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IMPUTATION OF VOLUNTARY ACTIONS. 179
that is said and done in human society supposes this principle generally received, and every body acquiesces in it from an inward conviction. We must therefore lay down as an incontestable and fundamental principle of the imputability of human actions, that every voluntary action is susceptible of imputation, or to express the same thing in other ternis, that action or omission subject to the di rection of man, can be charged to the account of the person in whose power it was to do it, or let it alone; and on the contrary, every action, whose existence or non-existence does not depend on our will, cannot be imputed to us. Observe here, that omissions are ranked by civilians and moralists among the number of actions, because they apprehend them as the effects of a voluntary suspension of the exercise of our faculties. Imputability and imputation are two things which we should carefully distinguish. The latter supposes beside the imputability some moral obligation that requires a thing to be done, or omitted, that can be really done or omitted.
11. Moral obligation, as here used, is either internal, external, felt, or not felt.
By internal obligation I mean that, which is imposed on the virtuous mind by an internal choice ; such choice in voluntary actions always imposes on the virtuous mind a moral necessity, and a moral
obligation of willing, and doing according to the choice. This obligation exactly agrees with the law of God, which requires us to treat every object according to what it is; and by the virtuous mind the obligation is felt; not because God wills that we should so conduct; but because the virtuous mind chooses so to conduct. As a man bound with cords or chains cannot move or act with liberty, so it is very nearly the same case with the virtuous mind who is thus obliged; with this difference, that in the former case it is an external or physical impediment, which prevents the effects of one's natural strength; but in the second, it is a moral tie, that is, the subjection of liberty by an internal choice in voluntary actions.
By external obligation I mean that which is im posed on the virtuous mind by an external choice. We have already shewed, that this choice is produced by the consideration of the moral law, and future rewards, and punishments. An external choice in voluntary actions imposes on the virtuous mind a moral necessity, and an external obligation of willing and doing according to the choice, and the obligation is felt. The internal, and external obligation never oppose each other; but both tend the same way, that is, to oblige the virtuous mind to will only virtuous voluntary actions. The two obligations united form the highest moral obligation.
Thus far we have considered moral obligation as it respects the virtuous mind. But a vicious mind, destitute of every virtuous principle, is required by the law of God to treat every object according to what it is, as much as the most virtuous mind. But it is evident, that the vicious mind of man cannot have an internal choice to worship God; therefore he cannot feel an internal obligation to perform this duty. I apprehend, the only obligation he can feel is an external one, arising from the consideration of the law, and future rewards and punishments. And what he feels of this external obligation must be weak, as its force is counteracted by his internal choice not to worship God, and the moral necessity, which is produced by this choice.
If any one disputes this doctrine let him experi ment daily prayer to God, and see if he can feel the internal obligation to pray. If he feel this obligation, his mind will have a relish for prayer ; it will be more pleasing, or agreeable to his mind to pray, than not to pray; he will choose to pray, because the act in itself considered affords him pleasure. But if his mind has no relish for prayer; if it be more pleasing, or agreeable to his mind not to pray, than to pray; if he do not choose to pray, on account of any thing in the act itself, it is clear, that he cannot feel the internal obligation to pray.
Mr. Burlamaqui says, "that there are two sorts of obligations, one internal, and the other external. By internal obligation, I understand, that, which is produced by our own reason considered as the primitive rule of conduct, and in consequence of the good or evil the action in itself contains. By external obligation we mean that, which arises from the will of a being on whom we allow ourselves dependent, and who commands or prohibits some particular things under the commination of punishment." Princ. of Nat. & Polit. Law, 41.
It always supposes a virtuous nature, and a relish for virtuous objects, to feel the internal obligation to worship God; but the vicious mind has not this virtuous nature, nor a relish for virtuous objects; therefore it cannot feel this internal obligation. But the vicious mind may, by reasoning on the subject, satisfy itself, that its nature should be virtuous, and its relish should be for virtuous objects; this however will not make it feel the internal obligation to worship God, as it is felt by the virtuous mind.
I consider, reasoning is nothing but the operations of the active and passive powers of the mind, such as they are, to attain a knowledge of truth. These powers of the vicious mind, when they are called reason, are undoubtedly sufficient for the purpose of attaining this knowledge; but they can
not by their opperations, unassisted by the Holy Spirit, create a new principle in the mind, a principle to relish prayer, or a principle to feel the internal obligation to pray. Mr. Paley in his moral philosophy says, that a man is said to be obliged "when he is urged by a violent motive resulting from the command of another." This however is I only the external obligation; and I do not find that Mr. Paley treats of the internal obligation at all; but I believe this obligation does exist; though reason alone is insufficient to make us feel it.
But reason has much to do with our external obligations; it assists us to attain a knowledge of God, of his attributes and laws. It assists us to attain a knowledge of ourselves, the wants of our bod ies, the powers and faculties of our minds, our relations to other beings, our love of happiness, our dependence on God, the immortality of the soul, the way of salvation, and of future rewards and punishments: I say, human reason, God affording his word, is sufficient to attain a knowledge of these things, and in this way the vicious mind may be made to feel its external obligations.
But I believe that whatever the vicious mind feels of external obligations, it feels from a desire of happiness. Were it not for this principle in human nature, I think, that future rewards and punishments would have no more influence on such a