Imágenes de páginas

juries, has the appearance of ftupidity, and will make us defp cable and mean in the eyes of many who are not to be influenced by any thing but their fears.

AND as a inoderate fhare of refentment is useful in its effects, fo it is innocent in itself, nay often commendable. The virtue of mildness is no lefs remote from infenfibility, on the one hand, than from fury on the other. It implies, that we are angry only upon proper occafions, and in a due degree; that we are never tranfported beyond the bounds of decency, or indulge a deep and lafting refentment; that we do not follow, but lead our paffion, governing it as our fervant, not fubmitting oarfelves to it as our master. Under thefe regulations it is certainly excufable, when moved only by private wrongs: and being excited by the injuries which others fuffer, it befpeaks a generous mind, and deferves commendation. Shall a good man feel no indignation against injuftice and barbarity? not even when he is witnefs to fhocking inftances of them? when he fees a friend bafely and cruelly treated; when he obferves

Th' oppreflor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The infolence of office, and the fpurns

That patient merit of th' unworthy takes;

fhall he ftill enjoy himself in perfect tranquillity?

Will it be a crime, if he conceive the leaft refentment? Will it not be rather fomewhat criminal, if he is deftitute of it? In fuch cafes we are commonly fo far from being ashamed of our anger, as of fomething mean, that we are proud ofit, and confefs it openly, as what we count laudable and meritorious.

THE truth is, there feems to be fomething manly, and, we are bold to fay, fomething virtuous, in a joft and wellconducted refentment. In the mean time, let us not be fufpected of endeavouring to vindicate rage, and peevishness, and implacable refentment. No; fuch is their deformity, fo horrid and fo manifeft are the evils they produce, that they

they do not admit of any defence or juftification. We condemn, we deteft them, as unnatural, brutish, unmanly, and monstrous. All we contend for is, that it is better to be moderate in our refentment, than to fupprefs it altogether. Let us therefore keep it under a strict difcipline, and carefully reftrain it within the bounds which reafon prefcrites, with regard to the occafion, degree, and continuance of it. But let us not prefume to extirpate any of those affections, which the wisdom of God has implanted in us, which are fo nicely balanced, and fo well adjusted to each other, that by deftroying one of them, we may perhaps diforder and blemish the whole frame of our nature.

To these arguments, thofe who adopt the opinion that anger fhould be entirely fuppreffed, reply:

You tell us, anger is natural to man; but nothing is more natural to man than reafon, mildness, and benevolence, Now with what propriety can we call that natural to any creature, which impairs and oppofes the most effential and diftinguishing parts of its conftitution? Sometimes indeed we may call that natural to a species, which being found in most of them, is not produced by art or cuftom. That anger is in this fenfe 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 caft them away; in like manner, when any of our af fections are become hurtful and ufelefs in our frame, by cutting them off, we do not in the least counteract the intention of Nature. Now fuch is anger to a wife man. To fools and cowards it is a neceffary evil; but to a perfon of moderate fenfe and virtue, it is an evil which has no advantage attending it. The harm it must do him is ve y apparent. It

[blocks in formation]



muft ruffle his temper, make him lefs agreeable to his friends, disturb his reason, and unfit him for discharging the duties of life in a becoming manner. By only diminishing his paffion, leffen, but cannot remove the evil; for the only way to get clear of the one, is by entirely difmiffing 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; aflift an injured friend; profecute and punish a villain. I fay, his prudence and friendship, his public fpirit and calm refolution, will enable him to do all this, and to do it in a much more fafe, proper, and effectual manner, without the affiftance of anger, than with it. He will be defpifed and'neglected, you fay, if he appear to have no refentment. You fhould rather fay, if he appear to have no fedate wifdom and courage: for thefe qualities will be fufficient of themselves to fecure him from contempt, and maintain him in the poffeffion of his just authority. Nor does any thing commanly leffen us more in the eyes of others, than our own paffion. It often expofeth us to the contempt and derifion of thofe 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 gives us be ever fo great, that man must pay very dear for his power, who procures it at the expenfe of his own tranquillity and peace.

BESIDES, the imitation of anger, which is eafily formed, will produce the fame effect upon others, as if the paffion was real. If therefore to quicken the flow, to roufe the inattentive, and restrain the fierce, it is fometimes expedient that they believe you are moved, you may put on the outwaid appearance of refentment. Thus you may obtain the end of anger, without the danger and vexation that attend it; and may preferve your authority, without forfeiting peace of your mind.


HOWEVER manly and vigorous anger may be thought, it


is in fact but a weak principle, compared with the fedate. refolution of a wife and virtuous man. 'The one is uniform and permanent like the strength of a perfon in perfect health; the other, like a force which proceedeth from a fever, is violent for a time, but foon leaves the mind more feeble than before. To him therefore who is armed with a proper firmness of foul, no degree of paffion can be useful in any refpect. And to fay it can ever be laudable and virtuous, is indeed a fufficient y bold affection. 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 afhamed of it in ourselves. Hence it is common to hear men excufing themselves, and seriously declaring they were not angry, when they have given unquestionable proofs to the contrary. But do we not commend him who refents the injuries done to a friend or innocent perfon? Yes, we com. mend him; yet not for his paffion, but for that generofity and friendship of which it is the evidence. For let any one impartially confider, which of thefe characters he esteems the better; his, who interefts himself in the injuries of his friend, and zealously defends him with perfect calm. nefs and ferenity of temper; or his, who pursues the fame conduct under the influence of resentment.

[ocr errors]

IF anger then is neither ufeful nor commendable, it is certainly the part of wifdom to fupprefs it entirely. We fhould rather confine it, you tell us, within certain bounds.. But how fhall we afcertain the limits, to which it may, and beyond which it ought not to pafs? When we receive a manifeft injury, it feems we may refent it, provided we do it with moderation. When we fuffer a worse abufe, our anger, i fuppofe may rife fomewhat higher. Now as the degrees of injustice are infinite, if our anges must always. he proportioned to the occafion, it may poffibly proceed to the utmost extravagance. hall we fet bounds to our refentment while we are yet caim? how can we be affured,

[blocks in formation]

that being once let loofe, it will not carry us beyond them? or fhall we give paffion the reins, imagining we can refume them at pleasure, or trusling it will tire or ftop itself, as foon as it has run to its proper length? As well might we think of giving laws to a tempeft; as well might we endeavour to run mad by rule and method.

In reality, it is much easier to keep ourselves void of refentment, than to reftrain it from excefs, when it has gained admiffion; 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 ufe the illuftration of an excellent author, we can prevent the beginnings of fome things, whofe progress afterwards we cannot hinder: We can forbear to caft ourfelves down from a precipice, but if once we have taken the fatal leap, we must defcend whether we will or no. Thus the mind, if duly cautious, may ftand firm upon the rock of tranquillity; but if the rafhly forfake the fummit, fhe can fcarce recover herfelf, but is hurried away downwards by her own paffion, with increafing violence.

Do not fay that we exhort you to attempt that which is impoffible. Nature has put it in our power to refift the motions of anger. We only plead inability, when we want an excufe for our own negligence. Was a paffionate man to forfeit a hundred pounds, as often as he was angry, or was he fure he muft die the next moment after the firft fally of his paffion, we fhould find he had a great command of his temper whenever he could prevail upon himself to exercife a proper attention about it. And fhall we not efteem it worthy of equal attention, worthy of our utmoft care and pains to obtain that immovable tranquillity of mind, without which we cannot relifh either life itself, or any of its enjoy. ments?-Upon the whole then, we both may and ought, not merely to refrain, but extirpate anger. It is impatient


« AnteriorContinuar »