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by the superstitious tales of the nursery, is not always removed by a subsequent conviction of their absurdity.
These considerations may, perhaps, explain the reason why numbers who have formed very exalted sentiments of the divinity, are still prone to connect the idea of personal wrath, anger, or displeasure, at offences committed against the laws of God. They seem disposed to think that a resentment is excited, in the divine mind, against the sins of men, in a manner analogous to the sensations experienced by human beings from similar causes. The numerous and aggravated crimes committed by dependant creatures, surrounded with blessings, and endowed with powers which might be subservient to the highest purposes, are in themselves provocations of the greatest magnitude, and might justify the severest manifestations of indignant wrath; but that the all-perfect mind is not subjected to the passion of Anger, is demonstrable from the effects of that passion in us, the manner in which it is excited, and the nature of its exciting
Although the anger of man should be justified by the provocations received, although its exercise should not exceed the boundaries of justice or discretion, and although the desire to
punish, to which the mind is instinctively prompted, may produce beneficial effects; yet it is a turbulent emotion which every wise man attempts to subdue. It disturbs every calmer and more refined pleasure; and it is totally inconsistent with that fullness of enjoyment, which is alone to be found in the indulgence of the benevolent and complacential affections.
If the transports of passion be so comfortless in the human breast; if they disrange the whole frame, and render it difficult to return to a placid state of mind, how tremendous the effects upon the supreme Being must be deemed, by those who think hin altogether such an one as ourselves! They would be infinite in their intenseness ! Every cause of anger being founded in justice, and causes perpetually recurring, effects would be reiterated to an infinite accumulation !
The paroxysms of Anger are always excited in us by the sudden surprise of a recent provocation, by which they are distinguished from habitual resentment, or permanent disapprobation. But no excitement of this nature can affect that mind which fore-knows every event, has pre-ordained every principle of action within us, and is intimately acquainted with the result.
The wrath of man is excited or quickened by a sense of personal injury experienced or apprehended; but who can injure the Omnipotent, or diminish his bliss ?
The passion of Anger in us, according to its legitimate' exercise, is implanted that we may repel some injury, or prevent a repetition by the instant punishment of a delinquent. It is sometimes a necessary protection against repeated acts of inconsideration and insult. Where this provocation is great, or the danger extreme, it communicates extraordinary strength to the corporeal system, and, by its sudden impetus, it gains a momentary triumph over the love of ease, fond partialities, and even the apprehensions of danger, in order to inflict the punishment due to an offender.
The transports of Anger are always the most violent in irritable habits, where there are no laws to protect; where there is a prevalence of selfishness and pride; and the greatest ignorance of human nature. Just laws render the irritations prompting to self-protection, the less necessary. The man who has subdued inordinate self-love, and has cultivated the social virtues, is most disposed to forgive injuries. He who knows the workings of the mind, and can make due allowances for the inadvertencies, situations, habits, the sudden impulse of a passion, and the force of surrounding inducements, will be most disposed to mo
derate his resentments, and will sometimes permit compassion to subdue them.
In these remarks no particular application is necessary. The Being whom we serve is infinitely above such sources of irritation.
If we advert to those passions, and affections, in which we discover Good, and which are most conducive to our happiness, we shall see that they are excited by the peculiarities of our state. Surprise, wonder, astonishment, manifest the feebleness and ignorance of our minds. Desire and hope indicate our wants and defects; Joy is the pleasing impulse excited by the sudden possession of Good. • Contentment acquiesces in the deficiency observed: and Satisfaction is the completion of a previous wish. Respect, reverence, admiration, gratitude, confess inferiority and dependence. Compassion, sympathy, &c. are painful sensations, excited within us to subdue indolence or selfishness. They, as it were, compel us to alleviate distress, and solace the afflicted.
These also are inapplicable to a perfect Being.
In a former work we observed, that Love may be considered either asa Principle or as an Affec
tion. As a principle it was defined to be an invariable preference of Good; and an universal attachment to well-being and happiness." As a principle it predisposes to action; as an affection it attaches itself to particular objects. Wherever there is an attachment, there is a source of happiness. An attachment is of itself pleasing, notwithstanding the imprudences and improprieties that may surround it: and where there is no obstacle to the indulgence of it, the enjoyment is complete. The more it is extended, and the greater the number of the objects it embraces, the more copious will be the sources of enjoyment.
In Complacency, love is united with approbation. This complacency may respect the conduct of those interesting to us, or our own conduct towards others. It is always produced by the perception or discovery of moral worth; of some Good attempted, produced, or enjoyed, in consequence of worthy designs, or worthy actions, performed from worthy motives. The discernment of moral worth inspires approbation in every lover of virtue. Complacency approves of motives; it approves of the choice and application of the best means of producing good; and it enjoys the beneficial result.
* See Phil. T. on Pass. p. 24.