Imágenes de páginas

what are called the dictates of common sense, or the philosophy of common sense.

4. That when a passage will not bear such an interpretation, we are allowed to conclude that it is no part of divine revelation. I wish you to examine all my quotations by the work itself: in general, I have quoted passages of such a length and character, that no ambiguity of meaning is possible. If these propositions are actually taught by these theologians, you will have no doubt, that they overturn the proper authority of the Bible ; that whatever truth may make a part of the new theology, it must be received on the authority of reason ; that the system itself is nothing more than a scheme of

pure rationalism. ( also drew the two following propositions from these writers, which are notoriously a part of their system.

5. That there is no sin or sinfulness in human nature; that it is improper to predicate moral depravity of it at all or of any thing but voluntary acts ; i. e., they teach the perfect purity (freedom from moral defilement) of man, and the total depravity of sin.

6. That it is owing to nothing morally bad in the agent himself, that all his acts or volitions are bad, but to something else in him which has no more moral quality than his lungs. That is, that man's volitions, even such as are expressed in the worst crimes, are not evidence of any thing bad in man himself: that, let his acts or volitions derive their bad qualities from what source they may, they derive none from the agent himself, and are evidence of nothing bad in the agent.-(I shall endeavor presently to shew that they mean nothing more by the badness of acts than their bad tendency.)

From their general proposition, that all holiness in the Creator,* and all moral depravity in creatures, consists in voluntary acts, we deduced the propositions, 1. That the holy acts of God are owing to no holiness in him, and if they be owing to any cause, must depend for their existence

“ It (holiness) is and must be voluntary action, the free choice of the agent or it wants that which is essential to the very nature of holiness." Ch. Spec. Vol. 3. p. 473. “A created holiness can bear no more resemblance to the divine holiness, which is voluntary and uncreated, than does the property of attraction in matter." Ch. Spec. Vol. 3. p. 471.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

on something else, which has no moral quality ; consequently, God's acts can express no moral excellence of his nature. (I shall presently attempt to shew from these writers that, to adore God for his moral excellence, is no part of their system.)

2. If all holiness and moral depravity consist in voluntary action, then voluntary action whether holy or sinful can be owing to no holiness or moral depravity in the agents, and consequently there can be no moral difference between those beings whom we absurdly call holy and those whom we call sinful.

I intend now to shew by quotations from these writers that they utterly destroy the preceptive part of the law, explain away spiritual religion, sap the foundation of morals, and utterly confound all moral distinctions. I have never conversed with any person, who had made this system a matter of particular study without embracing it, who did not allow, that, to his view, it confounded the distinction between holiness and sin. I think that if I make out the three following propositions from their writings, you will admit that I have proved my point. The three positions are inseparably connected. Had they seemed to teach one and . been silent on the others, there might be ground for supposing that they had been misunderstood, unless their language were extremely explicit. But their language is explicit, and explicit on each of the propositions. I design to shew from their writings that they teach,

1. First, that the happiness of the agent is the ultimate end, and self-love the primary cause and only motive, of all voluntary action good and bad.

2. That the tendency of an action to promote the happiness of the agent is the foundation of moral obligation.

3. That all that we mean, by the terms good and bad as applied to actions, is their good or bad tendency ; that aside from this, actions have no moral value whatever.

These propositions all result from the fundamental doctrine of their system, that all sinfulness consists in acts, and that human nature itself is perfectly free from all moral pollution and incapable of it: that is, that there are no dispositions in human nature which can be called sinful in the proper sense of that term: i. e. dispositions worthy of the moral disapprobation of God and the possessor.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

When we have once decided that there are in human nature, no inherent dispositions at all towards moral objects, the question arises how can man ever choose or refuse these objects, how exercise delight in them or abhorrence towards them as he is commanded ? It is plain that we can choose or refuse them only as they tend to gratify some feelings of our nature which have no moral character, and these feel. ings are comprehended under the term self-love which has been found to have no moral nature: of course we can choose nothing any farther than it tends to gratify this, nor refuse any thing except what has an opposite tendency. We can then choose nothing any farther than it gratifies this self-love, of course we are not bound to do it. Self-love becomes the ground of obligation, and the only motive of action; and as all actions agree in being but purposes to gratify this self-love, they differ not in their nature but only in their tendency.

It was always supposed that in virtuous acts men exercise some virtuous disposition towards God, and spiritual objects; that these objects were chosen on account of some excellence in the objects themselves, and not on account of their tendency to gratify an innocent self-love. God requires that the perfections of his character should be themselves the object of an intense moral admiration and delight; this moral complacency in the excellence of the divine character, is voluntary in its nature; of course, it is an act of the will, which is a part of our nature. Those moral dispositions, which incline us to delight in those objects, which God has required, or forbidden us to love, are the heart or will. They who deny with Pelagius, that any sinful dispositions belong to human nature, deny the existence of a sinful heart and will. Volition, on this scheme, cannot be a holy delight in any object on account of some excellent quality which makes it worthy of love ; an object can be chosen only on account of its tendency to gratify an innocent self-love ; this tendency to promote our happiness can be the only ground on which we can be required to choose it ; and actions differ only in their tendency, because they all agree in being the choice of objects which gratify self-love, which is the only reason why they are obligatory. If these propositions are a part of that philosophy of common sense according to which we are required to interpret the Bible,

they are manifestly its three principal doctrines. We now, proceed to examine whether they are contained in the writings of the New Haven Theologians.

First. That the happiness of the agent is the ultimate end, and self-love the primary cause and only motive, of all voluntary action whether good or bad.

That the happiness of the agent is the ultimate end of ali voluntary action, and self-love the primary cause of all acts of preference or choice is plainly taught in the two following passages. “Of all specific voluntary action, the happiness

. of the agent in some form is the ultimate end." This selflove or desire of happiness is the primary cause or reason of all acts of preference or choice, which fix supremely on any object." Ch. Spec. Vol. 1, p. 21, 24. I said too, that they teach that self-love is the motive of all voluntary action. First that it is the motive of all holiness. “Destroy self-love as some would do, and all the motives to holiness, which the universe presents, would fall on the sinner's heart powerless as water on the rock.” Ch. Spec. Vol. 7, p. 658 and 659. Again they say self-love is the motive of all voluntary action good or bad, * annihilate self-love throughout the universe of being, and all voluntary action must instantly cease ; with no desires to gratify, there would be no motive for action." Ch. Spec. Vol. 7, p. 569. Self-love then is the only

motive, and the happiness of the agent the ultimate end, in all voluntary action good or bad. The same sentiment appears in the following passage. “The constitutional love of happiness must prompt the agent, or he will never act. This is the spring of all his activity.” But Dr. Taylor, the author of this scheme, has most fully developed it in a passage where he explains how the first accountable choice is made, that choice whose character determines that of all succeeding ones. He says, “ The being constituted with a capacity for happiness, desires to be happy, and knowing that he is capable of deriving happiness from different objects, considers from which the greatest happiness may be derived ; and as in this respect he judges, or estimates their relative value, so he chooses one or the other as his chief good.” How does the man estimate the value of these objects ? by any moral quality or excellence in them, which renders either of them worthy of choice? Not at all, but, just as they seem calculated to promote his happiness." He considers, says Dr. Taylor, from which the greatest happiness may be de


rived, and as, in this respect, he judges or estimates their relative value, so he chooses." He considers not which it is his duty to love and choose, or which has any moral excel. lence which makes it worthy of choice, he forms no other estimate or conception of their value, than their tendency to promote his happiness. On this scheme, a person can have no

a motive nor end in voluntary action but his own happiness. He estimates the value of the chief goodsolely by its tendency to make him happy. “As he judges in this respect” says Dr. Taylor, “ so he chooses." Now if the man chooses the wrong object for his chief good, it is only an error in judgment, for “ as he judges so he chooses.” The right object is best calculated to gratify self-love, for these writers tell us that otherwise it would not be the duty of the agent to choose it: and certainly self-love would prompt a man to choose the object best calculated to gratify this innocent desire of happiness; his sin can be only a mistake.

We have seen that these writers teach that the only motive in all voluntary action good and bad is self-love, and the ultimate end, the happiness of the agent: You may well suppose that those who publish such sentiments, will endeavor to give them an air of plausibility and to keep their utter licentiousness out of sight. In fact, they do pretend to make a distinction in human actions. They teach,

a that holiness and sin both agree in being a purpose to gratify self-love, but that they differ as to the manner in which it is to be gratified. “Self-love," says one of these writers, " is simply our constitutional desire of happiness. Benevolence and selfishness respect simply the mode in which this desire is to be gratified. Selfishness is a purpose to gratify it at the expense of the happiness of others, while benevolence is a purpose to gratify it by promoting the happiness of others.” Ch. Spec. Vol. 7, p. 567. All holiness and sin are crowded into a purpose. When a man commits murder, theft, arson, treason or the blackest crimes, he only purposes to gratify this innocent desire of happiness at the expense of the life, fortunes, or liberty of individuals, or communities, for “ selfishness is a purpose to gratify it (self-love or a desire of happiness) at the expense of the happiness of others;" he has in view the only possible ultimate end of all voluntary action : he is incited by the same motive, and purposes the same end, as if he were promoting the happiness of others, for these men tell us, happiness of the agent is the end, and

« AnteriorContinuar »