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the power of knowledge; and, till our adversaries can give us instances of the power of wealth, which can be compared with them, we think that we have gained the question.
We intended next to have treated of political power; but we shall first hear refuted the arguments we have already adduced.
None of my young friend's Essays have pleased me more than the one, which is now to follow. It was read to the moral class, on the 10th of January, 1825. The subject afforded a favorable opportunity of introducing the evangelical system, and that opportunity was not neglected. But there is more than the introduction of the system, there is a beautiful exposition of it, in which the writer steers clear of the selfish system of Sandeman on the one hand, and the ultra-spirituality of some of the American divines on the other. The one does not sufficiently distinguish between self-love, and selfishness; the other treats man as if he were a being capable of merging all his personal feelings and interests, in a vague and undefined idea of God, and of holiness. The Scriptures never require us to lose sight of our personal interest in the divine favor; but they never urge it as the principal or the only plea, that we should do the will of God. They bring us, as is here well stated, under the influence of the great principles which govern Deity himself; and thus combine the perfect enjoyment of blessedness, with the perfect exercise of benevolence.
We are told of the Emperor Nero, among his other unnatural actions, that no sooner was his appetite so satiated with one course of gluttony, as to refuse more food, than he again fitted himself in a most revolting manner for renewing the round of sensual gratification. Of another individual we are told that such was his dread of future disease and death, that he sat continually in one scale of a balance, with a counterpoise in the other, and that it was his constant employment to watch the deflections of the beam, and most studiously to preserve the equality of the balance, so that he never took food till his own scale ascended, and stopped eating as soon as the equilibrium was restored. As the motives which induced each of these individuals to take food are evidently very different from each other, so are the motives of both strikingly different from those which in this matter actuate the great mass of
mankind. Of the first individual we would say, that pleasure was his object, and that he took food merely as a means of obtaining this pleasure. With regard to the second again, we would say that it was self-love that dictated his extraordinary conduct; that he took food, not like the other, for the sake of gratifying his palate, but purely from a consideration of the posterior advantages which would thence accrue to him. With the great mass of mankind, again we would say, that hunger is the primary and ruling incitement, that they eat not in general to gratify their palate, and far less from a consideration of any posterior advantage; but chiefly for the purpose of satisfying their appetite. Food is not used by them as the mere means of obtaining something else, it is itself the primary and terminating object of their desire.
From these familiar illustrations, we think we may discover the difference between self-love, and the more special affections of our nature. The chief distinction seems to be that the latter terminate in some external object, while the former uses that object as a means of promoting some plan of future interest. Of all the characters we have mentioned, only one seems to have been actuated by self-love, he who took food from a sense of the beneficial effects which would follow. It may be thought, that Nero, too, was actuated by selfishness, in as much as he used the food as a means of obtaining something else; but, on a close examination, we shall find that it was not the love of self, but the love of pleasure, which was his actuating motive; that if he had had any regard to self-interest, his conduct would have been altogether different: that he was in fact pursuing a line of conduct in direct
opposition to all that self-love would dictate. We may here just remark by the way, the wisdom displayed in this constitution of our animal frame. Our Creator has not left us to discover that without being invigorated by food, and refreshed by sleep, our bodies could not long subsist; and thus, from a principle of self-love to attend to the taking of food and repose, as duties which it was necessary to perform, in order to self-preservation: but He has endowed us with special affections; with a desire for food and sleep when the body requires them: just as he has given us a sense of injury, and a feeling of resentment, to preserve us from the injustice of our fellow men.
Now in morals there are facts analogous to those which we have just mentioned, with regard to our animal frame. As there is a desire for food altogether apart from any future consequences; and as there is a more immediate pleasure, and a more remote advantage which attend the satisfying of this desire, so is there a motive to the performance of a virtuous action, altogether for its own sake, and apart from all its consequences; and there is also a more immediate pleasure; and a more remote happiness attending the performance of such an action. As it has appeared that there are different motives which may induce us to take food, so are there different motives which may urge us to the performance of a virtuous deed. The abettors of the selfish system seem to have erred in confounding these together, or rather in making the one motive of selfishness swallow up the rest.
It may be true that much of the seeming virtue of our world must be put to the account of selfishness; and much of it, too, to the account of
sentimentalism; and yet, is it true, that virtue may be followed for her own sake; that she has a native grace and attraction of her own altogether, independent of the pleasure and the happiness which follow in her train.
In the illustration which we took from our animal nature, we felt it difficult to adduce a solitary instance where selfishness was the actuating motive; and there one would think it impossible to confound, unless designedly, self-love, with the more special affections; but in the moral world, alas, the case is different. Here are thousands who perform virtuous actions, altogether from selfish motives, for one that follows virtue for her own sake. And when we find that many seem virtuous in their outward conduct, who care not to swerve from the path of rectitude, if they can but do it unobserved;-that the merchant who would shudder at the thought of forgery, or any such gross and palpable crime, can yet in his every day transactions, impose on those he deals with, and indulge in a thousand little and unperceived deceits; and when we find that this is a true delineation of the moral character, not of one in a city, or even one in a family, but of the great bulk of our species, need we wonder that, from such a view of human nature, some should have come to the conclusion that all virtue is the result of selfishness, or rather that there is no true virtue at all.
But all this is easily accounted for by the fact, that a blight hath corrupted the moral scenery of our world; and it just tallies with what we are told in the book of revelation, of the total depravity of our whole race.