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tures to which he has given being. “The eyes of all wait on thee; and thou givest them their meat in due
Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.'
“ It is no more than the obligation of our very birth to practise equity to our kind; but humanity may be extended through the whole order of creatures, even to the meanest. History tells us of a wise and polite nation that rejected a person of the first quality, who stood for a judiciary office, only because he had been observed in his youth to take pleasure in teasing and murdering of birds. And of another that expelled a man out of the senate, for dashing a bird against the ground which had taken shelter in his bosom. I remember an Arabian Author, who has written a treatise to shew how far a man supposed to have subsisted in a desert island, without any instruction, or so much as the sight of any other man, may, by the pure light of nature, attain the knowledge of philosophy and virtue. One of the first things he makes him observe is, that universal benevolence of nature in the protection and preservation of its creatures. In imitation of which the first act of virtue he thinks his selftaught philosopher would of course fall into is, to relieve and assist all the animals about him in their wants and distresses *.'
* Guardian, vol. iii. No. 61.
There are certain dispositions and their contraries, such as humility and pride, gratitude and unthankfulness, which, in their immediate exercise, may be directed either towards God or towards man. The same depravity of mind from which ingratitude to a fellow-creature originates, produces ingratitude to God, our great and constant Benefactor. This is one reason why it has always been regarded with abhorrence.
Such is the benevolence of our Creator, that he has connected pleasure with the communication and with the reception of good. The very exercise of beneficence is happiness,-happiness both to the giver and the receiver. There are awakened in the heart of the recipient, the emotions of love to the benefactor, the wish for his happiness, and the desire of rendering him some service for its promotion.
“ He whose generous life is a continued diffusion of happiness, may thus delight himself with the thought, that, in diffusing it, he has been, at the same time, the diffuser of virtue, at least, of wishes which were virtue for the time, and required nothing to convert them into beneficence, but the means of exercising them."
The exercise of beneficence creates obligations on the part of the benefactor, as well as on that of the object of his bounty ; though, doubtless, the principal class of duties devolve on the recipient. The giver must bestow his favours with disinterested benevolence,—with a kindness that flows from a generous heart ;—and without abusing that power which he acquires, by often reminding the person whom he has obliged of the very great value of the favours conferred. Should he bestow his gifts for the purpose of afterwards exercising a malevolent control, in exacting services which it is unreasonable to pay, and in cruelly torturing the unfortunate objects of his professed liberality, he can have no ground to complain of the want of gratitude, since gratitude, in the way in which he expected it, was never really due.
The duties of the obliged are very obvious. Nature teaches them to love those who do them good, especially when this good is manifestly done from pure and disinterested motives. It also points out to them the obligation of guarding their reputation, and of promoting their interests; and, generally, of doing all
; in their power, without compromising moral principle, to extend their happiness. Christianity very fully, by the great facts on which it rests, by the leading motives which it presents, by incidental allusions, and by numerous examples, recognises these, as the duties which spring from gratitude.
“ We love him, (God) because he first loved us. The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge,—that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again *." “ The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and
* 2 Cor. v.
was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found
The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day *.”
Hence, then, the great evil of ingratitude: an evil which consists in the violation of the natural feelings of the human heart, which, because they are truly natural, are an intimation to us of the will of God This intimation is ratified by the unequivocal authority of revelation. To love those who love them, it considers to be so common to mankind, that this affection is exercised by those who have scarcely any other virtue f. To be void of it, mankind have considered in all ages as the extreme of human depravity. They have classed the ungrateful with the most atrocious criminals.
Mr. Paley places the evil of ingratitude on the wrong foundation,—the inexpediency of its practice in reference to society. “In this,” says he, “the mischief of ingratitude consists. Nor is the mischief small; for after all is done that can be done, towards providing for the public happiness, by prescribing rules of justice, and enforcing the observation of them by penalties or compulsion, much must be left to those offices of kindness, which men remain at liberty to exert or withhold. Now, not only the choice of the objects, but the quantity, and even the existence of this sort of kindness in the world, depends, in a great measure, upon the return which it receives.”
Undoubtedly, there are many who exercise kindness, or the appearance of kindness, from interested
. 2 Tim. i. 16-19.
p Matt. v. 46.
motives, and from the return of gratitude which they expect to receive.
Is it, however, for a writer on morals, to recommend this conduct to mankind? If, in giving of our property to the poor, we must bestow, if we bestow aright, not with a view to compensation in the gratitude which it may procure us, but from a sense of duty, we are surely bound to discharge all the obligations of benevolence on the same principle. We ought to exercise beneficence to all men as we have opportunity; and we ought to feel, and to shew ourselves grateful to our benefactors: but we should act thus in both cases, because it is our duty, enjoined by the will of God, and the performance of which is well-pleasing to him.
Ingratitude, doubtless, like the manifestation of depravity in every form, is productive of sin and misery. But no man who is beneficent on principle, that is, who is virtuously beneficent, will be checked in his virtuous course, by discovering the baseness and malignity of those whom he has benefited. I you,
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,—that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
It has been supposed that the existence of friendship is incompatible with the exercise of universal bene