse for our own negligence. Was a passionate man to forfeit a hundred pounds, as often as he was angry, or
was he sure he must die the next moment after the first sally of his passion, we should find he had a great command of his temper, whenever he could prevail upon himself to exercise a proper attention about it. And shall we not esteem it worthy of equal attention, worthy of our utmost care and pains, to obtain that immovable tranquillity of mind, without which we cannot relish either life itself, or any of it's enjoyinents Upon the whole then, we both may and ought, not merely to restrain, but extirpate anger. It is impatient of rule; in proportion as it prevails, will disquiet our minds; it has nothing commendable in itself, nor will it answer any valuable purpose in life. HOLLAND.
VIRTUE OUR HIGHEST INTEREST.
I FIND myself existing upon a little spot, surrounded every way by an immense unknown expansion.-Where am I? What sort of place do I inhabit? Is it exactly accommodated, in every instance, to my convenience? Is there no excess of cold, none of heat, to offend me? Am I never annoyed by animals, either of my own kind, or a different? Is every thing subservient to me, as though I had ordered all myself?—No -nothing like it-the farthest from it possible.-The world appears not then originally made for the private convenience of me alone?—It does not.-But is it not possible so to accommodate it, by my own particular industry?-If to accommodate man and beast, heaven and earth; if this be beyond me, it is not possible-What consequence then follows? Or can there be any other than this-If I seek an interest of my own, detached from that of others; I seek an interest which is chimerical, and can never have existence.
How then must I determine? have I no interest at all? -If I have not, I am a fool for staying here. "Tis a smoky house, and the sooner out of it the better.-But why no interest? Can I be contented with none, but one separate and detached? Is a social interest joined with others such an absurdity, as not to be admitted? The bee, the beaver and
the tribes of herding animals, are enough to convince me, that the thing is, somewhere at least, possible. How then am I assured, that it is not equally true of man?—Admit it; and what follows?—If so, then Honour and Justice are my interest-then the whole train of Moral Virtues are my interest; without some portion of which not even thieves can maintain society.
But farther still-I stop not here I pursue this social interest, as far as I can trace my several relations. I pass from my own stock, own neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind, as dispersed throughout the earth.-Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce; by the general intercourse of arts and letters; by that common nature, of which we all participate ?—Again
I must have food and clothing-Without a proper genial warmth I instantly perish-Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itself? To the distant sun, from whose beams I derive vigour? To that stupendous course and order of the infinite host of Heaven, by which the times and seasons ever uniformly pass on?-Were this order once confounded, I could not probably survive a moment; so absolutely do I depend on this common general welfare.
What then have I to do, but to enlarge Virtue into Piety? Not only honour and justice, and what I owe to man, are my interest; but gratitude also, acquiescence, resignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great polity, and it's greater Governor, our common Parent.
But if all these moral and divine habits be my interest, I need not surely seek for a better. I have an interest compatible with the spot on which I live-I have an interest which may exist, without altering the plan of Providence, without mending or marring the general order of events.
I can bear whatever happens with manlike magnanimity; can be contented, and fully happy in the good which I possess; and can pass through this turbid, this fickle, fleeting period, without bewailings, or envyings, or murmurings, or complaints. HARRIS.