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5. Lastly, as soon as we begin to distinguish among our actions, and are sensible that there are reasons for some of them, and against others, we get a notion of some of them as what ought to be performed, and of others of them as what are, or ought to be refrained from. In this manner we get the abstract ideas of right and wrong in human actions, and a variety of pleasing circumstances attending the former, and disagreeable ones accompanying the latter, we come in time to love some kind of actions, and to abhor others, without regard to any other confideration. For the same reason certain tempers, or dispositions of mind, as leading to certain kinds of conduct, become the objects of this moral approbation, or disapprobation; and from the whole, arises what we call a moral sense, or a love of virtue and a hatred of vice in the abstract. This is the greatest refinement of which we are capable, and in the due exercise and gratification of it consists the highest perfection and happiness of our natures.
SECTION 111. Of the ruling passion, and an estimate of the
propriety and value of the different pursuits of mankind.
AVING given this general delineation
of the various passions and affections of human nature, which may be called the springs of all our actions (since every thing that we do is something that we are prompted to by one or more of them) I shall now proceed to examine them separately, in order to ascertain how far we ought to be influenced by any of them, and in what cases, or degrees, the indulgence of any of them becomes wrong and criminal.
Actuated as we are by a variety of pafsions, it can hardly be, but that some of them will have more influence over us than others. These are sometimes called ruling pasions, because, whenever it happens that the gratification of some interferes with that of others, all the rest will give place to these. If, for instance, any man's ruling passion be the love of money, he will deny himself
any of the pleasures of life for the fake of it; whereas, if the love of pleasure were his ruling passion, he would often run the risque of impoverishing himself, rather than not procure his favourite indulgence.
It must be of great importance, therefore, to know which ought to be our ruling pasfions through life, or what are those gratifications and pursuits to which we ought to facrifice every thing else. This is the object of our present enquiry, in conducting which we must consider how far the indulgence of any particular paffion is consistent with our regard to the four rules of conduct that have been explained ; namely, the will of God, our own best interest, the good of others, and the natural dictates of our conscience ; and in estimating the value of any particular enjoyment, with respect to the happiness we receive from it, we must consider how great or intense it is, how long it will continue, whether we regard the nature
of the sense from which it is derived, or the opportunities we may have of procuring the gratification of it, and lastly, how far it is consistent, or inconsistent, with other pleasures of our nature, more or less valuable than itself.
§ 1. Of the pleasures of fenfe.
Since no appetite or passion belonging to our frame was given us in vain, we may conclude, that there cannot be any thing wrong in the simple gratification of any desire that our maker has implanted in us, under certain limitations and in certain circumstances; and if we consider the proper object of any of our appetites, or the end it is calculated to answer, it will be a rule for us in determining how far the divine being intended that they should be indulged. Now some of our sensual appetites have for their proper object the support of life, and others the propagation of the species. They fhould, therefore, be indulged as far as is necessary for these purposes, and where the indulgence is not so excessive, or so circum
ffanced, as to interfere with the greater good of ourselves and others.
1. But to make the gratification of our fenfes our primary pursuit, must be absurd; for the appetite for food is given us for the fike of supporting lise, and not life for the fike of consuming food. The like may be said of other sensual appetites. Since, therefore, we certainly err from the intention of nature when we make that an end, which was plainly meant to be no more than a nezns to some farther end; whatever this great end of life be, we may conclude that it cannot be the gratification of our sensual appetites, for they themselves are only a means to something else.
2. To make the gratification of our bodily senses the chief end of living would tend to defeat itself; for a man who should have no other end in view would be apt fo to overcharge and furleit his senses, that they would become indisposed for their proper functions, and indulgence would occasion nothing but a painful loathing. By intemVOL. I.