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My first object in all that I have done and all that I have written, has been to make mankind better and happier than they are; for I have experienced much unhappiness myself, and I have seen a great deal of it around me. That the world wants mending none will deny, but those who are very stupid or those who are very happy, and these are not the majority of mankind. It may seem like presumption in
any individual to think he can do much towards the improvement of others; but the fact is, that all men can do something if they desire it, some in one way and some in another. To me it has become, after much reflection on the miseries of mankind, a fixed and settled conviction, that the primary cause of all these miseries is the disproportion which
exists between the productive powers
of man and of the earth; and that the secondary cause is that almost innate principle of selfishness arising from the aforesaid disproportion, which impels every man to take as much as he can from others, and get as much as he can for himself. I am convinced that if the force of this propensity can be mitigated, and if men can be taught to feel that by giving full sway to it they deprive themselves of much happiness, and lose the aim and object of all their struggles, they will be better and happier. A refined self-love, which finds pleasure in giving pleasure to others, is a much more liberal and in the end a much wiser principle, than that which seeks all for itself, and finds its chief gratification in- gaining advantage over others: “ It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” As a mere matter of calculation it will be found in the end, that those who consult the happiness of others as well as their own, are happier than those sordid souls who think of nothing but themselves. In proportion as, this principle is acted upon,
mankind will become wiser and
happier, for true wisdom is that which promotes happiness.
To act from that refined self-love which makes the happiness of others essential to our own, is the joint result of constitution and of education; it arises from our feelings and our sentiments. The chief causes of all cruel or unjust actions are a want of feeling and a wrong mode of thinking, a false calculation of things. To remedy the first is the most difficult, for it is too often the fault of nature; to remedy the second, it is requisite to teach men to think justly,—to see the true nature and relations of things,--to divest themselves of undue prepossessions,— to examine the true sense of words, and acquire a knowledge of themselves.
The opinions contained in this book are not likely to make a very rapid progress in the world; for they are not derived from the imagination, nor likely to be aided by the zeal of proselytism. A methodistical sermon about heaven and hell and damnation may make a dozen converts in an hour; but a sober address to the reasoning faculties of man,