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upon the sympathies of his audience. And, withall, his prayers were such, in pathos and humility, in appropriateness to circumstances and fervor of intercession, as frequently to melt the assembly into a state of deep religious feeling, ere the discourse begun. Is it wonderful, that his preaching had effect?
But disease was preying upon his vitals long before he became a settled pastor. The sermons which he wrote with most power, are not those which he wrote last. There are passages in his address to the Porter Rhetorical Society, which are not exceeded by any thing he afterwards produced. His sermon on the text, “What think ye of Christ?" was conceived in Philadelphia, soon after he left the seminary at Andover; yet, in originality of illustration and vigor of execution, it is perhaps his best.
As his chief excellence lay in thinking, rather than reading, in drawing from his own mind, rather than from the minds of others, he belonged of course to that class of writers who rise fast with the progress of years, and are known, especially in their earlier developments of character, only to a chosen few. What, then, might not have been expected from his long continuance in the world ? “Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints !".
It has been said, that disease produced a languor in the mind of Mr. Stearns, which made his later productions nothing superior to his earlier. To this remark we must make one exception. The scenes of the old world so roused up his faculties, that he wrote many pages in Europe, and especially in Italy, which are marked by all the peculiarities of his mind in its most healthful action. At the same time, they show how susceptible he was to the beauties of nature and art, and how strong a held had been gained upon his mind by his classical studies. Witness the following description, as Rome first came in sight :
'A little further on, and the scene around us had not changed, but in the dim distant horizon rose towers, and turrets, and roofs. It was Rome! What a thrill ! . . . As we turned a projecting point, on which were piles of ancient walls, at which we were gazing, the dome of Su. Peter's stood full and clear before me. My eye eagerly caught the sight, and transmitted its emotion to my heart. “Again the vision fled, and again it rose and stood full before me, and then bright, silvery waters glistened in the foreground—the waters of the Tiber. My heart throbbed and palpitated. In a moment we were crossing this magic stream. We stood over it upon the bridge Ponte Malle ;, we were beyond the rolling flood, among the villas of the ever rich, and proud, and magnificent city. One singular impression has seemed to possess me more
than all others, ever since my arrival-an impression of being at the center of the world, the source of every thing great-of good and of bad-the center and the source!'
But if disease weakened the mental powers, it unquestionably improved the moral feelings of Mr. Stearns. As the outer man was decaying, the inner was renewed. His intimate friends were always aware, that his religious character was higher than to strangers or less intimate acquaintances it seemed
He had such an aversion to display in religion, that he perhaps leaned to the opposite extreme. Cant phrases he abhorred. But yet, whatever may have been the strength of his religious feelings in the course of his education, he certainly manifested much more of the spirit of Christ, after disease had blighted all his earthly prospects. His letters from Europe and his journal abundantly prove this. His intercourse with his friends, during the last few months of his life, evinces the same. In Paris, whence his spirit took its upward flight, he seemed to be living in heaven, by something more than anticipation. His farewell letter, what a legacy it is to his christian survivors !
It is well, that his memoirs have been published. It is a book which theologians may read with profit. It will be particularly grateful to those numerous friends who are yet in the morning of life, and who will not only delight to trace the wanderings of the deceased anew by means of his writings, but will find in them many valuable hints as to the prosecution of their own labors as the servants of Jesus Christ.
It was on the steps of the hotel at Baltimore, that the writer parted with Mr. Stearns, after an intimate acquaintance of many years. We had visited the tomb of Washington in company, and listened to the eloquence of Clay in the senate chamber. But we forbear. The above is a slight tribute to the memory. of one of the best of friends.
ART. III.- THE GROUND OF MORAL OBLIGATION.
The question, In what lies the ultimate foundation of Moral Obligation ? is one of interest, and its practical bearings are by no means unimportant. Many philosophers and divines have stumbled at it, and the false views which they have adopted have tinged their opinions on a variety of subjects with which it stands in close connection. Yet the true answer is not a dif
ficult one, and we believe, that it may be exhibited with philosophical accuracy, and plain to the common sense of every unprejudiced person. We have seen a number of recent attempts in distinct essays and treatises of moral science, to trace out the source of moral obligation, but none of them, we confess, very satisfactory to our own minds; for while there is an indistinct vision of the truth, yet the lines are not drawn as they may be with analytic precision. In deciding this question, we must go as far as the powers of analysis will carry us, and so long as the inquiry, why? or, wherefore? which can receive an appropriate answer remains undetermined, we are not come to the naked truth. We have stopped short of the end in our investigation, though the path lies open before us, inviting us to enter; and instead of an ultimate principle, we have taken up with a subordinate or proximate one.
Yet in conducting the process of examination, it is important to render it as simple as we can, divesting the question of its usual, and in our own case, almost necessary, circumstantial relations ; for in testing any principle, the question respecting it should stand out as far and clear as it may from adjuncts which, while they remain, may so modify its original character as to render an accurate knowledge of its intrinsic or essential import and value difficult, if not impracticable. Not a few have thus bewildered themselves, unwilling, it may be, to devote the requisite patience to a close scrutiny of the fallacies which have misled them, or perhaps contented with a mere approximation to the truth, instead of an actual grasp upon the very thing. Yet they have been not less confident in their authoritative condemnation of their brethren who could not be satisfied with so superficial an investigation, than if their glimmerings of belief and guess-work of philosophy were identical with the full sunlike effulgence of true mental and moral science. The subject in hand has suffered from such a cause, and the real object has been so crowded off by a variety of collateral ones, that the mind has lost sight of the true position of the simple question, and the original aim of the investigation is left unaccomplished.
The main difficulty, as it appears to us, in supplying the proper answer to the question, In what lies the ultimate foundation of moral obligation ? and a prime cause of error in the views of many writers, is, that the inquiry is considered almost exclusively with respect to our relation to God as our moral govern
Hence it is, that instead of a broad generalization, which may include every variety of moral obligation, we are narrowed down to a specific position as subjects of authority, and as called
upon to obey a known law of the divine Sovereign. No christian philosopher will be hardy enough to deny the obligation of obedience to God—no one who can perceive and feel the relations he holds to such a being, but must admit, that the will of God is the proper rule of action for himself and for every intelligent being in the Creator's wide domain. It is in these circumstances of admitted obligation to our great moral governorobligation from which no change of condition will ever release us—with the law of his kingdom set forth and enforced by its sanctions of irrefutable rectitude, that the question comes up for our consideration, and the almost instinctive reply of our feelings to it is, The will of God. Yet this clearly is not the end of the matter. The further question is certainly a proper one, Why ought we to obey the will of God? Whence arises the obligation to do as he commands us? Simple will in itself can create no obligation, for a being may will, that another shall do some specific act which lies wholly out of his power, and surely no one would say, that in this case obligation could be fastened on the subject. Nor can the mere exercise of authority lay the foundation of obligation, for this might be usurped, and such that it would be a duty rather to resist than to obey. But in case of God, no such supposition as usurped authority or mere arbitrary will, is admissible. How then does his will become obligatory, as that of a moral governor upon us? There must be some foundation for it—some cause or reason why He is properly the only being whose will we are, above all, bound to obey. If any one say, that creation is the ground, we ask, is it the ultimate ground ? Is the bare fact of giving existence and sustaining it, sufficient to claim unremitted obedience ?
Suppose that some malevolent being—every indication of whose will was that of a mighty power bent on our misery, had created us, and issued his law, an expression of his feelings, would there exist the same obligation to obedience ? God has graciously proclaimed himself our moral governor, and his right over us is indisputable. But the ground on
But the ground on which that authority rests, or rather in which it consists, is appropriate character, infinite wisdom and benevolence. It is evident, that entire reliance could be placed on the promises of no other being. He is both our benefactor and our supreme ruler, and in the character of moral governor, especially, he is entitled to our warmest gratitude. The desire, which he so unweariedly exhibits, to bless us from the abundant fullness of his bounty, is decisive evidence, that he will not deceive us in the matter which relates to our highest interest. We are capable, too, of feeling VOL. X.
this truth, and being influenced by it; and this fact at once develops the true secret as to the source of moral obligation. Were we incapable of sympathizing with him in this matter, there could be no bond fastened upon us. It is the ability we possess to appreciate his disposition to render us happy, and in view of it to derive enjoyment, that constitutes us the proper subjects of obligation. Were we thrown out of the reach of all constitutional capacity so to sympathize with him, his law and authority would be null as regards us. When we say, then, that we are bound to obey God, in admitting the obligation we are under to his authority, we bear these facts in mind, as known and as under their influence :—That he is just such a being as he is, infinitely wise and good, and that our highest welfare is connected with obedience. We feel the claim, therefore, to be a proper one, and the heart of every good man is gratified ; that is, he finds happiness in doing as he is commanded. But were our misery the only result of following the dictates of God's will—could there be no feeling of gratification in the act, (we do not say in view of the act, for we now wish to avoid the objective form of statement,) he might be exalted in power, he might be otherwise related to a different class of beings, but in us the force of obligation would be unfelt.
It seems plain, then, that the foundation of obligation must be looked for in something which is in us, and also in the moral governor, since there must be a sympathy of some kind established before there can be any claim to obedience, and since obligation is in some respects reciprocal. What that is, we have already hinted, and intend more fully to develop in our subsequent remarks. Our mere constitutional power to do a specific act commanded, would not of itself create any bond of obligation upon us to do that act, any more than our constitutional power to take poison, lays us under an obligation to take it ; any more than the natural power of God to proclaim a new revelation of the condition of the planets,—habitable or not,-imposes such an obligation on him. An end must be answered—a relation of good must be established, and there must be a link common to both parties, to form the connected chain of obligation between man and his Maker. There is, and there can be, no fitness in the case, which does not ultimately center in the fact, that the true welfare of both, and of course our own true and highest welfare, is to be secured. Give it what name we please call it self-love, susceptibility to pleasure, constitutional love of happiness, or any thing else, yet this is the ultimate feeling in the operation of which the bond is fastened in the subject of moral