The Supreme Law Of The Moral World -- By: John Milton Williams
BSac 50:200 (April 1893) p. 640
The Supreme Law Of The Moral World
THE most marvellous event of history, if we except the Incarnation, is probably the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. That law, termed the Ten Commandments, is a wonderful production. Whence came it? is a problem infidelity has never solved. Equally awe-inspiring is the mode of its communication. It was written twice by the finger of God on tables of stone, and once proclaimed by his voice from the summits of Sinai in human speech, and in the presence and audience of millions of men and women.
Its first utterance, “Thou shalt have none other gods before me,” in other words, Thou shalt make me supreme, is the great primal law of the moral world, including, in its great imperative, all moral beings and moral obligations. These claims are what constitute moral agency, and distinguish man from the lower animal.
From the universality of this law it is plainly inferable: 1. That the idea of God is universal; as evidently a being who has no idea of God cannot be under obligation to make him supreme. 2. That the idea of God is an intuitive and necessary truth; that, like time and space, it is one of the spontaneities of the reason; otherwise it could not be universal. I hold the idea of God not only universal, but essential to moral agency, and postulate it as one of the great axioms of moral science.
I shall not be understood to say the reason reveals the moral character of God, or all his natural attributes, or even,
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in all cases, his personality; but it reveals God, it seems to me, as an infinite, overshadowing, ever-present cause, to whom the soul recognizes itself amenable. Were it not so, were the divine existence an empirical truth to be learned as we learn the earth is round, multitudes would fail to spell it out; others who had been so fortunate would forget it, and on all minds would rest doubt and uncertainty in reference to the great problem. Cousin, I think, is right in denying the possibility of reaching the idea of the infinite other than through the intuitions of the reason. Things that appear, it is conceded, require an adequate cause, that is, a being of immeasurable resources only, but between such a being and God—the finite and the infinite—the infinite intervenes, a gulf no human understanding or a posteriori proof ever spans. This truth is clearly established by the universality of the idea of obligation, which no one doubts is intuitive. Not a rational being exists who is not in possession of this idea. The words right and wrong, ought and ought not, obligation, duty, good and ill desert, or their equivalents, are household words on the darkest co...
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