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And yet even the most extreme and deplorable instances that could be adduced of the predominance of the malignant passions, would serve to attest, at once the excellence of the original constitution of human nature, and the indestructible property of its moral instincts. Not the most furious or irascible of men can indulge his passion until after he has attributed an ill intention to the object of his wrath. To be angry with that which is seen and confessed to be innoxious or devoid of hostile feeling, is a reach of malignity that lies beyond the range of human passions, even when most corrupted or most inflamed. How else can we account for the absurd use which the angry man makes of the prosopopæia when he happens to be hurt, torn, or opposed by an inanimate object :—the stone, the steel, the timber, which has given him a fall, or has obstructed his impatience, he curses on the hypothesis that it is conscious and inimical:nay, he would fain breathe a soul into the senseless mass, that he might the more reasonably revile and crush it.
And so, when hatred has become the settled temper of the mind, there attends it a bad ingenuity, which puts the worst possible construction upon the words, actions, looks, of the abhorred object. Yet why is this but because the laws of the moral system forbid that any thing should be hated but what actually deserves, or is at the moment thought to deserve abhorrence? The most pernicious and virulent heart has no power of ejecting its venom upon a fair surface;-it must slur, whatever it means to poison. To hate that which is seen and confessed to be not wicked, is as impossible as to be angry with that which is not assumed to be hostile. And the most depraved souls, whose only element is revenge, feel the stress of this necessity not a whit less than the most benign and virtuous. Whether the universe any where contains spirits so malignant as to be capable of hating without assignment of demerit, or attributing of ill purpose to their adversary, we know not; but certainly man never reaches any such frightful enormity.*
What is the constant style of the misanthrope? What the burthen of the dull echoes that shake the damps from the roof of his cavern? Is not his theme ever and again—the malignity, the cruelty, the falseness, of the human race ? To hate mankind is indeed his rule; but yet he must calumniate before he can detest it. Nature is here stronger than corruption, and a tribute is borne to the unalterable principles of virtue, even by those unnatural lips that breathe universal imprecations ! How does the solitary wretch — prisoner as he is
• The mere supposition may seem to be a contradiction in terms ;that what is not hateful should be hated. But the analysis of emotions of this sort, if carried on a little further, brings us to some such notion as that of malignity separable from an object confessed to be odious.
of his own malignity, toil from day to day in the work of ingenious detraction ! how does he recapitulate and refute, untired, the thousandth time, every alleged extenuation of human frailty or folly! How does he strive to justify the bad passion that rules him ;-how eagerly does he listen to any new proof of his poisonous dogma—That man is altogether abominable, and ought to be hated! Inwardly he feels the sheer absurdity of perpetual malice, and is always defending himself against the accusation of doing immense wrong to his species. But this very labour, and this painful ingenuity refutes itself; for if human nature were, as he affirms it to be, simply and purely evil, his own bosom would not be thus tortured by the endeavour to prove mankind abominable, as a necessary condition of his malice. Most evident it is that if man were not formed to love what is good and follow virtue, he would find himself able to hate his fellows without first imputing to them wickedness and crimes !
There might be adduced a still more frightful case of malignancy, which, horrid as it is, furnishes the very same testimony in favour of the original benign structure of the human mind. If there are indeed miserable beings that harbour deliberate animosity against Him who is worthy of supreme affection, as well as reverence, yet this hatred must always be preceded by blasphemy. In word or in thought, there must be charged upon the Sovereign Ruler injustice, rigour, malevolence, before impiety can advance a step toward its bold and dread climax. Thus does the Supreme Benevolence secure and receive an implicit homage, even from the most envenomed lips ; for why should the divine . character be impeached, if it were not that the fixed laws of the moral world—those very laws of which God is author, forbid hatred to exist at all (at least in human nature) except on a pretext which is itself drawn from the maxims of goodness? What proof can be more convincing than this is, that these same maxims, these rules of virtue and benevolence, were actually the guiding principles of the creation, and must therefore belong as essential attributes to the Creator ? If man, by the necessity of his nature, must calumniate and blacken whomsoever he would call his enemy, is it not because he is so constituted as to detest only what he thinks to be evil ? The fact indeed is appalling, that rational agents should any where exist who can set themselves in array against the source and centre of all perfection. But how much more appalling, nay-how horrible a thing were it, to find any beings whose nature allowed them to hate the Sovereign Goodness without first defaming it!
The lower we descend into the depths of the malignant passions, the more striking are the proofs we meet with of the vigour of the prime
principles of the moral life. There are, alas ! scarcely any bounds to the degree of corruption or depravity which man may reach; but corruption or decay is something far less than destruction of elements; and no facts come within our sphere of observation which would imply that the original principles of the rational economy are in any case annulled. We have already spoken of the instinct of Retribution, or the vehement desire to see wrong visited with punishment; and we discern, in even the darkest purpose of revenge, nothing more than a particular instance of this same instinct, inflamed and misdirected by preposterous self-love. No case can be more conclusive in proof of this position than the revenge of jealousy. When the firmest, and the most religious of the social ties has been torn asunder by the hand of ruthless lust, and an affection, more sensitive than any other, is left to bleed and ulcerate in open air, the inner structure of the vindictive passion may be said to be laid open, and it is seen in what way an emotion so violent as to lead to fatal acts, yet connects itself with virtuous sentiments, and in fact springs from them. The revenge of jealousy seems, to the injured man, to be justified at once by the best impulses of our nature, by the express sanction of God, by the opinion of mankind, and by the formal institutes of society. These authorities, or some of them, lend a palliation (deemed