The GOSPEL TRUTH
FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION
VI. Theory of Moral Order.
VII. Theory of Nature and Relations.
VIII. Theory that the Idea of Duty is the foundation of moral obligation.
IX. Complex theory.
VI. I come now to consider the philosophy which teaches that Moral Order is the Foundation of Moral Obligation.
But what is moral order? The advocates of this theory define it to be identical with the fit, proper, suitable. It is, then, according to them, synonymous with the right. Moral order must be in their view either identical with law or with virtue. It must be either an idea of the fit, the right, the proper, the suitable, which is the same as objective right; or it must consist in conformity of the will to this idea or law, which is virtue. It has been repeatedly shown that right, whether objective or subjective can not by any possibility be the end at which a moral agent ought to aim and to which he ought to consecrate himself. If moral order be not synonymous with right in one of these senses, I do not know what it is; and all that I can say is, that if it be not identical with the highest well-being of God and of the universe, it can not be the end at which moral agents ought to aim, and can not be the foundation of moral obligation. But if by moral order, as the phraseology of some would seem to indicate, be meant that state of the universe in which all law is universally obeyed and as a consequence of universal well-being, this theory is only another name for the true one. It is the same as willing the highest well-being of the universe with the conditions and means thereof.
Or if it be meant, as other phraseology would seem to indicate, that moral order is a state of things in which either all law is obeyed, or the disobedient are punished for the sake of promoting the public good;--if this be what is meant by moral order--it is only another name for the true theory. Willing moral order is only willing the highest good of the universe for its own sake with the condition, and means thereof.
But if by moral order be meant the fit, suitable, in the sense of law physical or moral, it is absurd to represent moral order as the foundation of moral obligation.
VII. I will next consider the Theory that maintains that the Nature and Relations of Moral Beings is the true Foundation of Moral Obligation.
1. The advocates of this theory confound the conditions of moral obligation with the foundation of obligation. The nature and relations of moral agents to each other and to the universe is the condition of their obligation to will the good of being, but not the foundation of the obligation. What! the nature and relations of moral beings the foundation of their obligation to choose an ultimate end. Then this end must be their nature and relations. This is absurd. Their nature and relations, being what they are, their highest well-being is known to them to be of infinite and intrinsic value. But it is and must be the intrinsic value of the end, and not their nature and relations that imposes obligation to will the highest good of the universe as an ultimate end.
Writers upon this subject are often falling into the mistake of confounding the conditions of moral obligation with the foundation of moral obligation. Moral agency is a condition, but not the foundation of the obligation. Light, or the knowledge of the intrinsically valuable to being, is a condition, but not the foundation of moral obligation. The intrinsically valuable is the foundation of the obligation, and light or the perception of the intrinsically valuable, is only a condition of the obligation. So the nature and relations of moral beings is a condition of their obligation to will each other's good, and so is light or a knowledge of the intrinsic value of their blessedness, but the intrinsic value is alone the foundation of the obligation. It is, therefore, a great mistake to affirm "that the known nature and relations of moral agents is the true foundation of moral obligation."
VIII. The next theory that demands attention is that which teaches that Moral Obligation is founded in the Idea of Duty.
According to this philosophy the end at which a moral agent ought to aim, is duty. He must in all things "aim at doing his duty." Or, in other words, he must always have respect to his obligation, and aim at discharging it.
It is plain that this theory, is only another form of stating the rightarian theory. By aiming, intending to do duty, we must understand the advocates of this theory to mean the adoption of a resolution or maxim, by which to regulate their lives--the formation of a resolve to obey God--to serve God--to do at all times what appears to be right--to meet the demands of conscience--to obey the law--to discharge obligation, &c. I have expressed the thing intended in all these ways because it is common to hear this theory expressed in all these terms and in others like them. Especially in giving instruction to inquiring sinners, nothing is more common than for those who profess to be spiritual guides to assume the truth of this philosophy, and give instructions accordingly. These philosophers or theologians will say to sinners, Make up you mind to serve the Lord; resolve to do your whole duty and to do it at all times; resolve to obey God in all things--to keep all his commandments; resolve to deny yourselves--to forsake all sin--to love the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. They often represent regeneration as consisting in this resolution or purpose.
Such-like phraseology, which is very common and almost universal among rightarian philosophers, demonstrates that they regard virtue or obedience to God as consisting in the adoption of a maxim of life. With them, duty is the great idea to be realized. All these modes of expression mean the same thing, and amount to just Kant's morality, which he admits does not necessarily imply religion, namely, "Act upon a maxim at all times fit for law universal," and to Cousin's, which is the same thing, namely, "Will the right for the sake of the right." Now, I can not but regard this philosophy on the one hand, and utilitarianism on the other, as equally wide from the truth, and as lying at the foundation of much of the spurious religion with which the church and the world are cursed. Utilitarianism begets one type of selfishness, which it calls religion, and this philosophy begets another, in some respects more specious, but not a whit the less selfish, God-dishonoring and soul-destroying. The nearest that this philosophy can be said to approach either to true morality or religion, is, that if the one who forms the resolution understood himself he would resolve to become truly moral instead of really becoming so. But this is in fact an absurdity and an impossibility, and the resolution-maker does not understand what he is about when he supposes himself to be forming or cherishing a resolution to do his duty. Observe: he intends to do his duty. But to do his duty is to form and cherish an ultimate intention. To intend to do his duty is merely to intend to intend. But this is not doing his duty, as will be shown. He intends to serve God, but this is not serving God as will also be shown. Whatever he intends, he is neither truly moral nor religious, until he really intends the same end that God does; and this is not to do his duty, nor to do right, nor to comply with obligation, nor to keep a conscience void of offense, nor to deny himself, nor any such-like things. God aims at and intends the highest well-being of Himself and the Universe as an ultimate end, and this is doing his duty. It is not resolving or intending to do his duty, but is doing it. It is not resolving to do right for the sake of the right, but it is doing right. It is not resolving to serve himself and the universe but is actually rendering that service. It is not resolving to obey the moral law, but is actually obeying it. It is not resolving to love but actually loving his neighbor as himself. It is not, in other words, resolving to be benevolent but is being so. It is not resolving to deny self, but is actually denying self.
A man may resolve to serve God without any just idea of what it is to serve Him. If he had the idea of what the law of God requires him to choose clearly before his mind--if he perceived that to serve God was nothing less than to consecrate himself to the same end to which God consecrates himself, to love God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself, that is, to will or choose the highest well-being of God and of the universe as an ultimate end--to devote all his being, substance, time and influence to this end;--I say, if this idea were clearly before his mind, he would not talk of resolving to consecrate himself to God--resolving to do his duty, to do right--to serve God--to keep a conscience void of offense, and such-like things. He would see that such resolutions were totally absurd and a mere evasion of the claims of God. It has been repeatedly shown that all virtue resolves itself into the intending of an ultimate end or of the highest well-being of God and the universe. This is true morality and nothing else is. This is identical with that love to God and man which the law of God requires. This then, is duty. This is serving God. This is keeping a conscience void of offense. This is right and nothing else is. But to intend or resolve to do this is only to intend to intend instead of at once intending what God requires. It is resolving to love God and his neighbor instead of really loving him; choosing to choose the highest well-being of God and of the universe instead of really choosing it. Now this is totally absurd, and when examined to the bottom will be seen to be nothing else than a most perverse postponement of duty and a most God-provoking evasion of his claims. To intend to do duty is gross nonsense. To do duty is to love God with all the heart and our neighbor as ourselves, that is, to choose, will, intend the highest well-being of God and our neighbor for its own sake. To intend to do duty, to aim at doing duty, at doing right, at discharging obligation, &c., is to intend to intend, to choose to choose, and such-like nonsense. Moral obligation respects the ultimate intention. It requires that the intrinsically valuable to being shall be willed for its own sake. To comply with moral obligation is not to intend or aim at this compliance as an end, but to will, choose, intend that which moral law or moral obligation requires me to intend, namely, the highest good of being. To intend obedience to law is not obedience to law, for the reason that obedience is not that which the law requires me to intend. To aim at discharging obligation is not discharging it, just for the reason that I am under no obligation to intend this as an end. Nay, it is totally absurd and nonsensical to talk of resolving, aiming, intending to do duty--to serve the Lord, &c., &c. All such resolutions imply an entire overlooking of that in which true religion consists. Such resolutions and intentions from their very nature must respect outward actions in which is no moral character, and not the ultimate intention, in which all virtue and vice consist. A man may resolve or intend to do this or that. But to intend to intend an ultimate end, or to choose it for its intrinsic value instead of willing and at once intending or choosing that end, is grossly absurd, self-contradictory, and naturally impossible. Therefore this philosophy does not give a true definition and account of virtue. It is self-evident that it does not conceive rightly of it. And it can not be that those who give such instructions or those who receive and comply with them have the true idea of religion in their minds. Such teaching is radically false and such a philosophy leads only to bewilder, and dazzles to blind.
It is one thing for a man who actually loves God with all his heart and his neighbor as himself to resolve to regulate all his outward life by the law of God, and a totally different thing to intend to love God or to intend his highest glory and well-being. Resolutions may respect outward action, but it is totally absurd to intend or resolve to form an ultimate intention. But be it remembered that morality and religion do not belong to outward action, but to ultimate intentions. It is amazing and afflicting to witness the alarming extent to which a spurious philosophy has corrupted and is corrupting the church of God. Kant and Cousin and Coleridge have adopted a phraseology and manifestly have conceived in idea a philosophy subversive of all true love to God and man, and teach a religion of maxims and resolutions instead of a religion of Love. It is a philosophy, as we shall see in a future Lecture, which teaches that the moral law or law of right, is entirely distinct from and may be opposite to the law of benevolence or love. The fact is, this philosophy conceives of duty and right as belonging to mere outward action. This must be, for it can not be crazy enough to talk of resolving or intending to form an ultimate intention. Let but the truth of this philosophy be assumed in giving instructions to the anxious sinner, and it will immediately dry off his tears and in all probability lead him to settle down in a religion of resolutions instead of a religion of love. Indeed this philosophy will immediately dry off, (if I may be allowed the expression) the most genuine and powerful revival of religion, and run it down into a mere revival of a heartless, Christless, loveless philosophy. It is much easier to persuade anxious sinners to resolve to do their duty, to resolve to love God, than it is to persuade them really to do their duty, and really to love God with all their heart and with all their soul and their neighbor as themselves.
IX. We now come to the consideration of that philosophy which teaches the Complexity of the Foundation of Moral Obligation.
This theory maintains that there are several distinct grounds of moral obligation; that the highest good of being is only one of the grounds of moral obligation, while right, moral order, the nature and relations of moral agents, merit and demerit, truth, duty, and many such like things, are distinct grounds of moral obligation; that these are not merely conditions of moral obligation, but that each one of them can by itself impose moral obligation. The advocates of this theory, perceiving its inconsistency with the doctrine that moral obligation respects the ultimate choice or intention only, seem disposed to relinquish the position that obligation respects strictly only the choice of an ultimate end, and to maintain that moral obligation respects the ultimate action of the will. By ultimate action of the will they mean, if I understand them, the will's treatment of every thing according to its intrinsic nature and character; that is, treating every thing or taking that attitude in respect to every thing known to the mind that is exactly suited to what it is in and of itself. For example, right ought to be regarded and treated by the will as right, because it is right. Truth ought to be regarded and treated as truth for its own sake, virtue as virtue, merit as merit, demerit as demerit, the useful as useful, the beautiful as beautiful, the good or valuable as valuable, each for its own sake; that in each case the action of the will is ultimate in the sense that its action terminates on these objects as ultimates; in other words, that all those actions of the will are ultimates that treat things according to their nature and character, or according to what they are in and of themselves. Now in respect to this theory I would enquire:
1. What is intended by the will's treating a thing or taking that attitude in respect to it that is suited to its nature and character? Are there any other actions of will than choices and intentions? Choice, preference, intention, volition--are not all the actions of the will comprehended in these? Choice, preference, intention--are not these identical? Do not all the actions of the will consist either in the choice of an end or in the choice of means to secure an end? If there are any other actions than these, are they intelligent actions? If so, what are those actions of will that consist neither in the choice of an end, nor in volitions or efforts to secure an end? Can there be intelligent acts of will that neither respect ends nor means? Can there be moral acts of will when there is no choice or intention? If there is choice or intention, must not these respect an end or means? What then can be meant by ultimate action of will as distinguished from ultimate choice or intention? Can there be choice without there is an object of choice? If there is an object of choice, must not this object be chosen either as an end or as a means? If as an ultimate end, how does this differ from ultimate intention? If as a means, how can this be regarded as an ultimate action of the will? What can be intended by actions of will that are not acts of choice nor of volition? I can conceive of no other. But if all acts of will must of necessity consist in willing or nilling, that is in choosing or refusing, which is the same as willing one way or another in respect to all objects of choice apprehended by the mind, how can there be any intelligent act of the will that does not consist in or that may not and must not in its last analysis be resoluable into, and be properly considered as the choice of an end or of means to secure an end? Can moral law require any other action of will than choice and volition? What other actions of will are possible to us? Whatever moral law does require, it must and can only require choices and volitions. It can only require us to choose ends or means. It can not require us to choose as an ultimate end any thing that is not intrinsically worthy of choice--nor as a means anything that does not sustain that relation.
2. Secondly, let us examine this theory in the light of the revealed law of God. The whole law is fulfilled in one word, Love.
Now we have seen that the will of God can not be the foundation of moral obligation. Moral obligation must be founded in the nature of that which moral law requires. Unless there be something in the nature of that which moral law requires us to will that renders it worthy or deserving of choice, we can be under no obligation to will or choose it. It is admitted that the love required by the law of God must consist in an act of the will and not in mere emotions. Now, does this love, willing, choice, embrace several distinct ultimates? If so, how can they all be expressed in one word love? Observe, the law requires only love to God and our neighbor as an ultimate. This love or willing must respect and terminate on God and our neighbor. The law says nothing about willing right for the sake of the right, or truth for the sake of the truth, or beauty for the sake of beauty, or virtue for the sake of virtue, or moral order for its own sake, or the nature and relations of moral agents for their own sake; nor is, nor can any such thing be implied in the command to love God and our neighbor. All these and innumerable other things are and may be conditions and means of the highest well-being of God and our neighbor. As such, the law may, and doubtless does, in requiring us to will the highest well-being of God and our neighbor as an ultimate end, require us to will all these as the necessary conditions and means. The end which the revealed law requires us to will is undeniably simple as opposed to complex. It requires only love to God and our neighbor. One word expresses the whole of moral obligation. Now certainly this word can not have a complex signification in such a sense as to include several distinct and ultimate objects of love, or of choice. This love is to terminate on God and our neighbor, and not on abstractions, nor on inanimate and insentient existences. I protest against any philosophy that contradicts the revealed law of God, and that teaches that any thing else than God and our neighbor, is to be loved for its own sake, or that any thing else is to be chosen as an ultimate end than the highest well-being of God and our neighbor. In other words, I object utterly to any philosophy that makes any thing obligatory upon a moral agent that is not expressed or implied in perfect good will to God and to the universe of sentient existences. "To the word and to the testimony; if" any philosophy "agree not therewith, it is because there is no light in it." The revealed law of God knows but one ground or foundation of moral obligation. It requires but one thing, and that is just that attitude of the will toward God and our neighbor that accords with the intrinsic value of their highest well-being; that God's moral worth shall be willed as of infinite value as a condition of his own well-being, and that his actual and perfect blessedness shall be willed for its own sake, and because or upon condition that he is worthy; that our neighbor's moral worth shall be willed as an indispensable condition of his blessedness, and that if our neighbor is worthy of happiness, his actual and highest happiness shall be willed. The fact is that all ultimate acts of will must consist in ultimate choices and intentions, and the revealed law requires that our ultimate choice, intention, should terminate on the good of God and our neighbor, thus making the foundation of moral obligation simple, moral action simple, and all true morality to be summed up in one word, Love. It is impossible with our eye upon the revealed law to make more than one foundation of moral obligation, and it is utterly inadmissable to subvert this foundation by any philosophizings whatever. This law knows but one end which moral agents are under obligation to seek and sets at nought all so-called ultimate actions of will that do not terminate on the good of God and our neighbor. The ultimate choice with the choice of all the conditions and means of the highest well-being of God and the universe, is all that the revealed law recognizes as coming within the pale of its legislation. It requires nothing more and nothing less.
But there is another form of the complex theory of moral obligation that I must notice before I dismiss this subject. In the examination of it I shall be obliged to repeat some things which have been in substance said before. Indeed there has been so much confusion upon the subject of the nature of virtue or of the foundation of moral obligation as to render it indispensable in the examination of the various false theories and in removing objections to the true one, to frequently repeat the same thought in different connections. This I have found to be unavoidable if I would render the subject at all intelligible to the common reader.
I pass now to the consideration of another form of the theory that affirms the complexity of the foundation of Moral Obligation; complex, however, only in a certain sense.
This philosophy admits and maintains that the good, that is, the valuable to being, is the only ground of moral obligation, and that in every possible case the valuable to being, or the good, must be intended as an end as a condition of the intention being virtuous. In this respect it maintains that the foundation of moral obligation is simple, a unit. But it also maintains that there are several ultimate goods or several ultimates or things which are intrinsically good or valuable in themselves, and are therefore to be chosen for their own sake or as an ultimate end; that to choose either of these as an ultimate end or for its own sake is virtue.
It admits that happiness or blessedness is a good, and should be willed for its own sake, or as an ultimate end, but it maintains that virtue is an ultimate good; that right is an ultimate good; that the just and the true are ultimate goods; in short that the realization of the ideas of the reason, or the carrying out into concrete existence any idea of the reason is an ultimate good. For instance: there were in the Divine mind from eternity, certain ideas of the good or valuable; the right, the just, the beautiful, the true, the useful, the holy. The realization of these ideas of the Divine reason, according to this theory, was the end which God aimed at or intended in creation; He aimed at their realization as ultimates or for its own sake, and regarded the concrete realization of every one of these ideas as a separate and ultimate good; and so certain as God is virtuous, so certain it is, says this theory, that an intention to realize these ideas for their own sake, or for the sake of the realization is virtue. Therefore the intention on our part to realize these ideas for the sake of the realization is virtue. Then the foundation of moral obligation is complex in the sense that to will either the good or valuable, the right, the true, the just, the virtuous, the beautiful, the useful, &c., for its own sake, or as an ultimate end, is virtue; that there is more than one virtuous ultimate choice or intention. Thus any one of several distinct things may be intended as an ultimate end with equal propriety and with equal virtuousness. The soul may at one moment be wholly consecrated to one end, that is, to one ultimate good, and sometimes to another, that is, sometimes it may will one good and sometimes another good as an ultimate end and still be equally virtuous.
In the discussion of this subject I will,
1. State again the exact question to be discussed.
2. Define again the different senses of the term good.
3. Show in what sense of the term good it can be an ultimate.
4. That satisfaction or enjoyment is the only ultimate good.
1. The exact question. It is this: In what does the supreme and ultimate good consist?
2. The different senses of the term good.
(1.) Good may be natural or moral. Natural good is synonymous with valuable. Moral good is synonymous with virtue. Moral good is in a certain sense a natural good, that is, it is valuable as a means of natural good; and the advocates of this theory affirm that moral good is valuable in itself.
(2.) Good, as has formerly been said, may be absolute and relative. Absolute good is that which is intrinsically valuable. Relative good is that which is valuable as a means. It is not valuable in itself, but valuable because it sustains to absolute good the relation of a means to an end. Absolute good may also be a relative good, that is, it may tend to perpetuate and augment itself.
Good may also be ultimate.
Ultimate good is that intrinsically valuable or absolute good in which all relative good, whether natural or moral, terminates. It is that absolute good to which all relative good sustains the relation of a means or condition.
3. In what sense of the term good, it can be an ultimate.
(1.) Not in the sense of moral good or virtue. This has been so often shown that it needs not be repeated here. I will only say that virtue belongs to intention. It is impossible that intention should be an ultimate. The thing intended must be the ultimate of the intention. We have seen that to make virtue an ultimate, the intention must terminate on itself, or on a quality of itself, which is absurd. Good can not be an ultimate in the sense of relative good. To suppose that it could, were to suppose a contradiction; for relative good is not intrinsically valuable, but only valuable on account of its relations.
(2) Good can be an ultimate only in the sense of the natural and absolute, that is, that only can be an ultimate good, which is naturally and intrinsically valuable to being. This only can be an end or an ultimate good, namely, that which sustains such a relation to sentient existences as to be by reason of their own natures intrinsically valuable to them. And we shall soon inquire whether any thing can be intrinsically valuable to them but enjoyment, mental satisfaction, or blessedness.
I come now to state the point upon which issue is taken, to wit: That enjoyment, blessedness, or mental satisfaction is the only ultimate good.
(1.) It has been before remarked and should be repeated here that the intrinsically valuable must not only belong to and be inseparable from sentient beings, but that the ultimate or intrinsic absolute good of moral agents must consist in a state of mind. It must be something to be found in the field of consciousness. Nothing can be affirmed by a moral agent to be an intrinsic, absolute, ultimate good, but a state of mind. Take away mind, and what can be a good per se; or, what can be a good in any sense?
(2.) Again, it should be said that the ultimate and absolute good cannot consist in a choice or in a voluntary state of mind. The thing chosen is and must be the ultimate of the choice. Choice can never be chosen as an ultimate end. Benevolence then, or the love required by the law can never be the ultimate and absolute good. It is admitted that blessedness, enjoyment, mental satisfaction, is a good, an absolute and ultimate good. This is a first truth of reason. All men assume it. All men seek enjoyment either selfishly or disinterestedly, that is, they seek their own good supremely, or the general good of being. That it is the only absolute and ultimate good is also a first truth. But for this there could be no activity--no motive to action--no object of choice. Enjoyment is in fact the ultimate good. It is in fact the result of existence and of action. It results to God from his existence, his attributes, his activity, and his virtue, by a law of necessity. His powers are so correlated that blessedness can not but be the state of his mind, as resulting from the exercise of his attributes and the activity of his will. Happiness or enjoyment results both naturally and governmentally from obedience to law both physical and moral. This shows that government is not an end, but a means. It also shows that the end is blessedness and the means obedience to law. Obedience to law can not be the ultimate end of government, for,
[1.] Obedience to moral law consists in the love of God and our neighbor, that is, in willing good to God and our neighbor. The good and not the willing must be the end of government.
[2.] The sanctions of government or of law in the widest sense of the term, must be the ultimate of obedience and the end of government. The sanctions of moral government must be the ultimate good and evil. That is, they must promise and threaten that which is in its own nature an ultimate good or evil. Virtue must consist in the impartial choice of that as an end which is proffered as the reward of virtue. This is and must be the ultimate good. Sin consists in choosing that which defeats or sets aside this end, or in selfishness.
But what is intended by the right, the just, the true, &c., being ultimate goods and ends to be chosen for their own sake? These may be objective or subjective. Objective right, truth, justice, &c., are mere ideas and can not be good or valuable in themselves. Subjective right, truth, justice, &c., are synonymous with righteousness, truthfulness, and justness. These are virtue. They consist in an active state of the will and resolve themselves into choice, intention. But we have repeatedly seen that intention can neither be an end nor a good in itself, in the sense of intrinsically valuable.
Again: Constituted as moral agents are, it is a matter of consciousness that the concrete realization of the ideas of right, and truth, and justice, of beauty, of fitness, of moral order, and in short, of all that class of ideas, is indispensable as the condition and means of their highest well-being, and that enjoyment or mental satisfaction is the result of realizing in the concrete those ideas. This enjoyment or satisfaction then is and must be the end or ultimate upon which the intention of God must have terminated, and upon which ours must terminate as an end or ultimate.
Again: The enjoyment resulting to God from the concrete realization of his own ideas must be infinite. He must therefore have intended it as the supreme good. It is in fact the ultimate good. It is in fact the supremely valuable.
Again: If there is more than one ultimate good, the mind must regard them all as one, or sometimes be consecrated to one and sometimes to another--sometimes wholly consecrated to the beautiful, sometimes to the just, and then again to the right, then to the useful, to the true, &c. But it may be asked of what value is the beautiful aside from the enjoyment it affords to sentient existences. It meets a demand of our being, and hence affords satisfaction. But for this in what sense could it be regarded as good? The idea of the useful, again, can not be an idea of an ultimate end, for utility implies that something is valuable in itself to which the useful sustains the relation of a means and is useful only for that reason.
Of what value is the true, the right, the just, &c., aside from the pleasure or mental satisfaction resulting from them to sentient existences? Of what value were all the rest of the universe, were there no sentient existences to enjoy it.
Suppose, again, that every thing else in the universe existed just as it does, except mental satisfaction or enjoyment, and that there were absolutely no enjoyment of any kind in any thing any more than there is in a block of granite, of what value would it all be; and to what or to whom would it be valuable? Mind without susceptibility of enjoyment could neither know nor be the subject of good nor evil, any more than a slab of marble. Truth in that case could no more be a good to mind than mind could be a good to truth; the eye would be the good of light as much as light would be the good of the eye. Nothing in the universe could give or receive the least satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Neither natural or moral fitness or unfitness could excite the least emotion or mental satisfaction. A block of marble might just as well be the subject of good as any thing else upon such a supposition.
Again: It is obvious that all creation, where law is obeyed, tends to one end, and that end is happiness or enjoyment. This demonstrates that enjoyment was the end at which God aimed in creation.
Again: It is evident that God is endeavoring to realize all the other ideas of his reason for the sake of, and as a means of realizing that of the valuable to being. This as a matter of fact is the result of realizing in the concrete all those ideas. This must then have been the end intended.
But again: The bible knows of but one ultimate good. This, as has been said, the moral law has forever settled. The highest well-being of God and the universe is the only end required by the law. Creation proposes but one end. Physical and moral government propose but one end. The bible knows but one end, as we have just seen. The law and the gospel propose the good of being only as the end of virtuous intention. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself." Here is the whole duty of man. But here is nothing of choosing, willing, loving, truth, justice, right, utility, or beauty, as an ultimate end for their own sakes. The fact is, there are innumerable relative goods, or conditions, or means of enjoyment, but only one ultimate good. Disinterested benevolence to God and man is the whole of virtue, and every modification of love resolves itself in the last analysis into this. If this is so, well-being in the sense of enjoyment must be the only ultimate or good. But well-being, in the complex sense of the term, is made up of enjoyment and the means and sources or conditions of enjoyment. Conformity to law universal, must be the condition and enjoyment; the ultimate end, strictly and properly speaking.
It is nonsense to object that if enjoyment or mental satisfaction be the only ground of moral obligation, we should be indifferent as to the means. This objection assumes that 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 the appropriate means; and also that we can not possibly regard any other conditions or means of the happiness of moral agents as possible, and therefore as appropriate or 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 conditionated upon holiness. It is therefore naturally impossible for a moral agent to be satisfied with the happiness or enjoyment of moral agents except upon the condition of their holiness.
But this class of philosophers insist that all the archetypes of the ideas of the reason are necessarily regarded by us as good in themselves. For example: I have the idea of beauty. I behold a rose. The perception of this archetype of the idea of beauty gives me instantaneous pleasure. Now it is said, that this archetype is necessarily regarded by me as a good. I have pleasure in the presence and perception of it, and as often as I call it to remembrance. This pleasure, it is said, demonstrates that it is a good to me; and this good is in the very nature of the object, and must be regarded as a good in itself. To this I answer, that the presence of the rose is a good to me, but no an ultimate good. It is only a means or source of pleasure or happiness to me. The rose is not a good in itself. If there were no eyes to see it and no olfactories to smell it, to whom could it be a good? But in what sense can it be a good except in the sense that it gives satisfaction to the beholder? The satisfaction and not the rose, is and must be the ultimate good. But it is inquired, do not I desire the rose for its own sake? I answer, yes; you desire it for its own sake, but you do not, can not choose it for its own sake, but, to gratify the desire. The desires all terminate on their respective objects. The desire for food terminates on food; thirst terminates on drink, &c. These things are so correlated to these appetites that they are desired for their own sakes. But they are not and can not be chosen for their own sakes or as an ultimate end. They are and must be regarded and chosen as the means of gratifying their respective desires. To choose them simply in obedience to the desire were selfishness. But the gratification is a good and a part of universal good. The reason, therefore, urges and demands that they should be chosen as a means of good to myself. When thus chosen in obedience to the law of the intelligence, and no more stress is laid upon the gratification than in proportion to its relative value, and when no stress is laid upon it simply because it is my own gratification, the choice is holy. The perception of the archetypes of the various ideas of the reason will, in most instances, produce enjoyment. These archetypes, or, which is the same thing, the concrete realization of these ideas, is regarded by the mind as a good, but not as an ultimate good. The ultimate good is the satisfaction derived from the perception of them.
The perception of moral or physical beauty gives me satisfaction. Now moral and physical beauty are regarded by me as good, but not as ultimate good. They are relative good only. Were it not for the pleasure they give me, I could not in any way connect with them the idea of good. Suppose no such thing as mental satisfaction existed, that neither the perception of virtue nor of natural beauty, nor of any thing else, could produce the least emotion or feeling or satisfaction of any kind. There would be the idea and its archetype both in existence and exactly answering to each other. But what then? The archetype would no more be the good of, or valuable to the idea, than the idea would be the good of or valuable to the archetype. The mental eye might perceive order, beauty, physical and moral, or any thing else; but these things would no more be a good to the eye or intellect that perceived them than the eye would be a good to them. The fact is, the idea of good or of the valuable could not in such a case exist, consequently virtue or moral beauty could not exist. The idea of good, or of the valuable, must exist before virtue can exist. It is and must be the development of the idea of the valuable, that develops the idea of moral obligation, of right and wrong, and consequently, that makes virtue possible. The mind must perceive an object of choice that is regarded as intrinsically valuable before it can have the idea of moral obligation to choose it as an end. This object of choice can not be virtue or moral beauty, for this would be to have the idea of virtue or of moral beauty before the idea of moral obligation, or of right and wrong. This were a contradiction. The mind must have the idea of some ultimate good the choice of which would be virtue or concerning which the reason affirms moral obligation, before the idea of virtue or of right or wrong can exist. The development of the idea of the valuable or of an ultimate good must precede the possibility of virtue or of the idea of virtue, of moral obligation, or of right and wrong. It is absurd to say that virtue is regarded as an ultimate good, when in fact the very idea of virtue does not and can not exist until a good is presented in view of which the mind affirms moral obligation to will it for its own sake, and also affirms that the choice of it for that reason would be virtue.
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