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NYPL RESEARCH LIBRARIES



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WORKS



OF



ORVILLE DEWEY, D.D



DISCOURSES



O N



HUMAN NATURE



HUMAN LIFE,



AND THE



NATURE OF RELIGION



BY



ORVILLE DEWEY, D.D.

PA.8TOR or THB OHUBCH OF THB M2SSIAH. IN NEW YOBK,



I » 9 ■» • • •



NEW YORK:
C. S. FRANCIS & CO., 252 BROADWAY.

boston:
j. h. francis, 123 washington- street.
1847. ^



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1846.

BY C. S. FRANCIS & CO.

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New Yor*






PRINTEB BY

MUNROE AND FRANCIS,

BOSTON.



PREFACE



I HAVE collected into these Volumes, most of the Ser-
mons and Essays that have been published with my name ;
and have added some Sermons not before printed, together
with Articles from Reviews, and Occasional Discourses.
A new arrangement is made, in order to bring the Dis-
courses under certain heads. The title of the Volume
first published, " Discourses on Various Subjects," is drop-
ped. The first Series in this Edition, " On Human Nature,"
embraces several of those Discourses ; others are omit-
ted; and others, placed under another Head. Discourses
on " Human Life," follow ; and then, a number of Dis-
courses, for which I could find no more definite title than
" TheNature of Religion." In the first Sermon of the suc-
ceeding series, on " Commerce and Business," I have at-
tempted by a revision of the Argument, to reply to an objec-
tion sometimes urged against its main doctrine, with regard
to the use of superior knowledge, power or opportunity. I
have met with those who argued thus : " We have a right
to take every advantage of each other ; it is perfectly honest
to do so, because we have agreed to do so. It is a matter of
compact, whose chances and risks we mutually agree to
take." Now I maintain that the general moral policy of



VI PREFACE.

trade foroias such compact. The remainder of the Second
Volume is occupied by a Miscellaneous Collection of Dis-
courses on Politics and Society, and by reprints of Reviews
and Occasional Sermons and Addresses. The Third Vo-
lume, or the one which is to occupy that place in the Edi-
tion, is already published — as it has hQQXi some timeout of
print, and was oal'ed for — under the title of " Discourses
and Reviews upon Questions in Controversial Theology and
Practical Religion." My apology for these details is, that
they seemed to be necessary to explain to those who have
puri^.hased my publications, the character of the present
Edition.

Let me add, that no attempt is made at a full discussion
of any of the subjects embraced in these Volumes. I sup-
pose that a Treatise is not usually expected in a Volume
of Sermons. Pulpit Discourses are, from the nature of the
case, more like separate Essays, than successive portions
of a regular Treatise.

I have now said all that is necessary, perhaps, in a Pre-
face ; and yet, in sending forth a revised Edition of my
Publications, I am disposed to add one or two remarks.

I have sometimes regretted that it has been my fortune
to communicate with the Public through Sermons. I doubt
whether there is any one vehicle of communication — Art,
Literature, Poetry, Fiction, the Journal, or the Newspaper
— in the way of which public opinion has thrown so many
obstructions and difficulties. In the first place, it has laid
a jealous restriction upon the topics of the Sermon, the
style, the modes of illustration — the whole manly freedom
of utterance. In the next place, having thus helped to
make it tame and common-place, it has branded what is
partly its own work, with that fatal epithet, dull. In fact,



PREFACE. Vll

the Sermon, the printed Sermon, has scarcely any recog-
nised place among the great and noble arts of expression
or communication. It is not appreciated as such. It has
not the stimulus either of praise or blame from any high
court of Literary Criticism.

I do not say, I am far from saying, that all this is the
fault of the public, or of public opinion. It is the fault of
the preacher rather ; it is the error essentially of our reli-
gious ideas and feelings. In this view I know of no more
significant fact connected with the history of Christianity
than this, that the Sermon should in all ages have been pro-
verbially dull. I confess that I am stung to indignation and
shame at the bitter taunt implied in it, and would willingly
take upon my hands all the disabilities and difficulties of
this kind of communication, if I could give the feeblest de-
monstration, that it is not altogether deserved. The Essay-
ist, Foster, says : " Might not all the Sermon-books in the
English language, after the exception of three or four dozen
volumes, be committed to the fire without any cause of re-
gret ?" I am not bold enough to expect that these volumes
of mine could escape the doom ; it would be a solace to me
if I could believe, that they might stimulate others to do
better, and that, from their ashes, something should arise,
that would be worthy to live.



CONTENTS.



Discourses on Human Nature.

FAOB.

I. ON HUMAN NATURE, 9

II. THE SAME SUBJECT, -. - - 28

III. ON THE WRONG WHICH SIN DOES TO HUMAN NATURE, 41
IV. ON THE ADAPTATION WHICH RELIGION, TO BE TRUE

AND U9KFUL, SHOULD HAVE TO HUMAN NATURE, 56
V. THE APPEAL OF RELIGION TO HUMAN NATURE, 71

VI. THE CALL OF HUMANITY AND THE ANSWER TO IT, 88
VII. HUMAN NATURE CONSIDERED AS A GROUND FOR

THANKSGIVING, 103

Discourses on Human Life.

VIII. THE MORAL SIGNIFICANCE OF LIFE, - - 123

IX. THAT EVERY THING IN LIFE IS MORAL, - - 137

X. LIFE CONSIDERED AS AN ARGUMENT FOR FAITH AND

VIRTUE, 154

XI. LIFE IS WHAT WE MAKE IT, . _ - - 169

XII. ON INEQUALITY IN THE LOT OF LIFE,] - - 184

XIII. ON THE MISERIES OF LIFE, - - - Vj8

XIV. ON THE SCHOOL OF LIFE, - - - 212
XV. ON THE VALUE OF LIFE, 227

XVI. life's CONSOLATION IN VIEW OF DEATH, - 241

XVII. THE PROBLEM OF LIFE, RESOLVED IN THE LIFE OF

CHRIST, - - - - 255

XVIII. ON RELIGION, AS THE GREAT SENTIMENT OF LIFE, 276
XIX ON THE RELIGION OF LIFE, - - - - 285

XX. THE VOICES OF THE DEAD, - - - - 306

Discourses on the Nature of Religion.

XXI. THE IDENTITY OF RELIGION WITH GOODNESS, AND

WITH A GOOD LIFE, - - - 322

XXII. THE SAME SUBJECT, - - - 343

XXIII. THE SAME SUBJECT, 365

XXIV. SPIRITUAL INTERESTS, REAL AND SUPREME, - 379



DISCOURSES



ON HUMAN NATURE.
I.

WHAT IS MAN, THAT THOD 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 HONOUR.

— Psalm Tiii. 4, 5.

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 in-
spired writer as poor, hvunble, depressed, and almost
unworthy of the notice of its Maker. But in the transi-
tion 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 httle lower than the angels, and hast crowned
him with glory and honour."

But do not these contrasted statements make up, in
fact, the only true view of human nature J Are they
not conformable to the universal sense of mankind,
and to the whole tenor and spirit of our religion'/
Whenever the human character is portrayed in colours



10 ON HUMAN NATURE.

altogether dark, or altogether bright; whenever the
misanthrope pours out his scorn upon the wickedness
and baseness of mankind, or the enthusiast lavishes
his admiration upon their virtues, do we not always
feel that there needs to be some qualification; 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 itself imply, that sins and sinful passions are
struggled with, and overcome ? And on the contrary,
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 unqualified
disparagement as well as praise of human nature,
carries with it its own refutation ; and it is to this
point that 1 wish to invite your particular 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 substan
tially 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 stren-
uous, 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 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 ;



ON HUMAN NATURE. 11

and for this purpose rather than for the sake of con-
troversy, let me pass in brief review before you, some
of the specific and disparaging opinions, that have
prevailed in the world concerning it ; those for in-
stance, 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 would balance this view, and
blend it with others that claim to be brought into the
account. On the one hand, I would admit the ob-
jection that there is 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 reprobation 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 sus-
pected. 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 credulous 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 remind-
ed that vicious and dissolute habits almost invariably
and unerringly lead to the same result. The man
who is taking the downward way, with almost every
step, you will find thinks worse of his nature and his
species ; till he concludes, if he can, that he was made
only for sensual indulgence, and that all idea of a
future, intellectual, and immortal existence, is a dream.



12 ON HUMAN NATURE.

And so if any man thinks that it is owing to his spir-
ituaUty and heavenly mindedness, that he pronounces
the world so utterly corrupt, a mere mass of selfish-
ness and deceit ; he may be admonished that nobody
so thoroughly agrees with him as the man of the
world, the shrewd, over-reaching and knavish practi-
cer on the weakness or the wickedness of his fellows.
And in the same way, the strict and high-toned theo-
logian, as he calls himself, may unexpectedly find
himself in company with the sceptical and scornful
philosopher. No men have ever more bitterly decried
and vilified human nature, than the Infidel philoso-
phers of the last century. They contended that maa
was too mean and contemptible a creature, to be the
subject of such an interposition as that recorded in the
Gospel.

I. But 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 originall)^, 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
found, between different parts of every man's belief
or scepticism. I never knew one to think 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, unjust
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



ON HUMAN NATURE. 13

wickedness or un worthiness. 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 infi-
nite love 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 philoso-
pher. 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 was, 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 possess-
ed innocence ; a being never of heaven, but a being
only of earth aud sense and appetite, and never fit for
any thing better.

Now let us go at once to the main point in argu-
ment, which 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 it
is the real and only nature of man? There is no-
thing 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
2



14 ON HUMAN NATURE.

nature betra3^s 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
extravagance 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
pretensions could justly create only a feeling of won-
der, 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 devotion.
We might say that the most ordinary tastes and the
most trifling pursuits of man carry, to the observant
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. We might ask our proud
reasoner, moreover, whence the moral and metaphysi-
cal philosopher obtains the facts with which he specu-
lates, and argues, and builds up his admirable theory ?
And our sceptic 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 act-
ings of passion, and thence takes his materials and his
form, and his living charm of representation, 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 universe, as we term it, is
but the reach of his imagination ; that immensity in
other words is but the image of his own idea ; that



ON HUMAN NATURE. 15

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 capa-
cious and unmeasured understanding.

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 conclu-
sion. I feel that man is, in many respects and in
many situations, 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 infa-
my. 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 syco-
phant before his fellows ; to fawn and flatter, to make
his very soul a slave, barely to gain from that fellow-
man his smile, his nod, his hand ; his favour, his vote,
his patronage. It is meanness for a man to prevari-
cate 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 dead-
ly paleness of convicted dishonesty. Yes, it is a deg-
radation 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 debase-
ment more than beastly ; below where an animal can
go. Yes, all this, and much beside this is meanness ;
but Avhy, now I ask — why do w^e speak of it thus,
unless it is because we speak of a being who might
have put on such a nobility of soul, and such a lofti-
ness and independence, and spiritual beauty and glory,



16 ON HUMAN NATURE.

as would fling rebuke upon all the hosts of sin and
temptation, and cast dimness upon all the splendour
of the world ?

It may be proper under the head of philosophical
objections to take notice of the celebrated maxim of
Rochefoucauld ; since it is among the written, and
has as good a title as others, to be among the philo-
sophic objections. This maxim is, that we take a
sort of pleasure in the disappointments and miseries of
others, and are pained at their good fortune and suc-
cess. If this maxim were intended to fix upon man-
kind the charge of pure, absolute, disinterested malig-
nity, and if it could 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 am
aware, that the apologists for human nature, receiving
the maxim in this light, have usually contented them-
selves with indignantly denying its truth. I shall,
however, for myself take different ground. I suppose,
and I admit, that the maxim is true, to a certain ex-
tent. Yet I deny that the feelings on which it is
founded, are malignant. 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 disap-
pointment. Now it is not wrong perhaps, that you
do regret your own failure ; it is probably unavoidable
that you should. You feel perhaps that you need, or



ON HUMAN NATURE. 17

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 dis-
tinction in your own mind. You may say — "I am
glad he is happy ; but I am sorry he has the place ; I
Avish 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
rivalship 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
erroneous idea, or imagination shall I call it — and
certainly it is one of the moral delusions of the world
— that something gained hy 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 competi-
tion. 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 human 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 j^our own ;
you regret, and perhaps rightly, that they are not;
and then, you insensibly slide into the very wrong
2^



18 ON HUMAN NATURE.

feeling of regret, that they belong to another. This
is envy ; and it is sufficiently base ; but it is not pure-
ly malicious, and it is, in fact, the perversion of a feel-
ing originally capable of good and valuable uses.

But I must pursue the sceptical philosopher a step
farther ; into actual life. The term, philosopher, may
seem to be but ill applied here ; but we have probably
all of us known or heard those, who, pretending to
have a considerable knotcledge 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.
Some simple souls they suppose there may be, in tlie
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 njoment 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 sufficient prin-
ciple 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 t men in fact, who are a
great deal better than their theory ; whose example,
indeed, refutes their theory. But thp.re are worse ob-
jectors and worse men ; vicious and corrupt men ; sen-
sualists ; sensualists in philosophy, and in practice
ahke; who would gladly believe all the rest of the
world as bad as themselves. And these are objectors,



ON HUMAN NATURE. 19

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 simpli-
city of all honest defenders of them ? He is, in the
first place, a man who stands up before us, and has



Online LibraryOrville DeweyDiscourses on human nature, human life, and the nature of religion → online text (page 1 of 29)