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AT THE ASSIZES AT DURHAM, JULY 29, 1795 ;
AND PUBLISHED AT THE
REQUEST OF THE LORD BISHOP,
THE HONOURABLE THE JUDGES OF ASSIZE,
AND THE GRAND JURY.
THE HONOURABLE AND RIGHT REVEREND
BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE
LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM,
The following Discourse,
AS A SMALL,
BUT SINCERE, EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE,
FOR A GREAT,
UNSOLICITED, AND UNEXPECTED FAVOUR,
BY HIS FAITHFUL
AND MOST OBLIGED SERVANT,
W. PALEY. VI.
ROMANS, xiv. 7.
For none of us liveth to himself. The use of many of the precepts and maxims of Scripture is not so much to prescribe actions as to generate some certain turn and habit of thinking: and they are then only applied as they ought to be when they furnish us with such a view of, and such a way of considering, the subject to which they relate, as may rectify and meliorate our dispositions ; for from dispositions so rectified and meliorated, particular good actions, and particular good rules of acting, flow of their own accord. This is true of the great Christian maxims, of loving our neighbours as ourselves; of doing to others as we would that others should do to us; and (as will appear, I hope, in the sequel of this discourse) of that of the text. These maxims being well impressed, the detail of conduct may be left to itself. The subtilties of casuistry, I had almost said the science, may be spared. By presenting to the mind one fixed consideration, such a temper is at length formed within us, that our first impressions and first impulses are sure almost of being on the side of virtue; and that we feel likewise an almost irresistible inclination to be governed by them. When this disposition is perfected, the influence of religion, as a moral institution, is sufficiently established.
It is not in this way, but in another, that human laws, especially the laws of free countries, proceed to attain their objects. Forasmuch as their ultimate sanctions are to be dispensed by fallible men, instead of an unerring and omniscient Judge, the safety as
well as the liberty of the subject requires that discretion should be bound down by precise rules, both of acting and of judging of actions. Hence lawgivers have been obliged to multiply directions and prohibitions without number : and this necessity, for such I acknowledge it to be, hath drawn them into a prolixity, which encumbers the law as a science to those who study or administer it; and sometimes perplexes it, as a rule of conduct, to those who have nothing to do with it but to obey it. Yet still they find themselves unable to make laws as fast as occasions demand them : they find themselves perpet ually called upon to pursue, by fresh paths, the inventive versati- . lity of human fraud, or to provide for new and unforeseen varieties of situation. Now, should religion, which professes to guide the whole train and range of a man's conduct, interior as well as external, domestic as well as civil ; and which, consequently, extends the operations of its rules to many things which the laws leave indifferent and uncontrolled; should religion, I say, once set about to imitate the precision of human laws, the volume of its precepts would soon be rendered useless by its bulk, and unintelligible by its intricacy. The religion of Mahomet, as might be expected from the religion of a military prophet, constituted itself into the law of the states into which it was received. Assuming the functions of legislators and magistrates, in conjunction with the character of interpreters of the • Koran,' and depositaries of the supplemental laws of the religion, the successors of the Arabian have, under the name of traditionary rules, compiled a code for the direction of their fol. lowers in almost every part of their conduct. The seventy-five thousand precepts of that code* serve only to show the futility of the attempt; to prove, by expe
* See Hamilton's translation of the · Hedaya, or Guide.'