CIVIL

Systematic Theology-J.H. Fairchild

Systematic Theology – Charles G. Finney

 

Edited by J.H Fairchild 1878
President, Oberlin college

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,” etc-, 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 endeavored 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 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 principal design in publishing Systematic Theology at first, was

to furnish my pupils with a class or textbook, 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- Most of the subjects of dispute among Christians at the present

day are founded in misconceptions upon the subjects discussed in the

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-

6- 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.

7- 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 develop your powers by study- God designed that religion

should require thought, intense thought, and should thoroughly

develop our powers of thought- The Bible itself is written in a style so

condensed as to require much intense study- I do not pretend to so

explain theology as to dispense with the labor of thinking- I have no

ability and no wish to do so.

8- 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 cavilers 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.

9- 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.

10- 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

candor 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 standstill, 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 most 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” (Eccl- 9:4), 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.

11- 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

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.


Systematic Theology

LECTURE 1

MORAL GOVERNMENT

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.

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

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.

The essential attributes of moral law are,

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-

3- 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, cannot

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- Fitness- It must be the law of nature, that is, its precepts 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- 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- Impartiality- Moral law is no respecter of per sons 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- 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-

 

8- Independence- 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 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-

 

9- 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 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- 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,

cannot be moral law- Moral law invariably holds one language- It

never changes its requirement- “Thou shalt love” (Deut- 6:5), 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- 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-

 

10- 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-

 

11- Expediency- 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” (1 Cor- 6:12), 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 forbidden by the letter- It should never be forgotten 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 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 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-

 

12- Exclusiveness- 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, must be an

imposition and “a thing of nought” (Isaiah 29:21)-


LECTURE 2

 

MORAL GOVERNMENT

 

The primary idea of government, is that of direction, guidance,

control by, or in accordance with, rule or law-

 

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 is 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- 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-

 

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 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- Moral government is indispensable to the highest

well-being of the universe of moral agents- 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-

 

Our nature and circumstances demand that we should be under a

moral government; because 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- But no community ever existed, or will exist, in which all

possess exactly the same amount of knowledge, and where the

members are, therefore, entirely agreed in all their thoughts, views,

and opinions- 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- 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-

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- 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- This will must be authoritative, and not

merely advisory- There must of necessity be a penalty attached to,

and incurred by, every act of disobedience to this will- If disobedience

be persisted in, exclusion from the privileges of the government is the

lowest penalty that can consistently be inflicted- The good, then, of

the universe imperiously requires that there should be a moral

governor-

 

Whose right is it to govern?

 

We have just seen 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 nature- 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 connection 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- 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-

 

6- His happiness must demand it, as He could not be happy unless

He acted in accordance with His conscience-

 

7- 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 most

desirable end-

 

8- The conduct or providence of God plainly indicates a design to

exert a moral influence over moral agents-

 

9- His providence plainly indicates that the universe of mind is

governed by moral laws, or by laws suited to the nature of moral

agents-

 

10- 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- All nations have believed that God is

a moral governor-

 

11- 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-

 

12- The Bible, which has been proved to be a revelation from God,

contains a most simple and yet comprehensive system of moral

government-

 

13- If we are deceived in respect to our being subjects of moral

government, we are sure of nothing-

 

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 subjects

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 distribute rewards proportioned

to merit, and penalties proportioned to demerit, whenever the public

interest demands their execution-

 

5- 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-

 

6- It implies obligation, on the part both 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-

 

7- 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; and 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- 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-

 

The limits of this right-

 

The right to govern is, and must be, just coextensive 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- But 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- The right to govern the universe 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 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 conditioned 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, than the

value of the interests to be secured and 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 coextensive 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 nor of course any

ground for distrust and hesitancy as it respects the duty of obedience-

 

MORAL OBLIGATION

 

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-

 

The conditions of moral obligation-

 

There is a distinction of fundamental importance between the

condition and the ground 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- 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 qua 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 goal 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 afterward 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, among 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, etc- In short, it is the faculty that intuits

moral relations and affirms moral obligation, to act in conformity with

perceived moral relations- It is the faculty that postulates all the a

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 set 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

develops the idea of the valuable, just as the perception of body

develops 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 praiseworthiness and blameworthiness-

 

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

development of the reason’s idea of the intrinsically valuable to being-

This idea develops 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,

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 than

when these conditions are not fulfilled, I cannot be the subject of those

feeling- 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 feelings- 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 affirmation of the reason, and of the states of

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 develop 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-

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 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 development 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- Suppose, for instance, it should be said that the idea of the

intrinsically valuable is not necessary to the development 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- 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 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-

 

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 the

possession of the powers, or faculties, and susceptibilities of a moral

agent, and light or the development of the ideas of the valuable, of

moral obligation, of right and wrong-

 

I have defined the conditions of obligation in its universal form, i-e-,

obligation to be benevolent, to love God and our neighbor, 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 conditionated 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 obligation 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-

 

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 effort to secure an end must be conditionated

upon the possibility, supposed necessity, and utility of such effort- 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-

 

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 remember, 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-


LECTURE 3

 

MORAL OBLIGATION

 

Man is a subject of moral obligation-

 

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 own 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, and the possession of these powers, together with

sufficient light on moral subjects to develop the ideas just mentioned-

 

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 praiseworthy or blameworthy 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 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 than men of sound mind are praiseworthy or

blameworthy, as they are selfish or benevolent, shows beyond

contradiction, that all men regard themselves, and others, as the

subjects of moral obligation-

 

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, let us inquire

first, 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 and affirm obligation to will or not to will-

These surely cannot have moral character, and of course moral

obligation cannot extend to them.

We inquire in the second place, 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- First,

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-

Second, the choice of the conditions and means of securing the object

of ultimate choice, or for example, holiness, as the conditions or

means of happiness- Third, volitions, or executive efforts to secure the

object of ultimate choice- Obligations 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-

The choice of an end necessitates 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 chose 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 conditions, 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 a 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 is conditionated, first,

upon the obligation to choose happiness as a good per se, and,

second, 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 conditionated; first, upon obligation to choose an object as an

end, and, second, 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 willing, 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 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, not withstanding- 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 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 endeavor 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 blamable

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 endeavor 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-

 

(6-) The Bible everywhere either expressly or impliedly recognizes

this truth- “If there be a willing mind,” that is, a right willing or intention,

“it is accepted, “etc (2 Cor- 8:12)- Again, “All the law is fulfilled in one

word, love” (Gal- 5:14)- 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 The love must be goodwill, for

how could involuntary love be obligatory? The spirit of the Bible

everywhere 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 scriptures as the

doing- “If a man look on a woman, to lust after her,” that is, with

licentious intention, or willing, “he hath committed adultery with her

already” (Matt- 5:28), etc- 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-

 

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 labors to get wages, to purchase books, to

obtain an education, to preach the gospel, to save souls, and to please

God- Another labors 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 end, 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

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-

 

Our next inquiry is, to what acts and mental states moral obligation

indirectly extends-

 

1- The muscles of the body are, directly, under 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-

 

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 actions 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, – – – ” (2 Cor- 8:12)-

 

3- Moral obligation extends, but less 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”

(John 7:17)- “If thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light”

(Luke 11:34)- It is, however, manifest, that the word of God

everywhere assumes that, strictly speaking, all virtue or 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 vilest 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 everything about us,

over which the will has direct or indirect control- The moral law, while,

strictly, it legislates over intention only, yet in fact, in a sense less

direct, legislates over the whole being, inasmuch as all our powers are

directly or indirectly connected with intention, by a law of necessity-

Strictly speaking, however, moral character belongs alone to the

intention- In strict propriety of speech, it cannot be said that either

outward action, or any state of the intellect, or sensibility, has a moral

element or quality belonging to it- Yet in common language, which is

sufficiently accurate for most practical purposes, we speak of thought,

feeling, and outward action as holy or unholy- By this, however, all

men really mean, that the agent is holy or unholy, is praiseworthy or

blameworthy in his exercises and actions, because they regard them

as proceeding from the state or attitude of the will-


LECTURE 4

 

FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION

 

In the discussion of this question, I will first state what is intended by

the foundation, or ground, of obligation-

 

I shall use the terms ground and foundation as synonymous-

Obligation must be founded on some good and sufficient reason- Be it

remembered, that moral obligation respects moral action- That moral

action is voluntary action- That properly speaking, obligation respects

intentions only- That still more strictly, obligation respects only the

ultimate intention- That ultimate intention or choice, which terms I use

as synonymous, consists in choosing an object for its own sake, i-e-,

for what is intrinsic in the object, and for no reason that is not intrinsic

in that object- That every object of ultimate choice must, and does,

possess that in its own nature, the perception of which necessitates

the rational affirmation, that it ought to be universally chosen, by moral

agents, for its own sake, or, which is the same thing, because it is

what it is, or, in other words still, because it is intrinsically valuable and

not on account of its relations-

 

The ground of obligation, then, is that reason, or consideration,

intrinsic in, or belonging to, the nature of an object, which necessitates

the rational affirmation, that it ought to be chosen for its own sake- It

is that reason, intrinsic in the object, which thus creates obligation by

necessitating this affirmation- For example, such is the nature of the

good of being that it necessitates the affirmation, that benevolence is a

universal duty-

 

I will next call attention to some points of general agreement, and

some principles essentially self-evident-

 

1- In the most strict and proper sense, moral obligation extends to

moral actions only-

 

2- Strictly speaking, involuntary states of mind are not moral actions-

 

3- Intentions alone are, properly, moral actions-

 

4- In the most strict and proper sense, ultimate intentions alone are

moral actions, ultimate intention being the choice of an object for its

own sake, or for what is intrinsic in the object-

 

5- While, in the strictest sense, obligation respects only the ultimate

intention, yet, in a less strict and proper sense, obligation extends to

the choice of the conditions and means of securing an intrinsically

valuable end, and also to executive acts put forth with design to

secure such end- Hence there are different forms of obligation: for

example, obligation to put forth ultimate choice to choose the known

necessary conditions and means to put forth executive volitions, etc-

 

6- These different forms of obligation must have different conditions-

For example, moral agency, including the possession of the requisite

powers, together with the development of the ideas of the intrinsically

valuable, of obligation, of right and wrong, is a condition of obligation

in its universal form, namely, obligation to will the good of being in

general, for its own sake; while obligation to will the existence of the

conditions and means to the end, or to put forth executive efforts to

secure the end, have not only the conditions above named, but

obligation in these forms must be conditional, also, upon the

knowledge that there are conditions and means, and what they are,

and also that executive efforts are necessary, possible, and useful-

 

7- The well-being of God, and of the universe of sentient existences,

and especially of moral agents, is intrinsically important, or valuable,

and all moral agents are under obligation to chose it for its own sake-

Entire, universal, uninterrupted consecration to this end, or

disinterested benevolence is the duty of all moral agents-

 

8- This consecration is really demanded by the law of God, as

revealed in the two great precepts laid down by Christ, and this

benevolence, when perfect, is in fact a compliance with the entire spirit

of the law- This is right in itself, and consequently is always duty and

always right, and that in all possible circumstances; and, of course, no

obligation inconsistent with this can ever, in any case, exist- Reason

and revelation agree in this: that the law of benevolence is the law of

right, the law of nature, and no moral law, inconsistent with this, can

exist-

 

9- Holiness, or obedience to moral law, or, in other words still,

disinterested benevolence, is a natural, and of course necessary

condition of the existence of that blessedness which is an ultimate or

intrinsic good to moral agents, and ought to be chosen for that reason,

i-e-, that is a sufficient reason- Of course, the ground of obligation to

choose holiness, and to endeavor to promote it in others, as a

condition of the highest well-being of the universe, is the intrinsic

nature of that good or well-being, and the relation of holiness to this

end is a condition of the obligation to choose it, as a means to this

end-

 

10- Truth, and conformity of heart and life to all known and practical

truths, are conditions and means of the highest good of being- Of

course, the obligation to conform to such truths is universal, because

of this relation of truth, and of conformity to truth, to the highest good-

The intrinsic value of the good must be the ground, and the relation

only a condition, of the obligation-

 

11- God’s ultimate end, in all He does, or omits, is the highest

well-being of Himself, and of the universe, and in all His acts and

dispensations, His ultimate object is the promotion of this end- All

moral agents should have the same end, and this comprises their

whole duty- This intention or consecration to this intrinsically and

infinitely valuable end, is virtue, or holiness, in God and in all moral

agents- God is infinitely and equally holy in all things, because He

does all things for the same ultimate reason, namely, to promote the

highest good of being-

 

12- All God’s moral attributes are only so many attributes of love or

of disinterested benevolence; that is, they are only benevolence

existing and contemplated in different relations- Creation and moral

government, including both law and gospel, together with the infliction

of penal sanctions, are only efforts of benevolence to secure the

highest good-

 

13- He requires, both in His law and gospel, that all moral agents

should choose the same end, and do whatever they do for its

promotion; that is, this should be the ultimate reason for all they do-

Consequently, all obligation resolves itself into an obligation to choose

the highest good of God, and of being in general, for its own sake, and

to choose all the known conditions and means of this end, for the sake

of the end-

 

14- The intrinsic value of this end is the ground of this obligation,

both as it respects God and all moral agents in all worlds- The intrinsic

value of this end rendered it fit, or right, that God should require moral

agents to choose it for its own sake, and of course, its intrinsic value,

and not any arbitrary sovereignty, was, and is, His reason for requiring

moral agents to choose it for its own sake-

 

15- Its known intrinsic value would, of itself, impose obligation on

moral agents to choose it for its own sake, even had God never

required it; or, if such a supposition were possible, had He forbidden it-

Thus, disinterested benevolence is a universal and an invariable duty-

This benevolence consists in willing the highest good of being, in

general, for its own sake, or, in other words, in entire consecration to

this good as the end of life- The intrinsic value of this good does, of its

own nature, impose obligation upon moral agents to will it for its own

sake, and consecrate the whole being, without intermission, to its

promotion-

 

Thus it is self-evident that moral character belongs to the ultimate

intention, and that a man’s character is as the end for which he lives,

and moves, and has his being- Virtue consists in consecration to the

right end, the end to which God is consecrated- This end is, and must

be, by virtue of its own nature, the ground of obligation- That is, the

nature of this end is such as to compel the reason of every moral

agent to affirm, that it ought to be chosen for its own sake- This end is

the good of being, and therefore disinterested benevolence, or

goodwill, is a universal duty-

 

Now, with these facts distinctly kept in mind, let us proceed to the

examination of the various conflicting and inconsistent theories of the

ground of obligation-

 

Of the will of God as the ground of obligation-

 

I will first consider the theory of those who hold that the sovereign

will of God is the ground, or ultimate reason, of obligation- They hold

that God’s sovereign will creates, and not merely reveals and

enforces, obligation- To this I reply:

 

1- That moral law legislates directly over voluntary action only that

moral obligation respects, primarily and strictly, the ultimate

intention ultimate intention consists in choosing its object, for its own

sake that ultimate intention must find its reasons exclusively in its

object that the intrinsic nature and value of the object must impose

obligation to choose it for its own sake that therefore this intrinsic

value is the ground, and the only possible ground, of obligation to

choose it for its own sake- It would be our duty to will the highest good

of God and of the universe, even did God not will that we should, or

were He to will that we should not- How utterly unfounded then, is the

assertion, that the sovereign will of God is the ground of obligation-

Obligation to do what? Why to love God and our neighbor- That is to

will their highest good- And does God’s will create this obligation?

Should we be under no such obligation, had He not commanded it?

Are we to will this good, not for its own value to God and our neighbor,

but because God commands it? The answer to these questions is too

obvious to need so much as to be named- But what consistency is

there in holding that disinterested benevolence is a universal duty, and

at the same time that the sovereign will of God is the foundation of

obligation; How can men hold, as many do, that the highest good of

being ought to be chosen for its own sake that to choose it for its

own sake is disinterested benevolence that its intrinsic value

imposes obligation to choose it for its own sake, and that this intrinsic

value is therefore the ground of obligation, and yet the will of God is

the ground of obligation?

 

Why, if the will of God be the ground of obligation, then disinterested

benevolence is sin- If the will of God does of itself create, and not

merely reveal obligation, then the will, and not the interest and

well-being of God, ought to be chosen for its own sake, and to be the

great end of life- God ought to be consecrated to His own will, instead

of His own highest good- Benevolence in God, and in all beings, must

be sin, upon this hypothesis- A purely arbitrary will and sovereignty in

God is, according to this theory, of more value than His highest

well-being, and than that of the whole universe- But observe,

 

Moral obligation respects ultimate intention, or the choice of an end-

 

The foundation, or fundamental reason for choosing a thing, is that

which renders it obligatory to choose it-

 

This reason is the thing on which the choice ought to terminate, or

the true end is not chosen- Therefore, the reason and the end are

identical-

 

If, then, the will of God be the foundation of obligation, it must also

be the ultimate end of choice-

 

But it is impossible for us to will or choose the divine willing as an

ultimate end- God’s willing reveals a law, a rule of choice, or of

intention- It requires something to be intended as an ultimate end, or

for its own intrinsic value- This end cannot be the willing,

commandment, law, itself- Does God will that I should choose His

willing as an ultimate end? This is impossible- It is a plain

contradiction to say that moral obligation respects, directly, ultimate

intention only, or the choice of an end, for its own intrinsic value, and

yet, that the will of God is the foundation, or reason of the obligation-

This is affirming at the same breath that the intrinsic value of the end

which God requires me to choose, is the reason, or foundation of the

obligation to choose it, and yet that this is not the reason, but that the

will of God is the reason-

 

Willing can never be an end- God cannot will our willing as an end-

Nor can He will His willing as an end- Willing, choosing, always, and

necessarily, implies an end willed entirely distinct from the willing, or

choice, itself- Willing, cannot be regarded, or willed, as an ultimate

end, for two reasons:

 

(1-) Because that on which choice or willing terminates, and not the

choice itself, must be regarded as the end-

 

(2-) Because choice or willing is of no intrinsic value and of not

relative value, aside from the end willed or chosen-

 

2- The will of God cannot be the foundation of moral obligation in

created moral agents- God has moral character, and is virtuous- This

implies that He is the subject of moral obligation, for virtue is nothing

else than compliance with obligation- If God is the subject of moral

obligation, there is some reason, independent of His own will, why He

wills as He does; some reason, that imposes obligation upon Him to

will as He does- His will, then, respecting the conduct of moral agents,

is not the fundamental reason of their obligation; but the foundation of

their obligation must be the reason which induces God, or makes it

obligatory on Him, to will in respect to the conduct of moral agents, just

what He does-

 

3- If the will of God were the foundation of moral obligation, He could,

by willing it, change the nature of virtue and vice, which is absurd-

 

4- If the will of God were the foundation of moral obligation, He not

only can change the nature of virtue and vice, but has a right to do so;

for if there is nothing back of His will that is as binding upon Him as

upon His creatures, He has a right, at any time, to make malevolence,

a virtue, and benevolence a vice- For if His will is the ground of

obligation, then His will creates right, and whatever He wills, or might

will, is right simply and only because so He wills-

 

5- If the will of God be the foundation of moral obligation, we have no

standard by which to judge of the moral character of His actions, and

cannot know whether He is worthy of praise or blame- Upon the

supposition in question, were God a malevolent being, and did He

require all His creatures to be selfish, and not benevolent, He would

be just as virtuous and worthy of praise as now; for the supposition is,

that His sovereign will creates right, and of course, will as He might,

that would be right, simply because He willed it-

 

6- If the will of God is the foundation of moral obligation, He has no

standard by which to judge of His own character, as He has no rule

but His own will, with which to compare His own actions-

 

7- If the will of God is the foundation of moral obligation, He is not

Himself a subject of moral obligation- But,

 

8- If God is not a subject of moral obligation, He has no moral

character; for virtue and vice are nothing else but conformity or

nonconformity to moral obligation- The will of God, as expressed in

His law, is the rule of duty to moral agents- It defines and marks out

the path of duty, but the fundamental reason why moral agents ought

to act in conformity to the will of God, is plainly not the will of God

itself-

 

9- The will of no being can be law- Moral law is an idea of the divine

reason, and not the willing of any being- If the will of any being were

law, that being could not, by natural possibility, will wrong; for whatever

He willed would be right, simply and only because He willed it-

 

10- But let us bring this philosophy into the light of divine revelation-

“To the law and to the testimony; if it agree not therewith, it is because

it hath no light in it” (Isaiah 8:20)-

 

The law of God, or the moral law, requires that God shall be loved

with all the heart, and our neighbor as ourselves- Now it is manifest

that the love required is not mere emotion, but that it consists in

choice, willing, intention, i-e-, in the choice of something on account of

its own intrinsic value, or in the choice of an ultimate end- Now what is

this end? Is it the will or command of God? Are we to will as an

ultimate end, that God should will that we should thus will? What can

be more absurd, self-contradictory, and ridiculous than this? But

again, what is this loving, willing, choosing, intending, required by the

law? We are commanded to love God and our neighbor- What is this,

what can it be, but to will the highest good or well-being of God and

our neighbor? This is intrinsically and infinitely valuable- This must be

the end, and nothing can possibly be law that requires the choice of

any other ultimate end- Nor can that, by any possibility, be true

philosophy, that makes anything else the reason or foundation of

moral obligation-

 

But it is said that we are conscious of affirming our obligation to obey

the will of God, without reference to any other reason than His will; and

this, it is said, proves that His will is the foundation of obligation-

 

To this I reply, the reason does indeed affirm that we ought to will

that which God commands, but it does not and cannot assign His will

as the foundation of the obligation- His whole will respecting our duty,

is summed up in the two precepts of the law- These, as we have

seen, require universal good willing to being, or the supreme love of

God and the equal love of our neighbor that we should will the

highest well-being of God and of the universe, for its own sake, or for

its own intrinsic value- Reason affirms that we ought thus to will- And

can it be so self-contradictory as to affirm that we ought to will the

good of God and of the universe, for its own intrinsic value, yet not for

this reason, but because God wills that we should will it? Impossible!

But in this assertion, the objector has reference to some outward act,

some condition or means of the end to be chosen, and not to the end

itself- But even in respect to any act whatever, his objection does not

hold good- For example, God requires me to labor and pray for the

salvation of souls, or to do anything else- Now His command is

necessarily regarded by me as obligatory, not as an arbitrary

requirement, but as revealing infallibly the true means or conditions of

securing the great and ultimate end, which I am to will for its intrinsic

value- I necessarily regard His commandment as wise and

benevolent, and it is only because I so regard it, that I affirm, or can

affirm, my obligation to obey Him- Should He command me to choose,

as an ultimate end, or for its own intrinsic value, that which my reason

affirmed to be of no intrinsic value, I could not possibly affirm my

obligation to obey Him- Should He command me to do that which my

reason affirmed to be unwise and malevolent, it were impossible for

me to affirm my obligation to obey Him- This proves, beyond

controversy, that reason does not regard His command as the

foundation of the obligation, but only as infallible proof that which He

commands is wise and benevolent in itself, and commanded by Him

for that reason-

 

If the will of God were the foundation of moral obligation, He might

command me to violate and trample down all the laws of my being,

and to be the enemy of all good, and I should not only be under

obligation, but affirm my obligation to obey Him- But this is absurd-

This brings us to the conclusion that he who asserts that moral

obligation respects the choice of an end for its intrinsic value, and still

affirms the will of God to be the foundation of moral obligation,

contradicts his own admissions, the plainest intuitions of reason and

divine revelation- His theory is grossly inconsistent and nonsensical-

It overlooks the very nature of moral law as an idea of reason, and

makes it to consist in arbitrary willing-

 

Paley’s Theory of Self-interest-

 

This theory, as every reader of Paley knows, makes self-interest the

ground of moral obligation- Upon this theory I remark:

 

1- That if self-interest be the ground of moral obligation, then

self-interest is the end to be chosen for its own sake- To be virtuous I

must in every instance intend my own interest as the supreme good-

Then, according to this theory, disinterested benevolence is sin- To

live to God and the universe, is not right- It is not devotion to the right

end- This theory affirms self-interest to be the end for which we ought

to live- Then selfishness is virtue, and benevolence is vice- These are

directly opposite theories- It cannot be a trifle to embrace the wrong

view of this subject- If Dr- Paley was right, all are fundamentally wrong

who hold the benevolence theory-

 

2- Upon this hypothesis, I am to treat my own interest as supremely

valuable, when it is infinitely less valuable than the interests of God-

Thus I am under a moral obligation to prefer an infinitely less good,

because it is my own, to one of infinitely greater value that belongs to

another- This is precisely what every sinner in earth and hell does-

 

3- But let us examine this theory in the light of the revealed law- If

this philosophy be correct, the law should read, “Thou shalt love

thyself supremely, and God and thy neighbor not at all-” For Dr- Paley

holds the only reason of the obligation to be self-interest- If this is so,

then I am under an obligation to love myself alone, and never do my

duty when I at all love God or my neighbor- He says, it is the utility of

any rule alone which constitutes the obligation of it (Paley’s Moral

Philos-, book 2, chap- 6)- Again he says, “And let it be asked why I am

obliged (obligated) to keep my word? and the answer will be, Because

I am urged to do so by a violent motive, namely, the expectation of

being after this life rewarded if I do so, or punished if I do not” (Paley’s

Moral Philos-, book 2, chap- 3)- Thus it would seem, that it is the utility

of a rule to myself only, that constitutes the ground of obligation to

obey it-

 

But should this be denied, still it cannot be denied that Dr- Paley

maintains that self-interest is the ground of moral obligation- If this is

so, i-e-, if this be the foundation of moral obligation, whether Paley or

any one else holds it to be true, then, undeniably, the moral law should

read, “Thou shalt love thyself supremely, and God and thy neighbor

subordinately,” or, more strictly, “Thou shalt love thyself as an end,

and God and thy neighbor, only as a means of promoting thine own

interests-”

 

If this theory be true, all the precepts in the Bible need to be altered-

Instead of the injunction, “Whatever you do, do it heartily unto the

Lord” (Col- 3:23), it should read, “Whatever you do, do it heartily unto

yourself-” Instead of the injunction, “Whether, therefore, ye eat or

drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor- 10:31), it

should read, “Do all to secure your own interest-” Should it be said

that this school would say, that the meaning of these precepts is, Do

all to the glory of God to secure your own interest thereby, I answer:

This is contradiction- To do it to or for the glory of God is one thing; to

do it to secure my own interests is an entirely different and opposite

thing- To do it for the glory of God, is to make His glory my end- But

to do it to secure my own interest, is to make my own interest the end-

 

4- But let us look at this theory in the light of the revealed conditions

of salvation- “Except a man forsake all that he hath he cannot be My

disciple” (Luke 14:33)- If the theory under consideration be true, it

should read: “Except a man make his own interest the supreme end of

pursuit, he cannot be My disciple-” Again, “If any man will come after

Me, let himself and take up his cross” (Matt- 16:24), etc- This, in

conformity with the theory in question, should read: “If any man will

come after Me, let him not deny himself, but cherish and supremely

seek his own interest-” A multitude of such passages might be quoted,

as every reader of the Bible knows-

 

5- But let us examine this theory in the light of other scripture

declarations- “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)-

This, according to the theory we are opposing, should read, “It is more

blessed to receive than to give-” “Charity (love) seeketh not her own”

(1 Cor- 13:5)- This should read, “Charity seeketh her own-” “No man

(that is, no righteous man) liveth to himself” (Romans 14:7)- This

should read, “Every (righteous) man liveth to himself-”

 

6- Let this theory be examined in the light of the spirit and example of

Christ- “Even Christ pleased not himself” (Romans 15:3)- This should

read, if Christ was holy and did His duty, “Even Christ pleased Himself,

or which is the same thing, sought His own interests-” “I seek not Mine

own glory, but the glory of Him who sent Me” (John 8:50)- This should

read, “I seek not the glory of Him who sent Me, but Mine own glory-”

 

But enough, we cannot fail to see that this is a selfish philosophy,

and the exact opposite of the truth of God-

 

The Utilitarian philosophy-

 

This maintains that the utility of an act or choice renders it obligatory-

That is, utility is the foundation of moral obligation; that the tendency of

an act, choice, or intention, to secure a good or valuable end, is the

foundation of the obligation to put forth that choice or intention- Upon

this theory I remark:

 

1- That utilitarians must hold, in common with others, that it is our

duty to will the good of God and our neighbor for its own sake; and

that the intrinsic value of this good creates obligation to will it, and to

endeavor to promote it; that the tendency of choosing it, would be

neither useful nor obligatory, but for its intrinsic value- How, then, can

they hold that the tendency of choosing to secure its object, instead of

the intrinsic value of the object, should be a ground of obligation- It is

absurd to say that the foundation of the obligation to choose a certain

end, is to be found, not in the value of the end itself, but in the

tendency of the intention to secure the end- The tendency is valuable

or otherwise, as the end is valuable or otherwise- It is, and must be,

the value of the end, and not the tendency of an intention to secure the

end, that constitutes the foundation of the obligation to intend-

 

2- We have seen that the foundation of obligation to will or choose

any end as such, that is, on its own account, must consist in the

intrinsic value of the end, and that nothing else whatever can impose

obligation to choose anything as an ultimate end, but its intrinsic value-

To affirm the contrary is to affirm a contradiction- It is the same as to

say, that I ought to choose a thing as an end, and not yet as an end,

that is, for its own sake, but for some other reason, to wit, the

tendency of my choice to secure that end- Here I affirm at the same

breath, that the thing intended is to be an end, that is, chosen for its

own intrinsic value, and yet not as an end or for its intrinsic value, but

for an entirely different reason, to wit, the tendency of the choice to

secure it-

 

3- But the very announcement of this theory implies its absurdity- A

choice is obligatory, because it tends to secure good- But why secure

good rather than evil? The answer is, because good is valuable- Ah!

Here then we have another reason, and one which must be the true

reason, to wit, the value of the good which the choice tends to secure-

Obligation to use means to do good may, and must, be conditionated

upon the tendency of those means to secure the end, but the

obligation to use them is founded solely in the value of the end-

 

4- Does the law require us to love God and our neighbor, because

loving God and our neighbor tends to the well-being either of God, our

neighbor, or ourselves? Is it the tendency or utility of love that makes

it obligatory upon us to exercise it? What! Will good, not from regard

to its value, but because willing good will do good! But why do good?

What is this love? Here let it be distinctly remembered that the love

required by the law of God is not a mere emotion or feeling, but willing,

choosing, intending, in a word, that this love is nothing else than

ultimate intention- What, then, is to be intended as an end, or for its

own sake? Is it the tendency of love, or the utility of ultimate intention,

that is the end to be intended? It must be, if utilitarianism is true-

 

According to this theory, when the law requires supreme love to God,

and equal love to our neighbor, the meaning is, not that we are to will,

choose, intend the well-being of God and our neighbor for its own

sake, or because of its intrinsic value, but because of the tendency of

the intention to promote the good of God, our neighbor and ourselves-

But let the tendency of love or intention be what it may, the utility of it

depends upon the intrinsic value of that which it tends to promote-

Suppose love or intention tends to promote its end, this is useful

tendency only because the end is valuable in itself- It is nonsense

then to say that love to God and man, or an intention to promote their

good, is required, not because of the value of their well-being, but

because love tends to promote their well-being- This represents the

law as requiring love, not to God and our neighbor as an end, but to

tendency as an end- The law is this case should read thus: “Thou

shalt love the utility or tendency of love with all thy heart,” etc-

 

If the theory under consideration is true, this is the spirit and

meaning of the law: “Thou shalt love the Lord and thy neighbor, that is,

thou shalt choose their good, not for its own sake or as an end, but

because choosing it tends to promote it-” This is absurd, for, I ask

again, why promote it but for its own value? If the law of God requires

ultimate intention, it is a contradiction to affirm that the intention ought

to terminate on its own tendency as an end-

 

5- But it is said that we are conscious of affirming obligation to do

many things, on the ground, that those things are useful, or tend to

promote good-

 

I answer, that we are conscious of affirming obligation to do many

things upon condition of their tendency to promote good, but that we

never affirm obligation to be founded on this tendency- I am under an

obligation to use the means to promote good, not for the sake of its

intrinsic value, but for the sake of the tendency of the means to

promote it! This is absurd-

 

I say again, the obligation to use means may and must be

conditionated upon perceived tendency, but never founded in this

tendency- Ultimate intention has no such condition- The perceived

intrinsic value imposes obligation without any reference to the

tendency of the intention-

 

6- But suppose any utilitarian should deny that moral obligation

respects ultimate intention only, and maintain that it also respects

those volitions and actions that sustain to the ultimate end the relation

of means, and therefore assert that the foundation of moral obligation

in respect to all those volitions and actions, is their tendency to secure

a valuable end- This would not at all relieve the difficulty of

utilitarianism; for in this case tendency could only be a condition of the

obligation, while the fundamental reason of the obligation would and

must be, the intrinsic value of the end, which these may have a

tendency to promote- Tendency to promote an end can impose no

obligation- The end must be intrinsically valuable, and this alone

imposes obligation to choose the end, and to use the means to

promote it- Upon condition that anything is perceived to sustain to

this end the relation of a necessary means, we are, for the sake of the

end alone, under obligation to use the means-


 

LECTURE 5

 

FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION

 

The theory of Right as the foundation of obligation-

 

In the examination of this philosophy I must begin by defining terms-

 

What is right? The primary signification of the term is straight- When

used in a moral sense it means fit, suitable, agreeable to the nature

and relations of moral agents- Right, in a moral sense, belongs to

choice, intention, and is an intention straight with, or conformed to,

moral law- The inquiry before us is, what is the ground of obligation to

put forth choice or intention- Rightarians say that right is the ground of

such obligation- This is the answer given to this question by a large

school of philosophers and theologians- But what does this assertion

mean? It is generally held by this school, that right, in a moral sense,

pertains primarily and strictly to intentions only- They maintain, as I

do, that obligation pertains primarily and strictly to ultimate choice or

intentions, and less strictly to executive volitions, and to choice of the

conditions and means of securing the object of ultimate choice- Now

in what sense of the term right do they regard it as the ground of

obligation?

 

Right is objective and subjective- Right in the objective sense of the

term, has been recently defined to consist in the relation of intrinsic

fitness existing between ultimate choice and its object (Mahan’s Moral

Philosophy)- For example, the nature or intrinsic value of the highest

well-being of God and of the universe, creates the relation of intrinsic

fitness between it and choice, and this relation, it is insisted, creates,

or is the ground of, obligation-

 

Subjective right is synonymous with righteousness, uprightness,

virtue- It consists in, or is an attribute of, that state of the will which is

conformed to objective right or to moral law- It is a term that

expresses the moral quality, element, or attribute of that ultimate

intention which the law of God requires- In other words still, it is

conformity of heart to the law of objective right; or, as I just said, it is

more strictly the term that designates the moral character of that state

of heart- Some choose to regard subjective right as consisting in this

state of heart, and others insist that it is only an element, attribute, or

quality of this state of heart, or of this ultimate intention- I shall not

contend about words, but shall show that it matters not, so far as the

question we are about to examine is concerned, in which of these

lights subjective right is regarded, whether as consisting in ultimate

intention conformed to law, or, as being an attribute, element, or

quality of this intention-

 

The theory under consideration was held by the ancient Greek and

Roman philosophers- It was the theory of Kant, and is now the theory

of the transcendental school in Europe and America- Cousin, in

manifest accordance with the views of Kant, states the theory in these

words: “Do right for the sake of the right, or rather, will the right for the

sake of the right- Morality has to do with the intentions” (Enunciation

of Moral Law Elements of Psychology, p- 162)- Those who follow

Kant, Cousin, and Coleridge state the theory either in the same words,

or in words that amount to the same thing- They regard right as the

foundation of moral obligation- “Will the right for the sake of the right-”

This must mean, will the right as an ultimate end, that is, for its own

sake- Let us examine this very popular philosophy, first, in the light of

its own principles, and secondly in the light of revelation-

 

The writer first above alluded to, has professedly given a critical

definition of the exact position and teaching of rightarians- They hold,

according to him, and I suppose he has rightly defined the position of

that school, that subjective right is the ground of obligation- We shall

see, hereafter, that subjective right, or righteousness, can never be a

ground of moral obligation- We will here attend to the critically defined

position of the rightarian who holds that the relation of intrinsic fitness

existing between choice and an intrinsically valuable object, is the

ground of obligation to choose that object-

 

Now observe, this writer strenuously maintains, that the reason for

ultimate choice must be found exclusively in the object of such choice,

in other words, that ultimate choice, is the choice of its object for its

own sake, or for what is intrinsic in the object itself- He also affirms

repeatedly, that the ground of obligation is, and must be, found

exclusively in the object of ultimate choice, and also that the ground of

obligation is the consideration, intrinsic in the object of choice, which

compels the reason to affirm the obligation to choose it for its own

sake- But all this as flatly as possible contradicts his rightarian theory,

as above stated- If the ground of obligation to put forth ultimate choice

is to be found, as it certainly must be, in the nature of the object of

choice, and in nothing extrinsic to it, how can it consist in the relation

of intrinsic fitness existing between the choice and its object? Plainly it

cannot- This relation is not intrinsic in the object of choice-

 

Observe, the obligation is to choose the object of ultimate choice, not

for the sake of the relation existing between the choice and its object,

but exclusively for the sake of what is intrinsic in the object itself- The

relation is not the object of choice, but the relation is created by the

object of choice- Choice being what it is, the intrinsic nature or value

of the object, as the good of being for example, creates both the

relation of rightness and the obligation to choose the object for its own

sake- That which creates the relation of objective rightness must, for

the same reason, create the obligation, for it is absurd to say that the

intrinsic value of the object creates the relation of rightness between

itself and choice, and yet that it does not impose or create obligation to

choose itself for its own sake-

 

It is self-evident then, that since the object ought to be chosen for the

sake of its own nature, or for what is intrinsic in it, and not for the sake

of the relation in question, the nature of the object, and not the

relation, is, and must be, the ground of obligation-

 

But the writer who has given the above defined position of the

rightarians, says that “the intelligence, in judging an act to be right or

wrong, does not take into the account the object nor the act by itself,

but both together, in their intrinsic relations, as the ground of its

affirmation-”

 

But the nature of ultimate choice, and the nature of its object, the

good of being, for example, with their intrinsic relations to each other,

form a ground of obligation to choose what? The choice, the object,

and their intrinsic relations? No, but simply and only to choose the

good for its own sake, or solely for the sake of what is intrinsic in it-

Observe, it is often affirmed by this writer, that ultimate choice is the

choice of an object for its own sake, or for what is intrinsic in the object

itself- That the ground of obligation to put forth ultimate choice, must

in every case, be intrinsic in the object of choice- But the object of

choice in this case is the good of being, and not the nature of the

choice and of the good of being, together with the intrinsic relation of

rightness existing between them- The form of the obligation discloses

the ground of it- The form of the obligation is to choose the good of

being, i-e-, the object of choice, for what is intrinsic in it- Then, the

ground of the obligation must be, the intrinsic nature of the good, i-e-,

of the object of choice- The nature of choice, and the intrinsic relations

of the choice, and the good, are conditions, but not the ground, of the

obligation- Had this writer only kept in mind his own most critical

definition of ultimate intention, his often repeated assertions that the

ground of obligation must be, in every case, found intrinsically in the

object of ultimate choice, and in nothing extraneous to it, he never

could have made the statement we have just examined-

 

The duty of universal disinterested benevolence is universally and

necessarily affirmed and admitted- But if the rightarian be the true

theory, then disinterested benevolence is sin- According to this

scheme, the right, and not the good of being, is the end to, and for

which, God and all moral agents ought to live- According to this

theory, disinterested benevolence can never be duty, can never be

right, but always and necessarily wrong- I do not mean that the

advocates of this theory see and avow this conclusion- But it is

wonderful that they do not, for nothing is more self-evident- If moral

agents ought to will the right for the sake of the right, or will good, not

for the sake of the good, but for the sake of the relation of rightness

existing between the choice and the good, then to will the good for its

own sake is sin- It is not willing the right end- It is willing the good and

not the right as an ultimate end- These are opposing theories- Both

cannot be true- Which is the right to will, the good for its own sake, or

the right? Let universal reason answer-

 

But let us examine this philosophy in the light of the oracles of God-

 

1- In the light of the moral law- The whole law is expressed by the

great Teacher thus: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy

heart, and with all thy soul, with all thy might, and with all thy strength;

and thy neighbor as thyself” (Deut- 6:5)- Paul says: “All the law is

fulfilled in one word love: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law”

(Gal- 5:14)- Now it is admitted by this philosophy, that the love

required by the law is not a mere emotion, but that it consists in willing,

choice, intention; that it consists in the choice of an ultimate end, or in

the choice of something for its own sake, or, which is the same thing,

for its intrinsic value- What is this which the law requires us to will to

God and our neighbor? Is it to will something to, or respecting, God

and our neighbor, not for the sake of the intrinsic value of that

something, but for the sake of the relation of rightness existing

between choice and that something? This were absurd- Besides,

what has this to do with loving God and our neighbor? To will the

something, the good, for example, of God, and our neighbor, for the

sake of the relation in question, is not the same as to love God and our

neighbor, as it is not willing their good for its own sake- It is not willing

their good, out of any regard to them, but solely out of regard to the

relation of fitness existing between the willing and the object willed-

Suppose it be said, that the law requires us to will the good, or highest

blessedness of God and our neighbor, because it is right- This is a

contradiction and an impossibility- To will the blessedness of God and

our neighbor, in any proper sense, is to will it for its own sake, or as an

ultimate end- But this is not to will it because it is right- To will the

good of God and our neighbor for its own sake, or its intrinsic value, is

right- But to will it, not for the sake of its intrinsic value to them but for

the sake of the relation of fitness between the willing and the object, is

not right, because it is not willing it for the right reason- The law of

God does not, cannot require us to love right more than God and our

neighbor- What! Right of greater value than the highest well-being of

God and of the universe? Impossible! It is impossible that the moral

law should require anything else than to will the highest good of

universal being as an ultimate end, i-e-, for its own sake- It is a first

truth of reason, that this is a most valuable thing possible or

conceivable; and that could by no possibility be law, which should

require anything else to be chosen as an ultimate end- According to

this philosophy, the revealed law should read: “Thou shalt love the

right for its own sake, with all thy heart and with all thy soul” The fact

is, the law requires the supreme love of God, and the equal love of our

neighbor- It says nothing, and implies nothing, about doing right for

the sake of the right- Rightarianism is a rejection of the divine law, and

a substituting in its stead an entirely different rule of obligation: a rule

that deifies right, that rejects the claim of God, and exalts right to the

throne-

 

2- “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to

the glory of God” (1 Cor- 10:31)- Does this precept require us to will

the glory of God for its intrinsic or relative value, or for the sake of

intrinsic fitness between the willing and its object? The glory and

renown of God is of infinite value to Him, and to the universe, and for

this reason it should be promoted- The thing required here is doing,

an executive act- The spirit of the requisition is this: Aim to spread

abroad the renown or glory of God, as the means of securing the

highest well-being of the universe- Why? I answer: for the sake of the

intrinsic value of this will-being, and not for the sake of the relation of

fitness existing between the willing and the object-

 

3- “Do good unto all men, as ye have opportunity” (Gal- 6:10)- Here

again, are we required to do the good, for the sake of the good, or for

the sake of the relation of rightness, between the doing and the good?

I answer: we are to do the good for the sake of the good-

 

4- Take commands to pray and labor for the salvation of souls- Do

such commandments require us to go forth to will or do the right for

the sake of the right, or to will the salvation of souls for the intrinsic

value of their salvation? When we pray and preach and converse,

must we aim at right, must the love of right, and not the love of God

and of souls influence us? When I am engaged in prayer, and travail

night and day for souls, and have an eye so single to the good of souls

and to the glory of God, and am so swallowed up with my subject as

not so much as to think of the right, am I all wrong? Must I pray

because it is right, and do all I do, and suffer all I suffer, not from good

will to God and man, but because it is right? Who does not know, that

to intend the right for the sake of the right in all these things, instead of

having an eye single to the good of being, would and must be anything

rather than true religion?

 

5- Examine this philosophy in the light of the scripture declaration:

“God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that

whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life”

(John 3:16)- Now, are we to understand that God gave His Son, not

from any regard to the good of souls for its own sake, but for the sake

of the right? Did He will the right for the sake of the right? Did He give

His Son to die for the right, for the sake of the right, or to die to render

the salvation of souls possible, for the sake of the souls? Did Christ

give Himself to labor and die for the right, for the sake of the right, or

for souls, from love to souls? Did prophets, and apostles, and martyrs,

and have the saints in all ages, willed the right for the sake of the right,

or have they labored and suffered and died for God and souls, from

love to them?

 

6- But take another passage which is quoted in support of this

philosophy: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this right”

(Eph- 6:1)- Now what is the spirit of this requirement? What is it to

obey parents? Why, if as this philosophy holds, it must resolve itself

into ultimate intention, what must the child intend for its own sake?

Must he will good to God and his parents, and obey his parents as the

means of securing the highest good, or must he will the right as an

end, for the sake of the right, regardless of the good of God or of the

universe? Would it be right to will the right for the sake of the right,

rather than to will the good of the universe for the sake of the good,

and obey his parents as a means of securing the highest good?

 

It is right to will the highest good of God and of the universe, and to

use all the necessary means, and fulfill all the necessary conditions of

this highest well-being- For children to obey their parents is one of the

means, and for this reason it is right, and upon no other condition can

it be required- But it is said that children affirm their obligation to obey

their parents, entirely irrespective of the obedience having reference,

or sustaining any relation, to the good of being- This is a mistake-

The child, if he is a moral agent, and does really affirm moral

obligation, not only does, but must perceive the end upon which his

choice or intention ought to terminate- If he really makes an intelligent

affirmation, it is and must be, that he ought to will an end; that this end

is not, and cannot be the right, as has been shown- He knows that he

ought to will his parents’ happiness, and his own happiness, and the

happiness of the world, and of God; and he knows that obedience to

his parents sustains the relation of a means to this end- The fact is, it

is a first truth of reason, that he ought to will the good of his parents,

and the good of everybody- He also knows that obedience to his

parents is a necessary means to this end- If he does not know these

things, it is impossible for him to be a moral agent, to make any

intelligent affirmation at all; and if he has any idea of obedience, it is,

and must be, only such as animals have who are actuated wholly by

hope, fear and instinct- As well might we say, that an ox or a dog, who

gives indication of knowing, in some sense, that he ought to obey us,

affirms moral obligation of himself, as to say this of a child in whose

mind the idea of the good, or valuable to being is not developed-

What! Does moral obligation respect ultimate intention only? and does

ultimate intention consist in the choice of something for its own intrinsic

value, and yet is it true that children affirm moral obligation before the

idea of the intrinsically valuable is at all developed? Impossible! But

this objection assumes that children have the idea of right developed

before the idea of the valuable- This cannot be- The end to be

chosen must be apprehended by the mind, before the mind can have

the idea of moral obligation to choose an end, or of the right or wrong

of choosing or not choosing it- The development of the idea of the

good or valuable, must precede the development of the ideas of right

and of moral obligation-

 

Take this philosophy on its own ground, and suppose the relation of

rightness existing between choice and its object to be the ground of

obligation, it is plain that the intrinsically valuable object must be

perceived, before this relation can be perceived- So that the idea of

the intrinsically valuable must be developed, as a condition of the

existence of the idea of the relation in question- The law of God, then,

is not, and cannot be, developed in the mind of a child who has no

knowledge or idea of the valuable, and who has, and can have, no

reference to the good of any being, in obedience to his parents-

 

It is one thing to intend that, the intending of which is right, and quite

another to intend the right as an end- For example, to choose my own

gratification as an end, is wrong- But this is not choosing the wrong as

an end- A drunkard chooses to gratify his appetite for strong drink as

an end, that is, for its own sake- This is wrong- But the choice does

not terminate on the wrong, but on the gratification- The thing

intended is not the wrong- The liquor is not chosen, the gratification is

not intended, because it is wrong, but notwithstanding it is wrong- To

love God is right, but to suppose that God is loved because it is right,

is absurd- It is to suppose that God is loved, not from any regard to

God, but from a regard to right- This is an absurdity and a

contradiction- To love or will the good of my neighbor, is right- But to

will the right, instead of the good of my neighbor, is not right- It is

loving right instead of my neighbor but, this is not right-

 

1- But it is objected, that I am conscious of affirming to myself that I

ought to will the right- This is a mistake- I am conscious of affirming to

myself, that I ought to will that, the willing of which is right, to wit, to will

the good of God and of being- This is right- But this is not choosing

the right as an end-

 

But it is still insisted, that we are conscious of affirming obligation to

will, and do, many things, simply and only because it is right thus to

will, and do, and in view of this rightness-

 

To this I reply, that the immediate reason for the act, thought of at

the time, and immediately present to the mind, may be the rightness of

the act, but in such cases the rightness is only regarded by the mind

as a condition and never as the ground of obligation- The act must be

ultimate choice, or the choice of conditions and means- In ultimate

choice, surely, the mind can never affirm, or think of the relation of

rightness between the choice and its object, instead of the intrinsic

value of the object, as the ground of obligation- Nor can the mind think

of the relation of rightness between the choice of conditions and

means, and its object, as the ground of the obligation to choose them-

It does, and must, assume, the value of the end, as creating both the

obligation to choose, and the relation in question- The fact is, the mind

necessarily assumes, without always thinking of this assumption, its

obligation to will the good, for its own sake, together with all the known

conditions and means- Whenever therefore it perceives a condition, or

a means of good, it instantly and necessarily affirms obligation to

choose it, or, which is the same thing, it affirms the rightness of such

choice- The rightness of the choice may be, and often is the thing

immediately thought of, but the assumption is, and must be, in the

mind, that this obligation, and hence the rightness is created by the

nature of the object to which this thing sustains the relation of a

condition or a means-

 

2- But it is said again, “I am conscious of affirming to myself that I

ought to will the good of being, because it is right-” This is, to will the

good of being, as a means, and the right as an end! Which is making

right the supreme good, and the good of being a means to that end-

This is absurd- But to say, that I am conscious of affirming to myself

my obligation to love or will the good of God and my neighbor,

because it is right, is a contradiction- It is the same as to say, I ought

to love, or intend the good of God and my neighbor, as an ultimate

end, and yet not to intend the good of God and my neighbor, but

intend the right-

 

3- But it is said, that “I ought to love God in compliance with, and out

of respect to my obligation; that I ought to will it, because and for the

reason that I am bound to will it-” That is, that in loving God and my

neighbor, I must intend to discharge or comply with my obligation; and

this, it is said, is identical with intending the right- But ought my

supreme object to be to discharge my duty to meet obligation,

instead of willing the well-being of God and my neighbor for its own

sake? If my end is to do my duty, I do not do it- For what is my

obligation? Why, to love, or will the good of God and my neighbor,

that is, as an end, or for its own value- To discharge my obligation,

then, I must intend the good of God and my neighbor, as an end- That

is, I must intend that which I am under an obligation to intend- But I

am not under an obligation to intend the right, because it is right, nor

do my duty because it is my duty, but to intend the good of God and

my neighbor, because it is good- Therefore, to discharge my

obligation, I must intend the good, and not the right the good of God

and my neighbor and not to do my duty- I say again, to intend the

good, or valuable, is right but to intend the right is not right-

 

4- But it is said, that in very many instances, at least, I am conscious

of affirming my moral obligation to do the right, without any reference

to the good of being, when I can assign no other reason for the

affirmation of obligation than the right- For example, I behold virtue; I

affirm spontaneously and necessarily, that I ought to love that virtue-

And this, it is said, has no reference to the good of being- Is willing the

right for the sake of right, and loving virtue, the same thing? But what

is it to love virtue? Not a mere feeling of delight or complacency in it-

It is agreed that moral obligation, strictly speaking, respects the

ultimate intention only- What, then, do I mean by the affirmation that I

ought to love virtue? What is virtue? It is ultimate intention, or an

attribute of ultimate intention- But what is loving virtue? It consists in

willing its existence- But it is said that I affirm my obligation to love

virtue as an end, or for its own sake, and not from any regard to the

good of being- This is absurd, and a contradiction- To love virtue, it is

said, is to will its existence as an end- But virtue consists in intending

an end- Now, to love virtue, it is said, is to will, intend its existence as

an end, for its own sake- Then, according to this theory, I affirm my

obligation to intend the intention of a virtuous being as an end, instead

of intending the same end that he does- This is absurd; his intention is

of no value, is neither naturally good nor morally good, irrespective of

the end intended- It is neither right nor wrong, irrespective of the end

chosen- It is therefore impossible to will, choose, intend the intention

as an end, without reference to the end intended- To love virtue, then,

is to love or will the end upon which virtuous intention terminates,

namely, the good of being; or, in other words, to love virtue is to will its

existence for the sake of the end it has in view, which is the same

thing as to will the same end- Virtue is intending, choosing an end-

Loving virtue is willing that the virtuous intention should exist for the

sake of its end- Take away the end, and who would or could will the

intention? Without the end, the virtue, or intention, would not and

could not exist- It is not true, therefore, that in the case supposed, I

affirm my obligation to will, or intend, without any reference to the good

of being-

 

5- But again, it is said, that when I contemplate the moral excellence

of God, I affirm my obligation to love Him solely for His goodness,

without any reference to the good of being, and for no other reason

than because it is right- But to love God because of His moral

excellence, and because it is right, are not the same thing- It is a

gross contradiction to talk of loving God for His moral excellence,

because it is right- It is the same as to say, I love God for the reason

that He is morally excellent, or worthy, yet not at all for this reason, but

for the reason that it is right- To love God for His moral worth, is to will

good to Him for its own sake upon condition that He deserves it- But

to will His moral worth because it is right, is to will the right as an

ultimate end, to have supreme regard to right, instead of the moral

worth, or the well-being of God-

 

But it may reasonably be asked, why should rightarians bring forward

these objections? They all assume that moral obligation may respect

something else than ultimate intention- Why, I repeat it, should

rightarians affirm that the moral excellence of God is the foundation of

moral obligation, since they hold that right is the foundation of moral

obligation? Why should the advocates of the theory that the moral

excellence of God is the foundation of moral obligation, affirm that right

is the foundation, or that we are bound to love God for His moral

excellence, because this is right? These are gross contradictions-

Rightarians hold that disinterested benevolence is a universal duty;

that this benevolence consists in willing the highest good of being in

general, for its own sake; that this good, by virtue of its own nature,

imposes obligation to choose it, for its own sake, and therefore, and

for this reason, it is right thus to choose it- But notwithstanding all this,

they most inconsistently affirm that right is universally the ground of

obligation- Consistency must compel them to deny that disinterested

benevolence ever is, or can be, duty and right, or to abandon the

nonsensical dogma, that right is the ground of obligation- There is no

end to the absurdities in which error involves its advocates, and it is

singular to see the advocates of the different theories, each in his

turn, abandon his own and affirm some other, as an objection to the

true theory- It has also been, and still is, common for writers to

confound different theories with each other, and to affirm, in the

compass of a few pages, several different theories- At least this has

been done in some instances-

 

Consistent rightarianism is a Godless, Christ less, loveless

philosophy- This Kant saw and acknowledged- He calls it pure

legality, that is, he understands the law as imposing obligation by

virtue of its own nature, instead of the intrinsic value of the end, which

the law requires moral agents to choose- He loses sight of the end,

and does not recognize any end whatever- He makes a broad

distinction between morality and religion- Morality consists, according

to him, in the adoption of the maxim, “Do right for the sake of the

right,” or, “Act at all times upon a maxim fit for law universal-” The

adoption of this maxim is morality- But now, having adopted this

maxim, the mind goes abroad to carry its maxim into practice- It finds

God and being to exist, and sees it to be right to intend their good-

This intending the good is religion, according to him- Thus, he says,

ethics lead to or result in religion (See Kant, on Religion)- But we feel

prompted to inquire whether, when we apprehend God and being, we

are to will their well-being as an end, or for its own sake, or because it

is right? If for its own sake, where then is the maxim, “Will the right for

the sake of the right?” For if we are to will the good, not as an ultimate

end, but for the sake of the right, then right is the end that is preferred

to the highest well-being of God and of the universe- It is impossible

that this should be religion- Indeed Kant himself admits that this is not

religion-

 

But enough of this cold and loveless philosophy- As it exalts right

above all that is called God, and subverts all the teachings of the Bible,

it cannot be a light thing to be deluded by it- But it is remarkable and

interesting to see Christian rightarians, without being sensible of their

inconsistency, so often confound this philosophy with that which

teaches that good will to being constitutes virtue- Numerous examples

of it occur everywhere in their writings, which demonstrate that

rightarianism is with them only a theory that “plays round the head but

comes not near the heart-”


LECTURE 6

 

FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION

 

I now enter upon the discussion of the theory, that the goodness, or

moral excellence of God is the foundation of moral obligation-

 

To this philosophy I reply,

 

1- That the reason of obligation, or that which imposes obligation, is

identical with the end on which the intention ought to terminate- If,

therefore, the goodness of God be the reason, or foundation of moral

obligation, then the goodness of God is the ultimate end to be

intended- But as this goodness consists in love or benevolence, it is

impossible that it should be regarded or chosen, as an ultimate end;

and to choose it were to choose the divine choice, to intend the divine

intention as an ultimate end, instead of choosing what God chooses,

and intending what He intends- Or if the goodness or moral

excellence of God is to be regarded not as identical with, but as an

attribute or moral quality of benevolence, then, upon the theory under

consideration, a moral agent ought to choose a quality or attribute of

the divine choice or intention as an ultimate end, instead of the end

upon which the divine intention terminates- This is absurd-

 

2- It is impossible that virtue should be the foundation of moral

obligation- Virtue consists in a compliance with moral obligation- But

obligation must exist before it can be complied with- Now, upon this

theory, obligation cannot exist until virtue exists as its foundation-

Then this theory amounts to this: virtue is the foundation of moral

obligation; therefore virtue must exist before moral obligation can exist-

But as virtue consists in a conformity to moral obligation, moral

obligation must exist before virtue can exist- Therefore neither moral

obligation nor virtue, can ever by any possibility, exist- God’s virtue

must have existed prior to His obligation, as its foundation- But as

virtue consists in compliance with moral obligation, and as obligation

could not exist until virtue existed as its foundation; in other words, as

obligation could not exist without the previous existence of virtue as its

foundation, and as virtue could not exist without the previous existence

of obligation, it follows, that neither God nor any other being could ever

be virtuous, for the reason that he could never be the subject of moral

obligation- Should it be said, that God’s holiness is the foundation of

our obligation to love Him, I ask in what sense it can be so- What is

the nature or form of that love, which His virtue lays us under an

obligation to exercise? It cannot be a mere emotion of complacency,

for emotions being involuntary states of mind and mere phenomena of

the sensibility, are not strictly within the pale of legislation and morality-

Is this love resolvable into benevolence or goodwill? But why will good

to God rather than evil? Why, surely, because good is valuable in

itself- But if it is valuable in itself, this must be the fundamental reason

for willing it as a possible good; and His virtue must be only a

secondary reason or condition of the obligation to will His actual

blessedness- But again, the foundation of moral obligation must be

the same in all worlds, and with all moral agents, for he simple reason

that moral law is one and identical in all worlds- If God’s virtue is not

the foundation of moral obligation in Him, which it cannot be, it cannot

be the foundation of obligation in us, as moral law must require Him to

choose the same end that it requires us to choose- His virtue must be

a secondary reason of His obligation to will His own actual

blessedness, and the condition of our obligation to will His actual and

highest blessedness, but cannot be the fundamental reason, that

always being the intrinsic value of His well-being-

 

If this theory is true, disinterested benevolence is a sin- Undeniably

benevolence consists in willing the highest well-being of God and the

universe for its own sake, in devoting the soul and all to this end- But

this theory teaches us, either to will the moral excellence of God, for its

own sake, or as an ultimate end, or to will His good and the good of

the universe, not for its own sake, but because He is morally excellent-

The benevolence theory regards blessedness as the end, and

holiness or moral excellence only as a condition of the end- This

theory regards moral excellence itself as the end- Does the moral

excellence of God impose obligation to will His moral excellence for its

own sake? If not, it cannot be a ground of obligation- Does His moral

excellence impose obligation to will His highest good, and that of the

universe, for its own sake? No, for this were a contradiction- For, be it

remembered, no one thing can be a ground of obligation to choose

any other thing, for its own sake- That which creates obligation to

choose, by reason of its own nature, must itself be the identical object

of choice; the obligation is to choose that object for its own sake-

 

If the divine moral excellence is the ground of obligation to choose,

then this excellence must be the object of this choice, and

disinterested benevolence is never right, but always wrong-

 

2- But for the sake of a somewhat systematic examination of this

subject, I will:

 

(1-) Show what virtue, or moral excellence is-

 

(2-) That it cannot be the foundation of moral obligation-

 

(3-) Show what moral worth or good desert is-

 

(4-) That it cannot be the foundation of moral obligation-

 

(5-) Show what relation virtue, merit, and moral worth sustain to

moral obligation-

 

(6-) Answer objections-

 

(1-) Show what virtue, or moral excellence is-

 

Virtue, or moral excellence, consists in conformity of will to moral

law- It must either be identical with love or goodwill, or it must be the

moral attribute or element of good will or benevolence-

 

(2-) It cannot be the foundation of moral obligation-

 

It is agreed, that the moral law requires love, and that this term

expresses all that it requires- It is also agreed that this love is

goodwill, or that it resolves itself into choice, or ultimate intention- Or,

in more common language, this love consists in the supreme devotion

of heart and soul to God and to the highest good of being- But since

virtue either consists in choice, or is an attribute of choice, or

benevolence, it is impossible to will it as an ultimate end- For this

would involve the absurdity of choosing choice, or intending intention,

as an end, instead of choosing that as an end upon which virtuous

choice terminates- Or, if virtue be regarded as the moral attribute of

love or benevolence, to make it an ultimate end would be to make an

attribute of choice an ultimate end, instead of that which choice

terminates, or ought to terminate- This is absurd-

 

(3-) Show what moral worth, or good desert is-

 

Moral worth, or good desert, is not identical with virtue, or obedience

to moral law, but is an attribute of character, resulting from obedience-

Virtue, or holiness, is a state of mind- It is an active and benevolent

state of the will- Moral worth is not a state of mind, but is the result of

a state of mind- We say that a man’s obedience to moral law is

valuable in such a sense that a holy being is worthy, or deserving of

good, because of his virtue, or holiness- But this worthiness, this good

desert, is not a state of mind, but, as I said, it is a result of

benevolence- It is an attribute or quality of character, and not a state

of mind-

 

(4-) Moral worth or good desert cannot be the foundation of moral

obligation-

 

(a-) It is admitted, that good, or the intrinsically valuable to being,

must be the foundation of moral obligation- The law of God requires

the choice of an ultimate end- This end must be intrinsically valuable,

for it is its intrinsic value that imposes obligation to will it- Nothing,

then, can be the foundation of moral obligation but that which is a

good, or intrinsically valuable in itself-

 

(b-) Ultimate good, or the intrinsically valuable, must belong to, and

be inseparable from, sentient existences- A block of marble cannot

enjoy, or be the subject of, good- That which is intrinsically good to

moral agents, must consist in a state of mind- It must be something

that is found within the field of consciousness- Nothing can be to them

an intrinsic good, but that of which they can be conscious- By this it is

not intended that everything of which they are conscious, is to them an

ultimate good, or a good in any sense; but it is intended, that

cannot be to them an ultimate, or intrinsic good, of which they are not

conscious- Ultimate good must consist in a conscious state of mind-

Whatever conduces to the state of mind that is necessarily regarded

by us as intrinsically good or valuable, is to us a relative good- But the

state of mind alone is the ultimate good- From this it is plain, that

moral worth, or good desert, cannot be the foundation of moral

obligation, because it is not a state of mind, and cannot be an ultimate

good- The consciousness of good desert, that is, the consciousness

of affirming of ourselves good desert, is an ultimate good- Or, more

strictly, the satisfaction which the mind experiences, upon occasion of

affirming its good desert, is an ultimate good- But neither the

conscious affirmation of good desert, nor the satisfaction occasioned

by the affirmation, is identical with moral worth or good desert- Merit,

moral worth, good desert, is the condition, or occasion, of the

affirmation, and of the resulting conscious satisfaction and is therefore

a good, but it is not, and cannot be an ultimate, or intrinsic good- It is

valuable but, not intrinsically valuable- Were it not that moral beings

are so constituted, that it meets a demand of the intelligence, and

therefore produces satisfaction in its contemplation, it would not be,

and could not reasonably be regarded as a good in any sense- But

since it meets a demand of the intelligence, it is a relative good, and

results in ultimate good-

 

(5-) Show what relation moral excellence, worth, merit, desert,

sustain to moral obligation-

 

(a-) We have seen, that neither of them can be the foundation of

moral obligation; that neither of them has in it the element of the

intrinsic, or ultimate good, or valuable; and that therefore, a moral

agent can never be under obligation to will or choose them as an

ultimate end-

 

(b-) Worth, merit, good desert, cannot be a distinct ground, or

foundation, of moral obligation, in such a sense as to impose

obligation, irrespective of the intrinsic value of good- All obligation

must respect, strictly, the choice of an object for its own sake, with the

necessary conditions and means- The intrinsic value of the end is the

foundation of the obligation to choose both it and the necessary

conditions and means of securing it- But for the intrinsic value of the

end there could be no obligation to will the conditions and means-

Whenever a thing is seen to be a necessary condition or means of

securing an intrinsically valuable end, this perceived relation is the

condition of our obligation to will it- The obligation is, and must be,

founded in the intrinsic value of the end, and conditionated upon the

perceived relation of the object to the end- The intelligence of every

moral agent, from its nature and laws, affirms, that the ultimate good

and blessedness of moral beings is, and ought to be, conditionated

upon their holiness and good desert- This being a demand of reason,

reason can never affirm moral obligation to will the actual blessedness

of moral agents, but upon condition of their virtue, and consequent

good desert, or merit- The intelligence affirms that it is fit, suitable,

proper, that virtue, good desert, merit, holiness, should be rewarded

with blessedness- Blessedness is a good in itself, and ought to be

willed for that reason, and moral agents are under obligation to will

that all beings capable of good may be worthy to enjoy, and may,

therefore, actually enjoy blessedness- But they are not under

obligation to will that every moral being should actually enjoy

blessedness, but upon condition of holiness and good desert- The

relation that holiness, merit, good desert, etc-, sustains to moral

obligation, is this: they supply the condition of the obligation to will the

actual blessedness of the being or beings who are holy- The

obligation must be founded in the intrinsic value of the good we are to

will to them- For it is absurd to say, that we are, or can be, under

obligation to will good to them for its own sake, or as an ultimate end,

and yet that the obligation should not be founded in the intrinsic value

of the good- Were it not for the intrinsic value of their good, we should

no sooner affirm obligation to will good to them than evil- The good or

blessedness is the thing, or end, we are under obligation to will- But

obligation to will an ultimate end cannot possibly be founded in

anything else than the intrinsic value of the end- Suppose it should be

said, that in the case of merit, or good desert, the obligation is founded

in merit, and only conditionated on the intrinsic value of the good I am

to will- This would be to make desert the end willed, and good only the

condition, or means- This were absurd-

 

(c-) But again, to make merit the ground of the obligation, and the

good willed only a condition, amounts to this: I perceive merit,

whereupon I affirm my obligation to will what? Not good to the

deserving because of its value to Him, nor from any disposition to see

Him enjoy blessedness for its own sake, but because of His merit- But

what does He merit? Why, good, or blessedness- It is good, or

blessedness, that I am to will to Him, and this is the end I am bound to

will; that is, I am to will His good, or blessedness, for its own intrinsic

value- The obligation, then, must be founded in the intrinsic value of

the end, that is, His well-being, or blessedness, and only conditionated

upon merit-

 

(6-) I am to answer objections-

 

(a-) It is objected, that, if virtue is meritorious, if it merits, deserves

anything, this implies corresponding obligation, and that merit, or

desert, must impose, or be the ground of, the obligation to give that

which is merited- But this objection is either a mere begging of the

question, or it is sheer logomachy- It assumes that the words, desert

and merit, mean what they cannot mean- Let the objector remember,

that he holds that obligation respects ultimate intention- That ultimate

intention must find the grounds of its obligation exclusively in its object-

Now, if desert or merit is a ground of obligation, then merit or desert

must be the object of the intention- Desert, merit, must be willed for its

own sake- But is this the thing that is deserved, merited? Does a

meritorious being deserve that his merit or desert should be willed for

its own sake? Indeed, is this what he deserves? We understandingly

speak of good desert, the desert of good and of evil; can a being

deserve that his desert shall be chosen for its own sake? If not, then it

is impossible that desert or merit would be a ground of obligation; for

be it remembered, that whatever is a ground of obligation ought to be

chosen for its own sake- But if good desert deserves good, it is

self-evident that the intrinsic value of the good is the ground, and merit

only a condition, of obligation to will the actual and particular

enjoyment of the good by the meritorious individual- Thus, merit

changes merely the form of obligation- If an individual is wicked, I

ought to will his good as valuable in itself, and that he would comply

with the necessary conditions of happiness, and thereupon actually

enjoy happiness- If he is virtuous, I am to will his good still for its

intrinsic value; and, since he has complied with the conditions of

enjoyment, that he actually enjoy happiness- In both cases, I am

bound to will his good, and for the same fundamental reason, namely,

its intrinsic value- Neither the fact nor the ground of obligation to will hi

good is changed by his virtue; the form only of the obligation is

changed- I may be under obligation to will evil to a particular being,

but in this case I am not bound to will the evil for its own sake, and

therefore, not as an end or ultimate- I ought sometimes to will the

punishment of the guilty, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the

public good; and the intrinsic value of the good to be promoted is the

ground of the obligation, and guilt or demerit is only a condition of the

obligation in that form- If merit or desert be a ground of obligation,

then merit or desert ought to be chosen for its own sake- It would

follow from this, that ill desert ought to be chosen for its own sake, as

well as good desert- But who will pretend that ill desert ought to be

willed for its own sake? But if this is not, cannot be so, then it follows,

that desert is not a ground of obligation, and that is not an object of

ultimate choice, or of choice at all, only as a means to an end-

 

(b-) It is asserted, in support of the theory we are examining, that the

Bible represents the goodness of God as a reason for loving Him, or

as a foundation of the obligation to love Him-

 

To this I answer, the Bible may assign, and does assign the

goodness of God as a reason for loving Him, but it does not follow,

that it affirms, or assumes, that this reason is the foundation, or a

foundation of the obligation- The inquiry is, in what sense does the

Bible assign the goodness of God as a reason for loving Him? Is it

that the goodness of God is the foundation of the obligation, or only a

condition of the obligation to will His actual blessedness in particular?

Is His goodness a distinct ground of obligation to love Him? But what

is this love that His goodness lays us under an obligation to exercise to

Him? It is agreed, that it cannot be an emotion, that it must consist in

willing something to Him- It is said by some, that the obligation is to

treat Him as worthy- But I ask, worthy of what? Is He worthy of

anything? If so, what is it? For this is the thing that I ought to will to

Him- Is He merely worthy that I should will His worthiness for its own

sake? This must be, if His worthiness is the ground of obligation; for

that which is the ground of obligation to choose must be the object of

choice- Why, He is worthy of blessing, and honor, and praise- But

these must all be embraced in the single word, love- The law has

forever decided the point, that our whole duty to God is expressed by

this one term- It has been common to make assertions upon the

subject, that involve a contradiction of the Bible- The law of God, as

revealed in the two precepts, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all

thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself,” covers the whole ground of

moral obligation (Deut- 6:5)- It is expressly and repeatedly taught in

the Bible, that love to God and our neighbor is the fulfilling of the law-

It is, and must be admitted, that this love consists in willing something

to God and our neighbor- What, then, is to be willed to them? The

command is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt- 19:19)-

This says nothing about the character of my neighbor- It is the value

of His interests, of His well-being, that the law requires me to regard- It

does not require me to love my righteous neighbor merely, nor to love

my righteous neighbor better than I do my wicked neighbor- It is my

neighbor that I am to love- That is, I am to will His well-being, or His

good, with the conditions and means thereof according to its value- If

the law contemplated the virtue of any being as a distinct ground of

obligation, it could not read as it does- It must, in that case, have read

as follows: “If thou art righteous, and thy neighbor is as righteous as

thou art, thou shalt love him as thyself, and not thy neighbor-” How far

would this be from the gloss of the Jewish rabbis so fully rebuked by

Christ, namely, “Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old

time, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy- But I say

unto you, Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to

them that hate you; and pray for them that despitefully use and

persecute you- For if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye?

Do not even the publicans the same” (Matt- 5:43-44, 46)? The fact is,

the law knows but one ground of moral obligation- It requires us to

love God and our neighbor- This love is goodwill- What else ought we

to will, or can we possible will to God and our neighbor, but their

highest good, or well-being, with all the conditions and means thereof?

This is all that can be of any value to them, and all that we can or

ought to, will to them under any circumstances whatever- When we

have willed this to them, we have done our whole duty to them- “Love

is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10)- We owe them nothing

more, absolutely- They can have nothing more- But this the law

requires us to will to God and our neighbor, on account of the intrinsic

value of their good, whatever their character may be; that is, this is to

be willed to God and our neighbor, as a possible good, whether they

are holy or unholy, simple because of its intrinsic value-

 

But while the law requires that this should be willed to all, as a

possible and intrinsic good, irrespective of character; it cannot, and

does not require us to will that God, or any moral agent in particular,

shall be actually blessed, but upon condition that he be holy- Our

obligation to the unholy, is to will that they might be holy, and perfectly

blessed- Our obligation to the holy, is to will that they be perfectly

blessed- As has been said, virtue only modifies the form, but does not

change the ground of obligation- The Bible represents love to

enemies as one of the highest forms of virtue: “God commandeth His

love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”

(Romans 5:8)- But if love to enemies be a high and a valuable form of

virtue, it must be only because the true spirit of the law requires the

same love to them as to others, and because of the strong

inducements not to love them- Who does not regard the virtue of the

atonement as being as great as if it had been made for the friends,

instead of the enemies of God? And suppose God were supremely

selfish and unreasonably our enemy, who would not regard good will

exercised toward Him as being as praiseworthy as it now is- Now if He

were unjustly our enemy, would not a hearty good will to Him in such a

case be a striking and valuable instance of virtue? In such a case we

could not, might not, will His actual blessedness, but we might and

should be under infinite obligation to will that He might become holy,

and thereupon be perfectly blessed- We should be under obligation to

will His good in such a sense, that should He become holy, we should

will His actual blessedness, without any change in our ultimate choice

or intention, and without any change in us that would imply an

increase of virtue-

 

So of our neighbor: we are bound to will his good, even if he is

wicked, in such a sense as to need no new intention or ultimate choice

to will his actual blessedness, should he become holy- We may be as

holy in loving a sinner, and in seeking his salvation while he is a

sinner, as in willing his good after he is converted and becomes a

saint- God was as virtuous in loving the world, and seeking to save it

while in sin, as He is in loving those in it who are holy- The fact is, if

we are truly benevolent, and will the highest well-being of all, with the

conditions and means of their blessedness, it follows of course, and of

necessity, that when one becomes holy we shall love him with the love

of complacency; that we shall, of course, will his actual blessedness,

seeing that he has fulfilled the necessary conditions, and rendered

himself worthy of blessedness- It implies no increase of virtue in God,

when a sinner repents, to exercise complacency toward him-

Complacency, as a state of will or heart, is only benevolence modified

by the consideration or relation of right character in the object of it-

God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are as

virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labors to save the wicked, as

they are in their complacent love to the saints-

 

This is the universal doctrine of the Bible- It is in exact accordance

with the spirit and letter of the law- “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as

thyself” (Matt- 19:19), that is, whatever his character may be- This is

the doctrine of reason, and accords with the convictions of all men-

But if this is so, it follows that virtue is not a distinct ground of moral

obligation, but only modifies the form of obligation- We are under

obligation to will the actual blessedness of a moral being, upon

condition of his holiness- We ought to will good or blessedness for its

own value, irrespective of character; but we ought to will the

enjoyment of it, by an individual, in particular, only upon condition of

his holiness- Its intrinsic value is the foundation of the obligation, and

his holiness changes not the fact, but form, of the obligation, and is the

condition of the obligation to will his actual enjoyment of perfect

blessedness in particular- When, therefore, the Bible calls on us to

love God for His goodness, it does not and cannot mean to assign the

fundamental reason, or foundation of the obligation to will His good; for

it were absurd to suppose, that His good is to be willed, not for its

intrinsic value, but because He is good- Were it not for its intrinsic

value, we should as soon affirm our obligation to will evil as good to

Him- The Bible assumes the first truths of reason- It is a first truth of

reason, that God’s well-being is of infinite value, and ought to be willed

as a possible good whatever His character may be; and that it ought to

be willed as an actual reality upon condition of His holiness- Now the

Bible does just as in this case might be expected- It asserts His actual

and infinite holiness, and calls on us to love Him, or to will His good,

for that reason- But this is not asserting nor implying that His holiness

is the foundation of the obligation to will His good in any such sense as

that we should not be under obligation to will it with all our heart, and

soul, and mind, and strength, as possible good, whether He were holy

or not- It is plain that the law contemplates only the intrinsic value of

the end to be willed- It would require us to will the well-being of God

with all our heart, etc-, or as the supreme good, whatever His

character might be- Were not this so, it could not be moral law- His

interest would be the supreme and the infinite good, in the sense of

the intrinsically and infinitely valuable, and we should, for that reason,

be under infinite obligation to will that it might be, whether He were

holy or sinful, and upon condition of His holiness, to will the actual

existence of His perfect and infinite blessedness- Upon our coming to

the knowledge of His holiness, the obligation is instantly imposed, not

merely to will His highest well-being as a possible, but as an actually

existing, good-

 

Again, it is impossible that goodness, virtue, good desert, merit,

should be a distinct ground or foundation of moral obligation, in such a

sense as to impose or properly to increase obligation- It has been

shown that neither of these can be an ultimate good and impose

obligation to choose itself as an ultimate end, or for its intrinsic value-

But if goodness or merit can impose moral obligation to will, it must

be an obligation to will itself as an ultimate end- But this we have seen

cannot be, therefore, these things cannot be a distinct ground or

foundation of moral obligation-

 

But again, the law does not make virtue, good desert, or merit, the

ground of obligation, and require us to love them and to will them as

an ultimate end but, to love God and our neighbor as an ultimate good-

It does, no doubt, require us to will God’s goodness, good desert,

worthiness, merit, as a condition and means of His highest well-being,

and of the well-being of the universe; but it is absurd to say that it

requires us to will either of these things as an ultimate end, instead of

His perfect blessedness, to which these sustain only the relation of a

condition- Let it be distinctly understood that nothing can impose

moral obligation but that which is an ultimate and an intrinsic good; for

if it impose obligation, it must be an obligation to choose itself for what

it is, in and of itself- All obligation must respect the choice either of an

end or of means- Obligation to choose means is founded in the value

of the end- Whatever, then, imposes obligation must be an ultimate

end- It must possess that, in and of itself, that is worthy or deserving

of choice as an intrinsic and ultimate good- This we have seen, virtue,

merit, etc-, cannot be, therefore, they cannot be a foundation of moral

obligation- But it is said they can increase obligation to love God and

holy beings- But we are under infinite obligation to love God and to will

His good with all our power, because of the intrinsic value of His

well-being, whether He is holy or sinful- Upon condition that He is

holy, we are under obligation to will His actual blessedness, but

certainly we are under obligation to will it with no more than all our

heart, and soul, and mind, and strength- But this we are required to do

because of the intrinsic value of His blessedness, whatever His

character might be- The fact is, we can do no more, and can be under

obligation to do no more, than to will His good with all our powers, and

this we are bound to do for its own sake, and no more than this can we

be under obligation to do, for any reason whatever- Our oblation is to

will His good with all our strength, by virtue of its infinite value, and it

cannot be increased by any other consideration than our increased

knowledge of its value, which increases our ability-

 

(c-) But it is said that favors received impose obligation to exercise

gratitude; that the relation of benefactor itself imposes obligation to

treat the benefactor according to this relation-

 

Answer: I suppose this objection contemplates this relation as a

virtuous relation, that is, that the benefactor is truly virtuous and not

selfish in his benefaction- If not, then the relation cannot at all modify

obligation-

 

If the benefactor has in the benefaction obeyed the law of love, if he

has done his duty in sustaining this relation, I am under obligation to

exercise gratitude toward him- But what is gratitude? It is not a mere

emotion or feeling; for this is a phenomenon of the sensibility, and,

strictly speaking, without the pale both of legislation and morality-

Gratitude, when spoken of as a virtue and as that of which moral

obligation can be affirmed, must be an act of will- An obligation to

gratitude must be an obligation to will something to the benefactor-

But what am I under obligation to will to a benefactor, but his actual

highest well-being? If it be God, I am under obligation to will His actual

and infinite blessedness with all my heart and with all my soul- If it be

my neighbor, I am bound to love him as myself, that is, to will his

actual well-being as I do my own- What else can either God or man

possess or enjoy, and what else can I be under obligation to will to

them? I answer, nothing else- To the law and to the testimony, if any

philosophy agree not herewith, it is because there is no light in it- The

virtuous relation of benefactor modifies obligation, just as any other

and every other form of virtue does, and in no other way- Whenever

we perceive virtue in any being, this supplies the condition upon which

we are bound to will his actual highest well-being- He has done his

duty- He has complied with obligation in the relation he sustains- He

is truthful, upright, benevolent, just, merciful, no matter what the

particular form may be in which the individual presents to me the

evidence of his holy character- It is all precisely the same so far as my

obligation extends- I am, independently of my knowledge of his

character, under obligation to will his highest well-being for its own

sake- That is, to will that he may fulfil all the conditions, and thereupon

enjoy perfect blessedness- But I am not under obligation to will his

actual enjoyment of blessedness until I have evidence of his virtue-

This evidence, however I obtain it, by whatever manifestations of

virtue in him or by whatever means, supplies the condition upon which

I am under obligation to will his actual enjoyment or highest well-being-

This is my whole obligation- It is all he can have, and all I can will to

him- All objections of this kind, and indeed all possible objections to

the true theory, and in support of the one I am examining, are founded

in an erroneous view of the subject of moral obligation, or in a false

and anti-scriptural philosophy that contradicts the law of God, and sets

up another rule of moral obligation-

 

Again, if gratitude is a moral act, according to this objector, it is an

ultimate intention, and as such must terminate on its object, and find

its reasons or ground of obligation exclusively in its object- If this is so,

then if the relation of benefactor is the ground of obligation to exercise

gratitude, gratitude must consist in willing this relation for its own sake,

and not at all in willing anything to the benefactor- This is absurd- It is

certain that gratitude must consist in willing good to the benefactor,

and not in willing the relation for its own sake, and that the ground of

the obligation must be the intrinsic value of the good, and the relation

only a condition of the obligation in the particular form of willing his

enjoyment of good in particular- It is now said, in reply to this, that the

“inquiry is not, what is gratitude? but, why ought we to exercise it?”

But the inquiry is after the ground of the obligation; this, it is agreed,

must be intrinsic in its object, and is it impertinent to inquire what the

object is? Who can tell what is the ground of the obligation to exercise

gratitude until he knows what the object of gratitude is, and

consequently what gratitude is? The objector affirms that the relation

of benefactor is a ground of obligation to put forth ultimate choice- Of

course, according to him, and in fact, if this relation is the ground of

the obligation, it is, and must be, the object chosen for its own sake, to

exercise gratitude to a benefactor, then, according to this teaching is,

not to will any good to him, nor to myself, nor to any being in

existence, but simply to will the relation of benefactor for its own sake-

Not for his sake, as a good to him- Not for my sake as a good to me,

but for its own sake- Is not this a sublime philosophy?

 

(d-) But it is also insisted that when men attempt to assign a reason

why they are under moral obligation of any kind, as to love God, they

all agree in this, in assigning the divine moral excellence as the reason

of that obligation-

 

I answer: The only reason why any man supposes himself to assign

the goodness of God as the foundation of the obligation to will good to

Him is, that he loosely confounds the conditions of the obligation to will

His actual blessedness, with the foundation of the obligation to will it

for its own sake, or as a possible good- Were it not for the known

intrinsic value of God’s highest well-being, we should as soon affirm

our obligation to will evil as good to Him, as has been said- But if the

divine moral excellence were the foundation of moral obligation, if God

were not holy and good, moral obligation could not exist in any case-

 

That every moral agent ought to will the highest well-being of God

and of all the universe for its own sake, as a possible good, whatever

their characters may be, is a truth of reason- Reason assigns and can

assign no other reason for willing their good as an ultimate end than its

intrinsic value; and to assign any other reason as imposing obligation

to will it as an end, or for its own sake, were absurd and

self-contradictory- Obligation to will it as an end and for its own sake,

implies the obligation to will its actual existence in all cases, and to all

persons, when the indispensable conditions are fulfilled- These

conditions are seen to be fulfilled in God, and therefore upon this

condition reason affirms obligation to will His actual and highest

blessedness for its own sake, the intrinsic value being the fundamental

reason for the obligation to will it as an end, and the divine goodness

the condition of the obligation to will His highest blessedness in

particular- Suppose that I existed and had the idea of blessedness

and its intrinsic value duly developed, together with an idea of all the

necessary conditions of it; but that I did not know that any other being

than myself existed, and yet I knew their existence and blessedness

possible; in this case I should be under obligation to will or wish that

beings might exist and be blessed- Now suppose that I complied with

this obligation, my virtue is just as real and as great as if I knew their

existence, and willed their actual blessedness, provided my idea of its

intrinsic value were as clear and just as if I knew their existence- And

now suppose I came to the knowledge of the actual existence and

holiness of all holy beings, I should make no new ultimate choice in

willing their actual blessedness- This I should do of course, and,

remaining benevolent, of necessity; and if this knowledge did not give

me a higher idea of the value of that which I before willed for its own

sake, the willing of the real existence of their blessedness would not

make me a what more virtuous than when I willed it as a possible good,

without knowing that the conditions of its actual existence would ever,

in any case, be fulfilled-

 

The Bible reads just as it might be expected to read, and just as we

should speak in common life- It being a truth of reason that the

well-being of God is of infinite value, and therefore ought to be willed

for its own sake, it also being a truth that virtue is an indispensable

condition of fulfilling the demands of His own reason and conscience,

and of course of His actual blessedness, and of course also a

condition of the obligation to will it, we might expect the Bible to exhort

and require us to love God or will His actual blessedness, and mention

His virtue as the reason or fulfilled condition of the obligation, rather

than the intrinsic value of His blessedness as the foundation of the

obligation- The foundation of the obligation, being a truth of reason,

needs not to be a matter of revelation- Nor needs the fact that virtue is

the condition of His blessedness, nor the fact that we are under no

obligation to will His actual blessedness but upon condition of His

holiness- But that in Him this condition is fulfilled, needs to be

impressed upon us, and therefore the Bible announces it as a reason

or condition of the obligation to love Him, that is, to will His actual

blessedness-

 

God’s moral excellence is naturally, and rightly, assigned by us as a

condition, not the ground of obligation to receive His revealed will as

our law- Did we not assume the rectitude of the divine will, we could

not affirm our obligation to receive it as a rule of duty- This

assumption is a condition of the obligation, and is naturally thought of

when obligation to obey God is affirmed- But the intrinsic value and

importance of the interest He requires us to seek, is the ground of the

obligation-

 

(e-) Again: it is asserted that when men would awaken a sense of

moral obligation they universally contemplate the moral excellence of

God as constituting the reason of their obligation, and if this

contemplation does not awaken their sense of obligation nothing else

can or will-

 

I answer: The only possible reason why men ever do or can take this

course, is that they loosely consider religion to consist of feelings of

complacency in God, and are endeavoring to awaken these

complacent emotions- If they conceive of religion as consisting in

these emotions, they will of course conceive themselves to be under

obligation to exercise them, and to be sure they take the only possible

course to awaken both these and a sense of obligation to exercise

them- But they are mistaken both in regard to their obligation and the

nature of religion- Did they conceive of religion as consisting in

goodwill, or in willing the highest well-being of God and of the universe

for its own sake, would they, could they, resort to the process in

question, that is, the contemplation of the divine moral excellence, as

the only reason for willing good to Him, instead of considering the

infinite value of those interests to the realization of which they ought to

consecrate themselves?

 

If men often do resort to the process in question, it is because they

love to feel and have a self-righteous satisfaction in feelings of

complacency in God, and take more pains to awaken these feelings

than to quicken and enlarge their benevolence A purely selfish being

may be greatly affected by the great goodness and kindness of God to

him- I know a man who is a very niggard so far as all benevolent

giving and doing for God and the world are concerned, who, I fear,

resorts to the very process in question, and is often much affected with

the goodness of God- He can bluster and denounce all who do not

feel as he does- But ask him for a dollar to forward any benevolent

enterprise, and he will evade your request, and ask you how you feel,

whether you are engaged in religion, etc-

 

But it may well be asked, why does the Bible and why do we, so

often present the character of God and of Christ as a means of

awakening a sense of moral obligation and of inducing virtue?

Answer:

 

It is to lead men to contemplate the infinite value of those interests

which we ought to will- Presenting the example of God and of Christ,

is the highest moral means that can be used- God’s example and

man’s example is the most impressive and efficient way in which He

can declare His views, and hold forth to public gaze the infinite value

of those interests upon which all hearts ought to be set- For example,

nothing can set the infinite value of the soul in a stronger light than the

example of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost has done-

 

Nothing can beget a higher sense of obligation to will the glory of the

Father and the salvation of souls, than the example of Christ- His

example is His loudest preaching, His clearest, most impressive

exhibition, not merely of His own goodness, but of the intrinsic and

infinite value of the interest He sought and which we ought to seek- It

is the love, the care, the self-denial, and the example of God, in His

efforts to secure the great ends of benevolence, that hold those

interests forth in the strongest light, and thus beget a sense of

obligation to seek the same end- But let it be observed, it is not a

contemplation of the goodness of God that awakens this sense of

obligation, but the contemplation of the value of those interests which

He seeks, in the light of His painstaking and example; this quickens

and gives efficiency to the sense of obligation to will what He wills-

Suppose, for example, that I manifest the greatest concern and zeal

for the salvation of souls; it would not be the contemplation of my

goodness that would quicken in a bystander a sense of obligation to

save souls, but my zeal, and life, and spirit would have the strongest

tendency to arouse in him a sense of the infinite and intrinsic value of

the soul, and thus quicken a sense of obligation- Should I behold

multitudes rushing to extinguish a flaming house, it would not be a

contemplation of their goodness, but the contemplation of the interests

at stake, to the consideration of which their zeal would lead me, that

would quicken a sense of obligation in me to hasten to lend my aid-

 

Revelation is concerned to impress the fact that God is holy, and of

course call on us, in view of His holiness, to love and worship Him-

But in doing this, it does not, cannot mean that His holiness is the

foundation of the obligation to will His good as an ultimate end-

 

Our obligation, when viewed apart from His character, is to will or

wish that God might fulfill all the conditions of perfect blessedness, and

upon that condition, that He might actually enjoy perfect and infinite

satisfaction- But seeing that He meets the demands of His own

intelligence and the intelligence of the universe, and that He voluntarily

fulfills all the necessary conditions of His highest well-being, our

obligation is to will His actual and most perfect and eternal

blessedness-

 

I am obliged to repeat much to follow the objector, because all his

objections resolve themselves into one, and require to be answered

much in the same way-


LECTURE 7

 

FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION

 

I now come to consider the philosophy which teaches that moral

order is the foundation of moral obligation-

 

But what is moral order? The advocates of this theory define it to be

identical with the fit, proper, suitable- It is, then, according to the,

synonymous with the right- Moral order must be, in their view, either

identical with law or with virtue- It must be either an idea of the fit, the

right, the proper, the suitable, which is the same as objective right; or it

must consist in conformity of the will to this idea of law, which is virtue-

It has been repeatedly shown that right, whether objective or

subjective, cannot by any possibility be the end at which a moral agent

ought to aim, and to which he ought to consecrate himself- If moral

order be not synonymous with right in one of these senses, I do not

know what it is; and all that I can say is, that if it be not identical with

the highest well-being of God and of the universe, it cannot be the end

at which moral agents ought to aim, and cannot be the foundation of

moral obligation- But if by moral order, as the phraseology of some

would seem to indicate, be meant that state of the universe in which all

law is universally obeyed, and, as a consequence, a state of universal

well-being, this theory is only another name for the true one- It is the

same as willing the highest well-being of the universe, with the

condition and means thereof-

 

Or if it be meant, as other phraseology would seem to indicate, that

moral order is a state of things in which either all law is obeyed, or in

which the disobedient are punished for the sake of promoting the

public good; if this be what is meant by moral order, it is only another

name for the true theory- Willing moral order, is only willing the

highest good of the universe for its own sake, with the condition and

means thereof-

 

But if by moral order be meant the fit, suitable, in the sense of law,

physical or moral, it is absurd to represent moral order as the

foundation of moral obligation- If moral order is the ground of

obligation, it is identical with the object of ultimate choice- Does God

require us to love moral order for its own sake? Is this identical with

loving God and our neighbor? “Thou shalt will moral order with all thy

heart, and with all thy soul!” Is this the meaning of the moral law? If

this theory is right, benevolence is sin- It is not living to the right end-

 

Again it is maintained that the nature and relations of moral beings

are the true foundation of moral obligation-

 

The advocates of this theory confound the conditions of moral

obligation with the foundation of obligation- The nature and relations

of moral agents to each other, and to the universe, are conditions of

their obligation to will the good of being, but not the foundation of the

obligation- What! The nature and relations of moral beings the

foundation of their obligation to choose an ultimate end! Then this end

must be their nature and relations- This is absurd- Their nature and

relations being what they are, their highest well-being is known to

them to be of infinite and intrinsic value- But it is and must be the

intrinsic value of the end, and not their nature and relations, that

imposes obligation to will the highest good of the universe as an

ultimate end-

 

If their nature and relations be the ground of obligation, then their

nature and relations are the great object of ultimate choice, and should

be willed for their own sakes, and not for the sake of any good

resulting from their nature and relations- For, be it remembered, the

ground of obligation to put forth ultimate choice must be identical with

the object of this choice, which object imposes obligation by virtue of

its own nature-

 

The natures and relations of moral beings are a condition of

obligation to fulfil to each other certain duties- For example, the

relation of parent and child is a condition of obligation to endeavor to

promote each other’s particular well-being, to govern and provide for,

on the part of the parent, and to obey, etc-, on the part of the child-

But the intrinsic value of the good to be sought by both parent and

child must be the ground, and their relation only the condition, of those

particular forms of obligation- So in every possible case- Relations

can never be a ground of obligation to choose, unless the relations be

the object of the choice- The various duties of life are executive and

not ultimate acts- Obligation to perform them is founded in the intrinsic

nature of the good resulting from their performance- The various

relations of life are only conditions of obligation to promote particular

forms of good, and the good of particular individuals-

 

Writers upon this subject are often falling into the mistake of

confounding the conditions with the foundation of moral obligation-

Moral agency is a condition, but not the foundation of obligation- Light,

or the knowledge of the intrinsically valuable to being, is a condition,

but not the foundation of moral obligation- The intrinsically valuable is

the foundation of the obligation; and light, or the perception of the

intrinsically valuable, is only a condition of the obligation- So the

nature and relations of moral beings are a condition of their obligation

to will each other’s good, and so is light, or a knowledge of the intrinsic

value of their blessedness; but the intrinsic value is alone the

foundation of the obligation- It is, therefore, a great mistake to affirm

“that the known nature and relations of moral agents are the true

foundation of moral obligation-”

 

The next theory that demands attention is that which teaches that

moral obligation is founded in the idea of duty-

 

According to this philosophy, the end at which a moral agent ought to

aim, is duty- He must in all things “aim at doing his duty-” Or, in other

words, he must always have respect to his obligation, and aim at

discharging it-

 

It is plain that this theory is only another form of stating the rightarian

theory- By aiming, intending, to do duty, we must understand the

advocates of this theory to mean the adoption of a resolution or

maxim, by which to regulate their lives the formation of a resolve to

obey God to serve God to do at all times what appears to be

right to meet the demands of conscience to obey the law to

discharge obligation, etc- I have expressed the thing intended in all

these ways because it is common to hear this theory expressed in all

these terms, and in others like them- Especially in giving instruction to

inquiring sinners, nothing is more common than for those who profess

to be spiritual guides to assume the truth of this philosophy, and give

instructions accordingly- These philosophers, or theologians, will say

to sinners: Make up your mind to serve the Lord; resolve to do your

whole duty, and do it at all times; resolve to obey God in all things to

keep all His commandments; resolve to deny yourselves to forsake

sin to love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself-

They often represent regeneration as consisting in this resolution or

purpose-

 

Such-like phraseology, which is very common and almost universal

among rightarian philosophers, demonstrates that they regard virtue or

obedience to God as consisting in the adoption of a maxim of life-

With them, duty is the great idea to be realized- All these modes of

expression mean the same thing, and amount to just Kant’s morality,

which he admits does not necessarily imply religion, namely: “act upon

a maxim at all times fit for law universal,” and to Cousin’s which is the

same thing, namely, “will the right for the sake of the right-” Now I

cannot but regard this philosophy on the one hand, and utilitarianism

on the other, as equally wide from the truth, and as lying at the

foundation of much of the spurious religion with which the church and

the world are cursed- Utilitarianism begets one type of selfishness,

which it calls religion, and this philosophy begets another, in some

respects more specious, but not a whit the less selfish, God

dishonoring and soul destroying- The nearest that this philosophy can

be said to approach either to true morality or religion, is, that if the one

who forms the resolution understood himself he would resolve to

become truly moral instead of really becoming so- But this is in fact an

absurdity and an impossibility, and the resolution maker does not

understand what he is about, when he supposes himself to be forming

or cherishing a resolution to do his duty- Observe, he intends to do his

duty- But to do his duty is to form and cherish an ultimate intention-

To intend to do his duty is merely to intend to intend- But this is not

doing his duty, as will be shown- He intends to serve God, but this is

not serving God, as will also be shown- Whatever he intends, he is

neither truly moral nor religious, until he really intends the same end

that God does; and this is not to do his duty, nor to do right, nor to

comply with obligation, nor to keep a conscience void of offence, nor

to deny himself, nor any such like things- God aims at, and intends,

the highest well-being of Himself and the universe, as an ultimate end,

and this is doing His duty- It is not resolving or intending to do His

duty, but is doing it- It is not resolving to do right for the sake of the

right, but it is doing right- It is not resolving to serve Himself and the

universe, but is actually rendering that service- It is not resolving to

love, but actually loving His neighbor as Himself- It is not, in other

words, resolving to be benevolent, but is being so- It is not resolving

to deny self, but is actually denying self-

 

A man may resolve to serve God without any just idea of what it is to

serve Him- If he had the idea of what the law of God requires him to

choose, clearly before his mind if he perceived that to serve God,

was nothing less than to consecrate himself to the same end to which

God consecrates Himself, to love God with all his heart and his

neighbor as himself, that is, to will or choose the highest well-being of

God and of the universe, as an ultimate end to devote all his being,

substance, time, and influence to this end; I say, if this idea were

clearly before his mind, he would not talk of resolving to consecrate

himself to God resolving to do his duty, to do right, to serve God, to

keep a conscience void of offense, and such like things- He would see

that such resolutions were totally absurd and a mere evasion of the

claims of God- It has been repeatedly shown, that all virtue resolves

itself into the intending of an ultimate end, or of the highest well-being

of God and the universe- This is true morality, and nothing else is-

This is identical with that love to God and man which the law of God

requires- This then is duty- This is serving God- This is keeping a

conscience void of offense- This is right, and nothing else is- But to

intend or resolve to do this is only to intend to intend, instead of at

once intending what God requires- It is resolving to love God and his

neighbor, instead of really loving Him; choosing to choose the highest

well-being of God and of the universe, instead of really choosing it-

 

It is one thing for a man who actually loves God with all his heart and

his neighbor as himself, to resolve to regulate all his outward life by

the law of God, and a totally different thing to intend to love God or to

intend His highest glory and well-being- Resolutions may respect

outward action, but it is totally absurd to intend or resolve to form an

ultimate intention- But be it remembered, that morality and religion do

not belong to outward action, but to ultimate intentions- It is amazing

and afflicting to witness the alarming extent to which a spurious

philosophy has corrupted and is corrupting the church of God- Kant

and Cousin and Coleridge have adopted a phraseology, and

manifestly have conceived in idea a philosophy subversive of all true

love to God and man, and teach a religion of maxims and resolutions

instead of a religion of love- It is a philosophy, as we shall see in a

future lecture, which teaches that the moral law or law of right, is

entirely distinct from and may be opposite to the law of benevolence or

love- The fact is, this philosophy conceives of duty and right as

belonging to mere outward action- This must be, for it cannot be

confused enough to talk of resolving or intending to form an ultimate

intention- Let but the truth of this philosophy be assumed, in giving

instructions to the anxious sinner, and it will immediately dry off his

tears, and in all probability lead him to settle down in a religion of

resolutions instead of a religion of love- Indeed this philosophy will

immediately dry off, (if I may be allowed the expression), the most

genuine and powerful revival of religion, and run it down into a mere

revival of a heartless, Christ less, loveless philosophy- It is much

easier to persuade anxious sinners to resolve to do their duty, to

resolve to love God, than it is to persuade them really to do their duty,

and really to love God with all their heart and with all their soul, and

their neighbor as themselves-

 

We now come to the consideration of that philosophy which teaches

the complexity of the foundation of moral obligation-

 

This theory maintains that there are several distinct grounds of moral

obligation; that the highest good of being is only one of the grounds of

moral obligation, while right, moral order, the nature and relations of

moral agents, merit and demerit, truth, duty, and many such like

things, are distinct grounds of moral obligation, but that each one of

them can by itself impose moral obligation- The advocates of this

theory, perceiving its inconsistency with the doctrine that moral

obligation respects the ultimate choice of intention only, seem

disposed to relinquish the position that obligation respects strictly only

the choice of an ultimate end, and to maintain that moral obligation

respects the ultimate action of the will- By ultimate action of the will

they mean, if I understand them, the will’s treatment of everything

according to its intrinsic nature and character; that is treating every

thing, or taking that attitude in respect to every thing known to the

mind, that is exactly suited to what it is in and of itself- For example,

right ought to be regarded and treated by the will as right because it is

right- Truth ought to be regarded and treated as truth for its own sake,

virtue as virtue, merit as merit, demerit as demerit, the useful as

useful, the beautiful as beautiful, the good or valuable as valuable,

each for its own sake; that in each case the action of the will is

ultimate, in the sense that its action terminates on these objects as

ultimates; in other words, that all those actions of the will are ultimate

that treat things according to their nature and character, or according

to what they are in and of themselves-

 

Now in respect to this theory I would inquire: What is intended by the

will’s treating a thing, or taking that attitude in respect to it that is suited

to its nature and character? Are there any other actions of will than

volitions, choice, preference, intention? Are not all the actions of the

will comprehended in these? If there are any other actions than these,

are they intelligent actions? If so, what are those actions of will that

consist neither in the choice of ends nor means, nor in volitions or

efforts to secure an end? Can there be intelligent acts of will that

neither respect ends nor means? Can there be moral acts of will when

there is no choice or intention? If there is choice or intention, must not

these respect an end or means? What then can be meant by ultimate

action of will as distinguished from ultimate choice or intention? Can

there be choice without an object of choice? If there is an object of

choice, must not this object be chosen either as an end or as a

means? If as an ultimate end, how does this differ from ultimate

intention? If as a means, how can this be regarded as an ultimate

action of the will? What can be intended by actions of will that are not

acts of choice nor volition? I can conceive of no other- But if all acts

of will must of necessity consist in willing or unwilling, that is in choosing

or refusing, which is the same as willing one way or another, in respect

to all objects of choice apprehended by the mind, how can there be

any intelligent act of the will that does not consist in, or that may not

and must not, in its last analysis, be resolvable into, and be properly

considered as the choice of an end, or of means, or in executive

efforts to secure an end? Can moral law require any other action of

will than choice and volition? What other actions of will are possible to

us? Whatever moral law does require, it must and can only require

choices and volitions- It can only require us to choose ends or means-

It cannot require us to choose as an ultimate end anything that is not

intrinsically worthy of choice nor as a means any thing that does not

sustain that relation-

 

Secondly, let us examine this theory in the light of the revealed law

of God- The whole law is fulfilled in one word love- Now we have

seen that the will of God cannot be the foundation of moral obligation-

Moral obligation must be founded in the nature of that which moral law

requires us to choose- Unless there be something in the nature of that

which moral law requires us to will that renders it worthy or deserving

of choice, we can be under no obligation to will or choose it- It is

admitted that the love required by the law of God must consist in an

act of the will, and not in mere emotions- Now, does this love, willing,

choice, embrace several distinct ultimates? If so, how can they all be

expressed in one word love? Observe, the law requires only love to

God and our neighbor as an ultimate- This love or willing must respect

and terminate on God and our neighbor- The law says nothing about

willing right for the sake of the right, or truth for the sake of the truth, or

beauty for the sake of beauty, or virtue for the sake of virtue, or moral

order for its own sake, or the nature and relations of moral agents for

their own sake; nor can any such thing be implied in the command to

love God and our neighbor- All these and innumerable other things

are, and must be, conditions and means of the highest well-being of

God and our neighbor- As such, the law may, and doubtless does, in

requiring us to will the highest well-being of God and our neighbor as

an ultimate end, require us to will all these as the necessary conditions

and means- The end which the revealed law requires us to will is

undeniably simple as opposed to complex- It requires only love to

God and our neighbor- One word expresses the whole of moral

obligation- Now certainly this word cannot have a complex

signification in such a sense as to include several distinct and ultimate

objects of love, or of choice- This love is to terminate on God and our

neighbor, and not on abstractions, nor on inanimate and insentient

existences- I protest against any philosophy that contradicts the

revealed law of God, and that teaches that anything else than God and

our neighbor is to be loved for its own sake, or that anything else is to

be chosen as an ultimate end than the highest well-being of God and

our neighbor- In other words, I utterly object to any philosophy that

makes anything obligatory upon a moral agent that is not expressed or

implied in perfect good will to God, and to the universe of sentient

existences- To the word and to the testimony; if any philosophy agree

not therewith, it is because there is no light in it- The revealed law of

God knows but one ground or foundation of moral obligation- It

requires but one thing: and that is just that attitude f the will toward

God and our neighbor that accords with the intrinsic value of their

highest well-being; that God’s moral worth shall be willed as of infinite

value, as a condition of His own well-being, and that His actual and

perfect blessedness shall be willed for its own sake, and because, or

upon condition that He is worthy; that our neighbor’s moral worth shall

be willed as an indispensable condition of his blessedness, and that if

our neighbor is worthy of happiness, his actual and highest happiness

shall be willed- This law knows but one end which moral agents are

under obligation to seek, and sets at nought all so-called ultimate

actions of will that do not terminate on the good of God and our

neighbor- The ultimate choice, with the choice of all the conditions

and means of the highest well-being of God and the universe, is all

that the revealed law recognizes as coming within the pale of its

legislation- It requires nothing more and nothing less-

 

But there is another form of the complex theory of moral obligation

that I must notice before I dismiss this subject-

 

This view admits and maintains that the good, that is, the valuable to

being, is the only ground of moral obligation, and that in every possible

case the valuable to being, or the good, must be intended as an end,

as a condition of the intention being virtuous- In this respect it

maintains that the foundation of moral obligation is simple, a unit- But

it also maintains that there are several ultimate goods or several

ultimates or things which are intrinsically good or valuable in

themselves, and are therefore to be chosen for their own sake, or as

an ultimate end; that to choose either of these as an ultimate end, or

for its own sake, is virtue-

 

It admits that happiness or blessedness is a good, and should be

willed for its own sake, or as an ultimate end, but it maintains that

virtue is an ultimate good; that right is an ultimate good; that the just

and the true are ultimate goods; in short, that the realization of the

ideas of the reason, or the carrying out into concrete existence any

idea of the reason, is an ultimate good- For instance: there were in the

Divine Mind from eternity certain ideas of the good or valuable, the

right, the just, the beautiful, the true, the useful, the holy, the

realization of these ideas of the divine reason, according to this theory,

was the end which God aimed at or intended in creation; He aimed at

their realization as ultimates or for their own sake, and regarded the

concrete realization of every one of these ideas as a separate and

ultimate good: and so certain as God is virtuous, so certain it is, says

this theory, that an intention on our part to realize these ideas for the

sake of the realization is virtue- Then the foundation of moral

obligation is complex in the sense that to will either the good or

valuable, the right, the true, the just, the virtuous, the beautiful, the

useful, etc-, for its own sake, or as an ultimate end, is virtue; and there

is more than one virtuous ultimate choice or intention- Thus any one

of several distinct things may be intended as an ultimate end with

equal propriety and with equal virtuousness- The soul may at one

moment be wholly consecrated to one end, that is, to one ultimate

good, and again to another; that is, sometimes it may will one good,

and sometimes another good, as an ultimate end, and still be equally

virtuous-

 

In the discussion of this subject I will inquire: In what does the

supreme and ultimate good consist?

 

1- Good may be natural or moral- Natural good is synonymous with

valuable- Moral good is synonymous with virtue- Moral good is in a

certain sense a natural good, that is, it is valuable as a means of

natural good; but the advocates of this theory affirm that moral good is

valuable in itself-

 

2- Good may be absolute and relative- Absolute good is that which

is intrinsically valuable- Relative good is that which is valuable as a

means- It is not valuable in itself, but valuable because it sustains to

absolute good the relation of a means to an end- Absolute good may

also be a relative good, that is, it may tend to perpetuate and augment

itself- Absolute good is also ultimate- Ultimate good is that good in

which all relative good terminates that good to which all relative good

sustains the relation of a means or condition- Relative good is not

intrinsically valuable, but only valuable on account of its relations-

 

The point upon which issue is taken, is, that enjoyment,

blessedness, a mental satisfaction, is the only ultimate good-

 

It has been before remarked, and should be repeated here, that the

intrinsically valuable must not only belong to, and be inseparable from,

sentient beings, but that the ultimate or intrinsic absolute good must

consist in a state of mind- It must be something to be found in the field

of consciousness- Take away mind, and what can be a good per se;

or what can be a good in any sense?

 

Again, it should be said that the ultimate and absolute good cannot

consist in a choice or in a voluntary state of mind- The thing chosen

is, and must be the ultimate of the choice- Choice can never be

chosen as an ultimate end- Benevolence then, or the love required by

the law, can never be the ultimate and absolute good- It is admitted

that blessedness, enjoyment, mental satisfaction, is a good; an

absolute and ultimate good- All men assume it- All men seek

enjoyment- That it is the only absolute and ultimate good, is a first

truth- But for this there could be no activity no motive to action no

object of choice- Enjoyment is in fact the ultimate good- It is in fact

the result of existence and of action- It results to God from His

existence, His attributes, His activity, and His virtue, by a law of

necessity- His powers are so correlated that blessedness cannot but

be the state of His mind, as resulting from the exercise of His

attributes and the right activity of His will- Happiness, or enjoyment,

results, both naturally and governmentally, from obedience to both

physical and moral- It also shows that government is not an end, but a

means- It also shows that the end is blessedness, and the means

obedience to law-

 

The ultimate and absolute good, in the sense of the intrinsically

valuable, cannot be identical with moral law- Moral law, as we have

seen, is an idea of the reason- Moral law and moral government must

propose some end to be secured by means of law- Law cannot be its

own end- It cannot require the subject to seek itself as an ultimate

end- This were absurd- The moral law is nothing else than the

reason’s idea, or conception of that course of willing and acting that is

fit, proper, suitable to, and demanded by the nature, relations,

necessities, and circumstances of moral agents- Their nature,

relations, circumstances, and wants being perceived, the reason

necessarily affirms that they ought to propose to themselves a certain

end, and to consecrate themselves to the promotion of this end, for its

own sake, or for its own intrinsic value- This end cannot be law itself-

The law is a simple and pure idea of the reason, and can never be in

itself the supreme, intrinsic, absolute, and ultimate good-

 

Nor can obedience, or the course of acting or willing required by the

law, be the ultimate end aimed at by the law or the lawgiver- The law

requires action in reference to an end, or that an end should be willed;

but the willing, and the end to be willed, cannot be identical- The

action required, and the end to which it is to be directed, cannot be the

same- Obedience to law cannot be the ultimate end proposed by law

or government- The obedience is one thing, the end to be secured by

obedience is and must be another- Obedience must be a means or

condition; and that which law and obedience are intended to secure, is

and must be the ultimate end of obedience- The law or the lawgiver

aims to promote the highest good, or blessedness of the universe-

This must be the end of moral law and moral government- Law and

obedience must be the means or conditions of this end- To deny this

is to deny the very nature of moral law, and to lose sight of the true

and only end of moral government- Nothing can be moral law, and

nothing can be moral government, that does not propose the highest

good of moral beings as its ultimate end- But if this is the end of law,

and the end of government, it must be the end to be aimed at, or

intended, by the ruler and the subject- And this end must be the

foundation of moral obligation- The end must be good or valuable per

se, or there can be no moral law requiring it to be sought or chosen as

an ultimate end, nor any obligation to choose it as an ultimate end-

 

But what is intended by the right, the just, the true, etc-, being

ultimate goods and ends to be chosen for their own sake? These may

be objective or subjective- Objective right, truth, justice, etc-, are mere

ideas, and cannot be good or valuable in themselves- Subjective right,

truth, justice, etc-, are synonymous with righteousness, truthfulness,

and justness- These are virtue- They consist in an active state of the

will, and resolve themselves into choice, intention- But we have

repeatedly seen that intention can neither be an end nor a good in

itself, in the sense of intrinsically valuable-

 

Again, constituted as moral agents are, it is a matter of

consciousness that the concrete realization of the ideas of right, and

truth, and justice, of beauty, of fitness, of moral order, and, in short, of

all that class of ideas, is indispensable as the condition and means of

their highest well-being, and that enjoyment or mental satisfaction is

the result of realizing in the concrete those ideas- This enjoyment or

satisfaction then is and must be the end or ultimate upon which the

intention of God must have terminated, and upon which ours must

terminate as an end or ultimate-

 

Again, the enjoyment resulting to God from the concrete realization

of His own ideas must be infinite- He must therefore have intended it

as the supreme good- It is in fact the ultimate good- It is in fact the

supremely valuable-

 

Again, if there is more than one ultimate good, the mind must regard

them all as one, or sometimes be consecrated to one and sometimes

to another sometimes wholly consecrated to the beautiful,

sometimes to the just, and then again to the right, then to the useful, to

the true, etc- But it may be asked, of what value is the beautiful, aside

from the enjoyment it affords to sentient existences? It meets a

demand of our being, and hence affords satisfaction- But for this in

what sense could it be regarded as good? The idea of the useful,

again, cannot be an idea of an ultimate end, for utility implies that

something is valuable in itself to which the useful sustains the relation

of a means, and is useful only for that reason-

 

Of what value is the true, the right, the just, etc-, aside from the

pleasure or mental satisfaction resulting from them to sentient

existences? Of what value were all the rest of the universe, were

there no sentient existences to enjoy it?

 

Suppose, again, that everything else in the universe existed just as it

does, except mental satisfaction or enjoyment, and that there were

absolutely no enjoyment of any kind in anything any more than there is

in a block of granite, of what value would it all be? and to what, or to

whom, would it be valuable? Mind, without susceptibility of enjoyment,

can neither know nor be the subject of good or evil, any more than a

slab of marble- Truth in that case could no more be a good to mind

than mind could be a good to truth; light would no more be a good to

the eye, than the eye a good to light- Nothing in the universe could

give or receive the least satisfaction or dissatisfaction- Neither natural

nor moral fitness nor unfitness could excite the least emotion or mental

satisfaction- A block of marble might just as well be the subject of

good as anything else, upon such a supposition-

 

Again, it is obvious that all creation, where law is obeyed, tends to

one end, and that end is happiness or enjoyment- This demonstrates

that enjoyment was the end at which God aimed in creation-

 

Again, it is evident that God is endeavoring to realize all the other

ideas of His reason for the sake of, and as a means of, realizing that of

the valuable to being- This, as a matter of fact, is the result of realizing

in the concrete all those ideas- This must then have been the end

intended-

 

It is nonsense to object that, if enjoyment or mental satisfaction be

the only ground of moral obligation, we should be indifferent as to the

means- This objection assumes that in seeking an end for its intrinsic

value, we must be indifferent as to the way in which we obtain that

end; that is, whether it be obtained in a manner possible or impossible,

right or wrong- It overlooks the fact that from the laws of our own

being it is impossible for us to will the end without willing also the

indispensable, and therefore the appropriate, means; and also that we

cannot possibly regard any other conditions or means of the

happiness of moral agents as possible, and therefore as appropriate

or right, but holiness and universal conformity to the law of our being-

Enjoyment or mental satisfaction results from having the different

demands of our being met- One demand of the reason and

conscience of a moral agent is that happiness should be conditionated

upon holiness- It is therefore naturally impossible for a moral agent to

be satisfied with the happiness or enjoyment of moral agents, except

upon the condition of their holiness-

 

But this class of philosophers insist that all the archetypes of the

ideas of the reason are necessarily regarded by us as good in

themselves- For example: I have the idea of beauty- I behold a rose-

The perception of this archetype of the idea of beauty gives me

instantaneous pleasure- Now it is said, that this archetype is

necessarily regarded by me as a good- I have pleasure in the

presence and perception of it, and as often as I call it to remembrance-

This pleasure, it is said, demonstrates that it is a good to me; and this

good is in the very nature of the object, and must be regarded as a

good in itself- To this I answer, that the presence of the rose is a good

to me, but not an ultimate good- It is only a means or source of

pleasure or happiness to me- The rose is not a good in itself- If there

were no eyes to see it, and no olfactory to smell it, to whom could it be

a good? But in what sense can it be a good, except in the sense that

it gives satisfaction to the beholder? The satisfaction, and not the

rose, is and must be the ultimate good- But it is inquired, Do not I

desire the rose for its own sake? I answer, Yes; you desire it for its

own sake, but you do not, cannot choose it for its own sake, but to

gratify the desire- The desires all terminate on their respective

objects- The desire for food terminates on food; thirst terminates on

drink, etc- These things are so correlated to these appetites that they

are desired for their own sakes- But they are not and cannot be

chosen for their own sakes or as an ultimate end- They are, and must

be, regarded and chosen as the means of gratifying their respective

desires- To choose them simply in obedience to the desire were

selfishness- But the gratification is a good, and a part of universal

good- The reason, therefore, urges and demands that they should be

chosen as a means of good to myself- When thus chosen in

obedience to the law of the intelligence, and no more stress is laid

upon the gratification than in proportion to its relative value, and when

no stress is laid upon it simply because it is my own gratification, the

choice is holy- The perception of the archetypes of the various ideas

of the reason will, in most instances, produce enjoyment- These

archetypes, or, which is the same thing, the concrete realization of

these ideas, is regarded by the mind as a good, but not as an ultimate

good- The ultimate good is the satisfaction derived from the

perception of them-

 

The perception of moral or physical beauty gives me satisfaction-

Now moral and physical beauty are regarded by me as good, but not

as ultimate good- They are relative good only- Were it not for the

pleasure they give me, I could not in any way connect with them the

idea of good- The mental eye might perceive order, beauty, physical

and moral, or anything else; but these things would no more be good

to the intellect that perceived them than their opposites- The idea of

good or of the valuable could not in such a case exist, consequently

virtue or moral beauty, could not exist- The idea of the good, or of the

valuable, must exist before virtue can exist- It is and must be the

development of the idea of the valuable, that develops the idea of

moral obligation, of right and wrong, and consequently that makes

virtue possible- The mind must perceive an object of choice that is

regarded as intrinsically valuable, before it can have the idea of moral

obligation to choose it as an end- This object of choice cannot be

virtue or moral beauty, for this would be to have the idea of virtue or of

moral beauty before the idea of moral obligation, or of right and wrong-

This were a contradiction- The mind must have the idea of some

ultimate good, the choice of which would be virtue, or concerning

which the reason affirms moral obligation, before the idea of virtue, or

of right or wrong, can exist- The development of the idea of the

valuable, or of an ultimate good, must precede the possibility of virtue,

or of the idea of virtue, of moral obligation, or of right and wrong- It is

absurd to say that virtue is regarded as an ultimate good, when in fact

the very idea of virtue does not and cannot exist until a good is

presented, in view of which, the mind affirms moral obligation to will it

for its own sake, and also affirms that the choice of it for that reason

would be virtue-

 

So virtue or holiness is morally beautiful- Moral worth or excellence

is morally beautiful- Beauty is an attribute or element of holiness,

virtue, and of moral worth, or right character- But the beauty is not

identical with holiness or moral worth, any more than the beauty of a

rose, and the rose are identical- The rose is beautiful- Beauty is one

of its attributes- So virtue is morally beautiful- Beauty is one of its

attributes- But in neither case is the beauty a state of mind, and,

therefore, it cannot be an ultimate good-

 

We are apt to say, that moral worth is an ultimate good; but it is only

a relative good- It meets a demand of our being, and thus produces

satisfaction- This satisfaction is the ultimate good of being- At the

very moment we pronounce it a good in itself, it is only because we

experience such a satisfaction in contemplating it- At the very time we

erroneously say, that we consider it a good in itself, wholly

independent of its results, we only say so, the more positively,

because we are so gratified at the time, by thinking of it- It is its

experienced results, that is the ground of the affirmation-

 

Thus we see:

 

1- That the utility of ultimate choice cannot be a foundation of

obligation to choose, for this would be to transfer the ground of

obligation from what is intrinsic in the object chosen to the useful

tendency of the choice itself- As I have said, utility is a condition of

obligation to put forth an executive act, but can never be a foundation

of obligation; for the utility of the choice is not a reason found

exclusively, or at all, in object of choice-

 

2- The moral character of the choice cannot be a foundation of

obligation to choose, for this reason is not intrinsic in the object of

choice- To affirm that the character of choice is the ground of

obligation to choose, is to transfer the ground of obligation to choose

from the object chosen to the character of the choice itself; but this is a

contradiction of the premises-

 

3- The relation of one being to another cannot be the ground of

obligation of the one to will good to the other, for the ground of

obligation to will good to another must be the intrinsic nature of the

good, and not the relations of one being to another- Relations may be

conditions of obligation to seek to promote the good of particular

individuals; but in every case the nature of the good is the ground of

the obligation-

 

4- Neither the relation of utility, nor that of moral fitness or right, as

existing between choice and its object, can be a ground of obligation,

for both these relations depend, for their very existence, upon the

intrinsic importance of the object of choice; and besides, neither of

these relations is intrinsic in the object of choice, as it must be to be a

ground of obligation-

 

5- The relative importance or value of an object of choice can never

be a ground of obligation to choose that object, for its relative

importance is not intrinsic in the object- But the relative importance, or

value, of an object may be a condition of obligation to choose it, as a

condition of securing an intrinsically valuable object, to which it

sustains the relation of a means-

6- The idea of duty cannot be a ground of obligation; this idea is a

condition, but never a foundation, of obligation, for this idea is not

intrinsic in the object which we affirm it our duty to choose-

 

7- The perception of certain relations existing between individuals

cannot be a ground, although it is a condition of obligation, to fulfil to

them certain duties- Neither the relation itself, nor the perception of

the relation, is intrinsic in that which we affirm ourselves to be under

obligation to will or do to them; of course, neither of them can be a

ground of obligation-

 

8- The affirmation of obligation by the reason, cannot be a ground,

though it is a condition of obligation- The obligation is affirmed, upon

the ground of the intrinsic importance of the object and not in view of

the affirmation itself-

 

9- The sovereign will of God is never the foundation, though it often

is a condition of certain forms, of obligation- Did we know the intrinsic

or relative value of an object, we should be under obligation to choose

it, whether God required it or not-

 

The revealed will of God is always a condition of obligation,

whenever such revelation is indispensable to our understanding the

intrinsic or relative importance of any object of choice- The will of God

is not intrinsic in the object which He commands us to will, and of

course cannot be a ground of obligation-

 

10- The moral excellence of a being can never be a foundation of

obligation to will his good; for his character is not intrinsic in the good

we ought to will to him- The intrinsic value of that good must be the

ground of the obligation, and his good character only a condition of

obligation to will his enjoyment of good in particular-

 

Good character can never be a ground of obligation to choose

anything which is not itself; for the reasons of ultimate choice must be

found exclusively in the object of choice- Therefore, if character is a

ground of obligation to put forth an ultimate choice, it must be the

object of that choice-

 

11- Right can never be a ground of obligation, unless right be itself

the object which we are under obligation to choose for its own sake-

 

12- Susceptibility for good can never be a ground, though it is a

condition, of obligation to will good to a being- The susceptibility is not

intrinsic in the good which we ought to will, and therefore cannot be a

ground of obligation-

 

13- No one thing can be a ground of obligation to choose any other

thing, as an ultimate; for the reasons for choosing anything, as an

ultimate, must be found in itself, and in nothing extraneous to itself-

 

14- From the admitted fact, that none but ultimate choice or intention

is right or wrong per se, and that all executive volitions, or acts, derive

their character from the ultimate intention to which they owe their

existence, it follows:

 

(a-) That if executive volitions are put forth with the intention to

secure an intrinsically valuable end, they are right; otherwise, they are

wrong-

 

(b-) It also follows, that obligation to put forth executive acts is

conditioned, not founded, upon the assumed utility of such acts-

Again:

 

(c-) It also follows, that all outward acts are right or wrong, as they

proceed from a right or wrong intention-

 

(d-) It also follows that the rightness of any executive volition or

outward act depends upon the supposed and intended utility of that

volition, or act- Their utility must be assumed as a condition of

obligation to put them forth, and, of course, their intended utility is a

condition of their being right-

 

(e-) It also follows that, whenever we decide it to be duty to put forth

any outward act whatever, irrespective of its supposed utility, and

because we think it right, we deceive ourselves; for it is impossible that

outward acts or volitions, which from their nature are always executive,

should be either obligatory or right, irrespective of their assumed utility,

or tendency to promote an intrinsically valuable end-

 

(f-) It follows also that it is a gross error to affirm the rightness of an

executive act, as a reason for putting it forth, even assuming that its

tendency is to do evil rather than good- With this assumption no

executive act can possibly be right- When God has required certain

executive acts, we know that they do tend to secure the highest good,

and that, if put forth to secure that good, they are right- But in no case,

where God has not revealed the path of duty, as it respects executive

acts, or courses of life, are we to decide upon such questions in view

of the rightness, irrespective of the good tendency of such acts or

courses of life; for their rightness depends upon their assumed good

tendency-

 

But it is said that a moral agent may sometimes be under obligation

to will evil instead of good to others- I answer:

 

It can never be the duty of a moral agent to will evil to any being for

its own sake, or as an ultimate end- The character and governmental

relations of a being may be such that it may be duty to will his

punishment to promote the public good- But in this case good is the

end willed, and misery only a means- So it may be the duty of a moral

agent to will the temporal misery of even a holy being, to promote the

public interests- Such was the case with the sufferings of Christ- The

Father willed His temporary misery, to promote the public good- But in

all cases when it is duty to will misery, it is only as a means or

condition of good to the public, or to the individual, and not as an

ultimate end-


LECTURE 8

 

FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION

 

THE PRACTICAL TENDENCY OF THE VARIOUS THEORIES

 

It has already been observed that this is a highly practical question,

and one of surpassing interest and importance- I have gone through

the discussion and examination of the several principal theories, for

the purpose of preparing the way to expose the practical results of

those various theories, and to show that they legitimately result in

some of the most soul-destroying errors that cripple the church and

curse the world-

 

I will begin with the theory that regards the sovereign will of God as

the foundation of moral obligation-

 

One legitimate and necessary result of this theory is, a totally

erroneous conception both of the character of God, and of the nature

and design of His government- If God’s will is the foundation of moral

obligation, it follows that He is an arbitrary sovereign- He is not under

law Himself, and He has no rule by which to regulate His conduct, nor

by which either Himself or any other being can judge of His moral

character- Indeed, unless He is subject to law, or is a subject of moral

obligation, He has and can have, no moral character; for moral

character always and necessarily implies moral law and moral

obligation- If God’s will is not itself under the law of His infinite reason,

or, in other words, it is not conformed to the law imposed upon it by

His intelligence, then His will is and must be arbitrary in the worst

sense; that is, in the sense of having no regard to reason, or to the

nature and relations of moral agents- But if His will is under the law of

His reason, if He acts from principle, or has good and benevolent

reasons for His conduct, then His will is not the foundation of moral

obligation, but those reasons that lie revealed in the divine intelligence,

in view of which it affirms moral obligation, or that He ought to will in

conformity with those reasons- In other words, if the intrinsic value of

His own well-being and that of the universe be the foundation of moral

obligation; if His reason affirms His obligation to choose this as His

ultimate end, and to consecrate His infinite energies to the realization

of it; and if His will is conformed to this law it follows:

 

(1-) That His will is not the foundation of moral obligation-

 

(2-) That He has infinitely good and wise reasons for what He wills,

says, and does-

 

(3-) That He is not arbitrary, but always acts in conformity with right

principles, and for reasons that will, when universally known, compel

the respect and even admiration of every intelligent being in the

universe-

 

(4-) That creation and providential and moral government, are the

necessary means to an infinitely wise and good end, and that existing

evils are only unavoidably incidental to this infinitely wise and

benevolent arrangement, and, although great, are indefinitely the less

of two evils- That is, they are an evil indefinitely less than no creation

and government would have been- It is conceivable, that a plan of

administration might have been adopted that would have prevented

the present evils; but if we admit that God has been governed by

reason in the selection of the end He has in view, and in the use of

means for its accomplishment, it will follow that the evils are less than

would have existed under any other plan of administration; or at least,

that the present system, with all its evils, is the best that infinite

wisdom and love could adopt-

 

(5-) These incidental evils, therefore, do not at all detract from the

evidence of the wisdom and goodness of God; for in all these things

He is not acting from caprice, or malice, or an arbitrary sovereignty,

but is acting in conformity with the law of His infinite intelligence, and

of course has infinitely good and weighty reasons for what He does

and suffers to be done reasons so good and so weighty, that He

could not do otherwise without violating the law of His own intelligence,

and therefore committing infinite sin-

(6-) It follows also that there is ground for perfect confidence, love,

and submission to His divine will in all things- That is, if His will is not

arbitrary, but conformed to the law of His infinite intelligence, then it is

obligatory, as our rule of action, because it reveals infallibly what is in

accordance with infinite intelligence- We may always be entirely safe

in obeying all the divine requirements, and in submitting to all His

dispensations, however mysterious, being assured that they are

perfectly wise and good- Not only are we safe in doing so, but we are

under infinite obligation to do so; not because His arbitrary will

imposes obligation, but because it reveals to us infallibly the end we

ought to choose, and the indispensable means of securing it- His will

is law, not in the sense of its originating and imposing obligation of its

own arbitrary sovereignty, but in the sense of its being a revelation of

both the end we ought to seek, and the means by which the end can

be secured- Indeed this is the only proper idea of law- It does not in

any case of itself impose obligation, but is only a revelation of

obligation- Law is a condition, but not the foundation, of obligation-

The will of God is a condition of obligation, only so far as it is

indispensable to our knowledge of the end we ought to seek, and the

means by which this end is to be secured- Where these are known,

there is obligation, whether God has revealed His will or not-

 

The foregoing, and many other important truths, little less important

than those already mentioned, and too numerous to be now distinctly

noticed, follow from the fact that the good of being, and not the

arbitrary will of God, is the foundation of moral obligation- But not one

of them is or can be true, if His will be the foundation of obligation-

Nor can any one, who consistently holds or believes that His will is the

foundation of obligation, hold or believe any of the foregoing truths, nor

indeed hold or believe any truth of the law or gospel- Nay, he cannot,

if he be at all consistent, have even a correct conception of one truth

of God’s moral government- Let us see if he can-

 

(1-) Can he believe that God’s will is wise and good, unless he

admits and believes that it is subject to the law of His intelligence? If

he consistently holds that the divine will is the foundation of moral

obligation, he must either deny that His will is any evidence of what is

wise and good, or maintain the absurdity, that whatever God wills is

wise and good, simply for the reason that God wills it, and that if he

willed the directly opposite of what he does, it would be equally wise

and good- But this is an absurdity palpable enough to confound any

one who has reason and moral agency-

 

(2-) If he consistently holds and believes that God’s sovereign will is

the foundation of moral obligation, he cannot regard Him as having

any moral character, for the reason, that there is no standard by which

to judge of His willing and acting; for, by the supposition, He has no

intelligent rule of action, and, therefore, can have no moral character,

as He is not a moral agent, and can Himself have no idea of the moral

character of His own actions; for, in fact, upon the supposition in

question, they have none- Any one, therefore, who holds that God is

not a subject of moral law, imposed on Him by His own reason, but, on

the contrary, that His sovereign will is the foundation of moral

obligation, must, if consistent, deny that He has moral character; and

he must deny that God is an intelligent being, or else admit that He is

infinitely wicked for not conforming His will to the law of His

intelligence; and for not being guided by His infinite reason, instead of

setting up an arbitrary sovereignty of will-

 

(3-) He who holds that God’s sovereign will is the foundation of moral

obligation, instead of being a revelation of obligation, if he be at all

consistent, can neither have nor assign any good reason either for

confidence in Him, or submission to Him- If God has no good and

wise reasons for what He commands, why should we obey Him? If He

has no good and wise reasons for what He does, why should we

submit to Him?

 

Will it be answered, that if we refuse, we do it at our peril, and,

therefore, it is wise to do so, even if He has no good reasons for what

He does and requires? To this I answer that it is impossible, upon the

supposition in question, either to obey or submit to God with the heart-

If we can see no good reasons, but, on the other hand, are assured

there are no good and wise reasons for the divine commands and

conduct, it is rendered forever naturally impossible, from the laws of

our nature, to render anything more than feigned obedience and

submission- Whenever we do not understand the reason for a divine

requirement, or of a dispensation of divine Providence, the condition of

heart-obedience to the one and submission to the other, is the

assumption that He has good and wise reasons for both- But assume

the contrary, to wit, that He has no good and wise reasons for either,

and you render heart-obedience, confidence, and submission

impossible- It is perfectly plain, therefore, that he who consistently

holds the theory in question, can neither conceive rightly of God, nor of

anything respecting His law, gospel, or government, moral or

providential- It is impossible for him to have an intelligent piety- His

religion, if he have any, must be sheer superstition, inasmuch as he

neither knows the true God, nor the true reason why he should love,

believe, obey, or submit to Him- In short, he neither knows, nor, if

consistent, can know, anything of the nature of true religion, and has

not so much as a right conception of what constitutes virtue-

But do not understand me as affirming, that none who profess to

hold the theory in question have any true knowledge of God, or any

true religion- No, they are happily so purely theorists on this subject,

and so happily inconsistent with themselves, as to have, after all, a

practical judgment in favor of the truth- They do not see the logical

consequences of their theory, and of course do not embrace them,

and this happy inconsistency is an indispensable condition of their

salvation-

 

(4-) Another pernicious consequence of this theory is that those who

hold it will of course give false directions to inquiring sinners- Indeed,

if they be ministers, the whole strain of their instructions must be false-

They must, if consistent, not only represent God to their hearers as an

absolute and arbitrary sovereign, but they must represent religion as

consisting in submission to arbitrary sovereignty- If sinners inquire

what they must do to be saved, such teachers must answer in

substance, that they must cast themselves on the sovereignty of a

God whose law is solely an expression of His arbitrary will, and whose

every requirement and purpose is founded in His arbitrary sovereignty-

This is the God whom they must love, in whom they must believe, and

whom they must serve with a willing mind- How infinitely different such

instructions are from those that would be given by one who knew the

truth- Such an one would represent God to an inquirer as infinitely

reasonable in all His requirements, and in all His ways- He would

represent the sovereignty of God as consisting, not in arbitrary will, but

in benevolence or love, directed by infinite knowledge in the promotion

of the highest good of being- He would represent His law, not as the

expression of His arbitrary will, but as having its foundation in the

self-existent nature of God, and in the nature of moral agents; as being

the very rule which is agreeable to the nature and relations of moral

agents; that its requisitions are not arbitrary, but that the very thing,

and only that, is required which is in the nature of things indispensable

to the highest well-being of moral agents; that God’s will does not

originate obligation by any arbitrary fiat, but on the contrary, that He

requires what He does, because it is obligatory in the nature of things;

that His requirement does not create right, but that He requires only

that which is naturally and of necessity right- These and many such

like things would irresistibly commend the character of God to the

human intelligence, as worthy to be trusted, and as a being to whom

submission is infallibly safe and infinitely reasonable-

 

The fact is, the idea of arbitrary sovereignty is shocking and

revolting, not only to the human heart, whether unregenerate or

regenerate, but also to the human intelligence- Religion, based upon

such a view of God’s character and government, must be sheer

superstition or gross fanaticism-

 

I will next glance at the legitimate results of the theory of the selfish

school-

 

This theory teaches that our own interest is the foundation of moral

obligation- In conversing with a distinguished defender of this

philosophy, I requested the theorist to define moral obligation, and this

was the definition given: “It is the obligation of a moral agent to seek

his own happiness-” Upon the practical bearing of this theory I remark:

 

(1-) It tends directly and inevitably to the confirmation and despotism

of sin in the soul- All sin, as we shall hereafter see, resolves itself into

a spirit of self-seeking, or into a disposition to seek good to self, upon

condition of its relations to self, and not impartially and disinterestedly-

This philosophy represents this spirit of self-seeking as virtue, and only

requires that in our efforts to secure our own happiness, we should not

interfere with the rights of others in seeking theirs- But here it may be

asked, when these philosophers insist that virtue consists in willing our

own happiness, and that, in seeking it, we are bound to have respect

to the rights and happiness of others, do they mean that we are to

have a positive, or merely a negative regard to the rights and

happiness of others? If they mean that we are to have a positive

regard to others’ rights and happiness, what is that but giving up their

theory, and holding the true one, to wit, that the happiness of each one

shall be esteemed according to its intrinsic value, for its own sake?

That is, that we should be disinterestedly benevolent? But if they

mean that we are to regard our neighbor’s happiness negatively, that

is, merely in not hindering it, what is this but the most absurd thing

conceivable? What! I need not care positively for my neighbor’s

happiness, I need not will it as a good in itself, and for its own value,

and yet I must take care not to hinder it- But why? Why, because it is

intrinsically as valuable as my own- Now, if this is assigning any good

reason why I ought not to hinder it, it is just because it is assigning a

good reason why I ought positively and disinterestedly to will it; which

is the same thing as the true theory- But if this is not a sufficient

reason to impose obligation, positively and disinterestedly, to will it, it

can never impose obligation to avoid hindering it, and I may then

pursue my own happiness in my own way without the slightest regard

to that of any other-

 

(2-) If this theory be true, sinful and holy beings are precisely alike,

so far as ultimate intention is concerned, in which we have seen all

character consists- They have precisely the same end in view, and

the difference lies exclusively in the means they make use of to

promote their own happiness- That sinners are seeking their own

happiness, is a truth of consciousness to them- If moral agents are

under obligation to seek their own happiness as the supreme end of

life, it follows, that holy beings do so- So that holy and sinful beings

are precisely alike, so far as the end for which they live is concerned;

the only difference being, as has been observed, in the different

means they make use of to promote this end- But observe, no reason

can be assigned, in accordance with this philosophy, why they use

different means, only that they differ in judgment in respect to them;

for, let it be remembered, that this philosophy denies that we are

bound to have a positive and disinterested regard to our neighbor’s

interest; and, of course, no benevolent considerations prevent the holy

from using the same means as do the wicked- Where, therefore, is

the difference in their character, although they do use this diversity of

means? I say again, there is none- If this difference be not ascribed

to disinterested benevolence in one, and to selfishness in the other,

there really is and can be no difference in character between them-

According to this theory nothing is right in itself, but the intention to

promote my own happiness; and anything is right or wrong as it is

intended to promote this result or otherwise- For let it be borne in

mind that, if moral obligation respects strictly the ultimate intention

only, it follows that ultimate intention alone is right or wrong in itself,

and all other things are right or wrong as they proceed from a right or

wrong ultimate intention- This must be true-

 

Further, if my own happiness be the foundation of my moral

obligation, it follows that this is the ultimate end at which I ought to

aim, and that nothing is right or wrong in itself, in me, but this intention

or its opposite; and furthermore, that everything else must be right or

wrong in me as it proceeds from this, or from an opposite intention- I

may do, and upon the supposition of the truth of this theory, I am

bound to do, whatever will, in my estimation, promote my own

happiness, and that, not because of its intrinsic value as a part of

universal good, but because it is my own- To seek it as a part of

universal happiness, and not because it is my own, would be to act on

the true theory, or the theory of disinterested benevolence; which this

theory denies-

 

(3-) Upon this theory I am not to love God supremely, and my

neighbor as myself- If I love God and my neighbor, it is to be only as a

means of promoting my own happiness, which is not loving them but

loving myself supremely-

 

(4-) This theory teaches radical error in respect both to the character

and government of God; and the consistent defenders of it cannot but

hold fundamentally false views in respect to what constitutes holiness

or virtue, either in God or man- They do not and cannot know the

difference between virtue and vice-

 

(5-) The teachers of this theory must fatally mislead all who

consistently follow out their instructions- In preaching, they must, if

consistent, appeal wholly to hope and fear- All their instructions must

tend to confirm selfishness- All the motives they present, if consistent,

tend only to stir up a zeal within them to secure their own happiness-

If they pray, it will only be to implore the help of God to accomplish

their selfish ends-

 

Indeed, it is impossible that this theory should not blind its advocates

to the fundamental truths of morality and religion, and it is hardly

conceivable that one could more efficiently serve the devil than by the

inculcation of such a philosophy as this-

 

Let us in the next place look into the natural and, if its advocates are

consistent, necessary results of utilitarianism-

 

This theory, you know, teaches that the utility of an action or of a

choice, renders it obligatory- That is, I am bound to will good, not for

the intrinsic value of the good; but because willing good tends to

produce good to choose an end, not because of the intrinsic value of

the end, but because the willing of it tends to secure it- The absurdity

of this theory has been sufficiently exposed- It only remains to notice

its legitimate practical results-

 

(1-) It naturally, and I may say, necessarily diverts the attention from

that in which all morality consists, namely, the ultimate intention-

Indeed, it seems that the abettors of this scheme must have in mind

only outward action, or at most executive volitions, when they assert

that the tendency of an action is the reason of the obligation to put it

forth- It seems impossible that they should assert that the reason for

choosing an ultimate end should or could be the tendency of choice to

secure it- This is so palpable a contradiction, that it is difficult to

believe that they have ultimate intention in mind when they make the

assertion- An ultimate end is ever chosen for its intrinsic value, and

not because choice tends to secure it- How, then, is it possible for

them to hold that the tendency of choice to secure an ultimate end is

the reason of an obligation to make that choice? But if they have not

their eye upon ultimate intention, when they speak of moral obligation,

they are discoursing of that which is, strictly without the pale of

morality- A consistent utilitarian, therefore, cannot conceive rightly of

the nature of morality or virtue- He cannot consistently hold that virtue

consists in willing the highest well-being of God and of the universe as

an ultimate end, or for its own sake, but must, on the contrary, confine

his ideas of moral obligation to volitions and outward actions, in which

there is strictly no morality, and withal assign an entirely false reason

for these, to wit, their tendency to secure an end, rather than the value

of the end which they tend to secure-

 

This is the proper place to speak of the doctrine of expediency, a

doctrine strenuously maintained by utilitarians, and as strenuously

opposed by rightarians- It is this, that whatever is expedient is right,

for the reason, that the expediency of an action or measure is the

foundation of the obligation to put forth that action, or adopt that

measure- It is easy to see that this is just equivalent to saying, that the

utility of an action or measure is the reason of the obligation to put

forth that action or to adopt that measure- But, as we have seen,

utility, tendency, expediency, is only a condition of the obligation, to

put forth outward action or executive volition, but never the foundation

of the obligation that always being the intrinsic value of the end to

which the volition, action, or measure, sustains the relation of a

means- I do not wonder that rightarians object to this, although I do

wonder at the reason which, if consistent, they must assign for this

obligation, to wit, that any action or volition, (ultimate intention

excepted), can be right or wrong in itself, irrespective of its expediency

or utility- This is absurd enough, and flatly contradicts the doctrine of

rightarians themselves, that moral obligation strictly belongs only to

ultimate intention- If moral obligation belongs only to ultimate

intention, then nothing but ultimate intention can be right or wrong in

itself- And every thing else, that is, all executive volitions and outward

actions must be right or wrong, (in the only sense in which moral

character can be predicated of them) as they proceed from a right or

wrong ultimate intention- This is the only form in which rightarians can

consistently admit the doctrine of expediency, viz-, that it relates

exclusively to executive volitions and outward actions- And this they

can admit only upon the assumption that executive volitions and

outward actions have strictly no moral character in themselves, but are

right or wrong only as, and because, they proceed necessarily from a

right or wrong ultimate intention- All schools that hold this doctrine, to

wit, that moral obligation respects the ultimate intention only, must, if

consistent, deny that any thing can be either right or wrong per se, but

ultimate intention- Further, they must maintain, that utility, expediency,

or tendency to promote the ultimate end upon which ultimate intention

terminates, is always a condition of the obligation to put forth those

volitions and actions that sustain to this end the relation of means-

And still further, they must maintain, that the obligation to use those

means must be founded in the value of the end, and not in the

tendency of the means to secure it; for unless the end be intrinsically

valuable, the tendency of means to secure it can impose no obligation

to use them- Tendency, utility, expediency, then, are only conditions

of the obligation to use any given means, but never the foundation of

obligation- The obligation in respect to outward action is always

founded in the value of the end to which this action sustains the

relation of a means, and the obligation is conditionated upon the

perceived tendency of the means to secure that end- Expediency can

never have respect to the choice of an ultimate end, or to that in which

moral character consists, to wit, ultimate intention- The end is to be

chosen for its own sake- Ultimate intention is right or wrong in itself,

and no questions of utility, expediency, or tendency, have any thing to

do with the obligation to put forth ultimate intention, there being only

one ultimate reason for this, namely, the intrinsic value of the end

itself- It is true, then, that whatever is expedient is right, not for that

reason, but only upon that condition- The inquiry then, Is it

expedient?, in respect to outward action, is always proper; for upon

this condition does obligation to outward action turn- But in respect to

ultimate intention, or the choice of an ultimate end, an inquiry into the

expediency of this choice or intention is never proper, the obligation

being founded alone upon the perceived and intrinsic value of the end,

and the obligation being without any condition whatever, except the

possession of the powers of moral agency, with the perception of the

ed upon which intention ought to terminate, namely, the good of

universal being- But the mistake of the utilitarian, that expediency is

the foundation of moral obligation, is fundamental, for, in fact, it cannot

be so in any case whatever- I have said, and here repeat, that all

schools that hold that moral obligation respects ultimate intention only,

must, if consistent, maintain that perceived utility, expediency, etc-, is a

condition of obligation to put forth any outward action, or, which is the

same thing, to use any means to secure the end of benevolence-

Therefore, in practice or in daily life, the true doctrine of expediency

must of necessity have a place- The railers against expediency,

therefore, know not what they say nor whereof they affirm- It is,

however, impossible to proceed in practice upon the utilitarian

philosophy- This teaches that the tendency of an action to secure

good, and not the intrinsic value of the good, is the foundation of the

obligation to put forth that action- But this is too absurd for practice-

For, unless the intrinsic value of the end be assumed as the

foundation of the obligation to choose it, it is impossible to affirm

obligation to put forth an action to secure that end- The folly and the

danger of utilitarianism is, that it overlooks the true foundation of moral

obligation, and consequently the true nature of virtue or holiness- A

consistent utilitarian cannot conceive rightly of either-

 

The teachings of a consistent utilitarian must of necessity abound

with pernicious error- Instead of representing virtue as consisting in

disinterested benevolence, or in the consecration of the soul to the

highest good of being in general, for its own sake, it must represent it

as consisting wholly in using means to promote good: that is, as

consisting wholly in executive volitions and outward actions, which,

strictly speaking, have no moral character in them- Thus, consistent

utilitarianism inculcates fundamentally false ideas of the nature of

virtue- Of course it must teach equally erroneous ideas respecting the

character of God the spirit and meaning of His law the nature of

repentance of sin of regeneration and, in short, of every practical

doctrine of the Bible-

 

Practical bearings and tendency of rightarianism-

 

It will be recollected that this philosophy teaches that right is the

foundation of moral obligation- With its advocates, virtue consists in

willing the right for the sake of the right, instead of willing the good for

the sake of the good, or more strictly, in willing the good for the sake of

the right, and not for the sake of the good; or, as we have seen, the

foundation of obligation consists in the relation of intrinsic fitness

existing between the choice and the good- The right is the ultimate

end to be aimed at in all things, instead of the highest good of being

for its own sake- From such a theory the following consequences

must now speak only of consistent rightarianism-

 

(1-) If the rightarian theory is true, there is a law of right entirely

distinct from, and opposed to, the law of love or benevolence- The

advocates of this theory often assume, perhaps unwittingly, the

existence of such a law- They speak of multitudes of things as being

right or wrong in themselves, entirely independent of the law of

benevolence- Nay, they go so far as to affirm it conceivable that doing

right might necessarily tend to, and result in, universal misery; and

that, in such a case, we should be under obligation to do right, or will

right, or intend right, although universal misery should be the

necessary result- This assumes and affirms that right has no

necessary relation to willing the highest good of being for its own sake,

or, what is the same thing, that the law of right is not only distinct from

the law of benevolence, but may be directly opposed to it; that a moral

agent may be under obligation to will as an ultimate end that which he

knows will and must, by a law of necessity, promote and secure

universal misery- Rightarians sternly maintain that right would be

right, and that virtue would be virtue, although this result were a

necessary consequence- What is this but maintaining that moral law

may require moral agents to set their hearts upon and consecrate

themselves to that which is necessarily subversive of the well-being of

the entire universe? And what is this but assuming that may be

moral law that requires a course of willing and acting entirely

inconsistent with the nature and relations of moral agents? Thus

virtue and benevolence not only may be different but opposite things;

and benevolence may be sin- This is not only opposed to our reason,

but a more capital or mischievous error in morals or philosophy can

hardly be conceived-

 

Nothing is or can be right, as an ultimate choice, but benevolence-

Nothing can be moral law but that which requires that the highest

well-being of God and of the universe should be chosen as an ultimate

end- If benevolence is right, this must be self-evident- Rightarianism

overlooks and misrepresents the very nature of moral law- Let any

one contemplate the grossness of the absurdity that maintains, that

moral law may require a course of willing that necessarily results in

universal and perfect misery- What then, it may be asked, has moral

law to do with the nature and relations of moral agents, except to

mock, insult, and trample them under foot? Moral law is, and must be,

the law of nature, that is, suited to the nature and relations of moral

agents- But can that law be suited to the nature and relations of moral

agents that requires a course of action necessarily resulting in

universal misery? Rightarianism then, not only overlooks, but flatly

contradicts, the very nature of moral law, and sets up a law of right in

direct opposition to the law of nature-

 

(2-) This philosophy tends naturally to fanaticism- Conceiving as it

does of right as distinct from, and often opposed to, benevolence, it

scoffs or rails at the idea of inquiring what the highest good evidently

demands- It insists that such and such things are right or wrong in

themselves, entirely irrespective of what the highest good demands-

Having thus in mind a law of right distinct from, and perhaps, opposed

to benevolence, what frightful conduct may not this philosophy lead

to? This is indeed the law of fanaticism- The tendency of this

philosophy is illustrated in the spirit of many reformers, who are bitterly

contending for the right, which, after all, is to do nobody any good-

 

(3-) This philosophy teaches a false morality and a false religion- It

exalts right above God, and represents virtue as consisting in the love

of right instead of the love of God- It exhorts men to will the right for

the sake of the right, instead of the good of being for the sake of the

good, or for the sake of being- It teaches us to inquire, How shall I do

right?, instead of, How shall I do good? What is right? instead of,

What will most promote the good of the universe? Now that which is

most promotive of the highest good of being, is right- To intend the

highest well-being of God and of the universe, is right- To use the

necessary means to promote this end, is right; and whatever in the

use of means or in outward action is right, is so for this reason,

namely, that it is designed to promote the highest well-being of God

and of the universe- But rightarianism points out an opposite course-

It says: Will right for the sake of the right, that is, as an end; and in

respect to means, inquire not what is manifestly for the highest good of

being, for with this you have nothing to do; your business is to will the

right for the sake of the right- If you inquire how you are to know what

is right, it does not direct you to the law of benevolence as the only

standard, but it directs you to an abstract idea of right, as an ultimate

rule, having no regard to the law of benevolence or love- It tells you

that right is right, because it is right; and not that right is conformity to

the law of benevolence, and right for this reason- Now certainly such

teaching is radically false, and subversive of all sound morality and

true religion-

 

(4-) As we have formerly seen, this philosophy does not represent

virtue as consisting in the love of God, or of Christ, or our neighbor-

Consistency must require the abettors of this scheme to give

fundamentally false instructions to inquiring sinners- Instead of

representing God and all holy beings as devoted to the public good,

and instead of exhorting sinners to love God and their neighbor, this

philosophy must represent God and holy beings as consecrated to

right for the sake of the right; and must exhort sinners, who ask what

they shall do to be saved, to will the right for the sake of the right, to

love the right, to deify right, and fall down and worship it- There is

much of this false morality and religion in the world and in the church-

Infidels are great sticklers for this religion, and often exhibit as much of

it as do some rightarian professors of religion- It is a severe, stern,

loveless, Godless, Christ less philosophy, and nothing but happy

inconsistency prevents its advocates from manifesting it in this light to

the world- The law of right, when conceived of as distinct from, or

opposed to, the law of benevolence, is a perfect strait-jacket, an iron

collar, a snare of death-

 

This philosophy represents all war, all slavery, and many things as

wrong per se, without insisting upon such a definition of those things

as necessarily implies selfishness- Any thing whatever is wrong in

itself that includes and implies selfishness, and nothing else is or can

be- All war waged for selfish purposes is wrong per se- But war

waged for benevolent purposes, or war required by the law of

benevolence, and engaged in with a benevolent design, is neither

wrong in itself, nor wrong in any proper sense- All holding men in

bondage from selfish motives is wrong in itself, but holding men in

bondage in obedience to the law of benevolence is not wrong but right-

And so it is with every thing else- Therefore, where it is insisted that all

war and all slavery, or any thing else is wrong in itself, such a definition

of things must be insisted on as necessarily implies selfishness- But

consistent rightarianism will insist that all war, all slavery, and all of

many other things, are wrong in themselves without regard to their

being violators of the law of benevolence- This is consistent with such

philosophy, but it is most false and absurd in fact- Indeed, any

philosophy that assumes the existence of a law of right distinct from,

and possibly opposed to, the law of benevolence, must teach many

doctrines at war with both reason and revelation- It sets men in chase

of a philosophical abstraction as the supreme end of life, instead of the

concrete reality of the highest well-being of God and the universe- It

preys upon the human soul, and turns into solid iron all the tender

sensibilities of our being- Do but contemplate a human being

supremely devoted to an abstraction, as the end of human life- He

wills the right for the sake of the right- Or, more strictly, he wills the

good of being, not from any regard to being, but because of the

relation of intrinsic fitness or rightness existing between choice and its

object- For this he lives, and moves, and has his being- What sort of

religion is this? I wish not to be understood as holding, or insinuating,

that professed rightarians universally, or even generally, pursue their

theory to its legitimate boundary, or that they manifest the spirit that it

naturally begets- No, I am most happy in acknowledging that with

many, and perhaps with most of them, it is so purely a theory, that they

are not greatly influenced by it in practice- Many of them I regard as

the excellent of the earth, and I am happy to count them among my

dearest and most valued friends- But I speak of the philosophy, with

its natural results, when embraced not merely as a theory, but when

adopted by the heart as the rule of life- It is only in such cases that its

natural and legitimate fruits appear- Only let it be borne in mind that

right is conformity to moral law, that moral law is the law of nature, or

the law founded in the nature and relations of moral agents, the law

that requires just that course of willing and action that tends naturally

to secure the highest well-being of all moral agents, that requires this

course of willing and acting for the sake of the end in which it naturally

and governmentally results, and requires that this end shall be aimed

at or intended by all moral agents as the supreme good and the only

ultimate end of life; I say, only let these truths be borne in mind, and

you will never talk of a right, or a virtue, or a law, obedience to which

necessarily results in universal misery; nor will you conceive that such

a thing is possible-

 

Lastly, I come to the consideration of the practical bearings of what I

regard as the true theory of the foundation of moral obligation, namely,

that the intrinsic nature and value of the highest well-being of God and

of the universe is the sole foundation of moral obligation-

 

Upon this philosophy I remark:

 

That if this be true, the whole subject of moral obligation is perfectly

simple and intelligible; so plain, indeed, that “the wayfaring man,

though a fool, cannot err therein-”

 

Upon this theory, every moral agent knows in every possible

instance what is right, and can never mistake his real duty-

 

His duty is to will this end with all the known conditions and means

thereof- Intending this end with a single eye, and doing what appears

to him, with all the light he can obtain, to be in the highest degree

calculated to secure this end, he really does his duty- If in this case he

is mistaken in regard to what is the best means of securing this end,

still, with a benevolent intention, he does not sin- He has done right,

for he has intended as he ought, and acted outwardly as he thought

was the path of duty, under the best light he could obtain- This, then,

was his duty- He did not mistake his duty; because it was duty to

intend as he intended, and under the circumstances, to act as he

acted- How else should he have acted?

 

If a moral agent can know what end he aims at or lives for, he can

know, and cannot but know, at all times, whether he is right or wrong-

All that upon this theory a moral agent needs to be certain of is,

whether he lives for the right end, and this, if at all honest, or if

dishonest, he really cannot but know- If he would ask, what is right or

what is duty at any time, he need not wait for a reply- It is right for him

to intend the highest good of being as an end- If he honestly does

this, he cannot mistake his duty, for in doing this he really performs the

whole of duty- With this honest intention, it is impossible that he

should not use the means to promote this end, according to the best

light he has; and this is right- A single eye to the highest good of God

and the universe, is the whole of morality, strictly considered; and,

upon this theory, moral law, moral government, moral obligation,

virtue, vice, and the whole subject of morals and religion are the

perfection of simplicity- If this theory be true, no honest mind ever

mistook the path of duty- To intend the highest good of being is right

and is duty- No mind is honest that is not steadily pursuing this end-

But in the honest pursuit of this end there can be no sin, no mistaking

the path of duty- That is and must be the path of duty that really

appears to a benevolent mind to be so- That is, it must be his duty to

act in conformity with his honest convictions- This is duty, this is right-

So, upon this theory, no one who is truly honest in pursuing the

highest good of being, ever did or can mistake his duty in any such

sense as to commit sin-

 

I have spoken with great plainness, and perhaps with some severity,

of the several systems of error, as I cannot but regard them, upon the

most fundamental and important of subjects; not certainly from any

want of love to those who hold them, but from a concern, long

cherished and growing upon me, for the honor of truth and for the

good of being- Should any of you ever take the trouble to look into this

subject, in its length and breadth, and read the various systems, and

take the trouble to trace out their practical results, as actually

developed in the opinions and practices of men, you certainly would

not be at a loss to account for the theological and philosophical fogs

that so bewilder the world- How can it be otherwise, while such

confusion of opinion prevails upon the fundamental question of morals

and religion?

 

How is it, that there is so much profession and so little real practical

benevolence in the world? Multitudes of professed Christians seem to

have no conception that benevolence constitutes true religion; that

nothing else does; and that selfishness is sin, and totally incompatible

with religion- They live on in their self-indulgences, and dream of

heaven- This could not be, if the true idea of religion, as consisting in

sympathy with the benevolence of God, was fully developed in their

minds-

 

I need not dwell upon the practical bearings of the other theories

which I have examined; what I have said may suffice, as an illustration

of the importance of being well-established in this fundamental truth- It

is affecting to see what conceptions multitudes entertain in regard to

the real spirit and meaning of the law and gospel of God, and,

consequently, of the nature of holiness-

 

In dismissing this subject, I would remark, that any system of moral

philosophy that does not correctly define a moral action, and the real

ground of obligation, must be fundamentally defective- Nay, if

consistent, it must be highly pernicious and dangerous- But let moral

action be clearly and correctly defined, let the true ground of obligation

be clearly and correctly stated; and let both these be kept constantly

in view, and such a system would be of incalculable value- It would be

throughout intelligible, and force conviction upon every intelligent

reader- But I am not aware that any such system exists- So far as I

know, they are all faulty, either in their definition of a moral action, and

do not fasten the eye upon the ultimate intention, and keep it there as

being the seat of moral character, and that from which the character of

all our actions is derived; or they soon forget this, and treat mere

executive acts as right or wrong, without reference to the ultimate

intention- I believe they have all failed in not clearly defining the true

ground of obligation, and, consequently, are faulty in their definition of

virtue-


LECTURE 9

 

UNITY OF MORAL ACTION

 

Can obedience to moral law be partial?

 

What constitutes obedience to moral law?

 

We have seen in former lectures, that disinterested benevolence is

all that the spirit of moral law requires; that is, that the love which it

requires to God and our neighbor is good willing, willing the highest

good or well-being of God, and of being in general, as an end, or for its

own sake; that this willing is a consecration of all the powers, so far as

they are under the control of the will, to this end- Entire consecration

to this end must of course constitute obedience to the moral law- The

next question is: Can consecration to this end be real, and yet partial

in the sense of not being entire, for the time being? This conducts us

to the second proposition, namely:

 

That obedience cannot be partial in the sense that the subject ever

does, or can, partly obey and partly disobey at the same time-

 

That is, consecration, to be real, must be, for the time being, entire

and universal- It will be seen that this discussion respects the

simplicity of moral action, that is whether the choices of the will that

have any degree of conformity to moral law, are always and

necessarily wholly conformed or wholly disconformed to it- There are

two distinct branches to this inquiry-

 

(1-) The one is, Can the will at the same time make opposite

choices? Can it choose the highest good of being as an ultimate end,

and at the same time choose any other ultimate end, or make any

choices whatever inconsistent with this ultimate choice?

 

(2-) The second branch of this inquiry respects the strength or

intensity of the choice- Suppose but one ultimate choice can exist at

the same time, may not that choice be less efficient and intense than it

ought to be? Let us take up these two inquiries in their order-

(1-) Can the will at the same time choose opposite and conflicting

ultimate ends? While one ultimate end is chosen, can the will choose

anything inconsistent with this end? In reply to the first branch of this

inquiry I observe:

 

(a-) That the choice of an ultimate end is, and must be, the supreme

preference of the mind- Sin is the supreme preference of

self-gratification- Holiness is the supreme preference of the good of

being- Can then two supreme preferences coexist in the same mind?

It is plainly impossible to make opposite choices at the same time, that

is, to choose opposite and conflicting ultimate ends-

 

(b-) All intelligent choice, as has been formerly shown, must respect

ends or means- Choice is synonymous with intention- If there is a

choice or intention, of necessity something must be chosen or

intended- This something must be chosen for its own sake, or as an

end, or, for the sake of something else to which it sustains the relation

of a means- To deny this were to deny that the choice is intelligent-

But we are speaking of no other than intelligent choice, or the choice

of a moral agent-

 

(c-) This conducts us to the inevitable conclusion that no choice

whatever can be made, inconsistent with the present choice of an

ultimate end- The mind cannot choose one ultimate end, and choose

at the same time another ultimate end- But if this cannot be, it is plain

that it cannot choose one ultimate end, and at the same time, while in

the exercise of that choice, choose the means to secure some other

ultimate end, which other end is not chosen- But if all choice must

necessarily respect ends or means, and if the mind can choose but

one ultimate end at a time, it follows that, while in the exercise of one

choice, or while in the choice of one ultimate end, the mind cannot

choose, for the time being, anything inconsistent with that choice- The

mind, in the choice of an ultimate end, is shut up to the necessity of

willing the means to accomplish that end; and before it can possibly

will means to secure any other ultimate end, it must change its choice

of an end- If, for example, the soul chooses the highest well-being of

God and the universe as an ultimate end, it cannot while it continues

to choose that end, use or choose the means to effect any other end-

It cannot, while this choice continues, choose self-gratification, or

anything else as an ultimate end, nor can it put forth any volition

whatever known to be inconsistent with this end- Nay, it can put forth

no intelligent volition whatever that is not designed to secure this end-

The only possible choice inconsistent with this end is the choice of

another ultimate end- When this is done, other means can be used or

chosen, and not before- This, then, is plain, to wit, that obedience to

moral law cannot be partial, in the sense either that the mind can

choose two opposite ultimate ends at the same time, or that it can

choose one ultimate end, and at the same time use or choose means

to secure any other ultimate end- It “cannot serve God and mammon”

(Matt- 6:24)- It cannot will the good of being as an ultimate end, and at

the same time will self-gratification as an ultimate end- In other words,

I cannot be selfish and benevolent at the same time- It cannot choose

as an ultimate end the highest good of being, and at the same time

choose to gratify self as an ultimate end- Until self-gratification is

chosen as an end, the mind cannot will the means of self gratification-

This disposes of the first branch of the inquiry-

 

(2-) The second branch of the inquiry respects the strength or

intensity of the choice- May not the choice of an end be real, and yet

have less than the required strength or intensity? The inquiry resolves

itself into this: Can the mind honestly intend or choose an ultimate

end, and yet not choose it with all the strength or intensity which is

required, or with which it ought to choose it? Now what degree of

strength is demanded? By what criterion is this question to be settled?

It cannot be that the degree of intensity required is equal to the real

value of the end chosen, for this is infinite- The value of the highest

well-being of God and the universe is infinite- But a finite being cannot

be under obligation to exert infinite strength- The law requires him

only to exert his own strength- But does he, or may he not, choose the

right end, but with less than all his strength? All his strength lies in his

will; the question, therefore, is, may he not will it honestly, and yet at

the same time withhold a part of the strength of his will? No one can

presume that the choice can be acceptable unless it be honest- Can it

be honest and yet less intense and energetic than it ought to be?

 

We have seen in a former lecture that the perception of an end is a

condition of moral obligation to choose that end- I now remark that, as

light in respect to the end is the condition of the obligation, so the

degree of obligation cannot exceed the degree of light- That is, the

mind must apprehend the valuable as a condition of the obligation to

will it- The degree of the obligation must be just equal to the mind’s

honest estimate of the value of the end- The degree of the obligation

must vary as the light varies- This is the doctrine of the Bible and of

reason- If this is so, it follows that the mind is honest when, and only

when, it devotes its strength to the end in view, with an intensity just

proportioned to its present light, or estimate of the value of that end-

 

We have seen that the mind cannot will anything inconsistent with a

present ultimate choice- If therefore, the end is not chosen with an

energy and intensity equal to the present light, it cannot be because a

part of the strength is employed in some other choice- If all the

strength is not given to this object, it must be because some part of it

is voluntarily withheld- That is, I choose the end, but not with all my

strength, or I choose the end, but choose not to choose it with all my

strength- Is this an honest choice, provided the end appears to me to

be worthy of all my strength? Certainly it is not honest-

 

But again: it is absurd to affirm that I choose an ultimate end, and yet

do not consecrate to it all my strength- The choice of any ultimate end

implies that is the thing, and the only thing, for which we live and act;

that we aim at, and live for nothing else, for the time being- Now what

is intended by the assertion, that I may honestly choose an ultimate

end, and yet with less strength or intensity than I ought? Is it intended

that I can honestly choose an ultimate end, and yet not at every

moment keep my will upon the strain, and will at every moment with

the utmost possible intensity? If this be the meaning, I grant that it

may be so- But I at the same time contend, that the law of God does

not require that the will, or any other faculty, should be at every

moment upon the strain, and the whole strength exerted at every

moment- If it does, it is manifest that even Christ did not obey it- I

insist that the moral law requires nothing more than honesty of

intention, assumes that honesty of intention will and must secure just

that degree of intensity which from time to time, the mind in its best

judgment sees to be demanded- The Bible everywhere assumes that

sincerity or honesty of intention is moral perfection; that it is obedience

to the law- The terms sincerity and perfection in scripture language

are synonymous- Uprightness, sincerity, holiness, honesty, perfection,

are words of the same meaning in Bible language-

 

Again, it seems to be intuitively certain that if the mind chooses its

ultimate end, it must in the very act of choice consecrate all its time,

and strength, and being, to that end; and at every moment, while the

choice remains, choose and act with an intensity in precise conformity

with its ability and the best light it has- The intensity of the choice, and

the strenuousness of its efforts to secure the end chosen, must, if the

intention be sincere, correspond with the view which the soul has of

the importance of the end chosen- It does not seem possible that the

choice or intention should be real and honest unless this is so- To will

at every moment with the utmost strength and intensity, is not only

impossible, but, were it possible to do so, could not be in accordance

with the soul’s convictions of duty- The irresistible judgment of the

mind is, that the intensity of its action should not exceed the bound of

endurance; that the energies of both soul and body should be so

husbanded, as to be able to accomplish the most good upon the

whole, and not in a given moment-

But to return to the question: does the law of God require simply

uprightness of intention? or does it require not only uprightness, but

also a certain degree of intensity in the intention? Is it satisfied with

simple sincerity or uprightness of intention, or, does it require that the

highest possible intensity of choice shall exist at every moment?

When it requires that we should love God with all the heart, with all the

soul, with all the mind, and with all the strength, does it mean that all

our heart, soul, mind, and strength, shall be consecrated to this end,

and be used up, from moment to moment, and from hour to hour,

according to the best judgment which the mind can form of the

necessity and expediency of strenuousness of effort? or does it mean

that all the faculties of soul and body shall be at every moment on the

strain to the uttermost? Does it mean that the whole being is to be

consecrated to, and used up for God with the best economy of which

the soul is capable or does it require that the whole being be not only

consecrated to God, but be used up without any regard to economy,

and without the soul’s exercising any judgment or discretion in the

case the law of God the law of reason, or of folly? Is it intelligible and

just in its demands? Or is it perfectly unintelligible and unjust? Is it a

law suited to the nature, relations, and circumstances, of moral

agents? or has it no regard to them? If it has no regard to either, is it,

can it be, moral law, and impose moral obligation? It seems to me that

the law of God requires that all our power, and strength, and being, be

honestly and continually consecrated to God, and held, not in a state

of the utmost tension, but that the strength shall be expended and

employed in exact accordance with the mind’s honest judgment of

what is, at every moment, the best economy for God- If this be not the

meaning and the spirit of the law, it cannot be law, for it could be

neither intelligible nor just- Nothing else can be a law of nature- What!

Does, or an the command, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all

thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy might, and with all thy strength,”

require that every particle of my strength, and every faculty of my

being, shall be in a state of the utmost possible tension (Deut- 6:5)?

How long could my strength hold out, or my being last, under such a

pressure as this? What reason, or justice, or utility, or equity, or

wisdom, could there be in such a commandment as this? Would this

be suited to my nature and relations? That the law does not require

the constant and most intense action of the will, I argue for the

following reasons:

 

1- No creature in heaven or earth could possibly know whether he

ever for a single moment obeyed it- How could he know that no more

tension could possibly be endured?

 

2- Such a requirement would be unreasonable, inasmuch as such a

state of mind would be unendurable-

 

3- Such a state of constant tension and strain of the faculties could

be of no possible use-

 

4- It would be uneconomical- More good could be effected by a

husbanding of the strength-

 

5- Christ certainly obeyed the moral law; and yet nothing is more

evident than that His faculties were not always on the strain-

 

Every one knows that the intensity of the will’s action depends, and

must depend, upon the clearness with which the value of the object

chosen is perceived- It is perfectly absurd to suppose that the will

should, or possibly can, act at all times with the same degree of

intensity- As the mind’s apprehensions of truth vary, the intensity of

the will’s action must vary, or it does not act rationally, and

consequently not virtuously- The intensity of the actions of the will,

ought to vary as light varies, and if it does not, the mind is not honest-

If honest, it must vary as light and ability vary-

 

That an intention cannot be right and honest in kind and deficient in

the degree of intensity, I argue:

 

1- From the fact that it is absurd to talk of an intention right in kind,

while it is deficient in intensity- What does rightness in kind mean?

Does it mean simply that the intention terminates on the proper

object? But is this the right kind of intention, when only the proper

object is chosen, while there is a voluntary withholding of the required

energy of choice? Is this, can this be, an honest intention? If so, what

is meant by an honest intention? Is it honest, can it be honest,

voluntarily to withhold from God and the universe what we perceive to

be their due, and what we are conscious we might render? It is a

contradiction to call this honest- In what sense then may, or can, an

intention be acceptable in kind, while deficient in degree? Certainly in

no sense, unless known and voluntary dishonesty can be acceptable-

But again, let me ask, what is intended by an intention being deficient

in degree of intensity? If this deficiency be a sinful deficiency, it must

be a known deficiency- That is, the subject of it must know at the time

that his intention is in point of intensity less than it ought to be, or that

he wills with less energy than he ought; or, in other words, that the

energy of the choice does not equal, or is not agreeable to, his own

estimate of the value of the end chosen- But this implies an absurdity-

Suppose I choose an end, that is, I choose a thing solely on account of

its own intrinsic value- It is for its value that I choose it- I choose it

for its value, but not according to its value- My perception of its value led

me to choose it; and yet, while I choose it for that reason, I voluntarily

withhold that degree of intensity which I know is demanded by my own

estimate of the value of the thing which I choose! This is a manifest

absurdity and contradiction- If I choose a thing for its value, this

implies that I choose it according to my estimate of its value-

Happiness, for example, is a good in itself- Now, suppose I will its

existence impartially, that is, solely on account of its intrinsic value;

now, does not this imply that every degree of happiness must be willed

according to its real or relative value? Can I will it impartially, for its

own sake, for and only for its intrinsic value, and yet not prefer a

greater to a less amount of happiness? This is impossible- Willing it

on account of its intrinsic value implies willing it according to my

estimate of its intrinsic value- So, it must be that an intention cannot

be sincere, honest, and acceptable in kind, while it is sinfully deficient

in degree-

 

As holiness consists in ultimate intention, so does sin- And as

holiness consists in choosing the highest well-being of God and the

good of the universe, for its own sake, or as the supreme ultimate end

of pursuit; so sin consists in willing, with a supreme choice or intention,

self-gratification and self-interest- Preferring a less to a greater good,

because it is our own, is selfishness- All selfishness consists in a

supreme ultimate intention- By an ultimate intention, as I have said, is

intended that which is chosen for its own sake as an end, and not as a

means to some other end- Whenever a moral being prefers or

chooses his own gratification, or his own interest, in preference to a

higher good, because it is his own, he chooses it as an end, for its own

sake, and as an ultimate end, not designing it as a means of

promoting any other and higher end, nor because it is a part of

universal good- Every sin, then, consists in an act of will- It consists in

preferring self-gratification, or self-interest, to the authority of God, the

glory of God, and the good of the universe- It is, therefore, and must

be, a supreme ultimate choice, or intention- Sin and holiness, then,

both consist in supreme, ultimate, and opposite choices, or intentions,

and cannot by any possibility, coexist-

 

Five suppositions may be made, and so far as I can see, only five, in

respect to this subject-

 

1- It may be supposed, that selfishness and benevolence can coexist

in the same mind-

 

2- It may be supposed, that the same act or choice may have a

complex character, on account of complexity in the motives which

induce it-

 

3- It may be supposed, that an act or choice may be right, or holy in

kind, but deficient in intensity or degree- Or

 

4- That the will, or heart, may be right, while the affections, or

emotions, are wrong- Or

 

5- That there may be a ruling, latent, actually existing, holy

preference, or intention, coexisting with opposing volitions-

 

Now, unless one of these suppositions is true, it must follow that

moral character is either wholly right or wholly wrong, and never partly

right and partly wrong at the same time- And now to the examination-

 

1- It may be supposed, that selfishness and benevolence can coexist

in the same mind-

 

It has been shown that selfishness and benevolence are supreme,

ultimate, and opposite choices, or intentions- They cannot, therefore,

by any possibility, coexist in the same mind-

 

2- The next supposition is, that the same act or choice may have a

complex character, on account of complexity in the motives- On this

let me say:

 

(1-) Motives are objective or subjective- An objective motive is that

thing external to the mind that induces choice or intention- Subjective

motive is the intention itself-

 

(2-) Character, therefore, does not belong to the objective motive, or

to that thing which the mind chooses; but moral character is confined

to the subjective motive, which is synonymous with choice or intention-

Thus we say a man is to be judged by his motives, meaning that his

character is as his intention is- Multitudes of objective motives or

considerations, may have concurred, directly or indirectly, in their

influence to induce choice or intention; but the intention or subjective

motive is always necessarily simple and indivisible- In other words,

moral character consists in the choice of an ultimate end, and this end

is to be chosen for its own sake, else it is not an ultimate end- If the

end chosen be the highest well-being of God and the good of the

universe if it be the willing or intending to promote and treat every

interest in the universe, according to its perceived relative value, it is a

right, a holy motive, or intention- If it be anything else, it is sinful-

Now, whatever complexity there may have been in the considerations

that led the way to this choice or intention, it is self-evident that the

intention must be one, simple, and indivisible-

 

(3-) Whatever complexity there might have been in those

considerations that prepared the way to the settling down upon this

intention, the mind in a virtuous choice has, and can have, but one

ultimate reason for its choice, and that is the intrinsic value of the thing

chosen- The highest well-being of God, the good of the universe, and

every good according to its perceived relative value, must be chosen

for one, and only one reason, and that is the intrinsic value of the good

which is chosen for its own sake- If chosen for any other reason, the

choice is not virtuous- It is absurd to say, that a thing is good and

valuable in itself, but may be rightly chosen, not for that but for some

other reason that God’s highest well-being and the happiness of the

universe are an infinite good in themselves, but are not to be chosen

for that reason, and on their own account, but for some other reason-

Holiness, then, must always consist in singleness of eye or intention-

It must consist in the supreme disinterested choice, willing, or

intending the good of God and of the universe, for its own sake- In this

intention there cannot be any complexity- If there were, it would not be

holy, but sinful- It is, therefore, sheer nonsense to say, that one and

the same choice may have a complex character, on account of

complexity of motive- For that motive in which moral character

consists, is the supreme ultimate intention, or choice- This choice, or

intention, must consist in the choice of a thing as an end, and for its

own sake- The supposition, then, that the same choice or intention

may have a complex character, on account of complexity in the

motives, is wholly inadmissible-

 

If it be still urged, that the intention or subjective motive may be

complex that several things may be included in the intention, and be

aimed at by the mind and that it may, therefore, be partly holy and

partly sinful I reply:

 

(4-) If by this it be meant that several things may be aimed at or

intended by the mind at the same time, I inquire what things? It is

true, that the supreme, disinterested choice of the highest good of

being, may include the intention to use all the necessary means- It

may also include the intention to promote every interest in the

universe, according to its perceived relative value- These are all

properly included in one intention; but this implies no such complexity

in the subjective motive, as to include both sin and holiness-

 

(5-) If by complexity of intention is meant, that it may be partly

disinterestedly benevolent, and partly selfish, which it must be to be

partly holy and partly sinful, I reply, that this supposition is absurd- It

has been shown that selfishness and benevolence consist in supreme,

ultimate, and opposite choices or intentions- To suppose, then, that

an intention can be both holy and sinful, is to suppose that it may

include two supreme, opposite, and ultimate choices or intentions, at

the same time; in other words, that I may supremely and

disinterestedly intend to regard and promote every interest in the

universe, according to its perceived relative value, for its own sake;

and at the same time, may supremely regard my own self-interest and

self-gratification, and in some things supremely intend to promote my

selfish interests, in opposition to the interests of the universe and the

commands of God- But this is naturally impossible- An ultimate

intention, then, may be complex in the sense, that it may include the

design to promote every perceived interest, according to its relative

value; but it cannot, by any possibility, be complex in the sense that it

includes selfishness and benevolence, or holiness and sin-

 

3- The third supposition is, that holiness may be right, or pure in kind,

but deficient in degree- On this, I remark:

 

(1-) We have seen that moral character consists in the ultimate

intention-

 

(2-) The supposition, therefore, must be, that the intention may be

right, or pure in kind, but deficient in the degree of its strength-

 

(3-) Our intention is to be tried by the law of God, both in respect to

its kind and degree-

 

(4-) The law of God requires us to will, or intend the promotion of

every interest in the universe, according to its perceived relative value,

for its own sake; in other words, that all our powers shall be supremely

and disinterestedly devoted to the glory of God, and the good of the

universe-

 

(5-) This cannot mean, that any faculty shall at every moment be

kept upon the strain, or in a state of utmost tension, for this would be

inconsistent with natural ability- It would be to require a natural

impossibility, and therefore be unjust-

 

(6-) It cannot mean that at all times, and on all subjects, the same

degree of exertion shall be made; for the best possible discharge of

duty does not always require the same degree or intensity of mental or

corporeal exertion-

 

(7-) The law cannot, justly or possibly, require more than that the

whole being shall be consecrated to God that we shall fully and

honestly will or intend the promotion of every interest, according to its

perceived relative value, and according to the extent of our ability-

 

(8-) Now the strength or intensity of the intention must, and ought, of

necessity, to depend upon the degree of our knowledge or light in

regard to any object of choice- If our obligation is not to be graduated

by the light we possess, then it would follow, that we may be under

obligation to exceed our natural ability, which cannot be-

 

(9-) The importance which we attach to objects of choice, and

consequently the degree of ardor or intenseness of the intention, must

depend upon the clearness or obscurity of our views, of the real or

relative value of the objects of choice-

 

(10-) Our obligation cannot be measured by the views which God

has of the importance of those objects of choice- It is a well-settled

and generally admitted truth, that increased light increases

responsibility, or moral obligation- No creature is bound to will any

thing with the intenseness or degree of strength with which God wills it,

for the plain reason, that no creature sees its importance or real value,

as He does- If our obligation were to be graduated by God’s

knowledge of the real value of objects, we could never obey the moral

law, either in this world or the world to come, nor could any being but

God ever, by any possibility, meet its demands-

 

The fact is, that the obligation of every moral being must be

graduated by his knowledge- If, therefore, his intention be equal in its

intensity to his views or knowledge of the real or relative value of

different objects, it is right- It is up to the full measure of his obligation;

and if his own honest judgment is not to be made the measure of his

obligation, then his obligation can exceed what he is able to know;

which contradicts the true nature of moral law, and is, therefore, false-

 

If conscious honesty of intention, both as it respects the kind and

degree of intention, according to the degree of light possessed, be not

entire obedience to moral law, then there is no being in heaven or

earth, who can know himself to be entirely obedient; for all that any

being can possibly know upon this subject, is that he honestly wills or

intends, in accordance with the dictates of his reason, or the judgment

which he has of the real or relative value of the object chosen- No

moral being can possibly blame or charge himself with any default,

when he is conscious of honestly intending, willing, or choosing, and

acting, according to the best light he has; for in this case he obeys the

law, as he understands it, and, of course, cannot conceive himself to

be condemned by the law-

 

Good willing, or intending is, in respect to God, to be at all times

supreme; and in respect to other beings, it is to be in proportion to the

relative value of their happiness, as perceived by the mind- This is

always to be the intention- The volitions, or efforts of the will to

promote these objects, may vary, and ought to vary indefinitely in their

intensity, in proportion to the particular duty to which, for the time

being, we are called-

 

But further, we have seen that virtue consists in willing every good

according to its perceived relative value, and that nothing short of this

is virtue- But this is perfect virtue for the time being- In other words,

virtue and moral perfection, in respect to a given act, or state of the

will, are synonymous terms- Virtue is holiness- Holiness is

uprightness- Uprightness is that which is just what, under the

circumstances, it should be; and nothing else is virtue, holiness, or

uprightness- Virtue, holiness, uprightness, moral perfection when we

apply these terms to any given state of the will are synonymous- To

talk, therefore, of a virtue, holiness, uprightness, justice, right in kind,

but deficient in degree, is to talk sheer nonsense- It is the same

absurdity as to talk of sinful holiness, an unjust justice, a wrong

rightness, an impure purity, an imperfect perfection, a disobedient

obedience-

 

Virtue, holiness, uprightness, etc-, signify a definite thing, and never

anything else than conformity to the law of God- That which is not

entirely conformed to the law of God is not holiness- This must be true

in philosophy, and the Bible affirms the same thing- “Whosoever shall

keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all”

(James 2:10)- The spirit of this text as clearly and as fully assumes

and affirms the doctrine under consideration, as if it had been uttered

with that design alone-

 

4- The next supposition is, that the will, or heart, may be right, while

the affections or emotions are wrong- Upon this I remark:

 

(1-) That this supposition overlooks the very thing in which moral

character consists- It has been shown that moral character consists in

the supreme ultimate intention of the mind, and that this supreme,

disinterested benevolence, good willing or intention, is the whole of

virtue- Now this intention originates volitions- It directs the attention of

the mind, and therefore, produces thoughts, emotions, or affections- It

also, through volition, produces bodily action- But moral character

does not lie in outward actions, the movements of the arm, nor in the

volition that moves the muscles; for that volition terminates upon the

action itself- I will to move my arm, and my arm must move by a law of

necessity- Moral character belongs solely to the intention that

produced the volition that moved the muscles to the performance of

the outward act- So intention produces the volition that directs the

attention of the mind to a given object- Attention, by a natural

necessity, produces thought, affection, or emotion- Now thought,

affection, emotion, are all connected with volition, by a natural

necessity; that is, if the attention is directed to an object,

corresponding thoughts and emotions must exist, as a matter of

course- Moral character no more lies in emotion, than in outward

action- It does not lie in thought, or attention- It does not lie in the

specific volition that directed the attention; but in that intention, or

design of the mind, that produced the volition, which directed the

attention, which, again, produced the thought, which, again, produced

the emotion- Now the supposition, that the intention may be right,

while the emotions or feelings of the mind may be wrong, is the same

as to say, that outward action may be wrong, while the intention is

right- The fact is, that moral character is, and must be, as the intention

is- If any feeling or outward action is inconsistent with the existing

ultimate intention, it must be so in spite of the agent- But if any

outward action or state of feeling exists, in opposition to the intention or

choice of the mind, it cannot, by any possibility, have moral character-

Whatever is beyond the control of a moral agent, he cannot be

responsible for- Whatever he cannot control by intention, he cannot

control at all- Everything for which he can possibly be responsible,

resolves itself into his intention- His whole character, therefore, is, and

must be, as his intention is- If, therefore, temptations, from whatever

quarter they may come, produce emotions within him inconsistent with

his intention, and which he cannot control, he cannot be responsible

for them-

 

(2-) As a matter of fact, although emotions, contrary to his intentions,

may, by circumstances beyond his control, be brought to exist in his

mind; yet, by willing to divert the attention of the mind from the objects

that produce them, they can ordinarily be banished from the mind- If

this is done as soon as in the nature of the case it can be, there is no

sin- If it is not done as soon as in the nature of the case it can be, then

it is absolutely certain that the intention is not what it ought to be- The

intention is to devote the whole being to the service of God and the

good of the universe, and of course to avoid every thought, affection,

and emotion, inconsistent with this- While this intention exists, it is

certain that if any object be thrust upon the attention which excites

thoughts and emotions inconsistent with our supreme ultimate

intention, the attention of the mind will be instantly diverted from those

objects, and the hated emotion hushed, if this is possible- For, while

the intention exists, corresponding volitions must exist- There cannot,

therefore, be a right state of heart or intention, while the emotions, or

affections, of the mind are sinful- For emotions are in themselves in

no case sinful, and when they exist against the will, through the force

of temptation, the soul is not responsible for their existence- And, as I

said, the supposition overlooks that in which moral character consists,

and makes it to consist in that over which the law does not properly

legislate; for love, or benevolence, is the fulfilling of the law-

 

But here it may be said, that the law not only requires benevolence,

or good willing, but requires a certain kind of emotions, just as it

requires the performance of certain outward actions, and that

therefore there may be a right intention where there is a deficiency,

either in kind or degree of right emotion- To this I answer:

 

Outward actions are required of men, only because they are

connected with intention, by a natural necessity- And no outward

action is ever required of us, unless it can be produced by intending

and aiming to do it- If the effect does not follow our honest endeavors,

because of any antagonistic influence, opposed to our exertions,

which we cannot overcome, we have, by our intentions, complied with

the spirit of the law, and are not to blame that the outward effect does

not take place- Just so with emotions- All we have power to do, is, to

direct the attention of the mind to those objects calculated to secure a

given state of emotion- If, from any exhaustion of the sensibility, or

from any other cause beyond our control, the emotions do not arise

which the consideration of that subject is calculated to produce, we are

no more responsible for the absence or weakness of the emotion than

we should be for the want of power or weakness of motion in our

muscles, when we willed to move them, provided that weakness was

involuntary and beyond our control- The fact is, we cannot be

blameworthy for not feeling or doing that which we cannot do or feel by

intending it- If the intention then is what it ought to be for the time

being, nothing can be morally wrong-

 

5- The last supposition is, that a latent preference, or right intention,

may coexist with opposing or sinful volitions- I formerly supposed that

this could be true, but am now convinced that it cannot be true, for the

following reasons:

 

(1-) Observe, the supposition is, that the intention or ruling

preference may be right may really exist as an active and virtuous

state of mind, while, at the same time, volition may exist inconsistent

with it-

 

(2-) Now what is a right intention? I answer: Nothing short of

this willing, choosing, or intending the highest good of God and of the

universe, and to promote this at every moment, to the extent of our

ability- In other words right intention is supreme, disinterested

benevolence- Now what are the elements which enter into this right

intention?

 

(a-) The choice or willing of every interest according to its perceived

intrinsic value-

 

(b-) To devote our entire being, now and forever, to this end- This is

right intention- Now the question is, can this intention coexist with a

volition inconsistent with it? Volition implies the choice of something,

for some reason- If it be the choice of whatever can promote this

supremely benevolent end, and for that reason, the volition is

consistent with the intention; but if it be the choice of something

perceived to be inconsistent with this end, and for a selfish reason,

then the volition is inconsistent with the supposed intention- But the

question is, do the volition and intention coexist? According to the

supposition, the will chooses, or wills, something for a selfish reason,

or something perceived to be inconsistent with supreme, disinterested

benevolence- Now it is plainly impossible, that this choice can take

place while the opposite intention exists- For this selfish volition is,

according to the supposition, sinful or selfish; that is, something is

chosen for its own sake, which is inconsistent with disinterested

benevolence- But here the intention is ultimate- It terminates upon the

object chosen for its own sake- To suppose, then, that benevolence

still remains in exercise, and that a volition coexists with it that is sinful,

involves the absurdity of supposing, that selfishness and benevolence

can coexist in the same mind, or that the will can choose, or will, with a

supreme preference or choice, two opposites at the same time- This

is plainly impossible- Suppose I intend to go to the city of New York as

soon as I possibly can- Now, if, on my way, I will to loiter needlessly a

moment, I necessarily relinquish one indispensable element of my

intention- In willing to loiter, or turn aside to some other object for a

day, or an hour, I must of necessity, relinquish the intention of going as

soon as I possibly can- I may not design finally to relinquish my

journey, but I must of necessity relinquish the intention of going as

soon as I can- Now, virtue consists in intending to do all the good I

possibly can, or in willing the glory of God and the good of the

universe, and intending to promote them to the extent of my ability-

Nothing short of this is virtue- If at any time, I will something perceived

to be inconsistent with this intention, I must, for the time being,

relinquish the intention, as it must indispensably exist in my mind, in

order to be virtue- I may not come to the resolution, that I will never

serve God anymore; but I must of necessity relinquish, for the time

being, the intention of doing my utmost to glorify God, if at any time I

put forth a selfish volition- For a selfish volition implies a selfish

intention- I cannot put forth a volition intended to secure an end until I

have chosen the end- Therefore, a holy intention cannot coexist with a

selfish volition- It must be, therefore, that in every sinful choice, the

will of a holy being must necessarily drop the exercise of supreme,

benevolent intention, and pass into an opposite state of choice; that is,

the agent must cease, for the time being, to exercise benevolence,

and make a selfish choice- For, be it understood, that volition is the

choice of a means to an end; and of course a selfish volition implies a

selfish choice of an end- Having briefly examined the several

suppositions that can be made in regard to the mixed character of

actions, I will now answer a few objections; after which, I will bring this

philosophy, as briefly as possible, into the light of the Bible-

 

Objection: Does a Christian cease to be a Christian, whenever he

commits a sin? I answer:

 

1- Whenever he sins, he must, for the time being, cease to be holy-

This is self-evident- Whenever he sins, he must be condemned; he

must incur the penalty of the law of God- If he does not, it must be

because the law of God is abrogated- But if the law of God be

abrogated, he has no rule of duty; consequently, he can neither be

holy nor sinful- If it be said that the precept is still binding upon him,

but that, with respect to the Christian, the penalty is forever set aside,

or abrogated, I reply, that to abrogate the penalty is to repeal the

precept; for a precept without penalty is no law- It is only counsel or

advice- The Christian, therefore, is justified no longer than he obeys,

and must be condemned when he disobeys; or Antinomianism is true-

Until he repents, he cannot be forgiven- In these respects, then, the

sinning Christian and the unconverted sinner are upon precisely the

same ground-

 

2- In two important respects the sinning Christian differs widely from

the unconverted sinner:

 

(1-) In his relations to God- A Christian is a child of God- A sinning

Christian is a disobedient child of God- An unconverted sinner is a

child of the devil- A Christian sustains a covenant relation to God;

such a covenant relation as to secure to him that discipline which

tends to reclaim and bring him back, if he wanders away from God- “If

his children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; if they

break My statutes and keep not My commandments; then will I visit

their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes-

Nevertheless My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor

suffer My faithfulness to fail- My covenant will I not break, nor alter the

thing that is gone out of My lips” (Psalms 89:30-34)-

 

(2-) The sinning Christian differs from the unconverted man, in the

state of his sensibility- In whatever way it takes place, every Christian

knows that the state of his sensibility in respect to the things of God,

has undergone a great change- Now it is true, that moral character

does not lie in the sensibility, nor in the will’s obeying the sensibility-

Nevertheless our consciousness teaches us, that our feelings have

great power in promoting wrong choice on the one hand, and in

removing obstacles to right choice on the other- In every Christian’s

mind there is, therefore, a foundation laid for appeals to the

sensibilities of the soul, that gives truth a decided advantage over the

will- And multitudes of things in the experience of every Christian, give

truth a more decided advantage over his will, through the intelligence,

than is the case with unconverted sinners-

 

Objection: Can a man be born again, and then be unborn? I answer:

 

If there were anything impossible in this, then perseverance would

be no virtue- None will maintain, that there is anything naturally

impossible in this, except it be those who hold to physical

regeneration- If regeneration consists in a change in the ruling

preference of the mind, or in the ultimate intention, as we shall see it

does, it is plain, that an individual can be born again, and afterwards

cease to be virtuous- That a Christian is able to apostatize, is evident,

from the many warnings addressed to Christians in the Bible- A

Christian may certainly fall into sin and unbelief, and afterwards be

renewed, both to repentance and faith-

 

Objection: Can there be no such thing as weak faith, weak love, and

weak repentance? I answer:

 

If you mean comparatively weak, I say, yes- But if you mean weak,

in such a sense as to be sinful, I say, no- Faith, repentance, love, and

every Christian grace, properly so called, do and must consist in acts

of will, and resolve themselves into some modification of supreme,

disinterested benevolence-

 

I shall, in a future lecture, have occasion to show the philosophical

nature of faith- Let it suffice here to say, that faith depends upon the

clearness or obscurity of the intellectual apprehension of truth- Faith,

to be real or virtuous, must embrace whatever of truth is apprehended

by the intelligence for the time being- Various causes may operate to

divert the intelligence from the objects of faith, or to cause the mind to

perceive but few of them, and those in comparative obscurity- Faith

may be weak, and will certainly and necessarily be weak in such

cases, in proportion to the obscurity of the views- And yet, if the will or

heart confides so far as it apprehends the truth, which it must do to be

virtuous at all, faith cannot be weak in such a sense as to be sinful; for

if a man confides so far as he apprehends or perceives the truth, so

far as faith is concerned he is doing his whole duty-

 

Again, faith may be weak in the sense, that it often intermits and

gives place to unbelief- Faith is confidence, and unbelief is the

withholding of confidence- It is the rejection of truth perceived- Faith

is the reception of truth perceived- Faith and unbelief, then, are

opposite states of choice, and can by no possibility coexist-

 

Faith may be weak also in respect to its objects- The disciples of our

Lord Jesus Christ knew so little of Him, were so filled with ignorance

and the prejudices of education, as to have very weak faith in respect

to the Messiahship, power, and divinity of their Master- He speaks of

them as having but little confidence, and yet it does not appear that

they did not implicitly trust Him, so far as they understood Him- And

although, through ignorance, their faith was weak, yet there is no

evidence, that when they had any faith at all they did not confide in

whatever of truth they apprehended- But did not the disciples pray,

“Increase our faith?” (Luke 17:5)- I answer: Yes- And by this they

must have intended to pray for instruction; for what else could they

mean? Unless a man means this, when he prays for faith, he does not

know what he prays for- Christ produces faith by enlightening the

mind- When we pray for faith, we pray for light- And faith, to be real

faith at all, must be equal to the light we have- If apprehended truth be

not implicitly received and confided in, there is no faith, but unbelief- If

it be, faith is what it ought to be, wholly unmixed with sin-

 

But did not one say to our Lord, “Lord, I believe, help Thou my

unbelief” (Mark 9:24), thus implying, that he was in the exercise both

of faith and unbelief at the same time? I answer yes, but:

 

1- This was not inspiration-

 

2- It is not certain that he had any faith at all-

 

3- If he had, and prayed understandingly, he meant nothing more

than to ask for an increase of faith, or for such a degree of light as to

remove his doubts in respect to the divine power of Christ-

 

Again, it is objected that this philosophy contradicts Christian

experience- To this I reply,

 

That it is absurd to appeal from reason and the Bible to empirical

consciousness which must be the appeal in this case- Reason and the

Bible plainly attest the truth of the theory here advocated- What

experience is then to be appealed to, to set their testimony aside?

Why, Christian experience, it is replied- But what is Christian

experience? How shall we learn what it is? Why surely by appealing

to reason and the Bible- But these declare that if a man offend in one

point, he does and must, for the time being, violate the spirit of the

whole law- Nothing is or can be more express than is the testimony of

both reason and revelation upon this subject- Here, then, we have the

unequivocal decision of the only court of competent jurisdiction in the

case; and shall we fool ourselves by appealing from this tribunal to the

court of empirical consciousness? Of what does that take

cognizance? Why, of what actually passes in the mind; that is, of its

mental states- These we are conscious of as facts- But we call these

states Christian experience- How do we ascertain that they are in

accordance with the law and gospel of God? Why only by an appeal

to reason and the Bible- Here, then, we are driven back to the court

from which we had before appealed, whose judgment is always the

same-

 

Objection: But it is said, this theory seems to be true in philosophy,

that is, the intelligence seems to affirm it, but it is not true in fact-

 

Answer: If the intelligence affirms it, it must be true, or reason

deceives us- But if the reason deceives in this, it may also in other

things- If it fails us here, it fails us on the most important of all

questions- If reason gives false testimony, we can never know truth

from error upon any moral subject- We certainly can never know what

religion is or is not, if the testimony of reason can be set aside- If the

reason cannot be safely appealed to, how are we to know what the

Bible means? For it is the faculty by which we get at the truth of the

oracles of God-

 

These are the principal objections to the philosophical view I have

taken of the simplicity of moral action, that occur to my mind- I will

now briefly advert to the consistency of this philosophy with the

scriptures-

 

1- The Bible every where seems to assume the simplicity of moral

action- Christ expressly informed His disciples, that they could not

serve God and mammon- Now by this He did not mean, that a man

could not serve God at one time and mammon at another; but that he

could not serve both at the same time- The philosophy that makes it

possible for persons to be partly holy and partly sinful at the same

time, does make it possible to serve God and mammon at the same

time, and thus flatly contradicts the assertion of our Savior-

 

2- James has expressly settled this philosophy, by saying, that

“Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he

is guilty of all” (James 2:10)- Here he must mean to assert, that one

sin involves a breach of the whole spirit of the law, and is, therefore,

inconsistent with any degree of holiness existing with it- Also, “Doth a

fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the

fig tree, My brethren, bear olive-berries? Either a vine, figs? So can

no fountain both yield saltwater and fresh” (James 3:11, 12)- In this

passage he clearly affirms the simplicity of moral action; for by the “the

same place” he evidently means, the same time, and what he says is

equivalent to saying, that a man cannot be holy and sinful at the same

time-

 

3- Christ has expressly taught that nothing is regeneration, or virtue,

but entire obedience, or the renunciation of all selfishness- “Except a

man forsake all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

4- The manner in which the precepts and threatening of the Bible are

usually given, shows that nothing is regarded as obedience, or virtue,

but doing exactly that which God commands-

 

I might go to great lengths in the examination of scripture testimony,

but it cannot be necessary, or in these lectures expedient, I must close

this lecture with a few inferences and remarks-

 

1- It has been supposed by some, that the simplicity of moral action

has been resorted to as a theory, by the advocates of entire

sanctification in this life, as the only consistent method of carrying out

their principle- To this I reply:

(1-) That this theory is held in common, both by those who hold and

those who deny the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life-

(2-) The truth of the doctrine of entire sanctification does not depend

at all upon this philosophical theory for its support; but may be

established by Bible testimony, whatever the philosophy of holiness

may be-

2- Growth in grace consists in two things:

(1-) In the stability or permanency of holy, ultimate intention-

(2-) In intensity or strength- As knowledge increases, Christians will

naturally grow in grace, in both these respects,

3- The theory of the mixed character of moral actions, is an

eminently dangerous theory, as it leads its advocates to suppose, that

in their acts of rebellion there is something holy, or, more strictly, there

is some holiness in them, while they are in the known commission of

sin.

It is dangerous, because it leads its advocates to place the standard

of conversion, or regeneration, exceedingly low to make

regeneration, repentance, true love to God, faith, etc-, consistent with

the known or conscious commission of present sin- This must be a

highly dangerous philosophy- The fact is, regeneration, or holiness,

under any form, is quite another thing than it is supposed to be, by

those who maintain the philosophy of the mixed character of moral

action- There can scarcely be a more dangerous error than to say,

that while we are conscious of present sin, we are or can be in a state

of acceptance with God-

4- The false philosophy of many leads them to adopt a phraseology

inconsistent with truth; and to speak as if they were guilty of present

sin, when in fact they are not, but are in a state of acceptance with

God-

5- It is erroneous to say that Christians sin in their most holy

exercises, and it is as injurious and dangerous as it is false- The fact

is, holiness is holiness, and it is really nonsense to speak of a holiness

that consists with sin-

6- The tendency of this philosophy is to quiet in their delusions those

whose consciences accuse them of present sin, as if this could be

true, and they, notwithstanding, in a state of acceptance with God-

7- The only sense in which obedience to moral law can be partial is,

that obedience may be intermittent- That is, the subject may

sometimes obey, and at other times disobey- He may at one time be

selfish, or will his own gratification, because it is his own, and without

regard to the well-being of God and his neighbor, and at another time

will the highest well-being of God and the universe, as an end, and his

own good in proportion to its relative value- These are opposite

choices, or ultimate intentions- The one is holy; the other is sinful-

One is obedience, entire obedience to the law of God; the other is

disobedience, entire disobedience, to the law- These, for aught we

can see, may succeed each other an indefinite number of times, but coexist they plainly cannot.


 

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