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* And upon this, issue is joined.' One can hardly suppose that any persons ever did seriously propose, in determining an important question, to join issue' on the result of an experiment which it is manifest never could possibly be tried. But most persons would readily admit that Paley's supposed savage would be destitute of a Moral-faculty ; as he would also be of speech,' and a stranger to all reasoningprocess; since, for that, the use of general terms' is essential.” Yet it would not be allowed to follow that the natural state of Man is dumbness, and destitution of the Reasoning-faculty. Man is as manifestly designed by Nature for the society of his fellows, as the bee or the ant. And it is surely strange to allow nothing to be natural to Man that is not either born with him, or else sure to be spontaneously developed in one who has grown up in a solitary state, for which it is manifest he was not formed. Any one who saw the pine near the verge of the perpetual snow on the Alps, stunted to the height of two or three feet, and struggling, as it were, to exist, amidst rocks and ice, would hardly call that the natural state' of a tree, which, in a more. genial climate and soil, a little lower down, is found towering to the height of fifty or sixty yards.
It is a curious fact that Paley's theory of the total absence in Man, of any Moral Faculty, is strenuously maintained by a large class of persons the most opposed to him as a theologian, and who regard his opinions on religion as utterly unsound.”
The cause of this their adherence to Paley's theory, I conceive to be a well-intentioned but misdirected desire to exalt God's glory, and set forth Man's sinfulness, without perceiving that they are in fact doing away with both the one and the other.
The word infant,' etymologically signifying 'speechless,' may serve to remind us of this. And all would continue such, if not taught to speak.
? See Lessons on Reasoning.
3 M. Napoleon Roussel is one out of many of these. He has published a number of little tracts, all ingenious, and most of them sound and edifying. But in one of them— The Believing Infidel' (L'Incredule Croyant) he strongly advocates (though not more so than many other divines of a very influential school) the views I have been alluding to.
If Man be naturally destitute of any faculty that distinguishes right and wrong,—any notion of such a thing as Duty—then, no one can be accounted sinful, any more than a brute beast, or a born idiot. These do many things that are odious and mischievous, and that would be sin in a rational Being; but the term sin we never apply to their acts (any more than the term folly) precisely because they lack a Moral-faculty and a rational nature ;-because not having a Conscience, they cannot violate the dictates of conscience. Indeed, an idiot is accordingly called, in some parts of the country, an innocent,' on the very ground of his having this deficiency, which Paley and his followers attribute to all mankind. And a revelation of the divine commands to a Being destitute of the Moral-faculty, though it might deter him from certain acts through fear of punishment, as brutes, we all know, may be so influenced, would leave him still remaining (as they are) a stranger to any notion of such a thing as Duty. He would be no more a moral agent than a dog or a horse.
And to speak to such a Being of the moral attributes of the Deity, would be like speaking of colours to a blind-born man. If he attaches no meaning to the words 'good,' and 'just,' and right,' except that such is the divine command, then, to say that God is good, and his commands just, is only saying in a circuitous way, that He is what He is, and that what He wills He wills; which might equally be said of any Being in the universe. Indeed, this is what Paley himself perceives and distinctly admits. [Chap. ix.] He admits that we attribute goodness to the Most High, on account of the conformity of his acts to the principles which we are accustomed to call 'good ;' and that these principles are called 'good' solely from their conformity to the divine will. It is very strange that when he did perceive that he was thus proceeding in a circle, this did not open his eyes to the erroneousness of the principle which had led him into it.
And any one would be equally involved in a vicious circle, who, while he held Paley's theory, should refer to the pure and moral tone of the New Testament as an internal evidence (and in reality it is a very strong one) to prove that it could not be the unaided work of ignorant, half-crazy Jewish peasants and fishermen. For, if all our moral notions are entirely derived from that book, to say that the morality of the book is correct, is merely to say that it is what it is. We should be arguing like the Mahometans, who infer the inspiration of the Koran from the excellence of its style ; they having made the Koran their sole standard of style, and reckoning every work to be the better or the worse Arabic, in proportion as it approaches more or less to the language of the Koran. ·
1 Rom. i. ii.
But what tends to keep up this confusion of thought in some men's minds is this; we do conclude in this or that particular instance, that so and so is wise and good, though we do not perceive its wisdom and goodness, but found our conviction solely on its being the divine will. But then, this is from our general conviction that God is wise and good; not from our attaching no meaning to the words wise and good, except the divine will. Then, and then only, can the command of a Superior make anything a duty, when we set out with the conviction that it is a duty to obey him. It is just so, accordingly, that we judge even in what relates to our fellow-men. If some measure were proposed by any friend whom you knew from his past conduct to be a very able and upright man, you would presume, even before you knew any particulars of that measure, that it must be a wise and good one. This would be a natural and a fair mode of judging of the unknown from the known. And you would think a person very absurd who should thereupon conclude that you had no notion at all of what is a wise and good measure, and meant nothing by those words except that it is what proceeds from that friend of yours. And so it is in many other cases. You have read (suppose) several works of a certain author, and have found them all highly interesting and instructive. If, then, you hear of his bringing out a new work, you expect, before you have seen it, that it will be a very valuable one. But this is not from your meaning by a 'valuable work ' nothing at all but that it comes from his pen, but from your reasoning—very justly—from the known to the unknown.
To infer that because this or that particular book, or measure, or rule of conduct, may be presumed to be good,
solely on account of the person it proceeds from, therefore the same may be the case with all of them collectively, would be a gross fallacy, (what in logical language is called the 'fallacy of composition,') and one which, in such instances as those just given, would be readily detected.
A right-minded Christian then will say, 'I am sure so and so is right, though I do not understand why, or how it is; but such is the command of my heavenly Father; and I do understand that I have good grounds for trusting in Him. And such a man will keep clear of the presumption (calling itself humility) of those who insist on it that in such and such instances the Almightly had no reason at all for what He has done, except (as they express it) to declare his sovereignty ;' and that He acted only for his own glory;' as if He could literally seek glory! Whenever the Most High has merely revealed to us his will, we must not dare to pronounce that He had no reasons for it except his will, because He has not thought fit to make those reasons known to us. To say (as some have presumed to say!) that He does so and so for no cause whatever except that He chuses it, seems little, if at all, short of blasphemy. Even an earthly king, being not responsible to any of his subjects for the reasons of his commands, may sometimes think fit to issue commands without explaining his reasons. And it would be insolent rashness for any one thence to conclude that he had no reasons, but acted from mere caprice.
So also, a dutiful child will often have to say, 'I do so and so because my kind and wise parents have commanded me: that is reason enough for me. But though this is—to the childa very good reason for obeying the command, it would be a very bad reason, with the parents, for giving that command. And he would show his filial veneration, and trust, not by taking for granted that his parents had no reason for their commands, but, on the contrary, by taking for granted that there was a good reason both for their acting as they did, and for their withholding from him any explanation.
Paley's theory is derived (as he informs us), in great measure,
1 See Lessons on Morals, less. xviü. $ 4, note.
from Tucker's Light of Nature : a work of great originality, and containing much curious and valuable matter, mixed up with much that is not at all deserving of approbation. It is a book which I have been accustomed (as I have observed in the Preface) to compare to a gold-mine, containing many particles, and some considerable masses, of very precious metal, confusedly intermingled with much gravel and clay. I cannot think Paley was happy in his choice of the portion he has selected. He would have found a much safer guide in the celebrated Bishop Butler. The denial however of a Moral-faculty was no new device of Tucker's; being substantially what was maintained by the infidel Hobbes in his once-celebrated work the Leviathan. And it was so far from being new, then, that it is noticed by Aristotle as having been maintained in his time.
It is to be observed however that Paley's fault as a Moralist is chiefly one of omission. I mean, that inuch of what he says is truth, though far short of the whole truth; and that he arrives at many right conclusions, though based on insufficient grounds. It is true, for instance, that we are commanded to do what is right, and forbidden to do what is wrong; though it is not true that this is the only meaning of the words 'right' and' wrong. And it is true that God will reward and punish; though it is not true that a calculation of reward and punishment constitutes the whole notion of Duty.
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The diversities that are to be found in men's moral notions led some persons as long ago as in Aristotle's time to deny that the distinctions of moral right and wrong have any foundation in nature. He however observes, in opposition to them, that it is allowable to speak of the right hand, as naturally the stronger, notwithstanding the existence of some who are lefthanded or ambidextrous.
As is observed in the Lessons on Morals (less. I. § 3], * Every one of our faculties is capable of cultivation and im