Page images

them, was exemplified also in the allowing or rather In most civilized states, the very existence of society, commending the practice of suicide.

and the natural selfishness of man, led to the preservaDoubtless, the primitive law against murder con- tion of the ancient laws against THEFT and RAPINE, demned also HATRED and REVENGE. Our Lord restored and to the due execution of the statutes made against it to its true meaning among the Jews; and that it was them; but in this also we see the same disposition to so understood even among the ancient heathens, is clear corrupt the original prohibition. It was not extended from a placable and forgiving spirit being sometimes to strangers, or to foreign countries; nor was it genepraised, and the contrary censured, by their sages, mo- rally interpreted to reach to any thing more than flagrant ralists, and poets. Yet not only was the rule violated acts of violence. Usury, extortion, and fraud were almost universally in practice; but it was also disputed rather regarded as laudatory acts, than as injurious to and denied in many of its applications by the authority character; and so they continue to be esteemed of their wise and learned men ; so that, as far as the wherever Christianity has not issued her authoritative authority of moral teachers went, a full scope was given laws against injustice in all its degrees. Throughout for the indulgence of hatred, malice, and insatiate re- India, there is said to be scarcely such a thing as common venge. One of the qualities of the good man described honesty. by Čicero is, that he hurts no one, except he be injured Another great branch of morality is TRUTH; but on himself. “Qui nemini nocet, nisi lacessitus injuriâ ;" the obvious obligation to speak it, we find the same and he declares as to himself, “ sic ulciscar facinora laxity both of opinion and practice; and in this, singula quemadmodum a quibusque sui provocatus : heathenism presents a striking contrast to Christianity, I will revenge all injuries, according as I am provoked which commands us“ to speak the truth one to another, by any :” and Aristotle speaks of meekness as a defect, and denounces damnation against him that loves or because the meek man will not avenge himself, and of makes a lie.revenge, as “avāpW TIKOTEPov pallov, a more manly They knew, that “tollendum est ex rebus contrathing."(5)

hendis omne mendacium,(7) no lie was to be used in “Thou shalt not commit ADULTERY,” was another contracts;" and that an honest man should do and speak great branch of the patrjerchal law, existing before the nothing in falsehood and with hypocrisy; but they more Decalogue, as “appears from the sacred history. It frequently departed from this rule than enjoined it. forbids uncleanness of every kind in thought and deed, The rule of Menander was, “a lie is better than a and specially guards the sanctity of marriage : nor is hurtful truth.” Plato says, “he may lie who knows there any precept more essential to public morals and how to do it in a fit season;" and Maximus Tyrius, to the whole train of personal, social, domestic, and that there is nothing decorous in truth, but when it is national virtues.

profitable;" and both Plato and the Stoics frame a Je. It is not necessary to bring detailed proof of the suitical distinction between lying with the lips and in almost universal gross and habitual violation of this the mind. Deceit and falsehood have been therefore the sacred law in all pagan nations, both ancient and character of all pagan nations, and continue so to be to modern, from its first stages down to crimes Tapa puow. this day. This is the character of the Chinese, as given This is sufficiently notorious to all acquainted with the by the best authorities; and of the Hindoos it is stated history of the ancient and modern pagan world; and by the most respectable Europeans, not merely miswill not be denied by any. It is only requisite to show, sionaries, but by those who have long held official civil that they had the law, and that it was weakened and and judicial situations among them, that their disregard corrupted, so as to render a republication necessary. of truth is uniform and systematic. When discovered,

The public laws against adultery in almost all heathen it causes no surprise in the one party, or humiliation in states, and the censures of moralists and satirists, are the other. Even when they have truth to tell, they sufficiently in proof, that such a law was known; and seldom fail to bolster it up with some appended falsethe higher the antiquity of the times, the more respect hoods.(8) we see paid to chastity, and the better was the practice. Nor can the force of the argument in favour of the Nor was the act only considered by some of their mo- necessity of a direct revelation of the will of God, by ralists as sinful; but the thought and desire, as may be these facts be weakened by alleging, what is unhappily observed in passages both in Greek and Roman writers. too true, that where the Christian revelation has been But as to this vice 100, as well as others, the practice known, great violations of all these rules have been lowered the rule; and the authority of one lawgiver commonly observed; for, not to urge the moral supeand moralist being neutralized by another, license was riority of the worst of Christian states, in all of them given to unbounded offence.

the authority and sanction of religion is directed against Divorce, formerly permitted only in cases of adultery, vice; while among heathens their religion itself, having became at length a mere matter of caprice, and that been corrupted by the wickedness of man, has become both with Jews and Gentiles; and among the latter, the great instrument of encouraging every species of adultery was chiefly interpreted as the violation of the wickedness. This circumstance so fully demonstrates marriage covenant by the wise only, or by the man with the necessity of an interposition on the part of God to a married woman, thus leaving the husband a large restore truth to the world, that it deserves a particular licenseof vicious indulgence. To whoredom and similar consideration. vices, lawgivers, statesmen, philosophers, and moralists gave the sanction of their opinions and their practice; which foul blot of ancient heathenism continues to this day to mark the morals of pagan countries.(6)

CHAPTER VIII. (5) Moral. 1. 4, c. 11.

The Necessity of Revelation :-Religions of the (6) Terence says of simple fornication, “Non est

Heathen. scelus, adolescentulum scortari flagitium est.The THAT the religions which have prevailed among Spartans, through a principle in the institutions of Ly- pagan nations have been destructive of morality, cannot curgus, which controlled their ancient opinions on this be denied. subject, in certain prescribed cases, allowed adultery in How far the speculative principles which they imbothe wife; and Plutarch, in his Life of Lycurgus, men- died had this effect, has already been shown; we protioning these laws, commends them as being made ceed to their more direct influence. "QUOIKWS KAL TONITIKWs, according to nature and polity.” Callicratides, the Pythagorean, tells the wife, that she (7) Cic. de Off. 1. iii. n. 81. must bear with her husband's irregularities, since the “ It is the business of all,” says Sir John Shore, law allows this to the man and not to the woman. Plu- “from the Ryot to the Dewan, to conceal and deceive. tarch speaks to the same purpose in several places of The simplest matters of lact are designedly covered his writings. On the other hand, some of the philoso- with a veil, which no human understanding can penephers condemned adultery; and, in many places, it was trate.” The prevalence of perjury is so universal, as punished in the woman with death, in the man with to involve the judges in extreme perplexity. “The infamy. Still, however, the same vacillation of judg- honest men,” says Mr. Strachey, “as well as the rogues, ment, and the same limitations, of what they sometimes are perjured. Even where the real facts are sufficient confess to be the ancient rule and custom, may be ob- to convict the offender, the witnesses against him must served throughout; but as far as the authority of phi- add others, often notoriously false, or utterly incredible, losophers went, it was chiefly on the side of vicious such as in Europe would wholly invalidate their tes. practice.


The gloomy superstition which pervaded most of of the deities worshipped, to the exclusion of the true them fostered ferocious and cruel dispositions.

God, gave direct incitement and encouragement to vice. The horrible practice of offering human sacrifices Thus the grossest ignorance on divine subjects univerprevailed throughout every region of the heathen world, sally prevailed; the learned were involved in inextriio a degree which is almost incredible; and it still pre- cable perplexities; and the unlearned received as truth vails in many populous countries, where Christianity the most absurd and monstrous fables, all of them, has not yet been made known. There are incontestable however, favourable to vicious indulgence. The acproofs of its having subsisted among the Egyptians, the tual state of morals also accorded with the corrupt reSyrians, the Persians, the Phænicians, and all the various ligious systems and the lax moral principles which nations of the East. It was one of the crying sins of they adopted; so that in every heathen state of ancient the Canaanites. The contagion spread over every part times, the description of the Apostle Paul in the first of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Greeks and Romans, chapter of Romans is supported by the evidence of though less involved in this guilt than many other na- their own historians and poets. The same may also tions, were not altogether untainted with it. On great be affirmed of modern pagan countries, whose moral and extraordinary occasions, they had recourse to what condition may explain more fully, as they are now so was esteemed the most efficacious and most meritorious well known through our intercourse with them, the sacrifice that could be offered to the gods, the effusion genius and moral tendency of the ancient idolatries, of human blood.(9) But among more barbarous nations, with which those of India and other parts of the East this practice took a firmer root. The Scythians and especially, so exactly agree. Thracians, the Gauls and the Germaus, were strongly These are the facts. They affect not a small portion addicted to it; and our own island, under the gloomy of mankind, but all who have not had the benefits of and ferocious despotism of the Druids, was polluted the doctrines and morals of the Holy Scripures: there with the religious murder of its inhabitants. In the are no exceptions from this of any consequence to the semi-civilized kingdoms on the western side of Africa, as argument, though some difference in the morals of Dahomy, Ashantee and others, many thousands fall every heathen states may be allowed. Where the Scriptures year victims to superstition. In America, Montezuma are unknown, there is not, nor ever has been since the offered 20,000 victims yearly to the sun; and modern corruption of the primitive religion, a religious system navigators have found the practice throughout the whole which has contained just views of God and religious extent of the vast Pacific Ocean. As for India, the cries truth, the Theists of the present day being judges ; of its abominable and cruel superstitions have been --one which has enjoined a correct morality, or even sounded repeatedly in the ears of the British public and opposed any effectual barrier against the deterioration of its legislature; and, including infants and widows, not public manners. These facts cannot be denied : for the fewer than 10,000 lives fall a sacrifice to idolatry in our allegations formerly made of the morality of modern own eastern dominions yearly !(1)

pagan nations have been suficiently refuted hy a better The influence of these practices in obdurating the acquaintance with them; and the conclusion is irreheart, and disposing it to habitual cruelty, need not be sistible, that an express revelation of the will of God, pointed out; but the religions of paganism have been accompanied with efficient corrective institutions, was as productive of impurity as of blood.

become necessary, and is still demanded by the ignoThe floralia among the Romans were celebrated for rance and vices, the miseries and disorders of every four days together by the most shameless actions; and part of the earth into which Christianity has not been their mysteries in every country, whatever might be introduced. their original intent, became horribly corrupt. It was But we may go another step. This exhibition of the in the temples of many of their deities, and on their re- moral condition of those nations who have not had the ligious festivals, that every kind of impurity was most benefit of the renewal and republication of the truths practised; and this continues to the present day of the patriarchial religion, not only supports the conthroughout all the regions of modern paganism.(2) clusion that new and direct revelations from God were

This immoral tendency of their religion was con- necessary; but the wants, which that condition so obfirmed and perfected by the very character and actions viously created, will support other presumptions as to of their gods, whose names were perpetually in their the nature and mode of that revelation, in the case of mouths; and whose murderous or obscene exploits, such a gift being bestowed in the exercise of the Divine whose villanies and chicaneries, whose hatreds and mercy. For if there is ground to presume, that Alstrifes, were the subject of their popular legends; mighty God in his compassion for his creatures would which made up in fact the only theology, if so it may not leave them to the unchecked influence of error be called, of the body of the people. That they should and vice; nor, upon the corruption of that simple but be better than their gods was not to be expected, and comprehensive doctrine, worship, and morals commuworse they could not be. Deities with such attributes nicated to the progenitors of all those great branches could not but corrupt, and be appealed to, not merely of the family of man which have been spread over the to excuse, but to sanctify the worst practices.(3) earth, refuse to interpose to renew and to perfect that reliLet this argument then be summed up.

gious system which existed in an elementary form in the All the leading doctrines on which religion rests had earliest ages, and give to it a form less liable to altera either been corrupted by a grovelling and immoral su- tion ard decay than when left to be transmitted by traperstition among heathen nations; or the philosophic dition alone; there is equal ground to presume, that the speculations of their wisest men had introduced prin- revelation, whenever vouchsafed, should be of that naciples destructive of man's accountability and present ture, and accompanied by such circumstances, as and future hope. On morals themselves, the original would most effectually accomplish this benevolent rules were generally perverted, limited, or rejected; purpose. while the religious rites, and the legendary character Presumptions as to the manner in which such a re

velation would be made most eflectually to accom(9) Plutarch in the Lives of Themistocles, Marcellus, plish its ends are indeed to be guarded, lest we and Aristides.-Livy, l. 22, c. 57.-Florus, l. 1, c. 13.— should set up ourselves as adequate judges in a case Virg. Æn. x. 518, xi. 81.

which involves large views and extensive bearings of (1) See Maurice's Indian Antiquities; the writings the Divine government. But without violating this of Dr. Claudius Buchanan; Ward on the Hindoos; rule, it may, from the obviousness of the case, be preDubois on Hindoo Manners, &c.; Robertson's History sumed, that such a supernatural manifestation of truth of America ; Bowditch's Account of Ashantee ; Moore's should, 1. contain explicit information on those imporHindoo Pantheon; and Porteus and Ryan on the effects tant subjects on which mankind had most greatly and of Christianity.

most fatally erred. 2. That it should accord with the (2) See Leland, and Whitby, on the necessity of a principles of former revelations, given to men in the Revelation; and the writers on the customs of India,- same state of guilt and moral incapacity as we find Ward, Dubois, Buchanan, and Moore-before referred to them in the present day. 3. That it should have a

(3) Hence Chærea, in Terence, pertinently enough satisfactory external authentication. 4. That it should asks, Quod fecit is qui templa celi summa sonitu con- contain provisions for its effectual promulgation among culit, ego homuncio non facerem? Eunuch. act 3. sc.

all classes of men. All this, allowing the necessity 5.--He only imitated Jupiter. And, says Sextus Em- and the probability of a supernaturai communication pyricus, “That cannot be unjust, which is done by the of the will of God, must certainly be expected; and zod Mercury, the prince of thieves; for how can å god if the Christian revelation bears this character, it has be wicked ?" --Apud Euseb. Præp. lib. 6, cap 10 certainly these presumptions in its favour, that it meets

an obvious case of necessity, and confers the advan- , that these great principles are all recognised and taken tages just enumerated.

up in the successive revelations by Moses and by 1. It gives information on those subjects which are Christ, exhibiting three religious systems, varying most important to man, and which the world had dark- greatly in circumstances; introduced at widely disened with the greatest errors--the nature and perfec- tant periods, and by agents greatly differing in their tions, claims and relations of God-his WILL(4) as the condition and circumstances; but exactly harmoRULE of moral good and evil--the means of obtaining nizing in every leading doctrinal tenet, and agreeing PARDOn and of conquering vice--the true MEDIATOR in their great moral impression upon mankind--PERbetween God and man-Divine PROVIDENCE--the FECT PURITY OF JIEART AND CONDUCT. CHIEF Goon of man, respecting which alone more than 3. That it should be accompanied with an explicit and three hundred different opinions among the ancient impressive external authentication, of such a nature as sages have been reckoned up-man's IMMORTALITY to make its truth obvious to the mass of mankind, and to and accountability, and a FUTURE STATE.

leave no reasonable doubt of its Divine authority. 2. It is also required that a revelation should accord The reason of this is eviderit. A mere impression of with the principles of former revelations, should any truth on the understanding could not by itself be dishave been given.

tinguished from a discovery made by the human intelFor since it is a first principle, that God cannot err lect, and could have no authority, as a declaration of himself, nor deceive us, so far as one revelation renews the will of a superior, with the person receiving it; or explains any truth in a preceding one, it must agree and as to others, it could only pass for the opinion of with the previous communication ; and in what it adds the individual who might promulge it.(5) An authen. to a preceding revelation, it cannot contradict any thing tication of a system of truth, which professes to be which it contains, if it be exhibited as a truth of un- the will, the law of him, who, having made, has the changeable character or a duty of perpetual obligation. right to command us, external to the matter of the

Now whatever direct proof may be adduced in fà- doctrine itself, is therefore necessary to give it authority, vour of the Divine authority of the Jewish and Chris- and to create the obligation of obedience. This accords tian revelations, this at least may be confidently urged with the opinion of all nations up to the earliest ages, as evidence in their favour, that they have a substantial and was so deeply wrought in the common sense of agreement and barmony among themselves, and with mankind, that all the heathen legislators of antiquity that ancient traditional system which existed in the affected a Divine commission, and all false religions earliest ages, and the fragments of which we find scat- have leaned for support upon pretended supernatural icred among all nations. As to the patriarchal system sanctions. The procfs of this are so numerous and of religion, to which reference has been so often made, well known, that it is unnecessary to adduce them. besides the notices of it which are every where scat- The anthority of the ancient patriarchal religion tered in the book of Genesis, we have ample and most rested on proof external to itself. We do not now satisfactory information in the ancient book of Job, of examine the truth of its alleged authentications—they which sufficient evidence may be givon, that it was were admitted; and the force of the revelation de written not later than the time of Moses ; and that Job pended upon them in the judgment of mankind.

We himself lived between the flood of Noah and the call have a most ancient book, which records the opinions of Abraham. Of the religion of the patriarchs, just as of the ante-mosaic ages. The theology of those ages it existed at that period when Sabianism, or the wor- has been stated; and from the history contained in that ship of the heavenly luminaries, began to make its book, we learn, that the received opinion was, that the appearance, and was restrained by the authority of Almighty Lawgiver himself conversed with our first the Judges," who were the heads of tribes or fami- parents and with the patriarchs, under celestial aplies, and as it existed in the preceding ages, as we find pearances; and that his mercies to men, or his judgfrom the reference made by Job and his friends to the ments, failed not to follow ordinarily the observance or authority of their “ Fathers," this book contains an violation of the laws thus delivered, which was in fact ample and most satisfactory record; and from this ve- an authentication of them renewed from time to tiine. nerable relic a very copious body of doctrinal and prac- The course of nature, displaying the eternal power and tical theology might be collected; but the following Godhead, as well as the visitations of providence, was particulars will be sufficient for the present argument. to them a constant confirmation of several of the lead

One Supreme Being alone is recognised throughout, ing truths in the theology they had received; and by as the object of adoration, worship, hope, trust, and the deep impress of Divinity which this system refear; who is represented as of infinite and unsearch- ceived in the earliest ages from the attestations of sin. able majesty,--eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, al- / gular judgments, and especially the flood, it is only mighty, and of perfect wisdom, justice, goodness; go- rationally to be accounted for, that it was universally verning all things, noting and judging individuals, transmitted, and waged so long a war against religious regarding the good, punishing the wicked, placable, corruptions. listening to the prayers of the penitent. The natural But notwithstanding the authentication of the primicorruption of mani's nature is also stated, and his own tive religion as a matter of Divine revelation, and the inability to cleanse his heart from sin. Man, we are effects produced by it in the world for many ages; and told, cannot be just with God, and therefore needs an indeed still produced by it in its very broken and corintercessor. Sacrifices, as of Divine appointment, and rupted state, in condemning many sinful actions, so as propitiatory in their nature, are also adverted to as to render the crimes of heathens without excuse ; that commonly practised. Express reference is made to a system was iraditional, and liable to be altered by Divine Redeemer and his future incarnation, as an ob- | transmission. In proportion, also, as historical events ject of hope. The doctrines of an immortal spirit in were confounded by the lapse of time, and as the miman, and of the resurrection of the body, and a future grations and political convulsions of nations gave rise judgment, have all a place in this system. Creation is to fabulous stories, the external authenticating evidence ascribed to God; and not only the general doctrine of became weak, and thus a merciful interposition on the Providence, but that most interesting branch of it, the part of God was, as we have seen, rendered necessary connexion of dispensations of prosperity and afiliction by the general ignorance of mankind. Indeed, the priwith moral ends. Murder, theit, oppression, injustice, mitive revelations supposed future ones, and were not adultery, intemperance, are all pointed out as viola- in themselves regarded as complete. But if a repubtions of the laws of God; and also wrath, envy, and lication only of the truth had been necessary, the old other evil passions. Purity of heart, kindness, com- external evidence was so greatly weakened by the passion to the poor, &c. are spoken of as virtues of lapse of ages, which, as to most nations, had broken the highest obligation; and the fear and love of God the line of historical testimony on which it so greaty are enjoined, with a calm and cheerful submission to rested, that it required a new authentication, in a forni his will, in humble trust that the darkness of present adapted to the circumstances of the world, and if an events will be ultimately cleared up, and shown to be enlarged revelation were vouchsafed, every addition to consistent with the wisdom, justice, Holiness, and truth the declared will of God needed an authentication of of God. The same points of doctrine and morals inay

the same kind as at first. also be collected from the book of Genesis.

If we presume, therefore, that a new revelation was Such was the comprehensive system of patriarchal necessary, we must presume that, when given, it would theology; and it is not necessary to stop to point out, have an external anthentication as coming from God, (4) See note A, at the end of the chapter.

(5) Vide Chap. 3.

from which there could be no reasonable appeal ; and their general publication-both instituted an order of we therefore conclude, that as the Mosaic and Christian men, not to conceal, but to read and teach the truth Revelations profess hoth to republish and to enlarge committed to then—both recognised a right in the former Revelations, the circumstance of their resting people to search the record, and by it to judge of the their claims on the external evidence of miracles and ministration of the priests--both made it obligatory on prophecy, is a presumption in their favour. Whether the people to be taught--and both separated one day in the evidence which they offer be decisive or not, is a seven to afford leisure for that purpose. future question ; but in exhibiting such evidence, they Pothing but such a revelation, and with such accomaccord with the reason of the thing, and with the com- panying circumstances, appears capaole of reaching mon sense of ages.

the actual case of mankind, and of effe ually instruct4. It is farther presumed, that should a revelation ing and bringing them under moral control;(7) and of religious truth and the will of God be made, it would whether the Bible can be proved to be of Divine authorprovide means for its effectual communication to all ity or not, this at least must be granted--that it preclasses of meri.

sents itself to us under these circumstances, and As the revelation supposed must be designed to re- clains, for this very reason, the most serious and un store and enlarge the communications of truth, and as, prejudiced attention. from the increase and dispersion of the human race, tradition had become an imperfect medium of convey- (7) See note B, at the end of the chapter. ing it, it is a fair presumption, that the persons through whom the communication was made should record it

Note A.---Page 30. in WRITING. A revelation to every individual could Different opinions have been held as to the ground not maintain the force of its original authentication; of moral obligation. Grotius, Balguy, and Dr. S because, as its attestation must be of a supernatural Clarke, place it in the eternal and necessary fitness of kind, its constant recurrence would divest it of that things. To this there are two objections. The first is, character, or weaken its force by bringing it among that it leaves ihe distinction between virtue and vice common and ordinary events. A revelation, on the in a great measure arbitrary and indefinite, dependent contrary, to few, properıy and publicly attested by su- upon our perception of fitness and unfitness, which, in pernatural occurrences, needed not repetition; but the different individuals will greatly differ. The second is, most natural and effectual mode of preserving the com- that when a fitness or unfitness is provel, it is no more munication, once made, would be to transmit it by than the discovery of a natural essential difference or writing. Any corruption of the record would be ren

congruity, which alone cannot constitute a moral oblidered impracticable by its being publicly taught in the gation to choose what is fit, and to reject what is unfit. first instance; by a standard copy being preserved with When we have proved a fitness in a certain course of care; or by such a number of copies being dispersed action, we have not proved that it is obligatory. A as to defy material alteration. This presumption is second step is necessary before we can reach this conrealized also in the Jewish and Christian Revelations; clusion. Cudworth, Butler, Price, and others, mainas will be seen when the subject of the authority of the tain that virtue carries its own obligation in itselt'; lloly Scriptures comes to be discussed. They were that the understanding at once percives a certain acfirst publicly taught, then committed to writing, and tion to be right, and therefore it ought to be performed. the copies were multiplied.

Several objections lie to this notion. 1. It supposes the Another method of preserving and diffusing the understandings of men to determine precisely in the knowledge of a revelation once made, would be the same manner concerning all virtuous and vicious acin titution of public commemorative rites, at once pre- tions, which is contrary to fact. 2. It supposes a preserving the memory of the fact and of the doctrine vious rule, by which the action is determined to be connected with it among great bodies of people, and right; but if the revealed will of God is not to be taken leading them to such periodical inquiries as might pre- i into consideration, what common rule exists among serve both with the greatest accuracy. These also we men? There is evidently no such rule, and therefore find in the institutions of Moses and of Christ; and no means of certainly determining what is right. 3. If their weight in the argument for the truth of the mis- a common standard were known among men, and it sion of each, will be adduced in its proper place. the understandings of men determined in the same Allowing it to be reasonable to presume that a Reve

manner as to the conformity, or otherwise, of an action lation would be vouchsafed, it is eqnally so to presume to that standard; what renders it a matter of obligation that it should contain some injunctions favourable to that any one should perform it? The rule must be proved its propagation among men of all rauks. For as the to be binding, or no grouud of obligation is established. compassion of God to the moral necessities of his crea

An action is obligatory, say others, because it is tures generally is the ground on which so great a agreeable to the moral sense. This is the theory of favour rests, we cannot suppose that one class of men Lord Shaftesbury and Dr. Hutchinson. By moral should be allowed to make a monopoly of this advan- sense appears to be meant an instinctive approbation tage; and this would be a great temptation to them of right, and abhorrence of wrong, prior to all reflection, to publish their own favourite or interested opinions on their nature or their consequences. If any thing under a pretended Divine sanction, and tend to coun- else were understood by it, then the moral sense must teract the very purpose for which a revelation was be the same with conscience, which we know to vary given. Such a monopoly was claimed by the priests with the judgment, and cannot therefore be the basis of of ancient pagan nations; and that fatal effect fol- moral obligation. If conscience be not meant, then the lowed. It was claimed for a time by a branch of the moral sense must be considered as instinctive, a notion, Christian priesthood, contrary to the obligations of the certainly, which is disproved by the whole moral history institution itself; and the consequences were similar. of man. It may, indeed, be conceded, that such is the conAmong the heathens, the effect of this species of mo- stitution of the human soul, that when those distinctions nopoly was, that those who encouraged superstition between actions, which have been taught by religious traand ignorance among the people speedily themselves | dition or direct revelation, are known in their nature, relost the truth, which, through a wicked policy, they lations, and consequences, the calm and sober judgments concealed; and the case might have been the same in of men will approve of them; and that especially when Christendom, but for the sacred records, and for those they are considered abstractedly, that is, as not affecting witnesses to the truth, who prophesied and suffered, and controlling their own interests and passions immemore or less, throughout the darkest ages.(6)

diately, virtue may command complacency, and vice This reasonable expectation also is realized in the provoke abhorrence; but that, independent of reflection Mosaic Christian revelations ;-both provided for on their nature or their consequences, there is an in

stinctive principle in man which abhors evil, and loves (6) Bishop Warburton endeavours to prove, by an good, is contradicted by that variety of opinion and elaborate argument in his “Divine Legation," that in feeling on the vices and virtues, which obtains among the greater mysteries, the Divine Unity and the errors all uninstructed nations. We applaud the forgiveness of Polytheism were constantly taught. This, however, of an injury as magnanimous; a savage despises it as is most satisfactorily disproved by Dr. Leland, in his mean. We think it a duty to support and cherisli aged * Advantage and Necessity of a Divine Revelation;" to parents; many nations, on the contrary, abandon them both of which works the reader is referred for inform- as useless, and throw them to the beasts of the field. ation as to those singular institutions-the Heathen innumerable instances of this contrariety might be adMysteries.

duced, which are all contrary to the notion of instinctive


sentiment. Instincts operate uniformly, but this as- /self, or any of his contemporaries, are superior to those sumed moral sense does not. Besides, if it be mere which shone forth in the luminaries of the Gentile world ? matter of feeling, independent of judgment, to love Do the names even of Locke, Cudwortn, Cumberland, virtue and abhor vice, the morality of the exercise of Clarke, Wilkins, or Wollaston (men so justly eminent this principle is questionable; for it would be difficult in modern times, and who laboured so indefatigably to to show, that there is any more morality, properly perfect the theory of Natural Religion) convey to us an speaking, in the affections and disgusts of instinct thañ idea of greater intellectual ability than those of the in those of the palate. If judgment, the knowledge consummate masters of the Portico, the Grove, or the and comparison of things, be included, then this prin- Lyceum ? How is it, then, that the advocates for the ciple supposes a uniform and universal individual reve- natural perfection, or perfectibility, of human reason lation as to the nature of things to every man, or an do not perceive, that, for all the superiority of the present intuitive faculty of determining their moral quality; over former times, with respect to religious knowledge, both of which are too absurd to be maintained.

we must be indebted to some intervening cause, and The only satisfactory conclusion on this subject is, not to any actual enlargement of the human faculties? that which refers moral obligation to the will of God. Is it to be believed, that any man of the present age, of "Obligation," says Warburton, “necessarily implies whatever natural talents he may be possessed, could an obliger, and the obliger must be different from, and have advanced one step beyond the heathen philosonot one and the same with, the obliged. Moral obli- phers in his pursuit of divine truth, had he lived in their gation, that is, the obligation of a free agent, farther times, and enjoyed only the light that was bestowed implies a law, which enjoins and forbids; but a law is upon them? Or can it be fairly proved, that merely by the imposition of an intelligent superior, who hath the light of nature, or by reasoning upon such data only power io exact conformity thereto.” This lawgiver is as men possess who never heard of revealed religion, God: and whatever may be the reasons which have led any moral or religious truth has been discovered since him to enjoin this, and to prohibit that, it is plain that the days when Athens and Rome affected to give laws the obligation to obey lies not merely in the fitness and to the intellectual, as well as to the political world ? propriety of a creature obeying an infinitely wise and That great improvements have since been made, in good Creator, though such a fitness exists; but in that framing systems of ethics, of metaphysics, and of what obedience being enjoined.

is called natural theology, need not be denied. But Some, allowing this, would push the matter farther, these improvements may easily be traced to one obvious in search of a more remote ground of obligation. They cause, the widely diffused light of the Gospel, which, put the question, “Why am I obliged to obey the will having shone with more or less lustre, ou all nations, of God ?" and give us the answer, " Because obedience has imparted, even to the most simple and illiterate of to the commands of a benevolent God must be produc- the sons of men, such a degree of knowledge on these tive of the agent's happiness on the whole.” But this subjects, as, without it, would be unattainable even by is putting out to sea again; for-1. It cannot be proved the most learned and profound."-VAN MILDERT'S that the consideration of our own happiness is a ground Boyle's Lect. of moral obligation at all, except in some such vague sense as we use the term obligation when we say, “We are obliged to take exercise, if we would preserve our health." 2. We should be in danger of setting up a

CHAPTER JX. standard, by which to judge of the propriety of obeying God, when, indeed, we are but inadequate judges of

THE EVIDENCES NECESSARY TO AUTHENTICATE A what is for our happiness, on the whole: or, 3. It would

REVELATION.-External Evidence. make moral obligation to rest upon our faith, that God The evidence usually offered in proof of the Divine can will only our happiness, which is a singular prin- authority of the Scriptures, may be divided into EXTERciple on which to build our obedience. On the contrary, NAL, INTERNAL, and COLLATERAL. The External Evithe simple principle that moral obligation rests upon the dence consists of miracles and prophecy; the Internal will of God, by whatever means that will may be Evidence is drawn from the consideration of the ducknown, is unclogged with any of these difficulties. trines taught, as being consistent with the character of For--1. It is founded on a clear principle of justice. He God, and tending to promote the virtue and happiness who made has an absolute property in us, and may of man; and the Collateral Evidence arises from a vatherefore command us; and having actually com- riety of circumstances which, less directly than the manded us, we cannot set up any claim of exemption- former, prove the revelation to be of Divine authority, bat we are his. 2. He has connected reward with obe- are yet supposed to be of great weight in the argument, dience, and punishment with disobedience, and therefore On each of these kinds of evidence we shall offer some made it necessary for us to obey, if we would secure general remarks, tending to prepare the way for a demonour own happiness. Thus we are obliged, both by the stration of the Divine authority of the Holy Scriptures. force of the abstract principle, and by the motive The principal and most appropriate evidences of a resulting from a sanctioned command; or, in the lan- revelation from God, must be external to the revelation guage of the schools, we are obliged in reason, and itself. This has been before stated; but it may require obliged in interest, but each obligation evidently a larger consideration. emanates from the will of God. Other considerations, A Divine revelation has been well defined to be “a such as the excellence and beauty of virtue, its tendency discovery of some proposition to the mind, which came to individual happiness and universal order, &c., may not in by the usual exercise of its faculties, but by some smooth the path of obedience, and render “his com- miraculous Divine interposition and attestation, either mandments joyous;" but the obligation, strictly speak- mediate or immediate.”(8) It is not thought necessary ing, can only rest in the will of the superior and com- to attempt to prove such a revelation possible; for, as manding power.

our argument is supposed to be with a person who 40Note B.-Page 31.

knowledges, not only that there is a God, but that he is

the Creator of men ; it would be absurd in such a one Though some will allow the ignorance of former to deny, that he who gave us minds capable of knowtimes, they think that the improved reason of man is ledge is not able, instantly and immediately, to convey now more adequate to the discovery of moral truth. knowledge to us, and that he who has given us the

“They contend, that the world was then in the power of communicating ideas to each other, should infaney of knowledge; and argue, as if the illustrious have no means of communicating with us immediately sages of old (whom they nevertheless sometimes from himself. extol, in terms of extravagant panegyric) were very We need not inquire whether external evidence of a babes in philosophy, such as the wise ones of later ages revelation is in all cases requisite to him who immeregard with a sort of contemptuous commiseration. diately and at first receives it; for the question is not,

“ But, may we not be permitted to ask, whence this whether private revelations have ever been made by assumed superiority of modern over ancient philosophers God to individuals, and what evidence is required to has arisen ? and whence the extraordinary influx of authenticate them; but what is the kind of evidenoe light upon these latter times has been derived? Is there which we ought to require of one who professes to have any one so infatuated by his admiration of the present received a revelation of the will of God, with a command age, as seriously to think that the intellectual powers to communicate it to us, and to enjoin it upon our of man are stronger and more perfect now than they were wont to be; or that the particular talents of him- (8) Do: DRIDGE's Lectures, Part 5, Definition 68.

« PreviousContinue »