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Of the Regulation of the Passions in general.
SECT. I. Of the Nature of the Passions, and when irregular. By the word passion we understand either a vigorous tendency of our souls towards something that we look upon as very good, and conducive to our happiness, or as great aversion, and resolution to keep off and fly from what we apprehend to be very evil and pernicious to us; accompanied with a very sensible and strong commotion of our blood and spirits, whereby the powers, both of soul and body, are jointly and vigorously engaged in pursuing or avoiding the object, as it appears good or evil.
And when we are thus vehemently moved and affected, we feel a kind of uneasiness and pain, and suffer under the violent impression, whether it be caused by a good object or a bad; and therefore in both cases it is called passion, or suffering. For we find by experience, that now, in this imperfect state, even the most grateful passion, that of joy, has
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something in it that overcomes and presses us too close, and thereby causes an uneasiness in the midst of our greatest delight; and which is sometimes so violent, as to sink nature under the weight of more happiness than it can bear.
So little reason have we to be fond of our condition here below, which makes us uncapable of pleasure that is pure and unallayed, and where a massy, substantial felicity is too much for us, and presses us to death.
As for the number of the passions properly so called, and which only I intend to treat of, or the various ways of our being moved and affected in such an extraordinary manner by the several objects we meet with, they may be reduced to a very few, which are usually called the primitive, or mother passions, from whence the rest are derived : and those are love, the fountain of them all, and the opposite to it, hatred ; anger; hope and fear; joy and sorrow.
When an object appears as good and grateful to us, it then excites our love ; and we desire to possess it, and unite ourselves to it, and are carried on in a vigorous motion towards it: but if we apprehend a thing as evil, and hurtful to us, it then stirs up our hatred, anger, and aversion; we set and guard ourselves against it, and endeavour to fly from, and by all means for ever to avoid it.
If the object, thus considered as good or evil, be at a distance, it then either raises our hope of enjoying it, or awakens our fear and dread of suffering it, respectively; and if it be present, it then causes either joy or sorrow in our fruition of the good, or feeling the misery of the evil.
From these all the derivative passions do spring in all their various mixtures; and he that can regulate these will find the rest submit of course; and the exorbitancy or irregularity of them consists either in misplacing them upon undue objects, loving what we should hate, and hating what we should love, &c. or, if the object be right, in suffering them to be excessive in degree: when we love or hate, hope or fear, rejoice or grieve, beyond what is fitting, according to the true nature of things, and the rules of right reason and religion. So that where the object of our passions is right, and there is nothing amiss in the degree of them, all is well, and we act as God designed we should do: who made us susceptive of those strong impressions from the several objects we meet with in the world, which we call passions, for our great advantage. They being as so many wings to us, whereby we are enabled to pursue and overtake what is our good, and conducive to our happiness, and to fly from and escape what is hurtful, and would make us miserable.
If therefore we use them aright, we have great reason to bless God for them, as we shall see more at large in the sequel; but if otherwise, those very wings, which if well managed would have carried us to the enjoyment of our chief good, will but help us to make the greater speed to ruin.
How the Passions are to be regulated by us. It being then of the greatest consequence to us, to keep our passions in due order and government,