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in seeking an end for its intrinsic value, we must be indifferent as to the way in which we obtain that end; that is, whether it be obtained in a manner possible or impossible, right or wrong. It overlooks the fact, that, from the laws of our own being, it is impossible for us to will the end without willing also the indispensable and therefore appropriate means; and also that we cannot possibly regard any other conditions or means of the happiness of moral agents as possible, and therefore as appropriate and right, but holiness and universal conformity to the law of our being. As we said in a former lecture, enjoyment or mental satisfaction results from having the different demands of our being met. One demand of the reason and conscience of a moral agent is, that happiness should be conditioned on holiness. It is therefore naturally impossible for a moral agent to be satisfied with the happiness or enjoyment of moral agents except on the condition of their holi
The objection is, that if moral character attaches only to intention, then it follows that if the intention is right, all that proceeds from it must be right, and consequently that the end sanctifies the means, no matter what those means in themselves may be. Mr Finney's answer to the objection is,1. That it is nonsense; 2. That it cannot bear against his doctrine, because he teaches that enjoyment or happiness is the only proper object of intention; 3. That it is a law of reason that virtue is the condition of happiness; 4. And, therefore, as it is impossible that a man should will the end without willing the means, it is impossible for him to will enjoyment without willing virtue, which his reason tells him is its indispensable condition.
On this answer, which is substantially repeated in several parts of the work, we remark,-1. That it overlooks his own. fundamental principle, viz., that nothing is virtue but intending the highest good. There is no moral excellence in truth, justice, holiness, except so far as they are forms of that intention; any thing, therefore, which is a form or expression of that intention, or, as he says himself, that proceeds from it, is virtue. If, therefore, killing a man proceeds from that intention, it is a virtuous act. 2. Mr Finney cannot say certain things are prohibited by the law of God, and are therefore wrong, no matter with what intention they are performed, because his doctrine is that law relates only to the intention; its authority extends no further. The will of God is not the foundation of any obligation. Here he has got into a deeper slough even than the Jesuits, for they hold that the law of God is not a mere declaration of what is obligatory, and, so far as we know, they never substitute obedience to the intelli
gence, as a synonymous expression with obedience to God. 3. Nor will it avail to say that if a man's intention is right, he cannot err as to the appropriate means of attaining it, because those means are infallibly revealed in the reason; for this is notoriously not the fact. The intelligence makes known only to a very limited extent the means appropriate to secure the highest good. Hence this is a point on which men differ as much as on any other that could well be mentioned. 4. It is a favourite doctrine of Mr Finney, and a necessary consequence of the maxim, that obligation is limited by ability, that a man's responsibility is limited by the degree of knowledge or light which he possesses. Does it not then follow that if he has been perverted by education, or brought honestly to believe that persecution, private assassination, or any other abomination, is an appropriate means to the greatest good, he is virtuous in employing those means? If the horrors of the French revolution were perpetrated with a right intention, with a purpose to promote happiness, they were lofty specimens of virtue, and Robespierre, Marat, and Danton must be enrolled as saints. Mr Finney himself says, "No moral being can possibly blame or charge himself with any default, when he is conscious of honestly willing, or choosing, or acting, according to the best light he has; for in this case he obeys the law as he understands it, and of course cannot conceive himself to be condemned by the law."—(P. 162.) He does not seem to have any conception of that lowest state of moral degradation of which the prophet speaks, when he says of the wicked, They put good for evil, and evil for good, sweet for bitter, and bitter for sweet; or when a man is brought to the pass of saying, "Evil, be thou my good." On the page last quoted he asserts that conscious honesty of intention, according to the light possessed, is entire obedience to moral law. And on p. 165,"If the intention is what it ought to be for the time being, nothing can be morally wrong." This, as far as we can see, is the precise doctrine of the Jesuits. It is the doctrine which led to the justification of the murder of Henry IV. of France, of the massacre of the Huguenots, and of thousands of similar enormities. We mean no disrespect when we say it would be well for Mr Finney to read the works of the Jesuit fathers; let him see what his principles come to in the hands of wicked men, who are his equals in logical acumen and boldness, and know nothing of the restraints which his moral and religious feelings impose on him.
We consider this a fair refutation. If the principle that obligation is limited by ability leads to the conclusion that moral character is confined to intention, and that again to the conclusion that where the intention is right nothing can be
morally wrong, then the principle is false. Even if we could not detect its fallacy, we should know it could not be true. But we have already said the fallacy lies in applying a principle which is true in reference to physical incapacity, such as want of sight, to an inability which, though natural in one sense, is as to its character moral, i.e., arises out of the moral state of the soul; a fallacy just as gross as it would be to argue that because two portions of matter cannot occupy at one time the same portion of space, therefore two thoughts cannot co-exist in the same mind.
A SECOND doctrine which flows from Mr Finney's principles, and which characterises his whole system, concerns the foundation of moral obligation. We have seen that he holds that obligation is limited to intention; but on what does that obligation rest? why is a man bound to intend one thing rather than another? Mr Finney answers this question by denying, 1st, That the will of God is the foundation of this obligation. Against this doctrine he urges such reasons as the following:1. "This theory makes God's willing, commanding, the foundation of the obligation to choice or intent, an ultimate end. If this is so, then the willing of God is the end to be intended; for the end to be intended and the reason of the obligation are identical." 2. God himself is under moral obligation, and therefore there is some reason independent of his own will, which imposes upon him the obligation to will as he does. 3. If the will of God is the foundation of obligation, he can by willing it change virtue into vice. 4. If the will of God is the foundation of moral obligation, we have no standard by which to judge of the moral character of his acts. 5. The will of no being can be law. Moral law is an idea of the reason.
Mr Finney's book is made up of half-truths. It is true that the will of God, divorced from his infinite wisdom and excellence, mere arbitrary will, is not the foundation of moral obligation. But the preceptive will of God is but the revelation of his nature, the expression of what that nature is, sees to be right and approves. It is also true that some things are right because God wills or commands them, and that he wills other things because they are right. Some of his precepts, therefore, are founded on his own immutable nature, others on the peculiar relations of man, and others again upon his simple command. We can have no higher evidence that a thing is right than the command of God, and his command creates an obligation to obedience, whether we can see the reason of the precept or not, or whether it have any reason apart from his good pleasure. Mr Finney is right so far as saying that the will of God, considered as irrational, groundless volition, is not the ultimate foundation of moral obligation, but his will, as the
revelation of the infinitely perfect nature of God, is not merely the rule, but ground of obligation to his creatures; so that their obedience does not terminate on the universe, nor on reason in the abstract, but upon God, the personal reason, the infinitely perfect, and because he is the infinitely perfect.
2d, Our author denies that the divine moral excellence is the ground of moral obligation. This he pronounces to be absurd. Moral obligation respects the choice of an ultimate end. The reason of the obligation and the end chosen must be identical. Therefore, what is chosen as an end must be chosen for its own sake. But virtue being chosen as a means to an end, viz., enjoyment, cannot be the end chosen. This of course follows from the principle that enjoyment is the only intrinsic good, the only thing that should be chosen for its own sake, and other things only as they are the means or conditions of attaining that end.
We should like to ask, however, how Mr Finney knows that happiness is a good, and a good in itself to be chosen for its own sake? If he should answer that is a first truth of reason, is it not a first truth of reason that moral excellence is a good, and a far higher good, to be chosen for its own sake? It is degraded and denied if it be chosen simply as a means of enjoyment. If the moral idea of excellence is not a primary, independent one, then we have no moral nature; we have a sentient and rational nature,—a capacity for enjoyment, and the power of perceiving and adapting means to its attainment. We may be wise or foolish; but the ideas of wrong as wrong, and right as right, are lost,-they are merged into those of wise and unwise. If God and reason affirm obligation, they affirm that virtue and vice are not terms to express the relations of certain things to enjoyment. They affirm that the one is a good in itself and the other an evil in itself; and this is the loudest affirmation in the human soul, and wo to the man in whom it ceases to be heard. No sophistry can render the conscience permanently insensible to the authority of God asserting that virtue is to be chosen for its own sake, and that it is not chosen at all unless it be so chosen. Let this not be supposed to conflict with the assertion that the will of God is also the ground of obligation; for what is the will of God! what is God, but the sum of all excellence, almighty self-conscious reason and holiness? In choosing virtue for its own sake, we choose God. It is one of Mr Finney's hobbies that the ground of obligation must be one and simple. If it is the will of God, it is not his moral excellence; if his moral excellence, it is not his will. This, however, may be safely referred to the common judgment of men. They are conscious that even entirely distinct grounds of obligation may concur; as the nature
of the thing commanded, the authority of him who gives the command, and the tendency of what is enjoined. If these are considerations which affect the reason, they bind the conscience. They are the bond or ligament which "binds a moral agent to the moral law."
3d, Mr Finney's own theory of the foundation of moral obligation is of course involved in his principle that enjoyment is the only intrinsic good. The fourth lecture is devoted to the consideration of this subject. In that lecture, after arguing to prove that the highest well-being of God and the universe is the ultimate and absolute good, and that their highest good must be natural good or happiness, and not moral good or virtue, he comes to the conclusion that the intrinsic value of happiness is the sole foundation of the obligation to will it as the ultimate end. The conclusions from this doctrine, as stated on p. 148, are," 1. Upon this theory moral obligation respects the choice of an ultimate end. 2. This end is an unit. 3. It is necessarily known to every moral agent. 4. The choice of this end is the whole of virtue. 5. It is impossible to sin while this end is intended with all the heart and all the soul. 6. Upon this theory, every moral agent knows in every possible instance what is right, and can never mistake his real duty. 7. This ultimate intention is right, and nothing else is right, more or less. 8. Right and wrong respect ultimate intention only, and are always the same. Right can be predicated only of good will, and wrong only of selfishness."
We briefly remark on this theory, that it changes the whole nature of religion. Our whole and sole obligation is to the universe, and to God only as one of the constituent members of universal being. There is and can be no allegiance to God as God, and hence Mr Finney substitutes perpetually, “obedience to the intelligence," to an "idea of the reason, as synonymous with obedience to God, or the moral law. In his whole system, and of necessity, God is subordinate to the universe. Again, it is of the essence of religion that love to God should include congeniality, complacency, reverence, and delight in his divine perfections; in other words, that his moral excellence should be loved and chosen for its own sake. Mr Finney's system will not allow him to attach any other meaning to love than "good will," i. e. willing good or happiness to any one. Love of God, therefore, can, according to his doctrine, be nothing more than willing his happiness; and this obligation is entirely independent of his moral excellence. He admits that his moral goodness is the condition of our willing his actual happiness, but it is not the ground of our obligation to love him, or to will his good. As far as our feelings are concerned, there ought to be no difference between God and Satan; we are bound to