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monly meet in their conclusions; that is, they
CHAPTER III. enj in the same conduct, prescribe the same rules The question, "Why am I obliged to keep my of duty, and, with a few exceptions, deliver upon
word ?' resumed. dulous cases the same determinations.
SELONDLY, it is to be observed, that these an Let it be remembered, that to be obliged, is "to swers all leave the matter short ; for the inquirer be urged by a violent motive, resulting from the may turn round upon his teacher with a second command of another.” qustion, in which he will expect to be satisfied, And then let it be asked, Why am I obliged to Dunely, Why am I obliged to do what is right; keep my word ? and the answer will be, Because to ut agreeably to the titness of things; to con- I am “urged to do so by a violent motive” (nameform to reason, nature, or truth; to promote the ly, the expectation of being after this life rewarded, pul die good, or to obey the will of God.
if I do, or punished for it, if I do not,) "resulting The proper method of conducting the inquiry from the command of another” (namely of God.) is, first, to examine what we mean, when we This solution goes to the bottom of the subject, say a man is obliged to do any thing; and THEN as no further question can reasonably be asked. to show why be is obliged to do the thing which Therefore, private happiness is our motive, and we have proposed as an example, namely, “to the will of God our rule. keep his word."
When I first turned my thoughts to moral speculations, an air of mystery seemed to hang over the whole subject; which arose, I believe, from hence,
--that I supposed, with many authors whom I CHAPTER II.
had read, that to be obliged to do a thing, was What we mean to say when a man is obliged to and that the obligation to practise virtue, to do
very different from being induced only to do it; do a thing
what is right, just, &c. was quite another thing, A MAN is said to be obliged, "when he is ur- and of another kind, than the obligation which a Eed by a violent motive resulting from the com- soldier is under to obey his officer, a servant his mund of another."
master; or any of the civil and ordinary obligaFiest, " The motive must be violent." If a tions of human life. Whereas, from what has person, who has done me so little service, or has been said, it appears that moral obligation is like a small place in his disposal, ask me upon some all other obligations; and that obligation is nothing occasion for my vote, I'may possibly give it him, more than an inducement of sufficient strength, from a motive of gratitude or expectation : but I and resulting, in some way, from the command of should hardly say that I was obliged to give it another. him; because the inducement does not rise high There is always understood to be a difference enough. Whereas, if a father or a master, any between an act of prudence and an act of duty. great benefactor, or one on whom my fortune de- Thus, if I distrust a man who owed me a sum of pends, require my vote, I give it him of course: money, I should reckon it an act of prudence to and my answer to all who asked me why I voted get another person bound with him; but I should so and so, is, that my father or my master obliged hardly call it an act of duty. On the other hand, me; that I had received so many favours from, or it would be thought a very unusual and loose kind had so great a dependence upon, such a one, that of language, to say, that as I had made such a I was obliged to vote as he directed me.
promise, it was prudent to perform it; or that, as SECONDLY, “ It must result from the command my friend, when he went abroad, placed a box of of another." Offer a man a gratuity for doing jewels in my hands, it would be prudent in me to any thing, for seizing, for example, an offender, preserve it for him till he returned. be is not obliged by your offer to do it; nor would Now, in what, you will ask, does the difference be say he is; though he may be induced, per- consist ? inasmuch, as, according to our account sua led, prerailed upon, tempted. If a magistrate of the matter, both in the one case and the other, or the man's immediate superior command it, he in acts of duty as well as acts of prudence, we considers himself as obliged to comply, though consider solely what we ourselves shall gain or lose possibly he would lose less by a refusal in this by the act. case, than in the former.
The difference, and the only difference, is this; I will not undertake to say that the words that in the one case, we consider what we shali obligation and obliged are used uniformly in this gain or lose in the present world; in the other sense, or always with this distinction : nor is it case, we consider also what we shall gain or lose possible to tie down popular phrases to any con- in the world to come. stant signification: but wherever the motive is They who would establish a system of morality, violent enough, and coupled with the idea of com- independent of a future state, must look out for mand, authority, law, or the will of a superior, some different idea of moral obligation; unless there, I take it, we always reckon ourselves to be they can show that virtue conducts the possessor obliged
to certain happiness in this life, or to a much And from this account of obligation, it follows, greater share of it than he could attain by a difthat we can be obliged to nothing, but what we ferent behaviour. ourselves are to gain or lose something by; for
To us there are two great questions: nothing else can be a “violent motive" to us. I. Will there be after this life any distribution As we should not be obliged to obey the laws, or of rewards and punishments at all ? the magistrate, unless rewards or punishments, II. If there be, what actions will be rewarded, pleasure, or pain, somehow or other, depended and what will be punished ? upon our obedience; so neither should we, without The first question comprises the credibility of the same reason, be obliged to do what is right, to the Christian Religion, together with the presumppractise virtue, or to obey the commands of God. tive proofs of a future retribution from the light of
nature. The second question comprises the pro-, held forth in the Gospel will actually come to pass, vince of morality. Both questions are too much they must be considered. Such as reject the for one work. The affirmative therefore of the Christian Religion, are to make the best shift first, although we confess that it is the foundation they can to build up a system, and lay the sounupon which the whole fabric rests, inust in this dation of morality without it. But it appears to treatise be taken for granted.
me a great inconsistency in those who receive Christianity, and expect something to come of it, to endeavour to keep all such expectations out of
sight in their reasonings concerning human duty. CHAPTER IV.
The method of coming at the will of God, con
cerning any action, by the light of nature, is to The will of God.
inquire into “the tendency of the action to proAs the will of God is our rule; to inquire what mote or diminish the general happiness." This is our duty, or what we are obliged to do, in any rule proceeds upon the presuinption, that God instance, is, in effect, to inquire what is the will Almighty wills and wishes the happiness of his of God in that instance? which consequently be- creatures; and, consequently, that those actions, comes the whole business of morality.
which promote that will and wish, must be agreeNow there are two methods of coming at the able to him; and the contrary. will of God on any point:
As this presumption is the foundation of our I. By his express declarations, when they are whole system, it becomes necessary to explain the to be had, and which must be sought fór in reasons upon which it rests. Scripture.
II. By what we can discover of his designs and disposition from his works; or, as we usually call it, the light of nature.
The Divine Benevolence. And here we may observe the absurdity of When God created the human species, either separating natural and revealed religion from each he wished their happiness, or he wished their other. The object of both is the same,—to dis- misery, or he was indillerent and unconcerned cover the will of God, -and, provided we do but about both. discover it, it matters nothing by what means. If he had wished our misery, he might have
An ambassador, judging by what he knows of made sure of his purpose, by forming our senses his sovereign's disposition, and arguing from what to be so many sores and pains to us, as they are he has observed of his conduct, or is acquainted now instruments of gratification and enjoyment: with of his designs, may take his measures in or by placing us amidst objects so ill-suited to our many cases with safety, and presume with great perceptions, as to have continually offended us, probability how his master would have him act on instead of ministering to our refreshment and most occasions that arise: but if he have his com- delight. He might have made, for example, every mission and instructions in his pocket, it would thing we tasted, bitter; every thing we saw, loathbe strange not to look into them. He will be some; every thing we touched, a sting; every directed by both rules: when his instructions are smell a stench; and every sound a discord. clear and positive, there is an end to all further If he had been indifferent about our happiness deliberation (unless indeed he suspect their authen- or misery, we must impute to our good fortune ticity :) where his instructions are silent or du- (as all design by this supposition is excluded) both bious, he will endeavour to supply or explain them the capacity of our senses to receive pleasure, and by what he has been able to collect from other the supply of external objects fitted to produce it. quarters of his master's general inclination or But either of these (and still more both of them) intentions.
being too much to be attributed to accident, no Mr. Hume, in his fourth Appendix to his thing remains but the first supposition, that God, Principles of Morals, has been pleased to complain when he created the human species, wished their of the modern scheme of uniting Ethics with the happiness; and made for them the provision Christian Theology. They who find themselves which he has made, with that view, and for that disposed to join in this complaint, will do well to purpose. observe what Mr. Hume himself has been able to The same argument may be proposed in difmake of morality without this union. And for ferent terms, thus: Contrivance proves design: that purpose, let them read the second part of the and the predominant tendency of the contrivance ninth section of the above Essay; which part indicates the disposition of the designer. The contains the practical application of the whole world abounds with contrivances; and all the treatise,--a treatise which Mr. Hume declares to contrivances which we are acquainted with, be" incomparably the best he ever wrote.” When are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil, no they have read it over, let them consider, whether doubt, exists; but is never, that we can perceive, any motives there proposed are likely to be found the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to sufficient to withhold men from the gratification eat, not to ache; their aching now and then, is of lust, revenge, envy, ambition, avarice; or to pre- incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable vent the existence of these passions. Unless they from it; or even, if you will, let it be called a rise up from this celebrated essay with stronger defect in the contrivance; but it is not the object impressions upon their minds than it ever left of it. This is a distinction which well deserves upon mine, they will acknowledge the necessity to be attended to. In describing implements of of additional sanctions. But the necessity of these husbandry, you would hardly say of the sickle, sanctions is not now the question. If they be in that it is made to cut the reaper's fingers, though, fact established, if the rewards and punishments from the construction of the instrument, and the
minner of using it, this mischief often happens. ; is the utility of any moral rule alone, which conBut if you had occasion to describe instruments of stitutes the obligation of it. torture or execution, This engine, you would say, But to all this there seems a plain objection, is to extend the sinews; this to dislocate the joints
; viz. that many actions are useful, which no man this to break the bones; this to scorch the soles of in his senses will allow to be right. There are the feet. Here, pain and misery are the very occasions, in which the hand of the assassin would objects of the contrivance. Now, nothing of this be very useful. The present possessor of some sort is to be found in the works of nature. We great estate employs hís influence and fortune, to never discover a train of contrivance to bring about annoy, corrupt, or oppress, all about him. His an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a estate would devolve, by his death, to a successor system of organization calculated to produce pain of an opposite character. It is useful, therefore, and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the to despatch such a one as soon as possible out of the human body, ever said ; This is to irritate, this to way; as the neighbourhood will exchange thereby intiame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the a pernicious tyrant for a wise and generous benekidneys; this gland to secrete the humour which factor. It might be useful to rob a miser, and forms the gout: if by chance he come at a part give the money to the poor; as the money, no of which he knows not the use, the most that he doubt, would produce more happiness, by being can say is, that it is useless: no one ever suspects laid out in food and clothing for half a dozen disthat it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or to tressed families, than by continuing locked up in torment. ' Since then God hath called forth his a miser's chest. It may be useful to get possession consummate wisdom to contrive and provide for of a place, a piece of preferment, or of a seat in our happiness, and the world appears to have been parliament, by bribery or false swearing: as by constituted with this design at first; so long as means of them we may serve the public more this constitution is upholden by him, we must in effectually than in our private station. What Teason suppose the same design to continue. then shall we say ? Must we admit these actions
The contemplation of universal nature rather to be right, which would be to justify assassination, bewilders the mind than affects it. There is plunder, and perjury; or must we give up our always a bright spot in the prospect, upon which principle, that the criterion of right is utility. the eye rests; a single example, perhaps, by which It is not necessary to do either. eacb man finds himself more convinced than by The true answer is this; that these actions, all others put together. I seem, for my own part, after all, are not useful, and for that reason, and to see the benevolence of the Deity more clearly that alone, are not right. in the pleasures of very young children, than in To see this point perfectly, it must be observed, any thing in the world. The pleasures of grown that the bad consequences of actions, are twofold, persons may be reckoned partly of their own pro- particular and general. curing; especially if there has been any industry, The particular bad consequence of an action, is or contrivance, or pursuit
, to come at them; or if the mischief which that single action directly and they are founded, like music, painting, &c. upon immediately occasions. any qualitication of their own acquiring. But The general bad consequence is, the violation the pleasures of a healthy infant are so manifestly of some necessary or useful general rule. provided for it by another, and the benevolence of Thus, the particular bad consequences of the the provision is so unquestionable, that every child assassination above described, is the fright and I see at its sport
, affords to my mind a kind of pain which the deceased underwent; the loss he sensible evidence of the finger of God, and of the suffered of life, which is as valuable to a bad man, disposition which directs it.
as to a good one, or more so; the prejudice and But the example, which strikes each man most affliction, of which his death was the occasion to strongly, is the true example for him: and hardly his family, friends, and dependants. two minds hit upon the same; which shows the The general bad consequence is the violation abundance of such examples about us.
of this necessary general rule, that no man be put We conclude, therefore, that God wills and to death for his crimes but by public authority. wishes the happiness of his creatures. And this Although, therefore, such an action have no conclusion being once established, we are at liberty particular bad consequences, or greater particular to go on with the rule built upon it, namely, good consequences, yet it is not useful, by reason *that the method of coming at the will of God, of the general consequence, which is of more imconcerning any action, by the light of nature, is portance, and which is evil. And the same of the to inquire into the tendency of that action to pro other two instances, and of a million more which mote or diminish the general happiness.” might be mentioned.
But as this solution supposes, that the moral government of the world must proceed by general
rules, it remains that we show the necessity of this. CHAPTER VI. Utility.
CHAPTER VII. So then actions are to be estimated by their tendency*. Whatever is expedient, is right. It The necessity of general rules.
You cannot permit one action and forbid another, Actions in the abstract are right or wrong, accord. without showing a difference between them.--ing to their tendency; the agent is virtuous or vicious, Consequently, the same sort of actions must be according to his design. Thus, if the question be, Whe. ther relieving common beggars be right or wrong? we esteemed virtuous for that reason ? we inquire into his inquire into the tendency of such a conduct to the public design, whether his liberality sprang from charity or advantage or inconvenience. If the question be, Whe. from ostentation ? It is evident that our concern is ther a man reinarkable for this sort of bounty is to be with actions in the abstract.
generally permitted or generally forbidden. Were such a rule admitted, for instance, in Where, therefore, the general permission of them the case above produced; is there not reason would be pernicious, it becomes necessary to lay to fear that people would be disappearing perdown and support the rule which generally forbids petually ? them.
In the next place, I would wish them to be well Thus to return once more to the case of the satisfied about the points proposed in the following assassin. The assassin knocked the rich villain queries ;-on the head, because he thought him better out of 1. Whether the Scriptures do not teach us the way than in it. If you allow this excuse in to expect that, at the general judgment of the the present instance, you must allow it to all who world, the most secret actions will be brought to act in the same manner, and from the said motive; | light ?* that is, you must allow every man to kill any one 2. For what purpose can this be, but to he meets, whom he thinks noxious or useless; make them the objects of reward and punishwhich, in the event, would be to commit every ment. man's life and safety to the spleen, fury, and 3. Whether, being so brought to light, they fanaticism, of his neighbour ;-a disposition of will not fall under the operation of those equal affairs which would soon fill the world with misery and impartial rules, by which God will deal with and confusion; and ere long put an end to human his creatures ? society, if not to the human species.
They will then become examples, whatever The necessity of general rules in human govern- they be now; and require the same treatment ment is apparent; but whether the same necessity from the judge and governor of the moral world, subsists in the Divine economy, in that distribu- as if they had been detected from the first. tion of rewards and punishments to which a moralist looks forward, may be doubted.
I answer, that general rules are necessary to every moral government: and by moral govern
CHAPTER VIII. ment I mean any dispensation, whose object is to influence the conduct of reasonable creatures. The Consideration of General Consequences For if, of two actions perfectly similar, one be
pursued. punished, and the other be rewarded or forgiven, which is the consequence of rejecting general
The general consequence of any action may be rules, the subjects of such a dispensation would estimated, by asking what would be the conseno longer know, either what to expect or how to quence, if the same sort of actions were generally act. Rewards and punishments would cease to permitted.—But suppose they were, and a thoube such,-would become accidents. Like the sand such actions perpetrated under this permisstroke of a thunderbolt, or the discovery of a mine, sion; is it just to charge a single action with the like a blank or a benefit-ticket in a lottery, they collected guilt and mischief of the whole thousand ? would occasion pain or pleasure when they hap- I answer
, that the reason for prohibiting and pened; but, following in no known order, from punishing an action (and this reason may be any particular course of action, they could have called the guilt of the action, if you please) will no previous influence or effect upon the conduct. always be in proportion to the whole mischief
An attention to general rules, therefore, is in- that would arise from the general impunity and cluded in the very idea of reward and punishment toleration of actions of the same sort. Consequently, whatever reason there is to expect
“Whatever is expedient is right.” But then future reward and punishment at the hand of it must be expedient on the whole, at the long God, there is the same reason to believe, that he run, in all its effects collateral and remote, as well will proceed in the distribution of it by general as in those which are immediate and direct; as it rules.
is obvious, that, in computing consequences, it makes no difference in what way or at what distance they ensue.
To impress this doctrine on the minds of young Before we prosecute the consideration of general readers, and to teach them to extend their views consequences any further, it may be proper to an- beyond the immediate mischief of a crime, I shall ticipate a reficction, which will be apt enough to here subjoin a string of instances, in which the suggest itself, in the progress of our argument. particular consequence is comparatively insigni
As the general consequence of an action, upon ficant; and where the malignity of the crime, which so much of the guilt of a bad action de- and the severity with which human laws pursue pends, consists in the example ; it should seem, it, is almost entirely founded upon the general that if the action be done with perfect secrecy, so
consequence. as to furnish no bad example, that part of the
The particular consequence of coining is, the guilt drops off. In the case of suicide, for instance, loss of a guinea, or of half a guinea, to the person if a man can so manage matters, as to take away who receives the counterfeit money: the general his own life, without being known or suspected consequence (by which I mean the consequence to have done so, he is not chargeable with any that would ensue, if the same practice were gene. mischief from the example; nor does his punish- rally permitted) is to abolish the use of money. ment seem necessary, in order to save the au The particular consequence of forgery is, a thority of any general rule.
damage of twenty or thirty pounds to the man In the first place, those who reason in this manner do not observe, that they are setting up a ** In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men general rule, of all others the least to be endured: by Jesus Christ.”. Rom. xi. 16. — Judge nothing before
the time, until the Lord come, who will bring to light namely, that secrecy, whenever secrecy is prac- the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest ticable, will justify any action.
1 Cor. iv. 5.
the counsels of the heart."
who accepts the forged bill: the general conse- | must be inconsiderable; so also is the agent. If quence is the stoppage of paper-currency. his crime produce but a small effect upon the
The particular consequence of sheep-stealing, unicersal interest, his punishment or destruction or horse-stealing, is a loss to the owner, to the bears a small proportion to the sum of happiness amount of the value of the sheep or horse stolen : and misery in the creation. the general consequence is, that the land could nex be occupied, nor the market supplied, with this kind of stock. The particular consequence of breaking into a
CHAPTER IX. house empty of inhabitants
, is, the loss of a pair of silver candlesticks, or a few spoons: the gene
Of Right. ral consequence is, that nobody could leave the Right and obligation are reciprocal; that is, house empty.
wherever there is a right in one person, there is a The particular consequence of smuggling may corresponding obligation upon others. If one man be a deduction from the national fund too minute has “a right” to an estate, others are obliged” for computation: the general consequence is, the to abstain from it :-If parents have a “right to destruction of one entire branch of public revenue; reverence from their children, children are obliga proportionable increase of the burthen upon ed” to reverence their parents :—and so in all other other branches; and the ruin of all fair and open instances. trade in the article smuggled.
Now, because moral obligation depends, as we The particular consequence of an officer's have seen, upon the will of God; right, which is breaking his parole is, the loss of a prisoner, who correlative to it, must depend upon the same.was possibly not worth keeping: the general con- Right, therefore, signifies, consistency with the will sequence is that this mitigation of captivity would of God. le refused to all others.
But if the Divine will determine the distinction And what proves incontestably the superior of right and wrong, what else is it but an identical importance of general consequence is, that crimes proposition, to say of God, that he acts right? or are the same, and treated in the same manner, how is it possible to conceive even that he should though the particular consequence be very differ- act wrong? Yet these assertions are intelligible ent. The crime and fate of the house-breaker is and significant. The case is this: By virtue of the same, whether his booty he five pounds or the two principles, that God wills the happiness fifty. And the reason is, that the general con- of his creatures, and that the will of God is the sequence is the same.
measure of right and wrong, we arrive at certain The want of this distinction between particular conclusions; which conclusions become rules; and and general consequences, or rather, the not suf- we soon learn to pronounce actions right or wrong, firiently attending to the latter, is the cause of that according as they agree or disagree with our perplexity which we meet with in ancient mo- rules, without looking any further: and when ralists. On the one hand, they were sensible of the habit is once established of stopping at the the absurdity of pronouncing actions good or evil, rules, we can go back and compare with these without regard to the good or evil they produced. rules even the Divine conduct itself; and yet it On the other hand, they were startled at the con- may be true (only not observed by us at the time) clusions to which a steady adherence to conse- that the rules themselves are deduced from the quences seemed sometimes to conduct them. To Divine will. relieve this difficulty, they contrived the To Tov Right is a quality of persons or of actions. or the honestum, by which terms they meant to Of
persons; as when we say, such a one has a constitute a measure of right, distinct from utility: "right" to this estate; parents have a “right” to Whilst the utile served them, that is, whilst it reverence from their children; the king to allecorresponded with their habitual notions of the giance from his subjects; masters have “right" rectitude of actions, they went by it. When they to their servants' labour; a man has not a "right" fell in with such cases as those mentioned in the over his own life. sixth chapter, they took leave of their guide, and Of actions; as in such expressions as the folresorted to the honestum. The only account they lowing: it is "right” to punish murder with could give of the matter was, that these actions death; his behaviour on that occasion was "right;" might be useful; but, because they were not at it is not "right" to send an unfortunate debtor to the same time honesta, they were by no means to jail; he did or acted “right," who gave up his be deemed just or right.
place, rather than vote against his judgment. From the principles delivered in this and the In this latter set of expressions, you may subtwo preceding chapters, a maxim may be explained, stitute the definition of right above given, for the which is in every man's mouth, and in most men's term itself: e.g. it is “consistent with the will of without meaning, viz. “not to do evil, that good God to punish murder with death; his behaviour may come :" that is, let us not violate a general on that occasion was “consistent with the will of rule, for the sake of any particular good conse- God;"—it is not " consistent with the will of God” quence we may expect. Which is for the most to send an unfortunate debtor to jail;— he did, or part a salutary caution, the advantage seldom acted, “ consistently with the will of God,” who compensating for the violation of the rule. Strictly gave up his place, rather than vote aguinst his speaking, that cannot be “evil,” from which “good judgment. comes;" but in this way, and with a view to the In the former set, you must vary the construcdistinction between particular and general conse- tion a little, when you introduce the detinition quences, it may.
instead of the term. Such a one has a "right" to We will conclude this subject of consequences this estate, that is, it is "consistent with the will with the following reflection. A man may imagine, of God” that such a one should have it;---parents that any action of his, with respect to the public, have a “right" to reverence from their children,