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lectures and are Christians, should associate worship with them, and should supplicate the blessing of that God in whom we believe, and on whose aid we depend. It is not our duty, I think, to preach a sermon. I do not stand up to do that; nor to dilate on religious experience, or upon topics that may be very gratifying and consolatory to pious and devout minds, who are settled and satisfied in the belief of the truth. But we meet to endeavour to go through a calm, fair, logical train of thought, to sustain a certain proposition, and to show the consequence which the admission of that proposition involves. That is the duty which I think devolves on me to.night. I must strive to be accurate in the steps which I take in my train of reasoning. I must try to manage my argument fairly ; and I think you must be fair, and candid, and just, in looking at the principles and the process of thought that may be brought before you.
With this view of the matter, I am quite willing to throw out of the proposition the assumption with which it begins-" The law given from Mount Sinai.” Aye, but that is the very point in debate, you will say,
that is an assumption. Well, we will throw it out, then ; and we will say, “ The law said to be given from Mount Sinai,” or “ The lat that is found in a certain book," " is suited to the circumstances of man, and of universal adaptation.” It is suited so remarkably, that, consi. dering all the circumstances connected with its delivery, the time when, and the place where, it follows as a consequence that it really must have been given either from Mount Sinai, as it is said, or in such a manner as to involve the idea of a divine interference.
Now I shall request your attention to the following things : in the first place, to one or two preliminary remarks ; in the second place, to a brief and rapid glance at this law itself; in the third place, to the truth which I think even this brief and rapid glance will bring out, that it is adapted to human nature, and to human nature universally; in the fourth place, to what I think that involves—that, considering all the circumstances, it must have come from the Divine Being himself; and then, lastly, to one or two practical remarks. I will try to be brief upon each of these ; and as I am speaking, though not without previous preparation, yet extemporaneously, you must not look so much at my language, as at the thoughts that I may drive at, and wish to get into your minds.
Now in the first place, let us make one or two PRELIMINARY REMARKS.
The first remark I make is this, that I think it must be admitted, that man is a being possessed of a religious capacity. I do not think that in saying that, I am expressing a mere opinion ; I think I am stating a fact. Man is a religious animal ; he has instincts, in which he agrees with other animals; he has improvable reason, in which he rises above them; and he has religious capacity, in which he is distinguished from them all. He can form the notion of God; he can unite with his kind for worship ; and in all places and in all ages he has manifested that he entertains the idea of, and cultivates veneration for, superior powers. A Deist of course admits this; and the Deist will argue that this religious instinct in man indicates the final cause of his existence, or that he was created for its cultivation, and that there is therefore a God to whom it is to be directed: but an Atheist must admit it as a fact: I will allow him to be perplexed by it, I will allow him to feel it as a difficulty, but I cannot allow him to deny the fact; for it is not, as I have said, an opinion that I am expressing, but a fact-that man in all ages has shown that he is distinguished by a capacity for religion. I know very well that, on the principle of atheism, this is a most startling and perplexing truth. Whether this world had a beginning or not, here it is ; whether it had a wise Author or not, here it is; and as it is, we can look at it. And in a world in which the instincts of all animals are universally met by something exactly appropriate to them, it certainly would be a most marvellous circumstance, that the greatest and the most distinguished being of all should have an instinct-an instinct strongly and universally predominant which there is nothing really existing adapted to gratify! I know that it is a startling and perplexing truth to the advocates of atheism, that haman nature is possessed of this religious capacity, but it is a truth nevertheless, -as such we state it, and it is not our fault if it perplexes any one.
In the second place, it is a fact that man is a moral agent : I mean that he can distinguish in actions properties to which he gives the names of right and wrong; that he perceives and recognises moral dis. tinctions; that he understands what is meant by law; that he can form the idea of obligation; that he can act voluntarily, and has the Capacity of yielding voluntary obedience to law. This is a simple fact, and I state it as such. I do not say that man universally has formed the same idea of right and wrong; I do not say that men universally have had the same moral judgment; but I do say that, however men may have differed with respect to the things they have called right or wrong, they have universally perceived and admitted such a distinction, and that is what makes man a moral being, capable of understanding moral obligations, of acting under moral law, of being swayed by moral motives, and of cultivating a moral character. This, again, is nothing but a simple fact. It cannot be denied.
In the third place, however contrary may have been, at different times and in different places, men's notions of religion and morals, it is possible for the intellect and the moral sense of men to be brought to such a state that they may feel they have a right to have an opinion both upon morals and religion. However it may be accounted for that men's understanding and conscience can be brought to this state, to this state they can be brought, and you and I are proofs. We can look, for instance, at the religions of antiquity and the morals of antiquity,—we can look at opinions which have been advocated as wise, and at practices which have been said to be virtuous, and we feel that we have a right to pronounce upon both, and to say that the one are absurd, and that the other are abominable. We feel this, and we know it.
Now I am not stating the Christian opinion which we associate with this fact, and which accounts for it. I am not accounting for it. I am simply stating what exists, however it may be accounted for. We, indeed, think that it can only be accounted for in a way honourable to our faith; but I leave that, and confine myself at present to the bare statement of what all must admit. I may add, however, that of
all men upon the earth, a number of thoughtful, intelligent, virtuous Englishmen, are the men that have a right to give an opinion on moral questions. However it comes to pass, we mean to say that it is a fact that the moral tastes, habits, and principles of the intelligent and cultivated part of the English community are such that the persons who compose it will bear a comparison with the same number of men taken from any nation upon earth ; and not only so, but that they may stand before them all and say, “ We have a right to be heard; our tastes and views are such, however we came by them, that we think we are competent to have an opinion, and to pronounce upon the general principles of a moral system and a moral law.”
I think and believe that I have to-night a number of thoughtful, reflecting, and I trust, many of them, virtuous, individuals here; we are going to speak a little about a certain law, and we think that we can speak about it, and that you can judge. And now I will read the law of which it is asserted, and we think can be proved, that it is suited “ to the circumstances of man, and of universal adaptation." It is found in an old book-very old we think—and reads thus :-“ Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain ; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work : but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates : for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day : wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour's.”
Now this law, you see at the very first glance, meets man precisely in those two great and important aspects of his character and constitution to which I referred in my introductory remarks: he is met in his religious capacity, and met in his moral. There are two parts of the law,—the first regulating the cultivation of the religious instinct, and the other regulating the principles and manifestations of moral action.
I am afraid that I must confine myself to very brief observations indeed. In the first part of the law, relating to religion, there are four things: there is an object of worship, there is a mode of worship, there is the inculcation of habitual reverence with respect to sacred things, and there is an appointed season for the cultivation and
perfecting of the religious capacity. There are these things, which are just what man wants, which are exactly adapted to him, according to his known circumstances and to the capacity which distinguishes him from everything else.
The first commandment presents an object of worship—“Thou shalt have no other gods before me;" thou art a religious being, and must have a God-but thou must have but one. It forbids atheism, and it forbids polytheism ; it gives the religious capacity an appropriate ob. ject, and it forbids all other objects that would clash with that. “I am the Lord thy God." I am Jehovah, the self-existent, eternal, perfect, Decessary Being. There can be but one such being. We have been brought to understand that, however it may have come to pass. We tee and feel that if there be a God, he must be necessary, perfect, etemal, sovereign ; and that there can be but one being, sovereign, eternal, perfect, necessary: and the law says, “ Thou shalt have Jeho. rah, (who is that?] but thou shalt have no other.” Nothing can be conceived more rational, philosophical, and just.
The second commandment comes lower down. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth ; thou shalt not bow down to them nor serve them.” I take the principle of the law; I omit, at present, the concluding part of the commandment. This comtashment, then, has respect to the mode of worship, and forbids palive, palpable, material idolatry. It not only forbids, as I think, the worship of idols in the stead of God, but it forbids the worshipping of God through idols, or along with them, as is interpreted in the 23rd verse-"Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.” That is to say, that he would not permit them to worship himself through the medium of visible assistances ; a wonderful and philosophical provision, implying a deep insight into the nature of man; for if, under pretence of faciting devotion, and animating and elevating the feelings of the worshippers towards the unseen Being, man was to be permitted the use of pictures and statues—likenesses of God's works, as illustrative of God's wisdom-he would soon come to bow down before these themselves to venerate and adore ; he would stop at what met the eye and would not penetrate to the invisible who cannot meet it. Now, here is a wise and wonderful provision, in the forbidding not only all Idolatry, but even the worshipping the true God through the means of visible symbols.
The third commandment inculcates reverence for the Divine name : "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Blasphemy and profanity, levity with respect to all sacred and Divine things, hypocrisy, formality in worship-all this is forbidden here; sincerity towards and deep reverence for God are inculcated. Hers, again, is something most appropriate. Man will feel little reverence for a god at whom he can laugh, and with whom he can trifle, and with whose name he can make free. If religious rites, and ordinances, and objects of worship. are to become familiar to the lips, familiar in the way of levity and profanity,-religion itself will soon wither and die under
such an influence. Here again, therefore, is a beautiful provision-a kind of sacred fence drawn round about man's religious affections and feelings : he is to preserve that reverence for the very name of Deity, and the language in which the things of religion are expressed, which will cherish and preserve the religious feeling itself.
And, in the last place, there is a provision made for a certain season in which the religious capacity is to be cultivated and improved. Six days are appointed for labour, and one for rest. And I would have you remark, what perhaps you do not generally notice, that industry and labour are just as much inculcated here as rest. It is just as much enforced by the fourth commandment that you should be diligent and industrious on the six days, as it is that you should rest on the seventh. He, therefore, who is idle, and careless, and thoughtless, and does not enter with vigour into the duties which God hath made his, is violating this commandment just as much as he who profanes the sabbath. But here is the provision-a beautiful provision-that there should come regularly a day on which the hand of labour should rest, and the noise, and sound, and agitation of secular life should be still, and those who seem born to toil should learn also that they are born to think; when the beasts of the field are to repose, and man, however oppressed by labour or poverty, should learn to value the great prerogatives, and to improve the higher capacities, of his nature.
That this day is intended not merely for rest, but religion, is evident, because it is to be hallowed. God sanctified it. It is to be kept “ holy;" and therefore while there is to be a resting from toil, it is to be with the intention that while the body is refreshed by repose, the mind shall be cultivated and solaced by religious engagements; and if there were not something like fixed periods when men could assemble for religious exercises and religious instruction, I fear that religion itself, in its power and influence, would degenerate and die.
This, then, is the law with respect to the first part. I pass over the concluding part of the fourth commandment, as I did of the second ; I look merely at the principle of both, and will advert to the other things by and by.
We now come to the second part-the inculcation of moral principles and duties. These recognise the relations subsisting in the present world, and regulate and modify our moral conduct by them. It begins with the first and nearest, which is the nurse and fountain of all virtue, and it proceeds afterwards to notice the others. “Honour thy father and thy mother.” “Honour!”-a comprehensive word, including affection, respect, obedience, submission to reproof, support and attention in age-everything by which filial affection can be expressed towards the parent; and it involves the duty of parents, for they must be worthy of this honour, and they must discharge those duties towards the child by which the feeling inculcated will be nourished. It may be said to involve the general principle of respect for superior age, intelligence, and authority, and thus lie at the basis of the order and the obedience of civil society and civil government. Indeed, a well-regulated home is the place where all the great principles are to be formed which constitute the germ of public virtue, and which, when developed, adorn a commonwealth and support a state : it is at home