« PreviousContinue »
we approve of his action as suitable and proper; if, by placing ourselves in the circumstances of the object of the action, we can sympathize with his grateful feel. ings, we consider the agent as possessing merit. If we are incapable of sympathizing with the agent, we view the action as improper, We consider him worthy of reward when we can sympathize with the gratitude of others, and of punishment when we sympathize with their resentment. In a word, the merit or demerit of the agent in every case, according to this system, can only be discovered by that sympathetic tendency of our nature which enables us to place our, selves in the situation of those whom his action has benefited or injured.
" That there may be some correspondence of sentiments between the spectator and the person princi, pally concerned, the spectator must, first of all, endeavour as much as he can, to put himself in the situation of the other, and to bring home to himself every little circumstance which can possibly affect him. He must adopt the whole case of his companion, with all its minytest inoidents, and strive to render as perfect as possible, that imaginary change of situation upon which his sympathy is founded."
The great error of this theory is, that it takes for granted the existence of those moral feelings the origin of which it is its design to trace to that sympathetic process just described. Had we not been rendered capable by the author of our being of judging of actions as right and wrong, and of moral agents as
Theory of Moral Sentiments, vol. i. p. 34.
virtuous or vicious, meritorious or the contrary, we could not derive this feeling from the
ques. tion. “ The moral sentiments could not be regarded as having their source in the sympathy, but as preceding it; or if no moral sentiments of any kind preceded it, the sympathy itself could not afford themmore than a mirror, which reflects to us, from the opposite landscape, the sunny hill, the rock, and the trees, gleaming through the spray of the water fall, could of itself, without any external light, produce all that beautiful variety of colour with which it delights our vision.
Why is it that we look with so much horror on those early ages of persecution, which collecting around the victim every instrument of torture, required of him only a few grains of incense to be thrown before a statue,-more noble, indeed, than the imperial murderer whom it represented, but still only a statue, the effigy of a being of human form, who under the purple which clothed him with the diadem, and the sceptre, and the altar,-far from being a god, was himself one of the lowest things which God had made! When, placed thus between idolatry and every form of bodily anguish,—with life and guilt before him, and death and innocence,
the hero of a pure faith looked
a fearlessly on the cross or on the stake, and calmly, and without wrath, on the statue which he refused to worship,--do we feel that there was no merit in the mag. nanimity, because we cannot readily discover some gratitude which we may participate? We do not think of any thankfulness of man. We think only of
God and virtue,--and of the heroic sufferer, to whom God and virtue were all, and the suffering of such a moment nothing *."
FURTHER INTIMATIONS OF THE EXISTENCE OF A SUPREME MORAL GOVERNMENT; AND THE NATURAL AND NECESSARY CONNEXION BETWEEN SIN AND SUFFERING.
The close and inseparable connexion between sin and suffering, so forcibly illustrated by the experience of mankind, is such as strikes the most heedless observer ; and renders it obvious that the path which self-love, influenced by a regard to personal happiness, prescribes, is the same as that which a sense of duty enjoins. Notwithstanding what a few speculative men may allege to the contrary, while they amuse or exercise their powers in tracing nearly all natural evil to the necessity of general laws, producing occasional inconvenience, but securing a preponderating good, or to the inevitable imperfection of matter; we know from the statements of revelation, as well as from the justice and benevolence of God, that wherever suffering exists in the dominions of Him whose power and goodness are infinite, it exists as the consequence and as the punishment of sin.
There is, it is true, considerable inequality in the retributions of providence in the present state,-an inequality which illustrates the patience and goodness of God, and which is designed to teach us that he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, and render unto every man according to his works. From this inequality, and from the economy of mercy under which we are placed, we learn the danger of rashly interpreting the dispensations of God to man; and the impropriety no less of saying concerning him who is peculiarly tried, that he is eminently guilty, than of pronouncing him who is prosperous to be distinguished for piety and righteous
* - Brown's Lectures on the Phil. of the Human Mind, vol. iv. p. 127-1.
While all suffering proceeds from sin, suffering is now employed by the Mediator, and under the constitution of grace, for attaining various moral uses; and is intended as trial and chastisement, and the means of maturing the graces and virtues which will fit man for the society of angels and of just men made perfect. Yet, we ought to be well convinced that misery in any and in every form, is occasioned by disobedience to the will of God,-and that the state of suffering into which the original apostasy brought mankind, is greatly aggravated by our own actual transgression. Perhaps we do not remember so practically as we ought, that we live at present under a dispensation of retributive justice, though mingled with mercy ; that though in many cases there may seem to be one event to the righteous and the wicked, the equality is more in appearance than in reality; and that if our views of the Divine government were sufficiently extended, we should have ample grounds for believing that the connexion now existing between sin and its punishment, and obe dience and its reward, is so great as to be a near
approach to uniformity. This uniformity is not complete and invariable, only because many of the penal consequences of sin are for a season at least suspended; but it is sufficiently so to convince us, that sin never fails to find out the sinner; and that in doing a sinful action, or in indulging an evil disposition, we are preparing sorrow for ourselves, and are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, We do not learn from the procedure of Providence toward mankind the lesson which it is designed to teach us, unless we are more thoroughly convinced of the important truth, that suffering and death are the natural and the necessary effects of sin. Suppose ye that those Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices, were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things ? I tell you nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all bikewise perish. Or, those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusa, lem? Į tell you nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
Section 1.-The Terms defined.
What is meant by a natural and necessary connexion between sin and suffering, and what are the grounds on which this connexion is founded? Far as our observation extends, through every kingdom of nature, amidst an endless variety, we see that all things exist according to a certain order. The promised revolutions of the seasons, the seed-time and