Page images
PDF
EPUB

power both of doing moral acts and of judging of them, we reach the highest form of created being. It is, doubtless, the highest possible, since there is in it the image of God, who is himself a person.

We reach that for which all else is a condition, and which has, therefore, over all else, as below it, a natural supremacy. By a natural law “ all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field, and the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,” are put “under the feet” of such a being. In the same way everything in his own system that is physical, or animal, or merely intellectual, must either be in subjection, or in disorder and rebellion. We now reach a form of activity that is a condition for nothing within the system, above itself, which has in itself and in its results not only a good, but the good, and the supreme good for man, and which can, therefore, be subject to no law of limitation.

In the exigencies of the present life it may happen that there shall be not only limitations, but exceptions to the laws of every subordinate portion of the system. The laws on which the welfare of the body depends may be disregarded, because the welfare of the body is not the highest good. There may be virtue, and even heroism, in disregarding them. But the laws of the moral nature cannot be thus disregarded. Than the end and good which these laws would secure, there can be nothing higher; there can therefore be no law to which these can give place; they can be subordinate to nothing, are always binding, have no exceptions, and the activity under them can never be in excess.

Having thus reached what is highest in man, we must, in accordance with our previous discussions, here find his true end and good. And here we do find it in the activity of the personality according to its law. What then is that NATURAL AND REVEALED LAW IDENTICAL.

179

law? The law of the subordinate faculties is, an activity for each upon its appropriate object up to the point at which it would interfere with some higher form of activity and good. Now, however, there can be no interference with anything higher. The law, therefore, of the highest faculties will be their highest possible form and degree of activity upon their appropriate objects. What, then, is the highest form of activity of which we are capable? By a fair analysis this has been shown to be love. What are the appropriate objects of love? They are God and our neighbor. What is the highest possible degree of this love? It is the love of God with all the heart, and of our neighbor as ourselves.

Here, then, do we have, after as full and fair an examination as I could give it, the human constitution itself uttering the substance of that law which was spoken in thunder four thousand years ago, and uttering, because it is impossible to find those more appropriate, the very words of Him who spoke as never man spoke, when he gave a summary of that law.

Wonderful is it that his words should be the exact formula for the expression of the highest possible activity of the highest powers.

Thus, as in a former lecture we found that the teachings inwrought into the whole frame-work of nature were in perfect harmony with the constitution of man, so do we now find that the teachings of that constitution are themselves in perfect harmony with those of the revealed word of God. So is it that “deep calleth unto deep.” So is man the connecting link between that which is lowest and that which is highest.

We have now answered the three questions put in the second lecture. The first was, What ought man to do? The answer was, To choose and seek the end for which

God made him. The second was, Why ought he to do it ? The answer was, Because of the intrinsic good there is in the end. The third was, How ought he to do it? The answer is, By the highest activity of his lower powers according to the law of limitation; and by the full activity of his highest powers upon their appropriate objects. Does any one inquire more especially what this activity is ? The answer is, Since we have shown the moral affections to be higher than the intellect, and since God is the highest and only adequate object of the affections, that it can consist only in the supreme love of God, and the impartial love of man.

LECTURE VIII.

RELATION OF VIRTUE TO HAPPINESS.

QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF GOOD.

- MORAL AND NATURAL GOOD.- REGARD FOR OUR OWN GOOD.- CON

NECTION

WITH BENEVOLENCE. ENJOYMENT

FROM APPROBATION.

THE TRUE END OF MAN.-CONNECTION BETWEEN MORAL AND NATURAL

GOOD.

The identity which we found in the last lecture between the teaching of the constitution of man and the law of God was not sought. The result was reached because the analysis would go there. I was myself surprised at the exactness of the coincidence. The formula we reached for the end and good of man was the highest possible activity of the highest powers upon their appropriate objects. Love has been shown to be the highest form of activity; and how readily and perfectly the law of God takes the form of the above expression will be seen if we observe that no love of him can be greater than that with all the heart, and no love of our neighbor can be greater than that we should love him as ourselves.

It is a grand and beautiful thing thus to begin, as we have done, at the foundation of this lower creation, and to follow it upward as its stories rise one upon another till they culminate in man, and then to hear from his constitution an articulate utterance identical with an utterance from heaven that comes down to meet it. So is man fitted to be a being, as Milton says, –

“Commercing with the skies." The teachings of the constitution, or of natural law, being thus identified with those of the revealed law, it would now be in order to go on and evolve the specific duties that would flow from this law as applied in the various relations of life. This might be done, as it generally has been, in the light of that disposition which would lead us to do good to all men; or, more properly, as more in accordance with the preceding course of thought, in the light of ends. The duties of man to himself and to God would then be determined in the light of his end as a creature of God; his duties in the family in its various relations would be determined by the end of the family, and his duties to society by the end of society. And this it was my purpose at one time to do; but that would be beaten ground; the time would not be adequate, and there are still speculative questions of interest, that are also practical, that require our attention. We need particularly just now to analyze this love with reference to certain general conceptions that have been formed, and their harmony with each other. We need to inquire after the relations to each other of holiness or virtue, and happiness.

The revealed law is practical. It applies its precepts directly to a person; it says thou; and it requires duties to be performed towards persons. The objects are God and our neighbor. But the mind forms necessarily certain general conceptions. These are represented by general terms having no reality or one thing in nature corresponding to them, but simply the notion as it is formed in diferent minds, and which may vary much, both in its content and in its distinctness. The general notion of property may be in some minds clear, in others indistinct; in some it may be represented by land, in others by stocks. These general terms, formed by abstraction, and thus varying in their significance in different minds, have been

« PreviousContinue »