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are not, in those cases, when the final cause is obvious as day, though the proximate efficient cause should be hidden in deepest mystery—we are not, on this account, to confound darkness with light, or light with darkness. . . . .
3. By attending throughout to this observation, we shall be saved from a thousand irrelevancies as well as obscurities of argument; and it is an observation peculiarly applicable, in announcing that great fact or phenomenon of mind, which, for many reasons, should hold a foremost place in our demonstration. We mean the felt supremacy of conscience-a phenomenon of much greater weight and prominency than are commonly assigned to it in the demonstrations of Natural Theism-a phenemenon without which we should, in the multitude of processes around us with the infinite diversity of their effects, feel ourselves but as in a world of enigmas; but which, singly and of itself, serves the office of a great light to overrule the cross or contradictory intimations that are given by the lesser ones. Philosophers there are, who have attempted to resolve this fact into ulterior or ultimate ones in the mental constitution; and who have denied to the faculty a place among its original and uncompounded principles. Sir James Macintosh tells us of the generation of human conscience; and, not merely states, but endeavours to explain the phenomenon of its felt supremacy within us. Dr. Adam Smith also assigns a pedigree to our moral judgments; but, with all his peculiar notions respecting the origin of the awards of conscience, he never once disputes their authority; or, that, by the general consent of mankind, this authority is, in sentiment and opinion at least, conceded to them.* It is somewhat like an antiquarian controversy respecting the first formation and subsequent historical changes of some certain court of government, the rightful authority of whose decisions and acts is, at the same time, fully recognised. And so, philosophers have disputed regarding the court of conscience of what materials it is constructed, and by what line of genealogy from the anterior principles of our nature it has sprung. Yet most of these have admitted the proper right of sovereignty which belongs to it; its legitimate place as the master and the arbiter over all the appetites and desires and practical forces of human nature. Or, if any have dared the singularity of denying this, they do so in opposition to the general sense and general language of mankind, whose very modes of speech compel them to affirm that the biddings of conscience are of paramount authority—its peculiar office being to tell what all men should, or all men ought to do.
4. The proposition, however, which we are now
*“ Upon whatever,” observes Dr. Adam Smith, “we suppose our moral faculties to be founded, whether upon a certain modification of reason, upon an original instinct called a moral sense, or upon some other principle of our nature, it cannot be doubted that they were given us for the direction of our conduct in this life. They carry along with them the most evident badges of this authority, which denote that they were set up within us to be the supreme arbiters of all our actions, to superintend all our senses, passions and appetites, and to judge how far each of them was either to be indulged or restrained. It is the peculiar office of these faculties 'to judge, to bestow censure or applause upon all the other principles of our nature."— Theory of Moral Sentiments, Part iii. chap. y.
urging, is not that the obligations of virtue are binding, but that man has a conscience which tells him that they are so—not that justice and truth and humanity are the dogmata of the abstract moral system, but that they are the dictates of man's moral nature—not that in themselves they are the constituent parts of moral rectitude, but that there is a voice within every heart which thus pronounces on them. It is not with the constitution of morality, viewed objectively, as a system or theory of doctrine, that we have properly to do; but with the constitution of man's spirit, viewed as the subject of certain phenomena and laws—and, more particularly, with a great psychological fact in human nature, namely, the homage rendered by it to the supremacy of conscience. In a word, it is not of a category, but of a creation that we are speaking. The one can tell us nothing of the Divine character, while the other might afford most distinct and decisive indications of it. We could found no demonstration whatever of the Divine purposes, on a mere ethical, any more than we could, on a logical or mathematical category. But it is very different with an actual creation, whether in mind or in matter-a mechanism of obvious contrivance, and whose workings and tendencies, therefore, must be referred to the design, and so to the disposition or character of that Being, whose spirit hath devised and whose fingers have framed it.
5. For it is not an abstract question in Moral Science that we are now discussing. It is a question of Fact, respecting man's moral nature
and as much to be decided by observation as the nature or properties of any substantive being. It is a Fact which we learn or become acquainted with, just as we become acquainted with the constitution of a watch by the inspection of its mechanism. Conscience in Man is as much a thing of observation :--as the regulator in a watch is a thing of observation. It depends for its truth, therefore, on an independent and abiding evidence of its own, under all the diversities of speculation on the nature of Virtue. By the supremacy of Conscience we affirm a truth which respects not the nature of Virtue but the nature of Man. It is, that in every human heart, there is a faculty—not, it may be, having the actual power, but having the just and rightful pretension to sit as judge and master over the whole of human conduct. Other propensities may have too much sway—but the moral propensity, if I may so term it, never can—for to have the presiding sway in all our concerns, is just that which properly and legitimately belongs to it. A man under anger may be too strongly prompted to deeds of retaliation—or under sensuality be too strongly prompted to indulgence—or under avarice be too closely addicted to the pursuit of wealth—or even under friendship be too strongly inclined to partiality -but he never can under conscience be too strongly inclined to be as he ought and to do as he ought. We may say of a watch that its main-spring is too powerful: but we would never say that a Regulator is too powerful. We may complain of each of its other parts that it has too much influence over the rest but not that the part whose office it is to regulate and fix the rate of going has too much influence. And just as a watch cannot move too regularly, man cannot walk too conscientiously. The one cannot too much obey its regulator—the other cannot too much obey his conscience. In other words, Conscience is the rightful Sovereign in man -and if any other, in the character of a ruling passion, be the actual Sovereign_it is an usurper. In the former case, the mind is felt to be in its proper and well-conditioned state; in the latter case, it is felt to be in a state of anarchy. Yet even in that anarchy, Conscience though despoiled of its authority, still lifts its remonstrating claims. Though deprived of its rights, it continues to assert them. Long after being stripped of its dominion over man, it still has its dwelling-place in his bosom; and even when most in practice disregarded, then it makes itself to be felt and heard.
6. The supremacy of Conscience does not seem to have been sufficiently adverted to by Dr. Thomas Brown. He treats the moral feeling rather as an individual emotion which takes its part in the enumeration along with others in his list, than as the great master-emotion that is not appeased but by its ascendancy over them all. Now, instead of a single combatant in the play of many others, and which will only obtain the victory, if physically of greater power and force; it should be viewed as separate and signalized from the rest by its own felt and inherent claim of superiority over them. Each emotion hath its own characteristic object wherewith it is satisfied. But the specific object of this emotion is the regulation of all the active