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Fourthly, It deserves to be considered, whether men are more at liberty, in point of morals, to make themselves miserable without reason, than to make other people so; or dissolutely to neglect their own greater good, for the sake of a present lesser gratification, than they are to neglect the good of others, whom nature has committed to their care. It should seem, that a due concern about our own interest or happiness, and a reasonable endeavour to secure and promote it, which is, I think, very much the meaning of the word, prudence, in our language ; it should seem, that this is virtue, and the contrary behaviour faulty and blameable, since, in the calmest way of reflection, we approve of the first, and condemn the other conduct, both in ourselves and others. This approbation and disapprobation are altogether different from mere 'desire of our own, or of their happiness, and from sorrow upon missing it. For the object or occasion of this last kind of perception, is satisfaction or uneasiness; whereas the object of the first is active behaviour. In one case, what our thoughts fix upon, is our condition; in the other, our conduct. It is true, indeed, that nature bas not given us so sensible a disapprobation of imprudence and folly, either in ourselves or others, as of falsehood, injustice, and cruelty ; I suppose, because that constant habitual sense of private interest and good, wbich we always carry about with us, renders such sensible disapprobation less necessary, less wanting, to keep us from imprudently neglecting our own happiness, and foolishly injuring ourselves, than it is necessary and wanting to keep us from injuring others, to whose good we cannot have so strong and constant a regard ; and also, because imprudence and folly, appearing to bring its own punishment more immediately and constantly than injurious behaviour, it less needs the additional punishment, which would be inflicted upon it by others, bad they the same sensible indignation against it, as against injustice and fraud and cruelty. Besides, unhappiness being in itself the natural object of compassion, the unhappiness which people bring upon themselves, though it be wilfully, exeites in us some pity for them; and this, of course, lessens our displeasure against them. But still it is matter of experience, that we are formed so, as to reflect very severely upon the greater instances of imprudent neglects and foolish rashness, both in ourselves and others. In instances of this kind, men often. say of themselves with remorse, and of others with some indignation, that they deserved to suffer such calamities, because they brought them upon themselves, and would not take warning. Particularly, when persons come to poverty and distress by a long course of extravagance, and after frequent admonitions, though without falsehood or injustice; we plainly do not regard such people as alike objects of compassion, with those who are brought into the same condition by unavoidable accidents. From these things it appears, that prudence is a species of virtue, and folly of vice : meaning by folly, somewhat quite different from mere incapacity ; a thoughtless want of that regard and attention to our own happiness, which we had capacity for. And this the word properly includes, and, as it seems, in its usual acceptation ; for we scarce apply it to brute creatures.
However, if any person be disposed to dispute the matter,, I shall very willingly give him up the words virtue and vice, as not applicable to prudence and folly; but must beg leave to insist, that the faculty within us, which is the judge of actions, approves of prudent actions, and disapproves imprudent ones ; I say, prudent and imprudent actions as such, and considered distinctly from the happiness or misery which they occasion. And by the way, this observation may belp to determine, what justness there is in that objection against religion, that it teaches us to be interested and selfish.
Fifthly, Without inquiring how far, and in what sense, virtue is resolvable into benevolence, and vice to want of it"; it
to observe, that benevolence, and the want of it, singly considered, are in no sort the whole of virtue and vice. For if this were the
in the review of one's own character, or that of others, our moral understanding and moral sense would be indifferent to every thing, but the degrees in which benevolence prevailed, and the degrees in whiclı it was wanting. That is, we should neither approve of benevolence to some persons rather than to others, nor disapprove injustice and falsehood upon any other account, than merely as an overbalance of happiness was foreseen likely to be produced by the first, and of misery by the second. But now, on the contrary, suppose two nien competitors for any thing whatever, which would be of equal advantage to each of them; though nothing indeed would be more impertinent, than for a stranger to busy himself to get one of them preferred to the other; yet such endeavour would be virtue, in behalf of a friend or benefactor, abstracted from all consideration of distant consequences : as that examples of gratitude, and the cultivation of friendship, would be of general good to the world. Again, suppose one man should, by fraud or violence, take from another the fruit of his labour, with intent to give it to a third, who, he thought, would have as much pleasure from it, as would balance the pleasure which the first possessor would have had in the enjoyment, and his vexation in the loss of it ; suppose also, that no bad consequences would follow; yet such an action would surely be vicious. Nay, farther, were treachery, violence, and injustice, no otherwise vicious, than as foreseen likely to produce an overbalance of misery to society; then, if in any case a man could procure to himself as great advantage by an act of injustice, as the whole foreseen inconvenience, likely to be brought upon others by it, would amount to, such a piece of injustice would not be faulty or vicious at all, because it would be no more than, in any other
case, a man to prefer bis own satisfaction to another's in equal degrees. The fact then appears to be, that we are constituted so, as to condemn falsehood, unprovoked violence, injustice, and to approve of benevolence to some preferably to others, abstracted from all consideration, which conduct is likeliest to produce an overba.
lance of happiness or misery. And therefore, were the Author of nature to propose nothing to himself as an end but the production of happiness, were his moral character merely that of benevolence; yet ours is not so. Upon that supposition, indeed, the only reason of his giving us the above-mentioned approbation of benevolence to some persons rather than others, and disapprobation of falsehood, unprovoked violence, and injustice, must be, that he foresaw, this constitution of our nature would produce more happiness, than forming us with a temper of mere general benevolence. But still, since this is our commitution, falsehood, violence, injustice, must be vice in use and benevolence in a pivo ably to otliers, virtue, abstrartea from all consideration of the overbalance of al or good, which they may appear likely to produce.
Now, if human ereatures are endued with such a moral nature as we have been explaining, or with a moral faculty, the natural object of which is actions ; moral government must consist in rendering them happy and unhappy, in rewarding and punishing them, as they follow, neglect, or depart from, the moral rule of action interwoven in their nature, or suggested and enforced by this moral faculty ; * in rewarding and punishing them upon account of their so doing.
I am not sensible that I have, in this fifth observa. tion, contradicted what any author designed to assert. But some of great and distinguished merit, bave, I think, expressed themselves in a manner,
which may occasion some danger, to careless readers, of imagining the whole of virtue to consist in singly aiming, according to the best of their judgment, at promoting the happiness of mankind in the present state; and the whole of vice, in doing what they foresee, or might foresee, is likely to produce an overbalance of unhappiness in it; than which mistakes, none can be conceived more terrible. For it is certain, that some of the most shocking instances of injustice, adultery, murder, perjury, and even of persecution, may, in, many supposable cases, not have the appearance of being likely to produce an overbalance of misery in the present state ;. perhaps sometimes may have the contrary appearance. For this reflection might easily be carried on ; but I forbear
* Part i. chap. 6. p. 116.
The happiness of the world is the concern of him, who is the Lord and the Proprietor. of it ; nor, do we know what we are about, when we endeavour to promote the good of mankind in any ways, but those which he has directed; that is, indeed, in all ways not contrary to veracity and justice.. I speak chus upon supposition. onersons really endeayo wing, in some sort
, to do goodwiluva-negard to these. But the truth seems to be, that such supposed endeavours proceed, almost always, from ambition, the spirit of party, or some indirect principle, concealed perhaps in great measure from persons themselves.. And though, it is our business and our duty to endeavour, within the bounds of veracity and justice, to contribute to the ease, convenience, and even cheerfulness and diversion of our fellow creatyres; yet, from our short views, it is greatly uncertain, whether this endeavour will, in particular instances, produce an overbalance of happiness upon the whole ; since so many and distant things must come into the account. And that which makes it, our duty, is, that there is some appearance that it will, and no positive appearance sufficient to balance this, on the contrary side;, and also, that such benevolent endeavour is a cultivation of that most excellent of all virtuous principles, the active principle of benevolence.
However, though, veracity, as well as justice, is to be our rule of life; it must be added, otherwise a snare will be laid in the way. of some plain men, that the use of common forms of speech generally understood, cavnot be falsehood; and, in general, that there can be no designed falsehood without designing to deceive. It must likewise be observed, that, in numberless cases, a man may be under the strictest obligations to what he foresees will deceive, without his intending it. For it