Imagini ale paginilor

blameworthiness he himself felt, and therefore tried to hide himself among the trees of the garden. A similar blameworthiness belongs to every violated obligation, whether to God or man. All moral government deals with its subjects according to their actions; and as all men by necessity of nature are under such government, therefore by blameworthy action every man now comes, as Adam came at first, under the censure of the Divine government to the extent of the declared penalty. This, as we have seen, not only included the forfeiture of the filial relation, but also the loss of the filial spirit of obedience, submission, docility, and love.

The perpetuation of a disobedient spirit, as the consequence of a disobedient act, may be seen in universal human experience. From what we have seen of human nature, action can only follow emotion, and emotion indulged' produces disposition: the action, therefore, intensifies the emotion, because desire is not satisfied, but increased by possession. When a covetous disposition causes a man to violate the rights of his neighbour, the act confirms the feeling, and the whole nature is enlisted in the defence of the wrong action. In order to

this, in some way the natural judge is brought to a decision in harmony with the act, or he is silenced. The functions of conscience, this natural judge, are in the line of our relations to others, and the judgment proceeds on the fact of our relations to God as creatures and children, and to men as brethren. If the judgment is perverted, the judge has become depraved, and natural rule ceases. If his voice is silenced, the judge is deposed, and inward harmony and subordination are at an end. right judgment is recorded, but overborne, then rebellion is established in the nature itself, and


all orderly force is gone. So that the only question which remains is, Does a man, when he has violated obligation, naturally abhor his evil deed, and make all possible restitution, and by the act so expend the blameworthy disposition as immediately to return to the natural condition? Does the gratification of spite exhaust the spite? Does the gratification of covetousness exhaust the covetousness? To all such questions only negative answers can be returned, on the testimony of our own consciousness and of human history.

Conscience in its nature, as judge, necessarily implies the existence of the supreme Ruler,

and of our conscious relation to Him. In all judgment there is and must be a law on which the judgment is based, and this involves the supremacy of the lawgiver, and the obligation to submit on the part of those on whom the judgment is passed. And as this inward authority of judgment is exercised in many cases where there is no knowledge of an expressed law, it follows that the judgment must be a natural tendency or law existing in the essence of the nature. And although its decisions are most frequently upon our actions to our brethren, yet as our relations to them are not of our own choosing, the final appeal in these cases is necessarily to the Author of those relations. In those in whom the nature is fairly developed, there is, in the measure of the development, a distinct recognition of the ultimate source of the authority; and the strongest proof that we can have of the naturalness of the faculty is, that in those cases in which the nature is so degraded that only empirical action is possible, it does not fail then, but continues as long as a vestige of humanity remains. It thus appears, from the natural operation of conscience, that we have a proof not only of a

supreme authority over us, but of a supreme authority which is righteous, because all the decisions of the agent in us are in this direction. And this cannot be misleading, because not only is it in harmony with the individual nature, but also with all the relations in which we stand to others; so that society can only exist as in its rules it embodies the decisions of the individual conscience. Our conclusion therefore is, that in conscience we have a direct witness to the Divine existence and authority, and to our relations to men as our brethren, and to God as creatures. (See note at the end of chapter.)

Before proceeding further, we may pause to consider the results we have obtained. In man, we have from the first a fallible nature, by necessity dependent on its Author, constantly liable to error and sin from the power of individual self - determination. Does not such a nature require from its Author, that instruction and discipline which are necessary to the securing of a life in harmony with itself, and with all others to whom it is naturally related? And is not this confirmed and enhanced by the paternal relation sustained by the Creator to man? No human father, who

has a proper sense of the obligations of paternity, permits his son to leave the home without an education which will fit him for life. If we accept these conclusions, then we have proceeded beyond the mere necessity for a Divine revelation, and have arrived at the assurance that such a revelation is obligatory on the Creator and Father.

We cannot, however, stop at the consideration of humanity as it came first into being, in which state no display of insubordination had taken place; but we must go on to look at men as they are, and as they were foreknown to become at the creation. It is not a matter of uncertainty as to whether men sin against their own nature, their neighbours, and God. Such sin is, as we know, universal now, and so far as history teaches it always has been. How does this series of facts affect the question we are now considering? We have seen that there is no inherent power of recovery in man, yet there must be recovery or failure, both to the individual and the race, and failure also of the Creator's purpose. But can this fail? Every preparatory work has been completed, and the convulsions which seemed for the time to be destructive are now seen to have had their

« ÎnapoiContinuă »