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judgment: or, as the same idea has been better conveyed in another tongue, Quatenus Ratio facultatem notat, est CAUSA efficiens proxima perceptionis et judicii; non Norma. To make the Faculty, by which we judge of truth and good, the Rule of judgment, has been the fruitful source of those countless absurdities, extravagancies, and contradictions, which have not only bewildered the human intellect, but inverted the whole order of things.
It is not therefore Reason, simply considered, that constitutes the high distinction of man, but, reason properly illuminated: which I suppose to be intended by right reason. RECTA RATIO, si de facultate agatur, illa est, quæ sufficienti lumine instructa non aliter res concipit, aut de iis judicat, quam revera sunt; et opponitur corruptæ, vitiosæ, cæcæ, quæ frequenter conceptus et judicia format rebus dissona.
In the history of philosophic inquiries, so far, I mean, as they relate, not to physical objects and experiments, but to the supreme concerns of man, we are, if
possible, still more embarrassed and
perplexed. Those, who are the most celebrated for these disquisitions, are, in points the most interesting and material, the most dissonant: professing, in numerous instances, with an imposing effrontery, to remove our prejudices, to correct our errors, and to enrich our minds with a summary of truth and excellence; with a compendious view of the decorum, the venustum, and the honestum ; what have they really done ? Have they rendered us, at this period, consummate Masters in the most important of all the sciences ? Alas ! have they not left us, if we are so weak as to listen to their oracles, wandering in the labyrinths of a miserable Scepticism * ? Amidst all this ostenta
* How can it bear any dispute, whether credulity or scepticism is the more shameful or more dangerous folly? Credulity may be an intellectual weakness, but scepticism
tious parade of correcting our mistakes, enlightening our minds, and reforming our manners, we retire from the schools, both of ancient and modern PhiLOSOPHY, not to say any thing of the new system of philosophism, sighing over the vanity, or pitying the illusions, of those, who could only affect to be wiser than the rest of their kind.
If there be any one research, which has peculiar attractions for the intellectual powers of man, it is that, which respects the nature and qualities of TRUE VIRTUE: and it is well known to those, who are the most conversant in scientific pursuits, thatGenius the most elevated, and Erudition the most comprehensive, have been employed in that honourable exercise. But, here again,
is a moral evil of the most pernicious consequence, and ought always to be represented as such; as the necessary concomitant of that intemperate love of pleasure, that dereliction of all moral principle, that prostitution of conscience, and that dissoluteness of manners, which are the prominent features and disgrace of the times,
how strangely has the human understanding been bewildered and harassed !
Impatient to have my mind enriched with proper sentiments, and clear ideas, as to the characteristics of true Virtue, I betake myself to this elegant writer ; and he informs me, that it consists in a taste for the sublime and beautiful, and in a perfect conformity of our actions with the supreme sense and symmetry of things : but, as all this is perfectly incomprehensible to the million, I am confident there is a fundamental mistake here.
I run to another, less fanciful and elevated, and much more profound, at least, in his mode of reasoning; and he insists, that true Virtue lies in a conformity of our actions with certain eternal and immutable relations and fitnesses of things. But, I am a plain man-no logician-no metaphysician; and I go away still more confounded with undefinable jargon.
I seek to a third ; and he assures me, that there is no Virtue, but in the conformity of our actions to truth; in treating every thing, as being what it is. A fourth affirms, that nothing is virtuous, but the proportionable affection of a rational creature to the moral objects of right and wrong; a fifth, that it consists in following nature; a sixth, in avoiding all extremes; and a seventh, to particularize no more, in the voluntary production of the greatest public happiness.
To all these I might have subjoined several more, who have defended their own definitions and views with equal strenuousness and ability. Still, the great question returns, What is the nature of true Virtue? and, after having traversed these labyrinths, which is almost as irksome, though not quite so thorny, as to wade through “ The Statutes at Large" how shall we decide amidst this divers sity of opinion * ?
•“ It may be thought no easy task, to determine the preference in favour of one or other of the many different