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Law, that is, obedience to and compliance with law, is to the natural man the highest rule of all action, that by which as far as natural action goes, he shall attain to the highest truth of life.
But that not one Law, but ALL Law in one agreeing and uniting. First, the “ Law of man's own nature,” the law of the ruling powers of “ Conscience,” “the Will," "the Affections," " the Reason.” These are the faculties that make him capable of obedience to the voice of God. And then the Actual and External “ Law,” which teaching and educating this inward faculty, employs three schools for man; three courts, if I may so say, of law. The one which teaches and enforces the law of obedience and the law of the affections, that is the Family. The second, the law of “right” concerning “life and property,” which of course implies justice and equity, that is the State. The third, whoso teaching is the law of Holiness, the Church.
Putting these conclusions together, I say, if any one asks me how a natural man, (apart from the influences of Grace,) shall try to reach the good of his nature in the highest degree, and what is the rule that he should make his object to apply in act, thought, and word; I say it is nought but this, “the Law and the whole Law.”
The natural man finds the law of his nature to be virtue*—that his conscience should, each moment of his life, be attended to and deferred to, so that he should obey this, for by this faculty it is that the feeling of Law is manifested to us the first. His nature and whole being will assert to him that he ought so to do. Let him then, at any risk, and at any sacrifice, set himself to obey his Conscience, and to go according to its suggestions, and he will find the light, that perhaps at first was a faint twinkle upon the remotest horizon, become brighter, clearer, steadier, larger,-he will find obedience easier, and finally it will become habitual.
And then, having gone upon this for a time with all his might, next will awaken in him the sense and feeling of the Affections as part of the guiding and governing powers of man's life, and he will feel that gentleness, wisdom, patience, love, considerateness, mercy, kindness—that these, somehow or other, give him a rule over himself and over others, which he could not at first comprehend, or, indeed, at all perceive.*
* “ Virtue is the law of our nature."-Br. BUTLER.
And then, if he act consistently upon this that he has attained, he shall come to feel the value of the will, of decision and energy in a course of straight forward travel, in a way set out and appointed for him by himself.
And the Reason, too, shall come in, although the last, and declare and show itself to him; and to obey these four, which all are the law of our nature, is to cultivate the principles of obedience to all law wherever we find it.
These four, and in this order, Conscience first, then the Affections, and then the Will, and then the Reason; cach as a rule of conduct is manifested to man when he has actually, and in action, made the other preceding it, a steady rule of his life.
And as schools and legislative institutions to aid us in this selfdiscipline, there are the institutions I have mentioned. This is the moral perfection of the natural man; and for him, as far as his nature and his position is concerned, if he wishes to attain this perfection, the institutions are just as needful as is the moral nature.
Now, he that shall look at this influence of Society upon man that we call “Law," must see that it is directly and immediately a good one, and that the only thing that possibly can make it evil, is that it is partial occasionally, that interest is made to override the law of Conscience, the law of the State to smother that of the Family, or of the Reason to destroy that of the Conscience;
Gentleness, virtue, wisdom, and endurance,
And if, with infirm hand, Eternity,
To suffer woes which hope thinks infinite,
these things excepted, the Law is a teacher wholly good, and is the great means of advance to the mere natural man.
The resolution to uphold it in all difficulties, to defer to it, and to act accordingly, this is the one and only means of natural morality to individuals or to States*—the only standard and the only source of it.
I be permitted here, in opposition to the many sophisters and theorists who have erected standards of Ethics from Hobbes, who thought man to be a ravenous beast of prey at eternal war with his fellows, and therefore concluded that his leading character was fierce and warlike selfishness, down to Bentham, who took "utility” for the “supreme rule of conduct,”—I may be permitted in opposition to these men, to urge this view, that Law and Duty, these are the grand standard of morals for the Natural Man, and the grand means of self-development, in a moral way, if he would cultivate his own moral nature, just as I have shown that by means of these, God is ever to man the Supreme Standard of Good.
And this view is also corroborated by the word of Christ to a mere natural man, who asked him, “Good master, what shall I do that I may have eternal life?”—and his answer was, “Why callest thou me good—there is none Good but one, that is God; if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
How completely does this agree with the doctrine above specified," none Good but one,”—the supreme fount and source-and the supreme law and standard—the treasure of Good in every way, is God the Father of Heaven and Earth. And the
in which that is reached is not by knowledge, nor by wisdom, nor by deep penetration, but by Law; “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The great way is to obey the law, by which he manifests himself, the law of God in whatever way it is showni, wherever it is found.
This is the commandment of Christ to the young man; and this, to the man who is of Nature apart from God's Grace, is the only power, the exclusive means of moral advancement.
* Of Law, there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God,- her voice the harmony of the world : all things in heaven do her homage—the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power: both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admire her as the mother of their peace and joy.-HOOKER, EccLEs. POLITY.
And while I have many things to say as a conclusion to this subject upon the relation of the Law to the Gospel, which I cannot take up now, but shall speak of at another time, inasmuch as there is a certain proportion to be observed, which to break through would enlarge this treatise immeasurably, while I must therefore observe this proportion, I still would ask of my readers to remark the weight of the Principle I have been urging, and exemplifying as the principle of progress in morality to the Natural Man.
For you that are unbaptized in Christ's Name and his Faith, “no arrangement of external circumstances, planned and devised by yourselves or others, can give you the beginning and impetus of moral progress; no knowledge or learning, no philosophy of mind, or subtle examination of the Nature of Man, search it out; no acting upon “Fundamental Principles,” or Ethical Theories, such as that of “ Utility,” that of Benevolence, that of “Sympathy,” that of “ Enlightened Selfishness,” that of “Nature," or any other theory or fundamental notion ; nor aught else than this, that of acting up to Law and Duty wherever it is found. Whererer from Country, from Parents, from Society, from Conscience, from Reason, from Revelation, the Commandments come, -there, “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
Dwell not in mere sensibilities, or in the luxury of feeling; dream not of some future access of influences, that shall whirl you on to moral perfection by a tornado of overpowering emotion, but at once, and now, yield to and obey the eternal spirit that is by you, and "keep the commandments.” For your own natural constitution is framed according unto Law, external Nature corresponds, and Society guides and directs the influences of Law upon you. And all these are but the appliances and means whereby God, the Standard of Good, is brought nigh to you.
Central art thou, child of man! among all these moral influences; and if thou wouldst be profited of them all, this is the first and the only step—the only beginning of moral improvement to man upon the earth.
And the first and only way to enter upon this path is by the Conscience; then, as I have said, the Affections, as a Moral Law, begin to exert themselves; then the Reason, and then the Will.
How this is connected with the Gospel, as I have before said, I shall leave to another part of this treatise; only at present I shall quote two passages of St. Paul, which may indicate to Christians the future course of consideration, and at the same time afford food for thought, even to the mere Natural Man.
“The Law is Holy, (and spiritual,) and the Commandment Holy, Just and Good.” And again: the “ Law was our schoolmaster, to lead us to Christ."
With those two passages I shall close the consideration of that one of the two external influences of Society, which I before spoke of, as manifesting unto man God the Supreme Good.
Again. Another means whereby God works upon man, is what we call Tradition, “the power that is in Society, by which, if any knowledge of God be committed to it, it shall pass down from one generation to another, and be retained as water in a channel, and influence men, even when they do not think of it, even when they are wholly unconscious of its workings.”
That such knowledge shall flow in the channel of “the life of a community as waters in the channel of a river, that it shall imbue the child, the unlearned, the ignorant, with feelings, knowledge and persuasions; this we know from history.”
We know, for instance, that among all nations the tradition of a deluge remains; that even now, so many years from the event, still the narration of this handed down from father to son, in various shapes, is permanent, and abides enduringly, although it have been changed into the form of legend and fable.
And the Prometheus of the Greek story, who stole fire from heaven, and thereby restored the human race; he, nailed by angry Jupiter upon the mountains of Caucasus, between heaven and earth, is a true reflex of the old revelation unto Adam. And among the Eastern nations, the character of Gaudama, born of a virgin, to be the Saviour of man, was formed upon the old traditions of Paradise, concerning a future Redeemer. And so Brahma, Vishnu, and Seeva, the Hindu trinity, bear witness to the original revelation of Jehovah.
For, as I have before said, there is this peculiar constitution in, Society, this peculiar force, that nought of revelation or of religion that is entrusted to it escapes it, but all flows onward, from one generation to another, in the channel of tradition. We have indications too manifest to be evaded, that arts may have perished