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ved, can never be otherwise, while the same constitution remains. Vice can never become virtue; virtue can never become vice.And this interesting truth will appear the more impressive, when we consider, that the permanency and immutability of the distinction between virtue and vice have their origin in the Supreme Being himself. It is He, that has ordained, that certain actions shall cause certain emotions, that some things shall be approved and others not; it is He, that has instituted the relation, which exists between the deed, which is performed, and the feeling, which responds to it. As He was governed by the highest wisdom in so doing, we may well conclude, that there is a permanency in moral distinctions no less lasting, than the divine nature.

§. 354. Of moral obligation and conscience.

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But something remains to be said as to the particular inquiry, Why men are bound to do one thing in preference to another, Why they are under moral obligation? It has sometimes been given, as a definition, that MORAL OBLIGATION is that, by which we are bound to perform that, which is right, and avoid that, which is wrong.There have been various opinions concerning the ground of moral obligation, or what it arises from. One ascribes it to the moral fitness of things; another finds it in the decisions of reason; another in expediency, and in the promotion of the publick good; another in Revelation. But after hearing these and other solutions of the ground of moral obligation, the question still returns, Why does a regard for the publick good, or a belief in Revelation, or the conclusions of reason render it right for me to do a particular action, and wrong not to? When such a question is put to us, we find ourselves driven back upon the feelings of our own hearts. Our Creator, in forming us with a susceptibility of emotions of approval or disapproval, has furnished us with a guide in the discharge of our duties to Him, to our fellow beings, to ourselves. Without this susceptibility, which under another name is called CONSCIENCE, men would feel no regret and compunction even in disobeying

the express commands of God himself. Without this susceptibility, it would be all the same, whether they regarded or disregarded the most affecting calls of charity and of the publick good. Without this, benevolent intercourse would cease; religious homage would be at an end; the bonds of society would be loosed and dissolved. The true source, then, of moral obligation is in the natural impulses of the human breast;-in a man's own conscience. It is in this, that we find the origin of the multitude of moral motives, that are continually stirring up men to worthy and exalted enterprizes. This is the law, which governs them; and as it is inseparable from that nature, of which the Supreme Being is the author, it is the law of God,

§. 355. Want of uniformity in our moral judgments.

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But here some difficulties are to be considered. often been objected to the doctrine, which attributes our moral judgments and moral obligation to an original susceptibility, that there is too great a want of uniformity in the results of such alleged susceptibility. Dr. Paley seems to have thought, that there is great weight in this objection. His views are given in connection with the following narration, which he has translated from Valerius Maximus.The father of Caius Toranius had been proscribed by the Triumvirate. Caius Toranius coming over to the interests of that party, discovered to the officers the place, where he concealed himself, and gave them withal a description, by which they might distinguish his person, when they found him. The old man more anxious for the fortunes and safety of his son, than about the little, that might remain of his own life, began immediately to inquire of the officers, who seized him, Whether his son was well, Whether he had done his duty to the satisfaction of his generals? That son, replied one of the officers, so dear to thy affections, betrayed thee to us; by his information thou art apprehended and diest. The officer with this struck a poniard to his heart, and the unhappy parent fell, not so much affected by his fate, as by the means to which jhe owed it.The advocates of an original susceptibility of


moral emotions maintain, that if this story were related to the most ignorant and degraded Savage, to one, who had been cut off from infancy from intercourse with his fellowmen, he would at once exhibit disapprobation of the conduct of Toranius, and pity and respect for his father. Dr. Paley, inasmuch as he discountenanced the notion of a natural conscience, and of original judgments of virtue and vice, has given, at some length, the arguments of those, who deny this result. Following the suggestions of our own feelings, we cannot help thinking with those, who hold, that the Savage would have sentiments favourable to the father, and against the son; provided that the Savage were made acquainted with the relation between them, and with the nature and degree of the acts of kindness, which are always implied in the history of those, who sustain the parental relation. Unless he were made to understand this, his decision, whatever it might be, would be irrelevant to the present inquiry.

Dr. Paley and those, who think with him, remind us, that theft, which is punished by most laws, was not unfrequently rewarded by the laws of Sparta. We are reminded also of the cruelty exercised by Savages upon their prisoners taken in war, and of the appalling fact, that in some countries aged and infirm parents have been cast out by their children, and exposed to a sure and lingering death. Now, in reference to these facts, we readily admit, that, in consequence of some accidental circumstances, moral distinctions have sometimes been neglected or overruled in civilized communities. Nor can it be denied, that some Savage tribes, debased by want and ignorance, have given instances of injustice and cruelty of the most shocking nature. But we cannot readily see, how these few exceptions disprove the general rule; although they are undoubtedly exceptions to it. The general statement, that men are originally susceptible of moral emotions, is confirmed by the experience, and testimony, and conduct of millions and millions of mankind. The great mass of the human race, amid all the differences of climate and government, and local institutions and observances, pronounce,

with the most evident uniformity, on the excellence of some actions, and on the iniquity of others. Reasoning, therefore, in this case, as we do in others, we cannot admit the discordant voice of some depraved individual, or the accidental moral obliquities, which have at times pervaded some civilized communities, or the testimony of the savage and ignorant inhabitants of a remote island, as disproving what is evidently the unanimous declaration of all the world besides. They prove, that the original susceptibility of moral emotions may be weakened and perverted, but that is all. They show, that conscience may be misguided by accidental circumstances, or that its influence may be blunted and annulled, but they are vainly brought to show, that conscience has no existence.

§. 356. Conscience sometimes perverted by passion.

Admitting the fact, that the moral susceptibility may sometimes be blunted and perverted, something more seems to be necessary, viz., That we should briefly state, under what circumstances, or from what causes, this takes place. And, in the first place, the due exercise of this susceptibility, or what is otherwise termed CONSCIENCE, may be perverted, when a person is under the influence of violent passions.The moral emotion, which under other circumstances would have arisen, has failed to arise in the present instance, because the soul is intensely and wholly taken up with another species of feeling. But after the present passion has subsided, the power of moral judgments returns; the person, who has been the subject of such violence of feeling, looks with horror on the deeds, which he has committed. So that the original susceptibility, which has been contended for, cannot justly be said to cease to exist in this instance; although its due exercise is prevented by the accidental circumstance of inordinate passion. Further; those, who imagine, that there are no permanent moral distinctions, because they are not regarded in moments of extreme passion, would do well to consider, that at such times persons are unable rightly to apprehend any truths whatever. A murderer, when draw

ing the blade from the bosom of his victim, probably could not tell the quotient of sixteen divided by four, or any other simple results in numbers; but certainly his inability to perceive them under such circumstances does not annul numerical powers and distinctions. Why then should the same inability take away moral distinctions?

§. 357. Complexity in actions a source of confusion in our moral judgments.

A second reason, why men, although they are under the guidance of an original susceptibility, do not always form the same judgments of actions, is to be found in their complexity.We have already seen, that actions are nothing of themselves, independently of the agent. In forming moral judgments, therefore, we are to look at the agent; and we are to regard him, not only as willing and bringing to pass certain effects, but we are to consider him also as the subject of certain desires and intentions; and we are unable rightly to estimate these, without taking into view various attendant circumstances. In some cases the intention is obvious; and in these the judgment is readily formed. But in other cases, the results are complex; they are a mixture of good and evil; and hence arises a difficulty in ascertaining the true intention and design of the agent. When different individuals are called upon to judge of an instance of this kind, they will be not unlikely to give their attention to different circumstances, or they may have different views of the same circumstances, considered as indications of feeling and intention. This being the case, the judgments, which they will pass, will in effect be pronounced upon different things, inasmuch as they will have such difference of views. Hence in a multitude of actions, there will be sufficient reason for a diversity of moral sentiments, where by superficial observers a perfect uniformity may have been expected.These remarks throw some light upon the supposed approbation of theft among the Spartans. This people were trained up by their political institutions to regard property as of little value; their lands were equally divided; they ate at publick

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