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other things being equal, should determine us in favor of the one course rather than the other. Our conclusion, then, is that in regard to specific duties we are permitted, nay, bound, to inquire carefully for all the peculiar circumstances of the case, and to judge, as well as we may, in regard to the probable consequences of the act, that so we may learn in what way and to what degree the general principles of abstract right and wrong are to be modified in their particular applications.
But we will not close our discussion with this conclusion, drawn from an examination of the question by the light of reason alone. For the question, we are aware, will arise in the minds of Christians, "Is this conclusion in accordance with the general spirit and tenor of gospel instructions?" To us it seems that our conclusions do harmonize with one prominent and striking peculiarity of the gospel. We allude to the fact that our Saviour lays down no positive cases in regard to specific duties. Had he attempted this, it is more than probable that his code would have taken its character from Jewish peculiarities. At least it must have been expressed in language drawn from these peculiarities, which would have given it a Jewish tinge. But our Saviour laid down general principles, and left it for each individual to determine for himself and from his own peculiar circumstances, in what manner these principles are to be applied to his own specific duties. He does not, for example, specify any particular acts of duty to be performed towards our neighbour, and enjoin the performance of them as a positive and unalterable duty. But he does lay down a general principle, which no true follower of his should ever violate. He says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." This is a principle of general, of universal application. It may be applied in a later as well as in an earlier age of the Christian church, in America as well as in Judea. But, in the application of this principle to the specific duties of neighbourly kindness, each individual is permitted, because from the very nature of the case he is compelled to judge for himself, from the peculiar circumstances of his situation. Take another instance. "Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you." This, like the last, is a general principle of universal application. And here, too, as before, each individual must judge for himself and from his own circumstances, in what way it is to be applied to his own specific duties. The distinction which we make may, in regard to these two principles, be clearly seen from an illus
tration. No man, for example, has a right to ask whether it be expedient or useful to love his neighbour as himself, to do unto others as he would have them do unto him. These are abstract principles of duty, settled by an authority higher than the most certain conclusions of reason. But every individual has a right, and is in duty bound, to ask whether these general principles require him to conduct towards his neighbour, in any particular case, in this way or in that. A fellow-man calls at our door to solicit charity. We may not say that we are not bound to love this individual as ourselves, to do unto him as we would have him, in an exchange of circumstances, do unto us. But we may, indeed, we ought, to ask in what way our love should in this particular case be manifested. Or, to take a case in regard to which much has been said in some of our papers. When Dr. Ely met the slave Ambrose, he had no right to say, am not bound to regard this man as my neighbour, to love him as myself, to do unto him as I should wish him, in an exchange of circumstances, to do unto me." But he had a right, and was in duty bound, to ask how these general principles were to be applied to this particular case, this specific act. And this question he must of necessity determine by looking at the peculiar circumstances of the case, and inquiring for the probable consequences of the various courses which might be suggested. We have brought forward two general principles, and illustrated the manner in which they are to be applied to specific duties. If these may be regarded as specimens of the general spirit and tenor of gospel instructions, we trust that our conclusion will not be found to be in opposition to them.
The length to which our discussion has already extended, reminds us that we should be drawing our remarks to a close. But we cannot refrain from adding one practical inference. It relates to the mode in which we are to approach those who may differ from us upon questions of duty. Our first step is to investigate and establish, as far as we may be able, the general and abstract principles of duty. These will, in most cases, approve themselves to the minds of all. Should there be a difference on general and abstract principles, it can be settled only by the superior weight of argument in favor of one side or the other, or by a change of feelings in the individuals so differing. But the differences, which most generally prevail, relate to the application of general principles to specific duties. We should approach one who may differ from us on this point not merely by
a declaration of what we may regard as right in the abstract, and of the obligations he is under to conform to this, without reference to his peculiar circumstances. Much less are we to approach him in bitter denunciation, because he does not at once adopt the course we may point out. If we take this course, we shall labor in vain. Our fellow man is our equal. He will not admit our authority nor our ability to interpret questions of duty for him, and the very attempt to do this, on our part, will only excite a prejudice against us. On the contrary, would we approach one who differs from us on questions of duty, with hope of success, we must start with the admission that he is to judge for himself, is the only person capable of judging, and that he must judge from the various peculiarities of his own situation. Then we should throw ourselves, as far as possible, into his circumstances, and enter into his feelings, that so we may view the subject from the same position from which he views it, and look at it through the same medium. In this way we are to seek for the obstacles which present themselves to his mind, that we may allow them their full weight, or show them to be unworthy of regard. And thus by meeting him in all kindness and love upon his own ground, and arguing with him upon his own premises, we may, perhaps, convince him of the propriety of the course we are pursuing, and persuade him to unite with us.
In regard to the subject of slavery, for example, we are first to seek for the general and abstract principles of duty. Taking these for our guide, we are to approach the slaveholder with the admission, that, in the application of the general principles to the specific acts of duty which are required of him, he is himself the only judge, because he only understands all the peculiarities of the case. And then we are to place ourselves, as far as may be, in his circumstances, to study and enter into all his feelings, that so we may know just how the subject presents itself to his mind, just what obstacles and difficulties he discovers, that so we may, in all brotherly kindness, meet him upon his own ground, and argue with him from premises, the correctness of which he himself admits. This is the point where Abolitionists have failed. They have investigated carefully, and stated strongly, the general and abstract principles of duty upon the subject. But they have overlooked the distinction between the investigation and statement of these, and the application of them to particular cases and specific duties. VOL. XXII. 3D S. VOL. IV.
And the recognition of this distinction is what we regard as
So, too, it seems to us that the association formed in Boston, and called "The American Union for the Relief and Improvement of the Colored Race," has adopted more correct views than the Abolitionists. They agree with the Abolitionists in regard to the abstract question, the general principles. But they recognise the truth of the position we have endeavoured to maintain, that these general principles are to be modified in their application to specific duties. They state distinctly their opinion in regard to the general principles. But they do not approach the slaveholder with bitter denunciations for not at once acting in accordance with them. Their wish is to approach him in kindness and with inquiries, to learn what are
the peculiar circumstances of the case, what the particular obstacles which present themselves to the mind of a slaveholder. It is, in short, their endeavour to throw themselves as far as possible into the very circumstances of those who are called upon to act, that so they may be the better able to judge of the duty required, that so they may be able to meet the slaveholder upon his own ground, and reason with him upon premises, the correctness of which he himself admits.
In conclusion we would say, we have spoken because we have feared that amidst the excitement and agitation which are abroad, first principles are lost sight of, and because we have thought it important to call the attention of our readers to an examination of them. We cannot but express the hope, that, whether our remarks themselves may attract attention or not, the subject upon which we have spoken will secure the deep and careful thought of all engaged in the great moral and benevolent movements of the day.
ART. III. Text-Book of Ecclesiastical History. By J. C. I. GIESELER, Doctor of Philosophy and Theology, and Professor of Theology in Gottingen. Translated from the third German Edition, by FRANCIS CUNNINGHAM. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard. 1836. 3 vols. 8vo.
THE want of some better text-book of ecclesiastical history, than has been heretofore in use among us, has been long felt. After all the labor expended on Mosheim's "Institutes,' by Dr. Murdock, for which we are disposed to allow him full credit, the work is not suited to the purpose of the historical student. We agree with Professor Sears, who says that "it can no longer be used." Neander's work, however great its merit in other respects, is not to be thought of as a text-book. That, as the writer just quoted accurately observes, "has another design, Guericke's is too polemical and unattractive, and Hase's is too brief." * We hesitate not to say, with
* Prof. Sears, of the Newton Theological Institution. See commendatory notices prefixed to Mr. Cunningham's translation of Gieseler.