Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]

be confeffed, is of a piece with the rest of that hopeful philofophy, which having patched man up out of the four elements, attributes his being to chance, and derives all his actions from an unin, telligible declination of atoms. And for thefe glorious discoveries the poet is beyond measure transported in the praises of his hero, as if he must needs be something more than man, only for an endeavour to prove, that man is in nothing superior to beasts. In this school was Mr. Hobbes in, structed to speak after the fame manner, if he did not rather draw his knowledge from an observation of his own temper; for be somewhere unluc. kily lays down this as a rule, • That from the fimi. • litudes of thoughts and passions of one man to • the thoughts and passions of another, whosoever • looks into himself, and confiders what he doth • when he thinks, hopes, fears, doc. and upon • what grounds; he shall thereby read and know • what are the thoughts and passions of all other

men, upon the like occasions. Now we will allow Mr. Hobbes to know best how he was inclined: But, in earnest, I should be heartily out of conceit with myself, if I thought myself of this unamiable. temper, as he affirms, and should have as little kindness for myself as for any body in the world. Hitherto I always imagined, that kind and benevolent propensions were the original growth of the heart of man, and, bowever checked and overtopped by counter inclinations that have since sprung up wiihin us, have still some force in the worst of tempers, and a confiderable influence on the best. And, methinks, it is a fair ftep towards the proof of this, that the most beneficent of all beings is He who hath an absolute fulnefs of perfection in him. felf, who gaye existence to the universe, and so cannot be supposed to want that which he communicated, without diminishing from the plenitude of his own power and happiness. The philosophers


[ocr errors]

of us.

before mentioned have indeed done all that in them lay to invalidate this argument ; for placing the gods in a state of the most elevated blessedness, they describe them as selfish as we poor miserable mortals can be, and shut them out from all concern for mankind, upon the score of their having no need

But if he that fitteth in the heavens wants not us, we stand in continual need of him; and surely, next to the survey of the immense treasures of his own mind, the most exalted pleasure he receives is from beholding millions of creatures lately, drawn out of the gulph of non-existence, rejoicing in the various degrees of being and happiness imparted to them. And as this is the true, the glorious character of the Deity, fo in forming a reasonable creature he would not, if possible, suffer his image to pass out of his hands unadorned with a resemblance of himself in this most lovely part of his nature. For what complacency could a mind; whose love is as unbounded as his knowledge, have in a work so unlike himself? a creature that should be capable of knowing and conversing with a vast circle of objects, and love none but himself? What proportion would there be between the head. and the heart of such a creature, its affections, and its understanding ? Or could a society of such creatures, with no other bottom but felf-love on which to maintain a commerce, ever flourish ? Reason, it is certain, would oblige every man to pursue the general happiness, as the means to procure and establish his own ;' and yet, if besides this consideration, there were not a natural instinct, prompting men to desire the welfare and satisfaction of others, felf-love, in defiance of the admonitions of reason, would quickly run all things into a state of war and confufion. . As nearly interested as the foul is in the fate of the body, our provident Creator saw it necessary, by the constant returns of hunger and thirft, those important appetites,

ton 7

to put it in mind of its charge; knowing that if we should eat and drink no oftner than cold abstracted fpeculation thould put us upon thefe exercises, and then leave it to reason to prescribe the quantity, we should soon refine ourselves out of this bodily life. And indeed, it is obvious to remark, that we follow nothing heartily, unless carried to it by inclinations which anticipate our reafon, and, like a bias, draw the mind strongly towards it. In order, therefore, to establish a perpetual intercourse of benefits amongst mankind, their Maker would not fail to give them this generous prepoffeffion of benevolence, if, as I have faid, it were posible; and from whence can we go about to argue its impoffibility? Is it inconfiftent with self-love ? Are their motions contrary ? No more than the diurnal rotation of the earth is op. posed to its annual ; or its motion round its own centre, which might be improved as an illustration of felf-love, to that which whirls it about the common centre of the world, answering to universal benevolence, Is the force of self-love abated, or its interest prejudiced by benevolence ? So far from it, that benevolence, though a distinct principle, is extremely serviceable to felf-love, and then doth most service when it is least designed.

But, to descend from reafon to matter of fact; the piry which arises on fight of persons in distress, and the fatisfaction of mind, which is the consequence of having removed them into a happier ftate, are instead of a thousand arguments to prove such a thing as a disinterested benevolence. Did pity proceed from a reflection we make upon our liableness to the same ill accidents we see befal 0thers, it were nothing to the present purpose ; but this is afligning an artificial cause of a natural pas. fion, and can by no means be admitted as a tolerable account of it, because children, and person most thoughtless about their own condition, and



incapable of entering into the prospect of futurity, feel the most violent touches of compassion. And then as to that charming delight which immediately follows the giving joy to another, or relieving his forrow, and is, when the objects are numerous, and the kindness of importance, really inexpreffi. ble, what can this be owing to but a consciousness of a man's having done something praise-worthy, and expreffive of a great foul? Whereas, if in all this he only facrificed to vanity and felf-love, as there would be nothing brave in actions that make the most shining appearance, fo nature would not have rewarded them with this divine pleasure ; nor could the commendations, which a person receives for benefits done upon felfith views, be at all more satisfactory, than when he is applauded for what he doth without design ; because, in both cases, the ends of felf-love are equally answered. The con-, fcience of approving one's self a benefactor to mankind, is the noblest recompense for being so ; doubtlefs it is, and the most interested cannot propose any thing so much to their own advantage ;notwithstanding which, the inclination is nevertheless unselfish. The pleasure which attends the gratification of our hunger and thirst, is not the cause of these appetites; they are previous to any fuch prospect; and so likewise is the desire of doing good ; with this difference, that being seated: in the intellectual part, this last, though antecedent to reason, may yet be improved and regulated by it, and, I will add, is no otherwise a virtue than as it is so.

Thus have I contended for the dignity of that nature I have the honour to partake of, and, after all the evidence produced, think I have a right to conclude, against the motto of this paper, that there is such a thing as generofity in the world. Though, if I were under a mistake in this, I ihould say as Cicero in relation to the immortality.


of the soul, I willingly err, and should believe it very much for the interest of mankind to lie under the same delusion. For the contrary notion naturally tends to difpirit the mind, and links it into a meanness fatal to the god-like zeal of doing good: As, on the other hand, it teaches people to be ungrateful, by possessing them with a persuafion concerning their benefactors, that they have no regard to them in the benefits they bestow. Now he that banishes gratitude from among men, by so doing stops up the stream of beneficence. For though in conferring kindnesos, a truly generous man doth not aim at a return, yet he looks to the qualities of the person obliged, and as nothing renders a person more unworthy of a benefit, than his being without all resentment of it, he will not be extremely forward to oblige such

a man.


Persequitur scelus ille fuum : labefaclaque tandem I&tibus innumeris addu&taque funibus arbor Corruit

Ovid. Met. 1. viii. ver. 774. The impious ax he plies; loud strokes resound; Till dragg’d with ropes, and felld with many

a wound, The loosen'd tree comes rushing to the ground.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Am so great an admirer of trees, that the spot

of ground I liave chosen to build a small seat upon, in the country, is almost in the midst of

a large wood. I was obliged, much against my it will, to cut down several'crees, that I night liave

any such thing as a walk in my gardens; bực * then I have taken care to leave the pace between


[ocr errors]
« PředchozíPokračovat »