« הקודםהמשך »
word conscience,] is not pretended to be a universal, instinctive, and immediate criterion of right and wrong in all cases.” This admission, however, cannot prove, that man is destitute of the faculty of conscience; any more than the obscure, double, or imperfect perceptions of external objects, to which the sick are subject, will evince that they have no mental organ of perception. It is not material, whether this faculty operate independently of reason or not. Hume, Cogan, Paley, and all men of candour, or even of common honesty, will agree, that every man actually does approve of some actions performed by himself and his fellow men, and disapprove of others. This approbation is not universal, we allow, and the same mind may disapprove to day, what it approved yesterday. It being acknowledged on all hands, that all men do in some cases approve or disapprove of certain actions, we now affirm, that the mental operation of approving is an ef. fect, which must have some adequate cause. The question now arises what is this adequate cause; and we an. swer from experience, observation, and the testimony of others, that the human mind is so constituted, that from certain apprehensions of right and wrong it will either approve or disapprove, certain actions. This something in the constitution of the mind, by which it approves or disapproves, applauds or blames, we call the conscience, or the moral sense, or moral faculty. Nothing can be plainer in our view than this, that mankind would never have those mental operations which induce them to speak of moral obligation, to say “you ought to do this," “you ought not to do that,”—“this is right,” and “that is wrong,” if they had not been rendered capable, in the formation of their minds, of having such mental operations. The eye may exist in such a state as not to be the instrument of vision; and so may the conscience exist in a mind, without present activity; or in a mind, in which from the want of information and experience, it may perform its office in a very imperfect manner. It may be misguided; and its dictates through ignorance or prejudice may be directly contrary to the revealed will and judgment of the Supreme Being. It may be seared as with a hot iron. Still it is a conscience, without which faculty
no light in the understanding, no operation of the judgment, nor of reason, could ever make us accountable, moral or religious beings. It is that faculty in our nature, by which every man, in some way or other, is religious, just as certainly as he is social. Our feelings are distinct from the operations of conscience; and, in relation to mo. ral subjects, follow them. In the order of nature, I disapprove of conduct before it gives me pain. When we pronounce an action vicious we intend something distinct from our disapprobation of the action, and the feeling of pain or displeasure which accompanies it; and nothing seems more ridiculous than to assert, that the vice which I condemn is the operation of the moral sense which condemns it. “The agreement of the actions of any intelligent being with the nature, circumstances, and relations of things, is called the MORAL FITNESS, or the VIRTUE of that action; the disagreement is therefore the MORAL UNFITNESS, or VICE.
In justice to Mr. Cogan, we must say, that he is much the most ingenious and consistent writer on the wrong side of the controversy, whom we have read; and many of his remarks, were they taken out of their present connexion, would be not only true, but in a bigh degree use. ful. It is true, that " different persons will form the most opposite opinions, and feel very different sensations, respecting the same action:"—that “it is a religious sens timent (but of an erroneous religion] which prompts the holy father of an Inquisition to punish heretics as ene. mies to God:” that “ strong nioral feelings cannot have an existence before certain opinions are formed:” and, that a man “must refer to some standard, with which he must be accurately acquainted, before he will be competent to judge,” we add, with accuracy. “It is therefore unphilosophical to suppose that there be [is] any simple provision, in the constitution of the human mind, to en. able it to decide, in a very complicated case, however simple the impression made by it may appear; by which we can safely pronounce at once, without knowing why;
• Doddridge's Lectures, Part III.
for if we know why, we know the reason, which is very distinct from the impression produced.” p. 120.
Speculation IV. is a treatise on "philosophical necessity," in which Mr. Cogan states many accurate distinctions between different kinds of necessity, and between inducements and motives. To desire happiness, he says, is natural and inevitable, to every sensitive being, from his constitution; and it is equally natural to determine to act in such a manner as we think will obtain the happiness we desire. The necessity, therefore, which is predicated of any free, intelligent, voluntary agent, is a necessity of acting as he wills to act, and of willing to act according to his apprehension of what is good for him. “I am,” he says, “as much a Necessarian when I am resolved to mend my pen, and am obliged to make use of my pen-knife, or to extend my legs when I am determined to take a walk, as when I perform a moral or an immoral action; and I am as free to follow my inclinations, when I perform a virtuous action, or commit a vicious one, as I am, when I go to the East or West Indies; according to the determination of my will.” p. 164. The topic of this speculation is ably discussed; but the concluding refutation of an objection is like the Boston the. ology of the present day, an ingenious scheme, not corroborated by experience, not supported by testimony. If the doctrine of the paragraph be true, then purgatory, or even hell itself, is the best school of virtue in exist. ence. We present this prevalent error as a beacon, being well aware that some of our readers will think it confirmation strong of their desires, while others will very justly consider it nothing more than a speculation, in direct hostility to divine revelation. If punishment had any natural tendency to make beings better, then the old serpent would be the fairest candidate for reformation in the uni. verse.
“Whoever asserts that our doctrine leads to the horrors of fatalism, takes a very imperfect view of the subject. The imagination may easily extend the chain, until it shall arrive at all that is great and good. Human beings have incessantly acted upon the grand principle of seeking happiness, although they have so frequently and so egregiously mistaken their way. But every
this is no proof that they will always mistake their way. We daily perceive that a conviction of error leads to future caution. Ignorance corrects itself, by our experience of the evils it produces, and experience becomes the most impressive instructor. Mankind must at last form more consistent ideas of the nature of good, and obtain a more accurate knowledge of the ways and means to secure it, or they will continue eternal ideots. In step they take, they are uniformly acting according to the laws of cause and effect; and although they continue to follow their own inclinations, in every act they perform, these inclinations may finally conduct them right. Repeated experience must finally correct the grossest ignorance; and repeated evils suffered in one course, will compel them to pursue another; until they shall finally have obtained wisdom to make a choice of virtue and religion as the supreme good. This life may be much too short for the purpose; but the human race have an eternity before them. In a future state, similar principles may operate, until the whole intellectual creation shall become reclaimed and happy. Whoever has an existence, must inevitably desire his own happiness, wherever he exists, and as long as he exists; and he will pursue it by every method in his power: and as, wherever he may be, he will continue under the inspection of the universal Father, whose wisdom is equal to his power, and whose goodness is equal to both, the continued and extended operation of cause and effect, may lead to an ultimatum devoutly to be wished, universal happiness.
“Should it be alleged by the fatalist, that this is merely conjecture, and that we are too ignorant of futurity to predicate so glorious an issue; the answer is, that this acknowledged ignorance of futurity renders his objection impotent. For the mere possibility of a different train of events from that apprehended by the fatalist, confutes the doctrine of fatalism. Let him only admit that the inevitable result of cause and effect may be universal happiness, and he will not complain of INEXORABLE fate." p. 170.
This is a genuine revelation from the brain of an infidel, and those who can believe it to be truth, need never complain of the difficulty of receiving mysteries.
Speculation V. is a very elaborate attack upon Dr. Beattie's Common Sense; which occupies seventy pages. Mr. Cogan imputes to him the doctrine, that “whatever contradicts common sense must be false, however speci. ously it may be supported by argumentation. Among the abettors of this tenet,” he says, “Dr. Beattie is most popular. The writings of his precursor, Dr. Reid, are too philosophical for the public in general; and the declamatory insulting style of Dr. Oswall, has met with general disapprobation.” p. 177. What our author means by saying Dr. Reid is “too philosophical,” it is difficult to comprehend; for no man has ever written on the philosophy of the human mind, with more plainness, and success than he; and Beattie, Stewart, Cogan, and all modern metaphysicians are indebted to him for extricating them from the labyrinths of Aristotle, Locke, Berkley and Hume. The only reason why Beattie's Essay is more popular than Reid's writings is, that the former is a short, didactic performance, which requires no thought, and the latter are extended through four octavo volumes; from the necessity which he was under of refuting former systems, while he introduced his own new, but im. mortal philosophy. Any plain man, of patience, and ordinary mental powers, may soon comprehend, and will most certainly adopt as his own, the great doctrines of Reid's scheme. Dr. Beattie's obscurity, which alone has exposed him to the just animadversions of Mr. Cogan, arose principally from his exuberance of language, and from not attending to Reid's distinctions between the operations of the faculty of feeling, and those of consciousness, conception and judgment. Beattie speaks of " my own feelings," and of “ my own understanding,” as if they were synonymous expressions. We too ask, was there greater confusion of language at the building of Babel?
“When every workman, with embarrass'd stammer,
Call'd for a chizel, though he meant a hammer?” It was hurdly worth any man's pains to enter into judg. ment with Dr. Beattie for every one of his idle words: it would have been better, candidly to have stated the general impressions left after reading his Essay, and then to have combated, if necessary, the general doctrines which he evidently designs to maintain. He has undoubtedly endeavoured to establish, what Reid had abundantly es. tablished before him, that every course of reasoning may be resolved into propositions, which, from our constitution, we judge to be true, so soon as we apprehend the