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approved as constituents of perfection and happiness, and in this PART II. terminate our series of reasons, which, however continued through any number of steps, muft lead at last to fomething that is eftimable on its own account.
CHAP. II. SECT. VII.
The hufbandman values a manure because it promotes the fertility of his land. He values fertility on account of its produce; the produce on account of its application to the purposes of fubfiftence and accommodation; and these on account of their effect in preferving life; and if he values life, on account of the happiness of which it is suceptible, still in the end there must be fome confideration that is valued on its own account. No feries in human affairs is infinite, and every choice which is made of one thing on account of another, implies, that there is somewhere, and however remote from the prefent ground of our choice, an object that is actually valuable upon its own account.
In the scale of created beings the intelligent is fupreme, and approaches nearest to the eternal fource of existence and excellence. If intelligent beings themselves may be unequal, and rife above one another in their unequal approaches to Supreme wifdom and goodness, fuch gradations acknowledged amount to an acknowledgement alfo, that in perfect intelligence there is an excellence or a good which is in itself the Supreme object of veneration and love.
Of the Obligation and Sanctions of Moral Law.
MORAL law in the most general form, as has been already SECT. VIII. stated, is an expression of what is good, and therefore an object
To every rational choice there is an obligation and a fanction. These terms are not fynonymous: and yet their distinction is more easily understood than expressed in any other form of words.
Obligation, in the original fenfe of the term, feems to imply fome tie or bond, * which is incurred by the person obliged; while fanction implies the confideration by which he is induced
* Obligatio eft juris vinculum, quo, neceffitate aftringimus alicujus rei folvendæ fecundum noftræ civitatis jura.
Inft. Juft. lib. III. titulo decimo quarto.
to fulfil that bond. So that, in making a free choice, the reality
To the question, therefore, that may arise in this place, Why any one should chufe to be virtuous rather than vicious? It may be answered; Because virtue is happiness, vice is misery ; and in this contraft is implied at once all the good of which human nature is fufceptible, and all the evil to which it is exposed. In what, therefore, we may be afked, does integrity differ from what is fo loudly complained of under the notion of felfifhnefs? In nothing but in that which is of all others the most effential diftinction, the wisdom of a choice which is made by the one, and the folly of the other. Those we call selfish endeavour to suppress the best and happiest fentiments of their nature, and become difaffected or indifferent to their fellow-creatures; while the virtuous have a common caufe with mankind; and, being fecure in the enjoyments of an affectionate temper, partake in the good which providence has dispensed to the whole; and are ever happy in promoting the fame end to the utmost of their power.
Some writers on the fubject of morality, and lawyers for the most part, confider obligation as refulting from the command of a fuperior, and the fanction, or caufe of compliance, as refulting from the power of that fuperior to enforce his commands. They are used to confider laws that may be enforced; and in their VOL. II. Y
PART II. notion of moral obligation, would recur to an authority that is fit to enforce the observance of moral duties.
But power employed to determine the will of a free agent must operate in presenting motives of choice; in presenting happiness as the reward of fidelity, and mifery as the punishment of neglect: And whether this be done by fo ordering the nature of things, that virtue fhall be its own reward, and vice its own punishment; or whether it be done by a fubfequent act of will and difcretion, in rewarding the good and punishing the wicked, in a way not previously connected with the part they have acted, the reality of the obligation, and the fanction is the fame: For if, in the nature of things, moral good be constituent of happinefs, and moral evil of mifery, what can Almighty power do more to determine the choice of the one and the rejection of the other? If we conceive any fanction of moral law as different from this, it must however terminate in the fame effect. For what are the honours and rewards which men beftow upon virtue, or the chains and imprisonment which they award to the wicked? What is the heaven which religion decrees to the one, or the hell which is provided for the others? but happiness and mifery in other terms, or terms, if you will, in which every one is left to conceive what will operate moft on his own apprehenfions and feelings.
In the case of man, furely, it requires no great effort of understanding to perceive that wisdom, benevolence, temperance, and fortitude are happy qualities; that malice, folly, and cowardice are wretched.
And if it fhould be thought neceffary to confider moral law as the command of a fuperior, this may be done without departing
from that original doctrine of nature we have stated,-that moral PART II. good is the specific excellence and felicity of human nature, and moral depravity its specific defect and wretchedness.
CHAP. II. SECT VIII
The Sovereign of the univerfe, by having made things as they are, has given his command, and promulgated his law in behalf of morality; and in every instance of conformity to his law, and in every infraction of it, continues to apply the fanction of happiness and mifery. Wisdom, benevolence, fortitude, and temperance, he has faid shall be the constituents of happiness; folly, malice, cowardice, and debauchery fhall be the constituents of debasement and mifery. We may therefore chuse to treat of moral obligation as the tie of reason, to prefer what is highly valuable in itself and eligible upon its own account; or we may treat of this obligation as the tie of reafon, binding the creature to obey his Creator, in making a choice, in fupport of which the Creator has exerted, and will continue to exert, his fovereign power.
In chufing what is morally good, it is happy to know that we obey our Creator; and in obeying our Creator, it is happy to know, that what he commands is the fpecific good, and felicity of our nature.
To separate these confiderations were doubtless of ill effect; and the fanctions of morality would be lefs powerful upon either principle apart, than they are upon the foundations of both united. Merely to obey, without a sense of goodness and rectitude in the command, would be greatly fhort of that duty which we owe to our beneficent Maker; and the love of virtue is no doubt greatly encouraged by the confideration, that Almighty power, in the established order of things, is exerted in its favour.