Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

LECTURES

ON

M ORAL

PHILOSOPHY,

IN JUSTICE to the memory of Dr. Wither. spoon, it ought to be stated that he did not intend these lectures for the press, and that he once compel. led'a printer who, without his knowledge, had undertaken to publish them, to desist from the design, by threatning a prosecution as the consequence of persisting in it. The Doctor's lectures on morals, not, withstanding they assume the form of regular discourses, were in fact, viewed by himself as little more than a syllabus or compend, on which be might enlarge before a class at the times of recitation; and not intending that they should go further, or be otherwise considered, he took freely and without acknowledgment from writers of character such ideas, and perhaps expressions, as he found suited to his purpose. But though these causes would not permit the Dr. himself to give to the public these sketches of moral philosophy, it is believed that they.onght not to operate so powerfully on those into whose hands his papers have fallen since his death. Many of his pupils whose eminence in literature and distinction in society give weight to their opinions, have thought that these lectures, with all their imperfections, contain one of the best and most perspicuous exhibitions of the radical principles of the science on which they treat that has ever been made, and they have very importunately demanded their publication inthis edition of his works : Nor is it conceived that a com. pliance with this demand, after the explanation here given can do any injury to the Dr's. reputation. And to the writer of this note it does not seem a sufficient reason that a very valuable work should be consigned to oblivion, because it is in some measure incomplete, or because it is partly a selection from autbors to whomi a distinct reference cannot now be made.

LECTURES

ON

MORAL PHILOSOPHY.

[ocr errors]

ORAL Philosophy is that branch of Science which

treats of the principles and laws of Duty or Morals. It is called Philosophy, because it is an inquiry into the nature and grounds of moral obligation by reason, as distinct from revelation.

Hence arises a question, is it lawful, and is it safe or useful to separate moral philosophy from religion? It will be faid, it is either the fame or different from revealed truth ; if the same, unnecessary.if different, false and dangerous.

An author of New England, says, moral philofophy is. just reducing infidelity to a fyltem. But however specious the objections, they will be found at bottom not folid. If the Scripture is true, the discoveries of reason cannot be contrary to it; and therefore, it has nothing to fear from that quarter. And as we are certain it can do no evil, so there is a probability that it may do much good. There may be an illustration and confirmation of the inspired writings, from reason and observation, which will greatly add to their beauty and force.

The noble and eminent improvements in natural phi. losophy, which have been made fince the end of the last century, have been far from hurting the interest of religion; on the contrary, they have greatly promoted it. Why fhould it not be the fame with moral philosophy,

which is indeed nothing else but the knowledge of human nature? It is true, that infidels do commonly proceed upon pretended principles of reason. But as it is impollble to hinder them from reasoning on this subject, the best way is to meet them upon their own ground, and to show from reason itself, the fallacy of their principles. I do not know any thing that serves more for the support of religion than to see from the different and opposite fystems of philosophers, that there is nothing certain in their schemes, but what is coincident with the word of God.

Some there are, and perhaps more in the present than any former age, who deny the law of nature, and say, that all such sentiments as have been usually ascribed to the law of nature, are from revelation and tradition.

We must distinguish here between the light of nature and the law of nature : by the first is to be understood what we can or do discover by our own powers, without revelation or tradition : by the second, that which, when discovered, can be made appear to be agreeable to reason and nature.

There have been fome very shrewd and able writers of late, viz. Dr. Willson, of New Castle, and Mr. Riccalton of Scotland, who have written against the light of nature, shewing that the first principles of knowledge are taken from information. . That nothing can be fuppofed more rude and ignorant, than man without instruction. That when men have been brought up so, they have scarcely been fuperior to brutes. It is very

It is very difficult to be precise upon this subject, and to distinguish the difcoveries of reason from the exercise of it. Yet I think, admitting all, or the greatest part, of what such contend for, we may, notwithstanding, consider how far any thing is consonant to reason, or may be proven by reason ; though perhaps reason, if left to itself, would never have discovered it.

Dr. Clark was one of the greatest champions for the law of nature; but it is only since his time that the shrewd opposers of it have appeared. The Hutchinsonians (lo called from Hutchinson of England) insist that not only

« AnteriorContinuar »