Obrazy na stronie

of a common nature, affinity, sympathy or worth, that is the luminary of the moral world. Without it there would have been “a huge eclipse of sun and moon;" or at best, as a well-known writerd expresses it in reference to another subject, we should have lived in “a silent and drab-coloured creation.” We are prepared by the power that made us for feelings and emotions ; and, unless these come to diversify and elevate our existence, we should waste our days in melancholy, and scarcely be able to sustain ourselves. The affection we entertain for those towards whom our partiality and kindness are excited, is the life of our life. It is to this we are indebted for all our refinement, and, in the noblest sense of the word, for all our humanity. Without it we should have had no sentiment (a word, however abused, which, when properly defined, comprises every thing that is the crown of our nature), and no poetry. Love and hatred, as they regard our fellow-creatures, in contradistinction to the complacency, or the feeling of an opposite nature, which is excited in us towards inanimate objects, are entirely the offspring of the delusive sense of liberty.

The terms, praise and blame, express to a great degree the same sentiments as those of love and hatred, with this difference, that praise and blame in their simplest sense apply to single actions, whereas love and hatred are produced in us by the sum of those actions or tendencies, which constitute what we call character. There is also another difference, that love and hatred are engendered in us by other causes as well as moral qualities; but praise and blame, in the sense in which they are peculiarly applied to our fellow-mortals, are founded on moral qualities only. In love and hatred however, when they are intense or are lasting, some reference to moral qualities is perhaps necessarily implied. The love between the sexes, unless in cases where it is of a peculiarly transient nature, always comprises in it a belief that the party who is the object of our love, is distinguished by tendencies of an amiable nature, which we expect to see manifesting themselves in affectionate attentions and acts of kindness. Even the admiration we entertain for the features, the figure, and personal graces of the object of our regard, is mixed with and heightened by our expectation of actions and tones that generate approbation, and, if divested of this, would be of small signification or permanence. In like manner in the ties of affinity, or in cases where we are impelled by the consideration, “He also is a man as well as I,” the excitement will carry us but a little way, unless we discover in the being towards whom we are moved some peculiarities which may beget a moral partiality and regard.

d Thomas Paine.

And, as towards our fellow-creatures, so in relation to ourselves, our moral sentiments are all involved with, and take their rise in, the delusive sense of liberty. It is in this that is contained the peculiar force of the terms virtue, duty, guilt and desert. We never pronounce these words without thinking of the action to which they refer, as that which might or might not be done, and therefore unequivocally approve or disapprove in ourselves and others. A virtuous man, as the term is understood by all, as soon as we are led to observe upon those qualities, and the exhibition of those qualities in actual life, which constitute our nature, is a man who, being in full possession of the freedom of human action, is engaged in doing those things which a sound judgment of the tendencies of what we do pronounces to be good.

Duty is a term that can scarcely be said to have a meaning, except that which it derives from the delusive sense of liberty. According to the creed of the necessarian, it expresses that mode of action on the part of the individual, which constitutes the best possible application of his capacity to the general benefite In the mean time, if we confine ourselves to this definition, it may as well be taken to describe the best application of a knife, or any other implement proceeding from the hands of the inanufacturer, as of the powers of a human being. But we surely have a very different idea in our minds, when we employ the term duty. It is not agreeable to the use of language that we should use

Political Justice, Book II, Chap. IV.

this term, except we speak of a being in the exercise of volition.

Duty then means that which may justly be required of a human creature in the possession of liberty of action. It includes in its proper sense the conception of the empire of will, the notion that mind is an arbiter, that it sits on its throne, and decides, as an absolute prince, this way or that.

Duty is the performance of what is due, the discharge of a debt (debitum). But a knife owes nothing, and can in no sense be said to be held to one sort of application rather than another; the debt can only belong to a human being in possession of his liberty, by whom the knife may be applied laudably or otherwise.

A multitude of terms instantly occur to us, the application of which is limited in the same manner as the term duty is limited: such are, to owe, obligation, debt, bond, right, claim, sin, crime, guilt, merit and desert. Even reward and punishment, however they may be intelligible wben used merely in the sense of motives employed, have in general acceptation a sense peculiarly derived from the supposed freedom of the human will.

The mode therefore in which the advocates of the doctrine of necessity have universally talked and written, is one of the most memorable examples of the hallucination of the human intellect. They have at all times recommended that we should translate the phrases in which we usually express ourselves on the hypothesis of liberty, into the phraseology of necessity, that we should talk no other language than that which is in correspondence with the severest philosophy, and thai we should exert ourselves to expel all fallacious notions and delusions so much as from our recollection. They did not perceive what a wide devastation and destruction they were proposing of all the terms and phrases that are in use in the communications between man and man in actual life. They might as well have recommended that we should rigorously bear in mind on the ordinary occasions of life, that there is no such thing as colour, that which we ordinary call by that name having no existence in external objects, but belonging only to our way

of perceiving them.

The language which is suggested to us by the conception of the freedom of human actions, moulds the very first articulations of a child, “I will," and “I will not;" and is even distinctly conveyed by his gestures, before he arrives at the power of articulation. This is the explanation and key to his vehement and ungovernable movements, and his rebellion. The petulance of the stripling, the fervent and energetic exertions of the warrior, and the calm and unalterable resolution of the sage, all imply the same thing. Will, and a confidence in its efficiency, “ travel through, nor quit us till we die.” It is this which inspires us with invincible perseverance, and heroic energies, while without it

« PoprzedniaDalej »