« AnteriorContinuar »
deceit, lust, law-breaking-she impels action : and the idea of a complete and us to an opposite set of qualities : universal benerolence is a point in the mildness, kindness, liberality, fairness, direction of the Ideal Centre, or a part truthfulness, humanity. temperance, of the Idea of Morality of which we chastity, obedience. These concep- have spoken."-p. 163. tions must enter into the idea of the After all, this brings us not one inch end of human action. These must be nearer to the nature of the great idea included in the supreme law of human of moral goodness; for the question action. These points indicate the place still returns, what is benevolence? Is to which the lines of duty all tend. it a mere passive state of the sensibility, The supreme law of huinan action or does it also include a state of the must be found in the point to which all will ? what is its distinguishing attrisuch lines converge.It may be con- bute? wherein does its moral character ceived as the Ideal Centre of such spe- consist? This question must be ancial moral tendencies as we have spo- swered, before we can have any idea ken; and thus, as the Idea of Mora- of moral goodness. It is by a similar lity."-p. 162. Here we have a great process, that our author reaches his many things, such as liberality, fairness, four other cardinal virtues, of truth, of and so forth, all pointing to the great justice, of purity, and of order; and Idea of Goodness; but how are these shows them all to be parts of the things to be defined ? how are they to “Idea of Moral Goodness." This is a be known, or what is it that constitutes tedious process, one would think, to their moral quality ? Until this be arrive at self-evident truths. shown, we may be told, " in a general His remarks on the subject of order way,” that they all point to the “* Idea are so characteristic, that we shall reof Morality ;" but as to what that idea fer to them. “ The Supreme Law of is, we shall be as far from having any Human Action,” says he, “ in order to knowledge as before ; to our minds it operate effectively upon men's minds, will have “ neither a local habitation," must be distinctly and definitely connor "a name."
ceived, at least in some of its parts and * We may proceed somewhat fur- applications. But all distinct and defither,” says our author, “in the deter- nite conceptions of Laws of Human Acmination of this Ideal Centre, or Idea tion must involve a reference to the relaof Morality.” What is it, then ? Why, tion which positive Laws establish. The Supreme Law of human nature Hence, moral rules, in order to be dismust be a Law which belongs to man tinct and definite, musl depend upon as man ; a thing in which all men Laws; and MUST SUPPOSE LAWS TO sympathize, and which binds together BE FIXED AND PERMANENT.
It is our man and man by the tie of their com- duty to promote, by our acts, this fixity mon humanity," &c.,-p. 162. But and permanence; and the Duty, of what is it? . It excludes all that ope course, extends to our internal actions, rates merely to separate men; for ex to Will, Intention, Desire and affection, ample, all desires that tend to a centre as well as to external acts, We must in each individual, without any regard conform our dispositions to the Laws ; to the common sympathy of mankind; obey the laws cordially, or administer and especially, all affections which ope- them carefully, according to the posirate directly to introduce discord and tion we may happen to hold in the conflict; as we have seen, accordingly, community. This disposition may be that it excludes malice and anger, and denoted by the term Order, understood directs us to mildness and kindness.” in a large and comprehensive sepse." Very well ; but what is it that is to do --p. 165. ..“ The Idea of Order in all this? The absence of all the af- this comprehensive sense is part of the fections which tend to separate men, Central İdea of Morality.”—p. 166. and the aggregate of the affections “Thus," says our author, “we have which tend to unite them, may be ex- five Ideas, Benevolence, Justice, Truth, Pressed by the term Benevolence.” Purity, and Order, which may be conp. 162-3. Well; but what is benevo- sidered as the elements of the Central lence? It includes "all the ties of love Idea of Morality, or as the cardinal which bind men together." ... "This points of the Supreme Rule of Human affection of love to man as inan, is a Action."-p. 166. part of the supreme law of human But yet the idea of moral goodness,
to which our author set out to conduct A further description of the conduct us, has not been attained. We have conformable to the supreme rule is seen what he calls its parts ;'' but contained in the following words : " In why these parts partake of the nature of order to describe the character and the whole, or what the nature of the conduct conformable to the Supreme whole is, we have not yet seen. It sure- Rule, we may speak of it as the charly will be disclosed, one would think, be- acter and conduct of a good man.— fore the author is done ; it seems that it That is right which a good man would already begins to dawn upon us. For we do. Those are right affections which are told, “ We are not to conceive these a good man would feel."-p. 166. Ideas, (his five great “ cardinal points") Now, we do not suppose that our auas distinct and separable, but rather as thor means to assert, that every thing connected and combined in a fundamen- which a good man does is morally good; tal and intiinate manner. Thus, we have for it is too plain, that many of bis acalready mentioned moral qualities tions are induferent in a moral point of which partake of more than one, as view—eveu supposing him to be a perLiberality partakes of Benevolence and fect man. But if he means that all the Justice; Honesty of Justice and Truth. actions which a good man does, as a And all these dispositions. Bepevolence, good man, or which goes to coustitute Justice, Truth. Purity, Order, may be his goodness, are conformable to the considered to be included in the Love supreme rule, this is only to repeat in of Goodness."-p. 166. But alas - a very awkward way, the proposition what is goodness? This is the idea that goodness is a conformity to the suwe have been in search of, and to which preme rule. All that we can learn our author undertook to conduct us. from such teaching is, that goodness is The great central idea of morality-of a couformity to the supreme rule, and goodness, is then, we are told, the love that the supreme rule enjoins goodness. of morality or goodness. But we still This is absolutely all that we can gaask, what is morality ? what is good- ther from Dr. hewell on this all-inDess?
portant point; and we regret that he Goodness, we are told, is "a confor- did not impart his information without mity to the supreme law of human ac- such an astonishing profusion of words tion;" and the supreme law of hu We cannot follow our author through man action is a Jove of moral good as his remarks on the Virtues of the good, and the desire to advance to- Affections ;" the ** Virtues of the Menwards it as the ultimate and only real tal Desires ;" the Virtues connected object of action. To this object, all with Truth ;" the “ Virtues relating special affections, all external objects to the Bodily Desires ;” the “Inteland the desires of such objects, all in- lectual Virtues ;" the "Reflex Virtues tercourse of men, all institutions of so- and Vices;" nor through his dissertaciety, are considered as subordinate tion concerning our « duties" in regard and instrumental. And thus, this Love to the same things. To most minds, of Good includes, excites, pourishes, this arrangement and pomenclature will and directs to their proper ends, those be a suficient index to the contents of more special Aitections and Dispositions this portion of his book; and besides, of which we have spoken." We wish our limits require us to view the work the reader to understand, once for all, before us, not in relation to the various that we do not feel ourselves bound to details, but in relation to the great landpoint out the tenth part of the error marks of moral scieace. We have aland confusion which may be found in ready considered its doctrines concernthe extracts that we make from the ing the relation between morality and work before us ; we have no criticism law; the origin of our moral sentiments, to offer at present in regard to the and the idea of goodness ; we shall constrange notions necessarily implied in clude with a brief notice of its positions the above passage, as well as in nearly in regard to the pature and authority all of the lucubrations of the authors of conscience. We simply wish to notice the fact, From what the author has said with that it conducts us to the position, that respect to the origin of our moral senmoral goodness is a conformity to the timents, we might conclude that his supreme law, and that the supreme views in regard to the nature and funcrule enjoins moral goodness !
tions of conscience are vague and in
definite. Accordingly, in speaking of The great question which our author conscience, he multiplies epithets, and discusses in regard to .conscience, is piles one upon another, but he throws this :-Is he who acts according to his no light on the subject. He tells us, conscience always right? for example, that conscience as a law tion, whether viewed in relation to indi" is a stage in our moral and intellec- vidual conduct, or in relation to many tual progress” — p. 261; and agaiy, of the great practical interests which that “conscience is never fully formed, agitate the Christian world at the prebut always in the course of formation.” sent day, appears to be one of immense -p. 263. Now, in regard to such ex- magnitude and importance. The impressions, as well as in regard to the portance of the question, however, we general character of our anthor's teach- cannot undertake to unfold avd illusing, we wish to make a remark, in or trate at present: it must appear to the der that we may not be misunderstood most superficial observer that it is of in our strictures on his work. We do not sufficient magnitude to engagei our say, then, that a true sense may not be most serious attention.
We shall proput upou such expressions, as well as ceed, then, to consider the manner in upon hundreds of others, bearing a which our author has solved this quessimilar stamp, to which we should ob- tion. ject. They may be true ; but how He contenils, that "he who acts much truth they contain, or wherein against his conscience is always wrong," their truth consists, is what can be —). 262. To disobey the commands and known only to those who are already prohibitions of conscience, under any intimately acquainted with the science circumstances, is utterly immoral; it is of morals. The author, no doubt, sees the very essence of immorality,"--p. 266, a truth in all his expressions ; and we and so in various other places. Now, dare say he would be greatly surprised it appears perfectly obvious to us, that to find that any man should be so dull if it is always wrong to act against conas to misunderstand him; and yet we science, it can never be wrong to act in will venture to affirm, that if he had obedience to it ; that if it is immoral formed a clear and steady view of the to refuse to obey its commands, it cantruth, at which he so darkly and oh not be immoral to obey them. Whenscurely aims, and had seen it in all its ever we are called upon to obey the bearings, he would have found it impos- dictates of conscience, we must either sible to express himself as he has done. refuse or obey; and hence, if it is The reader who is familiar with the wrong to refuse, it must be right to truths of moral science may, therefore, obey. It is always our duty to fly from see these truths imperfectly reflected wrong; and hence, as refusing to in the pages of this work, without being yield to the dictates of conscience is, misled by the fragmentary or distorted
as the author concedes, wrong, it canimages they present; just as the mind not but be riglit to yield. We cannot of the geometrician will eliminite the possibly conceive of a clearer or more idea of a perfect circle from the most irresistible inference; and yet our auclumsy attempt to represent it by a thor refuses to make it. He admits diagram. But the unlearned student, that it is always wrong to refuse obewho comes to the work in question for dience to conscience; but yet he will instruction, will be just as apt to see his not allow that it is always right to renown crude fancies, or preconceived der obedience to it. errors, reflected therein, as he will be On the contrary, after having proto behold the bright and beautiful image pounded the question, is he who acts of truth. If he should have any thing according to his conscience always of a thoughtful and meditative mind, he right? he replies, “it is evident, that will perceive that the author hus in to answer this question in the aflirmasome places expressed more, and in tive, would lead to great inconsistencies some less, than the truth ; but exactly in our Morality."--p. 262. He then bewhere the line which separates truth gins to talk about the imperfections of from error is to be drawn, he will not conscience, and the danger of followbe able to determine ; unless he can ing it in all cases. “ Under the influfind in his own bosom, or in some other ence of education, laws, prejudices and teacher, a better guide than “ The passions, the standard of right and Elements of Morality."
wrong, which exists in men's minds for
the time, is often very different from plied to actions abstractly considered, that which the Moralist can assent to. and without reference to the agent. Men have often committed thefts, Thus, an act is said to be right when it frauds, impositions, homicides, thinking is such as ought to be done, by those their actions right; though they were who have the power and opportunity such as all Moralists would condemn as to know it to be right and to do it.wrong. Such men acted according to Such an act is said to be "right in ittheir conscience. Were they thereby self,” and without reference to the injustified ?"-p. 262. Our author does tention of any agent. In this sense of not seem to perceive, that he has, by the word, the act of A, which we have means of an ambiguous word, stilled his pronounced right, because it was done position. We do not say, that both in obedience to his conscience, may be his positions may not be true, but we wrong; that is to say, it may be such say, that they do not relate to the same that he would feel bound not to do it, object of thought. The truth is, that provided his conscience were perfectly although his positions are all true, in enlightened. Hence, the same action certain senses; yet the misfortune is, may be both right and wrong at the that in treating of this subject, he does same time, in these very different not hold his mind steadily to one thing, senses ; and it was an inattention to the but suffers it to fly from point to point above distinction, which has been clear. in the midst of the ambiguities of his ly made and insisted on by Stewart, phraseology. Though his assertions and Read, and Price, that has led our are all correct, yet by permitting them to author into so much perplexity. fly in different directions and aim at dif It cannot be objected, that this makes ferent objects, appearing to be the same conscience “the ultimate standard of only because ihey have a common morality,” or clothes it with the attriname; he has left the question he un- butes of infallibility. The ground we dertook to discuss in a state of no little have taken, is perfectly consistent with preplexity and confusion. We do not the truth, that conscience is liable to indeny his doctrines; we understand them numerable errors, and needs to be enfully; and we will venture to affirm, lightened. Nor does it imply, that we that any man, who has solved the pro- may rest contented to live and act in blem in question clearly and satisfacto- conformity with the present dictates of rily to his own mind, will understand Mr.
our conscience, without seeking to adWhewell better than he understands vance in a knowledge of duty. On the himself.
contrary, it is one of the dictates of There is a distinction lying at the conscience itself, that we ought to use bottom of this subject to which we must all the means in our power to obtain attend, or it will forever remain envel- light. Conscience is not so much an oped in great difficulty and confusion. enlightening principle, as it is a princiTo unfold and illustrate it, let us sup- ple to be enlightened; and the injuncpose that A does a certain act in obe- tion to seek for light, is one of its most dience to his conscience. Now, the important mandates. We simply asquestion is, does it follow that this act sent, that the present dictate of conis right, simply because his conscience science is the immediate rule of action ; commanded it? To this question, we he who violates it, is guilty of wrong, may reply in the affirmative or nega- and he who obeys, does right. No tive, according to the use and applica- matter what we may take as the standtion of the term right. If A had not ard of right in the abstract, whether we performed the act, he would have done take expediency, or the relations of violence to his conscience; which, it is things, or the word of God, or Mr. Wheadmitted, is of "the very essence of well's great principle of order; we must immorality.” Hence, it was his duty still, er necessitate rei, adopt conscience to do it; and the act was morally as the immediate rule of duty. We right in him. Using the term righi, must follow this as the immediate rule then, in reference to the moral conduct of conduct; it is impossible to conceive of the agent A, we do not hesitate to of any other. No man can guide himsay, that the act in question was right, self by a light which he does not see; because it was done in obedience to the and to act in conformity with what he dictate of conscience.
sees and feels to be his duty, is to be But the term right is frequently ap- governed by the dictates of conscience.
Let those who deny this doctrine, show well avoid it, to call things by their old in what cases, and on what principle, a names; and having ceased to call them man should refuse to obey his conscien- by their familiar appellations, he seems tious convictions of duty.
to have forgotten a good share of the For the present, we shall enter no knowledge he possessed of them. By further into the consideration of this a pedantic affection of a strange terinteresting subject; as it is high time minology, made up of new epithets we should take leave of our author.- needlessly introduced, and old ones We have not dwelt on the amusing permanently applied, together with his features of the work of Mr. Whewell, grand design to strike at a new path to because we have wished to do justice, the philosophy of morality, and alarm so far as it lay in our power, to great all, by his determination to make conprinciples. We might, had we so science and truth bend to established chose, have excited many a smile by institutions, he has contrived to introdwelling on the peculiarities of his no- duce a degree of perplexity and confumenclature and style; but have passed sion into moral science, which it is exthem over, not because we deemed ceedingly painful to contemplate, and them unworthy of notice, but because from which we turn with feelings of unthey are comparatively small offences, mingled pleasure and delight. Indeed, he is seldom satisfied, if he can
BY THE AUTHOR OF “ THE YEMASSEE,” “GUY RIVERS," &c.
EAGER CONFIDENCE OF AMBITION.
THERE are two lives, and one alone is ours,
And chosen, we must choose :—the one is fair,
The other dark with tempests and with care :-
To glide with noiseless power and easy sail,
Of wind and wave, and the triumphant gale ?
THE SACRIFICE UPON OUR ALTARS.
Our very passions leave us—our best tastes
Subside, as do our pleasures, and depart;
The moss and ivy grow about the heart,
As if in bitter mockery of our pride!
To lose the pulse of hope, youth's precious tide,
As vain as Edward Irving's, wander wide,
Thin, unsubstantial, which our hearts still grace