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presented to us. As, for example, we may happen to fall into the company of two persons equally deserving, and equally strangers to us, and with neither of whom we either have, or expected to have the least concern; yet shall we have, in spite of us, and without being able to give any reason for it, greater good wishes for the one than the other. But this is occasioned by that sympathy which nature has implanted in all created beings.
This, therefore, is what we call fancy, and very much different from prejudice, which indeed enters chiefly through the ears. When our notions of persons, or things, which we of ourselves know nothing of, are guided, and our approbation or disapprobation of them excited merely by what we are told, and which afterwards we refuse to be convinced is false, then it is that we may be said to be governed by that settled prepossession so dangerous to the world, and to our characters, interest, and happiness ; for the other is light, volatile, and of little consequence.
To avoid being led away by such a dangerous error, we should take nothing upon trust, but all
Whether in the study of the arts, or in our inquiries concerning religion, politics, or any thing else, we should sit down with a determined resolution to hear impartially both sides, and to be directed by that which our reason most approves. Had not some great persons divested themselves of prejudices, we had never been favoured with all those valuable improvements in experimental philosophy, made of late years in different parts of Europe.
After all, it is no easy matter to divest ourselves of acquired prejudices ; and it is a melancholy reflection, that part of our years are spent in acquiring such fatal notions, that there is scarce time left to eradicate them :
So from the time we first begin to know,
I am, Sir, your sincere friend.
LETTER CXXVII. [The four following Letters are on subjects of the
utmost importance.] From a Gentleman lately entered upon house-keep
ing to a Friend. Sir,-If we reflect on the nature of the human species, we shall be convinced that all mankind were originally designed by the great Creator for social creatures. For can we imagine that man, above all other animals, is born the most indigent, helpless, and abject? our mutual dependence on each other is therefore one of the first things we should know and be convinced of; and consequently, we ought to aid and relieve one another, and promote the happiness of every individual, as far as is consistent with truth, and the dictates of right rea
Can we suppose that the Supreme Being bestowed upon us the wonderful faculty of expressing and communicating to others our ideas by sounds, for no purpose ? Is it reasonable to think that man ought to live in solitude, and expect happiness only from himself ? In other parts of the creation, the wisdom of Providence has done nothing in vain. The use of words was not given us to converse with brutes, for they neither understand nor return them. It is therefore evident they were designed for the mutual intercourse of the human species. Besides, the same passions are common to all men; love and hatred, hope and fear, pleasure and pain
are the same in every individual, who acts con. formably to his nature. This likeness, in our desires, must necessarily attract us, and create in us such an esteem for each other, that nothing but unnatural dispositions, or the greatest corruption can dissolve. Let us suppose a man banished into the remotest wilderness, without the commerce, the company, or the friendship of his fellow-beings, how dismal must his condition be! he may, perhaps, find means to continue his existence by taking such animals as the desert affords, and by gathering such fruits and vegetables as the earth spontaneously yields ; but his life must be a continual scene of horror and despair,--no friend to converse with,—no mortal to defend him from the ravenous jaws of the savage inhabitants of the forest,-no physician to administer the salutary productions of nature, when pain and sickness make theirapproach. In short, he would be so far from arriving at happiness, that he would scarce desire to support his existence, and even court the king of terrors to terminate at once his sorrows with his life.
Since choice, as well as necessity and conveni. ency, should induce all men to unite and form societies, it is the indispensable duty of every individual to become a useful member, and contribute all in his power to promote the happiness of the whole. In order to this, before we embark in any action, we should reflect on the consequences which must necessarily flow from it, by imagining it to have been already done by another, and we shall immediately be able to judge of the modes of pleasure or pain it will give to others, from the manner of its affecting ourselves. To a reasonable being, nothing brings pain but vice, or pleasure but virtue. This precaution must tend to promote benevolence, friendship, and honesty among mankind: whereas, the not observing it, subjects us to the tyranny of our passions, to gratify which, men frequently become faithless, cruel, dishonest, and traitorous. We are convinced that men must live in societies, and, in order to live happy, it is evident they must be virtuous, since nothing else in our power can mutually secure us; human beings are so circumstanced, that tņey should love, assist, and protect each other. The great end of our being is happiness ; it cannot be supposed that the Omnipotent Author of nature intended any being should inevitably be miserable. Human happiness is always proportional to the perception we have of ideas or things ; that is, the same object may give a higher degree of happiness to one person than to another, but no degree of human happiness can subsist without society ; men, therefore, enter into societies for the mutual happiness of each other, and that every individual should enjoy the advantages resulting from such an union, by regulating all human actions by some standard or law. In childhood the laws of action naturally flow from the modes of pleasure and pain, which sensible objects impress on their tender organs. Those of men fundamentally arise from the former, but with this difference, that the reasoning faculty, now grown strong by experience, determines these things to be good or evil, in the same manner in which we before affirmed this or that to be pleasure or pain. Hence it is evident, that the spring of action is the same both in the mind and in the body ; for that which is evil to the mind, is by the same rule painful to the body; and that which is truly pleasing to the body, is also good to the mind. It is therefore evident that the ideas of good and evil are naturally evident to the mind, by
the assistance of reason. The very laws of property may be examined by these first principles of pleasure and pain. While we are infants, we are subject to the law of our senses; when we are men, to that of our reason. And, therefore, unless we abandon reason, the characteristic of our nature, we must regulate our actions by her precepts.
Though a man has a freedom of will, he is not on that account lawless, and at liberty to commit what outrages or violence his vicious appetites suggest. The will, as well as the appetite, are the servants of reason, and should be governed by her, as she is by her own laws; we may therefore, rationally conclude, that men should live in perpetual obedience to some law; and as the law of reason is the most suitable to human nature, it is consequently the most eligible. The immutable will of the Supreme Being is a kind of law which he has imposed upon himself ; those immense orbs, which regularly move through the system of the universe, have motion and gravitation, attraction and repulsion, assigned for their laws, and man his reason. And it is reasonable to think, that the same economy runs through all the beings in nature.
From what has been said, it evidently appears that societies are not only the source of happiness, but also absolutely necessary ; and that they cannot subsist without some law. Nor should man, notwithstanding the loud demands of his passions, think himself enslaved for living under the dominion of reason, since the great Creator himself regulates his conduct by a law, which, from the unchangeableness of his nature, has subsisted from, and will continue to all eternity. Why then should not we strictly conform ourselves to the principles of reason ? if pleasure be desirable, as most surely