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their understandings and their hearts, in a kind and affectionate manner, to which I am sure they will listen with all the respect and deference that are their due, and be thankful for the attention thus paid to them. I have reason to know that the tutors, so far from objecting to those visits, would gladly encourage them, and the students in general give them a hearty welcome. O let us not forget that these young men are our brethren, engaged in the same great work with ourselves ! that they are men of God, and have given satisfactory evidence of their conversion to Him, and “belief of the truth!" and that, if a little exuberance of thought and sentiment be manifested by them, in the delight they feel at the opening of their faculties, and the acquisition of knowledge, the principles of which they are possessed, and the piety of which they are the subjects, will not fail to correct this, as time and experience are afforded them, and to render them no mean or unworthy successors of those who have preceded them in the advocacy of the common faith! For one, I entertain no fears of any serious or general defection. What I know of the young men, and of their tutors, throughout the country at large, as well as my confidence of the soundness and justness of the views that are held by us, are sufficient to prevent all apprehensions of that kind. But let there be no misunderstanding between us, and no estrangement take place among us. Let not the juniors suspect the seniors of any foolish jealousy, or envy, or wish to dogmatise ; let them give those who have written upon the subject in your work, and yourself for admitting their communications, full credit for no other motive than a sincere regard for the interests of truth, and the honour of the ministry, which they look forward to as that which is to succeed their own. And let us, who are their seniors, be ready at all times to direct and encourage them; and do our utmost to abate the unreasonable prejudice that already prevails in many of our congregations against the ministrations of young men. I regret very much the “ Resolutions which the students of two of our academies have adopted, and the publication of them in your last number. They are by this time, imagine, sorry for the step thus hastily taken, and will not be backward to rescind those resolutions. They could injure none but them. selves, by foregoing the valuable instruction, in a superior style of writing, contained in your pages ; for a publication, conducted a yours has been, is in too much esteem among us, to fail of general support.
The Philosophy of Christian Morals. By Samuel Spalding, M.A., of the
London University. London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longman. Edinburgh : Black and Co. 8vo. 1813.
There is hardly any pursuit so generally unpopular in our own country as that of intellectual philosophy. That this is the case we deeply lament, nor can we sometimes help foreboding unhappy results from the neglect of a science which, though abstruse in its nature, and often indefinite in its results, nevertheless is closely connected with the formation of sound habits of thinking, and has a very important bearing upon the practical employment of our minds in the daily acquirement of useful knowledge. Indeed, we question whether many of the phenomena of the social and religious world in our day, over which the enlightened philanthropist and Christian inwardly grieves, do not arise from the want of a sound philosophy, adapted at once to repress intellectual absurdities and to direct us in the search after truth. Mau has, and ever will have, an insatiable thirst for knowledge ; and if this impulse is not wisely directed, it will be sure to find for itself a field of action in the pursuit of theories wholly or partially false. The philosophic spirit must exist in some form or other; it can never die out of humanity, any more than the fire of poetry or the flashes of genius; and so soon as ever the Christian renounces it, it will be nurtured by his enemies, and constructed into a barrier to oppose the progress of revealed truth. The philosophy which will ever please the mass is sensationalism; while that which is cultivated by the few, will tend rather to idealism. The former is now very extensively at work among the lower orders, who, however incompetent they may be to enter into metaphysical discussion, can well understand, and pride themselves in its conclusions, when they come out in the form of “fundamental facts" and "general laws,” that are to take the place of the Bible, in their estimation, and create a “ new moral world.” Idealism, too, (we use the word, of course, in a modified sense,) is at work amongst the thinking part of the community, with a philosopher of no mean genius (we mean Thomas Carlyle) at its head. The blunt common sense of the former of these schools, and the refined metaphysical acumen of the latter, can both detect philosophical absurdities, when held and maintained by those professing Christianity; and can both make their science tell against revealed truth, when it is perilled by the ignorance or the superstitions of its abettors. We hail, therefore, every fresh evidence of sound philosophical thinking that arises within the Christian world, every solid attempt to show the corformity between Christian faith and the human reason; and on this ground it is that we welcome the treatise, now lying before us, on the “ Philosophy of Christian Morals."
Moral philosophy is, unquestionably, one of the most practically useful parts of all intellectual science, and one which it most behores us to guard from abuses. A false theory in metaphysics, like that, for example, of Berkley, bas but little direct influence upon the conduct. Many a man has denied the existence of the material world, in theory, but no one ever lived as though he believed it, in practice. In ethics, on the contrary, a false principle soon finds its way into practice, and is made apologetic for a thousand different vices which arise from the depraved desires of the human heart. How often do we see this truth realised in the present day amongst those who avow that man is the creature of outward circumstances, and who ground on this fatalistic doctrine a virtual denial of all human responsibility! Delusions such as these, it is true, are soon dissipated by a few rays of sound philosophy, but then this philosophy needs to be reproduced over and over again, to be put into new and accessible shapes, and, if possible, to be taken from the folios in which it has been buried, and formed into inviting octavos and duodecimos, and even into tracts, in order to meet the demands of the present age.
We must come, however, to the subject now immediately before us. There are two great phases in which the question of morals can be viewed. It can be viewed subjectirely or objectively; that is to say, we may inquire into the moral feelings as they exist within the mind of man, or we may inquire into the immutable distinctions of right and wrong as they exist per se. The first question may assume the form—“What is conscience ?” the second may assume the form—“What is virtue?” In the former case, we attempt to assign and analyse the power, faculty, or susceptibility by which right and wrong become cognisable to us; in the latter case we attempt to discover the ground of moral distinctions in themselves. With regard to the first of these questions, viz. “What is conscience !" there are two distinct theories which divide the philosophic world. The one theory maintains that our primary ideas of right and wrong arise from certain emotions, and that our moral judgments follow those emotions : the other maintains that we first judge respecting the moral qualities of an action, and that the emotion follows the judgment. In both cases it is admitted that there is a moral judgment and that there are moral emotions; the only question of difference is, as to which of them has the precedence in the human mind. Those who give the precedence to the emotions, we term sentimental theorists; those who give it to the judgment, we call intellectual theorists. Lord Shaftesbury was, perhaps, the first amongst our own countrymen who distinctly
brought forward the sentimental theory. He represents certain actions as possessing a species of moral beauty, and conceives that, as there is å taste for natural beauty implanted in the human mind, so we have an innate discernment of moral beauty. Dr. Hutcheson, however, was the first who distinctly advocated the existence of a moral sense. He draws an exact parallel between the external senses, as conversant about material objects and their qualities, and the internal or moral sense, as conversant about actions and their qualities. This moral sense, he affirms, is excited in a pleasurable or painful manner, simply by different qualities in the actions of moral agents, and supposes that this takes place without any co-operation of the intellectual powers. He admits, however, that the moral sense requires cultivation, but that it must be cultivated quite independently of the understanding, by presenting models of pure morality to its perception, in the same way as the taste is cultivated by studying the finest specimens of the sublime and beautiful. This view of our moral sentiments, as consisting of an inward sense, quite unconnected with our rational nature, may be considered as the first modification of the sentimental theory.
The next modification is found in the writings of those who consider that the moral faculty is not a separate sense, but is reducible to some other element of our nature. Dr. Adam Smith, for example, contends that all our moral sentiments may be explained on the principle of sympathy; that we approve or disapprove of the conduct of others according as we can bring it home to our own feelings of rectitude and sympathise with it; and that we approve or disapprove of our own actions, by perceiving whether we should sympathise with them or not, did they form a part of the conduct of others. Dr. Hartley, again, resolves our moral feelings into the principle of association. He appears to view the moral faculty as a species of habit, which gradually forms and strengthens from our earliest infancy, by the power of association, so as at last to assume well-nigh the appearance of an instinctive principle. Sir James Mackintosh takes, substantially, the same view as Dr. Hartley. He insists, however, much more strongly upon the authority and prerogative of the conscience; and, instead of referring it to association alone, supposes that there is a blending together of all our desires and affections, so as eventually to form one grand ruling principle of the life and conduct. Of later writers, we may mention Dr. Payne as one who has, with considerable ability, maintained and illustrated this theory of our moral feelings.
The intellectual theory, on the other hand, can boast of names equally weighty on its side. Cudworth, for example, who argued so powerfully for the eternity and immutability of moral distinctions, maintains, that to obtain knowledge, even through the bodily senses, we require, over and above the sensational impression, an inward intellectual energy to comprehend those impressions and to generalise them : much more then, he concludes, must there be a necessity for the exercise of reason on moral questions. For, allow that we do possess a moral sense, that sense can give us nothing more than a bare feeling ; while the intellect alone can derive knowledge or draw conclusions from it, and thus raise us to the dignity of moral creatures, After Cudworth, Clarke, Wollaston, and Price, supported the intellectual theory. They all, though differing in a few minor points, affirm that actions possess, intrinsically, qualities of right and wrong, and that these qualities are perceived by the reason when applied to moral subjects, in the same manner as truth and falsehood are perceived by it when it is directed to purely intellectual questions. In this class we must also place the Utilitarians, amongst whom Paley, Bentham, and Mill, hold the most prominent stations. Drs. Reid and Stewart, moreover, and lastly, Dr. Wardlaw, all advocate modifications of the intellectual theory, inasmuch as they all hold that our moral sentiments begin with an exercise of the judgment, and that the moral emotions follow in the track which the judgment has marked out for it.
In the volume before us many valuable remarks will be found apob this discussion. Our author decidedly upholds the emotional theory, only in a somewhat modified form. He admits, for example, that all our emotions, of whatever nature, must be preceded by some intellectual conception; that hope, fear, or any other feeling, must hare some object towards which they are exercised, but that we do not regard them as objects of hope or fear until after the emotion has been experienced. In the same way, he contends, we must always have the perception of some action or other before our minds, previously to our experiencing moral emotions; but those emotions give us the first idea of actions as good or as evil. We quote his own words, that the reader may judge of them for himself :
“The error into which, in our humble opinion, these writers (intellectual theorists) have fallen, may probably be referred to an important law of the human mind, which, to prevent subsequent misconception, we shall here briefly state. As intellectual perception, or conception, is necessary to the rise of every emotion, For example, the emotion of surprise, when excited by anything material, requires the perception of a new object, or of an old object in new and unexpected circumstances. Without this, the emotion could not exist. It is the surprise, however, that invests the cause thus intellectually perceived with all that is interesting and important to us. In like manner, the intellectual conception of injury is necessary to excite the emotion of fear. But it is the emotion which makes us conceive of objects as fearful, and which makes us regard them with so deep an interest. It is precisely the same with our moral emotions. The cause, whatever it is, must be intellectually perceived; but it is the emotion which gives it its relative importance. It is from these respective emotions that we learn all that is truly distinctive of virtoe and vice, as compared with the cause of our other emotions. It is from the ems tions alone that we learn that virtue is the highest good, that it is superior, both in kind and degree, to every other source of enjoyment, and that it has a right to entire supremacy over all the faculties of the mind."