« AnteriorContinuar »
junction with all the information I can obtain from every other quarter, to form as correct an exemplar as I am able; and after all, it is probable my copy will be far from perfect. Now, I ask, allowing that my moral judgment may carry me thus far, will it enable me to fabricate out of my own mind a complete copy of such work, i. e. to put down the facts, &c. in their just and true order, without the assistance of any such copies? In like manner, I may be able to publish the best edition of Newton's Principia, and even to correct a few mistakes made by its author; but will it hence follow, that, without ever seeing this work, I should also have been able to discover the whole just as he did ? So, in separating the moral from the ceremonial part of the law of Moses, I may succeed to a great degree, as far, perhaps, as it may be necessary; but this is a thing widely different from being able to say, that I can discover and lay down all that is necessary for the conduct of mankind under all circumstances, and to sanction this with the promise of certain rewards or inevitable punishments. This is, I maintain, beyond the power of man to do, while the other is not. Human reason is, indeed, good in its place; but take it out of its proper element, the service of its proper parent, and it becomes the organ of folly, and the originator of error.
When Dr. Whately says, that a moral truth found in the Koran or the laws of Solon, is just as binding on Christians if determined to be such by the nature of the case, as any moral truth found elsewhere can be, I would answer : True : if Scripture inculcates such laws as may be found in those writings, then they will be binding ; because, when we know that they inculcate what God has inculcated, we can have no doubt of their utility or their validity; not because we may suppose them to be good, but because he who gave them knew them to be so; and on this account only can we allow them to be authoritative. And I may, perhaps, affirm, that the darkness as to moral truth, which characterised the times of Solon, as well as that which marks the present state of the Mohammedan world, is more than sufcient to shew, that human reason has not powers adequate to legislate on subjects of this sort to any considerable extent.
In page 151, Dr. Whately says: “Indeed, the very law
itself indicates, on the face of it, that the whole of its precepts were intended for the Israelites exclusively (on which supposition,” adds he “they cannot of course be binding on Christians), not only from the intermixture of civil and ceremonial precepts with moral, but from the very terms in which even they were delivered.” In proof of this he adduces the first and the fifth commandments. With reference to the first, I must say: I do not see any thing, particularly restricting it to the Jews as a nation. God's having brought them out of the land of Egypt, does, indeed, refer to a particular benefit which they had received ; but, I believe, that His power and goodness is principally had in view in this declaration, and, in this sense, it cannot be said to be inapplicable to us.
But with reference to the fifth, St. Paul himself has cited it in his Epistle to the Ephesians : " Children,” says he,“ obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth.” (chap. vi. 1-3.) Where it is remarkable, St. Paul appeals to this commandment as still in force, and urges the promise which it contains, as applicable to the Christians of his day; and surely it is reasonable to infer, that it is also applicable to those of all succeeding ages. Besides, if the Apostle declares that this commandment is right, let it be remembered, he appeals to the law of Moses for his proof; and not to the decisions of human reason, or the human conscience. In these particular instances, therefore, I think Dr. Whately's views cannot be borne out.
The author of the Essays proceeds: “If men are taught to regard the Mosaic law (with the exception of the civil and ceremonial ordinances) as their appointed rule of life, they will be disposed to lower the standard of Christian morality, by contenting themselves with a literal adherence to the express commands of the law.” (p. 156.) I must confess I very much doubt the soundness of this inference. If, indeed, Christians take the erroneous view of the law, which we find from the declarations of the prophets, of our Lord, and of the Apostles, the Jews did, there can be no doubt Dr. Whately's opinion will be the true one. But, I would ask, Is there any probability, or even danger, that this will be the case, when the reproofs of the prophets, the discourses of our Lord, and the writings of the Apostles, are attended to; all of which most plainly and positively assure us, that the law extends even to the thoughts and intents of the heart ? * Dr. Whately seems to understand the law as applying only to certain cases, and in these demanding only the bare performance of the actions enjoined, or a forbearance from those which are forbidden. But what says our Lord ? (Matt. v. 28.) “I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” That is, he is already guilty of an infraction of the law. And speaking of the sixth commandment, he mentions unjust anger as involving the danger of eternal condemnation; which St. John also takes up and explains in the same manner. (1 John, iii. 15.) Our Lord's celebrated abridgment of the law and prophets into two short precepts, very clearly shews, that the animus or mind, in which the law is to be understood, is the main point to be had in view; and this in St. Paul's language is termed its spirituality.
* And the same was manifestly the case under the old dispensation. In Deut. vi. 5, 6, we have, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all THINE HEART, and with ALL THY soul, and with ALL THY MIGHT. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in TIY HEART." Then in Isaiah, li. 7. “ Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in WHOSE HEART is my law.” And again, with reference to the manner in which the fasts and Sabbaths ought to be kept, Is. lviii. 6, &c. “Is not this the fast which I have chosen ? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke, &c. .. .. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity,” &c. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable,” &c. From which it must clearly appear, that to conform merely with the letter, was not considered sufficient; but that an entire compliance with the spirit of the law was also demanded. That this was not done generally by the Jews, I think there can be no question; yet the prophets persevered in telling them, that not only it ought to be done, but that a time would come in which it should be done. Jer. xxxi. 33. “ After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write IT IN THEIR HEARTS ;" which we find cited in Heb. viii. 10, x. 16, where I contend, the Law mentioned must be THE REVEALED Law, there being no other. In these places, indeed, the covenant is spoken of as being new; but that it cannot be considered new in the sense of originating with the times of the Gospel dispensation, St. Paul's arguments with the Jews may be cited to shew.
Dr. Whately seems to me to have lost sight of a consideration which ought never to be lost sight of in questions of this nature, namely, the impossibility there is of forming any code of precepts, such as to include every possible case that may occur. The usage has always been, to make the precepts as few and comprehensive as possible; and in this point of view, I believe, nothing has ever been framed with so much consummate wisdom, as the ten commandments of the moral law. The codes of national laws occasionally become so voluminous, we know, as to be remembered and cited with the greatest difficulty, and this is the case with our own; and yet none have hitherto appeared which have provided for every case; because the thing is manifestly impossible. Their spirit and drift is principally to be regarded ; and this is precisely what is taught in the New Testament, respecting the moral law of Moses. Our divines, too, have generally proceeded on these grounds in writing on the commandments; and, for my own part, I have no doubt the view they took was the just one. In the same manner must the precepts delivered by our Lord and his Apostles be explained (for precepts they have laid down, whatever Dr. Whately may think to the contrary); which, I believe, will for the most part be found, either to be citations from some part or other of the Old Testament, or comments authoritatively given
The Gospel principles of morality, mentioned by Dr. Whately, can be nothing more than the just application of those moral precepts, which we find written either in the Old or New Testament, and which are in some places spoken of as being the law of God written on the heart, i. e. are applied not according to the letter merely, but according to their genuine spirit, to the conscience of the Christian. But suppose we grant the utmost that Dr. Whately can ask for, and allow that Christian principles or dispositions are mainly urged in the Gospel, what will our question now be ? Will it not be to inquire, How these principles or dispositions are inculcated? The answer will then necessarily be: In the detail and application of moral precepts extended to the heart, and governing it in an entire submission to the authority of the divine Lawgiver; and in that equability and serenity which appears to have been termed by the Apostles, “the peace of
God.” Dr. Whately seems to me to have allowed himself to be mistaken, when he urged the realisation of principles independent of any specific moral code. Principles, according to my notions, are nothing more or less than comprehensive laws, against which, the man who holds them, or who is commonly termed the man of principle, will not allow himself to sin: and whether these be written in a book, or understood by common consent, their nature is still the same; they are still laws—and the only questions that can arise about them must be : Where they are to be found; whether they are good; and how they can be made generally binding.
I have said, that these laws, which constitute principles, must be written: I will now say, it is only by thus recording them, that they can be preserved from injury, or admixture with other matter. And I believe the laws or principles (for it signifies not by which name we style the moral precepts) recommended to believers, have always been registered for this very purpose; tradition being too insecure a medium to preserve them. In the next place, they have been dictated by God himself. We may, therefore, rest assured, that they are both good and binding. In these respects, therefore, the moral law, as recorded in the Scripture, is complete; it is holy, just, good, and spiritual: and the only point of view in which any defect can arise in its application, must be, as the Apostle has justly argued, from the weakness or infirmity of the flesh. But if we separate Christian principles or dispositions from the positive law of morality taught in the Scriptures, I must confess I can see no other result probable, than that a mind subject at best to mistake and error, would be elevated into the situation of a lawgiver, legislating to meet its own infirmities, and becoming authoritative only to be mischievous. My conclusion therefore is, that Dr. Whately's views on these subjects are not tenable.
ON THE PRIMITIVE, THE JEWISH, AND THE CHRISTIAN SABBATH.
The last article I shall notice in Dr. Whately’s “ Essay”
“ I am is, that given on the observance of the Sabbath.