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THERE may be other characteristics, said he, but these I think fufficient. See then its idea; behold it, as collected from the original, natural and universal pre-conceptions of all mankind. The Sovereign Good, they have taught us, ought to be fomething agreeable to our nature; conducive to well-being; accommodated to all places and times; durable, felf-derived, and indeprivable. Your account, said I, appears juft.
CHA P. II.
THE SAMB SUBJ E С Т.
BRUTUS perished untimely, and Cæfar did no more.—
Thefe words I was repeating the next day to myself, when my friend appeared, and cheerfully bade me goodmorrow. I could not return his compliment with an equal gaiety, being intent, fomewhat more than ufual, on what had paffed the day before. Seeing this, he propofed a walk into the fields. The face of nature, faid he, will perhaps difpel thefe glooms. No affistance, on my part, shall be wanting, you may be affured. I accepted his propofal; the walk began; and our former converfation infenfibly renewed.
BRUTUS, faid he, perished untimely, and Cæfar did no more. It was thus, as I remember, not long fince you were expreffing yourfelf. And yet fuppofe their fortunes to have been exactly parallel-Which would you have preferred'? Would you have been Cæfar, or Brutus? Brutus, replied I, beyond all controverfy. He asked me,. Why? Where was the difference, when their fortunes, as we now fuppofed them, were confidered as the fame? There seems, faid I, abftract from their fortunes, fomething, I know not what,
what, intrinfically preferable in the life and character of Brutus. If that, faid he, be true, then must we derive it, not from the fuccefs of his endeavours, but from their truth and rectitude. He had the comfort to be conscious, that his caufe was a juft one. It was impoffible the other should have any fuch feeling. I believe, faid I, you have explained it.
SUPPOSE then, continued he, (it is but merely an hypothefis) fuppofe, I fay, we were to place the Sovereign Good in fuch a rectitude of conduct, in the Conduct merely, and not in the Event. Suppose we were to fix our Happiness, not in the actual attainment of that health, that perfection of a social state, that fortunate concurrence of externals, which is congruous to our nature, and which all have a right to pursue; but folely fix it in the mere doing whatever is correspondent to fuch an end, even though we never attain, or are near attaining it. In fewer words; What if we make our natural ftate the ftandard only to determine our conduct; and place our happiness in the rectitude of this conduct alone? On such an hypothefis (and we confider it as nothing farther) we should not want a good, perhaps, to correfpond to our pre-conceptions; for this, it is evident, would be correfpondent to them all. Your doctrine, replied I, is fo new and ftrange, that though you have been copious in explaining, I can hardly yet comprehend you.
Ir amounts all, faid he, but to this: Place your happinefs, where your praife is. I afked, Where he supposed that? Not, replied he, in the pleasures which you feel, more than your difgrace lies in the pain; not in the cafual profperity of fortune, more than your difgrace in the cafual adverfity; but in juft complete action throughout every part of life, whatever be the face of things, whether favourable or the contrary.
BUT why then, faid I, fuch accuracy about externals? So much pains to be informed, what are purfuable, what avoidable? It behoves the Pilot, replied he, to know the feas and the winds; the nature of tempefts, calms and tides. They are the fubjects, about which his art is converfant. Without a juft experience of them, he can never prove himfelf an artift. Yet we look not for his reputation either in fair gales, or in adverse; but in the fkilfulness of his conduct, be these events as they happen. In like manner fares it with the moral artift. He, for a fubject, has the whole of human life: health and fickness; pleasure and pain; with every other poffible incident, whic can befal him during his existence. If his knowledge of all these be accurate and exact, so too must his conduct, in which we place. his happiness. But if his knowledge be defective, muft not his conduct be defective alfo? I replied, So it fhould feem. And if his conduct, then his happiness? It is
You fee then, continued even though externals were as nothing; though it was true, in their own nature, they were neither good nor evil; yet an accurate knowledge of them is, from our hypothefis, abfolutely neceffary. Indeed, faid I, you have proved it.
He continued-Inferior artifts may be at a ftand, because they want materials. From their ftubbornnefs and intractability, they may often be difappointed. But as long as life is paffing, and nature continues to operate, the moral artist of life has at all times all he defires. He can never want a fubject fit to exercife him in his proper calling; and that with this happy motive to the conftancy of his endeavours, that, the croffer, the harfher, the more untoward the events, the greater his praife, the more illuftrious his reputation.
ALL this, faid I, is true, and cannot be denied. But one circumftance there appears, where your fimile seems to fail. The praise indeed of the Pilot we allow to be in his conduct; but it is in the fuccefs of that conduct, where we look for his happiness. If a ftorm arife, and the ship be loft, we call him not happy, how well foever he may have conducted it. It is then only we congratulate him, when he has reached the defired haven. Your distinction, faid he, is juft. And it is here lies the noble prerogative of moral artists, above all others. But yet I know not how to explain myself, I fear my doctrine will appear fo ftrange. You may proceed, faid I, fafely, fince you advance it but as an hypothefis.
THUS then, continued he―The end in other arts is ever diftant and removed. It confifts not in the mere conduct, much less in a fingle energy; but is the just result of many energies, each of which are effential to it. Hence, by obstacles unavoidable, it may often be retarded: nay more, may be fo embarraffed, as never poffibly to be attained. But in the moral art of life, the very conduct is the End; the very conduct, I fay, itself, throughout every its minutest energy; because each of these, however minute, partake as truly of rectitude, as the largest combination of them, when confidered collectively., Hence, of all arts this is the only one perpetually complete in every inftant, because it needs. not, like other arts, time to arrive at that perfection, at which in every inftant it is arrived already. Hence by duration it is not rendered either more or less perfect; completion, like truth, admitting of no degrees, and being in no fenfe capable of either intention or remiffion. And hence too by.neceffary connection (which is a greater paradox than all) even that Happiness or Sovereign Good, the end of this moral
moral art, is itself too, in every inftant, confummate and complete; is neither heightened nor diminished by the quantity of its duration, but is the fame to its enjoyers, for a moment or a century.
UPON this I fmiled. He asked me the reafon. It is only to obferve, faid I, the courfe of our inquiries. A new hypothefis has been advanced appearing fomewhat strange, it is defired to be explained. You comply with the request, and in pursuit of the explanation, make it ten times mone obfcure and unintelligible, than before. It is but too often the fate, faid he, of us commentators. But you know in fuch cafes what is ufually done. When the comment will not explain the text, we try whether the text will not explain itself. This method, it is poffible, may affift us here. The hypothefis, which we would have illuftrated, was no more than this: That the Sovereign Good lay in rectitude of Conduct; and that this Good correfponded to all our pre-conceptions. Let us examine then, whether, upon trial, this correfpondence will appear to hold; and, for all that we have advanced fince, fuffer it to pafs, and not perplex us. Agreed, faid I, willingly, for now I hope to comprehend you.
RECOLLECT then, faid he. Do you not remember that one pre-conception of the Sovereign Good was, to be accommodated to all times and places? I remember it. And is there any time, or any place, whence Rectitude of Condu&t may be excluded? Is there not a right action in profperity, a right action in adversity? May there not be a decent, generous, and laudable behaviour, not only in peace, in power, and in health; but in-war, in oppreffion, in ficknefs, and in death? There may.