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we please. And many do please to make themselves extremely miserable ; i. e. they do what they know beforehand will render them so. They follow those ways, the fruit of which they know, by instruction, example, experience, will be DISGRACE, and POVERTY, and UNTIMELY DEATH. THIS, EVERY ONE OBSERVES TO BE THE GENERAL COUrse of things," &c.
In the above passage, Bishop Butler has stated, in a few words, all that is of any practical utility in Mr Combe's system; and he has shewn, in addition, that, as human nature is constituted, it is impossible to restrain men from vice by any such considerations. But there is a farther view which is well deserving of our notice.
Knowledge is desirable, certainly, when joined to, and properly directed by good principles; but knowledge, merely by itself, is a two-edged weapon. There is a knowledge of evil, as well as a knowledge of good; and the "natural laws," if thoroughly known, would disclose the one as well as the other. Though knowledge is power, most assuredly it is not virtue.* Some would study these laws for no other purpose than that of discovering new and untried methods of disobeying them, and snatch, as they do now, short moments of frantic excitement, at the expense of early death, or lasting disease and misery. It is not necessary that the pains to be avoided are removed to the other side of the grave; many will undoubtedly brave them with all their terrors, even in the present life. It will with some be, as now, a point of honour to do so, and many may think it a proof of a mean and cowardly spirit, to be deterred from an enjoyment which they covet, by the prospect of evils
See the Tables and Calculations of M. Guerry, proving, that in those parts of France where education has made the greatest progress, the proportion of crime is the greatest, and that in those districts where there is least education, crimes are the most rare.
which a man of ordinary constancy may be able to bear, and from which, at the worst, when he finds them to become intolerable, he may escape at any time, by an act for which, however criminal, Mr Combe's system provides no punishment,-Suicide.
Many undoubtedly there are, and these even not the most degraded and vicious of mankind, whom nothing will prevent from gratifying their most craving propensities, and tasting present enjoyment, let the consequences be what they may. In the heyday of youth, when the blood boils in the veins, no consideration of evils to be endured in the present life will deter them from tasting the cup of pleasure or, when once they taste, from drinking even to the dregs. With them, the great craving is for excitement.
They scorn in apathy to float or dream
And they will do so, although at the bottom they see a gulf which they believe is to swallow them up for ever.
To many such, there will appear even a bravery in despising laws which have no other sanction than a little corporeal suffering in the present life; and companions will encourage one another to disobedience, by the same motives which Lady Macbeth urges upon her lord to induce him to the murder of Duncan. "Art thou afeard," such a one may say,—
Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and deed
* Pursuits of Literature.
The young, the thoughtless, and those endowed with strong passions, will never learn wisdom so as to be of any practical use, except from the stern teacher, experience. Of them it must always be true, what the poet has applied to a gay and unfortunate monarch:
Fair laughs the man, and soft the zephyr blows,
Youth on the prow, and pleasure at the helm,
That, hush'd in grim repose, expects his evening prey.*
Were the natural laws and all their consequences universally known, they would be studied to procure new and ever varied modes of present enjoyment-to procure the means of gratifying the lower, even the very lowest, propensities; and the consequence would be, that vice, immorality, and debauchery of all kinds, would be carried to a height, of which, at present, we can have no adequate conception. The world would be ransacked for condiments more piquant to the taste than Curry or Cayenne-for intoxicating substances more powerful than Alcohol or Opium-for wines more delicious and exhilarating than Champagne or Burgundy. The present generation would find themselves mere children in the arts of procuring, heightening, prolonging, and sustaining to the utmost extent every form and mode of sensual enjoyment.
We would see new varieties of HELLS, suited to our increased knowledge, and consequently extended sphere of enjoyment, in which every resource of human ingenuity would be exhausted for the destruction of time, talents, fame, fortune, health, and life itself. We would have establishments for the rich, more luxurious and more seducing than the gayest of our modern clubs; and
beverages more palatable, cheaper, and more exciting, than the poison which is at present dealt so liberally from our gin palaces, for the poor. We would not, like Thalaba, require to go to Tunis, nor to search under the sea, for the Dom-Daniel. We would have DomDaniels of our own in every street, crowded by whole hecatombs of more willing victims than ever prostrated themselves before the car of Juggernaut.
But if there were, as there undoubtedly would be, some, who would willingly go all this length, and brave all consequences in the mad pursuit of transitory pleasure, there are others, who, possessing more Cautiousness, -certainly not more virtue,- would trim their vessels in the voyage of life more warily, and endeavour to compromise the matter between the love of enjoyment and the dictates of prudence. These would study the natural laws, to discover how far they might be able to go in vice, and yet return unharmed to ascertain what amount of sensual pleasure they might be able to enjoy, without the entire destruction of life and health, and the future comfort of their worldly existence. The question would be, not what they might be able to enjoy consistently with innocence and duty, but what they might be able to enjoy with safety.
Were man endowed with universal knowledge of the capacities of his own constitution, and the powers of external nature, and freed, as Mr Combe seems to desire, from all the checks arising from fear of death and the prospect of an existence to come, while his faculties and dispositions remain as they now are, every one would of course rush forward to reap as much enjoyment as he could in the present life; and what kind of enjoyments these would in general be, we may easily suppose, when we have it on the authority of Mr Combe himself, that, with the generality of mankind,
the higher feelings and intellectual faculties are weak and defective, and the lower propensities greatly predominant. To one so constituted, it would be in vain to point out the pleasures arising from the cultivation of the intellect, or those high and generous feelings which form the chief distinction of our race. He would tell you, that his happiness is not placed in these, but in the gratification of his appetites, and in sensual and epicurean enjoyment-in the destruction of innocent animals in the chase-or in the still more exciting pursuits of war and bloodshed. You can have no answer to this. It is needless to point out the delights of peace and virtue to one who cares nothing about them—or to depict the future pain and misery he is bringing on himself, to one who sets all such considerations at defiance. Speak of death-Mr Combe has argued away, as far as he is able, all the effect which this circumstance is fitted to produce, and he carefully excludes every motive arising from the prospect of a future state. He represents, indeed, the evil which a man who follows such a course will bring upon his children, and upon the human race in general; but he might as well address the winds. What does the selfish man care for his posterity, or for the welfare of his race? If he will not be deterred from a life of vicious pleasure by a prospect of the evils it will bring upon himself, will he be stopped in his career by the consideration that his guilt is to be expiated in the person of another?
Supposing, then, that Christianity, as at present taught, were abolished, and the "Natural Laws" erected in its room, the concerns of life, confined to the present world, would become, as I have said, mere matter of calculation. But men, according to their predominant feelings, would calculate differently. While a few would undoubtedly prefer the enjoyments of sentiment and