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right, meet, or fit to be done, and what ought to be done. As easily may we conceive of figure without extension, or of motion without a change of place, as that it can be right for us to do an action, and yet that it may not be what we should do, what it is our duty to do, or what we are under an obligation to do. It follows, then, that that which is morally good has a real obligatory power antecedently to all positive laws, and independently of all will, since obligation is involved in its very nature'; and those who maintain that all obligation is to be deduced from positive laws, or from the Divine will, do in effect assert that the words right and good stand for no real and distinctive characters of actions, but signify merely what is willed and commanded.
Those who place the ground of moral obligation in the simple will of God usually maintain that the obligatory power of this will depends upon the rewards and punishments annexed to obedience or disobedience. This seems to come little short of subverting entirely the independent nature of moral good and evil; for if the doctrine be true, it follows that vice is properly nothing more than imprudence, and that nothing is right or wrong, just or unjust, any further than it affects our self-interest. But let it be asked, Would a person who believes there is no God, or if there be one, that he concerns not himself in human affairs, be for that reason exempt from the feeling of moral obligation, and therefore not be accountable? Would his unbelief release him from any bond of duty and morality? Yet these consequences must follow if obligation depends wholly on the knowledge of the will of a superior. The truth is, rewards and punishments suppose, in the very idea of them, moral obligation, and are founded upon it. They enforce it, but do not make it. They are the sanctions of virtue, not its efficients. A reward supposes something done to deserve it, or a conformity to obligation previously subsisting; and punishment is inflicted on account of some breach of obligation. Were we under no obligations antecedently to the proposal of rewards and punishments, it would be a contradiction to suppose us capable of them.
We could have wished, therefore, that the excellent author of these Essays had laid the corner-stone of his theory somewhat deeper, and assumed that the precepts of Revelation are obligatory, not merely because they have emanated from the highest authority in the universe, but because they command that which is in its own intrinsic nature eternally and immutably binding. It is surely important to establish as far as possible the identity of the dictates and promptings of our own rational nature with those of the revealed will of our Maker, and thus to invigorate the force of law by the verdict of the internal convictions of our own breasts.
But after every abatement on this or any other score, there remains so large and solid a residuum of excellence in the speculations of Mr. Dymond, that his work may be confidently left to its own intrinsic merits, as a sure passport to public favour. It can scarcely fail to find a response in every heart rightly affected to the highest interests of our race and to those who have concerned themselves in its republication it cannot but be matter of complacent reflection, that they have been in any way instrumental in putting their fellow-men in possession of a work so well calculated to raise the general tone of morality, to give distinctness to their perceptions of rectitude, and to add strength to their resolutions to virtue.
Since the foregoing Preface was put to press, we have received, through the kindness of a friend, whose high estimate of Dymond's works had prompted him to write to an eminent individual in England, with a view to obtain some particulars of his life and character, the following brief but interesting Memoir of the author of the " Essays." This imperfect sketch, while it will do something towards gratifying that curiosity which a perusal of the volume cannot fail to excite, will go still farther in raising the reader's admiration of the intellect and the heart which, under such adverse circumstances, could rear so noble a monument of their power and piety.
Liverpool, 26th of 9th month, 1833.
**** *** I was indeed greatly concerned to hear that had been arrested by illness in the career of his benevolence. There is no reasoning upon these dispensations of Providence according to our short-sighted notions of public usefulness. None can work but as the Lord gives them ability in the great work of universal peace and righteousness; and as He knows best when each has done the portion of work allotted to him, so he can release the instrument, and raise up others to do himself honour and to take away all glorying from the sons of men.
The very early removal of Jonathan Dymond from this scene of trial, was a striking instance of the principle alluded to; for, with talents rarely bestowed, and exalted piety capable of extensive usefulness, he was called away from an amiable wife and infant family, as it were in the morning of his days. I am sorry that I am not able to give thee many particulars relative to this extraordinary young man, who has left behind him a work, viz. his "Essays on Morality, &c.," that is built on too firm a foundation to be soon forgotten: for it is built on Christianity itself. He kept a shop as a linen-draper in some part of the S.W. of England; I believe in Exeter. His first literary effort was the "Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the Principles of Christianity," in which he completely succeeded in overthrowing the delusive and pernicious doctrines of Paley, with regard to "expediency" as a rule of conduct either for states or individuals. This work has had a very powerful effect in deciding some close reasoners to adopt the principles of peace; for the author shows himself to be well skilled in using the weapons of the logician, and he brings his arguments to bear on questions of pure morality and religion with extraordinary force and ability. I have understood that he wrote a great part of the work on peace, as well of his posthumous essays, in a little room adjoining his shop, subject to frequent interruptions from customers in the midst of his most profound and interesting speculations.
I enjoyed but a short and melancholy portion of his society and acquaintance, for it was under peculiar and trying circumstances that I last saw him; but an impression has been left upon my mind that car, never, I think, be removed. He came to London for professional advice, if I remember right, about the latter end of the year 1827, or the beginning of 1828. His complaint was seated chiefly in the throat, and the irritation was such that talking, even to a friend, for a few minutes, brought on
* The substance of this inquiry is included in the present work.-Ed.
coughing; so that, in order to prevent it, he came to the resolution not to speak at all to any one, and for many months before I saw him he had scrupulously followed this plan, using a slate to maintain the interchange of sentiment with those about him. Great part of his essays must have been written while he was under this self-imposed interdict. His mind was then remarkably clear and vigorous, and he appeared to be quite free from all depressing anticipation with regard to the result. His disease proved in the end to be pulmonary consumption.
I have a letter from his father dated Exeter, 12th of 5th month, 1828, informing me that on the 6th "he was taken from this mutable state." He adds, "Through the merciful regard of our Holy Head and High Priest, I believe I may venture to say that his mind was kept in perfect peace, and that he was favoured while living to experience a foretaste of that state of blessedness into which I dare not doubt his being entered."
In the same letter J. D. informs me that his daughter was removed on the 8th of the 3d month, his son George on the 24th of the 4th, and Jonathan, as before mentioned, on the 6th. "So that in rather less than two months I have had to experience the loss of three of my children near and dear to me, not only by the ties of nature, but additionally so as they were all of them eminently favoured with the precious influence of Heavenly love, and concerned in no ordinary degree to live in the fear of Him who called them to virtue, and who, I humbly trust, has received them into glory."
I remain, with much respect and regard,
Its authority-Limit to its authority-Obligations resulting from the Rights of
Authority of the Law of Honour-Its character.
Factitious semblances of devotion-Religious conversation-Sabbatical insti-