[ocr errors]

mortify all self-importance; by which revenge is in a great degree supported. Our Lord says, John xv. 12, 13. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, 66 as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than "this, that a man lay down his Life for his Friends". To which we may add the exhortation of St. Paul; Eph. iv. 32. "Let all bitterness and wrath, and anger, "and clamour, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind to one another, "tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God "for Christ's sake hath forgiven you"-No motive could be offered to the human mind more powerful than this last, and it is wholly Christian. It is equally calculated to silence the cavils of the captious sceptic, to work conviction on the mind of the man of thought and reflection, and to rouse the affections of the man of sensibility. Moreover, Christian motives make the unchangeable Deity the primary object of our attention, even when that Duty is directed to variable man. Nothing can tend more to our being steadfast and immoveable in our duty, in spite of human folly and ingratitude. And if you say, that this is the nature of all religious motives, we need only observe in reply, that Christianity has greatly improved religion, that it has greatly strengthened our hopes of future happiness, by bringing life and immortality to light, and that, inasmuch as it has made such improvements, it has added to our motives for practising the Duty of forgiveness considered as a religious Duty.

Fifthly.-Nor ought we to omit, that Christianity has afforded us examples of forgiveness, such as were never known in the world before its publication. This should not be omitted, because example excites our sympathy, sets in motion our powerful principle of Imitation; and, what is particularly useful in a duty accounted difficult and extravagant, it makes that appear practicable, or even familiar, which had seemed beyond the powers of ordinary men. The conduct of our Saviour (and we might add St. Stephen, and other Christian martyrs) towards his enemies, even whilst he was under sufferings the most dreadful, and injuries the

most exasperating, affords a lesson of forgiveness, more forcible and efficacious than can be conveyed by words.

With regard to the Texts of Scripture on which we have particularly dwelt, they are not by any means to be overlooked whilst we are speaking of improvements. The first guards against all vicious indulgence of the passion of anger in our actions, by laying restraints upon it, whilst it is only influencing our words and our thoughts. The second prepares us for sudden provocations, which are always dangerous to virtue,and teaches, what was in morals unknown before, that the best method to abate the violence of an attack is to yield to it. The third plainly insists, that a man by being our enemy does not cease to be an object of our benevolence; at the same time that it suggests some specific modes of conduct, in a few of the most distinguished cases of enmity. And the last shews us how we should treat an enemy when our power over him is the greatest; when he is reduced to want, or even necessity. Adding a recommendation of that most exalted and amiable of all employments, overcoming evil with good.

With gratitude therefore ought we to form our hearts and minds to love, and rightly comprehend, the precepts of that divine teacher, who has taught the important duty of forgiveness in expressions easy to be understood; has illustrated it by a case the equity of which cannot be denied; has enforced and familiarized it by his own example; and has provided for its being continually suggested to the thoughts, by involving it in that prayer, which, we see from the expressions contained in it, ought not for a day to be omitted.

46. And now we have considered all the malevolent sentiments of the human mind, under the classes of Hatred, Envy, Malice, and Resentment. The length to which we have been carried, can only be excused by the candor of those, who will allow, that this is a part of our constitution which has not hitherto been sufficiently noticed; though it is continually active, and though its influence is very great upon the happiness of Mankind.

Should any such rude beginnings as these induce men of real abilities to carry on, correct, improve the train of reflections here laid open, the result could not but prove extremely beneficial to human life, and greatly ameliorate this our earthly state of probation,






IN 1774 I preached two Sermons before the

(a) University of Cambridge on the malevolent passions, or sentiments, and afterwards I printed them. They were taken from my moral Lectures, and therefore did not contain scriptural proofs, or illustrations; a defect which was strongly urged in their disfavour. I therefore in 1779, began to offer these discourses to the same Audience, and proceeded in preparing and delivering them till I was elected Norrisian Professor of Divinity, in 1780. But I had not then finished the subject of Hatred. The other discourses have been written since. Those few persons who have the two discourses, must expect to find these only an enlargement of them; with scripture instances, and disquisitions upon them.

(b) Art. 7.] In Philanthropy we love all men, of all ranks; but it is as men; as our semblables. Superiority and inferiority in every respect, vanish, when the object of our attention is Mankind.

(c) End of Art. 9.] Should any one wish to sce Hatred, or odious qualities, more particularly described, he may consult Theophrastus, who seems to have drawn his characters more with a view to such qualities than to any others.

(d) Art. 12.] In Art. 7. there was a reference to Smith's Theory of moral Sentiments, Part 2. Sect. 3. Chap. 1. p. 211. octavo. He is not there speaking of

« VorigeDoorgaan »