"In no state of society can a practice, involving in it circumstances of such atrocious and enormous guilt, be considered as defensible by any person whose understanding is not darkened by the turpitude of his heart; in whom not only the feelings of the moral sense are extinguished, but, in this instance at least, every ray even of common sense."

— Belsham, William (1752–1827)


Place of Publication
London
Publisher
Printed for C. Dilly
Date
1789
Metaphor
"In no state of society can a practice, involving in it circumstances of such atrocious and enormous guilt, be considered as defensible by any person whose understanding is not darkened by the turpitude of his heart; in whom not only the feelings of the moral sense are extinguished, but, in this instance at least, every ray even of common sense."
Metaphor in Context
[...] We find, indeed, admirable directions for our conduct in a great variety of respects; but then those directions resulted from the occasional application of those general principles to particular cases, according to the discretion of the several writers. There is no proper limitation of benevolence, as an active principle, but the impracticability of its farther extension; and if we, who so justly and highly venerate the characters and writings of the apostles, should however be enabled, by means of that superiority of light and knowledge which, in some respects, we undoubtedly enjoy, to apply this grand principle to cases which did not occur to them, we act in a manner perfectly conformable to the genius and spirit of Christianity, though the authority of a positive precept may be wanting. St. Paul, probably, had no idea of a state of civil society, in which the spirit of liberty would operate to the total annihilation of the very condition of slavery. He contented himself, therefore, with giving directions worthy of an apostle, for the religious conduct of masters and servants, under actually existing circumstances; but enlightened Christians in the present age, well know that slavery may be, and in many Christian countries has, in fact, been totally abolished, not only with safety, but with real advantage to society, and a great increase of the general happiness: they, therefore, justly condemn the state itself as inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity, though in peculiar circumstances private Christians may, perhaps, justifiably acquiesce in a state of things which it is not in the power of individuals to alter. But the evils attending the Slave Trade are of a nature very different, and of a far greater magnitude than those which necessarily result from the mere condition of slavery. In no state of society can a practice, involving in it circumstances of such atrocious and enormous guilt, be considered as defensible by any person whose understanding is not darkened by the turpitude of his heart; in whom not only the feelings of the moral sense are extinguished, but, in this instance at least, every ray even of common sense.
(pp. 445-6)
Provenance
Reading at the Schomburg Center (NYPL)
Citation
William Belsham, Essays, Philosophical, Historical, and Literary (London: Printed for C. Dilly, 1789). <Link to Google Books>
Date of Entry
08/23/2011

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.