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man may be guilty and blame-worthy, even where there is external compulsion that he cannot resist. With sword in hand I run to attack an enemy: my foot slipping, I fall headlong upon him, and by that accident the sword is pushed into his body. The external act was not the effect of Will, but of accident: but my intention was to commit murder, and I am guilty. All men acknowledge, that the Deity is necessarily good. Does that circumstance detract from his praise in common ap prehension? On the contrary, he merits from us the highest praise on that very account.
It is commonly said, that there can be no virtue where there is no struggle." Virtue, it is true, is best known from a struggle: a man who has never met with a temptation, can be little confident of his virtue. But the observation taken in a strict sense, is undoubtedly erroneous. A man tempted to betray his trust, wavers; but after much doubting refuses at last the bribe. Another hesitates not a moment, but rejects the bribe with disdain: duty is obstinate, and will not suffer him even to deliberate. Is there no virtue in the latter? Undoubtedly more than in the former.
Upon the whole, it appears that praise and blame rest ultimately upon the disposition or frame of mind. Nor is it obvious, that a power to act against
Malice and resentment, though commonly joined toge ther, have no resemblance, but in producing mischief. Malice
against motives, could vary in any degree these moral sentiments. When a man commits a crime, let it be supposed that he could have resisted the prevailing motive. Why then did he not resist, instead of bringing upon himself shame and misery? The answer must be, for no other can be given, that his disposition is vitious, and that he is a detestable creature. Further, it is not a little difficult to conceive how a man can resist a prevailing motive, without having any thing in his mind that should engage him to resist it. But letting that pass, I make the following supposition. A man is tempted by avarice to accept a bribe: if he resist upon the principle of duty, he is led by the prevailing motive: if he resist without having any reason or motive for resisting, I cannot discover any merit in such resistance: it seems to resolve into a matter of chance or accident, whether he resist or do not resist. Where can the merit lie of resisting a vitious motive, when resistance happens by mere chance? and where the demerit of resisting a virtuous motive, when it is owing to the same chance? If a man, actuated by no principle, good or bad, and having no end or purpose in view, should kill his neighbour, I see not that
is a propensity of nature that operates deliberately without passion: resentment is a passion to which even good-natured people are subject. A malicious character is esteemed much more vitious than one that is irascible. Does not this shew that virtue and vice consist more in disposition than in action?
he would be more accountable, than if he had acted in his sleep, or was mad.
Human punishments are perfectly consistent with the necessary influence of motives, without supposing a power to withstand them. If it be urged, That a man ought not to be punished for committing a crime when he could not resist the answer is, That as he committed the crime intentionally and with his eyes open, he is guilty in his own opinion, and in the opinion of all men. Here is a just foundation for punishment. And its utility is great; being intended to deter people from committing crimes. The dread of punishment is a weight in the scale on the side of virtue to counterbalance vitious motives.
The final cause of this branch of our nature is admirable. If the necessary influence of motives had the effect either to lessen the merit of a virtuous action, or the demerit of a crime, morality would be totally unhinged. The most virtuous action would of all be the least worthy of praise; and the most vitious be of all the least worthy of blame. Nor would the evil stop there; instead of curbing inordinate passions, we should be encouraged to indulge them, as an excellent excuse for doing wrong. Thus, the moral sentiments of approbation and disapprobation, of praise and blame, are found perfectly consistent with the laws above mentioned that govern human actions, with
out necessity of recurring to an imaginary power of acting against motives.
The only plausible objection I have met with against the foregoing theory, is the remorse a man feels for a crime he suddenly commits, and as suddenly repents of. During a fit of bitter remorse for having slain my favourite servant in a violent passion, without just provocation, I accuse myself for having given way to passion: and acknowledge that I could and ought to have restrained it. Here we find remorse founded on a system directly opposite to that above laid down; a system that acknowledges no necessary connection between an action and its motives; but on the contrary, supposes that it is in a man's power to resist his pas→ sion, and that he ought to resist it. What shall be said upon this point? Can a man be a necessary agent, when he is conscious of the contrary, and is
rong in appearance,
sensible that he can ac act in in contradiction to motives? This objection is strong and would be invincible, were we not happily relieved of it by a doctrine laid down in Elements of Criticism* concerning the regular influence of passion on our opinions and sentiments. Upon examination, it well be found, that the present case may be added to the many examples there given of that irregular influence. In a peevish fit, I take exception at some slight word or gesture of my friend, which I interpret as if he doubted of my veracity.
veracity. I am instantly in a flame: in vain he protests that he had no meaning, for impatience will not suffer me to listen. I bid him draw, which he does with reluctance; and before he is well prepared, I give him a mortal wound. Bitter remorse and anguish succeed instantly to rage. “What have "I done? I have murdered my innocent, my best "friend; and yet I was not mad-with that hand "I did the horrid deed; why did not I rather "turn it against my own heart?" Here every impression of necessity vanishes: my mind informs me that I was absolutely free, and that I ought to have smothered my passion. I put an opposite case. A brutal fellow treats me with great indignity, and proceeds even to a blow. My passion rises beyond the possibility of restraint: I can scarce forbear so long as to bid him draw; and that moment I stab him to the heart.
sorry for having been engaged with a ruffian; but have no contrition nor remorse. In this case, I never once dream that I could have resisted the impulse of passion: on the contrary, my thoughts and words are, "That flesh and blood could not "bear the affront; and that I must have been "branded for a coward, had I not done what I "did." In reality, both actions were equally necessary. Whence then opinions and sentiments so opposite to each other? The irregular influence of passion on our opinions and sentiments, will solve the question. All violent passions are prone to their own gratification. A man who has done