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From the same principles it may be collected that all such pompous theories of morals, however seemingly diversified, yet amount ultimately to the same thing, being all built upon the same false bottom of innate notions ; and from the history of this science we may see that they have received no manner of improvement (as indeed by the supposition of their innateness they become incapable of any) from the days of Plato to our own; but must always take the main point, the ground of obligation, for granted : which is in truth the shortest and safest way of proceeding for such self-taught philosophers, and saves a deal of trouble in seeking reasons for what they advance, where none are to be found. Mr. Locke went a far different way to work, at the very entrance on his Essay, pointing out the true origin of all our passions and affections, i. e. sensitive pleasure and pain; and accordingly directing us to the proper principle and end of virtue, private happiness, in each individual; as well as laying down the adequate rule and only solid ground of moral obligation, the divine will. From whence also it may well be concluded that moral propositions are equally capable of certainty, and that such certainty is equally reducible to strict demonstration here as in other sciences, since they consist of the very same kind of ideas [viz. general abstract ones, the true and only ground of all general knowledge]: provided always that the terms be once clearly settled, in which lies the chief difficulty, and are constantly applied (as surely they may be) with equal steadiness and precision: which was undoubtedly Mr. Locke's meaning in that assertion of his which drew upon him so many solicitations to set about such a systematic demonstration of morals.
In the same plain and popular introduction, when he has been proving that men think not always, [a position which, as he observes, letter to Molyneux, August 4, I696, was then admitted in a commencement act at Cambridge for probable, and which few there now a-days are found weak enough to question] how come we not to attend him through the genuine consequences of that proof? This would soon let us into the true nature of the human constitution, and enable us to determine whether thought, when every mode of it is suspended, though but for an hour, can be deemed an essential property of our immaterial principle, or mind, and as such inseparable from some imaginary substance, or substratum, [words by the by, so far as they have a meaning, taken entirely from matter, and terminating in it] any more than motion, under its various modifications, can be judged essential to the body, or to a purely material system*. Of that same substance or substratum, whether material or immaterial, Mr. Locke has farther shown us that we can form but a very imperfect and confused idea, if in truth we have any idea at all of it, though custom and an attachment to the established mode of philosophising still prevails to such a degree that we scarcely know how to proceed without it, and are apt to make as much noise with such logical terms and distinctions, as the schoolmen used to do with their principle of individuation, substantial forms, &c. Whereas, if we could be persuaded to quit every arbitrary hypothesis, and trust to fact and experience, a sound sleep any night would yield sufficient satisfaction in the present case, which thus may derive light even from the darkest parts of nature; and which will the more merit our regard, since the same point has been in some measure confirmed to us by revelation, as our author has likewise shown in his introduction to the Reasonableness of Christianity.
The abovementioned essay contains some more refined speculations which are daily gaining ground among thoughtful and intelligent persons, notwithstanding the neglect and the contempt to which studies of this kind
* Vide Defence of Locke's Opinion concerning Personal Identity, Appendix to the Theory of Religion, p. 431, &c. and note I. to abp. King's Or. of E. Sir Isaac Newton had the very same sentiments with those of our author on the present subject, and more particularly on that state to which he was approaching; as appears from a conversation held with him a little before his death, of which 1 have been informed by one who took down sir Isaac's words at the time, and since read them to me.
are frequently exposed. And when we consider the force of bigotry, and the prejudice in favour of antiquity which adheres to narrrow minds, it must be matter of surprise to find so small a number of exceptions made to some of his disquisitions which lie out of the common road.
That well-known chapter of Power has been termed the worst part of his whole essay*, and seems indeed the least defensible, and what gave himself the least satisfaction, after all the pains he and others took to reform it; [v. Letters between him and Molyneux and Limborch. To which may be added note 45 to King's Or. of E. p. 220, 4th edit.] which might induce one to believe that this most intricate subject is placed beyond human reach; since so penetrating a genius confesses his inability to see through it. And happy are those inquirers who can discern the extent of their faculties! who have learnt in time where to stop and suspend a positive determination! * If you will argue,' says he, for or against liberty from consequences, ' I 'will not undertake to answer you; for I own freely
* to you the weakness of my understanding, that * though it be unquestionable that there is omnipo* tence and omniscience in God our maker, yet I can'not make freedom in man consistent with omnipotence 'and omniscience in God, though I am as fully per'suaded of both as of any truths I most firmly assent
* to; and therefore I have long left off the consideration « of that question, resolving all into this short conclu'sion: that, if it be possible for God to make a free 'agent, then man is free; though I see not the way of «it.' Letter to M. Jan. SO, 1694
13. Connected in some sort with the forementioned essay, and in their way equally valuable, are his tracts on Education and the early Conduct of the Understanding, both worthy, as we apprehend, of a more careful perusal than is commonly bestowed upon them, the latter more especially, which seems to be little known and less attended to. It contains an easy popular illus
* Biogr. Brit, though others are pleased to style it the finest.
tration of some discoveries in the foregoing essay, particularly that great and universal law of nature, the support of so many mental powers, (v. g. that of memory under all its modifications) and which produces equally remarkable effects in the intellectual, as that of gravitation does in the material world ;—I mean the association of ideas: the first hint whereof did not appear till the fourth edition of his essay, and then came in as it were by the by, under some very peculiar circumstances, and in comparatively trivial instances; the author himself seeming not to be sufficiently aware of its extensiveness, and the many uses to which it is applicable, and has been applied of late by several of our own writers. The former tract abounds with no less curious and entertaining than useful obsei vations on the various tempers and dispositions of youth: with proper directions for the due regulation and improvement of them, and just remarks on the too visible defects in that point; nor should it be looked upon as merely fitted for the instruction of schoolmasters or nurses, but as affording matter of reflection to men of business, science, and philosophy. The several editions of this treatise, which has been much esteemed by foreigners, with the additions made to it abroad, may be seen in Gen. Diet. Vol. VII. p. 145.
14. Thus much may serve to point out the import'ance of some of our author's more private and recluse studies; but it was not in such only that this excellent person exercised his learning and abilities. The public rights of mankind, the great object of political union; the authority, extent, and'bounds of civil government in consequence of such union; these were subjects which engaged, as they deserved, his most serious attention. Nor was he more industrious here in establishing sound principles and pursuing them consistently, than firm and zealous in support of them, in the worst of times, to the injury of his fortune, and at the peril of his life, (as may be seen more fully in the life annexed); to which may be added, that such zeal and firmness must appear in him the more meritorious, if joined with that timorousness and irresolution which is there observed to have been part of his natural temper, note*, p. xxix. Witness his famous Letter from a Person of Quality, giving an account of the debates and resolutions in the house of lords concerning a bill for establishing passive Obedience, and enacting new oaths to inforce it: [V. Biogr. Brit. p. 2996. N. 1.] which letter, together with some supposed communications to his patron lord Shaftesbury, raised such a storm against him as drove him out of his own country, and long pursued him at a distance from it. [Ib. p. 2997, &c. from A. Wood.] This letter was at length treated in the same way that others of like tendency have been since, by men of the same spirit, who are ready to bestow a like treatment on the authors themselves, whenever they can get them into their power. Nor will it be improper to remark how seasonable a recollection of Mr. Locke's political principles is now become, when several writers have attempted, from particular emergencies, to shake those universal and invariable truths whereon all just government is ultimately founded; when they betray so gross an ignorance or contempt of them, as even to avow the directly opposite doctrines, viz. that government was instituted for the sake of governors, not of the governed; and consequently that the interests of the former are of superiour consideration to any of the latter;—that there is an absolute indefeasible right of exercising despotism on one side, and as unlimited an obligation of submitting to it on the other:—doctrines that have been confuted over and over, and exploded long ago, and which one might well suppose Mr. Locke must have for ever silenced by his incomparable treatises upon that subject •, which have indeed exhausted it; and notwithstanding any objections that have yet been, or are likely to be brought against them, may, I apprehend, be fairly justified, and however unfashionable they grow, continue fit to be