תמונות בעמוד

which, we both see brighter what before was seen but dimly, and there may have further been made known to us what to the unaided mind of man is wholly undiscoverable. But still they might mainly be the peculiar facts or peculiar data which constitute the peculiarities of the celestial and distinguish it from the terrestrial of Moral Philosophy. It is in the facts and not in the ethics that the peculiarity lies.

28. The question then is—" What are the facts, and how are they accredited ?" We already have an ethics suited to all the objects that we actually know—and that could be adapted to more objects on the moment of their being proposed to us. By the mathematics now in our possession, we could assign orbits corresponding to every possible law of attraction in astronomy. There is only one such law ascertained by observation; and the mathematical result of it is—the elliptic course of every planet that is within the reach of our instruments. Could we be made to know of the fact, that there is a gravitation of another rate in distant places of the universe, we are already furnished with the mathematics that would assign the path and periodical velocity of all the projectiles which are under it. Should a new satellite of Jupiter be discovered, the mathematics are at hand by which to assign the path that he ought to follow-and, to extend this remark from the physical to the moral world, should I be authentically made sure of the fact that there is a mystic influence between some certain inhabitant of that planet and myself, that in his breast there is a sympathy towards me, and in his hands a power over me that he hath an eye upon all my movements, and by the charm of some talisman in his possession, can read all the feelings and fluctuations of my bosom—that, withal, he is my watchful and unwearied friend, and that every opportune suggestion, whether of comfort in distress or of counsel in the midst of my perplexities, is but the secret whisper of his voice—this were a fact utterly beyond the range of all our present experience, yet if only ascertained to be a fact not beyond the range of our present and existing ethics—and the gratitude I should owe to this beneficent though unseen guardian of my walk is as sure a dictate of our known and established morality, as is the gratitude that I owe to the nurse who tended my infancy, or to the patron who led me step by step along the bright prosperity of iny manhood.

29. To ascertain then whether there be indeed a celestial ethics we have to go in quest of facts, and not of principles. We have no new system of morality to devise. There are present capacities of moral judgment and emotion within our heart; and for the development of which the world that is immediately around us is crowded with the objects to which they respond. The question is, whether there are not such objects also out of our world and which when so addrest to our understanding that we perceive their reality, do not furthermore so address our sense of duty, as to convince us of a something which we ought to feel, or of a something which we ought to do.

30. We are aware, that along with the total degeneracy of man, there has been a total darkness ascribed to him; but we feel quite assured that in the vagueness and vehemence wherewith this charge has been preferred, the distinction between the objects and the ethics of Theology has not been enough adverted to. There is no such blindness in respect to moral distinctions that there is in respect to objects placed beyond the domain of observation, and holding substantive existence in a spiritual and unseen world. It is true that there is diversity of moral sentiment among men—and that, along with the general recognition of one and the same morals in the various ages and countries of the world, there have been certain special and inportant modifications. These have so far been well accounted for by Dr. Thomas Brown in one of his Lectures upon this subject—and what he has said on the effect of passion in so blinding for a time the mind that is under its influence as to obscure its perceptions of moral truth, may apply to whole generations of men unbridled in revenge or immersed in the depths of sensuality. Even the worst of these, however, will pronounce aright on the great majority of ethical questions—and should the power of profligacy or passion be from any cause suspended, if solemnized or arrested by the revelation of new objects from heaven, or (even without the intervention of aught so striking as this) if but withdrawn for a season from those influences ! which darken the understanding only because they deprave the affections, it is wonderful with how much truth of sentiment virtue is appreciated and the homage to virtue is felt. A thousand evidences of this could be extracted, not from the light and

licentious, but certainly from the grave and didactic authorship both of Greece and Rome. And while beyond the limits of Christendom, all those peculiar revelations of the Gospel which relate either to past events or to existent objects are almost wholly unknown—we are persuaded that bosoms may be found which would do the homage of acknowledgment at least, if not of obedience, to its truth and its purity and its kindness and its generous self-devotion all the world over *.

31. On this distinction between the objects and the ethics of Theology we should not have expatiated so long had we not been persuaded of the important uses to which it may be turned in estimating the legitimacy and the weight of various sorts of evidence for the truth of religion; and, more especially, in helping us to mark the respective provinces which belong to the light of nature and the light of revelation. We sometimes hear of the application of the Baconian Philosophy to the Christian argument; and it is our belief that this Philosophy so revered in modern times, and to which the experimental science of our day stands indebted for its present stability and gigantic elevation, does admit of most wholesome and beneficial application to the question between

* It is thus, that there is a pervading error in Leland's book on the Necessity of Revelation. There is not one trace, from beginning to end of it, of that discrimination which we have now been urging—nor do we remark in it any difference at all between the ignorance which springs from moral perversity and that which springs from mere intellectual deficiency. It is a book, however, that is worthy of perusal, though more for the exceeding fulness of its learned information, than for its just or enlightened principles.


infidels and believers. But then we must so discriminate as to assign those places in the controversy where the Philosophy of Bacon is, and those where it is not applicable. It is of paramount authority on the question of facts or objects. On the question of ethics again, it is not more admissible than on the question of mathematics. And by thus confining it within its appropriate limits, we not only make a sounder application of it-but an application of it that we shall find to be greatly more serviceable to the cause.

32. Our first inference from this argument is, that even though the objects of Theology lay under total obscuration from our species—though a screen utterly impervious were placed between the mental eye of us creatures here below, and those invisible beings by whom heaven is occupied -still we might have an ethics in reserve, which on the screen being in any way withdrawn, will justly and vividly respond to the objects that are on the other side of it. There might be a mathematics without Astronomy, but of which instant application can be made, on the existent objects of Astronomy being unveiled. And there may be a morals without Theology, that, on the simple presentation of its objects, would at once recognise the duteous regards and proprieties which belong to them. We often hear, in the general, of the darkness of nature. But a darkness in regard to the ethics might not be at all in the same proportion or degree as a darkness in regard to the objects of Theology. We can imagine the latter to be a otal darkness, while the former is only a twilight

« הקודםהמשך »