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pursue in all things, and above all things. This is to be our ultimate end in every pursuit, even in that of everlasting salvation. In acting thus, we only give to God what he is entitled to receive, the supreme love of the heart.
But how opposite is this to the scheme of utility, which makes our own individual gain to be every thing,—which is so far from representing the glory of God as an object of superlative importance, that it authorizes us to violate his laws when we can persuade ourselves to believe, that we shall derive greater advantage from the violation than from the observanceand which, in place of pointing to God as the first object of disinterested regard, maintains, that he is on no other ground entitled to our love and obedience, than in consideration of the evil which he can inflict, and the good which he can communicate ?
THE PRINCIPLE OF UTILITY PROVED TO BE UNTENABLE FROM THE INCAPABILITY OF MAN TO DISCERN THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS ACTIONS.
That the consequences which follow from the actions of moral agents are endless, is a proposition, the truth of which few will controvert. Moral evil, no less than moral good, perpetuates itself. The effects of a single good action may reach into eternity. It is only a Being of infinite understanding who can know the number and duration of those results to which one deed of beneficence gives rise. It is he only who can
The Principle of Utility proved to be Untenable.
estimate all the evil of which a single act of impiety and immorality may be productive.
If, to be instrumental in the restoration to virtue and to happiness, of a being destined for immortality, is a measure of good which a single individual may, by his exertions or example, be the means of attaining ; an individual also may, by his exertions or example, be the means of producing an extent of moral ruin which the conceptions of man cannot reach. Hence Scripture teaches us that the results of every man's conduct here will meet him in the day of final retribution; and that his eternal condition, either of happiness or of misery, shall be fixed accordingly.
“ Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
Nor are these remarks merely applicable to those actions, respecting the morality or immorality of which, it is presumed, there cannot exist a difference of opinion. Actions, which may seem trivial, and the real character of which as to right or wrong may appear doubtful to those who have not divine revelation to guide them, may be productive of important and endless consequences. How desirable, how necessary, is it for moral agents to have an infallible rule of action prescribed to them by Him whose wisdom and knowledge are infinite ?
But if we cannot foresee all the consequences of our actions, how can we derive from the principle of expediency the rule to direct our moral conduct ? “ Is the degree of expediency which we can discern, in any case such as to justify us in inferring that we have a tolerable insight into general expediency ? Surely no one will answer in the affir
mative. As well might an Abyssinian pretend to delineate the whole course of the Nile, in consequence of having traced the windings of the infant river for a few miles contiguous to his but. As well might a fisherman infer, that his line, which has reached the bottom of the creek in which he exercises bis trade, is capable of fathoming the depth of the Atlantic.
" If this argument wanted confirmation, it might receive it from a view of the moral, to say nothing of the natural, government of the world. Even though we are previously convinced that the great object of the Almighty is the happiness of his creatures, in numerous instances we see very imperfectly how the detail of his operations conduces to the end which he has in view. Sometimes presumptuous ignora would lead us to imagine that we per
e ci stances which militate against it, as 1 moral evil; others, wherein there is imperfection, as in the late establis diffusion of Christiat
and m indifferent to the de
ropose directly to conduc If, th discovering the of a system, whi conformity to the may be convin discover of the conduct; we 1 qualified to d seem to furt reach of ou general g
diency attainable by the wisest of men is unfit to be adopted as the basis of moral rectitude ; and that if it were adopted, we should very frequently be acting in direct opposition to the will of God, at the time when we had fondly persuaded ourselves that we were most strenuously employed in promoting it*.”
ON THE DIFFERENT THEORIES OF MORALS..
Having shewn the grounds and principles of moral obligation, and having attempted to prove that moral distinctions are immutable and eternal,
I shall conclude this divion of my subject with a few observations on the rent theories of morals.
The obje all such theories is to account for the origin of oral sentiments. The earliest formed in moder es is that of Hobbes, an author whose acutenes genius have seldom been surpassed. A fayour ma with him, in common with some of
was, that the notion of the being and prov God, and of religious worship, is the efl
nan fear and weakness. Yet, he elsew
is, that the mechanical contrivance of the hu
affords so clear a proof of a wise Maker, ust be without a mind who does not admit its
Gisborne's Principles of Moral Philosophy.
on the contrary, are mankind cautioned against the assumption of such a power, as a dishonour to the Supreme Legislator of the universe, and fraught with mischief and ruin to those who practise it! They are commanded to make their minds familiar with it, to meditate in it day and night-in consideration of its divine original, and because it is a full and infallible standard of duty. “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in the house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates *.”
Even the duties of benevolence, the limits of which cannot be so precisely defined as those of justice, and of the manner of discharging which we are, therefore, left in some measure to judge, are enforced, and are to be performed, without the aid of the principle of expediency. The Scriptures teach us to govern our determination, in such cases, by other considerations-by a sense of duty, by the fear and love of God, by a supreme regard to his glory, and by the conviction of our accountableness. In all cases, the language which they speak, and the principles which they enjoin, are in direct opposition to Mr. Paley's opinion, “ that there is no command in Holy Writ, however plainly ex
* Deut, yi. 5-9.