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Of sacred order, soon she seeks at home
This fair-inspir'd delight: her temper'd pow'rs
Whom nature's works can charm, with God him
Hold converse; grow familiar, day by day,
BOOK I V.
CHA P. I.
WHETHER Anger ought to be suppressed
entirely, or only to be confined within the bounds of moderation.
THOSE who maintain that resentment is blameable only in the excess, support their opinion with such arguments as
SINCE Anger is natural and useful to man, entirely to banish it from our breast, would be an equally foolish and vain attempt for as it is difficult, and next to impossible, to oppose nature with success; so it were imprudent, if we had it in our power, to cast away the weapons with which she has furnish'd us for our defence. The best armour against injustice is a proper degree of spirit, to repel the wrongs that are done, or designed againt us: but if we divest ourselves of all resentment, we shall perhaps prove too irresolute and languid, both in resisting the attacks of injustice, and inflicting punishment upon those who have committed it. We shall therefore sink into contempt, and by the tameness of our spirit, shall invite the malicious to abuse and affront us. Nor will others fail to deny us the regard which is due from
them, if once they think us incapable of resentment. To remain unmoved at gross injuries, has the appearance of stupidity, and will make us despicable and mean in the eyes of many who are not to be influenced by any thing but their fears. And as a moderate share of resentment is useful in its effects, so it is innocent in itself, nay often commendable. The virtue of mildness is no less remote from insensibility, on the one hand, than from fury on the other. It implies that we are angry only upon proper occasions, and in a due degree; that we are never transported beyond the bounds of decency, or indulge a deep and lasting resentment; that we do not follow but lead our passion, governing it as our servant, not summitting ourselves to it as our master.. Under these regulations it is certainly excusable, when moved only by private wrongs: and being excited by the injuries which otherssuffer, it bespeaks a generous mind, and deserves commendation. Shall a good man feel no indignation against injustice and barbarity? not even when he is witness to shocking instances of them? when he sees a friend basely and cruelly treated; when he observes
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes
shall he still enjoy himself in perfect tranquillity? Will it be a crime, if he conceives the least resentment? Will it not rather be somewhat criminal, if he is destitute of it? In such cases we are commonly so far from being ashamed of our anger, as of something mean, that we are proud of it, and confess it openly, as what we count laudable and meritorious.
The truth is, there seems to be something
manly, and we are bold to say, something virtuous, in a just and well conducted resentment. In the mean time, let us not be suspected of endeavouring to vindicate rage, and peevishness, and implacable resentment. No; such is. their deformity, so horrid and so manifest are the evils they produce, that they do not admit of any defence or justification. We condemn, we detest them, as unnatural, brutish, unmanly, and monstrous. All we contend for, is, that it is better to be moderate in our resentment, than to suppress it altogether. Let us therefore keep it under a strict discipline, and carefully restrain it within the bounds which reason prescribes, with regard to the occasion, degree, and continuance of it. But let us not presumeto 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 blemish 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 menagement 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 ap parent. 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 entirely 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 effec!ual manner, without the assistance of anger, than with it. He will be despised and neglected, you say, if he appears to have no resentment. You should rather say, if he appears 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 exposes