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to confist in beneficence, or a participation in the welfare of man- PART II. kind. He is an active power in nature, which cannot fufpend SECT. III. its exertions, without incurring a state of weariness, suffering, and disgust. He is a beneficent power in nature, to whom benevolence is pleasure, malevolence is pain; and who cannot willingly forfake the paths of beneficence, without incurring the chaftifement of remorfe. His beauty and excellence is a partici pation, however faintly obtained, of that wisdom and goodness which conftitute the fplendor and majefty of the works of God.
To perceive beauty, in any material fubject, is to perceive indications of wifdom and goodnefs; and, if we are asked, why wisdom and goodness should be admired? we may answer, For a reafon like to that for which pleasure is coveted; because in itfelf defireable and good. While other things are defired or esteemed on account of the pleasure they give, or the excellence they constitute, pleasure and excellence are themselves defired or efteemed, on their own account.
In the fcale of natures fufceptible of excellence or perfection intelligence is fupreme, and wifdom and goodness are the fupreme perfections of intelligent being. Their prefence, when fuggefted by the order of nature, awakening the fentiments of admiration, are termed beautiful; but, in the mind itfelf to which they belong, are more properly termed its excellence, perfection, or merit. Folly and malice, on the other hand, may, in a figurative ftile, be termed the deformities of mind; but are more properly referred to the predicaments of defect, guilt, and demerit.
From the whole, there is reafon to believe, that beauty when real
PART II. real may be refolved into excellence and, that deformity may be refolved into defect; the one an effential distinction of good, and the other of evil: That both, or either, can have existence in mind alone; fo that, in this question, man is doubly interested: He is concerned in the existence of excellence or beauty, as prefenting him with an agreeable object of contemplation and love; but more especially as conftituting an admirable ftate or condition of nature, attainable by himself.
In the human figure, there is one beauty of form in the structure of its organs, or in the found state or configuration of the whole perfon, indicating exquifite design, wisdom, and goodness, of the Maker.
There is another beauty, confifting in the aspect and expreffion of the mind, that occupies and actuates this created frame, indicating good fenfe, equanimity, and benevolence of temper.
In both, it is the beauty of mind that strikes through the form of a work, or the afpect of a perfon: The wisdom and goodness of the Creator, in the one; or the good meaning and temper of his creature, in the other.
Where one of thefe beauties exifts, in any degree, the other may be sensibly wanting. Thus, we are familiar with instances, in which personal defects are compenfated with a favourable expreffion and benevolence of aspect; or inftances in which natural advantages are deformed by an afpect of vanity, malice, or folly.
The antient artists, in the features of Medusa, though a Fury,
feigned to themfelves the most perfect form; or fuppofed her countenance to be caft in the most exquifite mold of natural beauty; but of an aspect, derived from the temper within, fo terrific and hideous, as to appal the most daring, and even to turn thofe on whom she looked into stone.
Mind, we have reafon to believe, predominates in nature; fo that, in a comparative furvey of all that exists, whatever is not mind would be as nothing.
It is heat, we are told, that gives spring and agitation to the mechanical world. Remove this ingredient, and all matter would freeze into one folid mafs, and become the formless repofitory of inertia, darkness, and death.
In the fame manner, and with ftill greater confidence, may we not fay, it is mind that strikes out from the forms of body, in the lovely aspects of excellence and beauty? And it is the diversity of operating minds, in fuch forms of matter, that gives the diftinction of beauty and deformity to fubjects otherwife, in their own nature, indifferent.
What were millions, and myriads of millions, of corpufcular particles affembled in the body of the fun, without the benignant power that renders him the fource of heat and of light to furrounding worlds? What were thefe worlds without the beneficent impulfe that gives them motion, and retains them in their orbits, at a proper distance from the fource of light and of heat? And what could avail their motions, without this combination of elements on their globes, that fit them for the refidence of living.
The fame thing, multiplied through innumerable systems, owes SECT. III. its magnificence to the greatnefs of might and of thought, that acts in the formation and conduct of fuch boundlefs fcenes of existence.
The diftinction of excellence and defect, fo obvious to man in the contemplation of his own nature, and so easily transferred by affociation to any of his works or external circumftances, is the radical principle of elevation or progreffion in the human mind, to which there is ever prefented, as an object of defire, fomething higher and better than is poffeffed at prefent. This principle, in all its forms, proceeds upon fome pre-conceived notion of abfolute or comparative excellence, in refpect to which the mind is never difpofed to acquiefce in its prefent attainment. Birth, fortune, power, and other conftituents of rank, are the circumstances in which the vulgar of every condition ftrive to excel one another. The dwelling, the furniture, the equipage, and the table of the rich, flatter his vanity more than his fenfe of pleasure; and stir the emulation more than the appetite of those who admire his condition.
Whoever would govern mankind, if he can command their conception of what is excellent, or lead them to affociate honour with the task he would have them to perform, will find no farther difficulty, in procuring from them every facrifice of pleasure, interest, or fafety. This, as we have formerly obferved, is the honeft man's integrity, and the gentleman's honour, which neither will forego to preserve his fortune or his life. It is the foldier's glory, which renders danger and hardship agreeable; it is the martyr's crown, which renders extreme fuffering, and the profpect of death, an occafion of triumph and joy.
On a subject of fo great importance, and of fuch powerful PART II. effects in human life, it behoves us to examine our opinions, and to be well founded in the conceptions, to which we thus furrender and deliver up all the other powers of our nature. If there be an excellence or beauty, specific to man, we may presume that, in the contemplation and poffeffion of it, his fupreme good, the most agreeable state of his nature, and the happiest course of his life is likely to confift.