Зображення сторінки

him to be a politician, actuated him as a philosopher. His aims were equally great and extensive in both capacities: unwilling to submit to any in the one, or any authority in the other, he entered the field of science with a thorough contempt of all that had been established before him, and seemed willing to think every thing wrong, that he might show his faculty in the reformation."

It is the glory of Christianity that it possesses the power of divesting this kind of magnanimity of its destructive qualities wherever they may happen to be combined with it. Of this, the apostle Paul is a wondrous instance. Had he been another Philip's son, without the grace of God, he had been a second Alexander. This greatness of soul, however, is always associated with greatness of intellect; and I remember no instance in which it has been destructive, except when allied with stupendous mental power; while it deserves especial notice that the association does not necessarily imply destruction. It is to cases of the latter class chiefly, that history has spoken, for the obvious reason, that their fatal operations lay within her province. Immense intellectual power, on the other hand, may exist without a particle of magnanimity. History abundantly attests this fact; magnanimity and great intellectual capacity, therefore, must not be confounded. Perhaps in none did they ever meet in more complete equality of measure than in Alexander, whose generosity was, beyond doubt, as great as his genius: but it appears to me, that in both, he was much excelled by Columbus. Napoleon, and even Cæsar, were very defective in magnanimity, as compared with their superabundant intellect. John Williams, on the other hand, was deficient in intellect, as compared with his magnanimity. This magnanimity was one of the chief elements of the wonderful character of Solomon. It is set forth as an article distinct from understanding. “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.” This “largeness of heart” is the very thing meant by the following passage, “the liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand.”

The magnanimity of Williams, philosophically speaking, was the real cause of his amazing success in dealing with mankind. He easily believed, that what he was ready to do for others, they would not refuse to do for him. This noble feeling prompted what to little souls seemed his extravagances. It led him to believe that the Christians of England would provide him with a ship, and they gave it! It inspired him with confidence to ask the corporation of London for money to promote his object, and they bestowed it! It prompted his application to many of the nobles of England to aid him in the work of missions—and they did it! The measure of his expectations and demands were taken from his own heart, which in this matter, never misled him. He found what all will find, that according as he meted it was meted to him again :

“ Victor volentes per populos dat jura."

Philanthropy was a marked feature in the character of Williams. This quality, which signifies the love of man, is one of the choicest ornaments of our nature. It is the basis of all true and lasting glory. Although it never exists in perfection except in union with the love of God; yet so essential is it to man's notion of a superior human character, that the ancients set great store by it as a chief moral virtue. Plato lays down the doctrine, that “ we are not born for ourselves alone ; but that our native country, our friends and relations, have a just claim and title to some part of us.” Cicero, in the most important of all his works, admirably expounds this doctrine of Plato and of the Stoics : he insists that “whatsoever is created on earth, was merely designed for the service of man, and men themselves for the service, benefit, and assistance, of one another. In this (he continues) we certainly ought to be followers of nature, and second her intentions; and by doing all that lies in our power for the general interest, by mutual acts of kindness, by our knowledge, industry, riches, or other means, we should endeavour to keep up that benevolence and fellowship which ought to subsist among men.”* The finest passage of antiquity upon this subject, is the following, from the same illustrious pen :-"When we have gone over all the relations in the world, and thoroughly considered the nature of each, we shall find none more binding, none more intimate or dearer, than that which we all bear to the commonwealth. We have a tender concern and regard for our parents, for our children, our kindred, and acquaintance, but the love which we have for our native country swallows up all other affections whatsoever ; for his country no man of honour would refuse to die, if by his death he could do it any needful service. Now, if there should be any conflict or competition between these relations, which of them ought to preponderate ? Our first regard is due to our country and our parents, to whom we lie under the most endearing obligation; the next to our children and household, who look up to us alone, and have nobody else they can depend upon ; next in order, come our kindred and relations, whose fortunes are generally connected with our own."*

* De Officiis, lib. i. cap. 7.

This, Sir, as you well know, is the utmost stretch of heathen philanthropy; properly speaking, it is not philanthropy at all. So far as the love of country is concerned, it is the love of an abstraction. So far as man is concerned, it is the love of a small part to the exclusion of the mighty remainder. Notwithstanding this restriction, it wrought a multitude of marvels in the earlier ages of the Roman commonwealth. The same principle—the principle of rendering every thing which relates to parts, subordinate to the interests of the whole—wrought wonders also in the first ages of Christianity. This fact did not escape the notice of the infidel historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, who, speaking of the church, says, “ The safety of that society, its honour, its aggrandizement, were productive, even in the most pious minds, of a spirit of patriotism, such as the first of the Romans had felt for the republic.”+ The patriotism of Cicero was a poor, a selfish, and a grovelling passion, as compared with the philanthropy of Williams. The missionary's ruling passion was the love of man, in the largest acceptation of the term, without respect to colour, clime, or language. It was comprehensive of all the interests of humanity. It dealt with nations as with individuals, and maintained that the interests of each are perfectly compatible with the interests of all ;

* De Officiis, lib. i. cap. 18.

† Decline and Fall, chap. xv.

and that as in the latter case so in the former, each is richest when it possesses nothing but its own. The philanthropy of Williams, however, comprehended not only all men through all time, but through eternity. This, Sir, this is the true philanthropy! It is coextensive at once, with the wants and the duration of human nature. Oh! how narrow, carnal, and creeping, is philosophical philanthropy, as compared with that of the Christian missionary! In the single person of your son in the gospel, there was more philanthropy than in all the merely philosophical societies in Europe ! Besides, Sir, his philanthropy was not “in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” Poetic tears, and the tropes of oratory, are cheaply bestowed, and of no practical value ; but the philanthropy of Williams cost him in the outset much that men hold dear; and in the end, even life itself! The amount of his sacrifice, when he embarked for the South Seas, cannot be easily estimated. He began by freely giving up all the prospective gains of trade; he next became a voluntary exile from his native country, the land of his fathers' sepulchres, the glory of kingdoms; he then tore himself from the endeared society of all his kindred, with little probability of seeing them again in this world. Then he deliberately stepped beyond the pale of civilization, to mingle with savage hordes ; he lastly exchanged the ten thousand earthly comforts, and all the religious privileges of an enlightened and polished nation, for the destitute barbarity of naked men. But this, Sir, was only the beginning of sacrifice. How did the enterprise proceed? He encountered the perils of the mighty deep, and on reaching Polynesia, entered on a series of self-denying labours, unexampled in difficulties, danger,

« НазадПродовжити »