Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

SERMON LXXIX.

REGENERATION. ITS ATTENDANTS. CONSISTENCY OF BENEVO

LENCE WITH PROVIDING PECULIARLY FOR OUR OWN.

1 TIMOTHY V. 8.—But if any provide not for his own, especially for those of his own

house; he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

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 samé 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 indeed, 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 answer.

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 connexion with the circumstances of the present world. To this end, I observe,

1. That, whenever the conduct proposed is physically impossible, it cannot be our duty.

a

[ocr errors]

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 duty.

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.

1st. 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 ar

1 ranged 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 the 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 multiplied 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 expeditiousÎy, 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.

2dly. 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 des

a potic 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 freemen would amply support five-and-twenty families. From these observations it is plain, that if the voluntary industry, now exerted, were to cease, and forced labour to be substituted for it, one half, two thirds, or three fourths, of human enjoyments, now furnished by voluntary industry, would at once be lost by mankind.

Industry becomes voluntary, only by the agreeableness of the employment chosen ; or on account of the reward which it secures ; or, what is more commonly the faci, by both. The nature of the employment is often so important in this respect, that no reward can ever reconcile many persons to the employments, in which they are placed by their parents; or induce them to acquire the skill, which is necessary to success. Were we generally forced to our employments, we should find this generally the fact; and the whip would be almost as necessary to compel our industry, as it ever has been to compel that of slaves. Were it possible to manage a world in this manner, the result would still be the general diffusion of poverty, suffering, and depopulation. On the contrary, plenty, ease, and comfort; nay, convenience, and even luxury, are the regular result of voluntary industry, in all countries enjoying the common blessings of Providence.

3dly. In this very manner God has divided the business of mankind by separating them into families.

By the separation of mankind into families God has distributed their business in such a manner, that a little part is placed in every hand, which is capable of managing business at all; such a part, and such only, as each can easily comprehend, and easily accomplish. Human business is, therefore, so divided here, that it can be done ; and done with ease, expedition, and success.

At the same time, the division is perfectly voluntary : the employment, in every case, being ordinarily chosen by the individual for himself. The situation also, in which he is placed, and the partner, with whom he is connected in life, are both objects of his choice: and these facts, united with the common rewards of industry, furnish all the reasons, which can usually exist, to render it cheerful, and efficacious.

This division is the best possible, because it is the simplest, and the easiest, possible; the result of mere nature ; requiring the inlervention of no force, law, or human contrivance : because it extends throughout the world, over every age and nation, in the same easy and perfect manner : because it exists, every where, through mere propensity; without any contention, and without any difficul. ty. It is the best, because it has been thoroughly tried; and has been always found peacefully and happily to accomplish the end in view. No attack has been able to change its course ; no circumstances to check its progress. It is the best, because it is the establishment of God himself; the result of his perfect wisdom and goodness; and an honourable proof of these attributes in its Author. In perfect accordance with these observations it has ever proved the means of producing necessaries to the whole race of Adam; comfort and convenience to most; and, to not a small number, wealth, luxury, and splendour.

With every

4thly. The division of the world into

families is of immense utility to mankind, as it generates Natural affection.

Natural affection is solely the result of natural relations; and almost all these are originated by the family state. With other distribution of mankind, which can be substituted for this, they are wholly incompatible.

The importance of natural affection to the human race is incalculable. It resists, in a great degree, the tendency of mere and absolute selfishness; expands and softens the heart; excites and nourishes sympathy and compassion; and prevents the world from becoming a mere seat of clashing, violence, and cruelty. The attachment, which natural affection forms in men towards the members of their families, ultimately extends itself, also, to their habitations, and farms; and by an easy process reaches their country, laws, government, and nation. All men, without it, would in the end become mere vagabonds and outcasts, thieves and robbers.

To prevent these evils, it would seem, God implanted in us this singular propensity of our nature: a propensity highly useful, when we are virtuous; and in vispensable to our peace and comfort, while we are sinful. In the absence of virtue, it is the only tie which effectually binds mankind together.

5thly. By the institution of families preparation is effectually made for the preservation, support, and education of children.

The truth of this proposition, and the manner in which it is accomplished, will naturally be the themes of a future discourse, in which I propose more extensively to handle this subject. Suffice it now to say, that but for this institution children would neither be loved, nor preserved, nor educated. The substance of all education is the establishment of good habits. Habits extend, alike, to the body and mind ; and equally influence our thoughts and affections, our language and conduct. Without them nothing in the man, character, or human life, is efficacious, permanent, or useful. To establish them, therefore, in the morning of life, is the great business of all wise and well-directed education. But habits are formed only by the frequent and long-continued repetition of the same measures; and nothing ever becomes habitual, except that, which has been long and often repeated. To accomplish such repetition, nothing will suffice but the steady affection of married parents : that is, so far as useful and moral purposes are concern. ed. Of course, but for this institution, children would never be habitually trained to industry, to economy, to submission, or to good order ; nor to sweetness of disposition, tenderness of affection, amiableness of manners, offices of kindness, or any other useful conduct. Of course, when they were not left to perish, they would grow up without knowledge, useful principles, or useful habits; without the knowledge, or love, of good order; without amiableness; and without worth. Of course, they would become

; mere beasts of prey. Not only would civilized life, with all its VOL. II.

61

ܪ

« VorigeDoorgaan »