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less extensive; but none fo extensive as to have for their end the good of mankind in general. The most extensive duty is that of restraint, prohibiting us to harm others : but even that duty has a limited end; for its purpose is only to protect others from mischief, not to do them any positive good. The active duties of doing positive good are circumscribed within still narrower bounds, requiring some relation that connects us with others; such as those of parent, child, friend, benefactor. The Nighter relations, unless in peculiar circumstances, are not the foundation of
any active duty: neighbourhood, for example, does not alone make benevolence a duty : but fupposing a neighbour to be in distress, relief becomes our duty, if it can be done without distress to ourselves. The duty of relieving from distress, feldom goes farther ; for tho' we always fympathise with our relations, and with those under our eye, the distresses of the remote and unknown affect us very little. Pactions and agreements become necessary, if we would extend the duty of benevolence beyond the limits mentioned. Men, it is true, are capable of doing more good
than is required of them as a duty ; but every such good must be a free-will offering.
And this leads to arbitrary or discretionary actions, such as may be done or left undone ; which make the second general head of moral actions.
With refpect to these, the moral sense leaves us at freedom : a benevolent act is approved, but the omission is not condemned. This holds strictly in single acts; but in viewing the whole of a man's conduct, the moral sense appears to vary a little. As the nature of man is complex, partly focial, partly selfish, we have an intuitive perception, that our conduct ought to be conformable to our nature ; and that in advancing our own interest, we ought not altogether to neglect that of others. The man accordingly who confines his whole time and thoughts within his own little sphere, is condemned by all the world as guilty of wrong conduct; and the man himself, if his moral perceptions be not blunted by felfishness, must be sensible that he deserves to be condemned. On the other hand, it is possible that free benevolence
be extended beyond proper F 2
bounds: where it prevails, it commonly leads to excess, by prompting a man to facrifice a great interest of his own to a small interest of others; and the moral fense dictates, that such conduct is wrong. The just temperament, is a subordination of benevolence to self-love.
Thus, moral actions are divided into two claffes: the first regards our duty, containing actions that ought to be done, and actions that ought not to be done; the other regards arbitrary or discretionary actions, containing actions that are right when done, but not wrong when left undone. Society is indeed promoted by the latter ; but it can scarce fubfift, unless the former be made our duty. Hence it is, that actions only of the first class are made indispensable; those of the other class being left to our free-will. And hence also it is, that the various propensities that difpose us to actions of the first class, are diftinguished by the name of primary virtucs ; leaving the name of secondary virtues to those propensities which dispose us to actions of the other class *.
* Virtue signifies that disposition of mind which •
The deduction above given makes it evident, that the general tendency of right actions is to promote the good of fociety, and of wrong actions, to obstruct that good. Univerfal benevolence is indeed not required of man; because to put it in practice, is beyond his utmost abilities. But for promoting the general good, every thing is required of him that he can accomplish; which will
appear from reviewing the foregoing duties. The prohibition of harming others is an easy task ; and upon
that account is made universal. Our active duties are very different: man is circumscribed both in capacity and power : he cannot do good but in a low succellion; and therefore it is wisely ordered, that his obligation to do good should be confined to his relations, his friends, his benefactors. Even distress makes not benevolence a general duty : all a man can readily do, is to relieve those at hand; and accordingly we hear of diftant misfortunes with little or no con
gives the a'cendant to moral principles. Vice fignifies that disposition of mind which gives little or no ascendant to moral principles.
But let not the moral system be misapprehended, as if it were our duty, or even lawful, to prosecute what upon
the whole we reckon the most beneficial to fociety, balancing ill with good. The moral sense permits not a violation of any person's right, however trivial, whatever benefit may thereby accrue to another. A man for example in low circumstances, by denying a debt he owes to a rich miser, saves himself and a hopeful family from ruin. In that case, the good effect far outweighs the ill, or rather has no counterbalance: but the moral sense permits not the debtor to balance ill with good ; nor gives countenance to an unjust act, whatever benefit it may produce. And hence a maxim in which all moralists agree, That we must not do ill to bring about good; the final cause of which shall be given below (a).
(a) Sect. 7.