« AnteriorContinuar »
2 But if there be a better good, such a good as we are seeksing; like every other thing, it must be derived from some cause; and that cause must either be external, internal, or mixed; in as much as, except these three, there is no other possible. Now a steady, durable good, cannot be derived from an external cause ; since all derived from externals must fluctuate as they fluctuate.
3 By the same rule, it cannot be derived from a mixture of the two; because the part which is external, will proportionably destroy its essence. What then remains but the cause internal ? the very cause which we have supposed, when we place the sovereign good in mind, in rectitude of conduct.
HARRIS. SECTION 11. Virtue and piety man's highest interest. : T FIND myself existing upon a little spot, surrounded every
way by an immense, unknown expansion.--Where am I? What sort of place do I inhabit? Is it exactly accommodated in every instance to my convenience? Is there no ex, cess of cold, none of heat, to offend me? Am I never an. noyed by animals, either of my own, or a different kind ? Is every thing subservient to me, as though I had ordered all myself? No-nothing like it the farthest from it possible.
2 The world appears not, then, originally made for the private convenience of me alone ?-It does not. But is it not possible so to accommodate it, by my ourn particular industry ? If to accommodate man and beast, heaven and earth, if this be beyond me, it is not possible. . What consequence then follows; or can there be any other than this If I seek an interest of my own, detached tom that of others, I seek an interest which is chimerical, and which can never have existence."
8 How then must I determine? Have I no interest at all ? If I have not, I am stationed here to no purpose. But why no interest? Can I be contented with none but one separate and detached ? Is a social interest, joined with others, such an absurdity as not to be admitted? The bee, the beaver, and the tribes of herding animals, are suifícient' to convince me, that the thing is somewhere at least possible. .
4 How, then, am I assured that it is not equally true of man ? Admit it'; and what follows? If so, then honour and justice are my interest; then the whole train of moral virtues are my interest; without some portion of which, not even thieves can maintain society. 6 But, farther still-I stop not here. I pursue this social interest as far as I can trace my several relations. I pass from my own stock, my own neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind, as dispersed throughout the earth. Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce, by the general intercourse of arts and letters, by that common nature of which we all participate ?
6 Again I must have food and clothing. Without a proper genial warmth, I instantly perish. · Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itself ; to the distant sun, from whose beams I derive vigour? to that stupendous course and order of the infinite host of heaven, by which the times and seasons ever uniformly pass on? .
7 Were this order once confounded, I could not probably . survive a moment; so absolutely do I depend on this com. mon general welfare. What, then, have I to do, but to enlarge virtue into piety? Not only honour and justice, and what I owe to man, is my interest; but gratitude also, acquiescence, resignation, adoration, and all I owe to this great poli ty, and its great Governor our common Parent. HARRIS.
: SECTION III.
The injustice of an uncharitable spirit. A SUSPICIOUS, uncharitable spirit, is not only inconA sistent with all social virtue and happiness, but it is also, in itself, unreasonable and unjust. In order to form sound opinions concerning characters and actions, two things are especially requisite; information and impartiality. But such as are most forward to decide unfavourably, are commonly destitute of both. Instead of possessing, or even requiring, full information, the grounds on which they proceed are frequently the most slight and frivolous. * 2 A tale, perhaps, which the idle have invented, the inquis. itive have listened to, and the credulous have propagated ; or a real incident, which rumour, in carrying it along, has exag. gerated and disguised, supplies them with materials of confi. dent assertion, and decisive judgment. From an action, they presently look into the heart, and infer the motive. This supposed motive they conclude to be the ruling principle; and pronounce at once concerning the whole character.
3 Nothing can be more contrary both to equity and to sound reason, than this precipitate judgment. Any man who attends to what passes within himself, may easily discern whata complicated system the human character is; and what a variety of circumstances must be taken into the account, in order to estimate it truly. No single instance of conduet, whatever, is sufficient to determine it noxa
4 As from one worthy action, it were credulity, not charity, to conclude a person tu be free from all vice; so from ono which is censurable, it is perfectly unjust to infer that the author of it is without conscience, and without merit. If we knew all the attending circumstances, it might appear in an excusable light; nay, perhaps, under a commendable form. The motives of the actor may have been entirely different from those which we ascribe to hiin; and where we suppose him impelled by bad design, he may have been prompted by conscience, and mistaken principle
5 Admitting the action to have been in every view criminal, he may have been hurried into it through inadvertency and surprise. He may have sincerely repented; and the virtuous principle may have now regained its full vigour. Perhaps this was the corner of frailty; the quarter on which he lay open to the incursions of temptation ; while the other avenues of his heart were firmly guarded by conscience.
6 It is therefore evident, that no part of the government of temper, deserves attention more, than to keep our minds pure from uncharitable prejudiees, and open to candour and humanity in judging of others. The worst consequences, both to ourselves and to society, follow from the opposite spirit
BLAIR. SECTION IV. The misfortunes of men mostly chargeable on themselves. W E find man placed in a world, where he has by no
V means the disposal of the events that happen. Ca. lamities sometimes befall the worthiest and the best, which it is not in their power to prevent, and where nothing is left them, but to acknowledge, and to submit to the high hand of Heaven. For such visitations of trial, many good and wise reasons can be assigned, which the present subject leads me not to discuss.
2 But though those unavoidable calamities make a part, yet they make not the chief part, of the vexations and sorrows that distress human life. A multitude of evils beset us, for the source of which we must look to another quarter.No sooner has any thing in the health, or in the circumstances of men, gune cross to their wish, than they begin to tak of the unequal distribution of the good things of this life; they envy the condition of others; they repine at their own lot, and fret against the Ruler of the world.
s Full of these sentiments, one man pines under a broken constitution. But Ict us ask him, whether he can, fairly and
honestly, assign no cause for this, but the unknown decree of heaven? Has he duly valued the blessing of health, and always observed the rules of virtue and sobriety ? Has he been moderate in his life, and temperate in all his pleasures ? If now he is only paying the price of his former, perhaps his forgotten indulgences, has he any title to complain, as if he were suffering unjustly?
4 Were we to survey the chambers of sickness and dis. tress, we should often find them peopled with the victims of intemperance and sensuality, and with the children of vicious indolence and sloth. Among the thousands who languish there, we should find the proportion of innocent sufferers to be small. We should see faded youth, premature old age, and the prospect of an untimely grave, to be the portion of multitudes, who, in one way or other, have brought those evils on themselves; while yet these martyrs of vice and folly, have the assurance to arraign the hard fate of man, and to " fret against the Lord.”
5 But you, perhaps, complain of hardships of another kind; of the injustice of the world; of the poverty which you suffer, and the discouragements under which you labour; of the crosses and disappointments, of which your life has been doomed to be full.–Before you give too much scope to your discontent, let me desire you to reflect impartially upon your past train of life.
6 'Have not sloth or pride, or ill temper, or sinful passions, misled you often from the path of sound and wise conduct? Have you not been wanting to yourselves in improving those opportunities which Providence offered you, for bettering and advancing your state? If you have chosen to indulge your humour, or your taste, in the gratifications of indolence or pleasure, can you complain because others, in preference to you, have obtained those advantages which naturally belong to useful labours, and honourable pursuits ?
7 Have not the consequences of some false steps, into which your passions, or your pleasures, have betrayed you, pursued you through much of your life ; tainted, perhaps, your characters, involved you in embarrassments, or sunk you into neglect? It is an old saying, that every man is the artificer of his own fortune in the world. It is certain, that the world seldom turns wholly against a man, unless through his own fault. " Religion is,” in general, “profitable unto all things.”
8 Virtue, diligence, and industry, joined with good temper, and prudence, have ever been found the surest rond so prosperity; and where men fail of attaining it, the
success is far oftener owing to their having deviated from that road, than to their having encountered insuperable bars in it. Some, by being too artful, forfeit the reputation of probity. Some, by being too open, are accounted to fail in prudence. Others, by being fickle and changeable, are distrusted by all.
9 The case commonly is, that men seek to ascribe their disappointments to any cause, rather than to their own mis'conduct; and when they can devise no other cause, they lay them to the charge of Providence. Their folly leads them into vices ; their vices into misfortunes; and in their misfortunes they “ murmur against Providence.”
10 They are doubly unjust towards their Creator. In their prosperity, they are apt to ascribe their success to their own diligence, rather than to his blessing: and in their adversity, they impute their distresses to his providence, not to their own misbehaviour. Whereas, the truth is the very reverse of this. “Every good and every perfect gift, cometh from above;" and of evil and misery, man is the author to himself.
11 When, 'from the condition of individuals, we look abroad to the public state of the world, we meet with more proofs of the truth of this assertion. We see great societies of men, torn in pieces by intestine dissentions, tumults, and civil commotions. We see mighty armies going forth, in formidable array, against each other, to cover the earth with blood, and to fill the air with the cries of widows and orphans. Sad evils these are, to which this miserable world is exposed.
12 But are these evils, I beseech you, to be imputed to God? Was it he who sent forth slaughtering armies into the field, or who filled the peaceful city with massacres and blood? Are these miseries any other than the bitter fruit of men's violent and disorderly passions ? Are they not clearly to be traced to the ambition, and vices of princes, to the quarrels of the great, and to the turbulence of the people ? Let us lay them entirely out of the account, in thinking of Providence; and let us think only of the “foolishness of man.”
13 Did man control his passions, and form his conduct according to the dictates of wisdom, humanity, and virtue, the earth would no longer be desolated by cruelty; and human societies would live in order, harmony, and peace. In those scenes of mischief and violence which fill the world, let man behold, with shame, the picture of his vices, his ignorDance, and folly. Let him be humbled by the mortifying