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out regard to private conscience, would be a plan unworthy of our Maker. It is clear, that to reward one who is not conscious of merit, or to punish one who is not conscious of demerit, cannot answer any good end; and in particular, cannot tend either to improvement or to reformation of manners. How much more like the Deity is the plan of nature, which rewards no man who is not conscious that he merits reward, and punishes no man who is not conscious that he merits punishment! By that plan, and by that only, rewards and punishments accomplish every good end, a final cause most illustrious!
The rewards and punishments that attend the primary and secondary virtues, are finely contrived for supporting the distinction between them set forth above. Punishment must be confined to the transgression of primary virtues, it being the intention of nature that secondary virtues be entirely free. On the other hand, secondary virtues are more highly rewarded than primary: generosity, for example, makes a greater figure than justice; and magnanimity, heroism, undaunted courage* rage, a still greater figure. One would imagine at first view, that the primary virtues, being more essential, should be intitled to the first place in our esteem, and be more amply rewarded than the secondary; and yet in elevating the latter above the former, peculiar wisdom and foresight are conspicuous. Punishment is appropriated to enforce primary virtues; and if these virtues were also attended with the highest rewards, secondary virtues, degraded to a lower rank, would be deprived of that enthusiastic admiration which is their chief support: self-interest would universally prevail over benevolence; and would banish those numberless favours we receive from each other in society, which are beneficial in point of interest, and still more so by generating affection and friendship.
In our progress through final causes, we come at last to reparation, one of the principles destined by Providence for redressing wrongs committed, and for preventing reiteration. The final cause of this principle where the mischief arises from intention, is clear: for to protect individuals in society, it is not sufficient that the 2 delinquent delinquent be punished; it is necessary over and above, that the mischief be repaired.
Secondly, Where the act is wrong or unjust, tho' not understood by the author to be so, it is wisely ordered that reparation should follow; which will thus appear. Considering the fallibility of man, it would be too severe never to give any allowance for error. On the other hand, to make it a law in our nature, never to take advantage of error, would be giving too much indulgence to indolence and remission of mind, tending to make us neglect the improvement of our rational faculties. Our nature is so happily framed, as to avoid these extremes by distinguishing between gain and loss. No man is conscious of wrong, when he takes advantage of an error committed by another to save himself from loss: if there must be a loss, common fense dictates, that it ought to rest upon the person who has erred, however innocently, rather than upon the person who has not erred. Thusx in a competition among creditors about the estate of their bankrupt debtor, every one is at liberty to avail himself of an er
Vol. IV, M ror Tot committed by his competitor, in order to recover payment. But in lucro captando, the moral fense teacheth a different lesson.; which is, that no man ought to lay hold of another's error to make gain. by it. Thus, an heir finding a rough diamond in the repositories of his ancestor, gives it away, mistaking it for a common pebble: the purchaser is in conscience and equity bound to restore, or to pay a just price.
Thirdly, The following considerations, respecting the precaution that is necessary in acting, unfold a final cause, no less beautiful than that last mentioned. So«ciety could not subsist in any tolerable manner, were full scope given to rashness and negligence, and to every action that strictly speaking is not criminal; whence it is a maxim founded no less upon utility than upon justice, That men in society ought to be extremely circumspect, as to every action that may possibly do harm. On the other hand, it is also a maxim, That as; the prosperity and happiness of man depend on action, activity ought to be encouraged, instead of being discouraged by dread of consequences. These
maxims^ maxims, seemingly in opposition, have natural limits that prevent their encroaching one upon the other. There is a certain degree of attention and circumspection that men generally bestow upon:, affairs, proportioned to their importance i if that degree were not sufficient to defend against a claim of reparation, individuals would be too much cramped in action; which would be a great discouragement to activity: if a less degree were sufficient, there would be too great scope for rash or remiss conduct; which would prove the bane of society. These limits, which evidently tend to the good of society, are adjusted by the moral sense; which dictates, as laid down in the section of Reparation, that the man who acts with foresight of the probability of mischief, of acts rashly and uncautiously without such foresight, ought to be liable for consequences; but that the man who acts cau^ tioully, without foreseeing or suspecting any mischief, ought not to be liable for consequences.