Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

law requires of the will we are naturally able to peform. But, the understanding of the carnal mind thinks one voluntary action is good, and another is bad, in themselves considered, because one is agreeable and the other disagreeable to its relish ; but the law forbids the supposed good action, and requires the supposed bad action. Here the will is at liberty to will according to the relish of the mind, or according to the law: the internal choice and the moral necessity imposed by the choice, are to will as is the relish of the mind, and to will otherwise, as the law requires, is frequently a great trial; but the will can do it. The internal choice and the moral necessity bere spoken of, I consider to be the law of sin, which is always at variance with a right choice, and the precepts that should govern the will. This opposition of laws places man in a state of trial, and he who uniformly wills as the moral law requires (such a man is no to be found) pays the debt, that he owes to the law; but this does not abolish the law of sin, and nothing can break its force, but a change of the mind from a vicious to a virtuous nature, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. When this change is made, the force of the law of sin is broken, and the law of righteousness takes place; that is, the internal choice in objects, and the moral necessity attending such choice, are no longer in opposition to the moral law, but agree with it.

Then the mind is no longer bound by the law of sin, but is bound by the law of righteousness: it feels a greater degree of liberty in willing as the law requires. Then we say the opposition of the wvill is subdued; but properly speaking, this opposition was not in the will, but in the understanding; it was a depraved nature, which, as it were, put out the eyes of the mind, so that it could not see things, as they were in themselves; this depraved nature is partly subdued; so far, that regeneration has taken place.

Here let us inquire, whether a child is equally unable to obey a parent against whom his will is as much opposed, as to obey God in the precepts that should govern the child's will? I believe these two inabilities are exactly of the same nature; each respects the will of the child; and what is called an inability in either case, is no inability; it is only a will not.

But let us put this farther question, is the carnal mind as unable to obey the reasonable commands of a parent, as it is to exercise a relish, or love for God? I think it must be seen at once, that these two inabilities are not alike; the first belongs to the will, and is really no inability; but the second is a defect in the passive power of the mind, a want of a virtuous nature to relish, or love God; therefore these two inabilities are not of the same nature;

one is a will not, and the other is a cannot. We have, however, the greatest reasen to believe, that God is willing to remove our inability to love him, if we, on our part, will do what we can to obey the precepts, that should govern our wills.

The precepts to govern the will are so many rules for our observance. "A rule" says Mr. Burla

maqui, "in its proper signification is an instrument, by means of which we draw the shortest line from one point to another, which for this very reason is called a straight line.

[ocr errors]

"In a figurative, and moral sense, a rule imports nothing else, but a principle or maxim, which furnishes man with a sure and concise method of attaining to the end he proposes," which is happiness. Then let us be governed by these rules, if we desire happiness, and expect to enjoy it.



I. LAW being the rule of human actions, in a comparative view, we observe that the latter are either conformable or opposite to the former; and this sort of qualification of our actions in respect to to the law, is called morality.

The term morality comes from mores or manners. Manners, as we have already observed, are the free actions of man, considered as susceptible of direction and rule. Thus we call morality the relation of human actions to the law, by which they are dir rected; and we give the name of moral philosophy to the collection of those rules by which we are to square our actions.

II. The morality of actions may be considered: in two different lights: 1.. In regard to the manner in which the law disposes of them; and 2. In rela tion to the conformity or opposition of those same actions to the law.

In the first consideration, human actions are either commanded, or forbidden, or permitted. As we are indispensibly obliged to do what iss

commanded, and to abstain from what is forbidden by a lawful superior, civilians consider commanded actions as necessary, and forbidden actions as impossible. Not that man is deprived of a physical power of acting contrary to law, and. incapable, if he has a mind, of exercising this power. But since his acting after this manner would be opposite to right reason, and inconsistent with his actual state of dependence; it is to be presumed that a reasonable and virtuous man, continuing, and acting as such, could not make so bad a use of his liberty; and this presumption is in itself too reasonable and honourable for humanity, not to meet with approbation. Whatever (say the Roman Lawyers) is injurious to piety, reputation, or modesty, and in gen eral to good manners, ought to be presumed impossible.

III. With regard to permitted actions, they are such as the law leaves us at liberty to do, if we think proper. Upon which we must make two or three remarks.

1. We may distinguish two sorts of permission; one full and absolute, which not only gives us a right to do certain things with impunity, but moreover is attended with a positive approbation of the legislator: the other is an imperfect permission, or a kind of toleration, which implies no approbation but a simple impunity.

2. The permission of natural laws always de

« ZurückWeiter »