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commits one dishonest action ; if the generous is in one instance mean; if the pious utters one profane word; if the temperate is once overtaken by drunkenness; we have no mercy; we resign the character without compassion to infanıy. The unhappy person may have bitterly repented of his crime ; he may have made his peace with Heaven; but we cannot pardon, we refuse to acknowledge that bis mind can be pure, because it has once been defiled. This judgment is uncandid ; for the character of a man ought to be determined, not from what he was, but from what he is now. Unless we depy the possibility of reformation, we ought to forget the sins, which men neither have repeated nor desire to repeat; unless we wish to drive the repentant sinner to despair, we ought to spare the tongue of censure, when he shows by the change of his conduct, that he is sorry for his offence.
4. We also discover a want of candor, when we do not make proper allowance for the frailties of human nature. The Psalmist says, that God knoweth our frame, that he remembereth we are but dust. In judging of the actions of each other, we also ought to remember and consider what men are.
They are not irrational animals; but they are far below angels. They are composed of bodies as well as minds; and the corporeal part bears a large proportion to the mental. By such a class of creatures great and virtuous actions may
performed; but we must expect to find many instances of imperfection. Even angels, if they considered human nature justly, would not condemn it with severity ; but we men, who partake of the same frailties, who are exposed to the same weaknesses and faults, ought to be indulgent to each other. - From the frailty of human
nature proceeds that inconsistency of conduct, which may be observed in the best of men. Hence it is, that the prudent are sometimes rash; that the liberal sometimes turn a deaf ear to the poor; that the moderate are sometimes impetuous; that the meek and gentle are sometimes proud and angry. Who can always command his temper, when provoked by scorn? Who can always maintain a resigned frame of mind, when misfortunes press so thickly upon him, that it is impossible to escape them, when sickness consumes, when poverty threatens him, and when both his body and soul are so debilitated, that they are no longer capable of sustaining his infirmity ? If in such cases men become peevish, if they are led to speak unadvisably with their lips, let us not conclude, that they are totally destitute of fortitude and equanimity. We ought also to make candid allowances for the frailties, which are peculiar to certain ages of life, as well as for the general imperfection of human nature. In infancy we must expect to find thoughtlessness and levity ; in youth we must look for passion, a fondness for pleasure, and an aversion from restraint ; in manhood we must expect distrust, ambition, and an excess of prudence. But if the infant is simple and docile; if the youth is honorable, generous, brave, and sincere ; is the man is moderate, indulgent, and affectionate ; we ought to forgive their unavoidable imperfections. If candor was adhered to, youth would pardon the gravity of age ; and age, the vivacity of youth. - It is from the imperfection of human nature, that men find it so difficult to preserve a due medium in their actions. Such is the force of habit, and so apt is it to become rooted in the character, when it has obtained possession of it, that it is almost impossible to keep ourselves from
extremes. As the perfection of virtue however consists in moderation, or in balancing and qualifying one action by another, it is evident that few men can attain this perfection. This consideration should induce us to judge candidly of each other.
One man supposes that frankness and sincerity are the first of virtues, that every good man ought to carry his heart in his hand, that it is his duty to be cheerful, that a solemnity of face is generally a cheat, and that hypocrisy is the last of crimes. How prone will this person be to be too open, too undisguised, too cheerful! But should we not betray a want of candor, if we severely censured him merely for the excess of what is amiable and praiseworthy? Another person considers seriousness as the best of all habits. The business which his Maker has committed to him to transact appears of such moment, that it ought to preclude all levity and mirth. He carefully avoids every idle word, and endeavors to fix bis whole attention on heavenly objects. Such a person will be apt to become too grave and gloomy; but let us not on that account uncandidly condemn so good a man. In like manner, the man of dignity, who imagines that the most effectual preservative against the meanness of vice is self-reverence, will be exposed to have his character debased by a small degree of pride. On the other hand, the man of a condescending, humble, and gentle disposition is in danger of becoming too easy and compliant. His character may in general be innocent; but he may sometimes yield to temptation, from diffidence, and from an obliging temper. In both these cases we ought charitably to forgive the excesses, which proceed from such laudable principles; and if we cannot quite forgive the condescending and diffident man, we ought at least to reprove him with tenderness.
5. We ought also, when we judge of human actions, to make candid allowance forthe unavoidable defects of moral and religious education. One man is born amidst the happiest advantages. His parents are pious and virtuous. In infancy he is taught to know and fear God, to obey his laws, to rely on his protection. He early receives a taste for devotion. The best examples are continually placed before his eyes; and he is instructed by them, as well as by precept, that the practice of honesty, purity and humanity, constitutes the felicity of man. His situation in life is that which is most favorable to virtue. Equally removed from the extremes of poverty and wealth, he finds no temptations to commit the vices which are peculiar to either station. Success crowns his exertions; and though he sometimes is deprived of a friend, and meets with other calamities, yet all his afflictions are of that kind, which are adapted to refine and soften the heart. From such a person we have a right to expect high degrees of virtue. If he falls into vice, if he becomes intemperate, dishonest, selfish, or profane, we may lawfully censure him. But there is another person whom we ought to view with more indulgence. He is born under every possible disadvantage. His parents are of the most vile and abandoned characters, intemperate, dishonest, contentious, malicious, obscene, profane. Their ignorance prevents them from knowing the advantages of an education. He enters the world unacquainted with everything, except the practice of vice. In the world he combats with poverty and wretchedness. As he never was instructed in a manual art, he is incapable of procuring a subsistence in
other way, than common labor; and from this he has a strong aversion, as no pains have been taken to communicate to
him the habits of industry. He is compelled to associate with the lowest and worst company, as he has no means and qualifications of rising to any other. The effect of all these causes is, that he is a pernicious member of so
ety, idle, intemperate, profane, dishonest. He runs a short career of iniquity, and perhaps at last is taken away by an untimely death. The character whom I have now described is certainly very wicked, as well as very wretched. But how many reasons have we for exercising candor, when we judge of him! and with what compassion ought we to behold him! For be is an immortal being, corrupted by bad example and ruined by the want of education. He has sinned, not so much from deliberation, as from frenzy ; through life his mind has been agitated, intoxicated, maddened ; and though that divine spark, whence proceeds all virtue, has not been totally extinguished, - for who can extinguish it ?yet it has been so effectually smothered, as to be incapable, in this state of trial, of emitting any light. To condemn with unpitying severity this character, because he is not as virtuous as the person first described, is like requiring that thorns should produce grapes, and thistles, figs.
On the whole, in whatever view we regard the actions of men, we perceive many motives for exercising candor. They, who have experienced few of the difficulties which attend a virtuous course, who being far removed out of the reach of the strongest temptations, are unacquainted with their force, may be disposed to be un
andid; they may severely censure the slightest deviations; but when they consider what human nature is, when they reflect on their own frailty, the frequent faults