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TO DO GO O D.
D.D. F. R. S.
AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY,
ANDREW THOMSON, D. 1).
MINISTER OF ST. GEORGE'S, EDINBURGH.
PRINTED FOR CHALMERS AND COLLINS;
AND G. B. WHITTAKER, LONDON
I. According to the common notions, and common practice of mankind, “ doing good” implies, whatever removes pain or imparts pleasure. But this is evidently a mistaken view of the subject; for pain is frequently a great blessing, and pleasure is frequently a serious evil. The amputation of a limb, though attended with severe agony, may be the means of saving the patient's life; and that which yields the sweetest gratification to the palate, may speedily terminate in disease and death. The discipline which is administered to a child may issue in his future and permanent advantage; while the indulgence of his wishes may subject him to a perpetuity of suffering. The continuance of that bodily health and that outward prosperity, on which most people set so much value, not seldom produces thoughtlessness, improvidence, immorality, and ultimate ruin; and we sometimes observe the protracted maladies, and the worldly disappointments and misfortunes, which all men naturally regard with aversion, exerting such an influence on the character and state of those who are exercised by them,
as to render them, what every one should desire to be, considerate, and virtuous, and happy. Numerous instances, in short, may be conceived, and do actually occur, from which it must be apparent, that neither the mere absence of pain, nor the mere sensation of pleasure, can be properly denominated
good;" and that he who relieves us of the one, or confers upon us the other, is not, on that account, or in that case, necessarily performing us a service; but, on the contrary, may be visiting us with an essential and irreparable injury. And it is unquestionably owing to the very loose and imperfect ideas which are entertained on this subject, that, amidst all the kindness that is felt, and all the activity which that kindness originates and keeps alive, so little progress is made in the improvement of man's condition---so little added to the aggregate of human happiness—so little achieved of what an enlightened judgment would pronounce to be substantially and unequivocally beneficial.
To be prepared for “doing good” with certainty, and in the proper sense of the expression, we must not merely consider the immediate results of what we do for such as we intend to benefit, or the feelings which our treatment of them has, at the moment, excited in their minds. We must take a comprehensive survey of their interests. for this purpose, look well to their nature, to their final destination, to the circumstances in which they are placed, and to the effects which are likely to be produced upon them now and hereafter, by our counsels or our conduct. It is from the separate study and combined view of these particulars, that