THE MORAL NATURE OF MAN
Man is a moral creature. By this we mean that he is responsible for his actions. This is one of the marks by which man is distinguished from the beast. Man is constituted a moral creature by those faculties which make him responsible for his actions. These faculties are three:
From a strictly psychological standpoint, conscience is not regarded as a separate faculty. From this standpoint, the three faculties are intellect, sensibility, and will; the conscience being regarded as the combined action of these faculties giving man a consciousness of his moral responsibility and judging between right and wrong. Yet conscience can, in a sense, be regarded as a faculty; for it is the power of the mind to know right and wrong and to feel obligated to do the right. Thus judgment is involved in conscience. And reason is involved in judgment.
After all, conscience is man's ultimate guide. It is unsound to make a distinction between following one's conscience and following the law of God. The law of God has no way of reaching us except through the conscience. When we do right it can be only as the result of the prompting of conscience. Conscience acts according to the standard accepted by the mind. Thus conscience guides us aright only in proportion to the rightness of the standard we have accepted as our guide. Hence the need of correct knowledge of the Word of God.
The will of man is defined by A. H. Strong as "the soul's power to choose between motives and to direct its subsequent activity according to the motive thus chosen- in other words, the soul's power to choose both an end and the means to attain it." The same author says: "The choice of an ultimate end we call immanent preference; the choice of means we call executive volition."
As we have remarked in considering God's will, the will is not independent of the nature of its possessor. It is not, as it were, another self within us. The character of the will is the character of the individual possessing it. The will is simply a power of the soul.
The acts of the will are determined by two factors- motives and character. We use the term "motives" to mean reasons and inducements influencing toward certain acts of the will. Of these two factors, character is the most dominant; for in every act of the will we make choice between two or more motives, and it is our character that determines which motive we choose.
Every act of will is an expression of character in view of motives. And every act of will tends to modify or confirm character. This explains why a given choice of the will becomes easier each time it is made.
The question of the freedom of man's will, being such a broad subject, will be treated in another chapter.