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the most awful, as every reader of the New Testament well knows. But even should all that reason and Christianity teach us on this point prove a delusion; still, a good man will lose nothing, and a bad man will get nothing. Indeed, a good man, even in this case, will gain a great deal; for he will gain all that satisfaction which goodness generally brings with it in this life, and which vice must want.
The virtuous man goes upon even and firm ground. He has on his side all good beings; the convictions of his conscience; the order of nature; and the power of the Deity. It is impossible he should be deceived in believing that it is right to adhere inviolably to the laws of righteousness. Notwithstanding, all the disputes and uncertainties respecting opinions, modes, and forms, a good man may proceed through life with a serene and peaceful mind. Whatever is true or false, he has the consciousness of being on the safe side; and there is, in all cases, a particular satisfaction attending such a consciousness. A man who knows himself in a safe way, goes on with composure and boldness. He has none of those calamities to fear which attend upon others. If the doctrines of Religion be true, he will be completely happy for ever and ever. But should they not prove true, be will be a great gainer in the present life, and not be worse off than others in the next.
Virtue is not only a safe, but a happy course; "her ways are ways of pleasantness.” By practising Virtue, we gratify the highest powers of our nature. Our highest powers are, undoubtedly, our sense of moral excellence, the principle of reason and reflection, benevolence to our fellow-creatures, and the love of the Deity. To practise Virtue, is to act in conformity to these powers, and to furnish them with their proper gratifications. Our other powers being inferior to these, and of less dignity, the happiness grounded upon them is also of an inferior nature, and of less value. Reason is the nature of a reasonable being; and to assert that his chief happiness consists in deviating from reason, would be the same as to say that his chief happiness consists in violating his nature and contradicting himself.
Virtue, in the very idea of it, implies health and order of mind. The human soul is a composition of various affections standing in different relations to one auother, and all placed under the direction of conscience, our supreme faculty. When we are truly virtuous, none of these affections are suffered to err either by excess or defect. They are kept in their proper subordinations to one another. The faculty that was made to govern preserves its authority ; and a due balance is maintained among our inward powers. To be virtuous, therefore, is to be in our natural and sound state. It is to be freed from all inward tumult, anarchy, and tyranny. It is to enjoy health, and order, and vigour, and peace, and liberty, and, therefore, the greatest happiness. Vice, on the contrary, is slavery, disorder, and sickness. It distorts our inward frame, and unsettles the adjustments of our minds. It unduly raises some of our powers, and depresses others. It dethrones conscience, and subjects it to the despotism of blind and lawless appetites. In short, there is the same difference, in respect of happiness, between a virtuous and a vicious soul, as there is between a distempered body and a body that is well; or between a civil state, where confusion, faction, and licentiousness reign, and a state where order prevails, and all keep their
proper places, and unite in submission to a wise and good legislature.
By practising Virtue, we gain more of the united pleasures arising from the gratification of all our powers, than we can in any other way. That is, in other words, our moral powers, when prevalent, encroach less on the inferior enjoyments of our natures than any of our other powers when they are prevalent. In order to understand this, we must consider, that the course most favourable to happiness must be that which takes from us the least possible quantity of worldly gratifications and enjoyments. We can take no course that will permit so full an indulgence of our appetites. If we will gain some objects of our desire, we must sacrifice others. If, for instance, we are bent upon fame and power, we must resign ease and pleasure: we must cringe and truckle, and do violence to some of our strongest inclinations. In like manner, if we make money our principal pursuit, and would acquire wealth, we must often limit our pursuits of fame and honour: we must keep down generosity and benevolence, and the love of sensual indulgences: we must pinch, and toil, and watch, and eat the bread of carefulness. An ambitious man must sacrifice the gratifications of a covetous one. A covetous man, likewise, must sacrifice the indulgences of a convivialist; and a man of pleasure, those of the ambitious and worldly-minded. Since, then, in every course of life, there is such a collision in the several objects of our affection, that course in which there is the least of it, must be likely to make us most happy. And it is certain, that there is less of it in a virtuous course than in any other.
Virtue brings with it many exquisite pleasures of its own, and at the same time does not encroach on other sources of delight. In short, Virtue induces the cheerful use of all that variety of happiness which the Divine bounty has placed within our reach. There is no lawful and natural pleasure, of which it does not leave us in possession. It is favourable to every innocent pursuit, and an excellent friend to every just and laudable undertaking.
It is indeed true, that Virtue requires labour and circumspection, the restraint of our passions, and selfdenial; but this is by no means peculiar to Virtue. Indeed, it has just been shewn that this property is less essential to Virtue than to any other object of pursuit. What labour and self-denial do men often practise in pursuing fame, or honour, or money! what a sacrifice does the man of worldly and sensual pleasure make of his health and fortune, and to what fatigues does he put himself! Suppose Virtue obliges us, in some peculiar instances, to sacrifice to it our lives; this is what happens perpetually in vicious courses. Thousands are, every day, dying martyrs to
ambition, to lust, to covetousness, and intemperance. But seldom does it happen, that Virtue puts us to any such trial. On the contrary, its general effect is to preserve and lengthen life.
It ought to be particularly observed, that in comparing the influence of different courses on our happiness, we should consider the influence they have on our moral and intellectual faculties, as well as our other powers. Conscience is one important part of our natures. To omit it, therefore, in forming a scheme of enjoyment, or in determining what course will bring us most happiness, would be preposterous and wild. That a course of conduct obliges us to run counter to our sense of moral good and evil, and to give up the satisfactions founded on this sense, ought to be allowed its just weight in judging of the happiness of an agent, and to be considered as a circumstance diminishing his pleasures, in the same manner as if he ran counter to any of his other powers, or gave up any other gratifications. Now, every species of vice interferes directly with our sense of moral good and evil. It gratifies one part of our natures at the expense of our judgment and reason; and this is as much an argument proving its hurtfulness as if it opposed our desires of ease, or honour, or any of our other particular affections. There is, therefore, on this account, a severe and cruel self-denial in vice.
The course most conducive to happiness must be that which is most agreeable to our entire natures; and this being evidently true of a virtuous life, it follows that Virtue is our greatest happiness.
Much of the pleasure of vice itself depends on some species or other of virtue combined with it. All the joys we derive from friendship, from family connections and affinities, from the love and confidence of our fellow-creatures, and from the interchange of good offices, are properly virtuous joys; and there is no course of life which, were it deprived of these joys, would not be completely miserable. The enjoyments, therefore, of vicious men are owing to the remains of virtuous qualities in them. There is no man so vicious as to have nothing good left in his character; and could we conceive any such man, or meet with a person who was quite void of benevolence, temperance, good humour, sociableness, and honour, we should detest him as an odious monster, and find that he was incapable of all happiness.
Wickedness, when considered by itself, and in its naked form, apart from any connection with lovely qualities, is nothing but shame, pain, and distress. If the debauchee enjoy any thing like happiness, it is because he joins to his debauchery something laudable, and his tender and social feelings are not extirpated. In like manner, if a covetous man has any thing besides perplexity and gloominess in his heart, it is because there are some virtues which he practises, or because he disguises his covetousness under the cloak of prudence and frugality. This then being the case, since even the pleasure that vice enjoys is thus founded upon and derived from virtuous qualities, how plain is it, that these constitute our chief good, and that the more of them we possess, so much the more must we possess of the sources of pleasure. The virtuous man is the most generous man, the most friendly, the most good-natured, the most patient, and the most contented. He possesses more of the satisfaction resulting from sympathy, humanity, and natural affection; and so certain is it that such a person must be the happiest, that the wicked themselves, if in any respect happy, are only so, as far as they assume the semblance of Virtue.
It has already been observed, that Virtue leaves us in possession of all the common enjoyments of life; but it goes much further. It not only leaves us in possession of all innocent and natural pleasures, but improves and refines them. It not only interferes less with the gratification of our different powers than vice does, but imparts an additional zest to them.
This effect it produces by restraining us to regularity and moderation in the gratification of our desires. Virtue forbids only the wild and extravagant gratification of our desires; that is, it forbids