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  • FOUNDATION OF MORAL OBLIGATION - D,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    2. Upon this hypothesis, I am to treat my own interest as supremely valuable, when it is infinitely less valuable than the interests of God. Thus I am under a moral obligation to prefer an infinitely less good, because it is my own, to one of infinitely greater value that belongs to another. This is precisely what every sinner in earth and hell does.

    3. But let us examine this theory in the light of the revealed law. If this philosophy be correct, the law should read, "Thou shalt love thyself supremely, and God and thy neighbor not at all." For Dr. Paley holds the only reason of the obligation to be self-interest. If this is so, then I am under an obligation to love myself alone, and never do my duty when I at all love God or my neighbor. He says, it is the utility of any rule alone which constitutes the obligation of it (Paley's Moral Philos., book 2, chap. 6). Again he says, "And let it be asked why I am obliged (obligated) to keep my word? and the answer will be, Because I am urged to do so by a violent motive, namely, the expectation of being after this life rewarded if I do so, or punished if I do not" (Paley's Moral Philos., book 2, chap. 3). Thus it would seem, that it is the utility of a rule to myself only, that constitutes the ground of obligation to obey it.

    But should this be denied, still it cannot be denied that Dr. Paley maintains that self-interest is the ground of moral obligation. If this is so, i.e., if this be the foundation of moral obligation, whether Paley or any one else holds it to be true, then, undeniably, the moral law should read, "Thou shalt love thyself supremely, and God and thy neighbor subordinately," or, more strictly, "Thou shalt love thyself as an end, and God and thy neighbor, only as a means of promoting thine own interests."

    If this theory be true, all the precepts in the Bible need to be altered. Instead of the injunction, "Whatever you do, do it heartily unto the Lord" (Col. 3:23), it should read, "Whatever you do, do it heartily unto yourself." Instead of the injunction, "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31), it should read, "Do all to secure your own interest." Should it be said that this school would say, that the meaning of these precepts is, Do all to the glory of God to secure your own interest thereby, I answer: This is contradiction. To do it to or for the glory of God is one thing; to do it to secure my own interests is an entirely different and opposite thing. To do it for the glory of God, is to make His glory my end. But to do it to secure my own interest, is to make my own interest the end.

    4. But let us look at this theory in the light of the revealed conditions of salvation. "Except a man forsake all that he hath he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33). If the theory under consideration be true, it should read: "Except a man make his own interest the supreme end of pursuit, he cannot be My disciple." Again, "If any man will come after Me, let himself and take up his cross" (Matt. 16:24), etc. This, in conformity with the theory in question, should read: "If any man will come after Me, let him not deny himself, but cherish and supremely seek his own interest." A multitude of such passages might be quoted, as every reader of the Bible knows.

    5. But let us examine this theory in the light of other scripture declarations. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). This, according to the theory we are opposing, should read, "It is more blessed to receive than to give."Charity (love) seeketh not her own" (1 Cor. 13:5). This should read, "Charity seeketh her own."No man (that is, no righteous man) liveth to himself" (Romans 14:7). This should read, "Every (righteous) man liveth to himself."

    6. Let this theory be examined in the light of the spirit and example of Christ. "Even Christ pleased not himself" (Romans 15:3). This should read, if Christ was holy and did His duty, "Even Christ pleased Himself, or which is the same thing, sought His own interests."I seek not Mine own glory, but the glory of Him who sent Me" (John 8:50). This should read, "I seek not the glory of Him who sent Me, but Mine own glory."

    But enough, we cannot fail to see that this is a selfish philosophy, and the exact opposite of the truth of God.

    The Utilitarian philosophy.

    This maintains that the utility of an act or choice renders it obligatory. That is, utility is the foundation of moral obligation; that the tendency of an act, choice, or intention, to secure a good or valuable end, is the foundation of the obligation to put forth that choice or intention. Upon this theory I remark:

    1. That utilitarians must hold, in common with others, that it is our duty to will the good of God and our neighbor for its own sake; and that the intrinsic value of this good creates obligation to will it, and to endeavor to promote it; that the tendency of choosing it, would be neither useful nor obligatory, but for its intrinsic value. How, then, can they hold that the tendency of choosing to secure its object, instead of the intrinsic value of the object, should be a ground of obligation. It is absurd to say that the foundation of the obligation to choose a certain end, is to be found, not in the value of the end itself, but in the tendency of the intention to secure the end. The tendency is valuable or otherwise, as the end is valuable or otherwise. It is, and must be, the value of the end, and not the tendency of an intention to secure the end, that constitutes the foundation of the obligation to intend.

    2. We have seen that the foundation of obligation to will or choose any end as such, that is, on its own account, must consist in the intrinsic value of the end, and that nothing else whatever can impose obligation to choose anything as an ultimate end, but its intrinsic value. To affirm the contrary is to affirm a contradiction. It is the same as to say, that I ought to choose a thing as an end, and not yet as an end, that is, for its own sake, but for some other reason, to wit, the tendency of my choice to secure that end. Here I affirm at the same breath, that the thing intended is to be an end, that is, chosen for its own intrinsic value, and yet not as an end or for its intrinsic value, but for an entirely different reason, to wit, the tendency of the choice to secure it.

    3. But the very announcement of this theory implies its absurdity. A choice is obligatory, because it tends to secure good. But why secure good rather than evil? The answer is, because good is valuable. Ah! Here then we have another reason, and one which must be the true reason, to wit, the value of the good which the choice tends to secure. Obligation to use means to do good may, and must, be conditionated upon the tendency of those means to secure the end, but the obligation to use them is founded solely in the value of the end.

    4. Does the law require us to love God and our neighbor, because loving God and our neighbor tends to the well-being either of God, our neighbor, or ourselves? Is it the tendency or utility of love that makes it obligatory upon us to exercise it? What! Will good, not from regard to its value, but because willing good will do good! But why do good? What is this love? Here let it be distinctly remembered that the love required by the law of God is not a mere emotion or feeling, but willing, choosing, intending, in a word, that this love is nothing else than ultimate intention. What, then, is to be intended as an end, or for its own sake? Is it the tendency of love, or the utility of ultimate intention, that is the end to be intended? It must be, if utilitarianism is true.

    According to this theory, when the law requires supreme love to God, and equal love to our neighbor, the meaning is, not that we are to will, choose, intend the well-being of God and our neighbor for its own sake, or because of its intrinsic value, but because of the tendency of the intention to promote the good of God, our neighbor and ourselves. But let the tendency of love or intention be what it may, the utility of it depends upon the intrinsic value of that which it tends to promote. Suppose love or intention tends to promote its end, this is useful tendency only because the end is valuable in itself. It is nonsense then to say that love to God and man, or an intention to promote their good, is required, not because of the value of their well-being, but because love tends to promote their well-being. This represents the law as requiring love, not to God and our neighbor as an end, but to tendency as an end. The law is this case should read thus: "Thou shalt love the utility or tendency of love with all thy heart," etc.

    If the theory under consideration is true, this is the spirit and meaning of the law: "Thou shalt love the Lord and thy neighbor, that is, thou shalt choose their good, not for its own sake or as an end, but because choosing it tends to promote it." This is absurd, for, I ask again, why promote it but for its own value? If the law of God requires ultimate intention, it is a contradiction to affirm that the intention ought to terminate on its own tendency as an end.

    5. But it is said that we are conscious of affirming obligation to do many things, on the ground, that those things are useful, or tend to promote good.

    I answer, that we are conscious of affirming obligation to do many things upon condition of their tendency to promote good, but that we never affirm obligation to be founded on this tendency. I am under an obligation to use the means to promote good, not for the sake of its intrinsic value, but for the sake of the tendency of the means to promote it! This is absurd.

    I say again, the obligation to use means may and must be conditionated upon perceived tendency, but never founded in this tendency. Ultimate intention has no such condition. The perceived intrinsic value imposes obligation without any reference to the tendency of the intention.

    6. But suppose any utilitarian should deny that moral obligation respects ultimate intention only, and maintain that it also respects those volitions and actions that sustain to the ultimate end the relation of means, and therefore assert that the foundation of moral obligation in respect to all those volitions and actions, is their tendency to secure a valuable end. This would not at all relieve the difficulty of utilitarianism; for in this case tendency could only be a condition of the obligation, while the fundamental reason of the obligation would and must be, the intrinsic value of the end, which these may have a tendency to promote. Tendency to promote an end can impose no obligation. The end must be intrinsically valuable, and this alone imposes obligation to choose the end, and to use the means to promote it. Upon condition that anything is perceived to sustain to this end the relation of a necessary means, we are, for the sake of the end alone, under obligation to use the means.

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