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Nothing but such a revelation, and with such accompanying circumstances, appears capable of reaching the actual case of mankind, and of effectually instructing and bringing them under moral control; (7) and, whether the Bible can be proved to be of Divine authority or not, this at least must be granted, that it presents itself to us under these circumstances, and claims, for this very reason, the most serious and unprejudiced attention. (7) See Note B at the end of the Chapter.

Note A.-Page 63.

DIFFERENT Opinions have been held as to the ground of moral obligation. Grotius, Balguy, and Dr. S. Clarke, place it in the eternal and necessary fitness of things. To this there are two objections. The First is, that it leaves the distinction between virtue and vice, in a great measure, arbitrary and indefinite, dependent upon our perception of fitness and unfitness, which, in different individuals, will greatly differ. The Second is, that when a fitness or unfitness is proved, it is no more than the discovery of a natural essential difference or congruity, which alone cannot constitute a moral obligation to choose what is fit, and to reject what is unfit. When we have proved a fitness in a certain course of action, we have not proved that it is obligatory. A second step is necessary before we can reach this conclusion. Cudworth, Butler, Price, and others, maintain, that virtue carries its own obligation in itself; that the understanding at once perceives a certain action to be right, and therefore it ought to be performed. Several objections lie to this notion. 1. It supposes the understandings of men to determine precisely in the same manner concerning all virtuous and vicious actions, which is contrary to fact. 2. It supposes a previous rule, by which the action is determined to be right; but if the revealed will of God is not to be taken into consideration, what common rule exists among men? There is evidently no such rule, and therefore no means of certainly determining what is right. 3. If a common standard were known among men, and if the understandings of men determined in the same manner as to the conformity, or otherwise, of an action to that standard; what renders it a matter of obligation that any one should perform it? The rule must be proved binding, or no ground of obligation is established.

An action is obligatory, say others, because it is agreeable to the moral sense. This is the theory of Lord Shaftesbury and Dr. Hutchinson. By moral sense appears to be meant an instinctive approbation of right, aud abhorrence of wrong, prior to all reflexion on their nature, or their consequences. If any thing else were understood by it, then the moral sense must be the same with conscience, which we know to vary with the judgment, and cannot therefore be the basis of moral obligation. If conscience be not meant, then the moral sense must be considered as instinctive, a notion, certainly, which is disproved by the whole moral history of man. It may, indeed, be conceded, that such is the constitution of the human soul, that when those distinctions between actions, which have been taught by religious tradition or direct revelation, are known in their nature, relations, and consequences, the calm and sober judgments of men will approve of them; and that especially when they are considered abstractedly, that is, as not affecting and controlling their own interests and passions immediately, virtue may command complacency, and vice provoke abhorrence; but that, independent of reflection on their nature or their consequences, there is an instinctive principle in man which abhors evil, and loves good, is contradicted by that variety of opinion and feeling on the vices and virtues, which obtains among all uninstructed nations. We applaud the forgiveness of an injury as magnanimous; a

savage despises it as mean. We think it a duty to support and cherish aged parents; many nations, on the contrary, abandon them as useless, and throw hem to the beasts of the field. Innumerable instances of this contrariety might be adduced, which are all contrary to the notion of instinctive sentiment. Instincts operate uniformly, which this assumed moral sense does not. Besides, if it be mere matter of feeling, independent of judgment, to love virtue, and abhor vice, the morality of the exercise of this principle is questionable; for it would be difficult to show, that there is any more morality, properly speaking, in the affections and disgusts of instinct than in those of the palate. If judgment, the knowledge and comparison of things, be included, then this principle supposes a uniform and universal individual revelation as to the nature of things to every man, or an intuitive faculty of determining their moral quality; both of which are too absurd to be maintained.

The only satisfactory conclusion on this subject is that which refers moral obligation to the will of God. "Obligation," says Warburton, "necessarily implies an obliger, and the obliger must be different from, and not one and the same with the obliged. Moral obligation, that is the obligation of a free agent, further implies a law, which enjoins and forbids; but a law is the imposition of an intelligent superior, who hath power to exact conformity thereto." This lawgiver is God: and whatever may be the reasons which have led him to enjoin this, and to prohibit that, it is plain that the obligation to obey lies not merely in the fitness and propriety of a creature obeying an infinitely wise and good Creator, though such a fitness exists; but in that obedience being enjoined.

Some, allowing this, would push the matter further, in search of a more remote ground of obligation. They put the question, "Why am I obliged to obey the will of God?" and give us the answer, " Because obedience to the commands of a benevolent God must be productive of the agent's happiness on the whole." But this is putting out to sea again; for-1. It cannot be proved that the consideration of our own happiness is a ground of moral obligation at all, except in some such vague sense as we use the term obligation when we say, "We are obliged to take exercise, if we would preserve our health." 2. We should be in danger of setting up a standard, by which to judge of the propriety of obeying God, when, indeed, we are but inadequate judges of what is for our happiness, on the whole: or, 3. It would make moral obligation to rest upon our faith, that God can will only our happiness, which is a singular principle on which to build our obedience. On the contrary, the simple principle that moral obligation rests upon the will of God. by whatever means that will may be known, is unclogged with any of these difficulties. For-1. It is founded on a clear principle of justice. He who made has an absolute property in us, and may therefore command us; and having actually commanded us, we cannot set up any claim of exemption-we are his. 2. He has connected reward with obedience, and punishment with disobedience, and therefore made it necessary for us to obey, if we would secure our own happiness. Thus we are obliged, both by the force of the abstract principle, and by the motive resulting from a sanctioned command; or, in the language of the schools, we are obliged in reason, and obliged in interest, but each obligation evidently emanates from the will of God. Other considerations, such as the excellence and beauty of virtue, its tendency to individual happiness and universal order, &c. may smooth the path of obedience, and render "his commandments joyous;" but the obligation, strictly speaking, can only rest in the will of the superior and commanding power.

Note B.-Page 69.

THOUGH SOME will allow the ignorance of former times, they think that the im proved reason of man is now more adequate to the discovery of moral truth. "They contend, that the world was then in the infancy of knowledge; and argue, as if the illustrious sages of old, (whom they nevertheless sometimes extol, in terms of extravagant panegyric,) were very babes in philosophy, such as the wise ones of later ages regard with a sort of contemptuous commiseration.

71

"But, may we not be permitted to ask, whence this assumed superiority of modern over ancient philosophers has arisen? and whence the extraordinary influx of light upon these latter times has been derived? Is there any one so infatuated by his admiration of the present age, as seriously to think that the intellectual powers of man are stronger and more perfect now than they were wont to be; or that the particular talents of himself, or any of his contemporaries, are superior to those which shone forth in the luminaries of the Gentile world? Do the names even of Locke, Cudworth, Cumberland, Clarke, Wilkins, or Wollaston, (men so justly eminent in modern times, and who laboured so indefatigably to perfect the theory of Natural Religion,) convey to us an idea of greater intellectual ability than those of the consummate Masters of the Portico, the Grove, or the Lyceum? How is it, then, that the advocates for the natural perfection, or perfectibility, of human reason, do not perceive, that, for all the superiority of the present over former times, with respect to religious knowledge, we must be indebted to some intervening cause, and not to any actual enlargement of the human faculties? Is it to be believed, that any man of the present age, of whatever natural talents he may be possessed, could have advanced one step beyond the Heathen Philosophers in his pursuit of Divine truth, had he lived in their times, and enjoyed only the light that was bestowed upon them? Or can it be fairly proved, that, merely by the light of nature, or by reasoning upon such data only, as men possess who never heard of revealed religion, any moral or religious truth has been discovered since the days when Athens and Rome affected to give laws to the intellectual, as well as to the political world? That great improvements have since been made, in framing systems of Ethics, of Metaphysics, and of what is called Natural Theology, need not be denied. But these improvements may easily be traced to one obvious cause, the widely-diffused light of the Gospel, which, having shone, with more or less lustre, on all nations, has imparted, even to the most simple and illiterate of the sons of men, such a degree of k nowledge on these subjects, as, without it, would be unattainable by the most learned and profound."-Vau Mildert's Boyle's Lect.

CHAPTER IX.

The Evidences necessary to authenticate a Revelation.-External Evidence.

THE evidence usually offered in proof of the Divine Authority of the Scriptures, may be divided into EXTERNAL, INTERNAL and COLLATERAL. The External Evidence consists of miracles and prophecy; the Internal Evidence is drawn from the consideration of the doctrines taught as being consistent with the character of God, and tending to promote the virtue and happiness of man; and the Collateral Evidence arises from a variety of circumstances which less directly than the former prove the "Revelation to be of Divine Authority, but are yet supposed to be of great weight in the argument. On each of these kinds of evidence we shall offer some general remarks, tending to prepare the way for a demonstration of the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures.

The principal and most appropriate evidences of a revelation from God, must be external to the revelation itself. This has been before stated; but it may require a larger consideration.

A Divine revelation has been well defined to be "a discovery of some proposition to the mind which came not in by the usual exercise of its faculties, but by some miraculous Divine interposition and attestation, either mediate or immediate." (8) It is not thought necessary to attempt to prove such a revelation possible; for, as our argument is supposed to be with a person who acknowledges, not only that there is a God, but that he is the Creator of men; it would be absurd in such a one to deny, that he who gave us minds capable of knowledge is not able instantly and immediately to convey knowledge to us; and that he who has given us the power of communicating ideas to each other, should have no means of communicating with us immediately from himself.

We need not enquire whether external evidence of a revelation is in all cases requisite to him who immediately and at first receives it; for the question is not, whether private

(8) Doddridge's Lectures, Part 5, Definition 68.

revelations have ever been made by God to individuals, and what evidence is required to authenticate them; but what is the kind of evidence which we ought to require of one who professes to have received a revelation of the will of God, with a command to communicate it to us, and to enjoin it upon our acceptance and submission as the rule of our opinions and manners.

He may believe that a Divine communication has been made to himself; but his belief has no authority to command ours. He may have actually received it; but we have not the means of knowing it without proof.

That proof is not the high and excellent nature of the truths he teaches; in other words, that which is called the Internal Evidence cannot be that proof. For, we cannot tell whether the doctrines he teaches, though they should be capable of a higher degree of rational demonstration than any delivered to the world before, may not be the fruits of his own mental labour. He may be conscious that they are not; but we have no means of knowing that of which he is conscious, except by his own testimony. To us therefore they would have no authority but as the opinions of a man, whose intellectual attainments we might admire, but to whom we could not submit as to an infallible guide; and the less so, if any part of the doctrine taught by him were either mysterious and above our reason, or contrary to our interests, prejudices and passions.

If therefore any person should profess to have received a revelation of truth from God to teach to mankind, and that he was directed to command their obedience to it on pain of the Divine displeasure, he would be asked for some external authentication of his mission; nor would the reasonableness and excellence of his doctrines be accepted in place of this. The latter might entitle him to attention; but nothing short of the former would be thought a ground sufficiently strong for yielding to him an absolute obedience. Without it he might reason, and be heard with respect; but he could not command. On this very reasonable ground, the Jews on one occasion asked our Lord, "By what authority doest thou these things?" and on another, "What sign shewest thou unto

יי? us

Agreeably to this, the authors both of the Jewish and the Christian revelations, profess to have authenticated their mission, by the two great external proofs, of MIRACLES, and of PROPHECY; and it remains to be considered whether this kind of authentication be reasonably sufficient to command our faith and obedience.

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