Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter 4: The Scriptures - The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy
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Chapter 4: The Scriptures - William Paley, The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, Foreword by D.L. Le Mahieu (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2002).
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Whoever expects to find in the Scriptures a specific direction for every moral doubt that arises, looks for more than he will meet with. And to what a magnitude such a detail of particular precepts would have enlarged the sacred volume, may be partly understood from the following consideration: The laws of this country, including the acts of the legislature, and the decisions of our supreme courts of justice, are not contained in fewer than fifty folio volumes; and yet it is not once in ten attempts that you can find the case you look for, in any law-book whatever: to say nothing of those numerous points of conduct, concerning which the law professes not to prescribe or determine any thing. Had then the same particularity, which obtains in human laws so far as they go, been attempted in the Scriptures, throughout the whole extent of morality, it is manifest they would have been by much too bulky to be either read or circulated; or rather, as St. John says, “even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
Morality is taught in Scripture in this wise. General rules are laid down, of piety, justice, benevolence, and purity: such as, worshipping God in spirit and in truth; doing as we would be done by; loving our neighbour as ourself; forgiving others, as we expect forgiveness from God; that mercy is better than sacrifice; that not that which entereth into a man (nor, by parity of reason, any ceremonial pollutions), but that which proceedeth from the heart, defileth him. These rules are occasionally illustrated, either by fictitious examples, as in the parable of the good Samaritan; and of the cruel servant, who refused to his fellow-servant that indulgence and compassion which his master had shown to him: or in instances which actually presented themselves, as in Christ’s reproof of his disciples at the Samaritan village; his praise of the poor widow, who cast in her last mite; his censure of the Pharisees who chose out the chief rooms, and of the tradition, whereby they evaded the command to sustain their indigent parents: or, lastly, in the resolution of questions, which those who were about our Saviour proposed to him; as his answer to the young man who asked him, “What lack I yet?” and to the honest scribe, who had found out, even in that age and country, that “to love God and his neighbour, was more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifice.”
And this is in truth the way in which all practical sciences are taught, as Arithmetic, Grammar, Navigation, and the like. Rules are laid down, and examples are subjoined: not that these examples are the cases, much less all the cases, which will actually occur; but by way only of explaining the principle of the rule, and as so many specimens of the method of applying it. The chief difference is, that the examples in Scripture are not annexed to the rules with the didactic regularity to which we are now-a-days accustomed, but delivered dispersedly, as particular occasions suggested them; which gave them, however (especially to those who heard them, and were present to the occasions which produced them), an energy and persuasion, much beyond what the same or any instances would have appeared with, in their places in a system.
Besides this, the Scriptures commonly presuppose in the persons to whom they speak, a knowledge of the principles of natural justice; and are employed not so much to teach new rules of morality, as to enforce the practice of it by new sanctions, and by a greater certainty; which last seems to be the proper business of a revelation from God, and what was most wanted.
Thus the “unjust, covenant-breakers, and extortioners,” are condemned in Scripture, supposing it known, or leaving it, where it admits of doubt, to moralists to determine, what injustice, extortion, or breach of covenant, are.
The above considerations are intended to prove that the Scriptures do not supersede the use of the science of which we profess to treat, and at the same time to acquit them of any charge of imperfection or insufficiency on that account.