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which, in lasting long and dismally, seems only to threaten a still longer, and more dismal darkness. To a disposition of this sort, do voice is soft, and no look is kind; the very effort to soothe it is an insult ; every delightful domestic affection is suspended, the
; servants tremble,--the very children scarcely venture to approach, or steal past in silence, with a beating heart, and rejoice in having escaped, ---the husband finds business to occupy him, in his own apartment, the instant and urgent necessity of which he never discovered before ; and all this consternation and misery, have arisen, perhaps, from the negligence of a waiting-maid, who has placed a flower, or a feather, or a bit of lace, a quarter of an inch higher or lower than it ought to have been :
“ How soft is Silia ! fearful to offend :
We have seen, then, the nature of that character of anger, which is usually termed passionate, in its two varieties. We have seen, also, the nature of that other kindred character, which is usually termed peevish or fretful. There yet remains to be considered by us, one other form or character of excess in this emotion.
This fourth moral error, with respect to resentment, of which I spoke, is when it is too long protracted. The disposition, in that case, is said to be revengeful,-a disposition still more inconsistent with the moral excellence of man, than even that silly fret. fulness of which I last spoke. The very reason of the peevish, is, for the time obscured, as much as their serenity; and, if this obscurity could be removed, so that they might see things as they are, they probably would cease to express, and even to feel, their petty displeasure. The revengeful have not, indeed, the folly of punishing the innocent for the offence of the guilty ; but they punish the guilty, even when the guilt has been expiated, with respect to them, by every atonement which the injurer could offer; or they punish as guilt, what implied no malicious intention ;
* Pope's Moral Essays, Ep. II. v. 29, 30, and 33–36.
and this they dò, not unreflectingly and blindly, but with an understanding as quick to discern, as it is vigorous to execute. Man is too frail in his wishes and actions, to measure the offences of others with a rigid hand. "Mali inter malos vivimus.” The very revenge which he seeks is a condemnation of himself. When he looks into his own mind, is it possible for him to say, Let there be no forgiveness for offence, but let all who have violated what is right, suffer the punishment of their wrong, in the same proportion, in which I now measure out punishment? Would no lurking remembrance of evil, on his part, check such a general wish as this ? and, if he could not venture on the general wish, which must include his own punishment, how audacious must be that arm, which, exposed alike to the cloud that hangs over ail, would yet call down the thunderbolt to destroy whatever is beneath it! For man to be revengeful, is as if a criminal, confined with his accomplices, and speedily to be brought to judgment, should, in some petty malice, against one of his fellow-captives, appeal to the speedier vengeance of those very laws, which all had violated, and which, falling in vengeance on the head of one,
the head of all.
Nature, as I have already said, has formed man susceptible of resentment, that the wicked, who fear only man, may have something to fear ; but she has formed man to be placable, because long continued resentment would be itself an evil more severe than that which it avenges. He, therefore, who knows not how to forgive,-whose gloomy heart preserves even in age, the resentment of youth,-unsoftened by the penitence of the offender, by his virtues, by his very misery, is to us like some dreadful being of another race, that walks the earth, cursing and accursed ;-we shun him, as we would fly from some malignant spirit, who, by looking upon us, could transfuse into us the venom which he feels ;-we have no sympathy for him ;-our only sympathies are with the object of his vengeance,-with that very object, on whom, in other years, we could have delighted to see the vengeance fall.
Such, then, are the abuses of that emotion, which, for the good of mankind, when not thus abused, Heaven has placed in every heart. The resentment, therefore, which Heaven allows only for the good that arises from it, is limited by the very nature of this good. It is, in the first place, a resentment, which pauses, till it
have considered the circumstances, in which the supposed injury has been done,-in the second place, a resentment, which, even when, on reflection, intentional injury is discovered, is still proportioned to the offence,-in the third place, a resentment, which limits its wrath to the guilty object--and in the fourth place, a resentment, which is easy to be appeased, - which does not seek revenge, when the good of society would not suffer by the forgiveness,--and which sees in penitence, when the penitence is manifestly sincere,-not an object of hatred, but an object of love.
Such is the infirmity of our nature, that there is far more reason to apprehend, in every case, that we may have erred in the excess of our resentment, than in defect of it; and there can be no question, which of these errors is the less dangerous to the tranquillity of the individual. He may be very happy, whose resentment scarcely reaches that point, to which the sympathy of those around would accompany him ; but he cannot be happy, whose habitual resentments go far beyond that point. It is of the utmost advantage, therefore, for our own peace, that we should learn, as much as possible, to regard the little vexations which we may, or rather must, often meet from the ill humor of others, or from the crossings and jarrings of interests opposite to our own, with the same patience with which we bear the occasional fogs of our changeful sky. The caprices of man are as little at our disposal, as the varieties of the seasons. Not to lay our account with these human vexations, is a folly very similar to that of expecting in winter all the flowers and sunshine of spring, and of lamenting, that the snows and sleet, which have fallen every where else, should have fallen on our little gorden.
I will not affirm, that man can ever arrive at the stoical magnanimity of being able to say, with respect to every unjust aggression, to which he may be exposed, “No one can be guilty of a crime, that is great enough to be worthy of my emotion.”-“ Nullius tanta nequitia est, ut motu meo digna sit.” But we may be sure of this at least, that the more nearly we approach to that magna. nimity, the more do we save from disquietude our own happiness, and very probably too the happiness of all around us.
“It is impossible for you to be injured,” says a French moralist, with a sententiousness worthy of Seneca,—" it is impossible for you to be injured, but in your property, or in your self-love,
If you are injured in your property, the laws defend you, and you may say of him who has injured you, This man is unjust ; he will be weaker than I. If you are hurt in your self-love, the reproaches which are directed against you must be either well or ill founded. If they are well founded, why have resentment against a man, who makes you feel the necessity of being wiser or better than you were before ? If the reproaches are not well founded, your conscience reassures you; and what vexation can arise in the mind of him, who looks back only on virtues that delighted him when present, and delight him still in the remembrance? The reproaches are those either of a friend, or of an enemy. If they are the reproaches of a friend, say to yourselves, he is my friend; he could not mean to offend me. If they are the reproaches of an enemy, say to yourselves, this is what I should have expected; and why, then, should it astonish me, as if it were something new ? Has your evemy carried his hatred against you so far as to be guilty of a crime? You are already too well avenged."
The emotion opposite to that of resentment is gratitude, that delightful emotion of love to him who has conferred a kindness on us, the very feeling of which is itself no small part of the benefit conferred. It is this, indeed, which mingles in almost every other species of love, and diffuses in them all additional charms. The child does not love his parent merely as possessing virtues which others around him possess perhaps equally; he loves him as his constant benefactor,-the prolonger of that existence which he gave,-the provider against wants which are not to be felt till the gracious provider for them be himself probably no more. When a friend thinks of his friend, what a long period of reciprocal good offices does he seem to measure in a single moment with his eye,-what happiness conferred, what misery soothed! It is as if the friendship itself expanded with the length of that bright tract of enjoyment, the retrospect of which is almost a repetition of the pleasure that seems diffused over every step. In the pure reciprocations of conjugal regard, all this friendship exists, and exists still more intimately and closely. The emotion is not felt as gratitude, indeed, for every interest is so much united, that a kindness conferred and a kindness received are in such a case scarcely to be
distinguished. There is happiness flowing from each to each; and the gratitude which each feels, is perhaps, if we consider it only as the emotion of the object that receives pleasure, due as much from the heart which has conferred, as from the heart which has seemed more directly to receive it. But still the remembrance of this mutual interchange of tender wishes and enjoyments,-of delights and consolations that were almost delights,is no small part of the general complex emotion, which renders the love of those who have long loved as permanent as it is pure.
- The Seasons thus,
With what happy influence has heaven thus led mankind to benevolence, by making kindness delightful both to him who is the object of it, and to him who confers it! If no pleasure had been attached to virtue, we might still indeed have been virtuous, but we should have felt as if walking at the command of some power, whom it would be guilt to disobey, along a world of darkness, The pleasure that flows around us in acts of mutual kindness, is like the sunshine, that is light and gladness to our path ; and if we owed no other gratitude to our Creator, we should owe it for this at least, that he has made gratitude itself so delightful.
* Thomson's Seasons, Spring, v. 1163—1173.