Page images

cannot know what morality is, nor distinguish it from immorality, nor have any motive to practice morality, and abstain from inimorality; and will be equally indifferent to morality and immorality, or virtue and vice. Man in his present condition is sufficiently immoral by mistaking pain for pleasure, and thereby judging, willing, and practising amiss: but if he was indifferent to pleasure and pain, he would have no rule to go by, and might never judge, will, and practise right."

The above definition of virtue and vice perfectly corresponds with that of Locke.

6 Good and evil,” he says, as hath been shown, are nothing but pleasure or pain, or that which occasions, or procures pleasure or pain to us. Moral good and evil, then, is only the conformity or disagreement of our voluntary actions to some law, whereby good or evil is drawn on us by the will and power of the law-maker; which good and evil, pleasure or pain, attending our observauce or breach of the law, by the decree of the law-maker, is what we call reward and punishment.”

According to the doctrine of necessity, the action of the will always is, and must be as the states of the sensibility, or as the sense of the most agreeable, in other words, in the direction of the object or objects which excite the strongest feelings or desires. But the states of the Sensibility will be modified, and consequently the action of the will determined by the dictates of the Intelligence, in this sense, that what the Intelligence presents to the Sensibility as upon the whole most pleasant, will, and must be the object of the strongest desire, and consequently of choice. Hence the famous proposition of Edwards, “ the will always is as the greatest apparent good,” or “as what appears most agreeable.

In respect to the definition of virtue and vice above given, we would add, that none other can properly be presented according to this doctrine. If the will can not but follow the course which is most pleasant, or which appears most agreeable to the mind, it would be impossible to affirm, that its action ought to be in any other direction, especially when such course appears most disagreeable, and the will can not, by any possibility, choose it. The only ground of distinction between creatures as virtuous or vicious, is this: while each alike does, and must act in the direction of the sense of the most agreeable, or “ the greatest apparent good," one, in consequence of having divined correctly, while acting in the direction of the greatest apparent good, in respect to the course which is “ on the whole most pleasant,” has secured his own highest interest, a course which under the circumstances he could not avoid; the other, in the unavoidable pursuit of the same end, has, in consequence of a necessary misjudgment, taken the course which is, on 6 the whole painful,” a course which he could not but take. We present the above, not as

[merged small][ocr errors]

the actual sentiments of all necessitarians, but as the doctrine of leading advocates of the system, and as the necessary elements of the same. The system being given, no other view of virtue and vice, and no other distinction between them can follow, as a logical consequent. In the further elucidation of this aspect of our subject, the following remarks are decmed requisite.

1. Every intelligent being in existence, the creator and the creature alike, is, and must be, according to the doctrine of necessity, pursuing the same identical end, and pursuing it with the same devotion, to wit, "the greatest apparent good.” The action of every Will is and must be in the direction of the sense of the most agreeable, and the energy of its action can not but be as the intensity of the feeling which causes it. The difference between the best and the worst being, is found not in the end sought, nor in the law by which their conduct is governed, but in the fact, that "the greatest apparent good.” or “the sense of the most agreeable” has rendered it impossible for one not to perform “actions in their own nature and upon the whole pleasant," and for another not to perform such as are “in their own nature and upon the whole painful.” This doctrine can legitimately admit of no other distinction between the best and worst beings in existence.

2. According to this doctrine, all distinction between the virtuous and the vicious are to be attributed simply and exclusively to the good fortune of the former on the one hand, and to the bad fortune of the latter on the other. The former are of necessity placed in circumstances in which from the nature of their constitution and of the influences to which they are and can not but be subject, they must have those preceptions, judgments, and feelings which necessitate those actions which are "in their own nature, and on the whole pleasant," in other words, according to the system, be virtu

The latter on the other hand, are and must be subject to influences which for like reasons necessitate an opposite, in other words, what is called a vicious course of conduct. The virtuous may properly be congratulated for their good, and the vicious compassionated for their bad fortune. These are the only sentiments which can justly be entertained in respect to either class on account of their good or bad conduct and character.

3. The final result of this doctrine is the total subversion of the idea of virtue and vice, of moral desert, and of reward and punishment, as that idea lies in the universal Intelligence.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Collins, gives it no place in his system, for the obvious reason that he could not but perceive, that it ought to have none, and he has throughout developed the system in consistency with its fundamental principles. There is not an individual in existence, whose mind has not been previously committed to the system, who is not assured with as perfect absoluteness, as he is that it is impossible for the same thing at the same time to be and not to be, that this doctrine being admitted, he can not justly be called to account for any of his actions, whatever they may be.

AUTHOR'S REPLY TO OBJECTIONS. Having completed his argument in favour of the doctrine of necessity, he now proceeds to answer certain important objections against it. " Among these we will notice his reply to but two, as his answer to these illustrates still farther the nature of the doctrine he is defending. The first objection that he notices is the obvious one that,

"If men are necessary agents, and do commit necessarily all breaches of the law, it would be unjust to punish them for what they can not avoid doing.”

The second objection is of the same nature as that stated above, and might properly have been treated of in the same connection, to wit:

"That it is useless to threaten punishment or inflict it on men to prevent crimes, when they are necessarily determined in all their actions."

The following is his reply to the first objection.

“To which I answer, that the sole end of punishment in society is to prevent, as far as may be, the commission of certain crimes: and that punishments have their designed effect two ways; first, by restraining or cutting off from society, the vicious members; and secondly, by correcting men or terrifying them from the commission of those crimes. Now let punishments be inflicted with either of these views, it will be manifest, that no regard is bad to any free-agency in man, in order to render those punishments just; but that on the contrary punishments may be justly inflicted on man though a necessary agent. For, first, if murderers for example, or any such vicious members are cut off from society, merely as they are public nuisances, and unfit to live among men: it is plain, they are in that case so far from being considered as free agents, that they are cut off from society as a cankered branch is from a tree, or as a mad dog is killed in the streets. And the punishment of such men is just, as it takes mischievous members out of society. Also for the same reason, furious madmen, whom all allow to be necessary agents, are in many places of the world, either the objects of judicial punishments, or are allowed to be dispatched by private men. Nay, even men infected with the plague, why are not voluntary agents, and are guilty of no crime, are sometimes thought to be justly cut off from society, to prevent contagion from them. Secondly, let punishment be inflicted on some criminals with a view to terri


fy, it will appear, that in inflicting punishments with that view, no regard is had to any free-agency in man, in order to make those punishments just. To render the punishment of such men just, it is sufficient that they were voluntary agents, or had the will to do the crime for which they suffer; for the law very justly and rightly regardeth only the will, and no other preceding causes of action. For example, suppose the law on pain of death forbids theft, and there be a man who by The strength of temptation is necessitated to steal, and is thereupon put to death for it; doth not his punishment deter others from theft?

Is it not a cause, that others steal nou? Doth it not frame their wills to justice? Whereas, a criminal who is an involuntary agent, (as for instance, a man who has killed another in a chance medly, or while in a fever, or the like) cannot serve for an example to deter any others from doing the same; he being no more an intelligent agent in doing the crime, than an house is, which kills a man by its fall: and by consequence the punishment of such an involuntary agent would be unjust. When therefore a man does a crime voluntarily, and his punishment will serve to deter others from doing the same, he is justly punished for doing what (through strength of temptation, ill habits, or other causes) he could not avoid doing.

From his reply to the second objection we make the following citations:

"To which I answer, first, that threatening of punishments is a cause which necessarily determines some men's wills to a conforınity to law, and against committing the crimes to which punishments are annexed; and therefore is useful to all those whose wills must be determined by it. It is as useful to such men, as the sun is to the ripening the fruits of the earth, or as any other causes are to produce their proper effects; and a man may as well say the sun is useless, if the ripening the fruits of the earth be necessary, as say, there is no need of threatening punishment for the use of those to whom threatening punishment is a necessary cause of forbearing to do a crime. It is also of use to society to inflict punishment on men for doing what they can not avoid doing, to the end that necessary causes may exist, to form the wills of those who in virtue of them necessarily observe the laws; and also of use to cut them off as poxious members of society."

Again, “men have every day examples before them of the usefulness of punishments upon some intelligent or sensible beings, which they all contend are necessary agents. They punish dogs, horses, and other animals, every day with great success, and make them leave off their vicious habits, and form them thereby according to their wills. These are plain facts, and matter of constant experience and even confirmed by the evasions of the advocates of liberty, who call the rewards and punishments used to brute beasts analogical; and say, that beating them and giving them victuals, have only the shadow of reward and punish

Nor are capital punishments without their use ancong beasts and birds. RORARIUS tells us, that they crucify lions in Africa to drive away other lions from their cities and towns; and that travelling through the country of Juliers, he observed, they hanged up wolves to secure their flocks. Aod in like manner, with us, men hang up crows and rooks to keep birds from their coro, as they hang up murderers in


chains to deter other murderers. But I need not go to brutes for examples of the usefulness of punishments 'on necessary agents. Punishments are not without effect on some idiots and madmen, by restraining them to a certain degree; and they are the very means by which the minds of children are formed by their parents. Nay, punishments have plainly a better effect on children, than on grown persons; and more easily form them to virtue and discipline, than they change the vicious habits of grown persons, or plant new habits in them. Wherefore the objectors ought to think punishments may be threatened and inflicted on men usefully, though they are necessary agents.”

The reader will clearly perceive that the idea of punishment based upon the principle of justice, or moral desert is every where repudiated by our author, as having no place in his system.

Vice in man is of the same nature as it is in the brute, and is punishable for the same, and for no other reasons. Guilt, praise and blameworthiness, and retributions on the score of moral desert, are words without meaning. Men are in reality no more guilty, nor on the principle of intrinsic justice, subjects of punishment for being under the power of the leprosy of sin, than far being afflicted with physical leprosy, or with any other form of disease. Both alike, if they exist at all, attach to them by a dire necessity equally beyond their control. The individual who has the leprosy or any other contagious disease is isolated from society for the same reason, that the thief is shut up in prison, and the murderer put out of the world. Men can, if the public good demands it be as justly punished with imprisonment or death, for being born blind, as for the foulcst crimes ever perpetrated.

Now it is in full and perfect consistency with the changeless demands of his system that our author has given the above exposition of it. Assuming his doctrine as true, no other aspect of rewards or punishments can legitimately be presen

Collins deserves well of the world for having had the moral hardihood, in his earnest advocacy of the doctrine of necessity, to disclose the doctrine in its naked deformity, just as it is. We conclude with two or three remarks of a general nature.

1. We notice the reason why necessitarians admit with such readiness, such monstrous absurdities into their theological systems, such for example as the strange dogma, that men are now held “as deserving God's wrath and curse not only in this world but in that which is to come,” for the first sin of Adam, a sin committed six thousand years before their existence commenced, and in respect to which they had, and could have had no knowledge, choice, or agency. If the doctrine

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »