Imágenes de páginas

CH A P. V.


THEN God created the human species, either

he wished their happiness, or he wilhed their misery, or he was indifferent and unconcerned about both.

Il be had wished our misery, he might have made sure of his purpose, by forming our senses to be as many fores and pains to us, as they are now inftru. ments of gratification and enjoyinent; or by place ing us amidst objects so ill suited to our perceptions, as to have continually offended us, inliead of mi. nistering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, every thing we talted bit. ter; every thing we saw loathsome; every thing we touched a sting ; every smell a stench; and every found a discord.

If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune, (as all design by this suppolition is excluded) both the ca. pacity of our senses to receive pleasure, and the supply of external objects fitted to produce it.

But either of these, and still more both of them, being too much to be attributed to accident, no. thing remains but the first fuppofition, that God, wben he created the human species, wished their ha; pincís; and made for them the provision which he has made, willi that view, and for that purpose.

The lame argument my be proposed in dificrcnt terms, thus : Contrivance proves design; and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the defigner. The world abounds with contrivances; and all the contrivances which

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

we are acquainted with, are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil no doubt exists; but is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache; their aching now and then is incidental to the contrivance, perhaps, infeparable from it; or even, if you will, let it be called a defect in the contrivance; but it is not the object of it. This is a distinction which well de. serves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of a sickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's fingers, though from the construction of the instrument, and the manner of using it, this mischief often happens. But if you had occasion to describe instruments of torture or execution, this engine, you would say, is to extend the sinews; this to dislocate the joints; this to break the bones ; this to scorch the foles of the feet. Here pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now nothing of this sort is to be found in the works of nature. We never disa cover a train of contrivance to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization, calculated to produce pain and disa case; or, in explaining the parts of the human bo. dy, ever said this is to irritate; this to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland, to secrete tlie humour which forms thé gout: if by chance 'he come at a part of wlaich he knows noi the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects chat it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or torment. Since then God hath called forth his consummate wisdom to contrive and provide for our happiness, and the world appears to have been constituted with this design at first, so long as this constitution is upholden by him, we must in reason suppose the same design to continue.

The contemplation of universal nature rather be. wilders the mind than affects it. There is always a bright spot in the prospect, upon which the eye

[ocr errors]


rests; a single example, perhaps, by which cach man finds himself more convinced than by all others put togetber. I seem, for my own part, to see the benevolence of the Deity more clearly in the plea. sures of very young children, than in any thing in the world. The pleasures of grown persons may be reckoned partly of their own procuring; especial. Jy if there has been any industry, or contrivance, or pursuit, to come at them; or if they are found. ed, like mulic, painting, &c. upon any qualification of their own acquiring. But the plealures of a healthy infant are so manifestly provided for it by another, and the benevolence of the provilion is lo unquellionable, that every child I fee at its sport affords to my mind a kind of senüble evidence of the finger of God, and of the disposition which direcs it.

But tbe example, which trikes each man most strongly, is the true example for him; and hardly iwo sinds hit upon the same, which shows the abundance of such examples about us.

We conclude therefore, that God wills and wishes the happiness of his creatures. And this conclufion being once established, we are at liberty to go on with the rule built upon it, namely, “ that the “ method of coming at the will of God, concern. “ ing any action, by the light of nature, is, to in. “ quire into the tendency of that action, to pro“ mote or diminilh the general happiness."

C H A P.

[blocks in formation]

C o then actions are to be estimated by their D tendency. * Whatever is expedient is right. It is the utility of any moral rule alone which constitutes the obligation of it.

But to all this there seems a plain objection, viz. that many actions are useful, which no man in his senses will allow to be right. There are occasions, in which the band of the assassin would be very useful. The present possessor of some great estate employs his influence and fortune, to annoy, corrupt, or oppress all about him. His estate would devolve, by his death, to a successor of an opposite character. It is useful, therefore, to dispatch such a one as soon as possible out of the way; as the neighbourhood will exchange thereby a pernicious tyrant for a wise and generous benefactor. It may be useful to rob a miser, and give the money to the poor; as the money, no doubt, would produce more happiness, by being laid out in food and cloth. ing for half a dozen distressed families, than by con. tinuing locked up in a miser's chest. It may be

• Adions in the abftra& are right or wrong, according to their tendency; the agent is virtuous or vicious, according to bis defign. Thus, if the question be, Whether relieving common beggars be right or wrong? we inquire into the tendency of such a conduct to the public advantage or inconvenience. If the question be, Whether a man, remarkable for this sort of bounty, is to be esteemed virtuous for that reason we inquire into his design, whether his liberality sprung from charity or from oftentacion. lc is evident that our concern is with actions in the abArad.

useful useful to get possession of a place, a piece of preferment, or of a seat in parliament, by bribery or false fwearing; as by means of them we may ferve the public more effectually than in our private ftation. What then shall we say? Must we admit these actions to be right, which would be to justify assassination, plunder, and perjury; or must we give up our principle, that the criterion of right is utility ?

It is not necessary to do either.

The true answer is this ; that these actions, after all, are not useful, and for that reason, and that alone, are not right.

To see this point perfectly, it must be observed, that the bad consequences of actions are two-fold, particular and general. "

The particular bad consequence of an action, is the mischief which that single action directly and immediately occasions.

The general bad consequence is, the violation of fome necessary or useful general rule. iro

Thus the particular bad consequence of the aflar. fination above described, is the fright and pain which the deceased underwent; the loss he suffered of life, which is as valuable to a bad man, as to a good one, or more so ; the prejudice and afflicti. on, of which his death was the occasion, to his fa. mily, friends, and dependants.

The general bad consequence is the violation of this necessary general rule, that no man be put to death for bis crimes, but by public authority.

Although therefore, such an action have 'no particular bad consequence, or greater particular good consequences, yet it is not useful, by reason of the general consequence, which is of more importance, and which is evil. And the same of the other two instances, and of a million more, which might be mentioned.


« AnteriorContinuar »