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pain to beings other than the actor. This would seem to place virtue in disinterestedness, and to demand perpetual self-sacrifice. But Mr. Hildreth, after all, is none of your self-sacrificing moralists. He thinks it as great an absurdity for one to sacrifice himself for the love of man, as for the love of God; but how he really saves himself from inconsistency in this, it is not, at first sight, very easy to perceive, yet, if we comprehend him, we shall be able to clear him from contradiction. We must understand, in the first place, that Mr. Hildreth recognizes no right and wrong, independent of man himself. The notion, that there is, independent of man, a good which he is under obligation to seek, which he does not make, but which he perceives, by means of his natural power, or by means of supernatural instruction, he regards as false and puerile. This is what he condemns, as the Platonic theory. Let it be understood, then, the right is not something we are bound to do, but simply an affection of our nature, which we have agreed to call right. Now, considering our actions in relation to their motive, or subjective principle, they are divisible into five classes : 1. Meritorious actions; 2. Duties, or obligatory actions ; 3. Indifferent actions ; 4. Permissible actions; and 5. Vicious, criminal, or wicked actions.
Duties, or obligatory actions, are those actions beneficial to others, which are performed by the greater number of any given society. Meritorious actions are those which are performed by only a few in a given society, and which argue in those who perform them more than an ordinary force of the sentiments which operate beneficially to others. Permissible actions, though injurious to others, are such as the majority do not judge it necessary to refrain from doing! Vicious, criminal, or wicked actions are those which are performed by but few, and are more injurious to others than is the ordinary conduct of the majority. Indifferent actions are actions with a double result, being injurious to some, and beneficial to others; if we fix our attention on the injury they do, we shall class them as wrong; if on the
VOL. I. NO. III.
good, as right. One would suppose, therefore, that these actions could hardly be called indifferent. But that is Mr. Hildreth's affair, not ours.
Well, now, a man that does his duty, is he not a moral man? Duty is a beneficial action, to perform which is to practise as well as the majority. If, then, I conduct as well as the majority, I do my duty. I do, then, all that can be demanded of me.
But it is very certain that the majority practise very little of this selfdenial, contended for by the disinterested moralists; therefore it is not a man's duty to sacrifice himself for others. But, to attain to the highest excellence of character, must he not ? We, assuredly, shall not disagree with Mr. Hildreth, in regard to a distinction between duties and meritorious actions; but we suppose he will concede to us, that it is man's duty to do right. Now, if he places the right in acting in obedience to the sentiment of benevolence, we see not how he can make the distinction he contends for. The right being exclusively in the sentiment of benevolence, it must needs demand the exclusive exercise of that sentiment; and that sentiment, become exclusive, is the self-denial which Mr. Hildreth contends duty does not demand. If there be any thing certain in Mr. Hildreth's theory, it is, that a man is moral only in the exercise of benevolence. If it is man's duty to exercise benevolence at all, then how will he prove that a man can be meritorious in the exercise of benevolence ? For, we suppose, no man will contend, that one is meritorious, unless he does more than his duty. The distinction between meritorious acts and duties, with all deference to Mr. Hildreth, we think, is pointed out with more clearness and justice in the New Testament. There came one to Jesus, and said, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, by pointing him to the demands of the moral law, specifying its several precepts. these," answered the young man, "have I kept from my
" youth up; what lack Í yet?” “If thou wouldst be per
I " fect, go, sell what thou hast, give it to the poor, and come and follow me." The young man, in complying with
the law, did his duty, was just, and could inherit eternal life; but, in doing this, he was only just ; he had not attained to the highest degrees of excellence. To become perfect, it was necessary that he should do more than the law demanded, that he should rise from justice to love. If I am rich, it is not my duty to give what I possess to the poor. The law does not demand this, but Christian love does, and it is my privilege to do
So, and will be set down to my merit, not in discharge of my debt. .
But Jesus did not measure a man's duty by the conduct of the majority. Here, again, is a serious defect in Mr. Hildreth's system, and shows that he carries his demagoguism into morals as well as into politics. The standard, with him, is the conduct of the majority. Duty is that which is done by the majority of a given community, that which makes a man as virtuous as the majority ; meritorious actions are those which the majority agree to applaud, and criminal actions are those which the majority condemn, as sinking below the practice of the majority. A fine doctrine, this ! and a man holding a respectable rank in the community where he lives has the effrontery to avow such a demoralizing doctrine, - a doctrine which ought to be condemned, in the severest terms, by every one who has the least sense of what is due to himself, or to his fellow-men. The law to which a man must conform, in order to discharge his duty, is not the practice of the majority, nor the opinion of the majority, which is always better than the practice, — but the law of God, and which demands precisely the same things in all ages and countries, and of every individual with the ordinary faculties of a human being.
The general state of mind, in which Mr. Hildreth writes, may be seen in this statement : “ To believe a man against our own senses and reason is a high compliment. Hence the merit ascribed by theologians to implicit faith.” Now, if Mr. Hildreth knows any thing at all of what theologians call implicit faith, or rather, faith in God, he knows this statement is not
true. They have never yet supposed a man could, in any respect, pay our Heavenly Father a compliment. Theologians are not such consummate simpletons as all that comes to. I demand implicit faith in me on the part of my child, because there are a great many things which he must do or avoid doing, the reason of which he cannot comprehend. This notion, which has latterly prevailed, that you must appeal to a child's reason, and show him the reason of whatever you demand, is of a piece with all the rest of our modern inventions. The first lesson to be taught a child is obedience, – ay, blind obedience, if you will,— for, till after years of training, your child will be utterly unable to comprehend the reasonableness of your command. Your command, your wish, must be your child's reason. To give him, till considerably advanced, any other reason, is to destroy the foundation of that respect, that reverence, for one's elders and superiors, of which we as a people have so little, and without which there is, and can be, no solid worth of character. Now, this same trust, which I demand of my child in me, God demands of us all in him. We can know what he commands; but the reason of the command, or wherefore he commands what he does, we cannot always know, and are, for the most part, incapable of comprehending. It should, therefore, be enough for us, that he commands. His command should always be a sufficient reason for obeying. The mind, that would seek to go behind the command for its reason, is essentially impious and atheistic. Just as if, in the nature of things, a more conclusive reason were possible, for doing a thing, than that God wills it! The will of God is, not theologically only, but philosophically, the ultimate reason itself; and when you have got to the ultimate, why seek to go beyond ?
So, again, with regard to matters of belief. Show me that God has said it, and you show me that it is true; for it is impossible for God to lie. His word is truth, and the highest possible evidence of truth. This is the view theologians take of what so scandalizes our author. What is sneered at, as implicit faith, is the most
reasonable thing imaginable. Is it unreasonable to believe a proposition on sufficient evidence? Does such belief derogate from the rights and dignity of the mind ? Of course not. Then what do I surrender, when I believe my Heavenly Father on his word? Nay, suppose, as I firmly believe, the Church to be the divinely commissioned interpreter of God's word, what do I surrender in submitting to the decision of the Church, that I do not equally surrender when I believe any proposition on adequate evidence ? If I believe at all, it is always on authority; and what higher authority can I have in any case than the authority of God, or of the Church authorized by him to speak in his name? We do not believe God's word, because by so doing we compliment the Almighty, but because, as reasonable, nay, as rational beings, we can do no less. But enough; we have already spent more time on Mr Hildreth than his book deserves.
Art. IV. - The Novelties which disturb our Peace.
Four Letters addressed to the Bishops, Clergy, and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church. By John Henry HOPKINS, Bishop of the Diocese of Vermont. Philadelphia : Hooker, 1844. 12mo.
The Anglican Church, from which the Protestant Episcopal Church in this country derives, appears to have been founded on compromise. In organizing it, and settling its articles, canons, homilies, and liturgy, there were two tendencies to be consulted and conciliated : One, the Catholic tendency, which would retain as much of the Catholic Church, and separate as little from Rome, as possible, with the rejection of the papal supremacy; the other, the Protestant tendency, which would retain as little of Catholicism, and depart as far from Rome, as possible, without resigning the Christian name altogether.