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Principles of Duty and of Benevolence,
HAving thus shortly delineated the mo
ral laws of our nature, we proceed to an article of great importance, which is, to enquire into the means provided by our Maker for compelling obedience to these laws. The moral sense is an unerring guide ; but the most expert guide will not profit those who are not disposed to be led. This consideration makes it evident, that to complete the moral system, man ought to be endued with some principle or propensity, some impulsive power, to enforce obedience to the laws dictated by the moral sense.
The author of our nature leaves none of his works imperfect. In order to render us obsequious to the moral sense as our guide, he hath implanted in our nature the principles of duty, of benevolence, of rewards and punishments, and of reparation. It may possibly be thought, that rewards and punishments, of which afterward, are fufficient of themfelves to enforce the laws of nature, without neceffity of any other principle. Human laws, it is true, are enforc'd by thefe means; because no higher fanction is under command of a terrestrial legislator. But the celestial legislator, with power
that knows no control, and benevolence that knows no bounds, hath enforc'd his laws by means no lefs remarkable for mildness than for efficacy: he employs no external compulsion ; but, in order to engage our will on the right fide, hath in the breast of individuals established the principles of duty and of benevolence, which efficaciously excite them to obey the dictates of the moral fenfe.
The restraining and active duties being both of them essential to fociety, our Maker has wisely ordered, that the principle which enforces these duties, should be the most cogent of all that belong to our na
Other principles may folicit, allure, or terrify; but the principle of duty affunes authority, commands, and insists
to be obey'd, without giving ear to any opposing motive.
As one great purpose of society, is to furnish opportunities of mutual aid and support; nature feconding that purpose, hath provided the principle of benevolence, which excites us to be kindly, beneficent, and generous. Nor ought it to escape observation, that the author of nature, attentive to our wants and to our well-being, hath endued us with a liberal portion of that principle. It excites us to be kind, not only to those we are connected with, but to our neighbours, and even to those we are barely acquainted with. Providence is peculiarly attentive to objects in distress, who require immediate aid and relief. To the principle of benevolence, it hath superadded the passion of pity, which in every feeling heart is irrefistible. To make benevolence more extensive, would be fruitless, because here are objects in plenty to fill the most capacious mind. It would not be fruitless only, but hurtful to fociety : I say hurtful ; because frequent disappointments in attempting to gratify our benevolence, would render it a troublesome guest, ancı VOL. IV.
make us cling rather to selfishness, which we can always gratify. At the same time, tho' there is not room for a more extensive list of particular objects, yet the faculty we have of uniting numberless individuals into one complex object, enlarges greatly the sphere of benevolence. By that faculty our country, our government, our religion, become objects of public spirit, and of a lively affection. The individuals that compose the group, considered apart, may be too minute, or too diftant, for our benevolence : but when united into one whole, accumulation makes them
great, greatness makes them conspicuous; and affection, preserved entire and undivided, is bestow'd upon an abstract object, as upon one that is fingle and visible; but with energy proportioned to its greater dignity and importance. Thus the principle of benevolence is not too fparingly scattered among inen.
It is indeed made subordinate to felf-interest, which is wisely ordered, as will afterward be made evident (a): but its power and extent are nicely proportioned to the limited capacity of man, and to his situation in this world; (a) Seet. 7.
so as better to fulfil its destination, than if it were an overmatch for felf-interest, and for every other principle.
S E C T.
Laws respecting Rewards and Punishment se
REflecting on the moral branch of our
nature qualifying us for society in a manner suited to our capacity, we cannot overlook the hand of our Maker; for means fo finely adjusted to an important end, never happen by chance. It must however be acknowledged, that in many individuals, the principle of duty has not vigour nor authority fufficient to stem every tide of unruly passion : by the vigilance of some passions, we are taken unguarded ; deluded by the fly insinuations of others; or overwhelmed with the stormy impetuosity of a third fort. Moral evil is thus introduced, and much wrong is done. This new scene suggests to us, that there must be some article still wantG 2