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would be no representation of any thing without. But since it is otherwise, since it is agreeable in the respects abovemen. tioned, to the nature of things, and especially since it is the representation and image of the moral perfection and excellency of the divine Being, hereby we have a perception of that moral excellency, of which we could have no true idea without it. And it being so, hereby persons have that true knowledge of God, which greatly enlightens the mind in the knowledge of divine things in general, and does (as might be shewn, if it were necessary to the main purpose of this discourse) in many respects assist persons to a right understandins of things in general, to understand which our faculties were chiefy given us, and which do chiefly concern our interest ; and assists us to see the nature of them, and the truth of them, in their proper evidence. Whereas, the want of this spiritual sense, and the prevalence of those dispositions that are contrary to it, tend to darken and distract the mind, and dreadfully to delude and confound men's understandings.
And as to that moral sense, common to mankind, which there is in natural conscience, neither can this be truly said to be no more than a sentiment arbitrarily given by the Creator, without any relation to the necessary nature of things : But is established in an agreement with the nature of things ; so as no sense of mind that can be supposed, of a contrary nalure and tendency could be. This will appear by these two things.......
1. This moral sense, if the understanding be well informed, and be exercised at liberty, and in an extensive manner, without being restrained to a private sphere, approves the very same things which a spiritual and divine sense approres; and those things only : though not on the same grounds, nor with the same kind of approbation. Therefore, as that divine sense has been already shewn to be agreeable to the necessary nature of things, so this inferior moral sense, being so far correspondent to that, must also so far agree with the nature of things.
2. It has been shewn, that this moral sense consists in ap- . proving the uniformity and natural agreement there is be..
tween one thing and another. So that by the supposition it is agreeable to the nature of things. For therein it consists, viz. a disposition of mind to consent to, or like, the agreement of the nature of things, or the agreement of the nature and form of one thing with another. And certainly such a temper of mind as likes the agreement of things to the nature of things, is more agreeable to the nature of things than an opposite temper of mind. Here it
be observed.....As the use of language is for mankind to express their sentiments or ideas to each other, so that those terms in language, by which things of a moral nature are signified, are to express those moral sentiments or ideas that are common to mankind ; therefore it is, that moral sense which is in natural conscience, that chiefly governs the use of language among mankind, and is the mind's rule of language in these matters among mankind; it is indeed the general natural rule which God has given to all men, whereby to judge of moral good and evil. By such words, right and wrong, good and evil, when used in a moral sense, is meant in common speech that which deserves praise or blame, respect or resentment. But as has been often observed, mankind in general have a sense of desert, by this natural moral sense.
Therefore here may arise a question, which may deserve to be considered, viz. Seeing it is thus, that sentiment among mankind is the rule of language, as to what is called by the name of good and evil, worthy and unworthy; and it is appar-1 ent, that sentiment, at least as to many particulars, by some means or other is different in different persons, in different nations; that being thought to deserve praise by one, which by others is thought to be worthy of blame; how therefore can virtue and vice be any other than arbitrary, not at all determined by the nature of things, but by the sentiments of men with relation to the nature of things ?
In order to the answering this question with clearness, it may be divided into two, viz. Whether men's sentiments of moral good and evil are not arbitrary, or rather casual and accidental ? And, whether the way of their using words in
what they call good and evil, is not arbitrary, without respect to any common sentiment in all, conformed to the nature of things ?
As to the first, I would observe, that the general disposition or sense of mind exercised in a sense of desert of esteem or resentment, may be the same in all ; though as to particular objects and occasions with regard to which it is exercised, it may be very various in different men or bodies of men, through the partiality or error that may attend the view or attention of the mind. In all, a notion of desert of love, or resentment, may consist in the same thing, in general, viz. suitableness, or natural uniformity and agreement between the affections and acts of the agent, and the affections and treatment of others some way concerned ; or the natural agreement between love (or something that some way im, plies love, or proceeds from it, or tends to it) and love ; a natvral agreement between treating well, and being well treated ; the natural agreement between hating (or something that some way partakes of the nature of hatred) and being hated, &c. I say, this general notion of desert may be the same ; and yet occasions and objects through variety of apprehensions about these occasions and objects, and the various manner in which they are viewed, by reason of the partial atten, tion of the mind, may be extremely various; and example, custom, education, and association may have a hand in this, in ways innumerable. But it is needless to dwell long on this, since things which have been said by others (Mr. Hutcheson in particular) may abundantly shew, that the differences which are to be found among different persons and nations, concerning moral good and evil, are not inconsistent with a general moral sense, common to all mankind.
Nor, secondly, is the use of the words, good and evil, right and wrong, when used in a moral sense, altogether unfixed and arbitrary, according to the variety of potions, opinions, and views, that occasion the forementioned variety of sentiment. For though the signification of words is determined by use, yet that which governs in the use of terms is general er common use. And mankind, in what they would signify,
by terms, are obliged to aim at a consistent use; because it is easily found that the end of language, which is to be a common medium of manifesting ideas and sentiments, cannot be obtained
other way than by a consistent use of words ; both that men should be consistent with themselves, and one with another, in the use of them. But men cannot call any thing right or wrong, worthy or ill deserving, consistently, any other
way than by calling things so, which truly deserve praise or blame, i. e. things, wherein (all things considered) there is most uniformity in connecting with them praise or blame. There is no other way that they can use these terms consistently with themselves. Thus, if thieves or traitors may be angry with informers, that bring them to justice, and call their behavior by odious names, yet herein they are inconsistent with themselves ; because, when they put themselves in the place of those that have injured them, they approve the same things they 'condemn. And therefore such are capable of being convinced, that they apply these odious terms in an abusive manner. So; a nation that prosecutes an ambitious design of universal empire, by subduing other nations with fire and sword, may affix terms that signify the highest degrees of virtue, to the conduct of such as shew the most engaged, stable, resolute spirit in this affair, and do most of this bloody work. But yet they are capable of being convinced, that they use these terms inconsistently, and abuse language in it, and so having their mouths stopped. And not only will men use such words inconsistently with themselvesy but also with one another, by using them any otherwise than to signify true merit or ill deserving, as before explained. For there is no way else, wherein men have any notion of good or ilt desert, that mankind in general can agree in. Mankind in general seem to suppose some general standard or foundation in nature for an universal consistence in the use of the terms whereby they express moral good and evil ; which none can depart from but through error and mistake. This is evidently supposed in all disputes they may have one with another, about right and wrong ; and in all endeavors used to evince or prove that any thing is either good or evil, in a moral sense.