תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

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

This subject will fall to be more thoroughly discussed in a Chapter on the Internal Existence of Christianity.

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.

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 Apostlé 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 chargeable-but 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

.

phenomena of the visible heavens are within the reach of human observation--yet, if we will not study them, we may still have a terrestrial geometry; but a celestial we altogether want, nay have wilfully put away from us. And so also, we may be capable of certain guesses and discoveries respecting God-yet, if we will not prosecute them, we may still have a terrestrial morals, and yet be in a state of practical atheism. The face of human society may occasionally brighten with the patriotism and the generosity and the honour which reciprocate from one to another amongst the members of the human family and yet all may be immersed in deepest unconcern about their common Father who is in heaven_all may be living without God in the world.

CHAPTER II.

On the Duty which is laid upon Men by the Probability or

even the Imagination of a God.

1. We have already seen that even though the objects of Theology lay under total obscurity, there might be a distinct and vigorous play of the Ethics notwithstanding-kept in actual exercise among those objects which are seen and terrestrial, and in readiness for eventual exercise on the revelation of unseen and celestial objects. This, however, does not accurately represent the real state of naturefor in no age or country of the world, we believe,

did the objects of Theology lie hidden under an entire and unqualified darkness. There is, in reference to them, a sort of twilight glimmering, more or less, among all nations—and the question is, what sort of regimen or responsibility may that man be said to lie under, whose sole guidance in Theology is that which a very indistinct view of its objects, though with certainly a more distinct sense of its ethics, may suggest ?

2. This brings us to the consideration of the duty laid upon men by the probability or even the imagination of a God.

3. It must now be abundantly obvious, that along with nature's discernment of the ethics, she may labour at the same time under a comparative blindness as to the objects of Theological Science. On the hypothesis of an actually existent God, there may

be

an urgent sense in human consciences of the gratitude and the obedience which belong to him. But still while this ethical apprehension may be clear and vivid, there may be either a bright or a dull conviction in regard to the truth of the hypothesis itself. We should here distinguish the things which be distinct from each other; and carefully note that, along with a just discernment of the proprieties which belong to certain moral relations, the question may still be unresolved, whether these relations be in truth exemplified by any real and living beings in the universe. What is right under certain moral relations, supposing them to be occupied, is one consideration, What exists in nature or in the universe to occupy

these relations is another. It does not follow that though

nature should be able to pronounce clearly and confidently on the first of these topics—she can therefore pronounce alike confidently on the second of them The two investigations are conducted on different principles; and the two respective sorts of evidence upon which they proceed are just as different, as is the light of a mathematical demonstration from that light of observation by which we apprehend a fact or an object in Natural Philosophy. We have already conceded to nature the possession of that moral light by which she can to a certain, and we think to a very considerable extent, take accurate cognizance of the ethics of our science. And we have now to inquire in how far she is competent to her own guidance in seeking after the objects of the science.

4. The main object of Theology is God.

5. Going back then to the very earliest of our mental conceptions on this subject, we advert first to the distinction in point of real and logical import, between unbelief and disbelief.

There being no ground for affirming that there is a God is a different proposition, from there being ground for affirming that there is no God. The former we apprehend, to be the furthest amount of the atheistical verdict on the question of a God. The atheist does not labour to demonstrate that there is no God. But he labours to demonstrate that there is no adequate proof of there being one. He does not positively affirm the position, that God is not; but he affirms the lack of evidence for the position, that God is. Judging from the tendency and effect of his arguments, an atheist does not appear posi

« הקודםהמשך »