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Book II - David Fordyce, The Elements of Moral Philosophy 
The Elements of Moral Philosophy, in Three Books with a Brief Account of the Nature, Progress, and Origin of Philosophy, ed. Thomas Kennedy (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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The Principal Distinctions of Duty or Virtue
We have now considered the Constitution and Connections of Man, and on these erected a general System of Duty, or MoralObligation, consonant to Reason, approved by his most sacred and intimate Sense, suitable to his mixed Condition, and confirmed by the Experience of Mankind. We have also traced the finalCauses of his Moral Faculties and Affections to those noble Purposes they answer both with regard to the private and the public System.
General Division of DutyFrom this Induction it is evident, that there is one Order or Class of Duties which Man owes to himself. Another to Society. And a third to God.
Duties to one’s selfThe Duties he owes to himself are founded chiefly on the defensive and private Passions, which prompt him to pursue whatever tends to private Good or Happiness, and to avoid, or ward off whatever tends to private Ill or Misery. Among the various Goods which allure and solicit him, and the various Ills which attack or threaten him, “To be intelligent and accurate in selecting one, and rejecting the other, or in preferring the most excellent Goods, and avoiding the most terrible Ills, when there is a Competition among either, and to be discreet in using the best Means to attain the Goods and avoid the Ills, is what we call Prudence.” This, in our inward Frame, corresponds to Sagacity, or a Quickness of Sense in our outward.—“To proportion our defensivePassions, to our Dangers, we call Fortitude;” which always implies “a just Mixture of calm Resentment and Animosity, and well-governed Caution.” And this Firmness of Mind answers to the Strength and Muscling of the Body.—And “duly to adjust our privatePassions to our Wants, or to the respective Moment of the Good we affect or pursue, we call Temperance;” which does therefore always imply, in this large Sense of the Word, “a just Balance or Command of the Passions,” and answers to the Health and sound Temperament of the Body.*
Duties to SocietyThe second Class of Duties arises from the public or socialAffections, “the just Harmony or Proportion of which to the Dangers and Wants of others, and to the several Relations we bear, commonly goes by the Name of Justice.” This includes the Whole of our Duty to Society, to its Parent, and the general Polity of Nature; particularly Gratitude, Friendship, Sincerity, natural Affection, Benevolence, and the other social Virtues: This being the noblest Temper and fairest Complexion of the Soul, corresponds to the Beauty and fine Proportion of the Person. The Virtues comprehended under the former Class, especially Prudence and Fortitude, may likewise be transferred to this; and according to the various Circumstances in which they are placed, and the more confined or more extensive Sphere in which they operate, may be denominated Private, Oeconomical, or CivilPrudence, Fortitude, &c. These direct our Conduct with regard to the Wants and Dangers of those lesser or greater Circles with which we are connected.
Duties to GodThe third Class of Duties respects the Deity, and arises also from the publicAffections, and the several glorious Relations which he sustains to us, as our Creator, Benefactor, Law-giver, Judge, &c.
MethodWe chose to consider this Set of Duties in the last place, because, though prior in Dignity and Excellency, they seem to be last in Order of Time, as thinking it the most simple and easy Method to follow the gradual Progress of Nature, as it takes its Rise from Individuals, and spreads through the social System, and still ascends upwards, till at length it stretches to its all-mighty Parent and Head, and so terminates in those Duties which are highest and best.
PietyThe Duties resulting from these Relations, are Reverence, Gratitude, Love, Resignation, Dependence, Obedience, Worship, Praise; which, according to the Model of our finite Capacities, must maintain some sort of Proportion to the Grandeur and Perfection of the Object whom we venerate, love and obey. “This Proportion or Harmony, is expressed by the general Name of Piety or Devotion,” which is always stronger or weaker, according to the greater or less apprehended Excellency of its Object. This sublime Principle of Virtue, is the enlivening Soul which animates the moral System, and that Cement which binds and sustains the other Duties which Man owes to himself and to Society. From hence, as will appear afterwards, they derive not only the firmest Support, but their highest Relief and Lustre.
Divisions of ConscienceThis then is the general Temper and Constitution of Virtue, and these are the principal Lines or Divisions of Duty. To those good Dispositions, which respect the several Objects of our Duty, and to all Actions which flow from such Disposition, the Mind gives its Sanction or Testimony. And this Sanction or Judgment concerning the moral Quality, or the Goodness of Actions or Dispositions, Moralists call Conscience. When it judges of an Action that is to be performed, it is called an antecedent Conscience; and when it passes Sentence on an Action which is performed, it is called a subsequent Conscience.Goodness of an Action The Tendency of an Action to produce Happiness, or its external Conformity to a Law, is termed its material Goodness.Material But the good Dispositions from which an Action proceeds, or its Conformity to Law in every respect, constitutes its formal Goodness.Formal
Natural and MoralSome Moralists of no mean Figure, reckon it necessary to constitute the formal Goodness of an Action, that we reflect on the Action “with Moral Complacency and Approbation. For mere Affection, or a good Temper, whether it respects others, or ourselves, they call natural or instinctive Goodness, of which the Brutes are equally capable with Man. But when that Affection or Temper is viewed with Approbation, and made the Object of a new Affection, this, they say, constitutes MoralGoodness or Virtue, in the strict Sense of the Word, and is the Characteristic of Moral or Rational Agents.”5
Whether Approbation is necessary to complete the Idea of VirtueIt must be acknowledged, that Men may be partially good, i.e. may indulge some kind Affections, and some kind Actions, and yet may be vitious, or immoral on the Whole. Thus a Man may be affectionate to his Child, and injurious to his Neighbour; or compassionate to his Neighbour, and cruel to his Country; or zealous for his Country, yet inhuman to Mankind. It must also be acknowledged, that to make every Degree and Act of good Affection the frequent Object of our Attention,—to reflect on these with Moral Approbation and Delight,—to be convinced, on a full and impartial Review, that Virtue is most amiable in itself, and attended with the most happy Consequences, is sometimes a great Support to Virtue, in many Instances necessary to complete the virtuous Character, and always of use to give Uniformity and Stability to virtuous Principles, especially amidst the numberless Trials to which they are exposed in this mixed Scene of human Life. Yet how many of our Fellow-Creatures do we esteem and love, who perhaps never coolly reflected on the Beauty or fair Proportions of Virtue, or turned it into a Subject of their Moral Approbation and Complacency! Philosophers, or contemplative Men, may very laudably amuse themselves with such charming Theories, and often do contemplate every the minutest Trace of Virtue about themselves, with a parental Fondness and Admiration, and by those amiable Images, reflected from themselves, they may perhaps be more confirmed in the Esteem of whatever is honest and praise-worthy. However, it is not generally among this recluse Set of Men, that we expect to find the highest Flights of Virtue; but rather among Men of Action and Business, who, through the Prevalence of a natural good Temper, or from generous Affections to their Friends, their Country, and Mankind, are truly and transcendently good. Whatever that Quality is which we approve in any Action, and count worthy our Esteem, and which excites an Esteem and Love of the Agent, we call the Virtue, Merit, or formal Goodness of that Action. And if Actions, invested with such a Quality, have the Ascendant in a Character, we call that Character virtuous or good. Now it is certain that those Qualities or Principles mentioned above, especially those of the public and benevolent kind, how simple, how instinctive soever, are viewed with Approbation and Love. The very Nature of that Principle we call Conscience, which approves these benevolent Affections, and whatever is done through their Influence, intimates that Virtue or Merit is present in the Mind before Conscience is exercised, and that its Office is only to observe it there, or to applaud it. For if Virtue is something that deserves our Esteem and Love, then it must exist before Conscience is exerted, or gives its Testimony. Therefore to say that the Testimony of Conscience is necessary to the Being or Form of a virtuous Action, is, in plain Terms, to affirm, that Virtue is not Virtue, till it is reflected on and approved as Virtue. The proper Business of Reason, in forming the virtuous Character, is to guide the several Affections of the Mind to their several Objects, and to direct us to that Conduct or to those Measures of Action, which are the most proper Means of acquiring them. Thus, with respect to Benevolence, which is the Virtue of a Character, or a principal Ingredient of Merit, its proper Object is the public Good. The Business of Reason then is to inform us wherein consists the greatest public Good, what Conduct and which Actions are the most effectual Means of promoting it. After all, the Motions of the Mind are so quick and imperceptible, and so complicated with each other, that perhaps seldom do any indulge the virtuous or good Affections without an approving Consciousness; and certainly the more that Virtue is contemplated with Admiration and Love, the more firm and inflexible will the Spectator be in his Attachment to it.
Divisions of ConscienceWhen the Mind is ignorant or uncertain about the Moment of an Action, or its Tendency to private or public Good, or when there are several Circumstances in the Case, some of which being doubtful, render the Mind dubious concerning the Morality of the Action, this is called a doubtful or scrupulous Conscience; if it mistakes concerning these, it is called an erroneous Conscience. If the Error or Ignorance is involuntary or invincible, the Action proceeding from that Error, or from that Ignorance, is reckoned innocent, or not imputable. If the Error or Ignorance is supine or affected, i.e. the Effect of Negligence, or of Affectation and wilful Inadvertence, the Conduct flowing from such Error, or such Ignorance, is criminal and imputable. Not to follow one’s Conscience, though erroneous and ill-informed, is criminal, as it is the Guide of Life; and to counteract it, shews a depraved and incorrigible Spirit. Yet to follow an erroneous Conscience is likewise criminal, if that Error which misled the Conscience was the Effect of Inattention, or of any criminal Passion.*
How Conscience is to be rectifiedIf it be asked, “How an erroneous Conscience shall be rectified, since it is supposed to be the only Guide of Life, and Judge of Morals?” We answer, in the very same way that we would rectify Reason, if at any time it should judge wrong, as it often does, viz. By giving it proper and sufficient Materials for judging right, i.e. by enquiring into the whole State of the Case, the Relations, Connections, and several Obligations of the Actor, the Consequences, and other Circumstances of the Action, or the Surplusage of private or public Good which results, or is likely to result, from the Action or from the Omission of it. If those Circumstances are fairly and fully stated, the Conscience will be just and impartial in its Decision. For by a necessary Law of our Nature, it approves, and is well affected to the Moral Form; and if it seems to approve of Vice or Immorality, it is always under the Notion or Mask of some Virtue. So that strictly speaking, it is not Conscience which errs; for its Sentence is always conformable to the View of the Case which lies before it; and is just, upon the Supposition that the Case is truly such as it is represented to it. All the Fault is to be imputed to the Agent, who neglects to be better informed, or who, through Weakness or Wickedness, hastens to pass Sentence from an imperfect Evidence. Thus, he who persecutes another for the Sake of Conscience, or a Mistake in religious Opinion, does not approve of Injustice, or Cruelty, any more than his mistaken Neighbour who suffers by it; but thinking the Severity he uses conformable to the Divine Will or salutary to the Patient, or at least to the Society of the Faithful, whose Interest he reckons far preferable not only to the Interest of so small a Part, but to all the vast Remainder of Mankind; and thinking withal, that Severity is the only Means of securing that highest Interest, he passes a Sentence as just, and consequential from those Principles, as a Physician, who to save the whole Body, orders the Amputation of a gangrened Limb, thinking that the only Remedy. Perhaps, in the latter Case, an able Practitioner might have accomplished the Cure by a less dangerous Operation; and in the former, a better Casuist, or a greater Master in spiritual Medicine, might have contrived a Cure, full as sure, and much more innocent.
Having now given the general Divisions of Duty or Virtue, which exhibit its different Faces and Attitudes, as it stands directed to its respective Objects, let us next descend into Particulars, and mark its most minute Features and Proportions, as they appear in the Detail of human Life.
Of Man’s Duty to Himself. Of the Nature of Good, and the Chief Good
Divisions of GoodEvery Creature, by the Constitution of his Nature, is determined to love himself, to pursue whatever tends to his Preservation and Happiness, and to avoid whatever tends to his Hurt and Misery. Being endued with Sense and Perception, he must necessarily receive Pleasure from some Objects, and Pain from others. Those Objects which give Pleasure are called good, and those which give Pain, evil. To the former he feels that Attraction or Motion we call Desire, or Love: to the latter that Impulse we call Aversion, or Hatred. To Objects which suggest neither Pleasure nor Pain, and are apprehended of no Use to procure one, or ward off the other, we feel neither Desire nor Aversion, and such Objects are called indifferent. Those Objects which do not of themselves procure Pleasure or Pain, but are the Means of procuring either, we call useful or noxious. Towards them we are affected in a subordinate manner, or with an indirect or reflective, rather than a direct and immediate Affection. All the original and particular Affections of our Nature, lead us out to, and ultimately rest in, the first kind of Objects, viz. those which give immediate Pleasure, and which we therefore call good, directly so. The calm Affection of Self-love alone is conversant about such Objects as are only consequentially good, or merely useful to ourselves.
Moral GoodBut besides those Sorts of Objects which we call good, merely and solely as they give Pleasure, or are Means of procuring it, there is an higher and nobler Species of Good, towards which we feel that peculiar Movement we call Approbation, or Moral Complacency, and which we therefore denominate Moral Good. Such are our Affections, and the consequent Actions to them. The Perception of this is, as has been already observed, quite distinct in kind from the Perception of the other Species; and though it may be connected with Pleasure or Advantage, by the benevolent Constitution of Nature, yet it constitutes a Good independent of that Pleasure and that Advantage, and far superior not in Degree only, but in Dignity to both. The other, viz. the Natural Good, consists in obtaining those Pleasures which are adapted to the peculiar Senses and Passions susceptible of them, and is as various as are those Senses and Passions. This, viz. the Moral Good, lies in the right Conduct of the several Senses and Passions, or their just Proportion and Accommodation to their respective Objects and Relations; and this is of a more simple and invariable kind.
Human HappinessBy our several Senses we are capable of a great Variety of pleasing Sensations. These constitute distinct Ends, or Objects ultimately pursuable for their own Sake. To these Ends, or ultimate Objects, correspond peculiar Appetites or Affections, which prompt the Mind to pursue them. When these are attained, there it rests and looks no farther. Whatever therefore is pursuable, not on its own Account, but as subservient or necessary to the Attainment of something else that is intrinsically valuable or for its own Sake, be that Value ever so great, or ever so small, we call a Mean, and not an End. So that Ends, and not Means, constitute the Materials, or the very Essence of our Happiness. Consequently Happiness, i.e. human Happiness, cannot be one simple uniform Thing, in Creatures constituted as we are, with such various Senses of Pleasure, or such different Capacities of Enjoyment. Now the same Principle, or Law of our Nature, which determines us to pursue any one End, or Species of Good, prompts us to pursue every other End, or Species of Good, of which we are susceptible, or to which our Maker has adapted an original Propension. But amidst the great Multiplicity of Ends or Goods, which form the various Ingredients of our Happiness, we perceive an evident Gradation or Subordination, suited to that Gradation of Senses, Powers, and Passions, which prevails in our mixed and various Constitution, and to that ascending Series of Connections, which open upon us in the different Stages of our progressive State.
Gradation of GoodsThus the Goods of the Body, or of the external Senses, seem to hold the lowest Rank in this Gradation or Scale of Goods. These we have in common with the Brutes; and tho’ many Men are brutish enough to pursue the Goods of the Body with a more than brutal Fury; yet when at any time they come in Competition with Goods of an higher Order, the unanimous Verdict of Mankind, by giving the last the Preference, condemns the first to the meanest Place. Goods consisting in exterior social Connections, as Fame, Fortune, Power, Civil Authority, seem to succeed next, and are chiefly valuable as the Means of procuring natural or moral Good, but principally the latter. Goods of the Intellect are still superior, as Taste, Knowledge, Memory, Judgment, &c. The highest are moral Goods of the Mind, directly and ultimately regarding ourselves, as Command of the Appetites and Passions, Prudence, Fortitude, Benevolence, &c. These are the great Objects of our Pursuit, and the principal Ingredients of our Happiness. Let us consider each of them, as they rise one above the other in this natural Series or Scale, and touch briefly on our Obligations to pursue them.
The Brevity of this Work will not permit us minutely to weigh the real or comparative Moment of the different kinds of Goods, which offer themselves to the Mind, or to scrutinize the particular Pleasures of which we are susceptible, either as to Intenseness or Duration, and the Enjoyment of which depends on Accidents rather than our Attention and Industry. We shall therefore confine ourselves to the Consideration of such Goods as lie properly within our own Sphere, and being the Objects of our Attention and Care, fall within the Verge of Duty.
Goods of the BodyThose of the Body are Health, Strength, Agility, Hardiness, and Patience of Change, Neatness, and Decency.
Good HealthGood Health, and a regular easy Flow of Spirits, are in themselves sweet natural Enjoyments, a great Fund of Pleasure, and indeed the proper Seasoning which gives a Flavour and Poignancy to every other Pleasure. The Want of Health unfits us for most Duties of Life, and is especially an Enemy to the social and human Affections, as it generally renders the unhappy Sufferer peevish and sullen, disgusted at the Allotments of Providence, and consequently apt to entertain suspicious and gloomy Sentiments of its Author. It obstructs the free Exercise and full Improvement of our Reason, makes us a Burthen to our Friends, and useless to Society. Whereas the uninterrupted Enjoyment of good Health, is a constant Source of good Humour, and good Humour is a great Friend to Openness and Benignity of Heart, enables us to encounter the various Ills and Disappointments of Life with more Courage, or to sustain them with more Patience; and, in short, conduces much, if we are otherwise duly qualified, to our acting our Part, in every Exigency of Life, with more Firmness, Consistency, and Dignity. Therefore, it imports us much to preserve and improve an Habit or Enjoyment, without which every other external Entertainment is tasteless, and most other Advantages of little Avail.How preserved And this is best done by a strict Temperance in Diet and Regimen, by regular Exercise, and by keeping the Mind serene and unruffled by violent Passions, and unsubdued by intense and constant Labours, which greatly impair and gradually destroy, the strongest Constitutions.
Strength, Agility, &c.Strength, Agility, Hardiness, and Patience of Change, suppose Health, and are unattainable without it; but they imply something more, and are necessary to guard it, to give us the perfect Use of Life and Limbs, and to secure us against many otherwise unavoidable Ills. The Exercise of the necessary manual, and of most of the elegant, Arts of Life, depends on Strength and Agility of Body; personal Dangers, private and public Dangers, the Demands of our Friends, our Families, and Country, require them; they are necessary in War, and ornamental in Peace; fit for the Employments of a Country and a Town Life, and they exalt the Entertainments and Diversions of both.How attained They are chiefly obtained by moderate and regular Exercise.
Patience of ChangeFew are so much raised above Want and Dependence, or so exempted from Business and Care, as not to be often exposed to Inequalities and Changes of Diet, Exercise, Air, Climate, and other Irregularities. Now what can be so effectual to secure one against the Mischiefs arising from such unavoidable Alterations, as Hardiness and a certain Versatility of Constitution, which can bear extraordinary Labours, and submit to great Changes, without any sensible Uneasiness or bad Consequences.How attained This is best attained, not by an over-great Delicacy and minute Attention to Forms, or by an invariable Regularity in Diet, Hours, and Way of Living, but rather by a bold and discreet Latitude of Regimen. Besides, Deviations from established Rules and Forms of Living, if kept within the Bounds of Sobriety and Reason, are friendly to Thought and original Sentiment, animate the dull Scene of ordinary Life and Business, and agreeably stir the Passions, which stagnate or breed ill Humour in the Calms of Life.
Neatness, Decency, &c.Neatness, Cleanliness, and Decency, to which we may add Dignity of Countenance, and Demeanour, seem to have something refined and moral in them. At least we generally esteem them Indications of an orderly, genteel, and well-governed Mind, conscious of inward Worth, or the Respect due to one’s Nature. Whereas Nastiness, Slovenliness, Aukwardness, and Indecency, are shrewd Symptoms of something mean, careless, and deficient, and betray a Mind untaught, illiberal, unconscious of what is due to one’s self or to others. How much Cleanliness conduces to Health needs hardly be mentioned; and how necessary it is to maintain one’s Character and Rank in Life, and to render us agreeable to others as well as to ourselves, is as evident.—There are certain Motions, Airs and Gestures, which become the human Countenance and Form, in which we perceive a Comeliness, Openness, Simplicity, Gracefulness; and there are others, which, to our Sense of Decorum, appear uncomely, affected, disingenuous, and aukward, quite unsuitable to the native Dignity of our Face and Form. The first are in themselves the most easy, natural, and commodious, give one Boldness and Presence of Mind, a modest Assurance, an Address both awful and alluring, they bespeak Candour and Greatness of Mind, raise the most agreeable Prejudices in one’s Favour, render Society engaging, command Respect, and often Love, and give Weight and Authority both in Conversation and Business; in fine, they are the Colouring of Virtue, which shews it to the greatest Advantage in whomsoever it is; and not only imitate, but in some measure supply it where it is wanting. Whereas the last, viz. Rudeness, Affectation, Indecorum, and the like, have all the contrary Effects; they are burthensome to one’s self, a Dishonour to our Nature, and a Nusance in Society.How attained The former Qualities or Goods are best attained by a liberal Education, by preserving a just Sense of the Dignity of our Nature, by keeping the best and politest Company, but above all, by acquiring those virtuous and ennobling Habits of Mind, which are Decency in Perfection, which will give an Air of unaffected Grandeur, and spread a Lustre truly engaging over the whole Form and Deportment.
Goods of exterior social ConnectionsWe are next to consider those Goods which consist in exterior social Connections, as Fame, Fortune, Civil Authority, Power.
FameThe first has a twofold Aspect, as a Good, pleasant in itself, or gratifying to an original Passion, and then as expedient or useful towards a farther End. Honour from the Wise and Good, on Account of a virtuous Conduct, is regaling to a good Man; for then his Heart re-echoes to the grateful Sound. There are few quite indifferent, even to the Commendation of the Vulgar. Tho’ we cannot approve that Conduct which proceeds entirely from this Principle, and not from good Affection or Love of the Conduct itself, yet as it is often a Guard and additional Motive to Virtue in Creatures, imperfect as we are, and often distracted by interfering Passions, it might be dangerous to suppress it altogether, however wise it may be to restrain it within due Bounds, and however laudable to use it only as a Scaffolding to our Virtue, which may be taken down when that glorious Structure is finished, but hardly till then. To pursue Fame for itself, is innocent; to regard it only as an Auxiliary to Virtue, is noble; to seek it chiefly as an Engine of public Usefulness, is still more noble, and highly praise-worthy. For tho’ the Opinion and Breath of Men are transparent and fading Things, often obtained without Merit, and lost without Cause; yet, as our Business is with Men, and as our Capacity of serving them is generally increased in proportion to their Esteem of us, therefore sound and well-established moral Applause may, and will be modestly, not ostentatiously sought after by the Good; not indeed as a solitary refined Sort of Luxury, but as a public and proper Instrument to serve and bless Mankind. At the same time they will learn to despise that Reputation which is founded on Rank, Fortune, and any other Circumstances or Accomplishments that are foreign to real Merit, or to useful Services done to others, and think that Praise of little avail which is purchased without Desert, and bestowed without Judgment.
Fortune, Power, &c.Fortune, Power, and Civil Authority, or whatever is called Influence and Weight among Mankind, are Goods of the second Division, that is, valuable or pursuable only as they are useful, or as Means to a farther End, viz. the procuring or preserving the immediate Objects of Enjoyment or Happiness to ourselves or others. Therefore to love such Goods on their own Account, and to pursue them as Ends, not the Means of Enjoyment, must be highly preposterous and absurd. There can be no Measure, no Limit to such Pursuit; all must be Whim, Caprice, Extravagance. Accordingly such Appetites, unlike all the natural ones, are increased by Possession, and whetted by Enjoyment. They are always precarious, and never without Fears, because the Object lies without one’s self; they are seldom without Sorrow and Vexation, because no Accession of Wealth or Power can satisfy them. But if those Goods are considered only as the Materials or Means of private or public Happiness, then the same Obligations which bind us to pursue the latter, bind us likewise to pursue the former.How far pursuable We may, and no doubt we ought, to seek such a Measure of Wealth as is necessary to supply all our real Wants, to raise us above servile Dependence, and to provide us with such Conveniences as are suited to our Rank and Condition in Life. To be regardless of this Measure of Wealth, is to expose ourselves to all the Temptations of Poverty and Corruption, to forfeit our natural Independency and Freedom, to degrade, and consequently to render the Rank we hold, and the Character we sustain in Society, useless, if not contemptible. When these important Ends are secured, we ought not to murmur or repine that we possess no more; yet we are not secluded by any Obligation, moral or divine, from seeking more, in order to give us that happiest and most god-like of all Powers, the Power of doing Good. A supine Indolence in this respect is both absurd and criminal; absurd, as it robs us of an inexhausted Fund of the most refined and durable Enjoyments; and criminal, as it renders us so far useless to the Society to which we belong.Avarice “That Pursuit of Wealth which goes beyond the former End, viz. the obtaining the Necessaries, or such Conveniencies of Life, as, in the Estimation of Reason, not of Vanity or Passion, are suited to our Rank and Condition, and yet is not directed to the latter, viz. the doing Good, is what we call Avarice.” And “that Pursuit of Power,Ambition which, after securing one’s self, i.e. attained the proper Independence and Liberty of a rational social Creature, is not directed to the Good of others, is what we call Ambition, or the Lust of Power.” To what Extent the strict Measures of Virtue will allow us to pursue either Wealth, or Power, and Civil Authority, is not perhaps possible precisely to determine. That must be left to Prudence, and the peculiar Character, Condition, and other Circumstances of each Man. Only thus far a Limit may be set, that the Pursuit of either must encroach upon no other Duty or Obligation which we owe to ourselves, to Society, or to its Parent and Head. The same Reasoning is to be applied to Power as to Wealth. It is only valuable as an Instrument of our own Security, and of the free Enjoyment of those original Goods it may, and often does, administer to us, and as an Engine of more extensive Happiness to our Friends, our Country, and Mankind. In this Degree it may, and unless a greater Good forbids it, ought to be sought after; and when it is either offered to us, or may be obtained, consistently with a good Conscience, it would be criminal to decline it, and a selfish Indolence to neglect the necessary Means of acquiring it.
How Fame and Power are attainedNow the best, and indeed the only Way to obtain a solid and lasting Fame, is an uniform inflexible Course of Virtue, the employing one’s Ability and Wealth in supplying the Wants, and using one’s Power in promoting or securing the Happiness, the Rights and Liberties of Mankind, joined to an universal Affability and Politeness of Manners. And surely one will not mistake the Matter much, who thinks the same Course conducive to the acquiring greater Accessions both of Wealth and Power; especially if he adds to those Qualifications a vigorous Industry, a constant Attention to the Characters and Wants of Men, to the Conjunctures of Times, and continually varying Genius of Affairs, and a steddy intrepid Honesty, that will neither yield to the Allurements, nor be over-awed with the Terrors of that corrupt and corrupting Scene in which we live. We have sometimes heard indeed of other Ways and Means, as Fraud, Dissimulation, Servility, and Prostitution, and the like ignoble Arts, by which the Men of the World (as they are called, shrewd Politicians, and Men of Address!) amass Wealth, and procure Power: but as we want rather to form a Man of Virtue, an honest, contented, happy Man, we leave to the Men of the World their own Ways, and permit them, unenvied, and unimitated by us, to reap the Fruit of their Doings.
Goods of the IntellectThe next Species of Objects in the Scale of Good, are the Goods of the Intellect, as Knowledge, Memory, Judgment, Taste, Sagacity, Docility, and whatever else we call intellectual Virtues. Let us consider them a little, and the Means as well as Obligations to improve them.
Their MomentAs Man is a rational Creature, capable of knowing the Differences of Things and Actions;—as he not only sees and feels what is present, but remembers what is past, and often foresees what is future;—as he advances, from small Beginnings, by slow Degrees, and with much Labour and Difficulty, to Knowledge and Experience:—as his Opinions sway his Passions,—as Passions influence his Conduct,—and as his Conduct draws Consequences after it, which extend, not only to the present, but to the future Time, and therefore is the principal Source of his Happiness or Misery, it is evident, that he is formed for intellectual Improvements, and that it must be of the utmost Consequence for him to improve and cultivate his intellectual Powers, on which those Opinions, those Passions, and that Conduct depend.*
The Pleasures they giveBut besides the future Consequences and Moment of improving our intellectual Powers, their immediate Exercise on their proper Objects yields the most rational and refined Pleasures. Knowledge and a right Taste in the Arts of Imitation and Design, as Poetry, Painting, Sculpture, Music, Architecture, afford not only an innocent, but a most sensible and sublime Entertainment. By these the Understanding is instructed in ancient and modern Life, the History of Men and Things, the Energies and Effects of the Passions, the Consequences of Virtue and Vice; by these the Imagination is at once entertained and nourished with the Beauties of Nature and Art, lighted up and spread out with the Novelty, Grandeur, and Harmony of the Universe; and in fine, the Passions are agreeably rouzed, and suitably engaged with the greatest and most interesting Objects that can fill the human Mind. He who has a Taste formed to these ingenious Delights, and Plenty of Materials to gratify it, can never want the most agreeable Exercise and Entertainment, nor once have reason to make that fashionable Complaint of the Tediousness of Time. Nor can he want a proper Subject for the Discipline and Improvement of his Heart. For being daily conversant with Beauty, Order, and Design,Knowledge and Taste in inferior Subjects, he bids fair for growing, in due Time, an Admirer of what is fair and well-proportioned in the Conduct of Life, and the Order of Society, which is only Order and Design exerted in their highest Subjects. He will learn to transfer the Numbers of Poetry to the Harmony of the Mind, and of well-governed Passions; and from admiring the Virtues of others in moral Paintings, come to approve and imitate them himself. Therefore to cultivate a true and correct Taste, must be both our Interest and our Duty, when the Circumstances of our Station give Leisure and Opportunity for it, and when the doing it is not inconsistent with our higher Obligations or Engagements to Society and Mankind.
How attainedIt is best attained by reading the best Books, where good Sense has more the Ascendant than Learning, and which retain more to Practice than to Speculation; by studying the best Models, i.e. those which profess to imitate Nature most, and approach the nearest to it, and by conversing with Men of the most refined Taste, and the greatest Experience in Life.
Moment of intellectual GoodsAs to the other intellectual Goods, what a Fund of Entertainment must it be to investigate the Truth and various Relations of Things, to trace the Operations of Nature to general Laws, to explain by these its manifold Phaenomena, to understand that Order by which the Universe is upheld, and that Oeconomy by which it is governed; to be acquainted with the human Mind, the Connections, Subordinations, and Uses of its Powers, and to mark their Energy in Life! How agreeable to the ingenious Enquirer, to observe the manifold Relations and Combinations of individual Minds in Society, to discern the Causes why they flourish or decay, and from thence to ascend, through the vast Scale of Beings, to that general Mind which presides over all, and operates unseen in every System, and in every Age, through the whole Compass and Progression of Nature! Devoted to such Entertainments as these, the Contemplative have abandoned every other Pleasure, retired from the Body, so to speak, and sequester’d themselves from social Intercourse; for these the Busy have often preferred to the Hurry and Din of Life, the calm Retreats of Contemplation; for these, when once they come to taste them, even the Gay and Voluptuous have thrown up the lawless Pursuits of Sense and Appetite, and acknowledged these mental Enjoyments to be the most refined, and indeed the only Luxury. Besides, by a just and large Knowledge of Nature, we recognize the Perfections of its Author; and thus Piety, and all those pious Affections which depend on just Sentiments of his Character, are awakened and confirmed; and a thousand superstitious Fears, that arise from partial Views of his Nature and Works, will of course be excluded. An extensive Prospect of human Life, and of the Periods and Revolutions of human Things, will conduce much to the giving a certain Greatness of Mind, and a noble Contempt of those little Competitions about Power, Honour, and Wealth, which disturb and divide the Bulk of Mankind; and to promote a calm Indurance of those Inconveniencies and Ills that are the common Appendages of Humanity. Add to all, that a just Knowledge of human Nature, and of those Hinges upon which the Business and Fortunes of Men turn, will prevent our thinking either too highly, or too meanly of our Fellow-Creatures, give no small Scope to the Exercise of Friendship, Confidence, and Good-will, and, at the same time, brace the Mind with a proper Caution and Distrust, those Nerves of Prudence, and give a greater Mastery in the Conduct of private as well as public Life. Therefore, by cultivating our Intellectual Abilities, we shall best promote and secure our Interest, and be qualified for acting our Part in Society with more Honour to ourselves, as well as Advantage to Mankind. Consequently to improve them to the utmost of our Power is our Duty; they are Talents committed to us by the Almighty Head of Society, and we are accountable to him for the use of them. But be it remembered withal, that how engaging soever the Muses and Graces are, they are chiefly valuable, as they are Handmaids to usher in and set off the Moral Virtues, from whose Service if they are ever divorced, they become Retainers to the meaner Passions, Panders to Vice, and convert Men (if we may use the Expression) into a refined Sort of Savages.
How attainedThe Intellectual Virtues are best improved by accurate and impartial Observation, extensive Reading, and unconfined Converse with Men of all Characters, especially with Those who, to private Study, have joined the widest Acquaintance with the World, and greatest Practice in Affairs; but above all, by being much in the World, and having large Dealings with Mankind. Such Opportunities contribute much to divest one of Prejudices and a servile Attachment to crude Systems, to open one’s Views, and to give that Experience on which the most useful, because the most practical, Knowledge is built, and from which the surest Maxims for the Conduct of Life are deduced.
Moral GoodsThe highest Goods which enter into the Composition of Human Happiness are Moral Goods of the Mind, directly and ultimately regarding ourselves: as Command of the Appetites and Passions, Prudence and Caution, Magnanimity, Fortitude, Humility, Love of Virtue, Love of God, Resignation, and the like. These sublime Goods are Goods by way of Eminence, Goods recommended and enforced by the most intimate and awful Sense and Consciousness of our Nature; Goods that constitute the Quintessence, the very Temper of Happiness, that Form and Complexion of Soul which renders us approveable and lovely in the Sight of God; Goods, in fine, which are the Elements of all our future Perfection and Felicity.
Their MomentMost of the other Goods we have considered depend partly on ourselves, and partly on Accidents which we can neither foresee nor prevent, and result from Causes which we cannot influence or alter. They are such Goods as we may possess to-day and lose to-morrow, and which require a Felicity of Constitution, and Talents to attain them in full Vigour and Perfection, and a Felicity of Conjunctures to secure the Possession of them. Therefore did our Happiness depend altogether or chiefly on such transitory and precarious Possessions, it were itself most precarious, and the highest Folly to be anxious about it.—But though Creatures, constituted as we are, cannot be indifferent about such Goods, and must suffer in some degree, and consequently have our Happiness incomplete without them, yet they weigh but little in the Scale, when compared with Moral Goods. By the benevolent Constitution of our Nature these are placed within the Sphere of our Activity, so that no Man can be destitute of them unless he is first wanting to himself. Some of the wisest and best of Mankind have wanted most of the former Goods, and all the external kind, and felt most of the opposite Ills, such at least as arise from without; yet by possessing the latter, viz. the Moral Goods, have declared they were happy, and to the Conviction of the most impartial Observers have appeared happy. The worst of Men have been surrounded with every outward Good and Advantage of Fortune, and have possessed great Parts; yet, for want of Moral Rectitude, have been, and have confessed themselves, notoriously and exquisitely miserable. The Exercise of Virtue has supported its Votaries, and made them exult in the midst of Tortures almost intolerable; nay, how often has some false Form or Shadow of it sustained even the greatest Villains* and Bigots under the same Pressures! But no external Goods, no Goods of Fortune have been able to alleviate the Agonies, or expel the Fears of a guilty Mind, conscious of the deserved Hatred and Reproach of Mankind, and the just Displeasure of Almighty God. The other Senses and Capacities of Enjoyment are gratified when they obtain their respective Objects, and the Happiness of the corresponding Passions depends on their Success in their several Pursuits. Thus the Love of Honour, of Pleasure, of Power, and the like, are satisfied only when they obtain the desired Honour, Pleasure, or Power: when they fail of attaining these, they are disappointed, and Disappointment gives Disgust. But Moral Good is of so singular and sublime a Nature, that when the Mind is in pursuit of it, though it should prove unsuccessful in its Aims, it can rest in the Conduct without repining, without being dejected at the ill Success; nay, the Pleasure attending the Consciousness of upright Aims and generous Efforts absorbs the Disappointment, and makes inferior Ends disappear as of no amount in the great Aggregate or Surplusage of Good that remains. So that though Human Happiness, in the present State, consists of many separate and little Rivulets, which must often be left dry in the perpetual Flux and Reflux of Human Things, yet the main Stream, with which those lesser ones do generally communicate, flows from within, from the Heart of Man, and, if this be sound and clear, rolls on through Life with a strong and equal Current. Yet as many small Articles make up a pretty large Sum, and as those inferior Goods which enter into the Account, Health, Fame, Fortune, and the like, are often, even after our utmost Care, unattainable, or at least precarious, it is evidently of the utmost Consequence to be prepared against the Want or Loss of them, by having our Desires moderate, and our Passions under due Command. And let it be remembered, that it is not only of great Importance to our Ease and Security against Ill, but one of the highest Improvements of Virtue, to contemn those Things, the Contempt of which is truly great and heroic, and to place our Happiness chiefly in those virtuous Exercises and Affections which arise from a pure and well-disposed Mind; an Happiness which no Condition of Life can exclude, no Change of Fortune interrupt or destroy. This will arm and fortify the Mind against the Want of those inferior Goods, and against those Pains which result to the Generality of Mankind from the contrary Evils.
The mixed Condition of Human Life requires particular VirtuesAs the present Condition of Human Life is wonderfully chequered with Good and Ill, and as no Height of Station, no Affluence of Fortune, can absolutely insure the Good, or secure against the Ill, it is evident that a great Part of the Comfort and Serenity of Life must lie in having our Minds duly affected with regard to both, i.e. rightly attempered to the Loss of one and the Sufferance of the other. For it is certain that outward Calamities derive their chief Malignity and Pressure from the inward Dispositions with which we receive them. By managing these right, we may greatly abate that Malignity and Pressure, and consequently diminish the Number, and weaken the Moment of the Ills of Life, if we should not have it in our Power to obtain a large Share of its Goods. There are particularly three Virtues which go to the forming this right Temper towards Ill, and which are of singular Efficacy, if not totally to remove, yet wonderfully to alleviate the Calamities of Life. These are Fortitude, or Patience, Humility, and Resignation. Let us consider them a little, and the Effects they produce.
FortitudeFortitude is that calm and steddy Habit of Mind, which either moderates our Fears, and enables us bravely to encounter the Prospect of Ill, or renders the Mind serene and invincible under its immediate Pressure. It lies equally distant from Rashness and Cowardice, and though it does not hinder us from feeling, yet prevents our complaining or shrinking under the Stroke. It always includes a generous Contempt of, or at least a noble Superiority to, those precarious Goods of which we can insure neither the Possession nor Continuance. The Man therefore who possesses this Virtue in this ample Sense of it, stands upon an Eminence, and sees human Things below him; the Tempest indeed may reach him, but he stands secure and collected against it upon the Basis of conscious Virtue, which the severest Storms can seldom shake, and never overthrow.
HumilityHumility is another Virtue of high Rank and Dignity, though often mistaken by proud Mortals for Meanness and Pusillanimity. It is opposed to Pride, which commonly includes in it a false or over-rated Estimation of our own Merit, an Ascription of it to ourselves as its only and original Cause, an undue Comparison of ourselves with others, and, in consequence of that supposed Superiority, an arrogant Preference of ourselves, and a supercilious Contempt of them. Humility, on the other hand, seems to denote that modest and ingenuous Temper of Mind, which arises from a just and equal Estimate of our own Advantages compared with those of others, and from a Sense of our deriving all originally from the Author of our Being. Its ordinary Attendants are Mildness, a gentle Forbearance, and an easy unassuming Humanity with regard to the Imperfections and Faults of others; Virtues rare indeed, but of the fairest Complexion, the proper Offspring of so lovely a Parent, the best Ornaments of such imperfect Creatures as we are, precious in the Sight of God, and which sweetly allure the Hearts of Men.—This Virtue was not altogether unknown to the more sober Moralists among the Ancients, who place Submissio Animi among the Train of Virtues; but it is taught in its highest Perfection, and enforced by the greatest Examples, and the strongest Motives, in the Christian Religion, which recommends and exalts this, as well as every other Moral and Divine Virtue, beyond every other System of Religion and Philosophy that ever appeared in the World; and teaches us throughout the whole of it, to refer every Virtue, and every Endowment, to their original Source, the Father of Lights, from whom descends every good and perfect Gift. Humility is a Virtue which highly adorns the Character in which it resides, and sets off every other Virtue; it is an admirable Ingredient of a contented Mind, and an excellent Security against many of those Ills in Life which are most sensibly felt by People of a delicate Nature. To be persuaded of this, we need only remember how many of our Uneasinesses arise from the Mortifications of our Pride—how almost every Ill we suffer, and all the Opposition we meet with, is aggravated and sharpened by the Reflection on our imaginary Merit, or how little we deserved those Ills, and how much we were entitled to the opposite Goods. Whereas, a sober Sense of what we are, and whose we are, and a Consciousness how far short our Virtue is of that Standard of Perfection to which we ought to aspire, will blunt the Edge of Injuries and Affronts, and make us sit down contented with our Share of the Goods, and easy under the Ills of Life, which this quick-sighted, unassuming Virtue will teach us often to trace to our own Misconduct, and consequently to interpret as the just and wholesome Correction of Heaven.
ResignationResignation is that mild and heroic Temper of Mind, which arises from a Sense of an infinitely wise and good Providence, and enables one to acquiesce, with a cordial Affection, in its just Appointments. This Virtue has something very peculiar in its Nature, and sublime in its Efficacy. For it teaches us to bear Ill not only with Patience and as being unavoidable, but it transforms, as it were, Ill into Good, by leading us to consider it, and every Event that has the least Appearance of Ill, as a Divine Dispensation, a wise and benevolent Temperament of Things, subservient to universal Good, and, of course, including that of every Individual, especially of such as calmly stoop to it. In this Light, the Administration itself, nay, every Act of it, becomes an Object of Affection, the Evil disappears, or is converted into a Balm which both heals and nourishes the Mind. For, though the first expected Access of Ill may surprize the Soul into Grief, yet that Grief, when the Mind calmly reviews its Object, changes into Contentment, and is by degrees exalted into Veneration and a divine Composure. Our private Will is lost in that of the Almighty, and our Security against any real Ill rests on the same Bottom as the Throne of him who lives and reigns for ever. He, therefore, who is provided with such Armour, taken, if we may say so, from the Armory of Heaven, may be proof against the sharpest Arrows of Fortune, and defy the Impotence of human Malice; and though he cannot be secure against those Ills which are the ordinary Appendages of Man’s Lot, yet may possess that quiet contented Mind which takes off their Pungency, and is next to an Exemption from them. But we can only touch on these Things; a fuller Detail of our Obligations to cultivate and pursue these Moral Goods of the Mind, and the best Method of doing it, must be reserved to another and more proper Place.
Chief Good Objective and FormalBefore we finish this Section, it may be fit to observe, that as the Deity is the supreme and inexhausted Source of Good, on whom the Happiness of the whole Creation depends; as he is the Object in Nature, and the only Object who is fully proportioned to the Intellectual and Moral Powers of the Mind, in whom they ultimately rest and find their most perfect Exercise and Completion, he is therefore termed the chiefGood of Man, objectively considered. And Virtue, or the proportioned and vigorous Exercise of the several Powers and Affections on their respective Objects, as above described, is, in the Schools, termed the chiefGood, formally considered, or its formal Idea, being the inward Temper and native Constitution of Human Happiness.
From the Detail we have gone thro’, the following Corollaries may be deduced.
CorollariesFirst, It is evident that the Happiness of such a Progressive Creature as Man can never be at a stand, or continue a fixed invariable Thing. His finite Nature, let it rise ever so high, admits still higher Degrees of Improvement and Perfection. And his Progression in Improvement, or Virtue, always makes way for a Progression in Happiness. So that no possible Point can be assigned in any Period of his Existence in which he is perfectly happy, that is, so happy as to exclude higher Degrees of Happiness. All his Perfection is only comparative. 2. It appears that many Things must conspire to complete the Happiness of so various a Creature as Man, subject to so many Wants, and susceptible of such different Pleasures. 3. As his Capacities of Pleasure cannot be all gratified at the same time, and must often interfere with each other in such a precarious and fleeting State as Human Life, or be frequently disappointed, perfect Happiness, i.e. the undisturbed Enjoyment of the several Pleasures of which we are capable, is unattainable in our present State. 4. That State is most to be sought after, in which the fewest Competitions and Disappointments can happen, which least of all impairs any Sense of Pleasure, and opens an inexhausted Source of the most refined and lasting Enjoyments. 5. That State which is attended with all those Advantages, is a State or Course of Virtue. 6. Therefore, a State of Virtue, in which the Moral Goods of the Mind are attained, is the HappiestState.
Duties to Society
Filial and Fraternal Duty
As we have followed the Order of Nature in tracing the History of Man, and those Duties which he owes to himself, it seems reasonable to take the same Method with those he owes to Society, which constitute the second Class of his Obligations.
Connection of ParentsHis Parents are among the earliest Objects of his Attention, he becomes soonest acquainted with them, reposes a peculiar Confidence in them, and seems to regard them with a fond Affection, the early Prognostics of his future Piety and Gratitude. Thus does Nature dictate the first Lines of filial Duty, even before a just Sense of the Connection is formed. But when the Child is grown up, and has attained to such a Degree of Understanding, as to comprehend the Moral Tye, and be sensible of the Obligations he is under to his Parents; when he looks back on their tender and disinterested Affection, their incessant Cares and Labours in nursing, educating, and providing for him, during that State in which he had neither Prudence nor Strength to care and provide for himself, he must be conscious that he owes to them these peculiar Duties.
Duties to ParentsTo reverence and honour them as the Instruments of Nature in introducing him to Life, and to that State of Comfort and Happiness which he enjoys; and therefore to esteem and imitate their good Qualities, to alleviate and bear with, and spread, as much as possible, a decent Veil over their Faults and Weaknesses.
2. To be highly grateful to them for those Favours which it can hardly ever be in his Power fully to repay; to shew this Gratitude by a strict Attention to their Wants, and a solicitous Care to supply them; by a submissive Deference to their Authority and Advice, especially by paying great Regard to it in the Choice of a Wife, and of an Occupation; by yielding to, rather than peevishly contending with their Humours, as remembering how oft they have been persecuted by his; and in fine, by soothing their Cares, lightening their Sorrows, supporting the Infirmities of Age, and making the remainder of their Life as comfortable and joyful as possible.—To pay these Honours and make these Returns is, according to Plato, to pay the oldest, best, and greatest of Debts, next to those we owe to our supreme and common Parent. They are founded in our Nature, and agreeable to the most fundamental Laws of Gratitude, Honour, Justice, Natural Affection, and Piety, which are interwoven with our very Constitution; nor can we be deficient in them without casting off that Nature, and counteracting those Laws.
Duties to Brethren and SistersAs his Brethren and Sisters are the next with whom the Creature forms a Social and Moral Connection, to them he owes a Fraternal Regard; and with them ought he to enter into a strict League of Friendship, mutual Sympathy, Advice, Assistance, and a generous Intercourse of kind Offices, remembering their Relation to common Parents, and that Brotherhood of Nature, which unites them into a closer Community of Interest and Affection.
Connection with the other SexWhen Man arrives to a certain Age, he becomes sensible of a peculiar Sympathy and Tenderness towards the other Sex; the Charms of Beauty engage his Attention, and call forth new and softer Dispositions than he has yet felt. The many amiable Qualities exhibited by a fair Outside, or by the mild Allurement of Female Manners, or which the prejudiced Spectator without much Reasoning supposes those to include, with several other Circumstances, both natural and accidental, point his View and Affection to a particular Object, and of course contract that general rambling Regard, which was lost and useless among the undistinguished Croud, into a peculiar and permanent Attachment to one Woman, which ordinarily terminates in the most important, venerable, and delightful Connection in Life.
The Grounds of this ConnectionThe State of the Brute Creation is very different from that of Human Creatures. The former are cloathed, and generally armed by their Structure, easily find what is necessary to their Subsistence, and soon attain their Vigour and Maturity; so that they need the Care and Aid of their Parents but for a short while; and therefore we see that Nature has assigned to them vagrant and transient Amours. The Connection being purely Natural, and formed merely for propagating and rearing their Offspring, no sooner is that End answered than the Connection dissolves of course. But the Human Race are of a more tender and defenceless Constitution; their Infancy and Non-age continue longer; they advance slowly to Strength of Body, and Maturity of Reason; they need constant Attention, and a long Series of Cares and Labours to train them up to Decency, Virtue, and the various Arts of Life. Nature has, therefore, provided them with the most affectionate and anxious Tutors, to aid their Weakness, to supply their Wants, and to accomplish them in those necessary Arts, even their own Parents, on whom she has devolved this mighty Charge, rendered agreeable by the most alluring and powerful of all Ties, Parental Affection. But unless both concur in this grateful Task, and continue their joint Labours, till they have reared up and planted out their young Colony, it must become a Prey to every rude Invader, and the Purpose of Nature, in the original Union of the Human Pair, be defeated. Therefore our Structure as well as Condition is an evident Indication, that the Human Sexes are destined for a more intimate, for a moral and lasting Union. It appears likewise, that the principal End of Marriage is not to propagate and nurse up an Offspring, but to educate and form Minds for the great Duties and extensive Destinations of Life. Society must be supplied from this original Nursery with useful Members, and its fairest Ornaments and Supports. But how shall the young Plants be guarded against the Inclemency of the Air and Seasons, cultivated and raised to Maturity, if Men, like Brutes, indulge to vagrant and promiscuous Amours?
Moral Ends of MarriageThe Mind is apt to be dissipated in its Views, and Acts of Friendship and Humanity; unless the former be directed to a particular Object, and the latter employed in a particular Province. When Men once indulge to this Dissipation, there is no stopping their Career, they grow insensible to Moral Attractions, and by obstructing, or impairing, the decent and regular Exercise of the tender and generous Feelings of the human Heart, they in time become unqualified for, or averse to, the forming a Moral Union of Souls, which is the Cement of Society, and the Source of the purest domestic Joys. Whereas a rational, undepraved Love, and its fair Companion, Marriage, collect a Man’s Views, guide his Heart to its proper Object, and by confining his Affection to that Object, do really enlarge its Influence and Use. Besides, it is but too evident from the Conduct of Mankind, that the common Tyes of Humanity are too feeble to engage and interest the Passions of the Generality in the Affairs of Society. The Connections of Neighbourhood, Acquaintance, and general Intercourse, are too wide a Field of Action for many; and those of a Public or Community are so for more, and in which they either care not, or know not how to exert themselves. Therefore Nature, ever wise and benevolent, by implanting that strong Sympathy which reigns between the Individuals of each Sex, and by urging them to form a particular Moral Connection, the Spring of many domestic Endearments, has measured out to each Pair a particular Sphere of Action, proportioned to their Views, and adapted to their respective Capacities. Besides, by interesting them deeply in the Concerns of their own little Circle, she has connected them more closely with Society, which is composed of particular Families, and bound them down to their good Behaviour in that particular Community to which they belong. This Moral Connection is Marriage, and this Sphere of Action is a Family. It appears from what has been said that, to adult Persons, who have Fortune sufficient to provide for a Family, according to their Rank and Condition in Life, and who are endued with the ordinary Degrees of Prudence necessary to manage a Family, and educate Children, it is a Duty they owe to Society, to marry.
An Objection answeredSome Pretenders to a peculiar Refinement in Morals think, however, that a single State is most conducive to the Perfection of our Nature, and to those sublime Improvements to which Religion calls us. Sometimes indeed the more important Duties we owe to the Public, which could scarce be performed, or not so well in the Married State, may require the single Life, or render the other not so honourable a Station in such Circumstances. But surely, it must be improving to the Social Affections to direct them to particular Objects whom we esteem, and to whom we stand in the nearest Relation, and to ascertain their Exercise in a Field of Action, which is both agreeable in itself, and highly advantageous to Society. The constant Exercise of Natural Affection, in which one is necessarily engaged in providing for, and training up one’s Children, opens the Heart, and must inure the Mind to frequent Acts of Self-denial and Self-command, and consequently strengthen the Habits of Goodness. The Truth of this is but too evident in those married Persons who are so unfortunate as to have no Children, who for want of those necessary Exercises of Humanity are too generally over-anxious about the World, and perhaps too attentive to the Affair of Oeconomy. Another Circumstance deserves to be remembered, that Men who are continually engaged in Study and Business, or anxiously intent on public Concerns, are apt to grow stern and severe, or peevish and morose, on account of the frequent Rubs they meet with, or the Fatigues they undergo in such a Course. The Female Softness is therefore useful to moderate their Severity, and change their Ill-humour into domestic Tenderness, and a softer kind of Humanity. And thus their Minds, which were over-strained by the Intenseness of their Application, are at once relaxed, and retuned for public Action. The Minds of both Sexes are as much formed one for the other by a Temperament peculiar to each, as their Persons. The Strength, Firmness, Courage, Gravity, and Dignity, of the Man, tally to the Softness, Delicacy, Tenderness of Passion, Elegance of Taste, and Decency of Conversation, of the Woman. The Male Mind is formed to defend, deliberate, foresee, contrive, and advise. The Female One to confide, imagine, apprehend, comply, and execute. Therefore the proper Temperament of these different Sexes of Minds, makes a fine Moral Union; and the well-proportioned Opposition of different or contrary Qualities, like a due Mixture of Discords in a Composition of Music, swells the Harmony of Society more than if they were all Unisons to each other. And this Union of Moral Sexes, if we may express it so, is evidently more conducive to the Improvement of each, than if they lived apart. For the Man not only protects and advises, but communicates Vigour and Resolution to the Woman. She, in her turn, softens, refines, and polishes him. In her Society he finds Repose from Action and Care; in her Friendship, the Ferment into which his Passions were wrought by the Hurry and Distraction of public Life, subsides and settles into a Calm; and a thousand nameless Graces and Decencies that flow from her Words and Actions, form him for a more mild and elegant Deportment. His Conversation and Example, on the other hand, enlarge her Views, raise her Sentiments, sustain her Resolutions, and free her from a thousand Fears and Inquietudes, to which her more feeble Constitution subjects her. Surely such Dispositions, and the happy Consequences which result from them, cannot be supposed to carry an unfriendly Aspect to any Duty he owes either to God, or to Man.
Duties of MarriageOf the Conjugal Alliance the following are the natural Laws. First, mutual Fidelity to the Marriage-bed. Disloyalty defeats the very End of Marriage, dissolves the natural Cement of the Relation, weakens the Moral Tye, the chief Strength of which lies in the Reciprocation of Affection; and by making the Offspring uncertain, diminishes the Care and Attachment necessary to their Education.
2. A Conspiration of Counsels and Endeavours to promote the common Interest of the Family, and to educate their common Offspring. In order to observe these Laws, it is necessary to cultivate, both before and during the married State, the strictest Decency and Chastity of Manners, and a just Sense of what becomes their respective Characters.
3. The Union must be inviolable, and for Life. The Nature of Friendship, and particularly of this Species of it, the Education of their Offspring, and the Order of Society, and of Successions which would otherwise be extremely perplexed, do all seem to require it. To preserve this Union, and render the matrimonial State more harmonious and comfortable, a mutual Esteem and Tenderness, a mutual Deference and Forbearance, a Communication of Advice, and Assistance, and Authority, are absolutely necessary. If either Party keep within their proper Departments, there need be no Disputes about Power or Superiority, and there will be none. They have no opposite, no separate Interests, and therefore there can be no just Ground for Opposition of Conduct.
PolygamyFrom this Detail, and the present State of things, in which there is pretty near a Parity of Numbers of both Sexes, it is evident that Polygamy is an unnatural State; and tho it should be granted to be more fruitful of Children, which however it is not found to be, yet it is by no means so fit for rearing Minds, which seems to be as much, if not more, the Intention of Nature, than the Propagation of Bodies.
Divorce, &c.In what Cases Divorce may be proper, what are the just Obstacles to Marriage, and within what Degrees of Consanguinity it may be allowed, we have not room to discuss here, and therefore we refer the Reader to Mr. Hutchinson’s ingenious Moral Compend. Book III. Chap. 1.6
Of Parental Duty
Connection of Parents and ChildrenThe Connection of Parents with their Children is a natural Consequence of the matrimonial Connection, and the Duties which they owe them, result as naturally from that Connection. The feeble State of Children, subject to so many Wants and Dangers, requires their incessant Cares and Attention; their ignorant and uncultivated Minds demand their continual Instruction and Culture. Had human Creatures come into the World with the full Strength of Men, and the Weakness of Reason and Vehemence of Passions which prevail in Children, they would have been too strong, or too stubborn, to have submitted to the Government and Instruction of their Parents. But as they were designed for a Progression in Knowledge and Virtue, it was proper that the Growth of their Bodies should keep pace with that of their Minds, lest the Purposes of that Progression should have been defeated. Among other admirable Purposes which this gradual Expansion of their outward as well as inward Structure serves, this is one, that it affords ample Scope to the Exercise of many tender and generous Affections, which fill up the domestic Life with a beautiful Variety of Duties and Enjoyments; and are of course a noble Discipline for the Heart, and an hardy kind of Education for the more honourable and important Duties of public Life.
The Authority founded on that ConnectionThe above-mentioned weak and ignorant State of Children, seems plainly to invest their Parents with such Authority and Power as is necessary to their Support, Protection, and Education; but that Authority and Power can be construed to extend no farther than is necessary to answer those Ends, and to last no longer than that Weakness and Ignorance continue; wherefore the Foundation or Reason of the Authority and Power ceasing, they cease of course. Whatever Power or Authority then it may be necessary or lawful for Parents to exercise during the Non-age of their Children, to assume or usurp the same when they have attained the Maturity or full Exercise of their Strength and Reason, would be tyrannical and unjust. From hence it is evident, that Parents have no Right to punish the Persons of their Children more severely than the Nature of their Wardship requires, much less to invade their Lives, to encroach upon their Liberty, or transfer them as their Property to any Master whatsoever. But if any Parent should be so unjust and inhuman as to consider and treat them like his other Goods and Chattles, surely whenever they dare, they may resist, and whenever they can, shake off that inhuman and unnatural Yoke, and be free with that Liberty with which God and Nature has invested them.
Duties of ParentsThe first Class of Duties which Parents owe their Children respect their natural Life; and these comprehend Protection, Nurture, Provision, introducing them into the World in a manner suitable to their Rank and Fortune, and the like.
EducationThe second Order of Duties regards the intellectual and moral Life of their Children, or their Education in such Arts and Accomplishments, as are necessary to qualify them for performing the Duties they owe to themselves and to others. As this was found to be the principal Design of the matrimonial Alliance, so the fulfilling that Design is the most important and dignified of all the parental Duties. In order therefore to fit the Child for acting his Part wisely and worthily, as a Man, as a Citizen, and a Creature of God, both Parents ought to combine their joint Wisdom, Authority, and Power, and each apart to employ those Talents which are the peculiar Excellency and Ornament of their respective Sex. The Father ought to lay out and superintend their Education, the Mother to execute and manage the Detail of which she is capable. The former should direct the manly Exertion of the intellectual and moral Powers of the Child. His Imagination, and the manner of those Exertions, are the peculiar Province of the latter. The former should advise, protect, command, and by his Experience, masculine Vigour, and that superior Authority which is commonly ascribed to his Sex, brace and strengthen his Pupil for active Life, for Gravity, Integrity, and Firmness in Suffering. The Business of the latter is to bend and soften her Male Pupil, by the Charms of her Conversation, and the Softness and Decency of her Manners, for social Life, for Politeness of Taste, and the elegant Decorums of and Enjoyments of Humanity; and to improve and refine the Tenderness and Modesty of her Female Pupil, and form her to all those mild domestic Virtues, which are the peculiar Characteristics and Ornaments of her Sex.
To conduct the opening Minds of their sweet Charge through the several Periods of their Progress, to assist them in each Period in throwing out the latent Seeds of Reason and Ingenuity, and in gaining fresh Accessions of Light and Virtue; and at length, with all these Advantages, to produce the young Adventurers upon the great Theatre of human Life, to play their several Parts in the Sight of their Friends, of Society, and Mankind! How gloriously does Heaven reward the Task, when the Parents behold those dear Images and Representatives of themselves, inheriting their Virtues as well as Fortunes, sustaining their respective Characters gracefully and worthily, and giving them the agreeable Prospect of transmitting their Name with growing Honour and Advantage to a Race yet unborn!
Herile and Servile Duty
The Ground of this ConnectionIn the natural Course of human Affairs it must necessarily happen, that some of Mankind will live in Plenty and Opulence, and others be reduced to a State of Indigence and Poverty. The former need the Labours of the latter, and the latter the Provision and Support of the former. This mutual Necessity is the Foundation of that Connection, whether we call it Moral or Civil, which subsists between Masters and Servants.The Conditions of Service He who feeds another has a Right to some Equivalent, the Labour of him whom he maintains, and the Fruits of it. And he who labours for another, has a Right to expect that he should support him. But as the Labours of a Man of ordinary Strength are certainly of greater Value than mere Food and Cloathing; because they would actually produce more, even the Maintenance of a Family, were the Labourer to employ them in his own Behalf, therefore, he has an undoubted Right to rate and dispose of his Service for certain Wages above mere Maintenance. And if he has incautiously disposed of it for the latter only, yet the Contract being of the onerous kind, he may equitably claim a Supply of that Deficiency. If the Service be specified, the Servant is bound to that only; if not, then he is to be construed as bound only to such Services as are consistent with the Laws of Justice and Humanity. By the voluntary Servitude to which he subjects himself, he forfeits no Rights but such as are necessarily included in that Servitude, and is obnoxious to no Punishment but such as a voluntary Failure in the Service may be supposed reasonably to require. The Offspring of such Servants have a Right to that Liberty which neither they, nor their Parents, have forfeited.
The Case of great OffendersAs to those, who because of some heinous Offence, or for some notorious Damage, for which they cannot otherwise compensate, are condemned to perpetual Service, they do not, on that account, forfeit all the Rights of Men; but those, the Loss of which is necessary to secure Society against the like Offences for the future, or to repair the Damage they have done.
The Case of CaptivesWith regard to Captives taken in War, it is barbarous and inhuman to make perpetual Slaves of them, unless some peculiar and aggravated Circumstances of Guilt have attended their Hostility. The Bulk of the Subjects of any Government engaged in War, may be fairly esteemed innocent Enemies, and therefore they have a Right to that Clemency which is consistent with the common Safety of Mankind, and the particular Security of that Society against which they are engaged. Though ordinary Captives have a Grant of their Lives, yet to pay their Liberty as an Equivalent, is much too high a Price. There are other Ways of acknowledging or returning the Favour, than by surrendering what is far dearer than Life itself.* To those, who under Pretext of the Necessities of Commerce, drive the unnatural Trade of bargaining for human Flesh, and consigning their innocent, but unfortunate Fellow-creatures, to eternal Servitude and Misery, we may address the Words of a fine Writer; “Let Avarice defend it as it will, there is an honest Reluctance in Humanity against buying and selling, and regarding those of our own Species as our Wealth and Possessions.”
As it is the Servant’s Duty to serve his Master with Fidelity and Chearfulness, like one who knows he is accountable to the great Lord of the Universe, so the Master ought to exact nothing of his Servant beyond the natural Limits of Reason and Humanity, remembering that he is a Brother of the same Family, a Partner of the same Nature, and a Subject of the same great Lord.
Social Duties of the private Kind
Hitherto we have considered only the Domestic, Oeconomical Duties, because these are the first in the Progress of Nature. But as Man passes beyond the little Circle of a Family, he forms Connections with Relations, Friends, Neighbours, and others; from whence results a new Train of Duties of the more private social kind; as Friendship, Chastity, Courtesy, Good-neighbourhood, Charity, Forgiveness, Hospitality.
Man’s Aptitude for SocietyMan is admirably formed for particular social Attachments and Duties. There is a peculiar and strong Propensity in his Nature to be affected with the Sentiments and Dispositions of others. Men, like certain musical Instruments, are set to each other, so that the Vibrations or Notes excited in one, raise correspondent Notes and Vibrations in the others. The Impulses of Pleasure or Pain, Joy or Sorrow, made on one Mind, are by an instantaneous Sympathy of Nature, communicated in some degree to all; especially when Hearts are (as an humane Writer expresses it) in Unison of Kindness; the Joy that vibrates in one, communicates to the other also. We may add, that tho’ Joy thus imparted swells the Harmony, yet Grief vibrated to the Heart of a Friend, and rebounding from thence in sympathetic Notes, melts as it were, and almost dies away. All the Passions, but especially those of the social kind, are contagious; and when the Passions of one Man mingle with those of another, they increase and multiply prodigiously. There is a most moving Eloquence in the human Countenance, Air, Voice, and Gesture, wonderfully expressive of the most latent Feelings and Passions of the Soul, which darts them, like a subtle Flame, into the Hearts of others, and raises correspondent Feelings there: Friendship, Love, Good-humour, Joy, spread through every Feature, and particularly shoot from the Eyes their softer and fiercer Fires with an irresistible Energy. And in like manner, the opposite Passions of Hatred, Enmity, Ill-humour, Melancholy, diffuse a sullen and saddening Air over the Face, and flashing from Eye to Eye, kindle a Train of similar Passions. By these and other admirable Pieces of Machinery, Men are formed for Society and the delightful Interchange of friendly Sentiments and Duties, to increase the Happiness of others by Participation, and their own by Rebound, and to diminish, by dividing, the common Stock of their Misery.
Duties arising from private RelationThe first Emanations of the Social Principle beyond the Bounds of a Family, lead us to form a nearer Conjunction of Friendship or Good-will with those, who are any wise connected with us by Blood, or Domestic Alliance. To them our Affection does, commonly, exert itself in a greater or less Degree, according to the Nearness or Distance of the Relation. And this Proportion is admirably suited to the Extent of our Powers and the Indigence of our State; for it is only within those lesser Circles of Consanguinity or Alliance, that the Generality of Mankind are able to display their Abilities or Benevolence, and consequently to uphold their Connection with Society and Subserviency to a public Interest. Therefore it is our Duty to regard these closer Connections as the next Department to that of a Family, in which Nature has marked out for us a Sphere of Activity and Usefulness; and to cultivate the kind Affections which are the Cement of those endearing Alliances.
Ingredients of FriendshipFrequently, the view of distinguishing Moral Qualities in some of our Acquaintance may give birth to that more noble Connection we call Friendship, which is far superior to the Alliances of Consanguinity. For these are of a superficial, and often of a transitory Nature, of which, as they hold more of Instinct than of Reason, we cannot give such a rational Account. But Friendship derives all its Strength and Beauty, and the only Existence which is durable, from the Qualities of the Heart, or from virtuous and lovely Dispositions. Or, should these be wanting, they or some Shadow of them must be supposed present. Therefore Friendship may be described to be, “The Union of two Souls, by means of Virtue, the common Object and Cement of their mutual Affection.” Without Virtue, or the Supposition of it, Friendship is only a Mercenary League, an Alliance of Interest, which must dissolve of course when that Interest decays or subsists no longer. It is not so much any particular Passion, as a Composition of some of the noblest Feelings and Passions of the Mind. Good Sense, a just Taste and Love of Virtue, a thorough Candor and Benignity of Heart, or what we usually call a Good Temper, and a generous Sympathy of Sentiments and Affections, are the necessary Ingredients of this virtuous Connection. When it is grafted on Esteem, strengthened by Habit, and mellowed by Time, it yields infinite Pleasure, ever new and ever growing; is a noble Support amidst the various Trials and Vicissitudes of Life, and an high Seasoning to most of our other Enjoyments. To form and cultivate virtuous Friendship must be very improving to the Temper, as its principal Object is Virtue, set off with all the Allurement of Countenance, Air, and Manners, shining forth in the native Graces of manly honest Sentiments and Affections, and rendered visible as it were to the friendly Spectator in a Conduct unaffectedly great and good; and as its principal Exercises are the very Energies of Virtue, or its Effects or Emanations. So that wherever this amiable Attachment prevails, it will exalt our Admiration and Attachment to Virtue, and, unless impeded in its Course by unnatural Prejudices, run out into a Friendship to the Human Race. For as no one can merit, and none ought to usurp, the sacred Name of a Friend, who hates Mankind, so, whoever truly loves them, possesses the most essential Quality of a true Friend.
Its DutiesThe Duties of Friendship are a mutual Esteem of each other, unbribed by Interest, and independent of it, a generous Confidence, as far distant from Suspicion as from Reserve, an inviolable Harmony of Sentiments and Dispositions, of Designs and Interests, a Fidelity unshaken by the Changes of Fortune, a Constancy unalterable by distance of Time or Place, a Resignation of one’s personal Interests to those of one’s Friend, and a reciprocal, unenvious, unreserved Exchange of kind Offices.—But amidst all the Exertions of this Moral Connection, humane and generous as it is, we must remember that it operates within a narrow Sphere, and its immediate Operations respect only the Individual, and therefore, its particular Impulses must still be subordinate to a more public Interest, or be always directed and controuled by the more extensive Connections of our Nature.
Love and ChastityWhen our Friendship terminates on any of the other Sex, in whom Beauty or Agreeableness of Person, and external Gracefulness of Manners, conspire to express and heighten the Moral Charm of a tender honest Heart; and sweet, ingenious, modest Temper, lighted up by good Sense, it generally grows into a more soft and endearing Attachment. When this Attachment is improved by a growing Acquaintance with the Worth of its Object, is conducted by Discretion, and issues at length, as it ought to do, in the Moral Connection formerly* mentioned, it becomes the Source of many amiable Duties, of a Communication of Passions and Interests, of the most refined Decencies, and of a thousand nameless deep-felt Joys of reciprocal Tenderness and Love, flowing from every Look, Word, and Action. Here Friendship acts with double Energy, and the Natural conspires with the Moral Charm, to strengthen and secure the Love of Virtue. As the delicate Nature of Female Honour and Decorum, and the inexpressible Grace of a chaste and modest Behaviour, are the surest, and indeed the only means of kindling at first, and ever after of keeping alive this tender and elegant Flame, and of accomplishing the excellent Ends designed by it; to attempt by Fraud to violate one, or, under pretence of Passion, to sully and corrupt the other, and, by so doing, to expose the too often credulous and unguarded Object, with a wanton Cruelty, to the Hatred of her own Sex, and the Scorn of our’s, and to the lowest Infamy of both, is a Conduct not only base and criminal, but inconsistent with that truly rational and refined Enjoyment, the Spirit and Quintessence of which is derived from the bashful and sacred Charms of Virtue kept untainted, and therefore ever alluring to the Lover’s Heart.
Courtesy, Good-neighbourhood, &c.Courtesy, Good-neighbourhood, Affability, and the like Duties, which are founded on our private Social Connections, are no less necessary and obligatory to Creatures united in Society, and supporting and supported by each other in a Chain of mutual Want and Dependence. They do not consist in a smooth Address, an artificial or obsequious Air, fawning Adulations, or a polite Servility of Manners, but in a just and modest Sense of our own Dignity and that of others, and of the Reverence due to Mankind, especially to those who hold the highest Links of the Social Chain; in a discreet and manly Accommodation of ourselves to the Foibles and Humours of others; in a strict Observance of the Rules of Decorum and Civility; but above all in a frank obliging Carriage, and generous Interchange of good Deeds, rather than Words. Such a Conduct is of great Use and Advantage, as it is an excellent Security against Injury, and the best Claim and Recommendation to the Esteem, Civility, and universal Respect of Mankind. This inferior Order of Virtues unite the particular Members of Society more closely, and form the lesser Pillars of the civil Fabric; which, in many Instances, supply the unavoidable Defects of Laws, and maintain the Harmony and Decorum of Social Intercourse, where the more important and essential Lines of Virtue are wanting.
Charity, ForgivenessCharity and Forgiveness are truly amiable and useful Duties of the Social kind. There is a twofold Distinction of Rights commonly taken notice of by Moral Writers, viz. Perfect and Imperfect. To fulfil the former, is necessary to the Being and Support of Society; to fulfil the latter is a Duty equally sacred and obligatory, and tends to the Improvement and Prosperity of Society; but as the Violation of them is not equally prejudicial to the public Good, the fulfilling them is not subjected to the Cognizance of Law, but left to the Candor, Humanity, and Gratitude of Individuals. And by this means ample Scope is given to exercise all the Generosity, and display the genuine Merit and Lustre of Virtue. Thus the Wants and Misfortunes of others call for our charitable Assistance and seasonable Supplies. And the good Man, unconstrained by Law, and uncontrouled by human Authority, will chearfully acknowledge and generously satisfy this mournful and moving Claim; a Claim supported by the Sanction of Heaven, of whose Bounties he is honoured to be the grateful Trustee. If his own perfect Rights are invaded by the Injustice of others, he will not therefore reject their imperfect Right to Pity and Forgiveness, unless his Grant of these should be inconsistent with the more extensive Rights of Society, or the public Good. In that case he will have recourse to public Justice and the Laws, and even then he will prosecute the Injury with no unnecessary Severity, but rather with Mildness and Humanity. When the Injury is merely personal, and of such a Nature as to admit of Alleviations, and the Forgiveness of which would be attended with no worse Consequences, especially of a public kind, the good Man will generously forgive his offending Brother: and it is his Duty to do so, and not to take private Revenge, or retaliate Evil for Evil. For though Resentment of Injury is a natural Passion, and implanted, as was observed* above, for wise and good Ends; yet, considering the manifold Partialities which most Men have for themselves, was every one to act as Judge in his own Cause, and to execute the Sentence dictated by his own Resentment, it is but too evident that Mankind would pass all Bounds in their Fury, and the last Sufferer be provoked in his turn to make full Reprisals. So that Evil, thus encountering with Evil, would produce one continued Series of Violence and Misery, and render Society intolerable, if not impracticable. Therefore, when the Security of the Individual, or Good of the Public, does not require a proportionable Retaliation, it is agreeable to the general Law of Benevolence, and to the particular End of the Passion (which is to prevent Injury and the Misery occasioned by it) to forgive personal Injuries,* or not to return Evil for Evil. This Duty is one of the noble Refinements which Christianity has made upon the general Maxims and Practice of Mankind, and enforced with a peculiar Strength and Beauty, by Sanctions no less alluring than awful. And indeed the Practice of it is generally its own Reward; by expelling from the Mind the most dreadful Intruders upon its Repose, those rancorous Passions which are begot and nursed by Resentment, and by disarming and even subduing every Enemy one has, except such as have nothing left of Men, but the outward Form.
HospitalityThe most enlarged and humane Connection of the private kind, seems to be the Hospitable Alliance, from which flow the amiable and disinterested Duties we owe to Strangers. If the Exercise of Passions of the most private and instinctive kind is beheld with Moral Approbation and Delight, how lovely and venerable must those appear, which result from a calm Philanthropy, are founded in the common Rights and Connections of Society, and embrace Men, not of a particular Sect, Party, or Nation, but all in general without Distinction, and without any of the little Partialities of Self-love.
Social Duties of the Commercial Kind
Commercial DutiesThe next Order of Connections are those which arise from the Wants and Weakness of Mankind, and from the various Circumstances in which their different Situations place them. These we may call Commercial Connections, and the Duties which result from them Commercial Duties, as Justice, Fair-dealing, Sincerity, Fidelity to Compacts, and the like.
Their FoundationIt is observed somewhere by a Writer* of the first Rank, that though Nature is perfect in all her Works, yet she has observed a manifest and eminent Distinction among them. To all such as lie beyond the Reach of human Skill and Power, and are properly of her own Department, she has given the finishing Hand. These Man may design after and imitate, but he can never rival them, nor add to their Beauty or Perfection. Such are the Forms and Structure of Vegetables, Animals, and many of their Productions, as the Honeycomb, the Spider’s Web, and the like. There are others of her Works which she has of design left unfinished, as it were, in order to exercise the Ingenuity and Power of Man. She has presented to him a rich Profusion of Materials of every kind for his Conveniency and Use; but they are rude and unpolished, or not to be come at without Art and Labour. These therefore he must apply, in order to adapt them to his Use, and to enjoy them in Perfection. Thus Nature has given him an infinite Variety of Herbs, Grain, Fossils, Minerals, Wood, Water, Earth, Air, and a thousand other crude Materials to supply his numerous Wants. But he must sow, plant, dig, refine, polish, build, and, in short, manufacture the various Produce of Nature, in order to obtain even the Necessaries, and much more the Conveniencies and Elegancies of Life. These then are the Price of his Labour and Industry, and, without that, Nature will sell him nothing. But as the Wants of Mankind are many, and the single Strength of Individuals small, they could hardly find the Necessaries, and much less the Conveniencies of Life, without uniting their Ingenuity and Strength in acquiring these, and without a mutual Intercourse of good Offices. Some Men are better formed for some kinds of Ingenuity and Labour, and others for other kinds; and different Soils and Climates are enriched with different Productions; so that Men by exchanging the Produce of their respective Labours, and supplying the Wants of one Country with the Superfluities of another, do, in effect, diminish the Labours of each, and increase the Abundance of all. This is the Foundation of all Commerce, or Exchange of Commodities and Goods one with another; in order to facilitate which, Men have contrived different Species of Coin, or Money, as a common Standard by which to estimate the comparative Values of their respective Goods. But to render Commerce sure and effectual, Justice, Fair-dealing, Sincerity, and Fidelity to Compacts are absolutely necessary.
Justice, &c.Justice, or Fair-dealing, or, in other Words, a Disposition to treat others as we would be treated by them, is a Virtue of the first Importance, and inseparable from the virtuous Character. It is the Cement of Society, or that pervading Spirit which connects its Members, inspires its various Relations, and maintains the Order and Subordination of each Part to the Whole. Without it, Society would become a Den of Thieves and Banditti, hating and hated, devouring and devoured, by one another.
SinceritySincerity or Veracity, in our Words and Actions, is another Virtue or Duty of great Importance to Society, being one of the great Bands of mutual Intercourse, and the Foundation of mutual Trust. Without it, Society would be the Dominion of Mistrust, Jealousy, and Fraud, and Conversation a Traffic of Lies and Dissimulation. It includes in it a Conformity of Words with our Sentiments, a Correspondence between our Actions and Dispositions, a strict Regard to Truth, and an irreconcileable Abhorrence of Falsehood. It does not indeed require that we expose our Sentiments indiscreetly, or tell all the Truth in every Case; but certainly it does not and cannot admit the least Violation of Truth, or Contradiction to our Sentiments. For if these Bounds are once passed, no possible Limit can be assigned where the Violation shall stop; and no Pretence of private or public Good, can possibly counterbalance the Ill Consequences of such a Violation. And we trust, the Order of Nature and Providence is such, that it seldom or never falls out, that so valuable a Sacrifice must be made in order to obtain the Ends of an extensive Benevolence. It belongs to us to do what appears right and conformable to the Laws of our Nature, and to leave Heaven to direct and over-rule Events or Consequences, which it will never fail to do, for the best.
Fidelity to Promises, Compacts, &c.Fidelity to Promises, Compacts, and Engagements, is likewise a Duty of such Importance to the Security of Commerce and Interchange of Benevolence among Mankind, that Society would soon grow intolerable without the strict Observance of it. Hobbes, and others who follow the same Track, have taken a wonderful deal of pains to puzzle this Subject, and to make all the Virtues of this Sort merely artificial, and not at all obligatory, antecedent to human Conventions. No doubt Compacts suppose People who make them, and Promises Persons to whom they are made, and therefore both suppose some Society more or less between those who enter into these mutual Engagements. But is not a Compact or Promise binding, till Men have agreed that they shall be binding? Or are they only binding because it is our Interest to be bound by them, or to fulfil them? Do not we highly approve the Man who fulfils them, even tho’ they should prove to be against his Interest? And do not we condemn him as a Knave, who violates them on that account? A Promise is a voluntary Declaration, by Words, or by an Action equally significant, of our Resolution to do something in behalf of another, or for his Service. When it is made, the Person who makes it, is by all supposed under an Obligation to perform it. And he to whom it is made, may demand the Performance as his Right. That Perception of Obligation is a simple Idea, and is on the same Footing as our other Moral Perceptions, which may be described by Instances, but cannot be defined. Whether we have a Perception of such Obligation quite distinct from the Interest, either Public or Private, that may accompany the Fulfilment of it, must be referred to the Conscience of every Individual. And, whether the mere Sense of that Obligation, apart from its Concomitants, is not a sufficient Inducement or Motive to keep one’s Promise, without having recourse to any selfish Principle of our Nature, must be likewise appealed to the Conscience of every honest Man. Fair-dealing and Fidelity to Compacts require that we take no Advantage of the Ignorance, Passion, or Incapacity of others, from whatever Cause that Incapacity arises;—that we be explicit and candid in making Bargains, just and faithful in fulfilling our Part of them. And if the other Party violates his Engagements, Redress is to be sought for from the Laws, or from those who are intrusted with the Execution of them. In fine, the Commercial Virtues and Duties require that we not only do not invade, but maintain the Rights of others;—that we be fair and impartial in transferring, bartering, or exchanging Property, whether in Goods or Service; and be inviolably faithful to our Word and our Engagements, where the Matter of them is not criminal, and where they are not extorted by Force.—But on this the designed Brevity of the Work will not permit us farther to insist.
Social Duties of the Political Kind
We are now arrived at the last and highest Order of Duties respecting Society, which result from the Exercise of the most generous and heroic Affections, and are founded on our most enlarged Connections.
Political ConnectionsThe Social Principle in Man is of such an expansive Nature, that it cannot be confined within the Circuit of a Family, of Friends, or a Neighbourhood: it spreads into wider Systems, and draws Men into larger Confederacies, Communities, and Commonwealths.—It is in these only that the higher Powers of our Nature attain the highest Improvement and Perfection of which they are capable. These Principles hardly find Objects in the solitary State of Nature. There the Principle of Action rises no higher at farthest than Natural Affection towards one’s Offspring. There Personal or Family wants entirely engross the Creature’s Attention and Labour, and allow no Leisure, or, if they did, no Exercise for Views and Affections of a more enlarged kind. In Solitude all are employed in the same way, in providing for the Animal Life. And even after their utmost Labour and Care, single and unaided by the Industry of others, they find but a sorry Supply of their Wants, and a feeble, precarious Security against Dangers from wild Beasts; from inclement Skies and Seasons; from the Mistakes or petulant Passions of their Fellow-creatures; from their Preference of themselves to their Neighbours; and from all the little Exorbitances of Self-love. But in Society, the mutual Aids which Men give and receive, shorten the Labours of each, and the combined Strength and Reason of Individuals give Security and Protection to the whole Body. There is both a Variety and Subordination of Genius among Mankind. Some are formed to lead and direct others, to contrive Plans of Happiness for Individuals, and of Government for Communities, to take in a public Interest, invent Laws and Arts, and superintend their Execution, and in short, to refine and civilize human Life. Others, who have not such good Heads, may have as honest Hearts, a truly public Spirit, Love of Liberty, Hatred of Corruption and Tyranny, a generous Submission to Laws, Order, and Public Institutions, and an extensive Philanthropy. And others, who have none of those Capacities either of Heart or Head, may be well-formed for Manual Exercises and Bodily Labour. The former of these Principles have no Scope in Solitude, where a Man’s Thoughts and Concerns do all either center in himself, or extend no farther than a Family; into which little Circle all the Duty and Virtue of the Solitary Mortal is crouded. But Society finds proper Objects and Exercises for every Genius, and the noblest Objects and Exercises for the noblest Geniuses, and for the highest Principles in the human Constitution: particularly for that warmest and most divine Passion, which God hath kindled in our Bosoms, the Inclination of doing good and reverencing our Nature; which may find here both Employment, and the most exquisite Satisfaction. In Society a Man has not only more Leisure, but better Opportunities of applying his Talents with much greater Perfection and Success, especially as he is furnished with the joint Advice and Assistance of his Fellow-creatures, who are now more closely united one with the other, and sustain a common Relation to the same Moral System, or Community. This then is an Object proportioned to his most enlarged Social Affections, and in serving it he finds Scope for the Exercise and Refinement of his highest Intellectual and Moral Powers. ThereforeSociety, or a State of Civil Government, rests on these two principal Pillars, “That in it we find Security against those Evils which are unavoidable in Solitude—and obtain those Goods, some of which cannot be obtained at all, and others not so well in that State, where Men depend solely on their individual Sagacity and Industry.”
From this short Detail it appears that Man is a Social Creature, and formed for a Social State; and that Society, being adapted to the higher Principles and Destinations of his Nature, must, of necessity, be his Natural State.
Political DutiesThe Duties suited to that State, and resulting from those Principles and Destinations, or in other Words, from our Social Passions and Social Connections, or Relation to a Public System, are Love of our Country, Resignation and Obedience to the Laws, Public Spirit, Love of Liberty, Sacrifice of Life and all to the Public, and the like.
Love of one’s CountryLove of our Country is one of the noblest Passions that can warm and animate the human Breast. It includes all the limited and particular Affections to our Parents, Children, Friends, Neighbours, Fellow-Citizens, Countrymen. It ought to direct and limit their more confined and partial Action within their proper and natural Bounds, and never let them encroach on those sacred and first Regards we owe to the great Public to which we belong. Were we solitary Creatures, detached from the rest of Mankind, and without any Capacity of comprehending a public Interest, or without Affections, leading us to desire and pursue it, it would not be our Duty to mind it, nor criminal to neglect it. But, as we are Parts of the Public System, and are not only capable of taking in large Views of its Interests, but by the strongest Affections connected with it, and prompted to take a Share of its Concerns, we are under the most sacred Ties to prosecute its Security and Welfare with the utmost Ardor, especially in times of public Trial. This Love of our Country does not import an Attachment to any particular Soil, Climate, or Spot of Earth, where perhaps we first drew our Breath, though those Natural Ideas are often associated with the Moral ones; and, like external Signs or Symbols, help to ascertain and bind them; but it imports an Affection to that Moral System, or Community, which is governed by the same Laws and Magistrates, and whose several Parts are variously connected one with the other, and all united upon the Bottom of a common Interest. Perhaps indeed every Member of the Community cannot comprehend so large an Object, especially if it extends through large Provinces, and over vast Tracts of Land; and still less can he form such an Idea, if there is no Public, i.e. if all are subjected to the Caprice and unlimited Will of one Man; but the Preference the Generality shew to their native Country; the Concern and Longing after it which they express, when they have been long absent from it; the Labours they undertake and Sufferings they endure to save or serve it; and the peculiar Attachment they have to their Country-men, evidently demonstrate that the Passion is natural, and never fails to exert itself, when it is fairly disengaged from foreign Clogs, and is directed to its proper Object. Wherever it prevails in its genuine Vigour and Extent, it swallows up all sordid and selfish Regards, it conquers the Love of Ease, Power, Pleasure, and Wealth; nay, when the amiable Partialities of Friendship, Gratitude, private Affection, or Regards to a Family, come in Competition with it, it will teach us bravely to sacrifice all, in order to maintain the Rights and promote or defend the Honour and Happiness of our Country.
Resignation and Obedience to the Laws, &c.Resignation and Obedience to the Laws and Orders of the Society to which we belong, are Political Duties necessary to its very Being and Security, without which it must soon degenerate into a State of Licence and Anarchy. The Welfare, nay, the Nature of Civil Society, requires that there should be a Subordination of Orders, or Diversity of Ranks and Conditions in it;—that certain Men, or Orders of Men, be appointed to super-intend and manage such Affairs as concern the Public Safety and Happiness;—that all have their particular Provinces assigned them;—that such a Subordination be settled among them, as none of them may interfere with another;—and finally, that certain Rules, or common Measures of Action, be agreed on, by which each is to discharge his respective Duty to govern or be governed, and all may concur in securing the Order and promoting the Felicity of the whole Political Body. Those Rules of Action are the Laws of the Community, and those different Orders are the several Officers, or Magistrates, appointed by the Public to explain them, and super-intend or assist in their Execution. In consequence of this Settlement of Things, it is the Duty of each Individual to obey the Laws enacted, to submit to the Executors of them with all due Deference and Homage, according to their respective Ranks and Dignity, as to the Keepers of the Public Peace, and the Guardians of Public Liberty; to maintain his own Rank, and perform the Functions of his own Station with Diligence, Fidelity, and Incorruption. The Superiority of the higher Orders, or the Authority with which the State has invested them, entitle them, especially if they employ their Authority well, to the Obedience and Submission of the lower, and to a proportionable Honour and Respect from all. The Subordination of the lower Ranks claims Protection, Defence, and Security, from the higher. And the Laws, being superior to all, require the Obedience and Submission of all, being the last Resort, beyond which there is no Decision or Appeal.—Besides these natural and stated Subordinations in Society, there are others accidental and artificial, the Opulent and Indigent, the Great and the Vulgar, the Ingenious and Prudent, and those who are less so. The Opulent are to administer to the Necessities of the Indigent, and the Indigent to return the Fruits of their Labours to the Opulent. The Great ought to defend and patronize their Dependents and Inferiors, and They in their turn, to return their combined Strength and Assistance to the Great. The Prudent should improve the Ingenuities of the Mind for the Benefit of the Industrious, and the Industrious lend the Dexterities of their Strength for the Advantage of the Prudent.
Foundation of Public Spirit, Love of Liberty, &c.Public Spirit, Heroic Zeal, Love of Liberty, and the other Political Duties, do, above all others, recommend those who practise them to the Admiration and Homage of Mankind; because as they are the Offspring of the noblest Minds, so are they the Parents of the greatest Blessings to Society. Yet exalted as they are, it is only in equal and free Governments, where they can be exercised and have their due Effect. For there only does a true Public prevail, and there only is the Public Good made the Standard of the Civil Constitution. As the End of Society is the Common Interest and Welfare of the People associated, this End must, of necessity, be the Supreme Law or Common Standard, by which the particular Rules of Action of the several Members of the Society towards each other are to be regulated. But a common Interest can be no other than that which is the Result of the common Reason, or common Feelings of all. Private Men, or a particular Order of Men, have Interests and Feelings peculiar to themselves, and of which they may be good Judges; but these may be separate from, and often contrary to the Interests and Feelings of the rest of the Society; and therefore they can have no Right to make, and much less to impose, Laws on their Fellow-Citizens, inconsistent with, and opposite to those Interests and those Feelings. Therefore a Society, a Government, or real Public, truly worthy the Name, and not a Confederacy of Banditti, a Clan of lawless Savages, or a Band of Slaves under the Whip of a Master, must be such a one as consists of Freemen, chusing or consenting to Laws themselves; or, since it often happens that they cannot assemble and act in a Collective Body, delegating a sufficient Number of Representatives, i.e. such a Number as shall most fully comprehend, and most equally represent, their common Feelings and common Interests, to digest and vote Laws for the Conduct and Controul of the whole Body, the most agreeable to those common Feelings and common Interests.
Political Duties of every CitizenA Society thus constituted by common Reason, and formed on the Plan of a common Interest, becomes immediately an Object of public Attention, public Veneration, public Obedience, a public and inviolable Attachment, which ought neither to be seduced by Bribes, nor awed by Terrors; an Object, in fine, of all those extensive and important Duties which arise from so glorious a Confederacy. To watch over such a System; to contribute all he can to promote its Good by his Reason, his Ingenuity, his Strength, and every other Ability, whether Natural or Acquired; to resist, and, to the utmost of his Power, defeat every Incroachment upon it, whether carried on by secret Corruption, or open Violence; and to sacrifice his Ease, his Wealth, his Power, nay Life itself, and what is dearer still, his Family and Friends, to defend or save it, is the Duty, the Honour, the Interest, and the Happiness of every Citizen; it will make him venerable and beloved while he lives, be lamented and honoured if he falls in so glorious a Cause, and transmit his Name with immortal Renown to the latest Posterity.
Of the PeopleAs the People are the Fountain of Power and Authority, the original Seat of Majesty, the Authors of Laws, and the Creators of Officers to execute them; if they shall find the Power they have conferred abused by their Trustees, their Majesty violated by Tyranny, or by Usurpation, their Authority prostituted to support Violence, or screen Corruption, the Laws grown pernicious through Accidents unforeseen, or unavoidable, or rendered ineffectual thro’ the Infidelity and Corruption of the Executors of them; then it is their Right, and what is their Right is their Duty, to resume that delegated Power, and call their Trustees to an Account; to resist the Usurpation, and extirpate the Tyranny; to restore their sullied Majesty and prostituted Authority; to suspend, alter, or abrogate those Laws, and punish their unfaithful and corrupt Officers. Nor is it the Duty only of the united Body, but every Member of it ought, according to his respective Rank, Power, and Weight in the Community, to concur in advancing and supporting those glorious Designs.
Of BritonsThe Obligations of every Briton to fulfil the political Duties, receive a vast Accession of Strength, when he calls to mind of what a noble and well-balanced Constitution of Government he has the Honour to partake; a Constitution founded on common Reason, common Consent, and common Good; a Constitution of free and equal Laws, secured against arbitrary Will and popular Licence, by an admirable Temperament of the governing Powers, controuling and controuled by one another. How must every one who has tolerable Understanding to observe, or tolerable Honesty to acknowledge its happy Effects, venerate and love a Constitution, in which the Majesty of the People is, and has been frequently recognized; in which Kings are made and unmade by the Choice of the People; Laws enacted or annulled only by their own Consent, and for their own Good, in which none can be deprived of their Property, abridged of their Freedom, or forfeit their Lives, without an Appeal to the Laws, and the Verdict of their Peers or Equals; a Constitution, in fine, the Nurse of Heroes, the Parent of Liberty, the Patron of Learning and Arts, the Dominion of Laws, “the Pride of Britain, the Envy of her Neighbours, and their Sanctuary too!”—How dissolute and execrable must their Character and Conduct be, who, instead of sacrificing their Interest and Ambition, will not part with the least Degree of either, to preserve inviolate, and entail in full Vigour to their Posterity, such a glorious Constitution, the Labour of so many Ages, and Price of so much Blood and Treasure; but would chuse rather to sacrifice it, and all their own Independency, Freedom, and Dignity, to personal Power and hollow Grandeur, to any little Pageant of a King, who should prefer being the Master of Slaves to being the Guardian of Freemen, and consider himself as the Proprietor, not the Father of his People!—But Words cannot express the Selfishness and Servility of those Men; and as little the public and heroic Spirit of such, if any such there are, as have Virtue enough still left to stem the Torrent of Corruption, and guard our sacred Constitution against the Profligacy and Prostitution of the Corruptors and the Corrupted.
Duty to God
Divine ConnectionsOf all the Relations which the human Mind sustains, that which subsists between the Creator and his Creatures, the supreme Lawgiver and his Subjects, is the highest and the best. This Relation arises from the Nature of a Creature in general, and the Constitution of the human Mind in particular; the noblest Powers and Affections of which point to an universal Mind, and would be imperfect and abortive without such a Direction. How lame then must that System of Morals be, which leaves a Deity out of the Question! How disconsolate, and how destitute of its firmest Support!
Existence of GodIt does not appear, from any true History or Experience of the Mind’s Progress, that any Man by any formal Deduction of his discursive Powers, ever reasoned himself into the Belief of a God. Whether such a Belief is only some natural Anticipation of Soul, or is derived from Father to Son, and from one Man to another, in the Way of Tradition, or is suggested to us in consequence of an immutable Law of our Nature, on beholding the august Aspect and beautiful Order of the Universe, we will not pretend to determine. What seems most agreeable to Experience is, that a Sense of its Beauty and Grandeur, and the admirable Fitness of one thing to another in its vast Apparatus, leads the Mind necessarily and unavoidably to a Perception of Design, or of a designing Cause, the Origin of all, by a Progress as simple and natural, as that by which a beautiful Picture, or a fine Building, suggests to us the Idea of an excellent Artist. For it seems to hold universally true, that wherever we discern a Tendency, or Co-operation of Things, towards a certain End, or producing a common Effect, there, by a necessary Law of Association, we apprehend Design, a designing Energy, or Cause. No matter whether the Objects are natural or artificial, still that Suggestion is unavoidable, and the Connection between the Effect and its adequate Cause, obtrudes itself on the Mind, and it requires no nice Search or elaborate Deduction of Reason, to trace or prove that Connection. We are particularly satisfied of its Truth in the Subject before us, by a kind of direct Intuition, and we do not seem to attend to the Maxim we learn in Schools, “That there cannot be an infinite Series of Causes and Effects producing and produced by one another.” Nor do we feel a great Accession of Light and Conviction after we have learned it. We are conscious of our Existence, of Thought, Sentiment, and Passion, and sensible withal that these came not of ourselves, therefore we immediately recognize a Parent-Mind, an Original Intelligence, from whom we borrowed those little Portions of Thought and Activity. And while we not only feel kind Affections in ourselves, and discover them in others, but likewise behold all round us such a Number and Variety of Creatures, endued with Natures nicely adjusted to their several Stations and Oeconomies, supporting and supported by each other, and all sustained by a common Order of Things, and sharing different Degrees of Happiness, according to their respective Capacities, we are naturally and necessarily led up to the Father of such a numerous Offspring, the Fountain of such widespread Happiness. As we conceive this Being before all, above all, and greater than all, we naturally, and without Reasoning, ascribe to him every kind of Perfection, Wisdom, Power, and Goodness without Bounds, existing through all Time, and pervading all Space.His Relation to the human Mind We apply to him those glorious Epithets of our Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, the supreme Lord and Law-giver of the whole Society of rational intelligent Creatures.—Not only the Imperfections and Wants of our Being and Condition, but some of the noblest Instincts and Affections of our Minds, connect us with this great and universal Nature. The Mind, in its Progress from Object to Object, from one Character and Prospect of Beauty to another, finds some Blemish or Deficiency in each, and soon exhausts or grows weary and dissatisfied with its Subject; it sees no Character of Excellency among Men, equal to that Pitch of Esteem which it is capable of exerting; no Object within the Compass of human Things adequate to the Strength of its Affection. Nor can it stop any where in this self-expansive Progress, or find Repose after its highest Flights, till it arrives at a Being of unbounded Greatness and Worth, on whom it may employ its sublimest Powers without exhausting the Subject, and give Scope to the utmost Force and Fulness of its Love, without Satiety or Disgust. So that the Nature of this Being corresponds to the Nature of Man; nor can his intelligent and moral Powers obtain their entire End, but on the Supposition of such a Being, and without a real Sympathy and Communication with him. The native Propensity of the Mind to reverence whatever is great and wonderful in Nature, finds a proper Object of Homage in him who spread out the Heavens and the Earth, and who sustains and governs the Whole of Things. The Admiration of Beauty, the Love of Order, and the Complacency we feel in Goodness, must rise to the highest Pitch, and attain the full Vigour and Joy of their Operations, when they unite in him who is the Sum and Source of all Perfection.
Immorality of ImpietyIt is evident from the slightest Survey of Morals, that how punctual soever one may be in performing the Duties which result from our Relations to Mankind; yet to be quite deficient in performing those which arise from our Relation to the Almighty, must argue a strange Perversion of Reason or Depravity of Heart. If imperfect Degrees of Worth attract our Veneration, and if the Want of it would imply an Insensibility, or, which is worse, an Aversion to Merit, what Lameness of Affection and Immorality of Character must it be to be unaffected with, and much more to be ill-affected to a Being of superlative Worth! To love Society, or particular Members of it, and yet to have no Sense of our Connection with its Head, no Affection to our common Parent and Benefactor; to be concerned about the Approbation or Censure of our Fellow-Creatures, and yet to feel nothing of this kind towards Him who sees and weighs our Actions with unerring Wisdom and Justice, and can fully reward or punish them, betrays equal Madness and Partiality of Mind. It is plain therefore beyond all doubt, that some Regards are due to the great Father of all, in whom every lovely and adorable Quality combines to inspire Veneration and Homage.
Right Opinions of GodAs it has been observed already, that our Affections depend on our Opinions of their Objects, and generally keep pace with them, it must be of the highest Importance, and seems to be among the first Duties we owe to the Author of our Being, “to form the least imperfect, since we cannot form perfect, Conceptions of his Character and Administration.” For such Conceptions thoroughly imbibed, will render our Religion rational, and our Dispositions refined. If our Opinions are diminutive and distorted, our Religion will be superstitious, and our Temper abject. Thus, if we ascribe to the Deity that false Majesty, which consists in the unbenevolent and sullen Exercise of mere Will or Power, or suppose him to delight in the Prostrations of servile Fear, or as servile Praise, he will be worshiped with mean Adulation, and a Profusion of Compliments. Farther, if he be looked upon as a stern and implacable Being, delighting in Vengeance, he will be adored with pompous Offerings, Sacrifices, or whatever else might be thought proper to sooth and mollify him. But if we believe perfect Goodness to be the Character of the Supreme Being, and that he loves those most who resemble him most, the Worship paid him will be rational and sublime, and his Worshipers will seek to please him, by imitating that Goodness which they adore.
Rational FaithThe Foundation then of all true Religion is rational Faith. And of a rational Faith these seem to be the chief Articles, to believe, “that an infinite all-perfect Mind exists, who has no opposite nor any separate Interest from that of his Creatures,—that he super-intends and governs all Creatures and Things,—that his Goodness extends to all his Creatures, in different Degrees indeed, according to their respective Natures, but without any Partiality or Envy,—that he does every thing for the best, or in a Subserviency to the Perfection and Happiness of the Whole,—particularly, that he directs and governs the Affairs of Men,—inspects their Actions,—distinguishes the Good from the Bad,—loves and befriends the former,—is displeased with and pities the latter in this World,—and will, according to their respective Deserts, reward one and punish the other in the next;—that, in fine, he is always carrying on a Scheme of Virtue and Happiness through an unlimited Duration,—and is ever guiding the Universe through its successive Stages and Periods, to higher Degrees of Perfection and Felicity.” This is true Theism, the glorious Scheme of divine Faith; a Scheme exhibited in all the Works of God, and executed through his whole Administration.
Morality of TheismThis Faith well founded, and deeply felt, is nearly connected with a true moral Taste, and hath a powerful Efficacy on the Temper and Manners of the Theist. He who admires Goodness in others, and delights in the Practice of it, must be conscious of a reigning Order within, a Rectitude and Candor of Heart, which disposes him to entertain favourable Apprehensions of Men, and from an impartial Survey of things, to presume that good Order and good Meaning prevail in the Universe; and if good Meaning and good Order, then an ordering, an intending Mind, who is no Enemy, no Tyrant to his Creatures, but a Friend, a Benefactor, an indulgent Sovereign.
Immorality of AtheismOn the other hand, a bad Man, having nothing goodly or generous to contemplate within, no right Intentions, nor Honesty of Heart, suspects every Person and every Thing, and beholding Nature thro’ the Gloom of a selfish and guilty Mind, is either averse to the Belief of a reigning Order, or, if he cannot suppress the unconquerable Anticipations of a governing Mind, he is prone to tarnish the Beauty of Nature, and to impute Malevolence, or Blindness and Impotence at least to the Sovereign Ruler. He turns the Universe into a forlorn and horrid Waste, and transfers his own Character to the Deity, by ascribing to him that uncommunicative Grandeur, that arbitrary or revengeful Spirit which he affects or admires in himself. As such a Temper of Mind naturally leads to Atheism, or to a Superstition full as bad; therefore as far as that Temper depends on the unhappy Creature in whom it prevails, the Propensity to Atheism or Superstition consequent thereto, must be immoral. Farther, if it be true that the Belief or Sense of a Deity is natural to the Mind, and the Evidence of his Existence reflected from his Works so full, as to strike even the most superficial Observer with Conviction, then the supplanting or corrupting that Sense, or the Want of due Attention to that Evidence, and in consequence of both, a supine Ignorance, or affected Unbelief of a Deity, must argue a bad Temper, or an immoral Turn of Mind. In the case of invincible Ignorance, or a very bad Education, though nothing can be concluded directly against the Character, yet whenever ill Passions and Habits pervert the Judgment, and by perverting the Judgment terminate in Atheism, then the Case becomes plainly criminal.
The Connection of Theism and VirtueBut let Casuists determine this as they will, a true Faith in the divine Character and Administration, is generally the Consequence of a virtuous State of Mind. The Man who is truly and habitually good, feels the Love of Order, of Beauty, and Goodness, in the strongest Degree, and therefore cannot be insensible to those Emanations of them which appear in all the Works of God, nor help loving their supreme Sourceand Model. He cannot but think, that he who has poured such Beauty and Goodness over all his Works, must himself delight in Beauty and Goodness, and what he delights in must be both amiable and happy. Some indeed there are, and it is Pity there should be any such, who, through the unhappy Influence of a wrong Education, have entertained dark and unfriendly Thoughts of a Deity, and his Administration, though otherwise of a virtuous Temper themselves. However it must be acknowledged, that such Sentiments have, for the most part, a bad Effect on the Temper; and when they have not, it is because the undepraved Affections of an honest Heart are more powerful in their Operation, than the speculative Opinions of an ill-formed Head.
Duties of Gratitude, Love, &c.But wherever right Conceptions of the Deity and his Providence prevail, when he is considered as the inexhausted Source of Light, and Love, and Joy, as acting in the joint Character of a Father and Governor, imparting an endless Variety of Capacities to his Creatures, and supplying them with every thing necessary to their full Completion and Happiness, what Veneration and Gratitude must such Conceptions thoroughly believed, excite in the Mind! How natural and delightful must it be to one whose Heart is open to the Perception of Truth, and of every thing fair, great, and wonderful in Nature, to contemplate and adore him, who is the first fair, the first great, and first wonderful; in whom Wisdom, Power, and Goodness, dwell vitally, essentially, originally, and act in perfect Concert! What Grandeur is here to fill the most enlarged Capacity, what Beauty to engage the most ardent Love, what a Mass of Wonders in such Exuberance of Perfection to astonish and delight the human Mind through an unfailing Duration!
Other AffectionsIf the Deity is considered as our supreme Guardian and Benefactor, as the Father of Mercies, who loves his Creatures with infinite Tenderness, and, in a particular manner, all good Men, nay, who delights in Goodness, even in its most imperfect Degrees; what Resignation, what Dependence, what generous Confidence, what Hope in God, and his all-wise Providence, must arise in the Soul that is possessed of such amiable Views of him? All those Exercises of Piety, and above all a superlative Esteem and Love, are directed to God as to their natural, their ultimate, and indeed their only adequate Object; and though the immense Obligations we have received from him, may excite in us more lively Feelings of divine Goodness than a general and abstracted Contemplation of it, yet the Affections of Gratitude and Love are themselves of the generous disinterested kind, not the Result of Self-interest, or Views of Reward.* A perfect Character, in which we always suppose infinite Goodness, guided by unerring Wisdom, and supported by Almighty Power, is the proper Object of perfect Love; and tho’ that Character sustains to us the Relation of a Benefactor, yet the Mind, deeply struck with that Perfection, is quite lost amidst such a Blaze of Beauty, and grows as it were insensible to those minuter Irradiations of it upon itself. To talk therefore of a mercenary Love of God, or which has Fear for its principal Ingredient, is equally impious and absurd. If we do not love the loveliest Object in the Universe for his own Sake, no Prospect of Good or Fear of Ill can ever bribe our Esteem, or captivate our Love. These Affections are too noble to be bought or sold, or bartered in the way of Gain; Worth, or Merit, is their Object, and their Reward is something similar in kind. Whoever indulges such Sentiments and Affections towards the Deity, must be confirmed in the Love of Virtue, in a Desire to imitate its all-perfect Pattern, and in a chearful Security that all his great Concerns, those of his Friends, and of the Universe, shall be absolutely safe under the Conduct of unerring Wisdom, and unbounded Goodness. It is in his Care and Providence alone that the good Man, who is anxious for the Happiness of all, finds perfect Serenity, a Serenity neither ruffled by partial Ill, nor soured by private Disappointment.
Repentance, &c.When we consider the unstained Purity and absolute Perfection of the Divine Nature, and reflect withal on the Imperfection and various Blemishes of our own, we must sink, or be convinced we ought to sink, into the deepest Humility and Prostration of Soul before him, who is so wonderfully great and holy. When farther, we call to mind what low and languid Feelings we have of the Divine Presence and Majesty, what Insensibility of his fatherly and universal Goodness, nay what ungrateful Returns we have made to it, how far we come short of the Perfection of his Law, and the Dignity of our own Nature, how much we have indulged to the selfish Passions, and how little to the benevolent ones, we must be conscious that it is our Duty to repent of a Temper and Conduct so unworthy our Nature, and unbecoming our Obligations to its Author, and to resolve and endeavour to act a wiser and better Part for the future. The Connection of our Depravity and Folly with inward Remorse, and many outward Calamities, being established by the Deity himself, is a natural Intimation of his Present Displeasure with us; and a Propensity to continue in the same Course, contracted in consequence of the Laws of Habit, gives us just Ground of Fear, that we are obnoxious to his farther Displeasure, as that Propensity gives a Stability to our Vice and Folly, and forebodes our Perseverance in them.
Hopes of PardonNevertheless, from the Character which his Works exhibit of him, from those Delays or Alleviations of Punishment which Offenders often experience, and from the merciful Tenour of his Administration in many other Instances, the sincere Penitent may entertain good Hopes that his Parent and Judge will not be strict to mark Iniquity, but will be propitious and favourable to him, if he honestly endeavours to avoid his former Practices, and subdue his former Habits, and to live in a greater Conformity to the Divine Will for the future. If any Doubts or Fears should still remain, how far it may be consistent with the Rectitude and Equity of the Divine Government to let his Iniquities pass unpunished, yet he cannot think it unsuitable to his paternal Clemency and Wisdom to contrive a Method of retrieving the penitent Offender, that shall unite and reconcile the Majesty and Mercy of his Government. If Reason cannot of itself suggest such a Scheme, it gives at least some Ground to expect it. But though natural Religion cannot let in more Light and Assurance on so interesting a Subject, yet it will teach the humble Theist to wait with great Submission for any farther Intimations it may please the supreme Governor to give of his Will; to examine with Candour and Impartiality, whatever Evidence shall be proposed to him of a Divine Revelation, whether that Evidence is natural or supernatural; to embrace it with Veneration and Chearfulness, if the Evidence is clear and convincing; and finally, if it bring to light any new Relations or Connections, natural Religion will persuade its sincere Votary faithfully to comply with the Obligations, and perform the Duties which result from those Relations and Connections.—This is Theism, Piety, the Completion of Morality!
Worship, Praise, ThanksgivingWe must farther observe, that all those Affections which we supposed to regard the Deity as their immediate and primary Object, are vital Energies of the Soul, and consequently exert themselves into Act, and like all its other Energies, gain Strength or greater Activity by that Exertion. It is therefore our Duty as well as highest Interest, often at stated Times, and by decent and solemn Acts, to contemplate and adore the great Original of our Existence, the Parent of all Beauty, and of all Good; to express our Veneration and Love, by an awful and devout Recognition of his Perfections, and to evidence our Gratitude, by celebrating his Goodness, and thankfully acknowledging all his Benefits. It is likewise our Duty, by proper Exercises of Sorrow and Humiliation, to confess our Ingratitude and Folly, to signify our Dependence on God, and our Confidence in his Goodness, by imploring his Blessing and gracious Concurrence in assisting the Weakness, and curing the Corruptions of our Nature; and finally, to testify our Sense of his Authority and our Faith in his Government, by devoting ourselves to do his Will, and resigning ourselves to his Disposal. These Duties are not therefore obligatory, because the Deity needs or can be profited by them; but as they are apparently decent and moral, suitable to the Relations he sustains of our Creator, Benefactor, Law-giver, and Judge, expressive of our State and Obligations, and improving to our Tempers, by making us more Rational, Social, God-like, and consequently more Happy.
External WorshipWe have now considered Internal Piety, or the Worship of the Mind, that which is in Spirit and in Truth; we shall conclude this Section with a short Account of that which is External. External Worship is founded on the same Principles as Internal, and of as strict moral Obligation. It is either private or public. Devotion, that is inward, or purely intellectual, is too spiritual and abstracted an Operation for the Bulk of Mankind. The Operations of their Minds, such especially as are employed on the most sublime, immaterial Objects, must be assisted by their outward Organs, or by some Help from the Imagination, otherwise they will be soon dissipated by sensible Impressions, or grow tiresome if too long continued. Ideas are such fleeting things, that they must be fixed, and so subtle, that they must be expressed and delineated as it were, by sensible Marks and Images, otherwise we cannot attend to them, nor be much affected by them. Thereforeverbal Adoration, Prayer, Praise, Thanksgiving, and Confession, are admirable Aids to inward Devotion, fix our Attention, compose and enliven our Thoughts, impress us more deeply with a Sense of the awful Presence in which we are, and, by a natural and mechanical sort of Influence, tend to heighten those devout Feelings and Affections which we ought to entertain, and after this manner reduce into formal and explicit Act.
Public WorshipThis holds true in an higher Degree in the case of public Worship, where the Presence of our Fellow-creatures, and the powerful Contagion of the social Affections conspire to kindle and spread the devout Flame with greater Warmth and Energy. To conclude: As God is the Parent and Head of the social System, as he has formed us for a social State, as by one we find the best Security against the Ills of Life, and in the other enjoy its greatest Comforts, and as by means of both, our Nature attains its highest Improvement and Perfection; and moreover, as there are public Blessings and Crimes in which we all share in some degree, and public Wants and Dangers to which all are exposed, it is therefore evident, that the various and solemn Offices of public Religion, are Duties of indispensible moral Obligation, among the best Cements of Society, the firmest Prop of Government, and the fairest Ornament of both.
[*] Vid. Tim. Locr. de Anima Mundi. [On the Nature of the World and the Soul was originally attributed to Timaeus of Locri, a fifth-century b.c. Greek writer from southern Italy upon whose thought Plato was said to have based his Timaeus. Contemporary scholars agree that it is a work of Middle Platonism, c. first century b.c. or first century a.d., and derived from Plato’s work, rather than a source for it. In paragraphs 78–86 the author discusses the virtues and the health of body and soul. See Timaios of Locri, On the Nature of the World and the Soul, trans. and ed. Thomas H. Tobin, Texts and Translations Graeco-Roman Religion Series, no. 8 (Chico, Calif.: Scholars Press, 1985).]
[5.]For example, Bishop Butler writes in the first paragraph of his A Dissertation of the Nature of Virtue, appended to his Analogy of Religion (London, 1736), “Brute creatures are impressed and actuated by various instincts and propensions: so also we. But additional to this, we have a capacity of reflecting upon actions and characters, and making them an object of our thought: and on doing this, we naturally and unavoidably approve some actions, under the peculiar view of their being virtuous and of good dessert; and disapprove others, as vicious and of ill dessert….”
[*] Vid. Hutch. Mor. Inst. Lib. II. Cap. 3. [Francis Hutcheson, Philosophiae moralis institutio compendiaria (1742), 2nd ed., Glasgow, 1745. Following his death, Hutcheson’s “Compends” were translated into English as A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy in Three Books, Containing the Elements of Ethics and the Law of Nature (1747).]
[*] Vid Philos. Sinic. Confuc. Lib. I. §. 3, 4, &c. [Confucius Sinarum Philosophus, sive Scientia sinensis latine exposita. Studio & opera Prosperi Intorcetta, Christiani Herdtrich, Francisci Rougemont, Philippi Couplet… . (Paris: Daniel Horthemels, 1687). This volume of Confucius’s sayings, along with additional material, was edited and authored by four Jesuit priests and was the primary source of information about Confucian thought in eighteenth-century Europe.]
[*] As Ravilliac, who assassinated Henry the Fourth of France; and Balthasar Geraerd, who murdered William the First Prince of Orange. [The assassinations committed by François Ravaillac (1578–1610) and Balthazar Gerard (1557–84) were religiously motivated, in each case a Catholic assassin killing a royal who was sympathetic to Protestant interests.]
[6.]Hutcheson, Philosophiae moralis.
[7.]Lines 1149–53 from “Spring,” the third part of the epic poem The Seasons (London, 1726–30, revised 1744) by the Scottish poet James Thomson (1700–48). Fordyce has elided the third line (1151), “To pour the fresh instruction o’er the mind.”
[*] Vid. Hutches. Moral Instit. Phil. Lib. iii. Cap. 3. [Hutcheson, Philosophiae moralis.]
[*] See Chap. 3 of this Sect.
[*] See Book I. Sect. 2. & 4.
[*] See Butler’s excellent Serm. (9th) on this Subject. [“Upon Forgiveness of Injuries,” Butler, Fifteen Sermons.]
[*] Lord Bacon. [See, for example, Bacon’s De Augmentis, book 2, chapter 2.]
[*] See Butler’s Sermon on the Love of God. [Sermons 13 and 14 of Butler’s Fifteen Sermons are titled “Upon the Love of God.”]