The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4
Lecture II. On the Sanctions by which the Natural Laws of Morality are Supported
Lecture II. On the Sanctions by which the Natural Laws of Morality are Supported.
Every law supposes a Lawgiver, and punishment annexed to transgression. God prescribes certain actions by the constitution of nature, and He is therefore the Lawgiver—He supports his laws by rewards and punishments—Does he do so by special acts of Providence? Or are his rewards and punishments certain consequences of good or evil, appointed by Him to follow from our actions?—It is important to shew that God dispenses justice in this world, because we know no other; and if He be not just here, there is no natural and logical ground for inferring that he will be just in any other world—Evidence that he does dispense justice here—His supposed injustice is apparent only—Philosophers have not understood the principles of His government—The independent action of the several natural laws is the key to it—If we obey the physical laws, they reward us with physical advantages—If we obey the organic laws, they reward us with health—If we obey the moral laws, they reward us with mental joy—If we disobey any one of those laws, we are punished under it, although we observe all the others—There i3 more order and justice in the Divine government in this world than is generally recognised.
In my last Lecture, I endeavoured to point out the foundation on which Moral Philosophy, inferred from the constitution of nature, rests. The mental organs and faculties being the gift of God, each has a legitimate sphere of activity, though liable to be abused; and the rule for discriminating between uses and abuses is, that every act is morally right which is approved of by the whole faculties duly enlightened and acting harmoniously; while all actions disapproved of by the faculties thus acting are wrong. In all harmonious actions, the moral sentiments and intellect, being superior in kind, direct the propensities. In cases of conflict, the propensities must yield. Such is the internal guide to morality with which man has been furnished.
The next inquiry is, Whether the judgments of our faculties, when acting harmoniously, are supported by any external authority in nature? Every law supposes a lawgiver, and punishment annexed to transgression. Certain courses of action being prescribed and forbidden by the constitutions of external nature and of our own faculties, God, who made these and their organs, is consequently the Lawgiver; but the question remains—Has he used any means to give sanction, in this world, to his commands revealed to us in nature? All are agreed that rewards and punishments have been established by God; but as to the extent, manner, and time, of dispensing them, very different opinions are entertained. By some, it is conceived that God, like the human magistrate, watches the infringement of his laws in each particular instance, and applies punishment accordingly; but that neither his punishments nor his rewards are the natural effects of the conduct to which they have reference. Such is the view of the ways of Providence embodied in Parnell's "Hermit;" and many of us may recollect the pleasure with which, in youth, we perused that representation, and the regret we felt, that experience did not support its beautiful theory. A servant is described as having been thrown over a bridge by his companion, and drowned: which event at first shocks our Benevolence; but we are then told that the sufferer intended that evening to murder a kind and indulgent master, and that his companion was an angel sent by God to prevent, and also to punish him for his intended crime. Another scene represents an hospitable rich man's son dying apparently of convulsions; but we are told that the same angel suffocated him, to snatch him away from his parents, because their affections, doting too fondly on him, led them to forget their duty to heaven.
These representations, of course, are fictitious; but notions of a similar character may be traced existing in the minds of many serious persons, and constituting their theory of the divine government of the world. The grand feature of this system is, that the punishment does not follow from the offence, by any natural bond of connection, but is administered separately and directly by a special interposition of Providence. The servant's wicked design had no natural connection with his falling over the bridge: and the neglect of heaven, by the parents of the child, had no such natural relation to its physiological condition, that it should have died of convulsions in consequence of that i sin. There are, as I have said, some religious persons who really entertain notions similar to these; who believe that God, by special acts of providence, or particular manifestations of His power, rewards and punishes men's actions in a manner not connected with their offences by any natural link of cause and effect; or, at least, so remotely connected that the link is not discernible by human sagacity. They conceive that this view imparts to the divine government a sublime mysteriousness which renders it more imposing, solemn, and awful, and better calculated than any other to enforce obedience on men. To me it appears, on the contrary, to be erroneous, and to be a fountain of superstition, at once derogatory to the dignity of the Divine Ruler, and injurious to the moral, intellectual, and religious character of His subjects. 1 shall, in a subsequent part of this lecture, state the reasons for this opinion.
Another notion entertained regarding the moral government of the world is, that God has revealed in the Scriptures every duty which He requires us to perform, and every action which he forbids us to do; that He leaves us at full liberty in this life, to obey or disobey these commands as we please; but that, in the world to come, He will call us to account, and punish us for our sins, or reward us for our obedience. There are strong objections to this theory also.—Religious persons will at once recognise that the instruction communicated to man in the Scriptures may be classed under two great heads. The first class embraces events that occurred before the existing state of nature commenced (such as the transac- page 9 tions in Paradise before the fall), also events that transcend nature (such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ), and events that are destined to occur when nature shall be no more (such as the final judgment); together with certain duties (such as belief, or faith) which are founded on those communications. In regard to all of these, science and philosophy are silent. The second bead has reference to the practical conduct which man is bound to pursue with regard to the beings in the present world. The first objection, then to the theory of the divine government last mentioned, is, that the Bible, however complete with respect to the former department of instruction, really does not contain a full exposition of man's secular duties.
In the last Lecture, I quoted a striking passage to this effect from are bishop Whately. The Scriptures assume that man will use his moral and intellectual faculties to discover and perform the duties relative to this life imposed on him by the constitution of nature. It is very important to manage aright the physical, moral, and intellectual training of children; and yet the Bible contains no specific rules for discharging this duty. It tells us to train up a child in the way he should go, and that when he is old he will not depart from it; but it does not describe, with practical minuteness, what that way is. If it do so, every incompetent schoolmaster, and every ignorant mother who injures her children through lack of knowledge, must have sadly neglected the study of the Bible. But even the most pious and assiduous students of the Scriptures, differ widely among themselves in regard to the training-of their children; so that the Bible must be either silent, or very obscure on this point. How many thousands of Christian parents neglect the physical education of their children altogether, and in consequence either lose them by death, or render them victims of disease! Again, each sect instructs its children in its own tenets, and calls this the way in which they should go: yet, when we observe the discord and animosity that prevail among these children when they become men and women; when we see the Protestants denouncing the Catholic as in error, the Catholic excommunicating the Protestant as a heretic, the Trinitarian designating the Unitarian as an infidel, and the Unitarian condemning the Trinitarian as superstitious; we have proof, certainly, that the children, when old, do net depart from the way in which they have been trained: but we likewise see, that it is impossible that all of them can have been trained in the right way, since otherwise there could not be such lamentable differences, and so much hostility between them. I can discover, therefore, in the Bible no such complete code of secular duties, as this system implies. In the "Constitution of Man," I have endeavoured to shew that God intended that we should employ our mental faculties in studying His works, and by this means to fill up the chapter of our secular duties, left incomplete in the Bible.
A second objection to the theory in question is this—it implies that God exercises very little temporal authority in the government of this world, reserving his punishments and rewards chiefly for a future life. One cause of this view seems to be, that most of the teachers of morals and religion have confined their attention to moral and religious duties, and often to their own peculiar and erroneous interpretation of them; instead of taking a comprehensive survey of human nature and of all the duties prescribed by its constitution. They have regarded life as monks do;—not practically. They observed that sometimes a man who believed and acted according to their notions of sound religion and sterling virtue, fell into worldly misfortune, lost his children prematurely by death, or was himself afflicted with bad health; while other men, who beleived and acted in opposion to their notions of right, flourished in health and wealth, and posessed a vigorous offspring; and they concluded that God has left the virtuous man to suffer here, for his probation, intending to reward him hereafter; and the wicked to prosper, with the view of aggravating his guilt and increasing the severity of his future punishment. They have rarely attempted to reconcile these apparant anomalies to reason, or to bring them within the scope of a just government on earth. It humbly appears to me that God does exercise a very striking and efficient jurisdiction over this world, and that it is chiefly through our own inattention to the manner in which he does so that we are blind to its existance and affects.
It is important to establish the reality and efficiency of the divine government in this world, because a plausible argument has been reared on the contrary doctrine, to the effect that there can be no reward and punishment at all, if none is administered in this life. The line of reasoning by which this view is supported is the following:—We can judge of God, it is said, only by his works. His works in this world are all that we are acquainted with. If, therefore, in this life, we find that virtue goes unrewarded, and that vice triumphs, the legitimate inference is that it will always be so. Bishop Butler, indeed, in his celebrated "Analogy," has argued, that because God has not executed complete justice here, he must intend to do so hereafter, for justice is one of his attributes; but Mr Robert Forsyth, in his work on Moral Science, has stated the objection to this argument in strong terms. "If," says he," God has created a world in which justice is not accomplished, by what analogy, or on what grounds, do we infer that any other world of his creation will be free from this imperfection?" Butler would answer, "Because justice is an attribute of the Divine mind." The opponents, however, reply, "How do you know that it is so? We know the Deity only through His works; and if you concede that justice is not accomplished in the only world of which we have any experience, the legitimate inference is that justice is not one of His attributes: at least the inference that it is one of them is illogical." I have heard this last argument stated, although I have not seen it printed.
It will serve the cause of moral science to present a valid answer to these objections; and the most satisfactory to my mind would be one which should shew that the Divine Ruler actually does execute justice here, and that therefore we are entitled to infer that he will be just hereafter; and such, accordingly, is the argument which I respectfully propose to maintain.
The supposed anomalies in the Divine government are apparent only, and, when properly understood, form no exception to the Creator's attribute of justice. The key to them is the separate action of the different departments of our own constitution and of external nature, or the independent operation of natural beings and substances, each regulated by laws peculiar to itself. This doctrine is explained in the "Constitution of Man;" and I here introduce it as the basis of our future investigations. Viewing the world on this principle, we discover,
1st, That inorganic matter operates according to fixed laws, which are independent of the moral or religious character of those whom if affects. If six persons be travelling in a coach, and if it break down through insufficiency of the axle, or any s¨milar cause, the travellers will be projected against external objects according to the impetus communicated to their bodies by the previous motion of the vehicle, exactly as if they had been inanimate substances of page 10 the same texture and materials. Their vices or their virtues will not modify the physical influences that impel or resist them. The cause of the accident is simply physical imperfection in the vehicle, and not the displeasure of God against the individual men who occupy it, on account of their sins. If one break a leg, another an arm, a third his neck, and a fourth escape unhurt, the difference of result is to be ascribed solely to the differences of the mechanical action of the coach on their bodies, according to their differences of size, weight, and position, or to difference in the objects against which they are projected; one falling against. a stone, and another perhaps alighting on turf.
The whole calamity in such a case is to be viewed simply as a punishment for neglecting to have a coach sufficiently strong; and it serves to render men who have the charge of coaches more attentive to their duty in future. The common sense of mankind has led them to recognise this principle in their laws; for, in most civilized countries, the proprietors of public conveyances are held answerable for damage occasioned by their insufficiency. It is recognised also in Scripture. "Think not," says Christ, "that those on whom the Tower of Siloam fell, were sinners above all Israel." In other words, the Tower of Siloam, like all other edifices, stood erect, in virtue of the law of gravitation, as long as its foundations were sound, and its superstructure firm; and it fell when one or other of these gave way, without reference to the qualities of the persons who wore below it.
When a stage-coach is overturned, and a profligate person is saved, while a valuable Christian is killed, some individuals wonder at the inscrutable ways of Providence: but both bad and good men have received from nature organized bodies which need to be carefully protected from injury; and the real lesson taught by this calamity is, that no moral or religious qualities will preserve the body from injury if the laws which regulate the action of physical substances be not duly attended to. I have elsewhere remarked, that if good men could sail in safety in unsound ships, or travel in dilapidated carriages, upborne by unseen ministers of heaven, on account of their holiness, the world would lapse into confusion; and these good men themselves would soon find nothing provided for them, but the most deplorably crazy conveyances, into which sinners could not with safety set a foot.
The objection may naturally occur, that passengers have neither skill nor opportunity for judging of the soundness of ships and sufficiency of coaches, and that it is hard that they should suffer death and destruction from the carelessness or incapacity of others who let out these articles to hire, or employ them in the public service. I shall unfold the answer to this objection in a subsequent part of the course. It falls under the social law. We avail ourselves of the good qualities of our fellow-men, and we must suffer from their defects when, without due regard to their qualifications, we entrust our interests or safety to their care.
In so far, then, as pain, distress, and calamity, arise from the action of physical substances, they should be viewed merely as punishments for our not paying due attention to the laws by which the action of these substances is regulated. They forcibly tell us, that if we wish to live in safety, we must habitually exercise our understandings in accommodating our conduct to the agencies of the material objects around us. It seems irrational to expect that God will hereafter compensate good men for sufferings which they bring upon themselves by neglecting to study and obey His own institutions.
The next class of objects to which I solicit your attention is the organic. These have received definite constitutions, and observe specific modes of action; in other words, they also act under fixed and independent laws, impressed on their constitution by nature. Thus, the human body is subject to continual waste, to repair which, nutriment is necessary. This is supplied through the medium of the blood; which replaces decayed particles carried off by the absorbent vessels, and stimulates the brain and other organs to perform their functions aright. But to render it capable of accomplishing these objects, it must be supplied with ehyle from the stomach, and oxygen from the lungs; and hence a necessity arises for eating wholesome food and breathing pure air. The bones are composed of organized materials, and are supplied with certain vessels for their nutrition, and with others for the removal of their decayed particles: all of which act regularly, like the mechanism of a plant. Similar observations apply to the muscles, the skin, the blood-vessels, the brain, and all other portions of the body.
Growth and decay, health and disease, pleasure and pain, in all of these parts, take place according to fixed rules, which are impressed on the organs themselves; and the organs act invariably, independently, and immutably, according to these rules. For instance—if we neglect to take exercise, the circulation of the blood becomes languid, the bones, muscles, nerves, and brain, are imperfectly nourished; and the consequences are pain,—loss of appetite, of strength, of mental vivacity, and vigour,—and a general feeling of unhappiness. If we labour too intensely with our minds, we exhaust our brains, impair digestion, and destroy sleep; this renders the organs of the mind incapable of action; and we are visited at last with lassitude, imbecility, palsy, apoplexy or death. If we exercise our muscles too severely and too long, we expend an undue amount of the nervous energy of our bodies on them, our brains become incapable of thinking, and the nerves incapable of feeling, and dulness and stupidity seize on our mental powers.
It is, therefore, a law inscribed on the constitution of the body,—That we should consume a sufficiency of wholesome food, and breathe unvitiated air. And however moral our conduct,—however constant our attendance in the house of prayer,—however benevolent our actions may be,—yet, if we neglect this organic law, punishment will be inflicted. In like manner, if the laws of exercise be infringed,—if, for instance, we overwork the brain,—we are visited with punishment, whether the offence be committed in reclaiming the heathen, in healing the sick, in pursuing commerce, in gaming, or in ruling a state. If we overtask the brain at all, it becomes exhausted, and its action is enfeebled; and as the efficiency of the mind depends on its proper condition, the mental powers suffer a corresponding obscuration and decay.
There is obvious reason in this arrangement also. If the brain were to flourish under excessive toil, in a good cause, and suffer under the same degree of exertion only in a bad one, the order of nature would be deranged. Good men would no longer be men; they might dispense with food, sleep, repose, and every other enjoyment which binds them to the general company of mankind. But, according to the view which I am expounding, we are led to regard the constitution, modes of action, and relations of our organized system, as all instituted directly by the Creator;—birth from organized parents, growth, decay, and death in old age, appear as inherent parts of our frames, designedly allotted to us; while pain, disease, premature decay, and early death, appear, to a great extent, to be the consequences of not using our constitutions properly.page 11
When, therefore, we see the children of good men snatched away by death in infancy or youth, we should ascribe that calamity to these children having inherited feebly organized bodies from their parents, or having, through ignorance or improper treatment, been led, in their modes of life, to infringe the laws which regulate organic matter. The object of their death seems to be to impress on the spectators the importance of attending to these laws, and to prevent the transmission of imperfect corporeal systems to future beings. If we see the children of the wicked flourishing in health and vigour, the inference is, that they have inherited strong conititutions from their parents, and have not in their own lives seriously transgressed the organic laws. We have no authority from our philosophy for supposing that Providence, in removing the just man's children, intends merely to try his faith or patience, to wean him from the world, or to give occasion for recompensing him hereafter for his suffering; nor for believing that the unjust man's family is permitted to flourish, with a view of aggravating his guilt by adding ingratitute for such blessing to his other iniquities in order to augment his punishment in a future life. We see, in these results, simply the consequences of obedience and disobedience to the laws impressed by the Creator on our constitution.
This principle delivers us from some perplexities and difficulties. When the children of good men are healthy, this circumstance is regarded as agreeable to the notions which we entertain of a just Providence. But when other men, not less excellent, have feeble children, who die prematurely and leave the parents overwhelmed with grief, the course of Providence is regarded as inscrutable; or, by way of reconciling it to reason, we are told that those whom God loveth he chasteneth. When, however, the wicked man's children die prematurely, this is regarded as a just punishment for the sins of the parents: but sometimes they live long, and are prosperous; and this is cited as an example of the long-suffering and loving-kindness of God!—The understanding is confounded by these contradictory theories, and no conclusions applicable to our practical improvement can be drawn from the events. When we look at the independence of the natural laws,—when we recognise the principle that obedience to each has its peculiar reward, and disobedience its appropriate punishment, we find that our difficulties diminish. The man who obeys every law but one, is punished for his single infraction; and he by whom one only is obeyed, does not, on account of his neglect of all the others, lose the reward of his solitary act of obedience.
It still remains true, that "those whom God loveth, he chasteneth," because the punishments inflicted for the breach of his laws are instituted in love, to induce us to obey them for our own good: but we escape from the contradiction of believing that he sometimes shews his love by punishing men who obey his laws; which would be the case if he afflicted good men by bad health, or by the death of their children, merely as trials and chastisements, independently of their having infringed the laws of their organic constitution.
We avoid also another contradiction. The most religious persons who implicitly believe that disease is sent as a chastisement for sin, or in token of divine love, never hesitate, when they are sick, to send for a physician, and pay him large fees to deliver them as speedily as possible from this form of spiritual discipline. This is very inconsistent on their parts. The physician, however, proceeds at once to inquire into the physical causes which have disordered the patient's organization; he hears of wet feet, exposure to cold air, checked perspiration, excessive fatigue, or some similar influence, and he instantly prescribes physical remedies, and it is often successful in removing the disorder. In all this proceeding, the common sense of the patient and physician leads them to practice the very doctrine which I am expounding. They view the suffering as the direct consequence of the departure of some of the bodily organs from their healthy course of action, and they endeavour to restore that state.
A striking illustration of the difference of practical result between the one and the other of these views of the divine administration is furnished by the history of the cholera. When it approached Edinburgh, a board of health was instituted under the guidance of physicians. They regarded the cholera simply as a disease, and they viewed disease as the result of disordered bodily functions. They, therefore, urged cleanliness, supplied nourishing food to the poor, and provided hospitals and medicine for the infected; and these means were, on the whole, surprisingly successful. Rome is at this moment threatened with the approach of cholera; but the Pope and his Cardinals are pleased to view it not as a disease, but as a religious dispensation; and what means do they use to prevent its approach? A friend in Rome, in a letter dated November 5. 1835, writes thus:—" A black image of the Virgin has lately been carried through the city by the Pope and all the Cardinals, for the express-purpose of averting the cholera; so you see we are in a hopeful way, if it should assail us." The cholera did attack Rome, and fifteen thousand persons fell victims to it, out of a population not much exceeding that of Edinburgh, where fewer than three thousand perished. Every reflecting mind must see the superiority of the precautions used in the city of Edinburgh, over those practised in Rome; yet the opinion that disease is the consequence of disordered bodily organs, and that the action of these organs is regulated by laws peculiar to themselves and distinct from the moral and religious laws, lies at the bottom of these different courses of action. My aim, you will perceive, is to bring our philosophy and our religious notions into harmony, and to render our practice consistent with both.
The human mind and its various faculties constitute a third class of objects which have received definite constitutions, and observe specific laws in their modes of action. These laws are inherent in the constitution of our mental faculties, and are divided into moral, religious, and intellectual. In the works on Phrenology, the faculties are treated of under corresponding divisions, viz., of Animal Propensities, Moral Sentiments, and Intellectual Powers; and the primitive functions, the spheres of activity, and the uses and abuses of each, are described, so far as these are ascertained. Each of these faculties is related to certain objects beneficial to man, which it desires, and there are laws regulating its action in attaining them :—the faculties are so far independent of each other, that we may pursue the objects of one or more of them, and omit the pursuit of the objects of the others:—the results of the action of the faculties are fixed and certain 5 and by knowing the primitive functions, the objects and the laws of our faculties, we may anticipate, with considerable certainty, the general issue of any course of conduct which we may systematically pursue: Farther—when we have acted in conformity with the harmonious dictates of all our faculties we shall find the issue pleasing and beneficial; whereas when we have yielded to the impulse of the lower propensities in opposition to the moral sentiments and enlightened intellect, which, in cases of conflict, are the ruling powers, we shall reap sorrow and disappointment.
I shall illustrate these principles by examples. The propensity of Acquisitiveness desires to acquire property; and this is its primitive function. If it act page 12 independently of intellect, as it does in idiots, and sometimes in children, it may lead to acquiring and accumulating things of no utility. If it be directed by enlightened intellect, it will desire to acquire and store up articles of real value. But it may act, either with or without the additional guidance of the moral sentiments. When it acts without that direction, it may prompt the individual to appropriate to himself things of value, regardless of justice, or of the rights of others. "When acting in harmony with the moral sentiments, it will lead to acquiring property by just and lawful means.
Farther, it may act so far under the guidance of the moral sentiments, as never to invade the rights of others, and yet its action may terminate in its own gratification, without any fixed ulterior object. Thus, when a talented merchant carries on extensive commercial dealings, and acquires many thousands of pounds, all in an honourable way, he may do so without contemplating any good or noble end to be accomplished by means of his gains. Or, lastly, an individual may be animated by the desire to confer some substantial enjoyment on his family, his relatives, his country, or mankind, and perceiving that he cannot do so without wealth, he may employ his acquisitiveness, under the guidance of intellect and moral sentiment, to acquire property for the purpose of fulfilling this object. In this last case alone, can Acquisitiveness be said to act in harmony with all the other faculties. In the immediately preceding instance it acted in combination with justice, but not with Benevolence and Veneration.
According to my perceptions of the divine government, there are specified results attached by the Creator to each of the modes of action of the propensity. For example—when the propensity acts without intellect, the result, as I have said, is the accumulation of worthless trash. We see this occur occasionally in adult persons, who are not idiots in other matters, but who, under a blind Acquisitiveness. buy old books, old furniture, or any other object which they can obtain very cheap, or a bargain, as a cheap purchase is commonly called. I knew an individual who, under this impulse, at a sale of old military stores, bought a lot of worn-out drums. They were set up at sixpence each, and looked so large to the eye for the money, that he could not resist bidding for them. He had no use for them; they were unsaleable; and they were so bulky that it was expensive to store them. He was, therefore, under the necessity of bestowing them on the boys in the neighbourhood; who speedily made the whole district resound with unmelodious noises. In this and similar instances, as no law of morality is infringed, the punishment is simply the loss of the price paid.
When the propensity acts independently of justice and leads to stealing, the moral faculties of impartial spectators are offended, and prompt them to use speedy measures to restrain and punish the thief.
When Acquisitiveness acts in conformity with intellect and justice, but with no higher aim than its own gratification, the result is success in accumulating wealth, but the absence of satisfactory enjoyment of it. The individual feels his life pervaded by vanity and vexation of spirit; because, after he has become rich, he discovers himself to be without pursuit, object, or possession calculated to gratify his moral and religious feelings, which must be satisfied before full happiness can be experienced. This is the direct result of the constitution of the mind; for, as we possess moral faculties, moral objects alone can satisfy them; and mere wealth is not such an object.
When the aim of life is to communicate enjoyment to other beings, such as a family, relatives, or our fellow-citizens, and when Acquisitiveness is employed, under the guidance of moral sentiment and intellect, for the purpose of accomplishing this end, success will generally be attained, and satisfaction will accompany it; because, through the whole course of life, the highest powers will have pursued a noble and dignified object, fitted for their gratification, and employed Acquisitiveness in its proper and subordinate capacity as their ministering servant. The faculties will have acted in harmonious combination.
I have mentioned that every faculty has a legitimate sphere of activity, and that happiness and duty consist in the proper application of them all. If we add to this the principle, that we cannot attain the rewards or advantages attached to the proper employment of any faculty, unless we apply it, we shall have another example illustrative of the order of the moral government of the world. For instance, as Providence has rendered property essential to our existence and welfare, and given us a faculty prompting us to acquire it; if any individual, born without fortune, shall neglect to exercise Acquisitiveness, and abandon himself, as his leading occupation, to the gratification of Benevolence and Veneration, in gratuitously managing public hospitals, in directing charity schools, or in preaching to the poor, he will suffer evil consequences. He must live on charity, or starve. In such a case, Benevolence and Veneration act without allowing due weight to the duties which Acquisitiveness is appointed by nature to perform. Moreover, in pursuing such a course of action, he neglects justice as a regular motive; for if he had listened to Conscientiousness, it would have dictated to him the necessity either of making these pursuits his profession, and acting for hire, or of practising another profession, and following them only in intervals of leisure. St Paul, in similar circumstances, wrought with his hands, and made tents, that he might be burdensome to no one.—The practical idea which I wish to fix in your minds by this example is, that if we pursue objects related exclusively to Benevolence and Veneration, although we may obtain them, we shall not thereby attain objects related to Acquisitiveness; and yet, that the world is so arranged, that we must attend to the objects of all our faculties, before we can properly discharge our duties, or be happy.
Not only so, but there are modes appointed in nature by which the objects of our different faculties may be attained; by pursuing which we are rewarded with success, and by neglecting which we are punished with failure. The object of Acquisitiveness, for example, is to acquire things of use. But these cannot be reared from the ground, nor constructed by the hand, nor imported from abroad in exchange for other commodities, without a great expenditure of time, labour, and skill. Their value indeed is, in general, measured by the time, labour, and skill, expended in their production. The great law, then, which God has prescribed to govern Acquisitiveness, and by observing which he promises it success, is, that we shall practise patient, laborious, and skilful exertion in endeavouring to attain its objects. "The hand of the diligent maketh rich" is the law of nature. When, however, men, losing sight of this divine law, resort to gaming and speculation, to thieving, cheating, and plundering, to acquire property; when "they hasten to become rich," they "fall into a snare."Ruin is the natural result of such conduct; because, according to nature, wealth can be produced only by labour; and although one acute, or strong, or powerful man may acquire wealth by cheating or plundering twenty or thirty honest and industrious neighbours, yet, as a general rule, their combined sagacity and strength will, in the end, defeat and punish him; while, if all, or even the majority, of men, endeavour to procure wealth page 13 by mere speculation, stealing, and swindling, there would speedily be no wealth to acquire.
The Scripture authoritatively declares, "Thou shalt not steal but when a man with a strong Acquisitiveness, and defective Conscientiousness, enters into a great mercantile community, in which he sees vast masses of property daily changing hands, he often does not perceive the force of the prohibition; on the contrary, he thinks that he may, with manifest advantage, speculate, lie, cheat, swindle, perhaps steal, as a more speedy and effectual means of acquiring a share of that wealth, than by practising laborious industry. Nevertheless, this must be a delusion; because, although God does not state the reason why he prohibits stealing, it is certain that there must exist a reason replete with wisdom. He leaves it to human sagacity to discover the philosophy of the precept; and it is the duty of the Christian teacher, and moral philosopher, to unfold to the understandings of the young, why it is disadvantageous, as well as sinful, to break the commandments of God. If I merely desire a child not to cross a certain path, it will probably feel curiosity to discover what is on the other side of it, struggling against the dictates of filial reverence. If I should lead it to the path, and shew it a mighty stream which would swallow it up, curiosity would be satisfied, and a sense of its own danger would operate in aid of the injunction. Obedience would thereby be rendered easier, and more practicable. Thus it is also with moral duties. When the philosophy of the practical precepts of the New Testament shall be taught in schools, in the domestic circle, and from the pulpit, the whole power of intellectual conviction will be added to the authority of Scripture in enforcing them, and men will probably be induced, by a clear perception of their own interest in this world, as well as by their hopes and fears in relation to the next, to yield obedience to the laws of their Creator. What a glorious theme will such a philosophy afford to vigorous and enlightened minds for the instruction of the people!
Similar observations might be made in regard to the laws prescribed by nature for the regulation of all our faculties in the pursuit of their objects; but your time does not permit me to offer more than the preceding illustration.
If we look at the living world only in the mass, without knowing the distinct existence of the mental faculties, their distinct objects, and their distinct laws,—the results of their activity appear to be enveloped in painful confusion; we see some moral and religious men struggling with poverty, and others prosperous in their outward circumstances;—some rich men extremely unhappy, while others are apparently full of enjoyment;—some poor men joyous and gay, others miserable and repining;—some irreligious men in possession of vast wealth, while others are destitute of even the necessaries of life. In short, the moral world appears to be one great chaos—a scene full of confusion, intricacy, and contradiction.
But if we become acquainted with the primitive faculties, and their objects and laws, and learn that different individuals possess them from nature in different degrees of strength, and also cultivate them with different degrees of assiduity, and that the consequences of our actions bear an established relation to the faculties employed, the mystery clears up. The religious and rich man is he who exercises both Veneration and Acquisitiveness according to the laws of their constitution; the religious and poor man is he who exercises Veneration, but who, through deficiency of the organ, through ignorance, or indolence, or some other cause, does not exercise Acquisitiveness at all, or not according to the Jaws by which it success is regulated. The rich man, who is happy, is one who follows high pursuits related to his intellectual and moral sentiments, as the grand objects of life, and makes Acquisitiveness play its proper, but subordinate part. The rich man who is unhappy, is he who, having received from a bountiful Creator moral and intellectual faculties, has never cultivated them, but employed them merely to guide his Acquisitiveness in its efforts of accumulation, which he has made the leading object of his life. After he has succeeded, his moral sentiments and intellect, being left unprovided with employment, feel a craving discontent, which constitutes his un- happiness.
I might proceed through the whole list of the faculties, and their combinations, in a similar way; but it is unnecessary to do so, as these illustrations will, I hope, enable you to perceive the principle which I am anxious to expound.
Let us now take a brief and comprehensive survey of the point at which we have arrived.
If we are told that a certain person is extremely pious, benevolent, and just, we are entitled to conclude that he will experience within himself great peace, joy, and comfort, from his own dispositions; because these enjoyments flow directly from the activity of the organs which manifest piety, justice, and beneficence. We are entitled further to believe, that he will be esteemed and beloved by all good men who know him thoroughly, and that they will be disposed to promote, by every legitimate means, his welfare and happiness; because his mental qualities naturally excite into activity corresponding faculties in other men, and create a sympathetic interest on their part in his enjoyment. But if we hear that this good man has been upset in a coach, and has broken his leg, we conclude that this event has arisen from neglect of a physical law, which, being independent of the moral law, acted without direct relation to his mental qualities. If we hear that he is sick, we conclude, that in some organ of his body there has been a departure from the laws which regulate healthy action, and (these laws also being distinct) that the sickness has no direct relation to his moral condition. If we are told that he is healthy and happy, we infer that his organic system is acting in accordance with the laws of its constitution. If we are informed that he has suffered the loss of an intelligent and amiable son, in the bloom of life; we conclude either that the boy has inherited a feeble constitution from his parents, or that the treatment of his bodily system, in infancy and youth, has been, in some way or other, at variance with the organic laws, and that his death has followed as a natural consequence, which his father's piety could not avert.
If, on the other hand, we know a man who is palpably cold-hearted, grasping, and selfish, we are authorised to conclude—first, that he is deprived of that delicious sunshine of the soul, and all those thrilling sympathies with whatever is noble, beautiful, and holy, which attend the vivacious action of the moral and religious faculties; and, secondly, that he is deprived of the reflected influence of the same emotions from the hearts and countenances of the good men around him.
These are the direct punishments in this world for his not exercising his moral and religious powers. But if he have inherited a fine constitution, and if he be temperate, sober, and take regular exercise, he may reap the blessing of health, which he will enjoy as the reward of his compliance with the organic laws. There is no inconsistency in this enjoyment being permitted to him, because the moral and organic laws are distinct, and he has obeyed the laws which reward him. If his children have received I from him a sound frame, and have been treated pru- page 14 dently and skilfully, they also may live in health; but this, again, is the consequence of obedience to the same laws. If they have inherited feeble constitutions, or if they have been reared in a manner inconsistent with these laws, they will die, just as the children of good men in similar circumstances will perish. If the selfish man pursue wealth according to the laws that regulate its acquisition, he will, by that obedience, become rich; but if he neglect to exercise Acquisitiveness, or infringe these laws, he will become poor, just as the good man would become in similar circumstances.
It appears to me. that, in these arrangements, we see the dictates of our whole faculties, when acting in harmonious combination, supported by the order of external nature; and hence we obtain evidence of an actual moral government existing in full force and activity in this world.
According to this view, instead of there being confasion and a lack of justice in the Divine administration of human affairs, there is the reverse—there is a reward for every species of obedience, and a punishment for every species of disobedience to the Creator's laws. And, as if to preserve our minds habitually under the impression of discipline, our duties correspond to the different parts of our constitution; rewards and chastisements are annexed to each of them; and so little of favouritism or partiality is shewn, that, although we obey all the natural laws but one, we do not escape the punishment of infringing that single law,—and although we break them all but one, we are not denied the reward of that solitary instance of obedience.
But you will perceive, that, before you can comprehend this system of government, you must become acquainted with the objects in nature, by the action of which it takes place, whether these be external, or consist of our own bodies and minds. If mankind have hitherto lived without this knowledge, can you wonder that the ways of Providence have appeared dark and contradictory? And if, by means of Phrenology, we have now discovered the constitution of the mind, and its relationship to our bodies and external nature; if, moreover, physical science has largely opened up to us the constitution and laws of the objects by which we are surrounded and affected; need we feel surprise that the dawn of a new philosophy begins to break forth upon our vision,—a philosophy more consistent, more practical, more consolatory, and better adapted to the nature of man as a moral and intelligent being, than any that has hitherto appeared?