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calm : but this Consideration should increase our Care not to be agitated too much. For he, who is angry more than he hath Cause, is so far angry without a Cause. And therefore we must have Regard, both to the Proportion of the Fault, and our Right to take Notice of it. For a Person may deserve a great deal of Anger, and yet deserve little or none from us.
Exact Determinations indeed of this Proportion are hard to give : and probably would do Harm, if they could easily be given. For, were the Limits of lawful Anger in every Case precisely known, most People would venture without Scruple to the atmost Extent of them ; and so of Course be hurried beyond them : whereas the Difficulty of discerning exactly where the Transgression begins, is a strong Caution to stop at a safe Distance from it. But instead of thinking thus, we commonly conclude, that since Anger may justly rise according to the Provocation, and much of it is daily shewn about small Things, any Degree whatever is defensible in great ones. Now evidently this Reasoning ought to be inverted as follows : only a moderate Resentment being permitted us, where the Of
fence is ever so heinous, hardly the slightest ought to be expressed, where it is but little.
And though we cannot ascertain minutely the due Quantity in each ; the Observation of two Rules will secure us from any important Error: never to lofe the Government of ourfelves, or do an Injury to any one else. The first of these Directions is fundamental. For if once Reason be dethroned, Rules and Bounds are nothing. And though it be a dreadful Evil
any Passion seduce us from obeying that Principle, which God hath authorized to regulate our whole Conduct, yet it is peculiarly dangerous to follow this blindfold: which
precipitates Men instantaneously, and without leaving Room for a Moment's Reflection, into the Extremities of Mischief to others and themselves; and even where it is not hurtful, is however singularly disagreeable and unbecoming. We must therefore attentively remember, that, though Displeasure may be allowable, Rage cannot: and accordingly forbear, not only all Acts of Violence or Insult, but all vehe. ment Gestures, all noisy and unreasonable Talk, and above the rest that shocking, though common Method of venting Fury, by Oaths and Imprecations : invoking the Notice of God
in a Condition when we ought to dread it ; and bringing down that Wrath on our own Heads, which we vainly and wickedly call for
But avoiding these Extravagances is not all : is nothing indeed, if, under a calmer Appearance, we permit our Refentment to go undue Lengths. It is true, Anger can be useful to others only by giving them Uneasiness : but often a plain and grave Signification, that we dislike their Behaviour, will give it sufficiently: and then to add cutting, though guarded, Words is cruel. Sometimes the same Person, having both blameable and valuable Qualities, nay exerting both together, may deserve that Reproof should be tempered with Praise. And where but little Forbearance hath been merited, Prudence frequently requires much to be exercised : because it may soften and win over those, whom Roughness would drive to Defperation.
And, if we ought thus to moderate the just Expressions of our Displeasure : much more ought unjust ones to be utterly forborn. We must by no means think, that every trifling, or perhaps imaginary, Provocation gives us a Liberty, which the very greatest do not, of be
traying Secrets, throwing random Aspersions, and saying in the peevith Fit whatever it suggests. Men do not lose all the Rights of human Nature immediately, because they have chanced to offend us. Their Fault in doing so may
be considerable, or may be small : but this one Crime cannot transform them into quite different Creatures from what they were before : it can never intitle us to speak Falsehoods of them: and very seldom, to say prejudicial Truths. Injurious Words may seem a flight Matter to those who utter them ; especially if they are such, as the World calls decent: but the Person, to whom they relate, experiences them to be heavy and bitter Things : and what his Feelings must be, is the Point, that we should have in View, reflecting what our own would be in the like Case.
However, the Guilt of Anger is yet more aggravated, when it misguides our Actions, as well as our Tongues. If it prompts us only to withhold from others, without Cause, those Kind. nesses and Favours, to which they had some equitable Claim, or, which, though they had not, we had hitherto shewn them, or intended for them; this alone is very
this alone is very hard and wrong Usage. Indeed who almost could be secure
even of a Day's Continuance of Friendship, if every Thing, which it were possible to take amiss, might put an End to it? But, if Wrath push us on to do Harm instead of Good, then it hath arrived at its Heighth of Injustice, Not but we may lawfully in some Cases inflict Punishment on those, who have given us Offence, But then Anger is not to be the Prosecutor : much less to pass or execute the Sentence. It is not so often, as we are justly displeased with any one, that he is to suffer : but then only, when a valuable Purpose requires it. Now we are by no Means qualified to determine that Point, while our inward Disturbance is vehement: nor should we ever allow ourselves to act, before we are cool enough to judge: nor are we always cool enough, when we think we are. And therefore we should learn to suspect our Tempers, have Regard to the Opinion of the unprejudiced, and lean to the moderate Side, when there is any Doubt which is right. It will comparatively feldom happen, that Excess of Mildness will do any great Mischief: but the contrary Extreme causes an incredible deal perpetually. Every Day we see those, who are pofsessed by this evil Spirit, return monstrous Acts of Injustice for slight In,