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(14.) The fact is, that the obligation of every moral being must be graduated by his own knowledge.
(15.) If, therefore, his intention be equal in its intensity to his views or knowledge of the real or relative value of different objects, it is right. It is up to the full measure of his obligation; and if his own honest judgment is not to be made the measure of his obligation, then his obligation can exceed what he is able to know; which contradicts the true nature of moral law, and is, therefore, false.
(16.) If conscious honesty of intention, both as it respects the kind and degree of intention, according to the degree of light possessed, be not entire obedience to moral law, then there is no being in heaven or earth, who can know himself to be entirely obedient; for all that any being can possibly know upon this subject is, that he honestly wills or intends in accordance with the dictates of his reason, or the judgment which he has of the real or relative value of the object cho
(17.) If something more than this can be required, then a law can be binding farther than it is prescribed, or so published that it may be known, which is contradictory to natural justice, and absurd.
(18.) No moral being can possibly blame or charge himself with any default, when he is conscious of honestly intending, willing, or choosing, and acting, according to the best light he has; for in this case he obeys the law as he understands it, and of course can not conceive himself to be condemned by the law.
(19.) Good-willing, or intending is, in respect to God, to be at all times supreme, and in respect to other beings, it is to be in proportion to the relative value of their happiness as perceived by the mind. This is always to be the intention. The volitions, or efforts of the will to promote these objects, may and ought to vary indefinitely in their intensity, in proportion to the particular duty to which, for the time being, we are
(20.) But farther, we have seen that virtue consists in willing every good according to its perceived relative value, and that nothing short of this is virtue. But this is perfect virtue for the time being. In other words, virtue and moral perfection, in respect to a given act, or state of the will, are synonyVirtue is holiness. Holiness is uprightUprightness is that which is just what, under the circumstances, it should be; and nothing else is virtue, họli
mous terms. ness.
ness, or uprightness. Virtue, holiness, uprightness, moral perfection when we apply these terms to any given state of the will-are synonymous. To talk, therefore, of a virtue, holiness, uprightness, justice-right in kind, but deficient in degree is to talk sheer nonsense. It is the same absurdity as to talk of sinful holiness, an unjust justice, a wrong rightness, an impure purity, an imperfect perfection, a disobedient obedi
(21.) The fact is, virtue, holiness, uprightness, &c., signify a definite thing, and never any thing else than conformity to the law of God. That which is not entirely conformed to the law of God is not holiness. This must be true in philosophy, and the Bible affirms the same thing. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The spirit of this text as clearly and as fully assumes and affirms the doctrine under consideration as if it had been uttered with that design alone.
(22.) God has no right to call that holy which is defective 1 in degree.
(23.) Unless every perceived interest is, for the time being, willed or intended according to its relative value, there is no virtue. Where this intention exists, there can be no sin.
4. The next supposition is, that the will, or heart, may be right, while the affections or emotions are wrong. Upon this I remark:
(1.) That this supposition overlooks that in which moral character consists. It has been shown that moral character consists in the supreme ultimate intention of the mind, and that this supreme, disinterested benevolence, good-willing, or intention, is the whole of virtue. Now this intention begets volitions. It directs the attention of the mind, and, therefore, produces thoughts, emotions, or affections. It also, through volition, begets bodily action. But moral character does not lie in outward actions, the movements of the arm, nor in the volition that moves the muscles; for that volition terminated upon the action itself. I will to move my arm, and my arm must move by a law of necessity. Moral character belongs solely to the intention, that produced the volition, that moved the muscles, to the performance of the outward act. So intention produces the volition that directs the attention of the mind to a given object. Attention. by a natural necessity, produces thought, affection, or emotion. Now thought affection, or emotion, are all connected with volition, by a natural necessity; that is-if the attention is directed to an
object, corresponding thoughts and emotions must exist of course. Moral character no more lies in emotion, than in outward action. It does not lie in thought, or attention. It does not lie in the specific volition that directed the attention; but in that intention, or design of the mind, that produced the volition, which directed the attention, which, again, produced the thought, which, again, produced the emotion. Now the supposition, that the intention may be right, while the emotions or feelings of the mind may be wrong, is the same as to say, that outward action may be wrong, while the intention is right. The fact is, that moral character is and must be as the intention is. If any feeling or outward action is inconsistent with the existing ultimate intention, it must be so in spite of the agent. But if any outward action or state of feeling exists, in opposition to the intention or choice of the mind, it cannot, by any possibility, have moral character. Whatever is beyond the control of a moral agent, he can not be responsible for. Whatever he can not control by intention he can not control at all. Every thing for which he can possibly be responsible, resolves itself into his intention. His whole character, therefore, is and must be as his intention is. If, therefore, temptations, from whatever quarter they may come, produce emotions within him inconsistent with his intention, and which he can not control, he cannot be responsible for them.
(2.) As a matter of fact, although emotions, contrary to his intentions, may, by circumstances beyond his control, be brought to exist in his mind; yet, by willing to divert the attention of the mind from the objects that produce them, they can ordinarily be banished from the mind. If this is done as soon as in the nature of the case it can be, there is no sin. If it is not done as soon as in the nature of the case it can be, then it is absolutely certain that the intention is not what it ought to be. The intention is to devote the whole being to the service of God and the good of the universe, and of course to avoid every thought, affection, and emotion, inconsistent with this. While this intention exists, it is certain that if any object be thrust upon the attention which excites thoughts and emotions inconsistent with our supreme ultimate intention, the attention of the mind will be instantly diverted from those objects, and the hated emotion hushed, if this is possible. For, while the intention exists, corresponding volitions must exist. There cannot, therefore, be a right state of heart or intention, while the emotions or affections of the mind are
sinful. For emotions are in themselves in no case sinful, and when they exist against the will, through the force of temptation, the soul is not responsible for their existence. And, as I said, the supposition overlooks that in which moral character consists, and makes it to consist in that over which the law does not properly legislate; for love, or benevolence is the fulfilling of the law.
But here it may be said, that the law not only requires benevolence, or good-willing, but requires a certain kind of emotions, just as it requires the performance of certain outward actions, and that therefore there may be a right intention where there is a deficiency, either in kind or degree, of right emotions. To this I answer:
Outward actions are required of men, only because they are connected with intention, by a natural necessity. And no outward action is ever required of us, unless it can be produced by intending and aiming to do it. If the effect does not follow our honest endeavors, because of any antagonist influence, opposed to our exertions, which we can not overcome, we have by our intention complied with the spirit of the law, and are not to blame that the outward effect does not take place. Just so with emotions. All we have power to to do, is, to direct the attention of the mind to those objects calculated to secure a given state of emotion. If, from any exhaustion of the sensibility, or for any, other cause beyond our control, the emotions do not arise which the consideration of that subject is calculated to produce, we are no more responsible for the absence or weakness of the emotion, than we should be for the want or weakness of motion in our muscles, when we willed to move them, in consequence of exhaustion or any other preventing cause, over which we had no control. The fact is, we can not be blame worthy for not feeling or doing that which we can not do or feel by intending it. If the intention then is what it ought to be for the time being, nothing can be morally wrong.
5. The last supposition is, that a latent preference, or right intention, may co-exist with opposing or sinful volitions. Upon this I remark:
That I have formerly supposed that this could be true, but am now convinced that it can not be true; for the following
(1.) Observe, the supposition is, that the intention or ruling preference may be right-may really exist as an active and virtuous state of mind, while, at the same time, volition may exist inconsistent with it.
(2.) Now what is a right intention? I answer: Nothing short of this-willing, choosing, or intending the highest good of God and of the universe, and to promote this at every moment, to the extent of our ability. In other words-right intention is supreme, disinterested benevolence. Now what are the elements which enter into this right intention?
a. The choice or willing of every interest according to its perceived intrinsic value.
b. To devote our entire being, now and for ever, to this end. This is right intention. Now the question is, can this intention co-exist with a volition inconsistent with it? Volition implies the choice of something, for some reason. If it be the choice of whatever can promote this supremely benevolent end, and for that reason, the volition is consistent with the intention; but if it be the choice of something perceived to be inconsistent with this end, and for a selfish reason, then the volition is inconsistent with the supposed intention. But the question is, do the volition and intention co-exist? According to the supposition, the will chooses, or wills something, for a selfish reason, or something perceived to be inconsistent with supreme, disinterested benevolence. Now it is plainly impossible, that this choice can take place while the opposite intention exists. For this selfish volition is, according to the supposition, sinful or selfish; that is-something is chosen for its own sake, which is inconsistent with disinterested benevolence. But here the intention is ultimate. It terminates upon the object chosen for its own sake. To suppose, then, that benevolence still remains in exercise, and that a volition co-exists with it that is sinful, involves the absurdity of supposing, that selfishness and benevolence can co-exist in the same mind, or that the will can choose, or will, with a supreme preference or choice, two opposites, at the same time. This is plainly impossible. Suppose I intend to go to the city of New York as soon as I possibly can. Now if, on my way, I will to loiter unecessarily a moment, I necessarily relinquish one indispensable element of my intention. In willing to loiter, or turn aside to some other object for a day, or an hour, I must, of necessity, relinquish the intention of going as soon as I possibly can. I may not design to finally relinquish my journey, but I must of necessity relinquish the intention of going as soon as I can. Now virtue consists in intending to do all the good I possibly can, or in willing the glory of God and the good of the universe, and intending to promote them to the extent of my ability. Nothing short of this is virtue. Now