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faculty was placed within us to be our proper governor ; to direct and regulate all under principles, passions, and motives of action. This is its right and office. Thus sacred is its authority. And how often soever men violate and rebelliously refuse to submit to it, for supposed interest which they cannot otherwise obtain, or for the sake of passion which they cannot otherwise gratify; this makes no alteration as to the natural right and office of conscience.”- Vol. i. pp. 70–72.
Now, Dr. Chalmers is of opinion that this endowment of a conscience, as he describes it, is one of the most forcible arguments given by nature for the moral character of God, since, had he been an unrighteous Deity, would he have implanted in every man's breast a judge, a counsellor, a witness against that man himself? We must say that we cannot view the subject by any means in the same light. We do not regard conscience as an endowment of nature like instinct, or fear, or any other obvious provision of nature; we rather regard it as a result of education, of habit, of religious feeling, and the whole history of mankind justifies this view. We see that conscience is utterly blind in its approbation, as well as in its condemnation; we see that it reprobates in the murderer's heart, the crime which he has committed ; we see that it makes the robber and pilferer uneasy, and produces remorse and compunction in the minds of those who violate the laws of God or of man. But all this that we call conscience is the effect of reflection, of reason; and where these and the particular customs of society are absent, the conscience is altogether a different thing. Thus, conscience permits the Hindoo widow to burn herself on the blazing pile of her deceased husband : conscience allows the Indian mother to put her infant to death ; conscience even has prompted sanguinary persecutions and murderous sacrifices, and, therefore, to say that it is a direct emanation from the Creator, testifying the excellence of the plan which he had adopted in the creation, is, in our humble judgment, carrying the argument much farther than experience and reason will allow. A similar explanation seems to us to suit the second general argument, founded on the assumption that the pleasure which we feel from virtuous actions, and the misery associated in our minds with conduct of an opposite nature, may be considered as a sort of provision, meant as a reward in one case, and as a punishment in the other; a contrivance which, Dr. C. says, strikingly displays the wisdom of the scheme of Providence. Now, is it not possible again that this happiness may altogether arise from a contemplation of the benefit to be derived from these same actions hereafter ; or not to go so far from the probability, that the virtuous action will be a source of recommending us to the applause of others; and as for the misery with which we are afflicted upon reflecting on our vicious tendencies, what is it more than the natural consequences of a dread, that we shall be degraded in public esteem? We are now, be it observed, not exactly opposing the probability that Dr. Chalmers's theory is right, but we only desire to show him how much less certain than the one he has neglected, is the inquiry which he has instituted for the purpose of exhibiting the Creator in his capacity as a wise Director of the whole creation. Here, then, according to Dr. Chalmers, morality is established in the mind of man by means of immediate sensations to which his nature is prone ; the voice of conscience either approves or condemns ; pleasure and happiness are the produce of good actions, whilst bitter griefs are the just recompense of bad ones. But even to these developments, the design and character of God are not limited; for in the power and operation of habit, and their manifestations, is given a proof of the care which the Creator takes to strengthen by such means the good resolutions which we adopt. Asin physical education, those acquisitions which require labour to attain Them, are at last increased almost without effort : so is it in moral education-every new conquest, every fresh achievement of principle smooths the way to future triumphs. By habit, the practice of virtue becomes not merely easy but pleasant, and thus habit as a peculiar attribute of the mind, is a source of influence directly springing from the wisdom of the Creator.
We own that to our humble judgment the law of habit appears in reference to this great question, to be a species of double-edged sword, which, if it cuts one way for the purpose of doing good, has an edge on the opposite side also to do mischief in the contrary direction; and if habit renders virtue easy and familiar in practice, it must be precisely as efficacious with respect to vice. “So that after all, we feel great doubt as to the truth of the theory which represents all these attributes of the mind as peculiarly manifesting the design of God to render them the agents of his purposes, as indications to man of his interference.
But in the name of common sense, how is this theory of Dr. Chalmers to be reconciled to the principle of Christianity, which presents man as being the creature of infirmity-as being beset within and without by a host of temptations from the fascinations of which nothing but an humble reliance on a superior power will protect him ? Is not his life one series of tribulation? Is it not so intended ; is he to trust to any other safe-guard than that which he solicits from his Creator? If this be the truth, how can we expect that Providence will declare its wisdom in the treatment of man, save in strict conformity with the principle of making him the object of constant temptation, and giving him the chance of escape only by an appeal to supernatural aid?
Another very curious speculation has fallen from Dr. Chalmers, which may detain us for a few moments. He says, that the action of mind upon mind produces this result ; that it assists the effect of the association of ideas; for, the presence of a companion, and the suggestions of his conversation, may call up in our minds trains
of thought, incidents long passed, the recollection of which may be profitable to us, while, without these aids to memory, we might miss altogether such advantages. Again, companionship in life introduces the opportunity for the reciprocal play of the moral judgment amongst men on each other, the influence of which must necessarily be valuable in modifying the conduct of those on whom such judgments are directed. Thus the love of applause is a motive for virtue upon a principle, the existence of which is an example of the wisdom of God in ruling the world.
Another argument in favour of the righteousness of God's administration, is derived from the sense of pleasure or of pain which arises from the taste and feeling of moral qualities. The effect of this adaptation of men to act on each other, is quite surprising in its consequences. Dr. Chalmers has, upon this subject, a beautiful passage, which we insert more on account of its innate merits than for any value we attach to it as an illustration of the author's theory :
By the purely mental interchange of these affections, there is generated a prodigious amount of happiness; and that, altogether independent of the gratifications which are yielded by the material gifts of liberality on the one hand, or by the material services of gratitude on the other. Insomuch, that we have only to imagine a reign of perfect virtue ; and then, in spite of the physical ills which essentially and inevitably attach to our condition, we should feel as if we had approximated very nearly to a state of perfect enjoyment among menor, in other words, that the bliss of Paradise would be almost fully realized upon earth, were but the moral graces and charities of Paradise firmly established there, and in full operation. Let there be honest and universal good-will in every bosom, and this be responded to from all who are the objects of it by an honest gratitude back again ; let kindness, in all its various effects and manifestations, pass and re-pass from one heart and countenance to another ; let there be a universal courteousness in our streets, and let fidelity and affection and all the domestic virtues take up their secure and lasting abode in every family ; let the succour and sympathy of a willing neighbourhood be ever in readiness to meet and to overpass all the want and wretchedness to which humanity is liable ; let truth, and honour, and inviolable friendship between man and man, banish all treachery and injustice from the world ; in the walks of merchandise, let an unfailing integrity on the one side, have the homage done to it of unbounded confidence on the other, insomuch, that each man reposing with conscious safety on the uprightness and attachment of his fellow, and withal rejoicing as much in the prosperity of an acquaintance, as he should in his own, there would come to be no place for the harassments and the heart-burnings of mutual suspicion or resentment or envy: who does not see, in the state of a society thus constituted and thus harmonized, the palpable evidence of a nature so framed, that the happiness of the world and the righteousness of the world kept pace the one with the other ? —Vol. i. pp. 172—174.
The remaining chapters of the first volume are intended to carry out the principles developed in those just spoken of, and consist of
dissertations on the special and subordinate adaptations of external nature to the moral constitution of man, and also of those special affections which conduce to the civil and political well-being of society. This chapter is followed by another on the species of well-being which Dr. Chalmers denominates the economic, to distinguish it from the civil and political well-being of society.
In considering the relation in which the special affections of our nature stand to virtue, and the demonstration which this relation gives of the character of God and of man, Dr. Chalmers tells us, that the force and prevalence of compassion in the constitution of man, evinces the fact, that the author of nature must have been himself compassionate and generous. This is only one out of the many times in which a similar inference is drawn by the reverend gentleman, who seems to think, that the possession of any virtue by man, is the signal proof that his Creator intended him to practise it, and takes delight in seeing man comply with his designs. But shall we apply this reasoning to every case in which a man is given some striking quality to do evil? There are men in whom such a tendency to mischief, to violence, or to other injurious acts, exists like a second nature, and yet who would have the boldness to say, that it could have been intended by the Almighty that such propensities should be indulged? We are unable to understand how Dr. Chalmers can evade the necessary consequence which these questions involve.
In the chapter which succeeds on the miscellaneous evidence of virtuous and benevolent design that exists in the adaptation of external nature to the moral condition of man, the reverend author really deviates into the legitimate path which at first he had so unreasonably abandoned, and appears to rejoice at having the opportunity of mentioning cases of pure and strict adaptation of the external material world to the moral constitution of man. One of these is the power of speech, in which we see fully exposed before us the pure subserviency of the air, a material agent, to the mental system of man. The results of the observations of Dr. Chalmers on the manifestations of the Creator's power in the mental constitution of man, certainly justify us in believing that if virtue were universal, it would turn the earth into an Elysium, whereas no cause so much contributes to the misery of society as vice. Why should such a tendency be given to the inhabitants of the world, if God did not favour virtue, and make it appear to man that it was by the practise of virtue only that happiness was to be secured ? In contemplating the miseries of human life, it is shown that a considerable proportion of them are brought about by moral causes, and hence, if every man suffered in this life, the punishment which his crimes deserved, there would be undoubtedly a strong reason for believing that there was no necessity for a place of account afterwards. But when we see the good and the just endure evils which they have not deserved—when we see wrongs and injustices go on prosperously on earth, we must be persuaded that the account is still left open, and will be balanced in the Creator's own good time. Hence these cases of unsettled justice in this life constitute one of the strongest motives for our being assured that another life awaits us, where that justice will be rendered which is here but in a state of imperfection, not merely between man and man, but also between man and his God. If there be reason in this view of the conclusions to be derived from the cases of unredressed justice, the argument in favour of an immortal existence of man is powerfully assisted by the number of those uncompensated wrongs to which every day gives birth.
The history of human society (says Dr. Chalmer's), teems with these instances, and the unappeased cry, whether for vengeance or reparation, rises to heaven beciluse of them. We might here expatiate on the monstrous, the wholesale atrocities, perpetrated on the defenceless by the strong, and which custom has almost legalized—having stood their ground against the indignation of the upright and the good for many ages. Perhaps for the most gigantic example of this, in the dark annals of our guilty world, we should turn our eyes upon injured Africa—that devoted region, where the lust of gain has made the fiercest and fellest exhibition of its hardihood; and whose weeping families are broken up in thousands every year, that the families of Europe might the more delicately and luxuriously regale themselves. It is a picturesque, and seems a powerful argument for some future day of retribution, when we look, on the one hand, to the prosperity of the lordly oppressor, wrung from the sufferings of a captive and subjugated people ; and look, on the other, to the tears ard the untold agony of the hundreds beneath him, whose lives of dreariness and hard labour are ten-fold embittered, by the imagery of that dear and distant land, from which they have been irrevocably torn. But, even within the confines of civilized society, there do exist materials for our argument. There are cruelties and wrongs innumerable in the conduct of business ; there are even cruelties and wrongs in the bosom of families. There are the triumphs of injustice; the success of deep-laid and malignant policy on the one side, on the other the ruin and the overthrow of unprotected weakness.—Vol. ii. pp. 120, 121.
Whenever Dr. Chalmers, even by accident, speaks on the adaptation of the material world to the moral constitution, nothing can exceed the force and felicity of his illustrations. Thus he remarks, that one of the most decided proofs of the immortality of the soul of man is to be found in the circumstance that for every desire or faculty he has, there seems to be a preparation externally contrived to meet it. Thus there is light for the eye, air for the lungs, and food for the curiosity, which, though a mental want, is still ready to be supplied by the ever-varying productions of fertile nature.
Under the head of adaptations of nature to the intellectual constitution of man, instances of the adaptation are given, amongst which the most remarkable is that of the law of association. Dr.