Imágenes de páginas

to those persons, who, by their benevolent and virtuous behaviour, have rendered themselves the suitable and proper objects of it. Those who have thus freely and generously contributed to the good and benefit of the rest of their fellow-creatures, and have occasion'd as much happiness in the world, as their condition and circumItances in life rendered them capable of, and thereby justly merited the love and benevolence of all, are, surely, worthy of the divine favour, and of that recompence of reward, which perfect goodness and absolute power are enabled and difposed to bestow upon them. These are they who speak their Creator's praise, by answering the kind purpose of their creation; and, therefore, it highly becomes the great Governour of the universe to do them honour, by giving them a kingdom which cannot be moved, and a crown of glory and happiness which fadeth not away. And

As man is thus qualified to become a virtuous and a lovely creature, and thereby to enlarge his own felicity; so he is capable of the contrary. He can, not only neglect, but, be injurious to the common happiness. He can opposé, and, as far as his power extends, can frustrate the kind purpose of his Creator, and can fet himself as a bar to the common tranquillity: he can injure and oppress those of his fellow-creatures, whom he ought to prote&t and defend: he can afflict and grieve those whom he ought to cherish and comfort, and can make those hearts sad to whom he ought to minister joy and delight: he can de troy and lay waste, when he ought to build and plant, and can cut off those lives which he ought to preserve. In short, he can become a disagreeable and a hurtful creature, and can render himself a common enemy to the common happiness of mankind. A when this is the case, which is so in a greater or less degree with every vicious person, then they become the proper objects of divine resentment, and of the heavy displeasure of Almighty God. For as God cannot but love and approve, and will reward all persons of virtue and goodness; so he cannot but hate and dislike, and will severely punish all such vicious persons, as aforesaid. For when men not only deprive their fellow-creatures of that happiness in this life, which qualified for, and have a title to enjoy, but also unjustly load them with unhappiness and misery; then it becomes that wise and good Being, in whose hands they are, to deprive them of the felicity of another world, and to plunge them into unspeakable misery.

I shall not enter into those questions, viz. Of what kind or degree, or of what duration that punishment will be, which is to be inflicted upon vicious persons in another world? These must be left to the wisdom of a divine hand to adjust. But this, I say, that those who have been so exceedingly unkind and cruel, as unjustly to bar others off that pleasure and delight, which they were qualified for and entitled to enjoy, and have been so vile and barbarous as to load ochers unjustly with unhappiness and misery, and thereby have frustrated the gracious purpose of their kind Creator towards his creatures; such persons are, in the nature of the thing, the proper objects of divine displeasure; and it becomes the wisdom and justice of Almighty God, to shew his resentment at such a conduct, by debarring those persons from the happiness of another world, and by plunging them into unspeakable misery. Happiness is the desire of every sensible creature; and, therefore, it must be cruel caullesly to bar that from a creature, which is the natural desire of every

[ocr errors]

living thing: and to abound in this is to be highly criminal, and worthy of a severe correction. And as all vicious persons have been envious at, or have indulged in themselves a disposition to cut off the happiness of others; so it is just and reasonable that they should be made to feel, in a sensible manner, what the want of happiness is. Again, misery is the natural aversion of all the sensible world; and, therefore, causlesy to make miserable, and to abound in it, is to deserve to be made miserable in a very high degree. And as vicious persons have barbarously and wickedly loaded others with unhappiness and misery; so it is just and reasonable that they should feel the weight of that hand, which is able to make them miserable heyond expression. And to suppose in the present case, that it is contrary to goodness to make such vicious persons miserable, is very absurd. Goodness naturally disposes the agent, in which it resides, to communicate happiness to others, according to his power: and it as naturally rises up against, and disposes that agent to thew his resentment at the causless communication of the contrary. To communicate misery causesly is opposite to goodness; and, therefore, such a conduct is a proper ground of resentment to a good being, and will, in the nature of the thing, raise in him a just indignation against those that practise it. And, the quicker and the stronger the sense of goodness is upon a person's mind, the quicker and stronger will that resentment be which springs from it, in proportion to the vileness of the action. And as God possesses the beight and perfection of goodness, so he has the quickest sense of the contrary; which will be shewn in that just displeasure he will execute upon all vicious unrepenting finners in another world.

If it should be urged, that such a wife and good Being, as God is, will not punish men so severely in another world, for their enjoying a few short-lived pleasures here: I answer: God will not punish men at all in another world, for their enjoying a few short-lived pleasures here. Pleasure is what our nature leads us to, and what our Creator intended us for; and, whilst we are persuing it in such a way as, in reason, we ought, we are so far from incurring divine displeasure, that, on the contrary, we hereby render ourselves the suitable and proper objects of divine approbation. To desire and persue pleasure, considered as pleasure, in such a way as is konourable in itself, and where no ill consequence attends the enjoyment, I think, cannot be criminal; and, consequently, God will not punish men in another world, for their enjoying a few short-lived pleasures here: but it is for their vicious and unreasonable perluits of pleasure, in luch a way as is difponourable in ito self, and inconsistent with, and destructive of the happiness of their fellow-creatures.

To conclude: Let not then the vicious man fly for sanctuary to infidelity, to render his vicious course of life easy to himself, endeavouring hereby to remove the tormenting fears of a future judgment and retribution ; because infidelity cannot minister any just ground of comfort to him; the case being the same, in that respect, whether this or that revelation be of a divine original, or not. The certainty of God's calling men to an account, and rendering to them a due reward of their deeds in another state, does not so much depend upon revelation, as upon the justice and equity, the reasonableness and fitness of the thing; and, therefore, must always be the same, whether God interposes and makes a declaration concerning it, or not. This, therefore, is what I would recommend to, and leave


[ocr errors]



upon my reader's mind, viz. that he is under natural obligations both to God and man, from that relation he stands in to his Creator, and to his fellow-creatures ; and that, in reason, he is answerable to God, for the discharge of them; and that it is his true interest steadily to persue the great end of his creation, viz. the common good, by rendering himself an agreeable, useful, and lovely creature. For as this will render him the proper object of divine regard; so it is the fure way to the happiness of this life and of another. And when he has thus acted his part in life, and is gone off the stage of action, God will, in his due time, pronounce upon him this comfortable sentence, Well done good and faithful fervant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.



Reflections on Virtue and Happiness.


Wherein is shewn, That Good and Evil are founded in the abstract Nature and Reason of

Things: That Selfishness and Benevolence are two distinct and independent Principles of Action in Man: That Virtue is solely founded in Benevolence; and, that the Preserving and Cherishing in ourselves a benevolent Temper and Disposition is the most sure Way to a Happy Life.

THAT there are some actions good, and others evil, in the abstract na

ture and reason of things, is affirmed by some, and denied, or, at least, doubted of by others. And the ground of this doubt arises from hence,

viz. the different opinions of mankind in this respect; what one esteems good, another esteems evil, &c. Whereas it is urged, that if good and evil were founded in nature, then, the opinions and conceptions of mankind concerning them would be the same. And, here, I think, it must be allowed, that if good and evil are founded in the abstract nature and reaion of things, then, there mult be some common principle, which is self-evident, that all mankind are agreed in, which is the ground and foundation of all our reasonings on this subject. But then, I think, it must likewise be allowed on the other side, that if, by any false reasoning from that principle, other principles are introduced, and, from hence, arise different principles, with respect to good and evil amongst mankind; this, in reality, is no objection against good and evil being founded in nature, as aforesaid. K k k


[ocr errors]

That pleasure and pain, or happiness and misery, are really distinct and different in nature; that is, happiness is really delectable and agreeable, and misery is really afflictive and disagreeable, is evident from experience to all mankind, and, I think, must be evident to all other moral agents, who are capable of taking in the ideas which are annexed to those words. So that this must be allowed to be a felf-evident proposition or a common principle, which all mankind are agreed in; and, therefore, whatever will follow in strict reasoning, as a just consequence from this principle, I think, ought to be allowed. As thus, If happiness be really delightful and agreeable, and if misery be really afflictive and disagreeable, then, it will unavoidably follow, that happiness is preferable to misery ; that happiness is the proper object of our desires and persuits, and that misery is the proper object of our aversion and thunning. Again, if happiness be the proper object of our choice, in opposition to the absence of happiness, or to misery, it will follow, that when two kinds or branches of pleasure, one greater than the other, become the objects of our choice, and cannot be enjoyed together; then, in the nature of the thing, the greater is preferable to the less. For tho the less be the proper object of our choice, considered as pleasure, yet it ceases to be fo, when it comes in competition with a pleasure that is greater, the enjoyment of which is incompatible with it. For if it is right to chuse pleasure, because it is pleasing and agreeable; then, it is right to prefer the greater to the less, because the greater is more pleasing and agreeable. This, I think, will follow in strict reasoning, supposing no other consideration comes into the case, to direct our choice otherwise. *Again, if misery be afflictive and disagreeable, then, when two of those evils are present, and one or other of them must of necessity be submitted to, it is right and fit, in the nature of the thing, that we prefer the less to the greater. For if misery ought, in reason, to be punned, because it is afflictive and disagreeable; then, in reason, we ought to sun the greater rather than the less, because the greater is more afflictive and disagreeable. Again, if happiness be in itself really pleasing and agreeable, and if milery be in itself really afflictive and disagreeable, then, it will follow, that the communication of happiness is preferable to the communication of misery ; that the communication of happiness is, in the nature of the thing, kind and good; and, that the communication of misery is, in the nature of the thing, unkind and evil. Again, if happiness be proper to be chosen for one's felf, because it is pleasing and agreeable; then, it is fit and proper to be chosen for others, because it is equally pleasing and agreeable to them also. And if it is right and fit to shun and avoid misery for one's self, because it is afflictive and disagreeable; then, it is right and fit to guard and secure others from it : and it is wrong and evil to communicate misery to them, because milery is equally afflictive and dilagreeable to them also. I say, these consequences evidently and unavoidably follow, supposing no other consideration comes into the case, the reason being the same in both cafes; it being equally as reafonable that all others should be happy, as that we ourselves should be fo. Again, if happiness be the proper object of our choice, and if it is equally as reasonable that each individual should be happy, as that any other individual should be so; then, it is right and fit to prefer our own happiness to that of any other individual, when these come in competition. For as we are nearer and dearer to ourselves, than any other individual, and as we have an equal title to happiness with



other individual ; so this in reason ought to determine our choice, in favour of ourselves when our own happiness and that of any other individual come in competition. Again, if the greater good be, in nature and reason, preferable to the less, which, surely, must be allowed, then, the consequences are unavoidable, viz. that the publick happiness is preferable to the happiness of any individual; that a more general happiness is preferable to a less general, &c. These are consequences, which, I think, will follow in strict reasoning, from the one common and self-evident principle before laid down. And, therefore, if men in their farther reasonings, with respect to the great variety of complex cases which the subject affords, should draw any wrong conclufions, which it is easy to suppose may be done, and, from hence, should arise different opinions concerning the good,

he good, or evil, of actions in particular cases; all that will follow, from hence, is, that men are liable to err in this, as well as in many other cases; but it will by no means invalidate the evidence I have here produc'd, to prove the following proposition, viz. That good and evil are founded in the abstract nature and reason of things. And

If there are any of our species, who taste pleasure in, and by the pain and misery which they communicate to their fellow-creatures, which it is hard to suppose; and as it is not the case of our species in general, so it is not the result of the human constitution, but must be the effect of some disorder in the particular constitution of each individual; it will not follow in reason, that they ought to communicate that pain and misery, in order to taste the pleasure which will arise to themselves thereby, but the contrary. For as the affection is vicious, as it is excited by an object that is in itself evil, and thereby naturally tends to introduce evil and misery into the world; so, for that reason, it ought not to be gratified and indulged, but to be checked and restrained. And if a man should be led by such a vicious affection to perfue pleasure, yet he could not in reason justify his conduct herein, any more than he could, if by a vitiated palate he tasted pleasure, in eating or drinking such things as were destruktive to his health, and yet would eat and drink those things, to give himself the pleasure that arose from them, which in reason he ought not. For as his vitiated appetite naturally leads him to burt and injure himself, and, therefore, ought in reason to be restrained ; so his vitiated affection naturally leads him to hurt and injure others; and, therefore, it ought in reason to be restrained also. Nature leads him to persue pleasure in each case; but, then, the circumstances which attend them render it fit and reasonable, that he should deny himself, and not gratify those inclinations. As to the pleasure which a man takes in shooting a partridge, and the like, these are cases which, I think, do not come in to the present question ; because the pleasure of the one does not spring from the misery of the other, but from a variety of other causes, viz. the exercise a man gives his body by riding, or walking; the entertaining his eye with a variety of objects that are presented to his view; the exercising his dexterity in shooting; the prospect of obtaining a prize which the game is consider'd to be; the hope of gratifying his appetite, or entertaining his friends with what he makes himself the master of; the discharging himself from other enjoyments for a time, that he may taste the greater pleasure upon his return to them: these, and the like, I presume, are the springs of action, and the foundation of that pleasure which a man tastes in such exercises, and not the pain and K k k 2


[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »