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When I say, true virtue consists in love to being in gener. al, I shall not be likely to be understood, that no one act of the mind or exercise of love is of the nature of true virtue, but what has Being in general, or the great system of universal existence, for its direct and immediate object : So that no exercise of love or kind affection to any one particular Being, that is but a small part of this whole, has any thing of the nature of true virtue. But, that the nature of true virtue consists in a disposition to benevolence towards Being in general. Though, from such a disposition may arise exercises of love to particular Beings, as objects are presented and occasions arise. No wonder, that he who is of a generally benevolent disposition, should be more disposed than another to have his heart moved with benevolent affection to particular persons, whom he is acquainted and conversant with, and from whom arise the greatest and most frequent occasions for exciting his benevolent temper. But my meaning is, that no affections towards particular persons, or Beings, are of the nature of true virtue, but such as arise from a generally benevolent temper, or from that habit or frame of mind, wherein consists a disposition to love Being in general.
And perhaps it is needless for me to give notice to my reade ers, that when I speak of an intelligent Being's having a heart united and benevolently disposed to Being in general, I there. by mean intelligent Being in general. Not inanimate things, or Beings that have no perception or will, which are not properly capable objects of benevolence.
Love is commonly distinguished into love of benevolence and love of complacence. Love of benevolence is that affection or propensity of the heart to any Being, which causes it to incline to its well being, or disposes it to desire and take pleasure in its happiness. And if I mistake not, it is agreeable to the common opinion, that beauty in the object is not always the ground of this propensity : But that there may be such a thing as benevolence, or a disposition to the welfare of those that are not considered as beautiful ; unless mere existence be accounted a beauty. And benevolence or goodness in the. divine Being is generally supposed, not only to be prior to the
beauty of many of its objects, but to their existence : So as to be the ground both of their existence and their beauty, rather than they the foundation of God's benevolence ; as it is supposed that it is God's goodness which moved him to give them both Being and beauty. So that if all virtue primarily consists in that affection of heart to Being, which is exercised in benevolence, or an inclination to its good, then God's virtue is so extended as to include a propensity, not only to Being actually existing, and actually beautiful, but to possible Being, so as to incline him to give Being, beauty and happiness. But not now to insist particularly on this. What I would have observed at present, is, that it must be allowed, benevolence doth not necessarily presuppose beauty in its object.
What is commonly called love of complacence, presupposes beauty. For it is no other than delight in beauty ; or complacence in the person or Being beloved for his beauty.
If virtue be the beauty of an intelligent Being, and virtue consists in love, then it is a plain inconsistence, to suppose that virtue primarily consists in any love to its object for its beauty'; either in a love of complacence, which is delight in a Being for his beauty, or in a love of benevolence, that has the beauty of its object for its foundation. For that would be to suppose, that the beauty of intelligent Beings primarily consists in love to beauty; or, that their virtue first of all consists in their love to virtue. Which is an inconsistence, and going in a circle. Because it makes virtue, or beauty of mind, the foundation or first motive of that love wherein virtue originally consists, or wherein the very first virtue consists ; or,
supe poses the first virtue to be the consequence and effect of virtue. So that virtue is originally the foundation and exciting cause of the very beginning or first Being of virtue. Which makes the first virtue, both the ground, and the consequence, both cause and effect of itself.* Doubtless virtue primarily
* Mr. E's idea here appears to be that virtue must exist prior to the existence of any virtuous object on which it can complaisantly terminate. This is undoubtedly true with respect to the duty. But this does not appear inconsistent with the supposition that the first act of virtue in a creature may be delight in virtue as it is in God, Ed.
consists in something else besides any effect or consequence of virtue. If virtue consists primarily in love to virtue, then virtue, the thing loved, is the love of virtue : So that virtue must consist in the love of the love of virtue. And if it be inquired, what that virtue is, which virtue consists in the love of the love of, it must be answered, it is the love of virtue. So that there must be the love of the love of the love of virtue, and so on in infinitum. For there is no end of going back in a circle. We never come to any beginning, or foundation. For it is without beginning and hangs on nothing.
Therefore if the essence of virtue or beauty of mind lies in love, or a disposition to love, it must primarily consist in something different both from complacence, which is a delight in beauty, and also from any benevolence that has the beauty of its object for its foundation. Because it is absurd, to say that virtue is primarily and first of all the consequence of itself. For this makes virtue primarily prior to itself.
Nor can virtue primarily consist in gratitude ; or one Being's benevolence to another for his benevolence to him. Because this implies the same inconsistence. For it supposes a benevolence prior to gratitude, that is the cause of grati. tude. Therefore the first benevolence, or that benevolence which has none prior to it, cannot be gratitude.
Therefore there is room left for no other conclusion than that the primary object of virtuous love is Being, simply. considered ; or, that true virtue primarily consists, not in love to any particular Beings, because of their virtue or beauty, nor in gratitude, because they love us ; but in a propensity and union of heart to Being simply considered ; exciting absolute benevolence (if I may so call it) to Being in general....I say, true virtue primarily consists in this. For I am far from asserting that there is no true virtue in any other love than this absolute benevolence. But I would express what appears to me to be the truth on this subject, in the following particulars.
The first object of a virtuous benevolence is Being, simply considered : And if Being, simhly considered, be its object, then Being in general is its object; and the thing it has an
ultimate propensity to, is the highest good of Being in general. And it will seek the good of every individual Being unless it be conceived as not consistent with the highest good of Being în
general. In which case the good of a particular Being, or some Beings, may be given up for the sake of the highest good of Being in general. And particularly if there be any Being that is looked upon as statedly and irreclaimably oppon site and an enemy to Being in general, then consent and adher. ence to Being in general will induce the truly virtuous heart to forsake that Being, and to oppose it.
And further, if Being, simply considered, be the first object of a truly virtuous benevolence, then that Being who has most of Being, or has the greatest share of existence, other things being equal, so far as such a being is exhibited to our faculties or set in our view, will have the greatest share of the propensity and benevolent affection of the heart. I say, other things being equal, especially because there is a secondary object of virtuous benevolence, that I shall take notice of presently. Which is one thing that must be considered as the ground or motive to a purely virtuous benevolence. Pure benevolence in its first exercise is nothing else but Being's uniting consent, or propensity to Being; appearing true and pure by its extending to Being in general, and inclining to the general highest good, and to each Being, whose welfare is consistent with the highest general good, in proportion to the degree of existence* understood, other things being equal.
The second object of a virtuous propensity of heart is beneye olent Being A secondary ground of pure benevolence is vir tuous benevolence itself in its object. When any one under the influence of general benevolence, sees another Being pos
* I say in proportion to the degree of existence, because one Being may have more existence than another, as he may be greater than another. That which is great, has more existence, and is further from nothing, than that. which is little. One Being may have every thing positive belonging to it, or every thing which goes to it's positive existence (in opposition to defect) in an higher degree than another; or a greater capacity and power, greater understanding, every faculty and every positive quality in an higher degree. An Archa angel must be supposed to have more existence, and to be every way further removed from noxentity, tlran a worm, or a flea. Vol. U.
sessed of the like general benevolence, this attaches his heart to him, and draws forth greater love to him, than merely his having existence : Because so far as the Being beloved has love to Being in general, so far his own Being is, as it were, enlarged, extends to, and in some sort comprehends, Being in general: And therefore he that is governed by love to Being in general, must of necessity have complacence in him, and the greater degree of benevolence to him, as it were out of gratitude to him for his love to general existence, that his own heart is extended and united to, and so looks on its interest as its own. It is because his heart is thus united to Being in general, that he looks on a benevolent propensity to Being in general, wherever he sees it, as the beauty of the Being in whom it is; an excellency, that renders him worthy of esteem, complacence, and the greater good will.
But several things may be noted more particularly concern. ing this secondary ground of a truly virtuous love.
1. That loving a Being on this ground necessarily arises from pure benevolence to Being in general, and comes to the same thing. For he that has a simple and pure good will to general entity or existence, must love that temper in others, that agrees and conspires with itself. A spirit of consent to Being must agree with consent to Being. That which truly and sincerely seeks the good of others, must approve of, and love, that which joins with him in seeking the good of others.
2. This which has been now mentioned as a secondary ground' of virtuous love, is the thing wherein true moral or spiritual c'eauty primarily consists. Yea, spiritual beauty consísts wholly in this, and the various qualities and exercises of mind which proceed from it, and the external actions which proceed from these internal qualities and exercises. And in these things consists all true virtue, viz. in this love of Being, and the qualities and acts which arise from it.
3. As all spiritual beauty lies in these virtuous principles and acts, so it is primarily on this dccount they are beautiful, viz. that they imply consent and union with Being in general. This is the primary and most essential Beauty of every thing that can justly be called by the name of virtue, or is
any moral excellency in the eye of one tha: has a perfect view of things.