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I begin with the principles of morality, such as ought to govern at all times, and in all nations. The present sketch accordingly is divided into two parts. In the first, the principles are unfolded; and the second is altogether historical.
THE hand of God is no where more
visible, than in the nice adjustment of our internal frame to our situation in this world. An animal is endued with a power of self-motion ; and in performing animal functions, requires no external aid. This in particular is the case of man, the noblest of terrestrial beings. His heart beats, his blood circulates, his ftomach digests, evacuations proceed, &c. &c. By what means ? Not surely by the laws of mechanism, which are far from being adequate to such operations. They are effects of an internal power, bestow'd on man for preserving life. The power is exerted uniformly, and without interruption, independent of will, and without consciousness.
Man is á being susceptible of pleasure and pain : these generate desire to attain what is agreeable, and to fhun what is disagreeable ; and he is enabled by other powers to gratify his desires. One power, termed instinct, is exerted indeed with consciousness; but without will, and blindly without intention to produce any effect. Brute animals act for the most part by instinct: hunger prompts them to eat, and cold to take shelter ; knowingly indeed, but without exerting any act of will, and without foresight of what will happen. Infants of the human species, little superior to brutes, are, like brutes, governed by instinct: they lay hold of the nipple, without knowing that sucking will satisfy their hunger; and they weep when: pained, without
view of relief. Another power is governed by intention and A 2
will : in the progress from infancy to maturity, the mind opens to objects without end of desire and of aversion; the attaining or shunning of which depend more or less on our own will : we are placed in a wide world, left to our own conduct; and we are by nature provided with a proper power for performing what we intend and will. The actions performed by means of this power are termed voluntary. Some effects require a train of actions ; walking, reading, singing. Where these actions are uniform, as in walking, or nearly fo, as in playing on a musical instrument, an act of will is only necessary at the commencement: the train proceeds by habit without any new act of will. The body is antecedently adjusted to the uniform progress; and is disturbed if any thing unexpected happen; in walking, for example, a man feels a shock if he happen to tread on ground higher or lower than his body was prepared for. The
power thus acquired by habit of acting without will, is an illustrious branch of our nature;
upon it depend all the arts, both the fine and the useful. To play on the violin, requires wonderful swiftness of
fingers, every motion of which in a learner is preceded by an act of will: and
yet by habit solely, an artist moves his fingers with no less accuracy than celerity. Let the most handy person try for the first time to knit a stocking : every motion of the needle demands the strictest attention and yet a girl of nine or ten will move the needle so swiftly as almost to escape the eye, without once looking on her work, If every motion in the arts required a new act of will, they would remain in infancy for ever; and what would man be in that case? In the foregoing instances, we are conscious of the external operation without being conscious of a cause. But there are various internal operations of which we have no consciousness; and yet that they have existed is made known by their effects. Often have I gone to bed with a confused notion of what I was studying ; and have wakened in the morning completely master of the subject. I have heard a new tune of which I carried away but an imperfect conception. A week or perhaps a fortnight after, the tune has occurred to me in perfection; recollecting with difficulty where I heard it. Such great
things have happened to me frequently, and probably also to others. My mind must have been active in these instances, tho’ I knew nothing of it.
There still remain another species of actions, termed involuntary; as where we act by some irresistible motive against our will. An action may be voluntary, tho' done with reluctance; as where a man, to free himself from torture, reveals the secrets of his friend : his confeffion is voluntary, tho' drawn from him with reluctance. But let us suppose, that after the firmest resolution to reveal nothing, his mind is unhinged by exquisite torture : the discovery he makes is in the stricteft sense involuntary: he speaks indeed; but he is compelled to it abfolutely against his will.
Man is by his nature an accountable being, answerable for his conduct to God and man. In doing any action that wears a double face, he is prompted by his nature to explain the same to his relations, his friends, his acquaintance; and above all, to those who have authority over him. He hopes for praise for every right action, and dreads blame for every one that is