C‎ > ‎Chalmers, Thomas - 1780-1847‎ > ‎Volume 1‎ > ‎

Bk. 3. - Chap. 3. - "On the inherent Pleasure of the Virtuous, and Misery of the Vicious Affections."


We are often told by moralists, that there is a native and essential happiness in moral worth; and {Page No. 353.} a like native and essential wretchedness in moral depravity — insomuch that the one may be regarded as its own reward, and the other as its own punishment. We do not always recollect that this happiness on the one hand, and this misery on the other, are each of them made up, severally of distinct ingredients; and that thus, by mental analysis, we might strengthen our argument both for the being and the character of God. When we discover, that, into this alleged happiness of the good there enter more enjoyments than one, we thereby obtain two or more testimonies of the Divine regard for virtue; and the proof is enhanced in the same peculiar way, that the evidence of design is, in any other department of creation, when we perceive the concurrence of so many separate and independent elements, which meet together for the production of some complex and beneficial result.


We have already spoken of one such ingredient. There is a felt satisfaction in the thought of having done what we know to be right; and, in counterpart to this complacency of self-approbation, there is a felt discomfort, amounting often to bitter and remorseful agony, in the thought of having done what conscience tells us to be wrong. This implies a sense of the rectitude of what is virtuous. But without thinking of its rectitude at all, without viewing it in reference either to the law of conscience or to the law of God, with no regard to jurisprudence in the matter — there is, in the virtuous affection itself, another and a distinct enjoyment. We ought to cherish and to exercise benevolence; and there is a pleasure in the consciousness of doing {Page No. 354.} what we ought: but beside this moral sentiment, and beside the peculiar pleasure appended to benevolence as moral, there is a sensation in the merely physical affection of benevolence; and that sensation, of itself, is in the highest degree pleasurable. The primary or instant gratification which there is in the direct and immediate feeling of benevolence is one thing: the secondary or reflex gratification which there is in the consciousness of benevolence as moral is another thing. The two are distinct of themselves; but the contingent union of them, in the case of every virtuous affection, gives a multiple force to the conclusion, that God is the lover, and, because so, the patron or the rewarder of virtue. He hath so constituted our nature, that, in the very flow and exercise of the good affections, there shall be the oil of gladness. There is instant delight in the first conception of benevolence. There is sustained delight in its continued exercise. There is consummated delight in the happy smiling and prosperous result of it. Kindness, and honesty, and truth, are, of themselves, and irrespective of their rightness, sweet unto the taste of the inner man. Malice, envy, falsehood, injustice, irrespective of their wrongness, have of themselves, the bitterness of gall and wormwood. The Deity hath annexed a high mental enjoyment, not to the consciousness only of good affections, but to the very sense and feeling of good affections. However closely these may follow on each other — nay, however implicated or blended together they may be at the same moment into one compound state of feeling; they are not the less distinct on that {Page No. 355.} account, of themselvesThey form two pleasureable sensations, instead of one; and their apposition, in the case of every virtuous deed or virtuous desire, exhibits to us that very concurrence in the world of mind, which obtains with such frequency and fulness in the world of matter — affording, in every new part that is added, not a simply repeated only, but a vastly multiplied evidence for design, throughout all its combinations. There is a pleasure in the very sensation of virtue; and there is a pleasure attendant on the sense of its rectitude. These two phenomena are independent of each other. Let there be a certain number of chances against the first in a random economy of things, and also a certain number of chances against the second. In the actual economy of things, where there is the conjunction of both phenomena — it is the product of these two numbers which represents the amount of evidence afforded by them, for a moral government in the world, and a moral Governor over them.


In the calm satisfactions of virtue, this distinction may not be so palpable, as in the pungent and more vividly felt disquietudes which are attendant on the wrong affections of our nature. The perpetual corrosion of that heart, for example, which frets in unhappy peevishness all the day long, is plainly distinct from the bitterness of that remorse which is felt, in the recollection of its harsh and injurious out-breakings on the innocent sufferers within its reach. It is saying much for the moral character of God, that he has placed a conscience within us, which administers painful {Page No. 356.} rebuke on every indulgence of a wrong affection. But it is saying still more for such being the character of our Maker — so to have flamed our mental constitution, that, in the very working of these bad affections there should be the painfulness of a felt discomfort and discordancy. Such is the make or mechanism of our nature, that it is thwarted and put out of sorts, by rage and envy, and hatred; and this, irrespective of the adverse moral judgments which conscience passes upon them. Of themselves, they are unsavoury; and no sooner do they enter the heart, than they shed upon it an immediate distillation of bitterness. Just as the placid smile of benevolence bespeaks the felt comfort of benevolence; so, in the frown and tempest of an angry countenance, do we read the unhappiness of that man who is vexed and agitated by his own malignant affections — eating inwardly as they do on the vitals of his enjoyment. It is, therefore, that he is often styled, and truly, a self-tormentor; or, his own worst enemy. The delight of virtue in itself, is a separate thing from the delight of the conscience which approves it. And the pain of moral evil in itself, is a separate thing from the pain inflicted by conscience in the act of condemning it. They offer to our notice two distinct ingredients, both of the present reward attendant upon virtue, and of the present penalty attendant upon vice; and so, enhance the evidence that is before our eyes, for the moral character of that administration, under which the world has been placed by its Author. The appetite of hunger is rightly alleged, in evidence of the care, wherewith {Page No. 357.} the Deity hath provided for the well-being of our natural constitution; and the pleasurable taste of food is rightly alleged as an additional proof of the same. And so, if the urgent voice of conscience within, calling us to virtue, be alleged in evidence of the care, wherewith the Deity hath provided for the well-being of our moral constitution; the pleasurable taste of virtue in itself, with the bitterness of its opposite, may well be alleged as additional evidence thereof. They alike afford the present and the sensible tokens of a righteous administration, and so of a righteous God.


Our present argument is grounded, neither on the rectitude of virtue, nor on its utility in the grosser and more palpable sense of that term — but on the immediate sweetness of itIt is the office of conscience to tell us of its rectitude. It is by experience that we learn its utility. But the sweetness of it — the dulce of virtue, as distinguished from its utile, is a thing of instant sensation. It may be decomposed into two ingredients, with one of which conscience has to do — even the pleasure we have, when any deed or any affection of ours receives from her a favourable verdict. But it has another ingredient which forms the proper and the distinct argument that we are now urging — even the pleasure we have in the mere relish of the affection itself. If it be a proof of benevolence in God, that our external organs of taste should haAe been so framed, as to have a liking for wholesome food; it is no less the proof both of a benevolent and a righteous God, so to have framed our mental economy, as that right and wholesome morality {Page No. 358.} should be palatable to the taste of the inner man. Virtue is not only seen to be right — it is felt to be delicious. There is happiness in the very wish to make others happy. There is a heart’s ease, or a heart’s enjoyment, even in the first purposes of kindness, as well as in its subsequent performances. There is a certain rejoicing sense of clearness in the consistency, the exactitude of justice and truth. There is a triumphant elevation of spirit in magnanimity and honour. In perfect harmony with this, there is a placid feeling of serenity and blissful contentment in gentleness and humility. There is a noble satisfaction in those victories, which, at the bidding of principle, or by the power of self-command, may have been achieved over the propensities of animal nature. There is an elate independence of soul, in the consciousness of having nothing to hide, and nothing to be ashamed of. In a word, by the constitution of our nature, each virtue has its appropriate charm; and virtue, on the whole, is a fund of varied, as well as of perpetual enjoyment, to him who hath imbibed its spirit, and is under the guidance of its principles. He feels all to be health and harmony within; and without, he seems as if to breathe in an atmosphere of beauteous transparency — proving how much the nature of man and the nature of virtue are in unison with each other. It is hunger which urges to the use of food; but it strikingly demonstrates the care and benevolence of God, so to have framed the organ of taste, as that there shall be a superadded enjoyment in the use of it. It is conscience which urges to the practice oi virtue; but it serves to {Page No. 359.} enhance the proof of a moral purpose, and therefore of a moral character m God, so to have framed our mental economy, that, in addition to the felt obligation of its rightness, virtue should of itself, be so regaling to the taste of the inner man.


In counterpart to these sweets and satisfactions of virtue, is the essential and inherent bitterness of all that is morally evil. We repeat, that, with this particular argument, we do not mix up the agonies of remorse. It is the wretchedness of vice in itself, not the wretchedness which we suffer because of its recollected and felt wrongness that we now speak of. It is not the painfulness of the compunction felt because of our anger, upon which we at this moment insist; but the painfulness of the emotion itself; and the same remark applies to all the malignant desires of the human heart. True, it is inseparable from the very nature of a desire, that there must be some enjoyment or other, at the time of its gratification; but, in the ease of these evil affections, it is not unmixed enjoyment. The most ordinary observer of his own feelings, however incapable of analysis, must be sensible, even at the moment of wreaking, in full indulgence of his resentment, on the man who has provoked or injured him, that all is not perfect and entire enjoyment within; but that, in this, and indeed in every other malignant feeling, there is a sore burden of disquietude — an unhappiness tumultuating in the heart, and visibly pictured on the countenance. The ferocious tyrant who has only to issue forth his mandate, and strike {Page No. 360.} dead at pleasure the victim of his wrath, with any circumstance too of barbaric caprice and cruelty, which his fancy in the very waywardness of passion unrestrained and power unbounded might suggest to him — he may be said to have experienced through life a thousand gratifications, in the solaced rage and revenge, which, though ever breaking forth on some new subject, he can appease again every day of his life by some new execution. But we mistake it if we think otherwise than that, in spite of these distinct and very numerous nay daily gratifications if he so choose, it is not a life of fierce internal agony notwithstanding. It seems indispensable to the nature of every desire, and to form part indeed of its very idea, that there should be a distinctly felt pleasure, or at least, a removal at the time of a distinctly felt pain, in the act of its fulfilment — yet, whatever recreation or relief may have thus been rendered, without doing away the misery, often in the whole amount of it the intense misery, inflicted upon man by the evil propensities of his nature. Who can doubt for example the unhappiness of the habitual drunkard ? — and that, although the ravenous appetite, by which he is driven along a stormy career, meets every day, almost every hour of the day, with the gratification that is suited to it. The same may be equally affirmed of the voluptuary, or of the depredator, or of the extortioner, or of the liar. Each may succeed in the attainment of his specific object; and we cannot possibly disjoin from the conception of success, the conception of some sort of pleasure — yet in perfect consistency, we affirm, with a sad {Page No. 361.} and heavy burthen of unpleasantness or unhappiness on the whole. He is little conversant with our nature who does not know of many a passion belonging to it, that it may be the instrument of many pleasurable, nay delicious or exquisite sensations, and yet be a wretched passion still; the domineering tyrant of a bondsman, who at once knows himself to be degraded, and feels himself to be unhappy. A sense of guilt is one main ingredient of this misery — yet physically, and notwithstanding the pleasure or the relief inseparable at the moment from every indulgence of the passions, there are other sensations of bitterness, which of themselves, and apart from remorse, would cause the suffering to preponderate.


There is an important discrimination made by Bishop Butler in his sermons; and, by the help of which, this phenomenon, of apparent contradiction or mystery in our nature, may be satisfactorily explained. He distinguishes between the final object of any of our desires, and the pleasure attendant on or rather inseparable from its gratification. The object is not the pleasure, though the pleasure be an unfailing and essential accompaniment on the attainment of the object. This is well illustrated by the appetite of hunger, of which it were more proper to say that it seeks for food, than that it seeks for the pleasure which there is in eating the food. The food is the object; the pleasure is the accompaniment. We do not here speak of the distinct and secondary pleasure which there is in the taste of food, but of that other pleasure which strictly and properly {Page No. 362.} attaches to the gratification of the appetite of hunger. This is the pleasure, or relief, which accompanies the act of eating; while the ultimate object, the object in which the appetite rests and terminates, is the food itself. The same is true of all our special affections. Each has a proper and peculiar object of its own, and the mere pleasure attendant on the prosecution or the indigence of the affection is not, as has been clearly established by Butler and fully reasserted by Dr. Thomas Brown, is not that object. The two are as distinct from each other, as a thing loved is distinct, from the pleasure of loving it. Every special inclination has its special and counterpart object. The object of the inclination is one thing; the pleasure of gratifying the inclination is another; and, in most instances, it were more proper to say, that it is for the sake of the object than for the sake of the pleasure that the inclination is gratified. The distinction that we now urge though felt to be a subtle, is truly a substantial one; and pregnant, both with important principle and important application. The discovery and clear statement of it by Butler may well be regarded as the highest service rendered by any philosopher to moral science; and that, from the light which it casts, both on the processes of the human constitution and on the theory of virtue. As one example of the latter service, the principle in question, so plainly and convincingly unfolded by this great Christian philosopher in his sermon on the love of our neighbour, strikes, and with most conclusive effect, at the root of the selfish system of morals; a system which {Page No. 363.} professes that man’s sole object, in the practice of all the various moralities, is his own individual advantage. Now, in most cases of a special, and more particularly of a virtuous affection, it can be demonstrated, that the object is a something out of himself and distinct from himself. Take compassion for one instance out of the many. The object of this affection is the relief of another’s misery, and, in the fulfilment of this, does the affection meet with its full solace and gratification; that is, in a something altogether external from himself. It is true, that there is an appropriate pleasure in the indulgence of this affection, even as there is in the indigence of every other; and in proportion, too, to the strength of the affection, will be the greatness of the pleasure. The man who is doubly more compassionate than his fellow, will have doubly a greater enjoyment in the relic of misery; yet that, most assuredly, not because he of the two is the more intently set on his own gratification, but because he of the two is the more intently set on an outward accomplishment, the relief of another’s wretchedness. The truth is, that, just because more compassionate than his fellow, the more intent is he than the other on the object of this affection, and the less intent is he than the other on himself the subject of this affection. His thoughts and feelings are more drawn away to the sufferer, and therefore more drawn away from himself. He is {Page No. 364.} the most occupied with the object of this affection j and, on that very account, the least occupied with the pleasure of its indulgence. And it is precisely the objective quality of these regards, which stamps upon compassion the character of a disinterested affection. He surely is the most compassionate whose thoughts and feelings are most drawn away to the sufferer, and most drawn away from self; or, in other words, most taken up with the direct consideration of him who is the object of this affection, and least taken up with the reflex consideration of the pleasure that he himself has in the indulgence of it. Yet this prevents not the pleasure from being actually felt; and felt, too, in very proportion to the intensity of the compassion; or, in other words, more felt the less it has been thought of at the time, or the less it has been pursued for its own sake. It seems unavoidable in every affection, that, the more a tiling is loved, the greater must be the pleasure of indulging the love of it: yet it is equally unavoidable, that the greater in that case will be our aim towards the object of the affection, and the less will be our aim towards the pleasure which accompanies its gratification. And thus, to one who reflects profoundly and carefully on these things, it is no paradox tliat he who has had doubly greater enjoyment than another in the exercise of compassion, is doubly the more disinterested of the two; that he has had the most pleasure in this affection who has been the least careful to please himself with the indulgence of it; that he whose virtuous desires, as being the strongest, have in their gratification {Page No. 365.} ministered to self the greatest satisfaction, has been the least actuated of all his fellows by the wishes, and stood at the neatest distance from the aims of selfishness.


And moreover, there is a just and philosophical sense, in which many of our special affections, besides the virtuous, are alike disinterested with these; even though they have been commonly ranked among the selfish affections of our nature. The proper object of self-love is the good of self; and this calm general regard to our own happiness may be considered, in fact, as the only interested affection to which our nature is competent. The special affections are, one and all of them, distinct from self-love, both in their objects, and in the real psychological character of the affections themselves. The object of the avaricious affection is the acquirement of wealth; of the resentful, the chastisement of an offender; of the sensual, something appropriate or suited to that corporeal affection which forms the reigning appetite at the time. In many of these, is the good of self the proper discriminative object of the affection; and the mind of him who is under their power, and engaged in their prosecution, is differently employed from the mind of him, who, at the time, is either devising or doing aught for the general or abstract end of his own happiness. None of these special affections is identical with the affection which has happiness for its object. So far from this, the avaricious man often, conscious of the strength of his propensity, {Page No. 366.} and at the moment of being urged forward by it to new speculations, acknowledges in his heart, that he would be happier far, could he but moderate its violence, and be satisfied with an humbler fortune than that to which his aspirations would carry him. And the resentful man, in the very act of being tempest-driven to some furious onset against the person who has affronted or betrayed him, may yet be sensible that, instead of seeking for any benefit to himself, he is rushing on the destruction of his character, or fortune, or even life. And many is the drunkard who under the goadings of an appetite which he cannot withstand, in place of self-love being the principle, and his own greatest happiness the object, knows himself to be on the road to inevitable ruin. There is an affection which has happiness for its object; but this is not the affection which rules and has the ascendancy in any of these instances. These are all special affections, grounded on the affinities which obtain between certain objects and certain parts of human nature; and which cannot be indulged beyond a given extent, without distemper and discomfort to the whole nature; so that, in spite of all the particular gratifications which follow in their train, the man over whom they tyrannise may be unhappy upon the whole. The very distinction between the affection of self-love and the special affections proves that there is a corresponding distinction in their objects; and this again, that many of the latter may be gratified, while the former is disappointed, — or, in other words, that, along with many particular enjoyments, the general state of {Page No. 367.} man may be that of utter and extreme wretchedness. It is therefore a competent question, what those special affections are, which most consist with the general happiness of the mind; and this, notwithstanding that they all possess one circumstance in common — the unavoidable pleasure appendant to the gratification of each of them. 


This explanation will help us to understand wherein it is that the distinction in point of enjoyment, between a good and an evil affection of our nature, properly lies. For there is a certain species {Page No. 368.} of enjoyment common to them all. It were a contradiction in terms to affirm otherwise; for it were tantamount to saying, that an affection may be gratified, without the actual experience of a gratification. There must be some sensation or other of happiness, at the time when a man obtains that which he is seeking for; and if it be not a positive sensation of pleasure, it will at least be the sensation of a relief from pam, as when one meets with the opportunity of wreaking upon its object, that indignation which had long kept his heart in a tumult of disquietude. We therefore would mistake the matter, if we thought, that a state even of thorough and unqualified wickedness was exclusive of all enjoyment — for even the vicious affections must share in that enjoyment, which inseparably attaches to every affection, at the moment of its indulgence. And thus it is, that even in the veriest Pandemonium, might there be lurid gleams of ecstasy, and shouts of fiendish exultation — the merriment of desperadoes m crime, who send forth the outcries of their spiteful and savage delight, when some deep-laid villainy has triumphed; or when in some du-e perpetration of revenge, they have given full satisfaction and discharge to the malignity of their accursed nature. The assertion therefore may be taken too generally, when it is stated, that there is no enjoyment whatever in the veriest hell of assembled outcasts; for even there, might there be many separate and specific gratifications. And we must abstract the pleasure essentially involved in every affection, at the instant of its indulgence, and which cannot possibly be disjoined {Page No. 369.} from it, ere we see clearly and distinctively wherein it is that, in respect of enjoyment, the virtuous and vicious affections differ from each other. For it is true, that there is a common resemblance between them; and that, by the universal law and nature of affection, there must be some sort of agreeable sensation, in the act of their obtaining that which they are seeking after. Yet it is no less true, that, did the former affections bear supreme rule in the heart, they would brighten and tranquillize the whole of human existence — whereas, had the latter the entire and practical ascendancy, they would distemper the whole man, and make him as completely wretched as he were completely worthless.


There is one leading difference then between a virtuous and a vicious affection — that there is always a felt sweetness in the very presence and contact of the former; whereas, in the presence and contact of the latter, there is generally or very often at least, a sensation of bitterness. Let them agree as they may in the undoubted fact of a gratification in the attainment of their respective ends, the affections themselves may be long in existence and operation before their ends are arrived at; and then it is, we affirm, that if compared, there will be found a wide distinction and dissimilarity between them. The very feeling of kindness is pleasant to the heart; and the very feeling of anger is a painful and corrosive one. The latter, we know, is often said to be a mixed feeling — because of both the pleasure and the pain which are said to enter into it. But it will be found that the pleasure, in this case, lies in. the prospect of full and final {Page No. 370.} gratification; and very often, in a sort of current or partial gratification which one may experience beforehand, in the mere vent or utterance by words, of the labouring violence that is within — seeing that words of bitterness, when discharged on the object of our wrath, are sometimes the only, and even the most effective executioners of all the vengeance that we meditate; besides that by their means, we may enlist in our favour the grateful sympathy of other men — thus obtaining a solace to ourselves, and aggravating the punishment of the offender, by exciting against him, in addition to our own hostility, the hostile indignation of his fellows. And thus too is it, that, in the case of anger, there may not only bb a completed gratification at the last, by the infliction of a full and satisfactory chastisement; but a gratification, as it were by installments, with every likely purpose of retaliation that we may form in our bosoms, and every sentence of keen and reproachful eloquence that may fall from our lips. And so anger has been affirmed to be a mixed emotion, from confounding the pleasure that lies in the gratification of the emotion, with the pleasure that is supposed to lie in the feeling of the emotion. But the truth is, that, apart from the gratification, the emotion is an exceedingly painful one — insomuch that the gratification mainly lies in the removal of a pain, or in the being ridded of a felt uneasiness. Compassion may in the same way be termed a mixed feeling. But on close attention to these two affections and comparison between them, it will be found, that all the pleasure of anger lies in its gratification, and all the pain of {Page No. 371.} it in the feeling itself — whereas all the pain of compassion lies in the disappointment of its gratification, while in the feeling itself there is nought but pleasure. Let the respective gratifications of these two affections — the one, by the fulfilled retaliation of a wrong; the other, by the fulfilled relief of a suffering — let these gratifications be put out of notice altogether, that we might but attend to the yet ungratified feelings themselves: and we cannot imagine a greater difference of state between two minds, than that of one which luxuriates in the tenderness of compassion, and that of another which breathes and is infuriated with the dark passions and the still darker purposes of resentment. Or we may appeal to the experience of the same mind, which at one time may have its hour of meditated kindness, and at another its hour of meditated revenge. We speak of these two, not in the moment of their respective triumphs, not of the sensations attendant on the success of each — but of the direct and instant sensations which lie in the feelings themselves. They form two as distinct states in the moral world, as sunshine and tempest are in the physical world. We have but to name the elements which enter into the composition of each, in order to suggest the utter contrariety which obtains between them — between the calm and placid cheerfulness on the one hand of that heart which is employed in conceiving the generous wishes, or in framing the liberal and fruitful devices of benevolence; and, on the other hand, the turbulence and fierce disorder of the same heart, when burning disdain, or fell and {Page No. 372.} implacable hatred has taken possession of it — the reaction of its own affronted pride, or aggrieved sense of the injury which has been done to it. 


But perhaps the most favourable moment for comparison between them, is when each is frustrated of its peculiar aim; and so each is sent back upon itself, with that common suffering to which all the affections are liable — the suffering of a disappointment. We shall be at no loss to determine on which side the advantage lies, if we have either felt or witnessed benevolence in tears, because of the misery which it cannot alleviate; and rage, in the agonies of its defeated impotence, because of the haughty and successful defiance of an enemy, whom with vain hostility it has tried to assail, but cannot reach. We have the example of a good affection under disappointment, in the case of virtuous grief or virtuous indignation; and of a bad affection under disappointment, in the case of envy, when, in spite of every attempt to calumniate or depress its object, he shines forth to universal acknowledgment and applause, in all the lustre of his vindicated superiority. It marks how distinct these two sets of feelings are from each other, that, with the former, even under the pain of disappointment, there is a something in the very taste and quality of the feelings themselves, which acts as an emollient or a charm, and mitigates the painfulness — while, with the latter, there is nought to mitigate, but every thing to exasperate, and more fiercely to agonize. The malignant feelings are no sooner turned inwardly, by the arrest of a disappointment from without, than they {Page No. 373.} eat inwardly; and, when foiled in the discharge of their purposed violence upon others, they recoil — and, without one soothing ingredient to calm the labouring effervescence, they kindle a hell in the heart of the unhappy owner. Internally there is a celestial peace and satisfaction in virtue, even though in the midst of its outward discomfiture, it be compelled to weep over the unredressed wrongs and sufferings of humanity. On the other hand, the very glance of disappointed malevolence, bespeaks of this evil affection, that, of itself, it is a fierce and fretting distemper of the soul, an executioner of vengeance for all the guilty passions it may have fanned into mischievous activity, and for all the crimes it may have instigated. 


And this contrast between a good and an evil affection, this superiority of the former to the latter is fully sustained, when, instead of looking to the state of mind which is left by the disappointment of each, we look to the state of mind which is left by their respective gratifications — the one a state of sated compassion, the other of sated resentment. There is one most observable distinction between the states of feeling, by which an act of compassion on the one hand, and of resentment on the other, are succeeded. It is seldom that man feasts his eyes on that spectacle of prostrate suffering which, in a moment of fury, he hath laid at his feet; in the same way that he feasts his eyes on that picture of family comfort which smiles upon him from some cottage home, that his generosity had reared. This looks as if the sweets of benevolence were lasting, whereas the sweets of revengeful malice, {Page No. 374.} such as they are, are in general but momentary. An act of compassion may extinguish for a time the feeling of compassion, by doing away that suffering which is the object of it; but then it generally is followed up by a feeling of permanent regard. An act of revenge, when executed to the full extent of the desire or purpose, does extinguish and put an end to the passion of revenge; and is seldom, if ever, followed up by a feeling of permanent hatred. An act of kindness but attaches the more, and augments a friendly disposition towards its object. It were both untrue in itself, and unfair to our nature to say, that an act of revenge but exasperates the more, and always arguments, or even often augments, a hostile disposition towards its object. It has been said that we bate the man whom we have injured: but whatever the truth of this observation may be, certain it is, that we do not so hate the man of whom we have taken full satisfaction for having injured us; or, if we could imagine aught so monstrous, and happily so rare, as the prolonged, the yet unquelled satisfaction of one, who could be regaled for hours with the sighs of him whom his own hands had wounded; or, for months and years, with the pining destitution of the household whom himself had impoverished and brought low: this were because the measure of the revenge had not equalled the measure of the felt provocation, only perhaps to be appeased and satiated by death. This, at length, would terminate the emotion. And here a new insight opens upon us into the distinction between a good and a bad affection. Benevolence, itself of immortal quality, {Page No. 375.} would immortalize its objects: malignity, if not appeased, by an infliction short of death, would destroy them. The one is ever strengthening itself upon old objects, and fastening upon new ones; the other is ever extinguishing its resentment towards old objects by the pettier acts of chastisement, or, if nothing short of a capital punishment will appease it, by dying with their death. The exterminating blow, the death which “clears all scores” — this forms the natural and necessary limit even to the fiercest revenge; whereas, the outgoings of benevolence are quite indefinite. In revenge, the affection is successively extinguished; and, if resumed, it is upon new objects. In benevolence, the affection is kept up for old objects, while ever open to excitement from new ones; and hence a living and a multiplying power of enjoyment, which is peculiarly its own. On the same principle that we water a shrub just because we had planted it, does our friendship grow and ripen the more towards him on whom we had formerly exercised it. The affection of kindness for each individual object survives the act of kindness, or, rather, is strengthened by the act. Whatever sweetness may have been originally in it, is enhanced by the exercise; and, so far from being stifled by the first gratification, it remains in greater freshness than ever for higher and larger gratifications than before. It is the perennial quality of their gratification, which stamps that superiority on the good affections, we are now contending for. Benevolence {Page No. 376.} both perpetuates itself upon its old objects, and expands itself into a wider circle as it meets with new ones. Not so with revenge, which generally disposes of the old object by one gratification; and then must transfer itself to a new object, ere it can meet with another gratification. Let us grant that each affection has its peculiar walk of enjoyment. The history of the one walk presents us with a series of accumulations; the history of the other with a scries of extinctions. 


But in dwelling on this beautiful peculiarity, by which a good affection is distinguished from a bad one, we are in danger of weakening our immediate argument. We bring forward the matter a great deal too favourably for the malignant desires of the human heart, if, while reasoning on the supposition of an enjoyment, however transitory in their gratification, we give any room for the imagination that even this is unmixed enjoyment. We have already stated, that, of themselves, and anterior to their gratification, there is a painfulness in these desires; and that when by the gratification we get quit of this painfulness, we might after all obtain little more than a relief from misery. But the truth is, that, generally speaking, we obtain a great deal less on the side of happiness than this; for, in most cases, all that we obtain by the gratification of a malignant passion, is but the exchange of one misery for another; and this apart still from the remorse of an evil perpetration. There is one familiar instance of it, which often occurs in conversation — when, piqued by something offensive in the remark or manner of our fellows, we react with {Page No. 377.} a severity which humbles and overwhelms him. In this case, the pain of the resentment is succeeded by the pain we feel in the spectacle of that distress which ourselves have created; and this, too, aggravated perhaps by the reprobation of all the by-standers, affording thereby a miniature example of the painful alternations which are constantly taking place in the history of moral evil; when the misery of wrong affections is but replaced, to the perpetrator himself, by the misery of the wrong actions to which they have hurried him. It is thus that a life of frequent gratification may, notwithstanding, be a life of intense wretchedness. It may help our imagination of such a state, to conceive of one, subject every hour to the agonies of hunger, with such a mal-conformation at the same time in his organ of taste, that, in food of every description, he felt a bitter and universal nausea. There were here a constant gratification, yet a constant and severe endurance — a mere alternation of cruel sufferings — the displacement of one set of agonies, by the substitution of other agonies in their room. This is seldom, perhaps never realized in the physical world; but in the moral world it is a great and general phenomenon. The example shows at least the possibility of a constitution, under which a series of incessant gratifications may be nothing better than a restless succession of distress and disquietude; and that such should be the constitution of our moral nature as to make a life of vice a life of vanity and cruel vexation, is strong experimental evidence of Him who ordained this {Page No. 378.} constitution, that He hateth iniquity, that He loveth righteousness. 


But the peculiarity which we have been incidentally led to notice, is, in itself, pregnant with inference also. We should augur hopefully of the final issues of our moral constitution, as well as conclude favourably of Him who hath ordained it — when we find its workings to be such, that, on the one hand, the feeling of kindness towards an individual object, not only survives, but is indefinitely strengthened by the acts of kindness; and, on the other hand, that, not only does an act of revenge satiate and put an end to the feeling of revenge, but even, that certain acts of hostility towards the individual object of our hatred will make us relent from this hatred, and at length extinguish it altogether. May we not perceive in this economy a balance in point of tendency, and at length of ultimate effect on the side of virtue ? May it not warrant the expectation, that, while benevolence, that great conservative principle of being, has in it a principle conservative of itself as well as of its objects, the out-breakings of evil are but partial and temporary; and that the moral world, viewed as a progressive system and now only in its transition state, has been so constructed as to secure both the perpetuity of all the good affections, and the indefinite expansion of them to new objects and over a larger and ever-widening territory ? At all events, whatever reason there may be to fear, that, in the future arrangements of nature and providence, both virtue and vice will {Page No. 379.} be capable of immortality — we might gather from what passes under our eyes, in this rudimental and incipient stage of human existence, that even with our present constitution virtue alone is capable of a blissful immortality. For malice and falsehood carry in them the seeds of their own wretchedness, if not of their own destruction. Only grant the soul to be imperishable; and if the character of the governor is to be gathered from the final issues of the government over which he presides — it says much for the moral character of Him who framed us, that, unless there be an utter reversal of the nature which Himself has given, then, in respect to the power of conferring enjoyment or of maintaining the soul in its healthiest and happiest mood, it is righteousness alone which endureth for ever, and charity alone which never faileth. 


And beside taking account of the special enjoyments which attach to the special virtues, we might observe on the general state of that mind, which, under the consistent and comprehensive principle of being or doing what it ought, studies rightly to acquit itself of all the moral obligations. Beside the perpetual feast of an approving conscience, and the constant recurrence of those particular gratifications which attach to the indulgence of every good affection — is it not quite obvious of every mind which places itself under a supreme regimen of morality, that then, it is in its best possible condition with regard to enjoyment: like a well-strung instrument, in right and proper tone, because all its parts are put in right adjustment with each other ? If conscience be indeed {Page No. 380.} the superior faculty of our nature, then, every time it is cast down from this pre-eminence, there must be a sensation of painful dissonance; and the whole man feels out of sorts, as one unhinged or denaturalized. This perhaps is the main reason that a state of well-doing stands associated with a state of well-being; and why the special virtue of temperance is not more closely associated with the health of the body, than the general habit of virtue is with a wholesome and well-conditioned state of the soul. There is then no derangement as it were in the system of our nature — all the powers, whether superior or subordinate, being in their right places, and all moving without discord and without dislocation. It were anticipating our argument, did we refer at present to the confidence and regard wherewith a virtuous man is surrounded in the world. We have not yet spoken of the adaptations to man’s moral constitution from without, but only of the inward pleasures and satisfactions which are yielded in the workings of the constitution itself. And surely when we find it to have been so constructed and attuned by its Maker, that, in all the movements of virtue there is a felt and grateful harmony, while a certain jarring sense of violence and discomposure ever attends upon the opposite — we cannot imagine how the moral character of that being who Himself devised this constitution and established all its tendencies, can be more clearly or convincingly read, than in phenomena like these. 


We have already said that the distinction so well established by Butler, between the object of {Page No. 381.} our affection and its accompanying, nay, inseparable pleasure, was the most effectual argument that could be brought to bear against the selfish system of morals. The virtuous affection that is in a man’s breast simply leads him to do what he ought; and in that object he rests and terminates. Like every other affection, there must be a pleasure conjoined with the prosecution of it; and at last, a full and final gratification in the attainment of its object. But the object must be distinct from the pleasure, which itself is founded on a prior suitableness between the mind and its object. When a man is actuated by a virtuous desire; it is the virtue itself that he is seeking, and not the gratification that is in it. His single object is to be or to do rightly — though, the more intent he is upon this object, the greater will, the greater must be his satisfaction if he succeed in it. Nevertheless, it is not the satisfaction which he is seeking; it is the object which yields the satisfaction — the object too for its own sake, and not for the sake of its accompanying or its resulting enjoyment. Nay, the more strongly and therefore the more exclusively set upon virtue for its own sake; the less will he think of its enjoyment, and yet the greater will his actual enjoyment be. In other words, virtue, the more disinterested it is, is the more prolific of happiness to him who follows it; and then it is, that, when freest of all from the taints of mercenary selfishness, it yields to its votary the most perfect and supreme enjoyment. Such is the constitution of our nature, that virtue loses not its disinterested character; and yet man loses not {Page No. 382.} his reward; and the author of this constitution. He who hath ordained all its laws and its consequences, has given signal proof of His own supreme regard for virtue, and therefore of the supreme virtue of His own character, in that He hath so framed the creatures of His will, as that their perfect goodness and perfect happiness are at one. Yet the union of these does not constitute their unity. The union is a contingent appointment of the Deity; and so is at once the evidence and the effect of the goodness that is in His own nature. 


This then is our second argument for the moral character of God, grounded on the moral constitution of man; and prior, as yet, to any view of its adaptation to external nature. It is distinct from the first argument, as grounded on the phenomena of conscience, which assumes the office of a judge within the breast, all whose decisions are on the side of benevolence and justice; and which is ever armed with a certain power of enforcement, both in the pains of remorse and the pleasures of self-approbation. These, however, are distinct and ought to be distinguished from the direct pleasures of virtue in itself, and the direct pains of vice in itself, which form truly separate ingredients, on the one hand of a present and often very painful correction, on the other hand, of a present and very precious reward.