Page images

The atoms which when joined together formed worlds and systems of'usefulness and beauty, it finally separates by annihilating the attracting influence which held them together. No longer drawn to their great centre, no longer united to each other, they recede continually from God, and light, and good, and from all future connection with the intelligent universe. The soul ceases from its union to its Maker, and becomes a stranger to its fellow-creatures. Deserting voluntarily all social beings, and by all deserted, it is henceforth alone, separated, and solitary in the universe ; a wanderer beyond the limits of the virtuous creation, moves only to disorder, and operates only to mischief; a dishonour henceforth to its Creator, and a nuisance to his intelligent kingdom.

How infinitely important is it then that this glorious principle of love should exist; that it should be effectuated by God; and that it should be required by the solemn authority, the supreme sanctions of that law, by which throughout immensity and eternity he governs the universe of virtuous beings!









In the last Discourse I attempted to explain the nature, and to prove the existence of disinterested love. To this doctrine there have been many objections, as there have also been to every other peculiar doctrine of the Scriptures. It is now my design to consider some of the principal.

None of these objections is more frequently made, or made with stronger appearances of confidence, than the following: “ That, if we are required to love others as ourselves, we are, of course, required also to do as much for them as for ourselves; to make the same provision for their wants, and to take the same effectual care of their concerns.

“ The Scriptures,” say the objectors," inform us, that love, existing merely in word and in tongue,' is not the love which they require, nor at all the object of their approbation; that, as it is productive of no real good to others, it is clearly of no value. The love which they require is that which exists in deed and in truth ;' which, being the source of solid good, is necessarily the object of rational esteem. If, then, we are required to love, we are of course required to perform the actions which flow from love, and which prove its reality and sincerity. If therefore we are required to love in any given degree, we are required also to perform the actions which flow from it in that degree. If we are to love others as ourselves, we are bound to do for them the same things which we are bound to do for ourselves.”

I can easily suppose this objection to be made with soberness and conviction. The reasoning by which it is supported has a fair appearance, and cannot be denied to be specious. It deserves therefore a sober consideration, and a rational

Such an answer I will endeavour to give ; and will attempt to show, that the conclusion drawn from this reasoning by the objector is disproved by the very principles on which it is founded ; by the very nature of disinterested love, when considered in connection with the circumstances of the present world. To this end, I observe,


I. That whenever the conduct proposed is physically impossible, it cannot be our duty. This assertion will be denied by no man.

It can no more be denied that it excludes from our active beneficence a very great proportion of the human race ; viz. all or almost all those who are remote from us, and a very great proportion of those who are near to us. From doing good to the former we are prevented by distance of place. From doing good to very many of the latter we are equally prevented by their multitude; the number being so great that we cannot benefit all, unless we give up the duty of being really useful to any.

It ought however to be here remarked, that all men can exercise a benevolent spirit towards all men, and can supplicate blessings for all in their prayers. It is also to be observed, that some persons can extend their acts of kindness very far, to distant nations and to distant ages; particularly those who are eminently qualified to instruct and inform mankind by their writings and those who regulate the affairs of nations, and thus seriously affect the state of the world. I need not say how few of the human race are included in both these classes.

II. Wherever this conduct would frustrate the great end of benevolence by lessening human happiness, it cannot be our duły.

It will not be pretended that the law which requires us to exercise benevolence, or the love of doing good, requires us also to act in such a manner as to prevent the existence of that good. That this would be necessarily the effect of the conduct proposed by the objector, will be evident from the following considerations :-

1. If the affairs, interests, and duties of mankind were all thrown, as according to the objection they must be thrown, into a common stock, there would be little or no good done

to any

The mass of concerns would be immense, could never be comprehended by the mind of man, and could therefore never be arranged into any order or method. But without such arrangement there could be no knowledge of what would be necessary, useful, or desirable.

Without such knowledge the interests of men could never be so disposed as to be pursued with any advantage. Without such knowledge the duties of men would never be wrought into such a system as to be understood by him who directed the efforts of others, much less could they be understood by those who are to make the efforts, or, in other words, to perform the active duties of society.

A small mass of ideas easily becomes too complex an object for the mind distinctly to comprehend, until these ideas are arranged in a regular scheme. Without such arrangement, the human capacity is too limited to think with any clearness or success, wherever the objects of thought are even moderately numerous. But, in the case proposed, the number of objects in the affairs of a single town would be exceedingly numerous, and would wholly surpass the utmost comprehension of man.

In consequence of our want of capacity to comprehend and methodize these concerns, they would lie in a state of universal disorder and confusion, and all would of course go to ruin. Instead of the good which is now contrived and done, there would be comparatively nothing done or contrived. Instead of the abundant food and raiment, instead of the comfortable habitations, the extensive instructions, and the multi



plied kind offices, now furnished by mankind to themselves, and each other, none of these things would be supplied, nor any thing else which is useful, nor indeed any thing else which is necessary. Mankind, on the contrary, would be houseless, hungry, and naked, and in endless multitudes would perish with famine, heat, and frost.

Besides, every kind of human business is imperfectly done, and to little purpose, when it is done in the gross, compared with what is accomplished when it is separated into parts, and these are severally distributed to different hands. In this case the whole business is rendered simple, easy to be understood, and easy to be accomplished. In this manner every thing is done much more expeditiously, and more perfectly. Much more is therefore done; and that which is done, being better done, will answer a much better purpose. Such has been the regular progress of things in all civilized nations, and it has ever borne an exact proportion to the degree of their improvement. The business of life has thus been actually and sedulously divided, wherever considerable designs have been skilfully carried on. In this manner the effects of human industry (or the business actually done) have been increased beyond what the most sanguine mind could imagine. One man, for example, to whom the whole business of making so simple a thing as a pin was allotted, could hardly finish twenty in a day. Ten men, dividing the several parts of the business among them, can easily finish more than forty-eight thousand. What is true of this subject is true in different degrees of all human business, and extends to the ship, the manufactory, and the farm, with an influence generally the same.

2. It is indispensable to the accomplishment of human concerns, that the division of human industry should be voluntary.

Force and pleasure are the only causes by which men have been induced to labour. Under a free government force cannot be applied to this end, nor, except very imperfectly, under a despotic one. Even where it is thus applied, it is so far unavailing, as to reduce the quantity and value of that which is done by slaves, or men compelled to labour, to one half, one third, or one fourth, of that which is voluntarily done by the same number of freemen. A single family at the head of one hundred slaves will easily consume all that is produced by the labour of those slaves; while that of an equal number of

« PreviousContinue »