Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

exist in the breast of an individual, or extend its healing wings over a bleeding world, it must be by the fubversion of this principle, and by the prevalence of that religion which teaches us to love God fupremely, ourselves subordinately, and our fellowcreatures as ourselves.

To furnith a standard of morality, some of our adversaries have had recourse to the Laws of the State ; avowing them to be the rule or measure of virtue. Mr. Hobbes inaintained that The civil law was the fole foundation of right and wrong, and that religion had no obligation but as enjoined by the magiftrate : and Lord Bolingbroke often writes in a strain nearly fimilar, disowning any other fanction or penalty by which obedience to the law of nature is enforced, than those which are provided by the laws of the land. *

But this rule is defective, absurd, contradictory, and subversive of all true morality. First, It is grosso ly defective. This is justly represented by a prophet of their own. “ It is a narrow notion of innocence, “ fays Seneca, to measure a 'man's goodness only by “ the law. Of how much larger extent is the rule of duty, or of good offices, than that of legal

right? How many things are there which piety,

humanity, liberality, justice, and fidelity require, " which yet are not within the compass of the pub“ lic statutes ?”+ Secondly, It is absurd : for if the public statutes be the only standard of right and wrong, legislators in framing them could be under no law; nor is it possible that in any instance they

Works, Vol V. p. 90.
+ Leland's Advantage and Necesity of Revelation,

Vol. II. Pt. II. Ch. III. p. 4u.

should have enacted injustice. Thirdly, It is contradictory. Human laws, we all know, require different, and opposite things in different nations; and in the same nation at different times.

If this principle be right, it is right for deifts to be persecuted for their opinions at one period, and to persecute others for theirs at another.

Finally, It is fubversive of all true morality. “ The « civil laws, as Dr. Leland has observed, take no " cognizance of secret crimes, and provide no pun« ilhment for internal bad dispositions, or corrupt « affections. A man may be safely as wicked as he “ pleases, on this principle, provided he can ma

nage so as to escape punishment from the laws of “ his country, which very bad men, and those that " are guilty of great vices easily may, and frequent« ly do evade."

Rouleau has recourse to feelings as his standard. " I have only to consult myself, he says, concern« ing what I ought to do. All that I feel to be " right is right. Whatever I feel to be wrong is wrong.

All the morality of our actions lies in “ the judgment we ourselves form of them."* By this rule his conduct through life appears to have been directed, as we shah'hereafter perceive.

But that on which our opponents insist the most, and with the greatest few of argument, is the law and light of nature. This is their profeffed rule on almost all occafions; and its praises they are continually founding. I have no desire to depreciate the light of nature, or to disparage its value as a rule. On the contrary, I consider it as occupying an important place in the divine government. Whatever may be faid of the light poffeffed by the heathen as being derived from revelation, I feel no difficulty in acknowledging, that the grand law which they are under is that of nature. Revelation itself appears to me so to represent it; holding it up as the rule by which they shall be judged, and declar, ing its dictates to be so clear as to leave them withe out excuse.* Nature and Scripture appear to me to be as inuch in harmony as Mofes and Christ; both are celebrated in the fame Pfalm.t

* Ewilius, Vol. I. pp. 166mm 168.

By the light of nature, however, I do not mean those ideas which heathens have actually entertained, many of which have been darkness; but thofe which were presented to them by the works of creation, and which they might have poffefled had they been desirous of retaining God in their knowledge. And by the dictates of nature, with regard to right and wrong, I understand those things which appear

; to the mind of a person sincerely disposed to understand and practise his duty, to be natural, fit, or reasonable. There is doubtless an eternal difference between right and wrong; and this difference, in a vast variety of instances, is manifeft to every man who sincerely and impartially considers it. So manifest have the power and Godhead of the Creator þeen rendered in every age, that no person of an upright disposition could, through mere mistake, fall into idolatry or. impiety; and every one whọ has continued in these abominations is without excuse. The desire also which every human being feels of having justice done to him from all other persons muft render it fufficiently manifest to his judgment that he ought to do the same to them ; and where


* Roin. i. 12. 2016. i. 20.

† Pf. xix.

in he acts otherwise, his conscience, unless it be feared as with a hot iron, muft accuse him.

But does it follow from hence that Revelation is unnecessary. I trow not. It is one thing for nature to afford so much light, in matters of right and wrong, as to leave the finner without excuse; and another to afford him any well-grounded hope of forgiveness, or to answer his difficulties concerning the account which something within him says he must hereafter give of his present conduct.

Farther, It is one thing to leave finners without excuse in fin, and another thing to recover them from it. That the light of nature is insufficient for the latter, is demonstrated by melancholy fact. Instead of returning to God and virtue, those nations which have poffefled the highest degrees of it have gone farther and farther into immorality. There is not a single example of a people, of their own accord, returning to the acknowledgment of the true God, or extricating themselves from the most irrational species of idolatry, or defisting from the most odious kinds of vice. Those nations where science diffused a more than ordinary lustre, were as fuperstitious, and as wicked as the most barbarous; and in many instances exceeded them. It was, I doubt not, from a clofe observation of the different efficacy of nature and scripture, that the writer of the Nineteenth Psalm (a Psalm which Mr. Paine pretends to admire) after having given a just tribute of praise to the former, affirmed of the latter, The Law of Jehovah is perfect converting the foul.

Again, It is one thing for that which is natural, fit, or reasonable, in matters of duty, to approve itself to a mind sincerely disposed to understand and practise it, and another to approve itself to a mind


[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »