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Human Nature and Other Sermons by Joseph Butler

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of things, to what is attainable, to what the frailty of our
condition will admit of, which, for any continuance, is only
tranquillity, ease, and moderate satisfactions. Thus we might at
once become proof against the temptations with which the whole world
almost is carried away; since it is plain that not only what is
called a life of pleasure, but also vicious pursuits in general, aim
at somewhat besides and beyond these moderate satisfactions.

And as to that obstinacy and wilfulness, which renders men so
insensible to the motives of religion; this right sense of ourselves
and of the world about us would bend the stubborn mind, soften the
heart, and make it more apt to receive impression; and this is the
proper temper in which to call our ways to remembrance, to review
and set home upon ourselves the miscarriages of our past life. In
such a compliant state of mind, reason and conscience will have a
fair hearing; which is the preparation for, or rather the beginning
of, that repentance, the outward show of which we all put on at this

Lastly, The various miseries of life which lie before us wherever we
turn our eyes, the frailty of this mortal state we are passing
through, may put us in mind that the present world is not our home;
that we are merely strangers and travellers in it, as all our
fathers were. It is therefore to be considered as a foreign
country; in which our poverty and wants, and the insufficient
supplies of them, were designed to turn our views to that higher and
better state we are heirs to: a state where will be no follies to
be overlooked, no miseries to be pitied, no wants to be relieved;
where the affection we have been now treating of will happily be
lost, as there will be no objects to exercise it upon: for God
shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no
more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any
more pain; for the former things are passed away.

NUMBERS xxiii. 10.

Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like

These words, taken alone, and without respect to him who spoke them,
lead our thoughts immediately to the different ends of good and bad
men. For though the comparison is not expressed, yet it is
manifestly implied; as is also the preference of one of these
characters to the other in that last circumstance, death. And,
since dying the death of the righteous or of the wicked necessarily
implies men's being righteous or wicked; i.e., having lived
righteously or wickedly; a comparison of them in their lives also
might come into consideration, from such a single view of the words
themselves. But my present design is to consider them with a
particular reference or respect to him who spoke them; which
reference, if you please to attend, you will see. And if what shall
be offered to your consideration at this time be thought a discourse
upon the whole history of this man, rather than upon the particular
words I have read, this is of no consequence: it is sufficient if
it afford reflection of use and service to ourselves.

But, in order to avoid cavils respecting this remarkable relation in
Scripture, either that part of it which you have heard in the first
lesson for the day, or any other; let me just observe that as this
is not a place for answering them, so they no way affect the
following discourse; since the character there given is plainly a
real one in life, and such as there are parallels to.

The occasion of Balaam's coming out of his own country into the land
of Moab, where he pronounced this solemn prayer or wish, he himself
relates in the first parable or prophetic speech, of which it is the
conclusion. In which is a custom referred to, proper to be taken
notice of: that of devoting enemies to destruction before the
entrance upon a war with them. This custom appears to have
prevailed over a great part of the world; for we find it amongst the
most distant nations. The Romans had public officers, to whom it
belonged as a stated part of their office. But there was somewhat
more particular in the case now before us: Balaam being looked upon
as an extraordinary person, whose blessing or curse was thought to
be always effectual.

In order to engage the reader's attention to this passage, the
sacred historian has enumerated the preparatory circumstances, which
are these. Balaam requires the king of Moab to build him seven
altars, and to prepare him the same number of oxen and of rams. The
sacrifice being over, he retires alone to a solitude sacred to these
occasions, there to wait the Divine inspiration or answer, for which
the foregoing rites were the preparation. AND GOD MET BALAAM, AND
PUT A WORD IN HIS MOUTH; {16} upon receiving which, he returns back
to the altars, where was the king, who had all this while attended
the sacrifice, as appointed; he and all the princes of Moab
standing, big with expectation of the Prophet's reply. And he took
up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me
from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me
Jacob, and come, defy Israel. How shall I curse, whom God hath not
cursed? Or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied? For
from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold
him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned
among the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number
of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the
righteous, and let my last end be like his. {17}

It is necessary, as you will see in the progress of this discourse,
particularly to observe what he understood by RIGHTEOUS. And he
himself is introduced in the book of Micah {18} explaining it; if by
RIGHTEOUS is meant good, as to be sure it is. O my people, remember
now what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of
Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal. From the mention of
Shittim it is manifest that it is this very story which is here
referred to, though another part of it, the account of which is not
now extant; as there are many quotations in Scripture out of books
which are not come down to us. Remember what Balaam answered, that
ye may know the righteousness of the Lord; i.e., the righteousness
which God will accept. Balak demands, Wherewith shall I come before
the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before
him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord
be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers
of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit
of my body for the sin of my soul? Balaam answers him, he hath
showed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of
thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with
thy God? Here is a good man expressly characterised, as distinct
from a dishonest and a superstitious man. No words can more
strongly exclude dishonesty and falseness of heart than doing
justice and loving mercy; and both these, as well as walking humbly
with God, are put in opposition to those ceremonial methods of
recommendation, which Balak hoped might have served the turn. From
hence appears what he meant by the righteous, whose death he desires
to die.

Whether it was his own character shall now be inquired; and in order
to determine it, we must take a view of his whole behaviour upon
this occasion. When the elders of Noah came to him, though he
appears to have been much allured with the rewards offered, yet he
had such regard to the authority of God as to keep the messengers in
suspense until he had consulted His will. And God said to him, Thou
shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people, for they
are blessed. {19} Upon this he dismisses the ambassadors, with an
absolute refusal of accompanying them back to their king. Thus far
his regards to his duty prevailed, neither does there anything
appear as yet amiss in his conduct. His answer being reported to
the king of Moab, a more honourable embassy is immediately
despatched, and greater rewards proposed. Then the iniquity of his
heart began to disclose itself. A thorough honest man would without
hesitation have repeated his former answer, that he could not be
guilty of so infamous a prostitution of the sacred character with
which he was invested, as in the name of a prophet to curse those
whom he knew to be blessed. But instead of this, which was the only
honest part in these circumstances that lay before him, he desires
the princes of Moab to tarry that night with him also; and for the
sake of the reward deliberates, whether by some means or other he
might not be able to obtain leave to curse Israel; to do that, which
had been before revealed to him to be contrary to the will of God,
which yet he resolves not to do without that permission. Upon
which, as when this nation afterwards rejected God from reigning
over them, He gave them a king in His anger; in the same way, as
appears from other parts of the narration, He gives Balaam the
permission he desired: for this is the most natural sense of the
words. Arriving in the territories of Moab, and being received with
particular distinction by the king, and he repeating in person the
promise of the rewards he had before made to him by his ambassadors,
he seeks, the text says, by SACRIFICES and ENCHANTMENTS (what these
were is not to our purpose), to obtain leave of God to curse the
people; keeping still his resolution, not to do it without that
permission: which not being able to obtain, he had such regard to
the command of God as to keep this resolution to the last. The
supposition of his being under a supernatural restraint is a mere
fiction of Philo: he is plainly represented to be under no other
force or restraint than the fear of God. However, he goes on
persevering in that endeavour, after he had declared that God had
not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither had he seen perverseness in
Israel; {20} i.e., they were a people of virtue and piety, so far as
not to have drawn down by their iniquity that curse which he was
soliciting leave to pronounce upon them. So that the state of
Balaam's mind was this: he wanted to do what he knew to be very
wicked, and contrary to the express command of God; he had inward
checks and restraints which he could not entirely get over; he
therefore casts about for ways to reconcile this wickedness with his
duty. How great a paradox soever this may appear, as it is indeed a
contradiction in terms, it is the very account which the Scripture
gives us of him.

But there is a more surprising piece of iniquity yet behind. Not
daring in his religious character, as a prophet, to assist the king
of Moab, he considers whether there might not be found some other
means of assisting him against that very people, whom he himself by
the fear of God was restrained from cursing in words. One would not
think it possible that the weakness, even of religious self-deceit
in its utmost excess, could have so poor a distinction, so fond an
evasion, to serve itself of. But so it was; and he could think of
no other method than to betray the children of Israel to provoke His
wrath, who was their only strength and defence. The temptation
which he pitched upon was that concerning which Solomon afterwards
observed, that it had cast down many wounded; yea, many strong men
had been slain by it: and of which he himself was a sad example,
when his wives turned away his heart after other gods. This
succeeded: the people sin against God; and thus the Prophet's
counsel brought on that destruction which he could by no means be
prevailed upon to assist with the religious ceremony of execration,
which the king of Moab thought would itself have affected it. Their
crime and punishment are related in Deuteronomy {21} and Numbers.
{22} And from the relation repeated in Numbers, {23} it appears,
that Balaam was the contriver of the whole matter. It is also
ascribed to him in the Revelation, {24} where he is said to have
taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of

This was the man, this Balaam, I say, was the man, who desired to
die the death of the righteous, and that his last end might be like
his; and this was the state of his mind when he pronounced these

So that the object we have now before us is the most astonishing in
the world: a very wicked man, under a deep sense of God and
religion, persisting still in his wickedness, and preferring the
wages of unrighteousness, even when he had before him a lively view
of death, and that approaching period of his days, which should
deprive him of all those advantages for which he was prostituting
himself; and likewise a prospect, whether certain or uncertain, of a
future state of retribution; all this joined with an explicit ardent
wish that, when he was to leave this world, he might be in the
condition of a righteous man. Good God! what inconsistency, what
perplexity is here! With what different views of things, with what
contradictory principles of action, must such a mind be torn and
distracted! It was not unthinking carelessness, by which he ran on
headlong in vice and folly, without ever making a stand to ask
himself what he was doing: no; he acted upon the cool motives of
interest and advantage. Neither was he totally hard and callous to
impressions of religion, what we call abandoned; for he absolutely
denied to curse Israel. When reason assumes her place, when
convinced of his duty, when he owns and feels, and is actually under
the influence of the divine authority; whilst he is carrying on his
views to the grave, the end of all temporal greatness; under this
sense of things, with the better character and more desirable state
present--full before him--in his thoughts, in his wishes,
voluntarily to choose the worse--what fatality is here! Or how
otherwise can such a character be explained? And yet, strange as it
may appear, it is not altogether an uncommon one: nay, with some
small alterations, and put a little lower, it is applicable to a
very considerable part of the world. For if the reasonable choice
be seen and acknowledged, and yet men make the unreasonable one, is
not this the same contradiction; that very inconsistency, which
appeared so unaccountable?

To give some little opening to such characters and behaviour, it is
to be observed in general that there is no account to be given in
the way of reason, of men's so strong attachments to the present
world: our hopes and fears and pursuits are in degrees beyond all
proportion to the known value of the things they respect. This may
be said without taking into consideration religion and a future
state; and when these are considered, the disproportion is
infinitely heightened. Now when men go against their reason, and
contradict a more important interest at a distance, for one nearer,
though of less consideration; if this be the whole of the case, all
that can be said is, that strong passions, some kind of brute force
within, prevails over the principle of rationality. However, if
this be with a clear, full, and distinct view of the truth of
things, then it is doing the utmost violence to themselves, acting
in the most palpable contradiction to their very nature. But if
there be any such thing in mankind as putting half-deceits upon
themselves; which there plainly is, either by avoiding reflection,
or (if they do reflect) by religious equivocation, subterfuges, and
palliating matters to themselves; by these means conscience may be
laid asleep, and they may go on in a course of wickedness with less
disturbance. All the various turns, doubles, and intricacies in a
dishonest heart cannot be unfolded or laid open; but that there is
somewhat of that kind is manifest, be it to be called self-deceit,
or by any other name. Balaam had before his eyes the authority of
God, absolutely forbidding him what he, for the sake of a reward,
had the strongest inclination to: he was likewise in a state of
mind sober enough to consider death and his last end: by these
considerations he was restrained, first from going to the king of
Moab, and after he did go, from cursing Israel. But notwithstanding
this, there was great wickedness in his heart. He could not forego
the rewards of unrighteousness: he therefore first seeks for
indulgences, and when these could not be obtained, he sins against
the whole meaning, end, and design of the prohibition, which no
consideration in the world could prevail with him to go against the
letter of. And surely that impious counsel he gave to Balak against
the children of Israel was, considered in itself, a greater piece of
wickedness than if he had cursed them in words.

If it be inquired what his situation, his hopes, and fears were, in
respect to this his wish; the answer must be, that consciousness of
the wickedness of his heart must necessarily have destroyed all
settled hopes of dying the death of the righteous: he could have no
calm satisfaction in this view of his last end: yet, on the other
hand, it is possible that those partial regards to his duty, now
mentioned, might keep him from perfect despair.

Upon the whole it is manifest that Balaam had the most just and true
notions of God and religion; as appears, partly from the original
story itself, and more plainly from the passage in Micah; where he
explains religion to consist in real virtue and real piety,
expressly distinguished from superstition, and in terms which most
strongly exclude dishonesty and falseness of heart. Yet you see his
behaviour: he seeks indulgences for plain wickedness, which not
being able to obtain he glosses over that same wickedness, dresses
it up in a new form, in order to make it pass off more easily with
himself. That is, he deliberately contrives to deceive and impose
upon himself in a matter which he knew to be of the utmost

To bring these observations home to ourselves: it is too evident
that many persons allow themselves in very unjustifiable courses who
yet make great pretences to religion; not to deceive the world, none
can be so weak as to think this will pass in our age; but from
principles, hopes, and fears, respecting God and a future state; and
go on thus with a sort of tranquillity and quiet of mind. This
cannot be upon a thorough consideration, and full resolution, that
the pleasures and advantages they propose are to be pursued at all
hazards, against reason, against the law of God, and though
everlasting destruction is to be the consequence. This would be
doing too great violence upon themselves. No, they are for making a
composition with the Almighty. These of His commands they will
obey; but as to others--why, they will make all the atonements in
their power; the ambitious, the covetous, the dissolute man, each in
a way which shall not contradict his respective pursuit.
Indulgences before, which was Balaam's first attempt, though he was
not so successful in it as to deceive himself, or atonements
afterwards, are all the same. And here, perhaps, come in faint
hopes that they may, and half-resolves that they will, one time or
other, make a change.

Besides these there are also persons, who, from a more just way of
considering things, see the infinite absurdity of this, of
substituting sacrifice instead of obedience; there are persons far
enough from superstition, and not without some real sense of God and
religion upon their minds; who yet are guilty of most unjustifiable
practices, and go on with great coolness and command over
themselves. The same dishonesty and unsoundness of heart discovers
itself in these another way. In all common ordinary cases we see
intuitively at first view what is our duty, what is the honest part.
This is the ground of the observation, that the first thought is
often the best. In these cases doubt and deliberation is itself
dishonesty, as it was in Balaam upon the second message. That which
is called considering what is our duty in a particular case is very
often nothing but endeavouring to explain it away. Thus those
courses, which, if men would fairly attend to the dictates of their
own consciences, they would see to be corruption, excess,
oppression, uncharitableness; these are refined upon--things were so
and so circumstantiated--great difficulties are raised about fixing
bounds and degrees, and thus every moral obligation whatever may be
evaded. Here is scope, I say, for an unfair mind to explain away
every moral obligation to itself. Whether men reflect again upon
this internal management and artifice, and how explicit they are
with themselves, is another question. There are many operations of
the mind, many things pass within, which we never reflect upon
again; which a bystander, from having frequent opportunities of
observing us and our conduct, may make shrewd guesses at.

That great numbers are in this way of deceiving themselves is
certain. There is scarce a man in the world, who has entirely got
over all regards, hopes, and fears, concerning God and a future
state; and these apprehensions in the generality, bad as we are,
prevail in considerable degrees: yet men will and can be wicked,
with calmness and thought; we see they are. There must therefore be
some method of making it sit a little easy upon their minds; which,
in the superstitious, is those indulgences and atonements before
mentioned, and this self-deceit of another kind in persons of
another character. And both these proceed from a certain unfairness
of mind, a peculiar inward dishonesty; the direct contrary to that
simplicity which our Saviour recommends, under the notion of
becoming little children, as a necessary qualification for our
entering into the kingdom of heaven.

But to conclude: How much soever men differ in the course of life
they prefer, and in their ways of palliating and excusing their
vices to themselves; yet all agree in one thing, desiring to die the
death of the righteous. This is surely remarkable. The observation
may be extended further, and put thus: even without determining
what that is which we call guilt or innocence, there is no man but
would choose, after having had the pleasure or advantage of a
vicious action, to be free of the guilt of it, to be in the state of
an innocent man. This shows at least the disturbance and implicit
dissatisfaction in vice. If we inquire into the grounds of it, we
shall find it proceeds partly from an immediate sense of having done
evil, and partly from an apprehension that this inward sense shall
one time or another be seconded by a higher judgment, upon which our
whole being depends. Now to suspend and drown this sense, and these
apprehensions, be it by the hurry of business or of pleasure, or by
superstition, or moral equivocations, this is in a manner one and
the same, and makes no alteration at all in the nature of our case.
Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them
will be what they will be: why, then, should we desire to be
deceived? As we are reasonable creatures, and have any regard to
ourselves, we ought to lay these things plainly and honestly before
our mind, and upon this, act as you please, as you think most fit:
make that choice, and prefer that course of life, which you can
justify to yourselves, and which sits most easy upon your own mind.
It will immediately appear that vice cannot be the happiness, but
must upon the whole be the misery, of such a creature as man; a
moral, an accountable agent. Superstitious observances, self-deceit
though of a more refined sort, will not in reality at all mend
matters with us. And the result of the whole can be nothing else,
but that with simplicity and fairness we keep innocency, and take
heed unto the thing that is right; for this alone shall bring a man
peace at the last.

SERMON XI {24a--see footnote}
ROMANS xiii. 9.

And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in
this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

It is commonly observed that there is a disposition in men to
complain of the viciousness and corruption of the age in which they
live as greater than that of former ones; which is usually followed
with this further observation, that mankind has been in that respect
much the same in all times. Now, not to determine whether this last
be not contradicted by the accounts of history; thus much can scarce
be doubted, that vice and folly takes different turns, and some
particular kinds of it are more open and avowed in some ages than in
others; and, I suppose, it may be spoken of as very much the
distinction of the present to profess a contracted spirit, and
greater regards to self-interest, than appears to have been done
formerly. Upon this account it seems worth while to inquire whether
private interest is likely to be promoted in proportion to the
degree in which self-love engrosses us, and prevails over all other
principles; or whether the contracted affection may not possibly be
so prevalent as to disappoint itself, and even contradict its own
and private good.

And since, further, there is generally thought to be some peculiar
kind of contrariety between self-love and the love of our neighbour,
between the pursuit of public and of private good; insomuch that
when you are recommending one of these, you are supposed to be
speaking against the other; and from hence arises a secret prejudice
against, and frequently open scorn of, all talk of public spirit and
real good-will to our fellow-creatures; it will be necessary to
inquire what respect benevolence hath to self-love, and the pursuit
of private interest to the pursuit of public: or whether there be
anything of that peculiar inconsistence and contrariety between them
over and above what there is between self-love and other passions
and particular affections, and their respective pursuits.

These inquiries, it is hoped, may be favourably attended to; for
there shall be all possible concessions made to the favourite
passion, which hath so much allowed to it, and whose cause is so
universally pleaded: it shall be treated with the utmost tenderness
and concern for its interests.

In order to do this, as well as to determine the forementioned
questions, it will be necessary to consider the nature, the object,
and end of that self-love, as distinguished from other principles or
affections in the mind, and their respective objects.

Every man hath a general desire of his own happiness; and likewise a
variety of particular affections, passions, and appetites to
particular external objects. The former proceeds from, or is, self-
love; and seems inseparable from all sensible creatures, who can
reflect upon themselves and their own interest or happiness so as to
have that interest an object to their minds; what is to be said of
the latter is, that they proceed from or together make up that
particular nature, according to which man is made. The object the
former pursues is somewhat internal--our own happiness, enjoyment,
satisfaction; whether we have, or have not, a distinct particular
perception what it is, or wherein it consists: the objects of the
latter are this or that particular external thing, which the
affections tend towards, and of which it hath always a particular
idea or perception. The principle we call self-love never seeks
anything external for the sake of the thing, but only as a means of
happiness or good: particular affections rest in the external
things themselves. One belongs to man as a reasonable creature
reflecting upon his own interest or happiness. The other, though
quite distinct from reason, are as much a part of human nature.

That all particular appetites and passions are towards EXTERNAL
manifested from hence; that there could not be this pleasure, were
it not for that prior suitableness between the object and the
passion: there could be no enjoyment or delight from one thing more
than another, from eating food more than from swallowing a stone, if
there were not an affection or appetite to one thing more than

Every particular affection, even the love of our neighbour, is as
really our own affection as self-love; and the pleasure arising from
its gratification is as much my own pleasure as the pleasure self-
love would have from knowing I myself should be happy some time
hence would be my own pleasure. And if, because every particular
affection is a man's own, and the pleasure arising from its
gratification his own pleasure, or pleasure to himself, such
particular affection must be called self-love; according to this way
of speaking, no creature whatever can possibly act but merely from
self-love; and every action and every affection whatever is to be
resolved up into this one principle. But then this is not the
language of mankind; or if it were, we should want words to express
the difference between the principle of an action, proceeding from
cool consideration that it will be to my own advantage; and an
action, suppose of revenge or of friendship, by which a man runs
upon certain ruin, to do evil or good to another. It is manifest
the principles of these actions are totally different, and so want
different words to be distinguished by; all that they agree in is
that they both proceed from, and are done to gratify, an inclination
in a man's self. But the principle or inclination in one case is
self-love; in the other, hatred or love of another. There is then a
distinction between the cool principle of self-love, or general
desire of our own happiness, as one part of our nature, and one
principle of action; and the particular affections towards
particular external objects, as another part of our nature, and
another principle of action. How much soever therefore is to be
allowed to self-love, yet it cannot be allowed to be the whole of
our inward constitution; because, you see, there are other parts or
principles which come into it.

Further, private happiness or good is all which self-love can make
us desire, or be concerned about: in having this consists its
gratification: it is an affection to ourselves; a regard to our own
interest, happiness, and private good: and in the proportion a man
hath this, he is interested, or a lover of himself. Let this be
kept in mind; because there is commonly, as I shall presently have
occasion to observe, another sense put upon these words. On the
other hand, particular affections tend towards particular external
things: these are their objects: having these is their end: in
this consists their gratification: no matter whether it be, or be
not, upon the whole, our interest or happiness. An action done from
the former of these principles is called an interested action. An
action proceeding from any of the latter has its denomination of
passionate, ambitious, friendly, revengeful, or any other, from the
particular appetite or affection from which it proceeds. Thus self-
love as one part of human nature, and the several particular
principles as the other part, are, themselves, their objects and
ends, stated and shown.

From hence it will be easy to see how far, and in what ways, each of
these can contribute and be subservient to the private good of the
individual. Happiness does not consist in self-love. The desire of
happiness is no more the thing itself than the desire of riches is
the possession or enjoyment of them. People might love themselves
with the most entire and unbounded affection, and yet be extremely
miserable. Neither can self-love any way help them out, but by
setting them on work to get rid of the causes of their misery, to
gain or make use of those objects which are by nature adapted to
afford satisfaction. Happiness or satisfaction consists only in the
enjoyment of those objects which are by nature suited to our several
particular appetites, passions, and affections. So that if self-
love wholly engrosses us, and leaves no room for any other
principle, there can be absolutely no such thing at all as happiness
or enjoyment of any kind whatever; since happiness consists in the
gratification of particular passions, which supposes the having of
them. Self-love then does not constitute THIS or THAT to be our
interest or good; but, our interest or good being constituted by
nature and supposed, self-love only puts us upon obtaining and
securing it. Therefore, if it be possible that self-love may
prevail and exert itself in a degree or manner which is not
subservient to this end; then it will not follow that our interest
will be promoted in proportion to the degree in which that principle
engrosses us, and prevails over others. Nay, further, the private
and contracted affection, when it is not subservient to this end,
private good may, for anything that appears, have a direct contrary
tendency and effect. And if we will consider the matter, we shall
see that it often really has. DISENGAGEMENT is absolutely necessary
to enjoyment; and a person may have so steady and fixed an eye upon
his own interest, whatever he places it in, as may hinder him from
ATTENDING to many gratifications within his reach, which others have
their minds FREE and OPEN to. Over-fondness for a child is not
generally thought to be for its advantage; and, if there be any
guess to be made from appearances, surely that character we call
selfish is not the most promising for happiness. Such a temper may
plainly be, and exert itself in a degree and manner which may give
unnecessary and useless solicitude and anxiety, in a degree and
manner which may prevent obtaining the means and materials of
enjoyment, as well as the making use of them. Immoderate self-love
does very ill consult its own interest: and, how much soever a
paradox it may appear, it is certainly true that even from self-love
we should endeavour to get over all inordinate regard to and
consideration of ourselves. Every one of our passions and
affections hath its natural stint and bound, which may easily be
exceeded; whereas our enjoyments can possibly be but in a
determinate measure and degree. Therefore such excess of the
affection, since it cannot procure any enjoyment, must in all cases
be useless; but is generally attended with inconveniences, and often
is downright pain and misery. This holds as much with regard to
self-love as to all other affections. The natural degree of it, so
far as it sets us on work to gain and make use of the materials of
satisfaction, may be to our real advantage; but beyond or besides
this, it is in several respects an inconvenience and disadvantage.
Thus it appears that private interest is so far from being likely to
be promoted in proportion to the degree in which self-love engrosses
us, and prevails over all other principles, that the contracted
affection may be so prevalent as to disappoint itself, and even
contradict its own and private good.

"But who, except the most sordidly covetous, ever thought there was
any rivalship between the love of greatness, honour, power, or
between sensual appetites and self-love? No, there is a perfect
harmony between them. It is by means of these particular appetites
and affections that self-love is gratified in enjoyment, happiness,
and satisfaction. The competition and rivalship is between self-
love and the love of our neighbour: that affection which leads us
out of ourselves, makes us regardless of our own interest, and
substitute that of another in its stead." Whether, then, there be
any peculiar competition and contrariety in this case shall now be

Self-love and interestedness was stated to consist in or be an
affection to ourselves, a regard to our own private good: it is
therefore distinct from benevolence, which is an affection to the
good of our fellow-creatures. But that benevolence is distinct
from, that is, not the same thing with self-love, is no reason for
its being looked upon with any peculiar suspicion; because every
principle whatever, by means of which self-love is gratified, is
distinct from it; and all things which are distinct from each other
are equally so. A man has an affection or aversion to another:
that one of these tends to, and is gratified by, doing good, that
the other tends to, and is gratified by, doing harm, does not in the
least alter the respect which either one or the other of these
inward feelings has to self-love. We use the word PROPERTY so as to
exclude any other persons having an interest in that of which we say
a particular man has the property. And we often use the word
SELFISH so as to exclude in the same manner all regards to the good
of others. But the cases are not parallel: for though that
exclusion is really part of the idea of property; yet such positive
exclusion, or bringing this peculiar disregard to the good of others
into the idea of self-love, is in reality adding to the idea, or
changing it from what it was before stated to consist in, namely, in
an affection to ourselves. {25} This being the whole idea of self-
love, it can no otherwise exclude good-will or love of others, than
merely by not including it, no otherwise, than it excludes love of
arts or reputation, or of anything else. Neither on the other hand
does benevolence, any more than love of arts or of reputation
exclude self-love. Love of our neighbour, then, has just the same
respect to, is no more distant from, self-love, than hatred of our
neighbour, or than love or hatred of anything else. Thus the
principles, from which men rush upon certain ruin for the
destruction of an enemy, and for the preservation of a friend, have
the same respect to the private affection, and are equally
interested, or equally disinterested; and it is of no avail whether
they are said to be one or the other. Therefore to those who are
shocked to hear virtue spoken of as disinterested, it may be allowed
that it is indeed absurd to speak thus of it; unless hatred, several
particular instances of vice, and all the common affections and
aversions in mankind, are acknowledged to be disinterested too. Is
there any less inconsistence between the love of inanimate things,
or of creatures merely sensitive, and self-love, than between self-
love and the love of our neighbour? Is desire of and delight in the
happiness of another any more a diminution of self-love than desire
of and delight in the esteem of another? They are both equally
desire of and delight in somewhat external to ourselves; either both
or neither are so. The object of self-love is expressed in the term
self; and every appetite of sense, and every particular affection of
the heart, are equally interested or disinterested, because the
objects of them all are equally self or somewhat else. Whatever
ridicule therefore the mention of a disinterested principle or
action may be supposed to lie open to, must, upon the matter being
thus stated, relate to ambition, and every appetite and particular
affection as much as to benevolence. And indeed all the ridicule,
and all the grave perplexity, of which this subject hath had its
full share, is merely from words. The most intelligible way of
speaking of it seems to be this: that self-love and the actions
done in consequence of it (for these will presently appear to be the
same as to this question) are interested; that particular affections
towards external objects, and the actions done in consequence of
those affections are not so. But every one is at liberty to use
words as he pleases. All that is here insisted upon is that
ambition, revenge, benevolence, all particular passions whatever,
and the actions they produce, are equally interested or

Thus it appears that there is no peculiar contrariety between self-
love and benevolence; no greater competition between these than
between any other particular affections and self-love. This relates
to the affections themselves. Let us now see whether there be any
peculiar contrariety between the respective courses of life which
these affections lead to; whether there be any greater competition
between the pursuit of private and of public good, than between any
other particular pursuits and that of private good.

There seems no other reason to suspect that there is any such
peculiar contrariety, but only that the course of action which
benevolence leads to has a more direct tendency to promote the good
of others, than that course of action which love of reputation
suppose, or any other particular affection leads to. But that any
affection tends to the happiness of another does not hinder its
tending to one's own happiness too. That others enjoy the benefit
of the air and the light of the sun does not hinder but that these
are as much one's own private advantage now as they would be if we
had the property of them exclusive of all others. So a pursuit
which tends to promote the good of another, yet may have as great
tendency to promote private interest, as a pursuit which does not
tend to the good of another at all, or which is mischievous to him.
All particular affections whatever, resentment, benevolence, love of
arts, equally lead to a course of action for their own
gratification; i.e., the gratification of ourselves; and the
gratification of each gives delight: so far, then, it is manifest
they have all the same respect to private interest. Now take into
consideration, further, concerning these three pursuits, that the
end of the first is the harm, of the second, the good of another, of
the last, somewhat indifferent; and is there any necessity that
these additional considerations should alter the respect, which we
before saw these three pursuits had to private interest, or render
any one of them less conducive to it, than any other? Thus one
man's affection is to honour as his end; in order to obtain which he
thinks no pains too great. Suppose another, with such a singularity
of mind, as to have the same affection to public good as his end,
which he endeavours with the same labour to obtain. In case of
success, surely the man of benevolence hath as great enjoyment as
the man of ambition; they both equally having the end their
affections, in the same degree, tended to; but in case of
disappointment, the benevolent man has clearly the advantage; since
endeavouring to do good, considered as a virtuous pursuit, is
gratified by its own consciousness, i.e., is in a degree its own

And as to these two, or benevolence and any other particular
passions whatever, considered in a further view, as forming a
general temper, which more or less disposes us for enjoyment of all
the common blessings of life, distinct from their own gratification,
is benevolence less the temper of tranquillity and freedom than
ambition or covetousness? Does the benevolent man appear less easy
with himself from his love to his neighbour? Does he less relish
his being? Is there any peculiar gloom seated on his face? Is his
mind less open to entertainment, to any particular gratification?
Nothing is more manifest than that being in good humour, which is
benevolence whilst it lasts, is itself the temper of satisfaction
and enjoyment.

Suppose then, a man sitting down to consider how he might become
most easy to himself, and attain the greatest pleasure he could, all
that which is his real natural happiness. This can only consist in
the enjoyment of those objects which are by nature adapted to our
several faculties. These particular enjoyments make up the sum
total of our happiness, and they are supposed to arise from riches,
honours, and the gratification of sensual appetites. Be it so; yet
none profess themselves so completely happy in these enjoyments, but
that there is room left in the mind for others, if they were
presented to them: nay, these, as much as they engage us, are not
thought so high, but that human nature is capable even of greater.
Now there have been persons in all ages who have professed that they
found satisfaction in the exercise of charity, in the love of their
neighbour, in endeavouring to promote the happiness of all they had
to do with, and in the pursuit of what is just and right and good as
the general bent of their mind and end of their life; and that doing
an action of baseness or cruelty would be as great violence to THEIR
self, as much breaking in upon their nature, as any external force.
Persons of this character would add, if they might be heard, that
they consider themselves as acting in the view of an Infinite Being,
who is in a much higher sense the object of reverence and of love,
than all the world besides; and therefore they could have no more
enjoyment from a wicked action done under His eye than the persons
to whom they are making their apology could if all mankind were the
spectators of it; and that the satisfaction of approving themselves
to his unerring judgment, to whom they thus refer all their actions,
is a more continued settled satisfaction than any this world can
afford; as also that they have, no less than others, a mind free and
open to all the common innocent gratifications of it, such as they
are. And if we go no further, does there appear any absurdity in
this? Will any one take upon him to say that a man cannot find his
account in this general course of life as much as in the most
unbounded ambition, and the excesses of pleasure? Or that such a
person has not consulted so well for himself, for the satisfaction
and peace of his own mind, as the ambitious or dissolute man? And
though the consideration that God himself will in the end justify
their taste, and support their cause, is not formally to be insisted
upon here, yet thus much comes in, that all enjoyments whatever are
much more clear and unmixed from the assurance that they will end
well. Is it certain, then, that there is nothing in these
pretensions to happiness? especially when there are not wanting
persons who have supported themselves with satisfactions of this
kind in sickness, poverty, disgrace, and in the very pangs of death;
whereas it is manifest all other enjoyments fail in these
circumstances. This surely looks suspicions of having somewhat in
it. Self-love, methinks, should be alarmed. May she not possibly
pass over greater pleasures than those she is so wholly taken up

The short of the matter is no more than this. Happiness consists in
the gratification of certain affections, appetites, passions, with
objects which are by nature adapted to them. Self-love may indeed
set us on work to gratify these, but happiness or enjoyment has no
immediate connection with self-love, but arises from such
gratification alone. Love of our neighbour is one of those
affections. This, considered as a VIRTUOUS PRINCIPLE, is gratified
by a consciousness of ENDEAVOURING to promote the good of others,
but considered as a natural affection, its gratification consists in
the actual accomplishment of this endeavour. Now indulgence or
gratification of this affection, whether in that consciousness or
this accomplishment, has the same respect to interest as indulgence
of any other affection; they equally proceed from or do not proceed
from self-love, they equally include or equally exclude this
principle. Thus it appears, that benevolence and the pursuit of
public good hath at least as great respect to self-love and the
pursuit of private good as any other particular passions, and their
respective pursuits.

Neither is covetousness, whether as a temper or pursuit, any
exception to this. For if by covetousness is meant the desire and
pursuit of riches for their own sake, without any regard to, or
consideration of, the uses of them, this hath as little to do with
self-love as benevolence hath. But by this word is usually meant,
not such madness and total distraction of mind, but immoderate
affection to and pursuit of riches as possessions in order to some
further end, namely, satisfaction, interest, or good. This,
therefore, is not a particular affection or particular pursuit, but
it is the general principle of self-love, and the general pursuit of
our own interest, for which reason the word SELFISH is by every one
appropriated to this temper and pursuit. Now as it is ridiculous to
assert that self-love and the love of our neighbour are the same, so
neither is it asserted that following these different affections
hath the same tendency and respect to our own interest. The
comparison is not between self-love and the love of our neighbour,
between pursuit of our own interest and the interest of others, but
between the several particular affections in human nature towards
external objects, as one part of the comparison, and the one
particular affection to the good of our neighbour as the other part
of it: and it has been shown that all these have the same respect
to self-love and private interest.

There is indeed frequently an inconsistence or interfering between
self-love or private interest and the several particular appetites,
passions, affections, or the pursuits they lead to. But this
competition or interfering is merely accidental, and happens much
oftener between pride, revenge, sensual gratifications, and private
interest, than between private interest and benevolence. For
nothing is more common than to see men give themselves up to a
passion or an affection to their known prejudice and ruin, and in
direct contradiction to manifest and real interest, and the loudest
calls of self-love: whereas the seeming competitions and
interfering, between benevolence and private interest, relate much
more to the materials or means of enjoyment than to enjoyment
itself. There is often an interfering in the former when there is
none in the latter. Thus as to riches: so much money as a man
gives away, so much less will remain in his possession. Here is a
real interfering. But though a man cannot possibly give without
lessening his fortune, yet there are multitudes might give without
lessening their own enjoyment, because they may have more than they
can turn to any real use or advantage to themselves. Thus the more
thought and time any one employs about the interests and good of
others, he must necessarily have less to attend his own: but he may
have so ready and large a supply of his own wants, that such thought
might be really useless to himself, though of great service and
assistance to others.

The general mistake, that there is some greater inconsistence
between endeavouring to promote the good of another and self-
interest, than between self-interest and pursuing anything else,
seems, as hath already been hinted, to arise from our notions of
property, and to be carried on by this property's being supposed to
be itself our happiness or good. People are so very much taken up
with this one subject, that they seem from it to have formed a
general way of thinking, which they apply to other things that they
have nothing to do with. Hence in a confused and slight way it
might well be taken for granted that another's having no interest in
an affection (i.e., his good not being the object of it) renders, as
one may speak, the proprietor's interest in it greater; and that if
another had an interest in it this would render his less, or
occasion that such affection could not be so friendly to self-love,
or conducive to private good, as an affection or pursuit which has
not a regard to the good of another. This, I say, might be taken
for granted, whilst it was not attended to, that the object of every
particular affection is equally somewhat external to ourselves, and
whether it be the good of another person, or whether it be any other
external thing, makes no alteration with regard to its being one's
own affection, and the gratification of it one's own private
enjoyment. And so far as it is taken for granted that barely having
the means and materials of enjoyment is what constitutes interest
and happiness; that our interest or good consists in possessions
themselves, in having the property of riches, houses, lands,
gardens, not in the enjoyment of them; so far it will even more
strongly be taken for granted, in the way already explained, that an
affection's conducing to the good of another must even necessarily
occasion it to conduce less to private good, if not to be positively
detrimental to it. For, if property and happiness are one and the
same thing, as by increasing the property of another you lessen your
own property, so by promoting the happiness of another you must
lessen your own happiness. But whatever occasioned the mistake, I
hope it has been fully proved to be one, as it has been proved, that
there is no peculiar rivalship or competition between self-love and
benevolence: that as there may be a competition between these two,
so there many also between any particular affection whatever and
self-love; that every particular affection, benevolence among the
rest, is subservient to self-love by being the instrument of private
enjoyment; and that in one respect benevolence contributes more to
private interest, i.e., enjoyment or satisfaction, than any other of
the particular common affections, as it is in a degree its own

And to all these things may be added that religion, from whence
arises our strongest obligation to benevolence, is so far from
disowning the principle of self-love, that it often addresses itself
to that very principle, and always to the mind in that state when
reason presides, and there can no access be had to the
understanding, but by convincing men that the course of life we
would persuade them to is not contrary to their interest. It may be
allowed, without any prejudice to the cause of virtue and religion,
that our ideas of happiness and misery are of all our ideas the
nearest and most important to us; that they will, nay, if you
please, that they ought to prevail over those of order, and beauty,
and harmony, and proportion, if there should ever be, as it is
impossible there ever should be, any inconsistence between them,
though these last, too, as expressing the fitness of actions, are
real as truth itself. Let it be allowed, though virtue or moral
rectitude does indeed consist in affection to and pursuit of what is
right and good, as such, yet, that when we sit down in a cool hour,
we can neither justify to ourselves this or any other pursuit, till
we are convinced that it will be for our happiness, or at least not
contrary to it.

Common reason and humanity will have some influence upon mankind,
whatever becomes of speculations; but, so far as the interests of
virtue depend upon the theory of it being secured from open scorn,
so far its very being in the world depends upon its appearing to
have no contrariety to private interest and self-love. The
foregoing observations, therefore, it is hoped, may have gained a
little ground in favour of the precept before us, the particular
explanation of which shall be the subject of the next discourse.

I will conclude at present with observing the peculiar obligation
which we are under to virtue and religion, as enforced in the verses
following the text, in the epistle for the day, from our Saviour's
coming into the world. THE NIGHT IS FAR SPENT, THE DAY IS AT HAND;
THE ARMOUR OF LIGHT, &c. The meaning and force of which exhortation
is, that Christianity lays us under new obligations to a good life,
as by it the will of God is more clearly revealed, and as it affords
additional motives to the practice of it, over and above those which
arise out of the nature of virtue and vice, I might add, as our
Saviour has set us a perfect example of goodness in our own nature.
Now love and charity is plainly the thing in which He hath placed
His religion; in which, therefore, as we have any pretence to the
name of Christians, we must place ours. He hath at once enjoined it
upon us by way of command with peculiar force, and by His example,
as having undertaken the work of our salvation out of pure love and
goodwill to mankind. The endeavour to set home this example upon
our minds is a very proper employment of this season, which is
bringing on the festival of His birth, which as it may teach us many
excellent lessons of humility, resignation, and obedience to the
will of God, so there is none it recommends with greater authority,
force, and advantage than this love and charity, since it was FOR US
INCARNATE, AND WAS MADE MAN, that He might teach us our duty, and
more especially that He might enforce the practice of it, reform
mankind, and finally bring us to that ETERNAL SALVATION, of which HE

ROM. xiii. 9.

And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in
this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Having already removed the prejudices against public spirit, or the
love of our neighbour, on the side of private interest and self-
love, I proceed to the particular explanation of the precept before
us, by showing, Who is our neighbour: In what sense we are required
to love him as ourselves; The influence such love would have upon
our behaviour in life; and lastly, How this commandment comprehends
in it all others.

I. The objects and due extent of this affection will be understood
by attending to the nature of it, and to the nature and
circumstances of mankind in this world. The love of our neighbour
is the same with charity, benevolence, or goodwill: it is an
affection to the good and happiness of our fellow-creatures. This
implies in it a disposition to produce happiness, and this is the
simple notion of goodness, which appears so amiable wherever we meet
with it. From hence it is easy to see that the perfection of
goodness consists in love to the whole universe. This is the
perfection of Almighty God.

But as man is so much limited in his capacity, as so small a part of
the Creation comes under his notice and influence, and as we are not
used to consider things in so general a way, it is not to be thought
of that the universe should be the object of benevolence to such
creatures as we are. Thus in that precept of our Saviour, Be ye
perfect, even as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect, {26}
the perfection of the divine goodness is proposed to our imitation
as it is promiscuous, and extends to the evil as well as the good;
not as it is absolutely universal, imitation of it in this respect
being plainly beyond us. The object is too vast. For this reason
moral writers also have substituted a less general object for our
benevolence, mankind. But this likewise is an object too general,
and very much out of our view. Therefore persons more practical
have, instead of mankind, put our country, and made the principle of
virtue, of human virtue, to consist in the entire uniform love of
our country: and this is what we call a public spirit, which in men
of public stations is the character of a patriot. But this is
speaking to the upper part of the world. Kingdoms and governments
are large, and the sphere of action of far the greatest part of
mankind is much narrower than the government they live under: or
however, common men do not consider their actions as affecting the
whole community of which they are members. There plainly is wanting
a less general and nearer object of benevolence for the bulk of men
than that of their country. Therefore the Scripture, not being a
book of theory and speculation, but a plain rule of life for
mankind, has with the utmost possible propriety put the principle of
virtue upon the love of our neighbour, which is that part of the
universe, that part of mankind, that part of our country, which
comes under our immediate notice, acquaintance, and influence, and
with which we have to do.

This is plainly the true account or reason why our Saviour places
the principle of virtue in the love of our NEIGHBOUR, and the
account itself shows who are comprehended under that relation.

II. Let us now consider in what sense we are commanded to love our
neighbour AS OURSELVES.

This precept, in its first delivery by our Saviour, is thus
introduced:- Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart,
with all thy soul, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbour as
thyself. These very different manners of expression do not lead our
thoughts to the same measure or degree of love, common to both
objects, but to one peculiar to each. Supposing, then, which is to
be supposed, a distinct meaning and propriety in the words, AS
THYSELF; the precept we are considering will admit of any of these
senses: that we bear the SAME KIND of affection to our neighbour as
we do to ourselves, or, that the love we bear to our neighbour
should have SOME CERTAIN PROPORTION OR OTHER to self-love: or,
lastly, that it should bear the particular proportion of EQUALITY,

First, The precept may be understood as requiring only that we have
the SAME KIND of affection to our fellow-creatures as to ourselves;
that, as every man has the principle of self-love, which disposes
him to avoid misery, and consult his own happiness, so we should
cultivate the affection of goodwill to our neighbour, and that it
should influence us to have the same kind of regard to him. This at
least must be commanded, and this will not only prevent our being
injurious to him, but will also put us upon promoting his good.
There are blessings in life, which we share in common with others,
peace, plenty, freedom, healthful seasons. But real benevolence to
our fellow-creatures would give us the notion of a common interest
in a stricter sense, for in the degree we love another, his
interest, his joys and sorrows, are our own. It is from self-love
that we form the notion of private good, and consider it is our own:
love of our neighbour would teach us thus to appropriate to
ourselves his good and welfare; to consider ourselves as having a
real share in his happiness. Thus the principle of benevolence
would be an advocate within our own breasts, to take care of the
interests of our fellow-creatures in all the interfering and
competitions which cannot but be, from the imperfection of our
nature, and the state we are in. It would likewise, in some
measure, lessen that interfering, and hinder men from forming so
strong a notion of private good, exclusive of the good of others, as
we commonly do. Thus, as the private affection makes us in a
peculiar manner sensible of humanity, justice or injustice, when
exercised towards ourselves, love of our neighbour would give us the
same kind of sensibility in his behalf. This would be the greatest
security of our uniform obedience to that most equitable rule.

All this is indeed no more than that we should have a real love to
our neighbour; but then, which is to be observed, the words AS
THYSELF express this in the most distinct manner, and determine the
precept to relate to the affection itself. The advantage which this
principle of benevolence has over other remote considerations is,
that it is itself the temper of virtue, and likewise that it is the
chief, nay, the only effectual security of our performing the
several offices of kindness we owe to our fellow-creatures. When
from distant considerations men resolve upon any thing to which they
have no liking, or perhaps an averseness, they are perpetually
finding out evasions and excuses, which need never be wanting, if
people look for them: and they equivocate with themselves in the
plainest cases in the world. This may be in respect to single
determinate acts of virtue, but it comes in much more, where the
obligation is to a general course of behaviour, and most of all, if
it be such as cannot be reduced to fixed determinate rules. This
observation may account for the diversity of the expression in that
known passage of the prophet Micah, TO DO JUSTLY, AND TO LOVE MERCY.
A man's heart must be formed to humanity and benevolence, he must
LOVE MERCY, otherwise he will not act mercifully in any settled
course of behaviour. As consideration of the future sanctions of
religion is our only security of preserving in our duty, in cases of
great temptation: so to get our heart and temper formed to a love
and liking of what is good is absolutely necessary in order to our
behaving rightly in the familiar and daily intercourses amongst

Secondly, The precept before us may be understood to require that we
love our neighbour in some certain PROPORTION or other, ACCORDING AS
we love ourselves. And indeed a man's character cannot be
determined by the love he bears to his neighbour, considered
absolutely, but the proportion which this bears to self-love,
whether it be attended to or not, is the chief thing which forms the
character and influences the actions. For, as the form of the body
is a composition of various parts, so likewise our inward structure
is not simple or uniform, but a composition of various passions,
appetites, affections, together with rationality, including in this
last both the discernment of what is right, and a disposition to
regulate ourselves by it. There is greater variety of parts in what
we call a character than there are features in a face, and the
morality of that is no more determined by one part than the beauty
or deformity of this is by one single feature: each is to be judged
of by all the parts or features, not taken singly, but together. In
the inward frame the various passions, appetites, affections, stand
in different respects to each other. The principles in our mind may
be contradictory, or checks and allays only, or incentives and
assistants to each other. And principles, which in their nature
have no kind of contrariety or affinity, may yet accidentally be
each other's allays or incentives.

From hence it comes to pass, that though we were able to look into
the inward contexture of the heart, and see with the greatest
exactness in what degree any one principle is in a particular man,
we could not from thence determine how far that principle would go
towards forming the character, or what influence it would have upon
the actions, unless we could likewise discern what other principles
prevailed in him, and see the proportion which that one bears to the
others. Thus, though two men should have the affection of
compassion in the same degree exactly, yet one may have the
principle of resentment or of ambition so strong in him as to
prevail over that of compassion, and prevent its having any
influence upon his actions, so that he may deserve the character of
a hard or cruel man, whereas the other having compassion in just the
same degree only, yet having resentment or ambition in a lower
degree, his compassion may prevail over them, so as to influence his
actions, and to denominate his temper compassionate. So that, how
strange soever it may appear to people who do not attend to the
thing, yet it is quite manifest that, when we say one man is more
resenting or compassionate than another, this does not necessarily
imply that one has the principle of resentment or of compassion
stronger than the other. For if the proportion which resentment or
compassion bears to other inward principles is greater in one than
in the other, this is itself sufficient to denominate one more
resenting or compassionate than the other.

Further, the whole system, as I may speak, of affections (including
rationality), which constitute the heart, as this word is used in
Scripture and on moral subjects, are each and all of them stronger
in some than in others. Now the proportion which the two general
affections, benevolence and self-love, bear to each other, according
to this interpretation of the text, demonstrates men's character as
to virtue. Suppose, then, one man to have the principle of
benevolence in a higher degree than another; it will not follow from
hence that his general temper or character or actions will be more
benevolent than the other's. For he may have self-love in such a
degree as quite to prevail over benevolence, so that it may have no
influence at all upon his action, whereas benevolence in the other
person, though in a lower degree, may yet be the strongest principle
in his heart, and strong enough to be the guide of his actions, so
as to denominate him a good and virtuous man. The case is here as
in scales: it is not one weight considered in itself, which
determines whether the scale shall ascend or descend, but this
depends upon the proportion which that one weight hath to the other.

It being thus manifest that the influence which benevolence has upon
our actions, and how far it goes towards forming our character, is
not determined by the degree itself of this principle in our mind,
but by the proportion it has to self-love and other principles: a
comparison also being made in the text between self-love and the
love of our neighbour; these joint considerations afforded
sufficient occasion for treating here of that proportion. It
plainly is implied in the precept, though it should be questioned,
whether it be the exact meaning of the words, as THYSELF.

Love of our neighbour, then, must bear some proportion to self-love,
and virtue, to be sure, consists in the due proportion. What this
due proportion is, whether as a principle in the mind, or as exerted
in actions, can be judged of only from our nature and condition in
this world. Of the degree in which affections and the principles of
action, considered in themselves, prevail, we have no measure: let
us, then, proceed to the course of behaviour, the actions they

Both our nature and condition require that each particular man
should make particular provision for himself: and the inquiry, what
proportion benevolence should have to self-love, when brought down
to practice, will be, what is a competent care and provision for
ourselves? And how certain soever it be that each man must
determine this for himself, and how ridiculous soever it would be
for any to attempt to determine it for another, yet it is to be
observed that the proportion is real, and that a competent provision
has a bound, and that it cannot be all which we can possibly get and
keep within our grasp, without legal injustice. Mankind almost
universally bring in vanity, supplies for what is called a life of
pleasure, covetousness, or imaginary notions of superiority over
others, to determine this question: but every one who desires to
act a proper part in society would do well to consider how far any
of them come in to determine it, in the way of moral consideration.
All that can be said is, supposing what, as the world goes, is so
much to be supposed that it is scarce to be mentioned, that persons
do not neglect what they really owe to themselves; the more of their
care and thought and of their fortune they employ in doing good to
their fellow-creatures the nearer they come up to the law of
perfection, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Thirdly, if the words AS THYSELF were to be understood of an
equality of affection, it would not be attended with those
consequences which perhaps may be thought to follow from it.
Suppose a person to have the same settled regard to others as to
himself; that in every deliberate scheme or pursuit he took their
interest into the account in the same degree as his own, so far as
an equality of affection would produce this: yet he would, in fact,
and ought to be, much more taken up and employed about himself, and
his own concerns, than about others, and their interests. For,
besides the one common affection toward himself and his neighbour he
would have several other particular affections, passions, appetites,
which he could not possibly feel in common both for himself and
others. Now these sensations themselves very much employ us, and
have perhaps as great influence as self-love. So far indeed as
self-love, and cool reflection upon what is for our interest, would
set us on work to gain a supply of our own several wants, so far the
love of our neighbour would make us do the same for him: but the
degree in which we are put upon seeking and making use of the means
of gratification, by the feeling of those affections, appetites, and
passions, must necessarily be peculiar to ourselves.

That there are particular passions (suppose shame, resentment) which
men seem to have, and feel in common, both for themselves and
others, makes no alteration in respect to those passions and
appetites which cannot possibly be thus felt in common. From hence
(and perhaps more things of the like kind might be mentioned) it
follows, that though there were an equality of affection to both,
yet regards to ourselves would be more prevalent than attention to
the concerns of others.

And from moral considerations it ought to be so, supposing still the
equality of affection commanded, because we are in a peculiar
manner, as I may speak, intrusted with ourselves, and therefore care
of our own interests, as well as of our conduct, particularly
belongs to us.

To these things must be added, that moral obligations can extend no
further than to natural possibilities. Now we have a perception of
our own interests, like consciousness of our own existence, which we
always carry about with us, and which, in its continuation, kind,
and degree, seems impossible to be felt in respect to the interests
of others.

From all these things it fully appears that though we were to love
our neighbour in the same degree as we love ourselves, so far as
this is possible, yet the care of ourselves, of the individual,
would not be neglected, the apprehended danger of which seems to be
the only objection against understanding the precept in this strict

III. The general temper of mind which the due love of our neighbour
would form us to, and the influence it would have upon our behaviour
in life, is now to be considered.

The temper and behaviour of charity is explained at large in that
known passage of St. Paul: {27} Charity suffereth long, and is
kind; charity envieth not, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh
not her own, thinketh no evil, beareth all things, believeth all
things, hopeth all things. As to the meaning of the expressions,
seeketh not her own, thinketh no evil, believeth all things; however
those expressions may be explained away, this meekness, and in some
degree easiness of temper, readiness to forego our right for the
sake of peace, as well as in the way of compassion, freedom from
mistrust, and disposition to believe well of our neighbour, this
general temper, I say, accompanies, and is plainly the effect of
love and goodwill. And, though such is the world in which we live,
that experience and knowledge of it not only may, but must beget, in
as greater regard to ourselves, and doubtfulness of the characters
of others, than is natural to mankind, yet these ought not to be
carried further than the nature and course of things make necessary.
It is still true, even in the present state of things, bad as it is,
that a real good man had rather be deceived than be suspicious; had
rather forego his known right, than run the venture of doing even a
hard thing. This is the general temper of that charity, of which
the apostle asserts, that if he had it not, giving his BODY TO BE

The happy influence of this temper extends to every different
relation and circumstance in human life. It plainly renders a man
better, more to be desired, as to all the respects and relations we
can stand in to each other. The benevolent man is disposed to make
use of all external advantages in such a manner as shall contribute
to the good of others, as well as to his own satisfaction. His own
satisfaction consists in this. He will be easy and kind to his
dependents, compassionate to the poor and distressed, friendly to
all with whom he has to do. This includes the good neighbour,
parent, master, magistrate: and such a behaviour would plainly make
dependence, inferiority, and even servitude easy. So that a good or
charitable man of superior rank in wisdom, fortune, authority, is a
common blessing to the place he lives in: happiness grows under his
influence. This good principle in inferiors would discover itself
in paying respect, gratitude, obedience, as due. It were therefore,
methinks, one just way of trying one's own character to ask
ourselves, am I in reality a better master or servant, a better
friend, a better neighbour, than such and such persons, whom,
perhaps, I may think not to deserve the character of virtue and
religion so much as myself?

And as to the spirit of party, which unhappily prevails amongst
mankind, whatever are the distinctions which serve for a supply to
it, some or other of which have obtained in all ages and countries,
one who is thus friendly to his kind will immediately make due
allowances for it, as what cannot but be amongst such creatures as
men, in such a world as this. And as wrath and fury and overbearing
upon these occasions proceed, as I may speak, from men's feeling
only on their own side, so a common feeling, for others as well as
for ourselves, would render us sensible to this truth, which it is
strange can have so little influence, that we ourselves differ from
others, just as much as they do from us. I put the matter in this
way, because it can scarce be expected that the generality of men
should see that those things which are made the occasions of
dissension and fomenting the party-spirit are really nothing at all:
but it may be expected from all people, how much soever they are in
earnest about their respective peculiarities, that humanity and
common goodwill to their fellow-creatures should moderate and
restrain that wretched spirit.

This good temper of charity likewise would prevent strife and enmity
arising from other occasions: it would prevent our giving just
cause of offence, and our taking it without cause. And in cases of
real injury, a good man will make all the allowances which are to be
made, and, without any attempts of retaliation, he will only consult
his own and other men's security for the future against injustice
and wrong.

IV. I proceed to consider, lastly, what is affirmed of the precept
now explained, that it comprehends in it all others, i.e., that to
love our neighbour as ourselves includes in it all virtues.

Now the way in which every maxim of conduct, or general speculative
assertion, when it is to be explained at large should be treated,
is, to show what are the particular truths which were designed to be
comprehended under such a general observation, how far it is
strictly true, and then the limitations, restrictions, and
exceptions, if there be exceptions, with which it is to be
understood. But it is only the former of these, namely, how far the
assertion in the text holds, and the ground of the pre-eminence
assigned to the precept of it, which in strictness comes into our
present consideration.

However, in almost everything that is said, there is somewhat to be
understood beyond what is explicitly laid down, and which we of
course supply, somewhat, I mean, which would not be commonly called
a restriction or limitation. Thus, when benevolence is said to be
the sum of virtue, it is not spoken of as a blind propension, but a
principle in reasonable creatures, and so to be directed by their
reason, for reason and reflection comes into our notion of a moral
agent. And that will lead us to consider distant consequences, as
well as the immediate tendency of an action. It will teach us that
the care of some persons, suppose children and families, is
particularly committed to our charge by Nature and Providence, as
also that there are other circumstances, suppose friendship or
former obligations, which require that we do good to some,
preferably to others. Reason, considered merely as subservient to
benevolence, as assisting to produce the greatest good, will teach
us to have particular regard to these relations and circumstances,
because it is plainly for the good of the world that they should be
regarded. And as there are numberless cases in which,
notwithstanding appearances, we are not competent judges, whether a
particular action will upon the whole do good or harm, reason in the
same way will teach us to be cautious how we act in these cases of
uncertainty. It will suggest to our consideration which is the
safer side; how liable we are to be led wrong by passion and private
interest; and what regard is due to laws, and the judgment of
mankind. All these things must come into consideration, were it
only in order to determine which way of acting is likely to produce
the greatest good. Thus, upon supposition that it were in the
strictest sense true, without limitation, that benevolence includes
in it all virtues, yet reason must come in as its guide and
director, in order to attain its own end, the end of benevolence,
the greatest public good. Reason, then, being thus included, let us
now consider the truth of the assertion itself.

First, It is manifest that nothing can be of consequence to mankind
or any creature but happiness. This, then, is all which any person
can, in strictness of speaking, be said to have a right to. We can
therefore OWE NO MAN ANYTHING, but only to farther and promote his
happiness, according to our abilities. And therefore a disposition
and endeavour to do good to all with whom we have to do, in the
degree and manner which the different relations we stand in to them
require, is a discharge of all the obligations we are under to them.

As human nature is not one simple uniform thing but a composition of
various parts, body, spirit, appetites, particular passions, and
affections, for each of which reasonable self-love would lead men to
have due regard, and make suitable provision, so society consists of
various parts to which we stand in different respects and relations,
and just benevolence would as surely lead us to have due regard to
each of these and behave as the respective relations require.
Reasonable goodwill and right behaviour towards our fellow-creatures
are in a manner the same, only that the former expresseth the
principle as it is in the mind; the latter, the principle as it were
become external, i.e., exerted in actions.

And so far as temperance, sobriety, and moderation in sensual
pleasures, and the contrary vices, have any respect to our fellow-
creatures, any influence upon their quiet, welfare, and happiness,
as they always have a real, and often a near influence upon it, so
far it is manifest those virtues may be produced by the love of our
neighbour, and that the contrary vices would be prevented by it.
Indeed, if men's regard to themselves will not restrain them from
excess, it may be thought little probable that their love to others
will be sufficient: but the reason is, that their love to others is
not, any more than their regard to themselves, just, and in its due
degree. There are, however, manifest instances of persons kept
sober and temperate from regard to their affairs, and the welfare of
those who depend upon them. And it is obvious to every one that
habitual excess, a dissolute course of life, implies a general
neglect of the duties we owe towards our friends, our families, and
our country.

From hence it is manifest that the common virtues and the common
vices of mankind may be traced up to benevolence, or the want of it.
And this entitles the precept, THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS
THYSELF, to the pre-eminence given to it, and is a justification of
the apostle's assertion, that all other commandments are
comprehended in it, whatever cautions and restrictions {28} there
are, which might require to be considered, if we were to state
particularly and at length what is virtue and right behaviour in
mankind. But,

Secondly, It might be added, that in a higher and more general way
of consideration, leaving out the particular nature of creatures,
and the particular circumstances in which they are placed,
benevolence seems in the strictest sense to include in it all that
is good and worthy, all that is good, which we have any distinct
particular notion of. We have no clear conception of any position
moral attribute in the Supreme Being, but what may be resolved up
into goodness. And, if we consider a reasonable creature or moral
agent, without regard to the particular relations and circumstances
in which he is placed, we cannot conceive anything else to come in
towards determining whether he is to be ranked in a higher or lower
class of virtuous beings, but the higher or lower degree in which
that principle, and what is manifestly connected with it, prevail in

That which we more strictly call piety, or the love of God, and
which is an essential part of a right temper, some may perhaps
imagine no way connected with benevolence: yet surely they must be
connected, if there be indeed in being an object infinitely good.
Human nature is so constituted that every good affection implies the
love of itself, i.e., becomes the object of a new affection in the
same person. Thus, to be righteous, implies in it the love of
righteousness; to be benevolent, the love of benevolence; to be
good, the love of goodness; whether this righteousness, benevolence,
or goodness be viewed as in our own mind or another's, and the love
of God as a being perfectly good is the love of perfect goodness
contemplated in a being or person. Thus morality and religion,
virtue and piety, will at last necessarily coincide, run up into one
and the same point, and LOVE will be in all senses THE END OF THE

O Almighty God, inspire us with this divine principle; kill in us
all the seeds of envy and ill-will; and help us, by cultivating
within ourselves the love of our neighbour, to improve in the love
of Thee. Thou hast placed us in various kindreds, friendships, and
relations, as the school of discipline for our affections: help us,
by the due exercise of them, to improve to perfection; till all
partial affection be lost in that entire universal one, and thou, O
God, shalt be all in all.

MATTHEW xxii. 37.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all
thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Everybody knows, you therefore need only just be put in mind, that
there is such a thing as having so great horror of one extreme as to
run insensibly and of course into the contrary; and that a
doctrine's having been a shelter for enthusiasm, or made to serve
the purposes of superstition, is no proof of the falsity of it:
truth or right being somewhat real in itself, and so not to be
judged of by its liableness to abuse, or by its supposed distance
from or nearness to error. It may be sufficient to have mentioned
this in general, without taking notice of the particular
extravagances which have been vented under the pretence or endeavour
of explaining the love of God; or how manifestly we are got into the
contrary extreme, under the notion of a reasonable religion; so very
reasonable as to have nothing to do with the heart and affections,
if these words signify anything but the faculty by which we discern
speculative truth.

By the love of God I would understand all those regards, all those
affections of mind which are due immediately to Him from such a
creature as man, and which rest in Him as their end. As this does
not include servile fear, so neither will any other regards, how
reasonable soever, which respect anything out of or besides the
perfection of the Divine nature, come into consideration here. But
all fear is not excluded, because His displeasure is itself the
natural proper object of fear. Reverence, ambition of His love and
approbation, delight in the hope or consciousness of it, come
likewise into this definition of the love of God, because He is the
natural object of all those affections or movements of mind as
really as He is the object of the affection, which is in the
strictest sense called love; and all of them equally rest in Him as
their end. And they may all be understood to be implied in these
words of our Saviour, without putting any force upon them: for He
is speaking of the love of God and our neighbour as containing the
whole of piety and virtue.

It is plain that the nature of man is so constituted as to feel
certain affections upon the sight or contemplation of certain
objects. Now the very notion of affection implies resting in its
object as an end. And the particular affection to good characters,
reverence and moral love of them, is natural to all those who have
any degree of real goodness in themselves. This will be illustrated
by the description of a perfect character in a creature; and by
considering the manner in which a good man in his presence would be
affected towards such a character. He would of course feel the
affections of love, reverence, desire of his approbation, delight in
the hope or consciousness of it. And surely all this is applicable,
and may be brought up to that Being, who is infinitely more than an
adequate object of all those affections; whom we are commanded to
And of these regards towards Almighty God some are more particularly
suitable to and becoming so imperfect a creature as man, in this
mortal state we are passing through; and some of them, and perhaps
other exercises of the mind, will be the employment and happiness of
good men in a state of perfection.

This is a general view of what the following discourse will contain.
And it is manifest the subject is a real one: there is nothing in
it enthusiastical or unreasonable. And if it be indeed at all a
subject, it is one of the utmost importance.

As mankind have a faculty by which they discern speculative truth,
so we have various affections towards external objects.
Understanding and temper, reason and affection, are as distinct
ideas as reason and hunger, and one would think could no more be
confounded. It is by reason that we get the ideas of several
objects of our affections; but in these cases reason and affection
are no more the same than sight of a particular object, and the
pleasure or uneasiness consequent thereupon, are the same. Now as
reason tends to and rests in the discernment of truth, the object of
it, so the very nature of affection consists in tending towards, and
resting in, its objects as an end. We do indeed often in common
language say that things are loved, desired, esteemed, not for
themselves, but for somewhat further, somewhat out of and beyond
them; yet, in these cases, whoever will attend will see that these
things are not in reality the objects of the affections, i.e. are
not loved, desired, esteemed, but the somewhat further and beyond
them. If we have no affections which rest in what are called their
objects, then what is called affection, love, desire, hope, in human
nature, is only an uneasiness in being at rest; an unquiet
disposition to action, progress, pursuit, without end or meaning.
But if there be any such thing as delight in the company of one
person, rather than of another; whether in the way of friendship, or
mirth and entertainment, it is all one, if it be without respect to
fortune, honour, or increasing our stores of knowledge, or anything
beyond the present time; here is an instance of an affection
absolutely resting in its object as its end, and being gratified in
the same way as the appetite of hunger is satisfied with food. Yet
nothing is more common than to hear it asked, what advantage a man
hath in such a course, suppose of study, particular friendships, or
in any other; nothing, I say, is more common than to hear such a
question put in a way which supposes no gain, advantage, or
interest, but as a means to somewhat further: and if so, then there
is no such thing at all as real interest, gain, or advantage. This
is the same absurdity with respect to life as an infinite series of
effects without a cause is in speculation. The gain, advantage, or
interest consists in the delight itself, arising from such a
faculty's having its object: neither is there any such thing as
happiness or enjoyment but what arises from hence. The pleasures of
hope and of reflection are not exceptions: the former being only
this happiness anticipated; the latter the same happiness enjoyed
over again after its time. And even the general expectation of
future happiness can afford satisfaction only as it is a present
object to the principle of self-love.

It was doubtless intended that life should be very much a pursuit to
the gross of mankind. But this is carried so much further than is
reasonable that what gives immediate satisfaction, i.e. our present
interest, is scarce considered as our interest at all. It is
inventions which have only a remote tendency towards enjoyment,
perhaps but a remote tendency towards gaining the means only of
enjoyment, which are chiefly spoken of as useful to the world. And
though this way of thinking were just with respect to the imperfect
state we are now in, where we know so little of satisfaction without
satiety, yet it must be guarded against when we are considering the
happiness of a state of perfection; which happiness being enjoyment
and not hope, must necessarily consist in this, that our affections
have their objects, and rest in those objects as an end, i.e. be
satisfied with them. This will further appear in the sequel of this

Of the several affections, or inward sensations, which particular
objects excite in man, there are some, the having of which implies
the love of them, when they are reflected upon. {29} This cannot be
said of all our affections, principles, and motives of action. It
were ridiculous to assert that a man upon reflection hath the same
kind of approbation of the appetite of hunger or the passion of fear
as he hath of goodwill to his fellow-creatures. To be a just, a
good, a righteous man, plainly carries with it a peculiar affection
to or love of justice, goodness, righteousness, when these
principles are the objects of contemplation.

Now if a man approves of, or hath an affection to, any principle in
and for itself, incidental things allowed for, it will be the same
whether he views it in his own mind or in another; in himself or in
his neighbour. This is the account of our approbation of, or moral
love and affection to good characters; which cannot but be in those
who have any degrees of real goodness in themselves, and who discern
and take notice of the same principle in others.

From observation of what passes within ourselves, our own actions,
and the behaviour of others, the mind may carry on its reflections
as far as it pleases; much beyond what we experience in ourselves,
or discern in our fellow creatures. It may go on and consider
goodness as become a uniform continued principle of action, as
conducted by reason, and forming a temper and character absolutely
good and perfect, which is in a higher sense excellent, and
proportionably the object of love and approbation.

Let us then suppose a creature perfect according to his created
nature--let his form be human, and his capacities no more than equal
to those of the chief of men--goodness shall be his proper
character, with wisdom to direct it, and power within some certain
determined sphere of action to exert it: but goodness must be the
simple actuating principle within him; this being the moral quality
which is amiable, or the immediate object of love as distinct from
other affections of approbation. Here then is a finite object for
our mind to tend towards, to exercise itself upon: a creature,
perfect according to his capacity, fixed, steady, equally unmoved by
weak pity or more weak fury and resentment; forming the justest
scheme of conduct; going on undisturbed in the execution of it,
through the several methods of severity and reward, towards his end,
namely, the general happiness of all with whom he hath to do, as in
itself right and valuable. This character, though uniform in
itself, in its principle, yet exerting itself in different ways, or
considered in different views, may by its appearing variety move
different affections. Thus, the severity of justice would not
affect us in the same way as an act of mercy. The adventitious
qualities of wisdom and power may be considered in themselves; and
even the strength of mind which this immovable goodness supposes may
likewise be viewed as an object of contemplation distinct from the
goodness itself. Superior excellence of any kind, as well as
superior wisdom and power, is the object of awe and reverence to all
creatures, whatever their moral character be; but so far as
creatures of the lowest rank were good, so far the view of this
character, as simply good, must appear amiable to them, be the
object of, or beget love. Further suppose we were conscious that
this superior person so far approved of us that we had nothing
servilely to fear from him; that he was really our friend, and kind
and good to us in particular, as he had occasionally intercourse
with us: we must be other creatures than we are, or we could not
but feel the same kind of satisfaction and enjoyment (whatever would
be the degree of it) from this higher acquaintance and friendship as
we feel from common ones, the intercourse being real and the persons
equally present in both cases. We should have a more ardent desire
to be approved by his better judgment, and a satisfaction in that
approbation of the same sort with what would be felt in respect to
common persons, or be wrought in us by their presence.

Let us now raise the character, and suppose this creature, for we
are still going on with the supposition of a creature, our proper
guardian and governor; that we were in a progress of being towards
somewhat further; and that his scheme of government was too vast for
our capacities to comprehend: remembering still that he is
perfectly good, and our friend as well as our governor. Wisdom,
power, goodness, accidentally viewed anywhere, would inspire
reverence, awe, love; and as these affections would be raised in
higher or lower degrees in proportion as we had occasionally more or
less intercourse with the creature endued with those qualities, so
this further consideration and knowledge that he was our proper
guardian and governor would much more bring these objects and
qualities home to ourselves; teach us they had a greater respect to
us in particular, that we had a higher interest in that wisdom and
power and goodness. We should, with joy, gratitude, reverence,
love, trust, and dependence, appropriate the character, as what we
had a right in, and make our boast in such our relation to it. And
the conclusion of the whole would be that we should refer ourselves
implicitly to him, and cast ourselves entirely upon him. As the
whole attention of life should be to obey his commands, so the
highest enjoyment of it must arise from the contemplation of this
character, and our relation to it, from a consciousness of his
favour and approbation, and from the exercise of those affections
towards him which could not but be raised from his presence. A
Being who hath these attributes, who stands in this relation, and is
thus sensibly present to the mind, must necessarily be the object of
these affections: there is as real a correspondence between them as
between the lowest appetite of sense and its object.

That this Being is not a creature, but the Almighty God; that He is
of infinite power and wisdom and goodness, does not render Him less
the object of reverence and love than He would be if He had those
attributes only in a limited degree. The Being who made us, and
upon whom we entirely depend, is the object of some regards. He
hath given us certain affections of mind, which correspond to
wisdom, power, goodness, i.e. which are raised upon view of those
qualities. If then He be really wise, powerful, good, He is the
natural object of those affections which He hath endued us with, and
which correspond to those attributes. That He is infinite in power,
perfect in wisdom and goodness, makes no alteration, but only that
He is the object of those affections raised to the highest pitch.
He is not, indeed, to be discerned by any of our senses. I go
forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive
Him: on the left hand where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him:
He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him, Oh that
I knew where I might find Him! that I might come even to His seat!
{30} But is He then afar off? does He not fill heaven and earth
with His presence? The presence of our fellow-creatures affects our
senses, and our senses give us the knowledge of their presence;
which hath different kinds of influence upon us--love, joy, sorrow,
restraint, encouragement, reverence. However, this influence is not
immediately from our senses, but from that knowledge. Thus suppose
a person neither to see nor hear another, not to know by any of his
senses, but yet certainly to know, that another was with him; this
knowledge might, and in many cases would, have one or more of the
effects before mentioned. It is therefore not only reasonable, but
also natural, to be affected with a presence, though it be not the
object of our senses; whether it be, or be not, is merely an
accidental circumstance, which needs not come into consideration:
it is the certainty that he is with us, and we with him, which hath
the influence. We consider persons then as present, not only when
they are within reach of our senses, but also when we are assured by
any other means that they are within such a nearness; nay, if they
are not, we can recall them to our mind, and be moved towards them
as present; and must He, who is so much more intimately with us,
distant to be the object of our affections? We own and feel the
force of amiable and worthy qualities in our fellow creatures; and
can we be insensible to the contemplation of perfect goodness? Do
we reverence the shadows of greatness here below, are we solicitous
about honour and esteem and the opinion of the world, and shall we
not feel the same with respect to Him whose are wisdom and power in
WEIGHED? Thus love, reverence, desire of esteem, every faculty,
every affection, tends towards and is employed about its respective
object in common cases: and must the exercise of them be suspended
with regard to Him alone who is an object, an infinitely more than
adequate object, to our most exalted faculties; Him, OF WHOM, AND

As we cannot remove from this earth, or change our general business
on it, so neither can we alter our real nature. Therefore no
exercise of the mind can be recommended, but only the exercise of
those faculties you are conscious of. Religion does not demand new
affections, but only claims the direction of those you already have,
those affections you daily feel; though unhappily confined to
objects not altogether unsuitable but altogether unequal to them.
We only represent to you the higher, the adequate objects of those
very faculties and affections. Let the man of ambition go on still
to consider disgrace as the greatest evil, honour as his chief good.
But disgrace in whose estimation? Honour in whose judgment? This
is the only question. If shame, and delight in esteem, be spoken of
as real, as any settled ground of pain or pleasure, both these must
be in proportion to the supposed wisdom, and worth of him by whom we
are contemned or esteemed. Must it then be thought enthusiastical
to speak of a sensibility of this sort which shall have respect to
an unerring judgment, to infinite wisdom, when we are assured this
unerring judgment, this infinite wisdom does observe upon our

It is the same with respect to the love of God in the strictest and
most confined sense. We only offer and represent the highest object
of an affection supposed already in your mind. Some degree of
goodness must be previously supposed; this always implies the love
of itself, an affection to goodness: the highest, the adequate
object of this affection, is perfect goodness; which therefore we
STRENGTH. "Must we then, forgetting our own interest, as it were go
out of ourselves, and love God for His own sake?" No more forget
your own interest, no more go out of yourselves, than when you
prefer one place, one prospect, the conversation of one man to that
of another. Does not every affection necessarily imply that the
object of it be itself loved? If it be not it is not the object of
the affection. You may, and ought if you can, but it is a great
mistake to think you can love or fear or hate anything, from
consideration that such love or fear or hatred may be a means of
obtaining good or avoiding evil. But the question whether we ought
to love God for His sake or for our own being a mere mistake in
language, the real question which this is mistaken for will, I
suppose, be answered by observing that the goodness of God already
exercised towards us, our present dependence upon Him, and our
expectation of future benefits, ought, and have a natural tendency,
to beget in us the affection of gratitude, and greater love towards
Him, than the same goodness exercised towards others; were it only
for this reason, that every affection is moved in proportion to the
sense we have of the object of it; and we cannot but have a more
lively sense of goodness when exercised towards ourselves than when
exercised towards others. I added expectation of future benefits
because the ground of that expectation is present goodness.

Thus Almighty God is the natural object of the several affections,
love, reverence, fear, desire of approbation. For though He is
simply one, yet we cannot but consider Him in partial and different
views. He is in himself one uniform Being, and for ever the same
greatness, His goodness, His wisdom, are different objects to our
mind. To which is to be added, that from the changes in our own
characters, together with His unchangeableness, we cannot but
consider ourselves as more or less the objects of His approbation,
and really be so. For if He approves what is good, He cannot,
merely from the unchangeableness of His nature, approve what is
evil. Hence must arise more various movements of mind, more
different kinds of affections. And this greater variety also is
just and reasonable in such creatures as we are, though it respects
a Being simply one, good and perfect. As some of these actions are
most particularly suitable to so imperfect a creature as man in this
mortal state we are passing through, so there may be other exercises
of mind, or some of these in higher degrees, our employment and
happiness in a state of perfection.


Consider then our ignorance, the imperfection of our nature, our
virtue, and our condition in this world, with respect to aim
infinitely good and just Being, our Creator and Governor, and you
will see what religious affections of mind are most particularly
suitable to this mortal state we are passing through.

Though we are not affected with anything so strongly as what we
discern with our senses, and though our nature and condition require
that we be much taken up about sensible things, yet our reason
convinces us that God is present with us, and we see and feel the
effects of His goodness: He is therefore the object of some
regards. The imperfection of our virtue, joined with the
consideration of His absolute rectitude or holiness, will scarce
permit that perfection of love which entirely casts out all fear:
yet goodness is the object of love to all creatures who have any
degree of it themselves; and consciousness of a real endeavour to
approve ourselves to Him, joined with the consideration of His
goodness, as it quite excludes servile dread and horror, so it is
plainly a reasonable ground for hope of His favour. Neither fear
nor hope nor love then are excluded, and one or another of these
will prevail, according to the different views we have of God, and
ought to prevail, according to the changes we find in our own
character. There is a temper of mind made up of, or which follows
from all three, fear, hope, love--namely, resignation to the Divine
will, which is the general temper belonging to this state; which
ought to be the habitual frame of our mind and heart, and to be
exercised at proper seasons more distinctly, in acts of devotion.

Resignation to the will of God is the whole of piety. It includes
in it all that is good, and is a source of the most settled quiet
and composure of mind. There is the general principle of submission
in our nature. Man is not so constituted as to desire things, and
be uneasy in the want of them, in proportion to their known value:
many other considerations come in to determine the degrees of
desire; particularly whether the advantage we take a view of be
within the sphere of our rank. Whoever felt uneasiness upon
observing any of the advantages brute creatures have over us? And
yet it is plain they have several. It is the same with respect to
advantages belonging to creatures of a superior order. Thus, though
we see a thing to be highly valuable, yet that it does not belong to
our condition of being is sufficient to suspend our desires after
it, to make us rest satisfied without such advantage. Now there is
just the same reason for quiet resignation in the want of everything
equally unattainable and out of our reach in particular, though
others of our species be possessed of it. All this may be applied
to the whole of life; to positive inconveniences as well as wants,
not indeed to the sensations of pain and sorrow, but to all the
uneasinesses of reflection, murmuring, and discontent. Thus is
human nature formed to compliance, yielding, submission of temper.
We find the principles of it within us; and every one exercises it
towards some objects or other, i.e. feels it with regard to some
persons and some circumstances. Now this is an excellent foundation
of a reasonable and religious resignation. Nature teaches and
inclines as to take up with our lot; the consideration that the
course of things is unalterable hath a tendency to quiet the mind
under it, to beget a submission of temper to it. But when we can
add that this unalterable course is appointed and continued by
infinite wisdom and goodness, how absolute should be our submission,
how entire our trust and dependence!

This would reconcile us to our condition, prevent all the
supernumerary troubles arising from imagination, distant fears,
impatience--all uneasiness, except that which necessarily arises
from the calamities themselves we may be under. How many of our
cares should we by this means be disburdened of! Cares not properly
our own, how apt soever they may be to intrude upon us, and we to
admit them; the anxieties of expectation, solicitude about success
and disappointment, which in truth are none of our concern. How
open to every gratification would that mind be which was clear of
these encumbrances!

Our resignation to the will of God may be said to be perfect when
our will is lost and resolved up into His: when we rest in His will
as our end, as being itself most just and right and good. And where
is the impossibility of such an affection to what is just, and
right, and good, such a loyalty of heart to the Governor of the
universe as shall prevail over all sinister indirect desires of our
own? Neither is this at bottom anything more than faith and honesty
and fairness of mind--in a more enlarged sense indeed than those
words are commonly used. And as, in common cases, fear and hope and
other passions are raised in us by their respective objects, so this
submission of heart and soul and mind, this religious resignation,
would be as naturally produced by our having just conceptions of
Almighty God, and a real sense of His presence with us. In how low
a degree soever this temper usually prevails amongst men, yet it is
a temper right in itself: it is what we owe to our Creator: it is
particularly suitable to our mortal condition, and what we should
endeavour after for our own sakes in our passage through such a
world as this, where is nothing upon which we can rest or depend,
nothing but what we are liable to be deceived and disappointed in.
piety an religion in the strictest sense, considered as a habit of
mind: an habitual sense of God's presence with us; being affected
towards Him, as present, in the manner His superior nature requires
from such a creature as man: this is to WALK WITH GOD.

Little more need be said of devotion or religious worship than that
it is this temper exerted into act. The nature of it consists in
the actual exercise of those affections towards God which are
supposed habitual in good men. He is always equally present with
us: but we are so much taken up with sensible things that, Lo, He
goeth by us, and we see Him not: He passeth on also, but we
perceive Him not. {31} Devotion is retirement from the world He has
made to Him alone: it is to withdraw from the avocations of sense,
to employ our attention wholly upon Him as upon an object actually
present, to yield ourselves up to the influence of the Divine
presence, and to give full scope to the affections of gratitude,
love, reverence, trust, and dependence; of which infinite power,
wisdom, and goodness is the natural and only adequate object. We
may apply to the whole of devotion those words of the Son of Sirach,
When you glorify the Lord, exalt Him as much as you can; for even
yet will He far exceed: and when you exalt Him, put forth all your
strength, and be not weary; for you can never go far enough. {32}
Our most raised affections of every kind cannot but fall short and
be disproportionate when an infinite being is the object of them.
This is the highest exercise and employment of mind that a creature
is capable of. As this divine service and worship is itself
absolutely due to God, so also is it necessary in order to a further
end, to keep alive upon our minds a sense of His authority, a sense
that in our ordinary behaviour amongst men we act under him as our
Governor and Judge.

Thus you see the temper of mind respecting God which is particularly
suitable to a state of imperfection, to creatures in a progress of
being towards somewhat further.

Suppose now this something further attained, that we were arrived at
it, what a perception will it be to see and know and feel that our
trust was not vain, our dependence not groundless? That the issue,
event, and consummation came out such as fully to justify and answer
that resignation? If the obscure view of the divine perfection
which we have in this world ought in just consequence to beget an
entire resignation, what will this resignation be exalted into when
form any distinct notion of that perfection of the love of God which
CASTS OUT ALL FEAR, of that enjoyment of Him which will be the
happiness of good men hereafter, the consideration of our wants and
capacities of happiness, and that He will be adequate supply to
them, must serve us instead of such distinct conception of the
particular happiness itself.

Let us then suppose a man entirely disengaged from business and
pleasure, sitting down alone and at leisure, to reflect upon himself
and his own condition of being. He would immediately feel that he
was by no means complete of himself, but totally insufficient for
his own happiness. One may venture to affirm that every man hath
felt this, whether he hath again reflected upon it or not. It is
feeling this deficiency, that they are unsatisfied with themselves,
which makes men look out for assistance from abroad, and which has
given rise to various kinds of amusements, altogether needless any
otherwise than as they serve to fill up the blank spaces of time,
and so hinder their feeling this deficiency, and being uneasy with
themselves. Now, if these external things we take up with were
really an adequate supply to this deficiency of human nature, if by
their means our capacities and desires were all satisfied and filled
up, then it might be truly said that we had found out the proper
happiness of man, and so might sit down satisfied, and be at rest in
the enjoyment of it. But if it appears that the amusements which
men usually pass their time in are so far from coming up to or
answering our notions and desires of happiness or good that they are
really no more than what they are commonly called, somewhat to pass
away the time, i.e. somewhat which serves to turn us aside from, and
prevent our attending to, this our internal poverty and want; if
they serve only, or chiefly, to suspend instead of satisfying our
conceptions and desires of happiness; if the want remains, and we
have found out little more than barely the means of making it less
sensible; then are we still to seek for somewhat to be an adequate
supply to it. It is plain that there is a capacity in the nature of
man which neither riches nor honours nor sensual gratifications, nor
anything in this world, can perfectly fill up or satisfy: there is
a deeper and more essential want than any of these things can be the
supply of. Yet surely there is a possibility of somewhat which may
fill up all our capacities of happiness, somewhat in which our souls
may find rest, somewhat which may be to us that satisfactory good we
are inquiring after. But it cannot be anything which is valuable
only as it tends to some further end. Those therefore who have got
this world so much into their hearts as not to be able to consider
happiness as consisting in anything but property and possessions--
which are only valuable as the means to somewhat else--cannot have
the least glimpse of the subject before us, which is the end, not
the means; the thing itself, not somewhat in order to it. But if
you can lay aside that general, confused, undeterminate notion of
happiness, as consisting in such possessions, and fix in your
thoughts that it really can consist in nothing but in a faculty's
having its proper object, you will clearly see that in the coolest
way of consideration, without either the heat of fanciful enthusiasm
or the warmth of real devotion, nothing is more certain than that an
infinite Being may Himself be, if He pleases, the supply to all the
capacities of our nature. All the common enjoyments of life are
from the faculties He hath endued us with and the objects He hath
made suitable to them. He may Himself be to us infinitely more than
all these; He may be to us all that we want. As our understanding

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