Page images


dible; for it is incredible to suppose that God would do so much, and such great things, when there was no need of it: so that this notion leads directly to infidelity. Yea, if this principle be true, we may be certain that the gospel is full of deceit; for the gospel every where supposes sinners to have been in a helpless, undone state, and that they might justly have been left so, and perished for ever: and it every where represents it as owing entirely to the free grace and infinitely great goodness of God, that he sent his Son into the world to be a Saviour, and the Holy Spirit to be a Sanctifier; all which, upon this principle, is notoriously false: for we were not in a helpless, undone condition; being able, of ourselves, to do all that God could justly require of us, in order to eternal life. Nor did we need to be beholden to God for his grace and goodness, his Son or his spirit; being able, of ourselves, to do all that which he could justly require at our hands. Yea, upon this principle, the gospel offers the highest affront to human nature, in that it supposes us to be such vile, helpless, undone, guilty wretches, when, indeed, and in truth, we are not. And, therefore, so long as men really believe this notion, they cannot possibly but hate the doctrines of the gospel, and oppose them : and so, in fact, it has always been. To conclude, therefore, since it is so evident from the law, and so evident from the gospel, that we are sinful, guilty, helpless, undone creatures, had not we better give in to it, and come down, and lie in the dust, before the Lord, who knows what we are, whether we will own it or no ; Had we not better own his law to be holy, just, and good, and acknowledge that we lie at his sovereign mercy, and be willing to be beholden to free grace, through Jesus Christ, for our salvation; since we must do so, or never be saved : What will it profit us to fly in his face, and say, It is not just for him to require more than we can do, and then damn us for not doing? when all he requires, is only that we love God with all our hearts, and our neighbour as ourselves, which, in the nature of things, is infinitely reasonable; and when all our impotency arises only from our sinfulness, and so, instead of extenuating our fault, only discovers how sinful we are. Surely, since all the world stand guilty before God, really guilty, and are so accounted by him, we


all had best to stop our mouths, and own the sentence just, by which we stand condemned, while it is a time of mercy : for who can tell but God may pity us? There is but one way now left to evade the force of what has been said. To a strict demonstration, the law is not, and cannot be abated: there is now no way, therefore, but to deny that there ever was such a law. But then, if God be what I suppose him to be, to a demonstration the law must be such too: there is no way, therefore, but to deny that there is any such God Well, but if God be not what I suppose, what is he 2 Why, we may see the whole scheme, by the following objection, in a few words. OBJ. God is a being of infnite understanding and almighty power, perfectly disposed to seek the good and happiness of his creatures as his LAST END. He loves virtue, and rewards it, merely because it tends to make them happy. He hates vice, and punishes it, merely because it tends to make them miserable : all he has in view, in his commands and prohibitions; in his promises and threatenings, is the good, and nothing but merely the good, of his creatures; yea, he esteems things to be virtuous, merely because they tend to make us happy : and vicious, merely because they tend to make us miserable. And now, therefore, if we look upon things as he does, and prosecute the same end; if we love and practise virtue with a sincere view to our own happiness, as our last END, we do all that God would have us do. And how can we, if we weigh things, but most heartily and sincerely love so good a God, so kind a father, who so dearly loves us, and so tenderly seeks our good? ANs. True, if God were verily such an one, the most wicked man in the world could not but love him. Self-love would make it natural. Even publicans love those who love them; and are good to those who are kind to them. Mat. v. Did men firmly believe God to be such an one, they could not, indeed, possibly be at enmity against him. Self-love would not admit of it. Men would not need any grace to make them love God. Nature would make them love him. They could not but love him, so long as they love themselves. And now, if God, indeed, be such an one, I readily own there is no truth in my whole scheme: but, from first to last, it is all a mis


take: for it is altogether built upon a supposition that there is a God, of a temper essentially different. But then I would query, if God be such an one; if he aims only at his creatures' happiness, why does he everinflict misery upon them : If he means only to make them happy, why does he ever make them miserable Why did he drown the old world; burn Soddom ; and why does he damn sinners to all eternity ? - - It cannot be because justice requires it: for, upon this scheme, justice does not require it. For, upon this scheme, sin does, in strict justice, deserve no punishment at all. A crime deserves no punishment any further than it is blame-worthy. A crime is blame-worthy no further than we are under obligations to do otherwise. According to their scheme, all our obligations to be virtuous result merely from its tendency to make us happy ". Upon their scheme, there

[* (G° The scheme which the Author here opposes, is that which founds the obligation to virtue, solely upon the tendency of virtue itself to promote individual Jhappiness; a sheme of perfect selfishness, and pregnant with all the absurd consequences which the Author has endeavoured to attach to it.

There is another theory distinct from this, and not liable to the same objections, which founds our obligations to virtue upon its tendency to promote public happiness, or the good of God's creatures, collectively considered. This theory, it will be recollected, the Author opposes in a note, page 82, where he more than intimates that our obligations to virtue arise, not from the mere will of God, nor from any tendency in virtue to promote our own happiness, or the happiness of others, but wholly from the intrinsic moral fitness of things, considered absolutely. But is there no difficulty in conceiving of the moral fitness or unfitness of things, aside from their obvious tendency to promote or hinder the happiness of the moral world True, it may be said that our perceptions of right and wrong are wholly distinet from those of happiness and misery. But is it certain that they are wholly distinct from our perceptions of the natural tendency of right and wrong to produce these different ends? Why does it appear right to do justice between man and man, but because public and private happiness evidently require it?

Perhaps, however, upon a strict inquiry, it would appear that our obligations to virtue rest not wholly upon any single principle ; but are grounded upon all those considerations which, according to various schemes, may be justly admitted as proper motives to virtuous action : such as the moral fitness of things; the tendency of virtue; the glory of God, and the authority of his law. To reduce all to a single principle, as different theorists have done, is not only to exclude some motive which ought unquestionably to influence our conduct, but to hold up those which are confused, if not unjust, instead of such as are clear and determiaate.j

fore, a sinner is to blame for his sins, merely because sin is cross to his own happiness, and tends to make him miserable; there is no other evil in sin but this. This is the only reason why God hates it, is set against it, and disposed to punish it. This is the only reason why he would have them avoid it; and this is the only reason they are to blame for it. No man is blame-worthy for sin any further than he was under obligations to the contrary. All our obligations to virtue, according to them, arise from its natural tendency to make us happy: and, therefore, all the evil of sin must arise from its natural tendency to make us miserable. This misery, therefore, is exactly equal to the evil of sin; for all the evil of sin arises from it, or rather consists in it. This misery is all the evil of sin; and this misery is, therefore, all that renders sin blameworthy, i.e. 'I am to blame for taking a course that tends to make me miserable. And why? Merely because it tends to make me miserable; for that reason, and for no other. Therefore, I am so much to blame, and no more, for what I do, than according to the degree of its tendency to make me miserable. This misery, therefore, which naturally results from what I do, is equal to my blame ; and is, therefore, the worst, and all that I deserve; for no crime deserves to be punished, any further than it is blame-worthy “. And from the whole, to a demonstration, it follows, that, upon their scheme, sin deserves no inflicted pain or misery, by way of punishment, over and above the pain or misery which results necessarily from its own nature. And now, if sin does not deserve any such punishment, then justice does not require the Governor of the world to inflict any such upon any of his creatures, though ever so sinful; for justice does not require him to inflict a punishment that is not at all deserved; yea, rather it seems cruelty so to do. If, therefore, justice did not require it, why did God drown the old world, and burn Sodom ; and why does he damn sinners to all eternity ? Certainly he did not aim at their good when he drowned the old world and burnt Sodom ; and certainly he cannot aim at sinners' good in their eternal damnation. There are some calamities in this life, which God might be supposed to send upon his creatures for their good; and indeed, all things considered, they are well adapted to do them good; yea, and are all made to work together for good to them that love God, and may be numbered among their mercies. But what shall we say when God drowns a whole world, burns up several cities, and damns to all eternity millions of his creatures: yea, and all for nothing, when they deserved no ill at his hands, not the least ! Where is his justice now 8 . Yea, where is his goodness? Or what does he mean : What does he intend ? Certainly he cannot intend to deal so severely with some of his poor creatures, who never deserved any ill at his hands, merely for the good of others, to fright, and warn, and deter them from vice ; for this would be to do evil that good might come : yea, this would be the way rather that good might necer come; for how could any of his creatures or subjects heartily love him or like his conduct, while they behold millions of their fellow-creatures suffering, for nothing at all, such infinite pains under his hands : Where is his justice 2 would they all cry. And where is his goodness 2 They would hate him, and flee from him, and dread a government so infinitely tyrannical. Indeed, to inflict a proper punishment, in case of just desert, is a good thing; tends to maintain government, and make men afraid of sin, and stand in awe of the great Law-giver and Judge of the world. Yea, it is a beautiful conduct, and tends to make God appear aimable in the eyes of all holy beings. Rev. xix. 1. 6. But to afflict and torment poor creatures, who do not at all deserve it, and that for ever, cannot possibly answer any good end; but of neces

* OBJ. “But are we not, according to their scheme, under obligations re

sulting from the authority and command of God?”

ANs. We are, according to their scheme, under no obligations to regard the authority and command of God at all; only, and merely, and purely, because it is for our interest so to do; as themselves acknowledge.

Ob J. “But are we not, according to them, obliged to have regard to our neighbour's welfare 3

ANs. Only, merely, purely because it is for our own interest to do so; for, according to them, all our obligations to practise any virtue, arise, originally, only from its being for our own interest. The language of such a practice plainly is, that there is not one being in the whole system worth regarding, but myself. I am, and besides me there is no other / I will regard none, but just to answer my own ends; and so really and strictly, regard none but myself. This is a religion that will suit nature ; and, in this sense, may justly be called natural religion.

« PreviousContinue »