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same method: how is it then that men are so inconsistent with themselves, as in their own case to prefer the momentary pleasures of vice to the solid happiness which arises from virtue ? How come they to think that the same thing which will make all others miserable, will make them happy?
This difference arises not from the nature of the things under consideration, which continue always the same without alteration, but from the passions of men, which in one case are excluded, and admitted in the other with all their force to bias the judgment. When we consider what is good for other men, their passions have no weight on our understandings, and we deliberate calmly what is right for them; but when we consider for ourselves, all our passions are awakened, and often prove too strong for our reason and understanding. The people are happy, you say, who are observers of justice, temperance, and chastity. Very well; and why would it not be as happy for you to observe the same rule as it is for them? Can reason, do you think, show a difference in the case? No: but when a man judges for himself, he can lay aside his reason and give himself up to his passions and corrupt inclinations. It is a common observation, that it is much easier to give good instructions than to follow them; and there is much truth in the observation; but this ought to be no prejudice to the cause of virtue; for when a man speaks reason at the same time that he acts against it, he ought to be taken as a strong witness for the truth.
A reason may be demanded perhaps, why we prefer the judgment of a man when he chooses happiness for others, to the judgment he makes when he chooses for himself. Do we not know that men are always truest to themselves, and never more sincere than when their own interest and happiness are concerned? Should a number of men consent to a law for sup- pressing vice and immorality, and yet indulge themselves in the very enjoyments which they forbid to others; whatever we may think of their opinion concerning the expediency of virtue to the public, yet we must not suppose them to judge that life may be rendered comfortable and happy by the practice of virtue; since such an opinion would be utterly inconsistent
with the measures which they pursue in order to their own happiness.
But if this way of arguing is allowed, there is but one law for man and for beasts: reason makes no difference in the case; for the happiness of both consists in the mere gratifications of sense a conclusion so absurd, that there is no man unreasonable enough to embrace it. When a sickly and vitiated appetite craves unwholesome food, who is in the right? the patient, who is eager to gratify his appetite, or the physician, who stands between him and the deadly experiment, and prescribes safer, though less grateful remedies? The case is the same in the comparison between virtue and vice: the sensual man has a continual fever on him; and we can no more judge what will render a man truly happy by observing the choice he makes for himself, than we can learn the true cure of a disease by observing the cravings of a distempered appetite. If sense only is to be judge of the true measures of human happiness, in vain is it that we have reason given us for our direction; it can serve only to increase our shame; for a brute without reason is a much more honorable creature than a brute with it.
But we have no reason to decline the comparison between the pleasures of vice and the calm enjoyments of virtue: let us therefore take a nearer view of the two conditions, and see whether there be no reason to wish that we may live the life of the righteous, as well as to die his death.
As to the good things of life, the wicked can make out no peculiar title to them: riches and honors may be held and enjoyed by the righteous as well as the wicked. They differ indeed extremely in the use they make of the good things of the world and this being the only difference in this respect, the only question in this view is, whether a man is happier in the enjoyment of a large fortune, when he applies it to the purposes, and uses it within the bounds of virtue, or when he makes it subservient to all the ends and pleasures of vice? Or if you remove the fortune out of the case, and carry the comparison into another condition of life, the question then will be, whether the difficulties of life which attend on mean circumstances, are more tolerable to a virtuous or a vicious man; and which of
the two can produce the best supports against the outward evils common to both?
If we allow the vicious man to have a greater share of sensual gratifications, we allow him at once all the advantage he can claim for himself; and since he best knows how pleasant such enjoyments are, let him set his own value on them. But though we allow him to rate his own pleasures according to his own lust and relish of them, yet his taste will not enable him to judge of the happiness or unhappiness of those who deny themselves the same liberties. It is the virtuous man's business not only to abstain from the pleasures of vice, but to subdue the passions of it; and when he has done so, he renders himself capable of much nobler enjoyments, which are a perpetual fund of delight and satisfaction to his mind. So that, take the men in conjunction with their desires and appetites, and there is reason to believe that, even with respect to the present enjoyments of life, virtue has infinitely the advantage over vice.
But if we look into the consequences of their different ways of living, such consequences only I mean as a little time produces and makes manifest to the eyes of the world, the case will grow to be very clear. View the persons in themselves: on one side you may see health and vigor attending on virtue; on the other, pains and diseases following close at the heels of vice. But if you look still nearer, and examine their states of mind, the difference will appear yet greater: on one side you may see an undisturbed reason, surrounded with a constant calm serenity, and enjoying itself in all the prospects that are presented to it by things past, present, and to come on the other side are disturbed imaginations, eager desires, perpetual uneasiness, reflexions half stifled, and a mind ever laboring with unpleasant thoughts of the time past, and the more unwelcome prospects of the time to come. These are natural and constant effects; and such they are surely in which the happiness of human life is very much concerned. You may value the pleasures of the body as you please, and despise the better part, the mind; but you are a reasonable creature whether you will or no, and your reason will have the last influence in making you either happy or miserable. If you lay in matter for uneasy thoughts and reflexions, it is but storing up misery for yourself, a misery from
which all the real or fancied goods of the world cannot deliver you. The pains of the mind are never-ceasing torments: the wounds of the body may be cured; but for the wounds of the spirit the world affords no salve; they will fester and grow desperate, till they waste both body and mind. The truest touchstone by which we can prove the things which are conducive to our happiness, is to consider how they will operate on our minds for the remainder of our life for instance, you have an opportunity of getting some great advantage by doing some vile thing whilst you look only at the advantage, and think over all the ways in which it may be serviceable to your pleasure or ambition, so long the temptation may be strong; but set it at a little distance from you, and the case will be altered. Suppose the thing done and the advantage gained; and then put yourself into a posture of looking back on the whole transaction, and see what comfort will arise from the reflexion: can you rejoice in the sight of woods and parks, if every sight of them must call to your mind an innocent man whom you ruined in order to obtain them? Such a thought must ever be attended with a secret abhorrence of ourselves; and how happy the man is who lives under a continual displeasure with himself, let any one judge.
This secret displeasure, which wicked men conceive against themselves, is inconsistent with any real enjoyment: so that sin lays the foundation of misery, and lays it so close to us that we can never remove it. Add to this, that vice renders men odious and contemptible, not only to themselves, but to all the world besides. There is so much sense of virtue left, and will be as long as men continue to be reasonable creatures, that, whether we like it for ourselves or no, we must needs like it for all others and therefore a vicious man will always be a contemptible man; a circumstance that will always make him an unhappy man; for it is impossible for a man to bear contempt easily, when he knows that he deserves it. So that consider the wicked man as he stands with regard to himself and his own judgment, and as he stands with regard to the world and the common opinion of mankind, and in both views he seems given up to misery, and to be the object of his own and the common hatred.
But there is still another scene to be opened, which will present us with a larger prospect, and show us far greater miseries in reserve for the wicked. Hitherto we have considered his case with respect only to this world and the natural effects of his vice; but ask him, and he will tell you that this is but an imperfect description of his condition; that he has other fears. about him, and such forebodings of future misery as are sufficient to poison all the pleasures of life, were they free from all other corruption. He sees that in this life all things come to an end, that the wicked and the righteous equally go' down to the grave; but what new distinctions may arise hereafter, answerable to the natural hopes and fears of the mind, he hates to remember, and yet has it not in his power to forget. These thoughts are his perpetual plague: no sooner is a passion satisfied, and the pleasure over, but it appears again in a ghastly form, and speaks to him in the language of Israel's King, 'Know, that for all these things God will call thee into judg
Say, however, and it is all that the wicked have to say, that such imaginations may be delusive, and such fears may be vain; but yet, weak as you suppose these fears to be, we must be much weaker than we are, before we can get rid of them; that is, we must lose our reason and understanding, before we can forget that there is a God who will judge the world in righteousness. These are natural thoughts, the plain result of that reason which is born with us; and be they true or be they false, they have a real effect on our present happiness; and if they are true, as I trust we shall all one day be convinced that they are, they will add eternity to the misery of the wicked.
We meet sometimes with such hardened sinners as are proof for many years against all considerations of this sort; but their hardness is no security to them against the misery of these natural reflexions: vice will soon impair their strength and bring down the pride of their hearts; at least time will bring them within sight of the grave; and when weakness and infirmities lay hold on them, or death draws near to execute his commission, they awake as one out of a dream, and their long silenced fears begin to speak with double terror. And what a condition is a man in, when there is nothing past that he can