Theological Institutes

Part Third - The Morals of Christianity

By Richard Watson

Chapter 1


OF the law of God, as the subject of a Divine and adequately authenticated revelation, some observations were made in the first part of this work. That such a law exists, so communicated to mankind, and contained in the Holy Scriptures ;-that we are under obligation to obey it as the declared will of our Creator and Lord ;-that this obli­gation is grounded upon our natural relation to him as creatures made by his power, and dependent upon his bounty, are points which need not, therefore, be again adverted to, nor is it necessary to dwell upon the circumstances and degrees of its manifestation to men, under those former dispensations of the true religion which preceded Christianity. We have exhibited the leading DOCTRINES of the Scriptures, as they are found in that perfected system of revealed religion, which we owe to our Saviour, and to his apostles, who wrote under the inspiration of that Holy Spirit whom he sent forth "to lead them into all truth;" and we shall now find in the discourses of our Lord, and in the apostolical writings, a system of moral principles, virtues, and duties, equalling in fulness and perfection that great body of DOCTRINAL TRUTH which is contained in the New Testament; and deriving from it its vital influence and efficacy.

It is, however, to be noticed, that the morals of the New Testament are not proposed to us in the form of a regular code. Even in the books of Moses, which have the legislative form to a great extent, all the principles and duties which constituted time full character of" godliness," under that dispensation, are not made the subjects of formal injunction by particular precepts. They are partly infolded in general principles, or often take the form of injunction in an apparently inci­dental manner, or are matters of obvious inference. A preceding code of traditionary moral law is also all along supposed in the writings of Moses and the prophets, as well as a consuetudinary ritual and a doc­trinal theology; both transmitted from the patriarchs. This, too, is eminently the case with Christianity. It supposes that all who believed in Christ admitted the Divine authority of the Old Testament; and it assumes the perpetual authority of its morals, as well as the truth of its fundamental theology. The constant allusions in the New Testament to the moral rules of the Jews and patriarchs, either expressly as pre­cepts, or as the data of argument, sufficiently guard us against the notion, that what has not in so many words been re-enacted by Christ and his apostles is of no authority among Christians. In a great number of instances, however, the form is directly preceptive, so as to have all the explicitness and force of a regular code of law; and is, as much as a regular code could be, a declaration of the sovereign will of Christ, enforced by the sanctions of eternal life and death.

This, however, is a point on which a few confirmatory observations may be usefully adduced.

No part of the preceding dispensation, designated generally by the appellation of "THE LAW," is repealed jut the New Testament, but what is obviously ceremonial, typical, and incapable of co-existing with Christianity. Our Lord, in his discourse with the Samaritan woman, declares, that the hour of the abolition of the temple worship was come; the Apostle Paul, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, teaches us that the Levitical services were but shadows, the substance and end of which is Christ; and the ancient visible Church, as constituted upon the ground of natural descent from Abraham, was abolished by the establishment of a spiritual body of believers to take its place.

No precepts of a purely political nature, that is, which respect the civil subjection of the Jews to their theocracy, are, therefore, of any force to us as laws, although they may have, in many cases, the greatest authority as principles. No ceremonial precepts can be binding, since they were restrained to a period terminating with the death and resurrection of Christ; nor are even the patriarchal rites of circumcision and the passover obligatory upon Christians, since we leave sufficient evidence, that they were of an adumbrative character, and were laid aside by the first inspired teachers of Christianity.

With the MORAL PRECEPTS which abound in the Old Testament the case is very different, as sufficiently appears from the different and even contrary manner in which they are always spoken of by Christ and his apostles. When our Lord, in his sermon on the mount, says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I have not come to destroy the law; but to fulfil;" that is, to confirm or establish it ;- the entire scope of his discourse shows, that he is speaking exclusively of the moral precepts of THE LAW, eminently so called, and of the moral injunctions of the prophets founded upon them, and to which he thus gives an equal authority. And in so solemn a manner does he enforce this, that he adds, doubtless as foreseeing that attempts would be made by deceiving or deceived men professing his religion to lessen the authority of the moral law,-" Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven ;" that is, as St. Chrysostom interprets, "he shall be the farthest from attaining heaven and happiness, which imports that he shall not attain it at all."

In like manner St. Paul, after having strenuously maintained the doctrine of justification by faith alone, anticipates an objection by asking, "Do we then make void the law through faith?" and subjoins, " God forbid, yea, we establish the law:" meaning by "the law," as the context and his argument shows, the moral and not the ceremonial law.

After such declarations it is worse than trifling for any to contend, that, in order to establish the authority of the moral law of the Jews over Christians, it ought to have been formally reenacted. To this we may, however, farther reply, not only that many important moral principles and rules found in the Old Testament were never formally enacted among the Jews, were traditional from an earlier age, and received at different times the more indirect authority of inspired recognition, but, to put the matter in a stronger light, that all the leading moral precepts of the Jewish Scriptures are, in point of fact, proposed in a manner which has the full force of formal re-enactment, as the laws of the Christian Church. This argument, from the want of formal reenactment, has therefore no weight. The summary of the law and the prophets, which is to love God with all our heart, and to serve him with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, is unques­tionably enjoined, and even reenacted by the Christian Lawgiver. When our Lord is explicitly asked by "one who came unto him, and said, Good Master, what good thing shall 1 do, that I may have eternal life?" the answer given shows that the moral law contained in the decalogue is so in force under the Christian dispensation, that obedience to it is necessary to final salvation :-" If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." And that nothing ceremonial is intended by this term is manifest from what follows. "He saith unto him, Which Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal," &c, Matt. xix, 17-19. Here, also, we have all the force of a formal re-enactment of the decalogue, a part of it being evidently put for the whole. Nor were it difficult to produce passages from the discourses of Christ and the writings of the apostles, which enjoin all the precepts of this law taken separately, by their authority, as indispensable parts of Christian duty, and that, too, under their original sanctions of life and death: so that the two circumstances which form the true character of A LAW in its highest sense, DIVINE AUTHORITY and PENAL SANCTIONS, are found as truly in the New Testament as in the Old. It will not, for instance, be contended, that the New Testa­ment does not enjoin the acknowledgment and worship of one God alone; nor that it does not prohibit idolatry; not that it does not level its maledictions against false and profane swearing; nor that the Apostle Paul does not use the very words of the fifth commandment preceptively when he says, Eph. vi, 2, "Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise;" nor that murder, adultery, theft, false witness, and covetousness, are not all prohibited under pain of exclusion from the kingdom of GOD. Thus, then, we have the whole decalogue brought into the Christian code of morals by a distinct injunction of its separate precepts, and by their recognition as of permanent and unchangeable obligation: the fourth commandment, respecting the Sabbath only, being so far excepted, that its injunction is not so expressly marked. This, however, is no exception in fact; for beside that its original place in the two tables sufficiently distinguishes it from all positive, ceremonial, and typical precepts, and gives it a moral cha­racter, in respect of its ends, which are, first, mercy to servants and cattle, and, second, the worship of Almighty God, undisturbed by worldly interruptions and cares, it is necessarily included in that "law" which our Lord declares he came not to destroy, or abrogate; in that "law" which St. Paul declares, to be "established by faith ;" and among those "commandments" which our Lord declares must be "kept," if any one would "enter into life." To this, also, the practice of the apostles is to be added, who did not cease themselves from keeping one day in seven holy, nor teach others so to do; but gave to "the Lord's day" that eminence and sanctity in the Christian Church which the seventh day had in the Jewish, by consecrating it to holy uses; an alteration not affecting the precept at all, except in an unessential circumstance, (if, indeed, in that,) and in which we may suppose them to act under Divine suggestion.

Thus, then, we have the obligation of the whole decalogue as fully established in the New Testament as in the Old as if it had been for­mally reenacted; and that no formal re-enactment of it took place, is itself a presumptive proof that it was never regarded by the Lawgiver as temporary, which the formality of republication might have supposed.

It is important to remark, however, that although the moral laws of the Mosaic dispensation pass into the Christian code, they stand there in other and higher circumstances; so that the New Testament is a more perfect dispensation of the knowledge of the moral will of God than the old. In particular,

1. They are more expressly extended to the heart, as by our Lord, in his sermon on the mount; who teaches us that the thought and in. ward purpose of any offence is a violation of the law prohibiting its external and visible commission.

2. The principles on which they are founded are carried out in the New Testament into a greater variety of duties, which, by embracing more perfectly the social and civil relations of life, are of a more univer­sal character.

3. There is a much more enlarged injunction of positive and particular virtues, especially those which constitute the Christian temper.

4. By all overt acts being inseparably connected with corresponding principles in the heart, in order to constitute acceptable obedience, which principles suppose the regeneration of the soul by the Holy Ghost. This moral renovation is, therefore, held out as necessary to our salvation, and promised as a part of the grace of our redemption by Christ.

5. By being connected with promises of Divine assistance, which is peculiar to a law connected with evangelical provisions.

6. By their having a living illustration in the perfect and practical example of Christ.

7. By time higher sanctions derived from the clearer revelation of a future state, and the more explicit promises of eternal life, and threat­enings of eternal punishment.

It follows from this, that we have in the Gospel time most complete and perfect revelation of moral law ever given to men; and a more exact manifestation of the brightness, perfection, and glory of that law', under which angels and our progenitors in paradise were placed, and which it is at once the delight and interest of the most perfect and happy beings to obey.

It has, however, fared with morals as with doctrines, that they have been often, and by a strange perversity, studied, without any reference to the authority of the Scriptures. As we have had systems of NATU­RAL RELIGION drawn out of the materials furnished by the Scriptures, and then placed to the sole account of human reason; so we have also various systems of morals drawn, as far as the authors thought fit, from the same source, and put forth under the title of MORAL PHILOSOPHY, implying too often, or, at least, sanctioning the inference, that the unassisted powers of man are equally adequate to the discovery of doctrine and duty; or, at best, that Christianity but perfects what uninspired men are able not only to commence, but to carry onward to a con­siderable approach to perfection. This observation may be made as to both-that whatever is found correct in doctrine, and pure in morals in ancient writers or systems, may be traced to indirect revelation; amid that so far as mere reason has applied itself to discovery in either, it has generally gone astray. The modern systems of natural religion and ethics are superior to the ancient, not because the reason of their framers is superior, but because they have had the advantage of a light from Christianity, which they have not been candid enough generally to acknowledge. For those who have written on such subjects with a view to lower the value of the Holy Scriptures, the remarks in the first part of this work must suffice; but of that class of moral philosophers, who hold the authority of the sacred books, and yet sedulously omit all reference to them, it may be inquired what they propose, by disjoining morals from Christianity, and considering them as a separate science? Authority they cannot gain, for no obligation to duty can be so high as the command of GOD; nor can that authority be applied in so direct a manner, as by a revelation of his will: and as for the perfection of their system, since they discover no duties not already enjoined in the Scriptures, or grounded upon some general principles they contain, they can find no apology, from the additions they make to our moral knowledge, to put Christianity, on all such subjects, wholly out of sight.

All attempts to teach morals, independent of Christianity, even by those who receive it as a Divine revelation, must, notwithstanding time great names which have sanctioned the practice, be considered as of mis­chievous tendency, although the design may have been laudable, and the labour, in some subordinate respects, not without utility

1.  Because they silently convey the impression, that human reason, without assistance, is sufficient do discover the full duty of man toward God and toward his fellow creatures.

2.  Because they imply a deficiency in the moral code of our religion, which does not exist; the fact being that, although these systems bor­row much from Christianity, they do not take in the whole of its moral principles, and, therefore, so far as they are accepted, as substitutes, displace what is perfect for what is imperfect.

3. Because they turn the attention from what is fact, the revealed LAW of God, with its appropriate sanctions, and place the obligation to obedience either on fitness, beauty, general interest, or the natural authority of truth, which are all matters of opinion; or, if they ultimately refer it to the will of God, yet they infer that will through various rea­sonings and speculations, which in themselves are still matters of opinion and as to which men will feel themselves to be in some degree free.

4. The duties they enjoin are either merely outward in the act, and so they disconnect them from internal principles and habits, without which they are not acceptable to God, and but the shadows of real vir­tue, however beneficial they may be to men; or else they assume that human nature is able to engraft those principles and habits upon itself, and to practise them without abatement and interruption; a notion which is Contradicted by those very Scriptures they hold to be of Divine authority.

5. Their separation of the doctrines of religion from its morals, leads to an entirely different process of promoting morality among men to that which the infinite wisdom and goodness of God has established in the Gospel. They lay down the rule of conduct, and recommend it from its excellence per se, or its influence upon individuals and upon society, or perhaps because it is manifested to be the will of the Supreme Being, indicated from the constitution of human nature, and the relations of men. But Christianity rigidly connects its doctrines with its morals. Its doctrine of man's moral weakness is made use of to lead him to distrust his own sufficiency. Its doctrine of the atonement shows at once the infinite evil of sin, and encourages men to seek deliverance from its power. Its doctrine of regeneration by the influence of the Holy Spirit, implies the entire destruction of the love of evil, and the direction of the whole affection of the soul to universal virtue. Its doctrine of prayer opens to man a fellowship with God, invigorating to every virtue. The example of Christ, the imitation of which is made obligatory upon us, is in itself a moral system in action, and in principle; and the revelations of a future judgment brings the whole weight of the control of future rewards and punishments to bear upon the motives and actions of men, and is the source of that fear of offending God, which is the constant guard of virtue, when human motives would in a multitude of cases avail nothing.

It may indeed be asked, whether the teaching of morals must then in all cases be kept in connection with religion? and whether the philo­sophy of virtues and of vices, with the lower motives by which they are urged upon men, may not be usefully investigated? We answer, that if the end proposed by this is not altogether speculative, but something practical; if the case of an immoral world is taken up by moralists with reference to its cure, or even to its emendation in any effectual degree, the whole is then resolved into this simple question,-whether a weakened instrument shall be preferred to that which is powerful and effective? Certain it is that the great end of Christianity, so far as its influences upon society goes, is to moralize mankind; but its infinitely wise Author has established and authorized but ONE process for the correction of the practical evils of the world, and that is, the teaching and enforcement of THE WHOLE TRUTH as it stands in his own revelations; and to this only has he promised his special blessing. A distinct class of ethical. teachers, imitating heathen philosophers in the principles and modes of moral tuition, is, in a Christian country, a violent anomaly; and implies an absurd return to the twilight of knowledge after the sun itself has arisen upon the world.

Within proper guards, and in strict connection with the whole Christian system, what is called moral philosophy is not, however, to be un­dervalued; and from many of the writers above alluded to much useful instruction may be collected, which, though of but little efficacy in itself, may be invigorated by uniting it with the vital and energetic doctrines of religion, and may thus become directive to the conduct of the serious Christian. Understanding then by moral philosophy, not that pride of science which borrows the discoveries of the Scriptures, and then ex­hibits itself as their rival, or affects to supply their deficiencies; but as a modest scrutiny into the reasons on which the moral precepts of reve­lation-may be grounded, and a wise and honest application of its moral principles to particular cases, it is a branch of science which may be usefully cultivated in connection with Christianity.

With respect to the reasons on which moral precepts rest, we may make a remark similar to that offered in a former part of this work, on the doctrines of revelation. Some of those doctrines rest wholly on the authority of the Revealer; others are accompanied with a manifest rational evidence; and a third class may partially disclose their rationale to the patient and pious inquirer. Yet the authority of each class as a subject of faith is the same; it rests upon the character of God and his relations to us; and that doctrine is equally binding which is enjoined on our faith without other rational evidence than that which proves it to be a part of a revelation from heaven, as that which exercises, and delights our rational faculties, by a disclosure of the internal evidence of its truth. When God has permitted us to "turn aside" to see some "great sight" of manifested wisdom, we are to obey the invitation; but still we are always to remember that the authority of a revealed truth stands on infinitely higher ground than our perception of its reasonableness.

So also as to the moral precepts of the Bible, thee rational evidence is afforded in different degrees, and it is both allowable and laudable in us to investigate and collect it; but still with this caution, that the authority of such injunctions is not to be regulated by our perception of their reasons, although the reasons, when apparent, may be piously applied to commend the authority. The discoveries we may make of fitness or any other quality in a precept cannot be the highest reason of our obe­dience; but it may be a reason for obeying with accelerated alacrity. The obligation of the Sabbath would be the same were no obvious reasons of mercy and piety connected with it; but the influence of the pre­cept upon our interests and that of the community commends the precept to our affections as well as to our sense of duty.

With respect to the application of general precepts, that practical wisdom which is the result of large and comprehensive observation has an important office. The precepts of a universal revelation must necessarily be, for the most part, general, because if rules had been given for each case in detail, then truly, as St. John observes, "the world could not have contained the books written." The application of these general principles to that variety of cases which arises in human affairs, is the work of the Christian preacher, and the Christian moralist. Where there is honesty of mind, ordinarily there can be no difficulty in this; and in cases which involve some difficulty, when the interpretation of the law is made, as it always ought, to favour the rule; and when, in doubtful cases, the safer course is adopted, such is the explicit character of the general principles of the Holy Scriptures, that no one can go astray. The moral philosophy which treats of exceptions to general rules, is always to be watched with jealousy; and ought to be shunned when it presumes to form rules out of supposed exceptions. This is affecting to be wiser than the Lawgiver; and such philosophy assumes an authority in the control of human conduct to which it has no title; and steps in between individuals and their consciences in cases where almighty God himself has not chosen to relieve them; and where they are specially left, as all sometimes are, to "Him with whom they have to do," without the intervention of any third party. Systems of casuistry and cases of conscience have happily gone into general disuse. That they have done more harm upon the whole than good, and defiled more consciences than they have relieved, cannot be doubted by any one who has largely examined them. They have passed away just in proportion as the Scriptures themselves have been circulated through society, and as that preaching has been most prevalent which enforces the doctrine of supreme love to God and our neighbour, as the sum of the law and of the Gospel. They most abounded in the Romish Church, as best befitting its system of darkness and delusion;[1] and though works of this kind are found among Protestants in a better form, they have gradually and happily fallen into neglect.

A few words may here be offered on what has been termed the ground of moral obligation.

Some writers have placed this in "the eternal and necessary fitness of things;" which leaves the matter open to the varying conclusions which different individuals may draw, as to this eternal and necessary fitness; and still farther, leaves that very natural question quite unanswered,-Why is any one obliged to act according to the fitness of things?

Others have referred to a supposed original perception of what is right and wrong; a kind of fixed and permanent and unalterable moral sense, by which the qualities of actions are at once determined; and from the supposed universal existence of this perception, they have argued the obligation to act accordingly. This scheme, which seems to confound that in human nature to which an appeal may be made when the under­standing is enlightened by real truth, with a discriminating and directive principle acting independently of instruction, is also unsatisfactory. For the moral sense is, in fact, found under the control of ignorance and error; nor does it possess a sensitiveness in all cases in proportion to the truth received into the understanding. The worst crimes have often been committed with a conviction of their being right, as in the case of religious persecutions; and the absence of the habit of attending to the quality of our actions often renders the abstract truth laid up in the un­derstanding useless, as to its influence upon the conscience. But if all that is said of this moral sense were true, still it would not establish the principle of obligation. That supposes superior authority; and should we allow the moral sense to act uniformly, still how is the obligation to perform what it approves to be demonstrated, unless some higher consideration be added to the case?

More modern moralists have taken the tendency of any course of action to produce the greatest good upon the whole as the source of moral obligation; and with this they often connect the will of God, of which they consider this general tendency to be the manifestation. It were better, surely, to refer at once to the will of God, as revealed by himself without incumbering the subject with the circuitous, and, at best, doubtful process of first considering what is good upon the whole, and then inferring that this must needs be the will of a wise and benevolent Being. The objection, too, holds in this case, that this theory leaves it still a mere matter of opinion, in which an interested party is to be the judge, whether an action be upon the whole good; and gives a rule which would be with difficulty applied to some cases, and is scarcely at, all applicable to many others which may be supposed.

The only satisfactory answer which the question as to the source of moral obligation, can receive, is, that it is found in THE WILL OF GOD. For since the question respects the duty of a created being with reference to his Creator, nothing can be more conclusive than that the Creator has an absolute right to the obedience of his creatures; and that the creature is in duty obliged to obey Him from whom it not only has received being, but by whom that being is constantly sustained. It has indeed been said, that even if it be admitted, that I am obliged to obey the will of God, the question is still open, "Why am I obliged to obey his will?" and that this brings us round to the former answer; because he can only will what is upon the whole best for his creatures. But this is confounding that which may be, and doubtless is, a rule to God in the commands which he issues, with that which really obliges the creature. Now, that which in truth obliges the creature is not the nature of the commands issued by God; but the relation in which the creature itself stands to God. If a creature can have no existence, nor any power or faculty independently of God, it can have no right to employ its faculties independently of him; and if it have no right to employ its faculties in an independent manner, the right to rule its conduct must rest with the Creator alone; and from this results the obligation of the creature to obey.

Such is the principle assumed in the Scriptures, where the creative and rectoral relations of God are inseparably united, and the obligation of obedience is made to follow upon the fact of our existence; and if the will of God, as the source of obligation, be so obvious a rule, the only remaining question is, whether we shall receive that will as it is expressly revealed by himself; or, wilfully forgetting that such a revelation has been made, we shall proceed to infer it by various processes of induction? The answer to this might have been safely left to the common sense of mankind, had not the vanity of philosophizing so often interposed to perplex so plain a point.

We must not here confound the will of God as the source of moral obligation, with the notion that right and wrong have no existence but as they are so constituted by the will of God. They must have their foundation in the reality of things. What moral rectitude is, and why it obliges, are quite distinct questions. It is to the latter only that the preceding observations apply. As to the former, the following remarks, from a recent intelligent publication, are very satisfactory :- "Virtue, as it regards man, is the conformity or harmony of his affections and actions with the various relations in which he has been placed;-of which conformity the perfect intellect of God, guided in its exercise by his infinitely holy nature, is the only infallible judge.

"We sustain various relations to God himself. He is our Creator,- our Preserver,-our Benefactor,-our Governor. 'He is the Framer of our bodies, and the Father of our spirits.' He sustains us 'by the' word of his power;' for, as we are necessarily dependent beings, our continued existence is a kind of prolonged creation. We owe all that we possess to him; and our future blessings must flow from his kindness. Now there are obviously certain affections and actions which harmonize or correspond with these relations. To love and obey God manifestly befit our relation to him, as that great Being from whom our existence as well as all our comforts flow. He who showers his blessings upon us ought to possess our affections; he who formed us has a right to our obedience. It is not stated merely, let it be observed, that it is impossible to contemplate our relation to God without perceiving that we are morally bound to love and obey him; (though that is a truth of great importance;) for I do not consent to the propriety of the representation, that virtue depends either upon our perceptions or our feelings There is a real harmony between the relations in which we stand to God, and the feelings and conduct to which reference has been made; and therefore the human mind has been formed capable of perceiving and feeling it.

"We sustain various relations to each other. God has formed 'of one blood all the families of the earth.' Mutual love and brotherly kind. ness, the fruit of love, are required by this relation,-they harmonize or correspond with it. We are children; we are loved, and guarded, and supported, and tended with unwearied assiduity by our parents. Filial affection and filial obedience are demanded by this relation; no other state of mind, no other conduct, will harmonize with it. We are, perhaps, on the other hand, parents. Instrumentally at least we have imparted existence to our children; they depend on us for protection, support, &c; and to render that support, is required by the relation we bear to them. It is, however, needless to specify the various relations in which we stand to each other. With reference to all I again say, that they necessarily involve obligations to certain states of mind, and certain modes of conduct, as harmonizing with the relations; and that rectitude is the conformity of the character and conduct of an individual with the relations in which he stands to the beings by whom he is surrounded.

"It is by no means certain to me, that this harmony between the ac­tions and the relations of a moral agent, is not what we are to understand by that 'conformity to the fitness of things,' in which some writers have made the essence of virtue to consist. Against this doctrine, it has been objected, that it is indefinite, if not absurd; because, as it in alleged, it represents an action as right and fit, without stating what it as fit for,-an absurdity as great, says the objector, as it would be to say that 'the angles at the base of an isosceles triangle are equal without adding to one another, or to any other angle.' Dr. Brown also, in ar­guing against this doctrine says, 'There must be a principle of moral regard, independent of reason, or reason may in vain see a thousand fitnesses, and a thousand truths; and would be warmed with the same lively emotions of indignation, against an inaccurate timepiece or an error in arithmetic calculation, as against the wretch who robbed, by every fraud that could elude the law, those who had already little of which they could be deprived, that he might riot a little more luxuriously, while the helpless, whom he had plundered, were starving around him.' Now, why may we not say, in answer to the former objector, that the conformity of an action with the relations of the agent, is the fitness for which Clarke contends? And why may not we reply to Dr. Brown, that,-allowing, as we do, the necessity of that susceptibility of moral emotion for which he contends,-the emotion of approbation which arises on the contemplation of a virtuous action, is not the virtue of the action, nor the perception of its accordance with the relations of the agent, BUT THE ACCORDANCE ITSELF? 'That a being,' says Dewar, 'endowed with certain powers, is bound to love and obey the Creator and Preserver of all, is truth, whether I perceive it or no; and we cannot perceive it possi­ble that it can ever be reversed.'

"All the relations to which reference has been made, are, in one Sense, arbitrary. Our existence as creatures is to be ascribed to the mere good pleasure of God. The relations which bind society together, the conjugal, parental, filial relation, depend entirely upon the sovereign will of Him who gave us our being; but the conduct to which these relations oblige us, is by no means arbitrary. Having determined to constitute the relations, he could not but enjoin upon us the conduct which his word prescribes. He was under no obligation to create us at all; but, having given us existence, be could not fail to command us to love and obey him. There is a harmony between these relations, and these duties,-a harmony which is not only perceived by us,-for to state that merely, would seem to make our perceptions the rule, if not the foundation of duty,-but which is perceived by the perfect Intellect of God himself. And since the relations we sustain were constituted by God, since he is the Judge of the affections and conduct which harmonize with these relations,-that which appears right to him, being right on that account,-rectitude may be regarded as conformity to the moral nature of God, the ultimate standard of virtue." (Payne's Elements of Mental and Moral Science.)

To the revealed will of God we may now turn for information on the interesting subject of morals, and we shall find that the ethics of Christianity have a glory and perfection which philosophy has never heightened, and which its only true office is to display, and to keep before the attention of mankind.


[1] Therefore, preceptor of Louis XIII, not unaptly called casuistry, "the art of quibbling with God."