Billeder på siden

not so much by signal and material services, which are seldom called for at our hands, as by the inferior offices of benevolence. The daily, and almost hourly reciprocity of little acts of good or ill will, which we have an opportunity of performing, go a great way to the making up of good or bad neighbourhood. There are those who, in the greater expressions of Christian mercy, are really humane; whose benevolence at the same time has not learnt to stoop to little things: they are compassionate, but they want kindness: they would relieve a starving beggar, but they would not put themselves in ever so small a degree out of their way, to accommodate, in trivial matters, a near neighbour.

Kindness is universal in its objects. We have known individuals who could never do enough for some objects of their regard, but they are by no means persons of diffusive kindness; and, perhaps, if we examine, we shall find that their benevolence has a great mixture of selfishness in it, for it is exercised only towards those from whom they expect an ample return. It is the kindness of barter, not of charity: it is so much of their comfort put out at interest, not given away to the needy; they either have had, or expect to have, value received for all they do. But love is universal in its aspect; it is ever ready to do a kind office for any one that either solicits or needs its assistance. Its language is, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." It has a kind look, word, and act, for everybody. Nor are its enemies denied the assistance of its efforts. Such is the generous spirit of the Christian religion, as appears from the passages

quoted in a preceding chapter. Such is the refined, the sublime morality of the New Testament. Yes, these are the principles on which kindness acts; it extends its beneficence to the very man that has treated it with contumely and scorn-with cruelty, insult, and oppression. This is its duty and its inclination. In imitation of the dying Saviour, who gave his last prayer to his murderers, it says, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"

What a fascinating character is the man of distinguished kindness! he is invested with indescribable loveliness: he may not have the glory in which the patriot, the hero, or, the martyr is enshrined; but he is adorned in no common degree with the beauties of holiness. He carries about with him the majesty of goodness, if not the dominion of greatness. The light of his countenance is the warm sunshine, to which the spirits of grief repair from their dark retreats, to bask in its glow; and his gentle words are like soft melody to chase away the evil thoughts from the bosom of melancholy, and to hush to peace the troubled reflections of the distempered mind. As he moves along his career, distributing the unexpensive but efficient expressions of his regards, it is amidst the blessing of those that were ready to perish, and the notes of the widow's heart; which he has turned to joy. When he comes unexpectedly into the company of his friends, every countenance puts on the appearance of complacency, and it appears as if a good genius had come among them to bless the party; as he looks round on the circle, with the smile of beneficence

that has found an abiding place upon his brow, he presents the brightest resemblance to be found in our selfish world, of the entrance of the Saviour among his disciples, when he said, "Peace be unto you!" and breathed upon them the Holy Ghost. Although he neither seeks nor wishes an equivalent, in return for his many acts of benevolence, his gentle spirit receives back, in a full tide, the streams of consolation which had ebbed from his own heart to fill the empty channels of his neighbour's happiness. Who can be unkind to him, who is kind to all? What heart is so hard, what mind is so cruel, what spirit is so diabolical, as to wound him, who never appears among his race but as a ministering angel? There is a magic in his tears, to melt to sympathy the stubborn soul of cruelty itself, which has a tear for no one else; and no less a magic in his smiles, so far to relax and soften the hard features of envy, as to reflect for a moment the sunshine of his joy. While he lives, every man is his admirer; and when he dies, every man is his mourner: while he is on earth, his name has a home in every heart; and when he is gone, he has a monument in every memory :-and this is the description of his character-the record of his praise: LOVE IS KIND!



"Charity envieth not."

ENVY is that passion, which causes us to feel uneasiness at the sight of another's possessions or happiness, and which makes us dislike him on that account. Of all the base passions, this is the basest. It is unmingled malignity, the very worst and bitterest dregs of human depravity; the most direct contrariety of love. Envy is either general or special in its objects. It often exists in the mind to such an extent, that its subjects seem almost instinctively opposed to excellence and to happiness, wherever they see them, or whenever they hear of them. They may not regard the individuals on whom their envious glance is fixed in the light of competitors or rivals; they may have nothing to hope from their depression-nothing to fear from their elevation; but it is enough to awaken their uneasiness and dislike, to know that they are in some respects superior. They cannot bear to see excellence or happiness in any one, or ever to hear the language of commendation or praise. They would beggar the universe to enrich themselves,

and monopolize all possessions, and all admiration ; they would be alone in the world, as the sole occupants of every thing valuable, and can endure neither a superior nor an equal. This, it must be allowed, is a maturity to which envy rarely attains, compared with its more special and limited operation.

The OBJECTS of envy are commonly such as these. 1. Persons who are nearly on our own level. Individuals who are either much above us in station, or much below us, are not so likely to excite uneasiness and dislike, as those who are of our own standing, or approaching to it. The tradesman envies not the nobleman, but some fellow tradesman ; the laurels and fame of the hero are not envied by the common soldier, but by some officer of his own rank.

2. Those who though much above us, occupy a station from which we have been cast down, are likely to be regarded by us with an evil eye, and to draw forth our dislike.

3. Competitors, but especially some single rival for wealth, or fame, or any valuable possession, is a powerful temptation to this sin. It is extremely difficult to witness their success and superiority, and feel nothing of envy towards them.

It is evident, that persons descending in life are much exposed to this vice: and, perhaps, those still more so, who are candidates for popular applause, whether they be literary, scientific, military, or professional men. "Vanity, or a thirst after applause, is the most, unsocial and envious of the passions, avarice itself not excepted. The reason is plain. Property is a kind of good, which may

« ForrigeFortsæt »