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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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The love of mankind in general, accompanied with a desire to promote their happiness. It is distinguished from beneficence, that being the practice, benevolence the desire of doing good. Benevolence must be universal, reaching to every man without exception; but beneficence cannot be so universal, for it is necessarily confined by several considerations; such as our knowledge of objects, and their different circumstances, as well as our own abilities and opportunities of exercising them. Benevolence or good will to others does not imply that we are to neglect our own interests. Our salvation, health, prosperity, and reputation should all be objects of concern: nor will this clash with the affection we may bear to others; on the contrary, experiencing the importance of these blessings ourselves, we shall be anxious for others to possess them also.

The duties of benevolence include those we owe to men, purely on the ground of their being of the same species with ourselves; such as sympathy, relief, & c; those we owe to our country, desiring its honour, safety, prosperity; those we owe to the church of God, as love, zeal, &c.; those we owe to families and individuals, as affection, care, provision, justice, forbearance, &c. Benevolence manifests itself by being pleased with the share of good every creature enjoys; in a disposition to increase it; in feeling an uneasiness at their sufferings; and in the abhorrence of cruelty under every disguise or pretext. The desire of doing good unconnected with any idea of advantage to ourselves is called disinterested benevolence, though some doubt, whether, strictly speaking, there be any such thing; as benevolence is always attended with a pleasure to ourselves, which forms a kind of mental interest. So far, however, as we are able to prefer the good of others to our own, and sacrifice our own comfort for the welfare of any about us, so far it may be said to be disinterested.

See Hutcheson on the Passions, p. 13-26; Doddridge's Lect. 65; Beattie's Elements of Moral Science, vol.i. p. 244-249; Brown's Second Essay on Shaftesbury's Characteristics; and articles LOVE and SELF-LOVE.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Benevolence'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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