« ForrigeFortsæt »
selves or others, acts of obedience unto God, whose authority is in all things our rule, and whose glory it is our privilege to promote. It thus leads us “ to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world
ON THE WAY IN WHICH BENEVOLENCE IS TO BE EXERCISED, SO AS TO BE PRODUCTIVE OF THE GREATEST GOOD TO MANKIND.
It has been maintained by certain writers, that as we are bound to love our neighbour with the same pure and disinterested affection which we bear to ourselves, we are bound to express our love to all in the same manner. It is, therefore, say they, wrong to appropriate exclusively to our own use blessings which the law of love makes common to all; or to make that particular provision for our families which should be given freely to the members of the family of mankind. As it is our duty to love others as ourselves, ought we not to share with them in common, whatever good we may procure by our talents and industry? Without this, what is our love but empty profession, and does it not consist merely in word and in tongue ?
In reply to this sophistical objection, which, if fol. lowed out, would fill the world with anarchy and misery, by annihilating those means and institutions which Providence has ordained for cherishing virtue
and checking vice, for increasing human happiness and alleviating human evil, I remark,
I I. That the law which enjoins us to love our neighbour as ourselves, is a law designed to regulate the moral feelings and conduct of reflecting and intelligent beings in regard to their fellow-creatures. In obeying this law, that is, in loving others as themselves, they are not only allowed, but required to act in the exercise of their best judgment, and in that way in which the great object of love, human happi. ness, may be most effectually promoted. Should the convictions of judgment and experience on this subject be confirmed by the decision of the only wise God, the Supreme Ruler and Legislator, there, of course, would be no room for hesitation as to the best, the only method of following out the law of love. That decision from the first creation of mankind was given; it has been explained and enforced by subsequent revelations; and its wisdom and beneficence are amply confirmed by the history of the human race.
I observe, therefore, II. That according to the decision of divine authority, as well as of human experience, the happiness of mankind is best secured by their living in families. It is unnecessary to mention all the purposes intended to be accomplished by this institution; but it is obvious that one great object designed to be attained by it is, the religious education and improvement of children. The great Lord and Ruler of all trains up, under this system of discipline, the intelligent and accountable beings whom he forms, and thus prepares them for the duties and trials of life, and for giving a cheerful
obedience to his laws, whether immediately enacted by himself, or enjoined by human authority. The heads of families are thus peculiarly constituted the servants of God; he rules through their instrumentality the little community over which they preside; he makes them kings and priests to their own household; and he intrusts them with a charge endeared to them by all the ties of nature, and of infinite importance both in relation to this world and the next.
It is in families also that the natural affections are cherished-those affections which soften human nature, which are the source of so much happiness, and which are such important auxiliaries to whatever is good in man. Had there been no such institution, and had human beings been so circumstanced that the tender ties of kindred could not be formed, the parental, filial, fraternal, and other affections which are called natural, could have had no existence. Dark and miserable must have been the condition of a fallen world, with inhabitants destitute of pure benevolence, and at the same time wanting in those instinctive feelings and affections which, in the absence of a higher principle, are essential to the existence of society.
In consequence of their living in families also, mankind are capable of prosecuting their worldly business with the greatest effect. That which is the business of all is seldom done by any. To enable us to apply our powers successfully, we find it necessary to limit our attention to some definite object. Families can easily and effectually conduct the government of their respective establishments, and embrace, without
embarrassment, that division of human affairs which falls to their management.
But let this arrangement be annihilated, let there be no division of mankind into families, no separate economy, no suitable allotment of business, and the immediate consequence would be universal waste, profligacy, and ruin.
III. It is the ordination of Providence, that every individual should have an immediate and pressing inducement to labour.-Without this, it is demonstrable that mankind would never have made any advance in improvement of any kind; that conse
. quently, we must have wanted the acquirements, the industry, the arts, the institutions, which gladden and adorn human existence. Without an inducement, and such an immediate and pressing inducement, as comes home to the understanding and heart of all, to labour in all the ways in which man can benefit himself or others, it is certain that the earth would remain uncultivated, that the world would soon be thinly peopled, and that the few inhabitants on its surface would be idle, ignorant, and miserable.
But this immediate and pressing inducement to voluntary labour is only to be found in that peculiar interest, which, from the constitution of his nature, man feels in that which he calls his own. He is formed to love others; but he is also so formed, that he cannot but love himself, and value what he reckons conducive to his happiness. He is also so made, that those who are united to him by a family relation, who are the objects of his natural affections, he considers as his own, as himself, whose well-being he feels himself bound to promote. It is from thence he derives the most powerful motives to laborious and painful exertion ; and that he is prompted to such a uniform exercise of his talents and energies, as makes him a voluntary benefactor to his fellow-creatures. Hence I notice,
IV. That genuine disinterested benevolence regards those as its first objects, who, from proximity, relationship, or moral worth, have peculiar claims. “ Do good,” says the Apostle, “ unto all men, as ye have opportunity, but especially to those who are of the household of faith.” If it be the desire of that love which is the fulfilling of the law to do the greatest good possible, and this surely must be the dictate of genuine disinterested benevolence, then, every man must begin at home, with the members of his own family, with the poor, the ignorant, the wretched, in his vicinity, with the division of the church of Christ with which he is connected, with his kindred and country. By sighing over the thraldom and misery of distant nations, and by neglecting the wants of those within our reach, we are wasting our benevolence, if benevolence it can be called, on those whom we cannot benefit, and leaving unoccupied the important sphere of duty and of usefulness in which Providence invites us to move. We attempt to invert that order which the ordination of heaven has fixed for the exercise of our benevolence, and the discharge of its duties; and, thus, it would seem that we would fain improve on the plans of infinite wisdom and goodness, as if we were wiser and more compassionate than He who formed us.
In exact proportion as we exercise true benevolence