« السابقةمتابعة »
that his pity at least cannot reach him. Every thing harsh and dissonant is subdued in his breast. He suffers long and is kind. He envies not. He vaunteth not himself; is not puffed up. He does not behave himself unseemly; seeks not his own; is not easily provoked ; thinks no evil. He rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Such then is the christian virtue which has received the various names of benevolence, charity, and love to our neighbour. It commends itself to us—by every motive which is best adapted to touch the human heart. We are incited to it even by the motive with which it appears to be most at variance-by the motive of rational self-interest itself. It is the eternal decree of heaven that the exclusively selfish man shall be miserable even in this world. As he never gives love to any man, he can never receive a return of love. He is at war with the general good of his species, and is therefore in fact the common enemy of mankind. His money may command attentions, nay, even procure the outward show of respect. But he can never receive the homage of an unbought smile. He can never receive the warm tribute of
. a truly grateful heart. Wealth is too poor to purchase love. Power is not strong enough to enchain affection. The eye may fall abashed in the presence of grandeur ; the lips may chant the praise
of affluence; the knee
bend in homage before the splendour of authority; but the heart is above all bribe, and will give its affections to goodness alone. The selfish man is therefore shut out from all that gives grace and value to life, all that makes life a blessing; for what is existence worth to him who has no man's confidence, no man's sympathy, no man's love!
I might show, that without looking beyond the present world, and on the coolest calculation of rational self-interest, the exclusively selfish man defeats his own object. There is no necessary opposition between self-love and the love of our neighbour. It is happiness which we all seek ; and happiness consists not in self-love as such, but in the gratification of our affections. If I have learned to feel a sincere affection for the good of my neighbour, I may taste as great and real happiness in the gratification of the affection, as in any one of which self is the exclusive object. The man who deliberately seeks the greatest good of the whole system of which he is part, feels at least as much delight in the pursuit, and as much joy in any degree of success, as he who excludes from his views every thought but that of personal interest, and makes self the great centre of all his wishes. This is true, without taking into consideration the truth, that love to others must always beget love from them; without carrying our views to the consequences of our actions in another life ;
and without estimating the happiness which the · benevolent man must feel, in the consciousness that he is acting under the eye of a Being whose nature is love, and who will regard with complacency and affection him who sincerely and humbly labours to imitate his perfections. Of the inexpressible worth of this consideration he only can judge, who has felt its influence. But such a man will tell you, that there is in the hope that we are regarded with complacency by God, more deep-felt delight than in all which the world has to offer of good. Let then the selfish man think of this. He may perhaps find that he is sacrificing the very end which he proposes to himself; that his selfish calculations are as false as they are contemptible and low. He may find that it is no paradox to say, that even on the principles of selflove itself, he is bound to free himself from all inordinate and exclusive regard to his own interest.
But though even on the calculations of self-love, we should be induced to cultivate a benevolent disposition, it is recommended to us by motives of far higher dignity. There is something in it to which the heart of every human being pays involuntary homage. The whole system of refined and gentle manners on which the present age so much values itself, is but a poor attempt to imitate this virtue. All the artificial courtesies of life, all the heartless ceremonies of what is called polite
ness, are but the unconscious respect which hypocrisy renders to benevolence. The world feels the necessity of “ assuming the virtue, though it has it not.” How fair a scene would life present, if all this artificial good will were really what-it seems to be ; if men's hearts spoke in their words. All pride, envy, malice, revenge, and every form in which the bad passions of our nature display themselves, would vanish away. The beams of
. mutual kindness, reflected from every face, would make constant sunshine in every soul. The reign
. of universal benevolence would cause the wildernesses and solitary places of the earth to be glad, and all its moral deserts to rejoice and blossom like the rose. Such a scene as this, however, is but the visionary painting of imagination, the reality of which no eye in this world shall
But though the universal reign of benevolence is not here to be looked for, each man may yet contribute something to extend its influence. And what higher motive can any man require, than that which he will find in the contemplation of the character of that blessed being, who has left us an example that we should follow his steps. It was benevolence which led our Saviour to heal our sins and woes, to minister to our infirmities, to soften the nature of man, and melt his heart to mercy
and love. For this he endured all the contradictions of sinners. For this he was scorned
and hated on the earth. For this he toiled, and wept, and suffered, and died on the cross. The object of all his sufferings, the end of all his commandments, is that virtue of which we speak. It is love; love out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. If then you venerate his holy name, if you claim the title, and aspire after the hopes of christians, you must walk in that temper in which he walked on the earth. You must learn to bear the fruits of the spirit, peace, long suffering, gentleness and goodness. You must learn to be kindly affectioned towards your fellow men, to be sincerely interested in their happiness, to forbear with them, to forgive their foibles, to forget their injuries, to bear their burdens of sorrow and infirmity, and so to fulfil the law of Christ.
There is another motive to benevolence, of unutterable moment, drawn from the representation which is given to us of the last great scene of retribution. We are told that the inquiry will then be, not how we have reasoned, nor how we have taught; not how many sacrifices we have offered, how many wonderful works we have done, nor how many
times we have called our master Lord, Lord; but whether we have ever fed the hungry, and given drink to the thirsty ; whether we have sheltered the stranger, and clothed the naked; whether we have ministered to the sick, and visited the imprisoned; whether, in short, we have ever sincerely