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Do they not follow him in the path of slaughter with horrid complacency? and when they see him deluge the peaceful fields of industrious simplicity with blood, and leave them desolate to the widow and the orphan of the possessor, do they not grow frantic in his praise, and concur to deify the mortal who could conquer only for glory, and return the kingdoms that he won ?
To these questions I am confident the greater part of mankind must answer in the affirmative; and yet nothing can be more absurd than their different apprehensions of the hero and the thief.
The conduct of Bagshot and Alexander had in general the same motives and the same tendency ; they both sought a private gratification at the expense of others; and every circumstance in which they differ is greatly in favour of Bagshot.
Bagshot, when he had lost his last shilling, had lost the power of gratifying every appetite, whether criminal or innocent; and the recovery of this
power was the object of his expedition.
Alexander, when he set out to conquer the world, possessed all that Bagshot hoped to acquire and more; all his appetites and passions were gratified, as far as the gratification of them was possible: and as the force of temptation is always supposed proportionably to extenuate guilt, Alexander's guilt was evidently greater than Bagshot's, because it cannot be pretended that his temptation was equal.
But, though Alexander could not equally increase the means of his own happiness, yet he
produced much more dreadful and extensive evil to society in the attempt. Bagshot killed two men; and I have related the murder and its consequences, with such particulars as usually rouse that sensibility which often lies torpid during narratives of general calamity. Alexander, perhaps, destroyed a
million; and whoever reflects that each individual of this number had some tender attachments which were broken by his death, some parent or wife, with whom he mingled tears in the parting embrace, and who longed with fond solicitude for his retuin; or, perhaps, some infant whom his labour was to feed, and his vigilance protect; will see that Alexander was more the pest of society than Bagshot, and more deserved a gibbet in the proportion of a million to one.
It may, perhaps, be thought absurd to inquire into the virtues of Bagshot's character; and yet virtue has never been thought incompatible with that of Alexander. Alexander, we are told, gave proof of his greatness of mind by his contempt of danger; but, as Bagshot's danger was equally voluntary and imminent, there ought to be no doubt but that his mind was equally great. Alexander, indeed, gave back the kingdoms that he won; but, after the conquest of a kingdom, what remained for Alexander to give? To a prince, whose country he had in vaded with unprovoked hostility, and from whom he had violently wrested the blessings of peace, he gave a dominion over the widows and orphans of those he had şlain, the tinsel of dependent greatness, and the badge of royal subjection. And does not Bagshot deserve equal honour, for throwing back a shilling to the man whose person he had insulted, and whose son he had stabbed to the heart? Alexander did not ravish or massacre the women whom he found in the tent of Darius : neither did honest Bagshot kill the gentleman whom he had plundered, when he was no longer able to resist.
If Bagshot then is justly dragged to prison amidst the tumult of rage, menaces, and execrations ; let Alexander, whom the lords of reason have extolled for ages, be no longer thought worthy of a triumph,
As the acquisition of honour is frequently a motive to the risk of life, it is of great importance to confer it only upon virtue; and, as honour is conferred by the public voice, it is of equal moment to strip those vices of their disguise which have been mistaken for virtue. The wretches who compose the army of a tyrant are associated by folly in the service of rapine and murder; and that men should imagine they were deserving honour by the massacre of each other, merely to flatter ambition with title, is, perhaps, as inscrutable a mystery as any that has perplexed reason, and as gross an absurdity as any that has disgraced it. It is not, indeed, so much to punish vice as to prevent misery, that I wish to see it always branded with infamy: for even the successes of vice terminate in the anguish of disappointment. To Alexander the fruit of all his conquests was tears; and whoever goes about to gratify intemperate wishes will labour to as little purpose as he who should attempt to fill a sieve with water.
I was accidentally led to pursue my subject in this train by the sight of an historical chart, in which the rise, the progress, the declension, and duration of empire are represented by the arrangement of different colours; and in which, not only extent, but duration, is rendered a sensible object. The Grecian empire, which is distinguished by a deep red, is a long but narrow line ; because, though Alexander marked the world with his colour from Macedonia to Egypt, yet the colours peculiar to the hereditary potentates whom he dispossessed again took place upon his death: and, indeed, the question, whose name shall be connected with a particular country as its king, is, to those who hazard life in the decision, as trifling as whether a small spot in a chart shall be stained with red or
yellow. That man should be permitted to decide such questions by means so dreadful is a reflection under which he only can rejoice who believes that God only reigns; and can appropriate the promise, that all things shall work together for good.
No. 48. SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 1753.
Ibat triumphans Virgo-
As rescued from intended wrong,
To love an enemy is the distinguishing characteristic of a religion, which is not of man but of God. It could be delivered as a precept only by him who lived and died to establish it by his example.
At the close of that season, in which human frailty has commemorated sufferings which it could not sustain, a season in which the most zealous devotion can only substitute a change of food for a total abstinence of forty days; it cannot, surely, be incongruous to consider what approaches we can make to that divine love which these sufferings expressed, and how far man, in imitation of his Saviour, can bless those who curse him, and return good for evil.
We cannot, indeed, behold the example but at a distance; nor consider it without being struck with a sense of our own debility : every man who compares his life with this divine rule, instead of exulting in his own excellence, will smite his breast like the publican, and cry out, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Thus to acquaint us with ourselves may, perhaps, be one use of the precept; but the precept cannot, surely, be considered as having no other.
I know it will be said, that our passions are not in our power; and that, therefore, a precept, to love or to hate, is impossible; for if the gratification of all our wishes was offered us to, love a stranger as we love a child, we could not fulfil the condition, however we might desire the reward.
But admitting this to be true, and that we cannot love an enemy as we love a friend; it is yet equally certain, that we may perform those actions which are produced by love, from a higher principle: we may, perhaps, derive moral excellence from natural dèfects, and exert our reason instead of indulging a passion. If our enemy hungers we may feed him, and if he thirsts we may give him drink: this, if we could love him, would be our conduct; and this may still be our conduct, though to love him is impossible. The Christian will be prompted to relieve the necessities of his enemy, by his love to God: he will rejoice in an opportunity to express the zeal of his gratitude and the alacrity of his obedience, at the same time that he appropriates the promises and anticipates his reward.
But though he who is beneficent upon these principles may in the scripture sense be said to love his enemy; yet something more may still be effected: the passion itself in some degree is in our power; we may rise to a yet nearer emulation of divine for