תמונות בעמוד

dim at least, if not altogether invisible—though he should not be the expounder of any new morality at all, might be the expounder of facts that would meet and call forth a doctrine, or a previous discernment of morality, which had been already in the world. .

23. And thus as the movement from the terrestrial to the celestial, is in Natural, so is it also in Moral Philosophy. By this movement we look at other things, and perhaps do so by other instruments of vision. In the latter, more particularly, instead of our fellow men, with whom we can hold immediate converse by the organs of sense, the great object is a Being whom no man hath seen at any time; but whom we either see by reflection from the mirror of His own workmanship, or see by revelation brought down to our earthly dwellingplaces through a direct embassy from heaven. · 24. And if on earth gratitude to a human benefactor is not unknown, and it be the universal sense of the species that there is virtue in the emotionif truth, and goodness, and purity, when seen in a fellow mortal, draw an homage from the heart of every observer--if within the bounds of our world, the obligations of honour and humanity, and justice, are felt among those who live upon it; then let a new object be set forth to us from heaven, or perhaps an object seen but darkly before and now set forth in brighter manifestation_let Him be made known as the God whose hands did frame and fashion us, and whose right hand upholds us continually_let some new light be thrown upon His character and ways; some new and before unheard

demonstration given of a holiness that can descend to no compromise with sin, and yet of a love that by all the sin of His creatures is unquenchablelet Ilim now stand out in the lustre of His high attributes, with each shedding a glory upon the other, yet mercy rejoicing over them all—let this Being, at once so lovely and so venerable, be expounded to our view, as the Father of the human family, and as sending abroad upon that world which He hath so plenteously adorned, a voice of general invitation, that his wandering children might again return to his forgiveness, and He again be securely seated in the confidence and affection of them all-it needs not that there be superadded to our existing Ethics, some new principle, in order that we may be qualified to meet this new revelation which is addressed to us. From the nature of man as he is already constituted, there might go back a moral echo to Him who thus speaketh to them from heaven; and they might only need to look upon the now manifested Deity, that their hearts may feel the love, or their consciences may attest the obedience which are due to Him.

25. And there is nought to baffle our ethics in the infinity of God, or in the distance at which He stands from us. Only grant Him to be our benefactor and our owner; and on this relation alone do we confidently found our obligations, both of gratitude and of service. Just as there is nothing, either in the mighty distance or overbearing magnitude of the sun, that baffles our mathematics. The magnitude of quantity does not affect the relations of quantity. It only gives a larger result to the calculation. And the same is true of the moral relations. Though the being who is the object of them, be exalted to the uttermost—though the beneficence which he has rendered outweigh indefinitely all that ever was conferred upon us by our fellow-men, there is nothing in this to disturb the conclusion that we owe him a return. It only enhances the conclusion. It only swells proportionally the amount of the return—and, instead of some partial offering, it points to the dedication of all our powers, and the consecration of all our habits, as the alone adequate expressions of our loyalty. In ascending from the terrestrial to the celestial ethics, we come in view of more elevated gifts, and a more elevated giver—but the relation between the two elements, of goodwill on the one hand, and of gratitude on the other, subsists as before and the only effect of this ascent upon the morality of the question, is, that we are led thereby to infer the obligation of a still more sacred regard, of a still more duteous and devoted obedience.

26. Observation may have been the original source of all our mathematics. My acquiescence in the axioms of Euclid may have been the fruit of that intercourse which I have had with the external world by means of my senses; and but for the exercise of the eye or of the feelings on visible or tangible objects, I might never have obtained the conception of lines, or of figures bounded by lines. This may be true; and yet it is not less true that every essential or elementary idea of the mathematics may be acquired in early life, and with a very limited range of observation; and that we do not need to widen or extend this range—nay, that without the aid of one additional fact or experience, it is possible for the spirit of man to pass onward from the first principles of the science, and traverse all the fields both of geometry and analysis that have yet been explored. More particularly--with that little of observation, which for aught we know might have been necessary ere we could conceive aright of one triangle—with that, and no more, might we master the many thousand properties of each individual in that infinity of triangles that could be furnished by the points innumerable of space—and so, while passing from one truth to another in the little diagram that is before me, I may in fact, and without one particle of more light being borrowed from observation, be storing up in my mind the truths of a high and distant astronomy. And, in like manner, observation it may be contended is the original source of all our ethics, though I should rather say that it supplied the occasional cause for the development of our ethical faculties. But in either way, I must perhaps have seen an exemplification of kindness from one being to another, ere I could understand that gratitude was the emotion which ought to be rendered back again. But after having once gotten my conception and my belief of the virtue of this peculiar relationship—this will serve me for all the cases of Benefcence that shall ever afterwards come within my knowledge. The moral will admit of as wide and as confident an application as the mathematical -and only grant me to have ethics enough for perceiving that when between two fellow-men

there is good-will on the one side, there ought to be gratitude on the other—and then simply with the information that God exists, and that He is a God of kindness, the very ethics which told me what I owe to a beneficent neighbour also tells me what I owe to a beneficent Deity.

27. We may thus learn what is the precise ascent which we make, in passing from the terrestrial to the celestial in Moral Philosophy. Let us distinguish between the objects of the science and the ethics of the science—and take notice that these two things stand related to each other, as do the objects of Natural Philosophy to the mathematics of Natural Philosophy. It is well to understand that a revelation of new facts might of itself suffice for this transition from the lower to the higher department of the subject-and that we do not need to go in quest of new principles. We may perhaps feel relieved from the apprehension of some great and impracticable mystery in this progress—and, at all events, it is most desirable that we conceive aright what be the actual stepping-stones by which it is accomplished. In Natural Philosophy the revelations of the telescope have been super-added to the perceptions of the naked eye—and by this instrument what was before seen has been made more distinct, and there has been brought forth to notice what before was wholly invisible. Perhaps too in Moral Philosophy, a science which in its most comprehensive sense embraces all the discoverable relations of the moral world, some new and peculiar revelation hath been super-added to the powers and the perceptions of Nature and by

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