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ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets: for God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom. She is more beautiful than the sun; and above all the order of the stars. Being compared with light, she is found before it *.
* Wisdom of Solomon, iv. 2, 3.-vii. 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.
ROMANS xii. 15.
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them
The amiable spirit of our holy religion appears in nothing more than in the care it hath taken to enforce on men the social duties of life. This is one of the clearest characteristics of its being a religion whose origin is divine: for every doctrine which proceeds from the Father of mercies will undoubtedly breathe benevolence and humanity. This is the scope of the two exhortations in the text, to rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep; the one calculated to promote the happiness, the other to alleviate the sorrows, of our fellow-creatures; both con
curring to form that temper, which interests us in the concerns of our brethren; which disposes us to feel along with them, to take part in their joys, and in their sorrows. This temper is known by the name of sensibility; a word which in modern times we hear in the mouth of every one; a quality which every one affects to possess; in itself a most amiable and worthy disposition of mind, but often mistaken and abused ; employed as a cover, sometimes, to a capricious humour; sometimes, to selfish passions. I shall endeavour to explain the nature of true sensibility. I shall consider its effects; and after showing its advantages, shall point out the abuses and mistaken forms of this 'virtue.
The original constitution of our nature with respect to the mixture of selfish and social affections, discovers in this, as in every other part of our frame, profound and admirable wisdom. Each individual is, by his Creator, committed particularly to himself, and his own care.
He has it more in his power to promote his own welfare, than
person can possi
bly have to promote it. ' It was therefore fit, it was necessary, that in each individual self-love should be the strongest and most active instinct. This self-love, if he had been a being who stood solitary and alone, might have proved sufficient for the purpose both of his preservation and his welfare. But such is not the situation of man. He is mixed among multitudes of the same nature. In these multitudes, the self-love of one man, or attention to his particular interest, encountering the selflove and the interests of another, could not but produce frequent opposition, and innumerable mischiefs. It was necessary, therefore, to provide a counterbalance to this part of his nature; which is accordingly done by implanting in him those social and benevolent instincts which lead him in some measure out of himself, to follow the interest of others. The strength of these social instincts is, in general, proportioned to their importance in human life. Hence that degree of sensibility which prompts us to weep with them that weep, is stronger than that which prompts us to rejoice with them that rejoice ; for this
reason, that the unhappy stand more in need of our fellow-feeling and assistance than the prosperous. Still, however, it was requisite, that in each individual the quantity of self-love should remain in a large proportion, on account of its importance to the preservation of his life and well-being. But as the quantity requisite for this purpose is apt both to ingross his attention, and to carry him into criminal excesses, the perfection of his nature is measured by the due counterpoise of those social principles which, tempering the force of the selfish affection, render man equally useful to himself, and to those with whom he is joined in society. Hence the use and the value of that sensibility of which we now treat.
That it constitutes an essential part of a religious character, there can be no doubt. Not only are the words of the text express to this purpose, but the whole New Testament abounds with passages which enjoin the cultivation of this disposition. Being all one body, and members one of another, we are commanded to love our neighbour as ourself; to look every man not on his own things