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teachers, and particularly the best of teachers, who came from heaven to instruct us, labouring to inculcate upon mankind the conquest of passion and appetite, without setting any, bounds to the length they would have the conquest carried; as knowing, that there is no need to caution men against an excess on this safest side. And,
with respect to the passion we are now treating of, if a person does not show himself wholly incapable of being moved, if he does not directly invite injuries and assaults, by bearing without all measure; if he does but from time to time show that he has in him too much spirit to suffer himself to be trampled upon; I am clearly of opinion, that he cannot exert this passion too seldom, or too moderately.
If we take the same method for coming at the true state of things in this, as in other cases, viz. endeavouring, as before directed to get that view of them which appears before the all-comprehensive eye of God, we shall then see how absurd the excessive indulgence of this lawless passion is. To the Supreme Mind we appear a set of infirm, short-sighted, helpless beings, engaged to one another by nature, and the necessity of our affairs; incapable of greatly prejudicing one another; all very nearly upon a footing; all guilty before him; all alike under his government, and all to stand hereafter before the same judgment-seat. How ridiculous must then our fatal quarrels, our important points of honour, our high indignation, and our mighty resentments appear before him? Infinitely more contemptible than the contentions between the frogs and mice do to us in the ludicrous ancient poem ascribed to Homer.
But this is not all. Let it be considered also how the impiety of our hatred and resentment must appear before that Eye, which sees all things as they are. That the Supreme Governor of the world should choose to vindicate to himself the privileges of searching the hearts, and of knowing the real characters of all his creatures, is no more than might be expected. Whoever therefore presumes to pronounce upon the character or state of any of his fellow-creatures before God, assumes the incommunicable privilege of Divinity. Now, every man who hates his fellow-creature, must first conclude him to be wicked and
hateful in the sight of God, or he must hate him whom God loves; which is such a piece of audacious opposition to the Divine mind, as hardly any man will confess himself capable of. Again for a private person to take upon him to avenge an injury, (in any way besides having recourse to lawful authority which is founded in the Divine,) what is it less than assuming the authority of God himself, whose privilege it is to decide finally, either immediately, or by those whom he has authorised for that purpose?
Farther, let the effects of this unruly passion, carried to its utmost length, and indulged universally, be considered, that we may judge whether it be most for the good of the whole that we conquer or give way to it. Experience shows, that every passion and appetite indulged, would proceed to greater and greater lengths, without end. Suppose then every man to lay the reins upon the neck of his fury, and give himself up to be driven by it without control into all manner of madness and extravagance: the obvious consequence must be the destruction of the weaker by the stronger, till the world became a desert. Whatever is right for one man to practise, is equally right for all, unless circumstances make a difference. If it be proper that one man indulge anger without a cause, no circumstance can make it improper that all do so. If it be proper that one man suffer his passion to hurry him on to abuse, or destroy an innocent person, it is proper that all do so, and that the world be made one vast scene of blood and desolation.
People ought to be very careful in the younger part of life, not to give way to passion: for all habits strengthen with years. And he, who in youth indulges an angry and fretful temper, by the time he comes into years, is likely to be unsufferable by his peevishness; which, though not so fatal and terrible as a furious temper, is more frequently troublesome, and renders the person who gives way to it more thoroughly contemptible. The excessive strength of all our passions is owing to our neglect to curb them in time, before they become unconquerable.
When, therefore, you feel passion rising, instead of giving it vent in outrageous expressions, which will inflame
both your own and that of the person you are angry with, accustom yourself to call reflection to your assistance. Say to yourself, What is there in this affair of sufficient consequence to provoke me to expose myself? Had I not better drop the quarrel, if the offence were much more atrocious, than be guilty of folly? If I have lost money, or honour, by this injurious person, must I lose by him my wits too? How would a Socrates, or a Phocion, have behaved on such an occasion? How did a greater than either behave on an occasion of incomparably greater provocation, while he had it in his power to have struck his enemies dead with a word? True greatness appears in restraining, not giving a loose to passion.
Make a resolution for one day not to be put out of temper upon any account. If you can keep it one day, you may two; and so on. To keep you in mind of your resolution, you may wear a ring upon a particular finger, or use any other such contrivance. You may accustom yourself never to say any thing peevish, without thinking it over as long as you could count six deliberately. After you have habituated yourself for some time to this practice, you will find it as unnatural to blunder out rash speeches, as you do now to deliberate before you speak.
Envy and malice are rather corruptions of natural passions, than the natural growth of the human heart; for the very least degree of them is wicked and unnatural, as well as the greatest. Emulation, out of which arises envy, is one of the noblest exertions of a rational mind. To aspire to equal whatever is truly great in a fellow-creature, what can show more conspicuously true greatness of mind? What worthy mind was ever without this disposition? But to look with an evil eye upon, or to hate that excellence in another, which we cannot, or will not emulate, is the very disposition of an evil spirit: for it is hating a person for the very thing which ought to excite love and admiration.
Some of the other excesses we are apt to run into in indulging our passions have to plead for themselves, that the exertion of those passions is attended with a sensible pleasure. But anger, hatred, malice, envy, revenge, and all the irascible passions, the more strongly they operate,
the greater the torment they produce; and it must be an extraordinary degree of virulence in a mind, that makes it choose to torture itself for the sake of exerting its spite against another which spite also, through the goodness of an over-ruling Providence, instead of hurting the person attacked, most commonly recoils in vengeance upon him who has indulged in himself so devilish a temper.
The natural inclination we have to sympathize with our fellow-creatures, to make their case our own, and to suffer a sensible pain when we think of their misery or misfortune, was placed in us to draw us more effectually than reason alone would, to endeavour to relieve them. It is therefore evident, that this motion of the mind ought to be encouraged and strengthened in us, because we cannot be too much attached to our fellow-creatures, at the same time that we ought to act chiefly upon rational motives in endeavouring to relieve the distresses of our brethren of mankind.
Fear is a natural passion of the mind, and ought no more to be eradicated than any of the others. A reasonable caution against, and desire of avoiding whatever would prove in any degree hurtful, is the prudent motion of every rational created mind. The conduct of this passion consists in directing our fear, or caution, to proper objects. To fear poverty, or pain, or death, more than guilt; to dread the misery of an hour, or of a life, more than a future punishment for ages, is fearing a lesser evil more than a greater, choosing an extreme degree of misery for the sake of avoiding an inconsiderable one.
Though a dastardly spirit is, generally speaking, a proof of baseness of mind, it does not therefore follow, that to dare to attempt any thing, however unreasonable or unjust, is true fortitude. A bully, a drunkard, or a lunatic, will attack what a wise man will avoid encountering with: for the natural or adventitious vivacity of temper in such persons, which is owing to bodily constitution, or intoxication by liquor, or to a preternatural flow of spirits hurrying them on, and reason being in them very weak, or altogether insufficient for restraining their impetuosity, it is no wonder if they run into the most extravagant and dangerous adventures, nor if they sometimes carry all
before them for the very notion that a person, or body of men, are resolute to a desperate degree, renders them much more formidable to a people who have not, or perhaps cannot work themselves up to the same pitch. True courage is cool and deliberate, founded in a strong attachment to justice, truth, love of one's country, and of true glory; and is regulated and restrained by wisdom and goodness. True fortitude appears infinitely more glorious in the faithful martyr, who, subdued by want and imprisonment, goes on without fear, but without pride, friendless and alone, and in the midst of the insulting crowd gives up his body to the devouring flames in honour of God and his truth, than in the blustering commander at the head of his thousands, who marches to battle, and, in confidence of the might of his arm, already assures himself of victory; and yet the latter is immortalized by the venal strain of flattery, while the former is passed over in silence.
The loss of some good which we have either enjoyed or had reasonable hopes of attaining, or the arrival of some positive evil, is a reasonable subject of reasonable grief; and the concern of mind ought to be proportioned to the greatness of the loss, or the severity of the calamity which is come upon us. As for the afflictions of this present life, such as the loss of riches, of health, of the favour of the great, of the good opinion of our fellowcreatures, of friends or relations, by removal to distant places, or by death; these, and the like, being all temporary, we show our wisdom most by bearing them with patience, or even most of them with indifference, in consideration of the prospect we have, if we be virtuous, of having all such losses made up to us hereafter; of being hereafter possessed of the true and unfading, riches; of having the integrity of our characters cleared before men and angels; of being restored to our valuable friends and relations, and united to them in a better and happier state, where they and we shall be fitter for true and exalted friendship, and where we shall no more fear a cruel separation.
There is but one just subject of great or lasting grief that I know of; it is the consideration of our guilt before God. That we ourselves, or others, should ever have offended the kindest and best of beings, whom we were, by