« ForrigeFortsæt »
1. I MIGHT now dismiss the subject of hatred,
and proceed to the consideration of another malevolent sentiment, were there not a species of hatred which seems to require a separate discussion; I mean, what is commonly called Misanthropy, or hatred of mankind. It is one actually prevailing in a considerable number of men, though it subsists in different degrees in different minds, and appears in various forms. It is dangerous, because it professes to be virtuous. And indeed it is a kind of luxuriance of virtue; an extreme or excess of moral feeling; and, like other extremes, has the effects of vice: it does much harm, it prevents much good; both in private and in public. What the scripture says against hatred, against reviling, judging, may often be applied to the Misanthrope: who frequenty acts and speaks in a manner inconsistent with Christian love.
2. As it must be the most useful to treat this fault according to some settled method, I will endeavour, in the first place, to give a description of it. Secondly to expose the Fallacies under which it shelters itself. Thirdly to describe the mischiefs attending it. And fourthly to propose some remedies.
3. In the first place then I am to attempt some dcscription of what is usually called Misanthropy.
If we ask the Man-hater why he hates Mankind; he answers, because they are so vicious; so selfish, mean, cruel; so false and faithless. He cannot tolerate such infamous proceedings as he beholds in the world; he is too warm a friend of virtue to be placid and indifferent; and he is above flattery; he is too frank, sincere, and too little of a coward even to dissemble ; therefore he must be permitted to vent an honest indignation; he means in private society; as to public matters, though he will not flatter the great, he will keep himself aloof. He can see that public transactions are all oppression, corruption, and iniquity; and therefore he will undertake no office; he will not appear to countenance abuses which he cordially detests. Is he a writer? he runs into virulent satyre his pen expresses nothing but gloominess and malignity; sometimes it is envenomed with the most poisonous slander: it wounds, and there is no cure. If he is not a writer, he gratifies himself by embittering conversation with austerity and invective: he alarms the cheerful tranquility, the social security of convivial enjoyment, by representing every character and every transaction not as unpleasing only, but as shocking and detestable. He holds them up to view on the most unfavourable side, and rails at them as if they were incapable of any more favourable representation. His pleasure consists in the indulgence of his rancour and abhorrence: offer him an idea or expression that is candid or pleasing; he loaths it, as nauseously sweet and cloying. His companions, when companions he admits, are those who are best qualified to join with him in drawing gloomy pictures of mankind; in making malignant jests and acrimonious strictures with such entertainment he gluts himself, as the savage animal with his prey. A cheerful moderate companion is at best but insipid to him, generally odious. Such a one is called unfeeling, time-serving, and a traitor to the cause of virtue. If any thwart his views, interfere with his rights, they are immediately put upon the footing of enemies; however innocent they may be: no trial is held; they are calumniated with virulence, and hated with bitterness: chagrin and ill-humour, in various shapes, take possession of his mind; and leave
no authority to calm dispasssionate reason, no room for mild forbearance. Yet he pretends to reason; the form of argument is kept up; nay he would be thought a man of deep reflection; of such penetration as to see through all hypocritical pretences: the complacent mask which men wear, does not impose upon him no; he can strip it off, and discover beneath it the hid den features of moral deformity.
This may give some idea of the hater of mankind: his character is indeed by some moralists too strongly charged; but that may make it the more plainly discernible: and if misanthropy be once understood, we can the more easily recognize it when it is mixed with other qualities, good or bad; or when it is but occasional, appearing and disappearing; when it is the temper only of an hour of disappointment, a day of mortification, or a season of bodily indisposition. (a)
4. Having done what was first proposed, I am, in the next place, to endeavour to detect some of the fallacies under which misanthropy is apt to shelter itself. To deny the man-hater some love of virtue would be neither candid nor just; but it may be truly said, that he presumes himself to be more the friend of virtue than he really is: that is, he deceives himself; and could the particular deceptions or fallacies, into which he runs, be exposed, and distinctly marked, he himself might be ashamed of some of them; and other men might be witheld from imitating him, or from feeding his malevolent humor by inconsiderate respect, or illjudged admiration.
5. The misanthrope deceives himself by founding his pretensions to virtue on conduct inconsistent with human happiness. The grand design of virtue is to make men happy; the misanthrope is constantly engaged in making men unhappy; in destroying all their enjoyments: he never sympathizes with men in any thing which affords them satisfaction; he never encourages or accepts their endeavours to please; not a smile is seen upon his countenance; nor is suffered to display itself without interruption on the countenance of any one who is in his presence. The hospitable reception,
the charitable construction, to these he is a stranger. True, says he, but the reason of such coldness is, because other men are enemies to virtue, and I am her true friend. Why then do you not attempt to conciliate these enemies? Virtue continually exerts herself to do good; do you do what good you can? When you despair of success in more important instances of beneficence, do you apply yourself to such as come within your powers? the true friend engages in contention without any confident expectations of victory; he does as much as he is able, though that may fall short of what he desires to accomplish. If then you would be consistent, and would avoid deceiving yourself, promote any innocent cause of happiness rather than none: this will most clearly shew, that you rejoice not in iniquity, but really have that friendship for virtue which you profess. The author of the Christian religion says, " "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Whom, as a friend to virtue, do you love? not all your brethren certainly whom do you encourage in brotherly affection? by your conversation, or by your example? it would be difficult to find an instance. Yet misanthropy can exist amongst those who call themselves Christians!
6. The malevolent man who affects superior probity, is apt to deceive himself with regard to his sincerity; a virtue on which he particularly values himself, and the degrees of which he makes to be proportionate to the degrees of harshness and offensiveness adopted in his language; especially to persons of eminence, or in authority. His pretensions to this virtue are as if it consisted in exaggerating the unfavourable circumstances of every event, and in substituting declamation for truth: as if every description of favourable circumstances were falshood. Men in high stations and public offices, it seems, have such faults, that to pretend really to respect them is mere flattery. But may not. respect be sincerely paid to rank and to authority? Is it not for the good of the world that it should be so? As you pay money to one who has faults, so should you pay respect, when it is a debt of justice; Honour to whom honour is due. Our Lord said, "The Scribes
and Pharisees sit in Moses seat. All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works." Matt. xxiii. 2, 3. Would external respect to such personages as these have been deemed insincerity? When St. Paul says, "Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people." Acts xxiii. 5. he cites the authority of Moses, and adds his own. Civility, or courtesy, is due also to persons of the same rank with ourselves, though we may have objections to their private characters; and that it should be paid, is an important concern of mankind: nevertheless, to prevent its nature from being misunderstood, is one duty of sincerity; though without complacency and candour even the ends of sincerity could not be answered. Sometimes the sincerity of the misanthrope is exercised in reproof; in which the limits of propriety are apt to be transgressed for it is contrary to reason and to utility, that any one should administer reproof, without some warrant, either from public authority, or private friendship. To assume the office of reprover, without any regular appointment, may occasion much unpleasant altercation, but very little improvement. He therefore who reserves his reproof till he has a right to offer it, is not less sincere than he who breaking through all rules of decorum, and intruding into what he cannot understand, presumes to run into harsh animadversions and impertinent advice.
7. The misanthrope would have his mental malady so regarded, that he should be acknowledged the truest friend to order and good Government. But is not this a deception? Can he be said to support Government who will take no active part in the management of public affairs? If the generality of men are so full of iniquity, should they not be overlooked and restrained? If he is the only true patriot, there is the greater need that he should have authority. It is desirable that there should be one Magistrate at least of unshaken. integrity. And what is his exemption? he does not give up all claim to the protection of civil society; he is not a Hermit; he has property; ought he not to make all the return in his power for the protection which his person and property receive? He has had