Imatges de pÓgina

Another reason why these inferior affections especially some of them, are accounted virtuous, is, that there are affections of the same denomination, which are truly virtuous Thus, for instance, there is a truly virtuous piiy, or a compase sion to others under affliction or misery from general benevolence. Pure benevolence would be sufficient to excite pity to another in calamity, if there were no particular instinct, or any other principle determining the mind thereto. It is easy to see how benevolence, which seeks another's goor! should cause us to desire his deliverance from evil. And this is a source of pity far more extensive than the other. It excites compassion in cases that are overlooked by natural instinct And even in those cases to which instinct extends, it mixes its influence with the natural principle, and guides, and regulates its operations. And when this is the case, the pity, which is ex ercised may be called a virtuous compassion. So there is a virtuous gratitude, or a gratitude that arises not only from self love, but from a superior principle of disinterested general benevolence. As it is manifest, that when we receive kindness from such as we love already, we are more disposed to gratitude, and disposed to greater degrees of it than when the mind is destitute of any such friendly prepossession. Therefore, when the superior principle of virtuous love has a governing hand, and regulates the affair, it may be called a virtuous gratitude. So there is a virtuous love of justice, arising from pure

benevolence to Being in general, as that naturally and necessarily inclines the heart, that every particular Being should have such a share of benevolence as is proportioned to its dignity, consisting in the degree of its Being, and the degree of its virtue. Which is entirely diverse from an apprehension of justicey from a sense of the beauty of uniformity in variety : As has been particularly shewn already. And so it is easy to see how there may

be a virtuous sense of desert different from what is natural and common. And so a virtuous conscienciousness or a sanctified conscience. And as when natural affections have their operations mixed with the influence of virtuous benevolence, and are directed and determined hereby, they may be called virtuous, so there may be a virtuous love of parents to chil



dren, and between other near relatives, a virtuous love of our town, or country, or nation. Yea, and a virtuous love between the sexes, as there may be the influence of virtue mingled with instinct, and virtue may govern with regard to the particular manner of its operation, and may guide it to such ends as are agreeable to the great ends and purposes of true virtue.

Genuine virtue prevents that increase of the habits of pride and sensuality, which tend to overbear and greatly diminish the exercises of the forementioned useful and necessary principles of nature. And a principle of general benevolence softens and sweetens the mind, and makes it more susceptible of the proper influence and exercise of the gentler natural instincts, and directs every one into its proper channel, and determines the exercise to the proper manner and measure, and guides all to the best purposes.


In what respects Virtue or moral good is founded in

Sentiment ; and how far it is founded in the Reason and Nature of things.

THAT which is called virtue, is a certain kind of beautiful nature, form or quality that is observed in things. That form or quality is called beautiful to any one beholding it to whom it is beautiful, which appears in itself agreeable or comely to him, or the view or idea of which is immediately pleasant to the mind. I say agreeable in itself, and immediately pleasant, to distinguish it from things which in themselves are not agreeable nor pleasant, but either indifferent or disagreeable, which yet appear eligible and agreeable indirectly for something else that is the consequence of them, or with which they are connected. Such a kind of indirect agreeableness or eligibleness in things, not for themselves, but for some thing else, is not what is called beauty. But

[ocr errors]

when a form or quality appears lovely, pleasing and delightful in itself, then it is called beautiful ; and this agreeableness or gatefulness of the idea is what is called beauty. It is evident therefore by this, that the way we come by the idea or sensation of beauty, is by immediate sensation of the gratefulness of the idea called beautiful ; and not by finding out by argumentation any consequences, or other things that it stands connected with ; any more than tasting the sweetness of honey, or perceiving the harmony of a tune,is by argumentation on connexions and consequences. And this manner of being affected with the immediate presence of the beautiful idea depends not, therefore, or any reasonings about the idea, after we have it, before we can find out whether it be beautiful or not ; but on the frame of our minds, whereby they are so made that such an idea, as soon as we have it, is grateful, or appears beautiful.

Therefore, if this be all that is meant by them who affirm virtue is founded in sentiment, and not in reason, that they who see the beauty there is in true virtue, do not perceive it by argumentation on its connexions and consequences, but by the frame of their own minds, or a certain spiritual sense given them of God, whereby they immediately perceive pleasure in the presence of the idea of true virtue in their minds, or are directly gratified in the view or contemplation of this object, this is certainly true.

But if thereby is meant, that the frame of mind, or inward sense given them by God, whereby the mind is disposed to delight in the idea or view of true virtue, is given arbitrarily, so that if he had pleased he might have given a contrary sense and determination of mind, which would have agreed as well with the necessary nature of things, this I think is not true.

Virtue, as I have observed, consists in the cordial consent or union of Being to Being in general. And as has also been observed, that frame of mind, whereby it is disposed to relish and be pleased with the view of this, is benevolence or union of heart itself to Being in general, or a universally benevolent frame of mind : Because he whose temper is to love Being in general, therein must have a disposition to apVOL. II.

3 L

prove and be pleased with the love to Being in general..... Therefore now the question is, whether God, in giving this temper to a created mind, whereby it unites to or loves Being in general, acts so arbitrarily, that there is nothing in the necessary nature of things to hinder but that a contrary temper might have agreed or consisted as well with that nature of things as this?

And in the first place I observe, that to assert this, would be a plain absurdity, and contrary to the very supposition..... For here it is supposed, that virtue in its very essence consists in agreement or consent of Being to Being. Now certainly agreement itself to Being in general must necessarily agree better with general existence, than opposition and contrariety to it.

I observe, secondly, that God in giving to the creature such a temper of mind, gives that which is agreeable to what is by absolute necessity his own temper and nature. For, as has been often observed, God himself is in effect Being in gener al; and without all doubt it is in itself full necessary and impossible it should be otherwise, thạt God should agree with himself, be united with himself or love himself: And therefore, when he gives the same temper to his creatures, this is more agreeable to his necessary nature, than the opposite temper : Yea, the latter would be infinitely contrary to his nature.

Let it be noted, thirdly, by this temper only can created Beings be united to, and agree with one another. This appears, because it consists in consent and union to Being in general ; which implies agreement and union with every particular Being, except such as are opposite to Being in general, or excepting such cases wherein union with them is by some means inconsistent with union with general existence. But certainly if any particular created Being were of a temper to oppose Being in general, that would infer the most universal and greatest possible discord, not only of creatures with their Creator, but of created Beings one with another.

Fourthly, I observe, there is no other temper but this, that a man can have, and agree with himself or be without self inconsistence, i. e. without having some inclinations and rel

ishes repugnant to others. And that for these reasons. Every Being that has understanding and will, necessarily loves happiness. For to suppose any Being not to love happiness, would be to suppose he did not love what was agreeable to him ; which is a contradiction : Or at least would imply, that nothing was agreeable or eligible to him, which is the same as to say, that he has no such thing as choịce, or any faculty of will. So that every being who has a faculty of will must of necessity have an inclination to happiness. And therefore, if he be consistent with himself, and has not some inclinations repugnant to others, he must approve of those inclinations whereby Beings desire the happiness of Being in general, and must be against a disposition to the misery of Be. ing in general : Because otherwise he would approve of oppo- . sition to his own happiness. For, if a temper inclined to the misery of Being in general prevailed universally, it is apparent, it would tend to universal misery. But he that loves a tendency to universal misery, in effect loves a tendency to his own misery ; and as he necessarily hates his own misery, be has then one inclination repugnant to another. And besides it necessarily follows from self love, that men love to be loved by others; because in this others love agrees with their own love. But if men loved hatred to Being in general, they would in effect love the hatred of themselves ; and so would be inconsistent with themselves, having one natural inclination contrary to another.

These things may help as to understand why that spiritual and divine sense, by which those that are truly virtuous and holy, perceive the excellency of true virtue, is in the sacred scriptures called by the name of light, knowledge, understanding, &c. If this divine şense were a thing arbitrarily given, without any foundation in the nature of things, it would not properly be called by such names. For, if there were ng correspondence or agreement in such a sense with the nature of things any more than there would have been in a diverse or contrary sense, the idea we obtain by this spiritual sense could in no respect be said to be a knowledge or perception of any thing besides what was in our own minds. For this idea

« AnteriorContinua »