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The reward indeed was proclaimed, but the delight was not to be found. If by delight, he said, you mean some good; fomething conducing to real happiness; it might have been found, perhaps, and yet not hit the monarch’s fancy, Is that; said I, poffible? It is possible, replied he, though it had been the fovereign good itself. And indeed what wonder? Is it probable that such a mortal as an eastern monarch ; such a pampered, flattered, idle mortal, should have attention or capacity for a subject fo delicate? A subject, enough to exercife the subtleft and most acute i
What then is it you esteem, said I, the sovereign Good to be? It should seem, by your representation, to be fomething very uncommon. Ask me not the question, said he ; you know not where it will carry us. Its general idea indeed is easy and plain; but the detail of particulars is per. plexed and long; passions and opinions for ever thwart us; a paradox appears in almost every advance. Besides, did our inquiries succeed ever so happily, the very subject itfelf is always enough to give me pain. That, replied I, seems a paradox indeed. It is not, said he, from any prejudice, which I have conceived against it ; for to man I esteem it the nobleft in the world. Nor is it for being a subject to which my genius does not lead me; for no subject at all times has more employed my attention. But the truth is, I can scarce ever think of it, but an unlucky story still occurs to my mind :-"A certain ftar-gazer with his telescope was “ once viewing the moon; and describing her feas, her “ mountains, and her territories. Says a clown to his com. • panion, Let him spy what he pleases; we are as near to " the moon as he and all his brethren." So fares it, alas! with these our moral speculations. Practice too often creeps, where theory can foar. The philosopher proves as weak, as those whom he molt contemns, A mortifying thought to such as well attend it. Too mortifying, replied i, to be long dwelt on, Give us rather your general idea of the So
vereign Good. This is easy from your own account, however intricate the detail.
Thus then, said he, since you are fo yrgent, it is thus that I conceive it. The Sovereign Good is that the porfession of which renders us happy. And how, said I, do we possess it?
Is it sensual or intellectual? There you are entering, said he, upon the detail. This is beyond your question. Not a small advance, faid I, to indulge poor curiofity? Will
raise me a thirst, and be so cruel not to allay it? It is not, replied he, of my raising, but your own. Besides, I am not certain, should I attempt to proceed, whether you will admit such authorities as it is possible I may vouch. That, faid I, must be determined by their weight and character. Suppose, said he, it should be mankind; the whole human race. Would you not think it something strange, to seek of those concerning Good, who pursue it a thousand ways, and many of them contradictory? I confess, said I, it seems fo. And yet, continued he, were there a point in which such dissentients ever agreed, this
agreement would be no mean argument in fa. vour of its truth and justness. But where, replied I, is this agreement to be found ?
He answered me by asking, what if it should appear, that there were certain original characteristics and precon. ceptions of good, which were natural, uniform, and common to all men, which all recognized in their various pursuits ; and that the difference lay only in the app.ying them to particulars? This requires, faid I, to be il uitrated. As if, continued he, a company of travellers, in fome wide forest, were all intending for one city, but each by a rcut peculiar to himself. The roads indeed would be various, and many perhaps false; but all who travelled, would have one end in view It is evident, said I, they would. So fares it then, added he, with mankind in the pursuit of good. The ways indeed are many, bat what they feck is one.
For instance: Did you ever hear of any, who in pursuit of their good were for living the life of a bird, an infect, or a filh? None. And why not? It would be inconsistent, answered 1, with their nature. You see, then, said he, they all agree in this, that what they pursue, ought to be confiftent, and agreeable to their proper nature. So ought it, faid I, undoubtedly. If so, continued he, one preconception is discovered, which is common to good in general. It is, that all good is supposed something agreeable to nature. This indeed, replied I, seems to be agreed on all hands.
But again, faid' he, Is there a man scarcely to be found of a temper so truly mortified, as to acquiesce in the lowest and shortest necessaries of life? Who aims not, if he be able, at something farther, something better? I replied, scarcely one. Do not multitudes pursue, said he, infinite objects of defire, acknowledged, every one of them, to be in no respect necessaries? Exquisite viands, delicious wines, splendid apparel, curious gardens, magnificerit apartments adorned with pictures and sculptures ; music and poetry, and the whole tribe of elegant arts ? It is evident, said I. If it be, continued he, it should seem that they all considered the Chief or Sovereign Good, not to be that which conduces to bare existence or mere being; for to this the necessaries alone are adequate. I replied they were. But if not this, it must be somewhat conducive to that, which is superior to mere being. It must. And what, continued he, can this be, but well being, under the varicus shapes in which different opinions paint it? Or can you suggest any thing else? I replied I could not. Mark here, then, continued he, another preconception, in which they all agree; the So. vereign Good is somewhat conducive, not to mere being, but to well-being I replied, it had so appeared.
AGAIN, continued he. What labour, what expense, to procure those rarities, which our own poor country is un.
able to afford us! How is the world ransacked to its utmoft verges, and luxury and arts imported from every quarter! Nay more : How do we baffle .Nature herself; invert her order : seek the vegetables of spring in the rigours of winter, and winte, 's ice during the heats of summer! I replied, we did. And what disappointment, wliat remorse, when endeavours fail? It is true. If this then be evident, faid he, it would seem, that whatever we desire as our Chief and Sovereign Good, is something which, as far as possible, we would accommodate to all places and times. I answered, so it appeared. See then, said he, another of its characteristics, another preconception.
But, farther still ;-What contests for wealth! What fcrambling for property! What perils in the pursuit ! What fojicitude in the maintenance ! and why all this? To what purpose, what end? Or is not the reason plain ? Is it not that wealth may continually procure us whatever we fancy good; and make that perpetual, which would otherwise be transient? I replied, it seemed so.
Is it not farther desired, as supplying us from ourselves; when with. out it, we must be beholden to the benevolence of others, and depend on their caprice for all that we enjoy? It is true, said I, this seems a reason.
AGAIN; Is not power of every degree as much contefted for as wealth ? Are not magiftracies, honours, principali. ties, and empire, the subjects of strife and everlasting contention? I replied, they were. And why, said he, this? To obtain what end? Is it not to help us, like wealth, to the possession of what we desire ? Is it not farther to ascer. tain, to secure our enjoyments; that when others would deprive us, we may be ítrong enough to resist them? I re. plied it was.
Or, to invert the whole; Why are there, who seek se. cesses the most distant and retired; flee courts and power, and submit to parsimony and obscurity? Why all this, but from the same intention? From an opinion, that small por. 6
fefsions, used moderately, are permanent ; that larger porseffions raise envy, and are more frequently invaded; that the safety of power and dignity is more precarious than that of retreat; and that therefore they have chosen what is moft eligible upon the whole ? It is not, said I, impro. bable that they act by some such motive.
Do you not see, then, continued he, two or three more preconceptions of the Sovereign Good, which are fought for by all, as essential to constitute it? And what, said I, are these? That it should not be transient, nor derived from the will of others, nor in their power to take away ; but be durable, self derived, and (if I may use the expresfion,) indeprivable. I confess, said I, it appears so. But we have already found it to be considered, as something agreeable to our nature; conducive, not to mere being, but to well-being; and what we aim to have accommodated to all places and times. We have.
There may be other characteristics, said he, but these I think fufficient. See then its idea ; behold it as collected from the original, natural, and universal preconceptions of all mankind. The Sovereign Good, they have taught us, ought to be something agreeable to our nature ; conducive to well-being ; accommodated to all places and times; durabk, Reif.derived, and indeprivalle. Your account, said I, ap.
HARRIS. CHAP. II.
THE SAME SUBJECT. Brutus perished untimely, and Cæfar did no more.These words I was repeating the next day to myself, when my friend appeared, and cheerfully bade me gooi.
I could not return his compliment with an equal gayety, being intent, fomewhat more than usual, on what had passed the day before. Seeing this, he proposed a walk into the fields. The face of Nature, said he, will perhaps dir. pel these glooms. No aslistance, on my part, fhall be wante