Imatges de pÓgina
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share than to others, of their presence, and of all the delights which their presence inspires. They remain motionless in their places, without will and without sensibility; and the homage they receive, is from the disinterested affection, which men bear to their loveliness. They are loved, and that purely, because they are lovely. There is no mixture of selfishness in the affection that is offered to them. They do not put on a sweeter smile to one man than to another; but all the features of that beauty in which they are arrayed, stand inflexibly the same to every beholder; and he, without any conscious mingling whatever of self-love, in the emotion with which he gazes at the charms of some external scenery, is actuated by a love towards it, which rests and which terminates on the objects that he is employed in contemplating.

But this is not always the case, when our fellow-men are the objects of this affection. I should love cordiality, and benevolence, and compassion for their own sakes; but let your own experience tell how far more sweetly and more intensely the love is felt, when this cordiality is turned, in one stream of kindliness, towards myself; when the eye of friendship has singled out me, and looks at me with a peculiar graciousness; when the man of tenderness has pointed his way to the abode of my suffering family, and there shed in secrecy over them his liberalities, and his tears; when he has forgiven me the debt that I was unable to discharge; and when, oppressed as I am, by the consciousness of having injured or reviled him, he has nobly forgotten or overlooked the whole provocation, and persists in a regard that knows no abatement, in a well-doing that is never weary.

There is an element, then, in the love I bear to a fellow-man, which does not exist in the love I bear to an inanimate object; and which may serve, perhaps, to darken the character of the affection that I feel towards the former. We most readily concede it, that the love of another, on account of the virtues which adorn him, changes its moral character altogether, if it be a love to him, solely on account of the benefit which I derive from the exercise of these virtues. I should love compassion on its own account, as well as on the account that it is I who have been the

object of it. I should love justice on its own account, as well as on the account that my grievances have been redressed by the dispensation of it. On looking at goodness, I should feel an affection resting on this object, and finding there its full and its terminating gratification; and that, though I had never stood in the way of any one of its beneficent operations.

How is it, then, that the special direction of a moral virtue in another, towards the object of my personal benefit, operates in enhancing both the sensation which it imparts to my heart, and the estimate which I form of it? What is the peculiar quality communicated to my admiration of another's friendship, and another's goodness, by the circumstance of myself, being the individual towards whom that friendship is cherished, and in favour of whom, that goodness puts itself forth into active exertion? At the sight of a benevolent man, there arises in my bosom an instantaneous homage of regard and of reverence ;– but should that homage take a pointed direction towards myself, --should it realize its fruits on the comfort, and the security of my own person, should it be employed in gladdening my home, and spreading enjoyment over my family, oppressed with want and pining in sickness, there is, you will allow, by these circumstances, a heightening of the love and the admiration that I formerly rendered to him. And, we should like to know what is the precise character of the addition that has thus been given, to my regard for the virtue of benevolence. We should like to know, if it be altogether a pure and a praise-worthy accession that has thus come upon the sentiment with which I now look at my benefactor,-or, if, by contracting any taint of selfishness, it has lost the high rank that formerly belonged to it, as a disinterested affection, towards the goodness which beautifies and adorns his character.

There is one way, however, in which this special direction of a moral virtue towards my particular interest, may increase my affection for it, and without changing the moral character of my affection. It gives me a nearer view of the virtue in question. It is true, that the virtue may just be as lovely when exercised in behalf of my neighbour, as when exercised in behalf of myself. But, in the former case, I am not an eye-witness

to the display and the evolution of its loveliness. I am a limited being, who cannot take in so full and so distinct an impres sion of the character of what is distant, as of the character of what is immediately beside me. It is true, that all the circumstances may be reported. But you know very well, that a much livelier representation is obtained of any object, by the seeing of it, than by the hearing of it. To be told of kindness, does not bring this attribute of character so forcibly, or so clearly home to my observation, as to receive a visit from kindness, and to take it by the hand, and to see its benignant mien, and to hear its gentle and complacent voice, and to witness the solicitude of its iniquiries, and to behold its tender and honest anxiety for my interest, and to share daily and weekly in the liberalities which it has bestowed upon me. When all this goes on around my own person, and within the limits of my own dwelling-place, it is very true that self is gratified, and that this circumstance may give rise to sensations, which are altogether distinct from the love I bear to moral worth, or to moral excellence. But this does not hinder, that along with these sensations, a disinterested love for the moral virtue of which I have been the objcct, may, at the same time, have its room and its residence within my bosom. I may love goodness more than ever, on its own account, since it has taken its specific way to my habitation, and that, just because I have obtained a nearer acquaintance with it. I may love it better, because I know it better. My affection for it may have become more intense, and more devoted than before, because its beauty is now more fully unfolded to the eye of my observation than before. And thus, while we admit that the goodness of which I am the object, originates within me certain feelings different in kind from that which is excited by goodness in the general, yet it may heighten the degree of this latter feeling also. It may kindle or augment the love I bear to moral virtue in itself; or, in other words, it may enhance my affection for worth, without any change whatever in the moral character of that affection.

Now, before we proceed to consider those peculiar emotions 'which are excited within me, by being the individual, in whose favour certain virtues are exercised, and which emotions are,

all of them, different in kind from the affection that I bear for these virtues, let us farther observe, that the term love, when applied to sentient being, considered as the object of it, may denote an affection, different in the principle of its excitement, from any that we have been yet considering, My love to another may lie in the liking I have for the moral qualities which belong to him; and this, by way of distinctness, may be called the love of moral esteem or approbation. Or, my love to an. other, may consist in the desire I have for his happiness; and this may be called the love of kindness. These two are often allied to each other in fact, but there is a real difference in their nature. The love of kindness which I bear to my infant child, may have no reference to its moral qualities whatever. This love finds its terminating gratification, in obtaining for the object of it, exemption from pain, or in ministering to its enjoyments. It is very true, that the sight of what is odious or revolting in the character of another, tends, in point of fact, to dissipate all the love of kindness I may have ever borne to him. But it does not always do so, and one instance of this proves a real distinction, in point of nature, between the love of kindness, and the love of moral esteem. And the highest and most affecting instance which can be given of this distinction, is in the love wherewith God hath loved the world; is in that kind. ness towards us, through Christ Jesus, which he hath made known to men in the Gospel; is in that longing regard to his fallen creatures, whereby he was not willing that any should perish, but rather that all should live. There was the love of kindness standing out, in marked and separate display, from the love of moral esteem; for, alas! in the degraded race of mankind, there was not one quality which could call forth such an affection, in the breast of the Godhead. It was, when we were hateful to him in character, that, in person and in interest, we were the objects of his most unbounded tenderness. It was, when we were enemies by wicked works, that God looked on with pity, and stretched forth, to his guilty children, the arms of offered reconciliation. It was when we had wandered far, in the paths of worthlessness and alienation, that he devised a

message of love, and sent his Son into our world, to seek and

to save us.

And this, by the way, may serve to illustrate the kind of love which we are required to bear to our enemies. We are required to love them, in the same way in which God loves his enemies. A conscientious man will feel oppressed by the difficulty of such a precept, if he try to put it into obedience, by loving those who have offended, with the same feeling of complacency with which he loves those who have befriended him. But the truth is, that the love of moral esteem often enters, as a principal ingredient, into the love of complacency; and we are not required, by our imitation of the Godhead, to entertain any such affection, for the depraved and the worthless. It is enough, that we cherish towards them in our hearts the love of kindness; and this will be felt a far more practicable achieve. ment, than to force up the love of complacency into a bosom, revolted by the aspect of treachery, or dishonesty, or unprincipled selfishness. There is no possible motive to excite the latter affection. There may be a thousand to excite the former and we have only to look to the unhappy man in all his prospects, and in all his relations; we have only to pity his delusions, and to view him as the hapless victim of a sad and ruinous infatuation; we have only to carry our eye onwards to the agonies of that death, which will shortly lay hold of him, and to compute the horrors of that eternity, which if not recovered from the error of his way, he is about to enter; we have only, in a word, to put forth an exercise of faith in certain near and impending realities, the evidence of which is altogether resistless, in order to summon up such motives, and such considerations, as may cause the compassion of our nature to predominate over the resentment of our nature: and as will assure to a be. liever the victory over such urgencies of his constitution as, to the unrenewed heart, are utterly unconquerable.

But to resume our argument, let it be observed that the kindness of God is one of the loveliest, and most estimable of the attributes, which belong to him. It is a bright feature in that assemblage of exellencies, which enter into the character of the Godhead: and, as such independently altogether of this kindVOL. IV.-2

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