Sivut kuvina

guish right from wrong, good from evil, in practice. Were it not for the blindness of the heart, all men would perceive the eternal rule of right, and, under the same circumstances, would form precisely the same judgment with respect to their duty. And corrupt as the world now is, mankind generally agree as well in their moral sentiments, as in their political, philosophical or metaphysical opinions. So that the general sentiments and practices of mankind concur with the reasons which we have offered, to prove the essential distinction between virtue and vice, in the nature of things.

It now remains to make a number of deductions from the important truth which we have explained and established.

1. If there be an immutable difference between virtue and vice, right and wrong, then there is a propriety in every man's judging for himself in matters of morality and religion. No man ought to rely upon the bare opinion of others, when he is capable of judging for himself, according to an infallible standard. Right and wrong, truth and falsehood, do not depend upon the opinions of men, but upon the nature of things. Every person ought, therefore, to examine every moral and religious subject for himself, and form his own judgment, without any regard to the authority or opinion of others. As God has given. men their eyes to distinguish colors, and their ears to distinguish sounds, so he has given them their reason and conscience to distinguish truth and falsehood, right and wrong. And so long as they possess these natural and moral powers, they are under moral obligations to use them for the purposes for which they were given. The man who has eyes is obliged to see. The man who has ears is obliged to hear. And the man who has reason and conscience is obliged to examine and judge for himself, in matters of morality and religion. It is no less the duty than the right of every man to determine for himself what is true and false in theory, and what is right and wrong in practice. As others have no right to impose their opinions upon him, so he has no right to receive their opinions upon trust. It is his indispensable duty to embrace or reject all moral and religious sentiments, according to his own private judgment. It may be proper and necessary, in a thousand cases, to collect evidence from others; but after we have received all the information which they are able to give us on any subject, it then lies upon us to form our own opinions according to evidence, without any regard to the authority or opinion of fallible creatures. There is a true and false in principle, and a right and wrong in practice, which we are obliged to discover, and according to which we are obliged to believe and act.

2. If there be a standard of right and wrong in the nature of

things, then it is not impossible to arrive at absolute certainty, in our moral and religious sentiments. It is the opinion of many that we can never attain to certainty in any thing but what we are capable of demonstrating by figures, or immediately perceiving by our external senses. But there is no foundation for this supposition, if right and wrong, truth and falsehood, result from the nature of things. Many suppose that moral and mathematical subjects are totally different in respect to certainty. They imagine that we may attain to certainty in mathematics, but not in morals. But if moral truths as much result from the nature of things as mathematical, then no reason can be assigned why we may not arrive at certainty in morals as well as in mathematics. For we are as capable of discerning what is right and wrong, as what is true and false, in the nature of things. The Author of nature has given us the faculty of reason to discover mathematical truths, and the faculty of conscience to discover moral truths. Our conscience as plainly and as certainly tells us that murder is a crime, as our reason does that two and two are equal to four. And it is as much out of our power to disbelieve the dictates of our conscience, as the dictates of our reason. Hence we as certainly know moral and religious, as mathematical and philosophical truths. Certainty in mathematics consists in the intuitive perception of the agreement or disagreement between two numbers. And certainty in morals consists in the intuitive perception of the agreement or disagreement between the volitions and obligations of moral agents. It is as easy, therefore, to attain to certainty in morals as in mathematics. There are plain and difficult cases in both sciences. That murder is a crime, is a plain case in morals; and that three and three are six, is a plain case in mathematics. But there are difficult questions in morals, and no less difficult questions in mathematics. The difficult and doubtful cases, however, are no evidence that certainty cannot be attained in more plain and practical cases, and this is all that we mean to assert. We may attain to a certain knowledge of all those truths in morality and religion which are necessary to direct us in our moral and religious conduct. And so much certainty we ought to seek after, and not rest satisfied without obtaining it. God has given us moral as well as natural powers; and we ought to employ our moral powers in seeking after moral truth, as much as we employ our natural powers in searching after either mathematical, philosophical, metaphysical, or historical truth. We should always endeavor to attain to certainty in all our researches as far as we are able to do it; and never rest in conjecture or uncertainty, only when certainty is beyond our opportunities and capacities.

[ocr errors]

3. If right and wrong are founded in the nature of things, then it is impossible for any man to become a thorough skeptic in morality and religion. Many who profess to believe the existence and certainty of sensible objects, yet pretend to disbelieve the reality of virtue and vice, or the difference between moral good and moral evil. Those who are addressed in our text appear to have been such professed skeptics in matters of a moral and religious nature. But it is as truly impossible for men, in their right minds, to doubt of all moral and religious truths, as to doubt of their own existence, or the existence of the objects of sense with which they are constantly surrounded. For they are as much obliged to believe their mental as their bodily eyes. When their bodily eyes are open at noon-day, and a picture is presented before them, they are obliged to see it, and believe its existence. So when their eyes are open at noon-day, and an act of barbarous murder is committed before them, they are obliged to see and believe not only the reality, but the criminality of the action. And it is no more within their power to doubt of the criminality of the murderer, than of the death of the murdered. Moral objects as irresistibly obtrude upon the conscience, as visible objects do upon the eye. And a man can no more avoid feeling and believing moral truths, than he can avoid seeing natural objects, when both are placed before his mind with equal plainness. Every moral agent is constrained to believe or doubt, according to the evidence which he perceives. Doubting as much depends upon evidence as believing. A man may wish to doubt when it is out of his power to doubt, just as he may wish to believe, when it is out of his power to believe. Believing and doubting are always governed by what the mind perceives to be the evidence for or against any truth or fact. A philosopher may tell us that the planets are inhabited, and exhibit such evidence as may create belief in some, and doubt in others. But if he should pretend to tell us the names and numbers of the planetary inhabitants, could he gain the belief of a single person? If men could believe and disbelieve at their pleasure, then they might as easily believe a history written in this world concerning the inhabitants of the planets, as a history written in America, concerning the American revolution; or they might as easily disbelieve every thing, as believe any thing. But if doubting as well as believing depends upon evidence, then no man can doubt, any more than he can believe, without evidence. If he perceives no evidence against his own existence, he cannot doubt of his own existence. If he perceives no evidence against the existence of his fellow men, he cannot doubt of their existence. If he perceives no evidence against the exist

[merged small][ocr errors]

ence of virtue and vice, he cannot doubt of their existence. But who can perceive any evidence against his own existence? Who can perceive any evidence against the existence of his fellow men? Who can perceive any evidence against the existence of virtue and vice? And therefore, who can be a thorough skeptic in matters of morality and religion? No man ever was, or ever can be, a thorough sceptic in respect to religion and morality, without being a thorough skeptic in respect to all the objects of sense. Religious skepticism is religious hypocrisy; and the man who professes to be a skeptic in religion, professes to be a hypocrite.

4. If right and wrong, truth and falsehood, be founded in the nature of things, then it is not a matter of indifference what moral and religious sentiments mankind imbibe and maintain. They are obliged to judge and believe according to evidence, and if they do otherwise, they are chargeable with guilt before God, and in the sight of their own consciences. God has given them evidence of truth and falsehood, in the nature of things, and given them powers and faculties to distinguish the one from the other; and if they choose darkness rather than light, and error rather than truth, they must answer for their folly and guilt. God has diffused moral light over the face of creation, and left all his reasonable creatures without excuse, if they either doubt or disbelieve his existence. The heathen are criminal for disbelieving the being of their great and glorious Creator. They are capable of seeing the mighty evidences of his eternal power and Godhead, and therefore they are highly criminal for shutting their eyes against the clear light of the divine existence. The Mohammedans are capable of seeing the error and superstition and idolatry which are contained in the Koran, and therefore are inexcusable for disbelieving the great and glorious truths which are clearly revealed in the works of nature, and in the pure word of God, which their false teacher corrupted and perverted. The papists are highly criminal for all their superstition and idolatry which are forbidden in the holy scriptures. And the deists, who deny the truth and divinity of the Bible, are guilty of still greater blindness of mind and obstinacy of heart, in disbelieving the testimony which God hath given of his Son. Nor are heretics, who corrupt, pervert and deny particular doctrines of divine revelation, excusable in the sight of God, who has commanded them to understand, believe and love the truth. However lightly some may think or speak of errors in morality and religion, it is a matter of serious importance for every man to form his opinions according to the nature of things, and the revealed will of God. Voluntary ignorance and error will meet with the divine displeasure at the great and last day.

5. If right and wrong, truth and falsehood, be founded in the nature of things, then there appears to be a great propriety in God's appointing a day of judgment. Such a day appears proper and necessary on the account of the moral creation. God has no occasion for it on his own account. He always knows and does what is perfectly right in the nature of things. But it cannot appear to his reasonable creatures that he treats them all right, without his laying before them the feelings and actions upon which he regulates his conduct. A clear and fall exhibition of facts, at the great day, will unfold right and wrong with respect to every being in the universe. It will unfold the rectitude of God's conduct in every instance. When God tells the universe how he has treated every creature, and how every creature has treated him, every creature will be capable of seeing the wisdom, the goodness, or justice of God, in all his conduct towards men, angels and devils. And when God lays open the hearts and lives of all his creatures, they will then be capable of judging who ought to go to heaven, and who ought to go to hell; or who ought to be happy, and who ought to be miserable, to all eternity. Such a clear and full exhibition of facts will clear the innocent and condemn the guilty, in the minds of all intelligent beings. And from the day of judgment to all eternity, every intelligent being will possess clear light respecting himself, his God and his fellow creatures. This will give an emphasis to the joys of heaven and the miseries of hell, and serve as bars and bolts to sever the righteous and wicked to interminable ages. This will shut fear out of heaven, and hope out of hell, for ever and ever.

6. We learn from what has been said, that all who go to heaven will go there by the unanimous voice of the whole universe. They will be judged to be fit for heaven by God, by Christ, by angels, by devils, by the finally miserable, and by themselves. It will be the real opinion of all, after attending the process of the great day, that every one who shall have received the approbation of the final Judge, should be exalted to the honors and distinctions and enjoyments of the heavenly world, and there live for ever under the smiles of their heavenly Father. And such a clear and decided opinion in the favor of the blessed will add an inconceivable satisfaction to their minds for ever.

7. We learn from what has been said, that all who are excluded from heaven will be excluded from ht by the unanimous voice of all moral beings. There will not be a dissenting voice from the dreadful sentence: "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." All who shall meet with the disapprobation of the final Judge will equally meet 20


God tell the hawers

« EdellinenJatka »