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down popular phrases to any constant signification : but, wherever the motive is violent enough, and coupled with the idea of command, authority, law, or the will of a superior, there, I take it, we als ways reckon ourselves to be obliged.
And from this account of obligation it follows, that we can be obliged to nothing, but what we ourselves are to gain or lose something by; for nothing else can be à « violent motive” to us. As we should not be obliged to obey the laws, or the magistrate, unless rewards or punishments, pleasure or pain, fome how or other depended upon our obedience ; so neither should we, without the same reason, be obliged to do what is right, to practise virtue, or to obey the commands of God.
THE QUESTION, WHY AM I OBLIGÉD TO KEEP MY WORD?
T ET it be remembered, that to be obliged, “is L " to be urged by a violent motive, resulting “ from the command of another.”
And then let it be asked, Why am I obliged to keep my word? and the answer will be, because I am“ urged to do so by a violent motive," (namely, the expectation of being after this life rewarded, if I do, or punished for it, if I do not) " resulting from the command of another" (name. ly, of God.)
This solution goes to the bottom of the subject, as no farther question can reasonably be asked.
Therefore, private happiness is our motive, and the will of God our rule. .
When I first turned my thoughts to moral specu. lations, an air of mystery seemed to hang over the wholc subject; which arose, I believe, from hence
that I supposed, with many authors whom I had read, that to be obliged to do a thing, was very dif. ferent from being induced only to do it, and that the obligation to practise virtue, to do what is right, juft, &c. was quite another thing, and of another kind, than the obligation which a soldier is under to obey his officer, a servant bis master, or any of the civil and ordinary obligations of human lite. Whereas, from what bas been said it appears, that moral obligation is like all other obligations ; and that all obligation is notbing more than an inducement of sufficient strength, and resulting in some way, from the command of another.
There is always understood to be a difference between an ad of prudence and an act of duty. Thus, if I distrusted a man who owed me a sum of money, 1 Mould reckon it an act of prudence to get anoiber person bound with him ; but I should hardly call it an act of duty. On the other hand, it would be thought a very unusual and loose kind of language, to say, that, as I had made such a promise, it was prudent to perform it ; or that as my friend, when he went abroad, placed a box of jewels in my hands, it would be prudent in me to preserve it for him till he returned.
Now, in what, you will ask, does the difference confitt? Inalmuch, as according to our account of the matter, both in the one cale and the other, in acts of duty as well as acts of prudence, we confi. der folcly what we ourlelves thall gain or lose by the act ?
The difference, and the only difference, is this ; that, in the one case we consider what we thall gain or loíc in the prelent world; in the other case, we consider also what we hall gain or lose in the world to come.
Those who would establish a system of moraliev, independent of a future ftare, must look out for
me different idca of moral obligation ; unless they can fhow that virtue conduds the pollellor to cera
tain happiness in this life, or to a much greater share of it than he could attain by a different behaviour.
To us there are two great questions :
1. Will there be after this life any distribution of rewards and punishments at all ?
Il. If there be, what actions will be rewarded, and what will be punished ?
The first question comprises the credibility of the Christian religion, together with the presumptive proofs of a future retribution from the light of nature. The second question composes the pro. vince of morality. Both questions are too much for one work. The affirmative therefore of the first, although we confess that it is the foundation upon which the whole fabric rests, must in this treatise be taken for granted.
S the will of God is our rule, to inquire what A is our duty, or what we are obliged to do, in any instance, is, in effect, to inquire, what is the will of God in that instance? which confequently becomes the whole business of morality.
Now there are cwo methods of coming at the will of God on any point:
I. By his express declarations, when they are to be had ; and which must be sought for in Scripture.
II. By what we can discover of his designs and difpofition from his works, or, as we usually call it, the light of nature.
And here we may observe the absurdity of separating natural and revealed religion from each other. The object of both is the fame-o discover the will of God-and, provided we do but discover it, it matters nothing by what means.
An ambassador, judging by what he knows of bis sovereign's disposition, and arguing from what he has observed of his conduct, or is ac. quainted with of his designs, may take his mea. fures in many cases with safety; and presume with great probability how his master would have him act on most occasions that arise : but if he has bis commission and instructions in his pocket, it would be strange not to look into them. He will natural. Jy condud bimself by both rules : when bis instruc. tions are clear and positive, there is an end of all farther deliberation (unless indeed he suspea their authenticity): 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 inclina. tion 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 theinselves disposed to join in this complaint will do well to observe what Mr. Bume 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 eslay; which part contains the practical application of the whole treatise---a treawife, which Mr. Hlume declares to be “ incompara. “ bly the best he ever wrote." When they have
read it over, let them consider, whether any
The method of coming at the will of God con. cerning any action, by the light of nature, is to inquire into the tendency of the aclion to pro“ mote 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 presuinption is the foundation of our whole system, it becomes necessary to explain the reasons upon which it rests.
CH A P.