صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

point. Now, I ask candidly, having, as we must have, by the explanation before given, a feeling of Good and a standard of Good, do we not know from our own consciousness that our fault and the fault of our nature is the inability to reach it? Can we not also refer that inability to the very part and portion of our nature wherein it rests, the Governing or Moral faculties of the Conscience, the Will, the Reason, the Affections.

Certainly, therein we feel the inability to exist. For every man knows that in each act, the will, the conscience, the reason, the affections should come in perfectly as the guides and rules of all physical and mental action, so that no act should be done save under their control and by their guidance, just as the helm and compass should influence each movement of the vessel. Every one knows also, that in men's actions naturally these even now come in, more or less, in an enfeebled and weak way; and feels that if they could influence him as they ought to influence him, and as they are intended by God to do, then would his life be good, under the governance of the Law of God and man. Every man therefore recognizes this weakness and inability in our present moral position, as an element of the being of an imperfect and fallen nature. Every man also recognizes and clearly understands the seat of this inability to be where* I have placed it.

This remark being made, I shall go on to examine the moral powers of man as they actually exist. That is the Governing powers of Conscience, Will, Reason, the Affections, in their present state of weakness and feebleness, doing their work imperfectly; and as I go along drawing forth precepts concerning the strengthening of them, and supplying them with their utmost pos sible ability.

* I have, as it may be seen, placed the effect of Original Sin primarily in the weakness of the Governing or Spiritual Powers in the race and the individual. And thereby the Supernatural Gift of the Presence and the Immediate Grace being withdrawn, these powers, which, by means of that rule, had the office and the ability to govern the man, have lost, in a degree which we can hardly estimate, that power. Thereby the other powers that ought to be subordinate, are disordered and out of place. The injury then of Original Sin is primarily and causally upon men's Spiritual powers,---but in effect upon the whole nature, and all the powers of body, soul and spirit. This dis tinction, a very important one, I hope my readers will apprehend.

9

CHAPTER VI.

There are in human nature, Governing Powers and Powers Subordinate.- No

powers in human nature essentially evil.-Anger analyzed as a proof of this assertion.—Evil action comes from the weakness of the Governing Powers, not the strength of Passions.-Laws of the Governing Powers. 1st, Governing Powers should govern–Subordinate Powers only subordinately act.-Dangers from breach of this first law.—2d, They should act always, others only intermittingly.--3d, They govern according to a Law. -- This is the Law of God, which is also the Law of the harmony of man's nature. The relation of moral to mental power.

We have treated, in the previous Chapter, of the inability or weakness of the Governing or moral powers in man, and that we believe, in a manner so plain and clear, that no one who has thought upon his own being gravely and searchingly, can mistake the truth we have brought into view, and the moral principles capable of being educed from it. We have shown that man has in his nature, Governing or moral powers, the peculiar quality of which is, that their office is to rule the rest of his nature according to the Law of God.

Now the very idea of Governing powers supposes powers Subordinate, whose natural state is subjection—the being ruled and the being guided; so that thereby we shall have two classes established at once, the one of powers governing, whose function is to govern,--the other, of powers Subordinate, whose functions is to be governed. This is the first natural division of the powers of man's nature.

Now upon the mere statement of the distinction, there will arise two most important questions and objections, which must be disposed of before any further progress can be made. It may be said, first, “ Admitting the division,-instead of powers governing and powers subordinate, should it not be powers good and powers evil? Are there not in our nature, powers and faculties and principles, that of their nature and by themselves are naturally evil, which the Governing powers, the Conscience, Will, Reason, and Affections do check and repress ? So that the Governing powers are good in their nature,--the subordinate powers evil in their nature.”

This manifestly is a most important consideration, one that is to be gone into fully, and fully resolved upon, before we can make any progress. And so much in its favor we may say, that in all cases of evil action, almost always we can see that it arises from these Subordinate faculties, desires, feelings, &c. Although, of course, this may arise in one of two ways: if they are evil in their nature essentially, the function of the other is to suppress, annihilate, destroy them. If they are in themselves good, and their function is to be subordinate, of course, then, not being subordinate, will be to be in that case, and that only—evil. And therefore upon this last supposition, that evil in action may arise from them, does not prove them evil in nature.

Now, this is our resolution. Man has faculties that are good in themselves-he has none that are evil in themselves--he has faculties that are benevolent naturally, none that are malevolent or malignant naturally.

For this resolution we shall appeal to the consciousness of each and every man. All men know wherein they do evil. Each man, therefore, is aware by what desire, or feeling, or emotion of his nature he is betrayed to the evil that he does. Now, let him take that same desire, and by examining it carefully, he shall find that there are cases wherein the exercise of that desire of his nature is not only not evil, but is more than that, is good. Nay, furthermore, he shall find the feeling in all cases is good, provided only that it be under the guidance of Reason, and Conscience, and Will, and the Affections, guided by them according to the measure* they prescribe.

We shall take an instance. One of the most violent passions, and of those that give rise to the greatest amount of evil, is Anger—is not that evil in itself, and its nature-naturally evil? Certainly not. Its evil is, that it is not ruled. When it is under the Governing Powers, then it is good, and always good. And so the direction of the Scripture with reference to it is, “Be ye angry and sin not"-a permission, nay, almost an injunction to be angry, provided it be so ruled is not to be against the Law of God. Again, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath"—it is not to

permanent so as to take the place of the Affections, which are to be permanent, or to become a guiding quality instead of a Sub

be

* Their measure and rule of course is the Law of God.

ordinate and momentary one. So far the reason of any and every thoughtful individual can see that the distinctions of the Scripture with reference to Anger agree with the principle laid down, that no subordinate faculty is in itself evil, but that its evil is in its being not ruled by those powers whose function is to rule, for the direction of the Apostle in reference to anger amounts to this: “ Let the Will, the Reason, the Conscience, the Affections govern your natural emotion of anger, according to the Law of God, and then its actions shall be good and not evil-otherwise evil.”.

But further than this we can go, and evince the same thing in a positive manner by an analysis of Anger itself, in its results and its action. We can show that so far from being an aggressive emotion, that it is strictly defensive. That it has prominent in it two feelings, both of them good. The first, the sense of injustice done to ourselves; the second, the desire of putting an end to it. And whether in momentary Anger or in Resentment, this can be shown to be the case with it always.

Nay, more, further research will manifest to us that to have been born with the natural faculty of Anger predominant, this is so far from being a disadvantage, that it is a positive and decided advantage, if it be only governed and ruled, giving energy, strength, power, and endurance, which can hardly come from any. thing else.

By this analysis of that one of the Subordinate emotions which most usually produces evil, I believe I have led the student in Ethics upon the way to see that my assertion is correct,—That the Subordinate faculties are not evil in themselves, but actually good, and that their evil is in not being in subjection to the governing faculties. I would refer to the admirable dissertations of Bishop Butler, published under the name of Sermons, for examples at full length of this kind of Ethical Analysis, and would particularize it as one of the books most necessary to be read.

And furthermore, I would to the student point this out as a most important means of improving himself in Ethical Knowledge, that he as an exercise should take Emotions, or Desires, or Feelings, examine and analyze them in their action, and determine wherein and under what conditions their action shall be good, and develope the rules prescribed for it by the Governing Faculties. I know not any habit of mind which more than this lays open our own nature to us and the system of God's dealings. I know not any that more tends to make us charitable and considerate towards the feelings of our friends and companions, and courageous in reference to the events of life.

For the ordinary tone of that which many call Moral Philosophy, looks upon faults of character and temper as absolute and evil in themselves. And, therefore, instead of seeking down to the good that lies beneath, and trying to guide it and call it forth, and being, therefore, considerate, it is censorious, and gives the individual who has the fault as much credit for natural and ineradicable evil, as it does the rattlesnake or the viper for venom, injuring thereby both society and the man.

Secondly. Persons born with any of these “subordinate" qualities unusually strong, in the earlier part of their life are deluded into the feeling that these, being evil in themselves, as they think, are to be utterly rooted out; and they therefore set themselves energetically to this vain task, and often with the most intense agony. Which, when in middle age, they find impossible to be done, they become rebels in a measure, or outlaws to any belief in Moral Government, and give themselves up to live by chance, as may be most pleasant to them.

For these reasons, and to avoid these very plain evils of the time, I do conceive that the Ethical exercise I have spoken of will be very advantageous.

I might go on with a more extended analysis, and by means of it manifest, in the plainest way, the assertion I have made, that none of the Subordinate Faculties are in their nature evil, nor evil in their action when they are under the guidance of the Governing Faculties; but I believe that with the reference I have given to Bishop Butler, and the inducement I have held out to Ethical Analysis, what I have said upon the subject is enough.

Having thus shown that none of the “subordinate" qualities are in themselves evil, and that in their action they are good when guided by the “governing" faculties, the second of these questions comes up. Admitting that there are “governing” powers and “subordinate” powers, you have assented that evil comes from a weakness in the “governing" powers in the race and in the individual. Now 6 the same consequences will come from an extraordinary strength in the subordinate' powers naturally existing.”

In answer to this, I say that the relation is that of subordina

« السابقةمتابعة »