« FöregåendeFortsätt »
brings down holy and powerful influence to our aid a religion which is invested with the terrors, no less than with the milder glories, of the Lord-and which possesses every principle that can win or awe the human mind;-if such a religion be not always effectual in delivering its disciples from temptation, how inefficient must the doctrine of utility prove as a rule of moral obligation, and as a motive to its practice!
THE PRINCIPLE OF EXPEDIENCY PROVED TO BE FALSE FROM
ITS OPPOSITION TO DIVINE REVELATION.
The existence of such a Revelation presupposes its necessity in furnishing mankind with a rule of conduct, as well as a guide of faith, and a ground of hope. But if it was necessary that God should prescribe a law to his creatures, by which they should regulate their moral feelings and actions, it follows, that this law alone must be the test and criterion of duty, to the exclusion of every principle which man may be disposed to substitute in its room.
This conviction is strengthened, when we observe the manner in which God requires us to observe his law. Is there, in that Sacred Volume, in which alone his will on this subject is made known, any statement from which it might be inferred, that man may assume, in a single instance, the liberty of dispensing with the explicit and eternal statutes of Heaven? How often, on the contrary, are mankind cautioned against the assumption of such a power, as a dishonour to the Supreme Legislator of the universe, and fraught with mischief and ruin to those who practise it! They are commanded to make their minds familiar with it, to meditate in it day and night-in consideration of its divine original, and because it is a full and infallible standard of duty. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in the house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates *.”
Even the duties of benevolence, the limits of which cannot be so precisely defined as those of justice, and of the manner of discharging which we are, therefore, left in some measure to judge, are enforced, and are to be performed, without the aid of the principle of expediency. The Scriptures teach us to govern our determination, in such cases, by other considerations-by a sense of duty, by the fear and love of God, by a supreme regard to his glory, and by the conviction of our accountableness. In all cases, the language which they speak, and the principles which they enjoin, are in direct opposition to Mr. Paley's opinion, “ that there is no command in Holy Writ, however plainly ex
* Deut, yi. 5-9.
pressed, however forcibly inculcated, which a man is not permitted, which he is not bound, to violate whenever his blindness, his interest, his frenzy, induce him to imagine that the violation will ultimately be productive of advantage.”
But it is not enough to state, generally, that the principle of expediency is opposed to Scripture ; it is there marked with unqualified reprobation.
“ We be slanderously reported, and some affirm that we say,—Let us do evil that good may come; whose damnation,” adds the Apostle, “ is just *.” Mr. Paley's comment on these words of inspiration may well excite astonishment; and convince the reader of the dangerous tendency of a principle, which could lead a man who really venerated Divine Revelation, to write concerning one of its most explicit announcements, in a manner so unguarded. “ From the principles delivered in this and the two preceding chapters, a maxim may be explained, which is in every man's mouth, and in most men's without meaning, viz., not to do evil that good may come—that is, let us not violate a general rule for the sake of any particular good consequences we may expect—which is for the most part a salutary caution, the advantage seldom compensating for the violation of the rule *.”
It is, besides, no slight objection to the principle in question, that its adoption might lead to the rejection of Christianity. For, if utility be the only infallible criterion of the divine will, does it not follow, that in weighing the evidence for Revelation, the unbeliever, should he be led in the outset to conceive that the re
* Rom. üi. 8. of Voļ. i. p. 81.
ception of the Gospel would not promote the general happiness of mankind, would feel it to be his duty to reject it? Though he should be convinced that the testimony in support of divine Revelation is irrefragable, still, on his principles, he would be bound to pronounce it an imposture,-having been satisfied by previous investigation that, on the whole, it is unfavourable to the interests of mankind. It is on this ground, accordingly, it has ostensibly been rejected by the majority of philosophical unbelievers. How could Rousseau, for example, notwithstanding his occasional pretensions to the contrary, love or receive that religion respecting which he says, that it “ preaches up nothing but slavery and dependence? The spirit of it is too favourable to tyranny for her not always to take the advantage of it. Free Christians are made to be slaves."
Finally, the principle of expediency is directly opposed to the benevolence which the Gospel requires. The most marked characteristic of this, as will afterwards be shewn, is disinterestedness. The love which is pure, which is acceptable to God, seeketh not her own. The Divine Founder of our religion has commanded us to do good, without any selfish reference to the return which our benevolence may bring us. “ If ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the Publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others ? Do not even the Publi. cans so.”
How contrary is this to the doctrine inculcated by the patrons of expediency; who tell us, that we should so constantly keep in view in our actions the good which they are likely to procure, that we are warranted to break the most express commandments of Heaven, when we think that the advantage is of sufficient magnitude to justify the violation.
THE PRINCIPLE OF EXPEDIENCY NOT COUNTENANCED BY
THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF REWARD.
The most plausible argument in favour of the principle of utility, an argument of which Paley has very fully availed himself, is, its apparent consistency with the doctrine of scripture concerning the reward promised to genuine faith and obedience.
The following are a few out of many passages in which mankind are commanded to seek salvation, and promised eternal life as the reward of their persevering pursuit.
“ Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, in. dignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil;--but glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good *.”
“We labour, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive
* Rom. i. 6-10.