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Reply to “ Some Remarks (by George Harrison) on a Commu-
“nication from William Roscoe to the Duke of Gloucester,
On the Duty and Pleasure of cultivating Benevolent
“ If thou doest good to man, as an evidence of thy love to God, those joys, ” which are the foretaste of Paradise, shall be thy reward on earth."
Wen we reflect upon the attributes of our Creator, and consider bis wonderful operations in the natural, and in the moral world, we shall be convinced that his purpose must be the happiness of his creatures, and that it is the duty, as well as the interest of bis rational beings, to co-operate with him, in producing this desirable end, by mutual endeavours to promote the comfort of each other, and to sweeten with sympathy, those bitter cups, which are the portion of many in this probationary stage of being.
It is not for short-sighted mortals, whose feeble optics can take in but a minute portion of the grand and beneficent plans of the Governor of the Universe, to attempt to explain why, what they call evil, exists at all—why suffering and misery were permitted in the world—why man was not created like the angels, and rendered incapable of deviating from the path of rectitude:-we may however observe, that had this been the case, there would have been no room for the exercise of faith and patience, no conquest to have been obtained over passion, and consequently no virtue.
The unity of design which the contemplative mind will perceive, in the effects of almighty power, guided by infinite wisdom, in the production of good, makes it evident, that a human being, in fulfilling the purposes of his creation, and promoting bis own happiness, must of necessity promote that of his fellow creatures; for he then acts harmoniously with VOL. I.
the Divine intention, and it will be found, that as we approach more nearly to the standard of perfection, we shall be more fully imbued with love to our species, and even become anxious to promote the welfare of all within the sphere of our influence.
They, on the other hand, who are out of this divine har. mony, are not only miserable in themselves, but the cause of misery to others; and to this circumstance may in a great measure be attributed, the evils which desolate the world, such being, in the energetic language of the apostle, “ hateful, and hating one another.”
Individual experience must convince us, that there are two distinct principles operating upon the human mind; one of which tends to evil, and one to good ; one to counteract, and as far as possible destroy ; the other to promote the gracious designs of our beneficent Creator respecting his creature, man; and we are left at free liberty to follow either; with the assurance, however, from divine revelation, that weak as we are of ourselves, if we endeavour and firmly resolve, to follow that which tends to good, we shall experience the assistance of the Author of Good, and thus obtain the blessing that is promised, “to him that overcometh.”
To a mind, then, deeply impressed with the value of what is true and lovely, the exercise of benevolence will become, not only natural, and in process of time habitual, but a gratification of the highest order ; such a one will not take his station in the world, as if he came there only to eat, drink, sleep, or indulge in sensual gratifications, but like our great and holy example, will go about doing good.
They who make all their actions and exertions centre in self, who are regardless of what others suffer, provided they themselves are gratified, little know how much solid and substantial happiness, they lose by this narrow and contracted disposition: the joys resulting from a course of benevolence are none of theirs, while they taste the full bitterness of that portion of sorrow, which, in a greater or less degree, must be experienced by every one who comes into the world.
The sole object of the present work, is to stimulate to virtue and active benevolence, by pointing out to those who have the disposition and the power, the means of gratifying the best feelings of their heart, and to shew that all, even the poorest, may render material assistance in meliorating the condition of man.
When once the principle of benevolence has taken full possession of the heart, it will be found to exert its beneficial, effects in a thousand nameless ways. Rusticus, has it not in his power to subscribe to public charities, or even to spare much of his time from exertions to procure the necessary supplies for a numerous family, and a sickly wife, but under the influence of this happy disposition, and supported by a bumble dependence upon Providence, he nobly bears up under the pressure of poverty, and his afflicted companion has often derived more comfort from a look of tenderness and sympathy, than she could have received from ten physi. cians; the harmony which pervades this family, kept up by the interchange of mutual good offices, while it is a fund of consolation to themselves, affords an instructive lesson to the surrounding neighbourhood, and is felt in its consequences beyond its own little circle. The very children have united to spare a portion of their food to the half-famished offspring of their still poorer neighbours : and such is the opinion of the disposition and integrity of Rusticus, that he is looked up to in the village, for advice in the little affairs of its inhabitants, and as the arbiter of their differences. Possest of genuine piety, his brow is not clouded by scowling discontent, his piety is not of that austere cast, which, by its frigid repulsion, renders the name of religion unlovely-but, conscious of a humble endeavour to perform his allotted duties with scrupulous exactness, a natural cheerfulness and seienity beams from his countenance, and gladdens those within the reach of its influence. In him, religion is attractive, and affords a proof, that real happiness does not consist in the abundance of the things of this world, but is essentially connected with the government and proper direction of the passions and appetites, and with rectitude of heart.
If a person so circumstanced can diffuse joy and gladness around him, what may we not expect from the same dispositions in those who occupy the middle ranks in life ? these, placed above the anxieties of poverty, and free from the solicitudes and enmities of the great, have frequently a portion of leisure at their command, which, instead of being suffered to pass in a desultory manner, might be so employed in the noblest works of beneficence, as to yield in the retrospect, a rich harvest of delightful sensations. We should bear in mind, that there is a sort of permanence stamped upon all our transactions ; a single act of unkindness
will be long remembered with regret, while the discharge of even a painful duty, or an act of benevolence, may be a source of grateful reflection during the rest of our lives; too few are fully sensible of the value of time until they are awfully convinced that little of it is left : but the point of wisdom is, to improve the passing hours, and discharge the duty of the present moment.
" For be assured they all are errant tell-tales,
Dr. Cotton. Let it be observed, that real charity does not solely consist in giving money ; we may sacrifice much of this, and do little good, unless we also devote a portion of our time to select the objects of our bounty; to discriminate between the idle and profligate, and the industrious and deserving, to inquire into their condition, and to see that what we bestow is properly applied : for want of suitable inspection, by upright and disinterested persons, many thousand pounds left for charitable purposes, are at this moment diverted from their proper channels, and instead of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and instructing the ignorant, according to the pious intention of the donors, are become the prey of designing individuals. It is not to be calculated how much good would be done, and how materially the land in which we live would be benefited, if persons in the middle and superior ranks in life, would consider it a duty to allot a certain small portion of their time to works of benevolence ;