Page images

cases evidently arbitrary. Different species, therefore, choose different forts of food, which, without that arbitary fitness, would be alike grateful or disagreeable to all tastes; so that grass and hay would be as acceptable to the lion and the vulture, as to the horse and the ox; and the flesh as agreeable to the horse and the ox, as to the lion and vulture. On the contrary, in other cases, this fitness is by no means arbitrary or factitious, but unalterable and necessary. A mind, to which apparent truch was no object; an understanding, which faw no beauty or desirableness in undoubted virtue and rectitude, must be perverted from its natural state, and debauched out of itself.

Our love to earthly objects may easily be carried to excess. For it is evident, that a very moderate attachment is sufficient, where the connection is intended to hold only for the present short life. As on the other hand, those objects which are intended to be the final happiness of our being, ought to be pursued with the utmost ardency of affection. To pursue, with an unbounded defire, an object, whose nature and perfections are bounded within very narrow limits, is a gross absurdity; as to be cold and indifferent to that which is of inestimable worth, is contrary to sound reason. But to observe the general conduct of mankind, one would think they considered God and virtue, and eternal happiness, as objects of little or no consequence; and good eating and drinking, pleasure and wealth, as alone worth the attention of reasonable beings. One would imagine they believed that the latter were to be the everlasting enjoyment of the rational mind, and the former the transitory amusement of a few years at most. What do mankind pursue with the greatest eagerness? What are their hearts most fet upon? What does their convertation most run upon ? What is their last thought at night, and their first in the morning ? and what employs their minds through the whole day? I am afraid the objects, which engage their supreme attention, are of no higher a nature than how to get money ; to raise themselves, as they very improperly call it, in the world; to concert a pariy of pleasure; or some other


scheme of as little consequence. Now, if the pre:ent were to be the final ftate, this turn of mind might be proper enough. But that a being formed for immortality should set his whole affections upon this mortal life, is as if a traveller, going to a distant country, should make abundant provision for his voyage, and spend his whole fortune by the way, leaving nothing for his comfortable settlement when he arrives, where he is to pass his days.

Suppose an unbodied spirit, of the character of most human minds, entered upon the future state, left to itself, and neither raised to positive happiness, nor condemned to positive punishment; I ask, what must be the condition of such a being? What can be more deplorable than the situation of a mind, which has lost all the objects of its delight, and can enjoy nothing of what makes the happiness of the state in which it is placed ? For, alas, there is no eating and drinking, no ftock-jobbing or trafficking, no enjoyment of wine and women, no parliamenteering in the world of spirits; and in this world of spirits we shall all find ourselves before many years be gone. What then is our wisdom? Not, surely, to set our whole affections upon this present fleeting ftate; but to habituate ourselves to think of the eternal existence hereafter as the principal end of our being, and what ought therefore to fill up the greatest part of our attention, and to engage our warmeft affections and most eager pursuit.

That any being in the universe should ever bring itfelf to hate itself, or desire its own misery, as milery, is impossible. Though a reasonable self-love, rightly directed, is highly commendable, nothing is more ealy or common, than to err egregiously with respect to felflove. Most people love themselves so very much, and in a way so absurd, that they love nothing else, except what is closely connected with themselves; and that they love more for their own fakes than any thing else. That mind must be wonderfully narrow that is wholly wrapt up in itself. But this is too visibly the character of most human minds. The true standard of rectitude as to self-love, is, That every one love himself as God may be supposed to love him ; that is, as an individual among many. To the Divine Mind every object appears as it really is. We ought therefore to endeavour to see things in the light in which they appear to that Eye which comprehends the universal system. If we thus enlarged our conceptions, we should never suffer our whole regards to be possessed by any one finite object whatever, not even by self. Nor should we ever think of preferring ourselves unjustly to others, or raising ourselves upon their ruin. For that is to act as if a man did not contider himself as a part, and a very small part of an immenfe whole, but as the only being in the universe; than which nothing can be more monstrous. If we loved ourselves as our Maker loves us, we should not think of being partial to our faults; but should view them with the same eye as we do those of others. It is a great unhappiness that we cannot root out of our foolish hearts this shameful weakness. Does it at all alter the real evil of a bad action, that it was I who did it? Will a lie become a truth in my mouth? Is not every man's self as much felf, and as dear to him as I am to myself? And is the immutable and eternal nature of right and wrong to be changed by every man's fancy? If I see injustice, falsehood, or impiety in another in the most odious light, does not a third person see them in me in the same manner ? And does not the all-piercing Eye of Heaven see them alike in all? If I am thocked at the vices of another person, have I not a thousand times more reason to be tartled at my own? Those of another can never do me the prejudice which my own can do me. The plague at Constantinople can never affect me, as if it attacked me in my own person.

The love of praise, or desire of distinction, is a palfion as necessary to a thinking being, as that which prompts it to preserve its existence. But as this tondency, like all the others which enter into the human make, cught to be subject to the government of reaton, it is plain, that no approbation, but that of the wise and good, is of any real value, or deserves the lcast regard. The advantage gained by the exertion of this universal propensity, is, that men may be thereby exX


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

cited to such a course of action, as will deserve the approbation of the wise and good. But the love of undiftinguishing applause will never produce this effect. For the unthinking multitude generally give their praise where it is least due, and overlook real merit. One Charles of Sweden, or Lewis of France, the common furies of the world, shall receive more huzzas from the aiadding crowd, than ten Alfreds, the fathers of their country. So that the desire of promiscous praise, as it defeats the moral design of the passion, is altogether improper and mischievous, instead of being useful. The rule for the conduct of this passion, is, .To act such a part as shall deserve.praise; but in our conduct to have as little regard as possible to praise. A good man will dare to be meanly, or ill thought of in doing well; but he will not venture to do ill in ordered to be commended.

The passion, or emotion, which we call anger, serves the same purpose as the natural weapons with which the animal creation is furnished, as teeth, horns, hoofs, and claws; I mean for our defence against attacks and infults. Cool reason alone would not have sufficiently animated us in our own defence, to secure us in the quiet possession of our natural rights, any more than it would alone have suggested to us the due care and nourishment of our bodies. To supply, therefore, the deficiences of reason in our present imperfect state, passion and appetite come in, and are necessary to the human composition. And it would have been as much to the purpose, that the ancient Stoics should have directed their disciples to eradicate hunger and thirst, as anger, grief, love, and the other natural passions. It is indeed too true, that in our present imperfect ftate we are in much greater danger of yielding too much to our paffions, than of subduing them too thoroughly; and therefore we find all wife teachers, and particularly the best of teachers, who came from heaven to instruct us, labouring to inculcate upon mankind the conquest of palsion and appetite, without setting any bounds to the length they would have the conquest carried; as knowing, that there is no need to caution men against an excess on' this safest fide. And, with respect to the para fion we are now treating of, if a person does not hew himself wholly incapable of being moved, if he does not directly invite injuries and assaults, by bearing without all measure; if he does but from time to time fhew that he has in him too much fpirit to suffer himlelf to be trampled upon; I am clearly of opinion, that he cannot exert this passion too seldom, or too moderately.


If we take the same method for coming at the true state of things in this, as in other cases, viz. endeavouring, as before directed, to get that view of them which appears before the all-comprehensive eye of God, we shall then see how absurd the exceflive indulgence of this lawless passion is.

is. To the Supreme Mind we appear a fet of infirm, short-fighted, helpless beings, engaged to one another by nature, and the necessity of our affairs; incapable of greatly prejudicing one another; all very nearly upon a footing ; all guilty before him; all alike under his government, and all to stand hereafter before the same judgment-leat. How ridicu- . lous must then our fatal quarrels, our important points of honour, our high indignation, and our mighty refentments appear before him? Infinitely more contemptible than the contentions between the frogs and mice do to us in the ludicrous ancient poem afcribed to Homer.

But this is not all. Let it be considered allo how the impiety of our hatred and resentment, must appear before that Eye, which sees all things as they are. That the Supreme Governor of the world should choose to vindicate to himself the privilege of searching the hearts, and of knowing the real characters of all his creatures, is no more than might be expected. Whoever therefore presumes to pronounce upon the character or state of any of his fellow-creatures before God, assumes the incommunicable privilege of Divinity. Now, every man who hates his fellow-creature, must first conclude him to be wicked and hateful in the light of God, or he must hate him whom God loves; which is such a piece of audacious oppofition to the Divine Mind, as hardly X 2


« PreviousContinue »