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XXVII. An Examination of certain Passages of Scripture supposed to limit the
EVIDENCES OF THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
been also regarded as a moral act. Anger, revenge,
and cupidity have been deemed evils as the sources of MAN A MORAL AGENT.
injuries of various kinds; and humanity, self-governThe Theological System of the Holy Scriptures be- ment, and integrity have been ranked among the viring the subject of our inquiries, it is essential to our tues; and thus both certain actions, and the principles undertaking to establish their Divine Authority. But from which they spring, have, from their effect upon before the direct evidence which the case admits is society, been determined to be good or evil. adduced, our attention may be profitably engaged by But it has likewise been observed by every man several considerations, which afford presumptive evi- that individual happiness, as truly as social order and dence in favour of the Revelations of the Old and New interests, is materially affected by particular acts, and Testaments. These are of so much weight that they by those feelings of the heart which give rise to them; cught not, in fairness, to be overlooked; nor can their as, for instance, by anger, malice, envy, impatience, cu. force be easily resisted by the impartial inquirer. pidity, &c.; and that whatever civilized men in all
The Moral Agency of man is a principle on which much places and in all ages have agreed to call Vice, is inidepends in such an investigation; and, from its bearing mical to health of body, or to peace of mind, or to upon the question at issue, requires our first notice. both. This, it is true, has had little influence upon
He is a moral agent who is capable of performing human conduct, but it has been acknowledged by the moral actions, and an action is rendered moral by two poets, sages, and satirists of all countries, and is adcircumstances,-that it is voluntary,—and that it has verted to as matter of universal experience. While respect to some rule which determines it to be good or therefore there is in the moral condition and habits of evil. “Moral good and evil,” says LOCKE,“ is the con- man something which propels him to vice, uncorrected formity or disagreement of our voluntary actions to by the miseries which it never fails to inflict, there is some law, whereby good or evil is drawn upon us from also something in the constitution of the human soul the will or power of the law-maker.”
which renders vice subversive of its happiness, and The terms found in all languages, and the laws which something in the established law and nature of things, have been enacted in all states with accompanying which renders vice incompatible with the collective inpenalties, as well as the praise or dispraise which men terests of men in the social state. in all ages have expressed respecting the conduct of Let that then be granted by the Theist which ha each other, sufficiently show, that man has always cannot consistently deny, the existence of a Suprenie been considered as an agent actually performing, or Creator, of infinite power, wisdom, goodness, and juscapable of performing moral actions, for as such he tice, who has both made men and continues to govern has been treated. No one ever thought of making them; and the strongest presumption is afforded by laws to regulate the conduct of the inferior animals; or the very constitution of the nature of man, and the of holding them up 10 public censure or approbation. relations established among human affairs, which with
The rules by which the moral quality of actions has so much constancy dissociate happiness from vicious been determined are, however, not those only which passions, health from intemperance, the peace, secuhave been imbodied in the legislation of civil commu- rity, and improvement of society from violence and innities. Many actions would be judged good or evil, justice,--that the course of action which best secures were all civil codes abolished; and others are daily human happiness has the sanction of his will, or in condemned or approved in the judgment of mankind, other words, that he, by these circumstances, has which are not of a kind to be recognised by public laws. given his authority in favour of the practice of virtue, of the moral nature of human actions there must have and opposed it to the practice of vice. (1) been a perception in the minds of men, previous to the But though that perception of the difference of moenactment of laws. Upon this common perception all law is founded, and claims the consent and support of (1) “ As the manifold appearances of design and society,
for in all human legislative codes there is an of final causes, in the constitution of the world, prove express or tacit appeal to principles previously ac- it to be the work of an intelligent mind; so the partiknowledged, as reasons for their enactment.
cular final causes of pleasure and pain, distributed This distinction in the moral quality of actions pre- among his creatures, prove that they are under his govious to the establishment of civil regulations, and in-vernment-what may be called his natural governdependent of them, may in part be traced to its having ment of creatures endued with sense and reason. been observed, that certain actions are injurious to so- This, however, implies somewhat more than seems ciety, and that to abstain from them is essential to its usually attended to when we speak of God's natural well-being. Murder and theft may be given as in-government of the world. It implies government of stances. It has also been perceived, that such actions ihe very same kind with that which a master exercises result from certain affections of the mind; and the in- over his servants, or a civil magistrate over his subdalgence or restraint of such affections has therefore I jects." ---Bp. BUTLER,
ral actions which is antecedent to human laws, must | vine government, for government without rule or law have been strongly confirmed by these facts of expe- is a solecism; and to deny the Divine government rience, and by such observations, we have no reason would leave it impossible for us to account for that to conclude, that those rules by which the moral qua- peculiar nature which has been given to man, and lity of actions has, in all ages, been determined, were those relations among human concerns and interests formed solely from a course of observation on their to which we have adverted, and which are so powertendency to promote or obstruct human happiness; be- fully affected by our conduct: certain actions and cause we cannot collect either from history or tradi- habits which almost all mankind have agreed to call tion, that the world was ever without such rules, good, being connected with the happiness of the indivithough they were often warped and corrupted. The dual and the well-being of society; and so on the conevidence of both, on the contrary, shows, that so far trary. This too has been matter of uniform and con: from these rules having originated from observing stant experience from the earliest ages, and warrants, what was injurious and what beneficial to mankind, therefore, the conclusion, that the effect arises from ori. there has been among almost all nations, a constant ginal principles and a constitution of things which the reference to a declared will of the Supreme God, or of Creator has established. Nor can any reason be offered supposed deities, as the rule which determines the why such a nature should be given to man, and such good or the evil of the conduct of men; which will a law impressed on the circumstances and beirgs with was considered by them as a law, prescribing the one which he is surrounded, except that both had an inand restraining the other, under the sanction, not only tended relation to certain courses of action as the of our being left to the natural injurious consequences sources of order and happiness, as truly as there was of vicious habit and practice in the present life, or of an intended relation between the light, and the eye continuing to enjoy the benefits of obedience in per- which is formed to receive its rays. sonal and social happiness here; but of positive re- But as man is not carried to this course of action by ward and positive punishment in a future life.
physical impulse or necessity; as moral conduct supWhoever speculated on the subject of morals and poses choice, and therefore instruction, and the persuamoral obligation in any age, was previously furnished sion of motives arising out of it; the benevolent with these general notions and distinctions. They intention of the Creator, as to our happiness, could not were in the world before him; and if all tradition be be accomplished without instruction, warning, reward, not a fable, if the testimony of all antiquity, whether and punishment; all of which necessarily imply sufound in poets or historians, be not delusive, they were perintendence and control, or, in other words, a moral in the world in those early periods when the great government. The creation, therefore, of a being of body of the human race remained near the original such a nature as man implies Divine government ; seat of the parent families of all the modern and now and that government a Divine law, widely extended nations of the earth; and in those Such a law must be the subject of REVELATION. early periods they were not regarded as distinctions Law is the will of a superior power; but the will of a of mere human opinion and consent, but were invested superior visible power cannot be known without some with a Divine Authority.
indication by words or signs, in other terms, without a We have, then, before iis two presumptions, each of revelation; and much less the will of an invisible great weight First, that those actions which among power, of an order superior to our own, and confessInen have almost universally been judged good, have edly mysterious in his mode of existence and the attrithe implied sanction of the will of our wise and good butes of his nature. Creator, being found in experience, and by the consti- Again, the will of a superior is not in justice bindtution of our nature and of human society, most con- ing until, in some mode, it is sufficiently declared; and ducive to human happiness. And, SECOND, that they the presumption, therefore, that God wills the practice were originally in some mode or other prescribed and of any particular course of action on the part of his enjoined as his law, and their contraries prohibited. creatures, establishes the farther presumption, that of
If, therefore, there is presumptive evidence of only that will there has been a manifestation; and the more ordinary strength, that the rule by which our actions so, if there is reason to suppose that any penalty of a are determined to be good or evil is primarily a law of serious nature has been attached to disobedience. the Creator, we are all deeply interested in ascertain- The revelation of this will or law of God may be ing where that law exists in its clearest manifestation. made either by action, from which it is to be inferred, For ignorance of the law, in whole or in part, will be or by direct communication in language. Any indicano excuse for disobedience, if we have the opportunity tion of the moral perfections of God, or of his design in of acquainting ourselves with it; and an accurate ac- forming moral beings, which the visible creation prequaintance with the rule may assist our practice in cases sents to the mind; or any instance of his favour or of which human laws take no cognizance, and which displeasure towards his creatures, clearly and frethe wilfully corrupted general judgment of mankind quently connected in his administration with any parmay have darkened.
And should it appear either that ticular course of conduct, may be considered as a in many things we have offended more deeply than we revelation of his will by action; and is not at all insuspect, whether wilfully or from an evitable igno- consistent with farther revelation by the direct means rance; or that, from some common accident which has of language. befallen our nature, we have lost the power of' entire The Theist admits that a revelation of the will of obedience without the use of new and extraordinary God has been made by significant actions, from which means, the knowledge of the rule is of the utmost con- the duty of creatures is to be inferred, and contends sequence to us, because by it we may be enabled to that this is sufficient. “They who never heard of any ascertain the precise relation in which we stand to external revelation, yet if they knew from the nature God our Maker; the dangers we have incurred; and of things what is fit for them to do, they know all that the means of escape, if any have been placed within God will or can require of them.”(3) our reach.
They who believe that the Holy Scriptures contain a revelation of God's will, do not deny that indications of
his will have been made by action; but they contend CHAPTER II.
that they are in themselves imperfect and insufficient, The Rule which determines the Quality of MORAL revelation. They hold, also, that a direct communica
and that they were not designed to supersede a direct ACTIONS must be presumed to be matter of REVELA- tion of the Divine will was made to the progenitors of TION FROM Gon.
the human race, which received additions at subsequent It is well observed by a judicious writer, that “all periods, and that the whole was at length imbodied in the distinctions of good and evil refer to some principle the book called, by way of eminence, " The Bible.” above ourselves; for were there no Supreme Governor and Judge to reward and punish, the very notions of (3) Christianity as Old as the Creation, p. 233.—“By good and evil would vanish away. They could not employing our reason to collect the will of God from exist in the minds of men, if there were not a Supreme the fund of our nature physical and moral, we may Director to give laws for the measure thereof."(2) acquire not only a particular knowledge of those laws
If we deny the existence of a Divine law obligatory which are deducible from them, but a general knowupon man, we must deny that the world is under Di- ledge of the manner in which God is pleased to exer
cise his supreme powers in this system."- Boling. (2) Ellis's Knowledge of Divine Things, &c. I broke's Works, vol. 5, p. 100.
The question immediately before us is, on which right conduct and effectual moral control, as well as to bide there is the strongest presumption of truth Are the hopes and the happiness of man. there, in the natural works of God, or in his manner of There is no indication, for instance, in either nature governing the world, such indications of the will of or providence, that it is the will of God that his creaGod concerning us, as can afford sufficient direction in tures should worship him; and the moral effects of forming a perfectly virtuous character, and sufficient adoration, homage, and praise, on this system, would information as to the means by which it is to be be lost. There is no indication that God will be apeffected? We may try this question by a few obvious proached in prayer, and this hope and solace of man is instances,
unprovided for. Nor is there a sufficient indication of The Theist will himself acknowledge, that temper- a future state of rewards and punishment; because ance, justice, and benevolence are essential to moral there is no indubitable declaration of man's immortavirtue. With respect to the first, nothing appears in lity, nor any facts and principles so obvious as to enthe constitution of nature, or in the proceedings of the able us confidently to infer it. All observation lies Divine administration, to indicate it to be the will of directly against the doctrine of the immortality of man. God that the appetites of the body should be restrained He dies, and the probabilities of a future life which within the rules of sobriety, except that, by a connex- have been established upon the unequal distribuion which has been established by him, the excessive tion of rewards and punishments in this life, and the indulgence of those appetites usually impairs health. capacities of the human soul, are a presumptive eviIf, therefore, we suppose this to amount to a tacit pro- dence which has been adduced, as we shall afterward hibition of excess, it still leaves those free from the show, only by those to whom the doctrine had been rule whose firm constitutions do not suffer from intem- transmitted by tradition, and who were therefore in perate gratifications; it gives one rule for the man of possession of the idea'; and, even then, to have any vigorous, and another for the man of feeble health; and effectual force of persuasion, they must be built upon it is no guard against that occasional insobriety, which antecedent principles, furnished only by the Revelations may be indulged in without obvious danger to health, contained in Holy Scripture. Hence some of the wisest but which, nevertheless, may be excessive in degree, heathens, who were not wholly unaided in their spethough occasional in recurrence. The rule is therefore culations on these subjects by the reflected light of imperfect.
those revelations, confessed themselves unable to come Nor are the obligations of justice in this way indi- to any satisfactory conclusion. The doubts of Socated with adequate clearness. Acts of injustice are crates, who expressed himself the most hopefully of not, like acts of excessive intemperance, punishable any on the subject of a future life, are well known; in the ordinary course of providence by pain and dis- and Cicero, who occasionally expatiates withi so much ease and premature death, as their natural general eloquence on this topic, shows by the skeptical expresconsequences; nor, in most instances, by any other sions which he throws in, that his belief was by no marked infiction of the Divine displeasure in the pre- means confirmed.(4) If, therefore, without any help from sent life. From their injurious effects upon society direct or traditional instruction, we could go so far as at large, indications of the will of God respecting them they, it is plain that our religious system would be may doubtless be inferred, but such effects arise out deficient in all those motives to virtue which arise from of the grosser acts of fraud and rapine; those only the doctrines of man's accountability and a future life, affect the movements of society (which goes on with and in that moral control which snch doctrines exert; out being visibly disturbed by the violations of the the necessity of which, for the moral government of nicer distinctions of equity, which form an essential the world, is sufficiently proved by the wickedness part of virtue), and never fail to degrade and corrupt which prevails, even where these doctrines are fully individual character. Rules of justice, therefore, thus taught. indicated, would, like those of temperance, be very im- Still farther, there is nothing in those manifestations perfect.
of God and of his will, which the most attentive conThe third branch of virtue is benevolence, the dispo- templatist can be supposed to collect from his natural sition and the habit of doing good to others. But in works, and from his sovereign rule, to afford the hope what manner, except by revelation, are the extent and of pardon to any one who is conscious of having the obligation of this virtue to be explained ? If it be offended him, or any assurance of felicity in a future said, that “the goodness of God himself, as manifested state, should one exist. in creation and providence, presents so striking an ex- Some consciousness of offence is felt by every man; ample of beneficence to his creatures, that his will, as and though he should not know the precise nature or to the cultivation of this virtue, may be unequivocally extent of the penalty attached to transgression, he has inferred from it,” we cannot but perceive that this ex- no reason to conclude that he is under a mild and fondly ample itself is imperfect, unless other parts of the Di- merciful government, and that therefore his offences vine conduct be explained to us, as the Scriptures will in course be forgiven. All observation and expeexplain them. For if we have manifestations of his rience lie against this; and the case is the more alarmgoodness, we see also fearful proofs of his severity. ing to a considerate mind, that so little of the sad inferŠuch are the permission of pestilence, earthquakes, ence, that the human race is under a rigorous admiinundations, and the infliction of pain and death upon nistration, depends upon reasoning and opinion : it is all men, even upon infants and unsinning animals. If fact of common and daily observation. The minds of the will of God in favour of beneficent actions is to be men are in general a prey to discontent and care, and inferred from the pleasure which is afforded to those are agitated by various evil passions. The race itself who perform them, it is only indicated to those to whom is doomed to wasting labours of the body or the mind, a beneficent act gives pleasure, and its non-performance in order to obtain subsistence. Their employments are pain; and it cannot, therefore, be at all apprehended by for the most part low and grovelling, in comparison Those who by constitution are obdurate, or by habit of the capacity of the soul for intellectual pleasure and selfish. The rule would therefore be uncertain and attainments. The mental powers, though distributed dark, and entirely silent as to the extent to which be- with great equality among the various classes of men, neficence is to be carried, and whether there may not be are only in the case of a few individuals ever awakened. exceptions to its exercise as to individuals, such as The pleasures most strenuously sought are therefore enemies, vicious persons, and strangers.
sensual, degrading, and transient. Life itself, too, is Whatever general indications there may be in the precarious : infants suffer and die, youth is blighted, acts of God, in the constitution of human nature, or in and thus by far the greater part of mankind is swept the relations of society, that some actions are according away before the prime of life is attained. Casualties, to the will of God, and therefore good, and that others plagues, famines, floods, and war carry on the work of are opposed to his will, and therefore evil; it follows destruction. In the majority of states the poor are op. then, that they form a rule too vague in itself, and too liable to different interpretations, to place the conduct (4) So in his Tusc. Quest. 1, he says, “ Expone igitur, of men under adequate regulation, even in respect of nisi molestum est, primum animos, si potes, remanere temperance, justice, and beneficence. But if these and post mortem; tum si minus id obtinebis (est enim other virtues, in their nicest shades, were indicated by arduum), docebis carere omni malo mortem. Show the types of nature, and the manifestations of the will me first, if you can, and if it be not too troublesome, of God in his moral government, these types and this that souls remain after death, or if you cannot prove moral government are either entirely silent, or speak that (for it is difficult), declare how there is no evil in equivocally as to subjects of vital importance to the death."
pressed, the rich are insecure; private wrong is added argument from his goodness is in its favour. At the
To remove in part the awful mystery which over- strong presumption in favour of a direct revelation from
FARTHER PRESUMPTION OF A DIRECT REVELATION, admit and to expect a state of future existence, le must
from the Weakness and Corruption of human Reafeel the necessity of being assured that it will be a son, and the Want of Authority in merely human felicitous one. Yet should he be conscious of frequent
Opinions. transgressions of the divine law, and at the same time If we should allow that a perfect reason exercised in see it demonstrated by facts occurring daily, that in the contemplating the natural works of God and the course present life the governinent of God is thus rigorous, of his moral government might furnish us, by means the only fair conclusion to which he can come is, that of an accurate process of induction, with a sufficient the Divine government will be conducted on precisely rule to determine the quality of moral actions, and with the same principles in another; for an infinitely perfect | sufficient motives to obedience, yet the case would not Being changes not. Farther discoveries may then be be altered; for that perfect reason is not to be found inade ; but they may go only to establislı this point, among men. It would be useless to urge upon those that the apparent severity of his dispensations in the who deny the doctrine of Scripture, as to the fall of man, present life are quite consistent with justice, and even that his understanding and reason are weakened by the the continued infliction of punishment with goodness deterioration of his whole intellectual nature. But it itself, because other inoral agents may be benefited by will be quite as apposite to the argument to state a fact the example. The idea of a future life does not there- not to be controverted, that the reasoning powers of fore relieve the case. If it be just that man should be men greatly differ in strength; and that from premises, punished here, it may be required by the same just which all must allow to be somewhat obscure, different regard to the principles of a strictly moral government, inferences would inevitably be drawn. Either then the that he should be punished hercaster.
Divine law would be what every man might take it to If, then, we are offenders against the Majesty of so he, and, by consequence, a variable rule, a position dread a Being, as the actual administration on the world which cannot surely be maintained; or many persons shows its Governor to be, it is in the highest degree must fail of duly apprehending it. And though in this necessary, if there be in him a disposition to forgive case it should be contended, that he is not punishable our offences, that we should be made acquainted with who obeys the law as far as he knows it, yet surely the it, and with the means and conditions upon which his ends of a steady and wisely formed plan of general goplacability can become available to us. If he is not dis-vernment would on this ground be frustrated. The posed to forgive, we have the greatest cause for alarm; presumption here also must therefore be in favour of an ir an inclination to forgive does exist in the Divine express declaration of the will of God, in terms which Mind, there is as strong a reason to presume that it is the common understandings of men inay apprehend, as indicated to us somewhere, as that the law under which the only means by which sufficient moral direction can we are placed should have been expressly promulgated; be given, and effectual control exerted. and especially if such a scheme of bestowing pardon The notion, that by rational induction the will of God has been adopted as will secure the ends of moral go- may be inferred from his acts in a sufficient degree for vernment, and lead to our future obedience,--the only every purpose of moral direction, is farther vitiated by one which we can conceive to be worthy of God. its assuming that men in general are so contemplative
Now it is not necessary to prove at length, what is so in their habits as to pursue such inquiries with interest; obvious, that if we had no method of knowing the will and so well disposed as in most cases to make them and purposes of God, but by inferring them from his with honesty. Neither of these is true. works and his government, we could have no informa- The mass of mankind neither are, nor ever have been, tion as to any purpose in the Divine Mind to forgive his contemplative, and inust therefore, if not otherwise sinning creatures. The Theist, in order to support this instructed, remain ignorant of their duty; for questions hope, dwells upon the proofs of the goodness of God of virtue, morals, and religion, as may be shown from with which this world abounds, but shuts luis eyes the contentions of the wisest of men, do not for the upon the demonstrations of his severity; yet these sur- mosi part lie level to the minds of the populace, without round him as well as the other, and the argument from a revelation.(6) the severity of God is as forcible against pardon, as the
(6) "If Philosopliy had gone farther than it did, and (5).“ Some men seem to think the only character of from undeniable principles given us Ethics in a science, the Author of Nature to be that of Simple Absolute like Mathematics, in every part demonstrable, this yet Benevolence. There may possibly be in the creation would not have been so eifectual to man in this imperbeings to whom he manifests Himself under this most fect state, nor proper for the cure. The greatest part amiable of all characters; for it is the most amiable, of mankind want leisure or capacity for deinonstration, supposing it not, as perhaps it is not, incompatible witli nor can carry a train of proofs, which in that way they Justice; but he manifests Himself to us as a Right- must always depend upon for conviction, and cannot be eous Governor. He may, consistently with this, be required to assent to till they see the demonstration. simply and absolutely benevolent; but he is, for he has wherever they stick, the teachers are always put upon given us a proof in the constitution and conduct of the proof, and must clear the doubt by a thread of coherent world that he is, a Governor over servants, as he re- deductions from the first principle, how long or how wards and punishes us for our actions.".--- BUTLER'S intricate soever that be. And you may as soon hope to Analogy.
have all the day-labourers and tradesmen, the spinsters