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such a person are perhaps always weak, if not coarse and com mon; they are therefore not likely to acquire any influence, and can consequently form no obstacle to the attainment of those active habits which are perhaps the stronger for the want of this original bias of the mind. The original bias of the mind invariably disposes it to theoretical or speculative virtue, and can be overcome only by an early initiation into habits of a practical tendency; and even then it occasionally gets the better of those habits, and not unfrequently materially affects the happiness of the person who may appear to be absorbed in the traffic of the world."Going over the theory of virtue in the mind," says Bishop Butler, is so far from implying a habit of it, that the contrary is not unfrequently the case."* Experience and observation verify the truth of this remark: passive habits like other habits become the stronger for indulgence; and thus it is that "going over the theory of virtue in the mind," tends to produce a habit of passive exertion, if we may so express ourselves, which opposes a fatal barrier to the formation of active principles. The man whose active principles have been confirmed by a long and rigid course of practical exertion, is generally lost to that delicate perception of moral beauty which lights up and pervades the being of the man who has been in the habit of contemplating virtue in her abstract or ideal form. The latter may be said to "accommodate the shews of things to the desires of the mind;" whereas the former brings down the desires of the mind," to the realities of things. There is moreover an intense, tho' melancholy gratification in the indulgence of the former, while at the same time it flatters perhaps the vanity of our human nature. It is thereby one of those seductive habits which require, in order to be overcome or at least subdued, in part, a degree of resolution which very few are found to possess and least of all the man who indulges in the habit. The man who is in the practical habit of relieving distress is less affected by the sight of it than the man who has been in the habit merely of "going over the theory" of benevolence in his mind. The former has acquired an aptness and dexterity in affording relief, to which the latter is a stranger. The former may be inferior to the latter, in an almost unmeasurable degree, in that genuine sensibility which affects the man of passive habits even when the object of that sensibility is not immediately present to him. The former notwithstanding, appears to the generality of persons to be pos sessed of those qualities in the very absence of which consists his virtue. But the mere absence of active principles, when passive
* Analogy of Religion.
Bacon's Instaration of the Sciences. Vol. i. Art. Poetry.
impressions are perfect, cannot be charged upon a man as vicious, altho' there can be certainly but little virtue where these are wanting. The only charge is, that with these virtuous impressions vicious habits are not unfrequently combined. Vice not being an object of natural desire, the mind cannot be supposed to form to itself a theory of it; and of going over that theory" for its owo sake, so as to form a passive habit of vicious indulgence. Where this the case, the mind would be satisfied with the mere theory, and virtuous habits would perhaps necessarily result; for the more we contemplate in theory the deformity of vice, the more struck we should necessarily be with the beauty of the contrast which virtue affords to it; Mr. Pope's opinion to the contrary notwithstanding.*
The many virtuous passive impressions, we say, is oftencharged with being guilty of actions, perhaps a series of actions that are vicious in the eyes of the world. A person of this description however, it should be remembered, is deprived of that moral experience which affords to reason (as is implified in the notion of mere passive impressions) the matter whence that faculty makes its inductions; which are no other than those general rules and maxims in Morals, which seem to guide and direct our conduct in cases where the nicest casuistry would fail perhaps to furnish us with most light. The general rules, whether of nature or positive law, or whether of morals, are those inductions which reason makes from experience. Experience offers to the consideration of reason, that various and compounded knowledge which it has gathered from its intercourse with the world; and reason, in its turn, proceeds to adjust as it were the relative value and comparative importance of this knowledge so obtained. And accordingly, reason draws its inferences and makes its inductions; which process when completed, presents us with a set of rules that frequently possess the precision and are capable of the demonstrative evidence of inathematical propositions-unallayed at the same time, by any admixture of that extraneous matter which enters into the composition of strict positive law. The general rules presuppose the antecedent knowledge of many particular cases of human conduct; these rules therefore never suggest themselves to the
Vice is a monster of so frightful mein,
Essay on Man.
When the poet wrote the above lines, he must have designed them to apply exclusively to the man of vicious practical habits; and they certainly apply with great truth in such a case-altho' they are not very original as a practical obser vation, nor very just as a philosophical deduction.
mind whose passive impressions imply habits of comparative seclusion and retirement from the busy scenes of active life. A mind under the influence of these habits, has consequently little or no moral experience; and is therefore by further consequence, unprovided with any practical guides to virtuous conduct. Active principles imply nothing more than principles put into action, or practical conduct of any kind; these principles further, may be said only to illustrate the force of habit, not the sense of duty. It is of little moment whether these principles are employed in effecting positive good to others, or in preserving such a tenor of conduct as merely results in the absence of ill to ourselves. But the man whose moral constitution is made up of mere passive impressions, in whom the elements of good remain unwrought into any system of practical conduct, is very apt, if occasionally forced into collision with the rough habits of the world, to perceive the want of those practical principles which he is for the first time made to feel lie at the bottom and form the basis of the conduct of those around him. Such a person therefore, is easly misunderstood: he himself perhaps feels that his intentions at least are misconstrued; he conceives immediate disgust, and proceeds as it were, to wreak this feeling of offended virtue in an opposite course of conduct from the one he at first attempted to pursue; but which he finds, as he thinks, is impracticable, in as much as it has given offence, and has been misinterpreted. It is impossible to calculate the measure of ill which almost necessarily results from this forced reaction of feelings that are in themselves virtuous and intensely vivid; but which have been repulsed, sometimes with coldness, but oftener with indignity, in their first timid, yet open and generous advances to the world. It is certainly a melancholy mode of retaliating the wrongs we may have received from others, by rushing upon the commission of wrong to ourselves; and of redressing the feelings of our injured virtue, by subjecting those feelings to situations in which their susceptibility can expect only to receive further injury. There is no feeling of our nature so liable to be wounded as that of conscious virtue. Offended pride may be conciliated-offended vanity may be cajoled-even offended honour may be ap peased, but offended virtue admits of no atonement. If wounded, it pines like the melancholy eagle, and so dies no sound escapes-a look of ineffable contempt is all that tells the wretch who gave the blow, how insignificant he is. This virtue is by no means so secure and independent of fortune, and of the caprice and ignorauce of those we live with, as many have supposed it to be. It is undoubtedly its own and sole reward in the end: but still it is dependent for a temporary satisfaction upon the reception which it may meet with from the world.
(To be Continued.)