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troversy occasioned by such attacks as that of which I have spoken, even when successfully resisted and repelled, seem to have been among the motives which induced divines first to combine the other principle of morality with this one of the divine command, which, as I have already stated, was done by Warburton in 1738, and a little later, to resign, or at least to cease to put forward, as any essential part of their principles of morality, the Clarkian tenets of eternal relations, and the like. The form of Morals which thus became prevalent in this country must now be the subject of our consideration.
ARBURTON, as I have said, attempted to combine, in his view of the true foundations of morality, the three principles of Right Reason, the Moral Sense, and the Divine Command. But in doing this, he did not avoid the objections which lie against each, as I must briefly show. 1. By speaking of the Moral Sense as an Instinct (following Hutcheson, as we have seen), he has put the assertion of such a sense in the most obnoxious and objectionable form. When asserted in this shape, it is difficult or impossible to find any unquestionable proofs of its existence. It is difficult to discover any instincts which are moral, or which cannot be resolved into such as are not moral ;-which cannot be traced into such instincts as are subservient to self-preservation; or such as those by which families are formed and held together. When the moral sense is asserted in this form, separate from all reflex operation of the mind, or rational insight into the connexions and motives of actions, the usual arguments so often brought against its existence assume a very formidable front, and can hardly be opposed by any satisfactory replies, without, in some measure, changing the ground of the controversy. 2. The doctrine of essential differences in things, apprehended by the Reason alone, does not establish a genuine moral character of actions, as I have already observed in speaking of Clarke's view of morality. Whatever of fitness or unfitness for certain ends, of agreement or disagreement with certain ideas, there be in this or that course of willing Or acting, the discovery of these relations does not give an aspect of moral good or evil to actions, except it be conjoined with a sentiment of approval or disapproval, which it is not one of the functions of the Reason, strictly understood, to give. By adopting, as one element of his system, this doctrine of differences apprehended by the Reason, when the term reason was understood of the intellect only, Warburton made a disadvantageous alliance. No succeeding writers on morals have been able to develope the assertion of such differences into any thing of real value and strength. 3. Warburton thus made the assertion of the moral sense too coarsely definite, and that of eternal differences too barely rational. This arose from his separating too violently, from these elements, that idea which gives them their moral character: and this idea, thus injuriously insulated, he perverted. This was the idea of Obligation. This idea is really involved in the very conception of all moral rule and moral relation. That is right which we ought to do. If our moral faculty approves of a deed, we are under an obligation to perform it. The obligation may be evaded or disobeyed, but we cannot help recognizing it, by the very mental act by which we recognize the action as good. When our conscience tells us that we do wrong, we can have no doubt that we have violated an obligation. This appears plain enough, but with this Warburton was not content. He laid it down as an axiom (Div. Leg. B. 1. Sect. iv. p. 141) that “Obligation necessarily implies an Obliger;”—that the will can only be bound by an external Lawgiver. That the sanctions of a Divine Government are necessary to induce corrupted man to discharge the duties of Morality, we shall all agree. But that, in metaphysical analysis, there is no other basis of Obligation, appears to be quite inconsistent with the best ideas we can apply to the subject. We cannot but estimate actions as right or wrong; as what we ought and what we ought not to do; as duties and crimes: and in this very estimate, is involved an obligation to do and to abstain. Who doubts that we are bound to tell the truth, to observe compacts, without bringing into the Court of Conscience an external power to punish intentional falsehood and bad faith? Does not the theory which resolves Social Duties into a Social Compact acknowledge an original obligation in a Compact : That this obligation is too weak for practical purposes, is not the question:—at least not the question which concerns us here, though it must be allowed that this consideration had a material bearing upon the argument of Warburton's book. But that the obligation did not compel man's will, by no means showed that it was not an obligation. The question concerning the nature and foundation of moral rules must be treated on its own ground: both for the sake of truth, and because, without this, we lose that sublime testimony to the Divine Government of the Universe which the Moral World, far more than the Natural, is capable of bearing. 4. This notion of Obligation, however, was not taken up gratuitously by Warburton, but for the purposes of his argument, or at least in harmony with those purposes. He had formed the project of placing the Alliance between Morality and Religion on a new basis. In the old form of , the argument, it had been urged in favour of Religion, that the distinctly teaches that future retribution which Morality anticipates and requires. But he inverted the argument, and stated it thus;—that Morality does indeed require a state of Divine Government, and that therefore, if, while all other Religions assume this as future, one does not, such a Religion must have been able to point to this Divine o Government as present: and this he applied to the ancient history of the Jewish Religion. And having taken this course, not content with the conclusion at which mere human moralists had previously arrived, that Morality requires and anticipates, and renders probable, a future state of rewards and punishments; he would make the connexion still more rigorous, so that all Moral Obligation should imply a Divine Obliger, who must be perceived as presiding at present, if he were not taught as one who was to administer justice in future.
5. It is due to Warburton, and to the subject, to state, that however little we may be disposed to assent to his argument in favour of the Divine Character of the Jewish dispensation (as in fact I believe that argument has not been very generally assented to), his representation of the relation between Natural and Revealed Morality is really very instructive and valuable. He remarks (Book III. Sect. v. p. 536), that previous writers had either tried to prove the reasonableness of Christianity, by showing that the best pagan philosophers had arrived at moral rules and a doctrine of future retribution approaching to those which Christianity teaches: or else they have denied to the pagans a knowledge of such doctrines, in order to prove the necessity of revelation:—But that either way the argument was capable of being reversed; the infidel who ascribed these doctrines to the pagans, inferring revelation to be unnecessary; and he who could find no such truths in the conclusions of the natural understanding, declaring Christianity to be unreasonable. To both these views Warburton opposes his own. “The only view of antiquity which gives a solid advantage to the Christian cause, is such a one as shows natural reason to be clear enough to perceive truth, and the necessity of its deductions when proposed, but not generally strong enough to discover it, or to draw right deductions from it.” “Having of late seen,” he afterwards says, “several excellent treatises of morals, delivered on the principles of natural religion, which disclaim, or at