Imagens das páginas

with these our moralspeculations. Practice too often creeps, where theory can foar. The philofopher proves as weak, as those whom he most contemns. A mortifying thought to such as well attend it. Too mortifying, replied I, to be long dwelt on. Give us rather 'your general idea of the sovereign good. This is easy from your own account, however intricate the detail.

Thus then, said he, since you are so urgent, it is thus that I conceive it. The Sovereign Good is that, the poffeffion of which renders us happy. And how, said 1, do we poffess it? Is it sensual, or intellectual ? There you are entering, said he, upon the detail. This is beyond your question. Not a small advance, said I, to indulge your curiosity ? Will you raise me a thirst, and be so cruel not to allay it ? It is not, replied he, of my raising, but your own. Besides I am not certain, should I attempt to proceed, whether you will admit such authorities as it is possible I may vouch. That, said I, must be determined by their weight and character. Suppose, said he, it should be mankind; the whole human race. Would you not think it something strange, to seek of those concerning Good, who pursue it a thousand ways, and many of them contradictory? I confefs, said I, it seems {Q. And yet, continued he, were there a point, in which such diffentients ever agreed, this agreement would be no mean argument in favour of its truth and juftness. But where, replied I, is this argument to be found?

He answered me by asking, what if it should appear, that there were certain original characteristics and pre-conceptions of good, which were natural, uniform and common to all men ? which all recognized in their various pursuits ; and that the difference lay only in the applying them to par

ticulars ?

[ocr errors]


ticulars? This requires, said I, to be illustrated. As if continued he, a company of travellers, in some wide forest, were all intending for one city, but each by a rout peculiar to himself. The roads indeed would be various, and many perhaps false; but all who travelled, would have one end in view. It is evident, said I, they would. So fares it then, added he, with mankind in the pursuit of good. The

indeed are many, but what they seek is one. For instance : Did you ever hear of any, who in pursuit of their good were for living the life of a bird, an infect, or a fith. None. And why not? It would be inconsistent, answered I, with their nature. You see then, said he, they all agree to this ; that what they pursue, ought to be confiftent, and agreeable to their proper nature. So ought it, faid I, undoubtedly. If so, continued he,one pre-conception is discovered, which is common to good in general. It is, that all good is supposed something agreeable to nature. This indeed, replied I, seems to be agreed on all hands.

But again, said he, Is there a man scarcely to be found of a temper so truly mortified, as to acquiesce in the lowest, and shortest neceffaries of life? Who aims not, if he be able, at something farther, something better? I replied, scarcely

Do not multitudes pursue, said he, infinite objects of desire, acknowledged, every one of them, to be in no respect necessaries ? Exquisite viands, delicious wines, splendid apparel, curious gardens ; magnificent apartments adorned with pictures and sculptures ; music and poetry, and the whole tribe of elegant arts ? It is evident, said I. If it be, continued he, it should seem that they all considered the Chief or Sovereign Good, not to be that, which conduces to bare existence or mere being ; for to this the necessaries alone are adequate. I replied, they were. But if not this, it must

K 5



be somewhat conducive to that, which is superior to mere being. It must. And what, continued he, can this be, but well-being, under the various shapes, in which different opinions paint it? Or can you suggest any thing else ? I replied, I could not. Mark here, then, continued he, another pre-conception, in which they all agree ; the Sovereign Good is somewhat conducive, not to mere being, but to wellbeing. I replied, it had so appeared.

AGAIN, continued he. What labour, what expence, to procure those rarities, which our own poor country is unable to afford us! How is the world ransacked to its utmost verges, and luxury and arts imported from every quarter ! Nay more : How do we baffle nature herself; invert her order ; seek the vegetables offpring in the rigours of winter, and winter's ice during the heats of summer! I replied, we did. And what disappointment, what remorse, when endeavours fail ? It is true. If this then be evident, said he, it would seem, that whatever we defire as our Chief and Sove. reign Good, is something which, as far as possible, we would accommodate to all places and times. I answered, so it. appear. See then, said he, another of its characteristics another pre-conceptioris

But farther ftill ; What contests for wealth ! Whao scrambling for property ? What perils in the purfuit ! What folicitude in the maintenance ! And why all this? To what purpose, what end ? Or is not the reason plain? Is it not that wealth may continually procure us whatever we fancy good; and make that perpetual, which would otherwise be transient? I replied, it seemed so. Is it not farther d-fired, as supplying us from ourselves ; when without it, we must be beholden to the benevolence of others, and


Is not

depend on their caprice for all that we enjoy? It is true, faid I, this seems a reason. AGAIN ;



every degree as much contested for as wealth ? Are not magiftracies, honours, principalities, and empire, the subjects of strife and everlasting contention? I replied, they were. And why, said he, this? To obtain what end? Is it not to help us, like wealth, to the poffeffion of what we desire ? Is it not farther to ascertain, to secure our enjoyments ; that when others would deprive us, we may be strong enough to resist them? I replied

it was.

Or, to invert the whole ; Why are there, who feek recesses the most distant and retired; flee courts and power, and submit to parsimony and obscurity? Why all this, but from the same intention? From an opinion that small poffeffions, used moderately, are permanent : that larger posfeffions raise envy, and are more frequently invaded : that the safety of power and dignity is more precarious than that of retreat ; and that therefore they have chosen, what is most eligible upon the whole? It is not, said I, improbable, that. they act by some such motive.

Do you not see then, continued he, two or three more pre-conceptions of the Sovereign Good, which are fought for by all, as essential to constitute it? And what, said I are these? That it should not be tranfient, nor derived from the will of others, nor in their power to take away ; but be durable, felf-derived, and (if I may use the expression) indeprivable. I confefs, said I, it appears fo. But we have already found it to be considered, as fomething agreeable to our nature ; conducive, not to mere being, but to well-beingt: and what we aim to have accommodated to all places and times. We have..



THERE may be other characteristics, said he, but these I think sufficient. See then its idea ; behold it, as collected from the original, natural and universal pre-conceptions of all mankind. The Sovereign Good, they have taught us, ought to be something agreeable to our nature ; conducive to well-being ; accommodated to all places and times; durable, felf-derived, and indeprivable. Youraccount, faid I, appears just.


[blocks in formation]

BRUTUS perished untimely, and Cæfar did no more. Te

These words I was repeating the next day to myself, when my friend appeared, and cheerfully bade me good-morrow. I could not return his compliment with an equal gaietv, being intent, somewhat more than usual, on what had passed the day before. Seeing this he propofed a walk into the fields. The face of nature, said he, will perhaps dispel these glooms.. Noassistance, on mypart, shall be wanting, you may be assured. I accepted his proposal; the walk began ; andour former conversation insensibly renewed.

BRUTUS, said he, perished untimely, and Cæsar did no more.--It wasthus, as i remember, not long since, you were exprefsing yourself. And yet suppose their fortunes to have been exactly parallel-Which would you have preferred ? Would you have been Cæsar, or Brutus ? Brutus, replied I, beyond all controversy. He asked me, Why? Where was the difference, when their fortunes, as we now supposed them, were considered as the same? There seems said I, abstract from their fortunes, fomething, I know not what, intrinsically


« AnteriorContinuar »