תמונות בעמוד

we cannot think, that propriety and impropriety, merit and demerit, justice and injustice, approbation and dis. approbation, ure founded on sympathy.

While we reject Dr. Smith's theory, however, we take delight in recurring to his many just exhibitions of human modes and principles of action. He has told us in numerous instances how men think, feel, choose and act, upon moral subjects, even while he has erroneously accounted for the facts which he records.

He discusses at length the nature of virtue, and the origin of the approbation which it obtains among men. To the question, Wherein does virtue consist? Dr. Hutcheson, and all the Hopkinsians, answer, “in disinterested benevolence;" Dr. Clark replies, “in acting suitably to the different relations we stand in;" and others say it consists, “in the wise and prudent pursuit of our own real and solid happiness,” or in the wise re. gulation of the principle of self-love. Dr. Cogan seems to be a philosopher who entertains this last opinion. Dr. Smith is of opinion that the "precise and distinct measure of virtue can be found no where but in the sympathetic feelings of the impartial and well-informed spectator." While some make all virtue consist in pro. priety, others in prudence, and others in benevolence, he reduces it to his wonder working “sympathy, direct, or indirect.The question, “How and by what means does it come to pass, that the mind prefers one tenor of con. duct to another; denominates the one right and the other wrong; considers the one as the object of approbation, honour, and reward, and the other of blame, censure, and punishment?”-he says, “we examine, -when we consider whether the viruous character, whatever it consists in, be recommended to us by self-love, which makes us perceive that this character, both in ourselves and others, tends most to promote our own private interest; or by reason, which points out to us the difference between one character and another, in the same manner that it does that between truth and falsehood; or by a peculiar power of perception, called a moral sense, which this virtuous character gratifies and pleases, as the contrary disgusts and displeases it; or, last of all, by some

other principle in human nature, such as a modification of sympathy, or the like.” p. 433. Dr. Smith is as fond of sympathy as he is of the expression “ go along with;" which the reader will find repeated four, five, or six times, in one paragraph, to denote correspondence in thought and feeling. In his opinion, we have a native faculty, called the conscience, by which we approve or disapprove of the moral actions of ourselves and others; but then, this conscience is dependent on sympathy, for all its operations.

Our own theory of moral sentiments may be briefly stated, and if our readers choose they can compare it with other systems, and select the best.

By sentiments we mean opinions or judgments; and by moral, something relating to laws concerning the regulation of intelligent, sensitive, voluntary agents. Any thing relating to any other kind of laws, may be physical, na tural, or mechanical, but cannot be moral. By moral sen. timents we intend, therefore, opinions about something that relates to laws concerning the regulation of intelligent, sensitive, voluntary agents. Men, holy angels, and devils are such agents. Besides these, we know of no other being that is, but the great God. Any thing relat. ing to the laws by which Jevovah directs his own con. duct; and any thing relating to the laws given for the government of men, holy angels, and devils, is of a moral nature. All the thoughts, except involuntary perceptions; all the voluntary sensations; all the emotions, voli. tions, and voluntary agencies of men, relate to moral laws: and all the opinions concerning their conformity, or want of conformity to these laws, or concerning these laws themselves, or the subjects of them, are moral sentiments.

Man is called a moral agent, because he is placed under moral laws and obligations. Any thing, which he as an intelligent, sensitive, voluntary agent, performs, is denominated a moral action; and any course, or number, of moral actions, we style moral conduct.

From the class of moral actions we exclude such involuntary motions as depend on the mechanism of our frame, or on our physical constitution. Such are the swinging of our arms, the spasmodic contraction of our muscles, the winking of our eyelids, the circulation of the blood, and the action of the heart, arteries, and veins.

We exclude also all those perceptions and sensations which result neither from our voluntary activity, nor our wilful negligence. Let any one unexpectedly smite us, and we shall have painful sensations from the blow. We did nothing to provoke the smiter, we could not guard against the unexpected blow, we could not help perceiv. ing it, and we cannot avoid feeling the painful sensations that follow the perception. They are not moral operations of mind. Of the same nature are those sensations which we call appetites; so far as they are involuntary. It is neither morally good, nor morally evil, without volition, to possess them; but our voluntary use or excite. ment of them, according to our motives, will always be either one or the other. Lust, it should be remembered, we have distinguished from appetite.

To see, touch, smell, taste, and hear, when objects of sense are presented, without our choice; involuntarily to be hungry or thirsty;—and to be cold or hot, to feel the burning sensations of fever, or the aching of our bones, none in his senses ever thought any part of moral conduct. But while our involuntary sensations and perceptions are not in themselves moral actions, they are the objects, or the motives, of a great portion of our moral agency in this life. To desire, to will, to love the gratification, or the restraint of them, are three moral operations; and we might name a hundred more; but it is sufficient to lay down this general rule, that any thought

, emotion, volition, or exertion of agency about our involuntary perceptions and sensations, is of a moral nature.

It is often demanded, What CONSTITUTES A MORAL Agent? We answer, that, in the first place, faculty of agency is necessary; for without this a being would not be an agent at all. To be a moral agent one must, in the second place, have a power of agency:

for should the faculty exist in such a state, that a being could never use it, he would not be an agent at all. And here we would have it understood, that while we deny

[ocr errors][merged small]

the Arminian doctrine of a self-determining power of the will, we nevertheless maintain that every accountable man really has a finite efficiency; really has both the requisite faculty and power of agency, to constitute him a moral agent. We believe that God is the only self-existent, uncreated, infinitely wise, and omnipotent efficient cause; but he has created finite beings, and given them a limited agency. Man can, and does act; and of the actions which he performs he is the finite efficient cause.

In the third place, a faculty and power of volition are requisite to constitute a moral agent, for a being that should act without volition, and could not act from it, would be an involuntary agent. Such a being, it will appear from the very definition of a moral law, could not be a subject of it; and of course could not be a moral agent. If any object to our definition, we appeal to the common judgment of mankind, and to the Bible, to prove, that an involuntary agent is never considered as a moral agent, nor deemed worthy of reward or punish


In the fourth place, the faculty and power of feeling are essential to the constitution of a moral agent; for without these, the agent could not be the subject of re.. ward or punishment, since he could feel neither pleasure nor pain. A being that cannot be either happy or unhap. py, an insensitive being, all men consider as not a moral agent. Such an agent, the great Governor of the world could neither curse in hell, nor bless in heaven,

In the fifth place, all the faculties and powers of thinking which God has given man are necessary to constitute a moral agent. We say all of them, because, were any one absolutely wanting, the being that should possess the remainder would not be a man, would not be a holy an. gel, would not be a deyil, and surely would not be God; and of other moral agents we have no knowledge. Man has seven faculties and powers of thinking, which we have frequently enumerated. We do not say, that he would not be a moral agent if he had more; for God has the faculty of prescience, which we have not; but man would not be a moral agent if he had less than seven. VOL. I.

3 P

No. 4.

Suppose a being, born of a woman, to be destitute of perception. He could neither see, touch, hear, smell, nor taste any thing, and of course could perform no voluntary actions in a material universe, in relation to any material object. Should he cut the throat of a man, or commit adultery, or speak blasphemies, it would be without his knowledge of those actions. Were he destitute of conception, sometimes called Intuition, or the faculty of understanding, he would have no idea of himself, of God, of his law, of truth, of falsehood, of his fellow-men, or of any thing else. He would not apprehend the meaning of any instruction or revelation; and none, surely, would call him a moral agent, whatever he might perform. Take away judgment, and then he would derive no benefit from his perception of external objects, or understanding of statements, for he could never decide that a proposition is false or true. He would never have any opinions; he would have no foundation for any act of reasoning; he would believe nothing; he would never doubt; he would have no rules of conduct. He could not assent to the proposition, I exist; or, there is a God. Such a being would not discern his right hand from bis left. But let perception, conception, and judgment re. main, while the faculty of memory is withdrawn. Then he will not know to.morrow, that he is the same being that he is to-day; and he cannot know to-day that he existed yes. terday; so that all knowledge of personal identity (we do not say, all personal identity) is impossible, in his case. He may hear this moment, a commandment of God, but he cannot know the next moment that any such commandment was given. He cannot know from moment to moment, that there is a God, that he is under gations to obey him, or that he has a neighbour. He cannot reason, because every act of reasoning implies the remembrance of premises, for so long a time at least, as to give the opportunity of drawing a conclusion.

Next suppose the faculty of reasoning to be wanting, while the other faculties and powers of the mind remain. He can infer nothing from premises. You may tell him, that a good being ought to be loved, and that God is a good being; and he may judge these to be true proposi




« הקודםהמשך »