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tions; but cannot infer, that therefore God ought to be loved, because this is an act of reasoning, of which, by the supposition, he is incapable. Such a being could have no regard to consequences, and would be universally considered as free from all obligations of moral law.
Let conscience next be wanting. The being who has no conscience may judge that a proposition is either true or false; but he can neither approve of truth nor disapprove of wilful falsehood, because these are operations of conscience. The proposition, we ought to obey God rather than man, he may judge to be true, as he judges a square to be different from a circle; but he has no sense of obligation; and nothing within him accuses or excuses his own, or his neighbour's moral conduct. He judges between right and wrong in no other manner than be. tween black and white. Without this faculty we might have intellectual sentiments, but we could have none which are in themselves of a moral nature, none which merit approbation as being just, or benevolent, and none which deserve censure, as base, abominable, execrable sentiments. To a man destitute of conscience, the opi. nion that fraud, rapine, and murder are praiseworthy, and ought to be practised, is no more odious than the proposition, that a triangle cannot have more than three angles. He cannot realize any difference between natural and moral good, between natural and moral evil, between sin and holiness. He can have no religion of any kind: and if a man cannot realize that he is under moral obligations, how can you deal with him as a moral being? To be a moral agent, you must have conscience.
Last of all, let him be destitute of the faculty and power of consciousness; and then he cannot know that he thinks, feels, wills, or does any thing. He can never use a verb in the present tense, any more than he who wanted memory could use one in the past. But the Bible speaks of moral agents as having some knowledge of their own present mental operations; and common sense decides, that a being without consciousness, who cannot know what he is, or is about, or that he exists at all, is not a moral agent.
We conclude, then, that the seven faculties of the understanding, the faculty of feeling, the faculty of volition,
the faculty of agency, and the power of exerting them all
, are essential to constitute a moral agent, such as man. Here let it be remembered too, that the existence of thoughts is essential to the power of feeling, and that the existence of thoughts and feelings both is implied in the power of an intelligent and sensitive being to will; as is an actual volition, to the power of voLUNTARY agency: for we cannot voluntarily act, without willing to act; and, we cannot will to act, without some motive for that volition; which must be either some thought or feeling.
Let any one show, that any one of the ten faculties of the human mind is not essential to a moral agent, and he will prove that his Maker has done more than was neces. sary to complete a moral agent; but not more than enough to produce just such a moral agent as he chose man should be.
Having ascertained what constitutes man a moral agent, we may now remark, that his moral conduct must be compared with some law. That moral conduct is right, in the estimation of any law, and of the person who gives or adopts it, which is conformable to that law; while that which is contrary to it is wrong. In the opinion of men, that moral conduct is right which is re. quired by the laws of moral agency which they have laid down for the regulation of human actions; and in the view of the Most High, those moral actions are right which are conformable to his requisitions, while those are wrong which he has forbidden. The supreme moral law is that given by the Supreme Being. If the moral laws of men interfere with those of their Maker, and we obey the former in preference to the latter, our moral conduct will be deemed right by men, and wrong by God. When the laws of God are approved and adopted by men, if their moral actions are conformable to them, their conduct will be deemed right by God and men. Dr. Smith has taken great pains to ascertain wherein virtue consists. It is easy to see, that any thought, emotion, volition, or agency that is a right moral action, is a virtue; and right moral conduct is virtuous conduct; so that there must be as many different kinds of moral virtue, as there are different kinds of moral laws, and moral
law-givers. When Christians speak of virtue, in distinction from courage, strength, or authority, they mean by it conformity to the moral law, which Jehovah has given for the government of our thoughts, feelings, volitions, and actions. With them it is synonymous with righteous.
The inquiry, how men, if left to themselves, in a state of society, without any previous instruction, but in the possession of all the native faculties of the mind, might have formed moral sentiments, we leave to Dr. Smith, and other theorists. It is much like the inquiry, how human language might have originated, with which Dr. Smith has amused us in his “considerations,” appended to his theory. He proposes, indeed, to show how language was first formed, but he has done nothing like it. The truth is, man was no sooner formed upon earth, than his Maker taught him at least the rudiments of language, and gave him some rules of moral conduct. In an anonymous work, entitled “Revelation Examined with Can. dour,” we find the following judicious remarks:
“ That God made man a sociable creature, does not need to be proved; and that, when he made him such, he withheld nothing from him that was in any wise necessary to his well being in society, is a clear consequence from the wisdom and goodness of God; and if he withheld nothing any way necessary to his well-being, much less would he withhold from him that which is the instrument of the greatest happiness a reasonable creature is capable of in this world. If the Lord God made Adam a help meet for him, because it was not good for man to be alone, can we imagine he would leave him unfurnished of the means to make that help useful and delightful to him? If it was not good for him to be alone, certainly neither was it good for him to have a companion, to whom he could not readily communicate his thoughts, with whom he could neither ease his anxieties, nor divide or double his joys, by a kind, a friendly, a reasonable, a religious conversation; and how he could do this in any degree of perfection, or to any height of rational happiness, is utterly inconceivable without the use of speech.If sounds had any natural force to express things, it is impossible the meaning of them could ever be doubtful, even at the first hearing: and whereas the contrary to this is undeniably the truth; and there is no relation between sounds and things; and words signify things, from no other than the arbitrary agreement of men; it is evident, that language is not natural, but instituted; and to suppose Adam not endowed with the knowledge and use of it, is to suppose him formed in a much worse condition than the birds of the air, or the beasts of the field; who have all natural means of communicating their wants and desires, and what other ideas are necessary to be communicated for their mutual aid and well-being, by uniform and regular sounds, immediately and equally intelligible to the whole species. And that the inferior animals have not the advantage of these sounds from instruction or the example of their parents is evident; because they are uniformly endowed with them in all regions, and at all distances from their own species; and therefore it is evident, that they have their several languages, such as they are, by instinct; that is, either imme. diately from the divine influence, or from some establishment of infinite wisdom in their formation; or in other words, that they are taught of God. And certainly none will be so absurd as to imagine, that God was less careful in the formation of men, or furnished them less perfectly for all the ends of society, than he furnished the fowls of the air, or the beasts of the fields; God forbid!—The perfection and felicity of man, and the wisdom and goodness of God, necessarily required, that Adam should be supernaturally endowed with the knowledge and use of language. And therefore, as certain as it can be, that man was made perfect and happy, and that God is wise and good; so certain is it, that when Adam and Eve were formed, they were enabled by God to converse and communicate their thoughts in all the perfection of language necessary to all the ends of their creation. And as this was the conduct most becoming the goodness of God, so we are assured by Moses, that it was that to which his infinite wisdom determined him: for we find, that Adam gave names to all the creatures before Eve was formed; and consequently, before necessity taught him the use of speech.” Vol. I. p. 34-39.
This is a much more rational account of the formation of language, than the philosophical fable that men were in the first age of the world a set of savages, until their necessities compelled them by common consent to frame nouns, adjectives, and verbs. The original language of mankind may have been enlarged, and variously modified, according to the scheme of Dr. Smith, but it never was at first formed by mere human consultation and inge. nuity.
The inquiry, how the different moral sentiments of mankind have actually been formed, is worthy of attention; but to ascertain the origin of each opinion concern
ing moral laws, agents, and agency, would require a mi. nute history of every man's mind, from his cradle to his grave. On this subject we shall offer but a few remarks.
Man possesses the requisite powers for the formation of moral sentiments, in the constitution of his mind, and the circumstances in which he is placed. It is as natural to him to form judgments upon moral, as upon other subjects. He contemplates certain laws of conduct, which have been proposed to him by some who have lived and acted before him, by some whom he deems wiser than himself; he approves of those laws, and resolves to act in obedience to them; they become his own rules, and so long as he judges them to be wise, good, and obligatory on him, his conscience approves of his conformity to them, or disapproves of any transgression of them. The greater part of all man's moral sentiments are the result of instruction, and the consequent operations of his own mind, upon that instruction. Thus the first man, Adam, came by his opinions of right and wrong, of propriety and impropriety, of justice and injustice. No sooner had God formed him, than he spoke to him, in audible language, which was the origin of that human speech for which man's organs were fitted; and began to teach him what course of moral conduct he ought to pursue. The instruction was contemplated, and the conscience of Adam approved of the mandates of Heaven. His mind conceived of the relations of a Creator and creature, and of the reasons resulting from his own and the divine character, why he should conform to the revealed will of his Superior and Benefactor; and his conscience, thus enlightened, informed him, that he ought implicitly to obey God. Man had faculties for the reception of instruction and the formation of moral sentiments in this manner; but had Jehovah never revealed his pleasure concerning man's conduct, neither by direct commandment, nor the constitution and government of the human mind, there never would have been any supreme, paramount moral law. The revealed will of God is the only ultimate criterion of our moral actions.
The first human pair having been taught of God, in. structed their children, and their children's children for