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men, and what kind of offices it exacts from them, it is amazing how crude and ill-digested their notions would oftentimes. appear to be.

1. So far as the simple knowledge of duty is concerned, we may err, on the one hand, by exaggerating the necessity of revelation, and, on the other, by exaggerating the sufficiency of reason. There can be no doubt that morality is a subject which falls within the province of natural light. To say that we are dependent on the word and oracle of God, as Bacon seems to insinuate,* "not only in those points of faith which concern the great mysteries of the Deity, of the creation, of the redemption, but likewise those which concern the law moral truly interpreted;" to say that we can have, from the dictates of conscience, only negative conceptions of rectitude "sufficient to check the vice, but not to inform the duty," is to contradict alike the testimony of Scripture and the expe

* Advancement of Learning. Works, vol. ii. p. 300.—Mon


rience of mankind. "For, when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves." A being without the sense of obligation, and a spontaneous recognition of the fundamental differences of right and wrong, could not be responsible. He could not form the remotest notion of duty, and the language of authority and law might as well be addressed to stocks and stones. The elemental principles of right, therefore, which are involved in the very

conception of a moral ceded to man as man.

rights of his being, and subsequent revelation.

nature, must be con

They are the birthnot the legacy of a An intelligent crea

ture, without primitive beliefs to determine and regulate the operations of the cognitive faculties, would be no greater absurdity than a moral and responsible creature without primitive laws of right to determine and regulate the operations of moral judgment. But it is equally an error to maintain that, because the Scriptures presuppose the moral

constitution of man, they are of little or no importance, considered as a rule of life. It is one thing to say that reason is a law, and another to say that it is a perfect law. In our present fallen condition, it is impossible to excogitate a standard of duty which shall be warped by none of our prejudices, distorted by none of our passions, and corrupted by none of our habits. We are liable to as great perversions of the original principles of right as of the original principles of truth. The elements of reason have no power to secure their just application. There never has appeared an absolutely perfect rule of duty among any nations, however civilized and cultivated, that were destitute of revelation. It is only of the law of the Lord, as contained in the Scriptures, that we can justly say, it is perfect. There are two respects in which every natural system of morality is likely to be found wanting. In the first place, the difficulty of re-producing in reflection the spontaneous processes of conscience, and of seizing upon its fundamental laws in their

integrity and completeness, renders it next to impossible, that the verbal generalizations of philosophy shall exactly represent the operations of the mind. Something is apt to be omitted or added. The danger is enhanced by the difficulty of distinguishing betwixt prejudices of education and natural principles; it is easy to confound a crotchet with a principle, to make a maxim of a habit of thought. In the next place, the application of these fundamental laws, supposing them properly eliminated, to the concrete cases of life, requires great delicacy and caution. We are as likely to go wrong, from misapplying a true principle, as from adopting a false one. The heathen father admits the great law of parental affection; he misapplies it when he murders his infant child, to save him from the miseries of life. The heathen son recognizes the duty of filial piety; he reasons badly upon it when he puts his aged parents to death. Here our depravity exerts its power; it is a constant temptation to pervert the original principle of right, to make light dark

ness, and darkness light. It is here, too, that the principal defects of every natural scheme of morality are exhibited. True principles are falsely applied. We make crimes of duties and duties of crimes. It is not so much that the law is wrong; that the prime data are questionable, though they are often defective, as that the law is not legitimately carried out -its proper applications are not seen-limitations and exceptions are superinduced by our circumstances, and we envelope ourselves in a cloud, and the result is, that a deceived heart turns us aside. The Scriptures, as an authoritative rule of duty, guard against these defects. They prescribe the law in its fulness and integrity-they illustrate its application by description and example-they indicate the prejudices which are likely to pervert us, and signalize the spirit which will always ensure obedience. By the infallibility of their results, they are of inestimable value to the moral philosopher himself. When his speculations contradict their statements, he knows that there is an error in his processes

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