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· Whereas every system of human laws, cori sidered as a rule of life, labours under the two following defects.
I. Human laws omit many duties, as not objects of compulsion ; such as piety to God, bounty to the poor, forgiveness of injuries, education of children, gratitude to benefactors.
The law never speaks but to command, nor commands but where it can compel ; confequently those duties, which by their nature m'uft be voluntary, are left out of the statute book, as lying beyond the reach of its operation and authority.
II. Human laws permit, or, which is the fame thing, suffer to go unpunished, many crimes, because they are incapable of being defined by any previous description-Of which nature is luxury, prodigality, partiality in voting at those elections in which the qualification of the candidate ought to determine the success, caprice in the disposition of men's fortunes at their death, disrespect to parents, and a multitude of similar examples.
For this is the alternative; either the Law must define beforehand and with precision the offences which it punishes, or it must be left to the discretion of the magistrate to determine upon each particular accusation, whether it conftitute3
that offence which the law designed to punish, or not; which is in effect leaving to the magistrate to punish or not to punish, at his pleasure, the individual who is brought before him : which is just so much tyranny. Where, therefore, as in the instances above-mentioned, the distinction between right and wrong is of too subtile or of too fecret a nature, to be ascertained by any preconcerted language, the law of most countries, especially of free states, rather than commit the liberty of the subject to the discretion of the magistrate, leaves men in such cases to themselves,
Ç HA P. IV,
THE SCRIPTURE S.
W H OEVER expects to find in the Scrip
tures a specific direction for every moral doubt that arises, looks for more than he will meet with. And to what a magnitude such a detail of particular precepts would have enlarged the facred volume, may be partly understood.. from the following consideration. The laws of this country, including the acts of the legislaB.3
ture and the decisions of our supreme courts of justice, are not contained in fewer than fifty folio volumes ; and yet it is not once in ten attempts that you can find the case you look for, in any law-book whatever; to fay nothing of those numerous points of conduct, concerning which the law profeffes not to prescribe or determine any thing. Had then the same particularity, which obtains in human laws so far as they go, been attempted in the Scriptures, throughout the whole extent of morality, it is manifeft, they would have been by much too bulky to be either read or circulated; or rather, as St. John says, “ even the world itself could “ not contain the books that should be written.”
Morality is taught in Scripture in this wise. General rules are laid down of piety, justice, benevolence, and purity : such as worshipping God in spirit and in truth ; doing as we would be done by; loving our neighbour as ourself; forgiving others, as we expect forgiveness from God; that mercy is better than facrifice ; that not that which entereth into a man, (nor, by parity of reason, any ceremonial pollutions) but that which proceedeth from the heart, defileth him. These rules are occasionally illustrated, either by fictitious examples, as in the parable of the
good Samaritan; and of the cruel servant, who refused to his fellow-servant that indulgence and compassion which his master had shewn to him: or in instances which actually presented themselves, as in Christ's reproof of his disciples at the Samaritan village; his praise of the poor widow, who cast in her last mite ; his censure of the Pharisees, who chose out the chief rooms-and of the tradition, whereby they evaded the command to sustain their indigent parents: or lastly, in the resolution of questions, which those who were about our Saviour proposed to him ; as in his answer to the young man who asked him, “ What lack I yet ;” and to the honest scribe, who had found out, even in that age and country, that “ to love God and his neighbour was more than “ all whole burnt offerings and sacrifice.'
And this is in truth the way in which all practical sciences are taught, as Arithmetic, Grammar, Navigation, and the like.-Rules are laid down, and examples are subjoined ; not that these examples are the cases, much less all the cases which will actually occur, but by way only of explaining the principle of the rule, and as so many fpecimens of the method of applying it. The chief difference is, that the examples in Scripture are not annexed to the rules with the diB4
dactic regularity to which we are now-a-days accustomed, but delivered dispersedly, as particular occasions suggested them ; which gave them however, especially to those who heard them, and were present to the occasions which produced them, an energy and persuasion, much beyond what the same or any instances would þave appeared with, in their places in a system. · Beside this, the Scriptures commonly presuppose, in the persons to whom they speak, a knowledge of the principles of natural justice; and are employed not so much to teach new rules of morality, as to enforce the practice of ịt by new sanctions, and by a greater certainty: which last seems to be the proper business of a revelation from God, and what was most wanted.
Thus the “ unjust, covenant breakers and extortioners” are condemned in Scripture, supposing it known, or leaving it, where it admits of doubt, to moralists to determine, what injustice, extortion, or breach of covenant are,
The above confiderations are intended to prove that the Scriptures do not supersede the use of the science of which we profefs to treat, and at the fame time to acquit them of any charge of im, perfection or insufficiency on that account,
C HA P,