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is to be chosen for its own sake. If right, justice, truth, virtue, or any thing else is to be chosen as an end, then just so much regard must be had to them as their nature and importance demand. If the good or valuable to being be an ultimate good, and truth and justice and virtue are also to be chosen, each for its own sake, here we meet with this difficulty, namely, that the good or valuable is one end to be chosen, and right another, and virtue another, and truth another, and justice another, and the beautiful another, and so on. Now, who does not see that if this be so, moral obligation can not be a unit nor can moral action be simple? If there be more considerations than one that ought to have influence in deciding choice, the choice is not right, or at least wholly right unless each consideration that ought to have weight, really has the influence due to it in deciding choice. If each consideration has not its due regard, the choice certainly is not what it ought to be. In other words, all the things that ought to be chosen are not chosen. Indeed, it is self-evident, if there is complexity in the ultimate end to be chosen, there must be the same complexity in the choice, or the choice is not what it ought to be; and if several considerations ought to influence ultimate choice, then there are so many distinct ultimate ends. If this is so, then each of them must have its due regard in every case of virtuous intention. But who then could ever tell whether he allowed to each exactly the relative influence it ought to have? This would confound and stultify the whole subject of moral obligation. This theory virtually and flatly contradicts the law of God and the repeated declaration that love to God and our neighbor is the whole of virtue. What, does God say that all the law is fulfilled in one word, Love, that is, love to God and our neighbor; and shall a christian philosopher overlook this, and insist that we ought to love not only God and our neighbor, but to will the right, and the true, and the just, and the beautiful, and multitudes of such like things for their own sake? The law of God makes and knows only one ultimate end, and shall this philosophy be allowed to confuse us by teaching that there are many ultimate ends, that we ought to will each for its own Nay verily. But if by this theory it is intended that right, and justice, and truth, and the beautiful, &c., are to be chosen only for their intrinsic or relative value to being, then the valuable alone is the foundation of moral obligation. This is simple and intelligible. But if these are to be chosen each for its own sake, then there are so
many different ends to be chosen. If it be their intrinsic value that is to be chosen, then there is really but one object of ultimate choice, and that is the intrinsically valuable to being, and it is this upon which the choice terminates in whatsoever this quality may be found, whether in right, virtue, justice, truth, &c. But if on the other hand it is not the valuable to being found in these things which is the reason for choosing them, but each of these things is to be chosen on its own account for a reason distinct from its intrinsic value to being, then there are, as has been said, distinct objects of choice or distinct ultimate ends, which must involve the whole subject of moral law, moral obligation, moral action, and moral character in vast confusion. I might here insist upon the intrinsic absurdity of regarding right, justice, virtue, the beautiful, &c. as ultimate goods, instead of mental satisfaction or enjoyment. But I waive this point at present, and observe that either this theory resolves itself into the true one, namely, that the valuable to being, in whatsoever that value be found, is the sole foundation of moral obligation, or it is pernicious error. If it be not the true theory, it does not and can not teach ought but error upon the subject of moral law, moral obligation, and of course of morals and religion. It is either, then, confusion and nonsense, or it resolves itself into the true theory, just stated.
X. Lastly, I come to the consideration of the practical bearings of what I regard as the true theory of the foundation of moral obligation, namely that the highest well-being of God and of the Universe is the sole foundation of moral obligation.
Upon this philosophy I remark,
1. That if this be true the whole subject of moral obligation is perfectly simple and intelligible; so plain indeed that the wayfaring man though a fool can not err therein."
(1.) Upon this theory moral obligation respects the choice of an ultimate end.
(2.) This end is a unit.
(3.) It is necessarily known to every moral agent. (4.) The choice of this end is the whole of virtue.
(5.) It is impossible to sin while this end is intended with all the heart and with all the soul.
(6.) Upon this theory every moral agent knows in every possible instance what is right, and can never mistake his real duty.
(7.) This ultimate intention is right and nothing else is right, more or less.
(8.) Right and wrong respect ultimate intention only and are always the same. Right can be predicated only of good will, and wrong only of selfishness. These are fixed and permanent. If a moral agent can know what end he aims at or lives for, he can know and can not but know at all times whether he is right or wrong. All that upon this theory a moral agent needs to be certain of is, whether he lives for the right end, and this, if at all honest or if dishonest, he really can not but know. If he would ask what is right or what is duty at any time, he need not wait for a reply. It is right for him to intend the highest good of being as an end. If he honestly does this, he can not, doing this, mistake his duty, for in doing this he really performs the whole of duty. With this honest intention it is impossible that he should not use the means to promote this end according to the best light he has; and this is right. A single eye to the highest good of God and the universe is the whole of morality, strictly considered, and upon this theory moral law, moral government, moral obligation, virtue, vice, and the whole subject of morals and religion are the perfection of simplicity. If this theory be true, no honest mind ever mistook the path of duty. To intend the highest good of being is right and is duty. No mind is honest that is not steadily pursuing this end. But in the nonest pursuit of this end there can be no sin, no mistaking the path of duty. That is and must be the path of duty that really appears to a benevolent mind to be so. That is, it must be his duty to act in conformity with his honest convictions. This is duty, this is right. So, upon this theory, no one who is truly honest in pursuing the highest good of being ever did or can mistake his duty in any such sense as to commit sin. I have spoken with great plainness, and perhaps with some severity, of the several systems of error, as I cannot but regard them, upon the most fundamental and important of subjects; not certainly from any want of love to those who hold them, but from a concern long cherished and growing upon me for the honor of truth and for the good of being. Should any of you ever take the trouble to look into this subject, length and breadth, and read the various systems, and take the trouble to trace out their practical results, as actually developed in the opinions and practices of men, you certainly would not be at a loss to account for the theological and philosophical fogs that so bewilder the world. How can it be otherwise with such confusion of opinion upon the fundamental question of morals and religion?
I. IN WHAT SENSE OBEDIENCE TO MORAL LAW CANNOT BE PARTIAL.
In discussing this question I must,
1. Show what constitutes obedience to moral law.
2. That obedience cannot be partial in the sense that the subject ever does or can partly obey and partly disobey at the same time.
I. What constitutes obedience &c.
We have seen in former lectures that disinterested benevolence is all that the spirit of moral law requires, that is, that the love which it requires to God and our neighbor is good willing, willing the highest good or well-being of God and of being in general, as an end, or for its own sake; that this willing is a consecration of all the powers, so far as they are under the control of the will, to this end. Entire consecration to this end must of course constitute obedience to the moral law. The next question is: Can consecration to this end be real and yet partial in the sense of not being entire for the time being? This conducts us to the second proposition, namely:
II. That obedience can not be partial in the sense that the subject ever does or can partly obey and partly disobey at the same time.
That is, consecration, to be real, must be, for the time being, entire and universal. It will be seen that this discussion respects the simplicity of moral action, that is, whether the choices of the will that have any degree of conformity to moral law are always and necessarily wholly conformed or wholly disconformed to it. There are two distinct branches to this inquiry.
1. The one is, can the will at the same time make opposite choices? Can it choose the highest good of being as an ultimate end, and at the same time choose any other ultimate end or make any choices whatever inconsistent with this ultimate choice?
2. The second branch of this inquiry respects the strength or intensity of the choice. Suppose but one ultimate choice can exist at the same time, may not that choice be less efficient and intense than it ought to be?
Let us take up these two inquiries in their order.
1. Can the will at the same time choose opposite and conflicting ultimate ends? While one ultimate end is chosen can the will choose any thing inconsistent with this end? In reply to the first branch of this inquiry I observe,
(1.) That the choice of an ultimate end is, and must be, the supreme preference of the mind. Sin is the supreme preference of self-gratification. Holiness is the supreme preference ... of the good of being. Can then two supreme preferences coexist in the same mind? It is plainly impossible to make opposite choices at the same time. That is, to choose opposite and conflicting ultimate ends.
(2.) All intelligent choice, as has been formerly shown, must respect ends or means. Choice is synonymous with intention. If there is a choice or intention, of necessity something must be chosen or intended. This something must be chosen for its own sake or as an end, or for the sake of something else to which it sustains the relation of a means. To deny this were to deny that the choice is intelligent. But we are speaking of no other than intelligent choice, or the choice of a moral agent.
(3.) This conducts us to the inevitable conclusion that no choice whatever can be made inconsistent with the present choice of an ultimate end. The mind can not choose one ultimate end, and choose at the same time another ultimate end. But if this can not be, it is plain that it can not choose one ultimate end, and at the same time, while in the exercise of that choice, choose the means to secure some other ultimate end, which other end is not chosen. But if all choice must necessarily respect ends or means, and if the mind can choose but one ultimate end at a time, it follows that, while in the exercise of one choice, or while in the choice of one ultimate end, the mind can not choose, for the time being, any thing inconsistent with that choice. The mind, in the choice of an ultimate end, is shut up to the necessity of willing the means to acccomplish that end; and before it can possibly will means to secure any other ultimate end, it must change its choice of an end. If, for example, the soul choose the highest well-being of God and the universe as an ultimate end, it can not while it continues to choose that end, use or choose the means to effect any other end. It can not while this choice continues, choose self-gratification or any thing else as an ultimate end, nor can it put forth any volition whatever known to be inconsistent with this end. Nay, it can put forth no intelligent volition whatever that is not designed