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returns upon us : What proof have we of the existence of such innate ideas or instinctive impulse? of the intrinsic beauty of virtue ? that it is useful to us, productive of our happiness, or that it is the will of God it should be cultivated ? or rather, what proof have we that the original position is true, and that there is a something in human nature in general, which induces us to prefer virtue to vice?
The original position is true, but the reasons urged in support of it are neither equally true nor equally adequate, even where they are true.
It is not true that we have either innate ideas or moral instincts that impel us to a love of virtue; for in such cases the most savage tribes among man. kind would be the most virtuous; their præcognita, or innate ideas, being but little disturbed by foreign ideas, acquired by education or extensive commerce with the world; and their moral instincts as little disturbed by foreign habits acquired from the same causes.
There has often arisen in the mind an unaccountable whim, of supposing that a savage life, or state of nature, is the best and purest mode of human existence; and novelists, poets, and sometimes even philosophers have equally ranted upon the paucity of its wants, the simplicity of its pursuits, the solidity of its pleasures, and the strength and constancy of its attachments. It is here, we have been told, that the human soul developes its proper energies, and displays itself in all its native benevolence and dignity: here all things belong equally to every one; the only law is the will of the individual, the only feeling a sublime, unselfish philanthropy. This whim became epidemic in France about the beginning of the French Revolution, and was, in fact, the monster inania that led to it. And the contagion, not long afterward, began to show itself among many individuals of our own country, who, in the height of their phrensy, laboured earnestly to promote the same kind of trials among ourselves that our neighbours were actually exhibiting. The history is fresh in the mind of every one, and it is not necessary to pursue it. It is sufficient to observe, that it led, in a short time, to consequences so mischievous, as to work their own cure; and to afford another living proof of the fact I endeavoured pointedly to establish in a late lecture, that barbarism, vice, and misery are, by an immutable law of nature, the inseparable associates of each other.* Throw your eyes to whatever part of the globe or to whatever history of mankind you please, and you will find it so without an exception. Other animals have instincts that control their appetites, and lead them insensibly to the perfection of their respective kinds; that inculcate constancy where constancy is necessary, and compel them to provide for and take the charge of their young. Man has no such instincts, whatever; he has reason, indeed, a more ennobling and efficient faculty, but it must be called forth, for it is a dormant priciple in savage life. And hence, destitute of the one, and uninfluenced by the other, he is the perpetual slave of his ungoverned and ungovernable passions, and is the only animal in the world that has been known to kill or abandon its own offspring in a state of destitute and helpless infancy; and to murder its own kind for the purpose of feasting upon it: a fact too well esiablished to be doubted of; and which, instead of being confined to a single climate or a single people, has apparently been common to all countries, when under the influence of gross barbarism ; which still exists among various tribes in Africa, South America, and Australia, and particularly among the islands of the South Sea, and which, according to the concurrent testimony of the best Greek and Roman writers, as Herodotus, Pliny, Strabo, and Pomponius Mela, was formerly to be traced among the Scythians, Tartars, and Massagetæ of Asia, and the Lestrigons of Europe. Strabo, indeed, ascribes the same practice even to the Irish in his day, andCælius Rhodriginus to their neighbours of Scotland; while Thevenot asserts that, when he was in India in 1665, human flesh was publicly sold in the market at Debca, about forty leagues from Baroche.
Consentaneous to this view of the subject are the following remarks of
* Series 11. Lecture xiii.
one of the most inte.ligent circumnavigators of the present day, M. Von Langsdorfi, which he gives as the result of a personal and comprehensive survey of different climates and countries :-" There is no creature upon the earth, in any climate or zone, that bears such an enmity to its own species as man. Let us only," says he, “ cast our eyes over the history of the globe, in the most barren wastes, and in the most fertile countries, in the smallest islands, or on the most extensive continents, among the most savage as well as the most cultivated nations, in short, in every part of the world, wherever man exists, and we shall find him seeking to destroy his own species : he is every where, by nature, harsh and cruel. The observations we made upon these newly-discovered islands (the Polynesian), which never, to the best of our knowledge, had any intercourse with civilized nations, and whose inhabitants may be considered as children of nature, and as still in their original condition, afford remarkable examples in confirmation of these assertions.
“ The sweet and tender feelings of affection and love, of friendship and attachment, even that of parents towards their children, and of children towards their parents, I have, alas! very seldom found among a rude and uncivilized people. The African hordes not only bring their prisoners taken in battle, but their own children, to market. The same thing is done by the Kirgis, the Kalmucs, and many other inhabitants of the north-western coast of America; and here at Nakatiwa (one of the islands of the South Sea) a woman would very readily have given a child at her breast, which had been asked by us in jest, in exchange for a piece of iron."* And he might have added, that it was the exposure of British, or rather, perhaps, of Saxon, children for slaves in the public market at Rome, as late as the close of the sixth century, expressly sold for this purpose, by their own parents, at their own homes, that first induced that excellent prelate, Pope Gregory I., to plan a mission for the conversion of our barbarous forefathers to Christianity, from the horror he felt at their conduct, and the pity with which he beheld the little outcasts.
In the view of history, therefore, as well as in the language of Scripture, man, in a state of nature, is prone to evil, and his heart is desperately wicked: or as it is given most exquisitely in the poetical language of the Psalmist,
“Behold the dark places of the earth
Are full of the habitations of cruelly !"|
The sentiment, then, that exists in human nature in favour of virtue, or a virtuous conduct, though general, is not universal, and, consequently, cannot proceed from any original instincts or innate ideas. What, then, are the other causes to which it has been ascribed by moralists? The intrinsic loveliness of virtue itself. Because its attributes are generally useful and agreeable. Because it conducts to human happiness. Because it is the will of God.
Now all these answers, however diversified, may be resolved into two general ideas-human happiness, and the will of God: for we can only regard that as lovely, or an object of love, which contributes to our happiness : and we can only regard that as useful or agreeable which conduces to the same end.
The subject, therefore, becomes considerably narrowed, and the only substantial replies that appear capable of being given to the question, What is the source of this general sentiment among mankind in favour of virtue ? are, Because it is the path to happiness; or, Because it is the will of God.
But may not the subject be still farther narrowed, and both these replies be resolved into one identical proposition ? may not human happiness and the will of God be the same thing? If so, we shall then only have to inquire farther, whether virtue be the real path to human happiness? for if it be, then, necessarily, he who pursues that path obeys the will of God.
• Von Langsdorff's Voyages and Travels, ch vii. p. 139.
Psalm xxiv. 20.
Both questions are important: the first, however, may be settled in a few words. To discover the will of an intelligent agent, nothing more is necessary than to examine the general drist or tendency of his contrivance, so far as we are able to make it out. Taking it, then, for granted, that the world is the work of an intelligent agent, does it exhibit proof of having been devised for the general accommodation and happiness of man ?-for his general misery, -or for neither? It cannot have been devised for neither, because that would be to relinquish the very foundation of our present position, and to deny that the world exhibits contrivance, or has been formed by an intelligent agent? Is, then, the world, with its general furniture, is the frame of man itself calculated to promote man's happiness or his misery? It is impossible to answer this question more strongly than in the words of Archdeacon Paley :
.“ Čontrivance proves design, and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances; and all the contrivances with which we are acquainted are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil, no doubt, exists: but is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache: their aching now and then is incidental to the contrivance, perhaps inseparable from it; or even, if you will, let it be called a defect in the contrivance; but it is not the object of it. This is a distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of the sickle that it is made to cut the reaper's fingers, though, from the construction of the instrument, and the manner of using it, this mischief often happens. But if you had occasion to describe instruments of torture or execution, this engine, you would say, is to extend the sinews; this to dislocate the joints; this to break the bones; this to scorch the soles of the feet. Here pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now, nothing of this sort is to be found in the works of nature. We never discover a train of contrivance to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, This is to irritate; this to infiame; this duct is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland to secrete the humour which forms the gout. If, by chance, he come at a part of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is that it is useless. No one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or to torment. Since then, God has called forth his consummate wisdom to contrive and provide for our happiness, and the world appears to have been constituted with this design at first, so long as this constitution is upholden by him, we must, in reason, suppose the same design to continue."*
A thousand other examples might be added, but it is unnecessary. The conclusion is clear, and it is most important: we obtain from the light of nature, or the exercise of our own reason, irresistible proofs of the divine benevolence, irresistible proofs that God has made man to make him happy: or, in other words, that human happiness is the will of God.
We are now, then, prepared to enter upon our last question: Is a course of virtue the path to happiness, for if it be, it must necessarily be the will of God to walk in it? Or, having proved the terms to be co-ordinate, we may propose the question conversely, Is a course of virtue the will of God? For if it be, it must necessarily conduct to human happiness. Under either view of the question, the general proposition will be as follows: God has willed human happiness, and he has willed it to be obtained by a course of virtue. God, then, is the Author, happiness the end, and virtue the means.
Let us take the question before us in its first view, Is human virtue the means of human happiness?
Had we time it might perhaps be expedient to enter into a definition of the terms : but we have not time, and I must refer, therefore, to the general understanding of mankind upon this subject: which I may do the more safely,
Mor. and Pol. Phil. vol. i. ch. v.
because, though the terms virtue and happiness are strikingly comprehensive, there is no great difference of opinion either among the learned or the unlearned concerning their general outlines or more prominent characteristics.
The question, then, ought to be argued in relation to the happiness both of the individual and of the community; or, in other words, to the happiness of man in his private and his social capacity.
Is the practice of virtue most contributory to a man's individual hap piness? The libertine says No; and he seeks for it in his mistress, whom he changes as often as he changes his dress. The glutton says No; unless a good city-feast be virtue; for the soul of happiness with him consists in a haunch of venison and a brisk circulation of the bottle. The spendthrift says No: you may as well seek for happiness in a haystack: happiness, my dear sir, you may depend upon it, consists in nothing else than a good stud, and a pack of hounds. The gamester, in like manner, says No; and he directs us to a pack of cards and a pair of dice. Even the miser joins in the general negative, and would fain persuade us that it resides in the meagre and miserable ghost that constitutes his own person, or the meagre and miserable pursuits to which his person is daily prostituted.
Now all these have, no doubt, their respective enjoyments; but do they constitute happiness in any fair sense of the term ? are they permanent ? I do not say through life, but for four-and-twenty hours together. Many of them, on the contrary, are of that violent kind that they wear themselves out in an hour or two; and what is the state of the system before it recovers sufficient energy for a renewal ? To say that it is as empty as an air-pump would be to give a better character of it than it deserves. It is not empty; it is still full; full of bitterness or insupportable languor, sickness at heart or sickness at the stomach. Even the miser, who, properly speaking, provides for a longer range of enjoyment than any of the rest of this precious group, is a victim while he is a worshipper, a sacrifice to anxiety while an idolater of Mammon.
We are at present, however, merely following them up through a single day; but life is a series of days: in its ordinary estimate, of threescore years and ten. And he who is a candidate for happiness must prepare himself, not for a single day, but for the entire term: he must save his strength, and proceed cautiously, for there is no race in which he may so soon run himself out of breath. His motto may perhaps be,“ A short life and a merry one;" and this, in truth, is the motto, and not the motto only, but the brief history, of most of those whom we have thus far considered. For consumption, dropsy, gout, or chagrin and suicide, make not unfrequently a woful havoc in their ranks be. fore they have cleared two-thirds of the pleasurable career they had proposed to themselves. Let them, then, have their motto if they will; but let them not boast that they have found out the specific for making life happy; for all that they have found out is a specific for throwing both life and happiness away at the same time. They have had a few fitful bursts of enjoyment; but the price has been enormous,-a costly birthright for a mess of pottage. He only can fairly boast of happiness, place it in whatever way you please, who, on casting up the account, can honestly say that it has accompanied him through the long run.
There is another and a very different set of people, both in the higher and lower ranks of life, who also occasionally strive to persuade themselves that they are happy, and who are sometimes actually thought so by those around them: and these are the listless and idle, who loll and saunter life away as though it were a dream; and who, in truth, are more alive in their dreams than in their waking hours. Now, happiness consists in activity: such is the constitution of our nature: it is a running stream, and not a stagnant pool. It shows itself under this for from the first moment it shows itself at all. Behold the happiness of the infant or of the schoolboy: he is full of frolic; he cannot contain the current of self-delight: in the bold significancy of vulgar language, it runs out at his fingers' ends. Upon the whole, the listless and idle have less pretensions to happiness than the characters we have just surveyed, the libertine, the gamester, and the spendthrift: for should you distil
the aggregate of insignificant incidents that compose the whole tenor of the feeble life of the former, not a drop, perhaps, of the essence of happiness would ascend in the alembic. They may be at perfect quiet, if you please, and look fat and in good liking, but this is not happiness; for if so, capons and Cappadocian slaves would have a better title to it than themselves.
Let us now apply these observations to the question before us. No man can be happy without exercising the virtue of a cheerful industry or activity. No man can lay in his claim to happiness, I mean the happiness that shall last through the fair run of life, without chastity, without temperance, with out sobriety, without economy, without sell-command, and, consequently, without fortitude ; and, let me add, without a liberal and forgiving spirit. The whole of this follows as the necessary result of our argument. The exercise of these virtues may perhaps cost a man something at the time, but the full scope and aggregate of his happiness depend upon the exercise. It is a tax upon the sum-total, that must be regularly paid to secure the rest. And it ought never to be forgotten, that we are so much the creatures of habit that the more we are accustomed to the exercise, like an old garment, the easier it will sit upon us.
But these are private virtues, and only a few of them. Man has also, if he would be happy, to practise a still longer list of public virtues; and he cannot be happy without practising them. Or, in other words (for I am now to consider him in a social capacity), the happiness of the community to which he belongs, and of which his own forms a constituent part, could not continue without his practising them.
He may steal, indeed, from his neighbour, and hereby increase his means of gratifying some predominant passion; but then his neighbour may also steal from him in return, and to a greater extent: and his happiness, theresore (ever regarding it in the aggregate), is connected with his exercising the virtues of justice and honesty. He may break his promise, or lie to his neighbour, upon a point in which his own interest appears to be concerned ; but then his neighbour may also return him the compliment, and in a way in which his interest may be still more deeply concerned; and his interest, therefore, or, which is the same thing, his happiness, obliges him to practise the virtue of veracity.
In Woodfall's edition of the Letters of Junius, there is a passage upon the subject before us, contained in one of his private letters, which has peculiarly struck me, considering the quarter it has proceeded from, and the manner of its communication. Whoever was the writer of these celebrated Letters, it will he readily admitted, that he had a most extensive acquaintance with men of all ranks and characters, particularly with the vicious and profligate; and that he had a most extraordinary facility of penetrating into the human heart. In the private letter I refer to, he unbosoms himself to his printer, for whom he appears to have had a great esteem, and, amid the regulations he gives him for his future conduct, makes the following forcible remark: “ With a sound heart, be assured you are better gifted, even for worldly happiness, than if you had been cursed with the abilities of a Mansfield. After long experience of the world, I affirm, before God, I never knew a rogue who was not unhappy."*
It is not necessary to pursue the catalogue. Man is by nature a social being: every one is purposely made dependent upon every other; and, consequently, the happiness or well-being of the whole and of every one, who constitutes an integral part of the whole, must be the same happiness. Yet as the happiness or well-being of the individual demands in his private capacity, as we have already seen it does, a system of private abstinences or restraints, the happiness or well-being of society demands a more extensive system of public duties of the same kind. We must consent to relinquish a part of our liberty, a part of our property, a part of allour personal propensities and appetites, or the well-being of the society to which we belong, and, con
*Letter No. xliii