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men, and those again on the want of a vital principle of action. We live by faith. The essence of virtue consists in the principle. And the reality of this, as well as its importance, is believed by all men in fact, few as there may be who bring the truth forward into the light of distinct consciousness. Yet all men feel, and at times acknowledge to themselves, the true cause of their misery. There is no man so base, but that at some time or other, and in some way or other, he admits that he is not what he ought to be, though by a curious art of self-delusion, by an effort to keep at peace with himself as long and as much as possible, he will throw off the blame from the amenable part of his nature, his moral principle, to that which is independent of his will, namely, the degree of his intellectual faculties. Hence, for once that a man exclaims, how dishonest am! on what base and unworthy motives I act! we may hear a hundred times, what a fool I am! curse on my folly! and the like.*
Yet even this implies an obscure sentiment, that with clearer conceptions in the understanding, the principle of action would become purer in the will.
* 1 do not consider as exceptions the thousands that abuse themselves by rote with lip-penitence, or the wild ravings of fanaticism: for these persons at the very time they speak so vehemently of the wickedness and rottenness of their hearts, are then commonly the warmest in their own good opinion, covered round and comfortable in the wraprascal of self-hypocrisy.
Thanks to the image of our Maker not wholly obliterated from any human soul, we dare not purchase an exemption from guilt by an excuse, which would place our melioration out of our own power. Thus the very man, who will abuse himself for a fool but not for a villain, would rather, spite of the usual professions to the contrary, be condemned as a rogue by other men, than be acquitted as a blockhead. But be this as it may, in and out of himself, however, he sees plainly the true cause of our common complaints. Doubtless, there seem many physical causes of distress, of disease, of poverty and of desolation-tempests, earthquakes, volcanos, wild or venomous animals, barren soils, uncertain or tyrannous climates, pestilential swamps, and death in the very air we breathe. Yet when do we hear the general wretchedness of mankind attributed to these? Even in the most awful of the Icelandic and Sicilian eruptions, when the earth has opened and sent forth vast rivers of fire, and the smoke and vapour have dimmed the light of heaven for months, how small has been the comparative injury to the human race;—and how much even of this injury might be fairly attributed to combined imprudence and superstition! Natural calamities that do indeed spread devastation wide, (for instance, the marsh fever,) are almost without exception, voices of nature in her all-intelligible language-do this! or cease to do that! By the mere absence of one superstition,
and of the sloth engendered by it, the plague would probably cease to exist throughout Asia and Africa. Pronounce meditatively the name of Jenner, and ask what might we not hope, what need we deem unattainable, if all the time, the effort, the skill, which we waste in making ourselves miserable through vice, and vicious through misery, were embodied and marshalled to a systematic war against the existing evils of nature! No, It is a wicked world! This is so generally the solution, that this very wickedness is assigned by selfish men, as their excuse for doing nothing to render it better, and for opposing those who would make the attempt. What have not Clarkson, Granville Sharp, Wilberforce, and the Society of the Friends, effected for the honor, and if we believe in a retributive providence, for the continuance of the prosperity, of the English nation, imperfectly as the intellectual and moral faculties of the people at large are developed at present! What may not be effected, if the recent discovery of the means of educating nations (freed, however, from the vile sophistications and mutilations of ignorant mountebanks,) shall have been applied to its full extent! Would I frame to myself the most inspiriting representation of future bliss, which my mind is capable of comprehending, it would be embodied to me in the idea of Bell receiving, at some distant period, the appropriate reward of his earthly labours, when thousands and ten thousands
of glorified spirits, whose reason and conscience had, through his efforts, been unfolded, shall sing the song of their own redemption, and pouring forth praises to God and to their Saviour, shall repeat his new name in heaven, give thanks for his earthly virtues, as the chosen instruments of divine mercy to themselves, and not seldom perhaps turn their eyes toward him, as from the sun to its image in the fountain, with secondary gratitude and the permitted utterance of a human love! Were but a hundred men to combine a deep conviction that virtuous habits may be formed by the very means by which knowledge is communicated, that men may be made better, not only in consequence, but by the mode, and in the process, of instruction;—were but a hundred men to combine that clear conviction of this, which I myself at this moment feel, even as I feel the certainty of my being, with the perseverance of a Clarkson or a Bell, the promises of ancient prophecy would disclose themselves to our faith, even as when a noble castle hidden from us by an intervening mist, discovers itself by its reflection in the tranquil lake, on the opposite shore of which we stand gazing. What an awful duty, what a nurse of all other, the fairest virtues, does not hope be
* This is, I fear, too complex, too accidental, an image to be conveyed by words to those, who have not seen it themselves in nature. 1830.
come! We are bad ourselves, because we despair of the goodness of others.
If then it be a truth, attested alike by common feeling and common sense, that the greater part of human misery depends directly on human vices and the remainder indirectly, by what means can we act on men so as to remove or preclude these vices and purify their principle of moral election? The question is not by what means each man is to alter his own character-in order to this, all the means prescribed and all the aidances given by religion, may be necessary for him. Vain, of themselves, may be,
the sayings of the wise
In ancient and in modern books inrolled
Unless he feel within
Some source of consolation from above,
This is not the question. Viftue would not be virtue, could it be given by one fellow-creature to another. To make use of all the means and appliances in our power to the actual attainment of rectitude, is the abstract of the duty which we owe to ourselves: to supply those means as far as we can, comprizes our duty to others. The question then is, what are these means? Can they be any