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universe has been framed. He who constructed the mechanism formed the plan, and embodied in it the principles; and these principles he must have drawn from his own uncreated essence. The universe, therefore, is what it is, because God is what he is. On the awful and eternal “I AM that I am, the whole scheme and order of existence repose. The universe is the work of his hands; the plan of the universe is the utterance of His will; the archeal principles which regulate that plan are resolvable only into the necessary perfection of His Being.
Now, as it is in the material, so is it in the moral world. Here, too, all things are arranged in order and on plan. The relations sustained by intelligent beings to the sentient and intelligent universe, and the duties flowing out of these, are all fixed parts of the scheme under which such find themselves existing. To fulfil these relations, and to perform these duties, is the order of the moral world, and accordant with the plan on which it has been framed. But this plan rests upon certain great moral principles, or laws, and these again find their basis in the Divine Nature. It is because God is such as He is, that moral law is what it is, and that the moral world is constituted as it is. In the Divine Essence, then-unchangeable and eternal-lies the foundation of morality, and in the order and plan of the moral universe lies that great law, reverence to which constitutes moral obligation. few words may
suffice to show how this doctrine comprehends substantially all that is true in the theories above enumerated. When Zeno and the Stoics said that virtue consists in living conformably with nature, they meant by nature, the order of relations established in the universe; and when Butler adopted their phraseology, he was careful to point out that it is “the system or constitution of nature, and not the idiosyncrasy of each individual, to which he referred under that phraseology. The doctrine that morality is conformity to the eternal fitnesses of things, as held by Cudworth and Clarke, and that of Wol. laston, who resolved morality into conformity with the truth of things, by which he meant the real nature and proportions of things,* and that of Malebranche, who placed it in conformity to universal order, are clearly the same doctrine expressed in different words; and this doctrine is intelligible only on the supposition that the moral universe is a system of relations all
+ Those propositions which are true, and express things as they are, express the relation between the subject and the attribute as it is. .... and further, this relation (or, if you will, the nature of this relation,) is determined and fixed by the nature of the things themselves. Truth is but conformity to nature.'—Wollaston, Relig. of Nature Delineated, p. 13. 4to. London: 1724.
fitted to each other as parts of one scheme, and derived from the sole primal source of all existence and order. It thus appears that these theories, so far as they occupy common ground, are embraced in that which we have endeavoured to state, and which we present in preference to them, simply because it appears to us to unfold the important truth common to all of them in less technical language, and freed from certain collateral dubieties with which they are all more or less chargeable.
V. Having ascertained the ground and source of moral obligation, the next inquiry is, by what means may man become acquainted with the dictates of that supreme moral law under which he is placed, so as to live conformably to its precepts ?
In order to answer this question, let us analyse the process through which the mind passes in coming to a moral judgment. Let us take the case of a man witnessing the conduct of a dutiful child. He perceives that child listening to the commands of his parent, submitting his feelings to his parent's wishes, and regulating his conduct by his parent's will. Immediately there rises in the bosom of the beholder an emotion of approbation; the scene gives him pleasure, and he enters with a cordial sympathy, if a parent, into the feelings of the parent, and if a child, into the feelings and conduct of the child. But whence this approbation and sympathy? These are emotions, and as such must have some mental conviction by which they are excited; for emotion is the result of a conception, and never arises in the mind without it. Now it cannot be the conception of the mere outward acts which excites this emotion, because the same acts in other circumstances would be viewed with perfect indifference, or it might be with displeasure. It must be some judgment formed by the mind concerning these acts, which calls forth the feeling of approbation in the beholder; and on pursuing our analysis further, we shall find that the judgment formed is to the effect that such acts are good and right. It is the goodness and rectitude of acts, therefore, which excite moral approbation in us, and these are perceived by an effort of judgment exercised upon these acts. But no judgment can be formed without a standard by which to determine the decision; and no moral judgment can be formed without a moral standard, in other words, a fixed criterion of right and wrong, by which the conclusions of the mind are to be guided. It would be impossible to determine the length of a rod without a standard of measure ; it is no less impossible to determine the rectitude of an action without a standard of morals.
But how is such a standard to be obtained by man? In the case of physical extension, man can create his own standard, for
as the question there is merely one of degree, he has only to fix upon some arbitrary unit to enable him to estimate any number of multiples by which that unit may be increased. But in the case of morals, the point to be determined is one absolutely and universally fixed, and one, therefore, which only an absolute, universal, and unbending standard, can help him to determine. For this he must seek out of himself, and apart from his subjective feelings and habits. He must seek for it in the intimations which the Creator has placed within his reach, of those principles on which the great moral plan of the universe has been constructed.
Now there are three sources whence he may gather such intimations — experience, tradition, and Scripture. Experience
teaches moral principles in two ways. When man opens his eyes upon the world around him, he sees that it is the work, and is under the control, of a Being possessed not of mere power and wisdom, but also of benevolence and justice. Hence he learns that benevolence and justice form the moral order of the universe ; and that whatever is contrary to these must be wrong. He has thus learnt in one way from experience; but this teacher has other and more minute instructions in store for him. He is not long of discovering that to this great moral law of the universe his own mental constitution, and that of his fellow-men, are adapted-that he has certain propensities tending to action which can be harmonized and made to work advantageously only by being subordinated to the regulation of this law, and that this law is enjoined by sanctions and penalties, no less than the physical laws which govern the material universe. By the last especially, is reverence for the moral law inculcated upon him. Experience teaches him that if he were to cast himself from a lofty elevation, he would be dashed in pieces, and thus instils into him a wholesome and abiding reverence for the law of gravitation. Intercourse with his fellow-men, and observation of what happens to himself and others, teach him that if he practise injustice or cruelty, he cannot do it with impunity; he feels that there are consequences connected with the breach of the moral law which it is not wise in him to despise; he traces these consequences to the arrangement under which the Creator has placed his intelligent creatures; he feels that they are above his control as well as beyond his evasion, and thus there grows up within him a conviction of the imperativeness and a reverence for the authority of the moral law.
Thus far it may be supposed his information may be gleaned from his own experience; but such information will of necessity be imperfect, because of the limited nature of his experience, and
the conflicting conclusions to which he may occasionally be brought in consequence of this. Here, however, Tradition steps in to his aid-a term which we here use in its widest sense, as comprehensive of all testimony, whether contemporary or that of preceding generations. From this he learns that the same great moral principles which he has discovered have presented themselves to others, and have always and everywhere been sanctioned as he finds them sanetioned, and consequently possess the strongest evidence of being really supreme, universal, and obligatory. He is thus confirmed in his previous conclusions, so far as they were founded upon accurate induction, finds a corrective of others which may have been formed from a basty observation or partial analysis; and is further established in his feeling of obligation to live according to the order which the Governor of all has established in his moral domain.
But still his lessons are incomplete. He has been perusing alone, or in company with his fellows, the page of creation and providence; but on that page is not written all that may be revealed to man of the moral character and government of God, and to peruse it successfully demands more of care and labour than man is ordinarily disposed to bestow upon such pursuits. From a limited and difficult lesson, read with a too careless eye, what can be expected but frequent error and perplexity? To meet this exigency, the gracious Sovereign of all has been pleased to send into our world a written revelation of his character and will, in which he has embodied all that it most concerns man to know as a moral and accountable creature. In this we have a repetition of all the lessons which nature teaches, freed from whatever defects or errors may have, through infirmity and depravity, crept into the conceptions formed out of these lessons by man, and the unfolding of the whole scheme of God's moral government and law, so far at least as man is concerned to know it. Its office is thus, as a moral teacher, to correct and expand the lessons of experience and tradition, as well as to add more lessons to those which they are competent to teach. It in no wise assumes an antagonist position to theirs. On the contrary, it presupposes their teaching, and sets out thence to deliver its own lessons. A close and unmistakable analogy exists between the revelations it unfolds and the principles and laws which the natural reason of man has elicited from the observation of creation and providence. The law written on its pages is the counterpart and the completion of the law written on the heart.
Such are the sources whence man may ascertain the rule of rectitude, and thereby obtain a standard of correct moral judgment. They are not, of course, of equal worth and authority; the last, as the alone perfect and complete, is infinitely superior to the other two. But as in them also is a divine teaching, and as their lessons are assumed and appealed to in the written Word, we cannot but regard it as wise to acknowledge the authority of all these sources in due order and proportion, and to fortify moral conclusions by showing, wherever that is possible, in support of these the concurrent testimony of the three.
To the views which we have just endeavoured to expound, objections of various kinds and from different schools of moralists have been urged. We shall briefly notice three, which are the most important.
1. It is urged by some that morality is learned directly by man from the dictates of the moral faculty within him, without any such process as that we have described, and without the necessity of any such revelation as the Bible supplies. This objection appears under a somewhat different aspect, according as the faculty in question is viewed as a moral sense or as conscience.
The doctrine of a moral sense, as held by the school of Hutcheson, led to the conclusion that as by our outward senses we acquire directly a perception of the sensible qualities of objects, so by this inner sense we acquire directly a perception of the moral qualities of objects. To this doctrine, as adduced to explain the ground of moral distinctions, we have already offered what appears to us an insuperable objection; we have now to observe, that it appears no less futile as adduced to show how we become acquainted with moral distinctions. And here it may suffice to remark, that the analogy on which it is founded needs only to be correctly stated to exhibit its inadequacy. Let it be assumed that there is an inner sense, having for its object the moral qualities of actions and acting, analogously to our outward senses, which have for their objects the sensible qualities of objects : what, we ask, is it that these outward senses convey to us? Simply a sensation, and nothing more. The mind, reasoning upon this, infers that that sensation must have a cause, and so arrives at the conclusion that there is some quality in bodies which produces certain sensations ; but from the senses themselves nothing is directly conveyed to the mind except a sensation. Let us, then, apply this to the supposed analogous case of a moral sense. *All that such a faculty could convey to the mind would be a certain feelingsay of pleasure or the opposite ; and from this the mind might pass to the conclusion that for this there was some cause. Here the process, so far as the moral sense is concerned, must end.