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ever alien from his thoughts: if the author of the unlawful violence fuffer himself to be deceived, he ought to blame himself, not the speaker.
It need fcarce be mentioned, that the duty of veracity excludes not fable, nor any liberty of fpeech intended for amufement only.
Active duties, as hinted above, are all of them directed to particular perfons. And the first I fhall mention, is that between parent and child. The relation of parent and child, the ftrongeft that can exift between individuals, binds thefe perfons to exert their utmoft powers in mutual good offices. Benevolence among other blood-relations, is alfo a duty; but not fo indifpenfable, being proportioned to the inferior degree of relation.
Gratitude is a duty directed to our benefactors. But tho' gratitude is ftrictly a duty, the measure of performance, and the kind, are left moftly to our own choice. It is fcarce neceffary to add, that the active duties now mentioned, are acknowledged by all to be abfolutely inflexible, perhaps more fo than the reftraining duties: many find excufes for
doing harm; but no one hears with patience an excufe for deviating from truth, friendship, or gratitude.
Distress, tho' it has a tendency to convert benevolence into a duty, is not fufficient without other concurring circumftances; for to relieve every person in diftrefs, is beyond the power of any human being. Our relations in distress claim that duty from us, and even our neighbours : but diftant diftrefs, without a particular connection, scarce roufes our fympathy, and never is an object of duty. Many other connections, too numerous for this fhort effay, extend the duty of relieving others from distress; and these make a large branch of equity. Tho' in various inftances benevolence is converted into a duty by distress, it follows not, that the duty is always proportioned to the degree of distress. Nature has more wifely provided for the fupport of virtue: a virtuous perfon in distress commands our pity: a vicious perfon in distress has much lefs influence; and if by vice he have brought on the distress, indignation is raised, not pity (a).
(a) See Elements of Criticism, vol. 1. p. 187. edit. 5.
One great advantage of, fociety, is the co-operation of many to accomplish fome useful work, where a single hand would be infufficient. Arts, manufactures, and commerce, require many hands: but as hands cannot be fecured without a previous engagement, the performance of promifes and covenants is, upon that account, a capital duty in fociety. In their original occupations of hunting and fishing, men living fcattered and dispersed, have feldom opportunity to aid and benefit each other; and in that fituation, covenants, being of little ufe, are little regarded but husbandry, requiring the co-operation of many hands, draws men together for mutual affistance; and then covenants make a figure: arts and commerce make them more and more neceffary; and in a polished fociety great regard is paid to them.
But contracts and promises are not confined to commercial dealings: they ferve alfo to make benevolence a duty; and are even extended to connect the living with the dead: a man would die with regret, if he thought his friends were not bound by their promifes to fulfil his will after
his death and to quiet the minds of men with refpect to futurity, the moral fenfe makes the performing fuch promifes our duty. Thus, if I promise to my friend to erect a monument for him after his death, confcience binds me, even tho' no perfon alive be entitled to demand performance : every one perceives this to be my duty; and I muft expect to fuffer reproach and blame, if I neglect my engagement.
To fulfil a rational promife or covenant, deliberately made, is a duty no lefs inflexible than thofe duties
are which arise
independent of confent. But as man is fallible, often mifled by ignorance, and liable to be deceived, his condition would be deplorable, did the moral fenfe compel him to fulfil every engagement, however imprudent or irrational. Here the moral fenfe gives way to human infirmity: it relieves from deceit, from impofition, from ignorance, from error; and binds a man by no engagement but what answers the end fairly intended. There is ftill lefs doubt that it will relieve us from an engagement extorted by external violence, or by overbearing paffion. The dread of torture will force moft men to fubmit to
any terms; and a man in imminent hazard of drowning, will voluntarily promife all he has in the world to fave him. The moral fenfe would be ill fuited to the imbecillity of our nature, did it bind men in confcience to fulfil engagements made in fuch circumftances.
The other branch of duties, those we owe to ourselves, fhall be difcuffed in a few words. Propriety, a branch of the moral fenfe, regulates our conduct with refpect to ourselves; as Justice, another branch of the moral fenfe, regulates our conduct with respect to others. Propriety dictates, that we ought to act up to the dignity of our nature, and to the station allotted us by Providence: it dictates in particular, that temperance, prudence, modefty, and uniformity of conduct, are felf-duties. Thefe duties contribute to private happiness, by preferving health, peace of mind, and self-esteem; which are ineftimable bleffings: they contribute no lefs to happiness in fociety, by gaining the love and esteem of others, and aid and fupport in time of need.
Upon reviewing the foregoing duties respecting others, we find them more or VOL. IV.