Imatges de pÓgina
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the very principles of evil existing in human nature in its present state, prevent many from admitting the conclusion to which this induction leads, and which is in harmony with the representations of the sacred volume, I refer to the natural alienation of the heart of man from God, as constituting the essential element of his moral corruption. It has long been my painful conviction, that many of our theories of morals have been sadly vitiated, not merely in the way of defect, but even of radical and mischievous error, by the non-admission, or by the absence of all due consideration, of the real character of our nature, as estranged in its affections from the government of God, and so in a state of moral depravity. I avow it to be one of my principal designs, to call to this subject the attention of my fellow-christians."

We agree with the author that there is nothing in actions themselves that can be called moral or immoral, considered abstractedly from the principles of the agents;' and also in the following distinction, which we think an obvious and highly important one between the principle and the rule or standard of virtue :

"Without at present making any affirmation respecting either the one or the other, without being so unreasonable as thus, at the very outset, to take aught for granted in answer to the questions, What is the principle? and What is the rule? I merely state the theoretical distinction. It is one which admits of a very simple and satisfactory illustration from what has place under human governments. A law appears in the statutebook, or the recorded enactments, of a particular country, requiring or probibiting some specified act. This law, then, is the rule, by which, in the matter whereto it relates, the conduct of the inhabitants of the country, and subjects of its government, must of course be regulated. We shall suppose the law a prohibitory one,-simply affixing a definite penalty to a definite deed,—without assigning any reason for the prohibition. But, although no reason appears on the statute-book, it does not follow that no reason existed in the minds of those legislators by whom the enactment was introduced. Here then we have the rule, and the principle of the rule. Whatever it was, by which the original framers of the law were induced to enact it,-that was the principle; by which is here meant, the consideration, on account or for the sake of which the law was enacted-or that which, in the minds of the enactors, constituted it right-while the law itself, in its simple terms of prohibition, independently of the reason or principle of it, is the rule of conduct to the subject."

In speaking of moral systems, it is of importance to remark, that the greater number of them contain much truth, and that they err chiefly by defect. Thus though benevolence is virtuous, it is not the only virtue; and the theory which makes it so is deficient, as it takes no account of the personal virtues. A similar deficiency may be pointed out in almost every moral system. This principle runs through the whole of our author's analysis of ethical theories. He enters not into the examination of them with the feelings of a cynic, resolved on pronouncing condemnation; but, like a lover of truth, he re

cognizes it in whatever association it may be found, and seeks only to separate it from the contamination of grosser intermixtures. It is an important fact, that diversities among moralists affect not the reality and permanence of men's moral feelings. Whatever differences and doubts may exist as to what makes virtue amiable, these prevent not virtue from finding its sympathy in every breast. In order to attain a scientific knowledge of the principles of natural religion, or to recognize and approve the pure morality of the Scriptures, it is not necessary to be able to analyze mental states, or to inquire into the foundation of virtue. These processes may be introduced at an after period of our inquiries--at a stage in which we may be legitimately guided and strengthened in our conclusions by the words of revealed truth. The necessity of thus admitting scriptural testimony is shown by the author from the influence of depravity, the recognition of which, I have already said, forms an essential element in, if not in his principles, at least in his mode of inquiry.

"I assume the fact of man's depravity,-of the natural and inveterate alienation of his heart from God. Now this state of his nature brings with it two distinct sources of error. Man, let it be remembered, is, in our present inquiry, both the investigator, and, in part at least, the subject of investigation. The first of these, on the assumption of depravity, must be very apparent. It arises from the bias which the moral state of the heart unavoidably imparts to the operations of the intellect on all such subjects:-a bias, which attaches uncertainty and inconclusiveness to all human inquiries and decisions concerning them. The mental powers of man are injuriously affected, on every point that relates to religion and virtue, by his moral alienation from God, the eternal prototype of all excellence. They are prone to aberration. His moral perceptions have lost their original clearness. A corrupt tendency has been infused into all his speculations and reasonings; so that, on the topics referred to, his conclusions are not, without great caution, to be depended on. How preposterous would it be, to commit the decision of an inquiry respecting the true principles of moral rectitude to a creature subject to all the blinding and perverting influences of the principles of moral pravity."

After an examination of the peripatetic, the stoical, and the epicurean systems among the ancients, and of those of Cudworth, Clarke, and Price, of Smith, Hutchison, Brown, and Hume among the moderns, he devotes his fourth lecture to a lengthened review of that of Butler. This system he terms that of Zeno baptized into Christ, because its author follows Zeno in saying that virtue consists in living according to nature; but that by the former this doctrine is "modified by the knowledge of divine revelation, and professedly argued on Christian

principles." The following is a portion of the strictures on Butler's system:—

"There is a sense, then, let it be observed, in which I am far from objecting either to the phraseology of Butler's system or to the princi. ple which the phraseology involves,-that virtue consists in living according to nature.' What we are accustomed to call the natural state of man, is, in truth, the most unnatural the mind can conceive :-insomuch as there can be nothing more directly at variance with the essential and immutable nature of things, than that an intelligent creature should be in a state of alienation from his Creator. But you will at once perceive, that, whenever any such explanation as this is made, there is a departure from the system, and a resolution of it into another, -into that, namely, of essential and eternal fitnesses. For then, 'living according to nature' comes to signify, not living according to the nature of man as it now is, but according to the general nature of things. Between these two,-the nature of things and the nature of man, there was at his creation an unjarring harmony. There was a perfect fitness in his nature to the relations in which he stood to his Maker :-so that then, acting according to his own nature was the same thing as acting according to the essential nature of things. Now, the fault which, with all diffidence, I am disposed to find with Butler is this,—that he professes to take human nature as it is, expressly deducing the principles of his theory from its present phenomena, while yet his 'following nature,' as his definition of virtue, does not actually mean following it in its present degenerate state, but according to the right order and legitimate subordination of its various principles, which is the same thing, in other words, with following it according to its original, divinely-imparted constitution."

In accordance with the distinction between the principle and the rule of virtue, he properly makes the question, as to the latter, depend on the previous question : "whether man be a subject of God's moral government." From this important truth in natural religion, we pass at once to the conclusion, "that the rules by which man's conduct is to be regulated must be—the will of the Supreme Governor." He says, "I have no idea of arriving at this conclusion by a circuitous process of argumentation. The evidence of it seems to me to be involved in the evidence of the divine existence. If there be a God, He must rule; and if He rules, His will must be law." In his inquiry into the manner of ascertaining the divine will, he lays down the position, that this is to be found in the Sacred Volume, and answers clearly this objection arising from the limited spread of the revealed standard. In the present state of man, his reasoning, but especially his moral powers, are impaired and perverted; this truth proves the necessity of revelation, and revelation informs us, that the law of God was originally so written on the heart of man, that

along with right conceptions of the character of God, he pos sessed a disposition to do the divine will. Now depravity implies a change of this disposition, and a consequent discordance between men's actions and their convictions of duty; and it implies also such an influence of the desires on the understanding, as warps the judgment, and in many cases leads it astray. To admit that a revelation has been given, and yet to assert that we are not to make it the rule of duty, is virtually to say it has been given for no purpose. We will be told, indeed, it is designed to teach us the high mysteries of the Christian faith; but we have yet to learn that these are separable from moral duties, as to their effects on the hearts of men. Conscience is implanted by the Author of Nature: and were the mind in its original condition, the dictates of the intellect, and the corresponding desires of an undepraved heart, would lead to the same courses of conduct as those enjoined in the revealed moral precepts. Our author's view of consciencea view which we consider capable of strict proof, and which we shall notice shortly-makes it coincident with the dictates of the understanding. It follows, that whenever the judgment errs respecting things of a moral nature, the decision-the approbation, or disapprobation of conscience must be amiss. If so, conscience is not a perfect rule of duty, and the Scriptures, as the only perfect rule, must be resorted to. At the same time he justly admits, that "the absence of all knowledge, and all means of knowledge, would have nullified accountableness." None possessed of reason, however, are thus left entirely without the means of knowledge. It follows, that even those destitute of revelation are accountable, though only in proportion to the means of knowledge they possess. These positions are stated in the following extract :

“The sum of all this is :—that man was originally in full possession of the knowledge of the divine will, as the rule or law of duty, and that then a disposition in accordance with this will was (if I may so express myself) inwoven with the very texture of his moral constitution:-that in this his original state, the dictates of conscience might, with unhesitating assurance, have been taken as the test and standard of moral rectitude: -that since, by throwing off his allegiance, man became a sinful creature, the knowledge his Maker's will has not been entirely obliterated, but, in consequence of the obliteration of the disposition to do it, has become so sadly defaced and confused in its characters and impressions, that, although it still leaves man, as a subject of moral government, intelligent and accountable, it has been rendered, as a standard of right and wrong, incompetent and unsatisfactory, itself requiring to be rectified: -that the Holy Scriptures, coming from the same Being who was the Author at first of man's moral nature, are, with respect to the rule of

duty, in precise harmony with the dictates of conscience in that nature, in its state of primitive innocence, the law in the book being the same as the law then in the heart and that the way to bring mankind back to the knowledge of the original law, and to correct the dictates of a depraved and erring CONSCIENCE, is to put them in possession of this divine document."

He contends that it is unnecessary to multiply the faculties by making conscience, a distinct mental operation; and he considers it as 66 nothing more than an exercise of judgment upon our own conduct," including the feelings consequent on that judgment.

"I have often, for my own part, in thinking of this subject, been at a loss to conceive what conscience can include in it, beyond the exercise of the judgment in the particular department of morals. Even those who speak of it as if it were something different, or something more, are at the same time accustomed to use language about it, that will hardly apply to it in any other view. They employ the common phrases. They beak of the decisions of conscience; -of conscience being well or ill informed; and of these decisions being more or less enlightened and just, according to the information it possesses. When we speak of the pain which an awakened conscience inflicts, -what more do we mean than the pain which arises from the conviction, brought home to the mind, of our having done wrong? The pain will be various in degree, according to the clearness and force of this conviction; according to the apprehension which the mind has of the intrinsic evil of sin in general, and of the nature and circumstantial aggravations of the particular transgression."

We could wish to quote at more length, did our limits permit; but we must dismiss this portion of the work with remarking, that this view of conscience seems the only one capable of explaining human accountability in all circumstances. In this way it is employed by our author to explain such cases as that of Paul, when he says, "I verily thought that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus." Here the conscience was coincident, or rather identical with an erroneous state of the judgment.

In the prosecution of his inquiries, he considers the origin of moral obligation; and here he is treading an arduous portion of the steep ascent, where so many intellectual aspirers have wanted energy to overcome the difficulties. As he makes the divine will, whether made known by conscience or revelation, the rule of moral obligation, so he places the origin of this obligation, and consequently the foundation of virtue, in the eternal principles of rectitude in the mind of the Deity. These are the determining causes both of the will of God itself,

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