Page images
PDF
EPUB

man; and that, if the case were so, the penal sanctions of religion could have no place. For, whom would you punish, if you make such a one as this happy ?-or rather indeed religion itself, both natural and revealed, would cease to have either use or authority.

2. That a state of happiness is not to be expected by those, who reserve to themselves the habitual practice of any one sin, or neglect of one known duty.

Because no obedience can proceed upon proper motives, which is not universal, that is, which is not directed to every command of God alike, as they all stand upon the same authority.

Because such an allowance would in effect amount to a tolera. tion of every vice in the world.

And because the strain of Scripture language excludes any such hope. When our duties are recited, they are put collectively, that is, as all and every one of them required in the Christian character. ' Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity.' On the other hand, when vices are enumerated, they are put disjunctively, that is, as separately and severally excluding the sinner from heaven. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.'?

Those texts of Scripture, which seem to lean a contrary way, as that charity shall cover the multitude of sins ;' 3 that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall hide a multitude of sins ;'' cannot, I think, for the reasons above mentioned, be extended to sins deliberately, habitually, and obstinately persisted in.

3. That a state of mere unprofitableness will not go unpunished.

This is expressly laid down by Christ, in the parable of the talents, which supersedes all further reasoning upon the subject. * Then he which had received one talent, came and said, Lord,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

I knew thee that thou art an austere man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed : and I was afraid, and hid thy talent in the earth; lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest (or, knewest thou ?) that I reap were I sowed not, and gather were I have not strawed; thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents; for unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance ; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath : and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.''

III. In every question of conduct, where one side is doubtful, and the other side safe, we are bound to take the safe side.

This is best explained by an instance; and I know of none more to our purpose than that of suicide. Suppose, for example's sake, that it appear doubtful to a reasoner upon the subject, whether he may lawfully destroy himself He can have no doubt, that it is lawful for him to let it alone. Here therefore is a case, in which one side is doubtful, and the other side safe. By virtue therefore of our rule, he is bound to pursue the safe side ; that is, to forbear from offering violence to himself, whilst a doubt remains upon his mind concerning the lawfulness of suicide.

It is prudent, you allow, to take the safe side. But our observation means something more. We assert that the action concerning which we doubt, whatever it may be in itself, or to another, would, in us, whilst this doubt remains upon our minds, be certainly sinful. The case is expressly so adjudged by St. Paul, with whose authority we will for the present rest contented. 'I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth ; and he that doubteth, is damned (condemned) if he eat, for whatsoever is not of faith (i.e. not done with a full persuasion of the lawful. ness of it) is sin."?

i Matt. xxv. 24, &c.

? Rom. xiv. 14, 22, 23.

P.

ANNOTATIONS.

. Whether it be not to encourage idleness and vagrancy.'

When treating of habits, Paley ought not to have overlooked the danger of forming a habit of wholly disregarding the public good. Benevolence (as is remarked in the Lessons on Mind), though one of the most amiable and most useful Sentiments, yet requires to be kept under the guidance of Reason ; else it may defeat its own object by doing much more harm than good. Thoughtless indiscriminate alms-giving, for instance, is sure to promote idleness and imprudence, and thus to lead to an enormous amount of distress and immorality. And again, to be led by weak compassion towards bad men, to recommend them to situations of which they are unworthy, or to let loose on Society hardened villains, may produce a vast amount of mischief.

But one who is influenced not by mere kindly feelings alone, but by a conscientious desire also to do what is right, will hold himself bound to use the utmost care in inquiring and considering how he can do the most good, with the least hurt to any one.

Paley has some very wise remarks, in another place, on the importance of considering not merely the particular effects of any action, but the general tendency ; that is, the result that would follow if people were generally to act so. Now in this case, the particular effect of careless alms-giving is the waste of a few shillings; the general effect would be to reduce thousands to beggary, and to paralyse the industry of a whole nation.

What is called 'public-Spirit' consists in Benevolence combined with Abstraction. Those who are deficient in the faculty of Abstraction, and are not accustomed to take wide and comprehensive views, will perhaps be kind and helpful to those individuals who come in their way, but will not exert themselves for the benefit of the Public ;-of their Country, of Posterity,mor of the Human Race. And it often happens that benevolent men of this character, will even sacrifice, unthinkingly, the public good, to that of some individual.

Virtue is the doing good to Mankind, in obedience to the Will

of God.'

This simple system of Morals (as doubtless it appeared to him) Paley adopted, denying the existence of a Moral-faculty ! on account of the great discrepancy in men's Moral judgments. But he forgot to inquire whether nearly as great discrepancies do not exist in their notions of what is the Will of God, and what is doing good to Mankind. We have it on the highest authority that those who killed the disciples of Jesus' thought they were doing God service;' and doubtless they thought also that they were doing good to mankind' in putting down a pestilent heresy. Such also was the belief of Paul (while a persecutor) who'verily thoạght that he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus. And among professing Christians, no one can doubt that some at least of the Romish Inquisitors were convinced that they were conforming to the Will of God, and doing good to Mankind, in burning heretics. Such also was no doubt, the belief of Cranmer when he brought Anabaptists to the stake, and of Calvin in burning Servetus.

And let no one suppose that such notions are confined to Ages or Countries far remote from ours, and are quite obsolete among us at the present day. The following is a passage from a History of England—an Educational Book—which, it may fairly be said, is circulated throughout England at the public expense; being used in Roman Catholic Schools receiving Government grants under what is called the 'separate system,' the system which some are desirous to introduce into Ireland also : 'At last the Queen and her council had Cranmer and a great many Protestant bishops put in prison, and they were burnt for heresy. It is very difficult to say now what should or should not have been done. The whole country was unsettled and diseased with heresy, and it was clearly impossible to stop it by gentle means. In this case, you know, when men are determined to destroy not only their own souls, but the souls of many others, they have to be treated as malefactors, and are given over by the church to the law, to be punished. It was very shocking that people should be burned; but it was much more shocking that they should be leading so many more people to be burned in the flames of hell for ever; and this was what Bishop Gardiner thought."

. Many other passages might be cited from various authors, showing what notions men entertain of doing good to Mankind in obedience to the Will of God.

Among others, a Protestant writer, in a work published a few years ago, maintains that 'the magistrate who restrains, coerces and punishes those who seek to propagate an erroneous religion,' (which he will of course think any to be that differs from his own,) obeys the will of God, and is not a persecutor !

He that knew not . . . . shall be beaten with few stripes.'

This passage might alone suffice to overthrow the theory of the absence of a Moral-faculty: Our Lord says that the servant who knew not his lord's will, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes ; but that he who knew his lord's will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.' Now, that one who knew his lord's will, and did it not, should receive the heavier punishment, is a rule which one can easily understand ; but that one who knew not his lord's will’—that is, who had not received any express command -could' commit things worthy of stripes,' would be utterly inconceivable, if we supposed all notions of right and wrong to have been originally derived entirely from a knowledge of the divine will.

"When one side is doubtful, and the other side safe, we are

bound to take the safe side.'

This very ancient maxim, which is most just and valuable, is one of which the misapplication has led to an unspeakable amount of evil. I mean, when men have sought to keep on the safe side, but have erred as to what is the 'safe side.' For

| The History of England for Catholic Children. London: Burns and Lambert, 17. Portman Street, Birmingham: Lauder, Powell and Co. 1850.

« PreviousContinue »