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tive of good works, justifies no man. Between those sentiments there is no opposition. Faith without works is nugatory and insignificant. It is a foundation, without any superstructure raised upon it. It is a fountain which sends forth no stream ; a tree which neither bears fruit, nor affords shade. Good works again, without good principles, are a fair but airy structure; without firmness or stability. They resemble the house built on the sand; the reed which shakes with every wind. You must join the two in full union, if you would exhibit the character of a real Christian. He who sets faith in opposition to morals, or morals in opposition to faith, is equally an enemy to the interests of religion. He holds up to view an imperfect and difigured form, in the room of what ought to command respect from all beholders. By leaning to one extreme, he is in danger of falling into vice; by the other, of running into impiety.
WHATEVER the belief of men be, they generally pride themselves in the possession of some good moral qualities. The sense of duty is deeply rooted in the human heart. Without some pretence to virtue, there is no self-esteem ; and no man wishes to appear, in his own view, as entirely worthless. But as there is a constant strife between the lower and higher parts of our nature, between inclination and principle, this produces much contradiction and inconsistency in conduct. Hence arise most of the extremes into which men run in their moral behaviour ; resting their whole worth on that good quality, to which, by constitution or temper, they are most inclined.
One of the first and most common of those extremes is that of placing all virtue, either in justice, on the one hand; or in generosity, on the other. . The opposition between these is most discernible among two different classes of men in society. They who have earned their fortune by a laborious and industrious life, are naturally tenacious of what they have painfully acquired. To justice they consider themselves as obliged; but to go beyond it in acts of kindness, they consider, as superiluous and extravagant. They will not take any advantage of others, which conscience tells them is iniquitous; but neither will they make any allowance for their necessities and wants. They contend, with rigorous exactness, for what is due to themselves. They are satisfied, if no man suffer unjustly by them. That no one is benefited by them, gives them little concern.---- Another set of men place their whole merit in generosity and mercy; while to justice and integrity they pay small regard. These are persons generally of higher rank, and of easy fortune. To them, justice appears a sort of vulgar virtue, requisite chiefly in the petty transactions which those of inferiour station carry on with one another. But humanity and liberality, they consider as more refined virtues, which dignify their character, and cover all their failings. They can relent at representations of distress; can bestow with ostentatious generosity; can even occasionally share their wealth with a companion of whom they are fond; while, at the same time, they withhold from others what is due to them; are negligent of their family and their relations ; and to the just demands of their creditors give no attention.
Both these classes of men run to a faulty extreme. They divide moral virtue between them. Each takes that part of it only which suits his temper. Without justice, there is no virtue. But without humanity and mercy, no virtuous character is complete. The one man leans to the extreme of parsimony: the other to that of profusion. The temper of the one is unfeeling: the sensibility of the other is thoughtless. The one you may in some degree respect; but you cannot love. The other may be loved; but cannot be respected: and it is difficult to say, which character is most defective. — We must undoubtedly begin with being just, before we attempt to be gener
At the same time, he who goes no farther than bare justice, stops at the beginning of virtue. We are commanded to do justly, but to love mercy. The one virtue regulates our actions; the other improves our heart and affections.
Each is equally necessary to the happiness of the world. Justice is the pillar that upholds the whole fabric of human society. Mercy is the genial ray which cheers and warms the habitations of men. The perfection of our social character consists, in properly tempering the two with one another; in holding that middle course, which admits of our being just, without being rigid; and allows us to be generous, without being unjust.
We must next guard against either too great severity, or too great facility of manners.
These are extremes of which we every day behold instances in the world. He who leans to the side of severity, is harsh in his censures, and narrow in his opinions. He cannot condescend to others in things indifferent.
He has no allowance to make for human frailty; or for the difference of age, rank, or temper, among mankind. With him, all gaiety is sinful levity; and every amusement is a crime. To this extreme, the admonition of Solomon may be understood to belong: Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself over wise. Why shouldest thou destroy thyself? * When the severity of manners is hypocritical, and assumed as a cloak to secret indulgence, it is one of the worst prostitutions of religion. But I now consider it, not as the effect of design, but of natural austerity of temper, and of contracting maxims of conduct. Its influence upon
the person himself, is to render him gloomy and sour; upon others, to alienate them both from his society, and his counsels; upon religion, to set it forth as a morose and forbidding principle. The opposite extreme to this is, perhaps, still more dangerous ; that of too great facility, and accommodation to the ways of others. The man of this character, partly from indolent weakness, and partly from softness of temper, is disposed to a tame and universal assent.
Averse either to contradict or to blame, he goes along with the manners that prevail. He views every character with indulgent eye; and with good dispositions in his breast, and a natural reluctance to profligacy and vice, he is enticed to the commission of evils which he condemns, merely through want of fortitude to oppose others.
Nothing, it must be confessed, in moral conduct, is more difficult, than to avoid turning here, either to the right hand or to the left. One of the greatest trials both of wisdom and virtue is, to preserve a just medium between that harshness of austerity, which disgusts and alienates mankind, and that weakness of good-nature, which opens the door to sinful excess. The one separates us too much from the world. The other connects us too closely with it; and seduces us to follow the multitude in doing evil. One who is of the former character, studies too little to be agreeable, in order to render himself useful. He who is of the latter, by studying too much to be agreeable, forfeits his innocence. If the one hurt religion, by clothing it in the garb of unnecessary strictness; the other, by unwarrantable compliance, strengthens the power of corruption in the world. The one borders on the character of the Pharisee; the other, on that of the Sadducee. True religion enjoins us to stand at an equal distance from both; and to pursue the difficult, but honourable aim, of uniting good-nature with fixed religious principle; affable manners, with untainted virtue.
* Eccles. vii. 16.
FARTHER; we run to one extreme, when we contemn altogether the opinions of mankind; to another, when we court their praise too eagerly. The former discovers a high degree of pride and self-conceit. The latter betrays servility of spirit. We are formed by Nature and Providence, to be connected with one another. No man can stand entirely alone, and independent of all his fellow-creatures. A reasonable regard, therefore, for their esteem and good opinion, is a commendable principle. It flows from humanity, and coincides with the desire of being mutually useful. But if that regard be carried too far, it becomes the source of much corruption. For, in the present state of mankind, the praise of the world often inter