Page images
PDF
EPUB

live and move either in water or on land ; and these form a connecting link between the aquatic and the terrestrial tribes. We cannot but observe how regu

. larly the various orders of living creatures advance, from insect to reptile, from reptile to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, and from these to man. The human race, compounded as they are of an animal and an intellectual nature, connect the material world with the higher nature of spiritual and angelic beings, of whom we may conclude, from what we see below us, that they advance, in orderly progression, through different ranks of existences, which terminate at last in the infinite perfections of God.

This variety is not confined to the general classes of beings, but it appears in all their particular species. Vegetables are not all of the same make and feature, or of the same colour: if they were, their taste, and all their other qualities would be the same; and their appearance to the eye would then, of course, be uniform. What beauty, what ornaments, what exquisite proofs of inimitable skill, would, in that case, be lost to our observation ! All beasts have not the same degree of strength, and size, and swiftness; otherwise, they could not be supported, as they now are, by feeding upon one another, but would starve, and be extinct. The variety that exists in the human species is in harmony with all the other provisions of nature. And, indeed, if all men were exactly alike, in every circumstance of outward shape, and of inward pas

sions and abilities, how dull would their appearance be ! how admirable a diversity would then be effaced! There would be little to admire, because there would be nothing in which individuals could excel.

From these hints, the usefulness of the various passions, abilities, and tempers in men, as well as the differences of their rank and condition, may be easily deduced. If there were no difference of condition or of rank, there could scarcely be any such thing as society : for then all men would equally want every thing, or every one would stand alone by himself, sufficient and independent, and requiring no aid. In the one case, the pressure of want would soon reduce them to extinction; in the other case, from the operation of an unsocial spirit, they would feel no value or regard for each other; there would be no room for the intercourses of life, for the mutual exchange of good offices, or for the endearments of friendship and humanity. And even supposing that there were a difference in rank and condition, but yet that the abilities and passions, and tempers were, in every individual, exactly alike, no one among them could be satisfied or easy. The higher conditions would be full of discontent; the lower would be bent on violence and outrage, to satisfy their passions. They would, consequently, be intent on mutual destruction; and the world would be a scene of rapine, confusion, and disorder.

But as the case now is, a difference in abilities

occasions, of course, a difference in condition. For as the greatest capacities are fitted for the greatest acquisitions, they gain a larger share of those things that are the objects of their pursuit; and the meaner capacities must, in this respect, sink below them, for want of the means by which those superior ends are pursued and attained. There is a manifest difference for instance, between vivacity and dulness, between strength and weakness, between knowledge and ignorance:-hence some persons must gain a pre-eminence and a superiority, which, of course, imply inferiority and subjection. In these, there are numberless variations; and upon them are founded all the ranks and stations in human life ;-the classes that obey, and those that rule ;--the powerful party that protects, and the weaker one that is protected ;--the wealthy and the poor ;- the learned and the illiterate.

And further.-Without this difference of condition, there could be no such thing as a reciprocal dependence one upon another; and, certainly, there could be very little of moral goodness or of active religion in the world. If no human being were ever in want, or ever felt the pressure of affliction, who then could find opportunities of being compassionate, benevolent, and generous ? If there were no temptations to violence and oppression, how could the beauty of a mild, and gentle, and inoffensive temper be displayed ? How could any individual ever attain the glory of being a friend to peace, a friend to his country, or a friend to mankind ? Who could exert his firmness and composure, in bearing up against the inclemencies of life, if no such inclemencies ever assailed him ? If all conditions were alike, what would be the value of contentment? If there were no difficulties to struggle through, what room would there be for fortitude, or for perseverance ?

Again.-We are taught in the holy Scriptures, that our present life is only a state of discipline and probation. This strengthens the suggestions of nature and reason, and shews that the present order of things is designed for the best and wisest ends. For how, indeed, could men be exercised in trials, when there were no occasions of shewing what they are; and no vicissitudes in life, to put them to the test, and call forth their virtues? The soul that, in adversity, is firm and intrepid, should likewise have some opportunity of proving, that it will not, in prosperity, be dissolute and abandoned :-and he who, while in affluence and power, has behaved generously, modestly, and tenderly to others, should sometimes be placed in a lower condition, without his shewing peevishness or impatience, murmuring or discontent. Besides, not only is virtue exhibited by a variety in the lives of different men, but their happiness, in the present state is entirely supported by the general diversity of their stations and pursuits. For if the different arts and occupations were not distributed so as to engage severally the skill and attention of individuals as their distinct business, every man would be obliged to supply all his own

VOL. II.

G

wants ;-and in this, from their variety, he would necessarily be deficient,—and none of the useful or ornamental inventions, that contribute so largely to our convenience and comfort, could ever be brought to perfection. There could be no arriving at excellence in any of the departments of human industry. But in the present disposal of things, some men are employed in the useful and necessary labour of cultivating the earth ; some are engaged in those skilful occupations that furnish the accommodations of social life ; others are left at leisure to make such improvements in knowledge as are calculated to refine and enlighten the human species ; and others, who occupy a still higher rank, are appointed to protect and to govern all the rest.

This, perhaps, will be sufficient to shew, that, without the subordination which appears in the moral as well as in the natural world, there could be no grace or beauty, little virtue or mental cultivation, and no comfort or tolerable convenience, in the present life.

Hence we may easily discover the particular duties, in which consists that mutual subjection enjoined by the Apostle in the text.

The duty of subjection, as it attaches to dependents and inferiors, is obvious and clear; but, as the injunction is expressed in general terms, we may not see so plainly why superiors are included in it. Now, though there is a superiority in the relative stations of men, there can be no independence: and though,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »