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Nor let fair Virtue's mortal bane,
My faintest wishes sway;
Benevolence denotes a hearty desire for the good of mankind, evidencing itself, as ability and opportunity offer, in the cheerful and diligent practice of whatever may promote the well-being of all. Some have traced the origin of this affection in self-love: others, again, in some instinct or determination of our nature, antecedent to all reason from interest, which influences us to the love of others; and they have accordingly made it the foundation of universal virtue; others ascribe it to the intelligent constitution of human nature, and observe, that it arises not from instinct, but from the natures and necessity of things.
Acts of beneficence are more pleasing to God than even acts of worship, properly so called; these may be postponed, in order to discharge the former; and instances enough occur, where praying, singing, reading, and other devotional exercises, will be culpable, if interfering with the charitable services which we owe to our neighbour. He who serves his brethren, serves God, the Father of all; he who heartily communicates to others the good things which he himself enjoys, is in reality grateful to the God who entrusts them to him. A professed Christian, who is not animated by these benevolent dispositions towards every man, and does not readily, on all occasions, act consistently with them, is totally destitute of the spirit of Christianity; nor will its benevolent Founder acknowledge him as his genuine disciple. Neither knowledge, nor faith, nor zeal, nor devotion, can compensate for the want of Christian beneficence; for mercy is better than sacrifice. The sum of all the commandments is love; which is the fulfilling of the law. Christianity is not an abstruse theory of obscure and incomprehensible doctrinal points, but an easy and efficacious means of rendering men better and happier.
In town or country whether we reside,
We ought ever to be on our guard against a narrow selfish temper, which views, judges, admires, despises, loves, or abhors, every thing solely according to the relations in which it stands to us, and the influence it has on our welfare; by this we shall deprive ourselves of a thousand sources of pleasure, and open to ourselves as many channels of aversion, of envy, and of discontent. Let us learn to think
humanely, more generously, more divinely. Let us infold in our dilated hearts all our brethren, near and afar off, known and unknown, and take a cheerful interest in all that promotes their happiness. Let us rejoice not only in the endowments which we have and enjoy, but likewise in those which others possess; not only in the good we do in our station, but also in that which others attempt and achieve in their's; not only in the privileges which belong to ourselves, but in those also with which others are gifted.
It is not charity, if I be bountiful to one and unjust to another, compassionate to the distressed, and proud and malevolent to the prosperous; if I freely bestow alms, and do not gladly afford personal services to others; if I have a tender, sensible, but at the same time an unclean and an unchaste heart; relieve the poor, but seduce the innocent; or serve my brethren solely with my purse, but not with my mental abilities. It is not charity, but hypocrisy and servility of mind, if I, from a fear of giving offence, consent to all that a person may say, approve whatsoever he may do, and consequently renounce my veracity, infringe the rights of virtue, and perhaps make a jest of religion, in order not to destroy the satisfaction of the scoffer. It is not charity, but weakness, and a criminal compliance, if I, for the sake of diverting some person, of helping him to while away his time,
or of rendering some party of pleasure more agreeable, am persuaded to absent myself from public worship, to neglect the proper exercises of devotion, the discharge of family duties, or the calls of business. It is not charity, but partiality and injustice, if, to please my friend, I implicitly enter into all the antipathies, animosities, jealousies, and resentments which he entertains against others, and without farther inquiry, without reasonable motives, respect, love, and praise only those whom he respects, loves, and praises. It is not charity, if I overlook every error or vice in my friend, impute all that he does to good motives, or bear him out in all particulars; whilst 1 rigorously judge another who is not so, exaggerating every failing, denying or extenuating his merits, tarnishing or questioning his good actions, and thus, in the language of holy writ, “keeping two measures and two weights.” It is not charity, but a bigoted opposition to the general interests of the community, if I attach myself solely to one party, exclusively adhering to it, doing my utmost to favour, to patronize, to defend, to elevate, to extend it, whilst I am indifferent to the merits of every other, or endeavour to frustrate and defeat its beneficial exertions. No; real charity neglects not some duties, in order the more completely to fulfil others. Every duty is sacred and inviolable to the charitable man, because he knows that each and every one promotes the welfare of mankind in general, without impairing or de stroying human happiness in one way or another. Beneficence is its own reward
My fortune (for I'll mention all,
Let not any individual say, “ I am of no use in the world; I have no power to do any good :" for
Circles are prais'd, not that abound
Not in high state, but doing well ! A poor negro walking towards Deptford, saw, by the road-side, an old sailor of a different complexion, with but one arm, and two wooden legs. The worthy African immediately took three-half-pence and a farthing, his little all, from the side-pocket of his tattered trowsers, and forced them into the sailor's hand, while he wiped the tears from his eyes with the corner of his blue patched jacket, and then walked away quite bappy. Yet these poor creatures are by many considered as an inferior and debased race-as little better than beasts of burden; and Jefferson, late president of the United States, actually published an essay, whose object was to prove that a black was inferior in intellect to a white man. It is not very generally known that a sum of £5000 stands invested for the mutual benefit of two very excellent institutions in London, the Magdalen Asylum and the Foundling Hospital, which was bequeathed to them by one Omiehand, a black, who left many equally liberal donations to charities in all parts of the world. Indeed, it is brutal to assert, that the bosom of the negro is not susceptible of as tender and delicate emotions, whether of pleasure or of grief, as the breast of him who owes to a colder climate and a less fervid sun the more dainty hues of his complexion. The following affecting incident is mentioned by Mr. Holmés, in his recently published Account of the United States. An Indian resided for some time in the province of Maine, cultivating a little plot of land with laudable industry. He had with him an only child, about ten years of age: the child died. He had alone to dig a grave; alone he had to inter his offspring; no one came to mingle his tears with the poor Indian. At length, with a bursting heart, he said, “When white man's child die, Indian be sorry; he help bury him: when 17.
my child die, no one speak to me; I make his grave alone: I can no live here.” With that, he dug up the body of his child, carried it with him 200 miles, and joined some Indians in Canada.
There is no situation of life, however humble or destitute, which does not afford the power of assisting a fellow-creature. The wealthy can seldom evince a benevolent disposition, except by appropriating pecuniary supplies to the wretched and necessitous. But money is perhaps, after all, the least evidence of a truly charitable feeling, because, where there is abundance, the donation of a part is not perceived, whilst at the same time it involves, in the bestowing, no mental or bodily exertion. Those offices of kindness are by far the most delightful, which consist in little personal services and attentions, and in a kind reciprocity of feeling under pain or sorrow. Now these, the poorest person has it in his power to bestow; and perhaps there is more actual Benevolence, arising from mutuality of sentiment and communion of griefs, among the lower classes of a country, and consequently more intrinsic satisfaction, than amongst those privileged few, whose extensive possessions and elevated rank would apparently command the most frequent or exclusive opportunities of indulging so noble a disposition.
It is a proverb among the hospitable inhabitants of the Isle of Man, that when one poor man relieves another, God himself laughs for joy.” Poor's rates, and most other parochial rates, are unknown; and there is not, in the whole island, either hospital, workhouse, or house of correction; though in each, parish there is at least one charity school, and often a small library. A collection is made, as in Scotland, after the morning service of every Sunday, for the relief of such poor of the parish as are thought deserving of charity. The donation is optional, but it is usual for every one to give something
There are none, indeed, that deserve superiority over others in the esteem of mankind, who do not make it their endeavour to be beneficial to society,