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E L EMENTS
BY FRANCIS WAYLAND, D. D.,
PRESIDENT OF BROWN UNIVERSITY, AND PROFESSOR OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1835,
BY FRANCIS WAYLAND,
In the District Clerk's Office of the District Court of Rhode Island.
In presenting to the public a new treatise upon Moral Science, it may not be improper to state the circumstances which led to the undertaking, and the design which it is intended to accomplish.
When it became my duty to instruct in Moral Philosophy, in Brown University, the text-book in use was the work of Dr. Paley. From many of his principles I found myself compelled to dissent, and, at first, I contented myself with stating to my classes my objections to the author, and offering my views, in the form of familiar conversations, upon several of the topics which he discusses. These views, for my own convenience, I soon committed to paper, and delivered, in the form of lectures. In a few years, these lectures had become so far extended, that, to my surprise, they contained, by themselves, the elements of a different system from that of the text-book which I was teaching. To avoid the inconvenience of teaching two different systems, I undertook to reduce them to order, and to make such additions, as would render the work in some measure complete within itself. I thus relinquished the work of Dr. Paley, and, for some time, have been in the habit of instructing solely by lecture. The success of the attempt exceeded my expectations, and encouraged me to hope, that the publication of what I had delivered to my classes, might, in some small degree, facilitate the study of moral science
From these circumstances the work has derived its character. Being designed for the purposes of instruction, its aim is, to be simple, clear, and purely didactic. I have rarely gone into extended discussion, but have contented myself with the attempt to state the moral law, and the reason of it, in as few and as comprehensive terms as possible. The illustration of the principles, and the application of them to cases in ordinary life, I have generally left to the instructor, or to the student himself. Hence, also, I have omitted every thing which relates to the history of opinions, and have made but little allusion even to the opinions themselves, of those from whom I dissent. To have acted otherwise, would have extended the undertaking greatly heyond the limits which I had assigned to myself; and it seemed to me not to belong to the design which I had in view. A work which should attempt to exhibit what was true, appeared to me more desirable than one which should point out what was exploded, discuss what was doubtful, or disprove what was false.
In the course of the work, I have quoted but few authorities, as, in preparing it, I have referred to but few books. I make this remark in no manner for the sake of laying claim to originality, but to avoid the imputation of using the labors of
others without acknowledgment. When I commenced the undertaking, I attempted to read extensively, but soon found it so difficult to arrive at any definite results, in this manner, that the necessities of my situation obliged me to rely upon my own reflection. That I have thus come to the same conclusions with many others, 1 should be unwilling to doubt. When this coincidence of opinion has come to my knowledge, I have mentioned it. When it is not mentioned, it is because I have not known it.
The author to whom I am under the greatest obligations is Bishop Butler. The chapter on Conscience is, as I suppose, but little more than a development of his ideas on the same subject. How much more I owe to this incomparable writer, I know not. As it was the study of his sermons on human nature, that first turned my attention to this subject, there are, doubtless, many trains of thought which I have derived from him, but which I have not been able to trace to their source, as they have long since become incorporated with my own reflections. The article on the Sabbath, as is stated in the text, is derived chiefly from the tract of Mr. J. J. Gurney, on the same subject. Entertaining those views of the Sacred Scriptures, which I have expressed in the work itself, it is scarcely necessary to add here, that I consider them the great source of moral truth; and that a system of ethics will be true, just in proportion as it develops their meaning. To do this has been my object; and to have, in ever so humble a manner, accomplished it, I shall consider as the greatest possible success.