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PROP. tions concerning matters of right and wrong.] From
whence he thought it was to be concluded, that all knowledge and learning is nothing but memory, or only a recollecting, upon every new occasion, what had been before known in a state of pre-existence. And some others, both ancients and moderns, have concluded that the ideas of all first and simple truths, either natural or moral, are innate and originally impressed or stamped upon the mind. In their inference from the observation, the authors of both these opinions seem to be mistaken; but thus much it proves unavoidably,—that the differences, relations, and proportions of things, both natural and moral, in which all unprejudiced minds thus naturally agree, are certain, unalterable, and real in the things themselves, and do not at all depend on the variable opinions, fancies, or imaginations of men prejudiced by education, laws, customs, or evil practices : And also that the mind of man naturally and unavoidably gives its assent, as to natural and geometrical truth, so also to the moral differences of things, and to the fitness and reasonableness of the obligation of the everlasting law of righteousness, whenever fairly and plainly proposed.
Some men, indeed, who, by means of a very evil profligate and vicious education, or through a long habit of utterly in. wickedness and debauchery, have extremely corruptsensible of ed the principles of their nature, and have long ac
customed themselves to bear down their own reason by the force of prejudice, lust, and passion, that they may not be forced to confess themselves self-condemned, will confidently and absolutely contend that they do not really see any natural and necessary difference between what we call right and wrong, just and unjust; that the reason and judgment of their own mind does not tell them they are under any such indispensable obligations as we would endeavour to persuade them; and that they are not sensible they ought to be governed by any other rule than their own will and pleasure. But even
the difference of good and evil.
these men, the most abandoned of all mankind, how- PROP. ever industriously they endeavour to conceal and deny their self-condemnation, yet they cannot avoid making a discovery of it sometimes when they are not aware of it. For example, there is no man so vile and desperate who commits at any time a murder and robbery, with the most unrelenting mind, but would choose,* if such a thing could be proposed to him to obtain all the same profit or advantage, whatsoever it be that he aims at, without committing the crime, rather than with it, even though he was sure to go unpunished for committing the crime. Nay, I believe there is no'man evenin Mr Hobbes's state of nature, andof Mr Hobbes's own principles, but if he was equally assured of securing his main end, his selfpreservation, by either way, would choose to preserve himself rather without destroying all his fellow-creatures, than with it, even supposing all impunity, and all other future conveniences of life, equal in either case. Mr. Hobbes's own scheme, of men's agreeing by compact to preserve one another, can hardly be supposed without this. And this plainly evinces, that the mind of man unavoidably acknowledges a natural and necessary difference between good and evil, antecedent to all arbitrary and positive constitution whatsoever.
But the truth of this, that the mind of man na- Men's naturally and necessarily assents to the eternal law of tural sense righteousness, may still better, and more clearly, and moral ob. more universally appear, from the judgment that ligations, men pass upon each other's actions, than from what from the we can discern concerning their consciousness of their judgment
For men may dissemble and conceal from they all the world the judgment of their own conscience; nay, by a strange partiality, they may even impose upon
pass upon the actions of others.
Quis est enim, aut quis unquam fuit, aut avaritia tam ardente aut tam effrænatis cupiditatibus, ut eandem illam rem, quam adspici scelere quovis velit, non multis partibus malit ad sese, etiam omni impunitate proposita, sine facinore, quam illo modo pervenire ? -Cic. de Finib. lib. 3.
PROP. and deceive themselves, (for who is there that does
not sometimes allow himself, nay, and even justify himself in that wherein he condemns another?) But men's judgments concerning the actions of others, especially where they have no relation to themselves, or repugnance to their interest, are commonly impartial; and from this we may judge what sense men naturally have of the unalterable difference of right and wrong. Now the observation which every one cannot but make in this matter is this ; that virtue and true goodness, righteousness and equity, are things so truly noble and excellent, so lovely and venerable in themselves, and do so necessarily approve themselves to the reason and consciences of men, that even those very persons who, by the prevailing power of some interest or lust, are themselves drawn aside out of the paths of virtue,* can yet hardly ever forbear to give it its true character and commendation in others. And this observation holds true, not only in the generali. ty of vicious men, but very frequently even in the worst sort of them, viz. those who persecute others for being better than themselves. Thus the officers who were sent by the Pharisees to apprehend our Saviour, could not forbear declaringt that he spake as never man spake; and the Roman governor, when he gave sentence that he should be crucified, could not at the same instant forbear openly declaring that he found no fault in him. Even in this case men cannot choose but think well of those persons whom the dominion of their lusts will not suffer them to imitate, or whom their present interest and the necessity of their worldly affairs compels them to discourage. They cannot but desire, that they themselves were the men they are not, and wish, with Balaam, that though they imitate not the life, yet at least they might die the death of the righteous, and that their last end might be like theirs.
Placet suapte natura, adeoque gratiosa virtus est, ut insitum etiam sit malis probare meliores. Senec. de Benef. lib. 4. + Joh. vii. 46.
Joh. xviii. 88.
And hence it is that Plato judiciously observes, *that PROP. even the worst of men seldom or never make so wrong judgment concerning persons as they do concerning things, there being in virtue an unaccountable and as it were divine force, which, whatever confusion men endeavour to introduce in things by their vicious discourses and debauched practices, yet almost always compels them to distinguish right concerning persons, and makes them admire and praise just and equitable, and honest men. On the contrary, vice and injustice, profaneness and debauchery, are things so absolutely odious in their own nature, that however they insinuate themselves into the practice, yet they can never gain over to themselves the judgment of mankind. They who do evil, yet see and approve what is good, and condemn in others what they blindly allow in themselves; nay, and very frequently condemn even themselves also, not without great disorder and uneasiness of mind, in those very things wherein they allow themselves. At least, there is hardly any wicked man, but when his own case is represented to him under the person of another, will freely enough pass sentence against the wickedness he himself is guilty of; and, with sufficient severity, exclaim against all iniquity. This shows abundantly, that all variation from the eternal rule of right is absolutely and in the nature of the thing itself to be abhorred and detested, and that the unprejudiced mind of man as naturally disapproves injustice in moral matters, as in natural things it cannot but dissent from falsehood, or dislike incongruities. Even in reading the histories of past and far distant ages, where it is plain we can have no concern for the events of things, nor prejudices concerning the characters of persons; who is there, that does not praise
* Ου γαρ όσον εσίας αρετής απεσφαλμένοι τυγχάνεσιν οι πολλοί, τοσέτον και τα κρίνειν τες άλλες οι πονηροί και άχρηστοι θείον δέ τι και ευστοχόν έστι και τοϊσι κακοίς ώστε πάμπολλοι και των σφόδρα κακών, εξυ τους λόγους και δόξαις διαρούνται τες αμείνες των ανθρώπων και τας χείρες. -Plato de Leg. lib. 12.
PROP. and admire, nay highly esteem, and in his imagina.
tion love (as it were) the equity, justice, truth, and fidelity of some persons, and, with the greatest indignation and hatred, detest the barbarity, injustice, and treachery of others ? Nay, further, when the prejudices of corrupt minds lie all on the side of injustice, as when we have obtained some very great profit or advantage through another man's treachery or breach of faith; yet* who is there, that, upon that very occasion, does not (even to a proverb,) dislike the person
and the action, how much soever he may rejoice at the event ? But when we come ourselves to suffer by iniquity, then where are all the arguments and sophistries by which unjust men, while they are oppressing others, would persuade themselves that they are not sensible of any natural difference between good and evil ? When it comes to be these men's own case to be oppressed by violence, or overreached by fraud, where then are all their pleas against the eternal distinction of right and wrong? How, on the contrary, do they then cry out for equity, and exclaim against injustice ? How do they then challenge and object against Providence, and think neither God nor man severe enough, in punishing the violators of right and truth? Whereas if there was no natural and eternal difference between just and unjust, no man could have any reason to complain of injury, any other than what laws and compacts made so ; which in innumerable cases will be always to be evaded.
There is but one thing that I am sensible of, which to the ob- can here with any colour be objected against what jection
has been hitherto said concerning the necessity of the from the mind's giving its assent to the eternal law of right
eousness; and that is, the total ignorance which some some bar- whole nations are reported to lie under of the nature
and force of these moral obligations. I am not samatters of tisfied the matter of fact is true ; but if it was, yet morality.
* Quis Pullum Numitorem, Fregellanum Proditorem, quanquam reipublicæ nostræ profuit, non odit Cic. de Finib. lib 5.
barous nations in