« PreviousContinue »
not innate, and such as offer themselves to their view without searching. Faith and
$. 2. Whether there be any such moral justice not
principles, wherein all men do agree, I owned as appeal to any, who have been but mode. principles by rately conversant in the history of mankind, all men.
and looked abroad beyond the smoke of their own chimnies. Where is that practical truth, that is universally received without doubt or question, as it must be, if innate ? Justice, and keeping of contracts, is that which most men seem to agree in. This is a principle, which is thought to extend itself to the dens of thieves, and the confederacies of the greatest villains; and they who have gone farthest towards the putting off of humanity itselt, keep faith and rules of justice one with another. I grant that out-laws themselves do this one amongst another ; but it is without receiving these as the innate laws of nature. They practise them as rules of convenience within their own communities : but it is impossible to conceive, that he embraces justice as a practical principle, who acts fairly with his fellow highwayman, and at the same time plunders or kills the next honest man he meets with. "Jus. tice and truth are the common ties of society; and therefore, even out-laws and robbers, who break with all the world besides, must keep faith and rules of equity amongst themselves, or else they cannot hold together. But will any one say, that those that live by fraud or rapine, have innate principles of truth and justice which they allow and assent to? Objection. $. 3. Perhaps it will be urged, that the Though men tacit assent of their minds agrees to what deny them in their practice contradicts. I answer, first, rice, yet they
I have always thought the actions of men admit them the best interpreters of their thoughts. But in their since it is certain, that most men's practhoughts, an. tices, and some men's open professions, şwered.
have either questioned or denied these principles, it is impossible to establish an universal consent, (though we should look for it only amongst grown men) without which it is impossible to conclude them
innate. Secondly, it is very strange and unreasonable, to suppose innate practical principles, that terminate only in contemplation. Practical principles derived from nature are there for operation, and must produce conformity of action, not barely speculative assent to their truth, or else they are in vain distinguished from speculative maxims. Nature, I confess, has put into man a desire of happiness, and an aversion to misery : these indeed are innate practical principles, which (as practical principles ought) do continue constantly to operate and influence all our actions without ceasing: these may be observed in all persons and all ages, steady and universal; but these are inclinations of the appetite to good, not impressions of truth on the understanding. I deny not, that there are natural tendencies imprinted on the minds of men; and that, from the very first instances of sense and perception, there are some things that are grateful, and others unwelcome to them ; some things that they incline to, and others that they fly: but this makes nothing for innate characters on the mind, which are to be the principles of knowledge, regulating our practice. Such natural impressions on the understanding are so far from being confirmed hereby, that this is an argument against them; since, if there were certain characters imprinted by nature on the understanding, as the principles of knowledge, we could not but perceive them constantly operate in us and influence our knowledge, as we do those others on the will and appetite ; which never cease to be the constant springs and motives of all our actions, to which we perpetually feel them strongly impelling us.
§. 4. Another reason that makes me doubt Moral rules of any innate practical principles, is, that need a proof, I think there cannot any one moral rule ergo not in. be proposed, whereof a man may not justly demand a reason : which would be perfectly ridiculous and absurd, if they were innatę, or so much as self-evident; which every innate principle must needs be, and not need any proof to ascertain its truth, nor want any reason to gain it approbation. He would be thought void of common sense, who asked on the one
side, or on the other side went to give, a reason, why it is impossible for the same thing to be, and not to be. It carries its own light and evidence with it, and needs no other proof: he that understands the terms, assents to it for its own sake, or else nothing will ever be able to prevail with him to do it. But should that most unshaken rule of morality, and foundation of all social virtue, “that one should do as he would be done unto," be proposed to one who never heard it before, but yet is of capacity to understand its meaning might he not without any absurdity ask a reason why? and were not he that proposed it bound to make out the truth and reasonableness of it to him? which plainly shows it not to be innate ; for if it were, it could nei. ther want nor receive any proof; but must needs (at least, as soon as heard and understood) be received and assented to, as an unquestionable truth, which a man can by no means doubt of So that the truth of all these moral rules plainly depends upon some other antecedent to them, and from which they must be deduced; which could not be, if either they were innate, or so much as self-evident. Instance in 9. 5. That men should keep their comkeeping com. pacts, is certainly a great and undeniable pacts. rule in morality. But yet, if a christian, who has the view of happiness and misery in another life, be asked why a inan must keep his word, he will give this as a reason; because God, who has the power of eternal life and death, requires it of us. But if an Hobbist be asked why, he will answer, because the public requires it, and the Leviathan will punish you, if you do not. And if one of the old philosophers had been asked, he would have answered, because it was dishonest, below the dignity of a man, and opposite to virtue, the highest perfection of human nature, to do otherwise. Virtue gene- §. 6. Hence naturally flows the great vasally appro
riety of opinions concerning moral rules, ved, not be.
which are to be found among men, accordcause innate, but because ing to the different sorts of happiness they profitable. have a prospect of, or propose to themselves : which could not be if practical principles were innate, and imprinted in our minds immediately by the hand of God. I grant the existence of God is so many ways: manifest; and the obedience we owe him so congruous to the light of reason, that a great part of mankind give testimony to the law of nature; but yet I think it must be allowed, that several moral rules may receive from mankind a very general approbation, without either knowing or admitting the true ground of morality; which can only be the will and law of a God, who sees men in the dark, has in his hand rewards and punishments, and power enough to call to account the proudest offender. For God having, by an inseparable connexion, joined virtue and public happi. ness together, and made the practice thereof necessary to the preservation of society, and visibly beneficial to all with whom the virtuous man has to do; it is no wonder, that every one should not only allow, but recommend and magnify those rules to others, from whose observance of them he is sure to reap advantage to himself. He may, out of interest, as well as conviction, cry up that for sacred, which if once trampled on and prophaned, he himself cannot be safe nor secure. This, though it takes nothing from the moral and eternal obligation which these rules evidently have; yet it shows that the outward acknowledgement men pay to them in their words, proves not that they are innate principles; nay, it proves not so much, as that men assent to them inwardly in their own minds, as the inviolable rules of their own practice : since we find that self-interest, and the conveniencies of this life, make many men own an outward profession and approbation of them, whose actions sufficiently prove, that they very little consider the law-giver that prescribed these rules, nor the hell that he has ordained for the punishment of those that transgress them.
s. 7. Far, if we will not in civility allow Men's actions too much sincerity to the professions of most convince us, men, but think their actions to be the in- virtue is not terpreters of their thoughts, we shall find their internal that they have no such internal vencration principle, D3
for these rales, nor so full a persuasion of their certainty and obligation. The great principle of morality, " to do as one would be done to," is more commended than practised. But the breach of this, rule cannot be a greater vice, than to teach others, that it is no moral rule, nor obligatory, would be thought madness, and contrary to that interest men sacrifice to, when they break it themselves. Perhaps conscience will be urged as checking us for such breaches, and so the internal obligation and establishinent of the rule be preserved. Conscience
6. 8. To which I answer, that I doubt no proof of
not but, without being written on their any innate
hearts, many men may, by the same way ural rule,
that they come to the knowledge of other things, come to assent to several moral rules, and be convinced of their obligation. Others also may come to be of the same mind, froin their education, company, and customs of their country; which persuasion, however got, will serve to set conscience on work, which is nothing else, but our own opinion or judgment of the moral rectitude or pravity of our own actions. And if conscience be a proof of innate principles, contraries may be innate principles; since some men, with the same bent of conscience, prosecute what others avoid. Instances of
$. 9. But I cannot see how any men should enormities ever transgress those moral rules, with conpractised fidence and serenity, were they innate, and without re. stamped upon their minds. "View but an morse.
army at the sacking of a town, and see what observation, or sense of moral principles, or what touch of conscience for all the outrages they do. Robberies, murders, rapes, are the sports of men set at liberty from punishment and censure. Have there not been whole nations, and those of the most civilized people, amongst whom the exposing their children, and leaving them in the fields to perish by want or wild beasts, has been the practice, as little condemned or scrupled as the be. getting them? Do they not still, in some countries, put them into the same graves with their mothers, if they die in child-birth : or dispatch them, if a pretended