« ForrigeFortsæt »
I shall now proceed to show that the rule is not, alone, either safe or complete. By safe, I mean sure to conduct to future and final happiness; by complete, I mean containing all the duties which are required of us by the will of our Creator.
It is not safe or complete, because it omits some duties, and tolerates some vices; so that a person may be deemed and may be a man of honour, notwithstanding he neglects some necessary duties, and allows himself in some vices.
It is my business to make this appear. Now, as the motive and law of honour is calculated principally, if not wholly, to secure and make easy the intercourse between people of equal, or nearly equal condition in life, by regulating the behaviour of such as are governed by or resting upon fidelity, punctuality, civility; between such this may be the view and object of the rule. It prescribes duties only between equals, or those who account themselves such ; omitting, as well that whole class of duties which relate immediately to the Deity, as those which we owe to our inferiors : and the reason of the omission is substantially this—that a man is not the worse companion, nor the worse to deal with, in those concerns which are usually transacted between persons of honour.
of honour. Hence it comes to pass, that the profanation of God's name and attributes, of his religion, religious ordinances, and all the effect of passions, levity or infidelity, are no breaches of honour, nor accounted such, even by those who think them wrong. And if this be not a true account that I have given of the law of honour, that it is confined to the duties and offices between equals; we would desire to know how it happens that it is not the same as the law of God. At least, it is a demonstration that the law of Moses does not embrace the extent and compass of our duty; since there are points, such as those I have mentioned, relating to the Deity, which we acknowledge to be duties, though yet the violation of them is accounted no breach of the law of honour. The consequence of this is, that those who set up
persons of honour, and look no farther than to maintain the character of men of honour in the world, find no obligation or inducement to any of those duties which we owe im. mediately to God. They may allow the evil habits of cursing and swearing to grow upon them and keep hold of them; they may indulge themselves in the utmost licentiousness in the treatment of many things that belong to religion ; they may be as remiss and negligent as they please in their attendance upon public worship, and behave as irreverently as they please when they do attend ; they may utterly lay aside any act of private devotion ; they may cease, in a word, from every expression of homage, piety, gratitude, and acknowledgment to the Supreme Preserver of us all, without suffering in their character as men of honour, or incurring a stain or imputation upon their honour on that account. Nevertheless, these are duties. God is entitled to our affection and devotion, our love and honour; and he has commanded that we pay it. This is not disputed; nor do I insinuate that it is. What I argue is, that the law of honour is not considered to concern itself with these duties, even by those who confess them to be duties.
This, then, will be admitted—that what respects the Divine Being lies out of the province of the law of honour. But in all that concerns man and man; in that great and important class of duties which are called relative duties, the law of honour may be depended upon as an adequate rule; and there, it is enough if we act but up to and support the character of men of honour. I wish it were so, for the sake of all who profess this character: but I fear the observations we have laid down—that the law of honour takes notice only of what passes between equals—will be found here also ; and that those duties which we owe to our dependents and inferiors, which form together a very considerable part of a good man's virtues and a bad man's vices, are omitted in the law of honour; that is, may be either observed or violated, without any effect upon a man's honour, or reputation for honour, one way or other. Of this kind the following are examples :—the cruel and barbarous treatment of our domestic servants the worreting them out of their happiness by causeless or immoderate anger, habitual punishments, groundless suspicion, wanton restraint, harsh, scornful, or opprobrious language. It is not to be com
puted the quantity of misery a fierce, over-bearing temper may produce in his family and amongst his dependents by these means. Yet what has all this to do with his honour? He is not the worse accounted as a man of honour for this behaviour. Notwithstanding, the justifiableness of such behaviour no one will assert; for a conduct which occasions so much unnecessary misery to any, no matter to whom, must be criminal.
Bounty to the poor is a Christian duty; no one doubts it: but I do not find it affects a man's honour either way, whether he is bountiful to the poor or not bountiful. And not only want of charity, but want of justice, is tolerated and connived at by the law of honour. The great and grievous injuries done to tradesmen by delay of payment, oftener by not paying their just demands at all, and by persons of rank and distinction, and who assume the name of men of honour, however inconsistent they be with any principle of moral probity and every pretension to it, are not inconsistent with the reputation of honour, provided the man be careful of his conduct amongst his equals, and preserve a regard to truth, fidelity, and punctuality in his dealings with his equals, or with persons of honour: for all these instances proceed upon and produce the same principle; to wit, the observation we set out with-that the law of honour prescribes and regulates the duties only between equals : and though it may be right as far as it goes in most instances betwixt such and amongst such, it is altogether regardless of what is due from us on the one hand to our inferiors, or from them to us on the other. And these merely are two capital defects in the law, when it is considered as, or set up for, a complete rule of life.
But this is not all; we have something further to accuse the law of honour of; and that is, in one word, the licentious indulgence of our natural passions. If I was to describe the law of honour freely, I should call it a system of rules well contrived, by persons in the higher stations of life, to facilitate their intercourse with each other. Now, such
persons being occupied in a great measure in the pursuit of pleasure, it is not to be expected that they should lay down rules to themselves which trench upon their pleasures, or subject them to any great restraint in that which composes the business and object of their lives. And this remark will be verified by experience. The law of honour is careful to exclude all fraud, chicanery, falsehood, concealment in the mutual dealings of persons of honour; but I do not find that it lays much, if any, stress upon the virtues of chastity, sobriety, moderation, economy; because such stress would greatly check and contract the pleasures and pursuits of this description of men. There are some duties which the law of honour does embrace; but the violation of them contains not any great breach of it.
These are decorum, civility, good manners, or the avoiding any of that shuffling and cunning which makes it impossible, or highly