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prove the insufficiency of this system, and refers us to revelation, as the only remaining source of moral light. Of the chapter respecting the mode in which we are to ascertain our duty from the Scriptures, it is sufficient to observe, that, excellent in itself, it would be more in place in a work on Christian Theology than in a book professing to treat only of Moral Science.
Rather the larger portion of the work is devoted to the subject of Practical Ethics. The general division of duties is founded on the passage of Scripture, which reduces all human obligations to love to God and man. In the subdivisions, something is sacrificed to the love of system and originality, by introducing a new terminology; as where the author treats of veracity, distinguished into that of the present and past, and of the future; comprehending under the latter head the doctrine of promises. It is no derogation from the merits of Dr. Wayland's book, to say that, in this portion of it, he has been largely indebted to Paley, an author whose excellent practical sense and clear reasoning, where he treats of casuistry applied to the common matters of life, have caused nearly all departures from his method to be considered as failures.
We have given but a brief analysis of the work, yet sufficient perhaps to present the general features of the system, and to serve as the foundation for some remarks on its merits. We object, in the first place, to the will of the Deity, being assumed in a treatise of this nature, as the source of all moral obligation. Moral science, no less than natural philosophy and history, is concerned with actual facts, with the explanation of existent phenomena. Words corresponding to duty, obligation, right, and wrong, exist in every language. In every age and nation, crimes have been visited with punishments irrespective in degree of the relative amount of evil resulting to the community from the commission of the acts. The parricide is everywhere regarded with greater horror and detestation, than the simple murderer; though if we look only to the general welfare, it matters not, whether a man be slain by a stranger, or by his own son. The loss of life, the loss to the community is equally great, and the necessity of guarding against the repetition of the act is equally cogent. What is the meaning of the class of words alluded to? Under what circumstances are they applied? What is the nature of the sentiments, under the influence of which they are used? Why
have punishments been made to vary on any other standard, than that of the various degrees of harm done to society?
So far as the Ethical philosopher attempts to answer these queries, he is not concerned with the question, what ought to be, which has been thought to cover the whole ground of Ethics, but with the question, what is. The inquiry respecting the will of the Deity, then, has nothing to do with the theoretical part of Moral Science, any more than the speculation concerning final causes has to do with Natural Philosophy. It is a different question, subsidiary perhaps to the main subject, but forming no integral part of that subject. What would be thought of the astronomer, who, when questioned concerning the cause of the moon's revolving round the earth, should answer that the immediate agency of the Deity sustained it in its monthly path? Equally irrelevant would be the reply of the moralist, when asked to explain the nature of the obligation under which Regulus acted, who should allege only the conformity of this act to the Divine will.
Again, a proper system of Ethics is universal in its application. It respects men simply as men, and not merely as Christians. It is designed for Jew and Gentile, Christian and Pagan, bond and free. The relation in which we stand to the Deity does indeed, as is stated by our author, transcend in importance all other relations. But it is paramount to the extent of setting aside the obligations arising from such other relations, only when the two classes of duties clash. Perhaps it will be difficult to prove, that a direct collision ever can occur between them. Reverence to the Deity comes in aid of conscience, and not to supersede its authority.
Could the will of God be made known to us by immediate inspiration, were it proclaimed by a voice from heaven, so as to admit of no doubt concerning its origin, no question respecting its meaning, then, indeed, the dictates of conscience would be no longer binding, and the creature would respect and obey the Creator alone. The father must be prepared to bind his son upon the pile, and "to be faithful even unto slaying," unless released from the dreadful duty by the same authority, which imposed the sacrifice. But we live under a different dispensation. We ascertain his will by inference, by diligent use of those faculties with which he has endowed us. Reason, judgment, the moral faculty itself, are employed, not merely in executing His commands, but in ascertaining what those com
mands are. and man.
These powers are the interpreters between God Thus in the perusal of Scripture, the only reason for construing a passage in a metaphorical sense is, often, that by a literal interpretation, it would convey a doctrine utterly repugnant to all our moral feelings. The law written on the heart expounds the law graven on tables of stone, and therefore cannot practically be subject to it, although theoretically of inferior obligation. As the interpreter, to us it is the ultimate approver of moral law.
We would not be misunderstood. It is not denied, that the obligations incumbent upon man are increased by a knowledge of revealed truth; that as moral rules are thus enforced by a higher sanction, the breach of them must be visited by a higher punishment. But to enforce these considerations is the province of the theologian, and not of the moralist. They belong to the pulpit as a part of religious truth, and not to the professor's chair as matters of science. Were it otherwise, to the Christian there would be no such science as Ethics. Morality would be merged in religion, and an important argument for the truth of Christianity, grounded on the conformity of its moral precepts to the dictates of natural law, would be entirely lost.
These reasons appear to us conclusive against a direct reference in a system of Moral Philosophy to the revealed will of the Deity. Yet the opposite doctrine is stated by Dr. Wayland in the broadest and most offensive terms.
"Thus the obligation to act religiously, or piously, extends to the minutest action of our lives, and no action of any sort whatever can be, in the full acceptation of the term, virtuous, that is, be entitled to the praise of God, which does not involve in its motives the temper of filial obedience to the Deity. And still more, as this obligation is infinitely superior to any other that can be conceived, an action performed from the conviction of any other obligation, if this obligation be excluded, fails, in infinitely the most important respect; and must, by the whole amount of this deficiency, expose us to the condemnation of the law of God, whatever that condemnation may be." ―pp. 156.
This is a remarkable paragraph. We cannot believe, that the author penned it with that degree of consideration, which appears to have been bestowed on every other portion of the work. Experience has proved, what reason indeed might have discovered, that a literal interpretation of the command
to "do all things to the glory of God," can lead only to the wildest excesses of fanaticism. It is a mark of the highest attainments in virtue, to have cultivated such dispositions of mind, as lead to the immediate, almost the involuntary, performance of benevolent acts. Deliberation upon the course of conduct, which duty requires, is often inconsistent with the noble quickness of purpose, which belongs to a truly generous character. It is idle to object, that because his actions are habitual, they are automatic, and as such not meritorious. The formation of an evil habit is no excuse for the practice of vice. Why should a good habit rob a virtuous deed of its praiseworthy character? A sailor plunges from the deck of a vessel, at the imminent hazard of his life, to rescue a fellowbeing from the waves. He does it from the mere instinct of humanity, without a thought on the common relation of the sufferer and himself to the Deity, or on the necessity of rendering obedience to the Divine commands. Yet to deny to such an act the character of virtue is to contradict the general verdict of mankind.
We admit, that a wilful violation of the known will of the Deity for the sake of performing any other duty, however imperative, an attempt, for instance, to save a parent from starvation by turning robber on the highway is sinful, and deserving of the highest punishment. But the principle of Dr. Wayland goes much farther. We are exposed to the dreadful consequences of the law, if this obligation to render obedience to the Deity "be excluded;" that is, if it be left aside, not taken into view; not, if it be known, and yet intentionally disregarded. We can hardly believe, that a person of naturally kind and benevolent feelings can entertain so monstrous a proposition. It is the nature of these feelings to require immediate gratification. They lie, if we may be allowed the expression, in direct contact with the will, and an action which is prompted by them is performed wholly under their influence, without reference to any ulterior rule or motive. Is it a crime to yield to such impulses? Is it sinful to cultivate such feelings?
The weakness of human nature is such, that it requires to be goaded into action by more sharp and powerful motives, than are afforded by the cool and deliberate deductions of the understanding. Passion and appetite must concur with reason and the general desire of happiness. Man is partly an in
stinctive being. Were it not for the pains of hunger and thirst, though reason might teach the necessity of taking nourishment, lest the body should gradually waste away, yet the act of supporting the physical system would be too often postponed or entirely neglected. The same is the case with our moral nature. Conscience and the social and benevolent affections act directly on the will. The mother cherishes her offspring, not from any consideration of duty either to society or the Supreme Being, but from the instinct of maternal love. Pity prompts to relief, magnanimity to self-sacrifice; the feeling of justice shrinks instinctively from any violation of another's right. It is dangerous to suppress such feelings, and to introduce motives, of higher authority perhaps, but less urgent, sure, and immediate in their operation. Obedience to the Deity is shown in the cultivation and control of proper affections, and not in superseding them as motives to action. The bigot thinks he does God service, when he severs the bonds of natural affection, and binds his own brother to the stake. The fanatic casts away all human ties, and impressed with the belief, that he is selected for a peculiar mission, to enlighten the human race and glorify the Deity on earth, acts consistently with this notion, and violates without compunction every law of God and man.
Dr. Wayland's whole system of Theoretical and Practical Ethics is founded on Scripture, and must be regarded as the ingenious attempt of a mind deeply imbued with religious feeling, to show the sufficiency of the Bible, not only for the regulation of human life and character, but for the guidance of at least one branch of scientific research. We will not say,
that the book is written in the very spirit, which has prompted some ill-judging divines to discredit and defame the most eminent geologists of the day, on account of a real or fancied discrepancy between the results of their discoveries and the Mosaic account of the creation. But we could wish, that the work was not open to censure of another kind; that its author had not shown the danger of confounding peculiar theological opinions with the great principles of religious truth; that he had not attempted to maintain the doctrines of a sect, when he fancied, that he was only writing on matters of science, and defending Christianity. That a Calvinistic writer on Ethics should endeavor, when treating of human nature, to lay a foundation for the doctrines of original sin, total depravity, and
VOL. XXII. 3D S. VOL. IV. NO. III.