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wicked men. We should be under obligation to regard and will his and their highest well being as a possible good of infinite value in itself. But as an actually existing good, we should not be under an obligation to will it, but upon the condition that they deserve it, by fulfilling on their part the indispensable conditions.
5. It is objected, "That if the good of being be the sole Foundation of Moral Obligation, right and wrong would be contingent and not fixed, that is, the same intention or choice would possess a character according as it is contemplated relatively to the good of Being."
To this I reply, That right and wrong are not contingent but fixed. To will the highest good of being is right in itself, and nothing else is in itself right. To will any thing else than this as an ultimate end is wrong in itself, and therefore unalterably and invariably wrong. An intention is right or wrong as it terminates on the good of being or on some thing else as an ultimate end. This must be, and every thing else in the only sense in which it has moral character at all, is right or wrong as it proceeds from the choice of the highest well-being of God and the Universe as an ultimate end or from some other choice.
6. It is objected, "That if this be the sole Foundation of Moral Obligation, it follows that if all the good now in existence were connected with sin and all the misery connected with holiness, we should be just as well satisfied as we now are."
To this I answer, We are satisfied only when the demands of our being are met. One demand of our being is, that all moral agents should be holy, and that they should be actually and perfectly happy only on the condition that they are holy. Now if our constitution only demanded their happiness irrespective of their holiness, then were they perfectly happy we should be satisfied whether they were holy or not. But our constitution being what it is, we should not be and can not be satisfied with their happiness unless they are holy: for their holiness, as a condition of their actual blessedness, is an unalterable demand of our Intelligence. Now, therefore, although we are to regard their universal satisfaction as the ultimate good, yet. we also know, and can not but affirm that their universal satisfaction or blessedness is naturally impossible, and that it ought to be, except on condition of their perfect holiness. Therefore the supposition is impossible and inadmissible.
Let it be understood that the highest well being of God
and of the Universe of Moral Agents is conditionated on the fact that every demand of every power of their being is satisfied. Therefore as the Intelligence and Conscience of every Moral Agent demands that actual happiness should be connected with holiness and actual misery should be connected with sin, we should not be satisfied with happiness in Moral Agents unless it were connected with holiness, nor with misery unless it were connected with sin-such being the laws of our being that nothing else than this can meet the demands of our being in respect to Moral Agents.
7. It is said, "If any moral act can be conceived of, which has not the element of willing the highest good of being in it, this theory is false!" To this I reply, That strictly speaking it is agreed on all hands by the parties in this discussion, that no act is a moral act, but an ultimate act, choice, or intention of the Will. Now if any ultimate choice can be conceived of that does not terminate on the good of universal being which after all is morally right or virtuous, then this theory is false. But no such moral act or ultimate choice can be found. But an example is brought forward of moral obligation to do that which does not imply the choice of the highest good of being. It is said we are under obligation to esteem and treat as worthy of confidence those whose known veracity entitles them to our confidence. This, let it be observed, is an example or an instance in which it is said that we are under obligation where no reference is had to the good of being. Now, let it be remembered, that the theory to overthrow which this example is brought forward is that the satisfaction of the mind arising from the fact that every demand of his being is met, is that in which the ultimate good of being consists. Now it is a demand of the Intelligence of every moral being that we should esteem and treat as worthy of confidence those whose character entitles them to this confidence. Thus, then, to esteem and treat all that are truthful, is one of the demands of the universal Intelligence of Moral Agents. Unless this demand be met by a being he cannot be satisfied with himself. His Intelligence and Conscience are not satisfied.
We are under obligation, therefore, to treat every individual of known veracity as worthy of confidence; for this is an unalterable condition of our being satisfied, or of the demands of our nature being met. We are under obligation also to will that every Moral Agent in the Universe should meet this demand of his being as an unalterable condition of his highest well
being. So we see that this example is not one in which no reference is had to the highest good of being. For in this very example the highest good of being is the ultimate end, and treating the individual according to his nature, relations, and character for veracity, is one of the indispensable conditions and means of realizing this end. It is not only a demand of my being that I should treat one who is worthy of confidence as worthy, but it also is a demand of his being and Intelligence that I should thus treat him. If I would aim, therefore, at his highest good, or at meeting the demands of his being for the sake of promoting his entire and perfect satisfaction, I must treat him as worthy of confidence. So that his highest good and my highest good and the highest good of all beings demand that I should thus treat him. For the Intelligence of God and of every intelligent being in the universe demands that I should treat a being with confidence who is worthy of confidence. So that I do not really meet the demands of my own being, nor of the Intelligence of any being unless I do thus treat him. Therefore, thus esteeming and treating him is indispensable to the highest good of being. And if I am under an obligation to choose the highest satisfaction or good of Universal Being as an end, I must be under an obligation to treat every being so as to meet the demands of my own Intelligence and the Intelligence of the Universe. This I cannot do without esteeming the holy as holy, the truthful as truthful, &c.
8. It is objected again that we are all conscious of often affirming ourselves to be under moral obligation when no reference is had by us to the good of being as an end. Example-To love God because he is good. This affirmation, it is said, has no reference to the good of God. To this I answer,
Such an affirmation, if it be made, is most nonsensical. What is it to love God? Why, as is agreed, it is not to exercise a mere emotion of complacency in Him. It is to will something to Him. But what ought I to will to Him in view of his goodness? Why surely I ought to will good to Him. But why ought I to will good rather than evil to God? Surely, first and fundamentally, because good is good or valuable to Him, and secondarily, because and upon condition that He is holy or good. The fact is, there is in all such cases a mistake in supposing that we affirm moral obligation when no reference is had to the good of being as an ultimate end. It is a first truth of reason that the good of being is valuable in itself, and that it ought to be chosen for its own sake.
This truth is every where and at all times and by all moral agents assumed and known. While this is a first truth that the good of being is valuable and ought to be willed as a possible good for its own sake entirely irrespective of moral character, yet it is also a first truth of reason that the highest good or the actual blessedness of moral agents is necessarily conditionated upon their holiness, and that this ought to be so. Therefore, every moral agent while he assumes his obligation to will the well being of all moral agents as a possible good whether they are holy or unholy, at the same time affirms, and assumes, his obligation to will the actual blessedness of God and of every moral agent only upon the condition that He is holy. Thus necessarily stand the assumptions of every mind. Now when we perceive that a being is holy, we thereupon affirm our obligation to will his actual blessedness. And being assured that God is holy we irresistibly affirm that we are under infinite obligation to love Him. And being consciously affected at the time by a consideration of his goodness, and overlooking the assumption at the bottom of our minds, that his good is of infinite value, we loosely suppose ourselves to have no reference to his good or to the intrinsic value of his good. Now in every case of this kind we do and must have respect to his good, or we really make no intelligent affirmation at all in respect to moral obligation. If I do not affirm myself under obligation to will good to God, I in fact make no intelligent and just affirmation about it. This in fact is and must be my duty; and nothing else, more or less, is. My whole duty to God and my neighbor is to love the one with all my heart, and the other as myself. This God himself has expressly asserted, and whoever makes the assertion that He requires of me than this, let him look to it. There is not, there can not be moral obligation when no reference is had to the good of God and of being, for to love God and our neighbor is not and can not be any thing else than to will their highest good. The fact is that those who make such objections as this to the philosophy and theology of this lecture, either do not mean what they say, or they must assume the existence of some other law and of some other rule of duty than the law of love revealed in the Bible. What! can it be possible that they have in mind the fact that the whole law is fulfiled in one word love or good will to God and our neighbor, when they make such assertions? This law allows of no obligation but to love God and our neighbor, that is to will their
good, for surely this love can be nothing else. But here comes an objector and says that we often affirm moral obligation when no reference is had to the good of God and our neighbor. To such an one I only reply, if this affirmation of obligation is ever really made by any one, "he knows not what he says nor whereof he affirms."
9. But it is said that a moral agent may sometimes be under obligation to will evil instead of good to others. I an
It can never be the duty of a moral agent to will evil to any being for its own sake or as an ultimate end. The character and governmental relations of a being may be such that it may be duty to will the execution of law upon him to meet a demand of the public conscience and intelligence and thus promote the public good. But in this case good is the end willed and misery only a means. So it may be the duty of a moral agent to will the temporary misery of even a holy being to promote the public interests. Such was the case with the sufferings of Christ. The Father willed his temporary misery to promote the public good. But in all cases when it is duty to will misery, it is only as a means or condition of good to the public or to the individual and not as an ultimate end.
There are several other objections to this theory. But as each of the other theories stand opposed to this and are of course so many objections to it, I will consider them in their proper place, and proceed to remove objections to the truth as I go forward.