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of jure divino authority, without any consideration of its moral qualities or results. Some more ingenious and candid minds have confounded it with other impulses and affections, less concerned with moral agency, mere instincts, and useful or injurious only according to their relation to other principles of our nature. Thus the ordinary natural sympathies, the feelings dependent on peculiarities of structure and temperament, on our complex nature, the diversities of place, or the power of association sometimes urge us forcibly in a career of improvement, influence and distinction, which is mistaken for the effect of the principle in question, yet does not result from it, and is not necessarily indicative of any wrong habit of the mind. The same is true of the principles of self-respect, regard for personal rights, the love of approbation, the desire of an honorable standing, and of the rewards of industry, temperance, frugality and study, all inherent and innocent, subserving important uses in the forming of our character, and no more to be condemned than the instinctive pleasures of the palate, or of vision. The Scriptures speak of this general appetency to personal good with decided commendation: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold. They reprobate the want of it, as more injurious than speculative unbelief: He that provideth not for his own house hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. It is indispensable to individual and social advancement. He, who obeys it, is not, indeed, on that account, a good man, in the evangelical sense of that appellation ; but neither is he, on that account, a bad
It is a mercifully conservative element in our nature. We put in the same class with taste, the pleasures of the imagination, the love of letters. We should as wisely disparage polite learning, mechanical improvements, the fine arts, or any other ingredients of civilization, as that property of our nature which is obviously related to these effects of intelligence, and which is the evidence of our capacity for elevation and enjoyment, and of likeness to the original of all fitness and beauty. It is a poor substitute for moral virtue, but a necessary preservative from the coarseness of brutality. It regulates the inferior passions, bringing into correspondence the material and the spiritual of our nature, and, when controlled by the higher principles, conducing to that symmetry, proportion and harmony which are essential to the idea of a perfect man.
We can easily stop here, at the idea of desiring a personal
good, and putting forth the requisite effort to obtain it. And in coming to this point, we offend not against any moral sentiment. It is obedience to an instinct, a law of sentient being, apart from any regard to moral faculty or accountability. We have it in common with the lower orders of the creation. But when we place ourselves in connection with our fellow-beings, then a law comes over us adapted to that new relation, regulating the instinct so far as it affects the interests of social life, and limiting our desire of personal good to a rigid impartiality. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. No commentary can simplify the conception of our obligation in this respect. To have an exclusive regard for our own advantage, or a selfish complacency in it, is a violation of the law; and to seek that advantage, in a course of competition, aggravates the criminality, just in proportion to the excitement of the race. When we have attained the objects of our wrong ambition, we perceive that we have invaded the territory of conscience, and have lost the assurance and the recompense of spiritual integrity. The laurel and the crown are the price of disinterested virtue.
The ideas, related to those which have been already considered, of imitating a model, of appreciating our own abilities, or of taking a place corresponding to our merits, have been often confounded with that of emulation. Let it be considered with how little reason. We are made to perceive and to admire the beautiful, the sublime, and to approve the right. By Christianity we are inclined to love true virtue, and reach forth to new degrees of moral excellence. Aspiration after greatness and goodness is legitimate; and eminence, honor, power, consequent upon the cultivation of our abilities, are as necessary, in the moral economy of God, as the proportion between gravitation and the quantity of matter, under the physical laws. They are the product, justly proportioned, of every man's seed sown. But this love of the excellent is distinct from the principle in question. It belongs to another class of our sentiments, and tends to abase and subdue the selfish passions. They propose distinction for an end ; this receives it as a consequence. They run before that they may win ; this follows that it may resemble. It obeys a universal law of Providence and of moral government; while they contemplate no divine arrangement or requirement, but a mere private interest, and that in circumstances and conditions where such a limitation constitutes transgression. You may be a Bacon, a Newton, a SECOND SERIES, VOL. V. NO. II.
Paul, with corresponding powers and advantages, and that by a constitutional necessity, and in harmony with all the divine counsels and arrangements. And so you may be an angel, may be like God. But to aim at that distinction for the distinction's sake, contemplating, not the positive, but the comparative elevation; that is a fatal incongruity. You become, indeed, the philosopher, the reasoner, the preacher, but not the Christian ; a spirit fallen, an archangel ruined. You violate the social order, you overstep the law.
I charge thee fling away ambition.
By that sin fell the angels. Let us suppose a perfect state of society, in which all minds are conformed, invariably, to the divine will. Such was heaven, till that mad ambition, which the poet has so significantly described, took possession of the tall archangel. We cannot, by any effort, bring the mind to entertain the idea of competition, the lust of pre-eminence, as a trait of such a society. On the contrary, it was just that feeling which divided heaven, and cast down the spirits who kept not their first estate into chains and darkness. But the same law, which binds the angels, rests on man. It is eternal over the universe of mind; and every sentiment and act, partaking of a moral character, and not conformed to that perfect standard, are forever wrong. They deserve a place no more on earth than in heaven. They should have no allowance where Christianity is admitted as a rule of life; least of all in institutions set up for the glory of Christ, and the conversion of the world. It may
be thought that these sentiments are too refined for a world like ours; that we cannot govern fallen beings by a perfect law; that we cannot move them but by motives suited, in some measure, to their present character. But, who cannot govern them? Who cannot move them ? Not their Creator ; not their Judge. We do not find his requirements mitigated and let down in accommodation to the immoral sentiments of apostate beings: and, certainly, neither the scenes of Sinai nor Calvary are fitted to diminish our sense of the efficiency of his administration. Shall man be wiser than his Maker ? On what principle shall we introduce into our administration, and apply as indispensable to our success, a rule of action which would be fatal to the divine integrity ? On what principle shall we disparage a rule which God pronounces essential to his moral
government, or bring it into such unnatural alliance with our own short-sighted arrangements, as to dishonor it, and make it ineffectual ? Shall we do this in our families, in the church of God? Have we forgotten the half-way covenant of NewEngland ?
But, it may be said that principles of acknowledged validity and authority are yet to be restrained and limited in their application, by other principles equally true and worthy of regard; as in physics, many theories, established by general reasonings, cannot be carried out in practice, without great allowance for conflicting influences in the processes of nature. He who should abate nothing for friction, for different and opposite forces, would find himself materially wrong in his calculations, and unsuccessful in his results. He might be a consistent reasoner from partial or erroneous premises, but an unskilful machinist, or a dangerous navigator.
If by this it is intended, that, on moral subjects, different and opposite principles may be equally true and important, it is sufficient to say that such a sentiment carries its own refutation. It can never impose upon a thinking mind. If it is intended that, although moral truth is in its own nature immutable, it must be limited in its application by the opposing forces in the human will, by the errors, prejudices and passions of society, we say this is begging the question, and it is sufficient to meet it by a contrary assertion. It is not invidious to charge upon so broad a declaration the vice of submitting an acknowledged principle to the construction of a self-seeking expediency, and making a trade of our morality. It is arresting the progress of knowledge, and virtually giving our countenance to admitted error. It is holding up the lamp, but covering it with an extinguisher. It is obscuring the sun, in kindness to diseased eyes, and leaving those who otherwise would rejoice in the good light of heaven, to grope in darkness at noon-day.
That we shall not, in point of fact, attain to a theoretical perfection in the application of our general principles, in the present imperfect state of society, is doubtless true; and so far the analogy between physical and moral science is admitted. But as this admission affects not the essential truth and obligatoriness of
cannot be acceptable to depraved minds. It is not likely to be admitted when proposed in real or imagined opposition to
established policy, or by way of objection to the projects of interested men. But he who, on that account, refrains from the assertion of his principles, in positions where moral action is required of him, lowers the standard of virtue, without getting any corresponding advantage in his influence over other minds, and generally, with no other result than to be classed himself with evil-doers. Far different was the attitude of Paul, when he took his weeping brethren to record that he was pure from the blood of all men, for he had not shunned to declare unto them the whole counsel of God.
The disinclination or resistance of disordered mind to moral truth is no reason for holding that truth in our own judgments, in any qualified or restricted sense. Much less is it a reason, when the well-being of others depends on the expression of our sentiments, for yielding it in accommodation to human weakness and depravity. We cannot, indeed, have impossibilities. We may not treat infancy as mature age, nor compel the progress of civilization, nor the action of
moral causes; and it were chimerical to make our efforts disproportioned to the capacity or condition of society, to shape our measures merely to its prospective stages, or an ideal model. There is a law of correspondence and congruity, as well as charity, which it is preposterous to violate. But all this has relation, not to the substance of truth, but its accidents, to quantity and manner, to time and place, and so far from being a reason for the compromise of principle, should awaken a greater jealousy and carefulness, lest in making allowance for human imperfection, we create an impression unfavorable either to general rectitude, or our personal integrity. The innumerable obstacles in our way, resulting from human ignorance and sinfulness, while they call for tolerance and patience, for good taste and temper, should, nevertheless, urge us to more assiduous labor, till society shall become wiser and better through our honest, yet judicious