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Lecture IV

The positive law and morality, fashioned on the principle of utility, are gotten by observation and induction from the tendencies of human actions. If utility be the proximate test of positive law and morality, the defects and errors of popular or vulgar ethics will scarcely admit of a remedy. For if ethical truth be matter of science, and not of immediate consciousness, most of the ethical maxims which govern the sentiments of the multitude must be taken, without examination, from human authority. Considered as a system of rules for the guidance of human conduct, the Christian religion is defective. There are also circumstances, regarding the manner of its promulgation, which human reason vainly labours to reconcile with the wisdom and goodness of God. In the language of the admirable Butler the human actions by which these feelings are excited are their direct and appropriate objects: just as things visible are the direct and appropriate objects of the sense of seeing.