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found. Some are serious and sincere Christians; others, even among those who have attended the preaching of the Gospel, appear neither to understand nor to feel it. The tale of woe is told perhaps by both: but the one is unaccompanied with that discontent, that wretchedness of mind, and that inclination to despair, which is manifest in the other. Often have I seen the cheerful smile of contentment under circumstances the most abject and afflictive. Amidst tears of sorrow; which a full heart has rendered it impossible to suppress, a mixture of hope and joy has glistened. The cup which my Father has given me to drink, shall I not drink it? Such have been their feelings, and such their expressions; and where this has been the case, death has generally been embraced as the messenger of peace. Here, I have said, participating of their sensations, here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.-This is the victory that overcometh the world even our faith.-Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

From individual happiness, let us proceed to examine that of society. Let us inquire, whether there be any well-grounded hope of the future melioration of the state of mankind, besides that which is afforded by the gospel. Great expectations have been raised of an end being put to wars, and of universal goodwill pervading the earth, in consequence of philosophical illumin ation, and the prevalence of certain modes of civil government. But these speculations proceed upon false data. They suppose that the cause of these evils is to be looked for in the ignorance, rather than in the depravity of men: or if depravity be allowed to have any influence, it is confined to the precincts of a court. Without taking upon me to decide which is the best mode of civil government; or what mode is most adapted to promote the peace and happiness of mankind, it is sufficient in this case, to show that wars generally originate, as the apostle James says, in the lusts, or corrupt passions of mankind. If this be proved, it will follow, that, however some forms of government may be more friendly to peace and happines than others, yet no radical cure can be effected till the disposition of men are changed. Let power be

101 placed where it may, with one or with many, still it must be in the hands of men. If all governments were so framed as that every national act should be expressive of the real will of the people, still, if the preponderating part of them be governed by pride. and self-love rather than equity, we are not much the nearer. Governors taken from the common mass of Society, must needs resemble it. If there be any difference at the time of their first elevation to office, owing, as may be supposed, to the preference which all men give to an upright character for the management of their concerns, yet this advantage will be balanced, if not overbalanced by the subsequent temptations to injustice which are afforded by situations of wealth and power.

What is the source of contentions in common life? Observe the discords in neighbourhoods and families; which, notwithstanding all the restraints of relationship, interest, honour, law, and reason, are a fire that never ceases to burn; and which were they no more controlled by the laws than independent nations are by each other, would in thousands of instances break forth into assassinations and murders. From whence spring these wars? Are they the results of ignorance? If so, they would chiefly be confined to the rude, or uninformed part of the community. But is it so? There may, it is true, be more pretences to peace and good will, and fewer bursts of open resentment in the higher, than in the lower order of people: but their dispositions are much the same. The laws of politeness can only polish the surface; and there are some parts of the human character which still appear very rough. Even politeness has its regulations for strife and murder, and establishes iniquity by a law. The evil disposition is a kind of subterraneous fire; and in some form it will have vent. Are they the result of court influence? No. The truth is, if civil government in some form did not influence the fears of the unjust and contentious part of the community, there would be no security to those who are peaceably inclined, and especially to those who are withal religious, and whose pious conduct, like that of Noah, condemns the world. Now the same disposition which, in persons whose power extends only to a cottage, will operate in a way of domestic discord; in others whose influence extends

to the affairs of nations will operate on a more enlarged scale, producing war and all the dire calamities which attend it. The sum of the whole is this: When the preponderating part of the world shall cease to be proud, ambitious, envious, covetious, lovers of their ownselves, false, malignant, and intriguing; when they shall love God and one another out of a pure heart; then, and not till then, may we expect wars to cease, and the state of mankind to be essentially meliorated. While these dispositions remain, they will be certain to show themselves. If the best laws

or constitution in the world stand in their way, they will, on certain occasions, bear down all before them.

An anonymous writer in the Monthly Magazine,* (a work which, without avowing it, is pretty evidently devoted to the cause of infidelity,) has instituted an inquiry into "The probability of the future melioration of the state of mankind." A dismal prospect indeed it is which he holds up to his fellow-creatures; yet were I an Infidel, like him, I should acquiesce in many things which he advances. The anchor of his hopes is an increase of knowledge, and the effects of this are circumscribed within a very narrow boundary. With respect to what we call civilization, he reckons it to have undergone all the vicissitudes of which it is capable. Scientific refinement may contribute to the happiness of a few individuals; but, he fears, cannot be made a ground of much advantage to the mass of mankind. Great scope, indeed, remains for the operation of increased knowledge in improvement in government: but even here it can only cure those evils which arise from ignorance, and not those which proceed from intention ; which, "while the propensity to prefer our own interests above that of the community is," as he acknowledges, "interwoven into our very nature," will always form the mass of existing ills. If, indeed, the majority of a community, he says, became so enlightened concerning their interests, and so wise, steady, and unanimous in the pursuit of them, as to overcome all that resistance which the possessors of undue advantages will always make to a change unfavourable to themselves, something might be hoped

*For February, 1799, p 9.

103 for. But this, while they are under their old masters, he reckons as next to impossible. As to political revolutions, he did form high expectations from them; but his hopes are at an end. "I have only the wish left," says he, "the confidence is gone." As to improved systems of morality, which he considers as the art of living happy, though it might seem promising, yet history, he very justly remarks, does not allow us to expect that men, in proportion as they advance in this species of knowledge, will become more just, more temperate, or more benevolent. Of the extinction of wars, he has no hope. The new order of things which seemed opening in Europe, and to bid fair for it, has rather increased the evil: and as to Christianity, 'it has been tried, it seems, and found to be insufficient for the purpose. Commerce, instead of binding the nations in a golden chain of mutual peace and friendship, seems only to have given additional motives for war.

The amount is, There is little or no hope of the state of mankind being meliorated on public principles. All the improvement he can discern in this way consists in there being a little more lenity in the government of some countries than formerly as to this, it is balanced by the prodigious increase of standing armies, and other national burdens.

The only way in which an increase in knowledge is to operate to the melioration of the state of mankind is in private life. It is to soften and humanize men's manners, and emancipate their minds from the shackles of superstition and bigotry; names which writers of this class commonly bestow upon Christianity. This is the boundary beyond which, whatever be his wishes, the hopes of this writer will not suffer him to pass and even this respects only Europe and her immediate connexions, and not the whole of them. The great mass of mankind are in an absolutely hopeless condition for there are no means of carrying our improvements among them but by conquest, and conquest is a Pandora's box, at the mention of which he shudders.

Such are the prospects of unbelievers; such is the horrid despor.dency under which they sink when providence counteracts their favourite schemes; and such the spirit which they labour to infuse into the minds of men in order to make them happy! Chris

tian reader, Have you no better hopes than these? Are you not acquainted with a principle, which, like the machine of Archimedes, will remove this mighty mass of evils? Be they as great and as numerous as they may, if all can be reduced to a single cause, and that cause removed, the work is done. All the evils of which this writer complains are reducible to that one principle, which, he says, (and it is well he says it,)" is interwoven into our very nature; namely, The propensity to prefer our own interests above that of the community." It is this propensity that operates in the great, and induces them to " oppose every thing that would be unfavourable to their power and advantage;" and the same thing operates among common people; great numbers of whom it is well known, would sell their country for a piece of bread. If this principle cannot be removed, I shall, with this writer, for ever despair of any essential changes for the better in the state of mankind, and will content myself with cultivating private and domestic happiness, and hoping for the blessedness of a future life; but if it can, I must leave him to despair alone.

My hopes are not founded on forms of government, nor even on an increase of knowledge, though each may have its value; but on the spirit by which both the rulers and the people will be governed. All forms of government have hitherto rested on the basis of selflove. The wisest and best statesmen have been obliged to take it for granted that the mass of every people will be governed by this principle; and, consequently, all their schemes have been directed to the balancing of things in such a manner as that people, in pursuing their own interest, should promote that of the public. If in any case they have presumed on the contrary, experience has soon taught them that all their schemes are visionary, and inapplicable to real life. But if the mass of the people, composed of all the different orders of society, were governed by a spirit of justice and disinterested benevolence, systems of government might safely be formed on this basis. It would then be sufficient for statesmen to ascertain what was right, and best adapted to promote the good of the community, and the people would cheerfully pursue it; and, pursuing this, would find their own good more effectually promoted, than by all the little discordant arts of a selfish mind.

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