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The Eternal Rectitude.

The Eternal Rectitude.

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Published by glennpease

Luke xii. 57.

Luke xii. 57.

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Published by: glennpease on Sep 26, 2013
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THE ETERAL RECTITUDE.BY WILLIAM STEEL DICKSO, d.d.Luke xii. 57.A YOUG man, just passing out of boyhood, readthe volume in which Price set forth his high andfervid conceptions of the eternity, the independence,and the worth of virtue.. To his mind there wassomething of significance in thoughts compressedinto such declaration as this : " Virtue is of intrin-sic value and of indispensable obligation ; not thecreature of will, but necessary and immutable ;not local and temporary, but of equal extent andantiquity with the Divine Mind; not a mode of sensation, but everlasting truth ; not dependent onpower, but the guide of all power." ot far fromthe same time he read also the words of a saintedman, from whose lips he had often heard most im«pressive exhortations to the true life, in whose char-acter he had seen the majestic beauty of goodness,and by whose serene faith in his last hours the im-mortal hope had become more intimate to the soul.There, among words consecrated by reverend mem-THE ETERAL RECTITUDE. 285ones as well as by their own simple holiness, heread and continued to read, and took into his soul,the thought instinct with power, that " some actionsand feelings are intrinsically, or independently of consequences, wrong ; others are, in like manner,right." " o circumstances," he was taught, " canmake malignity right nor benevolence wrong ; nosupposed utility can render it right for innocence to
be oppressed or crimes rewarded." There he readthat the worth, not of our characters only, but of our very existence, depends on our attention andobedience to this supreme law, and that it is bind-ing on us by reason of our nature itself, and there-fore broad and profound and enduring as thatnature. " either," we were told, "can any changein your circumstances exempt you from its obliga-tions. It consents to no compromise. It yieldsnothing to the selfishness or the passions of men.Do not imagine, therefore, that in consequence of forming new connections, or of meeting new occur-rences, the rules of virtue will be either annihilatedor altered. Whatever may be the opinion of others,do not readily acknowledge that as innocent whichyou have been in the habit of contemplating asbase or vicious." The principles of this immutablemorality were represented as absolutely perfect andunqualified. " It is just as absurd to talk of excessin virtue, as to speak of excess in the straightnessof a line. It is just as absurd to say that exorbi-tancies can arise from the excess of virtue, as tosay that two lines may coincide so precisely as notto coincide at alL" So absolute, indeed, of such im-286 THE ETERAL RECTITXJDE.penal authority, that the fervent preacher exclaimed," Independently of our choice, independently of thechoice of angels or of any being in the universe,there are such things as truth and error, moral recti-tude and moral obliquity. The nature of these canneither be altered nor confounded. Should themost elevated of creatures, or even, were it possible,should the Deity himself choose and proceed inopposition to that eternal rectitude which it is theglory of his character to have maintained, still thatwhich is wrong would never become right, neither
that which is right ever become wrong. In truthand morals there is perfect immutability." Onthoughts such as these the young soul fed andgrew. The man felt their reality and power; heloved them ; he believed them from the love whichis truer than thought ; his heart gave out thequickening currents without which there is, to besure, the sightless ball, but through which onlythere is the eye seeing by the lights of heaven thenumberless forms which they reveal. Later, heread the demonstrations of the grand ideas in thevolumes of Clarke and of Cudworth ; he wasdrawn farther onward, to contemplate them throughthe sublime visions of Plato : still they grew clearer,brighter, more beautiful.Suppose the case of another young man taughtin a different school. Religion and virtue, he isassured, are by no means of independent, eternal,unchangeable, obligation and worth. Possibly theymay be devices of priests and politicians to keepmen in subordination and tranquillity ; at any rateTHE ETERAL RECTITUDE. 287virtue is only or chiefly the method of expediency.Something is found useful to mankind, useful, thatis, to the personal and external advantages soughtby individuals and societies ; something, whichattained, will make us happy sooner or later, unat-tained, will leave us poor and afflicted ; something,which will keep society quiet and even advancenations to wealth and power. This is virtue.Meantime, the interior sentiments of love, of rever-ence, of devotion, are neglected, if not despised.For majestic ideas, for religious aspirations, for ear-nest prayer, for secret belief held even at the perilof private interest or of public repose, no sympathy

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