Слике страница
PDF
ePub

ment of some may be unavoidably attendant on such a system, and so proves nothing. His definition of justice is 100 vague, ond altogether unsatisfactory. Is it said, that we charge upon Dr. Smith an inference from his principles which he would disclaim, to wit, the annihilation of the freedom of the creature; we reply, that we will retract our assertions when it is shown how freedom and accountability can co-exist with his method of securing the certainty of action. Till there is some better philosophy on the subject of the “ willthan bis book contains, we beg leave, in the name of all conimon sense, and common principles of belief, to aver, that bis circumstantial efficiency, virtually and immediately, dispenses with all free-agency that can involve accountablity.

We may observe, that Dr. Smith's scheme of human action annihilates the distinction between right and wrong. There is doubtless, some standard to which actions inay be referred to determine their moral quality. They have been referred respectively to the will of God, and to their tendency to promote the highest good of the universe. Perhaps it will be found that both, when truly explained, coincide. The will of God, we think, whether or not the ultimate foundation of right moral action, is, by coinmon consent, when known, the certain and safe index of such action. If a subject knows the will or preference of God in a given case, this fact may satisfy him as to his duty; while the reasons for such a preference of the particular action in the divine mind may be, and doubtless are, surmarily, its general utility, or tendency to promote the highest good. Tried by either, or more properly by both of these views in connection, there can be, on ibe theory we are examining, no moral wrong in the universe. All the actions which God requires are performed; and all tend alike to secure the highest good of the universe. No other acts, if done in their stead, would or could as well subserve the best interests of the world.

The objection which we are urging did not wholly escape the view of our author. He remarks: “ The only objection of importance which can be urged against this view of the divine government, is, that it seems to lessen accountability, and to destroy the distinction between virtue and vice.” (p. 40.) In our view it not only seems to destroy this radical distinction, on which the whole subject before us rests, but actually destroys it, and that too without remedy. Who does not perceive that this whole subject turns upon the moral quality of actions, and this again upon the divine requirements and man's capabilities? If the power of man, as a moral and accountable subject of the divine government, is merely a capacity to follow, in soine way called voluntary, the sovereign appointment of God; where is the possible existence of virtue or vice? where the violation of obligation which must be the foundation of just punishment? We have no sellowship with the doctrine of a self-determining power of the will, as held by Arminians. We hold man to be an agent, capable of originating moral and accountable action. Dependent indeed on God for exislence, man is qualified for any given choice or its opposite; and thus qualified to secure or defeat the end of his being, in a moral way. Of this power, universal consciousness is sufficient proof. Consciousness is the first law of evidence. Where the mind is directly conscious, there can be no additional proof from a course of reasoning more remote; simply, because there is nothing more clear upon which to found a comparison. Of this power to voluntary action, inan is as conscious as he is of the fact of his own existence, or of the fact that coercion, or irresistible necessity of any kind, destroys accountability. The benighted pagans furnish proof of this consciousness; their conscience either accusing or else excusing one another. On this ground, they are pronounced " without excuse.” Is this reality, or is the spirit of the Almighty within us a deceiver? This power is summed up in intellect to perceive, capacity to feel, and will to choose. So much for man's nature. What we aver then is this,--that there is power in man to do what God requires. This power is the result of man's constitutional nature and his circumstances, taken always in connection. He never sins apart from a reference to the objects of his choice, and never in any blind irresistible subjection to them. Every one is conscious, that circumstances neither chain the freedom of ihe will, nor compel men to act against their estimate of the greatest apparent good ; nor exclude the possibility that this estimate should ever be such as is demanded by present duty. These powers and faculties then in man, are as truly the subject of consciousness, as is the fact, that punishment without them would be the height of injustice. Whenever this ability is impaired or bindered by physical force, the moral quality of action ceases. Praise, or blame, is out of the question. Such is the decision of universal unperverted common-sense. Such, moreover, is bible view of the subject. “And this is the condemnation, that light bas come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light." This view is confirmed by observation and experience; and there is a preparation, as vast as the universe, for sustaining the same, in the individual and universal consciousness of all intelligent beings.

Our author's view, as it legitimately annibilates the distinction between right and wrong, excludes, moreover, all sense of guilt or remorse. Guilt is the relation of the subject to violated obligation ; and remorse, which gives rise to self-reproach, is an unalleviated sense of guilt. Now how can there exist a sense of obligation violated, for actions that are agreeable to the will of God, or which tend to the highest good of the universe, which

so tend to this result, that no other actions equally good can be supposed to take their place? We venture to affirm, -the nature of man, the very constitution of mind, forbid the existence of guiltiness in such a case. Who, sitting in judgment on the case, can so abuse his reason, as seriously to maintain the possibility of guilt and remorse, for deeds that are better in their place than any others could be? What is it that thickens the darkness and mul. tiplies the horrors of the guilty mind, but the clear consciousness of having wantonly done other deeds than should have been done, deeds destructive of all happiness and opposed to the great law of universal good, and to the will of God? What is it that brings to the soul its highest joy, if not the recollection of deeds that have tended to produce good, good the highest in kind and the greatest in degree? Let it be kept in mind, that the theory of our moralist is, that all conduct tends to this result : for this it is appointed, and nothing shall or can frustrate the Deity, in turning all conduct to this single issue. Where then, we ask, is the possibility of guilt or remorse? If the main positions of our author be allowed, it is all a fiction; there is no moral evil in the world. What obligation can he violate, what guilt incur, who is laboring in the high calling of his God, — doing deeds belter for the world as a whole, and for himself as an individual, than any other be could do ?

We bave also another objection to Dr. Smith's theory. His view subverts the very foundations of all moral government. A trifle in principle will disorganize a moral administration. would not assert, that the virtual denial of free-agency, and the annihilation of the distinction between right and wrong, are trifles. These things are essential in a moral administration, the very sine qua non of its existence. No just accountability can exist without them. The moral government of God is a governnient by moral influence. Now moral influences, objectively considered, are any thing present to the mind influencing it to any given choice : subjectively considered, such influence is the mind's estimate of any thing thus present to the view. Viewed both objectively and subjectively, a motive is the influence which an accountable being gives to considerations in the mind over the conduct, including acts of choice and the external manifestation of them.

We have already stated briefly the capacities of a free moral agent: we would further remark, that the entire superstructure of a moral government rests upon the ability of the agent to render or withhold any given moral action. Is it not sell-evident, that a moral administration rises or falls as this point is or is not maintained ? Take it away, and the moral governor is sunk in the providential efficient sovereign. His agency

But we

is reduced to a more mechanical superintendence of matter. Moral influence becomes at best only animal motivity.

So far as the doctrine of universal restoration is maintained from the nature of man, it turns upon the contradistinction of moral influence to physical force, and upon the known nature of man as a voluntary subject of divine requirements. In regard to the first (moral influence) let it be observed, that it is, in jis known nature, resistible in every degree ; and in regard to the second, that man, as a moral and accountable agent, is, for aught that appears to the contrary, as truly qualified for voluntary action as his Maker. All along the line of bis immortal existence, where moral influence attends him, he must have the ability to refuse compliance with known requirements or there can be no virtue in obedience. Since, therefore, the theory of Dr. Smith virtually annihilates this ability, or takes it from the agent and throws the power of fixing what the act shall be, into the object, it subverts the very foundations of a moral government, and cannot be true.

Look also at what gives efficiency to divine requirements. What is the influence of rewards and punishments ? Good, peculiar in kind and great in degree, is proposed to the mind in the reward. This is measured by the capacities of the subject. It is something more than the response of constitutional nature to the propriety of the requirement. It is the mutual complacency of holy minds. Moreover, there is the protection of an organized system of government ordained for good. Here are privileyes and immunities which wait the obedient subject. On the contrary, in the penalty there is evil, not merely the pangs of remorse for violated duty. This is great, but insufficient to secure the high end of a legal administration. There is the loss of protection, the loss of privileges and immunities, and certainly, moreover, of the positive infliction of suffering. But what is our author's idea of punishment? He says, “punishment is the infliction of pain, in consequence of the neglect or violation of duty, with a view to correct the evil.” Not to say that such a definition only varies the terins of the question in debate, let it be shown how that punishment, which is designed only for the higher good of the subject, can be accounted an evil. Hence Dr. Smith maintains, that it is not an evil, and cannot be so only to our limited comprehension. We might here also ask, how can a real good, known to be such, in the form, if you please, of threatened evil, move the fears of men ? The design of threatened evil, it is acknowledged, is to move the fears of men,-to appeal to that part of our constitutional nature adapted to it, as a motive to obedience. But if good in all its tendencies and results, a good to the individual sufferer and the whole world, how is it an evil? Yet further, it is a well-known law of our nature, that sin, in its legiti

mate consequences, tends to diminish the susceptibility to pain or suffering, no less than to sear the conscience, and, in a degree, to destroy the moral sense. Consequently, on this scheme, the more an individual sins, the less he is punished. He may sin a little, and be punishable to a certain extent; but if he chooses to become an adept in sin, bis punishment is graduated on the inverse ratio of his sin. Again we ask, is the government of God such a baseless fabric as this? Can the determined transgressor thus succeed in annihilating guilt, shake off responsibility, and break up the deep foundations of the judgment to come! But is it claimed, that there is moral law and penalty embodied in the threatenings of his displeasure? What is that threatening, we ask, which is the necessary means of the individual's highest good ? Moral evil, on such a supposition, is nothing more than the misery which it causes to the individual himself. Sin bas no relation to a moral law, diminishes not the influence of its sanctions over others, prostrates not authority, and thus destroys no good; no direct affront is given to the infinite majesty of the universe, waking bis holy displeasure ; no effect flows from it, reacbing the character and destiny of others by example and influence. Nothing of all this, in which the malignity of sin especially consists, is admitted. Such a theory, we are bold to affirm, subverts the foundations of moral government, by a denial of the essential relations of moral action. Its tendency to fatalism is direct and powerful. On the principles of our author it can never be shown, ihat God is just when he judges, or clear wben he condemns, or that he has established and upholds a moral administration.

We may also ask, why men who talk so much of the dignity of man, deny to him indirectly, is not directly, those powers and liabilities which elevate him in the scale of being? Alas! these his noble privileges are denied bim, that he may be in no danger of committing that sin whose just desert is endless punishment; since the same estimate of his powers, and relations, of accountableness which fixes his station in ihe scale of being only a little lower than the angels of heaven, gives so much the more fearful significance to the demerit of bis voluntary apostacy, making it the signal of everlasting sin unto death. Why, too, is the extent of the divine moral government limited to this earth? Why is our relationship to other worlds denied ? Is there no distinci utterance, on this point, in revelation? Why, except that transgression may not go out, in its consequences over the mighty systein, and call for that punishment and those measures which show, that to violate its common-law is treason agaiust a universe of accountable subjecis ?

Another objection, and we are not surprised at it, occurs to our author, as to the course of reasoning which he has adopted. He Vol. VIII.

12

« ПретходнаНастави »