« السابقةمتابعة »
to secure this end. The only possible choice inconsistent with this end is the choice of another ultimate end. When this is done, other means can be used or chosen and not before. This, then, is plain, to wit, that obedience to moral law can not be partial, in the sense either that the mind can choose two opposite ultimate ends at the same time, or that it can choose one ultimate end and at the same time use or choose means to secure any other ultimate end. It "can not serve God and mammon." It can not will the good of being as an ultimate end, and at the same time will self-gratification as an ultimate end. In other words, it can not be selfish and benevolent at the same time. It can not choose as an ultimate end the highest good of being, and at the same time choose to gratify self as an ultimate end. Until self-gratification is chosen as an end, the mind can not will the means of self-gratification. This disposes of the first branch of the inquiry.
2. The second branch of the inquiry respects the strength or intensity of the choice.
May not the choice of an end be real and yet have less than the required strength or intensity? The inquiry resolves itself into this: Can the mind honestly intend or choose an ultimate end and yet not choose it with all the strength or intensity which is required or with which it ought to choose it? Now what degree of strength is demanded? By what criterion is this question to be settled? It can not be that the degree of intensity required is equal to the real value of the end chosen, for this is infinite. The value of the highest well-being of God and the universe is infinite. But a finite being can not be under obligation to exert infinite strength. The law requires him only to exert his own strength. But does or may he not choose the right end but with less than all his strength? All his strength lies in his will; the question, therefore, is, may he not will it honestly and yet at the same time withhold a part of the strength of his will? No one can presume that the choice can be acceptable unless it be honest. Can it be honest and yet less intense and ener getic than it ought to be?
We have seen in a former lecture that the perception of an end is condition of moral obligation to choose that end. I now remark that as light in respect to the end is the condition of the obligation, so the degree of obligation cannot exceed the degree of light. That is, the mind must apprehend the valuable as a condition of the obligation to will it. The
degree of the obligation must be just equal to the mind's honest estimate of the value of the end. The degree of the obligation must vary as the light varies. This is the doctrine. of the Bible and of reason. If this is so, it follows that the mind is honest when and only when it devotes its strength to the end in view with an intensity just proportioned to its present light or estimate of the value of that end.
We have seen that the mind can not will any thing inconsistent with a present ultimate choice. If, therefore, the end is not chosen with an energy and intensity equal to the present light, it can not be because a part of the strength is employed in some other choice. If all the strength is not given to this object, it must be because some part of it is voluntarily withholden. That is, I choose the end, but not with all my strength, or I choose the end, but choose not to choose it with all my strength. Is this an honest choice, provided the end appears to me to be worthy of all my strength? Certainly it is not honest.
But again: It is absurd to affirm that I choose an ultimate end and yet do not consecrate to it all my strength. The choice of any ultimate end implies that that is the thing and the only thing for which we live and act; that we aim at and live for nothing else for the time being. Now what is intended by the assertion that I may honestly choose an ultimate end and yet with less strength or intensity than I ought. Is it intended that I can honestly choose an ultimate end, and yet not at every moment keep my will upon the strain, and will at every moment with the utmost possible intensity? If this be the meaning, I grant that this may be so. But I at the same time contend that the law of God does not require that the will or any other faculty should be at every moment the strain and the whole strength exerted at every moupon ment. If it does, it is manifest that even Christ did not obey it. I insist that the moral law requires nothing more than honesty of intention, and assumes that honesty of intention will and must secure just that degree of intensity which from time to time the mind in its best judgment sees to be demanded. The Bible every where assumes that sincerity or honesty of intention is moral perfection; that it is obedience to the law. The terms sincerity and perfection in scripture language are synonymous. Uprightness, sincerity, holiness, honesty, perfection, are words of the same meaning in bible language.
Again: It seems to be intuitively certain that if the mind
chooses its ultimate end, it must in the very act of choice consecrate all its time, and strength, and being to that end, and at every moment while the choice remains, choose and act with an intensity in precise conformity with its ability and the best light it has. The intensity of the choice and the strenuousness of its efforts to secure the end chosen must, if the intention be sincere, correspond with the view which the soul has of the importance of the end chosen. It does not seem possible that the choice or intention should be real and honest unless this is so. To will at every moment with the utmost strength and intensity is not only impossible, but, were it possible, to do so could not be in accordance with the soul's convictions of duty. The irresistible judgment of the mind is, that the intensity of its action should not exceed the bound of endurance. That the energies of both soul and body should be so husbanded as to be able to accomplish the most good upon the whole and not in a given moment.
But to return to the question. Does the law of God require simply uprightness of intention, or does it require not only uprightness but also a certain degree of intensity in the intention? Is it satisfied with simple sincerity or uprightness of intention, or does it require that the highest possible intensity of choice shall exist at every moment? When it requires that we love God with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the mind, and with all the strength, does it mean that all our heart, soul, mind and strength shall be consecrated to this end, and be used up from moment to moment and from hour to hour according to the best judgment which the mind can form of the necessity and expediency of strenuousness of effort, or does it mean that all the faculties of soul and body shall be at every moment on the strain to the uttermost? Does it mean that the whole being is to be consecrated to and used up for God with the best economy of which the soul is capable; or does it require that the whole being be not only consecrated to God, but be used up without any regard to economy, and without the soul's exercising any judgment or discretion in the case? In other words, is the law of God the law of reason, or of folly? Is it intelligible or just in its demands; or is it perfectly unintelligible and unjust? Is it a law suited to the nature, relations, and circumstances of moral agents; or has it no regard to them? If it has no regard to either, is it, can it be moral law and impose moral obligation! It seems to me that the law of God requires that all our power, and strength, and being be honestly and continu
ally consecrated to God and held not in a state of the utmost tension, but that the strength shall be expended and employed in exact accordance with the mind's honest judgment of what is at every moment the best economy for God. If this be not the meaning and the spirit of the law, it can not be law, for it could be neither intelligible nor just. Nothing else can be a law of nature. What! Does, or can the command, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy might, and with all thy strength, require that every particle of my strength and every faculty of my being shall be in a state of the utmost possible tension? How long could my strength hold out or my being last under such a pressure as this? What reason, or justice, or utility, or equi ty could there be in such a commandment as this? Were this suited to my nature and relations? That the law does not require the constant and most intense action of the will, I argue for the following reasons:
(1.) No creature in heaven or earth could possibly know whether he ever for a single moment obeyed it. How could he know that no more tension could possibly be endured?
(2.) Such a requirement would be unreasonable inasmuch as such a state of mind would be unendurable.
(3.) Such a state of constant tension and strain of the faculties could be of no possible use.
(4.) It would be uneconomical. More good could be effected by a husbanding of the strength.
(5.) Christ certainly obeyed the moral law and nothing is more evident than that his faculties were not always on the strain.
(6.) Every one knows that the intensity of the will's action. depends and must depend upon the clearness with which the value of the object chosen is perceived. It is perfectly absurd to suppose that the will should or possibly can act at all times with the same degree of intensity. As the mind's apprehensions of truth vary, the intensity of the will's action must vary, or it does not act rationally, and consequently not virtuously. The intensity of the actions of the will, ought to vary as light varies, and if it does not, the mind is not honest. If honest, it must vary as light and ability vary.
That an intention can not be right and honest in kind and deficient in the degree of intensity, I argue.
1. From the fact that it is absurd to talk of an intention right in kind while it is deficient in intensity. What does rightness in kind mean? Does it mean simply that the inten
tion terminates on the proper object? But is this the right kind of an intention when only the proper object is chosen, while there is a voluntary withholding of the required energy of choice? Is this, can this be an honest intention? If so what is meant by an honest intention? Is it honest, can it be honest voluntarily to withhold from God and the universe what we perceive to be their due? and what we are conscious that we might render? It is a contradiction to call this honest. In what sense then may, or can an intention be accep table in kind, while deficient in degree? Certainly in no sense unless known and voluntary dishonesty can be accepta ble. But let me ask again what is intended by an intention being deficient in degree of intensity? If this deficiency be a sinful deficiency, it must be a known deficiency. That is, the subject of it must know at the time that his intention is in point of intensity less than it ought to be, or that he wills with less energy than he ought; or, in other words, that the energy of the choice does not equal or is not agree
able to his own estimate of the value of the end chosen. But this implies an absurdity. Suppose I choose an end, that is, I choose a thing solely on account of its own intrinsic value. It is for its value that I choose it. I choose it for its value, but not according to its value. My perception of its value led me to choose it for that reason; and yet, while I choose it for that reason, I voluntarily withhold that degree of intensity which I know is demanded by my own estimate of the value of the thing which I choose! This is a manifest absurdity and contradiction. If I choose a thing for its value, this implies that I choose it according to my estimate of its value. Happiness for example is a good in itself. Now suppose I will its existence impartially, that is, solely on account ofits intrinsic value. Now, does not this imply that every degree of happiness must be willed according to its real or relative value? Can I will it impartially, for its own sake, for and only for its intrinsic value, and yet not prefer a greater to a less amount of happiness? This is impossible. Willing it on account of its intrinsic value implies willing it according to my estimate of its intrinsic value. So, it must be that an intention cannot be sincere, honest, and acceptable in kind while it is sinfully deficient in degree. I will introduce here with some alteration and addition what I have elsewhere stated upon this subject. I quote from my letter in the Oberlin Evangelist upon the following proposition:
Moral Character is always wholly right or wholly wrong, and never partly right and partly wrong at the same time.