Upon Human Nature
Social quantities that characterize humankind,
Roma Xii.4;4, for as we have many members in one body.
and all members have not the same office
So we being many, are one body in Christ,
and every one members one of other.
The Epistles in the Testment have
all of them a practical reference to the
condition and usage of the Christian world
at the time they were written.
Therefore as they cannot be thoroughly
understood unless that condition and those
usage are know and attend to,
so further, though they be know,
yet if they be discontinued or changed,
exhortations, precepts, and illustrations of
Which refer to such circumstances now
ceased or altered,
Cannot at this time be urged in that manner
and with that force which they were to the
Thus the text now before us,
in its first intent and design,
relates to the decent management of those
extraordinary gifts which were in the church.
but which are now totally ceased.
And even as to the allusion that
“ we are one body in Christ,”
though what the apostle here intends
is equally true of Christians in all
and the consideration of it is plainly still an
over and above moral considerations
to the discharge of the several and
office of a Christian,
Yet it is manifest this allusion must have
appeared with much greater force to those who,
by the many difficulties they went through
for the sake of their religion,
were led to keep always in view the relation
they stood in their saviour,
who had undergone the same:
to those, who, from the idolatries of all
and their ill-treatment, were taught to
consider themselves as not of the world in
which they lived,
but as a distinct society of themselves;
with laws and ends,
and principles of life action,
quite contrary to those which the world
professed themselves at that time
Hence the relation of a Christian was by
them considered as nearer than that of
affinity and blood;
and they almost literally esteemed
themselves as members one of another.
It cannot, indeed, possibly be denied, that
our being God’s creatures,
and virtue being the natural law we
and the whole constitution of man being
plainly adopted to it,
are prior obligation to piety and virtue than
the consideration that God sent his son into
the world to save it,
and the motives which arise from the
peculiar relation of Christians as members
One of another under Christ our head.
However, though all this be allowed,
as it expressly is by the inspired writers
Yet it is manifest that Christians at the time
of the Revelation,
and immediately after, could not but insist
Mostly upon considerations of this latter kind.
These observations show the original particular reference to the text,
and the peculiar force with which the thing
intended by the allusion in it must have been
Felt by primitive Christian world.
They likewise alford a reason for treating it
at this time in a more general way.
The relation which the several parts or
Members of the natural body have to each other and to the whole body is here compared to the relation which each particular person in society has to other particular persons and the whole society;
and the latter is intended to be illustration by the former.
And if there be a likeness between the two relations,
The consequences is obvious:
That the latter shows us we were intended to do good to others,
as the former shows us that several members of the natural body were intended to be instruments of good to each other and to the whole body.
But as there is scarce any ground for a comparison between society and the mere material body,
this without the mind being a dead inactive thing,
Much less can the comparison be carried to any length.
And since the apostle speaks of the several members as having distinct offices.
Which implies the mind,
it cannot be thought an allowable liberty, instead of the body and its members,to substitute the whole nature of man, and all the variety of internal principles which belong to it
And then the comparison will be between the nature of man respecting self, and tending to private good,
his own preservation and happiness;
and the nature of man as having respect to society,
and tending to promote public good, the happiness of that society.
These ends do indeed perfectly coincide;
and to aim at the public and private good are so far from being inconsistent that they mutually promote each other:
Yet in the following discourse they must be considered as entirely distinct;
otherwise the nature of man as tending to one
Or as tending to the other cannot be compared.
There can no comparison be made,
without considering the things compared as distinct and different.
From the review and comparison of the nature of man as respecting self and as respecting society,
it will plainly appear that there are as real and the same kind of indications in human nature,
that we were made for society and to do good to our fellow creatures,
as that we were intended to take care of our own life and wealth and private good: and that the same objection lie against all of these assertion as against the other.
For, first, there is a nature principle of benevolence in man
Which is in some degree to society what self-love is to the individual
And if there be in mankind any disposition to friendship;
if there be any such thing as compassion for comparison is momentary love-if there be any such thing as the paternal or filid affection;
if there be any affection in human nature, the object and end of which is the good of another,
this is itself benevolence,
or the love of another.
Be it in ever so short,
be it in ever so low a degree,
or ever so unhappily confied,
it proves the assertion,
and points out what we were designed for,as really as though it were in a higher degree and more extensive.
I must, however remind you that though benevolence and self-love are different, though the former tends most directly to public good,
and the latter to private,
yet they are so perfectly coincident that greatest satisfactions to ourselves depend
upon our having benevolence in a due degree:
and that self-love is one chief security of our right behavior towards society.
It may be added that their mutual coinciding,
So that we can scarce promote one without the other,
is equally a proof that we were made for both.
Secondly, this will further appear,
from observing that the several passions and affections,
which are distinct both from benevolence and self-love,
do in general contribute and lead us to public good as really as to private.
It might be though too minute and particular,
and would carry us too great a lengthy,to distinguish between and compare together the several passions or appetites distinct from benevolence, whose primary use and intention is the security and good of society,
and the passions distinct from self-love, whose primary intention and design is the security and good of the individual.
It is enough to the present argument that
desire of esteem from others,
Contempt and esteem of them,
love of society as distinct from affection to the good of it,
indignation against successful vice-that these are public affections or passions, have an immediate respect to other, naturally lead us to regulate our behavior,
in such a manner as well be of service to our fellow-creature.
If any or all of these may be considered as likewise private affections as tending to private good,
this does not hinder them from being public affections too,
or destroy the good influence of them up security,
and their tendency to public good.
It may be added that persons without
any conviction from reason of the
desireableness of life would yet of course
Pressure it merely from the appetite of hunger,
So, by acting merely from regard ( suppose ) to reputation, without any consideration of the good of others, men often contribute to public good.
In both these instances they are plainly instruments in the hands another,
to carry on ends-the preservation of the individual and good of society-which they themselves have not in their view or intention.
The sum is man have various appetites, passions, and particular affections, quite distinct both from self-love and; from benevolence:
all of these have a tending to promote both
Public and private good,
and many be considered as respecting others and ourselves equally and in common;
but some of them seem most immediately respect others,
or tend to public good;
Others of them most immediately to respect self,
or tend to private good,
as the former are not benevolence,
So the latter are not self-love:
neither sort are instances of our love either to ourselves or others,
but only instances of our maker’s care and love both of the individual and species,
and proofs that He intended we should be instrument of good to each other,
as well as that we should be so to ourselves.
Thirdly, there is a principle of reflection in men,
by which they distinguish between, approve and disapprove their own actions,
we are plainly constipated such sort of
creatures as to reflect upon our own nature.
The mind can take a view of what passes within itself,
its propensions, aversion, passions,
affections as respecting such objects, and in such degree;
and of the several actions consequent, thereupon.
In this survey it approves of one,
disapproves of another of these ways, but is quite indifferent.
This principle in man,
by which he approves or disapproves his heart,
temper, and actions, is conscience;
for this the strict sense of the word,
though sometimes it is used so as to to take in more.
And that this faculty tends to restrain men
from doing mischief to each other,
and leads them to do good,
is too manifest to need being insisted upon,
Thus a parents has the affection of love to his children:
this leads him to take care of to educate, to make due provision for them-the natural affection leads to this:
but the reflection that it is proper business.
What belong to him,
that it is right and commendable so to do this
added to the affection,
become much more settled principle, and carries him on through more labour and difficulties for the sake of his children than he would undergo from that affection alone if he though it
and the cause of action it led, either indifferent or criminal.
This indeed is impossible, to do that which is good and not to approve of it;
for which reason they are frequently not considered as distinct,
though they really are:
For men often approve of the action of others which they will not imitate, and likewise do that which they approve not it cannot possibly be denied that is this principle of reflection conscience in human nature.
Suppose a man to relieve an innocent person in great distress;
suppose the same man afterwards, in the fury of anger,
to do the greatest mischief to a person who had given no just cause of offence.
To aggravate the injury,
add the circumstances of former friendship
and obligation from the injured person; let the man who is supposed to have done these two different actions cooly reflect upon them afterwards,
Without regard to their consequences to himself:
assert that any common man would be affected in the same way towards these different actions,
that he would make no distinction between them,
but approve or disapprove them equally, is too glaring a falsity to need being confuted.
There is therefore this principle of reflection or conscience in mankind,
it is needless to compare the respect it has to private good with the respect it has to public;
Since it plainly tends as much to the latter as to the former,
and is commonly though to tend chiefly to the latter.
This faculty is now mentioned merely as another part in the word
frame of man pointing out to us in some degree what we are intended for,
and as what will naturally and of course have some influence.
The particular place assigned to it by nature
What authority it has,
and how great influence it ought to have, shall be here after considered.
From this comparison of benevolence and self-love,
of our public and private affections,of the courses of life they lead to and of the principle of reflection or concience as respecting each of them, it is as manifest that we were made for society,
and to promote the happiness of it as that we were intended to take care of our own life and wealth and private good.
And from this whole review must be given a different draught of human nature from what we are often presented with.
mankind are by nature so closely united, there is such a correspondence between the inward sensations of one man and those of another.
that disgrace is as much avoided as bodily pain, and to be the object of esteem and love as much desired as any external good; and in many particular cases persons are carried on to do good to others, as the end their affection tends to and rests in
and manifest that they find real satisfaction and enjoyment in this course of behavior.
There is such a natural principle of attraction in man towards man that having trod the same tract of land
having breathed in the same climate barely having been born in the same artificial district or division, because the occasion of contracting.
acquaintance and familiarities many years after;
for anything may serve the purpose.
Thus relations merely nominal are sought and invented, not by governors, but by the lowest of the people, which are found sufficient to hold mankind together in little fraternities and copartnership:
Weak ties indeed, and what may alford found enough for ridicule,
If they are absolutely considered the real principle of that union: but they are in truth merely the occasions, as anything may be of any thing, upon which our nature carries us on according to its own previous bent and bias;
which occasions therefore would be nothing at all were there not this prior disposition and bias of nature.
Men are so much one body that in a peculiar manner they felt for each other shame,
sudden danger, resentment, honour, prosperity, distress;
One or another, or all of these from benevolence, upon the occasion of natural relation, acquaintance, protection, dependence; each of these being distinct coments of society.
And therefore to have no restraint from, no regards to other in our behaviour,is the speculative absurdity of considering ourselves as single and independent,as having nothing in our natural which has respect to our fellow-creature, reduced to action and practice.
And this the same absurdity as to suppose a hand, or to the whole body.
But, allowing all this, it may be asked, “ Has not man disposition and principles within which lead him to do evil to other, as well as to do good?
whence come the many miseries else which men are the authors and instruments of to each other?”
These questions, so far as they relate to the foregoing discourse,
may be answered by asking,
Has not man also dispositions and principles within which lead him to do evil to as well as good?
where come the many miseries else-sickness, pain, and death-which men are instruments and authors of themselves?
It may be thought more easy to answer one of these questions than the other, but the answer to both is really the same that mankind have ungverned passions which they will gratify at any rate, as well to the injury of others as in contradiction to know private interest:
but that as there is no such thing as self-hatred,
so neither is there any such thing as ill-will
in one man towards another emulation and resentment being away; whereas there is plainly benevolence or good-will in there is no such thing as love of injustice, oppression, treachery, ingratitude but only eager disires after such and such external good;
which according to a very ancient observation, the most abandoned would choose to obtain by innocent means, if they were as easy and as effective to their end:
that even emulation and resentment,by any one who will consider what these will be found nothing to the purpose in the objection;
and that the principles and passions in the mind of man, which are distinct both from self-love and benevolence, primary and most directly lead to right behavior with regard to others as well as himself,
and only secondarily and accidentally to what is evil.
Thus though men to avoid the shame of one villainy, are sometimes guilty of a greater, yet it is easy to see that the original tendency of shame is to prevent the doing of shameful actions;
and it’s leading man to conceal such actions when done is only in consequence of their being done;
i.e, of the passions not having answered it’s first end.
If it be said that there are person in the world who in great ueasur without the natural affections towards their fellow-creatures
there are likewise instances of persons without the common natural affections to themselves.
But the nature of man is not to be judged of by either of these,
but by what appear in the common world, in the bulk of mankind,
I am afried it would be thought very strange,if to confirm the truth of this account of human nature,
and make out the justness of the foredoing comparison,
it should be added that from what appears, man in fact as much and as often contradict that part of their nature which respect self, and which leads them to their own private good and happiness,as they contradict that parts of it which respect society, and tends to public good:
that there are as few persons who attain the greatest satisfaction and enjoyment which they might attain in the present world, as who do the greatest good to others which they might do; nay, that there are as few who can be said really and in earnest to aim at one as at the other.
Take a survey of mankind:
the world in general,
the good and bad,
almost without exception, equally are agreed that were religion out of the case, the happiness of the present life would consist in a manner who.lly in riches, honour, sensual gratifications;
in so much that one scarce hears a reflection made upon prudence,
life, conduct, but upon this supposition. Yet on the contrary, that persons in the greatest affluence of fortune are no happier than such as have only a competency:
that the cares and disappointment of ambition for the most parts for exceed the satisfactions of it
as also the miserable intervals of
intem perance and excess,
and the many untimely deaths occasioned by a dissolute course of life:
acknowledged, by every one acknowledged; but are thought no objections against though they expressly contradict, this universal principle-that the happiness of the present life consists in one or other of them.
whence is all this absolutely and
Is not the middle way obvious?
Can anything be more manifest than that the happiness of life consists in these possessed and enjoyed only to a certain degree;
that to pursue them beyond this degree is always attended with more in convenience than advantage to man’s life self, and often with extreme misery and unhappiness?
whence, then, I say, is all this absurdity and contradiction?
is it really the result of consideration in mankind how they may become most easy to themselves,
most free from care,
and enjoy the chief happiness attainable in this world?
Or is it not manifestly owing either to this, that they have not cool and reasonable concern enough for themselves to consider where in their chief happiness in the present life consists;
Or else, if they do consider it, that they will not aet conformably to what is the result of that consideration-i.e.,
reasonable concern for themselves,
or cool self-love, is prevailed over by passions and appetite?
so that from what appears there is no ground to assert that those principles in the nature of man,
which most directly lead to promote the good of our fellow-creaures, are more generally or in a greater degree violated than those which most directly lead us to promote our private good and happiness.
The sum of the whole is plainly this:
The nature of man considered in his single capacity,
and with respect only to the present world,is adapted and leads him to attain the greatest happiness he can for himself in the present world.
The nature of man considered in his public or social capacity leads him to right
behavior in society,
to that course of life which we call virtue.
Man follow or obey their nature in both these capacities and respects to a certain agree, but not entirely:
their actions do not come up to the whole of what their nature leads them to in either of these capacities or respects:
and they often violate their nature in both; i.e., as they neglect the duties they owe to their fellow-creatures
to which their nature leads them, and are injurious, to which their nature is abhorrent,
so there is a manifest negligence in men of their real happiness or interest in the present world,
when that interest is in consistent with a present gratification;
for the sake of which they nagligently,nay, even knowingly, are the authors and instruments of their own misery and ruin.
Thus they are as often unjust to themselves as to others,
and for the most part are equally so to both by the same actions.