Abbildungen der Seite

virtues. But the obligations, duties, and virtues which may be built on them may be different. There is the conception of property in a rude tribe, but that conception is very imperfectly applied. Their idea of property is a very contracted one. It embraces a very few things. As that society advances in civilization, the perception of property becomes more clear, and is more definitely stated, and is more accurately applied, and embraces a larger number of things. Thus, as time proceeds, the conception becomes enlarged; and the definitions of property, and of the relations of the rights of property, become more precise. So in different states, the application of the conception is not the same; and in consequence, the definitions are not the same in each. That which may be defined as a violation of right in one, may be regarded as no infringement in another; while the conception of property may be clear in each. Thus, "in one country the wayfarer may morally pluck the fruits of the earth as he passes, and in another he may not; because when so plucked, in one place they are, and in another they are not, the property of him on whose field they grew." So also there is a growth in the clearness of perception. The laws of a state become more precise, their application is extended, and they mark with greater accuracy a violation of rights.

Thus we may see that the original conception

comes from the nature of man, and that it is in the exercise of that nature, and in its development, that we come to have clear perceptions of moral relations, and of the duties which spring out of those relations.

A system, then, of moral truth must arise out of the wants of that nature. As men are brought into relations to each other, in the family and in the state, it is apparent that they owe duties to each other, and that those duties can be expressed. However vague they may have been at first, every step of progress must serve to make them more clear. The development of the family into the tribe, and then into the state, and into the nation, must make more necessary those obligations and duties and virtues; and then the relation of nations to each other must develop another sort of obligation and duty. It would come to pass in such a development, in such a progress, that the obligation would be expressed in the form of a maxim, "Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not kill." These truths, at first necessary maxims, would become general truths; and then they would become laws. And then these general truths or laws would embrace various actions, and would require interpretation. With the progress of civilization, there would be the enlargement of these maxims and laws; and a system of morality would be the result.

[ocr errors]

Thus the study of human nature, and the fallen

condition of that nature, and the relations of man in this nature in society and in the state, must inevitably lead to a large number of moral truths, which in the progress of society would be classified, and brought into their natural dependence on each other, and would thus constitute a system of morality.




E come now to consider the relation of morality to Christian redemption. It is very obvious from what has been said in the two preceding Lectures, that Christianity did not create a morality. There was, it has been seen, a morality existing independently of revealed religion. If we do not perceive this so clearly to be the case in the land of Judæa, where the existing religion was a religion revealed from heaven, which had been favored by direct divine guidance and by explicit directions given from God, and which had the Ten Commandments delivered from Sinai, yet we must see that it was so in the Gentile nations with which the gospel very soon came into contact. The morality of Asia Minor, of Greece, and of Rome, was already existing, and had existed without any direct contact with revealed religion for several centuries.

1. The gospel accepted the morality, and did not make another. It did not name and create virtues

which had not existed. And for this very reason, that the moral virtues have respect to the relations of society, and to the relations of men in society with each other. To make a morality, it would have been necessary to make new relations among men: it would have been necessary to create a new human nature; to implant in man new appetites, new desires, and new affections, out of which would arise new relations and new obligations and duties and virtues. Christianity came to new-create man, to regenerate him, to give him the power to live a new life. But that new man, that regenerated man, had not a new nature in the sense that it was a nature consisting of new elements, new parts, new faculties, capable of performing new functions. The new creation of the gospel is the bringing the parts and elements of human nature into harmony. It was giving the will the power which it ought to have, and the reason and conscience the authority which was originally conferred upon them. It was giving the higher parts power over the appetites and passions. Man, after his new creation and regeneration, was the same man, with the same faculties, and moved by the same springs of action. It was impossible, therefore, that, under such an influence and power, the gospel should create a new morality. It recognized the obligations, duties, and virtues which had been recognized in Greece and Rome, that were,

« ZurückWeiter »