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obscurity; or may even but need a revelation of the appropriate facts to be excited into full illumination. There may be moral light along with the ignorance of all supernal objects, in which case there can be no supernal application. But yet, in reference to the near and palpable and besetting objects of a sublunary scene, this same light might be of most useful avail in the business of human society. It is thus that we understand the Apostle when speaking of the work of the law being written in the hearts of the Gentiles, and of their being a law unto themselves. It at least furnished as much light to the conscience as that they could accuse or else excuse each other. In this passage he concedes to nature the knowledge, if not of the objects of Theology at least of the ethics. There might need perhaps to be a revelation ere any moral aspiration can be felt towards God—but without such a revelation, and without any regard being had to a God, there might be a reciprocal play of the moral feelings among men, a standard of equity and moral judgment, a common principle of reference alike indicated in their expressions of mutual esteem and mutual recrimination.
33. This, we think, should be quite obvious to those who are at all acquainted with the literature and history of ancient times. It is true that ere all the phenomena even of pagan conscience and sensibility can be explained, we must admit the knowledge, or at least the imagination of certain objects in Theology. But it is also true that apart from Theology altogether, with no other objects in the view of the mind than those which are supplied within the limits of our visible world and by the fellows of our species, there was a general sense of the right and the wrong—an occasional exemplification of high and heroic virtue with the plaudits of its accompanying admiration on the one handor, along with execrable villany, the prompt indignancy of human hearts, and execration of human tongues upon the other. We are not pleading for the practical strength of morality in those days,though we might quote the self-devotion of Regulus, the continence of Scipio, and other noble sacrifices at the shrine of principle or patriotism. It is enough for our object which is to prove, not the power of morality, but merely the sense and recognition of it-that the nobility of these instances was felt, that the homage of public acclamation was rendered to them, that historians eulogized and poets sung the honours of illustrious virtue. We are not contending for such a moral nature as could achieve the practice, but for such a moral nature as could discern the principles of righteousness. In short there was a natural ethics among men, a capacity both of feeling and of perceiving the moral distinction between good and evil. The works of Horace and Juvenal and above all of Cicero abundantly attest this —nor are we aware of aught more splendid and even importantly true in the whole authorship of Moral Science than the following passage from the last of these writers. “Est quidem vera lex, recta ratio, naturæ congruens, diffusa in omnes, constans, sempiterna ; quæ vocet ad officium jubendo, vetando a fraude deterreat; quæ tamen neque probos frustra jubet aut vetat, nec improbos
jubendo aut vetando movet. Huic legi, nec abrogari fas est, neque derogari ex hac aliquid licet neque tota abrogari potest. Nec vero per senatum, aut per populum, solvi hac lege possumus, neque est quærendus explanator aut interpres ejus alius. Nec erit alia lex Romæ, alia Athenis—alia nunc, alia posthac; sed et omnes gentes, et omni tempore, una lex et sempiterna, et immortalis continebit; unusque erit communis quasi magister, et Imperator omnium Deus. Ille legis hujus inventor, discepator, lator; cui qui non parebit, ipse se fugiet, ac naturam hominis aspernabitur; atque hoc ipso, luet maximas pænas, etiam si cætera supplicia quæ effugerit.” Such is the testimony of a heathen to the law within the breastmand armed too with such power of enforcement, that, apart from the retributions of a reigning and a living judge, man cannot offer violation to its authority without at the same time suffering the greatest of all penalties in the violence which he thereby offers to his own nature.
34. But though we have thus separated between the Ontology and the Deontology of the question, between man's knowledge of existences and his knowledge of duties, between the light by which he views the being of a God and the light by which he views the services and affections that we owe to him let it not be imagined that in conceding to nature the faculty of perceiving virtue, we concede to her such a possession of virtue, as at all to mitigate that charge of total and unexcepted depravity which the Scriptures have preferred against her. And neither let it be imagined that we even accredit
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her with such an unclouded perception of Ethics, as to leave nothing for revelation to do, but to superadd the knowledge of objects—so that on the simple information of what is truth, we could instantly and decisively follow it up with the conclusion of what is duty. We believe that Christianity not only addresses to the mind of her disciples objects which were before unknown, but quickens and enlightens them in the sense of what is right and wrong—making their moral discernment more clear, and their moral sensibility more tender, * But remember that Christianity herself presupposes this moral sense in nature—not however so as to alleviate the imputation of nature's worthlessness, but really and in effect to enhance it. Had nature been endowed with no such sense, all responsibility would have been taken away from her. Where there is no law there is no transgression ; and it is just because men in all ages and in all countries are a law unto themselves, that the sweeping condemnation of Scripture can be carried universally round among the sons and daughters of our species.
35. This distinction in fact between the ethics and the objects of Theology will help us to defend aright the great Bible position of the depravity of our nature. It will lead us to perceive that there may be a morality without godliness, even as there may be a mathematics without astronomy. If we make proper discrimination we shall acknowledge how possible it is that there may be integrity and humanity in our doings with each other—while the great unseen Being with whom we have most emphatically to do, is forgotten and disowned by us. We shall at length understand how along with the play and reciprocation of many terrestrial moralities in our lower world—we may be dead, and just from our heedlessness of the objects, to all those celestial moralities by which we are fitted for a higher and a better world. We shall cease from a treacherous complacency in the generosity or uprightness of nature; and no longer be deceived, by the existence of social virtue upon earth, into the imagination of our most distant claim to that heaven, from the elevation and the sacredness of which all the children of humanity have so immeasurably fallen. .
* This subject will fall to be more thoroughly discussed in a Chapter on the Internal Existence of Christianity.
36. So far from the degree of natural light which we have contended for being any extenuation of human depravity, it forms the very argument on which the Apostle concluded that all, both Jews and Gentiles, were under sin. His inference from the universal possession of a conscience among men is, “so that they are without excuse." It is not because they are blind that they are chargeablebut it is because they to a certain extent see that therefore their sin remaineth with them. We indeed think that the view which we have given may be turned to the defence of Orthodoxy, when the light of a man's conscience and the natural virtues of his life are pled in mitigation of that deep and desperate wickedness which is ascribed to him in the Bible. For it suggests this reply-There may be a mathematics without astronomy-there may be an Ethics without Theology. Even though the