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obligation. That man can not be under a moral obligation to perform an absolute impossibility is a first truth of reason. But man's causality, his whole power of causality to perform or do any thing, lies in his Will. If he cannot will, he can do nothing. His whole liberty or freedom must consist in his power to will. His outward actions and his mental states are connected with the actions of his Will by a law of necessity. If I will to move my muscles, they must move unless there be a paralysis of the nerves of voluntary motion, or unless some resistance be opposed that overcomes the power of my volitions. The sequences of choice or volition are always under the law of necessity, and unless the Will is free man has no freedom. And if he has no freedom he is not a moral agent, that is, he is incapable of moral action and also of moral character. Free Will then in the above defined sense must be a condition of moral agency and of course of moral obligation.
4. Moral Agency implies as has been said the actual development of the idea of good, or the valuable, of obligation and of oughtness or duty. The mind must know that there is such a thing as the good or valuable as a condition of the obligation to will it. Mind is so constituted that it cannot but affirm obligation to will the good or the valuable as soon as the idea of the good or valuable is developed; but the development of this idea is the indispensable condition of moral obligation. When the faculties of a moral being are possessed, with sufficient light on moral subjects to develop the idea of the good or the valuable together with the idea of right and wrong, the mind instantly affirms and must affirm moral obligation or oughtness. Moral Agency commences at the instant of the development of those ideas, and with them also commences moral obligation and of course moral character.
1. If God's government is moral, it is easy to see how sin came to exist; that a want of experience in the universe, in regard to the nature and natural tendencies and results of sin, prevented the due influence of sanctions.
2. If God's government is moral, we see that all the developments of sin are enlarging the experience of the universe in regard to its nature and tendencies, and thus confirming the influence of moral government over virtuous minds.
3. If God's government is moral, we can understand the design and tendency of the Atonement; that it is designed, and that it tends to reconcile the exercise of mercy, with a due administration of law.
4. If God's government is moral, we can understand the philosophy of the Spirit's influences in convicting and sanctifying the soul; that this influence is moral, persuasive, and not physical.
5. If the government of God is moral, we can understand the influence and necessity of faith. Confidence is indispensable to heart obedience in any government. This is emphatically true under the Divine Government.
6. If God's government is moral, we can see the necessity and power of Christian example. Example is the highest moral influence.
7. If God's government is moral, his natural or physical omnipotence is no proof that all men will be saved; for sal vation is not effected by physical power.
8. If God's government is moral, we see the importance of watchfulness, and girding up the loins of our minds.
9. If God's government is moral, we see the necessity of a well instructed ministry, able to wield the motives necessary to sway mind.
12. If God's government is moral, we see the philosophical bearings, tendencies, and power of the Providence, Law, and Gospel of God, in the great work of man's salvation.
I. MAN A SUBJECT OF MORAL OBLIGATION.
I. Man is a Subject of Moral Obligation.
This is a first truth of reason. A first truth has this invariable characteristic, namely, all moral agents know it by a necessity of nature and assume its truth in all their practical judgments, whatever their philosophical theories may be.
Now who does not know that men possess the attributes of moral agents: to wit, Intellect, (including reason, conscience, and consciousness,) Sensibility, and Free Will. Every moral agent does know and cannot but know this. That man has Intellect and Sensibility, or the powers of knowing and feeling, has not to my knowledge been doubted. In theory, the freedom of the will in man has been denied. Yet the very deniers have, in their practical judgments, assumed the freedom of the human will as well and as fully as the most staunch defenders of human liberty of will. Indeed no body ever did or can in practice call in question the freedom of the human will without justly incurring the charge of insanity. By a necessity of his nature every moral agent knows himself to be free. He can no more hide this fact from himself, or reason himself out of the conviction of its truth, than he can speculate himself into a disbelief of his own existence. He may in speculation deny either, but in fact he knows both. That he is, that he is free, that he is a subject of moral obligation are truths equally well known, and known precisely in the same way, namely, he intuits them-sees them in their own light by virtue of the constitution of his being. I have said that man is conscious of possessing the powers of a moral agent. He has also the idea of the valuable, of right and of wrong: of this he is conscious. But nothing else is necessary to constitute man or any other being a subject of moral obligation than the possession of these powers together with sufficient light on moral subjects to develop the ideas just mentioned.
Again. Man, by a law of necessity, affirms himself to be under moral obligation. He cannot doubt it. He affirms absolutely and necessarily that he is praise or blame-worthy as he is benevolent or selfish. Every man assumes this of himself and of all other men of sound mind. This assumption is irresistible as well as universal.
The truth assumed then is a first truth and not to be called in question. But if it be called in question in theory, it still
remains and must remain, while reason remains, a truth of certain knowledge from the presence of which there is and can be no escape. The spontaneous, universal, and irresistible affirmation that men of sound mind are praise or blame-worthy as they are selfish or benevolent, shows beyond contradiction that all men regard themselves and others as the subjects of moral obligation.
II. Extent of Moral Obligation.
By this is intended, to what acts and states of mind does moral obligation extend? This certainly is a solemn and a fundamentally important question.
In the examination of this question I shall,
1. State again the conditions of moral obligation.
2. Show by an appeal to reason or to natural theology, to what acts and states of mind moral obligation cannot directly extend.
3. To what acts or states of mind moral obligation must directly extend.
4. To what acts and mental states moral obligation must indirectly extend.
5. Examine the question in the light of the oracles of God. 1. State again the conditions of moral obligation. These must of necessity be introduced here if we would understand this subject, although they have been examined in a former Lecture at considerable length. These conditions are,
(1.) The powers and susceptibilities of moral agency. Intellect, including Reason, Conscience, and Self-consciousness. Reason is the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect. It gives by direct intuition the following among other truths: the absolute-for example, right and wrong; the necessary-space exists; the infinite-space is infinite; the perfect-God is perfect-God's law is perfect, &c. short it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and af firms moral obligation to act in conformity with perceived moral relations. It is that faculty that postulates all the a priori truths of science whether mathematical, philosoph ical, theological, or logical.
Conscience is the faculty or function of the Intelligence that recognizes the conformity or disconformity of the heart and life to the Moral Law as it lies revealed in the reason, and also awards praise to conformity and blame to disconformity to that law. It also affirms that conformity to the moral law deserves reward and that disconformity deserves punishment. It also possesses a propelling or impulsive power by which it urges
the conformity of Will to Moral Law. It does, in a certain sense, seem to possess the power of retribution.
Consciousness is the faculty or function of self-knowledge. It is the faculty that recognizes our own existence, mental actions, and states, together with the attributes of liberty or necessity, belonging to those actions or states.
"Consciousness is the mind in the act of knowing itself." By consciousness I know that I am-that I affirm that space is, that I also affirm that the whole is equal to all its parts that every event must have a cause, and many such like truths. I am conscious not only of these affirmations, but also that necessity is the law of these affirmations, that I cannot affirm otherwise than I do in respect to this class of truths. I am also conscious of choosing to sit at my desk and write, and I am just as conscious that liberty is the law of this choice. That is, I am conscious of necessarily regarding myself as entirely free in this choice, and of affirming my own ability to have chosen not to sit at my desk and of being now able to choose not to sit and write. I am just as conscious of affirming the liberty or necessity of my mental states as I am of the states themselves. Consciousness gives us our existence and attributes, our mental acts and states, and all the attributes and phenomena of our being of which we have any knowledge. In short all our knowledge is given to us by consciousness. The Intellect is a receptivity as distinguished from a voluntary power. All the acts and states of the intelligence are under the law of necessity or physical law. The will can command the attention of the intellect. Its thoughts, perceptions, affirmations, and all its phenomena are involuntary and under a law of necessity. Of this we are conscious. Another faculty indispensable to moral agency is,
(2.) Sensibility. This is the faculty or susceptibility of feeling. All sensation, desire, emotion, passion, pain, pleasure, and in short every kind and degree of feeling as the term feeling is commonly used, is a phenomenon of this faculty. This faculty supplies the chronological condition of the idea of the valuable, and hence of right and wrong and of moral obligation. The experience of pleasure or happiness develops the idea of the valuable just as the perception of body develops the idea of space. But for this faculty the mind could have no idea of the valuable and hence of moral obligation to will the valuable, nor of right and wrong, nor of praise and blame-worthiness.
This faculty like the intellect is a receptivity or purely a