« PreviousContinue »
It is plainly contrary to the benevolent affection we ought to have for our fellow-creature, to put him to any pain or distress of body, as by beating, wounding, or maiming, unless in self-defence, when unjustly attacked; in lawful war; or in case of his having deserved corporal correction, and if we are authorised by a just law to inflict, or cause it to be inflicted upon him.
If it be contrary to the affection we ought to have for our neighbour, to put him to bodily pain needlessly, or unjustly, it is much more fo, to deprive him of life, unless he has forfeited it according to law.
This injury is so much the more atrocious, as it is irreparable. And it seems to me very much to be doubted, whether human authority ought in reason to be extended to the pardon of the murder of the innoi cent. Scripture is express, " that he who sheds man's
blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”
There seems to be in this crime somewhat peculiarly offensive to Heaven, in that the Divine Providence does so often, by most striking and wonderful interpofitions, bring the authors of it to light in a manner different from what happens in other cases. For, of the numbers, who lose their lives by violence, it is remarkable, that there are few instances of the murderer's escaping. That in so great and wicked a city as London, for example, there should not every year be many people missing, being made away with secretly, and the authors of their death never found, is very remarkable. We find that often the fagacity of dogs, and other animals, and even inanimate things, have been the occasion of bringing this foul crime to light. But the most common means of the discovery of bloody deeds has been conscience, which acting the part of a torturer, has forced the tongue, through extremity of anguilh, to disclose the secret, which no other but itself could bring to light.
It being by pride and passion, that men are incited to break loole upon one another in acts of violence, it is plain, that the best method of preventing our falling into them is, by subduing those fatal pallions, which transport us beyond the power and use of reason. And
if nothing tends more to inflame every passion, than the use of strong liquors, how cautious ought we to be of indulging the maddening draught, which may drive us upon extravagances, we could not in our cooler hours believe ourselves capable of? Cruelty, even to the brute creation, is altogether unjustifiable, much more to our fellow-creatures. Nor can any thinking person believe it possible, that a mind disposed to barbarity, or insensible of the miseries of our fellow-beings, can be at all fit for a future state, in which goodness is to prevail.
A wise man will dread the beginning of quarrels. For no one knows where a quarrel, once begun, may end. None of us knows how much of the evil spirit is either in himself or in his adversary. And he, who begins, is in conscience answerable for all the consequences. Nor was there ever a falling out without folly, at least on one side, if not on both. Were one sure the worst that was to happen would be the ruflling of his own or his neighbour's temper, or the discomposing of their spirits, even that cannot be without guilt. And is an empire of consequence enough to make any thinking man offend God, and endanger his or his neighbour's soul? Tremble, reader, at the thought of being suddenly snatched away, (as nothing is more common than sudden death) and sent into the world of spirits, hot from a contest with a fellow-creature, and fellow-christian.
Hurting our neighbour's health by tempting him to be guilty of intemperance, is as really contrary to that affection we ought to have for him, as wounding, or poisoning him. It is no more an alleviation of the guilt of seducing him into debauchery, that it inay not cut him off in less than several years, (which is likewise more than can be certainly affirmed) than it is less murder to poison in the Italian manner, than with a dose of arfenic. But to lead a fellow-creature into a course of debauchery is, as above observed, poisoning both foul and body at once.
To grieve, afflict, or terrify a fellow-creature needlessly, or unjustly, is injuring him as to his soul. And the anguish of the mind being more severely felt, than bodily pain, the inflicting the former upon an innocent
person is a greater act of cruelty. It is therefore shocking to think how one half of mankind sport with the anguish of the other. How little they make the case of their fellow-creatures their own, or consider what they must suffer from their wicked aspersions, misrepresentations, and oppressive and injurious treatment; which bring a pain proportioned to the sensibility of the sufferer. And every one knows, that the delicacy of some miods renders them as difierent from others, as the temper
of the lamb is meeker than that of the tiger. But the most direct injury against the spiritual part of our fellow-creature is, leading him into vice; whether that be done by means of solicitation ; by artfully imposing on his judgment; by powerful compulsion ; or by prevailing example.
Some tempers are so impotently ductile, that they can refuse nothing to repeated solicitation. Whoever takes the advantage of such persons, is guiity of the lowest baseness. Yet nothing is more common, than for the debauched part of our fex to thew their heroism by a poor triumph over weak, easy, thoughtless woman! nothing more frequent, than to hear them boast of the ruin of that virtue, of which it ought to be their pride to be the defenders. “ Poor fool! she loved me, and " therefore could refuse me nothing." Bafe coward! Dost thcu boast thy conquest over one, who, by thy own confeflion, was disabled for resistance, disabled by her affection for thy worthless felf? Does affection deserve such a return? Is superior understanding, or rather decper craft, to be used against thoughlefs fimplicity ; and its shameful success to be boasted of? Doft thou pride thylelf, that thou hat had art enough to decoy the harmlefs lamb to thy hand, that thou mighteft shed its blood ?
To call good evil, and evil good, is in Scripture ftigmatized with a curse. And to put out the bodily eyes is not so great an injury, as 'to mislead, or extinguish the understanding, and impofe upon the judgment in matters of right and wrong. Whoever is guilty of this inhuman and diabolical wickedness, may in reason expect to have the soul, he has been the ruin of, required here. after at his hands
I am very fufpicious, that many persons in eminent ftations have very little notion of their being highly criminal in the light of God, in setting a bad example before the rest of mankind. No person, who thinks at all, can doubt, whether it is justifiable to advise, or force others to be guilty of vice. But if there is a way incomparably more effe&ual and alluring, by which pecple are more powerfully drawn into wickedness ; surely that is more mischievous and hurtful, and ought moit carefully to be avoided,
Of all tyranny, none is so inhuman, as where men use their power over others, to force them into wickedness. The bloody persecutor, who uses threats and punishments, prisons, racks, and fires, to compel the unhappy sufferer to make shipwreck of faith, and give up truth and a good conscience; the corrupt minister, or candidate, who bullies the unhappy dependent into the perjured vote; these, and such like, are in the way toward being qualified for becoming furies and fiends in the lower regions. For who is fo fit for the place of a tormentor, to stand among evil spirits, and plunge the emerging souls deeper in hell-flames, than he, who, on earth, made it his infernal employment, to thrust his fellow-creatures into those ways, which lead down to the chambers of destruction ?
Reader, if thou hast ever been the cause of a fellowcreature's guilt; if thou haft, by force or art, betrayed a wretched foul into vice, and acted the part of an agent of Satan; I charge thee on thy soul, put not off thy repentance for an hour. Prevent, if posible, the final ruin thy cursed arts tend to bring upon a human creature. Endeavour to open the eyes, which thou hast closed ; to enlighten the underllanding thou hast blinded ; auch to lead again into the right way the feet, thou built taught to wander from it. If thou wilt go to dciiruction, why shouldst thou drag others with ihce? If ihy ambition prompts thee to ruin thy own loul, fpure that of thy poor fellow-creature, who has no concern withi thy schemes. Must thy brother have a place in the infernal regions, to get thee a place at Court? Take back the damning bribe; prevent the perjured rote: think Z 3
how thou wilt bear the eternal howlings of a spirit, by thy temptations sunk to irrecoverable perdition.
Besides the general duty of benevolence to all, who partake of the same common nature, which is indisperi1ably necessary in the nature of things toward the very being of society, in the present state, and for fitting us for entering into a more extensive society hereafter; befides the general benevolence we owe to all our fellowcreatures, it is evident, that we owe particular duties to particular persons, according to the relations and connections we have with them. This propriety is founded in the nature of things*, and is self-evident. It is as plain, that reverence to superiors, for example, is proper, as that all the angles of a plain triangle are equal to two right
It is as evident, that the contempt of one really superior to us, would be wrong, as that it would be wrong to say that twice two are equal to fifty.
The first, and most important of all relative social duties, is that which we owe to our country. That we ought to study the interest of our country, is plain from considering, that the love of our families, and even felf. love, cannot be pursued, or established, on any rational footing, but what will extend to that of our country (for it is impossible for all families and individuals to be happy in a ruined country) and from considering, that; if no person loved his country, but every individual was indifferent about its interest, no country could fubfift; but the world must quickly come to an end.
The virtue of patriotisın is most indispensable in persons in high stations, whose rank gives them an opportunity of being of important service to the public intereft. These ought to consider themselves as general protectors and fathers, to whose care the rest of mankind are by Divine Providence committed ; and ought to tremble at the thought of betraying so awful a trust. And the interest of a country confifts briefly in its being properly secured against enemies ; in its being governed by good laws, duly executed; in its being secured in its liberties, civil and religious, the boundaries
of See the first Section of this tluird book,