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logy!' A keener irony against truth could not have been spoken in jest; nor a doctrine more self-contradictory have been uttered by a sceptical philosopher! Some there are, however, sincere believers in Christianity, who are satisfied to neglect any light which speculative philosophy might throw on the principles of ethics. This is to forget that philosophy and theology are, so far as they proceed in the same career, but two distinct replies to the grand question of man's destiny. It is true that Christianity advances far beyond the point where philosophy halts in her course; but so far as that course continues, it is mutual; they run on in parallel lines. For if we find that there are, in any system, elements hopelessly irreconcileable with Christianity, we are able to pronounce that system, even when examined by the light of our own minds, a 'philosophy falsely so called. Such is that ethical theory, for example, which would identify morality, in all cases, with human legislation, or social custom: a principle which is fatal to the very idea of a real moral law; and on which, also, the Christian axiom that we' ought to obey God rather than men,' has obviously no meaning whatever, and therefore no obligation.
None will deny the assertion that man's highest destiny on earth is not to follow passion or self-interest, but duty. Hence arise two questions, the one objective, the other subjective: what is virtue? and, by what faculties of man's nature does he distinguish between right and wrong? To these questions, and they are compendious of all others on the general subject of morals, philosophy aims to give an answer. The solutions which are within her reach are the product of the mind by means of a self-review, combined with the observation and the history of man in general. There are, it is beyond doubt, fun. damental laws of thought and feeling, a constitution of our intellectual and moral nature which, so far as its province extends, is decisive and final in impressing us with the conviction of truth. Should any one refuse to admit certain primary and intuitive elements in our mental structure-if he were to deny, for example, that his mind is cognizant of a universal and neces. sary truth in such a proposition, as that two magnitudes are equal to each other when each is equal to a third, or that every change must have a cause, all argument with such an individual would be at an end : there is no common ground on which to reason. It is by means of confidence in the connate laws of our mental constitution that we believe in Revelation itself. Even its evidence respecting the moral attributes of the Deity becomes convincing by its harmony with the general ideas of goodness which nature teaches us to form. Why do we appeal to a revelation from God as decisive of all the questions of which it treats? Is it because we are told in the Scriptures that God
is truth?' On what principle do we then believe this declaration ? If it should be replied that we do so ultimately on the authority of God himself; we must then believe already that God is true, in order to have a ground for receiving the Scripture declaration of his truth. We cannot, therefore, escape from a natural theology, and a natural ethical philosophy, even if we would.
It is likely that one main cause why philosophical inquiries into morals have failed, in this country, to inspire more confidence, is that much of the ethical philosophy which has been taught by authority, has been of a character so defective and unsatisfactory. It has in fact been far less elevated in its general principles than the teaching of Plato, or of the Stoics; and it has been, in some respects, below the current moral sentiments of inankind. Especially have the ideas of moral obligation which have been derived from religious sources, always and justly prevented Paley's views from being generally received; though his work has long formed an element in our ancient university-system. Surely that is far from being a lofty view of human virtue which recognizes the impelling ·motive to it as centering in self; and which represents that good is to be done to man, and obedience rendered to God, ' for the sake of happiness. What is virtue, on this principle, but the enlightened pursuit of gratification, instead of being something which is pursued for its own sake ?* A great name will not atone for the reduction of moral principle to a kind of expediency, nor for the lax morality discovered in some of its practical applications. We are not surprised that there has been of late a re-action in some influential minds at Cambridge against this text-book; and we think that the University of London has done wisely in so far neutralizing its tendency on the minds of students, as to introduce Butler's Three Sermons on Human Nature into the examination for the Bachelor's degree,
The prevalence of systems of moral philosophy which are not true to man's better judgment and feelings, (that is not true to nature, or which appear on the face of them alien from the spirit which pervades the ethics of Christianity, has no doubt tended to create, in some earnestly Christian minds, a jealousy of all attempts to construct an ethical system out of the elements of man's nature, viewed in connection with its actual moral phenomena. Some object to these attempts, one and all ; mainly on the alleged ground that the present state of man is such as to preclude the deduction of any true moral system from the observation of nature. As man is both the observer and the observed, it is alleged that his conclusions must be doubly affected by the moral evil which attaches to his present con
* See Paley's Moral Philosophy, Bk. i. ch. 6.
dition; hence the moral constitution of man, as he now is, can. not present a fair exhibition of what God wills, or afford any correct index to the principles of moral rectitude. This is the argument of Dr. Wardlaw, in his popular and excellent work, entitled 'Christian Ethics.' We confess, however, that notwithstanding our high respect for its venerable and truly christian author, we have not been able, after carefully perusing it, to avoid the conclusion that it is one of those books which err by a unilateral and partial view of the subject. If philosophers have too frequently appeared to supersede christianity by treating natural ethics as though it were a 'terminating' science, a perfect and complete guide to man; we think that the respected writer we have named has fallen into the opposite extreme of attributing too little to human nature, as a source of theoretic morals. On his principles it becomes necessary to limit and qualify, in a greater degree than seems to us admissible, the scriptural representation above alluded to respecting the Gentiles doing by nature the things contained in the law,' and being 'a law unto themselves ;' shewing the work of the law written on the heart. To us there appears no satisfactory sense of these words which does not admit that man has moral faculties which are sufficient, even in a state of paganism, to guide him to a certain degree of virtue, provided only that he were inclined to pay suitable attention to their dictates, and to endeavour after the knowledge and the fulfilment of duty, with the same pains which he has been willing to devote to the acquisition of wealth, power, learning, or fame. For how else, we may ask, can there be any consistent meaning in the language: 'so that they are without excuse ?' To suppose that the present state of human nature renders void all attempts to frame a theory of morals, true as far as it goes, from an examination of the human mind, is, as it seems to us, to confound the perversion of man's faculties in use and act, with their essential native tendency and design. When it is said that 'they (the pagans of antiquity) did not like to retain God in their knowledge,' it is evident that all the awful evils which are spoken of in connection with this state of mind are referred to a voluntary source. It was not the intellect, but the will that was at fault. Had they chosen carefully to trace the path to which the voice of reason and moral feeling called them, had they anxiously sought to follow up the hints and indications of conscience, though they might still not have been exempt from all error as to duty, (and even christians are not exempt, they would never have deviated so lamentably as they did from this law written on the heart. Those who hold the views to which we have above referred as
to the sources of ethics, may congratulate themselves on having so competent and distinguished a representative of their sentiments as the excellent person to whose work we have just referred: but considering the weight which his name and wellmerited reputation are likely to give to his opinions, we cannot help regretting that he should, incidentally, and unintentionally, have contributed, as we think, to depreciate one important source of the internal evidence of revelation, the harmony of its utterances with the voice of man's intellectual and moral nature, as heard audibly in the midst of all the din and uproar of the passions. Some of Dr. Wardlaw's statements might lead his readers to imagine that a theory of natural ethics must necessarily be framed on the principle that the average practical morality of mankind must be made the standard of morals. This, however, is by no means the case. The various and conflicting moral phenomena of human nature are one thing, the conclusions which may be deduced from them another. Hence we find very many ethical systems, both in their principles and rules of conduct, rising far above the sensuality, the selfishness, the pride, the injustice, and the malevolence, which are too commonly to be found in the actual practice of men. Whence then comes the superiority of the esoteric doctrines and precepts, to the exoteric manifestations? Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor. Such moral systems as we speak of have existed, it will be remembered, before the date of christianity. Will it be said that they were made up of remnants of tradition, handed down from man's creation, or diffused over the earth from Judea ? The supposition requires to be confirmed; and even were it proved, it would be most interesting to endeavour to gather together and contemplate these disjecta membra of man's original moral nature. But when it is considered that there were materials for the tradition of evil, as well as of good, that there have always been many evil maxims current in society, and many more evil examples, why do we find that, in the moral systems alluded to, the good has been so much selected in preference to the evil ?-the very same good, to a remarkable extent, which we find in the precepts of christianity itself? Surely it was because the good, however disaffected man's will might be towards it, still found a response within him which the evil did not, an echo from his reason and his conscience, which amounts to the voice of a 'law written on the heart.'
It will hardly, we suppose. be questioned that there has always been a greater difference between men's characters than between the moral rules which they might on deliberation be brought to acknowledge. If passion and self-interest had beer
generally admitted in theory as the true guides of life, we should find it to have been one principle of natural ethics that the gratification of appetite, or the intense pursuit of every thing which centres in self, is more worthy to be followed than the pleasures of benevolence or the duties of religion. But where do we find any such doctrine pronounced to be a part of morals? Crimes may sometimes be regarded as venial through vicious custom, even in the face of the christian precepts; but there are actions and states of mind which conscience and society every where condemn. Duelling may be varnished over with the false colouring of honour, but where was murder in cold blood regarded as no crime? What conscience or sane reason ever deliberately smiled on malice prepense as a virtue? Selfishness may steel the heart and belie conviction, but which of the ancient moral systems would repudiate a regard to the rights of our neighbour, practical beneficence towards the needy, or the excellence of truth for its own sake? Covetousness may dictate the obtaining of property by whatever means, however fraudulent; (quocumque modo rem;) but where shall we find simple unmixed fraud inculcated as a social duty by any pagan writer on ethics? It has been said that at Sparta theft was not regarded as a crime, but rather as a virtue. It is true that the boys of the Homoei were compelled at times to wander about the country, and to live by petty plunder as they could, being subject to punishment only when they were caught in the fact: but it should be remembered that the articles which they were allowed to take, such as cheese, fruit, and the like, were all determined by law, and the object was to harden the boys for warfare, and to prevent the Laconians from remaining secure in possession of their lands. No doubt this practice, as well as that of the crypteia, or annual military excursion, in which the Helots were the principal sufferers, was really wrong, and barbarous enough, but they may with tolerable fairness be put on a par with the colonial oppression, and the cruelty towards slaves, of which unhappily nations calling themselves christian, and with the laws of Christ in their hands, have been far from guiltless. We have no proof here that dishonesty, deceit, and bad faith or injustice between man and man, were regarded at Sparta, theoretically, as elementary principles of virtue. In the Provinciales, Pascal shews how elaborately the Jesuits of his day perverted all moral principle. This was done in the light of Christianity; sometimes under the mask of quotations from its sacred books. Here was an acknowledged law, but how sadly was it tortured into the contradiction of itself! What wonder then if the ‘law written on the heart’ has been found disregarded, or strangely distorted in heathen countries 1 Cer