Imágenes de páginas

where his instructions are silent or dubious, he will endeavour to supply or explain them, by what he has been able to collect from other quarters of his master's general inclination or intentions.

Mr. HUME, in his fourth Appendix to his Principles of Morals, has been pleased to complain of the modern scheme of uniting Ethics with the Christian Theology. They who find themselves disposed to join in this complaint will do well to observe what Mr. Hume himself has been able to make of morality without this union. And for that purpose, let them read the second part of the ninth section of the above essay; which part contains the practical application of the whole treatise-a treatise, which Mr. HUMĘ declares to be “ incomparably the best he ever “ wrote.” When they have read it over, let them consider, whether any motives there proposed are likely to be found sufficient to withhold men from the gratification of lust, revenge, envy, ambition, avarice, or to prevent the existence of these passions. Unless they rise up from this celebrated essay, with stronger impressions upon their minds, than it ever left upon mine, they will acknowledge the necessity of additional fanctions. But the necessity of these fanctions is not now the question. If they be in faćt esta


blished, if the rewards and punishments held forth in the gospel will actually come to pass, they must be considered. Such as reject the Christian religion are to make the best shift they can to build up a system, and lay the foundations of morality without it. But it appears to me a great inconsistency in those who receive Christianity, and expect something to come of it, to endeavour to keep all such expectations out of sight, in their reasonings concerning human duty.

The method of coming at the will of God concerning any action, by the light of nature, is to inquire into “ the tendency of the action “ to promote or diminish the general happiness.” This rule proceeds upon the presumption, that God Almighty wills and wishes the happiness of his creatures; and consequently, that those actions, which promote that will and wish, must be agreeable to him; and the contrary,

As this presumption is the foundation of our whole system, it becomes necessary to explain the reasons upon which it rests.

· VOL. I.


| C H A P. .

CHA P. v.


VIHEN God created the human species,

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

If he 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 instruments of gratification and enjoyment; or by placing us amidst objects so ill suited to our perceptions, as to have continually offended us, instead of ministering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, every thing we tafted bitter ; every thing we saw loathsome; every thing we touched a fting ; every smell a stench; and every sound a difcord.

If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune, (as all design by this supposition is excluded) both the capacity of our senses to re

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

ceive 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, nothing remains but the first supposition, that God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness; and made for them the provision which he has made, with that view, and for that purpose.

The same argument may be proposed in different terms, thus : Contrivance proves design; and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances ; and all the contrivances which 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, insepa. rable 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 deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of a fickle, that it is made to cut the reaper's fingers, though from the construction of the F 2


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 finews; 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 difcover a train of contrivance to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization, calculated to produce pain and disease ; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said this is to irritate; this to inflame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland to fecrete the humour which forms the gout: if by chance he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it is useless; no one ever suspects that 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 fame design to continue.


« AnteriorContinuar »