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his death : and to quiet the minds of men with respect to futurity, the moral sense makes the performing such promises our duty. Thus, if I promise to my
friend to erect a monument for him after his death, conscience binds me, even tho' no person alive be entitled to demand performance : every one perceives this to be my duty; and I must expect to suffer reproach and blame, if I neglect my engagement.
To fulfil a rational promise or covenant, deliberately made, is a duty no less inflexible than those duties are which arise independent of confent. But as man is fallible, often misled by ignorance, and liable to be deceived, his condition would be deplorable, did the moral sense compel him to fulfil every engagement, however imprudent or irrational. Here the moral sense gives way to human infirmity : it relieves from deceit, from imposition, from ignorance, from error; and binds a inan by no engagement but what answers the end fairly intended. There is still less doubt that it will relieve us from an engagement extorted by external violence, or by overbearing passion. The dread of torture will force most men to submit to
any terms; and a man in imminent hazard of drowning, will voluntarily promife all he has in the world to save him. The moral sense would be ill suited to the imbecillity of our nature, did it bind men in confcience to fulfil engagements made in such circumstances.
The other branch of duties, those we owe, to ourselves, shall be discussed in a few words. Propriety, a branch of the moral sense, regulates our conduct with respect to ourselves; as Justice, another branch of the moral sense, regulates our conduct with respect to others. Propriety dictates, that we ought to act up to the dignity of our nature, and to the station allotted us by Providence : it dictates in particular, that temperance, prudence, modefty, and uniformity of conduct, are felf-duties, Thefe duties contribute to private happiness, by preserving health, peace of mind, and self-esteem; which are inestimable blessings : they contribute no less to happiness in society, by gaining the love and esteem of others, and aid and support in time of need,
Upon reviewing the foregoing duties respecting others, we find them more or VOL. IV.
less extensive; but none so extensive as to have for their end the good of mankind in general. The most extensive duty is that of restraint, prohibiting us to harm others : but even that duty has a limited end; for its purpose is only to protect others from mischief, not to do them any positive good. The active duties of doing positive good are circumscribed within ftill narrower bounds, requiring fome relation that connects us with others; such as those of parent, child, friend, benefactor. The slighter relations, unless in peculiar' circumstances, are not the foundation of any active duty: neighbourhood, for example, does not alone make benevolence a duty : but supposing a neighbour to be in distress, relief becomes our duty, if it can be done without distress to ourselves. The duty of relieving from distress, seldom goes farther ; for tho' we always sympathise with our relations, and with those under our eye, the distresses of the remote and unknown affect us very little. Pactions and agreements become necessary, if we would extend the duty of benevolence beyond the limits mentioned. Men, it is true, are capable of doing more good
than is required of them as a duty ; but every such good must be a free-will offering.
And this leads to arbitrary or discretionary actions, such as may be done or left undone ; which make the second general head of moral actions. With respect to these, the moral sense leaves us at freedom : a benevolent act is approved, but the omission is not condemned. This holds strictly in single acts; but in viewing the whole of a man's conduct, the moral sense appears to vary a little. As the nature of man is complex, partly focial, partly selfish, we have an intuitive perception, that our conduct ought to be conformable to our nature ; and that in advancing our own interest, we ought not altogether to neglect that of others. The man accordingly who confines his whole time and thoughts within his own little sphere, is condemned by all the world as guilty of wrong conduct; and the man himself, if his moral perceptions be not blunted by selfishness, must be sensible that he deserves to be condemned. On the other hand, it is possible that free benevolence may be extended beyond proper F 2
bounds: where it prevails, it commonly leads to excess, by prompting a man to facrifice a great interest of his own to a small interest of others; and the moral fense dictates, that such conduct is wrong. The just temperament, is a subordination of benevolence to felf-love.
Thus, moral actions are divided into two claffes: the first regards our duty, containing actions that ought to be done, and actions that ought not to be done; the other regards arbitrary or discretionary actions, containing actions that are right when done, but not wrong when left undone, Society is indeed promoted by the latter; but it can scarce fubfift, unless the former be made our duty. Hence it is, that actions only of the first class are made indispensable; those of the other class being left to our free-will. And hence also it is, that the various propensities that dispose us to actions of the first class, are diftinguished by the name of primary virtucs ; leaving the name of secondary virtues to those propensities which dispose us to actions of the other class *.
* Virtue fignifies that disposition of mind which •