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To the Academics, we attach the illustrious name of Cicero; and to the Stoics, the no less glorious title of Epictetus. The writings of these extraordinary men will not fail to impress upon us that respect and reverence, which we ought to bear to the ancients in regard to morals, whatever might be their mistakes on other subjects, and will fully justify our modern writers on Ethics, in rallying round one or other of these great masters, who differed in the detail, but united in the aggregate.

It is now that I feel all the difficulty of my undertaking, especially in connexion with the present Lecture, and I have more than ever repented that I did not make it what I had originally intended, a mere continuation of the history of morals. For a general examination of the various bases of morals assumed by different writers, obliges me to give a summary of systems, no inconsiderable volumes in themselves, each of which demands to be examined at still greater length; and this at the hazard of mistaking or misrepresenting men, who, on such a subject, ought to be heard for themselves, and to speak their own language. I have, however, undertaken, and must accomplish my engagement as well as I am able: nor shall I trust wholly to my own investigation of these theories, but suffer myself to be guided by those who have more deeply studied, who more fully apprehend, and who are more capable of accurately representing them.

Of the system of Hobbes there can be no danger of misrepresentation. It is scarcely possible to make any statement relative to it, at all varying from the original principles, which must not be considered an improvement. He adopted without scruple, and to all the length of their licentious tendency, the opinions (for who can call them principles ?) of Protagoras; and affirmed that the laws of every state are the proper and only criteria of right and wrong; that man is to be restrained only within positive institutions by the penalties of their enactments, and that the whole being a system of convention, and (shall' I say?) expediency, the characters of good and evil, ciphers in themselves, gather their importance exclusively from the law. It would be gross injustice to the advocate of such a palpably mischievous system, not to state, that the evil was found in his system exclusively, for that its framer was a man of unimpeached character; and any severity of expression is intended in this, as in every similar instance, for the system, and not for its author. Corrupt theories are, however, more dangerous in their influence, as they emanate from men of amiable tempers and irreproachable conduct : and, while the individuals are treated with the respect and consideration due to their personal virtues, it becomes more obviously our duty not to spare their pernicious systems.

Cudworth demonstrated, on the contrary, that moral principles are not to be derived from human institutions, but are founded in human nature. He refers to the understanding, as the power by which the discriminations of right and wrong are to be made and combined this sentiment with the Platonic tenet, that all knowledge was a kind of reminiscence. The objection against this system, besides Platonic mysticism, lies in the fact, that our moral errors scarcely ever originate in ignorance of duty, but from other causes, not connected with the understanding. Dr. Price, therefore, agreeing with Cudworth, that the sanctions of morality arise out of the reason, refers our notions of right and wrong, "not to a deductive process of the understanding, but to immediate intuition.” The objection here will lie in the indefinite sense in which the term reason is employed, and the various notions, distinct, and even opposite in themselves, which he assigns to this faculty.

Dr. Clarke, Mr. Wollaston, and Lord Shaftesbury, may all be considered of this school; resolving moral approbation into “sense of propriety acting according to the fitness and congruity which appear in certain relations of nature," or, - agreeably to the truth of things in their proper nature, or, according to the latter,"in reason preserving a proper balance of the affections." The answer to all this appears to be, that the system, however modified, which founds the principle of Ethics upon the understanding, or perception of the fitness of things, would require, as its fair deduction, that the most intelligent should also be the most moral man; which is assuredly contradicted by the experience of every day; and demands that we should refer to sonething beyond merely mental powers and intellectual perceptions, as a foundation of morals. Besides which, if this law could ever apply with certainty, it could only do so partially, not only as it respects the varying faculties of individuals, but the different circumstances of culture in which man is placed. Morals require a universal law, being of universal obligation : but a capacity to judge of the fitness of this, must depend, not merely for its proportions, upon original mental power, but upon the extent of intellectual cultivation: and still further upon the actual state of society: a rule of this description, applying to a state of civilization, would be of little avail, if not totally inapplicable, to the savage, who is nevertheless, in point of fact, as man, the subject of moral obligations.

Dr. Hutcheson, in referring the origin of our ideas of right and wrong to a moral sense, illustrates its action by comparing it with the operation of the senses; but if virtues be but sensations, they are not permanent in their nature: and it has been well observed, that sensations merely relate to the mind in which they exist, and have no permanent connexion with external objects.” The conclusions of a sceptical nature, which might be drawn, and have been drawn, by Mr. Hume, from · this system, are not authorized by Dr. Hutcheson; but it is an objection to his system, that it cannot be sufficiently guarded against them. Mr. Hume has framed out of it one of utility, which will lead to expediency, and this again to indulgences without character, and without limit. Nor does the celebrated theory of Smith, resolving these notions into sympathy, escape wholly the power of this whirlpool-it plays too much about the circumference, not to lead us to fear its approximation to the vortex. Dr. Butler, always admirable in whatever he reasons upon, and Dr. Reid, appear to settle down upon conscience, as not a perfect law, but the most determinate within our reach, as arising simply from nature. Whether any law of nature can be equal to the subject, is another question. Dr. Reid says,

“The sum of what has been said in this chapter* is, that, by an original power of the mind, which we call conscience, or the moral faculty, we have the conceptions of right and wrong in human conduct; of merit and demerit, of duty and moral obligation, and our other moral conceptions; and that, by the same faculty, we perceive some things in human conduct to be right, and others to be wrong: that the first principles of morals are the dictates of this faculty: and that we have the same reason to rely upon those dictates, as upon the determinations of our senses, or of our other natural faculties."

To close this general review of the various bases assumed by different writers, suffer me to relate an anecdote relative to Sir J. Pringle.t "In Mr. de Luc's letters on Religious Education, (published in 1800,) a conversation is detailed between the author and Sir John Pringle, who had formerly been Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh. Mr. de Luc was talking of a new work on the subject of morality founded upon nature, which had just been published, and which he offered to procure for Sir John's perusal. This, he says, the baronet refused in a tone which could not be ex, pressed. • I have been,' said he, "for many years professor of this pretended science; I had ransacked the libraries and my own brain, to discover the foundation of it; but the more I sought to persuade and convince my pupils, the less confidence I began to have myself, in what I was teaching them; so that at length I gave up my profession, and returned to medicine, which had been the first object of my studies. I have, nevertheless, continued from time to time, to examine every thing that appeared upon this subject, which, as I have told you, 1 could never explain or teach, so as to produce conviction : but,

• Reid on the Active Powers of Man, Essay iii. c. 6.
+ Classical Journal. Vol. ix. No, švii. p. 76.


at length, I have given up the point, most thoroughly assured, that without an express divine sanction attached to the laws of morality, and without positive laws, accompanied with determinate and urgent motives, men will never bé convinced that they ought to submit to any such code, nor agree among themselves concerning it. From that time, I have never read any work upon morality but the Bible, and I return to that always with fresh delight."

To sum up the whole,-A considerable approximation of the various systems to each other, is to be discovered in ancient and modern times; and the bases of morals, however

apparently differing, if closely examined, will be found to assimilate beyond our first expectations. The Happiness of Plato, and the Pleasure of Epicurus, were but different names for one thing. The love of virtue for itself, advanced by that sage, and The admiration of what is beautiful, fit, and proper, contended for by Shaftesbury, and others of that school, strikingly coalesce. The law of Conscience, assumed by Epictetus, and the Moral Sense of Cudworth and his followers, have a common

Again, we look with veneration to Socrates, who made God the author, conscience the law, and happiness the end, of morals.

There are evidences which lie beyond the reach of argument, as conclusive and irresistible as they are indefinable. When Sterne burst into tears, under the influence of a sensibility irrepressibly excited by human misery-he said, “I am positive I have a soul, and all the materialists in the universe shall not persuade me to the contrary. It was not a time to argue, but the proof was demonstrative. We may distract our attention with metaphysical disquisitions, without obtaining satisfaction; we may contend respecting the bases of morals, without coming to any

certain conclusion; but morals themselves are eternal and immutable, and the homage due to them lies deeply implanted in the human heart. What but this, when the heiress of the British throne expired, caused the tears of the nation to flow? We beheld personal loveliness, conjugal affections, constitutional principles, moral excellencies, blossoming around us like another Eden. Death came, like the blast of the desert, and these flowers of Paradise all withered at once. The waste of desolation which then spread around us, in place of this garden of delights-the sense which we then had of this melancholy change the deep anguish which we then felt-the unfeigned sorrow which we cherished-the bitter tears which we dropped upon the wilderness and the solitude, were evidences beyond all arguments, of the reality of morals, and of the inestimable character which we spontaneously assign to them, wherever they exist, as they flourished in Britain's lost and lamented child!


[The illustration of the reality of morals, derived from the intense and universal feeling manifested on occasion of the demise of the lamented Princess Charlotte, with which the preceding Lecture concludes, it has been thought may be further enforced by the publication of the following poem, written at the time, and inspired by the occasion; and which attempts to embody the feeling that furnished so powerful a demonstration of a truth so important. Though a considerable period of time has since elapsed, that feeling has not yet subsided.]





And is she dead? --I scarce believe the tale;

And is she dead ?-Each breast is fill’d with anguish!


with sorrow! and each voice with wail !
Britannia weeps, and all her daughters languish!
Pleasure is o'er !—The sacred hold is gone,
That Freedom hung her darling hopes upon !
Be nought but tears ! for they befit us well!
My Harp! forego thy purpos'd themes, to swell
One full of woe !--full of a Nation's woe!-

Full of thy country's agony severe !

O! could I draw the sad, melodidus tear,
And make thy deep and piercing sorrows flow,

As some high masters of thy thrilling tone,

What heart would melt noi, moulded though of stone ?
Though artless, yet thy magic strings I'll sweep:

So great the sorrow that I feel within ;

It fain would think the feeblest hand must win
Some numbers from thy spirit, that would express-

To those whose bosoms are in unison,
Whose eyes, with ours, the sad occasion weep,

A meetly-plaintive, sympathetic measure,
Worthy this all-pervading, dignified distress!

For, e'en if wild winds kiss'd the chords along,
Who would not deem it a funereal song

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