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more disgraceful than not to do that which / into an undisguised hostility against each is kind, it would prove more strikingly than other, in respect to their rights. The mere before, how deeply sin had tainted the disinterested principle would set up a feeble moral constitution of our species-could it barrier, indeed, against a desolating tide of be shown, that the great practical restraint selfishness, now set loose from the consion the prevalence of this more disgraceful deration of its own advantage. The.genuthing in society, is the tie of that common ine depravity of the human heart would selfishness which actuates and characterizes burst forth and show itself in its true chaall its members. It were a curious but im- racters; and the world in which we live be portant question, were it capable of being re-transformed into a scene of unblushing solved—if men did not feel it their interest fraud, of open and lawless depredation. to be honest, how much of the actual doings And, perhaps, after all, the best way of of honesty would still be kept up in the arriving practically at the solution of this world ? It is our own opinion of the nature question would be, not by a formal inducof man, that it has its honourable feelings, tion of particular cases, but by committing and its instinctive principles of rectitude, the matter to the gross and general expe. and its constitutional love of truth and of rience of those who are most conversant in integrity; and that, on the basis of these, a the affairs of business.—There is a sort of certain portion of uprightness would re- undefinable impression you all have upon main amongst us, without the aid of any this subject, on the justness of which howprudence, or any calculation whatever. All ever, we are disposed to lay a very consithis we have fully conceded ; and have al- derable stress--an impression gathered out ready attempted to demonstrate, that, in of the mass of the recollections of a whole spite of it, the character of man is tho- life-an impression founded on what you roughly pervaded by the very essence of may have observed in the history of your sinfulness; because, with all the native vir own doings--a kind of tact that you have tues which adorn it, there adheres to it that acquired as the fruit of your repeated infoulest of all spiritual deformities-uncon-tercourse with men, and of the manifold cern about God, and even antipathy to God. transactions that you have had with them, It has been argued against the orthodox and of the number of times in which you doctrine of the universality of human cor- have been personally implicated with the ruption, that even without the sphere of the play of human passions, and human inoperation of the gospel, there do occur so s terests. It is our own conviction, that .a many engaging specimens of worth and be- well exercised merchant could cast a more nevolence in society. The reply is, that intelligent glance at this question, than a this may be no deduction from the doctrine well exercised metaphysician; and therewhatever, but be even an aggravation of it fore do we submit its decision to those of
-should the very men who exemplify so you who have hazarded most largely, and much of what is amiable, carry in their most frequently, on the faith of agents, and hearts an indifference to the will of that customers, and distant correspondents. We Being who thus hath formed, and thus hath know the fact of a very secure and well embellished them. But it would be a heavy warranted confidence in the honesty of deduction indeed, not from the doctrine, others, being widely prevalent amongst but from its hostile and opposing argument, you: and that, were it not for this, all the could it be shown, that the vast majority of interchanges of trade would be suspended; all equitable dealing amongst men, is per- and that confidence is the very soul and life formed, not on the principle of honour at of commercial activity; and it is delightful all, but on the principle of selfishness--that to think, how thus a man can suffer all the this is the soil upon which the honesty of wealth which belongs to him to depart from the world mainly fourishes, and is sus- under his eye, and to traverse the mightiest tained ; that, were the connexion dissolved oceans and continents of our world, and to between justice to others and our own par-pass into the custody of men whom he ticular advantage, this would go very far to never saw. And it is a sublime homage, banish the observation of justice from the one should think, to the honourable and earth; that, generally speaking, men are high-minded principles of our nature, that, honest, not because they are lovers of God, under their guardianship, the adverse hemiand not even because they are lovers of vir- spheres of the globe should be bound totue, but because they are lovers of their gether in safe and profitable merchandise; ownselves-insomuch, that if it were pos- and that thus one should sleep with a bosible to disjoin the good of self altogether som undisturbed by jealousy, in Britain, froin the habit of doing what was fair, as who has all, and more than all his property well as from the habit of doing what was treasured in the warehouses of India-aand kind to the people around us, this would that, just because there he knows there is not merely isolate the children of men vigilance to defend it, and activity to disfrom each other, in respect of the obliga-pose of it, and truth to account for it, and tions of beneficence, but it would arm them all those trusty virtues which ennoble tho character of man to shield it from injury, to conviet him of the deceitfulness of that and send it back again in an increasing tide moral complacency with which he looks to of opulence to his door.
his own character, and his own attainments. There is no question, then, as to the fact There is much in it to demonstrate, that of a very extended practical honesty, be- his righteousness are as filthy rags; and that tween man and man, in their intercourse the idolatry of self, however hidden in its with each other. The only question is, as operation, may be detected in almost every to the reason of the fact. Why is it, that one of them. God may combine the sepahe whom you have trusted acquits himself rate interests of every individual of the huof his trust with such correctness and fidel-man race, and the strenuous prosecution of ity? Whether is his mind in so doing, most these interests by each of them, into a harset upon your interest or upon his own ?monious system of operation, for the good Whether is it because he seeks your ad- of one great and extended family. But if, vantage in it, or because he finds it is his on estimating the character of each indiviown advantage? Tell us to which of the dual member of that family, we shall find two concerns he is most tremblingly alivem that the mainspring of his actions is the to your property, or to his own character ? , urgency of a selfish inclination; and that to and whether, upon the last of thesc feelings, this his very virtues are subordinate: and he may not be more forcibly impelled to that even the honesties which mark his conequitable dealing than upon the first of duct are chiefly, though, perhaps, insensithem? We well know, that there is room bly due to the selfishness which actuates enough in his bom for both; but to de- and occupies his whole heart;then, let termine how powerfully selfishness is blen- the semblance be what it may, still the reded with the punctualities and the integrities ality of the case accords with the most morof business, let us ask those who can speak tifying representations of the New Testamost soundly and experimentally on the ment. The moralities of nature are but the subject, what would be the result, if the ele- moralities of a day, and will cease to be apment of selfishness were so detached from plauded when this world, the only theatre the operations of trade, that there was no of their applause, is burnt up. They are such thing as a man suffering in his pros- but the blossoms of that rank efflorescence perity, because he suffered in his good which is nourished on the soil of human name; that there was no such thing as a corruption, and can never bring forth fruit desertion of custom and employment com-unto immortality. The discerner of all seing upon the back of a blasted credit, and a crets sees that they emanate from a princitainted reputation; in a word, if the only ple which is at utier war with the charity security we had of man was his principles, that prepares for the enjoyments, and that and that his interest flourished and aug- glows in the bosoms of the celestial; and, mented just as surely without his princi- therefore, though highly esteemed among ples as with them? Tell us, if the hold we men, they may be in His sight an abominahave of a man's own personal advantagetion. were thus broken down, in how far the vir- ! Let us, if possible, make this still clearer tues of the mercantile world would survive to your apprehension, by descending more it? Would not the world of trade sustain minutely into particulars. There is not one as violent a derangement on this mighty member of the great mercantile family, with hold being cut asunder, as the world of na- / whom there does not obtain a reciprocal inture would on the suspending of the law of terest between himself and all those who gravitation? Would not the whole system, compose the circle of his various corresin fact, fall to pieces, and be dissolved? | pondents. He does them good; but his eye Would not men, when thus released from is all the while open to the expectation of the magical chain of their own interest, their doing him something again. They which bound them together into a fair and minister to him all the profits of his employseeming compact of principle, like dogs of ment; but not unless he minister to them rapine let loose upon their prey, overleap of his service, and attention, and fidelity. the barrier which formerly restrained them? Insomuch, that if his credit abandon him, Does not this prove, that selfishness, after his prosperity will also abandon him. If all, is the grand principle on which the he forfeit the confidence of others, he will brotherhood of the human race is made to also forfeit their custom along with it. So hang together; and that he who can make that, in perfect consistency with interest the wrath of man to praise him, has also, being the reigning idol of his soul, he may upon the selfishness of man, caused a most still be, in every way, as sensitive of enbeauteous order of wide and useful inter-croachment upon his reputation, as he would course to be suspended ?
be of encroachment upon his property; and But let us here stop to observe, that, while be as vigilant, to the full, in guarding his there is much in this contemplation to mag- name against the breath of calumny, or susnify the wisdom of the Supreme Contriver, picion, as in guarding his estate against the there is also much in it to humble man, and I inroads of a depredator. Now, this tie of reciprocity, which binds him into fellowship ship, hitherto carried forward in smiles, and good faith with society at large, will should break up in reproaches? , And that sometimes, in the mere course of business, the whole character of this fellowship should and its unlooked-for fluctuations, draw one show itself more unequivocally as it comes or two individuals into a still more special nearer to its close? And that some of its intimacy with himself. There may be a members, as they are becoming disengaged lucrative partnership, in which it is the from the bond of mutual interest, should pressing necessity of each individual, that also become disengaged from the bond of all of them, for a time at least, stick closely those mutual delicacies and proprieties, and and steadily together. Or there may be a even honesties, which had heretofore markthriving interchange of commodities struck ed the whole of their intercourse?-Insoout, where it is the mutual interest of all much, that a matter in which all the parties who are concerned, that each take his as- looked so fair, and magnanimous, and libesigned part and adhere to it. Or there may ral, might at length degenerate into a conbe a promising arrangement devised, which test of keen appropriation, a scramble of it needs concert and understanding to ef- downright and undisguised selfishness ? sectuate; and, for which purpose, several But though this may happen sometimes, may enter into a skilful and well-ordered we are far from saying that it will hapcombination.
pen generally. It could not, in fact, withWe are neither saying that this is very out such an exposure of character, as might general in the mercantile world, or that it not merely bring a man down in the estiis in the slightest degree unfair. But you mation of those from whom he is now withmust be sensible, that, amid the reelings and drawing himself, but also in the estimation movements of the great trading society, the of that general public with whom he is still phenomenon sometimes offers itself of a linked; and on whose opinion of him there groupe of individuals who have entered still rests the dependence of a strong perinto some compact of mutual accommoda-sonal interest. To estimate precisely the tion, and who, therefore, look as if they were whole influence of this consideration, or the isolated from the rest by the bond of some degree in which honesty of character is remore strict and separate alliance. All we solvable into selfishness of character, it aim at, is to gather illustration to our prin- would be necessary to suppose, that the tie ciple, out of the way in which the members of reciprocity was dissolved, not merely beof this associated cluster conduct themselves tween the individual and those with whom to each other; how such a cordiality may he had been more particularly and more pass between them, as one could suppose intimately associated-but that the tie of to be the cordiality of genuine friendship; reciprocity was dissolved between the inhow such an intercourse might be main- dividual and the whole of his former actained among their families, as might look quaintanceship in business. like the intercourse of unmingled affection; Now, the situation which comes nearest how such an exuberance of mutual hospi- to this, is that of a man on the eve of banktality might be poured forth as to recal those ruptcy, and with no sure hope of so retrievpoetic days when avarice was unknown, and ing his circumstances as again to emerge men lived in harmony together on the fruits into credit, and be restored to some emof one common inheritance; and how nobly ployment of gain or of confidence. If he disdainful each member of the combination have either honourable or religious feelappeared to be of such little savings, as could ings, then character, as connected with be easily surrendered to the general good principle, may still, in his eyes, be someand adjustment of the whole concern. And thing; but character, as connected with all this, you will observe, so long as the con- prudence, or the calculations of interest, cern prospered, and it was for the interest may now be nothing. In the dark hour of each to abide by it; and the respective of the desperation of his soul, he may feel, accounts current gladdened the heart of in fact, that he has nothing to lose; and let every individual by the exhibition of an us now see how he will conduct himself, abundant share of the common benefit to when thus released from that check of rehimself. But then, every such system of putation which formerly held him. In operations comes to an end. And what we these circumstances, if you have ever seen ask is, if it be at all an unlikely evolution the man abandon himself to utter regardof our nature, that the selfishness which lay lessness of all the honesties which at one in wrapt concealment, during the progress time adorned him, and doing such disgraceof these transactions, should now come for- ful things as he would have spurned at the ward and put out to view its cloven foot, very suggestion of, in the days of his proswhen they draw to their termination ? And perity; and, forgetful of his former name, as the tie of reciprocity gets looser, is it not practising all possible shists of duplicity to a very possible thing, that the murmurs of prolong the credit of a tottering establishsomething like unfair or unhandsome con-ment, and to keep himself afloat for a few duct should get louder? And that a fellow-months of torture and restlessness, weaving
such a web of entanglement around his graceful, are not held to be so disgraceful in many friends and companions, as shall this department of a man's personal transacmost surely implicate some of them in his tions. The cry of indignation, which would fall; and, as the crisis approaches, plying be listed up against the falsehood or dishohis petty wiles how to survive the coming nesty of a man's dealings in his own neighruin, and to gather up of its fragments to bourhood, is mitigated or unheard, though, in his family. ! how much is there here to his dealings with the state, there should be deplore; and who can be so ungenerous as the very same relaxation of principle. On to stalk in unrelenting triumph over the this subject, there is a convenience of popu-, helplessness of so sad an overthrow! But lar feeling, which, if extended to the whole if ever such an exhibition meet your eye, of human traffic, would banish all its secuwhile we ask you not to withhold your pity rities from the world. Giving reason to from the unfortunate, we ask you also to believe, that much of the good done among read in it a lesson of worthless and sunken men, is done on the expectation of a good humanity; how even its very virtues are that will be rendered back again; and that tinctured with corruption; and that the many of the virtues, by which the fellowhonour, and the truth, and the equity, with ship of human beings is regulated and suswhich man proudly thinks his nature to be tained, still leave the imputation unredeemembellished, are often reared on the basis ed, of its being a fellowship of sinners; and of selfishness, and lie prostrate in the dust that both the practice of morality, and the when that basis is cut away. '
demand for it, are measured by the operaBut other instances may be quoted, which tion of a self-love, which, so far from signalgo still more satisfactorily to prove the very izing any man, or preparing him for eterextended influence of selfishness on the nity, he holds in common with the fiercest moral judgments of our species; and how and most degenerate of his species; and readily the estimate, which a man forms on that, apart from the consideration of his the question of right and wrong, accommo- own interest, simplicity and godly sincedates itself to his own interest. There is a rity are, to a great degree, unknown ; insostrong general reciprocity of advantage be much, that though God has interposed with tween the government of a country and a law, of giving unto all their dues, and all its inhabitants. The one party, in this tribute to whom tribute is due-we may relation, renders a revenue for the expenses venture an affirmation of the vast majority of the state. The other party renders back of this tribute, that it is rendered for wrath's again protection from injustice and vio-sake, and not for conscience's sake. Of so lence. Were the means furnished by the little effect is unsupported and solitary conformer withheld, the benefit conferred by science to stem the tide of selfishness. And the latter would cease to be administered. it is chiefly when honesty and truth go overSo that, with the government, and the pub-] bearingly along with this tide, that the lic at large, nothing can be more strict, and voice of man is lifted up to acknowledge more indispensable, than the tie of reciproci- (them, and his heart becomes feelingly alive ty that is between them. But this is not to a sense of their obligations. felt, and therefore not acted upon by the And let us here just ask, in what relation separate individuals who compose that pub- of criminality does he who uses a contralic. The reciprocity does not come home band article stand to him who deals in it? with a sufficiently pointed and personal ap- In precisely the same relation that a replication to each of them. Every man may ceiver of stolen goods stands to a thief or a calculate, that though he, on the strength depredator. There may be some who reof some dexterous evasions, were to keep (volt at the idea of being so classified. But. back of the tribute that is due by him, the if the habit we have just denounced can be mischief that would recoil upon himself is fastened on men of rank and seemly repudivided with the rest of his countrymen ;) tation, let us just humble ourselves into the and the portion of it which comes to his admission of how little the righteous pracdoor would be so very small, as to be alto- tice of the world has the foundation of righgether insensible. To all feeling he will teous principle to sustain it; how feeble are just be as effectually sheltered, by the pow- the securities of rectitude, had it nothing to er and the justice of his country, whether uphold it but its own native charms, and he pay his taxes in full, or under the guise native obligations; how society is held toof some skilful concealment, pay them but gether, only because the grace of God can partially; and therefore, to every practical turn to account the worthless propensities effect, the tie of reciprocity, between him of the individuals who compose it; and and his sovereign, is in a great measure dis- how, if the virtues of fidelity, and truth, and solved. Now, what is the actual adjust- justice, had not the prop of selfishness to ment of the moral sense, and moral conduct, rest upon, they would, with the exception of the population, to this state of matters? of a few scattered remnants, take their deIt is quite palpable. Subterfuges, which in parture from the world, and leave it a prey private business, would be held to be dis. I to the anarchy of the human passions--10
the wild misrule of all those depravities much such a state of things must multiply which agitate and deform our ruined na- the temptations to injustice over the face ture.
of the country; and how desirable, thereThe very same exhibition of our nature fore, that it were put an end to not by the may be witnessed in almost every parish of abolition of that venerable church, but by a our sister kingdom, where the people ren- fair and liberal commutation of the reveder a revenue to the minister of religion, nues which support her-not by bringing and the minister renders back again a re- any blight on the property of her ecclesiasturn, it is true but not such a return, as, in tics, but by the removal of a most devourthe estimation of gross and ordinary selfish- ing blight from the worth of her populaness, is at all deemed an equivalent for the tion--that every provocative to justice may sacrifice which has been made. In this in- be done away, and the frailty of human stance, too, that law of reciprocity which principle be no longer left to such a ruinous reigns throughout the common transactions and such a withering exposure. of merchandise, is altogether suspended ;l This instance we would not have menand the consequence is, that the law of tioned, but for the sake of adding another right is trampled into ashes. A tide of pub- experimental proof to the lesson of our text; lic odium runs against the men who are and we now hasten onward to the lesson outraged of their property, and a smile of itself, with a few of its applications. general connivance rewards the successful. We trust you are convinced, from what dexterity of the men who invade it. That has been said, that much of the actual hoportion of the annual produce of our soil, nesty of the world is due to the selfishness which, on a foundation of legitimacy as of the world. And then you will surely firm as the property of the soil itself, is al-admit, that in as far as this is the actuating lotted to a set of national functionaries, principle, honesty descends from its place and which, but for them, would all have as a rewardable, or even as an amiable virgone, in the shape of increased revenue, to tue, and sinks down into the character of a the indolent proprietor, is altogether thrown mere prudential virtue-which, so far from loose from the guardianship of that great conferring any moral exaltation on him by principle of reciprocity, on which we strong-whom it is exemplified, emanates out of a ly suspect that the honesties of this world propensity that seems inseparable from the are mainly supported. The national clergy constitution of every sentient being--and by of England may be considered as standing which man is, in one point, assimilated out of the pale of this guardianship; and either to the most worthless of his own spethe consequence is, that what is most right-cies, or to those inferior animals among fully and most sacredly theirs, is abandoned whom worth is unattainable.. to the gambol of many thousand depreda- And let it not deafen the humbling imtors; and in addition to a load of most un-pression of this argument, that you are not merited obloquy, have they had to sustain distinctly conscious of the operation of selall the heartburnings of known and felt in- fishness, as presiding at every step over the justice; and that intercourse between the honesty of your daily and familiar transacteachers and the taught, which ought surely tions; and that the only inward checks to be an intercourse of peace, and friend- against injustice, of which you are sensible, ship, and righteousness, is turned into a are the aversion of a generous indignancy contest between the natural avarice of the towards it, and the positive discomfort you one party, and the natural resentments of would incur by the reproaches of your own the other. It is not that we wish our sister conscience. Selfishness, in fact, may have church were swept away, for we honestly originated and alimented the whole of this think, that the overthrow of that establish- virtue that belongs to you, and yet the mind ment would be a severe blow to the Chris-incur the same discomfort by the violation tianity of our land. It is not that we envy of it, that it would do by the violation of that great hierarchy the splendor of her en- any other of its established habits. And as dowments-for better a dinner of herbs, to the generous indignancy of your feelings when surrounded by the love of parishioners, against all that is fraudulently and disgracethan a preferment of stalled dignity, and fully wrong, let us never forget, that this strife therewith. It is not either that we may be the nurtured fruit of that common look upon her ministers as having at all selfishness which links human beings with disgraced themselves by their rapacity ; each other into a relationship of mutual defor look to the amount of the encroach-pendence. This may be seen, in all its ments that are made upon them, and you perfection, among the leagued and sworn will see that they have carried their privi- banditti of the highway; who, while exeleges with the most exemplary forbearance crated by society at large for the compact and moderation. But from these very en-of iniquity into which they have entered, croachments do we inser how lawless a hu- can maintain the most heroic fidelity to the man being will become, when emancipated virtues of their own brotherhood--and be, from the bond of his own interest; how lin every way, as lofty and as chivalric with