Page images

ness of being inconsistent with himself, and as it were, against himself, in his own actions. This appears particularly in the inclination of the mind to be uneasy in the consciousness of doing that to others, which he should be angry with them for doing to him, if they were in his case, and he in theirs; or, of forbearing to do that to them, which he would be displeased with them for neglecting to do to him.

I have observed from time to time, that in pure love to others (i. e. love not arising from self love) there is an union of the heart with others; a kind of enlargement of the mind, whereby it so extends itself as to take others into a man's self: And therefore it implies a disposition to feel, to desire, and to act as though others were one with ourselves. So, self love implies an inclination to feel and act as one with our. selves; which naturally renders a sensible inconsistence with ourselves, and self opposition, in what we ourselves choose and do, to be uneasy to the mind; which will cause uneasiness of mind to be the consequence of a malevolent and un. just behavior towards others, and a kind of disapprobation of acts of this nature, and an approbation of the contrary. To do that to another, which we should be angry with him for doing to us, and to hate a person for doing that to us, which we should incline to, and insist on doing to him, if we were exactly in the same case, is to disagree with ourselves, and contradict ourselves. It would be, for ourselves both to choose and adhere to, and yet to refuse and utterly reject, as it were tbe very same thing. No wonder, this is contrary to nature. No wonder, that such a self opposition, and inward war with a man's self, naturally begets unquietness, and raises disturbance in his mind.

A thus approving of actions, because we therein act as in agreement with ourselves, or as one with ourselves....and a thus disapproving and being uneasy in the consciousness of disagreeing and being inconsistent with ourselves in what we quite a different thing from approving or disapproving actions because in them we agree and are united with Being in general ; which is loving or hating actions from a sense of the primary beauty of true virtue, and odiousness of sin.....

The former of these principles is private : The latter is public and truly benevolent in the highest sense. The former (i.e. an inclination to agree with ourselves) is a natural principle : But the latter (i. e. an agreement or union of heart to the great system, and to God, the head of it, who is all in all in it) is a divine principle.

In that uneasiness now mentioned, consists very much of that inward trouble men have from reflections of conscience : And when they are free from this uneasiness, and are conscious to themselves, that in what they have acted towards others, they have done the same which they should have expected from them in the same case, then they have what is called peace of conscience, with respect to these actions.... And there is also an approbation of conscience, of the conduct of others towards ourselves. As when we are blamed, condemned, or punished by them, and are conscious to ourselves that if we were in their case, and they in ours, we should in like manner blame, condemn, and punish them. And thus men's consciences may justify God's anger and condemna¡tion. When they have the ideas of God's greatness, their

relation to him, the benefits they have received from him, the manifestations he has made of his will to them, &c. strongly impressed on their minds, a consciousness is excited within them of those resentments, which would be occasioned in themselves by an injurious treatment in any

wise parallel. There is such a consciousness as this oftentimes within men, implied in the thoughts and views of the mind, which perhaps on reflection they could hardly give an account of. Unless men's consciences are greatly stupified, it is naturally and necessarily suggested ; and does habitually, spontaneously, instantaneously, and as it were insensibly arise in the mind. And the more so for this reason, viz. that we have not, nor ever had from our infancy, any other way to conceive of any thing which other persons act or suffer, or of any thing about intelligent, moral agents, but by recalling and exciting the ideas of what we ourselves are conscious of in the acts, passions, sensations, volitions, &c. which we have found in our own minds; and by putting the ideas which we obtain by

this means, in the place of another; or as it were substituting ourselves in their place. Thus, we have no conception, in any degree, what understanding, perception, love, pleasure, pain, or desire are in others, but by putting ourselves as it were in their stead, or transferring the ideas we obtain of such things in our own minds by consciousness, into their place ; making such an alteration, as to degree and circumstances, as what we observe of them requires. It is thus in all moral things that we conceive of in others, which are all mental, and not corporeal things; and every thing that we conceive of, belonging to others, more than shape, size, complexion, situation, and motion of their bodies. And this is the only way that we come to be capable of having ideas of any perception or act even of the Godhead. We never could have any notion what understanding or volition, love or hatred are, either in created spirits or in God, if we had never experienced what understanding and volition, love and hatred, are in our own minds. Knowing what they are by consciousness, we can add degrees, and deny limits, and remove changeableness and other imperfections, and ascribe them to God. Which is the only way we come to be capable of conceiving of any thing in the Deity.

But though it be so, that men in thinking of others do, as it were, put themselves in their place, they do it so naturally, or rather habitually, instantaneously, and without set purpose, that they do it insensibly, and can scarce give any account of it, and many would think strange if they were told of it. So it may be in men's substituting themselves in others place in such exercises of conscience as have been spoken of; and the former substitution leads to the latter, in one whose conscience is not greatly stupified. For in all his thoughts of the other person, in whatever he apprehends or conceives of his moral conduct to others or to himself, if it be in loving or hating him, approving or condemning him, rewarding or punishing him, he necessarily as it were puts himself in his stead, for the forementioned reason ; and therefore the niore naturally, easily and quietly sees whether he, being in his place, should approve or condemn, be angry or pleased as he is.

Natural conscience consists in these two things : 1. In that which has now been spoken of: That disposi tion to approve or disapprove the moral treatment which passes between us and others, from a determination of thc mind to be easy, or uneasy, in a consciousness of our being consistent, or inconsistent with ourselves. Hereby we have a disposition to approve our own treatment of another, when we are conscious to ourselves that we treat him so as we should expect to be treated by him, were he in our case and we in his; and to disapprove of our own treatment of another, when we are conscious that we should be displeased, with the like treatment from him, if we were in his case. So we in our consciences approve of another's treatment of us, if we are conscious to ourselves, that if we were in his case, and he in ours, we should think it just to treat him as he treats us ; and disapprove his treatment of us, when we are conscious that we should think it unjust, if we were in his case. . Thus men's consciences approve or disapprove the sentence of their judge, by which they are acquitted or condemned...... But this is not all that is in natural conscience. Besides this approving or disapproving from uneasiness as being inconsistent with ourselves, there is another thing that must precede it, and be the foundation of it. As for instance, when my conscience disapproves my own treatment of another, being conscious to myself that were I in his case, I should be displeased and angry with him for so treating me, the question might be asked, But what would be the ground of that supposed disapprobation, displeasure and anger, which I am conscious would be in me in that case ?..... That disapprobation must be on some other grounds. Therefore,

2. The other thing which belongs to the approbation or disapprobation of natural conscience, is the sense of desert, which was spoken of before ; consisting, as was observed, in a natural agreement, proportion and harmony between malev.. olence or injury; and resentment and punishment; or between loving and being loved, between shewing kindness and being rewarded, &c. Both these kinds of approving or disapprovVOL. II.

3 H Н

ing concur in the approbation or disapprobation of conscience ; the one founded on the other. Thus, when a man's conscience disapproves of his treatment of his neighbor, in the first place he is conscious that if he were in his neighbor's stead, he should resent such treatment, from a sense of justice, or from a sense of uniformity and equality between such treatment and resentment and punishment, as before explained. And then in the next place he perceives, that therefore he is not consistent with himself, in doing what he himself should resent in that case ; and hence disapproves it, as being naturally averse to opposition to himself.

Approbation and disapprobation of conscience, in the sense now explained, will extend to all virtue and vice ; to every thing whatsoever that is morally good or evil, in a mind which does not confine its view tò a private sphere, but will take things in general into its consideration, and is free from speculative error. For, as all virtue or moral gond may be resolved into love to others, either God or creatures, so men easily see the uniformity and natural agreement there is between loving others, and being accepted and favored by others. And all vice, sin, or moral evil, summarily consisting in the want of this love to others, or in the contrary, viz. hatred or malevolence, so men easily see the natural agreement there is between hating and doing ill to others, and being hated by them and suffering ill from them, or from him that acts for all and has the care of the whole system. And as this sense of equality and natural agreement extends to all moral good and evil, so this lays a foundation of an equal extent with the other kind of approbation and disapprobation, which is grounded upon it, arising from an aversion to self inconsistence and opposition. For in all cases of benevolence or the contrary towards others, we are capable of putting ourselves in the place of others, and are naturally led to do it, and so of reflecting, or being conscious to ourselves, how we should like or dislike such treatment from others. Thus natural conscience, if the understanding be properly enlightened, and errors and blind. ing stupifying prejudices are removed, concurs with the law

« PreviousContinue »