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Charles G. Finney
(29/08/1792 - 16/8/1875)




LECTURES

ON

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY
~ 1851 ~


  • PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR
    • PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR.


      1. TO a great extent, the truths of the blessed gospel have been hidden under a false philosophy. In my early inquiries on the subject of religion, I found myself wholly unable to understand either the oral or written instructions of uninspired religious teachers. They seemed to me to resolve all religion into states either of the intellect or of the sensibility, which my consciousness assured me were wholly passive or involuntary. When I sought for definitions and explanations, I felt assured that they did not well understand themselves. I was struck with the fact that they so seldom defined, even to themselves, their own positions. Among the words of most frequent use I could find scarcely a single term intelligibly defined. I inquired in what sense the terms "regeneration," "faith," "repentance," "love," &c., were used, but could obtain no answer, at which it did not appear to me that both reason and revelation revolted. The doctrines of a nature, sinful per se, of a necessitated will, of inability, and of physical regeneration, and physical Divine influence in regeneration, with their kindred and resulting dogmas, embarrassed and even confounded me at every step. I often said to myself, "If these things are really taught in the Bible, I must be an infidel." But the more I read my Bible, the more clearly I saw that these things were not found there upon any fair principles of interpretation, such as would be admitted in a court of justice. I could not but perceive that the true idea of moral government had no place in the theology of the church; and, on the contrary, that underlying the whole system were the assumptions that all government was physical, as opposed to moral, and that sin and holiness are rather natural attributes, than moral, voluntary acts. These errors were not stated in words, but I could not fail to see that they were assumed. The distinction between original and actual sin, and the utter absence of a distinction between physical and moral depravity, embarrassed me. Indeed, I was satisfied either that I must be an infidel, or that these were errors that had no place in the Bible. I was often warned against reasoning and leaning to my own understanding. I found that the discriminating teachers of religion were driven to confess that they could not establish the logical consistency of their system, and that they were obliged to shut their eyes and believe, when revelation seemed to conflict with the affirmations of reason. But this course I could not take. I found, or thought I found, nearly all the doctrines of Christianity embarrassed by the assumptions above-named. But the Spirit of God conducted me through the darkness, and delivered me from the labyrinth and fog of a false philosophy, and set my feet upon the rock of truth, as I trust. But to this day I meet with those who seem to me to be in much confusion upon most of the practical doctrines of Christianity. They will admit, that sin and holiness must be voluntary, and yet speak of regeneration as consisting in anything but a voluntary change, and of Divine influence in regeneration; as anything but moral or persuasive. They seem not at all aware of what must follow from, and be implied in, the admission of the existence of moral government, and that sin and holiness must be free and voluntary acts and states of mind. In this work I have endeavoured to define the terms used by Christian divines, and the doctrines of Christianity, as I understand them, and to push to their logical consequences the cardinal admissions of the more recent and standard theological writers. Especially do I urge, to their logical consequences, the two admissions that the will is free, and that sin and holiness are voluntary acts of mind.

           I also undertake to show that the freedom of the will is a first truth of reason, and that sin and holiness must be voluntary. I will not presume that I have satisfied others upon the points I have discussed, but I have succeeded at least in satisfying myself. I regard the assertion, that the doctrines of theology cannot preserve a logical consistency throughout, as both dangerous and ridiculous.

           2. My principle design in publishing on Systematic Theology at first, was to furnish my pupils with a class or text book, wherein many points and questions were discussed of great practical importance, but which have not, to my knowledge, been discussed in any system of theological instruction extant. I also hoped to benefit other studious and pious minds.

           3. I have written for those who are willing to take the trouble of thinking and of forming opinions of their own on theological questions. It has been no part of my aim to spare my pupils or any one else the trouble of intense thought. Had I desired to do so, the subjects discussed would have rendered such an attempt abortive.

           4. There are many questions of great practical importance, and questions in which multitudes are taking a deep interest at present, that cannot be intelligently settled without instituting fundamental inquiries involving the discussion of those questions that lie at the foundation of morality and religion.

           5. I am too well acquainted with the prejudices of the great mass of professing Christians, and with their unwillingness to be at the pains of studying elementary truths and of judging for themselves, to expect that this book will soon find favour with the majority of them. Still I am aware, that a spirit of inquiry into the fundamental and elementary truths of religion, and of all science, is abroad, and is waking up more and more in the church. There is a deep and growing demand for explanation in regard to the subjects discussed in this work. Especially is this true of ministers and leading laymen and women. This book is a humble attempt to meet this demand. My object has been to simplify and explain. The book has no literary merit, and claims none.

           6. The book is highly metaphysical. This however is owing to the nature of the subject. The subject is, "Mind in its relations to Moral Law." Hence the discussion, to be anything to the purpose, must be metaphysical. To avoid metaphysics in such a discussion were to waive my subject, and to write about something else.

           7. Most of the subjects of dispute among Christians at the present day are founded in misconceptions upon the subjects discussed in this volume. If I have succeeded in settling the questions which I have discussed, we shall see, that in a future volume most of the subjects of disagreement among Christians at the present day can be satisfactorily adjusted with comparative ease.

           8. What I have said on "Moral Law" and on the "Foundation of Moral Obligation" is the key to the whole subject. Whoever masters and understands these can readily understand all the rest. But he who will not possess himself of my meaning upon these subjects, will not understand the rest.

           9. Let no one despair in commencing the book, nor stumble at the definitions, thinking that he can never understand so abstruse a subject. Remember that what follows is an expansion and an explanation by way of application, of what you find so condensed in the first pages of the book. My brother, sister, friend--read, study, think, and read again. You were made to think. It will do you good to think; to develope your powers by study. God designed that religion should require thought, intense thought, and should thoroughly develope our powers of thought. The Bible itself is written in a style so condensed as to require much intense study. Many know nothing of the Bible or of religion, because they will not think and study. I do not pretend to so explain theology as to dispense with the labour of thinking. I have no ability and no wish to do so.

           10. If any of my brethren think to convince me of error, they must first understand me, and show that they have read the book through, and that they understand it, and are candidly inquiring after truth and not "striving for masteries." If my brother is inquiring after truth, I will, by the grace of God, "hear with both ears, and then judge." But I will not promise to attend to all that cavillers may say, nor to notice what those impertinent talkers and writers may say or write who must have controversy. But to all honest inquirers after truth I would say, hail! my brother! Let us be thorough. Truth shall do us good.

           11. This work, as was expected, has been freely criticised and reviewed in the United States. Several periodicals have highly commended it, and others have condemned it. Of the commendations, I have said nothing in this edition. To the reviews condemnatory, I have replied, and my replies will be found either in the body of the work or in the Appendix. To these replies, I beg leave to call the reader's particular attention, and hope he will give them an attentive reading. No answer has ever been made to any of them. The reader will see why. It will be seen that reference is had in the body of the work to Mahan's Moral Philosophy. That author objected only to my views of the ground of obligation. I have introduced a very brief critique upon his views, and given a laconic reply to his strictures on my own. After the most attentive consideration of all that has been written, I have seen no cause to change my views upon any point of doctrine contained in the American edition of this work. This volume is therefore the same as to doctrine as were the two volumes of the former edition. I have, however, for the sake of perspicuity, omitted considerable of the discussions contained in those volumes, and have written and introduced several new lectures in this. In some places I have amplified, and explained, and in others abridged; so that considerable changes in the form of the work have been introduced.

           It is my earnest hope, that reviewers in this country may not follow the example of those American reviewers to whom I have replied, and which replies will be found in this volume. Those reviewers did not take pains to understand the work they reviewed, as the reader will see. The Princeton reviewer stated in the outset the necessity of reading the work through, and omitting no part or sentence, as a condition of understanding it, and yet unfortunately he immediately betrayed his ignorance of the work. Dr. Duffield, as I was informed, read my reply to Princeton, and acknowledged its conclusiveness, but thought he could prove my book to be highly heretical. Of his attempt the reader will judge. I am not aware that any complaint has been made that I either misunderstood or unfairly represented my reviewers in any respect.

           12. It will be seen that the present volume contains only a part of a course of Systematic Theology. Should the entire course ever appear before the public, one volume will precede, and another succeed the present one. I published this volume first, because it contains all the points upon which I have been supposed to differ from the commonly received views. As a teacher of theology, I thought it due to the church and to the world, to give them my views upon those points upon which I had been accused of departing from the common opinions of Christians.

           13. It is not my intention to set myself before the British public as a teacher of my ministerial brethren; but since my orthodoxy has been extensively called in question in England, as well as in America, and since I have spent some months in propagating what I hold to be the gospel, in different parts of this country, it is no more than justice that this work should be put within your reach, that all may understand my views who will study for themselves.

           14. I beg that no false issues may be made by any one. The question is not, what is English or American orthodoxy. It is not what have been the views of any uninspired man or set of men, but what is true in theology. The question is not, whether this volume accords with the past or present views of the church, but does it accord with the word of God.

           15. I have not yet been able to stereotype my theological views, and have ceased to expect ever to do so. The idea is preposterous. None but an omniscient mind can continue to maintain a precise identity of views and opinions. Finite minds, unless they are asleep or stultified by prejudice, must advance in knowledge. The discovery of new truth will modify old views and opinions, and there is perhaps no end to this process with finite minds in any world. True Christian consistency does not consist in stereotyping our opinions and views, and in refusing to make any improvement lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter and in changing our views and language and practice as often and as fast, as we can obtain further information. I call this Christian consistency, because this course alone accords with a Christian profession. A Christian profession implies the profession of candour and of a disposition to know and obey all truth. It must follow, that Christian consistency implies continued investigation and change of views and practice corresponding with increasing knowledge. No Christian, therefore, and no theologian should be afraid to change his views, his language, or his practices in conformity with increasing light. The prevalence of such a fear would keep the world, at best, at a perpetual stand-still, on all subjects of science, and consequently all improvements would be precluded.

           Every uninspired attempt to frame for the church an authoritative standard of opinion which shall be regarded as an unquestionable exposition of the word of God, is not only impious in itself, but it is also a tacit assumption of the fundamental dogma of Papacy. The Assembly of Divines did more than to assume the necessity of a Pope to give law to the opinions of men; they assumed to create an immortal one, or rather to embalm their own creed, and preserve it as the Pope of all generations: or it is more just to say, that those who have adopted that confession of faith and catechism as an authoritative standard of doctrine, have absurdly adopted the most obnoxious principle of Popery, and elevated their confession and catechism to the Papal throne and into the place of the Holy Ghost. That the instrument framed by that assembly should in the nineteenth century be recognized as the standard of the church, or of an intelligent branch of it, is not only amazing, but I must say that it is highly ridiculous. It is as absurd in theology as it would be in any other branch of science, and as injurious and stultifying as it is absurd and ridiculous. It is better to have a living than a dead Pope. If we must have an authoritative expounder of the word of God, let us have a living one, so as not to preclude the hope of improvement. "A living dog is better than a dead lion;" so a living Pope is better than a dead and stereotyped confession of faith, that holds all men bound to subscribe to its unalterable dogmas and its unvarying terminology.

           16. I hold myself sacredly bound, not to defend these positions at all events, but on the contrary, to subject every one of them to the most thorough discussion, and to hold and treat them as I would the opinions of any one else; that is, if upon further discussion and investigation I see no cause to change, I hold them fast; but if I can see a flaw in any one of them, I shall amend or wholly reject it, as a further light shall demand. Should I refuse or fail to do this, I should need to blush for my folly and inconsistency, for I say again, that true Christian consistency implies progress in knowledge and holiness, and such changes in theory and in practice as are demanded by increasing light.

           On the strictly fundamental questions in theology, my views have not, for many years, undergone any change, except as I have clearer apprehensions of them than formerly, and should now state some of them, perhaps, in some measure, differently from what I should then have done.

       

      THE AUTHOR.

       

      London, 27th March, 1851.

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  • PREFACE BY THE EDITOR
    • PREFACE BY THE EDITOR.


           THE Lectures of the REV. PROFESSOR FINNEY, which are here given to the British public, were first delivered to the class of theological students at Oberlin College, America, and subsequently published there. They were unknown in this country, except to a few of the Author's personal friends, until his arrival in England, about two years since. His name, however, was well known, and several of his works had been extensively read.

           The Editor having had the pleasure and honour of forming a personal acquaintance with the Author soon after his arrival in this country, did not long remain ignorant of his Theological Lectures. After the first hasty perusal of them, he ventured strongly to recommend their publication, both for the sake of making the British churches better acquainted with the Author's doctrinal views, and also on account of the direct benefit which students, and other inquirers into the theory of gospel doctrines, would be likely to derive from a work so argumentative, and so unlike all the works on systematic and dogmatic theology known to the English schools. After due consultation and deliberation the Author pressed upon the Editor the work of revision, and placed the Lectures in his hands, with the request that he would read them carefully, and suggest such alterations as he might deem desirable to adapt the work to the English reader; and then submit the whole to the Author's adoption or rejection.

           This task the Editor undertook, and has performed in the best manner his time and ability would allow. The Author has carefully examined every part of his work again, and made such corrections and alterations as to him seemed needful. The Editor has merely performed the part of a friend, in suggesting such improvements as might make the Author's meaning better understood; but without interfering with that meaning, and without intending to give it an unqualified approbation. In fact, the Lectures have been to a considerable extent re-written by the Author, and in this edition proceed as strictly from his own pen, as in the American edition.

           There is another important circumstance with which the reader should be made acquainted, which will enhance the value of this edition, and render it highly preferable to the American; it is this: on the publication of these Lectures they attracted the attention of many able theologians in America, and were severely attacked by the periodical press. The Author replied at considerable length to the most learned and distinguished of his critics, fairly and fully meeting every objection that had been urged against his views. The present edition incorporates the substance of these objections with the replies of the Author.

           The Editor, however, would not have ventured to recommend the publication of these Lectures in this country, if he had not deemed them, as a whole, eminently deserving the attention and examination of British theologians. When they first came into his hands, they struck him as so pleasingly unlike all the other systems of dogmatic theology and moral philosophy it had ever been his lot to peruse, so thorough in their grappling with difficulties, and often so successful in the solution of them; so skilfully adjusted to modern metaphysical speculations, and so comprehensive of what is valuable in them; so manifestly the production of a masculine intellect and independent thinker, that he was not only pleased with the air of freshness and originality thrown over old themes of dry and elaborate discussion, but greatly benefited and instructed by some of the Author's views of important moral and theological questions. It may not be the same with all the Author's English readers; but assuredly few will rise from the perusal of the whole work without confessing that, at least, they have seen some points in a new and impressive light, have been constrained to think more closely of the opinions they hold, and in other respects have been benefited by the perusal.

           As a contribution to theological science, in an age when vague speculation and philosophical theories are bewildering many among all denominations of Christians, this work will be considered by all competent judges to be both valuable and seasonable. Upon several important and difficult subjects the Author has thrown a clear and valuable light which will guide many a student through perplexities and difficulties which he had long sought unsuccessfully to explain. The Editor frankly confesses, that when a student he would gladly have bartered half the books in his library to have gained a single perusal of these Lectures; and he cannot refrain from expressing the belief, that no young student of theology will ever regret the purchase or perusal of Mr. Finney's Lectures.

           One recommendation he begs respectfully to offer to all readers whether old or young; it is this: suspend your judgment of the Author and his theology until you have gone completely through his work. On many subjects, at the outset of the discussion, startling propositions may be found which will clash with your settled opinions; but if you will calmly and patiently await the Author's explanation, and observe how he qualifies some strong or novel assertions, you will most probably find in the issue, that you have less reason than you supposed to object to his statements.

           In many respects Mr. Finney's theological and moral system will be found to differ both from the Calvinistic and Arminian. In fact, it is a system of his own, if not in its separate portions, yet in its construction; and as a whole is at least unique and compact; a system which the Author has wrought out for himself, with little other aid than what he has derived from the fount itself of heavenly truth, and his own clear and strong perception of the immutable moral principles and laws by which the glorious Author of the universe governs all his intellectual creatures.

           There is one circumstance that will recommend the volume, and ought to recommend it, to impartial inquirers who are not bound to the words of any master save their divine One; it is, that the Author in his youth was trained in none of the theological schools of his country, and had imbibed, therefore, no educational preference for one system more than another. He had been disciplined to argumentation, logic, and the laws of evidence, in a very different arena; and had advanced in the science of the Law before he had felt the truth of Christianity, or thought of studying its doctrines. His views, therefore, will be found more deserving of attention and examination, from the fact of his mental independence in the formation of them.

           Should the work be read in a calm, devout, unprejudiced and liberal sprit, there can be not doubt that the reader will derive both pleasure and instruction. The earnestness, single-mindedness, deep piety, and eminent usefulness of the Author, both as a preacher and lecturer, justly entitle this production of his pen to the candid and patient investigation of English divines.

           Apart from the peculiarities which will be observed, and the critical objections to which some will deem his theology justly liable, there can be no doubt that many will find in it a treasure of inestimable worth, a key to many perplexing enigmas, and a powerful reinforcement of their faith in the Christian verities. With at least the hope that such will be the effects of its publication in England, the Editor has cheerfully contributed his humble aid, and now commits the work to the blessing of Him by whose Word of Truth its real value must be finally tested.

       

      G. R.

      Worcester, 1851.

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  • LECTURE 1 - HOW WE ATTAIN TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF CERTAIN TRUTHS
    • LECTURE I.

      HOW WE ATTAIN TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF CERTAIN TRUTHS.

       

           ALL teaching and reasoning take certain truths as granted. That the unequivocal, à priori affirmations of the reason are valid, for all the truths and principles thus affirmed, must be assumed and admitted, or every attempt to construct a science, of any kind, or to attain to certain knowledge upon any subject, is vain and even preposterous. As I must commence my lectures on moral government by laying down certain moral postulates, or axioms, which are, à priori, affirmed by the reason, and therefore self-evident to all men, when so stated as to be understood, I will spend a few moments in stating certain facts belonging more appropriately to the department of psychology. Theology is so related to psychology, that the successful study of the former without a knowledge of the latter, is impossible. Every theological system, and every theological opinion, assumes something as true in psychology. Theology is, to a great extent, the science of mind in its relations to moral law. God is a mind or spirit: all moral agents are in his image. Theology is the doctrine of God, comprehending his existence, attributes, relations, character, works, word, government providential and moral, and, of course, it must embrace the facts of human nature, and the science of moral agency. All theologians do and must assume the truth of some system of psychology and mental philosophy, and those who exclaim most loudly against metaphysics, no less than others.

           There is a distinction between the mind's knowing a truth, and knowing that it knows it. Hence I begin by defining self-consciousness.

           Self-consciousness is the mind's recognition of itself. It is the noticing of, or act of knowing itself. Its existence, attributes, acts, and states, with the attributes of liberty or necessity which characterize those acts and states. Of this, I shall frequently speak hereafter.

      THE REVELATIONS OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.

           Self-consciousness reveals to us three primary faculties of mind, which we call intellectsensibility, and will. The intellect is the faculty of knowledge; the sensibility is the faculty or susceptibility of feeling; the will is the executive faculty, or the faculty of doing or acting. All thinking, perceiving, intuiting, reasoning, opining, forming notions or ideas, belong to the intellect.

           Consciousness reveals the various functions of the intellect, and also of the sensibility and will. In this place, we shall attend only to the functions of the intellect, as our present business is to ascertain the methods by which the intellect arrives at its knowledges, which are given to us in self-consciousness.

           Self-consciousness is, itself, of course, one of the functions of the intellect; and here it is in place to say, that a revelation in consciousness is science, or knowledge. What consciousness gives us we know. Its testimony is infallible and conclusive, upon all subjects upon which it testifies.

           Among other functions of the intellect, which I need not name, self-consciousness reveals the three-fold, fundamental distinction of the sense, the reason, and the understanding.

      OF THE SENSE.

           The sense is the power that perceives sensation and brings it within the field of consciousness. Sensation is an impression made upon the sensibility by some object without or some thought within the mind. The sense takes up, or perceives the sensation, and this perceived sensation is revealed in consciousness. If the sensation is from some object without the mind, as sound or colour, the perception of it belongs to the outer sense. If from some thought, or mental exercise, the perception is of the inner sense. I have said that the testimony of consciousness is conclusive, for all the facts given by its unequivocal testimony. We neither need, nor can we have, any higher evidence of the existence of a sensation, than is given by consciousness.

           Our first impressions, thoughts, and knowledges, are derived from sense. But knowledge derived purely from this source would, of necessity, be very limited.

      OF THE REASON.

           Self-consciousness also reveals to us the reason or the à priori function of the intellect. The reason is that function of the intellect which immediately beholds or intuits a class of truths which, from their nature, are not cognizable either by the understanding or the sense. Such, for example, as the mathematical, philosophical, and moral axioms, and postulates. The reason gives laws and first principles. It gives the abstract, the necessary, the absolute, the infinite. It gives all its affirmations by a direct beholding or intuition, and not by induction or reasoning. The classes of truths given by this function of the intellect are self-evident. That is, the reason intuits, or directly beholds them, as the faculty of sense intuits, or directly beholds, a sensation. Sense gives to consciousness the direct vision of sensation, and therefore the existence of the sensation is certainly known to us. The reason gives to consciousness the direct vision of the class of truths of which it takes cognizance; and of the existence and validity of these truths we can no more doubt, than of the existence of our sensations.

           Between knowledge derived from sense and from reason there is a difference: in one case, consciousness gives us the sensation: it may be questioned whether the perceptions of the sense are a direct beholding of the object of the sensation, and consequently whether the object really exists, and is the real archetype of the sensation. That the sensation exists we are certain, but whether that exists which we suppose to be the object and the cause of the sensation, admits of doubt. The question is, does the sense immediately intuit or behold the object of the sensation. The fact that the report of sense cannot always be relied upon, seems to show that the perception of sense is not an immediate beholding of the object of the sensation; sensation exists, this we know, that it has a cause we know; but that we rightly know the cause or object of the sensation, we may not know.

           But in regard to the intuitions of the reason, this faculty directly beholds the truths which it affirms. These truths are the objects of its intuitions. They are not received at second hand. They are not inferences nor inductions, they are not opinions, nor conjectures, nor beliefs, but they are direct knowings. The truths given by this faculty are so directly seen and known, that to doubt them is impossible. The reason, by virtue of its own laws, beholds them with open face, in the light of their own evidence.

      OF THE UNDERSTANDING.

           The understanding is that function of the intellect that takes up, classifies and arranges the objects and truths of sensation, under a law of classification and arrangement given by the reason, and thus forms notions and opinions, and theories. The notions, opinions, and theories of the understanding, may be erroneous, but there can be no error in the à priori intuitions of the reason. The knowledges of the understanding are so often the result of induction or reasoning, and fall so entirely short of a direct beholding, that they are often knowledges only in a modified and restricted sense.

           Of the imagination, and the memory, &c., I need not speak in this place.

           What has been said has, I trust, prepared the way for saying that the truths of theology arrange themselves under two heads.

           I. Truths which need proof.

      II. Truths which need no proof.

           I. Truths which need proof.

           First. Of this class it may be said, in general, that to it belong all truths which are not directly intuited by some function of the intellect in the light of their own evidence.

           Every truth that must be arrived at by reasoning or induction, every truth that is attained to by other testimony than that of direct beholding, perceiving, intuiting, or cognizing, is a truth belonging to the class that needs proof.

           Second. Truths of demonstration belong to the class that needs proof. When truths of demonstration are truly demonstrated by any mind, it certainly knows them to be true, and affirms that the contrary cannot possibly be true. To possess the mind of others with those truths, we must lead them through the process of demonstration. When we have done so, they cannot but see the truth demonstrated. The human mind will not ordinarily receive, and rest in, a truth of demonstration, until it has demonstrated it. This it often does without recognizing the process of demonstration. The laws of knowledge are physical. The laws of logic are inherent in every mind; but in various states of developement in different minds. If a truth which needs demonstration, and which is capable of demonstration, is barely announced, and not demonstrated, the mind feels a dissatisfaction, and does not rest short of the demonstration of which it feels the necessity. It is therefore of little use to dogmatize, when we ought to reason, demonstrate, and explain. In all cases of truths, not self-evident, or of truths needing proof, religious teachers should understand and comply with the logical conditions of knowledge and rational belief; they tempt God when they merely dogmatize, where they ought to reason, and explain, and prove, throwing the responsibility of producing conviction and faith upon the sovereignty of God. God convinces and produces faith, not by the overthrow of, but in accordance with, the fixed laws of mind. It is therefore absurd and ridiculous to dogmatize and assert, when explanation, illustration, and proof are possible, and demanded by the laws of the intellect. To do this, and then leave it with God to make the people understand and believe, may be at present convenient for us, but if it be not death to our auditors, no thanks are due to us. We are bound to inquire to what class a truth belongs, whether it be a truth which, from its nature and the laws of mind, needs to be illustrated, or proved. If it does, we have no right merely to assert it, when it has not been proved. Let us comply with the necessary conditions of a rational conviction, and then leave the event with God.

           To the class of truths that need proof belong those of divine revelation.

           All truths known to man are divinely revealed to him in some sense, but I here speak of truths revealed to man by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible announces many self-evident truths, and many truths of demonstration. These may, or might be known, at least many of them, irrespective of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But the class of truths of which I here speak, rest wholly upon the testimony of God, and are truths of pure inspiration. Some of these truths are above reason, in the sense that the reason can, à priori, neither affirm nor deny them.

           When it is ascertained that God has asserted them, the mind needs no other evidence of their truth, because by a necessary law of the intellect, all men affirm the veracity of God. But for this necessary law of the intellect, men could not rest upon the simple testimony of God, but would ask for evidence that God is to be believed. But such is the nature of mind, as constituted by the Creator, that no moral agent needs proof that God's testimony ought to be received. Let it be once settled that God has declared a fact, or a truth, and this is, with every moral agent, all the evidence he needs. The reason, from its own laws, affirms the perfect veracity of God, and although the truth announced may be such that the reason, à priori, can neither affirm, or deny it, yet when asserted by God, the reason irresistibly affirms that God's testimony ought be received.

           These truths need proof in the sense that it needs to be shown that they were given by a divine inspiration. This fact demonstrated, the truths themselves need only to be understood, and the mind necessarily affirms its obligation to believe them.

           Under this head I might notice the probable or possible truths; that is, those that are supported by such evidence as only shows them to be probable or possible, but I forbear.

           My present object more particularly is to notice--

           II. Truths which need no proof.

           These are à priori truths of reason, and truths of sense; that is, they are truths that need no proof, because they are directly intuited or beheld by one of these faculties.

           The à priori truths of reason may be classed under the heads of first truthsself-evident truths which are necessary and universaland self-evident truths not necessary and universal.

           1. First truths have the following attributes.

           (1.) They are absolute or necessary truths, in the sense that the reason affirms that they must be true. Every event must have an adequate cause. Space must be. It is impossible that it should not be, whether any thing else were or not. Time must be, whether there were any events to succeed each other in time or not. Thus necessity is an attribute of this class.

           (2.) Universality is an attribute of a first truth. That is, to truths of this class there can be no exception. Every event must have a cause, there can be no event without a cause.

           (3.) First truths are truths of necessary and universal knowledge. That is, they are not merely knowable, but they are known to all moral agents, by a necessary law of their intellect.

           That space and time are, and must be, that every event has and must have a cause, and such like truths, are universally known and assumed by every moral agent, whether the terms in which they are stated have ever been so much as heard by him, or not. This last is the characteristic that distinguishes first truths from others merely self-evident, of which we shall soon speak.

           (4.) First truths are, of course, self-evident. That is, they are universally directly beheld, in the light of their own evidence.

           (5.) First truths are truths of the pure reason, and of course truths of certain knowledge. They are universally known with such certainty as to render it impossible for any moral agent to deny, forget, or practically overlook them. Although they may be denied in theory, they are always, and necessarily, recognized in practice. No moral agent, for example, can, by any possibility, practically deny, or forget, or overlook the first truths that time and space exist and must exist, that every event has and must have a cause.

           It is, therefore, always to be remembered that first truths are universally assumed and known, and in all our teachings, and in all our inquiries we are to take the first truths of reason for granted. It is preposterous to attempt to prove them, for the reason that we necessarily assume them as the basis and condition of all reasoning.

           The mind arrives at a knowledge of these truths by directly and necessarily beholding them, upon condition of its first perceiving their logical condition. The mind beholds, or attains to the conception of, an event. Upon this conception it instantly assumes, whether it thinks of the assumption or not, that this event had, and that every event must have, a cause.

           The mind perceives, or has the notion of body. This conception necessarily developes the first truth, space is and must be.

           The mind beholds or conceives of succession; and this beholding, or conception, necessarily developes the first truth, time is, and must be.

           As we proceed we shall notice divers truths which belong to this class, some of which, in theory, have been denied. Nevertheless, in their practical judgments, all men have admitted them and given as high evidence of their knowing them, as they do of knowing their own existence.

           Suppose, for example, that the law of causality should not be, at all times or at any time, a subject of distinct thought and attention. Suppose that the proposition in words, should never be in the mind, that "every event must have a cause," or that this proposition should be denied. Still the truth is there, in the form of absolute knowledge, a necessary assumption, an à priori affirmation, and the mind has so firm a hold of it, as to be utterly unable to overlook, or forget, or practically deny it. Every mind has it as a certain knowledge, long before it can understand the language in which it is expressed, and no statement or evidence whatever can give the mind any firmer conviction of its truth, than it had from necessity at first. This is true of all the truths of this class. They are always, and necessarily, assumed by all moral agents, whether distinctly thought of or not. And for the most part this class of truths are assumed, without being frequently, or at least without being generally, the object of thought or direct attention. The mind assumes them, without a distinct consciousness of the assumption. For example, we act every moment, and judge, and reason, and believe, upon the assumption that every event must have a cause, and yet we are not conscious of thinking of this truth, nor that we assume it, until something calls the attention to it.

           First truths of reason, then, let it be distinctly remembered, are always and necessarily assumed, though they may be seldom thought of. They are universally known, before the words are understood, by which they may be expressed; and although they may never be expressed in a formal proposition, yet the mind has as certain a knowledge of them as it has of its own existence.

           All reasoning proceeds upon the assumption of these truths. It must do so, of necessity. It is preposterous to attempt to prove first truths to a moral agent; for, being a moral agent, he must absolutely know them already, and if he did not, in no possible way could he be put in possession of them, except by presenting to his perception the chronological condition of their developement, and in no case could any thing else be needed, for upon the occurrence of this perception, the assumption, or developement, follows by a law of absolute and universal necessity. And until these truths are actually developed, no being can be a moral agent.

           There is no reasoning with one who calls in question the first truths of reason, and demands proof of them. All reasoning must, from the nature of mind and the laws of reasoning, assume the first-truths of reason as certain, and admitted, and as the à priori condition of all logical deduction and demonstration. Some one of these must be assumed as true, directly or indirectly, in every syllogism and in every demonstration.

           In all our future investigations we shall have abundant occasion for the application and illustration of what has now been said of first truths of reason. If, at any stage of our progress, we light upon a truth of this class, let it be borne in mind that the nature of the truth is the preclusion, or, as lawyers would express it, the estopple of all controversy.

           To deny the reality of this class of truths, is to deny the validity of our most perfect knowledge. The only question to be settled is, does the truth in question belong to this class? There are many truths which men, all sane men, certainly know, of which they not only seldom think, but which, in theory, they strenuously deny.

           2. The second class of truths that need no proof are self-evident truths, possessing the attributes of necessity and universality.

           Of these truths, I remark--

           (1.) That they, like first truths, are affirmed by the pure reason, and not by the understanding, nor the sense.

           (2.) They are affirmed, like first truths, à priori; that is, they are directly beheld or intuited, and not attained to by evidence or induction.

           (3.) They are truths of universal and necessary affirmation, when so stated as to be understood. By a law of the reason, all sane men must admit and affirm them, in the light of their own evidence, whenever they are understood.

           This class, although self-evident, when presented to the mind, are not, like first truths, universally and necessarily known to all moral agents.

           The mathematical axioms, and first principles, the à priori grounds and principles of all science, belong to this class.

           (4.) They are, like first truths, universal in the sense that there is no exception to them.

           (5.) They are necessary truths. That is, the reason affirms, not merely that they are, but that they must be, true; that these truths cannot but be. The abstract, the infinite, belong to this class.

           To compel other minds to admit this class of truths, we need only to frame so perspicuous a statement of them as to cause them to be distinctly perceived or understood. This being done, all sound minds irresistibly affirm them, whether the heart is, or is not, honest enough to admit the conviction.

           3. A third class of truths that need no proof, are truths of rational intuition, but possess not the attributes of universality and necessity.

           Our own existence, personality, personal identity, &c., belong to this class. These truths are intuited by the reason, are self-evident, and given, as such, in consciousness; they are known to self, without proof, and cannot be doubted. They are at first developed by sensation, but not inferred from it. Suppose a sensation to be perceived by the sense, all that could be logically inferred from this is, that there is some subject of this sensation, but that exist, and am the subject of this sensation, does not logically appear. Sensation first awakes the mind to self-consciousness; that is, a sensation of some kind first arouses the attention of mind to the facts of its own existence and personal identity. These truths are directly beheld and affirmed. The mind does not say, I feel, or I think, and therefore I am, for this is a mere sophism; it is to assume the existence of the as the subject of feeling, and afterwards to infer the existence of the from the feeling or sensation.

           4. A fourth class of truths that need no proof are sensations. It has been already remarked, that all sensations given by consciousness, are self-evident to the subject of them. Whether I ascribe my sensations to their real cause may admit of doubt, but that the sensation is real there can be no doubt. The testimony of the sense is valid, for that which it immediately beholds or intuits, that is, for the reality of the sensation. The judgment may err by ascribing the sensation to the wrong cause.

           But I must not proceed further with this statement; my design has been, not to enter too minutely into nice metaphysical distinctions, nor by any means to exhaust the subject of this lecture, but only to fix attention upon the distinctions upon which I have insisted, for the purpose of precluding all irrelevant and preposterous discussions about the validity of first and self-evident truths. I must assume that you possess some knowledge of psychology, and of mental philosophy, and leave to your convenience a more thorough and extended examination of the subject but hinted at in this lecture.

           Enough, I trust, has been said to prepare your minds for the introduction of the great and fundamental axioms which lie at the foundation of all our ideas of morality and religion. Our next lecture will present the nature and attributes of moral law. We shall proceed in the light of the à priori affirmations of the reason, in postulating its nature and its attributes. Having attained to a firm footing upon these points, we shall be naturally conducted by reason and revelation to our ultimate conclusions.

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  • LECTURE 2 - MORAL GOVERNMENT
    • LECTURE II.

      MORAL GOVERNMENT.

       
           

      I. DEFINITION OF LAW.

           II. DISTINCTION BETWEEN PHYSICAL AND MORAL LAW.

           III. ATTRIBUTES OF MORAL LAW.

           I. In discussing this subject, I must begin with defining the term Law.

           Law, in a sense of the term both sufficiently popular and scientific for my purpose, is a RULE OF ACTION. In its generic signification, it is applicable to every kind of action, whether of matter or of mind--whether intelligent or unintelligent--whether free or necessary action.

           II. I must distinguish between Physical and Moral Law.

           Physical law is a term that represents the order of sequence, in all the changes that occur under the law of necessity, whether in matter or mind. I mean all changes, whether of state or action, that do not consist in the states or actions of free will. Physical law is the law of force, or necessity, as opposed to the law of liberty. Physical law is the law of the material universe. It is also the law of mind, so far as its states and changes are involuntary. All mental states or actions, which are not free and sovereign actions of will, must occur under, and be subject to, physical law. They cannot possibly be accounted for, except as they are ascribed to the law of necessity or force.

           Moral law is a rule of moral action with sanctions. It is that rule to which moral agents ought to conform all their voluntary actions, and is enforced by sanctions equal to the value of the precept. It is the rule for the government of free and intelligent action, as opposed to necessary and unintelligent action. It is the law of liberty, as opposed to the law of necessity--of motive and free choice, as opposed to force of every kind. Moral law is primarily a rule for the direction of the action of free will, and strictly of free will only. But secondarily, and less strictly, it is the rule for the regulation of all those actions and states of mind and body, that follow the free actions of will by a law of necessity. Thus, moral law controls involuntary mental states and outward action, only by securing conformity of the actions of free will to its precept.

           III. I must call attention to the essential attributes of moral law.

           1. Subjectivity. It is, and must be, an idea of reason, developed in the mind of the subject. It is an idea, or conception, of that state of will, or course of action, which is obligatory upon a moral agent. No one can be a moral agent, or the subject of moral law, unless he has this idea developed; for this idea is identical with the law. It is the law developed, or revealed within himself; and thus he becomes "a law to himself," his own reason affirming his obligation to conform to this idea, or law.

           2. Objectivity. Moral law may be regarded as a rule of duty, prescribed by the supreme Lawgiver, and external to self. When thus contemplated, it is objective; when contemplated as a necessary idea or affirmation of our own reason, we regard it subjectively, or as imposed upon us by God, through the necessary convictions of our own minds. When contemplated as within ourselves, and as the affirmation of our own reason we predicate of it subjectivity; but when thought of as a law declared and enforced by the will of God, it is contemplated as distinct from our own necessary ideas, and predicate of it objectivity.

           3. A third attribute is liberty, as opposed to necessity. The precept must lie developed in the reason, as a rule of duty--a law of moral obligation--a rule of choice, or of ultimate intention, declaring that which a moral agent ought to choose, will, intend. But it does not, must not, can not possess the attribute of necessity in its relations to the actions of free will. It must not, cannot, possess an element or attribute of force, in any such sense as to render conformity of will to its precept, unavoidable. This would confound it with physical law.

           4. A fourth attribute of moral law, is fitness. It must be the law of nature, that is, its precept must prescribe and require, just those actions of the will which are suitable to the nature and relations of moral beings, and nothing more nor less; that is, the intrinsic value of the well-being of God and of the universe being given as the ground, and the nature and relations of moral beings as the condition of the obligation, the reason hereupon necessarily affirms the intrinsic propriety and fitness of choosing this good, and of consecrating the whole being to its promotion. This is what is intended by the law of nature. It is the law or rule of action imposed on us by God, in and by the nature which he has given us.

           5. A fifth attribute of moral law is universality. The conditions and circumstances being the same, it requires, and must require, of all moral agents, the same things, in whatever world they may be found.

           6. A sixth attribute of moral law is, and must be, impartiality. Moral law is no respecter of persons--knows no privileged classes. It demands one thing of all, without regard to anything, except the fact that they are moral agents. By this it is not intended, that the same course of outward conduct is required of all; but the same state of heart in all--that all shall have one ultimate intention--that all shall consecrate themselves to one end--that all shall entirely conform, in heart and life, to their nature and relations.

           7. A seventh attribute of moral law is, and must be, justice. That which is unjust cannot be law.

           Justice, as an attribute of moral law, must respect both the precept and the sanction. Justice, as an attribute of the precept, consists in the requisition of just that, and no more, which is in exact accordance with the nature and relations of the ruler and the subject.

           Justice, as an attribute of the sanction, consists in apportioning rewards and punishments, to the merit of obedience on the one hand, and to the guilt of disobedience on the other.

           Sanctions belong to the very essence and nature of moral law. A law without sanctions is no law; it is only counsel, or advice. Sanctions are the motives which the law presents, to secure obedience to the precept. Consequently, they should always be graduated by the importance of the precept; and that is not properly law which does not promise, expressly or by implication, a reward proportionate to the merit of obedience, and threaten punishment equal to the guilt of disobedience. Law cannot be unjust, either in precept or sanction: and it should always be remembered, that what is unjust, is not law, cannot be law. It is contrary to the true definition of law. Moral law is a rule of action, founded in the nature and relations of moral beings, sustained by sanctions equal to the merit of obedience, and the guilt of disobedience.

           8. An eighth attribute of moral law is practicability. That which the precept demands must be possible to the subject. That which demands a natural impossibility is not, and cannot be, moral law. The true definition of law excludes the supposition that it can, under any circumstances, demand an absolute impossibility. Such a demand could not be in accordance with the nature and relations of moral agents, and therefore practicability must always be an attribute of moral law. To talk of inability to obey moral law, is to talk nonsense.

           9. A ninth attribute of moral law is independence. It is founded in the self-existent nature of God. It is an eternal and necessary idea of the divine reason. It is the eternal self-existent rule of the divine conduct, the law which the intelligence of God prescribes to himself. Moral law, as we shall see hereafter more fully, does not, and cannot originate in the will of God. It originates, or rather, is founded in his eternal, self-existent nature. It eternally existed in the divine reason. It is the idea of that state of will which is obligatory upon God upon condition of his natural attributes, or, in other words, upon condition of his nature. As a law, it is entirely independent of his will just as his own existence is. It is obligatory also upon every moral agent, entirely independent of the will of God. Their nature and relations being given, and their intelligence being developed, moral law must be obligatory upon them, and it lies not in the option of any being to make it otherwise. Their nature and relations being given, to pursue a course of conduct suited to their nature and relations, is necessarily and self-evidently obligatory, independent of the will of any being.

           10. A tenth attribute of moral law is immutability. Moral law can never change, or be changed. It always requires of every moral agent a state of heart, and course of conduct, precisely suited to his nature and relations. Whatever his nature is, his capacity and relations are; entire conformity to just that nature, those capacities and relations, so far as he is able to understand them, is required at every moment and nothing more nor less. If capacity is enlarged, the subject is not thereby rendered capable of works of supererogation--of doing more than the law demands; for the law still, as always, requires the full consecration of his whole being to the public interests. If by any means whatever, his ability is abridged, moral law, always and necessarily consistent with itself, still requires that what is left--nothing more or less--shall be consecrated to the same end as before. Whatever demands more or less than entire, universal, and constant conformity of heart and life, to the nature, capacity and relations of moral agents, be they what they may, is not, and cannot be, moral law. To suppose that it could be otherwise, would be to contradict the true definition of moral law. If therefore, the capacity is by any means abridged, the subject does not thereby become incapable of rendering full obedience; for the law still demands and urges, that the heart and life shall be fully conformed to the present, existing nature, capacity, and relations. Anything that requires more or less than this, whatever else it is, is not, and cannot be, moral law. To affirm that it can, is to talk nonsense. Moral law invariably holds one language. It never changes the spirit of its requirement. "Thou shalt love," or be perfectly benevolent, is its uniform and its only demand. This demand it never varies, and never can vary. It is as immutable as God is, and for the same reason. To talk of letting down, or altering moral law, is to talk absurdly. The thing is naturally impossible. No being has the right or the power to do so. The supposition overlooks the very nature of moral law. Should the natural capability of the mind, by any means whatever, be enlarged or abridged, it is perfectly absurd, and a contradiction of the nature of moral law, to say, that the claims of the law are either elevated or lowered. Moral law is not a statute, an enactment, that has its origin or its foundation in the will of any being. It is the law of nature, the law which the nature or constitution of every moral agent imposes on himself, and which God imposes upon us because it is entirely suited to our nature and relations, and is therefore naturally obligatory upon us. It is the unalterable demand of the reason, that the whole being, whatever there is of it at any time, shall be entirely consecrated to the highest good of universal being, and for this reason God requires this of us, with all the weight of his authority. It cannot be too distinctly understood, that moral law is nothing more nor less, than the law of nature revealed in the necessary ideas of our own reason, and enforced by the authority of God. It is an idea of that which is fit, suitable, agreeable to our nature and relations for the time being, that which it is reasonable for us to will and do, at any and every moment, in view of all the circumstances of our present existence,--just what the reason affirms, and what God affirms, to be suited to our nature and relations, under all the circumstances of the case.*(see below)

       

           11. An eleventh attribute of moral law is unity. Moral law proposes but one ultimate end of pursuit to God, and to all moral agents. All its requisitions, in their spirit, are summed up and expressed in one word, love or benevolence. This I only announce here. It will more fully appear hereafter. Moral law is a pure and simple idea of the reason. It is the idea of perfect, universal, and constant consecration of the whole being, to the highest good of being. Just this is, and nothing more nor less can be, moral law; for just this, and nothing more nor less, is a state of heart and a course of life exactly suited to the nature and relations of moral agents, which is the only true definition of moral law.

           12. Equity is another attribute of moral law. Equity is equality. That only is equitable which is equal. The interest and well-being of every sentient existence, and especially of every moral agent, is of some value in comparison with the interests of others, and of the whole universe of creatures. Moral law demands that the interest and well-being of every member of the universal family shall be regarded by each according to its relative or comparative value, and that in no case shall it be sacrificed or wholly neglected, unless it be forfeited by crime. The distinction, allowed by human tribunals, between law and equity, does not pertain to moral law, nor does nor can it strictly pertain to any law. For it is impossible that that should be law, in the sense of imposing obligation, of which equity is not an attribute. An inequitable law cannot be. The requirements of law must be equal. A moral agent may, by transgression, forfeit the protection of law, and may come into such governmental relations, by trampling on the law, that moral law may demand that he be made a public example--that his interest and well-being be laid upon the altar, and that he be offered a sacrifice to public justice, as a preventive of crime in others. It may happen also that sacrifices may be demanded by moral law of innocent beings, for the promotion of a greater amount of good than that sacrificed by the innocent. Such was the case with the atonement of Christ, and such is the case with the missionary, and with all who are called by the law of love to practice self-denial for the good of others. But let it be remembered, that moral law never requires nor allows any degree of self-denial and self-sacrifice that relinquishes a good of greater value than that gained by the sacrifice. Nor does it in any case demand nor permit that any interest, not forfeited by its possessor, shall be relinquished or finally neglected, without adequate ultimate compensation. As has been said, every interest is of some comparative value; and ought to be so esteemed and treated. Moral law demands, and must demand, that it shall be so regarded by all moral agents to whom it is known. "THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF" is its unalterable language. It can absolutely utter no other language than this, and nothing can be moral law which holds any other language. Law is not, and cannot be, an arbitrary enactment of any being or number of beings. Unequal LAW is a misnomer. That which is unequal in its demands, is not and cannot be, law. Law must respect the interests and the rights of all, and of each member of the universal family. It is impossible that it should be otherwise, and still be law.

           13. Expediency is another attribute of moral law.

           That which is upon the whole most wise is expedient,--that which is upon the whole expedient is demanded by moral law. True expediency and the spirit of moral law are always identical. Expediency may be inconsistent with the letter, but never with the spirit of moral law. Law in the form of commandment is a revelation or declaration of that course which is expedient. It is expediency revealed, as in the case of the decalogue, and the same is true of every precept of the Bible, it reveals to us what is expedient. A revealed law or commandment is never to be set aside by our views of expediency. We may know with certainty that what is required is expedient. The command is the expressed judgment of God in the case, and reveals with unerring certainty the true path of expediency. When Paul says, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient," we must not understand him as meaning that all things in the absolute sense were lawful to him, or that anything that was not expedient was lawful to him. But he doubtless intended, that many things were inexpedient that are not expressly prohibited by the letter of the law,--that the spirit of the law prohibited many things not expressly prohibited by the letter. It should never be forgotten that that which is plainly demanded by the highest good of the universe is law. It is expedient. It is wise. The true spirit of the moral law does and must demand it. So, on the other hand, whatever is plainly inconsistent with the highest good of the universe is illegal, unwise, inexpedient, and must be prohibited by the spirit of moral law. But let the thought be repeated, that the Bible precepts always reveal that which is truly expedient, and in no case are we at liberty to set aside the spirit of any commandment upon the supposition that expediency requires it. Some have denounced the doctrine of expediency altogether, as at all times inconsistent with the law of right. These philosophers proceed upon the assumption that the law of right and the law of benevolence are not identical but inconsistent with each other. This is a common but fundamental mistake, which leads me to remark that--

           Law proposes the highest good of universal being as its end, and requires all moral agents to consecrate themselves to the promotion of this end. Consequently, expediency must be one of its attributes. That which is upon the whole in the highest degree useful to the universe must be demanded by moral law. Moral law must, from its own nature, require just that course of willing and acting that is upon the whole in the highest degree promotive of the public good,--in other words, that which is upon the whole in the highest degree useful, and therefore expedient. It has been strangely and absurdly maintained that right would be obligatory if it necessarily tended to and resulted in universal and perfect misery. Than which a more nonsensical affirmation was never made. The affirmation assumes that the law of right and of good-will are not only distinct, but may be antagonistic. It also assumes that that can be law that is not suited to the nature and relations of moral agents. Certainly it will not be pretended that that course of willing and acting that necessarily tends to, and results in, universal misery, can be consistent with the nature and relations of moral agents. Nothing is or can be suited to their nature and relations, that is not upon the whole promotive of their highest well-being. Expediency and right are always and necessarily at one. They can never be inconsistent. That which is upon the whole most expedient is right, and that which is right is upon the whole expedient.

           14. Exclusiveness is another attribute of moral law. That is, moral law is the only possible rule of moral obligation. A distinction is usually made between moral, ceremonial, civil, and positive laws. This distinction is in some respects convenient, but is liable to mislead and to create an impression that something can be obligatory, in other words can be law, that has not the attributes of moral law. Nothing can be law, in any proper sense of the term, that is not and would not be universally obligatory upon moral agents under the same circumstances. It is law because and only because, under all the circumstances of the case, the course prescribed is fit, proper, suitable, to their natures, relations, and circumstances. There can be no other rule of action for moral agents but moral law, or the law of benevolence. Every other rule is absolutely excluded by the very nature of moral law. Surely there can be no law that is or can be obligatory upon moral agents but one suited to, and founded in their nature, relations, and circumstances. This is and must be the law of love or benevolence. This is the law of right, and nothing else is or can be. Every thing else that claims to be law and to impose obligation upon moral agents, from whatever source it emanates, is not and cannot be a law, but must be an imposition and "a thing of nought."

           *(from above) It has been said, that if we "dwarf," or abridge our powers, we do not thereby abridge the claims of God; that if we render it impossible to perform so high a service as we might have done, the Lawgiver, nevertheless, requires the same as before, that is, that under such circumstances he requires of us an impossibility;--that should we dwarf, or completely derange, or stultify our powers, he would still hold us under obligation to perform all that we might have performed, had our powers remained in their integrity. To this I reply,

           That this affirmation assumes, that moral law and moral obligation are founded in the will of God;--that his mere will makes law. This is a fundamental mistake. God cannot legislate in the sense of making law. He declares and enforces the common law of the universe, or, in other words, the law of nature. This law, I repeat it, is nothing else than that rule of conduct which is in accordance with the nature and relations of moral beings. The totality of its requisitions are, both in its letter and its spirit, "Thou shalt love, &c., with all thy heart, thy soul, thy might, thy strength." That is, whatever there is of us, at any moment, is to be wholly consecrated to God, and the good of being, and nothing more nor less. If our nature or relations are changed, no matter by what means, or to what extent, provided we are still moral agents, its language and spirit are the same as before,--"Thou shalt love with all thy strength," &c.

           I will here quote from the "Oberlin Evangelist," an extract of a letter from an esteemed brother, embodying the substance of the above objection, together with my reply.

           "One point is what you say of the claims of the law, in the 'Oberlin Evangelist,' vol. ii. p. 50:--'the question is, what does the law of God require of Christians of the present generation, in all respects in our circumstances, with all the ignorance and debility of body and mind which have resulted from the intemperance and abuse of the human constitution through so many generations?' But if this be so, then the more ignorant and debilitated a person is in body and mind in consequence of his own or ancestors' sins and follies, the less the law would require of him, and the less would it be for him to become perfectly holy--and, the nearer this ignorance and debility came to being perfect, the nearer would he be to being perfectly holy, for the less would be required of him to make him so. But is this so? Can a person be perfectly sanctified, while particularly that 'ignorance of mind,' which is the effect of the intemperance and abuse of the human constitution, remains? Yea, can he be sanctified at all, only as this ignorance is removed by the truth and Spirit of God; it being a moral and not a physical effect of sinning? I say it kindly, here appears to me, at least, a very serious entering wedge of error. Were the effect of human depravity upon man simply to disable him, like taking from the body a limb, or destroying in part, or in whole, a faculty of the mind, I would not object; but to say, this effect is ignorance, a moral effect wholly, and then say, having this ignorance, the law levels its claims according to it, and that with it, a man can be entirely sanctified, looks not to me like the teachings of the bible."

           1. I have seen the passage from my lecture, here alluded to, quoted and commented upon, in different periodicals, and uniformly with entire disapprobation.

           2. It has always been separated entirely from the exposition which I have given of the law of God in the same lectures; with which exposition, no one, so far as I know, has seen fit to grapple.

           3. I believe, in every instance, the objections that have been made to this paragraph, were made by those who profess to believe in the present natural ability of sinners to do all their duty.

           4. I would most earnestly and respectfully inquire, what consistency there is, in denominating this paragraph a dangerous heresy, and still maintaining that men are at present naturally able to do all that God requires of them?

           5. I put the inquiry back to those brethren,--By what authority do you affirm, that God requires any more of any moral agent in the universe, and of man in his present condition, than he is at present able to perform?

           6. I inquire, does not the very language of the law of God prove to a demonstration, that God requires no more of man than, in his present state, he is able to perform? Let us hear its language: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Now here, God so completely levels his claims, by the very wording of these commandments, to the present capacity of every human being, however young or old, however maimed, debilitated, or idiotic, as, to use the language or sentiment of Prof. Hickok, of Auburn Seminary, uttered in my hearing that, "if it were possible to conceive of a moral pigmy, the law requires of him nothing more, than to use whatever strength he has, in the service and for the glory of God."

           7. I most respectfully but earnestly inquire of my brethren, if they believe that God requires as much of men as of angels, of a child as of a man, of a half-idiot as of a Newton? I mean not to ask whether God requires an equally perfect consecration of all the powers actually possessed by each of these classes; but whether in degree, he really requires the same, irrespective of their present natural ability?

           8. I wish to inquire, whether my brethren do not admit that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that every abuse of the physical system has abridged the capacity of the mind, while it remains connected with the body? And I would also ask, whether my brethren mean to maintain, at the same breath, the doctrine of present natural ability to comply with all the requirements of God, and also the fact that God now requires of man just the same degree of service that he might have rendered if he had never sinned, or in any way violated the laws of his being? And if they maintained these two positions at the same time, I further inquire, whether they believe that man has naturally[sic.] ability at the present moment to bring all his faculties and powers, together with his knowledge, into the same state in which they might have been, had he never sinned? My brethren, is there not some inconsistency here?

           The fact is, you contradict yourselves. Your positions are precisely as follow:--

           (1.) Man is able perfectly to keep all the commandments of God.

           (2.) God requires of man just that service in kind and degree, which would have been possible to him had he never sinned.

           (3.) But man has sinned, abused, and crippled his powers, in so much that, to render the kind and degree of service which God demands of him, is a natural impossibility.

           9. In the paragraph above quoted, the brother admits, that if a man by his own act had deprived himself of any of his corporeal faculties, he would not thenceforth have been under an obligation to use those faculties. But he thinks this principle does not hold true, in respect to ignorance; because he esteems ignorance a moral, and not a natural defect. Here I beg leave to make a few inquiries:

           (1.) Should a man wickedly deprive himself of the use of his hand, would not this be a moral act? No doubt it would.

           (2.) Suppose a man by his own act should make himself an idiot, would not this be a moral act?

           (3.) Would he not in both cases render himself naturally unable, in the one case to use his hand, and in the other his reason? Undoubtedly he would. But how can it be affirmed, with any show of reason, that in the one case his natural inability discharges him from obligation, and not in the other--that he is still bound to use his reason, but not his hand? Now the fact is, that in both these cases the inability is natural.

           (4.) I ask, if a man willingly remained in ignorance of God, whether his ignorance would constitute a moral inability? If a moral inability, he can instantly overcome it, by the right exercise of his own will, for nothing can be a moral inability that cannot be instantaneously removed by our own volition. But can the present ignorance of mankind be instantaneously removed by an act of volition on the part of men, and their knowledge become as perfect as it might have been had they never sinned? If not, why call ignorance a moral inability, or a moral effect? The fact is that ignorance is often the natural effect of moral delinquency. Neglect of duty occasions ignorance; and this ignorance, while it remains, constitutes a natural inability to perform those duties of which the mind is ignorant; and all that can be required is, that from the present moment, the mind should diligently engage in acquiring what knowledge it can, and perfectly obey, as fast as it obtains the light. If this is not true, it is utter nonsense to talk about natural ability as being a sine quà non of moral obligation. And I would kindly, but most earnestly, ask my brethren, by what rule of consistency they maintain, at the same breath, the doctrine of a natural ability to do whatever God requires, and also insist that he requires men to know as much, and in all respects to render him the same kind and degree of service as if they never had sinned, or rendered themselves in any respect naturally incapable of doing and being, at the present moment, all that they might have done and been, had they never, in any instance, neglected duty?

           10. This objector appears to be strongly impressed with the consideration, that if a man's ignorance can be any excuse for his not doing, at present, what he might have done, but for this ignorance, it will follow, that the less he knows the less is required of him, and should he become a perfect idiot, he would be entirely discharged from moral obligation. To this I answer: Yes, or the doctrine of natural ability and the entire government of God, are a mere farce. If a man should annihilate himself, would not he thereby set aside his moral obligation to obey God? Yes truly. Should he make himself an idiot, would he not thereby annihilate his moral agency; and of course his natural ability to obey God? Will my New School brethren adopt the position of Dr. Wilson of Cincinnati, as maintained on the trial of Dr. Beecher, that "moral obligation does not imply ability of any kind?" The truth is, that for the time being, a man may destroy his moral agency, by rendering himself a lunatic or an idiot; and while this lunacy or idiotcy continues, obedience to God is naturally impossible, and therefore not required.

           But it is also true, that no human being can deprive himself of reason and moral agency, but for a limited time. There is no reason to believe, that the soul can be deranged or idiotic, when separated from the body. And therefore moral agency will in all cases be renewed in a future, if not in the present state of existence, when God will hold men fully responsible for having deprived themselves of power to render him all that service which they might otherwise have rendered. But do let me inquire again, can my dear brethren maintain, that an idiot or a lunatic can be a moral agent? Can they maintain that a being is the subject of moral obligation any farther than he is in a state of sanity? Can they maintain, that an infant is the subject of moral obligation, previous to all knowledge? And can they maintain, that moral obligation can, in any case, exceed knowledge? If they can and do--then, to be consistent, they must flatly deny that natural ability is a sine quà non of moral obligation, and adopt the absurd dogma of Dr. Wilson, that "moral obligation does not imply any ability whatever." When my brethren will take this ground, I shall then understand and know where to meet them. But I beseech you not to complain of inconsistency in me, nor accuse me of teaching dangerous heresy, while I teach nothing more than you must admit to be true, or unequivocally admit in extenso, the very dogma of Dr. Wilson, quoted above.

           I wish to be distinctly understood. I maintain, that present ignorance is present natural inability, as absolutely as that the present want of a hand is present natural inability to use it. And I also maintain, that the law of God requires nothing more of any human being, than that which he is at present naturally able to perform, under the present circumstances of his being. Do my brethren deny this? If they do, then they have gone back to Dr. Wilson's ground. If they do not, why am I accounted a heretic by them, for teaching what they themselves maintain?

           11. In my treatise upon the subject of entire sanctification, I have shown from the Bible, that actual knowledge is indispensable to moral obligation, and that the legal maxim, "ignorance of the law excuses no one," is not good in morals.

           12. Professor Stuart, in a recent number of the Biblical Repository, takes precisely the same ground that I have taken, and fully maintains, that sin is the voluntary transgression of a known law. And he further abundantly shows, that this is no new or heterodox opinion. Now Prof. Stuart, in the article alluded to, takes exactly the same position in regard to what constitutes sin that I have done in the paragraph upon which so much has been said. And may I be permitted to inquire, why the same sentiment is orthodox at Andover, and sound theology in the Biblical Repository, but highly heterodox and dangerous at Oberlin?

           13. Will my brethren of the new school, to avoid the conclusiveness of my reasonings in respect to the requirements of the law of God, go back to old schoolism, physical depravity, and accountability based upon natural inability, and all the host of absurdities belonging to its particular views of orthodoxy? I recollect that Dr. Beecher expressed his surprise at the position taken by Dr. Wilson, to which I have alluded, and said he did not believe that "many men could be found, who could march up without winking to the maintenance of such a proposition as that." But to be consistent, I do not see but that my brethren with or "without winking," are driven to the necessity, either of "marching up" to maintaining the same proposition, or they must admit that the objectionable paragraph in my lecture is the truth of God.

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  • LECTURE 3 - MORAL GOVERNMENT (CONTINUED)
    • LECTURE III.

      ON GOVERNMENT.

           

      I. TERM GOVERNMENT DEFINED.

      II. DISTINCTION BETWEEN MORAL AND PHYSICAL GOVERNMENT.

      III. FUNDAMENTAL REASON OF MORAL GOVERNMENT.

      IV. WHOSE RIGHT IT IS TO GOVERN.

      V. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE RIGHT TO GOVERN.

      VI. LIMITS OF THE RIGHT TO GOVERN.

      VII. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN MORAL GOVERNMENT.

      VIII. MORAL OBLIGATION DEFINED.

      IX. CONDITIONS OF MORAL OBLIGATION.

           I. Government defined.

           The primary idea of government, is that of direction, guidance, control, by, or in accordance with, rule or law. This seems to be the generic signification of the term government; but it appears not to be sufficiently broad in its meaning, to express all that properly belongs to moral government. This leads me,

           II. To distinguish between moral and physical government.

           All government is, and must be, either moral or physical; that is, all guidance and control must be exercised in accordance with either moral or physical law; for there can be no laws that are neither moral nor physical. Physical government, is control, exercised by a law of necessity or force, as distinguished from the law of free will, or liberty. It is the control of substance, as opposed to free will. The only government of which substance, as distinguished from free will, is capable, is and must be physical. This is true, whether the substance be material or immaterial, whether matter or mind. States and changes, whether of matter or mind, that are not actions of free will, must be subject to the law of necessity. In no other way can they be accounted for. They must therefore belong to the department of physical government. Physical government, then, is the administration of physical law, or the law of force.

           Moral government consists in the declaration and administration of moral law. It is the government of free will by motives as distinguished from the government of substance by force. Physical government presides over and controls physical states, and changes of substance or constitution, and all involuntary states and changes. Moral government presides over and controls, or seeks to control, the actions of free will: it presides over intelligent and voluntary states and changes of mind. It is a government of motive, as opposed to a government of force--control exercised, or sought to be exercised, in accordance with the law of liberty, as opposed to the law of necessity. It is the administration of moral as opposed to physical law.

           Moral government includes the dispensation of rewards and punishments; and is administered by means as complicated and vast, as the whole of the works, and providence, and ways, and grace of God.

           III. I am to inquire into the fundamental reason of moral government.

           Government must be founded in a good and sufficient reason, or it is not right. No one has a right to prescribe rules for, and control the conduct of, another, unless there is some good reason for his doing so. There must be a necessity for moral government, or the administration of it is tyranny. Is there any necessity for moral government? And if so, wherein? I answer, that from the nature and relations of moral beings, virtue, or holiness, is indispensable to happiness. But holiness cannot exist without moral law and moral government; for holiness is nothing else than conformity to moral law. Moral government, then, is indispensable to the highest well-being of the universe of moral agents, and therefore ought to exist. The universe is dependent upon this as a means of securing the highest good. This dependence is a good and sufficient reason for the existence of moral government. Let it be understood, then, that moral government is a necessity of moral beings, and therefore right.--When it is said, that the right to govern is founded in the relation of dependence, it is not, or ought not to be, intended, that this relation itself confers the right to govern irrespective of the necessity of government. The mere fact, that one being is dependent on another, does not confer on one the right to govern, and impose upon the other obligation to obey, unless the dependent one needs to be governed, and consequently, that the one upon whom the other is dependent cannot fulfil to him the duties of benevolence, without governing or controlling him. The right to govern implies the duty to govern. Obligation, and consequently, the right to govern, implies that government is a necessary means of fulfilling to the dependent party the duties of benevolence. Strictly speaking, the right to govern is founded in the intrinsic value of the interests to be secured by government; and the right is conditionated upon the necessity of government as a means of securing those interests. I will briefly sum up the argument under this head, as follows:--

           1. It is impossible that government should not exist.

           2. Every thing must be governed by laws suited to its nature.

           3. Matter must be governed by physical laws, because it is not susceptible of government by motive.

           4. The free actions of will must be governed by motives, and moral agents must be governed by moral considerations; for free will is not susceptible of government by force.

           5. We are conscious of moral agency, and, as moral agents, can be governed only by a moral government.

           6. Our nature and circumstances demand that we should be under a moral government; because--

           (1.) Moral happiness depends upon moral order.

           (2.) Moral order depends upon the harmonious action of all our powers, as individuals and as members of society.

           (3.) No community can perfectly harmonize in all their views and feelings, without perfect knowledge, or, to say the least, the same degree of knowledge on all subjects on which they are called to act.

           (4.) But no community ever existed, or will exist, in which every individual possesses exactly the same amount of knowledge, and where the members are, therefore, entirely agreed in all their thoughts, views, and opinions.

           (5.) But if they are not agreed in opinion, or have not exactly the same amount of knowledge, they will not, in every thing, harmonize, as it respects their courses of conduct.

           (6.) There must, therefore, be in every community, some standard or rule of duty, to which all the subjects of the community are to conform themselves.

           (7.) There must be some head or controlling mind, whose will shall be law, and whose decision shall be regarded as infallible, by all the subjects of the government.

           (8.) However diverse their intellectual attainments are, in this they must all agree, that the will of the lawgiver is right, and universally the rule of duty.

           (9.) This will must be authoritative, and not merely advisory.

           (10.) There must of necessity be a penalty attached to, and incurred by, every act of disobedience to this will.

           (11.) If disobedience be persisted in, exclusion from the privileges of the government is the lowest penalty that can consistently be inflicted.

           (12.) The good, then, of the universe imperiously requires, that there should be a moral governor.

           IV. Whose right it is to govern.

           We have just seen, that necessity is a condition of the right and duty to govern--that the highest well-being of the universe demands, and is the end of moral government. It must, therefore, be his right and duty to govern, whose attributes, physical and moral, best qualify him to secure the end of government. To him all eyes and hearts should be directed, to fill this station, to exercise this control, to administer all just and necessary rewards and punishments. It is both his right and duty to govern.

           That God is a moral governor, we infer--

           1. From our own consciousness. From the very laws of our being, we naturally affirm our responsibility to him for our conduct. As God is our creator, we are naturally responsible to him for the right exercise of our powers. And as our good and his glory depend upon our conformity to the same rule, to which he conforms his whole being, he is under a moral obligation to require us to be holy, as he is holy.

           2. His natural attributes qualify him to sustain the relation of a moral governor to the universe.

           3. His moral character also qualifies him to sustain this relation.

           4. His relation to the universe as Creator and preserver, when considered in connexion with the necessity of government, and with his nature and attributes, confers on him the right of universal government.

           5. His relation to the universe, and our relations to him and to each other, render it obligatory upon him to establish and administer a moral government over the universe.

           6. The honour of God demands that he should administer such a government.

           7. His conscience must demand it. He must know that it would be wrong for him to create a universe of moral beings, and then refuse or neglect to administer over them a moral government, since government is a necessity of their nature and relations.

           8. His happiness must demand it, as he could not be happy unless he acted in accordance with his conscience.

           9. If God is not a moral governor he is not wise. Wisdom consists in the choice of the best ends, and in the use of the most appropriate means to accomplish those ends. If God is not a moral governor, it is inconceivable that he should have had any important end in view in the creation of moral beings, or that he should have chosen the best or any suitable means for the promotion of their happiness as the most desirable end.

           10. The conduct or providence of God plainly indicates a design to exert a moral influence over moral agents.

           11. His providence plainly indicates that the universe of mind is governed by moral laws, or by laws suited to the nature of moral agents.

           12. Consciousness recognizes the existence of an inward law, or rule of action, together with a knowledge of the moral quality of actions.

           13. This inward moral consciousness, or conscience, is proof conclusive of the existence of a rule of duty which is obligatory upon us. Indeed, this consciousness is only the mind's direct beholding this law, as affirmed by the reason. This rule implies a ruler, and this ruler must be God.

           14. If God is not a moral governor, our very nature deceives us.

           15. If God is not a moral governor, the whole universe, so far as we have the means of knowing it, is calculated to mislead mankind in respect to this fundamental truth.

           16. If there is no such thing as moral government, there is, in reality, no such thing as moral character; but we as certainly know that we have moral character, as that we exist.

           17. All nations have believed that God is a moral governor.

           18. Our nature is such, that we must believe it. The conviction of our moral accountability to God, is in such a sense the dictate of our moral nature, that we cannot escape from it.

           19. We must disapprove the character of God, if we ever come to a knowledge of the fact that he created moral agents, and then exercised over them no moral government.

           20. The connection between moral delinquency and suffering is such as to render it certain that moral government does, as a matter of fact, exist.

           21. The Bible, which has been proved to be a revelation from God, contains a most simple and yet comprehensive system of moral government.

           22. If we are deceived in respect to our being subjects of moral government, we are sure of nothing.

           V. What is implied in the right to govern.

           1. From what has just been said, it must be evident, that the right to govern, implies the necessity of government, as a means of securing an intrinsically valuable end.

           2. Also that the right to govern, implies the duty, or obligation to govern. There can be no right, in this case, without corresponding obligation; for the right to govern is founded in the necessity of government, and the necessity of government imposes obligation to govern.

           3. The right to govern, implies obligation, on the part of the subject, to obey. It cannot be the right, or duty, of the governor to govern, unless it is the duty of the subject to obey. The governor and subject are alike dependent upon government, as the indispensable means of promoting the highest good. The governor and the subject must, therefore, be under reciprocal obligation, the one to govern, and the other to be governed, or to obey. The one must seek to govern, the other must submit to be governed.

           4. The right to govern, implies the right and duty to dispense just and necessary rewards and punishments--to distribute rewards proportioned to merit, and penalties proportioned to demerit, whenever the public interest demand their execution.

           5. It implies the right and duty, to use all necessary means to secure the end of government, as far as possible.

           6. It implies obligation, on the part of the subject, cheerfully to acquiesce in any measure, that may be necessary, to secure the end of government, and in case of disobedience, to submit to merited punishment, and also, if necessary, to aid in the infliction of the penalty of law.

           7. It implies the right and obligation of both ruler and ruled, to consecrate themselves to the promotion of the great end of government, with a single and steady aim.

           8. It implies obligation, both on the part of the ruler and the ruled, to be always ready, and when occasion arises, actually to make any personal and private sacrifice demanded by the higher public good--to cheerfully meet any emergency, and exercise any degree of self-denial, that can, and will, result in a good of greater value to the public, than that sacrificed by the individual, or by any number of individuals, it always being understood, that present voluntary sacrifices shall have an ultimate reward.

           9. It implies the right and duty to employ any degree of force, which is indispensable to the maintenance of order, the execution of wholesome laws, the suppression of insurrections, the punishment of rebels and disorganizers, and sustaining the supremacy of moral law. It is impossible that the right to govern should not imply this; and to deny this right, is to deny the right to govern. Should an emergency occur, in which a ruler had no right to use the indispensable means of securing order, and the supremacy of law, the moment this emergency occurred, his right to govern would, and must, cease: for it is impossible that it should be his right to govern, unless it be at the same time, and for the same reason, his duty to govern. For it is absurd to say, that it is his right and duty to govern, and yet, at the same time, that he has not a right to use the indispensable means of government. It is the same absurdity, as to say, that he has, and has not, the right to govern, at the same time. If it be asked, whether an emergency like the one under consideration is possible, and if so, what might justly be regarded as such an emergency, I answer, that should circumstances occur under which the sacrifice necessary to sustain, would overbalance the good to be derived from the prevalence of government, this would create the emergency under consideration, in which the right to govern would cease.

           VI. Point out the limits of this right.

           The right to govern is, and must be, just co-extensive with the necessity of government. We have seen, that the right to govern is founded in the necessities of moral beings. In other words, the right to govern is founded upon the fact, that the highest good of moral agents cannot be secured, but by means of government.

           It is a first truth of reason, that what is good or valuable in itself, should be chosen for its own sake, and that it must therefore be the duty of moral agents to aim at securing, and so far as in them lies, to use the means of securing, the highest good of the universe, for its own sake, or on account of its intrinsic value. If moral government is the only means by which this end can be secured, then government is a necessity of the universe, thence a duty. But under this head, to avoid mistake, and to correct erroneous impressions, which are sometimes entertained, I must show what is not the foundation of the right to govern. The boundary of the right must, as will be seen, depend upon the foundation of the right. The right must be as broad as the reason for it. If the reason of the right be mistaken, then the limits of the right cannot be ascertained, and must necessarily be mistaken also.

           1. Hence the right to govern the universe, for instance, cannot be founded in the fact, that God sustains to it the relation of Creator. This is by itself no reason why he should govern it, unless it needs to be governed--unless some good will result from government. Unless there is some necessity for government, the fact that God created the universe can give him no right to govern it.

           2. The fact that God is the owner and sole proprietor of the universe is no reason why he should govern it. Unless either his own good or the good of the universe, or of both together, demand government, the relation of owner cannot confer the right to govern. Neither God, nor any other being, can own moral beings, in such a sense as to have a right to govern them, when government is wholly unnecessary, and can result in no good whatever to God, or to his creatures. Government, in such a case, would be perfectly arbitrary and unreasonable, and consequently an unjust, tyrannical and wicked act. God has no such right. No such right can, by possibility, in any case exist.

           3. The right to govern cannot be founded in the fact, that God possesses all the attributes, natural and moral, that are requisite to the administration of moral government. This fact is no doubt a condition of the right; for without these qualifications he could have no right, however necessary government might be. But the possession of these attributes cannot confer the right independently of the necessity of government: for however well qualified he may be to govern, still, unless government is necessary, to securing his own glory and the highest well-being of the universe, he has no right to govern it. Possessing the requisite qualifications is the condition, and the necessity of government is the foundation of the right to govern. More strictly, the right is founded in the intrinsic value of the interests to be secured by government, and conditionated upon the fact, that government is the necessary means of securing the end.

           4. Nor is the right to govern conferred by the value of the interests to be secured, nor by the circumstance of the necessity of government merely, without respect to the condition just above mentioned. Did not God's natural and moral attributes qualify him to sustain that relation better than any one else, the right could not be conferred on him by any other fact or relation.

           5. The right to govern is not, and cannot be, an abstract right based on no reason whatever. The idea of this right is not an ultimate idea in such a sense, that our intelligence affirms the right without assigning any reason on which it is founded. The human intelligence cannot say that God has a right to govern, because he has such a right; and that this is reason enough, and all the reason that can be given. Our reason does not affirm that government is right because it is right, and that this is a first truth, and an ultimate idea. If this were so, then God's arbitrary will would be law, and no bounds could possibly be assigned to the right to govern. If God's right to govern be a first truth, an ultimate truth, fact, and idea, founded in no assignable reason, then he has the right to legislate as little, and as much, and as arbitrarily, as unnecessarily, as absurdly, and injuriously as possible; and no injustice is, or can be done; for he has, by the supposition, a right to govern, founded in no reason, and of course without any limit. Assign any other reason, as the foundation of the right to govern, then the value of the interests to be secured, and conditionated upon the necessity of government, and you may search in vain for any limit to the right. But the moment the foundation and the condition of the right are discovered, we see instantly, that the right must be co-extensive with the reason upon which it is founded, or in other words, must be limited by, and only by the fact, that thus far, and no farther, government is necessary to the highest good of the universe. No legislation can be valid in heaven or earth--no enactments can impose obligation, except upon the condition, that such legislation is demanded by the highest good of the governor and the governed. Unnecessary legislation is invalid legislation. Unnecessary government is tyranny. It can, in no case, be founded in right. It should, however, be observed, that it is often, and in the government of God universally true, that the sovereign, and not the subject, is to be the judge of what is necessary legislation and government. Under no government, therefore, are laws to be despised or rejected because we are unable to see, at once, their necessity, and hence, their wisdom. Unless they are palpably unnecessary, and therefore unwise and unjust, they are to be respected and obeyed as a less evil than contempt and disobedience, though at present we are unable to see their wisdom. Under the government of God there can never be any doubt, and of course any ground, for distrust and hesitancy, as it respects the duty of obedience.

           VII. What is implied in moral government.

           1. Moral government implies a moral governor.

           2. It implies the existence of moral law.

           3. It implies the existence of moral agents as the subjects of moral government.

           4. It implies the existence of moral obligation to obey moral law.

           5. It implies the fact of moral character, that is, of praise or blame-worthiness in the subjects of moral government. A moral agent must be under moral obligation, and one who is under moral obligation must have moral character. If he complies with obligation he must be holy and praise-worthy, if he refuse to comply with moral obligation he must be sinful and blame-worthy.

           VIII. Moral obligation.

           Obligation is a bond, or that which binds. Moral obligation is oughtness. It is a responsibility imposed on the moral agent by his own reason, and by the authority of God. God reveals obligation to and through the reason.

           The idea of obligation, or of oughtness, is an idea of the pure reason. It is a simple, rational conception, and strictly speaking, does not admit of a definition, since, there are no terms more simple by which it may be defined. Obligation is a term by which we express a conception or idea which all men have, as is manifest from the universal language of men. All men have the ideas of right and wrong, and have words by which these ideas are expressed, and, perhaps, no idea among men more frequently reveals itself in words than that of oughtness or obligation. The term cannot be defined, for the simple reason that it is too well and too universally understood to need or even to admit of being expressed in any language more simple and definite than the word obligation itself.

           IX. The conditions of moral obligation.

           There is a distinction of fundamental importance between the condition and the ground of obligation, which has been overlooked by some writers, and of course they have confused the whole question of obligation. The ground of obligation is the consideration which creates or imposes obligation, the fundamental reason of the obligation. Of this I shall inquire in its proper place, in the course of which inquiry I shall have occasion to notice some instances of the confusion just alluded to, arising out of confounding the ground and the conditions of obligation. At present I am to define the conditions of obligation. But I must in this place observe that there are various forms of obligation. For example, obligation to choose an ultimate end of life as the highest good of the universe; obligation to choose the necessary conditions of this end, as holiness, for example; and obligation to put forth executive efforts to secure this end. The conditions of obligation vary with the form of obligation, as we shall fully perceive in the course of our investigations.

           A condition of obligation in any particular form is a sine quà non of obligation in that particular form. It is that, without which, obligation in that form could not exist, and yet is not the fundamental reason of the obligation. For example, the possession of the powers of moral agency is a condition of the obligation to choose the highest good of being in general, as an ultimate end, or for its own sake. But the intrinsic value of this good is the ground of the obligation. This obligation could not exist without the possession of these powers; but the possession of these powers cannot of itself create the obligation to choose the good in preference to the ill of being. The intrinsic difference between the good and the ill of being is the ground of the obligation to will the one rather than the other. I will first define the conditions upon which all obligation depends, and without which obligation in no form can exist, and afterwards proceed to point out the conditions of distinct forms of obligation.

           1. Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation. The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will.

           (1.) Intellect, includes, amongst other functions which I need not name, reason, conscience, and self-consciousness. As has been said on a former occasion, reason is the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect. It gives by direct intuition the following among other truths: the absolute--for example, right and wrong; the necessary--space exists; the infinite--space is infinite; the perfect--God is perfect--God's law is perfect, &c. In short, it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act in conformity with perceived moral relations. It is that faculty that postulates all the à priori truths of science whether mathematical, philosophical, theological, or logical.

           Conscience is the faculty or function of the intellect that recognizes the conformity or disconformity of the heart and life to the moral law as it lies revealed in the reason, and also awards praise to conformity, and blame to disconformity to that law. It also affirms that conformity to the moral law deserves reward, and that disconformity deserves punishment. It also possesses a propelling or impulsive power, by which it urges the conformity, and denounces the nonconformity of will, to moral law. It seems, in a certain sense, to possess the power of retribution.

           Consciousness is the faculty or function of self-knowledge. It is the faculty that recognizes our own existence, mental actions, and states, together with the attributes of liberty or necessity, belonging to those actions or states.

           "Consciousness is the mind in the act of knowing itself." By consciousness I know that I am--that I affirm that space is,--that I also affirm that the whole is equal to all its parts--that every event must have a cause, and many such like truths. I am conscious not only of these affirmations, but also that necessity is the law of these affirmations, that I cannot affirm otherwise than I do, in respect to this class of truths. I am also conscious of choosing to sit at my desk and write, and I am just as conscious that liberty is the law of this choice. That is, I am conscious of necessarily regarding myself as entirely free in this choice, and affirming my own ability to have chosen not to sit at my desk, and of being now able to choose not to sit and write. I am just as conscious of affirming the liberty or necessity of my mental states as I am of the states themselves. Consciousness gives us our existence and attributes, our mental acts and states, and all the attributes and phenomena of our being, of which we have any knowledge. In short, all our knowledge is given to us by consciousness. The intellect is a receptivity as distinguished from a voluntary power. All the acts and states of the intellect are under the law of necessity, or physical law. The will can command the attention of the intellect. Its thoughts, perceptions, affirmations, and all its phenomena are involuntary, and under a law of necessity. Of this we are conscious. Another faculty indispensable to moral agency is--

           (2.) Sensibility. This is the faculty or susceptibility of feeling. All sensation, desire, emotion, passion, pain, pleasure, and, in short, every kind and degree of feeling, as the term feeling is commonly used, is a phenomenon of this faculty. This faculty supplies the chronological condition of the idea of the valuable, and hence of right and wrong, and of moral obligation. The experience of pleasure or happiness developes the idea of the valuable, just as the perception of body developes the idea of space. But for this faculty the mind could have no idea of the valuable, and hence of moral obligation to will the valuable, nor of right and wrong, nor of praise and blame-worthiness.

           Self-love is a phenomenon of this department of the mind. It consists in a constitutional desire of happiness, and implies a corresponding dread of misery. It is doubtless through, or by this constitutional tendency that the rational idea of the intrinsic value of happiness or enjoyment is at first developed. Animals, doubtless, have enjoyment, but we have no evidence that they possess the faculty of reason in the sense in which I have defined the term. Consequently they have not, as we suppose, the rational conception of the intrinsic worth or value of enjoyment. They seek enjoyment from a mere impulse of their animal nature, without, as we suppose, so much as a conception of moral law, obligation, right or wrong.

           But we know that moral agents have these ideas. Self-love is constitutional. Its gratification is the chronological condition of the developement of the reason's idea of the intrinsically valuable to being. This idea developes that of moral law, or in other words, the affirmation that this intrinsic good ought to be universally chosen and sought for its own sake.

           The sensibility, like the intellect, is a receptivity or purely a passive, as distinguished from a voluntary faculty. All its phenomena are under the law of necessity. I am conscious that I cannot, by any direct effort, feel when and as I will. This faculty is so correlated to the intellect that when the intellect is intensely occupied with certain considerations, the sensibility is affected in a certain manner, and certain feelings exist in the sensibility by a law of necessity. I am conscious that when certain conditions are fulfilled, I necessarily have certain feelings, and that when these conditions are not fulfilled, I cannot be the subject of those feelings. I know by consciousness that my feelings and all the states and phenomena of the sensibility are only indirectly under the control of my will. By willing I can direct my intellect to the consideration of certain subjects, and in this way alone affect my sensibility, and produce a given state of feeling. So on the other hand, if certain feelings exist in the sensibility which I wish to suppress, I know that I cannot annihilate them by directly willing them out of existence, but by diverting my attention from the cause of them, they cease to exist of course and of necessity. Thus, feeling is only indirectly under the control of the will.

           (3.) Moral agency implies the possession of free-will. By free-will is intended the power of choosing, or refusing to choose, in every instance, in compliance with moral obligation. Free-will implies the power of originating and deciding our own choices, and of exercising our own sovereignty, in every instance of choice upon moral questions--of deciding or choosing in conformity with duty or otherwise in all cases of moral obligation. That man cannot be under a moral obligation to perform an absolute impossibility, is a first truth of reason. But man's causality, his whole power of causality to perform or do anything, lies in his will. If he cannot will, he can do nothing. His whole liberty or freedom must consist in his power to will. His outward actions and his mental states are connected with the actions of his will by a law of necessity. If I will to move my muscles, they must move, unless there be a paralysis of the nerves of voluntary motion, or unless some resistance be opposed that overcomes the power of my volitions. The sequences of choice or volition are always under the law of necessity, and unless the will is free, man has no freedom; and if he has no freedom he is not a moral agent, that is, he is incapable of moral action and also of moral character. Free-will then, in the above defined sense, must be a condition of moral agency, and, of course, of moral obligation.

           As consciousness gives the rational affirmation that necessity is an attribute of the affirmations of the reason, and of the states of [the] sensibility, so it just as unequivocally gives the reason's affirmation that liberty is an attribute of the actions of the will. I am as conscious of the affirmation that I could will differently from what I do in every instance of moral obligation, as I am of the affirmation that I cannot affirm, in regard to truths of intuition, otherwise than I do. I am as conscious of affirming that I am free in willing, as I am of affirming that I am not free or voluntary in my feelings and intuitions.

           Consciousness of affirming the freedom of the will, that is, of power to will in accordance with moral obligation, or to refuse thus to will, is a necessary condition of the affirmation of obligation. For example, no man affirms, or can affirm, his obligation to undo all the acts of his past life, and to live his life over again. He cannot affirm himself to be under this obligation, simply because he cannot but affirm the impossibility of it. He cannot but affirm his obligation to repent and obey God in future, because he is conscious of affirming his ability to do this. Consciousness of the affirmation of ability to comply with any requisition, is a necessary condition of the affirmation of obligation to comply with that requisition. Then no moral agent can affirm himself to be under obligation to perform an impossibility.

           2. A second condition of moral obligation is light, or so much knowledge of our moral relations as to develope the idea of oughtness. This implies--

           (1.) The perception or idea of the intrinsically valuable.

           (2.) The affirmation of obligation to will the valuable for its own sake.

           (3.) The developement of the idea that it is right to will the good, or the valuable, and wrong not to will it, for its own sake or disinterestedly.

           Before I can affirm my obligation to will, I must perceive something in that which I am required to will, as an ultimate end, that renders it worthy of being chosen. I must have an object of choice. That object must possess, in itself, that which commends itself to my Intelligence as worthy of being chosen.

           All choice must respect means or ends. That is, everything must be willed either as an end or a means. I cannot be under obligation to will the means until I know the end. I cannot know an end, or that which can possibly be chosen as an ultimate end, until I know that something is intrinsically valuable. I cannot know that it is right or wrong to choose or refuse a certain end, until I know whether the proposed object of choice is intrinsically valuable or not. It is impossible for me to choose it, as an ultimate end, unless I perceive it to be intrinsically valuable. This is self-evident; for choosing it as an end is nothing else than choosing it for its intrinsic value. Moral obligation, therefore, always and necessarily implies the knowledge that the well-being of God and of the universe is valuable in itself, and the affirmation that it ought to be chosen for its own sake, that is, impartially and on account of its intrinsic value. It is impossible that the ideas of right and wrong should be developed until the idea of the valuable is developed. Right and wrong respect intentions, and strictly nothing else, as we shall see. Intention implies an end intended. Now that which is chosen as an ultimate end, is and must be chosen for its own sake or for its intrinsic value. Until the end is apprehended, no idea or affirmation of obligation can exist respecting it. Consequently, no idea of right or wrong in respect to that end can exist. The end must first be perceived. The idea of the intrinsically valuable must be developed. Simultaneously with the developement of the idea of the valuable the intelligence affirms, and must affirm obligation to will it, or, which is, strictly speaking, the same thing, that it is right to will it, and wrong not to will it.

           It is impossible that the idea of moral obligation, or of right and wrong, should be developed upon any other conditions than those just specified. To affirm the contrary were absurd. Suppose, for instance, it should be said that the idea of the intrinsically valuable is not necessary to the developement of the idea of moral obligation, and of right and wrong. Let us look at it. It is agreed that moral obligation, and the ideas of right and wrong respect, directly, intentions only. It is also admitted that all intentions must respect either means or ends. It is also admitted that obligation to will means, cannot exist until the end is known. It is also admitted that the choice of an ultimate end implies the choice of a thing for its own sake, or because it is intrinsically valuable. Now, from these admissions, it follows that the idea of the intrinsically valuable is the condition of moral obligation, and also of the idea of moral obligation. It must follow also that the idea of the valuable must be the condition of the idea that it would be right to choose, or wrong not to choose, the valuable. When I come to the discussion of the subject of moral depravity, I shall endeavour to show that the idea of the valuable is very early developed, and is among the earliest, if not the very first, of human intellections. I have here only to insist that the developement of this idea is a sine quà non of moral obligation. It is, then, nonsense to affirm that the ideas of right and wrong are developed antecedently to the idea of the valuable. It is the same as to say that I affirm it to be right to will an end, before I have the idea of an end; or which is the same thing, of the intrinsically valuable, or wrong not to will an end when as yet I have no idea or knowledge of any reason why it should be willed, or, in other words, while I have no idea of an ultimate end. This is absurd.

           Let it be distinctly understood then, that the conditions of moral obligation, in the universal form of obligation to will the highest well-being of God and of the universe, for its own sake, are--

           1. The possession of the powers, or faculties, and susceptibilities of a moral agent.

           2. Light, or the developement of the ideas of the valuable, of moral obligation, of right and wrong.

           It has been absurdly contended that sensibility is not necessary to moral agency. This assertion overlooks the fact that moral law is the law of nature; that, therefore, were the powers and susceptibilities radically different from what they are, or were the correlation of these powers radically otherwise than it is, they could not still be moral agents in the sense of being under the same law that moral agents now are. Possessing a different nature, they must of necessity be subject to a different law. The law of their nature must be their law, and no other could, by any possibility, be obligatory upon them.

           I have defined the conditions of obligation in its universal form, i.e. obligation to be benevolent, to love God and our neighbour, or to will the universal good of being for its intrinsic value. Obligation in this form is universal and always a unit, and has always the same conditions. But there are myriads of specific forms of obligation which relate to the conditions and means of securing this ultimate end. We shall have occasion hereafter fully to show that obligation respects three classes of the will's actions, viz. the choice of an ultimate end--the choice of the conditions and means of securing that end--and executive volitions or efforts put forth to secure the end. I have already shown that moral agency, with all that is implied in it, has the universal conditions of obligation to choose the highest good of being, as an ultimate end. This must be self-evident.

           Obligation to choose the conditions of this end, the holiness of God and of all moral agents, for example, must be conditioned upon the perception that these are the conditions. In other words, the perception of the relation of these means to the end must be a condition of the obligation to will their existence. The perception of the relation is not the ground but simply the condition of obligation in this form. The relation of holiness to happiness as a condition of its existence could not impose obligations to will the existence of holiness without reference to the intrinsic value of happiness, as the fundamental reason for willing it as a necessary condition and means. The ground of the obligation to will the existence of holiness, as a means of happiness, is the intrinsic value of happiness, but the perceived relation of holiness to happiness is a condition of the obligation. But for this perceived relation the obligation could not exist, yet the perceived relation could not create the obligation. Suppose that holiness is the means of happiness, yet no obligation to will holiness on account of this relation could exist but for the intrinsic value of happiness.

           3. Conditions of obligation to put forth executive acts.

           Having now defined the conditions of obligation in its universal form, and also in the form of obligation to choose the existence of holiness as a necessary means of happiness, I now proceed to point out the conditions of obligation to put forth executive volitions or efforts to secure holiness, and secure the highest good of being. Our busy lives are made up in efforts to secure some ultimate end, upon which the heart is set. The sense in which obligation extends to these executive volitions or acts I shall soon consider, at present I am concerned only to define the conditions of these forms of obligation. These forms of obligation, be it understood, respect volitions and consequent outward acts. Volitions, designed as executive acts, always suppose an existing choice of the end designed to be secured by them. Obligation to put forth executive efforts to secure an end must be conditioned upon the possibility, supposed necessity, and utility of such efforts. If the end chosen does not need to be promoted by any efforts of ours, or if such efforts are impossible to us, or if they are seen to be of no use, there can be no obligation to make them.

           Anything is a condition of obligation which is essential to the existence of obligation in a given form, but it is not the ground or fundamental reason of the obligation. As we proceed, we shall have occasion to notice many instances as illustrations of what is here premised, and to show what confusion has resulted from confounding the distinction between the grounds and conditions of obligation as here stated.

           But observe, executive acts are such as are put forth with design to secure some end, and presuppose the existence of both the end and the design, and also the supposition or belief that such executive acts are possible, necessary, and useful. It is important, however, to observe that the utility of ultimate choice, or the choice of an object for its own sake, is not a condition of obligation in that form.

           Ultimate choice, or the choice of an object for its own sake, or for its intrinsic value, is not an effort designed to secure or obtain that object; that is, is not put forth with any such design. When the object which the mind perceives to be intrinsically valuable (as the good of being, for example), is perceived by the mind, it cannot but choose or refuse it. Indifference in this case is naturally impossible. The mind, in such circumstances, is under a necessity of choosing one way or the other. The will must embrace or reject it. The reason affirms the obligation to choose the intrinsically valuable for its own sake, and not because choosing it will secure it. Nor does the real choice of it imply a purpose or an obligation to put forth executive acts to secure it, except upon condition that such acts are seen to be necessary, and possible, and calculated to secure it.

           Ultimate choice is not put forth with design to secure its object. It is only the will's embracing the object or willing it for its own sake. In regard to ultimate choice the will must choose or refuse the object entirely irrespectively of the tendency of the choice to secure the object. Assuming this necessity, the reason affirms that it is right, fit, suitable, or, which is the same thing, that the will ought, or is under obligation to choose, the good or valuable, and not refuse it, because of its intrinsic nature, and without regard to whether the choosing will secure the object chosen.

           But executive acts, be it remembered, are, and must be, put forth with design to secure their object, and of course, cannot exist unless the design exist, and the design cannot exist unless the mind assumes the possibility, necessity, and utility of such efforts.

      REMARKS.

           1. If God's government is moral, it is easy to see how sin came to exist; that a want of experience in the universe, in regard to the nature and natural tendencies and results of sin, prevented the due influence of sanctions.

           2. If God's government is moral, we see that all the developements of sin are enlarging the experience of the universe in regard to its nature and tendencies, and thus confirming the influence of moral government over virtuous minds.

           3. If God's government is moral, we can understand the design and tendency of the atonement; that it is designed, and that it tends to reconcile the exercise of mercy, with a due administration of law.

           4. If God's government is moral, we can understand the philosophy of the Spirit's influences in convicting and sanctifying the soul; that this influence is moral, persuasive, and not physical.

           5. If the government of God is moral, we can understand the influence and necessity of faith. Confidence is indispensable to heart obedience in any government. This is emphatically true under the divine government.

           6. If God's government is moral, we can see the necessity and power of Christian example. Example is the highest moral influence.

           7. If God's government is moral, his natural or physical omnipotence is no proof that all men will be saved; for salvation is not effected by physical power.

           8. If God's government is moral, we see the importance of watchfulness, and girding up the loins of our minds.

           9. If God's government is moral, we see the necessity of a well-instructed ministry, able to wield the motives necessary to sway mind.

           10. If God's government is moral, we see the philosophical bearings, tendencies, and power of the providence, law, and gospel of God, in the great work of man's salvation.

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  • LECTURE 4 - MORAL OBLIGATION
    • LECTURE IV.

      MORAL OBLIGATION.

           I. MAN A SUBJECT OF MORAL OBLIGATION.

           II. EXTENT OF MORAL OBLIGATION.

           I. Man is a subject of moral obligation.

           This is a first truth of reason. A first truth, be it remembered, has this invariable characteristic, namely, all moral agents know it, by a necessity of nature, and assume its truth, in all their practical judgments, whatever their philosophical theories may be. Take, for example, the affirmation, or assumption, that every event must have had an adequate cause. This is a first truth; all men know it, and, in all their practical judgments, assume it, whatever their theorizings may be.

           Now who does not know, with the same certainty, that men possess the attributes of moral agents; to wit, intellect, (including reason, conscience, and consciousness,sensibility, and free will. Every moral agent does know, and cannot but know this. That man has intellect and sensibility, or the powers of knowing and feeling, has not, to my knowledge, been doubted. In theory, the freedom of the will in man has been denied. Yet the very deniers have, in their practical judgment, assumed the freedom of the human will, as well, and as fully, as the most staunch defenders of human liberty of will. Indeed, nobody ever did or can, in practice, call in question the freedom of the human will, without justly incurring the charge of insanity. By a necessity of his nature, every moral agent knows himself to be free. He can no more hide this fact from himself, or reason himself out of the conviction of its truth, than he can speculate himself into a disbelief of his own existence. He may, in speculation, deny either, but in fact he knows both. That he is, that he is free, are truths equally well known, and known precisely in the same way, namely, he intuits them--sees them in their own light, by virtue of the constitution of his being. I have said that man is conscious of possessing the powers of a moral agent. He has also the idea of the valuable, of right and of wrong: of this he is conscious. But nothing else is necessary to constitute man or any other being a subject of moral obligation, than the possession of these powers, together with sufficient light on moral subjects to develope the ideas just mentioned.

           Again. Man, by a law of necessity, affirms himself to be under moral obligation. He cannot doubt it. He affirms absolutely, and necessarily, that he is praise or blame-worthy as he is benevolent or selfish. Every man assumes this of himself, and of all other men, of sound mind. This assumption is irresistible, as well as universal.

           The truth assumed then, is a first truth, and not to be called in question. But if it be called in question, in theory, it still remains and must remain, while reason remains, a truth of certain knowledge from the presence of which there is, and can be, no escape. The spontaneous, universal, and irresistible affirmation that men, of sound mind, are praise or blame-worthy, as they are selfish or benevolent, shows beyond contradiction, that all men regard themselves, and others, as the subjects of moral obligation.

           II. Extent of moral obligation.

           By this is intended, to what acts and states of mind does moral obligation extend? This certainly is a solemn and a fundamentally important question.

           In the examination of this question I shall,

           1. Show by an appeal to reason, or to natural theology, to what acts and states of mind moral obligation cannot directly extend.

           2. To what acts or states of mind moral obligation must directly extend.

           3. To what acts and mental states moral obligation must indirectly extend.

           I. I am to show by an appeal to reason, or to natural theology, to what acts and states of mind moral obligation cannot directly extend.

           1. Not to external or muscular action. These actions are connected with the actions of the will, by a law of necessity. If I will to move my muscles, they must move, unless the nerves of voluntary motion are paralyzed, or some resistance is offered to muscular motion, that overpowers the strength of my will, or, if you please, of my muscles. It is generally understood and agreed that moral obligation does not directly extend to bodily or outward action.

           2. Not to the states of the sensibility. I have already remarked, that we are conscious, that our feelings are not voluntary, but involuntary states of mind. Moral obligation cannot, therefore, directly extend to them.

           3. Not to states of the intellect. The phenomena of this faculty, we also know, by consciousness, to be under the law of necessity. It is impossible that moral obligation should extend directly to any involuntary act or state of mind.

           4. Not to unintelligent acts of will. There are many unintelligent volitions, or acts of will, to which moral obligation cannot extend, for example, the volitions of maniacs, or of infants, before the reason is at all developed. They must, at birth, be the subjects of volition, as they have motion or muscular action. The volitions of somnambulists are also of this character. Purely instinctive volitions must also come under the category of unintelligent actions of will. For example: a bee lights on my hand, I instantly and instinctively shake him off. I tread on a hot iron, and instinctively move my foot. Indeed, there are many actions of will, which are put forth under the influence of pure instinct, and before the intellect can affirm obligation to will or not to will. These surely cannot have moral character, and of course moral obligation cannot extend to them.

           II. To what acts and states of mind moral obligation must directly extend.

           1. To ultimate acts of will. These are, and must be, free.

           Intelligent acts of will, as has been before observed, are of three classes. 1. The choice of some object for its own sake, i.e. because of its own nature, or for reasons found exclusively in itself, as, for example, the happiness of being. These are called ultimate choices, or intentions. 2. The choice of the conditions and means of securing the object of ultimate choice, as, for example, holiness, as the conditions or means of happiness. 3. Volitions, or executive efforts to secure the object of ultimate choice. Obligation must extend to these three classes of the actions of the will. In the most strict and proper sense it may be said, that obligation extends directly, only to the ultimate intention. We learn, from consciousness, that the choice of an end necessitates (while the choice of the end exists) the choice of the known conditions and means of securing this end. I am free to relinquish, at any moment, my choice of an end, but while I persevere in the choice, or ultimate intention, I am not free to refuse the known necessary conditions and means. If I reject the known conditions and means, I, in this act, relinquish the choice of the end. The desire of the end may remain, but the actual choice of it cannot, when the will knowingly rejects the known necessary conditions and means. In this case, the will prefers to let go the end, rather than to choose and use the necessary conditions and means. In the strictest sense the choice of known conditions and means, together with executive volitions, is implied in the ultimate intention or in the choice of an end.

           When the good or valuable, per se, is perceived, by a moral agent, he instantly and necessarily, and without condition, affirms his obligation to choose it. This affirmation is direct and universal, absolute, or without condition. Whether he will affirm himself to be under obligation to put forth efforts to secure the good must depend upon his regarding such acts as necessary, possible, and useful.

           The obligation, therefore, to put forth ultimate choice, is in the strictest sense direct, absolute, and universal.

           Obligation to choose holiness, (as the holiness of God) as the means of happiness, is indirect in the sense that it is conditioned. 1. Upon the obligation to choose happiness as a good per se; and, 2. Upon the knowledge that holiness is the necessary means of happiness.

           Obligation to put forth executive volitions is also indirect in the sense that it is conditioned; 1. Upon obligation to choose an object as an end; and, 2. Upon the necessity, possibility, and utility of such acts.

           It should here be observed, that obligation to choose an object for its own sake, implies, of course, obligation to reject its opposite; and obligation to choose the conditions of an intrinsically valuable object for its own sake, implies obligation to reject the conditions or means of the opposite of this object. Also, obligation to use means to secure an intrinsically valuable object, implies obligation to use means, if necessary and possible, to prevent the opposite of this end.

           For example. Obligation to will happiness, for its intrinsic value, implies obligation to reject misery, as an intrinsic evil. Obligation to will the conditions of the happiness of being, implies obligation to reject the conditions of misery. Obligation to use means to promote the happiness of being, implies obligation to use means, if necessary and practicable, to prevent the misery of being.

           Again, the choice of any object, either as an end, or a means, implies the refusal of its opposite. In other words, choice implies preference, refusing is properly only choice in an opposite direction. For this reason, in speaking of the actions of the will, it has been common to omit the mention of nilling, or refusing, since such acts are properly included in the categories of choices and volitions. It should also be observed that choice, or willing, necessarily implies an object chosen, and that this object should be such that the mind can regard it as being either intrinsically, or relatively valuable, or important. As choice must consist in an act, an intelligent act, the mind must have some reason for choice. It cannot choose without a reason, for this is the same as to choose without an object of choice. A mere abstraction without any perceived or assumed, intrinsic, or relative importance, to any being in existence, cannot be an object of choice, either ultimate or executive. The ultimate reason which the mind has for choosing is in fact the object of choice; and where there is no reason there is no object of choice.

           2. I have said, that moral obligation respects in the strictest sense, and directly the intention only. I am now prepared to say still further, that this is a first truth of reason. It is a truth universally and necessarily assumed, by all moral agents, their speculations to the contrary, in any wise, notwithstanding. This is evident from the following considerations.

           (1.) Very young children know and assume this truth universally. They always deem it a sufficient vindication of themselves, when accused of any delinquency, to say, "I did not mean to," or if accused of short coming, to say, "I meant or intended to have done it--I designed it." This, if true, they assume to be an all-sufficient vindication of themselves. They know that this, if believed, must be regarded as a sufficient excuse to justify them in every case.

           (2.) Every moral agent necessarily regards such an excuse as a perfect justification, in case it can be sincerely and truly made.

           (3.) It is a saying as common as men are, and as true as common, that men are to be judged by their motives, that is, by their designs, intentions. It is impossible for us not to assent to this truth. If a man intend evil, though, perchance, he may do us good, we do not excuse him, but hold him guilty of the crime which he intended. So if he intend to do us good, and, perchance, do us evil, we do not, and cannot condemn him. For this intention and endeavour to do us good, we cannot blame him, although it has resulted in evil to us. He may be to blame for other things connected with the affair. He may have come to our help too late, and have been to blame for not coming when a different result would have followed; or he may have been blameable for not being better qualified for doing us good. He may have been to blame for many things connected with the transaction, but for a sincere, and of course hearty endeavour to do us good, he is not culpable, nor can he be, however it may result. If he honestly intended to do us good, it is impossible that he should not have used the best means in his power, at the time: this is implied in honesty of intention. And if he did this, reason cannot pronounce him guilty, for it must judge him by his intentions.

           (4.) Courts of criminal law have always in every enlightened country assumed this as a first truth. They always inquire into the quo animo, that is, the intention, and judge accordingly.

           (5.) The universally acknowledged truth that lunatics are not moral agents and responsible for their conduct, is but an illustration of the fact that the truth we are considering, is regarded, and assumed, as a first truth of reason.

           3. We have seen that the choice of an end implies, and, while the choice continues, necessitates the choice of the known conditions and means of the end, and also the putting forth of volition to secure the end. If this is true, it follows that the choice of the conditions and means of securing an end, and also the volitions put forth as executive efforts to secure it, must derive their character from the ultimate choice or intention, which gives them existence. This shows that moral obligation extends, primarily and directly, only to the ultimate intention or choice of an end, though really, but less directly, to the choice of the conditions and means, and also to executive volitions.

           But I must distinguish more clearly between ultimate and proximate intentions, which discrimination will show, that in the most strict and proper sense, obligation belongs to the former, and only in a less strict and proper sense to the latter.

           An ultimate end, be it remembered, is an object chosen for its own sake.

           A proximate end is an object chosen as a condition or means of securing an ultimate end.

           An ultimate end is an object chosen because of its intrinsic nature and value.

           A proximate end is an object chosen for the sake of the end, and upon condition of its relation as a condition or means of the end.

           Example:--A student labours to get wages, to purchase books, to obtain an education, to preach the gospel, to save souls, and to please God. Another labours to get wages, to purchase books, to get an education, to preach the gospel, to secure a salary, and his own ease and popularity. In the first supposition he loves God and souls, and seeks, as his ultimate end, the happiness of souls, and the glory and gratification of God. In the last case supposed, he loves himself supremely, and his ultimate end is his own gratification. Now the proximate ends, or immediate objects of pursuit, in these two cases, are precisely alike, while their ultimate ends are entirely opposite. Their first, or nearest end is to get wages. Their next end is, to obtain books, and so we follow them, until we ascertain their ultimate end, before we learn the moral character of what they are doing. The means they are using, i.e. their immediate objects or proximate ends of pursuit, are the same, but the ultimate ends, at which they aim, are entirely different, and every moral agent, from a necessary law of his own intellect, must, as soon as he understands the ultimate end of each, pronounce the one virtuous, and the other sinful, in his pursuits. One is selfish and the other benevolent. From this illustration it is plain, that strictly speaking, moral character, and, of course, moral obligation, respect directly, the ultimate intention only. We shall see, in the proper place, that obligation also extends, but less directly, to the use of means to obtain the end.

           4. The Bible every where, either expressly or impliedly recognizes this truth. "If there be a willing mind," that is, a right willing or intention, "it is accepted," &c.

           5. Again. All the law is fulfilled in one word, "love." Now this cannot be true, if the spirit of the whole law does not directly respect intentions only. If it extends directly to thoughts, emotions, and outward actions, it cannot be truly said that love is the fulfilling of the law. This love must be good will, for how could involuntary love be obligatory?

           6. Again. The spirit of the Bible every where respects the intention. If the intention is right, or if there be a willing mind, it is accepted as obedience. But if there be not a willing mind, that is, right intention, no outward act is regarded as obedience. The willing, is always regarded by the scripture, as the doing. "If a man look on a woman, to lust after her," that is, with licentious intentions, or willing, "he hath committed adultery with her already," &c. So on the other hand, if one intends to perform a service for God, which, after all, he is unable to perform, he is regarded as having virtually done it, and is rewarded accordingly.

           This is too obviously the doctrine of the Bible to need further elucidation.

           III. To what acts and mental states moral obligation indirectly extends.

           Under this head I remark--

           That it has been already said, the choice of means and executive volitions, together with outward action, and also the states of the intellect and sensibility, are connected with ultimate intention by a law of necessity.

           (1.) The muscles of the body are, directly, under the control of the will. I will to move, and my muscles must move, unless there be interposed some physical obstruction of sufficient magnitude to overcome the strength of my will.

           (2.) The intellect is also directly under the control of the will. I am conscious that I can control and direct my attention as I please, and think, upon one subject or another.

           (3.) The sensibility, I am conscious, is only indirectly controlled by the will. Feeling can be produced only by directing the attention and thoughts to those subjects that excite feeling, by a law of necessity.

           The way is now prepared to say--

           1. That obligation extends indirectly to all intelligent acts of will in the sense already explained, all men are too conscious to need proof.

           2. That moral obligation extends indirectly, to outward, or bodily actions. These are often required, in the word of God. The reason is, that being connected with the actions of the will, by a law of necessity, if the will is right, the outward action must follow, except upon the contingencies just named, and therefore such action may reasonably be required. But if the contingencies, just named, intervene, so that outward action does not follow the choice or intention, the Bible accepts the will for the deed, invariably. "If there be a willing mind, it is accepted according," &c.

           3. Moral obligation extends, but more directly, to the states of the sensibility, so that certain emotions or feelings are required as outward actions are, and for the same reason, namely, the states of the sensibility are connected with the actions of the will, by a law of necessity. But when the sensibility is exhausted, or when, for any reason, the right action of the will does not produce the required feelings, it is accepted upon the principle just named.

           4. Moral obligation, indirectly, extends also to the states of the intellect; consequently the Bible, to a certain extent, and in a certain sense, holds men responsible for their thoughts and opinions. It everywhere assumes that if the heart be constantly right, the thoughts and opinions will correspond with the state of the heart, or will; "If any man will do his will he shall know the doctrine whether it be of God." "If thine eye be single thy body shall be full of light." It is, however, manifest that the word of God every where assumes that, strictly speaking, all virtue and vice belong to the heart or intention. Where this is right, all is regarded as right; and where this is wrong, all is regarded as wrong. It is upon this assumption that the doctrine of total depravity rests. It is undeniable that the veriest sinners do many things outwardly, which the law of God requires. Now unless the intention decides the character of these acts, they must be regarded as really virtuous. But when the intention is found to be selfish, then it is ascertained that they are sinful notwithstanding their conformity to the letter of the law of God.

           The fact is, that moral agents are so constituted that it is impossible for them not to judge themselves, and others, by their subjective motives or intentions. They cannot but assume it, as a first truth, that a man's character is as his intention is, and consequently that moral obligation respects, directly, intention only.

           5. Moral obligation then indirectly extends to every thing about us, over which the will has direct, or indirect control. The moral law, while, strictly, it legislates over intentions only, yet in fact, in a sense less direct, legislates over the