Dr. Alexander’s Moral Science -- By: Anonymous
BSac 10:38 (April 1853) p. 390
Dr. Alexander’s Moral Science1
There are two modes of treating ethical science. The first is the Biblical method. It consists in deriving the knowledge of our duties from the revealed Word of God; proving them by citations from the Bible; enforcing them by the promises and threatenings of the sacred volume. This has been the favorite method with recent evangelical moralists in Germany. It has preeminent advantages peculiar to itself. The second mode is the philosophical, and is by some miscalled the rationalistic. It consists in deriving the knowledge of our duties from the constitution and relations of man; proving them by the dictates of human reason and conscience; enforcing them by the rewards and punishments preintimated in the necessary operations of the human mind. This is the method adopted by various English moralists, and in the main by Dr. Alexander in the present volume. We were not prepared to expect that this author would avow in any sense his belief in the following propositions, which have been denominated neological by some of his brethren: “Objections to self-evident principles, however plausible, should not be regarded; for, in the nature of things, no reasonings can overthrow plain intuitive truths, as no reasonings can be founded on principles more certain.”2 “It may be thought that this account of virtue makes the moral faculty the only standard of moral excellence. In one sense this is true. It is impossible for us to judge any action to be virtuous, which does not approve itself when fairly contemplated by our moral sense.”3 “When the mind is in a sound state, and any moral action is presented to it, with all the circumstances which belong to it, the judgment of this faculty is always correct and uniform in all men.”4 “In regard to sin and duty, the ultimate appeal must be to conscience.”5 The philosophical method, if properly pur-
BSac 10:38 (April 1853) p. 391
sued, is by no means hostile to the Biblical. Nothing but an error in the philosophy can make it differ from the inspired Word. It furnishes a basis on which a large part of the Scriptural morality would rest, even if misguided men should be unwilling to credit the inspired Volume. In some degree, the science of morals precedes even theism itself. “Although the belief of the existence of God is not necessary to the operations of conscience,” says Dr. Alexander, “yet from the existence of this faculty the existence of God may be inferred.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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