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should be under no regulation ? And where we are guided by our own will, would it be reasonable to wish, that it should be under no regulation, but be exerted without reason, without any motive, and contrary to common fense ? Thus, with regard to human conduct, there is a chain of laws established by nature, no one link of which is left arbitrary. By that wise system, man is made accountable : by it, he is made a fit subject for divine and human government: by it, persons of fagacity foresee the conduct of others : and by it, the prescience of the Deity with respect to human actions, is clearly established,
The absurd figure that a man would make acting in contradiction to motives, should be sufficient to open our eyes without an argument. What a despicable figure does a person make, upon whom the fame motive has great influence at one time, and very little at another ? He is a bad member of society, and cannot be rely'd on as a friend or as an associate, But how highly rational is this supposed person, compared with one who can act in contradiction to every motive? The
former may be termed whimsical or cam pricious: the latter is worfe; he is absolutely unaccountable, and cannot be the subject of government, more than a lump of matter unconscious of its own motion.
Let the faculty of acting be compared with that of reasoning: the comparison will reconcile every unbiaffed mind to the necessary influence of motives. A man is tied by his nature to form conclusions upon what appears to him true at the time. This indeed does not always fecure him against error; but would he be more secure by a power to form conclufions contrary to what appears true ? Such a power would make him a most abfurd reasoner. Would he be less absurd in acting, if he had a power to act against motives, and contrary to what he thinks right or eligible ? To act in that manner, is inconfiftent with any notion we can form of a fenfible being. Nor do we suppose that man is such a being: in accounting for any action, however whimsical, we always ascribe it to some motive; never once dreaming that there was no motive.
And after all, where would be the advantage of such an arbitrary power ? Can
a rational man wish seriously to have such a power ? or can he seriously think, that God would make man fo whimsical a being? To endue man with a degree of self-command sufficient to resist every vitious motive, without any power to refist those that are virtuous, would indeed be a valuable gift; too valuable indeed for man, because it would exalt him to be an angel. But such self-command as to refist both equally, which is the present suppofition, would be a great curse, as it would unqualify us for being governed either by God or by man.
Better far to be led as rational creatures by the prospect of good, however erroneous our judgement may sometimes be.
While all other animals are subjected to divine government and unerringly fulfil their destination, and considering that man is the only terrestrial being who is formed to know his Maker and to worship him; will it not found harsh that he alone should be withdrawn from divine government? The power of resisting the strongest motives, whether of religion or of morality, would render him independent of the Deity.
This reasoning is too diffuse : if it can be comprehended in a single view, it will make the deeper impression. There may be conceived different systems for governing man as a thinking and rational being: One is, That virtuous motives should always prevail over every other motive. This, in appearance, would be the most perfect government: but man is not so constituted ; and there is reason to doubt, whether such perfection would in his present state correspond to the other branches of his nature (a). Another system is, That virtuous motives sometimes prevail, sometimes vitious; and that we are always determined by the prevailing inotive. This is the true system of nature; and hence great variety of character and of conduct among men.
A third system is, That motives have influence; but that one can act in contradiction to every motive. This is the system I have been combating. Observe only what it resolves in
How is an action to be accounted for that is done in contradiction to every motive? It wanders from the region of com
(a) See book 2. sketch i, at the end.
mon sense into that of mere chance. If such were the nature of man, no one could rely on another : a promise or an oath would be a rope of sand : the utmost cordiality between two friends would be no security to either against the other: the first weapon that comes in the way might be lethal. Would any man wish to have been · formed according to such a model? He would probably wish to have been formed according to the model first mentioned : but that is deny'd him, virtuous motives sometimes prevailing, sometimes vicious; and from the wisdom of Providence we have reason to believe, that this law is of all the best fitted for man in his present state.
To conclude this branch of the subject : In none of the works of Providence, as far as we can penetrate, is there display'd a deeper reach of art and wisdom, than in the laws of action peculiar to man as a thinking and rational being. Were he left loose to act in contradiction to motives, there would be no place for prudence, foresight, nor for adjusting means to an end : it could not be foreseen by 0thers what a man would do the next hour;