« PreviousContinue »
scorn their lives. If they were afraid of any thing, it was of dying in their beds.
In Alexander's time the Indian philosophers, when they were weary of living, used to lie down upon their funeral pile without any visible concern ; and afterward, about the reign of Adrian, Lucian mentions one Peregrinus, who jumped into a fiery furnace at the olympic games only to show the company how far his vanity could carry him. At this day the heathen women under the Mogul offer themselves to the fames at the death of their husbands. It is true the Mahometans will not always let them have their will ; but they think they are hardly dealt with, when refused ; and make all the interest they have for the honor. I need not mention the primitive christians, whose fortitude was both general and extraordinary ; insomuch that Lactantius and others observe, that the women and children did not show the least signs of complaint either in looks, voice, or motion, when they seemed to lie under the extremity of torture. But it may be replied, and that truly, that these were supported by supernatural strength. However the former instances may suffice to show, that there is a greatness in human nature, not to be overawed by death. The way to be possessed of this quality to purpose is to live well. There is no such bravery, as that of a good christian. He, that can look the other world in the face, needs fear nothing. But, as to the courage of bullies and town sparks, who are so hardy as to risk body and soul upon a point of pretended honor, there is no language can reach their extravagance. They are distempered beyond the lunacy of Bedlam, and should be taken care of accordingly.
We insert with pleasure the following analysis, as it exhibits in a clear view
some palpable defects in that modern system of Ethics, which we have al ready attempted to refute in sunie former numbers of this work.
A discourse delivered on the annual thanksgiving in Massachua
setts 29 November 1804, by Nathanael Emmons D. D. pasa tor of the chursh in Franklin.
I TIMOTHY VI. 5: Perversé disputings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, supposing, THAT GÁIN IS GODLI
NESS. From such withdraw thyself.
D R. EMMONS has exposed in this discourse the absurdity of the popular doctrine of the day, “ that virtue " consists in utility, and that the end sanctions the means." He has left subtlety and refinement and rhetoric to his opponents, and with a simplicity characteristic of truth urged those arguments, which must convince every man, who prefers the decision of feeling and common sense to the bold speculations of vanity.
After observing, that error results more frequently from wrong principles, than false reasoning, Dr. Emmons proceeds
" I. To explain the meaning of the doctrine, that' viro « tue consists in utility.
“ II. To demonstrate its absurdity, and
“ III. To show why mers are greatly exposed to em« brace it."
I. In explaining the doctrine Dr. E. has adduced the definitions of divines and sophists, who agree, that “ there " is no distinction between that, which leads to private happia
Vol. II. No. I.
“ ness, and real virtue, since nothing is good, but as it conduces to this end, and nothing bad, but as it conduces to the contrary; consequently," that the utility of any moral rule “ constitutes the obligation of it ;” and “ that actions may be “ vicious, though they proceed from virtuous intentions."
II. In demonstrating the absurdity of the doctrine Dr. E. has deduced from it the following positions, as its necessary consequences ; to wit,
1. If virtue consist in utility, it may be predicated of inanimate objects. The sun has been dispensing innumerable benefits to mankind for many thousand years, and, if its moral virtue be in proportion to its utility, there is not a moral agent on earth, whose moral worth is equal to the moral exe cellence of this material, inanimate, unconscious object. This Godwin frankly admits, and attributes virtue as readily to a knife and a candlestick, as to man.
2. If virtue consist in utility, it may be predicated of the mere animal creation, and may be regarded as equal in the geese, who saved Rome by their gaggling, as in Cincinnatus or Fabius, who preserved it by their heroism.
3. According to this doctrine men may be virtuous without any intention to do good. Hence Jesse deserves the richest meed of patriotism for sending David to see and comfort his brethren in the army, though he had no thoughts of raising him to the throne of Israel, and thereby promoting the general welfare of his nation.
4. On this doctrine men may be virtuous in acting not only without any intention, but from a positively bad intention. The malevolence of Joseph's brethren produced the happiness of their family, and the preservation of surrounding nations. The perfidy of Judas has been infinitely beneficial to the world. Hence, if utility is the essence of virtue, the conduct of Joseph's brethren and of Judas was highly meritorious. To the objection, that“ malevolent actions have no natural “ and direct tendency to promote happiness," it is justly replied, that, if virtue consist in utility, the good effect of a malevolent action is just as virtuous, as the good effect of a benevolent one. For this doctrine places virtue in the conseqnence of the action, and not in the intention of the agent ; and hence it is immaterial, whether the agent have no intention, a good intention, or a bad intention.
5. Admitting this principle just, there is nothing right or wrong in the nature of things, but virtue and vice depend upon mere accidental and mutable circumstances. When the nature of an action is to be decided by the consequence, and not the cause, what is criminal today may be virtuous tomorrow, and vice versa. Mr. Godwin asserts, that the obligation of sincerity may be suspended. Hence truth may become evil, and perjury, theft, and murder be meritorious.
6. According to this doctrine there is nothing intrinsically good or evil in the universe, but happiness or misery. But the distinction between moral and natural good and evil is intuitively evident to all. And from this distinction we praise virtue, but not happiness, we condemn vice, but not misery.
7. According to this doctrine there is no such thing as virtue or vice in the world. For supposing there is no virtue or vice in intention, or the tendency of an action to produce good or evil ; then they must consist in the pleasure or pain, they produce, if they exist at all. But it is evident, there is neither virtue nor vice in happiness or misery, and hence this doctrine excludes them from the world.
III. Dr. E. shows, that men are greatly exposed to embrace this doctrine, which is subversive of all moral, religious, and political obligations ; ist from its resemblance to truth, and its apparent philanthropy ; 2d from the charac-, ters of its teachers, who, as divines, sceptics, philanthropists, and political seducers, find access to, and acquire an influence over all classes of society, and 3d from the corruption and depravity of the human heart, which lead men to prefer gain to godliness.
In the improvement of the discourse Dr. E. has proved, that a general belief of the doctrine, that“ virtue consists in “ utility,” will ultimately prostrate all our religious and civil institutions, and introduce the capriciousness of anarchy and
madness of vice into the former abodes of order, temperance, and love. In the present unholy war for the propagation of this old creed, in which priests and atheists have united with the zeal of fanatics, we are not without support. Truth receives that defence from the BIBLE, which it ought to have received from the history of other times, and the experience of our own age. This is our Palladium,
We make no apology for thus particularly analysing this interesting discourse, We consider it a tract of great merit, and calculated to do much good. It exhibits at one view the folly and absurdity of this favorite article in the creed of Aristippus and Epicurus ; and alarms us by an impressive display of the consequences of its general belief. We feel it a duty to recommend this discourse to all classes of men, and urge the friends of religion to promote its circulation,
An attempt to recommend justice, charity, and unanimity in mate ters of religion, in a sermon, preached in Newbury June IQ 1804, and in Newburyport March 3 1805 ; by John Snel. ling Popkin 1. M. minister of the first church and congregas tion in Newbury.
| HERE is something prepossessing in the very title of this discourse-" An attempt to recommend justice, “ charity, and unanimity in matters of religion,” This ats tempt, while it manifests the humble and pacific temper of the writer, administers reproof to those, who set up their own theories, as standards of truth, and exclude from their Christian fellowship all, who differ from them on religious subjects.
This discourse is founded on these words of St. Paul to the Romans, " Be of the same mind one towards another." After a few introductory remarks, showing, that this precept