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Fortitude, confidered as a mere force of mind, without fpecification of a choice or direction, in which that force fhould be employed, might be exerted equally for a wrong as for a right purpose; and courage, prompted by folly might be employed for the deftruction of its owner, like the brutal strength of that wrestler*; who could tear open the cleft of a tree, but who could fuffer himself at the fame time, to be caught in it.
The term equivalent to wisdom, among the antients, was employed by them to comprehend every article of praise, and enabled them alfo to comprise the laws of morality in the fingle recommendation of this quality. In our tranflation of that term, however, the fenfe is more limited; and, were we to state wifdom as the fundamental principle of morality, we fhould be thought to fubftitute a prudential choice of our interefts for what ought to be matter of affection, and the effufion of a benevolent heart. Mere prudence is an excellence of the understanding only; but virtue includes, as a preferable confideration, the energy and direction of an amiable and happy difpofition.
It is well known that, to fecure a proper choice of conduct, on all occafions, good affection or difpofition is not lefs necefsary, than able judgement: Nay, we may be convinced, from experience, that perfons of common understanding, with fit difpofitions, are less apt to err on trying occafions, than the ablest understanding unfupported by any goodness of heart; or than mere understanding, warped as we may fuppofe it to be in the defect of good difpofitions, by motives of a different tendency.
Milo of Crotona.
If we are, therefore, to contract our defcription of happiness, or reduce it to a point, around which the most valuable qualities of human nature are likely to be collected, we may venture to felect that of goodnefs, or benevolence, as the most likely to ferve our purpofe; and, by way of principal or fundamental law of moral wisdom, may affume, that the greatest good incident to human nature is the love of mankind.
The different forms or afpects of this difpofition, as it may be exercifed in pity to the diftreffed, or in candour and humanity indiscriminately towards all men ; as it may be exercised in the mutual confidence of friends, or in the love of a citizen to his country, have been already ftated; and although, in this place, its defignation in the mind of a man be taken from his relation to mankind, a title under which are comprehended objects the most intimate to him, and the least likely to be mistaken by him; yet, the disposition fo characterised is in reality a susceptibility of just affection towards every object, whether of pity, respect, or veneration; whether the loweft or the highest that can enter the thoughts of a well difpofed and a happy mind.
The love of mankind, on every arduous occafion is an aid to the judgement, in directing the conduct which a wife man is destined to hold: In difficult fituations, it is a noble fupport of courage. Even the timorous become bold under the inftigation of a warm or generous affection; the humane, by habits of benevolence, are secured against the effect of difpofitions comparatively inferior or mean; and ordinary men, when roused to feelings of generofity or pity, remain infenfible to the allurements of inferior pleafure, or the fufferings of pain.
Benevolence, therefore, may in fome degree be confidered PART II. as a principle of wisdom, of fortitude, and temperance; and, as SECT. I. it either infpires or requires for its fupport every other good quality of human nature, we cannot greatly err, in affuming it as the fundamental or primary object of moral law. Its external effects, expreffions, or appearances, are the fupreme objects of esteem and complacency; and its reverse, cruel infenfibility, and malice, recollected in ourselves, or obferved in others, are the fupreme objects of remorfe, of indignation and hatred.
Hence it is, that the murderer is the common object of detestation to himself and all men; and without waiting for the conviction of external evidence, is fo often betrayed by the hor rors of remorfe which affect his own mind,
Of the first and more general Applications of Moral Law.
THE applications of a phyfical principle are made, either to the formation of theories, and the explanation of phenomena; or to the production of effects, and the practice of arts.
Physical science is fruitful of arts, or enables the person who is acquainted with the operative laws of nature, to direct its operations to his own purpose. Moral principle being a juft conception or adequate expreffion of what is good, is fruitful of wifdom and proper conduct. Its first application is to form the temper, to correct falfe apprehenfions of things, to confirm the truth, to cultivate juft affection, and to direct the energy of a ftrenuous mind in external actions, and to induce and confirm all the habits of a virtuous life.
There is one point of view in which the sciences, whether phyfical or moral, unite their effects. That point to which they fe
verally tend, when phyfical fcience becomes comprehenfive of PART II. CHAP. II. the order of nature, or lays open the view to infinite goodness and SECT. II. wisdom; and moral science, abstracting from local forms and obfervances, becomes in the mind a principle of extenfive benevolence, by which the individual states himself as a part in the order of nature, and entirely devoted to the will of its Author.
In these points of view, science may be confidered as the higheft attainment of created intelligence, and its neareft approach to a communication with the fupreme Creator; an approach, in which, through the medium of knowledge, it receives an impreffion, and contemplates a form of beauty, the most likely to command its affections.
The distinctions, which we have been confidering, of enjoyment and suffering, of excellence and defect, of happiness and mifery, fubfift in the mind, and may be conceived as properties of mind, abstracted from any external effect or appearance whatever.
At the fame time, as every property of the human mind is a modification of an active animal, as well as of an intelligent being, as it is a measure of power, or a direction of will, forming the energy of a nature fo mixed, and of which the effects must appear wherever the living nature is destined to range or to ply its exertions, we cannot fuppofe the mind to poffefs any quality, whether of excellence or defect, that is not attended with a fuitable confequence in the transactions of life.
Hence it is, that the animal and physical actions of men prefent an object of moral difcernment, and furnish subjects of commendation and cenfure, more obvious to moft men than even the VOL. II. P qualities