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the Christian may reasonably wonder. And how | arising from them is as great, if we choose to make does Milton prove its truth?' He cites from Scrip- difficulties for ourselves, as that which arises from ture ten passages; of which eight are from the Old variations in his moral laws. Even in infidelity wesha Testament and two from the New. The reader will find no rest : the objections lead us onward to athebe curious to know what these two are:-“ If any ism. He who will not believe in a Deity unless be man come to me and hate not his father and mother can reconcile all the facts before his eyes with his --he cannot be my disciple.' And the rebuke to notions of the divine attributes, must deny tbat a Peter; “ Get thee behind me, Satan.” † The cita- | Deity exists. I talked of rest :- Alas! there is no tion of such passages shows that no passages to the rest in infidelity or in atheism. To disbelieve in purpose could be found.
revelation or in God, is not to escape from a belief in It may be regarded therefore as a general rule, things which you do not comprehend, but to transfer that none of the injunctions or permissions which your belief to a new class of such things. Unbelie! formed a part of the former dispensations. can be is credulity. The infidel is more credulous than the referred to as of authority to us, except so far as Christian, and the atheist is the most credulous of they are coincident with the Christian law. To our mankind: that is, he believes important propositions own Master we stand or fall; and our Master is upon less evidence than any other man, and in oppoChrist.--And in estimating this coincidence, it is not sition to greater. requisite to show that a given rule or permission of It is curious to observe the anxiety of some writers the former dispensations is specifically superseded in to reconcile some of the facts before us with the the New Testament. It is sufficient if it is not “moral perfections” of the Deity; and it is instrue accordant with the general spirit; and this consider- tive to observe into what doctrines they are led ation assumes greater weight when it is connected | They tell us that all the evil and all the pain in the with another which is hereafter to be noticed—that world, are parts of a great system of Benevolence. it is by the general spirit of the Christian morality “ The moral and physical evil observable in the that many of the duties of man are to be discovered. system, according to men’s limited views of it, are
Yet it is always to be remembered, that the laws necessary parts of the great plan; all tending ultiwhich are thus superseded were, nevertheless, the mately to produce the greatest sum of happiness laws of God. Let not the reader suppose that we upon the whole, not only with respect to the system would speak or feel respecting them otherwise than in general, but to each individual, according to the with that reverence which their origin demands-station he occupies in it."* They affirm that God or that we would take any thing from their present is an “allwise Being, who directs all the movements obligation but that which is taken by the Lawgiver of nature, and who is determined, by his own unalhimself. It may indeed be observed, that in all his terable perfections, to maintain in it at all times, the dispensations there is a harmony, a one pervading greatest possible quantity of happiness.”+ principle, which, without other evidence, indicates Creator found, therefore, that to inflict the misery that they proceeded from the same authority. The which now exists, was the best means of promoting variations are circumstantial rather than fundamental; this happiness—that to have abated the evil, the sufand, after all, the great principles in which they fering, or the misery, would be to have diminished accord, far outweigh the particular applications in the sun of felicity-and that men could not have which they differ. The Mosaic Dispensation was been better or more at ease than they are, without
a schoolmaster” to bring us, not merely through making them on the whole more vicious or unthe medium of types and prophecies, but through its happy !- These things are beacons which should moral law, to Christ. Both the one and the other
The speculations show that not only reliwere designed as preparatives; and it was probablygion, but reason, dictates the propriety of acquiesas true of these moral laws as of the prophecies, cing in that degree of ignorance in which it has that the Jews did not perceive their relationship to pleased God to leave us; because they show, that Christianity as it was actually introduced into the attempts to acquire knowledge may conduct us to world.
folly. These are subjects upon which he acts most
rationally, who says to his reason-be still. Respecting the variations of the moral law, some persons greatly and very needlessly perplex themselves by indulging in such questions as these .“ If,” say they, “ God be perfect, and if all the dispensations are communications of bis will, how hap- It is remarkable that many of these precepts, and pens it that they are not uniform in their requisitions especially those of the Christian Scriptures, are deHow happens it that that which was required by In- | livered, not systematically but occasionally. They finite Knowledge at one time, was not required by are distributed through occasional discourses and Infinite Knowledge at another ?” I answer- I can- occasional letters. Except in the instance of the not tell. And what then? Does the enquirer think | law of Moses, the speaker or writer rarely set about this a sufficient reason for rejecting the authority of a formal exposition of moral truth. The precepts the Christian law? If inability to discover the rea- were delivered as circumstances called them forth sons of the moral government of God be a good or made them needful. There is nothing like a sysmotive to doubt its authority, we may involve our- tem of morality; nor, consequently, does there exist selves in doubts without end. Why does a Being that completeness, that distinctness in defining and who is infinitely pure permit moral evil in the world? accuracy in limiting, which, in a system of morality, Why does he who is perfectly benevolent permit we expect to find. Many rules are advanced in short physical suffering ? Why did he suffer our first absolute prohibitions or injunctions, without assignparents to fall? Why, after they had fallen, did he ing any of those exceptions to their practical applinot immediately repair the loss? Why was the cation, which the majority of such rules require.Messiah's appearance deferred for four thousand The enquiry, in passing, may be permitted— Why years? Why is not the religion of the Messiah
This is given as the belief of Dr Priestly. See Memoirs : universally known and universally operative at the Ap. No. 5. present day? To all these questions, and to many
+ Adam Smith : Theory of Moral Sentiments. See also T.
Southwood Smith's Illustrations of the Divine Government, others, no answer can be given: and the difficulty
in which unbridled license of speculation has led the writer • Luke xiv, 26. † Mark viii. 33.
into some instructive absurdities.
MODE OF APPLYING THE PRECEPTS OF SCRIPTURE
TO QUESTIONS OF DETI.
are these things so? When it is considered what mother more than himself. The paramount love to the Christian dispensation is, and what it is designed God is to be manifested by obedience.* So, then, to effect upon the conduct of man, it cannot be sup- we are to obey the commands of God in preference posed that the incompleteness of its moral precepts to those of our parents. “ All human authority happened by inadvertence. The precepts of the for- ceases at the point where obedience becomes crimi. mer dispensation are much more precise ; and it is
nal.”+ scarcely to be supposed that the more perfect dis- Of some precepts, it is evident that they were depensation would have had a less precise law, unless signed to be understood conditionally. “ When thou the deficiency were to be compensated from some prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast
other authoritative source :-- which remark is of. shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in si# fered as a reason, a priori, for expecting that, in cret,” | This precept is conditional: I doubt not
the present dispensation, God would extend the ope- that it is consistent with his will that the greater ration of his law written in the heart.
number of the supplications which man offers at his But whatever may be thought of this, it is mani- throne shall be offered in secret ; yet, that the prefest that considerable care is requisite in the appli- cept does not exclude the exercise of public prayer, cation of precepts, so delivered, to the conduct of is evident from this consideration, if from no other, life. To apply them in all cases literally, were to that Christ and his apostles themselves practised it. act neither reasonably nor consistently with the de- Some precepts are figurative, and describe the spirit sign of the Lawgiver : to regard them in all cases and temper that should govern us, rather than the as mere general directions, and to subject them to the particular actions that we should perform. Of this una uthorized revision of man, were to deprive them there is an example in,“ Whosoever shall compel thee of their proper character and authority as divine to go a mile, go with him twain.”$ In promulgating laws. In proposing some grounds for estimating some precepts, a principal object appears to have the practical obligation of these precepts, I would | been, to supply sanctions. Thus in the case of Civil be first allowed to express the conviction, that the Obedience: we are to obey because the Deity authosimple fact that such a disquisition is needed, and rizes the institution of Civil Government --because that the moral duties are to be gathered rather by the magistrate is the minister of God for good; implication or general tenor than from specific and and, accordingly, we are to obey not from considerformal rules, is one indication amongst the many, ations of necessity only, but of duty; " not only that the dispensation of which these precepts form for wrath, but for conscience sake.”|| One precept, a part, stands not in words but in power : and I if we accepted it literally, would enjoin us to “hate" hope to be forgiven, even in a book of morality, if our parents; and this acceptation, Milton appears I express the conviction that none can fulfil their actually to have adopted. One would enjoin us to requisitions-that none indeed can appreciate them accumulate no property : Lay not up for yourwithout some participation in this “power.” I say selves treasures upon earth.” Such rules are selhe cannot appreciate them. Neither the morals nor dom mistaken in practice; and, it may be observed, the religion of Christianity can be adequately esti- that this is an indication of their practical wisdom, mated by the man who sits down to the New Tes- and their practical adaptation to the needs of man. tament, with no other preparation than that which it is not an easy thing to pronounce, as occasions is necessary in sitting down to Euclid or Newton. arise, a large number of moral precepts in uncondiThere must be some preparation of heart as well as tional language, and yet to secure them from the integrity of understanding—or, as the appropriate probability of even great misconstructions. Let the language of the volume itself would express it, it is reader make the experiment.— Occasionally, but necessary that we should become, in some degree, it is only occasionally, a sincere Christian, in his the "sheep” of Christ before we can accurately anxiety to conform to the mural law, accepts such “ know his voice."
precepts in a more literal sense than that in which There is one clear and distinct ground upon which they appear to have been designed to be applied. we may limit the application of a precept that is I once saw a book that endeavoured to prove the couched in absolute language-the unlawfulness, in unlawfulness of accumulating any property ; upon any given conjuncture, of obeying it.
“ Submit the authority, primarily, of this last quoted precept. yourselves to every ordinance of man.'
."* This, lite- The principle upon which the writer proceeded was rally, is an unconditional command.
But if we just and right—that it is necessary to conform, unwere to obey it unconditionally, we should sometimes conditionally, to the expressed Will of God. The comply with human, in opposition to divine laws. defect was in the criticism; that is to say, in ascerIn such cases then, the obligation is clearly sus- taining what that Will did actually require. pended; and this distinction, the first teachers of Another obviously legitimate ground of limiting Christianity recognized in their own practice. When the application of absolute precepts, is afforded us in
“ ordinance of man” required them to forbear just biblical criticism. Not that critical disquisitions the promulgation of the new religion, they refused are often necessary to the upright man who seeks obedience; and urged the befitting expostulation for the knowledge of his duties. God has not left * Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken the knowledge of his moral law so remote from the unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”+ So, too, sincere seekers of his will. But in deducing public with the filial relationship : “ Children obey your rules as authoritative upon mankind, it is needful to parents in all things."! But a parent may require take into account those considerations which critihis child to lie or steal; and therefore when a pa- cism supplies. The construction of the original rent requires obedience in such things his authority languages and their peculiar phraseology, the habits, ceases, and the obligation to obedience is taken away manners, and prevailing opinions of the times, and by the moral law itself. The precept, so far as the the circumstances under which a precept was delipresent ground of exception applies, is virtually vered, are evidently amongst these considerations. this: Obey your parents in all things, unless disobe- And literary criticism is so much the more needed, dience is required by the will of God. Or the subject might be illustrated thus: The Author of
* If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.- John Christianity reprobates those who love father or
+ Mor, and Pol. Phil.
* Matt. vi. 6. $ Matt, v. 41.
| Rom. xiii. 5. .ets iv. !3.
Col. ii, 20.
1 Pet. ii, 13.
Mutt vi 19.
because the great majority of mankind have access in few words; or rather, they convey a great mass to Seripture only through the medium of translations. of moral instruction within a sentence that all may
But in applying all these limitations to the abso- remember and that few can mistake. “ All things lute precepts of Scripture, it is to be remembered whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do that we are not subjecting their authority to inferior ye even so to them,”* is of greater utility in the principles. We are not violating the principle upon practice of life, and is applicable to more circumwhich these essays proceed, that the expression of stances, than a hundred rules which presented the the Divine Will is our ultimate law. We are oniy exact degree of kindness or assistance that should ascertaining what that expression is. If, after just be afforded in prescribed cases. The Mosaic law, and authorized examination, any precept should still rightly regarded, conveyed many clear expositions appear to stand imperative in its absolute form, we of human duty; yet the quibbling and captious accept it as obligatory in that form. Many such scribes of old found, in the literalities of that law, precepts there are; and being such, we allow no more plausible grounds for evading its duties, than considerations of convenience, nor of expediency, can be found in the precepts of the Christian Scripnor considerations of any other kind, to dispense tures. with their authority.
One great use of such enquiries as these, is to vin- There are a few precepts of which the application dicate to the apprehensions of men the authority of is so extensive in human affairs, that I would, in conthe precepts themselves. It is very likely to happen, formity with some of the preceding remarks, briefly and to some negligent enquirers it does happen, that enquire into their practical obligation. Of these, seeing a precept couched in unconditional language, that which has just been quoted for another purpose, which yet cannot be unconditionally obeyed, they “ All things whatsoever ye would that men should call in question its general obligation. Their minds do to you, do ye even so to them,” † is perhaps cited fix upon the idea of some consequences which would and recommended more frequently than any other. result from a literal obedience, and feeling assured The difficulty of applying this precept has induced that those consequences ought not to be undertaken, some to reject it as containing a moral maxim which they set aside the precept itself. They are at little is not sound: but perhaps it will be found, that the paios to enquire what the proper requisitions of the deficiency is not in the rule but in the non-applicaprecept are-glad, perhaps, of a specious excuse for bility of the cases to which it has often been applied. not regarding it at all. The careless reader, per- It is not applicable when the act which another ceiving that a literal compliance with the precept would that we should do to him, is in itself unlawful to give the cloak to him who takes a coat, would be or adverse to some other portion of the Moral Law. neither proper nor right, rejects the whole precept If I seize a thief in the act of picking a pocket, he of which it forms an illustration; and in doing this, undoubtedly "would” that I should let him yo; rejects one of the most beautiful, and important, and and I, if our situations were exchanged, shou d wish sacred requisitions of the Christian law.*
it too. But I am not therefore to release him; be
cause, since it is a Christian obligation upon the maThere are two modes in which moral obligations gistrate to punish offenders, the obligation descends are imposed in Scripture-by particular precepts, to me to secure them for punishment. Besides, in and by general rules. The one prescribes a duty every such case I must do as I would be done unto upon one subject, the other upon very many. The with respect to all parties concerned—the public as applicability of general rules is nearly similar to that well as the thief. The precept, again, is not appli. of what is usually called the spirit of the gospel, the
cable when the desire or the second party is such as spirit of the moral law: which spirit is of very wide a Christian cannot lawfully indulge. An idle and enubrace in its application to the purposes of life. profligate man asks me to give him money. It " In estimating the value of a moral rule, we are to would be wrong to indulge such a man's desire, and have regard not only to the particular duty, but the therefore the precept does not apply. general spirit; not only to what it directs us to do, "The reader will perhaps say; that a person's dubut to the character which a compliance with its ties in such cases are sufficiently obvious without direction is likely to form in us."'In this manner, the gravity of illustration. Well-but are the priasome particular precepts become, in fact, generai ciples upon which the duties are ascertained 'thus rules; and the duty that results from these rules, obvious ? This is the important point. In the affrom this spirit, is as obligatory as that which is im- l'airs of life, many cases arise in which a person has posed by a specific injunction. Christianity requires to refer to such principles as these, and in which, if us to maintain universal benevolence towards man- he does not apply the right principles, he will transkind; and he who, in his conduct towards another, gress the Christian law.
The law appears to be in disregards this benevolence, is as truly and some- effect this, Do as you would be done unto, except in times as flagrantly a violator of the moral law, as if those instances in which to act otherwise is permitted he had transgressed the command, “ Thou shalt not by Christ anity. Inferior grounds of limitation are steal.” This doctrine is indeed recommended by a often applied; and they are always wrong; because degree of utility that makes its adoption almost a they always subject the Moral Law to suspension by necessity; because no number of specific precepts
inferior authorities. To do this, is to reject the auwould be sufficient for the purposes of moral instruc- thority of the Divine Will, and to place this beautition: so that, if we were destitute of this species of ful expression of that Will at the mercy of every general rules, we should frequently be destitute, so
man's inclination, far as external precepts are concerned, of any. It * Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, appears by a note to the work which has just been do all to the glory of God."I have heard of tho cited, that in the Mussulman code, which proceeds members of some dinner club who had been recom. upon the system of a precise rule for a precise ques. mended to consider this precept, and who, in their tion, there have been promulgated seventy-five thou discussions over the bottle, thought perhaps that sand precepts. I regard the wide practical appli- they were arguing soundly when they held language cability of some of the Christian precepts as an ar
like this: “ Am I, in lifting this glass to my mouth, gument of great wisdom. They impose many duties to do it for the purpose of bringing glory to God!
• Matt v. 39
Evidences of Cristianity: P 2, C. 2.
• Vatt. vi, 12.
II Cor. . 3).
Is that to be my, motive in buying a horse or shoot of the rule,“ not to do evil that good may come, ing a pheasant ?” From such moralists much saga- Dr Paley says, that it “is, for the most part, it city of discrimination was not to be expected; and salutary caution.” A person might as well say that these questions delighted and probably convinced the rule “ not to commit murder" is a salutary cau. the club. The mistake of these persons, and per- tion. There is no caution in the matter, but an imhaps of some others, is, that they misunderstand the perative law. But he proceeds :-“ Strictly speakrule. The promotion of the Divine glory is not to ing, that cannot be evil from which good comes."* be the motive and purpose of all our ac ons, but, Now let the eader consider :- Faul says, You may having actions to perform, we are so to perform not do evil that good may come: Ay, but, says the them that this glory shall be advanced. The pre- philosopher, if good does come, the acts that bring it cept is in effect, Let your actions and the motives of about are not evil. What the apostle would have them be such, that others shall have reason to honour said of such a reasoner, I will not trust my pen supGod :*—and a precept like this is a very sensitive pose. The reader will perceive the foundation of test of the purity of our conduct. I know not this reasoning. It assumes that good and evil are whether there is a single rule of Christianity of not to be estimated by the expressions of the Will which the use is so constant and the application so of God, but by the effects of actions. The question universal. To do as we would be done by, refers to is clearly fundamental. If expediency be the ultirelative duties; Not to do evil that good may come, re- mate test of rectitude, Dr Paley is right; if the exfers to particular circumstances: but, To do all things pressions of the Divine Will are the ultimate test, so that the Deity may he honoured, refers to almost he is wrong. You must sacrifice the one authority every action of a man's life. Happily the Divine or the other. If this Will is the greater, conseglory is thus promoted by some men even in trifling quences are not : if consequences are the greater, affairs--almost whether they eat or drink, or what- this Will is not. But, this question is not now to be soever thing they do. There is, in truth, scarcely discussed : it may however be observed, that the ina more efficacious means of honouring the Deity, terpretation which the rule has been thus made to than the observing a constant Christian manner of bear, appears to be contradicted by the terms of the conducting our intercourse with men. Ile who rule itself. The rule of Christianity is, Evil nay habitually maintains his allegiance to religion and not be committed for the purpose of good : the rule to purity, who is moderate and chastised in all his of the philosophy is, Evil may not be committed pursuits, and who always makes the prospects of the except for the purpose of good.
Are these prefuture predominate over the temptations of the pre- cepts identical? Is there not a fundamental vari. sent, is one of the most efficacious recommenders of ance, an absolute contrariety between them ? Chrisgoodness--one of the most impressive "preachers tianity does not speak of evil and good as contingent, of righteousness,"--and by consequence, one of the but as fixed qualities. You cannot convert the one most efficient promoters of the glory of God. into the other by disquisitions about expediency. In
By a part of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, it af: morals, there is no philosopher's stone that can conpears that he and his coadjutors had been reported vert evil into good with a touch. Our labours, so to hold the doctrine, that it is lawful "to do evil long as the authority of the Moral Law is acknow. that good may come "+ This report he declares is ledged, will end like those of the physical alchymist : slanderous ; and expresses his reprobation of those after all our efforts at transmutation, lead will not who act upon the doctrine, by the short and em- become gold-evil will not become good. However, phatic declaration--their condemnation is just. This there is one subject of satisfaction in considering is not critically a prohibition, but it is a prohibition such reasonings as these. They prove, negatively, in effect; and the manner in which the doctrine is the truth which they assail ; for that against which reprobated, induces the belief that it was so flagitious nothing but sophistry can be urged, is undoubtedly that it needed very little enquiry or thought: in the true. The simple truth is, that if evil may be done writer's mind the transition is immediate, from the for the sake of good, all the precepts of Scripture idea of the doctrine to the punishment of those who which define or prohibit evil are laws no longer ; for adopt it.
that cannot in any rational use of language be called Now the “evil ” which is thus prohibited, is, any a law in respect of those to whom it is directed, if thing and all things discordant with the divine will; they are at liberty to neglect it when they think fit. so that the unsophisticated meaning of the rule is, | These precepts may be advices, recommendations, that nothing which is contrary to the Christian law “salutary cautions," but they are not laws. They may be done for the sake of attaining a beneficial may suggest hints, but they do not impose duties. end. Perhaps the breach of no moral rule is pro. With respect to the legitimate grounds of excepductive of more mischief than of this. That “the tion or limitation in the application of this rule, there end justifies the means,” is a maxim which many, appear to be few or none. The only question is, who condemn it as a maxim, adopt in their practice : What actions are eril? Which question is to be deand in political affairs it is not only habitually termined, ultimately, by the Will of God. adopted, but is indirectly, if not openly, defended as right. If a senator were to object to some measure of apparent public expediency, that it was not con
BENEVOLENCE, AS IT IS PROPOSED IN THE CHRISTIAN sistent with the moral law, he would probably be laughed at as a fanatic or a fool : yet perhaps some In enquiring into the great principles of that moral who are flippant with this charge of fanaticism and system which the Christian revelation institutes, we folly may be in perplexity for a proof. If the ex- discover one remarkable characteristic, one pervadpressed Will of God is our paramount law, no proof peculiarity by which it is distinguished from every can be brought ; and in truth it is not often that it other—the paramount emphasis which it lays upon is candidly attempted. I have not been amongst the exercise of pure Benevolence. It will be found the least diligent enquirers into the moral reasonings that this preference of “ Love” is wise as it is unexof men, but honest and manly reasoning against this ampled, and that no other general principle would portion of Scripture I have never found.
effect, with any approach to the same completeness,
the best and highest purposes of morality. How “Let your light so shine before men that they may see you good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven."
+ Rom. iii. 8.
• Mor, and Pol. Phil. h. 2, c. 8.
-Matt v. 16
easy soever it be for us, to whom the character and who does regard it, who uniformly considers wheobligations of this benevolence are comparatively ther his conduct towards another is consonant with familiar, to perceive the wisdom of placing it at the pure good-will, cannot be voluntarily unjust ; nor foundation of the Moral Law, we are indebted for can he who commits injustice do it without the con. the capacity, not to our own sagaciousness, but to sciousness, if he will reflect, that he is violating the light which has been communicated from heaven. law of Love. That integrity which is founded upon
That schoolmaster the law of Moses never taught, Love, when compared with that which has any other and the speculations of philosophy never discovered, basis, is recommended by its honour and dignity as that Love was the fulfilment of the Moral Law. well as by its rectitude. It is more worthy the man Eighteen hundred years ago this doctrine was a new as well as the Christian, more beautiful in the eye of commandment.
infidelity as well as of religior. Love is made the test of the validity of our claims It were easy, if it were necessary, to show in what to the Christian character—" By this shall all men manner the law of Benevolence applies to other rela. know that ye are my disciples.” Again," - Love tive duties, and in what manner, when applied, it one another. He that loveth another hath fulfilled purifies and exalts the fulfilment of them. But our the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, present business is with principles rather than with Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not bear false wit- their specific application. ness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any It is obvious that the obligations of this Benevoother commandment, it is briefly comprehended in lence are not merely prohibitory-directing us to this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour avoid " working ill” to another, but mandatoryas thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour : requiring us to do him good. That benevolence therefore Love is the fulfilling of the law.”† It is which is manifested only by doing no evil, is indeed not therefore surprising that after an enumeration, of a very questionable kind. To abstain from injusin another place, of various duties, the same dignified tice, to abstain from violence, to abstain from slanapostle says,
“ Above all these things pit on charity, der, is compatible with an extreme deficiency of love. which is the bond of perfectness.”. The inculcation There are many who are neither slanderous, nor of this Benevolence is as frequent in the Christian ferocious, nor unjust, who have yet very little regard Scriptures as its practical utility is great. He who for the benevolence of the gospel. In the illustra. will look through the volume will find that no topic tions therefore of the obligations of morality, wheis so frequently introduced, no obligation so empha- ther private or political, it will sometimes become tically enforced, no virtue to which the approbation our business to state, what this Benevolence requires of God is so specially promised. It is the theme of as well as what it forbids. The legislator whose all the “ apostolic exhortations, that with which their laws are contrived only for the detection and punish. morality begins and ends, from which all their details ment of offenders, fulfils but half his duty: if he and enumerations set out andinto which they return."$ would conform to the Christian standard, he must “ He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God provide also for their reformation. in him."|| More emphatical language cannot be employed. It exalts to the utmost the character of the virtue, and, in effect, promises its possessor the ut
CHAPTER VI. most favour and felicity. If then, of Faith, Hope, and Love, Love be the greatest ; if it be by the test of love that our pretensions to Christianity are to be tried ; if all the relative duties of morality are embraced in one word, and that word is Love; it is Conscience-Its nature-Its authority--Review of opinions obviously needful that, in a book like this, the requi.
respecting a moral sense-Bishop Butler-Lord Bacon
Lord Shaftesbury -- Watts- Voltaire - Locke-- Soutbeysitions of Benevolence should be habitually regarded Adam Smith - Paley - Rousseau - Milton -- Judge Halein the prosecution of its enquiries. And accordingly Marcus Antoninus--Epictetus-Seneca-Paul-That every the reader will sometimes be invited to sacrifice in
human being possesses a moral law---Pagans-Gradations of
light-- Prophecy-The immediate communication of the Diferior considerations to these requisitions, and to vine Will perpetual-of national vices : Infanticide : Duelgive to the law of Love that paramount station in ling-Of savage life. which it has been placed by the authority of God. It is certain that almost every offence against the
The reader is solicited to approach this subject relative duties, has its origin, if not in the malevo
with that mental seriousness which its nature requires. lent propensities, at least in those propensities which
Whatever be his opinions upon the subject, whether are incongruous with love. I know not whether it he believes in the reality of such communication or is possible to disregard any one obligation that not, he ought not even to think respecting it but with respects the intercourse of man with man, without feelings of seriousness. violating this great Christian law. This universal In endeavouring to investigate this reality, it beapplicability may easily be illustrated by referring comes especially needful to distinguish the commuto the obligations of Justice, obligations which, in
nication of the Will of God from those mental phecivilized communities, are called into operation more
nomena with which it has very commonly been frequently than almost any other. He who esti- intermingled and confounded. The want of this mates the obligations of justice by a reference to
distinction has occasioned a confusion which has been that Benevolence which Christianity prescribes, will greatly injurious to the cause of truth. It has occaform to himself a much more pure and perfect stand
sioned great obscurity of opinion respecting divine ard than he who refers to the law of the land, to the
instruction; and by associating error with truth, apprehension of exposure, or to the desire of reputa
has frequently induced scepticism respecting the tion. There are many ways in which a man can be
truth itself.— When an intelligent person perceives unjust without censure from the public, and without that infallible truth or divine authority is described violating the laws; but there is no way in which he as belonging to the dictates of “ Conscience,” and can be unjust without disregarding Christian Bene- when he perceives, as he must perceive, that these volence. It is an universal and very sensitive test. He
dictates are various and sometimes contradictory;
he is in danger of concluding that no unerring an. + Rom. xiii. 9. $ Evid. Christianity, p. 2, c. 2.
no divine guidance is accorded to man. 1 i John iv. 16.
Upon this serious si leject it is therefore peculiarly
THE IMMEDIATE COMMUNICATION OF TIIE WILL OF
• John xiii. 35.
Col. iii. 14.