Page images
PDF
EPUB

tue and praise are so united, that they are called often by the same name. “Sunt sua præmia laudi," says Virgil; and so Cicero, “nibil habct natura præstantius, quam “ honestatem, quam laudem, quam dignitatem, quam “ decus;" which, he tells you, are all names for the same thing, Tusc. lib. ii. This is the language of the heathen philosophers, who well understood wherein their notions of virtue and vice consisted, and though perhaps by the different temper, education, fashion, max

ims,

[ocr errors]

virtue and vice, he would not have found it liable to any great exception. For, I think, I am not much out in saying, that one of the rules made use of in the world for a ground or measure of a moral relation, is that esteem and reputation which several sorts of actions find variously in the several societies of men, according to which they are there called virtues or vices: and whatever authority the learned Mr. Lowde places in his old English dictionary, I dare say it no-where tells him (if I should appeal to it) that the same action is not in credit, called and counted a virtue in one place, which being in disrepute, passes for and under the name of vice in another. The taking notice that men bestow the names of virtue and vice according to this rule of reputation, is all I have done, or can be laid to my charge to have done, towards the making vice virtue, and virtue vice. But the good man does well, and as becomes his calling, to be watchful in such points, and to take the alarm, even at expressions, which standing alone by themselves might sound ill, and be suspected.

It is to this zeal, allowable in his function, that I forgive his citing, as he does, these words of mine, in §. 11. of this chapter: · The exhortations of inspired teachers have not feared to appeal to common repute : -“ Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, “ if there be any virtue, if there be any praise,” &c. Phil. iv. 8.' without taking notice of those immediately preceding, which introduce them, and run thus: 'whereby in the corruption of manners, the true boua. daries of the law of nature, which ought to be the rule of virtue and vice, were pretty well preserved; so that even the exhortations of inspired teachers, &c.' by which words, and the rest of that section, it is plain that I brought that passage of St. Paul, not to prove that the general measure of what men call virtue and vice, throughout the world, was the reputation and fashion of each particular society within itself; but to show, that though it were so, yet, for reasons I there give, men, in that way of denominating their actions, did not for the most part much vary from the law of nature : which is that standing and unalterable rule, by which they ought to judge of the moral rectitude and praxity of their actions, and accordingly denominate them virtues or vices. Had Mr. Lowde considered this, he would have found it little to his purpose to have quoted that passage in a sense l used it not; and would, 'I imagine, have spared the explication he subjoins to it, as not very necessary. But I hope this second edition will give him satisfaction in the point, and

that

[ocr errors]

ims, or interests of different sorts of men, it fell out that what was thought praise-worthy in one place, escaped not censure in another; and so in different societies, virtues and vices were changed; yet, as to the main, they for the most part kept the same every-where. For since nothing can be more natural, than to encourage with esteem and reputation that wherein every one

that this matter is now so expressed, as to show him there was no cause of scruple.

Though I am forced to differ from him in those apprehensions he has expressed in the latter end of his preface, concerning what I had said about virtue and vice ; yet we are better agreed than he thinks, in what he says in his third chapter, p. 78. concerning natural inscription and innate notions. I shall not deny him the privilege he claims, p. 52. to state the question as he pleases, especially when he states it so, as to leave nothing in it contrary to what I have said : for, according to him, ina nate notions being conditional things, depending upon the concurrence of several other circumstances, in order to the soul's exerting them; all that he says for innate, imprinted, impressed notions (for of innate ideas he says nothing at all) amounts at last only to this : that there are certain propositions, which though the soul from the beginning, or when a man is born, does not know, yet by assistance from the outward senses, and the help of some previous cultivation, it may afterwards come certainly to know the truth of; which is no more than what I have affirmed in my first book. For I suppose by the soul's exerting them, he means its beginning to know them, or else the soul's exerting of notions will be to me a very unintelligible expression ; and I think at best is a very unfit one in this case, it misleading men's thoughts by an insinuation, as if these notions were in the mind before the soul exerts them, i. e. before they are known: whereas truly before they are known, there is nothing of them in the mind, but a capacity to know them, when the concurrence of those circumstances, which this ingenious author thinks necessary in order to the soul's exerting them, brings them into our knowledge:

P. 52. I find him express it thus ; these natural notions are not so imprinted upon the soul, as that they naturally and necessarily exert themselves (even in children and idiots) without any assistance from the outward senses, or without the help of some previous cultivation.' Here he says they exert themselves, as p. 78. that the soul exerts them. When he has explained to himself or others what he means by the soul's exerting innate notions, or their exerting themselves, and what that previous cultivation and circumstances, in order to their being exerted, are; he will, I suppose, find there is so little of controversy between him and me in the point, bating that he calls that exerting of notions, which I in a more vulgar style call knowing, that I have reason to think he brought in my name upon this occasion only out of the pleasure he has to speak civilly of me; which I must gratefully acknowledge he has done wherever he mentions me, not without conferring on me, as some others have done, a title I have no right to. Bb 4

finds

finds his advantage, and to blame and discountenance the contrary; it is no wonder that esteem and discredit, virtue and vice, should in a great measure every-where correspond with the unchangeable rule of right and wrong, which the law of God hath established: there being nothing that so directly and visibly secures and advances the general good of mankind in this world, as obedience to the laws he has set them, and nothing that breeds such mischiefs and confusion, as the neglect of them. And therefore men, without renouncing all sense and reason, and their own interest, which they are so constantly true to, could not generally mistake in placing their commendation and blame on that side that really deserved it not. Nay, even those men whose practice was otherwise, failed not to give their approbation right; few being depraved to that degree, as not to condemn, at least in others, the faults they themselves were guilty of: whereby, even in the corruption of manners, the true boundaries of the law of nature, which ought to be the rule of virtue and vice, were pretty well preferred. So that even the exhortations of inspired teachers have not feared to appeal to common repute : “Whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is of good report, if there be any virtue, if their be any praise,” &c. Phil. iv. S. Its enforce.

§. 12. If any one shall imagine that I ments com. have forgot my own notion of a law, when mendation I make the law, whereby men judge of viranddiscredit,

tue and vice, to be nothing else but the consent of private men, who have not authority enough to make a law: especially wanting that, which is so necessary and essential to a law, a power to enforce it: I think I may say, that he who imagines commendation and disgrace not to be strong motives to men, to accommodate themselves to the opinions and rules of those with whom they converse, seeins little skilled in the nature or history of mankind: the greatest part whereof he shall find to govern themselves chiefly, if not solely, by tliis law of fashion; and so they do that which keeps thein in reputation with their company, le regard the laws of God, or the magistrate. "The

penalties

penalties that attend the breach of God's laws, some, nay, perhaps most men, seldom seriously reflect on; and amongst those that do, many, whilst they break the law, entertain thoughts of future reconciliation, and making their peace for such breaches. And as to the punishments due from the laws of the commonwealth, they frequently flatter themselves with the hopes of impunity. But no man escapes the punishment of their censure and dislike, who offends against the fashion and opinion of the company he keeps, and would recommend himself to. Nor is there one of ten thousand, who is stiff and insensible enough to bear up under the constant dislike and condemnation of his own club. He must be of a strange and unusual constitution, who can content himself to live in constant disgrace and disrepute with his own particular society. Solitude many men have sought, and been reconciled to : but no-body, that has the least thought or sense of a man about him, can live in society under the constant dislike and ill opinion of his familiars, and those he converses with. This is a burden too heavy for human sufferance : and he must be made up of irreconcileable contradictions, who can take pleasure in company, and yet be insensible of contempt and disgrace from his companions.

g. 13. These three then, first, the law of These three God; secondly, the law of politic socie- laws the rules ties; thirdly, the law of fashion, or private of moral censure; are those to which men variously

good and

evil. compare their actions: and it is by their conformity to one of these laws that they take their measures, when they would judge of their moral rectitude, and denominate their actions good or bad.

$. 14. Whether the rule, to which, as to Morality is a touchstone, we bring our voluntary ac

the relation tions, to examine them by, and try their of actions to goodness, and accordingly to name them: which is, as it were, the mark of the value we set upon them: whether, I say, we take that rule from the fashion of the country, or the will of a lawmaker, the mind is easily able to observe the relation

any

these rules,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

any action hath to it, and to judge whether the action agrees or disagrees with the rule; and so hath a notion of moral goodness or evil, which is either conformity or not conformity of any action to that rule : and there. fore is often called moral rectitude. This rule being nothing but a collection of several simple ideas, the conforinity thereto is but so ordering the action, that the simple ideas belonging to it may correspond to those which the law requires. And thus we see how moral beings and notions are founded on, and terminated in these simple ideas we have received from sensation or reflection. For example, let us consider the complex idea we signify by the word murder; and when we have taken it asunder, and examined all the particulars, we shall find them to amount to a collection of simple ideas derived from reflection or sensation, viz. first, from reflection on the operations of our own minds, we have the ideas of willing, considering, purposing before-hand, malice, or wishing ill to another; and also of life, or perception, and self-motion. Secondly, from sensation we have the collection of those simple sensible ideas which are to be found in a man, and of some action, whereby we put an end to perception and motion in the man; all which sinple ideas are comprehended in the word murder. This collection of simple ideas being found by me to agree or disagree with the esteem of the country I have been bred in, and to be held by most men there worthy praise or blame, I call the action virtuous or vicious: if I have the will of a supreme invisible law-giver for my rule; then, as I supposed the action commanded or forbidden by God, I call it good or evil, sin or duty: and if I compare it to the civil law, the rule made by the legislative power of the country, I call it lawful or unlawful, a crime or no crime. So that whencesoever we take the rule of moral actions, or by what standard soever we frame in our minds the ideas of virtues or vices, they consist only and are made up of collections of simple ideas, which we originally received from sense or reflection, and their rectitude or obliquity consists

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »