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Revelation, and have uniformly availed myself of its light. “ Such as reject the Christian Religion, are to make the best shift they can to build up a system and lay the foundation of morality without it. But it appears to me a great inconsistency in those who receive Christianity and expect something to come of it, to endeavour to keep all such expectations out of sight in their reasonings concerning human duty.”
To this course it will, perhaps, be objected, that it is encroaching on the province of the Divine. The objection, however, is quite unfounded. While the moral philosopher does not professedly treat of divinity, or give a system of christian theology, he is bound always so to conduct his course of morals, that it
may be, as it is designed, an useful preparation for the study of Revealed Truth. He is to treat of moral science, but not to the neglect of the sanctions of Christianity; not to speak and write on themes of the deepest moment, as if “ the day-spring from on high" had not visited us. “ The morality of the gospel,” says Locke, “ doth so exceed them all, that, to give a man a full knowledge of true morality, I shall send him to no other book but the New Testament *.”
* Locke's Thoughts on Reading and Study.
Without the light of Divine Revelation, we know very little of the moral government of God, and of the duties and the final destiny of man. Let us, by all means, ascertain to what length reason alone will lead us in our inquiries into such subjects: but why should we refuse to receive instruction from Christianity, when the light of nature fails us? “ Some authors," says Paley, “ industriously decline the mention of Scripture authorities, as belonging to a different province; and others reserving them for a separate volume; which appears to me much the same defect, as if a commentator on the laws of England should content himself with stating upon each head the common law of the land, without taking any notice of acts of Parliament; or should choose to give his readers the common law in one book, and the statute law in another."
There are two classes to whom, I trust, this work may be useful:–First, to students of Moral Philosophy, and more especially as preparatory to their entering on the study of Sacred Theology. I flatter myself that they will here obtain hints which may be of advantage in enlarging their views of the moral government and law of God: which are essentially necessary to their entertaining just conceptions of the several parts of Divine Revelation. Without a
thorough understanding of the principles and grounds of moral obligation, we shall be ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Secondly, to Christians generally, I hope, this work may be useful; by enforcing the obligation of practising the things that are true, and just and honourable, and lovely, and of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise.
I have, in the first book, enlarged at greater length than some may deem necessary, on the being and perfections of God. I have done so, however, under the impression, (and this must be my apology,) that it is of infinite importance to the virtue and happiness of mankind that just and comprehensive views should be entertained on these fundamental subjects. All religion,” says Archbishop Tillotson,-whose name must always be venerated by all who value the high interest of morals,-“ is founded on right notions of God and his perfections, insomuch that Divine Revelation itself does suppose these for its foundations*.' ” A similar remark has been made by Dr. Butler, one of the most distinguished metaphysicians and moralists that England has produced. " If we are constituted such sort of creatures, as, from our very nature, to feel certain affections or movements of mind, upon the sight or contemplation of the meanest inanimate part of the creation ;-certainly there must be somewhat due to Himself who is the Author and cause of all things; who is more intimately present to us than any thing else can be, and with whom we have a nearer and more constant intercourse than we can have with any creature: there must be some movements of mind and heart which correspond to his perfections, or of which those perfections are the natural object *.”
* Serm. 41.
I had intended to furnish additional illustrations of some of the subjects discussed in these volumes by appending to each a series of notes. But as the work has gone considerably beyond the length which I had originally designed, I have not thought it expedient to extend it further.
Glasgow, April 13, 1826.
* Butler's Works, vol. ii. p. 82.