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mysterious existence, can bring up this truth and settle the obligation upon the foundation of its own rightness in the nature of things. God must say to man-" this is my Beloved Son, hear him"-and to the high intelligences of heaven-" when he bringeth his only begotten Son into the world, let all the angels of God worship him"-and thus the obligation is fixed upon the conscience of man and angel forever. They cannot settle the rightness of that command upon its own nature, they see only the rightness of the authority which gives it, and which guards it by the awful sanction of "Anathema Maranatha," if it be disobeyed; and this is sufficient. The authority binds the conscience. The mouth of the rebel against this authority will be as effectually sealed in the judgment, as if he had disobeyed after his reason had comprehended the whole ground of the commandment.
This is but one example in the divine government, which may apply in illustration to many cases in all governments. The conscience must often be bound where there can be no intuition of the ground and nature of the principle. Children are to be governed-ignorant adults, barely awake to the consciousness of their moral identity, are to be brought under obligation— Yea, men of the highest intelligence, and even angels and archangels must sometimes be commissioned on errands of duty, where authority alone is the only source from which the conscience can be reached.
And if this be true in cases where right and wrong are the objects of intuition, how much more so when the duty can be settled only by patient reflection? How much more certainly will the minds of men be divided on those subjects of obligation which grow out of general expediency and propriety? A great proportion of social duties lie altogether in this field. They depend upon circumstances. They are to be regulated by general interests, and though it be granted that one side must always have weightier reasons for its adoption than the other, yet how in the multitude of human prejudices and interests will you harmonize the action of society in relation to them? What but some legitimate source of authority can come in here, and fix the line for the regulation of human practice?
There are moreover many particulars, for which there is no definite foundation in the nature of things. They involve practical questions that must be settled in some way, and in which there must also be uniformity of practice, but they have nothing VOL. XII. No. 32. 36
in their own nature by which they can be precisely settled. Positive enactments-sovereign authority alone is competent to fix the rule and bind the subject to it. On this ground stand very many duties both religious and civil. What in the nature of things could Adam see for the prohibition of the fruits of one tree alone in Paradise? What in the nature of things could be seen to fix the duties of circumcision and the Mosaic purifications? or under the present dispensation, the ordinance of baptism, and the elements of bread and wine in the sacramental supper? Grant that in their adaptation to the ends they were designed to subserve, there is a perceived propriety and fitness. Yet who can so distinguish these from all other things which might subserve the same ends, as a priori to say, from the mere nature of the things themselves, these and nothing but these ought to have been selected and observed?
Again, what in the nature of things could have bound the conscience of Abraham to "Get him out of his country, and from his kindred, and from his father's house, unto a land that God would show him?" or more emphatically still, what in the nature of things could have fixed the obligation of obedience to "take now thy son, thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt offering?" Could the intuitions of reason find here any foundation on which to rest the claims of obligation? Over all this region reason is like the dove of the deluge, there is no place where she can rest. She can only look away to the authority which commands-and which is but fleeing back to the ark she left-before she can find a place for the soul of her foot. In the rightness of the authority alone can reason see here any ground of obligation.
So in relation to human society, a great proportion of its regulations are those for which there is no exclusive reason in the nature of things. At what age precisely shall minority cease, and the youth take the place of a man in civil relations? When shall the right of suffrage be granted, and to whom? When eligible to office? What is the manner of election, and induction, and how long retain office? How shall property be transferred and inherited? How shall contracts be rendered valid, and what seals shall be applied? What shall be the form of judicial oaths, and of all judicial and legislative proceedings? A thousand queries of this nature may be put, and what will you do? Wait till individual reason or reflection settles them,
or let every man do what is right in his own eyes in regard to them? Can society exist where these questions are undecided? No, they must be settled, and you can possibly resort to no other source but simple authority to accomplish it. And when the authority which decides here is legitimate, no man's conscience needs any thing further. The law of his nature binds him in obedience to it just as decisively as if he had all the grounds of obligation beneath his own intuition.
2. It is necessary to the preservation of society that there be additional sanctions to natural obligation. The sanctions of natural obligation are the sensations of conscience in view of past actions complacency for doing right, and compunction for doing wrong. To this may be added the natural consequences of our conduct in the relation of cause and effect. And now even if society could commence with all the advantages of general intelligence and complete holiness, it cannot be proved that these sanctions of natural obligation alone would be sufficient thus to perpetuate it. All probability is against it. Temptation would be present-a thousand occasions to sin would occur, nor is there the probability that with nothing but natural consequences to follow from the sin, it would in all cases be resisted. The increase of capacity and strength of faculties in the individual and those by whom he was surrounded, and over whom he might exert an influence and gain an ascendency would constantly augment the dangers of pride, ambition, and love of domination. And were there no other barriers than natural conscience, who can believe that they would avail to secure universal obedience? And if sin once entered, there could be no safety to the community. Speedy destruction to the system would be the inevitable issue of its own perverted action. Natural conscience was the only balance-wheel, and when that, too weak to retain its own position or regulate the movements of the different parts, is thrown from its centre, the whole machinery must be rent asunder from its own violence.
All that we can gather from facts enforces this conclusion. Man in his original innocence sinned. Holy angels also sinned even when in both cases positive punishment was added to the sanctions of natural conscience. How much more certain the existence of sin when the restraining influence of all positive authority is absent? No one can say, that if God should lay aside all authority in heaven, and leave the angels of light to nothing but the operation of natural obligation, they would
be kept from mingling with hell for a single day. All probability is that sin would soon enter and rage unrestrained, if God withdraw all the influence of heaven but the simple workings of each one's own conscience. All created beings were made for law. From their very nature they require the influence of positive enactments and sanctions. If the force of authority be removed, they are at once unnaturalized, unorganized, and the society which they constitute must fall in ruins. The very thought of anarchy is dreadful to every finite mind which allows itself any serious reflection.
If this would follow in a world of primitive obedience, more certainly would destruction ensue to a system in which the principles of depravity were already acting. Take away all positive retribution from vice and crime, and what security remains but that each one must lie at the mercy of the strongest? The bloody days of Danton and Robespierre would come again, and earth and heaven be robed in sackloth. The race would fail from the earth; society could not hold together for one generation. The only safety possible would be in throwing the nation back into its elements, and each one fleeing from his fellows to perpetual solitude, where no law is needed but that which lays its obligations upon one individual. Society among men exists, and can be maintained only by superadding the sanctions of positive authority to natural obligation. To this we owe all the blessings which social life has ever imparted. This additional influence is necessary. And in various ways it is af forded by the interposition of positive legislation. It gives distinctness and definiteness to duty, by an explicit and peremp tory annunciation of the precepts-it adds the sanction of positive rewards and punishments-it gives vitality and personality to law in the recognition of a living present sovereign-it augments obligation by the exhibition of the lawgiver's own moral character, wishes and sympathies-and finally, it prevents all evasion of penalty through the stifling of conscience, by the consciousness that there is a personal agency in another, whose interest as well as duty it is to arraign, convict, condemn and
Authority is thus essential to the well being of creatures. The sceptre must be held over the head of every rational being, with the sole exception of the Great Supreme and Sovereign Lord of all. But more especially for man. He was made for society. All his natural endowments bespeak the design of a
social existence, and urge him to a communion with his species. He cannot be happy in isolated seclusion. The elements of society are separate individuals it is true, but it is a delusion to suppose that they ever existed in solitude. It is but the dream of theorizers, to talk of the organization of civil government by a congregating of separate individuals from all points of the compass, who have left each his solitary cave and come up in his savage wildness to enter into a compact that he will wear clothes, obey laws, and become a civilized and social being. Man never otherwise existed than in society, and as a member of society he must be governed by law, and live submissively under rightful authority. Every influence which goes to weaken the force of law, or strengthen the opinion that man does not need it, is a blow directly at the very vitals of human happiness. It is as foul a treason against the rights of society as is the effort to pervert the principles of natural morality. The moment that legitimate authority is subverted, there is no security for earth or Heaven. Gratifying to the pride of human independence as it may be, to rise above all authority, and obey no law but that which is self-imposed, yet, like every other mad presumption of self-sufficiency, such an attempt can only issue in deeper degradation and ruin. It is not true that man becomes more noble and exalted in proportion as he rises above authority. It is usurping a station which is not his, for which he was never designed, and to which his nature has no adaptation. No being but God can afford to stand beyond the jurisdiction of sovereign authority. Every attempt of men to "be as gods," in this respect, is as truly rebellion against the laws of heaven and their own nature, as was that of our first parents who fell by the same delusive presumption in Eden.
Here would be the place to introduce the arguments from Revelation, viz: That God, the source of the highest authority, has explicitly enjoined obedience and respect to human authority. Reference may be made to Matt. 22: 21. Rom. 13: 1, 7. 1 Tim. 2: 12. Titus 3: 1. 1 Pet. 2: 13, 17, etc. in relation to civil authority-and to Ex. 20: 12. Luke 2: 51. Eph. 6: 1. Col. 3: 20. 1 Tim. 3: 12, etc. in relation to parental authority. But as our object is to present this subject to the reason of man in the light of its own nature, we pass by the declaration of the word of God. Nature teaches the absolute necessity of positive authority for the government of man.
But authority, to be binding, must be legitimate; although