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Serpserit, agnosco acceffum : mihi frigidus horror
Febris at infeftis cruciatibus intermiffam
END of the third Number:
LETTER I, in Defence of RELIGION. The Belief of a God and PROVIDENCE indispensably rent quisite to Man's safe and peaceable continuance in Being.
Greeably to the method which I proposed to observe in the following letters, I shall first endeavour ta
prove, that the belief of a God and Providence is in dispensibly requisite to man's safe and peaceable continuance in being; or, in other words, that he could neither live securely nor happily without such an affecting sense having place in the world.
To make out this, it will be proper to fhew, that as every effect must have a cause, so every action as necessarily supposes some motive; which can be nothing but the expectation of procuring pleasure or of avoiding pain; as I shall now demonstrate. Numb. IV.
In In every action, that it becomes a rational creature to purfrie or to avoid, fome end must be intended; or, there are certain reasons determining it to the one or the other : because from not-acting to acting, or conversely, there is a change ; and wherever this happens, some cause of it is previously necessary. The cause of change in the present cafe can only be a desire of change; and the source of that defire, a view of obtaining happiness or preventing misery of fome fort or other. For whilst man neither receives, nor is likely to receive, good or ill, from any particular action, he cannot but be indifferent about it; and so long as he continues indifferent, no change will follow. Because, as we obferved, there can be no change without desire ; and no change will be defired, because all defire is towards fome 'attainable good or avoidable evil : defire being an affection of the mind refulting from an apprehension of possessing a means of pleasure or avoiding one of pain. Hence, as there cannot be action without a change, nor change without a cause, that is, desire; and no desire without some imagin'd acquireable good, in which it terminates, and from thence issues; fo when the mind feels no present, and has not the prospect of obtaining a future happiness, no things, or the confideration of them, can in the least affect her, or she be one way or the other mov'd therewith. Consequently, nothing but pleasure and pain, or the probable means of thein, can be any exciting reason to action.
Having shewn private personal happiness to be the sole end of action in general, as also of every particular mode of it, taking the nature of mankind to be what we have supposed it, we shall just observe, that as by the make and firucture of the organs of his body, and his situation and coria verfe with material objects, inan ftands in such a relation to then, that the use of some will neceffarily give him pleasure, the application of others necessarily give him pain; so the former, if used in a certain manner, is found to make for his preservation; the latter, when exceeding a certain
degree, tends to his destruction. Now, as we have already remark’d, he is obliged to choose and pursue the former, and to refuse and fly from the latter. If we consider therefore ai number of such Beings, all in search of happiness under one form or other, and consequently each having a distinct end in view, it is plain, those ends will neceflarily interfere; fince, on supposition that they partake of the fame common nature, as they actually do, and have similar avenues and capacities, which they really have, it would frequently happen, that an object or event making a part of A's happiness fhall also make one of B's, at least is so presum'd to do ; which, with men's suppos’d natural right to whatever they can make themselves masters of, will unavoidably produce a general struggle amongst them; and this contest will necessarily draw after it as general a confusion.“ From mankind having “ the like wants, and for the most part the same appetites, “ arises the expediency, and consequently reasonableness of " thwarting, crossing, and opposing one another in the s gratification of them ; on which account it may properly « be said, that their differences frequently result from a simi" litude of painful internal feelings ; and consequently that
agreement in one sense becomes the foundation of dif “ agreement in another.”
Again ; A is in pursuit of a certain end which he cannot come at for B standing betwixt him and it. But reason thews him how, and self-love will put him upon making all the efforts in his power, to remove this obstacle to the point he fteers to ; that is, the one directs, and the other moves him to destroy B, if he cannot otherwise compass his defigns : for reason is of no other or higher value to its poffefior, than as it leads him the fhortest way to the object of all his thoughts, happiness. And if man has no concern with an hereafter, how can he make a better use of it than in procuring all the conveniences and pleasures of this world, whatever the means be, and however they may operate in the acquisition ? To say, as some have, and perhaps Q2
others will again, this is naturally evil, unfit, unjust, &c. is a mere playing with words without diving into their sense and importance. Good and evil, fit and unfit, are relative terms, as is evident from the question, (why, wherefore, for what) which may be ever ask'd when they are us’d on any occasion. Good; for what? Good in itself, or without reference to something further, is nonsense. The like is applicable to fit, unfit, evil, &c. that is, they are means to an end, (from a congruity or incongruity with which they come to be thus denominated) and what this end is, and only can be, hath been already declared. Consequently, should we allow the present mode of existence the only one in which man is to bear a part, that conduct would be termed the most reason, able, which provided for him here in the best manner poffible. In short, if a Being infinite in knowledge and power superintends human affairs, discriminating actions on purpose to reward fome and punish others, reason tells us, that, if we would be finally happy, we must endeavour to conform ourselves in all instances to his will. If there be no such principle, then man, acknowledging not a superior from whom he has the least to hope or to fear, can know no other rule, or be engag'd in any other pursuits, but what will either supply his wants, or yield him pleasure in the indulgences they procure him.
Further, should we suppose (and multitudes of cases, in which this might happen, would continually occur) A has it in his power to obtain all or most of the comforts of life by distressing B his fellow-creature, which he fees may be done with impunity ; under such a prospect, and in those alluring circumstances, what is there in nature to prevent him ? As self-love is the grand predominating principle, it must and will be gratify'd previously and preferably to all others; is not only the highest, but most probably the fole appetite woven into his frame. And to affert, a man ought not (if this life was the whole of his continuance) to deprive another of his happiness, tho' to increase his own, is absolutely false :