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“ fion ?"
“ foundation can there be either for praise
or blame, when it was not in a man's
power to have acted otherwise. A man “ commits murder, instigated by a sud“ den fit of revenge: why should he be
punished, if he acted necessarily, and “ could not resist the violence of the paf
Here it is supposed, that a power of resistance is essential to praise and blame. But upon examination it will be found, that this supposition has not any support in the moral sense, nor in reason, nor in the common sense of mankind.
With respect to the first, the moral sense, as we have seen above, places innocence and guilt and consequently praise and blaine, entirely upon will and intention. The connection between the motive and the action, fo far from diininishing, enhances the praise or blame. The greater influence a virtuous motive has, the greater is the virtue of the actor, and the more warın our praise. On the other hand, the greater influence a vitious motive has, the greater is the vice of the act- . or, and the more violently do we blame him. As this is the cardinal point, I wish to have it confidered in a general view.
It is essential both to human and divine government, that the influence of motives should be necessary. It is equally effential, that that necessary influence should not have the effect to lessen guilt in the eftimation of men. To fulfil both ends, guilt is placed by the moral sense entirely upon will and intention : a man accordingly blames himself for doing mischief willingly and intentionally, without once considering whether he acted necessarily or not.
And his sentiments are adopted by all the world: they pronounce the same sentence of condemnation that he himself does. A man put to the torture, yields to the pain, and with bitter reluctance reveals the secrets of his party : another does · the same, yielding to a tempting bribe. The latter only is blamed as guilty of a crime; and yet the bribe perhaps operated as strongly on the latter, as torture did on the former. But the one was compelled against his will to reveal the secrets of his party; and therefore is innocent: the other acted willingly, in order to procure a
fum of money; and therefore is guilty. With respect to reason, I observe, that
great fum of
the moral fenfe is the only judge in this controversy, not the faculty of reason. I should however not be afraid of a fentence against me, were reason to be the judge. For would not reason dictate, that the less a man' wavers about his duty, or, in other words, the less influence vitious motives have, the more praise-worthy he is; and the more blameable, the less influence virtuous motives have.
Nor are we led by common sense to differ from reason or from the moral sense. A man commits murder, overcome by a sudden fit of revenge which he could not refift: do we not reflect, even at first view, that the man did not will nor wish to refift? on the contrary, that he would have committed the murder, tho' he had not been under any necessity ? A person of plain understanding will say, What fignifies it whether the criminal could refift or not, when he committed the murder wittingly and willingly? A man gives poison privately out of revenge. Does any one doubt of his guilt, when he never once repented; tho? after administering the poison it no longer was in his power to draw back? A man may be guilty
and blame-worthy, even where there is external compulsion that he cannot resist. With sword in hand I run to attack an enemy: my foot flipping, I fall headlong upon him, and by that accident the sword is push'd into his body. The external act was not the effect of Will, but of accident: but my intention was to commit murder, and I am guilty. All men acknowledge, that the Deity is necessarily good. Does that circumstance detract from his praise in common apprehension ? On the contrary, he merits from us the highest praise on that very account.
It is commonly said, that there can be no virtue where there is no struggle. Virtue, it is true, is best known from a struggle: a man who has never met with a temptation, can be little confident of his virtue. But the observation taken in a strict sense, is undoubtedly erroneous. А man, tempted to betray his trust, wavers; but after much doubting refuses at last the bribe. Another hesitates not a moment, but rejects the bribe with disdain: duty is obstinate, and will not suffer him even to deliberate. Is there no virtue in the lat
ter? Undoubtedly more than in the former.
Upon the whole, it appears that praise and blame rest ultimately upon the disposition or frame of mind * Nor is it obvious, that a power to act against motives, could vary
any degree these moral fentiments. When a man commits a crime, let it be supposed that he could have refifted the prevailing motive. Why then did he not resist, instead of bringing upon himself shame and misery? The anfwer must be, for no other can be given, that his disposition is vitious, and that he is a detestable creature. Further, it is not a little difficult to conceive, how a man can resist a prevailing motive, without having any thing in his mind that Should engage
him to resist it. But letting that pass, I make the following supposi
* Malice and resentment, tho' commonly joined together, have no resemblance but in producing mischief. Malice is a propensity of nature that o. perates deliberately without paffion : resentment is a passion to which even good-natured people are subject. A malicious character is esteemed much more vitious than one that is irasciblé. Does not this shew, that virtue and vice conlist more in dif position than in action?