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to this truth. If a man intend evil, though perchance he may do us good, we do not excuse him, but hold him guilty of the crime which he intended. So if he intend to do us good, and perchance do us evil, we do not, and cannot condemn him. For this intention and endeavor to do us good, we cannot blame him, although it has resulted in evil to us. He may be to blame for other things connected with the af fair. He may have come to our help too late, and may have been to blame for not coming when a different result would have followed; or he may have been blamable for not being better qualified for doing us good. He may have been to blame for many things connected with the transaction, but for a sincere, and of course hearty endeavor to do us good, he is not culpable, nor can he be, however it may result. If he honestly intended to do us good, it is impossible that he should not have used the best means in his power at the time: this is implied in honesty of intention. And if he did this, reason cannot pronounce him guilty, for it must judge him by his intentions.
(4.) Courts of Criminal Law have always in every enlightened country assumed this as a first truth. They always inquire into the quo animo, that is, the intention, and judge accordingly.
(5.) The universally acknowledged truth that lunatics are not moral agents and responsible for their conduct, is but an illustration of the fact that the truth we are considering is regarded and assumed as a first truth of Reason.
7. Again if it be true, which certainly it must be, that all choices respect ends or means, and that the choice of means to effect an end is only an endeavor to secure the intended end, it must also be true that Moral Obligation extends directly only to ultimate intention.
8. But the Bible every where, either expressly or impliedly recognizes this truth. "If there be a willing mind, that is, a right willing or intention, it is accepted," &c.
9. Again. All the Law is fulfilled in one word, love. Now this can not be true if the spirit of the whole Law does not directly respect intentions only. If it extends directly to thoughts, emotions, and outward actions, it can not be truly said that love is the fulfilling of the Law. This love must be good will, for how could involuntary love be obligatory?
10. Again. The spirit of the Bible every where respects the intention. If the intention is right, or if there be a willing mind it is accepted as obedience. But if there be not a will
ing mind, that is, right intention, no outward act is regarded as obedience. The willing is always regarded by the Scrip tures as the doing. If a man look on a woman to lust after her, that is, with licentious intention or willing, he hath committed adultery with her already, &c. So on the other hand, if one intends to perform a service for God which after all he is unable to perform, he is regarded as having virtually done it, and is rewarded accordingly.
This is too obviously the doctrine of the Bible to need further elucidation.
IV. To what Acts and Mental States Moral Obligation indirectly extends.
Under this head I remark,
That it has been already said that outward action together with the states of the Intelligence and Sensibility are connected with the actions of the Will by a Law of Necessity.
(1.) The muscles of the body are directly under the control of the Will. I will to move, and my muscles must move, unless there be a paralysis of the nerves of voluntary motion, or unless some opposing power of sufficient magnitude to overcome the strength of my Will be interposed.
(2.) The Intellect is also directly under the control of the Will. I am conscious that I can control and direct my attention as I please, and think upon one subject or another.
(3.) The Sensibility, I am conscious, is only indirectly controlled by the Will. Feeling can be produced only by directing the attention and thoughts to those subjects that excite Feeling by a Law of Necessity.
The way is now prepared to say,
1. That Moral Obligation extends indirectly to outward or bodily actions. These are often required in the Word of God. The reason is that being connected with the actions of the Will by a Law of Necessity, if the Will is right the outward action must follow, except upon the contingencies just named, and therefore such actions may reasonably be required. But if the contingencies just named intervene so that outward ac-tion does not follow the choice or intention, the Bible accepts the Will for the deed invariably. "If there be a willing mind it is accepted according" &c.
2. Moral Obligation extends indirectly to the states of the Sensibility, so that certain emotions or feelings are required as outward actions are, and for the same reason, namely, the states of the Sensibility are connected with the actions of the
Will by a Law of. Necessity. But when the Sensibility is exhausted, or when for any reason the right action of the Will does not produce the required feelings, it is accepted upon the principle just named.
3. Moral Obligation indirectly extends also to the states of the Intellect; consequently the Bible, to a certain extent, and in a certain sense, holds men responsible for their Thoughts and Opinions. It every where assumes that if the heart be constantly right the Thoughts and Opinions will correspond with the state of the Heart or Will; "If any man will do his will he shall know the doctrine whether it be of God." It is, however, manifest that the Word of God every where assumes that, strictly speaking, all virtue and vice belong to the heart or intention. Where this is right, all is regarded as right; and where this is wrong, all is regarded as wrong. It is upon this assumption that the doctrine of total depravity rests. It is undeniable that the veriest sinners do many things outwardly which the Law of God requires. Now unless the intention decides the character of these acts, they must be regarded as really virtuous. But when the intention is found to be selfish, then it is ascertained that they are sinful notwithstanding their literal conformity to the Law of God.
The fact is that Moral Agents are so constituted that it is impossible for them not to judge themselves and others by their motives and intentions. They cannot but assume it as a first truth that a man's character is as his intention is, and consequently that Moral Obligation respects directly only intention.
4. Moral Obligation then indirectly extends to every thing about us, over which the Will has direct or indirect control. The Moral Law, while, strictly, it legislates over intention only, yet in fact legislates over the whole being, inasmuch as all our powers are directly or indirectly connected with intention by a Law of Necessity. Strictly speaking, however, Moral Character belongs alone to the intention. In strict propriety of speech, it can not be said that either outward action or any state of the Intellect or the Sensibility has a moral element or quality belonging to it. Yet in common language, which is sufficiently accurate for most practical purposes, we speak of thought, feeling, and outward action as holy or unholy.
FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION.
In discussing this subject I will,
1. REPEAT THE DEFINITION OF MORAL OBLIGATION. II. REMIND YOU OF THE CONDITIONS OF Moral Obligation. III. SHOW WHAT IS INTENDED BY THE FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION.
IV. POINT OUT AGAIN THE EXTENT OF MORAL OBLIGATION. V. NOTICE THE POINTS OF AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE
PRINCIPAL PARTIES IN THIS DISCUSSION.
VI. SHOW WHEREIN THEY DISAGREE.
VII. SHOW FROM REASON AND REVELATION WHAT MUST BE THE FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION.
VIII. SHOW WHEREIN THAT CONSISTS WHICH CONSTITUTES THE FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION.
IX. EXAMINE THE CLAIMS OF THE PRINCIPAL THEORIES
THAT HAVE BEEN ADVOCATED ON THIS SUBJECT.
Before I enter directly upon the discussion I would observe that this question, like most Theological questions, is both Psychological and Theological. It is common, and as absurd and vain as it is common, to object to Metaphysical discussions in the examination of Theological questions. The fact is that there is no such thing as holding Theological opinions without assuming the truth of some system of Mental Philosophy. Metaphysical Theology is only Bible Theology explained; and to object to Metaphysics in Theology is only to object to the application of Reason in the explanation of the facts of Revealed Theology. It has, however, been too common to discuss this question without suitable reference to the Bible, that is, it has been common to treat it as a purely Psychological Question. But this mode of procedure can never be satisfactory to a Christian Mind. I shall therefore discuss it both as a Biblical and as a Psychological Question.
I. I am to repeat the Definition of Moral Obligation.
Obligation is that which binds. Moral Obligation is the bond or ligament that binds a Moral Agent to Moral Law. The idea, however, is too plain to be defined by the use of other language. It is a pure idea of the Reason, and better understood than explained by any term except that of Moral Obligation itself.
II. I am to call attention again to the Conditions of Moral ̧ Obligation.
These have been so fully discussed in a preceding lecture that it is only necessary to observe that these conditions are the powers of moral agency, together with so much light on moral relations as to develop the idea of Oughtness or Moral Obligation.
III. I am to show what is intended by the Foundation of Moral Obligation.
The Foundation of Moral Obligation is the Reason or Consideration that imposes obligation on a moral agent to obey moral law. Should the question be asked, why does the moral law require what it does? the true answer to this question would also answer the question, what is the Founda tion of Moral Obligation? There must be some good and sufficient reason for the law requiring what it does, or it cannot be Moral Law or impose Moral Obligation. The question then is, why does the Moral Law require what it does? The reason that justifies and demands the requisition must be the reason why it ought to be obeyed. The reason for the command must be identical with the reason for obedience the reason why the law should require what it does, is the reason why we should do what it requires. This reason, whatever it is, is the Foundation of Moral Obligation, that is, of the obligation to obey Moral Law. To ascertain what this reason is, is the object of the discussion upon which we have entered.
IV. I am to remind you of the Extent of Moral Obligation. In a former Lecture, it has been shown that moral obligation extends, strictly speaking, to the ultimate intention only, that the Law of God requires only entire consecration to the ew! right end.
V. I am to notice the points of Agreement among the prin cipal parties in this discussion.
1. They agree in their definition of Moral Obligation. 2. They also agree in respect to the conditions of moral obligation that they are, as has just been stated, the powers of moral agency with so much light respecting moral rela tions as to develop the idea of oughtness or obligation.
3. They agree also in respect to what is intended by the foundation of moral obligation-namely, that the foundation of moral obligation is the fundamental reason or consideration on which the obligation rests or is founded.
4. They agree also in respect to the extent of moral obligation, that strictly speaking, it extends only to the ultimate action or choice of the Will; or in other words, that it ex