Atonement -- By: John Morgan

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 034:136 (Oct 1877)
Article: Atonement
Author: John Morgan


Prof. John Morgan


A Moral World

This is a moral world, under a moral government, because mankind are conscious of moral ideas and of moral law, and know themselves to be moral agents, subjects of free-will, of the power to obey or disobey moral law.

Outside of the sphere of moral agency mankind are as much under the control of necessitative forces as brute animals or insentient matter. But within this sphere necessity can have no compulsive operation, however mighty the influences that act on the soul, whether these influences press from within through the working of the living organism, or from without through the action of other living beings or the action of material external nature. As moral law commands, there must be the power to obey, even if the heart of the moral agent is set in disobedience. In general, sceptical necessitarians admit the incompatibility of universal necessity with obligatory moral law. But many Christian philosophers, strenuously maintaining universal necessity, still hold to the validity of moral obligation. The sceptics appear here to have the logical advantage; but the saintly character of many of the advocates of universal necessity is beyond question.

It would seem not to be easy to perceive how blameworthiness or praiseworthiness can attach to qualities called moral, when the subjects of these qualities no more freely produce them than the rose so produces its fragrance, the rainbow its beauty, or the serpent the poison of its fangs. We like a

beautiful or beneficent thing, and we dislike an ugly or baneful thing, and we praise the one sort and dispraise the other; but this is a totally different operation of our minds from moral approbation or disapprobation.

The moral law commands only one thing — love, benevolence, good-will. This implies that the moral agent knows something of the value of well-being or good. Obedience to the moral law is holiness — the only holiness conceivable or possible. Obedience is in its very conception voluntary. It cannot be the product of creation, in the literal sense of the word. Creation gives existence to being and its natural attributes. But it may be conceived that when man was ushered into being God at once so operated on him in a moral way as to secure in him, as his first character, obedience to the moral law, or holiness. Thus man would be made, or induced to be, upright.

Refusal to love, or disobeying the moral law, is sin or unholiness. This may appear in various forms; but the essence of sin is found in not loving, or in not exercising good-will. No moral agent can be made the subject of holi...

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