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excusing' them.* There is, then, an inscription, by the finger of God, on man's inward nature; which, however obscured and defaced through the working of selfishness and passion, may still be traced by diligent and painstaking observation. There is a moral constitution, the natural powers and principles of which, notwithstanding the perversion which has been made of them in practice, still indicate significantly man's destiny as an accountable being, and point to the general duties which he ought to discharge.
There are two extremes on this subject against which those who would arrive at truth should endeavour carefully to guard. The one is that of considering ethics, pursued exclusively on the principle of reasoning from the actual phenomena of the moral world, as a final science, a science wholly complete in itself for all purposes. Wherever a revelation from heaven is acknowledged to exist, an inductive philosophy of man's moral nature, or, in other words, a reply uttered by the voice of reason, alone, to the momentous questions which concern the entire range of duty and happiness, should obviously stand as but a fragment, though a very important fragment, of the whole truth respecting man as a moral being. The remarks of Dr. Chalmers in his Bridgewater Treatise are applicable both to natural theology and natural ethics. The theology of nature and of the schools, the theology of the ethical class, though most unsatisfactory when treated as a terminating science, is most important when treated as a rudimental one. The great error of our academic theism, as commonly treated, is that it expresses no want; that it reposes on its own fancied sufficiency. It is no reproach against our philosophical moralists that they have not stepped beyond the threshold of that peculium which is strictly and appropriately theirs; or not made incursions into another department than their own. The legitimate complaint is, that on taking leave of their disciples, they warn them not of their being only yet at the outset, or in the prosecution of a journey, instead of having reached the termination of it. Moral philosophy, even in its most finished state, is not what may be called a terminating science. It is at best but a science in transitu, and its lessons are those of a preparatory school. Its contains the rudiments of a nobler acquirement.'
We are strongly reminded by some of these appropriate remarks of the contrast subsisting between the self-satisfied tone of some modern ethical systems, which are well described as 'expressing no want;' and the conscious want of something beyond themselves which is expressed in the speculations of some of the great moralists of antiquity. We must content
Rom. ii. 15.
ourselves with referring, at the foot of the page, to several passages of Plato by way of illustration. It is a singular fact (and it is a fact) that after Christianity had been shedding its light on the moral nature of man for sixteen or seventeen centuries, we have seen the rise of successive systems of ethical philosophy possessing far less of moral elevation, systems far more cold and heartless, far less animated with an humble and reverent spirit, than we may find among those who lived in the dark depths of paganism, centuries before that light arose. Can we, then, wonder that the Christian moralist should feel jealous of much that has styled itself ethics, in modern times ? that he should maintain that ethics, if based on reason alone, is then, only legitimate when avowedly not a final and terminating science and that he should express dissatisfaction with any system which comes forth in such a manner as to overlook the fact that it is not a full and perfect response to all the moral necessities of man? Natural ethics may furnish a true theory of morals; but how to remedy the want of conformity which there is wont to be in man with the rule of his own nature-how to harmonize man with himself? is' a question to which our human reason can return no certain and satisfactory reply.'+
But if modern philosophers have often erred on the side of excess, by propounding inductive ethics, or ethics as derived solely from observation and reason, as though it were in itself a final and complete science of man regarded as a moral, accountable, and immortal being--a science self-contained, and adequately meeting the moral wants of our nature as it now is; on the other hand, there are those, who, as it seems to us, fall into the opposite extreme, and err by defect, in wishing to shut up all inquiries respecting man's moral nature within the covers of the sacred volume. It is surely interesting, and it is important to the general cause of truth, to seek in a natural morality materials which may exhibit the harmony of the voice of man's nature with the voice of inspiration. Truth cannot but be always consonant with truth. Its evidence may flow from different sources, but all its lines must ultimately converge to the same point. We might as well propose to find a circle whose radii should meet in two centres, as to imagine that what is true as attested by a clear consciousness, or by a just observation of nature, is not true as connected with religion. No one, surely, excepting in burlesque, would now think of maintaining the assertion of Hoffman, once divinity professor at Helmstadt, that'what is true in philosophy is false in theology!' A keener irony against truth could not have been spoken in jest; nor a doctrine more self-contradictory hare been uttered by a sceptical philosopher! Some there are, how. ever, 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.
* Phæd. $78. Epinom. $ 8, $.11. De Repub. iv. 5 5. De Legib. i. $11. Apolog. Socrat. $ 18. Alcib. ii. 22.
+ Whewell's Four Sermons preached before the University of Cambridgr November, 1837. Vid. p. 50.
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, fundamental 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, cannot 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 'termi. nating' 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