« PreviousContinue »
falsehood; and others think that the virtuous character is recommended by a peculiar faculty of percep tion called a Moral Sense; which is gratified or pleased, as the contrary disgusts and displeases it."
Dr. Clarke makes Virtue to consist in acting according to the fitness of things; Shaftesbury, in maintaining a proper balance of the affections and due regulation of the passions. Cudworth and Hutcheson place Virtue in Benevolence. Hume places it in
Utility; and Paley, in Expediency.
In this way, finding that they could not account for the origin or primary source of moral sentiments, by the operation of a discursive Faculty or Reason, philosophers have had recourse to various theories to explain it; some referring it to one principle and some to another. Shaftesbury and Hume refer it to Taste; Dr. Hutcheson and others to a Moral Sense; Dr. Adam Smith, to Sympathy; Dr. Richard Price, following Cudworth, conceived that moral distinctions were perceived by the Understanding, and to it ascribed the origin of the ideas of right and wrong, but not by any discursive process; taking the Understanding in a more comprehensive signification than is usually attached to the word.
Dugald Stewart remarks, that "if the distinction between the moral faculty and our other active powers be acknowledged, it is of the less consequence what particular theory we adopt concerning the origin of our moral ideas; and, accordingly, Mr. Smith, though he resolves moral approbation ultimately into
a feeling of the mind, represents the Supremacy of Conscience as a principle, which is equally essential to all the different systems, that have been proposed on the subject. Upon whatever we suppose our moral faculties to be founded, whether upon a certain modification of Reason, upon an original instinct, called a Moral Sense, or upon some other principle of our nature, it cannot be doubted that they were given us for the direction of our conduct in this life. They carry along with them the most evident badges of this authority, which denote that they were set up within us to be the Supreme arbiters of all our actions, to superintend all our senses, passions, and appetites, and to judge how far each of them was either to be indulged or restrained.-It is the peculiar office of these faculties to judge, to bestow censure or applause upon all the other principles of our nature."*
Upon the preceding passage I shall only remark, that, although it may be of little consequence what theory may be adopted concerning the origin of our moral ideas, it must be of great importance to a Christian to know how and where, in other words, to what principle, and by what mental exercises, he is to look for the due regulation of his conduct in the sight of God and his fellow-creature; and whether he has an infallible guide and teacher in his own breast, or is left to wander, as it were, at large in outward speculation, for a knowledge of his duty.
See Outlines of Moral Philosophy, Sect. 6.
The general inference, from all these different opinions, is, that no speculative theory of moral sentiments, excogitated by human ingenuity, has hitherto explained, or is ever likely to explain, the difficulties of the subject: and that no true explanation can be given but by the light which is afforded in Scripture.
I shall therefore proceed to illustrate the foregoing views in the best manner I am able by this supreme authority.
OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT IN THE SOUL.
WE have seen in the foregoing review of opinions on the origin of what is called moral sentiment, in other words, the living operation of divine Truth in the soul, that human testimony, unaided by revelation, is much divided, and leaves us comparatively in darkness; some referring it to one source and some to another. For, Reason, natural Conscience, Benevolence, Sympathy, and Taste, have all had their respective advocates; and it cannot be said that satisfactory ground is afforded for acquiescence in any of the different systems.
After this statement of opinions and allusion to the doubts and intricate questions which the subject, as one of speculation, involves, it is natural that we should enjoy a degree of liberty and satisfaction in contemplating the brighter prospect presented to us in
the light of Scripture; like that which a man may be supposed to feel who has been wandering in a wilderness or dark thicket, embarrassed and uncertain at every turn, when he comes forth to breathe free air and to see the beauties of an open country and a straight path before him. Such is the prospect unfolded in Scripture, compared with the views developed by human speculation, in all things relating to the eternal interests of man. And thus we feel, in looking at this subject, when it is freed from metaphysical subtlety and jargon, and placed before us in its own beautiful simplicity, as it is illustrated and set forth in those incomparable Writings.
Having thus explained myself, I do not propose to speak of the beginning, developement, and operation of the divine spirit in the soul, as if it were a subject discoverable by human research; but to treat of it, in so far only, as it is plainly unfolded in Scripture. And I am willing to think that the conclusions will be found in great measure to accord with the preceding principles, as they are laid down in this Essay. Under these impressions it is that I submit the following truths or propositions for consideration.
First.-A measure of the Divine Spirit is intrusted to every man, and is represented as a seed sown in the heart, humble in its manifestations, and though small and easily overlooked, capable of increase by cultivation.
Second. Though by outward research, or intellectual labour, the rational faculty may in some