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of limited powers can act immediately upon any thing but that which is contiguous to it. Our experience at least is entirely against the probability of the existence of such a power; every thing that we see being a system, each part of which can act only upon its neighbor. In the human frame, in the body politic, in the material world, effects are for the inost part produced by a process; an impulse is given to one part, which is communicated to the rest in succession, and then comes out the result. And though this mode of operation appears tedious to those who cannot keep more than one end in view at the same moment, it is wisely appointed by God; for in this way all the parts of his vast system come into use in their turn, and nothing is so insignificant as that it
be dispensed with
Such, then, being the constitution of things, it is trifling to talk about doing good to all men, if the nearer relations in which we stand to others are overlooked; and if such be all that is meant by philanthropy, it is worse than bigotry. The bigot does do good in his little circle; but the philanthropist by attempting too much does nothing
From these observations it will be seen how properly the Apostle has qualified the precept of universal beneficence. As we have opportunity let us do good unto all men. accuracy
is the great christian precept expressed, “Love thy neighbor as thyself;" since it directs to that which is really practicable in the
theory of universal benevolence, and to no
For who is our neighbor? every one that comes within the sphere of our action, our observation, our knowledge. All beyond are as though they were not. If there be any thing of which we form no idea, we cannot be affected with love or hatred to it.
It may be here allowed us to remark, that human systems of morality, constructed on a plan apparently more large and liberal than ihat of the Gospel, deserve very little attention: for what is really to the purpose in them was found in the Gospel long before. All the rest is most probably crude, imposed only upon inexperience, and is so far from arguing any superiority of mind, that the love of such theories rather proves a mediocrity of intellectual power.
For all extremes, while they have a grandeur which captivates, are simple; on which account minds of a narrow span comprehend them easily. Hence it is that the young and weak are pleased with romances, where the coincidences are exact, and the events extravagant. Hence also arise many of those struggles in states which keep the world in perpetual agitation. For the commonalty, who will neither reason themselves, nor profit by the experience of others, are ever hurrying to extremes. Dissatisfied with monarchical government, they rush at once to anarchy. Weary of this, they go all the way back again to slavery. Thus weak man is like the restless ocean, which is but for a moment at its proper level, or like the tremulous needle, which requires time and a steady hand, before it lies true. The same species of imbecility is apparent in all our intercourse with each other. Disliking one or two parts of a person's character, we condemn him altogether; for the sake of as many good qualities, we bestow upon him unqualified praise.
To avoid extremes is the part of wisdom. A child can lay his hand on the ends of things, but to find the middle requires reasoning. The wise will check the precipitation of the foolish; will except against sweeping changes; and considering that nothing on earth is so bad, but there is some good in it, and nothing human so good, but it has something bad in it, will perceive, that to destroy a whole system, because some parts are out of order, is the way to leave us no good at all; and that to construct new ones without noticing the possibilities of things, and the state of imperfection in which we are, is only to waste time, and make room for disappointment.
Happy are we in the possession of that Book of Wisdom which marks its superiority to the flimsy productions of visionaries, by adapting itself to the circumstances of real life, and pointing out a certain and intelligible method of attaining perfection.
Let that precept of it, which though it somewhat resembles the inapplicable rule of theorists, differs widely from it in reality, be now attended to.
Do good unto all men. Let your charity begin at home, but do not let it end there. Do good to your family and connexions, and if
you please to your party; but after that look abroad. Look at the universal Church, and, forgetting its divisions, be a catholic Christian -look at your country, and be a patriot-look at the nations of the earth, and be a philanthropist.
Against the possibility of assisting any but their friends, some will plead their penury. The stream of their bounty is too scantily supplied to flow beyond the limits of their own ground. Be it so. May it refresh and fertilize all within! God neither requires impossibilities, nor loves disorder. On the contrary, he would have us adhere to his own arrangements; and, if we cannot do all that we would, is satisfied if we do all that we can.
To those who really have no opportunity, we do not speak; to the rest we do." 'Your wealth is itself an opportunity; and unless, from the desire of aggrandizing your families, you prefer to let it accumulate at home, you have it in your power to bless many around you: you may contribute to the support of hospitals, schools, and other benevolent institutions here or at home, making the selection in favor of those which promise to be most extensively useful.
But it may be right to suggest to all, that as the happiness of man is more connected with the state of his mind than his body, you may,
by seasonable advice and consolation, do infinitely more to make him happy, than by improving his temporal circumstances. Hence those, to whom age and experience have given wisdom, should notice the young and unprotected, especially those, who on their first arrival in this country, find themselves without a guide. Persons who have many dependents, or whose influence over others is extensive, and those who live in the neighborhood of large bodies of men, or are in the way of meeting with a variety of persons, and those who have knowledge of different languages, or might easily acquire them, should remember that they perform an acceptable service to God and man, if they make use of their opportunities by communicating religious knowledge. Let them know that he that converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.
Animated by the promise of these high rewards, let us be “instant in season and out of season” with benevolent assiduity, watching for opportunities of doing good, and exercising our minds in considering, in what way our means may be employed with the best effect. The intelligent Christian will perceive the advantage which accrues from the combination of strength, and gladly embrace the opportunity