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ed, with a possession more delightful than that which they afford in many cases, to the listless eyes of their proud, but discontented master.
After these remarks on that order of our immediate emotions, which do not involve necessarily any moral feeling, I proceed to that other order of the same class, in which some moral feeling is necessarily involved.
The first of these, according to the arrangement formerly submitted to you, are those emotions which constitute, as I conceive, the feelings distinctive of vice and virtue,-emotions that arise on the contemplation of certain actions, observed or conceived.
It is not my intention, however, in this part of my Course, to enter on the discussion of the great questions connected with the doctrine of obligation as either presupposed or involved in our consideration of such actions. The moral affections which I consider at present, I consider rather physiologically than ethically, as parts of our mental constitution, not as involving the fulfilment or violation of duties.
In this point of view, even the boldest sceptic, who denies all the grounds of moral obligation, must still allow the existence of the feelings which we are considering, as states or affections of the mind, indicative of certain susceptibilities in the mind, of being so affected. Whether we have reason to approve and disapprove, or have no reason whatever, in the nature of their actions, to regard with a different eye, those whom, by some strange illusion,but by an illusion only, we now feel ourselves almost necessitated to love or abhor,—though it be an error of logic, to consider the parricide, who, in preparing to plunge his dagger, could hold bis lamp unmoved, and, with no other apprehension than of the too early waking of his victim, look fixedly on the pale and gentle features of him, whose very sleep was, at the moment, perhaps, made happy by some dream of happiness to his murderer, as less worthy, even in the slightest respect, of our esteem, than the son who rushes to inevitable death, in defence of the grey hairs which he honours,—though it be not less an error of logic to extend our moral distinctions, and the love or hate which accompanies them, to those who make not a few individuals only, but whole millions, wretched or happy,—to consider the usurping despot, who dares
to be a tyrant, in the land on which he was born a freeman, as a less glorious object of our admiration, than the last assertor of rights which seemed still to exist, while he existed to assert them, -who, in that cause which allows no fear of peril, could see nothing in guilty power which a brave man could dread, but every thing which it would be a crime to obey,-and who ennobled with his blood the scaffold, from which he rose to liberty and Heaven, making it an altar of the richest and most gratifying sacrifice which man can offer, to the great Being whom he serves ;-even though we should be unfortunate enough to look on the tyrant, with the same envy, as on his victim, and could see no reason for those distinctive terms of vice and virtue, in the two cases, the force of which we should feel equally, though we had not a word to express the meaning that is constantly in our heart ;-still the fact of the general approbation and disapprobation, we must admit, even in reserving for ourselves the privilege of indifference. They are phenomena of the mind, to be ranked with the general mental phenomena, as much as our sensations or remembrances,-illusions to be classed with our other illusions,—or truths, to be classed with our most important truths.
This distinctive reference would be equally necessary, though our emotions of this kind did not arise immediately from our contemplation of actions, in the very moment in which we contemplate them simply as actions; but, from processes of reasoning and regard to general rules of propriety, formed gradually by attention to the circumstances in which man is placed, and all the good which, in such circumstances, he is capable of feeling, or occasioning to others. The vivid distinctive regard, at whatever stage it began, would not the less be an affection of the mind, referable to certain laws, that guide its susceptibilities of emotion; but the truth is, that the moral feeling arises without any consideration, except that of the action itself, and its circumstances. The general rules of propriety may, indeed, seem to confirm our suffrage, but the suffrage itself is given before their sanction. The rules themselves are ultimately founded, as Dr Smith very justly remarks, on these particular emotions :-“ We do not originally, approve or condemn particular actions,” to use his words, “because, upon examination, they appear to be agreeable, or inconsistent with a certain general rule. The general rule, on the con
trary, is formed, by finding, from experience, that all actions, of a certain kind, or circumstanced in a certain manner, are approve ed or disapproved of. To the man, who first saw an inbuman murder, committed from avarice, envy, or unjust resentment; and upon one, too, who loved and trusted the murderer,—who beheld the last agonies of the dying person,—who heard him, with his expiring breath, complain more of the perfidy and ingratitude of his false friend, than of the violence which had been done to him, —there could be no occasion, in order to conceive how horrible such an action was, that he should reflect that one of the most sacred rules of conduct, was what prohibited the taking away the life of an innocent person, that this was a plain violation of that rule, and consequently a very blameable action. His detestation of this crime, it is evident, would arise instantaneously, and antecedent to his having formed to himself any such general rule. The general rule, on the contrary, which he might afterwards form, would be founded upon the detestation which he felt, necessarily arising in his own breast, at the thought of this, and every other particular action of the same kind.??*
Of the universality of these moral emotions, which attend our mere perception of certain actions, or our reasonings on the beneficial or injurious tendency of actions, what more convincing proof can be imagined, than the very permanence of these feelings, in the breasts of those, whose course of life they are every moment reproaching,—who, even when they are false to virtue, are not false to their love of virtue, and whose secret heart, if it could be laid open to those whom they are endeavouring to seduce, and who can listen only to the voice of the lips, would proclaim to them the charms of that innocence which the lips are affecting to deride, and the slavery of that licentiousness which the lips are proclaiming to be the glorious privilege of the free.
" What law of any state," says an eloquent Roman moralist, " has ever ordered the child to love his parents, the parents to love their child, each individual to love himself? It would be not more idle, to order us to love virtue, which, by its own nature, has so many charms, that it is impossible for the wicked to withhold from it their approbation. Who is there, that, living amid crimes, and in
* Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part III. c. iv.
the practice of every injury which he can inflict on society, does not still wish to obtain some praise of goodness, and cover his very atrocities, if they can by any means be covered, with some veil, however slight, of honourable semblance ? No one has so completely shaken off the very character of man, as to wish to be wicked, for the mere sake of wickedness. The very robber who lives by rapine, and who does not hesitate to strike his dagger into the breast of the passenger, who has any plunder to repay the stroke, would still rather find what he takes by violence, only because he cannot hope to find it. The most abandoned of human beings, if he could enjoy the wages of guilt without the guilt itself, would not prefer to be guilty. It is no small obligation," he con
. tinues, " which we owe to nature, that Virtue reveals her glorious light, not to a few only, but to all mankind. Even those who do not follow her, still see the splendid track along which she moves.” “Placet suapte natura : adeoque gratiosa virtus est, ut insitum sit etiam malis, probale meliora. Quis est, qui non beneficus videri velit,—qui non, inter scelera et injurias, opinionem bonitatis affectet-qui non ipsis quæ impotentissime fecit, speciam aliquam induat recti? Quod non facerent, nisi illos honesti, et per se expetendi, amor cogeret, moribus suis opinionem contrariam quærere, et nequitiam abdere, cujus fructus concupiscitur, ipsa vero odio pudoreque est. Maximum hoc habemus naturæ meritum, quod virtus in omnium animos lumen suum permittit : etiam qui non sequuntur, illam vident.**
And it is well, surely, even the most sceptical will admit, that nature, if we are deceived by this delightful vision, does permit us to be deceived by it. Though virtue were only a dream, and all which we admire, as fallacious as the imaginary colours which shine upon our slumber in the darkness of the night, who could wish the slumber to be broken, if, instead of the groves of Paradise and the pure and happy forms that people them, we were to awake in a world, in which the moral sunshine was extinguished, , and everything on which we vainly turned our eye were to be only one equal gloom? Though the libertine should have hardihood enough to shake, or, at least, to try to shake, from his own mind, every feeling of moral admiration or abhorrence, he still could not wish, that others, among whom he is to live, should be as free as himself. For his own profit, he would wish all others to be virtuous, himself the single exception; and what would profit each individually, must profit all. If he were rich, he could
* Seneca de Beneficiis, lib. iv, c. 17.
, , not wish the multitude that surrounded him to approve of the rapine which would strip him of all the sources of his few miserable enjoyments, and to approve, too, perhaps, of murder, as the shortest mode of separating him from his possessions ; if he were in want, he could not wish those, whose charity he was forced to solicit, to see, in charity, nothing but a foolish mode of voluntarily abridging their own means of selfish luxury ; if he were condemned, for some offence, to the prison or the gibbet, he would not wish mercy to be regarded as a word without meaning. Wbat noble and irresistible evidence is this of the excellence of virtue, even in its worldly and temporary advantages, that, if all men were what all individually would wish them to be, there would not be a single crime to pollute the earth!
When we reflect, how many temptations there are to the multitudes, who live together in social society,—temptations, that, wherever they look around them, would lead them, if they had not been rendered capable of moral affections, as much as of their sentient enjoyments and passions, to seek the attainment of the objects within their view, and almost within their reach, and to seek it as readily by force, or by falsehood, as by that patient industry, which could not fail to seem to them more tedious, and, therefore, less worthy of their prudent choice; when we think of all the temptations of all these objects, and the facilities of attaining them by violence or deceit, and yet observe the security with which man, in society, spreads out his enjoyments, as it were, to the view of others, and delights in the number of the gazers and enviers, that are attracted by them, it is truly as beautiful, as it is astonishing, to think of the simple means, on which so much security depends. The laws, which men have found it expedient, for their common interest, to make, and to enforce, are, indeed, the obvious pieces of machinery, by which this great result is brought about. But how much of its motion depends on springs, that are scarcely regarded by those, who look only to the exterior wheels, as they perform their rotation in beautiful regularity! The grosser measures of fraud or force may be prevented by enactments,