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The effect of excluding these views, as is here done by Mr Combe, can only be, to lull the mind into a deceitful calm, - to whisper to it “ Peace, peace, when there is no peace," and consequently to prevent us, as far as possible, from having recourse to the only true refuge,—the hope that is set before us in the gospel.
Mr Combe seems to think that his System, having reference only to the present life, by pointing out the consequences of evil actions in this world, will be equally effectual in presenting motives to a moral course of life, as the prospect of retribution in a life to come. He says, at page 7, “ It appears to me, that every action
imagine, that his littleness and weakness should ever seem to be the proper object either of esteem or reward. But he can easily conceive, how the numberless violations of duty of which he has been guilty, should render him the object of aversion and punishment : neither can he see any reason why the divine indignation should not be let loose without any restraint upon so vile an insect, as he is sensible that he himself must appear to be. If he would still hope for happiness, he is conscious that he cannot demand it from the justice, but that he must entreat it from the mercy of God. Repentance, sorrow, humiliation, contrition at the thought of his past conduct, are, upon this account, the sentiments which become bim, and seem to be the only means which he has left, for appeasing that wrath which, he knows, he has justly provoked. He even distrusts the efficacy of all these, and naturally fears lest the wisdom of God should not, like the weakness of man, be prevailed upon to spare the crime, by the most importunate lamentations of the criminal. Some other intercession, some other sacrifice, some other atonement, he imagines, must be made for him, beyond what he himself is capable of making, before the purity of the divine justice can be reconciled to his manifest offences.
“ The doctrines of revelation coincide, in every respect, with these original anticipations of nature ; and as they teach us how little we can depend upon the imperfection of our own virtue, so they shew us, at the same time, that the most powerful intercession has been made, ond the most dreadful atonement has been paid, for our manifest transgressions and iniquities.”—Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 204, 206.
This passage, expressing as it must be understood to do, the unbiassed opinion of Dr Smith on the important subject to which it refers, is contained in the first edition of his work, but was, for what reason is not known, omitted in subsequent editions. But litera scripta manet.
which is morally wrong in reference to a future life, is equally wrong and inexpedient with relation to this world, and that it is essential to virtue to prove this to be the case.” To me, on the other hand, it appears, that in
many situations there are various actions which are morally wrong of themselves, and against which the prospect of a future retribution, if firmly believed, would offer an effectual check, which are not adequately punished by any consequences which follow from them in this world, and which, in certain situations, cannot even be said, with a view to this life alone, to be inexpedient. One of these offences, to which I have already alluded, is Suicide. If this is not looked upon as a crime, which is to be punished in a future state, most assuredly there is no punishment provided for it, any
consideration that can operate as a check against the commission of it, in this world. Mr Combe, upon his principles, has no argument which he could oppose to an intending suicide. Supposing a man reduced to the greatest misery and want, with no hope of extrication, and, on the contrary, having nothing before him but the prospect of a lingering life of wretchedness and infamy, what, upon Mr Combe's system, could be suggested to turn him from his purpose? It is needless to attempt to deter him by representing the extinction of life. He is tired of life, he is utterly wretched, and he considers that death would only be a relief from suffering. Death, considered as the extinction of being, or annihilation, is the object of his deliberate choice. What can be said on Mr Combe's principles in answer to this? Punishment in this world is out of the question, for by the very crime itself the criminal withdraws himself from all possibility of punishment here; and by the rule which Mr Combe has prescribed to himself of refusing to look beyond this life, he is prevented from supposing a punish
ment hereafter; so that, upon the whole, it does not appear
any other conclusion can be come to but this, that under his system suicide is not to be regarded as a crime; and consequently, that whenever any one tires of life, and chooses to desert bis post, he is fully entitled to do so. For this, which in other systems is considered the greatest, because the most irremediable of crimes, the “ Natural Laws” afford no remedy.
ON THE PAINS OF PARTURITION.
The pains of child-birth are proverbially considered about the greatest to which the human frame is subjected, and certainly no other species of suffering is so universal. No doubt the suffering is in some cases more severe than in others; but in all ages, and in all countries, it has prevailed more or less, so as to be universally considered as unquestionably an institution of the Creator. It may be asked, Could this have been an original institution, and could such severe suffering have been made the lot of the female while the race continued in its original and perfect state?
In the book of Genesis, in the account which is given of the sentence pronounced on the first pair in consequence of their transgression, a very remarkable passage occurs, which appears to account in a certain
for the peculiarity alluded to. Before the sentence was pronounced on man, including the race in general, this peculiar burden was laid upon the woman : “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception : in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” The propriety of this being made the punishment of the woman is manifest, because this is the only punishment to which
she could be exclusively subjected. All other bodily pains are common to both sexes; but those attendant on conception and parturition are necessarily confined to the female.
It was to the woman the highest privilege and honour that she should give birth to beings like herself. The sentence now pronounced seems to have been intended to prevent her from glorying in this distinction --- to keep her humble, even at the moment when she was fulfilling the most important function of her existenceand even at this ecstatic moment, to remind her of her fall from purity and happiness.
Two other circumstances deserve notice as to this peculiar curse : first, the universality of its infliction. It is not dependent in any degree on outward circumstances. No rank, no wealth, no power, can procure any exemption. It attaches to the queen upon the throne equally as to the servant that grinds at the mill. Though proverbially the severest of pains, such is the strength of that principle which inspires the female with the desire of having children, that it never deters the most delicate woman from placing herself in the way of having them. This is a provision evidently necessary for the continuance of the race; but there is another point in which benevolence towards the sufferer is equally conspicuous, — that, severe as the suffering is, so great is the delight of having offspring, that after the pangs of delivery are over, the mother feels all her pain overpaid with the most lively feelings of delight. “A woman when she is in travail, hath sorrow because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” Nothing, surely, could be more beautifully appropriate, and no infliction so severe could be so eminently tempered with mercy.
The above are views which are very generally received with regard to this subject, and appear to be supported on reasonable grounds; but they are totally disregarded by Mr Combe. He finds, that the suffering referred to is a fact directly in the teeth of his theory about the natural laws, and therefore he must get rid of it, at all events. The scriptural part of the matter is easily evaded, but as to the main circumstance, he has nothing for it but boldly denying the fact, and asserting that the sufferings are neither universal nor necessary. He accordingly observes, — “ The sufferings of women in childbed have been cited as evidence, that the Creator has not intended the human being, under any circumstances, to execute all its functions entirely free from pain. But besides the obvious answer, that the objection applies only to one sex, and is, therefore, not to be too readily presumed to have its origin in nature, there is good reason to deny the assertion, and to ascribe the suffering in question to departures from the natural laws in either the structure or habits of the individuals who experience them.”
These good grounds which Mr Combe alludes to, to prove that the pains of parturition are not a provision of nature, consist in certain cases among women of the lower ranks, who have been delivered, or have delivered themselves, of illegitimate children, with so little pain, as to return almost immediately to their work, or make exertions, which to persons in better circumstances might appear very unusual at least, if not incredible. He also refers to the easy labours of Negresses, and women of other savage tribes, who are reported by some travellers to suffer comparatively little in child-birth. To this it may be answered, — first, that these cases are precisely similar to those which occur in regard to every thing else, where persons under strong excitement, or in circum