Man may be considered in two Views, as a Reasonable, and as a Sociable Being; capable of becoming himself either happy or miserable, and of contributing to the Happiness or Misery of his Fellow Creatures. Suitably to this double Capacity, the Contriver of Human Nature hath wisely furnished it with two Principles of Action, Self-love and Benevolence; designed one of them to render Man wakeful to his own personal Interest, the other to dispose him for giving his utmost Assistance to all engaged in the same Pursuit. This is such an Account of our Frame, so agreeable to Reason, so much for the Honour of our Maker, and the Credit of our Species, that it may appear somewhat unaccountable what should induce Men to represent human Nature as they do under Characters of Disadvantage, or, having drawn it with a little and sordid Aspect, what Pleasure they can possibly take in such a Picture. Do they reflect that 'tis their Own, and, if we will believe themselves, is not more odious than the Original?
One of the first that talked in this lofty Strain of our Nature was Epicurus. Beneficence, would his Followers say, is all founded in Weakness; and, whatever be pretended, the Kindness that passeth between Men and Men is by every Man directed to himself. This, it must be confessed, is of a Piece with the rest of that hopeful Philosophy, which having patch'd Man up out of the four Elements, attributes his Being to Chance, and derives all his Actions from an unintelligible Declination of Atoms. And for these glorious Discoveries the Poet is beyond Measure transported in the Praises of his Hero, as if he must needs be something more than Man, only for an Endeavour to prove that Man is in nothing superior to Beasts.
In this School was Mr. Hobs instructed to speak after the same Manner, if he did not rather draw his Knowledge from an Observation of his own Temper; for he somewhere unluckily lays down this as a Rule,
'That from the Similitudes of Thoughts and Passions of one Man to the Thoughts and Passions of another, whosoever looks into himself and considers what he doth when he thinks, hopes, fears, &c., and upon what Grounds; he shall hereby read and know what are the Thoughts and Passions of all other Men upon the like Occasions.'
Now we will allow Mr. Hobs to know best how he was inclined; But in earnest, I should be heartily out of Conceit with my self, if I thought my self of this unamiable Temper, as he affirms, and should have as little Kindness for my self as for any Body in the World. Hitherto I always imagined that kind and benevolent Propensions were the original Growth of the Heart of Man, and, however checked and over-topped by counter Inclinations that have since sprung up within us, have still some Force in the worst of Tempers, and a considerable Influence on the best. And, methinks, it's a fair Step towards the Proof of this, that the most beneficent of all Beings is He who hath an absolute Fulness of Perfection in Himself, who gave Existence to the Universe, and so cannot be supposed to want that which He communicated, without diminishing from the Plenitude of his own Power and Happiness. The Philosophers before mentioned have indeed done all that in them lay to invalidate this Argument; for, placing the Gods in a State of the most elevated Blessedness, they describe them as Selfish as we poor miserable Mortals can be, and shut them out from all Concern for Mankind, upon the Score of their having no Need of us.
But if He that sitteth in the Heavens wants not us, we stand in continual Need of Him; and surely, next to the Survey of the immense Treasures of his own Mind, the most exalted Pleasure He receives is from beholding Millions of Creatures, lately drawn out of the Gulph of Non-existence, rejoycing in the various Degrees of Being and Happiness imparted to them. And as this is the true, the glorious Character of the Deity, so in forming a reasonable Creature He would not, if possible, suffer his Image to pass out of his Hands unadorned with a Resemblance of Himself in this most lovely Part of his Nature. For what Complacency could a Mind, whose Love is as unbounded as his Knowledge, have in a Work so unlike Himself? a Creature that should be capable of knowing and conversing with a vast Circle of Objects, and love none but Himself? What Proportion would there be between the Head and the Heart of such a Creature, its Affections, and its Understandings? Or could a Society of such Creatures, with no other Bottom but Self-Love on which to maintain a Commerce, ever flourish? Reason, 'tis certain, would oblige every Man to pursue the general Happiness, as the Means to procure and establish his own; and yet if, besides this Consideration, there were not a natural Instinct, prompting Men to desire the Welfare and Satisfaction of others, Self-Love, in Defiance of the Admonitions of Reason, would quickly run all Things into a State of War and Confusion.
As nearly interested as the Soul is in the Fate of the Body; our provident Creator saw it necessary, by the constant Returns of Hunger and Thirst, those importunate Appetites, to put it in Mind of its Charge; knowing, that if we should eat and drink no oftner than cold abstracted Speculation should put us upon these Exercises, and then leave it to Reason to prescribe the Quantity, we should soon refine our selves out of this bodily Life. And indeed, 'tis obvious to remark, that we follow nothing heartily, unless carried to it by Inclinations which anticipate our Reason, and, like a Biass, draw the Mind strongly towards it. In order, therefore, to establish a perpetual Intercourse of Benefits amongst Mankind, their Maker would not fail to give them this generous Prepossession of Benevolence, if, as I have said, it were possible. And from whence can we go about to argue its Impossibility? Is it inconsistent with Self-Love? Are their Motions contrary? No more than the diurnal Rotation of the Earth is opposed to its Annual; or its Motion round its own Center, which may be improved as an Illustration of Self-Love, to that which whirls it about the common Center of the World, answering to universal Benevolence. Is the Force of Self-Love abated, or its Interest prejudiced by Benevolence? So far from it, that Benevolence, though a distinct Principle, is extreamly serviceable to Self-Love, and then doth most Service when 'tis least designed.
But to descend from Reason to Matter of Fact; the Pity which arises on Sight of Persons in Distress, and the Satisfaction of Mind which is the Consequence of having removed them into a happier State, are instead of a thousand Arguments to prove such a thing as a disinterested Benevolence. Did Pity proceed from a Reflection we make upon our Liableness to the same ill Accidents we see befall others, it were nothing to the present Purpose; but this is assigning an artificial Cause of a natural Passion, and can by no Means be admitted as a tolerable Account of it, because Children and Persons most Thoughtless about their own Condition, and incapable of entering into the Prospects of Futurity, feel the most violent Touches of Compassion.
And then as to that charming Delight which immediately follows the giving Joy to another, or relieving his Sorrow, and is, when the Objects are numerous, and the kindness of Importance really inexpressible, what can this be owing to but a Consciousness of a Man's having done some thing Praise-worthy, and expressive of a great Soul? Whereas, if in all this he only Sacrificed to Vanity and Self-Love, as there would be nothing brave in Actions that make the most shining Appearance, so Nature would not have rewarded them with this divine Pleasure; nor could the Commendations, which a Person receives for Benefits done upon selfish Views, be at all more Satisfactory, than when he is applauded for what he doth without Design; because in both Cases the Ends of Self-Love are equally answered.
The Conscience of approving ones self a Benefactor to Mankind is the noblest Recompence for being so; doubtless it is, and the most interested cannot propose anything so much to their own Advantage, notwithstanding which, the Inclination is nevertheless unselfish. The Pleasure which attends the Gratification of our Hunger and Thirst, is not the Cause of these Appetites; they are previous to any such Prospect; and so likewise is the Desire of doing Good; with this Difference, that being seated in the intellectual Part, this last, though Antecedent to Reason, may yet be improved and regulated by it, and, I will add, is no otherwise a Virtue than as it is so.
Thus have I contended for the Dignity of that Nature I have the Honour to partake of, and, after all the Evidence produced, think I have a Right to conclude, against the Motto of this Paper, that there is such a thing as Generosity in the World. Though if I were under a Mistake in this, I should say as Cicero in Relation to the Immortality of the Soul, I willingly err, and should believe it very much for the Interest of Mankind to lye under the same Delusion. For the contrary Notion naturally tends to dispirit the Mind, and sinks it into a Meanness fatal to the Godlike Zeal of doing good. As on the other hand, it teaches People to be Ungrateful, by possessing them with a Perswasion concerning their Benefactors, that they have no Regard to them in the Benefits they bestow. Now he that banishes Gratitude from among Men, by so doing stops up the Stream of Beneficence. For though in conferring Kindnesses, a truly generous Man doth not aim at a Return, yet he looks to the Qualities of the Person obliged, and as nothing renders a Person more unworthy of a Benefit, than his being without all Resentment of it, he will not be extreamly forward to Oblige such a Man.
[Footnote 1: The Rev. Henry Grove was a Presbyterian minister, who kept school at Taunton. He was born there in 1683, became a teacher at the age of 23 (already married), and worked for the next 18 years in the Taunton Academy, his department Ethics and Pneumatology. He spent his leisure in religious controversy, writing an 'Essay on the Terms of Christian Communion,' a Discourse on Saving Faith, an Essay on the Soul's Immortality, and miscellanies in prose and verse, including Nos. 588, 601, 626, and 635, of the Spectator. He received also Â£20 a year for ministering to two small congregations in the neighbourhood of Taunton. His wife died in 1736, and he in the year following. His works appeared in 1740 in 4 vols. 8vo.]Translation of motto: