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thers, as well as of my own. Many examples are given in the chapter above quoted : join to these the following. My servant aiming at a partridge, happens to shoot a favourite spaniel crossing the way unseen. Inflamed with anger, I storm at his rashness, pronounce him guilty, and will listen to no excuse. When passion fubfides, I become sensible that the action was merely accidental, and that the man is absolutely innocent. The nurse overlays my only child, the long-expected heir to a great estate. With difficulty I refrain from putting her to death : The wretch “ has murdered my infant: she ought to “ be torn to pieces.” When I turn calm, the matter appears to me in a very different light. The poor woman is inconfolable, and can scarce believe that she is innocent: she bitterly reproaches herself for want of care and concern. But, upon cool "reflection, both she and I become sensible, that no person in found sleep has any felfcommand, and that we cannot be answerable for any action of which we are not conscious. Thus, upon the whole, we discover, that any impression we occasionally have of being able to act in contradiction to motives, is the result of passion, not of sound judgement,

diction animate

The reader will observe, that this fection is copied from Essays on Morality and Natural Religion. The ground-work is the same: the alterations are only in the superstructure; and the subject is abridged in order to adapt it to its present place. The preceding parts of the sketch were published in the second edition of the Principles of Equity. But as law-books have little çurrency, the publishing the whole in one essay, will not, I hope, be thought improper.


U pon Chance and Contingency.

Hold it to be an intuitive proposition,

That the Deity is the primary cause of all things; that with consummate wifdom he formed the great plan of government, which he carries on by laws fuited to the different natures of animate and in

animate beings; and that these laws, produce a regular chain of causes and effects in the moral as well as the material world, admitting no events but what are comprehended in the original plan (a). Hence it clearly follows, that chance is excluded out of this world, that nothing can happen by accident, and that no event is arbitrary or contingent. This is the doctrine of the essay quoted ; and, in my äpprehension, well founded. But I cannot subscribe to what follows, “ That we have

an impression of chance and contin

gency, which consequently must be de“ lusive.” I would not willingly admit any delusion in the nature of it were made evident beyond contradice tion; and I now see clearly, that the ima pression we have of chance and contingency, is not delusive, but perfectly consistent with the established plan.

The explanation of chance and contingency

in the said essay, shall be given in the author's own words, as a proper text to reason upon. " In our ordinary train “ of thinking, it is certain that all events

(a) See Essays on Morality and Natural Religion, part 1. efay z


man, unless


appear not to us as necessary. A mul“ titude of events seem to be under our

power to cause or to prevent; and we

readily make a distinction betwixt e". vents that are necesary, i. e. that must “ be; and events that are contingent, i. e. “ that may be, or may not be. This dif6. tinction is void of truth: for all things " that fall out either in the material or “ moral world, are, as we have seen, a“ like necessary, and alike the result of

fixed laws. Yet, whatever conviction a

philosopher may have of this, the dis“ tinction betwixt things necessary and

things contingent, possesses his ordinary train of thought, as much as it possesses the most illiterate. We act universally

upon that distinction: nay it is in truth “ the cause of all the labour, care, and in“ dustry, of mankind. I illustrate this “ doctrine by an example. Constant ex“ perience hath taught us, that death is

a necessary event. The human frame " is not made to last for ever in its pre“ fent condition ; and no man thinks of

more than a temporary existence upon “ this globe. But the particular time of our death appears a contingent event,

4 However


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” However certain it be, that the time " and manner of the death of each indi

vidual is determined by a train of prea

ceding causes, and is no less fixed than “ the hour of the sun's rising or setting;

yet no person is affected by this doc* trine. In the care of prolonging life,

we are directed by the supposed contingency of the time of death, which, to a certain term of years, we consider as

depending in a great measure on our“ felves, by caution against accidents, due “ use of food, exercise, &c. These means are prosecuted with the fame diligence

if there were in fact no necessary “ train of causes to fix the period of life. " In short, whoever attends to his own

practical ideas, whoever reflects upon " the meaning of the following words

which occur in all languages, of things possible, contingent, that are in our power to cause or prevent ; whoever, I say, re

these words, will clearly fee, that they suggest certain perceptions or “ notions repugnant to the doctrine above “ established of univerfal neceflity.”

In order to show thai there is no repugnance, I begin with defining chance and VOL, IV,



o flects upon

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