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heart. His amiable disposition, his love of peace and quiet, his susceptibility to the tender emotions of friendship, his general moderation and candor to those whose views placed them in opposition to him, have been universally admitted. He was no friend to creeds and formularies made to entrap or oppress an adversary, or discourage freedom of thought. He never, as Du Pin has well remarked, labored to destroy Athanasius, or ruin his partisans, though he could not number him with his friends. He never abused his credit with the emperor, to elevate himself, and to pull others down ; but employed himself for the good and advantage of the church, endeavouring to promote a spirit of accommodation and reunite parties. He was never, we believe, accused of a grasping, avaricious disposition,
to have been content with a moderate fortune, and the enjoyment of the calm pleasures of a studious life.
We have hinted at the prominent defects of his literary character. He is immethodical and deficient in judgment. He had accumulated vast treasures by study and reading, but wanted the disposition and skill to select, arrange, combine, and adorn. He had not the art of easy and connected narration. His style is frequently rude and negligent, sometimes perplexed and confused, and sometimes, when he strives to be eloquent, turgid or loaded with puerile ornaments, never graceful, polished, or grand. He had a vigorous and active mind, but, like most of his contemporaries, and those who had lived during the preceding centuries, he had not been trained to a habit of severe reasoning, and he had read the finished productions of Grecian genius without imbibing one particle of true taste.
But of his moral and intellectual qualities generally we have said enough. His character as an historian, however, merits further notice. He has collected and transmitted, as we have said, a multitude of facts and traditionary statements relating to the early condition and progress of our faith, and the character and writings of Christians, of which but for him no memorial had been now left. But the degree of credit to which he is entitled as an historian, may be regarded as a question not yet settled. This question we shall briefly discuss in a future Number.
ART. V. – Essays on the Principles of Morality, and on
the Private and Political Rights and Obligations of Mankind. By JONATHAN DYMOND, Author of “ An Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the Principles of Christianity,"
With a Preface by the Rev. GEORGE BUSH, M. A., Adjunct Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Literature in the New York City University; Author of the “ Life of Mohainmed,” “ Treatise on the Millennium,” &c. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1834.
1834. pp. 432.
We are under obligations to Professor Bush for the pains he has taken to introduce this work to the American public. We hesitate not to say that it deserves, far more than any other treatise we are acquainted with, to be considered an exposition of Christian ethics, —“a body of moral precepts most wisely adapted to mould the character, and to regulate the entire conduct of mankind.” It is the result of an extensive observation of human life " in those spheres of action, which are seldom apt to attract the notice of the meditative philosopher,” of much careful study of the writings of moralists, of profound thought, and intimate communion with the mind of Jesus Christ. The style of our author is also a recommendation. It is always perspicuous, often terse, epigrammatic, and forcible, and sometimes even highly eloquent.
Mr. Dymond was led early in life to notice the numerous evils, which beset society in consequence of the erroneous principles of action and the low sense of moral obligation, which prevail in the world, and the pernicious tendency of some of the popular treatises on the subject. Being himself a man of singular uprightness of mind (as we learn from a correspondent in England, who knew him intimately from his infancy to the close of his brief career), he was the more quick to perceive and deplore the crooked ways, which men, even men calling themselves Christians, prefer to the plain, straight way of right. The contemplation of sin and suffering impelled him to attempt their correction and relief. This was the origin of the work which is now before us. The design and tendency of the whole are to persuade Christians to adopt, in all the relations and circumstances of life, the only true and safe standard of moral action, namely the expressed, that is, as we should say, the revealed will of God.
We differ from the accomplished editor of the American edition of these Essays, who thinks our author has erred in leaving his system of morality to rest upon the precepts of Revelation solely, because these “ have emanated from the highest authority in the universe.” He would have had him assume, that these precepts are also obligatory“ because they command that, which is in its own intrinsic nature eternally and immutably binding." When we first read the lucid and ingenious criticism in the Preface, the objection seemed to us a valid and important one. But further consideration has satisfied us, that our author has nevertheless done wisely. He commences his Essays with the acknowledgment, that it might be difficult to give a definition of moral obligation, that would be satisfactory to all. He no doubt perceived, that any disquisition on this point would only encumber his system with some of those “ abstruse and metaphysical appendages,” from all of which he meant it should be free. Availing himself, therefore, of the consciousness, which all that class of persons for whom he writes will readily acknowledge, that they are the subjects of moral obligation, and actually responsible to a superior power, he proceeds directly to the inquiry, “What is the rule of duty," — “the standard of right and wrong?” sufficient for his purpose, that man is, and knows himself to be, under an obligation to obey his Creator. To those who ask, “Why ?” he suggests several answers, either of which might satisfy some. And we conceive he would have been perfectly willing to add the one, which his editor now proposes, bút for its abstruse and metaphysical air. What can we, finite creatures, know of the “ immutable and eternal qualities of actions,” or of what Dr. Clarke would call, the “eternal and necessary differences of things ?” Nothing more, surely, than the eternal and immutable One may see fit to teach us. And how else has he taught us, how else can we expect he will teach us so much on this point, as by the Revelation he has made of those great principles of moral action, which are embodied in the precepts of Jesus.
An action is not any thing until it is performed, or rather, we should say, until the intention to perform it is conceived in the mind. When it is performed or intended, then it is right or wrong, according to its agreement or disagreement with the rule or principle of right action. What that rule or principle is, God can teach us, all must allow, incomparably better than we can ascertain it without
his special assistance. That he has so taught us, every Chris-
If therefore, these qualities be the ground of moral obligation, as the editor considers them, even then it seems to us, according to his own argument, that in the present case the rule of duty and the ground of duty are coincident. For, if, as he argues, there be no difference between what is right, meet, or fit, to be done, and what ought to be done, then we contend that the precepts of Revelation ought to be obeyed, are obligatory, because we have the highest reason to believe them to be perfectly right; they have emanated from the highest authority, the only infinite understanding, in the universe.
The only question which any one needs to settle, before he adopts the standard of right and wrong, on which Mr. Dymond insists, is whether God has expressed his will to men respecting their duties. Now our author has written, we repeat, for those who are satisfied on this point, — for those who believe in the revelation by Jesus Christ. Such persons cannot consistently hesitate to acknowledge the moral precepts of Christianity as the standard of rectitude, — the true basis of a correct system of morality. We consider it the distinctive excellence of Dymond's system, that it rests upon no other foundation, than that which is laid in the Gospel, the precepts of Jesus being the chief corner-stone. For ourselves we are unable to conceive how he could have laid his corner-stone
When may any
deeper, unless there be some surer way to ascertain what is right, and therefore obligatory, than the revelation which God has made of his unerring views of right.
We very cordially agree with Professor Bush, that “it is surely important to establish, as far as possible, the identity of the dictates and promptings of our own rational nature with those of the revealed will of our Maker, and thus to invigorate the force of law by the verdict of the internal convictions of our own breasts." But we should be careful that we do not insist upon this any further than it is possible to be done. That man who will take nothing upon trust, — who will exercise no faith, — who will believe in the divine authority of no rule which he is unable to identify with the dictates of his own reason, can make but small advances towards the stature of a perfect man in Christ Jesus.' one suppose his rational and moral nature to be so completely developed, that he can safely rely upon its dictates ? Certainly not until he has faithfully used all the means, which God has granted him, for attaining clear perceptions and comprehensive views of the true, the right, and the good. Now, are not the doctrines and precepts of a divinely commissioned messenger,
illustrated and enforced by his own perfect character, an important part of the means appointed for the intellectual and moral improvement of man? Christians profess to believe they are. Can any one, then, wisely deny their adaptedness to himself, until he has tested their efficacy by a faithful trial? “My doctrine," said Jesus, " is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” The more exactly we obey, the more distinctly shall we perceive the wisdom of the divine commands. We are called to be “ followers of God as dear children.” Our career must be begun in faith, in a childlike, trustful temper. It will be cheered and invigorated, the farther we proceed in the divine life, by our personal experience of the true righteousness. Such is the spirit of Mr. Dymond's moral philosophy.
Throughout these Essays their author finds frequent occasion to expose the errors into which Dr. Paley is led by his favorite doctrine of expediency. The passing remark of Sir James Mackintosh,* respecting this shrewd thinker and clear
* A General View of the Progress of Ethical Philosophy, p. 181.