Puslapio vaizdai

cafe of friendship. When gratitude is warm, it animates the mind; but it fcarce rifes to dignity. Joy beftows dignity, when it proceeds from an elevated caufe.


So far as I can gather from induction, dignity is not a property of any difagreeable paffion: one is flight, another fevere; one depresses the mind, another animates it; but there is no elevation, far lefs dignity, in any of them. Revenge, in particular, though it inflame and fwell the mind, is not accompanied with dignity, not even with elevation it is not however felt as mean or groveling, unless when it takes indirect measures for gratification. Shame and remorfe, though they fink the fpirits, are not mean. Pride, a difagreeable paffion, beftows no dignity in the eye of a spectator. Vanity always appears mean; and extremely fo where founded, as commonly happens, on trivial qualifications.

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I proceed to the pleasures of the understanding, which poffefs a high rank in point of dignity of which every one will be fenfible, when he confiders the important truths that have been laid open by fcience; fuch as general theorems, and the general laws that govern the material and moral worlds. The pleafures of the understanding, are fuited to man as a rational and contemplative being; and they tend not a little to ennoble his nature: even to the Deity he stretches his contemplations, which, in the discovery of infinite power, wifdom, and benevolence,

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afford delight of the moft exalted kind. Hence it appears, that the fine arts ftudied as a rational science, afford entertainment of great dignity; fuperior far to what they afford as a fubject of tafte merely.

But contemplation, however in itself valuable, is chiefly refpected as fubfervient to action; for man is intended to be more an active than a contemplative being. He accordingly fhows more dignity in action than in contemplation: generofity, magnanimity, heroifm, raife his character to the highest pitch: thefe beft exprefs the dignity of his nature, and advance him nearer to divinity than any other of his attributes.

By every production that fhows art and contrivance, our curiosity is excited upon two points; firft, how it was made; and, next, to what end. Of the two, the latter is the more important inquiry, because the means are ever fubordinate to the end; and in fact our curiofity is always more inflamed by the final than by the efficient caufe. This preference is no where more visible, than in contemplating the works of nature: if in the efficient caufe, wisdom and power be difplay'd, wifdom is not lefs confpicuous in the final caufe; and from it only can we infer benevolence, which of all the divine attributes is to man the most important.

Having endeavoured to affign the efficient cause of dignity and meannefs, by unfolding the principle on which they are founded, we proceed to explain

explain the final caufe of the dignity or meannefs bestow'd upon the feveral particulars above mentioned, beginning with corporeal pleafures. Thefe, fo far as they are useful, are, like juftice, fenced with fufficient fanctions to prevent their being neglected: hunger and thirst are painful fenfations; and we are incited to animal love by a vigorous propensity: were corporeal pleasures dignified over and above with a place in a high class, they would infallibly overturn the balance of the mind, by outweighing the focial affections. This is a fatisfactory final caufe for refufing to these pleasures any degree of dignity and the final caufe is not lefs evident of their meannefs, when they are indulged to excefs. The more refined pleasures of external sense, convey'd by the eye and the ear from natural objects, and from the fine arts, deserve a high place in our efteem, because of their fingular and extenfive utility in fome cafes they arise to a confiderable dignity; and the very lowest pleasures of the kind are never esteemed mean or groveling. The pleasure arifing from wit, humour, ridicule, or from what is fimply ludicrous, is ufeful, by relaxing the mind after the fatigue of more manly occupation: but the mind, when it furrenders itself to pleasure of that kind, lofes its vigor, and finks gradually into floth *. The place this pleafure


*Neque enim ita generati à natura fumus, ut ad ludum et jocum facti effe videamur, fed ad feveritatem potius et ad quædam Y 4 ftudia

fure occupies in point of dignity, is adjusted to these views to make it useful as a relaxation, it is not branded with meannefs; to prevent its ufurpation, it is removed from that place but a fingle degree: no man values himself upon this pleasure, even during the gratification; and if it have ingroffed more of his time than is requifite for relaxation, he looks back with fome degree of fhame.

In point of dignity, the focial emotions rife above the selfish, and much above thofe of the eye and ear: man is by his nature a focial being; and to qualify him for fociety, it is wifely contrived, that he should value himself more for being focial than felfifh*.

The excellency of man is chiefly difcernible in the great improvements he is fufceptible of in fociety thefe, by perfeverance, may be carried on progreffively to higher and higher degrees of perfection, above any affignable limits; and, even abftracting from revelation, there is great probability, that the progrefs begun here will be completed in fome future ftate. Now, as all valuable improvements proceed from the exercise

ftudia graviora atque majora. Ludo autem et joco, uti illis qui dem licet, fed ficut fomno et quietibus cæteris, tum cum gravibus feriifque rebus fatisfecerimus. Cicero de offic. lib. 1.

For the fame reason, the selfish emotions that are founded upon a focial principle, rise higher in our esteem than those that are founded upon a selfish principle. As to which fee above, p. 45. note.


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of our rational faculties, the author of our nature, in order to excite us to a due ufe of these faculties, hath affigned a high rank to the pleafures of the understanding: their utility, with respect to this life as well as a future, intitles them to this rank.

But as action is the aim of all our improvements, virtuous actions juftly poffefs the highest of all the ranks. Thefe, we find, are by nature distributed into different claffes, and the firft in point of dignity affigned to actions that appear not the first in point of ufe generofity, for example, in the

fense of mankind, is more refpected than juftice, though the latter is undoubtedly more effential to fociety; and magnanimity, heroifm, undaunted courage, rife ftill higher in our esteem. One would readily think, that the moral virtues fhould be esteemed according to their importance. Nature has here deviated from her ordinary path, and great wisdom is fhown in the deviation: the efficient caufe is explained above, and the final caufe is explained in the Effays of morality and natural religion *.

We proceed to analyfe grace, which being in a good measure an uncultivated field, requires peculiar attention.

Graceful is an attribute: grace and gracefulnefs express that attribute in the form of a noun.

Part 1. effay 2. chap. 4.


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