Page images

Every law, and this as truly as any other, annexés a reward to obedience, and a punishment to disobedience, otherwise it could not be a law. But to regard either this reward or this punishment is, according to Lord Shaftesbury, to be mean and mercenary, and so far, therefore, ceasing to be virtuous. If this reward and punishment are to have no influence on mankind, they are nugatory; and God has merely trifled with his creatures in annexing them to his law. If they are to have influence on mankind, the influence is merely such as to de stroy, or at least lessen, both virtue and the obligations to it. God, who sees this to be true, if it be truth, has therefore, in annexing them to his law, and in endeavouring to influence mankind by them, attempted to destroy or lessen virtue, and to diminish their obligations to be virtuous.

Further : As without rewards and penalties no law can exist, it is evident that God cannot make a law in which he must not of course, either merely trifle with his creatures, or destroy or lessen virtue, and diminish their obligations to be virtuous.

The reward promised to obedience in this and every other law is happiness; and the punishment threatened to disobedience is suffering, or misery. To desire the happiness of every rational being, and our happiness as truly as that of others, is the genuine dictate of virtue, and the indispensable duty of all such beings. It is the duty then of every other rational being to desire our happiness ; and for this plain reason, it is in itself desirable. According to Lord Shaftesbury, then, we cannot, without being mean and mercenary, desire that which all other rational beings are bound to desire, and which is in itself desirable.

To be virtuous is the same thing as to be meritorious or to deserve a reward ; And is the only real desert in the universe. The reward which virtue deserves is such treatment as is a proper retribution to virtuous conduct; such a kind and measure of happiness as it becomes the wisdom, justice, and goodness of the lawgiver to communicate, as a proper expression of his approbation of that conduct. To be influenced by a regard to this happiness, although the very thing which his virtue has deserved, and which God has pronounced to be its proper reward, is according to this scheme to become mean and mercenary, and underserving of the reward itself. The reward is holden out by God to encourage his creatures to be virtuous. In doing this, according to Lord Shaftesbury, he discourages virtue, and lessens their obligations to be virtuous.

There are two kinds of original good; enjoyment, and deliverance from suffering; or, as the case may be, from the danger of suffering. These two are the only possible objects of desire to percipient beings, and to intelligent beings as truly as any others. When virtue itself is desired, it is desired only for the enjoyment which it furnishes. Were there no such objects in the universe, there would be no such thing as desire; and consequently no such thing as volition, or action. Percipient beings, and among them intelligent beings, would be as absolutely inactive as so many lumps of matter. But, according to Lord Shaftesbury, to regard future enjoyment or misery, and, for the very same reasons, to regard them when present, is to be mean and mercenary, and to cease from being virtuous. He who regards them therefore cannot be virtuous; he who does not must of course be a block.

In the mean time, not to regard enjoyment and suffering, when present to our view, is physically impossible. In order to be virtuous then we must, in every instance, accomplish a physical impossibility.

Finally: A moral government is entirely founded on motives. All motives are included in the two kinds of good mentioned above. In every moral government these motives are presented to the subjects of it by the law on which it is founded, in the forms of reward and punishment, both necessarily future, to obedience or disobedience. On the influence which these motives have upon the moral character and conduet of subjects, all moral government rests ; nor can any such povernment exist for a moment without them. But to be Enduenced by them is in every subject of such government, curiing to this scheme, mean and mercenary. God thereore, 1 establishing a moral government over intelligent creaes us directly endeavoured by his authority to render

mezin ini mercenary; and, so far as this influence exSu resented them from being virtuous !

It is, I presume, unnecessary to add any thing farther. More striking or more conclusive evidence cannot be given of the havoc made by philosophy in the moral system. If the doctrines of one of her most admired votaries end in these consequences, what absurdities are we not to expect from philosophers of every inferior order?

[blocks in formation]

In the three preceding Discourses I have considered the nature of evangelical benevolence; and the two principal objections against the doctrine which teaches the existence and explains the nature of this attribute. At the present time, I propose to examine the last of those characteristics which were mentioned as attendants on regeneration; viz. Brotherly love; or the love which is due to the disciples of Christ.

Commentators have, to a considerable extent at least, considered this command of Christ as merely enjoining benevolence. They observe, that it is called 'new,' not because it had not been given before ; (for, they say, it had been published by Moses, and other writers of the Old Testament;) but because of its peculiar excellence; remarking, at the same time, that the Hebrews customarily denoted the peculiar excellence of a thing by styling it new.

With this view of the subject I cannot accord. The command given to the apostles, and by consequence to all the followers of Christ, to love one another,' was not in my view published by Moses, nor by any of the succeeding prophets. Certainly it was 'not published in form. There is not in the Old Testament, at least I have not been able to find in it, any command requiring good mon to love each other as good men. The general benevolence of the Gospel towards all men, whether friends or enemies, is indeed abundantly enjoined both by Moses and the prophets. But this benevolence regards men merely as intelligent beings capable of happiness ; aud is itself the love of happiness, as heretofore explained. The love required in the text is the love of good men, as such ; as the followers of Christ, as wearing his image, as resembling him in their moral character. This love, in modern language, is called complacency, or the love of virtue. Instead of being benevolence, it is a delight in that benevolence; and is directed not towards the happiness of intelligent beings, but towards the virtue of good beings.

A command enjoining this love was, I think, never given in form, before Christ gave it in the text; and was therefore new in the proper sense at that time. That it is not called new on account of its superior excellence will be reasonably believed, if we remember that Christ in no other case applies the epithet in this manner; that the first and the great command of the law' is still more excellent, as is also the second; which, while it may be considered as implying this affection, enjoins directly that universal good-will which is the object of brotherly love, and the voluntary source of all happiness. :

“ But,” it is said, “ St. John expressly declares this commandment of Christ not to be new in the proper sense." 1 John ii. 7.

Brethren, I write unto you no new commandment; but an old commandment, which ye had from the be: ginning. Without inquiring what St. John intends here by the phrase, from the beginning,' it may be justly observed, that this passage has no reference to the subject in question. The command of which he speaks is in the preceding verse expressed in these words : He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. It will not be pretended that this is the command in the text.

In the following verse St. John declares the command in the text to be a new commandment. Again, a new commandment write I upto you.' What the new command is to which he bere refers, is evident from the two following verses.

« PreviousContinue »