Imágenes de páginas

abilities of a Mansfield. After long experience of the world, I affirm, before God, I never knew a rogue who was not unhappy.”*

It is not necessary to pursue the catalogue. Man is by nature a social being every one is purposely made dependent upon every other; and consequently the happiness or well-being of the whole and of every one, who constitutes an integral part of the whole, must be the same happiness. Yet as the happiness or well-being of the individual demands, in his private capacity, as we have already seen it does, a system of private abstinences, or restraints, the happiness or well-being of society demands a more extensive system of public duties of the same kind. We must consent to relinquish a part of our liberty, a part of our property, a part of all our personal propensities and appetites, or the well-being of the society to which we belong, and consequently our own social well-being could not continue. We may indeed take ourselves away from society, and live in the solitude of forests; but our happiness is bound up in social life, and, whatever is the cost, it is consistent with the same happiness that we pay it.

Freethinkers are accustomed to sneer at the precepts of the Bible, which inculcate upon us the virtues of self-denial and mortification in the present life, in order to our making sure of a life of uninterrupted happiness hereafter. But if there be any degree of truth in the remarks now offered, they find themselves called upon to practise a similar restraint and denial even in the purchase of present enjoyment. And the analogy is so striking between the natural and the moral government of the Deity in this respect, that Bishop Butler has forcibly laid hold of the same argument, not only in vindication of the Gospel-precepts upon this point, but in illustration of the paramount importance of our attending to them, if we would be wise to our future and everlasting interest. "Thought," says he, "and consideration, the voluntary denying ourselves many things which we desire, and a course of behaviour far from being always agreeable to us, are absolutely necessary to our acting even a common decent and common prudent part, so as to pass with any satisfaction through the present world, and be received upon any tolerably good terms in it. Since this is the case, all presumption against self-denial and attention to secure our HIGHER INTEREST is removed. The constitution of nature is as it is. Our happiness and misery are trusted to our conduct, and made to depend upon it. Somewhat, and, in many circumstances, a great deal too, is put upon us either to do or to suffer, as we choose. And all the various miseries of life which people bring upon themselves by negligence and folly, and might have avoided by proper care, are instances of this; which miseries are, beforehand, just as contingent and undetermined as their conduct, and left to be determined by it."†

It is from this common consent to put a restraint upon our personal feelings in the pursuit of relative pleasures, from this social impulse of our constitution with which we are so wisely and benevolently endowed, that every man belonging to the same state or community becomes a part of every man, and cannot, even if he would, be an indifferent spectator of the wo or the weal of his neighbour. And hence arises the sacred bond of sympathy or fellow-feeling;

And true self-love, and social, are the same.

While as the line is drawn still closer, and we associate together more fre* Letter, No. xliii. † Analysis of Religion, Natural and Revealed, part i. ch. iv.

[ocr errors]

quently and more intimately, we become, from the great and powerful principle of habit, still more kindred parts of each other. And hence the origin of the higher public virtues of patriotism, generosity, gratitude, friendship, conjugal fidelity, parental love, and filial reverence; the exercise of all which in our relative situations of life, whether we contemplate it at the time, or whether we do not, is by our own constitution, or, which is the same thing, by the will of the great Creator, rendered essential to our individual happiness.

Mr. Pope, from a hint furnished by Dr. Donne, finely compares this origin and spread of the different circles of private and public virtues from the salient point of self-love, or the desire of individual happiness in the breast, to the series of circles within circles excited on the bosom of a still and peaceful lake by the throw of a pebble; while all nature smiles around, and, from this very agitation, the face of the heavens is reflected with an additional degree of lustre.

"Self-love but serves the virtuous breast to wake,
As the smooth pebble stirs the peaceful lake.
The centre mov'd, a circle strait succeeds,
Another still, and still another spreads.
Friend, parents, neighbour, first it will embrace,
Our country next, and next all human race.
Wide, and more wide, th' o'erflowing of the mind
Takes every creature in of every kind.

Earth smiles around, in boundless beauty dress'd;
And heav'n reflects its image in his breast."

We stand in need, then, of no præcognita or innate ideas, of no fanciful instinct whatever ;-arguing as intelligent beings, and fairly exercising the discursive faculty of reason, we come to the clear conclusion that virtue is the path to human happiness. The case, indeed, is so manifest, that while many of the instincts we actually possess are often tempting us against such a conduct and such a conclusion, whenever reason is appealed to, we never fail to return to the same established dictum.

The Stoics, with a sort of romantic refinement, pretended to have fallen into a love of virtue for her own sake; and to sustain and to abstain, to bear and forbear, to be patient and continent, comprised the summary of their moral system. But while they were thus enraptured with the means, like every other society of mankind, they had the full advantage of the end. They may, indeed, have practised virtue for the love of virtue, but they also practised virtue, and reaped the benefit of their own happiness.

The Epicureans, on the contrary, regarded all these sublime pretensions as mere cant,and affectation. They also enjoined and practised, and notwithstanding the false reproach that has attached to their name, enjoined and practised with more rigidity than even the Stoics, the laws and restraints of moral virtue; yet boldly and unequivocally avowed that it was chiefly as a mean towards an end: that it was not so much from a love of virtue, as from a love of pleasure or happiness and hence pleasure and happiness were in this school used as synonymous terms, as were also vice and folly, and wisdom and virtue; or, rather, wisdom was regarded as the first of all virtues, as being that which teaches us that a life of real pleasure or happiness is to be obtained alone by the exercise of the general cluster of virtues. In one of his letters to Menæceus, that has yet survived the ravage of time, Epicurus has a passage upon this subject peculiarly striking, and that cannot be too strongly impressed on our memories. "Wisdom," says he, "is the chief blessing of philosophy, since she

gives birth to all other virtues which unite in teaching us, that no man can Live happily who does not live wisely, conscientiously, and justly; nor, on the other hand, can he live wisely, conscientiously, and justly, without living happily for virtue is inseparable from a life of happiness, and a life of. happiness is equally inseparable from virtue. Be these, then, and maxims like these, the subjects of thy meditation, by night and by day, both when alone and with the friend of thy bosom; and never, whether asleep or awake, shalt thou be opprest with anxiety, but live as a god among mankind."*

To the same effect Cassius, in an expostulatory letter to his friend Cicero, who had shown some inclination to join in the general calumny against the Epicureans: "Those whom we call lovers of pleasure are real lovers of goodness and justice; they are men who practise and cultivate every virtue; for no true pleasure can exist without a good and virtuous life."

So Lucretius, when describing the different tribes of the sons of vice, or offenders against the public law, characterizes them by the common name of fools. "They are," says he, "perpetually smarting, even in secret, beneath a sense of their atrocious crimes, and that reward of their guilt, which they well know will sooner or later overtake them :

The scourge, the wheel, the block, the dungeon deep,

The base-born hangman, the TARPEIAN cliff,
Which, though the villain 'scape, his conscious soul
Still fears perpetual; torturing all his days,
And still foreboding heavier pangs at death.
Hence earth itself to FOOLS becomes a hell.†

It was from the elegant and ornate moralists of the East, that the philosophers of this school derived this figurative synonymy; from Arabia, Egypt, and India; in all which quarters we find it still more frequent and familiar. Solomon, whose early studies were derived from an Arabic source, is peculiarly addicted to this use of these terms. The very commencement of his book of Proverbs, or system of ethics, as the schools would denominate it, affords us a striking instance :

"The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge:
For FOOLS despise wisdom and instruction."

So Vishnusarman, in his Hitopadesa to the same precise effect; "Many who read the Scriptures are grossly ignorant; but he who acts well is à truly LEARNED man."‡

Whatever view, therefore, we take of this subject, in whatever way we exercise our reason upon it, we cannot fail to approve of virtue in preference to vice; for we cannot fail to regard virtue as the only sure road to happiness, and consequently as the path of wisdom, or the will of God. The case, indeed, is so clear, that it is seldom mankind any part

*Diog. Laert. x. 132. 135.

Verbera, carnufices, robur, pix, lamina, tædæ :
Qui tamen et si absunt, at mens, sibi conscia factis,
Præmetuens, adhibet stimulos, torretque flagellis
Nec videt interea, qui terminus esse malorum
Possit, quive sciet pœnarum denique finis;
Atque eadem metuit magis, hæc ne in morte gravescant.
Hinc Acherusia fit STULTORUM denique vita.

Lib. iii. 1080.

Sir W. Jones, vi. p. 57.

of the world are now-a-days at the trouble of debating the subject. There is no controversy—the result is taken for granted. And hence wherever education exists, or, in other words, wherever civilized life extends, we are chiefly taught it, not as a science, but as a rule of action; we imbibe it as a habit; and our first and finest feelings co-operate with our best reason in its favour. We form an abstract picture of it in our minds, and delineate it, under the correct and pleasing image of the fair, the needful, the sovereign good. We have already seen that, in proportion as society is ignorant, men are wicked; in proportion as it becomes wise, they grow virtuous. They acquire clearer ideas of right and wrong, which are obviously nothing more than virtue and vice, under an additional set of names, or in a state of activity. And were the rules and laws of right, virtue, or wisdom to be constantly adhered to, or, in other words, the will of the Deity to be fully complied with, there can be no question that mankind, even in the present state, would enjoy all the happiness their nature will allow of; and that a kind of paradise would once more visit the earth.

And why, then, is not the will of the Deity fully complied with? Why, since the consequence is so undoubted, and so beneficial, are not the rules of virtue constantly and universally adhered to?

This is a most important question, as wel! in itself as in its results. The will of the Deity, or the entire rules of virtue, are not always adhered to, first, because, as collected from reason or the light of nature alone, they are not, through the whole range of this complicated subject, in all instances equally clear and conspicuous; and, secondly, because in a thousand instances in which there is no want of clearness or perspicuity, there is a want of sanction-of a compulsory and adequate force. The rules of virtue are general, and must necessarily be general; but the cases to which they apply are particular. The case is present and often impulsive, but the operation of the rule is remote, and it may not operate at all; and hence the pleasure of immediate gratification is perpetually unhinging this harmonious system, and plunging mankind into vice with their eyes open.

But civil laws, moreover, or the authority of the social compact in favour of virtue, are not only often inadequate in their force, but they must necessarily, in a thousand instances, be inadequate in their extent. It is impossible for man of himself to provide against every case of vice or criminality that may offend the public; for the keenest casuist can form no idea of many of such cases till they are before him; and if he could, the whole world would not contain the statute-books that should be written upon the subject.

There are also duties which a man owes to himself as well as to his neighbour; or, in other words, human happiness, as we have already seen, depends almost as largely upon his exercise of private as of public virtues. But the eye of civil law cannot follow him into the performance of these duties, for it cannot follow him into his privacy; it cannot take cognizance of his personal faults or offences, nor often apply its sanction if it could do so. And hence, in most countries, this important part of morality is purposely left out of the civil code, as a hopeless and intractable subject. Yet even in the breach of public duties, specifically stated and provided for, it cannot always follow up the offender, and apply the punishment; for he may secrete himself among his own colleagues, and elude, or he may abandon his country, and defy the arm of justice.

There seems, then, to be a something still wanting. If the Deity have so benevolently willed the happiness of man, and made virtue the rule of that happiness, ought he not upon the same principle of benevolence, to have declared his will more openly than by the mere, and, at times, doubtful, inferences of reason? in characters, indeed so plain, that he who runs may read? and ought he not also to have employed sanctions so universal as to cover every case, and so weighty as to command every attention?

As a being of infinite benevolence, undoubtedly he ought. And what, in this character, he ought to have done, he has actually accomplished. He has declared his will by an express revelation, and has thus confirmed the voice of reason by a voice from heaven: he has made this revelation a written law, and has enforced it by the strongest sanctions to which the mind of man can be open:-not only by his best chance of happiness here, but by all his hopes and expectations of happiness hereafter. And he has hence completed the code of human obligations, by adding to the duties which we owe to our neighbour and to ourselves, a clear rescript of those we owe to our Maker. Nor is such revelation of recent date; for a state of retributive justice beyond the grave constituted, as we have already seen, the belief of mankind in the earliest ages of time; and amidst all the revolutions the world has witnessed, amidst the most savage barbarism, and the foulest idolatries, there never perhaps has been a country in which all traces of it have been entirely lost, or have even entirely ceased to operate.

At different periods, and in different manners, the Deity has renewed this divine communication according as his infinite wisdom has seen the world stand in need of it. New doctrines and discoveries, and doctrines and discoveries, too, of the highest importance, but which it is not my province to touch upon in the present place, have in every instance accompanied such renewal, justificatory of the supernatural interposition. But the sanction has, in every instance, been the same: while, and I speak it with reverence, the proofs of divine benevolence have with every promulgation been growing fuller and fuller :-revealed religion thus cooperating with natural, co-operating with the great frame of the visible world, co-operating with every pulse and feeling of our own hearts in establishing the delightful truth, that GOD IS LOVE; and in calling upon us to love him, not from any cold and lifeless picture of the abstract beauty of holiness, beautiful as it unquestionably is in itself, but from the touching and all-subduing motive, BECAUSE HE FIRST Loved us.



IN the commencement of the successive series of lectures which I have had the honour of delivering before this respectable school of science, I stated, as it may be recollected by many of the audience before me, that the subject I proposed to discuss would be of considerable extent and variety-that it would embrace, though with a rapid survey, the whole circle of physics in the most enlarged sense in which this term has been employed by Aristotle or Lord Bacon; and, consequently, would touch slightly, yet, as I hoped, with a correct outline, upon all the more inte

« AnteriorContinuar »