The Scriptures The Proper Standard Of Appeal In The Formation Of The Moral And Religious Character -- By: B. B. Edwards

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 003:9 (Feb 1846)
Article: The Scriptures The Proper Standard Of Appeal In The Formation Of The Moral And Religious Character
Author: B. B. Edwards


The Scriptures The Proper Standard Of Appeal In The Formation Of The Moral And Religious Character

B. B. Edwards

In the culture of the moral powers, it is a question of great importance, what shall constitute the standard of appeal? Where shall we look for the guiding manual, for those principles which shall mould the character, for those prudent maxims that shall have the authority of law?

It is not enough to institute a severe scrutiny into the conduct, to watch carefully the motives, or the habitual deportment. There must be some standard of appeal, some external influences that shall be brought into contact with the character, in order to shape it aright; some elementary and suggestive truths, which shall, at the same time, act authoritatively, and be fitted to quicken and mould the moral and religious character.

The question, what this rule for the conduct shall be, has been answered variously. In actual practice, also, the sources of appeal in the last resort are different and sometimes conflicting. The most important of these sources may perhaps be included under five general classes.

1. In the first place, certain general, prudential maxims, which have been long current in the community, are regarded as a safe directory. They are partly written and partly unwritten. They are the result of a wide experience, of much sagacious observation. Some of them have come down through many ages, each generation proving their value, and adding the tribute of its applause. Certain individuals have become eminent as the authors of these economical precepts, and shrewd apothegms. Some of the most striking of these brief apothegms, or at least those which are most felicitously expressed, are embodied under the form of counsels for the young, or rules for the formation of the character.

The objections to this standard of appeal are two-fold. In the first place, it does not supply principles of action. It rather seeks to rectify the outward conduct. It is not so much a system of morals, or a part of one, as it is a collection of superficial rules.

It is the result of observation, rather than of reflection; or, if appeal be made to the motive, it is done in a prudential spirit, and in order to secure a fortunate and visible effect. It metes out its applause in proportion to the measure of actual success, not according to the purity of the intention. In the second place, it has respect to the present life. It confines its aims to what is seen and temporal. Its rewards are laid up in earthly store-houses, in gainful traffic, or in the proud consciousness which is felt by the worldly-wise man in the success of his sagacious speculations. It numbers among its great m...

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