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DISCOURSES



ON



VARIOUS SUBJECTS



BY



~\



REV. ORTIIiliZ: DElVEir.



,:o\)K_LJiJi^7^ THIRD

/■) —



:^'-:\r-vt)V



NEW YORK*.

DAVID FELT & CO. STATIONERS' HALL.



1838.



Entered, according to an Act of Congress, in the year 1835,
by DwiD Felt, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of
the Southern District of New- York.



PRI.VTKI) AT STATIO.VKRS HALL PRESS-



TO THE FIRST CHURCH AND CONGREGATION IN

NEW BEDFORD,

THESE DISCOURSES,

ORIGINALLY PREPARED FOR THEIR BENEFIT,

ARE AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED,

BY THEIR

LATE PASTOR AND EVER OBLIGED FRIEND,

TH£ AUTHOR.



CONTENTS.



TT I ON HUMAN NATURE.

Ill ] ^^ ^"^ WRONG WHICH SIN DOES TO HUMAN
* ) NATURE.

^ ON THE ADAPTATION WHICH RELIGION, TO BE

IV. V TRUE AND USEFUL, SHOULD HAVE TO HUMAN
) NATURE.

V. THE APPEAL OP RELIGION TO HUMAN NATURE.

VI. )

VII. \ SPIRITUAL INTERESTS, REAL AND SUPREME.

VIII. )

IX S ^^ RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITY.

X. ;

■j^j } ON RELIGIOUS INDIFFERENCE.

XII. )

XIII I ^^ RETRIBUTION.
XIV. ON DELAY IN RELIGION.

y Y ) ARGUMENTS FOR RENI
) LIGION.

XVI. COMPASSION FOR THE SINFUL.

XVII I ^*^^'S JLOVE, THE CHIEF RE
* ) AND RESOURCE IN SORR

XVIII. THE VOICES OF THE DEAD



^Y ) ARGUMENTS FOR RENEWED DILIGENCE IN RE-
( LIGION.



god's love, the CHIEF RESTRAINT PROM SIN,
AND RESOURCE IN SORROW.



PREFACE



Cut off by ill health from a pastoral connection most interest-
mg to him, the Author of the following Discourses was desirous
of leaving- among the people of his late charge, some permanent
record of the interest he has taken in them, of the words he has
spoken to them, and of the satisfaction with which he has met
them, from Sabbath to Sabbath, to meditate on the great themes
of religion — a satisfaction, let him add, not marred by one mo-
ment's disagreement, nor by the altered eye of one individual,
during the ten year's continuance of that most delicate and
affecting relationship. Circumstances, he has thought, may jus-
tify a publication of this nature — friendship and kindness may
give it value and utility in their limited circle, though it may
not be destined to excite any interest in a wider sphere ; and he
ventures, therefore, to hope, that this volume may not be entirely
useless nor uninteresting to that portion of the religious com-
munity generally, with which he has the happiness to be per-
sonally acquainted. To his friends — and he cannot deny him-
self the pleasure of including the few that he claims to be of
that number in England — he offers this collection of Dis-
courses, with as much anxiety as he ought, perhaps, to feel
for any human opinion, but with an equal reliance on their
candour and kindne^.

New-York, Feb. 24, 1835.



DISCOURSE I.



ON HUMAN NATURE.



PSALM VIII. 4. 5. What is man, that thou art mindful
of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the
angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor

You will observe, my brethren, that in these words,
two distinct, and in a degree, opposite views are
given, of human nature. It is represented, on the one
hand, as weak and low, and yet on the other, as lofty
and strong. At one moment it presents itself to the
inspired writer as poor, humble, depressed, and almost
unworthy of the notice of its Maker. But in the tran-
sition of a single sentence, we find him contemplating
this same being, man, as exalted, glorious, and almost
angelic. "When I consider thy heavens, the work of
thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast
ordained," he says, "what is man that thou art mind-
ful of him?" And yet, he adds, "thou hast made him,
a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him
with glory and honor."

But do not these contrasted statements make up,
in fact, the only true view of human nature ? Are they
not conformable to the universal sense of mankind,
and to the whole tenor and spirit of our religion?



10 DISCOURSE I.

Whenever the human character is pourtrayed iu
colors altogether dark, or altogether bright; when-
ever tlie misanthrope pours out his scorn upon the
wickedness and baseness of mankind, or the enthu-
siast lavishes his admiration upon their virtues, do we
not always feel that there needs to be some qualifica-
tion ; that there is something to be said on the other
side?

Nay more ; do not all the varying representations
of human nature imply their opposites? Does not
virtue — acconiing to our idea of it, according to the
universal idea of it, according to the scriptural repre-
sentation of it, — imply, that sins and sinful passions
are struggled with, and overcome ? And, on the con-
trary, does not sin in its very nature, imply that there
are high and sacred powers, capacities, and affections,
which it violates?

In this view it appears to me, that all unquahfied
disparagement, as well as praise, of human nature, car-
ries with it, its own refutation; and it is to this point
that I wish to invite your particuldf attention in the
following discourse. Admitting all that can be asked
on this subject by the strongest assertors of human
depravity ; admitting every thing, certainly, that can be
stated as a matter of fact ; admitting that men are as
bad as they are said to be, and substantially believing
it too, I shall argue that the conclusion to be drawn is
entirely the reverse of that which usually is drawn. I
shall argue, that the most strenuous, the most earnest
and indignant, objections against human nature imply
the strongest concessions to its constitutional worth.
I say then, and repeat, that objection here carries with
it, its own refutation ; that the objector concedes



DISCOURSE I. 11

much, very much, to human nature, by the very terms
with which he inveighs against it.

It is not my sole purpose, however, to present any
abstract or polemic argument. Rather let me attempt
to offer some general and just views of human nature ;
and for this purpose rather than for the sake of contro-
versy, let me pass in brief review before you, some of
the specific and disparaging opinions, that have pre-
vailed in the world concerning it — those for instance,
of the philosopher, and the theologian.

In doing this, my purpose is, to admit that much of
what they say, is true ; but to draw from it an infer-
ence quite different from theirs. I would admit on one
hand, that there is much evil in the human heart, but
at the same time, I woild balance this view, and
blend it with others that claim to be brought into the
account. On the one hand, I would admit and enforce
the objection of much and mournful evil in the world ;
but, on the other, I would prevent it from pressing on
the heart, as a discouraging and dead weight of repro-
bation and obloquy.

It may appear to you that the opinions which I have
selected for our present consideration are, each of
them, brought into strange company; and yet they
have an affinity which may not at once be suspected.
It is singular indeed, that we find in the same ranks
and waging the same war against all human self-
respect, the most opposite descriptions of persons; the
most religious with the most irreligious, the most cre-
dulous with the most sceptical If any man supposes
that it is his superior goodness or purer faith, which
leads him to think so badly of his fellow-men and of
their very nature, he needs to be reminded that vicious



12 DISCOURSE I.

and dissolute habits almost invariably and unerringly
lead to the same result. Tlie man who is taking the
downward way, with almost every step you will find,
thinks worse of his nature and his species; till he con-
cludes, if he can, that he was made only for sensual
indulirence, and that all idea of a future, intellectual,
and immortal existence, is a dream. And so if
any man thinks that it is owing to his spirituality
and heavenly mindedness, that he pronounces the
world so utterly corrupt, a mere mass of selfish-
ness and deceit; he may be admonished, that no-
body so thoroughly agrees with him as the man oi
the world, the shrewd, over-reaching, and knavish
practiccr on the weakness or the wickedness of his
fellows. And in the same way, the strict and high-
toned theologian, as he calls himself, may unexpectedly
find himself in company with the sceptical and scorn-
ful philosopher. No men have ever more bitterly
decried and vilified human nature, than the Infidel
philosophers of the last century. They contended
that man was too mean and contemptible a creature,
to be the subject of such an interposition as that
recorded in the Gospel.

I. 15ut I am to take up in the first place, and more
in detail, the objection of the sceptical philosopher.

The philosopher says, that man is a mean creature ;
not so much a degraded being, as he is originally, a
poor insignificant creature ; an animal, some grades
above others perhaps, but still an animal ; for whom,
to suppose the provision of infinite mercy and of im-
mortality to be made, is absurd.

It is worth noticing, as we pass, and I therefore
remark, the striking connection which is almost always



DISCOURSE I. 13

tound, between different parts of eveiy man's belief
or skepticism. I never knew one to thmk wrongly
about God, but he very soon began to think wrongly
about man ; or else the reverse is the process, and it
is not material, which. The things always go together.
He who conceives of the Almighty as a severe, un-
just and vindictive being, will regard man as a slave,
will make him the slave of superstition, will take a sort
of superstitious pleasure or merit in magnifying his
wickednesss or unworthiness. And he who thinks
meanly of human nature, will think coldly and dis-
trustfully of the Supreme Being, will think of him as
withdrawing himself to a sublime distance from such
a nature. In other words, he who does not take the
Christian view, and has no apprehension of the infinite
tove of God, will not believe that he has made man
with such noble faculties, or for such noble ends, as
we assert. The discussion proposed is obviously,
even in this view, one of no trifling importance.

Let us, then, proceed to the objection of our philo-
sopher. He says, I repeat, that man is a mean crea-
ture, fit only for the earth on which he is placed, fit
for no higher destination than to be buried in its
bosom, and there to find his end. The philosopher
rejects what he calls the theologian's dream, about
the fall. He says that man needed no fall in order to
be a degraded creature ; that he is, and w^as, always
and originally, a degraded creature ; a being not fallen
from virtue, but incapable of virtue ; a being, not cor-
rupted from his innocence, but one who never pos-
sessed innocence ; a being never of heaven, but a
Deing only of earth, and sense, and appetite, and
never fit for any thing better.

2



14 DISCOURSE I.

Now let us go at once to the main point in argu-
ment, whicli is proposed to be illustrated in this dis-
course. What need, I ask, of speaking of human
debasement, in such indignant or sneering tones, if il
is the real and only nature of man ? There is nothing
to blame or scorn in man, if he is naturally such a poor
and insignificant creature. If he was made only for
the senses and appetites, what occasion, I pray, for
any wonder or abuse, that he is sensual and debased ?
Why waste invectives on such a being ? The truth is,
that this zealous depreciation of human nature betrays
a consciousness, that it is not so utterly worthless,
after all. It is no sufficient reply to say, that this
philosophic scorn has been aroused by the extrava-
gance of human pretensions. For if these pretensions
were utterly groundless, if the being who aspired to
virtue were fit only for sensation, or if the being whose
thoughts swelled to the great hope of immortality,
were only a higher species of the animal creation,
and must share its fate — if this were true, his preten-
sions could justly create only a feehng of wonder, or
of sadness.

We might say much to rebut the charge of the phi-
losopher ; so injurious to the soul, so fatal to all just
self-respect, so fatal to all elevated virtue and devo-
tion. We might say that the most ordinary tastes and
the most trifling pursuits of man carry, to the obser-
vant eye, marks of the nobler mind. We might say
that vain trifling, and that fleeting, dying pleasure,
does not satisfy the immortal want ; and that toil does
not crush the soul, that the body cannot weigh down
the spirit to its own drudgery. W^e might ask our
proud rcasoner, moreover whence the moral and



DISCOURSE I. 15

metaphysical philosopher obtains the facts with which
he speculates, and argues, and builds up his admira-
ble theory ? And our skeptic must answer, that the
metaphysical and moral philosopher goes to human
nature ; that he goes to it in its very attitudes of toil
and its free actings of passion, and thence takes his
materials and his form, and his living charm of repre-
sentation, which delight the world. We might say
still more. We might say that all there is of vastness
and grandeur and beauty in the world, lies in the
conception of man ; that the immensity of the uni-
verse, as we term it, is but the reach of his imagina-
tion — that immensity in other words is but the image
of his own idea; that there is no eternity to him, but
that which exists in his own unbounded thought ; that
there is no God to man, but what has been conceived
of in his own capacious and unmeasured under
standing.

These things we might say ; but I will rather meet
the objector on his own ground, confident that, I may
triumph even there. I take up the indignant argu-
ment, then. I allow that there is much weight and
truth in it, though it brings me to a different conclusion.
I feel that man is, in many respects and in many situ-
ations, and above all, compared with what he should
be, that man is a mean creature. I feel it, as I should,
if I saw some youth of splendid talents and promise
plunging in, at the door of vice and infamy. Yes, it
is meanness, for a man — who stands in the presence
of his God and among the sons of heaven — it is
meanness in him to play the humble part of sycophant
before his fellows — to fawn and flatter, to make his
very soul a slave, barely to gain from that fellow man



16 DISCOURSE I.

his smile, his nod, his hand — his favour, his vote, his
patronage. It is meanness for a man — to prevaricate
and falsify, to sell his conscience for advantage, to
barter his soul for gain, to give his noble brow to the
smiting blush of shame, or his cheek to the deadly
paleness of convicted dishonesty. Yes, it is a degra-
dation unutterable, for a man to steep his soul in gross,
sensual, besotting indulgence ; to live for this, and in
this one, poor, low sensation to shut up the mind with
all its boundless range ; to sink to a debasement more
than beastly ; below where an animal can go. Yes,
all this, and much beside this is meanness ; but why,
now I ask — why do we speak of it thus, unless it is
because v^e speak of a being who might have put on
such a nobility of soul, and such a loftiness and in-
dependence, and spiritual beauty, and glory, as would
fling rebuke upon all the hosts of sin and temptation,
and cast dinmess upon all the splendour of the world ?
It may be piT)[>cr under the head af philosophical
objections to take notice of the celebrated maxim of
Rochefoucauld ; since it is among the written, and
has as gooaxim were intended to fix upon man-
kind the charge of pm*e, absoKite, disinterested malig-
nity, and if it coul(^ be sustained, it would be fatal to
my argument. If I believed this, I should believe not
only in total, but in diabolical depravity. And, I anf>
aware, that tiu^ apologists for human nature, receiving
the maxim in this light, have usually contented them-
selves with indignantly denying its truth. I shall, how-



DISCOURSE I. 17

ever, for myself take different ground. I suppose,
and I admit, that the maxim is true, to a certain ex-
tent. Yet 1 deny that the feelings on which it is
founded, are maHgnant. They may be selfish, they
may be bad ; but they are not malicious and diaboli-
cal. But let us explain. It should be premised, that
there is nothing wrong in our desiring the goods and
advantages of life, provided the desire be kept within
proper bounds. Suppose, then that you are pursuing
the same object with your neighbour, — a situation, an
office, for instance, and suppose that he succeeds.
His success, at the first disclosure of it to you, will,
of course, give you a degree of pain ; and for this
reason : it immediately brings the sense of your own
disappointment. Now it is not wrong perhaps, that
you do regret your own failure ; it is probably una-
voidable that you should. You feel perhaps that you
need, or deserve the appointment, more than your
rival. You cannot help, therefore, on every account,
regretting that he has obtained it. It does not follow
that you wish him any less happy. You may make
the distinction in your own mind. You may say — " I
am glad he is happy ; but I am sorry he has the place ;
I wish he could be as happy in some other situation."
Now, all this, so far from being malignant, is scarcely
selfish ; and even when the feeling, in a very bad
mind, is altogether selfish, yet it is very different from
a malignant pain, at another's good fortune. But now,
let us extend the case a little, from immediate rival-
ship, to that general competition of interests, which
exists in society — a competition which the selfishness
of men makes to be far more than is necessary, and
conceives to be far greater than it is. There is an

2*



18 DISCOURSE I.

erroneous idea, or imagination, shall I call it — and
certainly it is one of the moral delusions of the world,
that something gained by another, is something lost
to one's self: and hence the feeling, before described,
may arise at almost any indifferent instance of good
fortune. But it always rises in this proportion : — it is
stronger, the nearer the case comes to direct compe-
tition. You do not envy a rich man in China, nor a
great man in Tartary. But if envy, as it has been
sometimes called, were pure malignity, a man should
be sorry that any body is happy, that any body is for-
tunate or honoured in the world. But this is not true ;
it does not apply to hun:ian nature. If you ever feel
pain at the successes or acquisitions of another, it is
when they come into comparison or contrast with
your own failures or deficiencies. You feel that those
successes or acquisitions might have been your own ;
you regret, and perhaps rightly, that they are not ;
and then, you insensibly slide into the very wrong
feeling of regret, t-liat they belong to another. This
is envy ; and it is sufficiently base ; but it is not pui-ely
malicious, and H is, in fact, the perversion of a feeling,,
originally capable of goenl and valuable uses.

But I must pursue the skeptical philosopher a step
farther — into actual life. The term, philosopher, may
seem to be hut ill applied here ; but we have probably,
all of lis known or heard those, who, pretending to
have a considerable hnowhdge of the world, if not much
other knowledge, take upon them with quite an air
of philosophic superiority, to pronounce human nature
nothing but a mass of selfishness; and to say, that
this mass, whenever it is refined, is only refined into
luxury and licentiousness, duplicity and knavery.



DISCOURSE I. 19

Some simple souls they suppose there may be in the
retired corners of the earth, that are walking in the
chains of mechanical habit or superstitious piety,
who have not the knowledge to understand, nor the
courage to seek, what they want. But the moment
they do act freely, they act, says our objector, upon
the selfish principle. And this he maintains, is the
principle, which, in fact, governs the world. Nay
more, he avers, that it is the only reasonable and suffi-
cient principle of action ; and freely confesses that
it is his own.

Let me ask you here to keep distinctly in view the
ground, which the objector now assumes. There are
talkers against human virtue, who never think how-
ever of going to this length ; men in fact, who are a
great deal better than their theory ; whose example,
indeed, refutes their theory. But there are worse
objectors, and worse men ; vicious and corrupt men ;
sensualists ; sensualists in philosophy, and in practice
alike ; who would gladly believe all the rest of the
world as bad as themselves. And these are objectors,
I say, who like the objections before stated, refute
themselves.

For who is this small philosopher, that smiles, either
at the simplicity of all honest men, or at the simplicity
of all honest defenders of them? He is, in the first
place, a man who stands up before us, and has the face
to boast, that he is himself without principle. No doubt,
he thinks other men as bad as himself. A man neces-
sarily, perhaps, judges the actions of other men by his
own feelings. He has no other interpreter. The
honest man, therefore, will often presume honesty in
another ; and the generous man, generosity. And so



20 DISCOURSE I.

the selfish man can see nothing around him but selfish
ness; and the knave, nothing but dishonesty; and he
who never felt any tiling of a generous and self-devot-
ing piety, who never bowed down in that holy and
blessed worship, can see in prayer nothing but the
oflering of selfish fear, — in piety, nothing but a slavish
superstition.

In the next place; this sneerer at all virtue and
piety, not only imagines others to be as destitute of
principle as himself, but, to some extent, he makes
them such, or makes them seem such. His e} e of
pride chills every goodly thing it looks upon. His
breath of scorn blights every generous virtue where it
comes. His supple and crafty hand puts all men upon
their guard. They become like himself, for the time;
they become more crafty while they deal with him.
How shall any noble aspiration, any high and pure
thoughts, any benevolent purposes, any sacred and
holy communing, venture into the presence of the
proud and selfish scorner of all goodness! It has been
said, tliat the letters your friends write to you, will
show their opinion of your temper and tastes. Ana
so it is, to a certain extent, with conversation.

But in the third place ; where, let us ask, has this
man studied human nature? Lord Chesterfield ob-
serves — and the observation is worthy of a man who
never seems to have looked beneath the surface of any
thing — that the Court and the Camp arc the places, in
which a knowledge of mankind is to be gained. And
we may remark, tliat it is from two fields not alto-
gether dissimilar, that our skeptic about virtue always
gains his knowledge of mankind: I mean, from fashion
and business ; the two most artificial spheres of active



DISCOURSE I. 21

life. Our objector has witnessed heartless civiHties,
and imagines that he is acquainted with the deep foun-
tains of human nature. Or, he has been out into the
paths of business, and seen men girt up for competi-
tion, and acting in that artificial state of things which
trade produces; and he imagines that he has witnessed
the free and unsophisticated workings of the human
heart; he supposes that the laws of trade, are also the
laws of human affection. He thinks himself deeply
read in the book of the human heart, that unfathom-
able mystery, because he is acquainted with notes and
bonds, with cards and compliments.

How completely, then, is this man disqualified from
judging of human nature! There 25 a power, which
few possess, which none have attained in perfection;
a power to unlock the retired, the deeper, and nobler
sensibilities of men's minds, to draw out the hoarded
and hidden virtues of the soul, to open the fountains
which custom and ceremony and reserve have sealed
up: it is a power, I repeat, which few possess — how
evidently does our objector possess it not — and yet


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