« PoprzedniaDalej »
“ that the wicked should die? saith the Lord • God. Let the wicked forsake his way, " and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and “ let him return unto the Lord, and he will “ have mercy upon him, and to our God, for “ he will abundantly pardon.”
It is hoped no inference will be made, from what has been written on this subject, that I mean to be an abettor of the sinful conduct of any man ; on the contrary, the Scriptures constantly affirm, that no man without holiness shall see God, and that a wilful and impenitent persistance in any one known sin will exclude the aggressor from the kingdom of heaven. I only mean to observe, that there is more indulgence shewn by our heavenly Father to a penitent sinner, and to human frailty, than these writers allow; and that, when any man examines into his spiritual state, he should refer himself to the Scriptures, which we are expressly informed were written for our learning, and will make us wise unto salvation ; and therefore their doctrine should be made the criterion of that examination, and not a bigotted exposition of those Scriptures, made by some saturnine writer, who is often not so much
actuated in what he writes by candour and Christian charity, as by the severity and spleen of his own unfortunate temper.
It is a great and very strong argument of the goodness of God, that, since man's happiness, temporal and eternal, depends on his obeying the dictates of virtue and piety, he has given as preponderating a bias to the human mind to adopt this rule of conduct, as could possibly have been done without entirely overruling the free will and free agency of man. God has made the adoption of the rules of virtue and piety to be the immediate cause of man's enjoying his favour, and of possessing that peace which the world cannot give; the cause of man's respecting himself without pride or presumption, of his enjoying his life and being in the highest degree; it is the cause of his possessing the esteem of the worthy part of his fellow-creatures, and of his not considering death as an evil ; because this system of conduct persisted in gives him the infallible assurance of enjoying, through God's goodness and the merits of his Redeemer, everlasting happiness in a future state: and the reverse of all these charming hopes and expectations are by his irreversible decrees ad
judged to be the portion of an opposite conduct. This great bias and preponderancy implanted in the soul in favour of virtue and humanity struck the heathen philosophers so forcibly, that they considered a course of vicious conduct to be more con-' trary to man's nature than the endurance of torture.
Antonius remarks, in his ninth book, "Ο ανθρωπος ευεργετος πεφυκως : Man is naturally beneficent. And the late Mr. Grove* a Dissenting Minister, who, for his great learning, and excellent life, temper, and disposition, was an ornament to human nature, observes, in a periodical essay in the Spectator,
that persons, conscious of their own integrity, satisfied with themselves, and full “ of confidence in a supreme Being, and “ the hope of immortality, survey all about “ them with a flow of good-will; and if the “ mind is not thus disposed, it is an infallible
sign it is not in its natural state: place the “ mind in its right posture, and it will im• mediately discover its innate propension 6- to beneficence.” · Some writers indeed have taken pains to
* Vide the character of this gentleman in Mr. Drake's elegant and entertaining Essays, lately published.
degrade and depreciate the human species, and to represent it as naturally cruel, vile, and unfeeling; no man perhaps has done so more than Dean Swift*. Lord Bacon likewise observes, there are men in the world so utterly depraved, that they would set another man's house on fire to roast their own eggs. But is this the character of the spécies? So far the contrary, that if one man in a thousand was so depraved, the other nine hundred and ninety-nine would immediately run to extinguish such fire. Perhaps the political history of nations, in which the agents act principally under the despotic influence of ambition and interest, may impress the mind with a different idea; but certainly their civil history, both ancient and modern, and the relations of almost all voyagers and travellers, induce the mind to believe, that the human species has not only a high esteem and sense of the value of virtue and piety, but on the whole, and when it is not swayed and overruled by ambition or interest, that it is friendly, compassionate,
* Vide his Gulliver's Travels, in particular the feigned conversation between the king of Brobdignad and Gulliver, which is probably the severest satire on the human species ever penned by man.
and benevolent. In one of his orations, Cicero declares it is his opinion, that, such is the natural partiality and propensity. men have to virtue and goodness, the mere relation of a good action, done even at a distant period by a man whom we never saw or were likely to see, would give us pleasure, and a reverential feeling of love towards the agent. But the completest and the strongest refutation of severe sarcasms cast on the species may fairly be made, I apprehend, by an appeal to the bosoms of at least nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand men, whether the very intention and contemplation of doing a kind and benevolent action does not give them a feeling of actual pleasure; how much more its accomplishment! Is there a man in Europe, whose mind would not vibrate with pleasure on his being informed of the benevolent exertions made by the late Mr. Howard, for the relief and accommodation of all those unhappy men confined in the various prisons of this kingdom? or at the relation of the great compassion and philanthropy of Captain Thomas Coram, who, till he accomplished his generous and noble purpose, unremittingly exerted himself, for seventeen