Laws of Connections

disinterested, duty, children, obedience, mind, pleasure, desire, happiness, means and parental

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44. Illustrations of a similar kind might be offered with respect to the filial, fra ternal, and even the parental affections ; and it might be shewn that they are only gradually disinterested ; but at the same time the natural tendency is to disinte restedness : and that it is only where dis interestedness is opposed by the culture of wrong affections, (affections which, when become ultimate, are ever selfish,) and by neglect of those which are in all their stages worthy, and which hasten the progress almost indefinitely, that the mind stops at partial disinterestedness, or sinks into confirmed selfishness.—In op position to these views, however, it may be advanced by some, that children' are usually more disinterested than persons who have had experience in life. We shall make some observations on this point, which will at the same time throw some light on the progress of the filial af fections. Children often appear disinte rested where they are not really so, be cause we do not take' into account the quick changes of their feelings ; some times setting a light value upon what a few hours, or even minutes, before they were delighted with, and at other times the reverse. Hence they are readily in duced to give away what they have be fore been delighted with, and to make what we erroneously think sacrifices with out an effort.—But again, we are apt to think them disinterested when they give up what they really like, only, or princi pally, because they thus have a greater share of the pleasures resulting from their obedience to their friends' praise, or other rewards. Now the approbation of their friends is to children a thing of such value, that praise affinds them some of their greatest pleasures. And therefore, when, for the sake of that approbation, they give up play-things or niceties, or any other objects of pleasure, so far from being disinterested, they are eminently self-interested ; but their self-interested ness is of a better kind, one which with due care will prove a most powerful en gine in the moral and religious culture of the mind, by increasing the influence of the parent and instructor.—Again, chil dren are in general influenced more by present objects than by future objects, however far superior in their value and durability. Few children early attain such command over themselves as volun. tarily to give up a present source of plea. sure for a future one; and where it is done, it is rather in compliance with the wishes and injunctions of their friends, than from any comprehensive conception of the future good. It is an excellent thing to obtain the sacrifice by means of any worthy feeling; all we wish to ob serve is, that children do not feel the va lue of future pleasures, and therefore easily yield to that which is most power ful at the time Hence therefore they ap pear disinterested, because they cannot calculate the value of the good which they relinquish ; and do in reality prefer the greatest present pleasure, or rather they are in reality actuated by the great est present pleasure.—We do however cheerfully admit that children very often are disinterested ; fbr instance, will obey their parents, will tell the truth, will en deavour to increase the comforts of others, without any reference direct or indirect to any personal gratification ; and we ad mit too that these same children too fre quently as they grow up become more selfish, and sometimes the constitutional readiness with which they have in some instances become disinterested, will be the cause of their becoming selfish, and that to a degree which those of less pro mise never experience. All this may be easily explained, but we must confine ourselves to the fact, that children in a very early period skew great marks of disinterestedness. Now this may easily occur, especially where there has been proper culture on the part of the parent. Where the approbation of the parent has been made the greatest good, by being uniformly given to that which will pro mote the real happiness of the child; and where, consequently, prompt and cheer ful obedience has been early and steadily cultivated, a tendency to obedience will soon become so habitual as to leave scarcely a wish to deviate even in cases where obedience requires real sacrifices, and in general to prompt to propriety of conduct, without any reference even to the increase of parental affection, or to the occurring of parental approbation. Obedience is then disinterested : and the affection on which it is founded—the de sire of doing whatever a parent directs, is become ultimate. Where this is con firmed by other worthy feelings, the highest effects may be reasonably ex pected in the moral character; and the foundation will have been laid for that regard to the will of God, which is the beginning and the end of wisdom—But we need not for this resort to any opinion of innate disinterestedness. Let us ob serve how it arose from firm but tempe rate decision on the part of the parents, from an enlightened wish on their part to promote the happiness of their child, by making its present pleasure subordi nate to its happiness on the whole, from checking their own irregularities of dis position, so as to raise no suspicion in its mind that their own pleasure was their object, and by aiming to connect, by all the rational means in their power, plea surable feelings with obedience, painful feelings with disobedience. We suppose there never was yet an instance, where all this was done, and done sufficiently early, where the effect did not follow. And the habit of disinterested obedience may be formed much easier in the ear liest period. of life than in those further advanced. There are then no opposing habits which must be checked before obedience can be secured : little pains are quickly forgotten though their effects remain ; future pleasures are thought of but little, and the value of their sacrifice not falsely estimated ; above all, the con stant connection is formed between good and obedience, by various methods of obedience, and between unpleasant feel. ing and disobedience.—The desire of obeying parental directions is the feeling which we have been considering ; but precisely the same observations may be made with respect to the wish to increase parental happiness, and remove parental pains : and where parental influence has acquired such power, we need not go a step further to ascertain the cause of a dis interested love of truth and other virtues. We do not think that a child who has been thomughly disciplined, so as to have form ed the confirmed habit of prompt affec tionate obedience, and who has had this feeling transferred to his heavenly parent, by the wise instruction of his earthly pa rents, will even wander far and long from the road of duty ; but in other cases, where the habit is less confirmed, or not rightly directed, it often falls before the influence of erroneous views as to the efficacy of the means of private happi ness, before the constant influence of ex ample, before the influence of disap pointment, &c. : but these effects our limits will not allow us to explain ; we merely wished to show how disinterest. edness might spring up very early in the mind.—These things, so far from giving any countenance to the theory that the hu man mind is originally disinterested, con firm the theory that disinterestedness is the growth of custom ; and point to various important practical conclusions, which pa rents will do well to lay to heart, to make the regulating principles of their conduct.

45. We will now proceed to the N o last objects which we had in contempla tion, the formation of disinterested bene volence, and a disinterested love of duty.

Every jiuman being receives his first pleasurable impressions in society. His appetites are gratified by the assistance of his kind ; and probably there is no agreeable feeling which is not in some way or other associated with those who attend him in the period of infancy and childhood. Hence arises sociality, or the pleasure derived from the mere company of others : and, as the child increases in years, the associated pleasure increases almost continually. In the innocent and generally happy period of childhood, he receives all his enjoyments in the com pany of others ; most of his sports and amusements require a playfellow ; and if by any untoward circumstances he is pre vented from joining his companions, he feels an uneasiness which it is scarcely in his own power to remove, but which va nishes as soon as he can rejoin them.— But his happiness derived from others, depends greatly upon the happiness of others. He is happiest when those around him are happy ; partly from the contagion of feeling, and partly because his means of happiness considerably depend upon the convenience of others. If his com panions are ill, his sources of pleasure are diminished ; if his parents are unable to take their customary care of him, he misses it in various ways, he loses the caress of affection, or the little kind nesses of parental tenderness. Hence the comfort and happiness of others ne cessarily becomes the object of desire ; and even in children, it not unfrequently happens, that this desire becomes suffi ciently disinterested to forego small plea. sures, or endure small pains, in order to increase the comfort of their parents, or to prevent what would diminish it —Be nevolence is that affection which leads us to promote the welfare of others to the best of our power ; and general benevo lence is founded upon particular benevo lence ; for instance, upon affection to parents. We have seen the rudiments of it spring up ; and that in some in stances, even in children, it becomes dis interested: but it has been in only one branch, and it will he well to pursue it further.—The endeavour to promote the comfort or welfare of others, is almost invariably followed in the early part of life with an increase of pleasurable feel. ings. Parents approve, and tell children that God approves, of those who do good to others. Children and young people are continually feeling and observing the good effects of benevolence, as manifest ed in their own conduct, or in that of others ; and hence, in well disposed chil dren, the pleasurable feelings connected with benevolent actions are very strong ; they are very glad to see others made hap py, and very glad to be enabled to make others happy ; the pleasure derived from the approbation of others, from the ap probation. of their own minds ; the in crease of good-will in the person benefit ed ; and the accordance with all the religious feelings which are possessed, and with various circumstances less ge neral, add such a stock of pleasurable feelings to the doing good to others, that by degrees it is an object of desire, alto gether independently of any considera tion beyond itself. A person who has completely gone through this process, desires to benefit others without the slightest reference to his own personal benefit, either in this world or in the next : he employs the different opportu nities which present themselves to him of doing good to others, without think ing of any thing more than the imme diate object. if it call for great exertion on his part, great efforts of self-denial, he brings to his aid the desire of follow ing the dictates of duty, of obeying the commands of God, and, where his bene volence, his love of duty, and his love of God, are thoroughly purified from self, to do good he will forego great and any pleasures, and endure great and any pains, without a thought beyond the at tainment of the good which he produces, and the obedience to the claims of God and duty. Is he not now a noble being, worthy the discipline which his heavenly father bath bestowed upon him ? And would not any one, to attain this height, go through any correction or trial ? A less height is often observed. Benevo lence may, with the strictest propriety, be termed disinterested, when, in a con siderable number of its promptings, it has no end beside the good which it pro poses, and this is obtained by numbers ; and by those who have attained this height, that improvement may be made, by cultivating a general love of duty, and a regard to the will of God, which re futes beyond the possibility of rational controversy, the opinion that every feel ing of the human mind is selfish.—We surely need not show how these 'things illustrate and explain the law of trans ference, by which means become the ends. We shall, however, just point out, that the desire of doing good itself may sometimes be lost from the view of the mind in attention to the means of doing it. Some of our readers are probably considerably interested in the welfare of institutions for the promotion of the wel fare of the poor and afflicted; these in stitutions were planned by benevolence, and benevolence prompts their support. It is the desire of doing good which has led to the frequently returning exertions which are made to keep them in vigour ; but we have no doubt but the welfare of one or other of those institutions will often be found to be an object of the mind, without reference to the good it does. The mind rejoices in its success, without thinking of the benefit which will result from it. As soon as the attention is directed to the benefits, the mind dwells upon them as the ultimate reason of its pleasure ; but that was not in the view of the mind. Whether we have been successful or not in making our readers feel the force of the assertion by this illustration, we are confident of the fact, that the means of doing good often themselves become ends ; and that the desire of' their successful furtherance, which was originally felt for them, mere ly on account of the good they promised or (lid, is at last felt without reference to that good ; though, on the other hand; it would by degrees, though perhaps not very soon, decay, if it were proved the satisfaction of the mind, that the means of the hoped-for good were and must be totally ineflicacious.—But there would be no end to illustrations of this law, if we were to trace it out in all its opera tions. We are continually loving thingS because—and afterwards loving them for themselves alone it extends to the love of duty in general, without any reference to those peculiar branches of it with which we have been more immediately concerned. All the pleasurable feelings arising from particular branches of duty, and all the tendencies to particular branches of duty, by degrees become connected with the idea of duty in gene rid, which is, in fact, formed of all the ideas of particular branches, &c. which. we have considered as right and our duty ; hence duty becomes an object of desire, because parts of it are loved bn their own account, and this hastens the progress of a disinterested love of duty in general. But leaving this out of the question, a great variety of considerations snake it an object of choice ; and if it be pursued as a mean to obtain' the object in view, with sufficient steadiness, and or a sufficient length of time, by degrees it is pursued as an end, and duty is then loved for itself'.

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