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God was "manifest in them;" that God had showed it unto them." For although the outward creation afforded them an evidence of the omnipotence of the Deity, their knowledge of God, as a moral governor, which the apostle's argument obviously includes, must have arisen chiefly from what passed in their own minds. Such is the view of the passage taken by the generality of commentators. “Much of the nature and properties of God,” says Burkitt,“ may be known by the light of nature. His infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, are manifest in the minds and consciences of men; for God both showed it unto them partly by imprinting these notions of himself on the hearts of all men, and partly by the book of creation, &c.” “There are some things,” says Dr. Gill on this passage, “which may be known of God without a revelation as that he is all powerful, wise, good, and righteous; and this (knowledge of God) is manifest in them or to them, by the light that is given them; it is light by which that which may be known of God is manifest; and this is the light of nature' which every man has that comes into the world; and this is internal; it is in him, in his mind and conscience, and is communicated to him by God, and that by infusion or inspiration ;' for God hath showed it unto them;" i. e. what may be known of him by that light; and which is assisted and may be improved by a consideration of the works of creation and providence.” Again, that the "righteous rule” which the apostle describes the Gentiles as knowing, was a rule inwardly revealed to them, is evident from ch. ii. 14, 15, in which passage he speaks of some of them as doers of the law, and as showing the work of it “written on their hearts”—“their consciences also bearing witness; and their thoughts the meanwhile, accusing or else excusing one another.”

Secondly, that the light alluded to by the apostle was universal, we may learn from the doctrine so plainly declared in ch. iii., that both Jews and Gentiles are all proved" to be under sin,”—that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Soon after pronouncing his verdict against the whole world as guilty before the Lord, he states, in the most explicit manner, that sin is not imputed where there is no law_" that where no law is there is no transgression.” Hence it appears that, according to the views of this inspired writer, the sinfulness of men, and the knowledge of the divine law are absolutely coextensive; and since all men are sinners, it inevitably follows, that all men have some knowledge of the law.

1 Although Dr. Gill calls this light the “light of nature,” he goes on to describe it as a work of the Spirit.

2 See Job xxxii. 8.
3 So also Beza, Whitby, and Pool, in loc.

Now I conceive that it forms no exception to the universality of this divine law, as the gift of God to man, or to that of the conscience as one of the faculties of our nature, that the former is not perceived, and that the latter does not operate, when the intellect is not developed. Our moral faculties are bestowed upon us as rational beings; and wherever reason is dormant, they will of necessity be dormant also. Such is the case with infants, with idiots, and to a considerable extent, with some of the wildest tribes of uncultivated men. Who can deny that in these respective classes of human beings, there is the germe of conscience with its corresponding measure of light; although, to our superficial observation, both are nearly latent ? With respect to all such persons, it may

be emphatically said, that the light shines in darkness, and that the darkness comprehends it not.

But no sooner do we rise a little higher in the scale of reason, than the moral faculties begin to display themselves. The North American Indians, notwithstanding their rude and often savage habits, plainly recognise the distinction between right and wrong, and recognise it with direct reference to the One Great Spirit. Notwithstanding all the debasement of their idolatry, the crafty Hindoos recognise it also. A baptist missionary was preaching one day, to a company of these people, on the subject of sin. “But what is sin?” cried a Hindoo out of the crowd, as the missionary himself informed

“Sin,” said the preacher, “is the transgression of the law.” “But what law do you mean ?” replied the idolater" for I do not admit your shaster (or sacred book) neither do you admit mine." * Brother," said the missionary,“I will explain myself. When you go to the fair or to the market, and lie, cheat, or steal, you feel something in yourself which condemns you for your deeds. There is a law written on your heart, which compels you to acknowledge that these things are wrong. This is the law of which I am speaking. Sin is the transgression of this law.” “Brother,” exclaimed the Hindoo, "you are right; I now accept your definition.”

D

me.

But although the knowledge of this holy law is bestowed upon us as rational creatures, it is not a matter of reason; it is instinctivethe immediate gift of God. The law itself shines in the soul by its own uncreated light, and bears its own evidence. Like the axioms in mathematics, or the first truths in natural philosophy, it neither requires proof, nor admits of it; it consists of intuitive and unchanging principles. “The first principles of morals,” says Dr. Reid,“ are immediate dictates of the moral faculty ..... The Supreme Being has given us this light within to direct our moral conduct. It is the candle of the Lord set up within us to guide our steps.” “The mind,” says Dr. Watts,"contains in it the plain and general principles of morality, not explicitly in propositions, but only as native principles, by which it judges, and cannot but judge virtue to be fit, and vice unfit.” “It is altogether absurd and unintelligible,” says another writer on ethics, “to suppose that the first perceptions of right and wrong can be derived from reason. These perceptions cannot be the object of reason, but of immediate sense and feeling.” “The light of truth,” says Plutarch," is a law not written on tables or in books, but dwelling in the mind, which never permits the soul to be destitute of an interior guide.”

Many passages of a similar import might be selected from the works of moral philosophers, both ancient and modern; but it will be sufficient to cite, in addition, the following sentences from Cicero, which are so luminous, that Lactantius, who quoted them a. D. 303, was almost ready to ascribe them to a temporary inspiration. “ There is indeed a true law, a right reason, diffused among all men, agreeable to nature; which calls to duty by its commands, and deters from crime by its prohibitions. For this law nothing may be substituted; from it nothing may be abstracted; neither can it, as a whole, be abrogated. We can be absolved from its obligation neither by the senate, nor by the people, and we are to seek for no explainer, or interpreter of it, beside itself. Nor will it be one thing at Rome, another at Athens, another now, another hereafter ; but the same unchanging and immortal law must comprehend all nations, in all ages; and that God who formed and enacted it, and

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1 These passages are quoted, with others of the same description, by Jonathan Dymond, in his section on the Moral Sense: see Principles of Morality, vol. i. p. 84.

who judges according to it, is the one common Preceptor (as it were) and Ruler of all men. The inan who will not obey Him, must fly from himself, and disregard the nature of man, by which very thing he will be most severely punished; even if he should escape those inflictions, which are usually regarded as punishments.”

It is a remarkable proof of the inaccuracy of our moral philosophers, that while they so generally admit the universality of this moral light, they confound it, in terms, with the faculty of conscience; whereas it is evident that the two things are no more identical, than is the law of the land, with the judge on the bench, who administers it.

The conscience, which in the court of every man's soul, sits as a judge, must be regarded as one of the original faculties of human nature; and, like our other faculties, it is miserably degraded through the fall. Who can doubt that, in our first parents, before they sinned, Conscience reigned supreme over body and mind, was infallible in her decisions, and never failed to be heard in every moment of temptation ? But, alas! how different is our condition now! “How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!” The effect of the fall of man upon this ruling faculty, is chiefly observable in three respects. In the first place, like a monarch exiled from his throne, Conscience is often dislodged from her supremacy, and deprived of her power, by her unruly subjects, the passions. In the second place, she is so prone to be deluded by the false light of superstition, that she is frequently found to decide erroneously, and to declare good actions to be bad, and bad actions to be good. And lastly, when rebellion against her is become inveterate, and sin obtains its full mastery, she sometimes appears to throw up her functions in despair, and her voice which had long been growing fainter and fainter, ceases to be heard at all.

1 “Est quidem vera lex, recta ratio, naturæ congruens, diffusa in omnes, constans, sempiterna ; quæ vocet ad officium jubendo, vetando a fraude deterreat ... . Huic legi nec abrogari fas est, neque derogari ex hac aliquid licet, neque tota abrogari potest. Nec vero aut per senatum, aut per populum, solvi hac lege possumus. Neque est quærendus explorator aut interpres ejus alius. Nec erit alia lex Romæ, alia Athenis, alia nunc, alia posthac; sed et omnes gentes, et omni tempore, una lex et sempiterna et immortalis continebit: unusque erit communis quasi Magister et Imperator omnium Deus; ille legis hujus inventor, disceptator, la tor; cui qui non parebit, ipse se fugiet, ac naturam hominis aspernabitur, atque hoc ipso luet maximas pænas, etiam si cætera supplicia, quæ putantur, effugerit."De Repub. lib. ü., a fragment quoted by Lactantius, de vero Cultu, lib. vi., 97,

But, notwithstanding the effects which human corruption thus produces on the judge, the law continues unchanged and unchangeable; and in none of the three cases now described, are we left without plain marks of the universality of its manifestations. In the first place, although our restless appetites may often dislodge Conscience from her throne of power, the divine decree which establishes her authority, is still known to be in force. We can never dispossess ourselves of a feeling that, through all, she is a rightful sovereign, and ought to govern both our bodies and our souls.

Secondly, in the midst of those perversions, which sometimes induce Conscience to call evil actions good, and good actions evil, the light of God's law continues to be so far manifest to her, that she is compelled to acknowledge its essential principles. She is incapable of approving vice, or of condemning virtue, for their own sakes; but, under the influence of a bad education, she falsely imagines that there are certain elements in the actions in question, which reconcile her decisions respecting them to the rule of right. If, for example, she approves of the sacrifice of the Hindoo widow, it is not because of its cruelty, or because it is self-murder, but because she has been taught to believe that it is a needful mark of allegiance from a wife to a husband. When the “work of the law written on the heart” becomes truly influential, Conscience is rectified—her corrupt estimate of facts is gradually corrected.

Lastly, when this presiding judge is silenced in the heart of any individual, it is not that such an one has never known the law; it is that he has obstinately refused to obey it, and has trampled on all its sanctions. The same law still shines in the hearts of his neighbours, and although he has ceased to condemn himself, it is with a perfect unanimity that they condemn him. Moreover, in such cases, it often happens that under the pressure of some peculiar exigency, the law of God again shines upon the Conscience, and awakens her from her slumbers. Then she summons all her scorpions, and inflicts a double vengeance on the transgressor—an awful foretaste, except he repent, of the “worm" which “dieth not," and of the "fire" which "never shall be quenched."

The reality and universality of the law, or in other words, of the

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