« AnteriorContinuar »
intend to enrol myself among the fraternity; but, if I were actually qualified for the profession, it is at best but a desperate resource against starving, as it affords no provision for old age and infirmity. Salmon, at the age of fourscore, is now in a garret, compiling matter at a guinea a sheet for a modern historian, who, in point of age, might be his grandchild; and Psalmanazar, after having drudged half a century in the literary world, in all the simplicity and abstinence of an Asiatic, subsists upon the charity of a few booksellers, just sufficient to keep him from the parish. I think Guy, who was himself a bookseller, ought to have appropriated one wing or ward of his hospital to the use of decayed authors; though, indeed, there is neither hospital, college, or workhouse, within the bills of mortality, large enough to contain the poor of this society, composed, as it is, from the refuse of every other profession.
48. — ON THE INHERENT PLEASURE OF THE VIRTUOUS, AND MISERY OF THE VICIOUS AFFECTIONS.
CHALMERS. [The Reverend Thomas Chalmers, D.D., is one of the most eloquent, pious, and philosophical divines of the Scottish Church. He was born about 1780, and received his education at the University of Saint Andrews. As a preacher, few men ever attained such unbounded popularity. He visited London in 1817, and the effect he produced is thus recorded by Mr. Wilberforce in his Diary: “ Off early with Canning, Huskisson, and Lord Binning, to the Scotch Church, London Wall, to hear Dr. Chalmers. Vast crowds. So pleased with him that I went again, getting in at a window with Lady D., over iron palisades, on a bench. Chalmers most awful on carnal and spiritual
I was surprised to see how greatly Canning was affected; at times he quite melted into tears. I should have thought he had been too much hardened in debate to show such signs of feeling." The range of Dr. Chalmers' knowledge is very various ; but perhaps the most original of his views are those connected with what may be termed the morals of political economy. The following extract is from his Bridgewater Treatise, 'The Adaptation of external Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man.']
There is a felt satisfaction in the thought of having done what we kvow to be right; and, in counterpart to this complacency of selfapprobation, there is a felt discomfort, amounting often to bitter and remorseful agony, in the thought of having done what conscience tells us to be wrong
This implies a sense of the rectitude of what is virtuous. But, without thinking of its rectitude at all, without viewing it in reference either to the law of conscience or the law of God, with no regard to jurisprudence in the matter, there is, in the virtuous affection itself another and a distinct enjoyment. We ought to cherish and to exercise benevolence; and there is a pleasure in the consciousness of doing what we ought: but beside this moral sentiment, and beside the peculiar pleasure appended to benevolence as moral, there is a sensation in the merely physical affection of benevolence; and that sensation, of itself, is in the highest degree pleasurable. The primary or instant gratification which there is in the direct and immediate feeling of benevolence is one thing: the second or reflex gratification which there is in the consciousness of benevolence as moral is another thing. The two are distinct of themselves; but the contingent union of them, in the case of every virtuous affection, gives a multiple force to the conclusion, that God is the lover, and, because so, the patron or the rewarder, of virtue. · He hath so constituted our nature, that in the very flow and exercise of the good affections there shall be the oil of gladness. There is instant delight in the first conception of benevolence; there is sustained delight in its continued exercise; there is consummated delight in the happy, smiling, and prosperous result of it.
Kindness, and honesty, and truth, are of themselves, and irrespective of their rightness, sweet unto the taste of the inner man. Malice, envy, falsehood, injustice, irrespective of their wrongness, have, of themselves, the bitterness of gall and wormwood. The Deity hath annexed a high mental enjoyment, not to the consciousness only of good affections, but to the very sense and feeling of good affections. However closely these may follow on each othernay, however implicated or blended together they may be at the same moment into one compound state of feeling—they are not the less distinct, on that account, of themselves. They form two pleasurable sensations, instead of one; and their opposition, in the case of every virtuous deed or virtuous desire, exhibits to us that very concurrence in the world of mind which obtains with such frequency and fulness in the world of matter, affording, in every new part that is added, not a simply repeated only, but a vastly multiplied evidence for design, throughout all its combinations. There is a pleasure in the very sensation of virtue; and there is a pleasure attendant on the sense of its rectitude. These two phenomena are independent of each other. Let there be a certain number of chances against the first in a random economy of things, and also a certain number of chances against the second. In the actual economy of things, where there is the conjunction of both phenomena, it is the product of these two numbers which represents the amount of evidence afforded by them, for a moral government in the world, and a moral governor over them.
In the calm satisfactions of virtue, this distinction may not be so palpable as in the pungent and more vividly felt disquietudes which are attendant on the wrong affections of our nature. The perpetual corrosion of that heart, for example, which frets in unhappy peevishness all the day long, is plainly distinct from the bitterness of that remorse which is felt, in the recollection of its harsh and injurious outbreakings on the innocent sufferers within its reach. It is saying much for the moral character of God, that he has placed a conscience within us, which administers painful rebuke on every indulgence of a wrong affection. But it is saying still more for such being the character of our Maker, so to have framed our mental constitution that, in the very working of these bad affections, there should be the painfulness of a felt discomfort and discordancy. Such is the make or mechanism of our nature, that it is thwarted and put out of sorts by rage, and envy, and hatred; and this irrespective of the adverse moral judgments which conscience passes upon them. Of themselves, they are unsavoury; and no sooner do they enter the heart, than they shed upon it an immediate distillation of bitterness. Just as the placid smile of benevolence bespeaks the felt comfort of benevolence; so, in the frown and tempest of an angry countenance, do we read the unhappiness of that man who is vexed and agitated by his own malignant affections, eating inwardly, as they do, on the vitals of his enjoy
It is therefore that he is often styled, and truly, a self-tormentor, or his own worst enemy. The delight of virtue, in itself, is a separate thing from the delight of the conscience which approves it. And the pain of moral evil, in itself, is a separate thing from the pain inflicted by conscience in the act of condemning it. They offer to our notice two distinct ingredients, both of the present reward attendant upon virtue, and of the present penalty attendant upon vice, and so enhance the evidence that is before our eyes for the moral character of that administration under which the world has been placed by its author. The appetite of hunger is rightly alleged in evidence of the care wherewith the Deity hath provided for the wellbeing of our natural constitution; and the pleasurable taste of food is rightly alleged as an additional proof of the same. And so, if the urgent voice of conscience within, calling us to virtue, be alleged in evidence of the care wherewith the Deity hath provided for the wellbeing of our moral constitution; the pleasurable taste of virtue in itself, with the bitterness of its opposite, may well be alleged as additional evidence thereof. They alike afford the present and the sensible tokens of a righteous administration, and so of a righteous God.
Our present argument is grounded, neither on the rectitude of virtue, nor on its utility in the grosser and more palpable sense of that term, but on the immediate sweetness of it. It is the office of a conscience to tell us of its rectitude. It is by experience that we learn its utility. But the sweetness of it, the dulce of virtue as distinguished from its utile, is a thing of instant sensation. It may be decomposed into two ingredients, with one of which conscience has to do—even the pleasure we have, when any deed or affection of ours receives from her a favourable verdict. But it has another ingredient which forms the proper and the distinct agument that we are now urging-even the pleasure we have in the mere relish of the affection itself.
If it be a proof of benevolence in God, that our external organs of taste should have been so framed as to have a liking for wholesome food ; it is no less the proof both of a benevolent and a righteous God, so to have framed our mental economy, as that right and wholesome morality should be palatable to the taste of the inner man. Virtue is not only seen to be right-it is felt to be delicious. There is happiness in the very wish to make others happy. There is a heart's ease, or a heart's enjoyment, even in the first purposes of kindness, as well as in its subsequent performances. There is a certain rejoicing sense of clearness in the consistency, the exactitude of justice and truth. There is a triumphant elevation of spirit in magnanimity and honour. In perfect harmony with this, there is a placid feeling of serenity and blissful contentment in gentleness and humility. There is a noble satisfaction in those victories which, at the bidding of principle, or by the power of selfcommand, may have been achieved over the propensities of animal nature. There is an elate independence of soul, in the consciousness of having nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. In a word
by the constitution of our nature, each virtue has its appropriate charm; and virtue, on the whole, is a fund of varied as well as of perpetual enjoyment, to him who hath imbibed its spirit and is under the guidance of its principles. He feels all to be health and harmony within, and without he seems as if to breathe in an atmosphere of beauteous transparency, proving how much the nature of man and the nature of virtue are in unison with each other. It is hunger which urges to the use of food; but it strikingly demonstrates the care and benevolence of God, so to have framed the organ of taste as that there shall be a superadded enjoyment in the use of it. It is conscience which urges to the practice of virtue; but it serves to enhance the proof of a moral purpose, and therefore of a moral character in God, so to have framed our mental economy, that, in addition to the felt obligation of its rightness, virtue, should of itself be so regaling to the taste of the inner man.
In counterpart to these sweets and satisfactions of virtue, is the essential and inherent bitterness of all that is morally evil. We repeat, that with this particular argument we do not mix up the agonies of
It is the wretchedness of vice in itself, not the wretchedness which we suffer because of its recollected and felt wrongness, that we now speak of. It is not the painfulness of the compunction felt because of our anger upon which we at this moment insist, but the painfulness of the emotion itself; and the same remark applies to all the malignant desires of the human heart. True, it is inseparable from the very nature of a desire, that there must be some enjoyment or other at the time of its gratification ; but, in the case of these evil affections, it is not unmixed enjoyment. The most ordinary observer of his own feelings, however incapable of analysis, must be sensible, even at the moment of wreaking in full indulgence of his resentment on the man who has provoked or injured him, that all is not perfect and entire enjoyment within; but that in this, and indeed in every other malignant feeling, there is a sore burden of disquietude—an unhappiness tumultuating in the heart, and visibly pictured on the countenance. The ferocious tyrant who has only to issue forth his mandate, and strike dead at pleasure the victim of his wrath, with any circumstance too of barbaric caprice and cruelty which his fancy in the very waywardness of passion unrestrained and power unbounded might suggest to him-he may be said to have experienced through life a thousand gratifications in the solaced rage and revenge, which, though