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to those within our reach, is it proved that we should shew it to those at a distance, provided it were in our power to do so. It is thus only, and not by useless lamentations over distant distresses, and idle declamation concerning the perfectibility of human nature, that we cherish that love which is the true spring of all social virtue. It is comparatively few of the human race that we can personally benefit; for the rest we can only shew our benevolence by our wishes and prayers, and by contributing, as we have opportunity, to the diffusion of that glorious Gospel which is the declaration of peace on earth, and goodwill towards men. It was thus that good men of old acted, while they expressed their earnest desires for the happiness of the whole family of mankind : “God be merciful unto us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us; that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.”
There is a scale of benevolent desire, which corresponds with the necessities to be relieved, and our power of relieving them; or, with the happiness to be afforded, and our power of affording happiness. How many opportunities have we of giving delight to those who live in our domestic circle, which would be lost before we could diffuse it, to those who are distant from us! Our love, therefore, our desire of giving happiness,-our pleasure in having given it, are stronger within the limits of this sphere of daily and hourly intercourse, than beyond it. Of those who are beyond this sphere, the individuals most familiar to us are those whose happiness we must always know better how to promote, than the happiness of stran
gers, with whose particular habits and inclinations we are little, if at all acquainted. Is it possible to perceive this general proportion of our desire of giving happiness, in its various degrees, to the means which we possess, in various circumstances, of affording it, without admiration of an arrangement so simple in the principles from which it flows, or at the same time so effectual, -an arrangement which exhibits proofs of goodness in our very wants, of wisdom in our very
weaknesses, by the adaptation of these to each other, and by the ready resources which want and weakness find in these affections which everywhere surround them, like the presence and protection of God himself*.”
This is the necessary fruit of benevolence; and will spring forth, wherever benevolence has its abode. It consists of a variety of minute and kindly offices, which necessarily vary with the varying circumstances of human life. It is, when genuine, the effect of the principle of beneficence, and not merely of natural affection.
This virtue, which softens and adorns all our social virtues, shews itself, not only by a regard to the wants, but by a deference to the feelings of others. The
* Brown's Lectures, vol. iii. p. 343.
individual in whose bosom the gentle virtues of humanity abide, glows with good will to every living thing; he remembers that the path which leads to the tomb is already sufficiently darkened by the shadow of death, though he should not unnecessarily aggravate the gloom;—and that while he and his fellow-candidates for eternity are within a few paces of the boundary which will unite or separate them for ever, he ought to shew them all the kindness in his
power while advancing thither.
In many, the wish to promote the happiness of mankind by a kind and courteous demeanour, discovers itself only at distant intervals, and on great occasions. They seem to feel only when affliction makes a loud appeal to them; or when they are surrounded with spectators to applaud their beneficent exertions ;-forgetting that the happiness of man is made up, not by a few acts of generosity, but by the frequent, and, in many cases, undefinable offices of daily life;—and that the continued exercise of humanity, and the endearing tones of affection, are productive of far more substantial good, than the sacrifice of a splendid fortune without them.
Humanity is exercised towards the lower animals, as well as in regard to mankind.
“ A righteous man," that is, a virtuous humane man, “ will regard the life of his beast.” His love to universal happiness will shew itself in his kind and gentle treatment of the whole animated creation. In this respect, he will derive the rule of his conduct from the description which the pen of inspiration gives of the bounteous conduct of the Parent of all, in regard to all the crea
tures to which he has given being. “ The eyes of all wait on thee; and thou givest them their meat in due
Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing."
“ It is no more than the obligation of our very birth to practise equity to our kind; but humanity may be extended through the whole order of creatures, even to the meanest. History tells us of a wise and polite nation that rejected a person of the first quality, who stood for a judiciary office, only because he had been observed in his youth to take pleasure in teasing and murdering of birds.
And of another that expelled a man out of the senate, for dashing a bird against the ground which had taken shelter in his bosom. I remember an Arabian Author, who has written a treatise to shew how far a man supposed to have subsisted in a desert island, without any instruction, or so much as the sight of any other man, may, by the pure light of nature, attain the knowledge of philosophy and virtue. One of the first things he makes him observe is, that universal benevolence of nature in the protection and preservation of its creatures. In imitation of which the first act of virtue he thinks his selftaught philosopher would of course fall into is, to relieve and assist all the animals about him in their wants and distresses *"
* Guardian, vol. iii. No. 61.
There are certain dispositions and their contraries, such as humility and pride, gratitude and unthankfulness, which, in their immediate exercise, may be directed either towards God or towards man. The same depravity of mind from which ingratitude to a fellow-creature originates, produces ingratitude to God, our great and constant Benefactor. This is one reason why it has always been regarded with abhorrence.
Such is the benevolence of our Creator, that he has connected pleasure with the communication and with the reception of good. The very exercise of beneficence is happiness,—happiness both to the giver and the receiver. There are awakened in the heart of the recipient, the emotions of love to the benefactor, the wish for his happiness, and the desire of rendering him some service for its promotion.
“ He whose generous life is a continued diffusion of happiness, may thus delight himself with the thought, that, in diffusing it, he has been, at the same time, the diffuser of virtue,-at least, of wishes which were virtue for the time, and required nothing to convert them into beneficence, but the means of exercising them.”
The exercise of beneficence creates obligations on the part of the benefactor, as well as on that of the object of his bounty ; though, doubtless, the principal class of duties devolve on the recipient. The giver