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lutely incompatible with the doctrines that are quoted in the preceding paragraph.
These incongruities of principle are sometimes brought into operation in framing practical rules. In the chapter on Suicide it is shown that Scripture disallows the act. Here then we might conclude that there was "an end to all further deliberation;" and yet, in the same chapter, we are told that suicide would nevertheless be justifiable if it were expedient. Respecting Civil Obedience he says, the Scriptures inculcate the duty" and "enforce the obligation;" but notwithstanding this, he pronounces that the "only ground of the subjects' obligation" consists in Expediency. If it consists only in expediency, the divine law upon the subject is a dead letter. In one chapter he says that murder would be right if it was useful; † in another, that "one word" of prohibition “from Christ is final." The words of Christ cannot be final, if we are afterwards to enquire whether murder is "useful" or not. One other illustration will suffice. In laying down the rights of the magistrate, as to making laws respecting religion, he makes Utility the ultimate standard; so that whatever the magistrate thinks it useful to ordain, that he has a right to ordain. But in stating the subjects' duties as to obeying laws respecting religion, he makes the commands of God the ultimate standard. The consequence is inevitable, that it is right for the magistrate to command an act, and right for the subject to refuse to obey it. In a sound system of morality such contradictions would be impossible. There is a contradiction even in terms. In one place
he says, 66 Wherever there is a right in one person there is a corresponding obligation upon others." In another place, "The right of the magistrate to ordain and the obligation of the subject to obey, in matters of religion, may be very different."P
Perhaps the reader will say that these inconsistencies, however they may impeach the skilfulness of the writer, do not prove that his system is unsound, or that Utility is not still the ultimate standard of rectitude. We answer, that to a Christian writer such inconsistencies are unavoidable. He is obliged, in conformity with the principles of his religion, to acknowledge the divine, and therefore the supreme authority of Scripture; and if, in addition to this, he assumes that any other is supreme, inconsistency must ensue. For the same consequence follows the adoption of any other ultimate standard-whether sympathy, or right reason, or eternal fitness, or nature.
If the writer is a Christian he cannot, without falling into inconsistencies, assert the supremacy of any of these principles: that is to say, when the precepts of Scripture dictate one action, and a reasoning from his principle dictates another, he must make his election: If he prefers his principle, Christianity is abandoned: if he prefers Scripture, his principle is subordinate: if he alternately prefers the one and the other, he falls into the vacillation and inconsistency of which we speak.
Bearing still in mind that the rule "to endeavour to produce the greatest happiness in our power," is .objectionable only when it is made an ultimate rule, the reader is invited to attend to these short considerations.
I. In computing human happiness, the advocate of Expediency does not sufficiently take into the account our happiness in futurity. Nor indeed does he always take it into account at all. One definition says, "The test of the morality of an act is its tendency to promote the temporal advantage of the greatest number in the society to which we belong."
*Mor. and Pol. Phil. B. 5, c. 3. B. 3. p. 3, c. 2.
B. 2, c. 9.
+ B. 2, c. 6. B. 6, p. 3, c. 10. B. 6, p. 3, c. 10.
Now many things may be very expedient if death were annihilation, which may be very inexpedient now and therefore it is not unreasonable to expect, nor an unreasonable exercise of humility to act upon the expectation, that the divine laws may sometimes impose obligations of which we do not perceive the expediency or the use. "It may so fall out," says Hooker, "that the reason why some laws of God were given, is neither opened nor possible to be gathered by the wit of man."* And Pearson says, "There are many parts of morality, as taught by revelation, which are entirely independent of an accurate knowledge of nature."† And Gisborne, "Our experience of God's dispensations by no means permits us to affirm, that he always thinks fit to act in such a manner as is productive of particular expediency; much less to conclude that he wills us always to act in such a manner as we suppose would be productive of it." All this sufficiently indicates that Expediency is wholly inadmissible as an ultimate rule.
II. The doctrine is altogether unconnected with the Christian revelation, or with any revelation from heaven. It was just as true, and the deductions from it just as obligatory, two or five thousand years ago as now. The alleged supreme law of morality-"Whatever is expedient is right"-might have been taught by Epictetus as well as by a modern Christian. But are we then to be told that the revelations from the Deity have conveyed no moral knowledge to man? that they make no act obligatory which was not obligatory before? that he who had the fortune to discover that "whatever is expedient is right," possessed a moral law just as perfect as that which God has ushered into the world, and much more comprehensive?
III. If some subordinate rule of conduct were proposed some principle which served as an auxiliary moral guide-I should not think it a valid objection to its truth, to be told that no sanction of the principle was to be found in the written revelation but if some rule of conduct were proposed as being of universal obligation, some moral principle which was paramount to every other-and I discovered that this principle was unsanctioned by the written revelation, I should think this want of sanction was conclusive evidence against it: because it is not credible that a revelation from God, of which one great object was to teach mankind the moral law of God, would have been silent respecting a rule of conduct which was to be an universal guide to. man. We apply these considerations to the doctrine of Expediency: Scripture contains not a word upon the subject.
IV. The principles of Expediency necessarily proceed upon the supposition that we are to investigate the future, and this investigation is, as every one knows, peculiarly without the limits of human sagacity: an objection which derives additional force from the circumstance that an action, in order to be expedient, "must be expedient on the whole, at the long run, in all its effects, collateral and remote."§ I do not knew whether, if a man should sit down expressly to devise a moral principle which should be uncertain and difficult in its application, he could devise one that would be more difficult and uncertain than this. So that, as Dr Paley himself acknowledges, "It is impossible to ascertain every duty by an immediate reference to public utility." The reader may therefore conclude with Dr Johnson, that "by presuming to determine what is fit and what is beneficial, they presuppose more knowledge
of the universal system than man has attained, and therefore depend upon principles too complicated and extensive for our comprehension: and there can be no security in the consequence when the premises are not understood."*
V. But whatever may be the propriety of investigating all consequences "collateral and remote," it is certain that such an investigation is possible only in that class of moral questions which allows a man time to sit down and deliberately to think and compute. As it respects that large class of cases in which a person must decide and act in a moment, it is wholly useless. There are thousands of conjunctures in life in which a man can no more stop to calculate effects collateral and remote, than he can stop to cross the Atlantic and it is difficult to conceive that any rule of morality can be absolute and universal, which is totally inapplicable to so large a portion of human ⚫ affairs.
VI. Lastly, the rule of Expediency is deficient in one of the first requisites of a moral law-obviousness and palpability of sanction. What is the process by which the sanction is applied? Its advocates say, the Deity is a Benevolent Being: as he is benevolent himself, it is reasonable to conclude he wills that his creatures should be benevolent to one another this benevolence is to be exercised by adapting every action to the promotion of the "universal interest" of man: "Whatever is expedient is right:" or, God wills that we should consult Expediency.Now we say that there are so many considerations placed between the rule and the act, that the practical authority of the rule is greatly diminished. It is easy to perceive that the authority of a rule will not come home to that man's mind, who is told, respecting a given action, that its effect upon the universal interest is the only thing that makes it right or wrong. All the doubts that arise as to this effect are so many diminutions of the sanction. It is like putting half a dozen new contingencies between the act of thieving and the conviction of a jury; and every one knows that the want of certainty of penalty is a great encouragement to offences. The principle too is liable to the most extravagant abuse-or rather extravagant abuse is, in the present condition of mankind, inseparable from its general adoption. "Whatever is expedient is right," soliloquizes the moonlight adventurer into the poultry-yard: "It will tend more to the sum of human happiness that my wife and I should dine on a capon, than that the farmer should feel the satisfaction of possessing it;" -and so he mounts the hen-roost. I do not say that this hungry moralist would reason soundly, but I say that he would not listen to the philosophy which replied, "Oh, your reasoning is incomplete: you must take into account all consequences collateral and remote; and then you will find that it is more expedient, upon the whole and at the long run, that you and your wife should be hungry. than that henroosts should be insecure."
It is happy, however, that this principle never can be generally applied to the private duties of man. Its abuses would be so enormous that the laws would take, as they do in fact take, better measures for regulating men's conduct than this doctrine supplies. And happily too, the Universal Lawgiver has not left mankind without more distinct and more influential perceptions of his will and his authority, than they could ever derive from the principles of Expediency.
But an objection has probably presented itself to the reader, that the greater part of mankind have no
• Western Isles.
access to the written expression of the Will of God: and how, it may be asked, can that be the final standard of right and wrong for the human race, of whic the majority of the race have never heard? The question is reasonable and fair.
We answer then, first, that supposing most mer to be destitute of a communication of the Divine Wili it does not affect the obligations of those who de possess it. That communication is the final law to me, whether my African brother enjoys it or not Every reason by which the supreme authority of the law is proved, is just as applicable to those who do esjoy the communication of it, whether that communication is enjoyed by many or by few; and this, so far as the argument is concerned, appears to be a sufficient answer. If any man has no direct access to his Creator's will, let him have recourse to "eternal fitnesses," or to "expediency;" but his condition does not affect that of another man who does possess this
But our real reply to the objection is, that they who are destitute of Scripture, are not destitute of a direct communication of the Will of God. proof of this position must be deferred to a subsequent chapter; and the reader is solicited for the present, to allow us to assume its truth. This direct communication may be limited, it may be incomplete, but some communication exists; enough to assure them that some things are acceptable to the Supreme Power, and that some are not; enough to indicate a distinction between right and wrong; enough to make them moral agents, and reasonably accountable to our Common Judge. If these principles are true, and especially if the amount of the communication is in many cases considerable, it is obvious that it will be of great value in the direction of individual conduct. We say of individual conduct, because it is easy to perceive that it would not often subserve the purposes of him who frames public rules of morality. A person may possess a satisfactory assurancs in his own mind, that a given action is inconsistent with the Divine Will, but that assurance is not conveyed to another, unless he participates in the evidence upon which it is founded. That which is wanted in order to supply public rules for human conduct, is a publicly avouched authority; so that a writer, in deducing those rules, has to apply, ultimately, to that Standard which God has publicly sanctioned.
SUBORDINATE STANDArds of rigHT AND WRONG. Foundation and limits of the authority of subordinate moral rules.
THE written expression of the Divine Will does not contain, and no writings can contain, directions for our conduct in every circumstance of life. the precepts of Scripture were multiplied a hundred or a thousand fold, there would still arise a multiplicity of questions to which none of them would specifically apply. Accordingly, there are some subordinate authorities, to which, as can be satisfactorily shown, it is the Will of God that we should refer. He who does refer to them, and regulate bis conduct by them, conforms to the will of God.
To a son who is obliged to regulate all his actions by his father's will, there are two ways in which he may practise obedience-one, by receiving, upon each subject, his father's direct instructions; and
CHAP. IV.] IDENTICAL AUTHORITY OF MORAL AND RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIONS. 7
the other, by receiving instructions from those whom his father commissions to teach him. The parent may appoint a governor, and enjoin, that upon all questions of a certain kind the son shall conform to his instructions; and if the son does this, he as truly and really performs his father's will, and as strictly makes that will the guide of his conduct, as if he received the instructions immediately from his parent. But if the father have laid down certain general rules for his son's observance, as that he shall devote ten hours a-day to study, and not lessalthough the governor should recommend or even command him to devote fewer hours, he may not comply; for if he does, the governor, and not his father, is his supreme guide. The subordination is destroyed.
This case illustrates, perhaps, with sufficient precision, the situation of mankind with respect to moral rules. Our Creator has given direct laws, some general and some specific. These are of final authority. But he has also sanctioned, or permitted an application to, other rules; and in conforming to these, so long as we hold them in subordination to his laws, we perform his will.
Of these subordinate rules it were possible to enumerate many. Perhaps, indeed, few principles have been proposed as "The fundamental Rules of Virtue," which may not rightly be brought into use by the Christian in regulating his conduct in life: for the objection to many of these principles is, not so much that they are useless, as that they are unwarranted as paramount laws. "Sympathy" may be of use, and " Nature" may be of use, and " Selflove," and "Benevolence;" and to those who know what it means, "Eternal fitnesses too."
Some of the subordinate rules of conduct it will be proper hereafter to notice, in order to discover, if we can, how far their authority extends, and where it ceases. The observations that we shall have to offer upon them may conveniently be made under these heads: The Law of the Land, The Law of Nature, The Promotion of Human Happiness or Expediency, The Law of Nations, The Law of Honour.
These observations will, however, necessarily be preceded by an enquiry into the great principles of human duty as they are delivered in Scripture, and into the reality of that communication of the Divine Will to the mind, which the reader has been requested to allow us to assume.
The reader is requested to regard the present chapter as parenthetical. The parenthesis is inserted here, because the writer does not know where more appropriately to place it.
IDENTICAL AUTHORITY OF MORAL AND RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIONS.
Identical authority of moral and religious obligations-The Divine attributes-Of deducing rules of human duty from a consideration of the attributes of God-Virtue: "Virtue is conformity with the standard of rectitude"-Motives of action.
THIS identity is a truth to which we do not sufficiently advert either in our habitual sentiments or in our practice. There are many persons who speak of religious duties, as if there was something
sacred or imperative in their obligation that does not belong to duties of morality-many, who would perhaps offer up their lives rather than profess a belief in a false religious dogma, but who would scarcely sacrifice an hour's gratification rather than violate the moral law of love. It is therefore of importance to remember that the authority which imposes moral obligations and religious obligations is one and the same- -the Will of God. Fidelity to God is just as truly violated by a neglect of his moral laws, as by a compromise of religious principles. Religion and Morality are abstract terms, employed to indicate different classes of those duties which the Deity has imposed upon mankind; but they are all imposed by Him, and all are enforced by equal authority. Not indeed that the violation of every particular portion of the Divine Will involves equal guilt, but that each violation is equally a disregard of the Divine Authority. Whether, therefore, fidelity be required to a point of doctrine or of practice, to theology or to morals, the obligation is the same. It is the Divine requisition which constitutes this obligation, and not the nature of the duty required; so that, whilst I think a Protestant does no more than his duty when he prefers death to a profession of the Roman Catholic faith, I think also that every Christian who believes that Christ has prohibited swearing, does no more than his duty when he prefers death to taking an oath.
I would especially solicit the reader to bear in mind this principle of the identity of the authority of moral and religious obligations, because he may otherwise imagine that, in some of the subsequent pages, the obligation of a moral law is too strenuously insisted on, and that fidelity to it is to be purchased at too great a sacrifice" of ease and enjoyment.
THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
The purpose for which a reference is here made to these sacred subjects, is to remark upon the unfitness of attempting to deduce human duties from the attributes of God. It is not indeed to be affirmed that no illustration of those duties can be derived from them, but that they are too imperfectly cognizable by our perceptions to enable us to refer to them for specific moral rules. The truth indeed is, that we do not accurately and distinctly know what the Divine Attributes are. We say that God is merciful; but if we attempt to define, with strictness, what the term merciful means, we shall find it
difficult, perhaps an impracticable task; and especially we shall have a difficult task if, after the definition, we attempt to reconcile every appearance which presents itself in the world, with our notions of the attribute of mercy. I would speak with reverence when I say that we cannot always perceive the mercifulness of the Deity in his administrations, either towards his rational or his irrational creation. So, again, in respect of the attribute of Justice, who can determinately define in what this attribute consists? Who, especially, can prove that the Almighty designs that we should always be able to trace his justice in his government? We believe that he is unchangeable; but what is the sense in which we understand the term? Do we mean that the attribute involves the necessity of an unchangeing system of moral government, or that the Deity cannot make alterations in, or additions to, his laws for mankind? We cannot mean this, for the evidence of revelation disproves it.
Now, if it be true that the Divine Attributes, and the uniform accordancy of the divine dispensations with our notions of those attributes, are not suffi
ciently within our powers of investigation to enable us to frame accurate premises for our reasoning, it is plain that we cannot always trust with safety to our conclusions. We cannot deduce rules for our conduct from the Divine Attributes without being very liable to error; and the liability will increase in proportion as the deduction attempts critical
Yet this is a rock upon which the judgments of many have suffered wreck, a quicksand where many have been involved in inextricable difficulties. One, because he cannot reconcile the commands to exterminate a people with his notions of the attribute of mercy, questions the truth of the Mosaic writings. One, because he finds wars permitted by the Almighty of old, concludes that, as he is unchangeable, they cannot be incompatible with his present or his future Will. One, on the supposition of this unchangeableness, perplexes himself because the dispensations of God and his laws have been changed; and vainly labours, by classifying these laws into those which result from his attributes, and those which do not, to vindicate the immutability of God. We have no business with these things, and I will venture to affirm that he who will take nothing upon trust-who will exercise no faith-who will believe in the divine authority of no rule, and in the truth of no record, which he is unable to reconcile with the Divine Attributes-must be consigned to hopeless Pyrrhonism.
The lesson which such considerations teach is a simple but an important one: That our exclusive business is to discover the actual present Will of God, without enquiring why his will is such as it is, or why it has ever been different; and without seeking to deduce, from our notions of the Divine Attributes, rules of conduct which are more safely and more certainly discovered by other means.
The definitions which have been proposed of Virtue have necessarily been both numerous and various, because many and discordant standards of rectitude have been advanced; and Virtue must, in every man's system, essentially consist in conforming the conduct to the standard which he thinks is the true one. This must be true of those systems, at least, which make Virtue consist in doing right.Adam Smith indeed says, that "Virtue is excellence; something uncommonly great and beautiful, which rises far above what is vulgar and ordinary.' By which it would appear that Virtue is a relative quality, depending not upon some perfect or permanent standard, but upon the existing practice of mankind. Thus the action which possessed no Virtue amongst a good community, might possess much in a bad one. rose far above" The practice which the ordinary practice of one nation, might be quite commen in another: and if mankind should become much worse than they are now, that conduct would be eminently virtuous amongst them which now is not virtuous at all. That such a definition of Virtue is likely to lead to very imperfect practice is plain; for what is the probability that a man will attain to that standard which God proposes, if his atmost estimate of Virtue rises no higher than to an indeterminate superiority over other men?
Our definition of Virtue necessarily accords with the Principles of Morality which have been advanced in the preceding chapter: Virtue is conformity with the Standard of Rectitude; which standard consists, primarily, in the expressed Will of God.
T..co. Mor. Sent.
Virtue, as it respects the meritoriousness of the agent, is another consideration. The quality of ar action is one thing, the desert of the agent is another. The business of him who illustrates moral rules, is not with the agent, but with the act. must state what the moral law pronounces to be right and wrong: but it is very possible that an individual may do what is right without any Virtue, because there may be no rectitude in his motives and intentions. He does a virtuous act, but he is not a virtuous agent.
Although the concern of a work like the present is evidently with the moral character of actions, without reference to the motives of the agent; yet the remark may be allowed, that there is frequently a sort of inaccuracy and unreasonableness in the judgments which we form of the deserts of other We regard the act too much, and the intention too little. The footpad who discharges a pistol at a traveller and fails in his aim, just as wicked as if he had killed him; yet we do not feel the same degree of indignation at his crime. So, too, of a person who does good. A man who plunges into a river and saves a child from drowning, impresses the parents with a stronger sense of his deserts than if, with the same exertions, he had failed.- We should endeavour to correct this inequality of judgment, and in forming our estimates of human conduct, should refer, much more than we commonly do, to what the agent intends. It should habitually be borne in mind, and especially with reference to our own conduct. that to have been unable to execute an ill intention deducts nothing from our guilt; and that at that tribunal where intention and action will be both regarded, it will avail little if we can only say that we have done no evil. Nor let it be less remembered, with respect to those who desire to do good but have not the power, that their Virtue is not diminished by their want of ability. I ought, perhaps, to be as grateful to the man who feelingly commiserates my sufferings but cannot relieve them, as to him who sends me money or a physician. The mite of the widow of old was estimated even more highly than the greater offerings of the rich.
The morality of the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian dispensations-Their moral requisitions not always coincidentSupremacy of the Christian morality-Of variations in the Moral Law-Mode of applying the precepts of Scripture to questions of duty-No formal moral system in ScriptureCriticism of Biblical morality-Of particular precepts and general rules-Matt. vii. 12.-1 Cor. x. 31.-Rom. iii. 8.-Benevolence, as it is proposed in the Christian Scriptures.
THE MORALITY OF THE PATRIARCHAL, MOSAIC, AND CHRISTIAN DISPENSATIONS.
ONE of the very interesting considerations which are presented to an enquirer in perusing the volume of Scripture, consists in the variations in its morality. There are three distinctly defined periods, in which the moral government and laws of the Deity assume, in some respects, a different character. In the first, without any system of external instruction, he communicated his Will to some of our race, either immediately or through a superhuman messenger. In the second, he promulgated, through Moses, a distinct and extended code of laws, ad
dressed peculiarly to a selected people. In the third, Jesus Christ and his commissioned ministers, delivered precepts, of which the general character was that of greater purity or perfection, and of which the obligation was universal upon mankind.
That the records of all these dispensations contain declarations of the Will of God, is certain: that their moral requisitions are not always coinci dent, is also certain; and hence the conclusion be comes inevitable, that to us, one is of primary authority; that when all do not coincide, one is paramount to the others. That a coincidence does not always exist, may easily be shown. It is manifest, not only by a comparison of precepts and of the general tenor of the respective records, but from the express declarations of Christianity itself.
One example, referring to the Christian and Jewish dispensations, may be found in the extension of the law of Love. Christianity, in extending the application of this law, requires us to abstain from that which the law of Moses permitted us to do. Thus it is in the instance of duties to our "neighbour," as they are illustrated in the parable of the Samariian. Thus, too, in the sermon on the mount: "It hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy: but I say to you, Love your enemies." It is indeed sometimes urged that the words "hate thine enemy," were only a gloss of the expounders of the law: but Grotius writes thus-" What is there repeated as said to those of old, are not the words of the teachers of the law, but of Moses; either literally or in their meaning. They are cited by our Saviour as his express words, not as interpretations of them."‡ If the authority of Grotius should not satisfy the reader, let him consider such passages as this: "An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord. Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt. Thou shalt not seek their peace nor their prosperity all thy days for ever."§ This is not coincident with, "Love your enemies ;' or with, "Do good to them that hate you;" or with that temper which is recommended by the words, "to him that smiteth thee on one cheek, turn the other also."
"Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name," is not coincident with the reproof of Christ to those who, upon similar grounds, would have called down fire from heaven.** "The Lord look upon it and require it,"tt-is not, coincident with, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." "Let me see thy vengeance on them,"§§-" Bring upon them the day of evil. and destroy them with double destruction," -is not coincident with, " Forgive them, for they know not what they do."PP
Similar observations applying to Swearing, to Polygamy, to Retaliation, to the motives of murder and adultery.
And as to the express assertion of the want of coincidence:- “The law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did."* "There is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitablene:s thereof."t†t If the commandment now existing is not weak and unprofitable, it must be because it is superior to that which existed before.
But although this appears to be thus clear with
respect to the Jewish dispensation, there are some who regard the moral precepts which were delivered before the period of that dispensation, as imposing permanent obligations: they were delivered, it is said, not to one peculiar people, but to individuals of many; and, in the persons of the immediate survivors of the deluge, to the whole human race. This argument assumes a ground paramount to all questions of subsequent abrogation. Now it would appear a sufficient answer to say-If the precepts of the Patriarchal and Christian dispensations are coincident, no question needs to be discussed; if they are not, we must make an election; and surely the Christian cannot doubt what election he should make. Could
a Jew have justified himself for violating the Mosaic law, by urging the precepts delivered to the patriarchs? No. Neither then can we justify ourselves for violating the Christian law, by urging the precepts delivered to Moses.
We indeed have, if it be possible, still stronger motives. The moral law of Christianity binds us, not merely because it is the present expression of the Will of God, but because it is a portion of his last dispensation to man-of that which is avowedly not only the last, but the highest and the best. We do not find in the records of Christianity that which we find in the other Scriptures, a reference to a greater and purer dispensation yet to come. It is as true of the Patriarchal as of the Mosaic institution, that "it made nothing perfect," and that it referred us from the first, to "the bringing in of that better hope which did." If then the question of supremacy is between a perfect and an imperfect system, who will hesitate in his decision?
There are motives of gratitude, too, and of affection, as well as of reason. The clearer exhibition which Christianity gives of the attributes of God; its distinct disclosure of our immortal destinies; and above all, its wonderful discovery of the love of our Universal Father, may well give to the moral law with which they are connected, an authority which may supersede every other.
These considerations are of practical importance; for it may be observed of those who do not advert to them, that they sometimes refer indiscriminately to the Old Testament or the New, without any other guide than the apparent greater applicability of a precept in the one or the other, to their present need: and thus it happens that a rule is sometimes acted upon, less perfect than that by which it is the good pleasure of God we should now regulate our conduct.It is a fact which the reader should especially notice, that an appeal to the Hebrew Scriptures is frequently made when the precepts of Christianity would be too rigid for our purpose. He who insists upon a pure morality, applies to the New Testament: he who desires a little more indulgence, defends himself by arguments from the Old.
Of this indiscriminate reference to all the dispensations. there is an extraordinary example in the newly discovered work of Milton. He appeals, I believe, almost uniformly to the precepts of all, as of equal present obligation. The consequence is what might be expected--his moral system is not consistent. Nor is it to be forgotten, that in defending what may be regarded as less pure doctrines, he refers mostly, or exclusively, to the Hebrew Scriptures. In all his disquisitions to prove the lawfulress of untruths, he does not once refer to the New Testament. Those who have observed the prodigious multiplicity of texts which he cites in this work, will peculiarly appreciate the importance of“
the fact.-Again: Hatred," he says, "is in some
cases a religious duty." A proposition at which Christian Doctrine, p. 560.
+ P. 611