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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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In its general import, signifies every feeling of the mind occasioned by an extrinsic cause. It is used to describe a violent commotion or agitation of the mind; emotion, zeal, ardour, or of ease wherein a man can conquer his desires, or hold them in subjection.

1. As to the number of the passions, Le Brun makes them about twenty,

1. Attention;

2. admiration;

3. astonishment;

4. veneration;

5. rapture;

6. Joy, with tranquillity;

7. desire;

8. laughter;

9. acute pain;

10. pains, simply bodily;

11. sadness;

12. weeping;

13. compassion;

14. scorn;

15. horror;

16. terror or fright;

17. anger;

18. hatred;

19. jealousy;

20. despair.

All these may be represented on canvass by the pencil. Some make their number greater, adding aversion, love, emulation, &c. &c. these, however, may be considered as included in the above list. They are divided by some into public and private; proper and improper; social and selfish passions.

2. The original of the passions are from impressions on the senses; from the operations of reason, by which good or evil are foreseen; and form the recollections of memory.

3. The objects of the passions are mostly things sensible, on account of their near alliance to the body: but objects of a spiritual nature also, though invisible, have a tendency to excite the passions; such as the love of God, heaven, hell, eternity, &c.

4. As to the innocency of the passions; in themselves they are neither good nor evil, but according to the good or ill use that is made of them, and the degrees to which they rise.

5. The usefulness of the passions is considerable, and were given us for a kind of spring or elasticity to correct the natural sluggishness of the corporeal part. They gave birth to poetry, science, painting, music, and all the polite arts, which minister to pleasure; nor are they less serviceable in the cause of religion and truth.

"They, " says Dr. Watts, "when sanctified, set the powers of the understanding at work in the search of divine truth and religious duty; they keep the soul fixed to divine things; render the duties of holiness much easier, and temptations to sin much weaker; and render us more like Christ, and fitter for his presence and enjoyment in heaven."

6. As to the regulation of the passions: to know whether they are under due restraints, and directed to proper objects, we must inquire whether they influence our opinions; run before the understanding; engaged in trifling, and neglectful of important objects; express themselves in an indecent manner; and whether they disorder our conduct. If this be the case, they are out of their due bounds, and will become sources of trial rather than instruments of good. To have them properly regulated we should possess knowledge of our duty, take God's word for our rule, be much in prayer and dependence on the Divine Being.

7. Lastly, we should study the passions. To examine them accurately, indeed, requires much skill, patience, observation, and judgment; but to form any proper idea of the human mind, and its various operations; to detect the errors that arise from heated temperament and intellectual excess; to know how to touch their various strings, and to direct and employ them in the best of all services; I say, to accomplish these ends, the study of the passions is of the greatest consequence. "Amidst the numerous branches of knowledge, " says Mr. Cogan, "which claim the attention of the human mind, no one can be more important than this. Whatever most intimately concerns ourselves must be of the first moment. An attention, therefore, to the workings of our own minds; tracing the power which external objects have over us; discovering the nature of our emotions and affections; and comprehending the reason of our being affected in a particular manner, must have a direct influence upon our pursuits, our characters, and our happiness.

It may with justice be advanced, that the happiness of ourselves in this department is of much greater utility than abstuser speculations concerning the nature of the human soul, or even the most accurate knowledge of its intellectual powers; for it is according as the passions and affections are excited and directed towards the objects investigated by our intellectual natures that we become useful to ourselves or others: that we rise into respectability, or sink into contempt; that we diffuse or enjoy happiness, diffuse or suffer misery. An accurate analysis of these passions and affections, therefore, is to the moralist what the science of anatomy is to the surgeon. It constitutes the first principles of rational practice; it is, in a moral view, the anatomy of the heart; it discovers why it beats, and how it beats; indicates appearances in a sound and healthy state; detects diseases with their causes, and it is infinitely more fortunate in the power it communicates of applying suitable remedies."

See Hutcheson, Watts, Le Brun, Cogan, and Davan on the Passions; Grove's Moral Philosophy, vol. 1: ch. 7; Reid's Active Powers of Man; Fordyce's Elements of Mor. Phil. Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful, p. 50.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Passion'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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