Page images
PDF
EPUB

Α Ρ Ρ Ε Ν DI X,

CONTAINING

AN ESSAY

ON

Analogy between the methods by which the perfection

and happiness of men are promoted, according to the dispensations of natural and revealed religion.

THE

HE perfection of intelligent beings consists

in comprehension of mind, or that principle whereby ideas of the past and the future mix with those of the present, and excite one common sensation; in which the good and evil so perfectly coalesce, and are so intimately united, that the medium only is perceived. Consequently, if happi. ness be apprehended to prevail, in that portion of time of which we have this perfect comprehenfion, and every part of which may be said to be present to us, we are conscious of pleasure only in the contemplation of it, the pain being loft, and absorbed, together with so much pleasure as was VOL. II.

E

equivalent

equivalent to it. By this means happiness comes to be of a more stable nature; and it is less in the power of single accidents to produce a sense of misery

If we have any reason to think that our existence will, upon the wbole, be.comfortable and happy; since (man being immortal) our happiness must be infinite upon the whole, though it be limited and finite at any particular time, the thought is so great and so glorious, that the full apprehension of it must contribute still more to overpower the sense of any present evils, and give such an intenseness to all pleasurable feelings, as cannot fail to make our present state unspeakably more eligible than it could otherwise have been.

Such is the constitution of human nature, and such are the influences to which we are exposed in this world, that this comprehension of mind must necessarily be enlarged with the experience of every day. Infants are sensible of nothing but what paffes in the present moment. The inftant that the impression of actual pain is removed, they are perfectly easy in mind, not being disturbed either with the remembrance of the pafied, or the apprehenfion of the future. By degrees, ideas, which have frequently been present to the perceptive power at the same time, begin to be associated; so that one of them cannot occur without introducing the other, and so making the perception complex. By

[ocr errors]

this means expectation begins to awake in the infant mind; but still, from the moment that, by the intervention of an associated circumstance, the idea of any pleasure is conceived, the child is impatient till it be enjoyed. Indeed, it is generally several months before children show the least sign of patience in waiting for any thing. The most evident signs of preparing to give them food, serve only to quicken their appetite, and their impatience to get it fatisfied; nor are they easy, till the meat be actually in their mouths.

In this state, therefore, or at our entrance upon life, we are influenced almost wholly by sensation, or the actual impression of external objects upon our senses. But when traces of these impressions, i. e. ideas are left in the sensorium, which may be excited by other ideas associated with them, so that notices of things may be had without the presence of real objects, we are capable of being influenced by them, as well as by the objects themselves. And since the stock of our ideas increases without limits, and is accumulating through the whole course of our lives, we must be continually more and more actuated by them; and there will be less occasion for the presence of external objects, either to rouse us to action, or to give us the sense of pleasure or pain; that is, we grow more intellectual, and less sensual every day.

When

E 2

When our stock of ideas is become considerable, and, consequently, their mutual associations are pretty extensive and intimate; if the circumstances that have always been found to precede any gratification be perceived, the gratification itself is immediately anticipated; we look upon it as certain, and have a real enjoyment of it, though it be not present. In this case, when the gratification actually comes, it makes but little alteration in what we feel, and is but a small addition to our previous happiness ; which now depends chiefly upon ideas, which are continually increasing, and to which external sensations bear, every day, a less and less proportion.

The probable expectation of happiness hath a fimilar effect : and hence the great power of mere hope to lessen the evils of life, and make us bear up under great difficulties and trials. If any pleasure hath been absolutely depended upon, for a long space of time, the happiness 'we have experienced in the frequent contemplation of it, may far exceed that of the enjoyment, which is single and momentary, and, moreover, accompanied with the disagreeable idea of its being so. For the same reason, the fear of evil may, in time, be far more distressing and grievous than the evil itself. The man who loses a limb by a sudden accident is to be envied, in comparison of him who hath been sentenced to that loss, as a punishment, fome months before the

operation, operation. In like manner, if two persons be confined in prison, and one of them be released with out any previous expectation of so agreeable an event, while the other knew that he was to be confined only for the Same limited time; the former will feel more tumultuous joy upon the occasion, but the latter will have had the idea of it present to his mind, during the whole time of his confinement, sweetening all the bitterness of it, and will never have known the distress of uncertainty, or the agony of despair.

When ideas only are concerned, and not both ideas and sensations, the influence of hope and fear is much more diftin&tly perceived, and the nature of this comprehension of mind will be better under stood by it. Inftead, then, of putting a case in which we ourselves are concerned, let us put the case of a wise, a child, or any other near relation, or friend, with whom we can truly sympathise, taking part in all their joys and forrows. If we see them in prison, and, after apprehending that their confinement will be for life, have private information that they will be released, and placed in very agreeable circumstances in a few days, weeks, or months ; we can see them in the mean time, even though we are not allowed to communicate our intelligence to them, with joy almost unmixed; because the future is realized, and the agreableness of it heightened in our ideas by its contrast with the present;

which

E 3

« PreviousContinue »