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Though the figliving sap is in it,
worth, except as it flows from what we are. tree should produce no visible fruit, yet if the and if it has struggled to put forth buds and blossoms which have been prevented from maturing by inevitable contingencies of tempests or untimely frosts, the virtuous sap will be accounted as fruit; and the curse of barrenness will light on many a tree from the boughs of which hundreds have been satisfied, because the omniscient judge knows that the fruits were threaded to the boughs artificially by the outward working of base fear and selfish hopes, and were neither nourished by the love of God or of man, nor grew out of the graces engrafted on the stock by religion. This is not, indeed, all that is meant in the Apostle's use of the word, faith, as the sole principle of justification, but it is included in his meaning, and forms an essential part of it; and I can conceive nothing more groundless, than the alarm, that this doctrine may be prejudicial outward utility and active well-doing. To suppose that a man should cease to be beneficent by becoming benevolent, seems to me scarcely less absurd, than to fear that a fire may prevent heat, or that a perennial fountain may prove the occasion of drought. Just and generous actions may proceed from bad motives, and both may, and often do, originate in parts, and, as it were, fragments of our nature. A lascivious man may sacrifice half his estate to rescue his friend from prison, for he is constitutionally sympathetic, and the better part of his nature happened to be uppermost. The same man shall afterwards exert the same disregard of money in an attempt to seduce that friend's wife or daughter. But faith is a total act of the soul it is the whole state of the mind, or it is not at all; and in this consists its power, as well as its exclusive worth.
This subject is of such immense importance to the welfare of all men, and the understanding of it to the present tranquillity of many thousands at this time and in this country, that should there be one only of all my readers, who should receive conviction or an additional light from what is here written, I dare hope that a great majority of the rest would in considération of that solitary effect think these paragraphs neither wholly uninteresting nor altogether without value. For this cause I will endeavor so to explain this principle, that it may be intelligible to the simplest capacity. The Apostle tells those who would substitute obedience for faith (addressing the man as obedience personified),
Know that thou bearest not the root, but the root thee*-a sentence which, methinks, should have rendered all disputes concerning faith and good works impossible among those who profess to take the Scriptures for their guide. It would appear incredible, if the fact were not notorious, that two sects should ground and justify their opposition to each other, the one on the words of the Apostle, that we are justified by faith, that is, the inward and absolute ground of our actions; and the other on the declaration of Christ, that he will judge us according to our actions. As if an action could be either good or bad disjoined from its principle. As if it could be, in the Christian and only proper sense of the word, an action at all, and not rather a mechanic series of lucky or unlucky motions! Yet it may be well worth the while to show the beauty and harmony of these twin truths, or rather of this one great truth considered in its two principal bearings. God will judge each man before all men consequently he will judge us relatively to man. But man knows not the heart of man; scarcely does any one know his own. There must therefore be outward and visible signs, by which men may be able to judge of the inward state; and thereby justify the ways of God to their own spirits, in the reward or punishment of themselves and their fellow-men. Now good works are these signs, and as such become necessary. In short there are two parties, God and the human race;—and both are to be satisfied. First, God, who seeth the root and knoweth the heart: therefore there must be faith, or the entire and absolute principle. Then man, who can judge only by the fruits: therefore that faith must bear fruits of righteousness, that principle must manifest itself by actions. But that which God sees, that alone justifies. What man sees, does in this life show that the justifying principle may be the root of the thing seen; but in the final judgment God's acceptance of these actions will show, that this principle actually was the root. In this world a good life is a presumption of a good man his virtuous actions are the only possible, though
* Rom. xi. 18. But remember-a yet deeper and more momentous sense is conveyed in these words. Christ, the Logos, Deitas objectiva, centered humanity (always pre-existing in the Pleroma) in his life, and so became the light, that is, the reason of mankind. This eternal (that is, timeless) act he manifested in time-oàp§ ¿yévero, and dwelt among men, an individual man, in order that he might dwell in all his elect, as the root of the divine humanity in them.-1825.
still ambiguous, manifestations of his virtue but the absence of a good life is not only a presumption, but a proof of the contrary, as long as it continues. Good works may exist without saving principles, and therefore can not contain in themselves the principle of salvation; but saving principles never did, never can, exist without good works. On a subject of such infinite importance, I have feared prolixity less than obscurity. Men often talk against faith, and make strange monsters in their imagination of those who profess to abide by the words of the Apostle interpreted literally: and yet in their ordinary feelings they themselves judge and act by a similar principle. For what is love without kind offices, wherever they are possible ;-(and they are always possible, if not by actions commonly so called, yet by kind words, by kind looks; and, where even these are out of our power, by kind thoughts and fervent prayers)-yet what noble mind would not be offended, if he were supposed to value the serviceable offices equally with the love that produced them; or if he were thought to value the love for the sake of the services, and not the services for the sake of the love?
I return to the question of general consequences, considered as the criterion of moral actions. The admirer of Paley's system is required to suspend for a short time the objection, which, I doubt not, he has already made, that general consequences are stated by Paley as the criterion of the action, not of the agent. I will endeavor to satisfy him on this point, when I have completed my present chain of argument. It has been shown, that this criterion is no less ideal than that of any former system; that is, it is no less incapable of receiving any external experimental proof, compulsory on the understandings of all men, such as are the criteria exhibited in chemistry. Yet, unlike the elder systems of morality, it remains in the world of the senses, without deriving any evidence therefrom. The agent's mind is compelled to go out of itself in order to bring back conjectures, the probability of which will vary with the shrewdness of the individual. But this criterion is not only ideal; it is likewise imaginary. If we believe in a scheme of Providence, all actions alike work for good. There is not the least ground for supposing that the crimes of Nero were less instrumental in bringing about our present advantages, than the virtues of the Antonines. Lastly; the criterion is either nugatory or false. It is demonstrated, that the
only real consequences can not be meant. The individual is to imagine what the general consequences would be, all other things remaining the same, if all men were to act as he is about to act. I scarcely need remind the reader, what a source of self-delusion and sophistry is here opened to a mind in a state of temptation. Will it not say to itself, I know that all men will not act so; and the immediate good consequences, which I shall obtain, are real, while the bad consequences are imaginary and improbable? When the foundations of morality have once been laid in outward consequences, it will be in vain to recall to the mind, what the consequences would be, were all men to reason in the same way: for the very excuse of this mind to itself is, that neither its action nor its reasoning is likely to have any consequences at all, its immediate object excepted. But suppose the mind in its sanest state. How can it possibly form a notion of the nature of an action considered as indefinitely multiplied, unless it has previously a distinct notion of the nature of the single action itself, which is the multiplicand? If I conceive a crown multiplied a hundred fold, the single crown enables me to understand what a hundred crowns are; but how can the notion hundred teach me what a crown is? For the crown substitute X. Y. or abracadabra, and my imagination may multiply it to infinity, yet remain as much at a loss as before. But if there be any means of ascertaining the action in and for itself, what further do we want? Would we give light to the sun, or look at our fingers through a telescope? The nature of every action is determined by all its circumstances: alter the circumstances and a similar set of motions may be repeated, but they are no longer the same or a similar action. What would a surgeon say, if he were advised not to cut off a limb, because if all men were to do the same, the consequences would be dreadful? Would not his answer be" Whoever does the same under the same circumstances, and with the same motives, will do right; but if the circumstances and motives are different, what have I to do with it?" I confess myself unable to divine any possible use, or even meaning, in this doctrine of general consequences, unless it be, that in all our actions we are bound to consider the effect of our example, and to guard as much as possible against the hazard of their being misunderstood. I will not slaughter a lamb, or drown a litter of kittens, in the presence of my child of four years old, because the child can not
understand my action, but will understand that his father has inflicted pain upon, and taken away life from, beings that had never offended him. All this is true, and no man in his senses ever thought otherwise. But methinks it is strange to state that as a criterion of morality, which is no more than an accessary aggravation of an action bad in its own nature, or a ground of caution as to the mode and time in which we are to do or suspend what is in itself good or innocent.
The duty of setting a good example is no doubt a most important duty; but the example is good or bad, necessary or unnecessary, accordingly as the action may be, which has a chance of being imitated. I once knew a small, but (in outward circumstances at least) respectable congregation, four fifths of whom professed that they went to church entirely for the example's sake; in other words to cheat each other and act a common lie' These rational Christians had not considered that example may increase the good or evil of an action, but can never constitute either. If it was a foolish thing to kneel when they were not inwardly praying, or to sit and listen to a discourse of which they believed little and cared nothing, they were setting a foolish example. Persons in their respectable circumstances do not think it necessary to clean shoes, that by their example they may encourage the shoe-black in continuing his occupation: and Christianity does not think so meanly of herself as to fear that the poor and afflicted will be a whit the less pious, though they should see reason to believe that those, who possessed the good things of the present life, were determined to leave all the blessings of the future for their more humble inferiors. If in this I have spoken with bitterness, let it be recollected that my subject is hypocrisy.
It is likewise fit, that in all our actions we should have considered how far they are likely to be misunderstood, and from superficial resemblances to be confounded with, and so appear to authorize, actions of a very different character. But if this caution be intended for a moral rule, the misunderstanding must be such as might be made by persons who are neither very weak nor very wicked. The apparent resemblances between the good action we were about to do and the bad one which might possibly be done in mistaken imitation of it, must be obvious; or that which makes them essentially different, must be subtle or recon