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does not know that there is much of this morality and religion in the world and in the church? Infidels are great sticklers for this religion,and often exhibit as much of it as do some rightarian professors of religion. The fact is, it is a severe, stern, loveless, Godless, Christless philosophy, and nothing but happy inconsistency prevents its advocates from uniformly so manifesting it to the world. I have already in a former lecture shown that this theory is identical with that which represents the idea of duty as the foundation of moral obligation and that it gives the same instructions to inquiring sinners. It exhorts them to resolve to do duty, to resolve to serve the Lord, to make up their minds at all times to do right, to resolve to give their hearts to God, to resolve to conform in all things to right, &c. The absurdity and danger of such instructions were sufficiently exposed in the lecture referred to. The law of right when conceived of as distinct from the law of benevolence, is a perfect strait-jacket, an iron collar, a snare of death.
This philosophy represents all war, all slavery, and many things as wrong per se, without insisting upon such a definition of those things as necessarily implies selfishness. Any thing whatever is wrong in itself that includes and implies selfishness, and nothing else is or can be. All war waged for selfish purposes is wrong per se. But war waged for benevolent purposes, or war required by the law of benevolence, is neither wrong in itself, nor wrong in any proper sense. All holding men in bondage for selfish motives is wrong in itself, but holding men in bondage in obedience to the law of benevolence is not wrong but right. And so it is with every thing else. Therefore where it is insisted that all war and all slavery or any thing else is wrong in itself, such a definition of things must be insisted on as necessarily implies selfishness. But consistent rightarianism will insist that all war, all slavery, and all of many other things, is wrong in itself without regard to its being a violation of the law of benevolence. This is consistent with this philosophy, but it is most false and absurd in fact. Indeed any philosophy that assumes the existence of a law of right distinct from and, may be, opposed to the law of benevolence, must teach many doctrines at war with both reason and revelation. It sets men in chase of a philosophical abstraction as the supreme end of life, instead of the concrete reality of the highest well-being of God and the universe. It preys upon his soul and turns into solid iron all the tender sensibilities of his being. Do but contemplate
a human being supremely devoted to an abstraction as the end of life. He wills the right for the sake of the right. For this he lives and moves and has his being. What sort of religion is this? God forbid that I should be understood as holding or insinuating that professed rightarians universally or even generally consistently carry their theory to its legitimate boundary, and that they manifest the spirit that it naturally begets. No. I am most happy in acknowledging that with many, and perhaps with most of them, it is so purely a theory that they are not greatly influenced by it in practice. Many of them I regard as among the excellent of the earth, and I am happy to count them among my dearest and most valued friends. But I speak of the philosophy with its natural results when embraced, not merely as a theory, but when adopted by the heart as the rule of life. It is only in such cases that its natural and legitimate fruits appear. Only let it be borne in mind that right is conformity to moral law, that moral law is the law of nature, or the law founded in the nature and relations of moral agents, the law that requires just that course of willing and action that tends naturally to secure the highest well-being of all moral agents, that requires this course of willing and acting for the sake of the end in which it naturally and governmentally results-and requires that this end shall be aimed at or intended by all moral agents as the supreme good and the only ultimate end of life. I say, only let these truths be borne in mind and you will never talk of a right or a virtue, or a law, obedience to which necessarily results in universal misery; nor will you conceive that such a thing is possible.
V. The philosophy that comes next under review is that which teaches that the Divine Goodness or Moral Excellence is the foundation of moral obligation.
The practical tendency of this philosophy is to inculcate and develope a false idea of what constitutes virtue. It inevitably leads its advocates to regard religion as consisting in a mere feeling of complacency in God. It overlooks, and, if consistent, must overlook the fact that all true morality and religion consists in benevolence or in willing the highest wellbeing of God and the universe as an ultimate end. It must represent true religion either as a phenomenon of the sensibility, or as consisting in willing the goodness or benevolence of God as an end; either of which is radical error. This scheme does not and can not rightly represent either the character of God or the nature and spirit of his law and govern
ment. It, in teaching, presents the benevolence of God, not as an inducement to benevolence in us, that is, not as a means of leading us to consider and adopt the same end of life to which God is consecrated, but as being the end to which we are to consecrate ourselves. It holds forth the goodness of God, not for the sake of setting the great end he has in view strongly before us, and inducing us to become like him in consecrating ourselves to the same end, to wit, the highest good of being, but it absurdly insists that His goodness is the foundation of our obligation, which is the same thing as to insist that we are to make His goodness the ultimate end of life, instead of that end at which God aims, and aiming at which constitutes His virtue. Instead of representing the benevolence of God as clearly revealing our obligation to be benevolent, it represents the benevolence as being the foundation of obligation. Obligation to what? Not to will good, certainly; for it is a gross contradiction as we have repeatedly seen, to say that I am under obligation to will good to God as an ultimate end or for its own sake, yet not for this reason, but because God is good. This philosophy, if consistent, must present the goodness of God as a means of awakening emotions of complacency in God, and not for the purpose of making us benevolent, for it does not regard religion as consisting in benevolence, but in a love to God for His goodness, which can be nothing else than a feeling of complacency. But this is radical error. The practical bearings of this theory are well illustrated in the arguments used to support it, as stated and refuted when examining its claims in a former lecture. The fact is, it misrepresents the character, law, and government of God, and of necessity, the nature of true religion. It harps perpetually on the goodness of God as the sole reason for loving Him, which demonstrates that benevolence does not, and consistently can not enter into its idea of virtue or true religion.
There is, no doubt, a vast amount of spurious selfish religion in the world growing out of this philosophy. Many love God because they regard him as loving them, as being their benefactor and particular friend. They are grateful for favors bestowed on self. But they forget the philosophy and theology of Christ who said: "If ye love them that love you what thank have ye? Do not even sinners love those that love them?" They seem to have no idea of a religion of disinterested benevolence.
VI. The next theory to be noticed is that which teaches that Moral Order is the foundation of moral obligation.
The practical objection to this theory is, that it presents a totally wrong end as the great object of life. According to the teachings of this school, moral order is that intrinsically valuable end at which all moral agents ought to aim, and to which they are bound to consecrate themselves. If by moral order the highest good of being is intended, this philosophy is only another name for the true one. But if, as I suppose is the fact, by moral order no such thing as the highest good of God and the universe is intended, then the theory is false and can not teach other than pernicious error. It must misrepresent God, His law and government, and of course must hold radically false views in respect to the nature of holiness and sin. It holds up an abstraction as the end of life, and exalts moral order above all that is called God. It teaches that men ought to love moral order with all the heart, and with all the soul. But the theory is sheer nonsense as was shown in its place. Its practical bearing is only to bewilder and confuse the mind.
Again: The theory must overlook or deny the fact that moral obligation respects the ultimate intention; for it seems impossible that any one possessing reason can suppose that moral order can be the end to which moral beings ought to consecrate themselves. The absurdity of the theory itself was sufficiently exposed in a former lecture. Its practical bearings and tendency are only to beget confusion in all our ideas of moral law and moral government.
VII. We next come to the practical bearings of the theory that moral obligation is founded in the nature and relations of moral agents.
The first objection to this theory is that it confounds the conditions with the foundation of moral obligation. The nature and relations of moral beings are certainly conditions of their obligation to will each other's good. But it is absolutely childish to affirm that the obligation to will each other's good is not founded in the value of good but in their nature and relations. But for the intrinsic value of their good their nature and relations would be no reason at all why they should will good rather than evil to each other. To represent the nature and relations of moral agents as the foundation of moral obligation is to mystify and misrepresent the whole subject of moral law, moral government, moral obligation, the nature of sin and holiness, and beget confusion in all our thoughts on moral subjects. What but grossest error can find a lodgment in that mind that consistently regards the nature and relations
of moral beings as the foundation of moral obligation? If this be the true theory, then the nature and relations of moral agents is the ultimate end to which moral agents are bound to consecrate themselves. Their nature and relations is the intrinsically valuable end which we are bound to choose for its own sake. This is absurd. But if this philosophy misrepresents the foundation of moral obligation, it can consistently teach absolutely nothing but error on the whole subject of morals and religion. If it mistakes the end to be intended by moral agents, it errs on the fundamental fact of all morals and religion. As all true morality and true religion consists exclusively in willing the right end, if this end be mistaken, the error is fatal. It is, then, no light thing to hold that moral obligation is founded in the nature and relations of moral beings. Such statements are a great deal worse than nonsense-they are radical error on the most important subject in the world. What consistency can there be in the views of one who consistently holds this theory? What ideas must he have of moral law and of every thing else connected with practical theology? Instead of willing the highest good of God and of being he must hold himself under obligation to will the nature and relations of moral beings as an ultimate end.
VIII. The next theory in order is that which teaches that the idea of duty is the foundation of moral obligation. But as I sufficiently exposed the tendency and practical bearings of this theory in a former lecture, I will not repeat here, but pass to the consideration of another theory.
IX. The complexity of the foundation of moral obligation. In respect to the practical bearings of this theory, I re
1. The reason that induces choice is the real object chosen. If, for example, the value of an object induce the choice of that object, the valuable is the real object chosen. If the rightness of a choice of an object induce choice, then the right is the real object chosen. If the virtuousness of an object induce choice, then virtue is the real object chosen.
2. Whatever really influences the mind in choosing must be an object chosen. Thus if the mind have various reasons for a choice, it will choose various ends or objects.
3. If the foundation of moral obligation be not a unit, moral action or intention can not be simple. If any thing else than the intrinsically valuable to being is or can be the foundation of moral obligation, then this thing, whatever it is,