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presenting in a forcible light, the arguments which prove that man is now placed under a supreme system of moral government.
Their reasonings also have the tendency of clearly shewing the immutability of moral distinctions, and that man cannot be vicious without being criminal and miserable.
It ought also to be remarked, that while they have fallen into the error of regarding all morality as the object of the understanding exclusively, they have avoided the opposite, and much more dangerous error, of considering it solely as matter of sensation and feeling. Morality, as has been already shewn, is the object both of that moral feeling or sense with which our nature is endowed, and of that reason which is the chief characteristic of man. It is by reason that we discover those general rules of justice by which we ought to regulate our actions; and it is by the same faculty that we form those more vague and indeterminate ideas of what is prudent, of what is decent, of what is generous and noble.”
The principle of Hume's theory of morals is the doctrine of utility; the falseness of which, as the measure and rule of virtue, has been already fully shewn. If the question were, Do virtuous actions conduce to the happiness of their authors and of mankind, we should, without hesitation, answer in the affirmative. It is quite a different thing to assert, that the tendency to produce this happiness is the sole ground of moral distinctions.
Mr. Hume, the very ingenious advocate of this doctrine, has himself furnished the argument by which we may prove it to be untenable. “ We ought not to
Hence the assumption of that moral feeling, the origin of which it is the avowed design of the advocate of the theory of utility to account for and explain.
The selfish system of morals is only a modification of the theory of utility. It represents each individual as acting, not for the general good, but for his own personal gratification and advantage. The remarks which have been made on this system, as advocated by Paley, are sufficient to shew its futility. It is proved by our moral feelings, and by the testimony of scripture, to be false. Of all the modifications of the selfish system, this is the most exceptionable, since it connects the excess of selfishness with the image of Him who is infinitely good, and whose tender mercies are over all his works.
The last system of morals to which I shall allude is that of Dr. Smith, as expounded in his theory of Moral Sentiments,-a work, the fascinating eloquence of which is far above any eulogium of mine. In its minor details and illustrations, it is perhaps unrivalled in the depth of thought and philosophical beauty which are exhibited. It is not, however, to these, but to its leading doctrine, that I would direct the attention of the reader.
To this doctrine I alluded when treating of the affections. We do not, according to Dr. Smith, approve or disapprove of actions immediately on our becoming acquainted with their nature and consequences. It is previously necessary that we sympathize with, or enter into, the feelings of the agent, and place ourselves in the circumstances of him who is the object of the action. If we can fully sympathize with the agent,