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Omnipotent Being to vindicate it. The universal existence and use of oaths prove incontestibly that man is by nature not only a moral but a religious being.
It may be said, by those who deny that there are any such things as moral instincts, that the feeling of obligation to speak the truth arises from the foresight of the evil consequences which would spring from violating it, in short that men speak the truth only because it is their interest to do so. But every human being is conscious, if he watches the operations of his own mind, that this is not the fact. Obligation and interest are not identical in the human mind. The interest is an after thought. Just as truly might you say that the mother embraces her babe with transports of tenderness, because she sees how necessary it will be for her support in her old age. That this may be the purpose of the Deity in implanting the love that is stronger than death, we do not deny, but that it is the cause of the affection is altogether preposterous. That reason may afterwards give steadiness to the instinct we allow, that foresight may afterwards and in some degree add a new motive to parental assiduity may be a fact. So, that the conviction of the utility of truth may affect some minds, and make them more scrupulous in its utterance, may be equally true, but that it is the original ground of obligation is totally false. .
The next moral instinct which is developed is that of property. It was necessary for the individual and social well being of man, that each individual should appropriate certain things to himself. Were not this the case we could never take any interest in any thing. That we ought to enjoy the fruits of our own labor, is an ultimate conviction, for which no reason can be given but that such is the will of God. The same principle applies to our persons, our faculties, our liberty, our labor. God has given us certain things, hence we feel that we have a right to them. Let a parent give each of his children a piece of bread. The instinctive feeling of each one is, that the instant it is given, he has a right to it. If one wrests away from another his piece, he feels himself not only robbed, but wronged. His outcries will develope his moral sentiments. His sorrow for the loss will be touched and modified by grief and indignation at the injustice that is done him. All we can say of it is, that such is the will of God. He has implanted in the human mind an instinct of property, a sense of right to certain things, which he gives to each individual. So let one of these children make a baby-house, she feels that it is hers, just as much as an estate or an empire. - Let another attempt to tear it down, she stands up in its defence, borne out by this instinct of property, which justifies her in the use of almost any means of resistance. If she is vanquished she feels wronged, so strong and instinctive is the feeling of property. But her own mind is not the only one which developes a moral instinct, and declares that she has been wronged. It is impossible for the assailant to view the matter in any other light. The same instinct which told the builder that the baby-house was hers, likewise told the destroyer that it was not hers, and that she violated a right when she destroyed it. Let one of these children attempt to force the other to do any thing, merely by the exercise of will, without reason and without authority, and the attempt is resisted not merely on the ground of will, but on the ground of right. Thus the same instinct which teaches me what is mine, teaches me too what is thine. The instinct of property then, is just as powerful a teacher of the rights of others, as our own, shows us at the same moment what we ourselves rightfully claim, and what we owe to others, teaches us at the same time right and duty.
This instinct of property and right, though at first sight seeming a narrow and selfish one, has been the source of almost all the good that mankind has ever achieved. The world was once a wilderness, and man in a state of nakedness and destitution. It was the idea of exclusive possession and enjoyment, which led him to fell the forest and enclose the field. It was only the feeling that he alone would have a right to inhabit the cottage which he had built, that first stimulated him to prepare a shelter from the rude elements. Had it not been for this instinct of property, all the noble powers of the human intellect would have been given to man 'in vain. He would have wandered about the world like the dumb animals, the same from age to age, never appropriating any thing to himself, or laboring for its improvement. It would have been in vain that he had given him the noble
power of reason, which enables him to adapt means to ends, to form long plans, and then pursue them with steadiness, industry and perseverance. He would never have exercised that power, if the result of his labors had been utterly indifferent when they were finished. By giving man the instinct of property, which is gratified by possession even, without reference to use, man was roused from the indolence and destitution of the savage, and surrounded with all the rich blessings of civilized and cultivated life. It was this that stimulated agricultural industry, the beginning of all advancement. What human being would have caught and tamed the animals which are now domestic, if he could have no sense of property in them afterward, to use them for his own advantage ?
The same instinct of property extends to our liberty and our faculties. Every man feels that they are naturally and absolutely his. On the same principle whatever they achieve or acquire is his likewise. Hence the activity and inventions of the artisan. Hence those wonderful machines which ingenuity first found out for private gain, but which have in the end spread plenty and happiness over the