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tempt, he is not, alas ! deserving of either reward or offspring. However he may preserve the last, he may assure himself the former shall never, indeed cannot be his.
The first subordinate virtue to the greater one, Forbearance, is submission. Regulations, of whatever kind they be, which are adopted towards the infant, he submits to. That which we require of the child he agrees to, and does : herein is the virtue obedience. The victory gained over himself by a child, brings forward in him the virtue of self-denial ; and the
practice of self-denial gives another, moderation. This again introduces gentleness, and gentleness docility. The number of virtues so collected, with prudence and discretion added, but which do not belong to childhood, will form what we may style the wise government of self. There is, however, a something not actually a virtue, but a kind of supernumerary, which belongs to this place, and which is essential to the extended practice of the virtue forbearance, and this is the regulation of temper.
Temper is that state of the soul into which we are thrown by the absence or action of the passions. If passions master the reason, and rage with violence at pleasure, the general disposition of the subject so acted upon is expressed in the word temper. is a bad or ill-tempered man," equally means that he is morose or hasty, arrogant or jealous, spiteful, cruel, or envious. By a good-tempered person, we cannot however understand, until we judge for ourselves, whether it is meant to pronounce him free from the influence of any passion, or whether the passions in
him are regular, and under the controul of reason. Thus a man of good temper may be passive and calm, and free from all enthusiasm or hurry which belongs to passion; or he may be acted upon by melancholy, or admiration, generosity, fear, love, hope, or joy, &c. Temper is therefore a very great point for consideration. By studying and examining our temper we may know how we suffer ourselves to be acted upon; and however broken our clue to the truth, there is yet one important assistance in the words bad and good, which will afford no feeble light on the way.
It not unfrequently happens, that a person of exemplary life who practises many virtues is yet defective in his temper, and that this will be found to arise in the excess of some passion. We are so ordered, that to make us worthy a certain number of virtues are necessary, to fall in with the passions in regular succession. Where, from neglect or habit, a virtue is wanted, a void remains, which is quickly filled up by excess ; in other words, vicious passion, or vice, a quality which is always ready to supply the place of any and all absent goodness. Thus one particular passion, having no virtue to stand centinel over it and keep it in check, spreads out, as we have seen, into obnoxious excess : and excess, in the shape and colour of some one vice, influences the whole being, as we observe in bad temper.
For instance: a man may practise many virtues, but be called ill-tempered, because he is impatient. Now, impatient is the absence of patience. Here a virtue is missed, which is immediately supplied by a loose excess from anger, to which excess we give the name of irritability, and this is no
thing less than a vice. In the same way a haughty overbearing man may be called bad-tempered, because, even although he do possess other virtues, he yet wants those of humility and forbearance.
Temper is a word applied to metals, particularly to that of steel. We say, such a steel is thus and thus tempered, according to its virtues and its intrinsic value. The application may illustrate the subject.
A man's temper is as a blade of steel, which has been more or less purified and polished, and has more or less virtue accordingly.
The temper of man is the state of his actual being, as the fire of passion has tried and shaped, and the action of virtue refined and given it polish. In the proportion that these have acted, or preponderated, is he valuable to society, or worthless. The blade of steel is tried, bent, and formed by fire. It receives its shape ; a polish is added, and its value, according to the labour bestowed upon it, is estimated and fixed.
The temper of man, although shaped, proportioned, and decided in early life, is susceptible of variation in its outward appearance. Peculiar circumstances can brighten its surface, and circumstances too can cloud and dim it over. The steel also changes, not its form, but its complexion. Particular applications will heighten its polish to that of a mirror ; while others, or neglect, will corrode, stain, and deface it almost to the dullness of lead.
When man desires to please, or to shew respect to others, he considers his temper, brings it forward to his own view, and exerts himself to rub it smooth and refine it. When he designs to make the blade of
steel of worth, he examines it, takes off the dust, and is at some pains to scour out the spots, stains, and blemishes he finds collected.
If man has suffered morose, gloomy, or baneful habits to influence his mind, his temper will be so darkened, that no effort shall enable him to recover the exhilirating brightness of his early years. In like manner, if steel be constantly suffered to imbibe the noxious damps and corrosive touch of hurtful matter, it will be stained, rusted, and blackened so deeply, that no exertions whatever can possibly restore it to its former brilliancy and smoothness.
Lastly, the temper of man may vary, but when once determined can never be transformed. Its power extends not to the re-modelling of itself, it can only pretend to improve or injure what is already shaped and valued.
And, finally, steel in its greater or less pliability may be bent, but the bend springs back, and gives the original shape. We may break and destroy, but we cannot form anew. If, then, those who temper the steel are careful of its form, and mindful of its polish, what should those be who train up children, and have it in their power, by wise or bad management, to form them to good tempers, or to roughly shape them to bad?
Temper being more a consequence than a cause, we should early strive to find out the origin of bad temper, and check its growth. Peevishness, hastiness, caprice, sullenness, affectation, irritability, are all to be cured, not by labouring merely at temper, as injudicious persons are apt to do, but by going at once to the foundation, and striking at the root of the evil.
A good temper is a very great recommendation, and it is so much the more so, as a wicked man can scarcely be thought to possess it. The sudden starts of a guilty conscience, the hopes, fears, and uncertainty attendant upon wicked schemes; the dread of discovery and horror of punishment; together with a disgust to the whole world and himself, make the wicked man so much the creature of contending feeling and of harrowing fears, that all the foreboding inequalities of his soul are expressed in the variable, impetuous, irregular gloomy fits, which, in the whole or in part, belong to the general term bad temper.
Good-nature and good-temper are often confounded, and improperly, for a good-natured child may be an ill-tempered one, as a generous benevolent disposition is seen united to passion strong and excessive. At the same time it must be observed, that a good tem per and good-nature are oftenest together: as are a faulty disposition and an ill temper; for though a man possess the art or cunning to conceal his temper before some persons, and on some occasions, yet it will discover itself at times, and betray his weakness or his errors.
As excess, then, for the most part induces ill-temper, and as the regulation here falls to the child himself, he should be taught to never lose sight of the moderation which has already been noticed. Nothing so injures temper as the suffering of the passions hope and desire to carry us without the bounds of probability and reason ; disappointment must always ultimately attend those who do so, and they are hence subject to various degrees of irritation and petulance.