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THE LAW OF LOVE.
We have seen that man is constituted with a capacity for recognising righteousness as good and wickedness as evil, and for loving the one and hating the other. But that capacity is very differently developed. In some there is a love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity which causes them the greatest pleasure in doing right and pain from doing wrong. In others there is merely a slight feeling of satisfaction or dissatisfaction consequent, respectively, on right or wrong doing. In others conscience seems wholly unawakened or perverted.
It is necessary, therefore, to consider how this moral capacity may be developed. Now, it will be found that man's happiness, even in this life, is dependent on it, and that true happiness is unattainable without it, so that in order to attain that happiness he must first attain to righteousness.
It is evident that every conscious intelligence must seek its own good or happiness. Self-love, which is not necessarily selfishness, is a condition of its very existence, and the opposite of self-love, or the desire for evil or unhappiness, would be self-destructive. It would be madness.
In order to obtain this happiness, it is necessary that every creature should be able to satisfy the law of its being, failing which there would be a sense of deprivation
and unsatisfied desire, and consequent un happiness. That law is seen to vary in different creatures. That which is life to the bird is death to the fish, and the pleasure which man derives from beauty, melody, etc., is unknown to the animal, and this capacity for happiness increases with the creature's rank in the scale of creation.
If, then, there is a conscience in man, we must conclude that it is necessary for his happiness that its demands should be satisfied.
There are many, however, who do not recognise this, but regard conscience as their greatest enemy, and consequently seek to stifle it, and, by representing it as a mere product of superstition, endeavour to repudiate it altogether.
The utilitarian generally limits his ideas of human happiness to those conditions which produce civilization, and which best secure the physical and social comfort of every member of the community ; but while these, at the best, are only secondary elements of human happiness, even they depend on moral conditions. For wherever treachery, vice, and malignity are characteristics of a race, war and isolation must follow, and in the destruction of social intercourse and affections, moral and mental degradation must ensue. This has been found to be the case in some savage races, in which murder had come to be regarded as a virtue, and consequently every man's hand was against his brother ; increasing separation and isolation followed, and in the gradual extinction of all natural affection, and the growth of cruelty, treachery, suspicion, and hate, men seemed to have fallen to the level of the beasts.
But where true religion has awakened the conscience of the community to the claims of justice, mercy, and truth, there, and there only, will be found that social peace and comfort, and those domestic affections, without which mere civilization, however advanced, cannot give happiness. “Righteousness' also “exalteth a nation,' and the history of this country, as well as that of some others, shows that, in proportion as the claims of justice, mercy, and truth are recognised by a nation, so is that nation exalted among the other nations, not only on account of the moral influence those qualities give to it, but also on account of the fearlessness and robustness of character, which are the inseparable accompaniments of conscious rectitude.
But while the utilitarian may recognise that the state of such peoples is higher and happier than that of others, yet if he, and those to whom he appeals, have no conscience' (which he regards as the mere product of superstitious fear), then the attainment of such a state is beyond their power, and no appeals to 'reason,' or to the evidence of the superiority of that state, will enable them to overthrow the influence of the selfishness which is the sole law of their being, and an insuperable bar to its attainment.
For it is clear that in the case of a person who is not troubled by conscience, and who has no hope or fear of a future, it cannot appear to him better that he should seek the good of others when it interferes with his own, but that, on the contrary, a prudent selfishness will give him the greatest amount of happiness. It will appear to him better that he should seek the good of others when his own is involved in it, and also better that he should not seek his own present good at the expense of others, when to do so would bring upon him a greater evil in the form of punishment by law, or the personal retaliation or hatred of others; but it would not appear to him better that he should refrain from doing injury to others when it is productive of good, and no evil, to himself, as in the case of injuries done secretly, or on those who cannot retaliate. It would no more appear better for him to act in the opposite manner than for an animal, in the struggle for existence, to give up its own good for that of others, the result of which, even if partially carried out, would lead to the extinction of those who did so.
Even if all the members of a community, influenced by reason' only, and recognising the advantages which would result from all seeking the good of others, agreed to do so, yet it would still be clearly better for the individual that he should break the agreement himself, for the sake of his own good, and when discovery was impossible; and, as this would equally apply to each member of the community, the consciousness of this treachery in all would soon destroy confidence, peace, and happiness; nor would the clearest recognition of the consequent misery enable them to alter the result, for each would clearly see that, provided all the rest did good to him, it would still be always better, for him, that he should seek his own good at the expense of others, when there was no fear of discovery or retaliation. Each, no doubt, would use every means to induce the rest to carry out the agreement, and take the greatest care to appear to do so himself; but as there would be no reason whatever why he should forego his own good for the sake of others, he certainly would not do so unless it was clearly for his own ultimate advantage. Therefore the consciousness in each that this was equally the case with all, and the constant discovery of such treachery, would speedily destroy any sort of confidence, and all would soon give up trying to ape a state for which they were unfitted, and, recognising that the law of self was the law of their being, would content themselves with such good as was attainable by strength and cunning.
Yet, although this may be in some degree the case with many who seem to be wholly devoid of conscience, it is not so with others, and there are few whose conscience does not at times make itself heard. Therefore, as conscience is that which is the only radical distinction
between man and the animals, its existence must be recognised in considering the nature of that happiness which, by the law of his being, man is capable of attaining.
On account of the complex nature of man, his happi. ness depends on several causes. Like that of the animals, it depends on the satisfaction of the necessities of the body. It also depends on the satisfaction of his psychical nature, on the desire for material beauty and harmony of form, colour, and sound, which desire, although in a far lower degree, is present in some of the higher animals ; and it depends still more on the satisfaction of the natural or psychical affections, which also exist in a lower form in the higher animals. The most powerful of these is sexual love, and the love of the mother for her child is hardly less powerful ; while a somewhat similar affection is felt by many for children generally, or for animal pets, or for anything dependent on them and requiring their care. These affections appear to spring from a principle of reciprocity, or the attraction which exists between things which have need of each other, or are complements of one another. Such attraction exists even in the vegetable kingdom, as in the desire of plants for light and water.
We perceive that wherever there is power there is a strong tendency and inclination to manifest it; and under the head of power we may include, not merely physical power, but skill, art, knowledge, and wisdom, and those things which are sources of power, such as riches, authority, and position. All such things are recognised as virtues, or things of value, rendering the possessor of them of greater worth in the eyes of others than those who are without them. Hence the vain display of such things by many, although such display benefits no one.