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beings formed for the contemplation and fruition of infinite perfection, they would think it beneath them to place their happiness in the enjoyment of any thing created.
One general rule carefully attended to, and the judgment of our own consciences according to it faithfully followed, would make the whole conduct of the passions and appetites clear, and would prevent our falling into any error in indulging or suppressing them. The rule is, to consider what good purpose is to be gained by the exertion of every active power of the mind; and to take care, that in the conduct of every passion and appetite, we have that end singly, and nothing else in view.
I will therefore proceed to show, in a particular manner, how this rule is to be applied in the regulation of our passions and appetites, which have important effects upon our moral characters.
That motion of the mind which we call love, or, desire, tends naturally to draw and engage us to whatever is either in its own nature truly amiable and excellent, or which our present state renders it necessary that she should be engaged to. There is no danger of our loving God, or virtue, or desiring our own real happiness too much; for these are proper and worthy objects of the best affections of every rational being throughout the whole of its existence. The inclination we find in ourselves toward such objects, is the pure effect of our having clear and rational apprehensions of their real, internal, excellence; not of any factitious or arbitrary taste implanted in our minds, or any arbitrary fitness in such objects to gain our affections. No rational unprejudiced mind in the universe ever had, or can have, just apprehensions of the Divine perfections, and of the excellence of virtue, that has not admired and loved them: and the clearer the apprehensions, the stronger must be the affection.
To mix and confound together all the motions of the mind, and to range them all indiscriminately under one head, is reducing the whole philosophy of human nature to a mere jumble. Hunger or thirst, for example, are no more to be considered under the head of self-love, than anatomy under that of astronomy. The pure disinterested love of virtue is no more to be called a factitious or arbi
trary inclination, as the mutual desires of the sexes undoubtedly is, than gravitation is to be called solidity or extension. The bodily appetites, improperly so called, are plainly factitious and temporary; for we can conceive of a living, conscious, rational being, who has not so much as an idea of them; nay, the time will come, when they will be wholly forgot by at least some of our own species. But is it possible to conceive of a living, conscious, rational being, who, if left to itself free and uncorrupted, should be able to avoid loving virtue, or could be indifferent to goodness, as soon as it became an object of its perfection? Again, the fitness between the appetite and the object is in some cases evidently arbitrary. Different species, therefore, choose different sorts of food, which, without that arbitrary fitness, would be alike grateful or disagreeable to all tastes; so that grass and hay would be as acceptable to the lion and the vulture, as to the horse and the ox; and the flesh as agreeable to the horse and the ox, as to the lion and the vulture. On the contrary, in other cases, this fitness is by no means arbitrary or factitious, but unalterable and necessary. A mind, to which apparent truth was no object; an understanding, which saw no beauty or desirableness in undoubted virtue and rectitude, must be perverted from its natural state, and debauched out of itself. Our love to earthly objects may easily be carried to excess. For it is evident, that a very moderate attachment is sufficient, where the connexion is intended to hold only for the present short life. As on the other hand, those objects which are intended to be the final happiness of our being, ought to be pursued with the utmost ardency of affection. To pursue, with an unbounded desire, an object, whose nature and perfections are bounded within very narrow limits, is a gross absurdity; as to be cold and indifferent to that which is of inestimable worth, is contrary to sound reason. But to observe the general conduct of mankind, one would think they considered God and virtue, and eternal happiness, as objects of little or no consequence; and good eating and drinking, pleasure and wealth, as alone worth the attention of reasonable beings. One would imagine they believed that the latter were to be the everlasting enjoyment of the rational mind, and the
former the transitory amusement of a few years at most. What do mankind pursue with the greatest eagerness? What are their hearts most set upon? What does their conversation most run upon? What is their last thought at night, and their first in the morning? and what employs their minds through the whole day? I am afraid the objects, which engage their supreme attention, are of no higher a nature than how to get money; to raise themselves, as they very improperly call it, in the world; to concert a party of pleasure, or some other scheme of as little consequence. Now, if the present were to be the final state, this turn of mind might be proper enough. But that a being formed for immortality should set his whole affections upon this mortal life, is as if a traveller, going to a distant country, should make abundant provision for the voyage, and spend his whole fortune by the way, leaving nothing for his comfortable settlement when he arrives where he is to pass his days.
Suppose an unbodied spirit, of the character of most human minds, entered upon the future state, left to itself, and neither raised to positive happiness, nor condemned to positive punishment; I ask, what must be the condition of such a being? What can be more deplorable than the situation of a mind which has lost all the objects of its delight, and can enjoy nothing of what makes the happiness of the state in which it is placed? For, alas, there is no eating and drinking, no stock-jobbing or trafficking, no enjoyment of wine and women, no parliamenteering in the world of spirits; and in this world of spirits we shall all find ourselves before many years be gone. What then is our wisdom? Not surely to set our whole affections upon this present fleeting state; but to habituate ourselves to think of the external existence hereafter as the principal end of our being, and what ought therefore to fill up the greatest part of our attention, and to engage our warmest affections and most eager pursuit.
That any being in the universe should ever bring itself to hate itself, or desire its own misery, as misery, is impossible. Though a reasonable self-love, rightly directed, is highly commendable, nothing is more easy or common, than to err egregiously with respect to self-love.
Most people love themselves so very much, and in a way so absurd, that they love nothing else, except what is closely connected with themselves: and that they love more for their own sakes than any thing else. That mind must be wonderfully narrow that is wholly wrapt up in itself. But this is too visibly the character of most human minds. The true standard of rectitude as to selflove, is, that every one love himself as God may be supposed to love him; that is, as an individual among many. To the Divine Mind every object appears as it really is. We ought therefore to endeavour to see things in the light in which they appear to that Eye which comprehends the universal system. If we thus enlarged our conceptions, we should never suffer our whole regards to be possessed by any one finite object whatever, not even by self. Nor should we ever think of preferring ourselves, unjustly, to others, or raising ourselves upon their ruin for that is to act as if a man did not consider himself as a part, and a very small part, of an immense whole, but as the only being in the universe; than which nothing can be more monstrous. If we loved ourselves as our Maker loves us, we should not think of being partial to our faults; but should view them with the same eye as we do those of others. It is a great unhappiness that we cannot root out of our foolish hearts this shameful weakness. Does it at all alter the real evil of a bad action, that it was I who did it? Will a lie become a truth in any mouth? Is not every man's self as much self, and as dear to him as I am to myself? And is the immutable and eternal nature of right and wrong to be changed by every man's faney? If I see injustice, falsehood, or impiety, in another, in the most odious light, does not a third person see them in me in the same manner? And does not the all-piercing Eye of heaven see them alike in all? If I am shocked at the vices of another person, have I not a thousand times more reason to be startled at my own? Those of another can never do me the prejudice which my own can do me. The plague at Constantinople can never affect me, as if it attacked me in my own person.
The love of praise, or desire of distinction, is a passion as necessary to a thinking being, as that which prompts
it to preserve its existence. But as this tendency, like all the others which enter into the human make, ought to be subject to the government of reason, it is plain, that no approbation, but that of the wise and good, is of any real value, or deserves the least regard. The advantage gained by the exertion of this universal propensity, is, that men may be thereby excited to such a course of action as will deserve the approbation of the wise and good. But the love of undistinguishing applause will never produce this effect. For the unthinking multitude generally give their praise where it is least due, and overlook real merit. One Charles of Sweden, or Lewis of France, the common furies of the world, shall receive more huzzas from the maddening crowd, than ten Alfreds, the fathers of their country. So that the desire of promiscuous praise, as it defeats the moral design of the passion, is altogether improper and mischievous, instead of being useful. The rule for the conduct of this passion is, To act such a part as shall deserve praise; but in our conduct to have as little regard as possible to praise. A good man will dare to be meanly or ill thought of in doing well; but he will not venture to do ill in order to be commended.
The passion, or emotion, which we call anger, serves the same purpose as the natural weapons with which the animal creation is furnished, as teeth, horns, hoofs, and claws; I mean for our defence against attacks and insults. Cool reason alone would not have sufficiently animated us in our own defence, to secure us in the quiet possession of our natural rights, any more than it would alone have suggested to us the due care and nourishment of our bodies. To supply, therefore, the deficiencies of reason in our present imperfect state, passion and appetite come in, and are necessary to the human composition. And it would have been as much to the purpose, that the ancient Stoics should have directed their disciples to eradicate hunger and thirst, as anger, grief, love, and the other natural passions. It is indeed too true, that in our present imperfect state, we are in much greater danger of yielding too much to our passions, than of subduing them too thoroughly; and therefore we find all wise