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still ambiguous, manifestations of his virtue ; but the absence of a good life is not only a presumption, but a proof of the contrary, as long as it continues. Good works may exist without saving principles, and therefore can not contain in themselves the principle of salvation ; but saving principles never did, never can, exist without good works. On a subject of such infinite importance, I have feared prolixity less than obscurity. Men often talk against faith, and make strange monsters in their imagination of those who profess to abide by the words of the Apostle interpreted literally: and yet in their ordinary feelings they themselves judge and act by a similar principle. For what is į love without kind offices, wherever they are possible ;—(and they are always possible, if not by actions commonly so called, yet by kind words, by kind looks; and, where even these are out of our power, by kind thoughts and fervent prayers)—yet what noble mind would not be offended, if he were supposed to value the serviceable offices equally with the love that produced them; or if he were thought to value the love for the sake of the services, and not the services for the sake of the love ?
I return to the question of general consequences, considered as the criterion of moral actions. The admirer of Paley's system is required to suspend for a short time the objection, which, I doubt not, he has already made, that general consequences are stated by Paley as the criterion of the action, not of the agent. I will endeavor to satisfy him on this point, when I have completed my present chain of argument. It has been shown, that this criterion is no less ideal than that of any former system ; that is, it is no less incapable of receiving any external experimental proof, compulsory on the understandings of all men, such as are the criteria exhibited in chemistry. Yet, unlike the elder systems of morality, it remains in the world of the senses, without deriving any evidence therefrom. The agent's mind is compelled to go out of itself in order to bring back conjectures, the probability of which will vary with the shrewdness of the individual. But this criterion is not only ideal; it is likewise imaginary. If we believe in a scheme of Providence, all actions alike work for good. There is not the least ground for supposing that the crimes of Nero were less instrumental in bringing about our present advantages, than the virtues of the Antonines. Lastly; the criterion is either nugatory or false. It is demonstrated, that the
understand my action, but will understand that his father has inflicted pain upon, and taken away life from, beings that had never offended him. All this is true, and no man in his senses ever thought otherwise. But methinks it is strange to state that as a criterion of morality, which is no more than an accessary aggravation of an action bad in its own natúrè, or a ground of caution as to the mode and time in which we are to do or suspend what is in itself good or innocent.
The duty of setting a good example is no doubt a most important duty ; but the example is good or bad, necessary or unnecessary, accordingly as the action may be, which has a chance of being imitated. I once knew a small, but (in outward circumstances at least) respectable congregation, four fifths of whom professed that they went to church entirely for the example's sake ; in other words to cheat each other and act a common lie ! These rational Christians had not considered that example may increase the good or evil of an action, but can never constitute either. If it was a foolish thing to kneel when they were not mwardly praying, or to sit and listen to a discourse of which they believed little and cared nothing, they were setting a foolish example. Persons in their respectable circumstances do not think it necessary to clean shoes, that by their example they may encourage the shoe-black in continuing his occupation : and Christianity does not think so meanly of herself as to fear that the poor and afflicted will be a whit the less pious, though they should see reason to believe that those, who possessed the good things of the present life, were determined to leave all the blessings of the future for their more humble inferiors. "If in this I have spoken with bitterness, let it be recollected that my subject is hypocrisy.
It is likewise fit, that in all our actions we should have considered how far they are likely to be misunderstood, and from superficial resemblances to be confounded with, and so appear to authorize, actions of a very different character. But if this caution be intended for a moral rule, the misunderstanding must be such as might be made by persons who are neither very weak nor very wicked. The apparent resemblances between the good action we were about to do and the bad one which might possibly be done in mistaken imitation of it, must be obvious; or that. which makes them essentially different, must be subtle or recon- , dite. For what is there which a. wicked man blinded by his passions may not, and which a madman will not, misunderstand ? It is ridiculous to frame rules of morality with a view to those who are fit objects only for the physician or the magistrate. • The question may be thus illustrated. At Florence there is an unfinished bust of Brutus, by Michel Angelo, under which a cardinal wrote the following distich : . : Dum Bruti effigiem sculptor de marmore finxit,
In mentem sceleris venit, et abstinuit. As the sculptor was forming the effigy of Brutus in marble, he recollected
his act of guilt and refrained. An English nobleman, indignant at this inscription, wrote immediately under it the following :
Brutum effinxisset sculptor, sed mente recursat
Multa viri virtus ; sistit et obstupuit.
The sculptor would have framed a Brutus, but the vast and manifold virtue
of the man flashed upon his thought: he stopped and remained in astonished admiration.
Now which is the nobler and more moral sentiment, the Italian cardinal's, or the English nobleman's ? The cardinal would appeal to the doctrine of general consequences, and pronounce the death of Cæsar a murder, and Brutus an assassin. For (he would say) if one man may be allowed to kill another because he thinks him a tyrant, religious or political frenzy may stamp the name of tyrant on the best of kings : regicide will be justified under the pretence of tyrannicide, and Brutus be quoted as authority for the Clements and Ravailliacs.* From kings it may pass to generals and statesmen, and from these to any man whom an enemy or enthusiast may pronounce unfit to live. Thus we may have a cobbler of Messina in every city, and bravos in our streets as common as in those of Naples, with the name of Brutus on their stilettos.
The Englishman would commence his answer by commenting on the words “ because he thinks him a tyrant.” No! he would reply, not because the patriot thinks him a tyrant; but because
* Jacques Clement, a monk, who stabbed Henry III. of France, and François Ravailliac, an attorney, the well-known assassin of Henry IV.-Ed. he knows him to be so, and knows likewise, that the vilest of his slaves can not deny the fact, that he has by violence raised himself above the laws of his country-because he knows that all good and wise men equally with himself abhor the fact. If there be no such state as that of being broad awake, or no means of distinguishing it when it exists ; if because men sometimes dream that they are awake, it must follow that no man, when awake, can be sure that he is not dreaming ; if because a hypochondriac is positive that his legs are cylinders of glass, all other men are to learn modesty, and cease to be certain that their legs are legs; what possible advantage can your criterion of general consequences possess over any other rule of direction ? If no man can be sure that what he thinks a robber with a pistol at his breast demanding his purse, may not be a good friend inquiring after his health; or that a tyrant (the son of a cobbler perhaps, who at the head of a regiment of perjured traitors, has driven the representatives of his country out of the senate at the point of the bayonet, subverted the constitution which had trusted, enriched, and honored him, trampled on the laws which before God and man he had sworn to obey, and finally raised himself above all law) may not, in spite of his own and his neighbors' knowledge of the contrary, be a lawful king, who has received his power, however despotic it may be, from the kings his ancestors, who exercises no other power than what had been submitted to for centuries, and been acknowledged as the law of the country ; on what ground can you possibly expect less fallibility, or a result more to be relied upon, in the same man's calculation of your general consequences ? Would he, at least, find any difficulty in converting your criterion into an authority for his act? What should prevent a man, whose perceptions and judgments are so strangely distorted, from arguing, that nothing is more devoutly to be wished for, as a general consequence, than that every man, who by violence places himself above the laws of his country, should in all ages and nations be considered by mankind as placed by his own act out of the protection of law, and be treated by them as any other noxious wild beast would be ? Do you think it necessary to try adders by a jury? Do you hesitate to shoot a mad dog, because it is not in your power to have him first tried and condemned at the Old Bailey ? On the other hand, what consequence can be conceived more detestable, than one which