We have seen that the mind of man, by its very constitution, has certain
implanted truths which it believes from the necessity of its nature, and
that these are the foundation of all acquired knowledge, and the guide
to all truth.
We have seen that, independently of a revelation, we have no other
sources of knowledge except these intuitions, the experience of
ourselves and others, and the deductions of reasoning.
We have examined as to the amount of knowledge to be gained from these
sources in regard to the nature of mind, the laws of the system of which
it is the essential part, the immortality of the soul, our prospects
after death, and the character and designs of our Creator.
In discussing the last topic, it has been assumed that the grand and
ultimate design of the Creator is “to produce the greatest possible
happiness with the least possible evil.”
We have examined, at some length, the chief faculties and laws of the
human mind, for the purpose of exhibiting their adaptation to this
We now proceed to a brief review of this portion as a _summing up_ of
the evidence sustaining the proposition that the grand end of the
Creator, in forming mind, is _to produce the greatest possible happiness
with the least possible evil_.
As preliminary, however, we need to refer to one principle.
Whenever we find any contrivances all combining to secure a certain good
result, which, at the same time, involves some degree of inevitable
evil, and then discover that there are contrivances to diminish and
avoid this evil, we properly infer that the author intended to secure
_as much of the good with as little of the evil as possible_. For
example, a traveler finds a deserted mine, and all around he discovers
contrivances for obtaining gold, and, at the same time, other
contrivances for getting rid of the earth mixed with it. The inevitable
inference would be that the author of these contrivances designed to
secure as much gold with as little earth as possible; and should any one
say that he could have had more gold and less earth if he wished it, the
answer would be that there is no evidence of this assertion, but direct
evidence against it.
Again: should we discover a piece of machinery in which every
contrivance tended to secure _speed_ in movement, produced by the
_friction_ of wheels against a rough surface, and at the same time other
contrivances were found for diminishing all friction that was useless,
we should infer that the author designed to secure the _greatest
possible speed_ with the _least possible friction_.
In like manner, if we can show that mind is a contrivance that acts by
the influence of fear of evil, and that _pain_ seems as indispensable to
the action of a free agent as friction is to motion; if we can show that
there is no contrivance in mind or matter which is designed to secure
suffering as its primary end; if we can, on the contrary, show that the
direct end of all the organizations of mind and matter is to produce
happiness; if we can show that it is only the _wrong action_ of mind
that involves most of the pain yet known, so that right action, in its
place, would secure only happiness; if we can show contrivances for
diminishing pain, and also contrivances for increasing happiness by
means of the inevitable pain involved in the system of things, then the
just conclusion will be gained that the Author of the system of mind and
matter designed “to produce the greatest possible happiness with the
least possible evil.”
In the review which follows, we shall present evidence exhibiting all
The only way in which we learn the nature of a thing is to observe its
qualities and actions. This is true of mind as much as it is of matter.
Experience and observation teach that the nature of mind is such that
_the fear of suffering_ is indispensable to secure a large portion of
the enjoyment within reach of its faculties, and that the highest modes
of enjoyment can not be secured except by sacrifice, and thus by more or
This appears to be an inevitable combination, as much so as friction is
inevitable in machinery.
We have the evidence of our own consciousness that it is fear of evil to
ourselves or to others that is the _strongest_ motive power to the mind.
If we should find that no pain resulted from burning up our own bodies,
or from drowning, or from any other cause; if every one perceived that
no care, trouble, or pain resulted from losing all kinds of enjoyment,
the effort to seek it would be greatly diminished.
If we could desire good enough to exert ourselves to seek it, and yet
should feel no discomfort in failing; if we could _lose every thing_,
and feel no sense of pain or care, the stimulus to action which
experience has shown to be most powerful and beneficent would be lost.
We find that abundance of ease and prosperity enervates mental power,
and that mind increases in all that is grand and noble, and also in the
most elevating happiness, by means of danger, care, and pain. We may
properly infer, then, that evil is a necessary part of the experience of
a perfectly-acting mind.
So strong is the conviction that _painful penalties_ are indispensable,
that the kindest parents and the most benevolent rulers are the most
sure to increase rather than diminish those that are already involved in
the existing nature of things.
Again: without a revelation we have no knowledge of any kind of mind but
by inference from our experience in this state of being. All we know of
the _Eternal First Cause_ is by a process of reasoning, inferring that
his nature must be _like_ the only minds of which we have any knowledge.
We assume, then, that he is a free agent, regulated by desire for
happiness and fear of evil.
We thus come to the conclusion that this organization of mind is a part
of the _fixed and eternal nature of things_, and does not result from
the will of the Creator. His own is the eternal pattern of an
all-perfect mind, and our own are formed on this perfect model, with
susceptibilities to pain as an indispensable motive power in gaining
We will now recapitulate some of the particulars in the laws and
constitution of mind which tend to establish the position that its
Creator’s grand design is “to produce the greatest possible happiness
with the least possible evil.”
First, then, in reference to the earliest exercise of mind in
_sensation_. The eye might have been so made that light would inflict
pain, and the ear so that sound would cause only discomfort. And so of
all the other senses.
But the condition of a well-formed, healthy infant is a most striking
illustration of the adaptation of the senses to receive enjoyment. Who
could gaze on the countenance of such a little one, as its various
senses are called into exercise, without such a conviction? The delight
manifested as the light attracts the eye, or as pleasant sounds charm
the ear, or as the limpid nourishment gratifies its taste, or as gentle
motion and soft fondlings soothe the nerves of touch, all testify to the
benevolent design of its Maker.
Next come the pleasures of _perception_ as the infant gradually observes
the qualities of the various objects around, and slowly learns to
distinguish its mother and its playthings from the confused mass of
forms and colors. Then comes the gentle curiosity as it watches the
movement of its own limbs, and finally discovers that its own volitions
move its tiny fingers, while the grand idea that _it is itself a cause_
is gradually introduced.
Next come the varied intellectual pleasures as the several powers are
exercised in connection with the animate and material world around, in
acquiring the meaning of words, and in imitating the sounds and use of
language. The adult, in toiling over the dry lexicon, little realizes
the pleasure with which the little one is daily acquiring the
philosophy, grammar, and vocabulary of its mother tongue.
A child who can not understand a single complete sentence, or speak an
intelligible phrase, will sit and listen with long-continued delight to
the simple enunciation of words, each one of which presents a picture to
his mind of a dog, a cat, a cow, a horse, a whip, a ride, and many other
objects and scenes that have given pleasure in the past; while the
single words, without any sentences, bring back, not only vivid
conceptions of these objects, but a part of the enjoyment with which
they have been connected.
Then, as years pass by, the intellect more and more administers
pleasure, while the reasoning powers are developed, the taste
cultivated, the imagination exercised, the judgment employed, and the
memory stored with treasures for future enjoyment.
In the proper and temperate use of the intellectual powers, there is a
constant succession of placid satisfaction, or of agreeable and often of
delightful emotions, while no one of these faculties is productive of
pain except in violating the laws of the mental constitution.
In regard to the second general class of mental powers–_the
susceptibilities_–the first particular to be noticed is the ceaseless
and all-pervading _desire to gain happiness and escape pain_. This is
the mainspring of all voluntary activity; for no act of volition will
take place till some good is presented to gain, or some evil to shun. At
the same time, as has been shown, the desire to escape evil is more
potent and effective than the desire for good. Thousands of minds that
rest in passive listlessness, when there is nothing to stimulate but
hope of enjoyment, will exert every physical and mental power to escape
impending evil. The seasons of long-continued prosperity in nations
always tend to a deterioration of intellect and manhood. It is in
seasons of danger alone that fear wakes up the highest energies, and
draws forth the heroes of the race.
Mind, then, is an existence having the power of that self-originating
action of _choice_ which constitutes free agency, while this power can
only be exercised when desires are excited to gain happiness or to
escape pain. This surely is the highest possible evidence that its
Author _intended_ mind should thus act.
But a mind may act to secure happiness and avoid pain to itself, and yet
may gain only very low grades of enjoyment, while much higher are within
reach of its faculties. So, also, it may act to gain happiness for
itself as the chief end in such ways as to prevent or destroy the
happiness of others around.
In reference to this, we find those susceptibilities which raise man to
the dignity of a moral being.
In the first place, there is that _impression of the great design_ of
the Creator existing in every mind, either as a result of constitution
or of training, or of both united, which results in a feeling that
whatever lessens or destroys happiness is unfit and contrary to the
system of things.
Next there is the power to balance pleasure and pain, and estimate the
compound result, both in reference to self and to the commonwealth. With
this is combined the feeling that whatever secures _the most_ good with
_the least_ evil is right and fit, and that the opposite is wrong and
unfitted to the nature of things.
Next comes the _sense of justice_, which results in an impulse _to
discover the cause_ of good and evil, and when this cause is found to be
a voluntary agent, a consequent impulse to make returns of good for
good, and of evil for evil, and also to _proportion_ retributive rewards
or penalties to the amount of good or evil done.
With this, also, is combined the feeling that those retributions should
be applied only where there was _voluntary_ power to have done
otherwise. When it is seen that there was no such power, the impulse to
reward or punish is repressed.
Such is the deep conviction that such retributions are indispensable,
that where natural pains and penalties do not avail, others are
demanded, both in the family and in the commonwealth.
Lastly, we find the susceptibility of _conscience_, which, by the very
framework of the mind itself, apportions the retributive pangs of
remorse for wrong doing, and the pleasure of self-approval for well
doing. These, too, are retributions never to be escaped, and the most
exquisite, both in elevated happiness and exquisite pain. The mind
carries about in itself its own certain and gracious remunerator–its
own inexorable prosecutor, judge, and executioner.
This same design of the Creator may be most delightfully traced in what
may be called the _economy_ of happiness and pain.
One particular of this is set forth at large in the chapter on the
_emotions of taste_. Here we find the mind formed not only to secure
multitudinous enjoyments through the nerves of sensation, but that, by
the principle of association, there is a perpetual _reproduction_ of
these emotions in connection with the colors, forms, sounds, and motions
with which they were originally associated. Thus there are perpetually
returning emotions of pleasure so recondite, so refined, so almost
infinite in variety and extent, and yet how little noticed or
Another indication of the same kind is the peculiarity pointed out on
former pages, where it is shown that securing certain enjoyments which
tend to promote the _general_ happiness increases both desire and
capacity for enjoyment, while those that terminate in the individual
diminish by possession. Thus the enjoyment of power, which must, from
its nature, be confined to a few, diminishes by possession. Thus, too,
the pleasures of sense pall by indulgence. But the enjoyment resulting
from the exercise and reciprocation of love, and that resulting from
benevolent actions, and that which is included in a course of perfect
obedience to all the rules of rectitude, increases the capacity for
Another illustration of the same principle is exhibited in the chapter
on Habit, where it is seen that the power of pleasurable emotions
increases by repetition, while painful emotions decrease when the good
to be secured by their agency is attained. Thus _fear_ seems to protect
from danger till caution and habit render it needless, and then it
decreases. And so of other painful emotions.
It is interesting to trace the same design in the constitution of minds
in _regard to each other_. We find that the purest and highest kind of
happiness is dependent on the mutual relations of minds. Thus the
enjoyment resulting from the discovery of intellectual and moral traits
in other minds–that resulting from giving and receiving affection–that
gained by sympathy, and by being the cause of happiness to others, and
that resulting from conscious rectitude, all are dependent on the
existence of other beings.
Now we find that minds are relatively so constituted that _what one
desires, it is a source of happiness in another to bestow_. Thus one can
be pleased by the discovery of certain traits in other minds, while, in
return, the exhibition of these traits, and the consciousness that they
are appreciated, is an equal source of enjoyment. One mind seeks the
love of others, while these, in return, are desiring objects of
affection, and rejoice to confer the gift that is sought. The desire of
knowledge or the gratification of curiosity is another source of
pleasure, while satisfying this desire is a cause of enjoyment to those
around. How readily do mankind seize upon every opportunity to convey
interesting news to other minds!
Again: we find that, both in sorrow and in joy, the mind seeks for the
sympathy of others, while this grateful and soothing boon it is
delightful to bestow. So, also, the consciousness of being the cause of
good to another sends joy to the heart, while the recipient is filled
with the pleasing glow of gratitude in receiving the benefit. The
consciousness of virtue in acting for the general good, instead of for
contracted, selfish purposes, is another source of happiness, while
those who witness its delightful results rejoice to behold and
acknowledge it. What bursts of rapturous applause have followed the
exhibition of virtuous self-sacrifice for the good of others from bosoms
who rejoiced in this display, and who could owe this pleasure to no
other cause than the natural constitution of mind, which is formed to be
made happy both in beholding and in exercising virtue.
This same beneficial economy is manifested in a close analysis of all
that is included in the affections of _love_ and _gratitude_.
It has been shown that, in the commencement of existence, the young mind
first learns the sources of good and evil to self, and its sole motives
are desire for its own enjoyment.
Soon, however, it begins to experience the happiness resulting from the
relations of minds to each other, and then is developed the superior
power of _love_, and its importance as a regulating principle.
In the analysis of this affection, it is seen to consist, first, in the
pleasurable emotions which arise in view of those traits of character in
another mind pointed out on previous pages. When these qualities are
discovered, the first result is emotions of pleasure in the
contemplation. Immediately there follows _a desire of good_ to the cause
of this pleasure. Next follows the desire of reciprocated
affection–that is, a desire is awakened _to become the cause of the
same pleasure_ to another; for the desire of _being loved_ is the desire
to be the cause of pleasurable emotions in another mind, in view of our
own good qualities. When we secure this desired appreciation, then
follows an increased _desire of good_ to the one who bestows it.
Thus the affection of love is a combination of the action and reaction
of pleasurable emotions, all tending to awaken the desire of good to
another. This passion may become so intensified that it will become more
delightful to secure enjoyments to another than to procure them for
Gratitude is the emotion of pleasure toward the author of _voluntary_
good to self, attended by a desire of good to the benefactor. This
principle can be added to augment the power of love.
There is a foundation for a very important distinction in the analysis
of the principle of love. In what is thus far presented, we find that
the desire of good to another results solely from the fact that certain
mental qualities are _causes of pleasure to self_. Of course, this
desire ceases when those qualities cease to exist or cease to be
appreciated. This kind of love is the natural result of the constitution
of minds in their relations to each other, making it _easy and pleasant_
to live for the good of another in return for the pleasure received from
their agreeable qualities and manifestations.
But the highest kind of love consists in the _desire of good to another
without reference to any good received in return_. It is _good willing_.
It consists in an abiding feeling of desire for the happiness of another
This principle exists as a natural impulse more or less powerful in
differently constituted minds. It is the cause of that pleasure which is
felt in the consciousness of being the cause of good to another. But
this natural impulse can be so developed and increased by voluntary
culture as to become the strongest impulse of the mind, and thus the
source of the highest and most satisfying enjoyments. In many minds this
becomes so strongly developed that securing happiness to others is
sought with far more earnestness and pleasure than any modes of
enjoyment that terminate solely in self. This analysis lays the
foundation for the distinction expressed by the terms the _love of
complacency_ and the _love of benevolence_. The first is the involuntary
result of good conferred on _self_; the last is a voluntary act. It is
good willing toward others without reference to self.
The first can only exist where certain qualities are preserved and
appreciated in another mind. The second can result from voluntary
effort, and become the subject of law and penalties.
We can never be justly required to love another mind with the love of
complacency except when qualities are perceived that, by the
constitution of mind, necessarily call forth such regard. But the love
of benevolence can be justly demanded from every mind toward every being
capable of happiness.
Here it is important to discriminate more exactly in regard to the
principle of _benevolence_ and the principle of _rectitude_.
It is seen that the benevolence which is the subject of rewards and
penalties as a voluntary act consists in _good willing_–that is, in
choosing the happiness of _other_ minds as the object of interest and
But the principle of rectitude is more comprehensive in its nature. It
relates to obedience to _all_ the laws of the system of the
universe–those relating to ourselves as much as those relating to
others. It is true that, as obedience to these laws includes the
greatest possible amount of good with the least possible evil, both to
the individual and the commonwealth, the tendency of the two principles
is to the same result. But it may be the case that benevolence acts
contrary to the true rules of rectitude, and thus may mar rather than
promote happiness. A mind must not only choose to promote the greatest
possible happiness, but must choose _the right way_ of doing it.
A very important particular to be considered is, that, while in the
physical and mental constitution there is not a single arrangement the
direct object of which is to produce suffering, the susceptibilities to
pain seem designed to protect and preserve, while the greater the need
the more strong is this protection. For example, in regard to physical
organization, fire is an element that is indispensable to the life,
comfort, and activity of man, and it must be accessible at all times and
places. But all its service arises from its power to dissolve and
destroy the body itself, as well as all things around it. Therefore the
pain connected with contact with fire is more acute than almost any
other. Thus even the youngest child is taught that care and caution
needful to protect its body from injury or destruction.
Another fact in regard to the susceptibilities of pain is their frequent
_co-existence_ with the highest degrees of enjoyment. The experiences of
this life often present cases where the most elevated and ecstatic
happiness is combined with the keenest suffering, while such is the
nature of the case that the suffering is the chief cause of the
happiness thus secured. The highest illustration of this is in the
suffering of saints and martyrs, when they “rejoice to be counted worthy
to suffer shame,” or when, amid torturing flames, they sing songs of
transport and praise.
Even in common life it is constantly found that a certain relative
amount of happiness is felt to be more than a recompense for a given
amount of pain. This relative amount may be such that the evil involved,
though great, may count as nothing. Where there is a passionate
attachment, for example, the lover exults in the labor and suffering
that will joyfully be received as a proof of affection and secure the
It is a very common fact that the existence of painful emotions _is
sought_, not for themselves, but as ministers to a kind of mental
excitement which is desired. This is the foundation of the pleasure
which is felt in tragic representations, and in poetry and novels that
present scenes of distress. The little child will again and again ask
for the tale of the Babes in the Wood, though each rehearsal brings
forth tears; and the mature matron or sage will spend hours over tales
that harrow the feelings or call forth sighs. This also is the
foundation of that kind of music called the _minor key_, in which
certain sounds bring emotions of sadness or sorrow.
Another striking fact in regard to the desire for pain is the emotions
that are felt by the most noble and benevolent minds at the sight of
cruelty and injustice. At such scenes, the desire for inflicting pain on
the guilty offender amounts to a passion which nothing can allay but
retributive justice. And the more benevolent the mind, the stronger this
desire for retributive evil to another.
Thus it appears that the mind is so made as to desire pain both for
itself and for others; not in itself considered, but as the
indispensable means to gain some consequent enjoyment.
The highest kinds of happiness result from painful emergencies. The
transports of love, gratitude, and delight, when some benefactor rescues
suffering thousands from danger and evil, could exist in no other way.
All the long train of virtues included in patient toil for the good of
others, in heroic daring, in brave adventure, in fortitude, in patience,
in resignation, in heavenly meekness, in noble magnanimity, in sublime
self-sacrifice, all involve the idea of trial, danger, and suffering. It
is only the highest and noblest class of minds that can fully understand
that the most blissful of all enjoyments are those which are bought with
But the most cheering feature in the constitution of mind is all that is
included in the principle of _habit_. We see in the commencement of
existence that every action of mind and body is imperfect, and more or
less difficult, while each effort to secure right action increases the
facility of so doing. We see that, owing to this principle, every act of
obedience to law makes such a course easier. The intellect, the
susceptibilities, the will, all come under this benign influence. Habit
may so diminish the difficulty of self-denial for our own good that the
pain entirely ceases; and self-sacrifice for the good of others may so
develop benevolence and generate a habit that it will become pleasure
without pain. There are those, even in this world, who have so attained
this capacity of living in the life of those around them that the
happiness of others becomes their own, and then there is even less pain
in self-denial for the good of others than for that of self. When this
habit of mind is attained, the happiness of the commonwealth becomes the
portion of the individual.