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alone enlighten the imprisoned soul with true light: -of that truth, the formal object of Faith, an internal sense God only can awaken; which no man can give his neighbour, but under the same influence with which God himself would give it; and therefore which has its source, by immediate Divine influence, in the very inmost recesses of the heart.
I do not speak of natural truth, chemical, mechanical, geometrical or astronomical, the object of physical science, nor of formál propositions, moral, political, or religious, cognizable by speculative reason, however good and excellent in themselves; which it is possible for human power to attain by intellectual labour, without a single thought of the divine Author, merely from outward observation; whose source is therefore external.
Is it the speculative philosopher, who only possesses Truth? How comes it, then, that of all men speculalative philosophers differ most among themselves each claiming it and each denying it the other? But Truth, as above explained, is not a thing which can be divided, as it were, by argument, and a morsel given to each disputant for his reward; or to be carried off as an exclusive prize by the high-minded exulting victor. It is one and indivisible; which a man may have in greater or less measure, and more or less complicated with error; but is the same thing in all, and consists not in mere outward opinion. It
"From hence it comes to pass, that Truth, though they be in never so many several and distant miads apprehending them, yet they
has a root whose vitality is maintained from another source, to which, opinions, never so correct, cannot immediately supply one drop of nourishment, notwithstanding such opinions may ultimately lead the mind, by various channels, to draw its own supplies from the divine fountain from which Truth is primarily and essentially derived.
Disputation may cloud the mind, but it seldom elicits the true spark. When men, therefore, dispute, though it is important that the conscience should be bound by sound opinions, and very important to attain them, yet the effect of disputation is not in either side the immediate possession of soulsustaining virtue; unless it be the contest of meekness, purity, innocence, supported by Truth itself, against, violence, persecution, pride, led on by wickedness. It is not in the nature of things for the pure in heart to wrangle with each other about that which they individually possess. Truth knows its own, and has a concord with its own. For light cannot oppose the light.
are not broken, multiplied or diversified thereby; but they are one and the same Individual Truths in them all. So that it is but one Truth and Knowledge that is in all the understandings in the world. Just as when a thousand eyes look upon the Sun at once, they all see the same individual object:—so in like manner, when innumerable created understandings, direct themselves to the contemplation of the same universal and immutable Truths, they do all of them, but as it were, listen to one and the same Original Voice of the eternal Wisdom that is never silent."-Cudworth concerning Morality, page 258.
Of the Diversity of Religious Notions among
The tendency to moral obligation, if we may not call it a practical principle, is a law firmly inherent in the mind, exclusive of any particular creed or form of religion; and may be said to constitute an essential part of its nature. This tendency operates so as to make individuals religiously tenacious of apprehended duties (provided they do not cast off all moral restraint, as each has the power to do, by wilful disobedience); whether these duties may be justly imposed or be derived from perverted modes of education. It even exerts itself in enforcing obedience to the authority of rules, which in themselves may be insignificant or absurd; yet being objects of this inherent law, they not only acquire the force of undoubted truth, particularly if impressed in early age, but are regarded as if they were of sacred obligation. Like the tendrils of the vine to its support, they adhere so closely to the first objects presented to their embrace, that they are afterwards separated with difficulty from the list of indispensable duties.
This, surely, is an important feature in the human mind; and leads at once to an inquiry into the nature
of that law by which the observance even of trifles may be regarded as if they were matters of weighty concern. It is an anomaly in that system, which refers all our Ideas to Sensation and Reflection: and there is not a power of the mind but that above noticed, which is considered to be the foundation of morality and religion, that can explain the operation, or give rise to the phenomena, of the law in question.
If we may presume to dive into the secrets of final causes, we may perhaps conclude that it was established to circumscribe the human mind within certain limits of moral accountability to some invisible Supreme Power. This is offered as the simple deduction of natural Reason, in looking at the state of all those nations termed savage, and of the most degraded of our fellow-creatures. If a Conscience is set up and calls to account for certain actions-whether these actions in themselves be blameworthy or not-it is plain that religious obligation, including the reference to a moral governor, follows as a matter of
Superstition is one of its effects, when the mind is
* I notice with pleasure a passage in the work of Dr. Prichard on Diseases of the Nervous System, illustrative of the same idea. "It seems,"
says this learned author, "that a certain persuasion of moral demerit, or delinquency, has been an universal impression upon the minds of men in all ages. With this is intimately connected the idea that they are accountable beings, and that there are certain unseen powers, before whose tribunal they may, and probably will, be arraigned."
See Treatise on Diseases of the Nervous System, by
ill-informed and ill-directed; as Piety is the other, when it has been duly enlightened and wisely directed. And Idolatry, Fanaticism, Bigotry, Intolerant Zeal, and the Immolation of human victims as a religious rite-whence do they arise but from the crooked and perverse operation of this propensity, when it is acted upon and roused by the vilest of human passions? And hence we see the lamentable abuse of a principle which, when rightly directed, does honour to human nature, enlarges the sphere of active benevolence, and tends to the Creator's glory.
Now this law, propensity, or habit of the mind, which imposes self-condemnation when we might have peace, and do naturally aim at peace, and as naturally shun every thing that excites internal trouble, is, to say the least, a very wonderful institution. By no legitimate inference can it be said to follow from education; nor could it ever have been imagined a priori to arise from an acquired standard of moral rectitude.
An acquired standard of moral rectitude, if the mind kad no internal principle of moral accountability, would require its followers to lay their cases for decision, before its tribunal, with as much coldness, formality, and heartless insensibility to the distinctions of vice and virtue, as cases are ever laid before some inferior outward court of justice. How different is this from the manner in which the moral principle, awakened to its duty, makes its decisions! There is here no coldness-no formality: all is warmth and