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ence, escape from the bonds of selfishness, and send forth our good-will to every intelligent being whom we know, in such a manner, as to take delight in the happiness of all around us, and to experience our first enjoyment in communicating good, wherever we could find a recipient. That such a disposition would be a desirable one, will not be disputed. Why may it not exist ? What is there, which will, of necessity, forbid such enlargement, excellency, and dignity, of moral character? Why may not a world be filled with Intelligent beings, devoted to this great and Godlike end, and gloriously exhibiting the image and beauty of their Creator? The only answer to these questions, which an opponent can bring, is, that in this guilty, wretched world, the contrary spirit universally prevails. On the same ground, the tenants of a gaol may rationally determine, that the mass of fraud, theft, rape, and murder, for which they are consigned to chains and gibbets, is the true and only character, which exists in the palace of sovereignty, the hall of legislation, the household of piety, and the Church of God.
Admitting, then, that such a disposition is possible ; admitting, that it has, at least in superior worlds, a real existence; admitting, still farther, as all who really believe the dictates of the Gospel must admit
, that it exists in every sincere Christian, even in this world: I proceed to establish the doctrine by observing,
1. That all the happiness, which is enjoyed in the Universe, flows originally from the voluntary activity of Intelligent beings.
All happiness is contrived ; and is brought into existence by carrying that contrivance into execution. . Intelligent beings alone can contrive, or execute. From them, from their voluntary agency, therefore, all happiness springs. God, the GREAT INTELLIGENT, began this wonderful and immense work. Intelligent creatures, endued with the faculties necessary for this purpose, coincide with him, as instruments, in carrying on the vast design. On the part of Him, or them, or both, it is the result of design. If happiness, then, is to exist at all, it must flow from disposition ; and plainly from a disposition to do good: this, and a disposition to do evil
, being the only active and productive principles in the whole nature of things. Å disposition to gain happiness from others, could plainly produce nothing; and were there no other, the universe would be a blank, a desert, in which enjoyment could never be found. The capacity for it would indeed exist; but the means of filling it would be wanting; The channels would open, and wind;
; but the living fountain, with which they were to be supplied, would be dry. The soil would be formed; and the seeds might be sown; but the life-giving influence of the rain and the sunshine would be withholden. Of course, no verdure, flowers, nor fruits, would spring up, to adorn, and enrich, the immense and desolate surface.
As great, therefore, as the difference is between the boundless good which exists, and for ever will exist, in the great kingdom of
Jehovah, and an absolute barrenness and dearth throughout this incomprehensible field ; so great is the difference between these two dispositions.
II. Virtue, the supreme ercellence and glory of Intelligent beings, is merely the love of doing good.
No attribute of a rational nature is, probably, so much commended, even in this sinful world, as Virtue ; yet the commendations, given of it, are, in many instances at least, unmeaning and confused; as if those who extol it had no definite ideas of its nature, and knew not in what its real value consists.
All the worth of Virtue, in my own view, lies in this ; that it is the original, or voluntary, and universal, source of happiness ; partly, as its affections are happy in themselves, and partly, as they are the sources of all other happiness. There is, originally, nothing valuable, but happiness. The value of Virtue consists only in its efficacy to produce happiness. This is its value in the Creator : this is its value in its creatures. Hence, and hence only, is Virtue the ornament, the excellency, and the loveliness, of Intelligent beings.
Virtue, as exercised towards the Creator is, as was shown in a former discourse, summed up in LOVE TO HIM; in Benevolence, Complacency, and Gratitude: good will to his supreme blessedness, and to the accomplishment of his glorious designs; a delight in his perfect character, which forms, and accomplishes, the boundless good of his Creation; and a thankful reception and acknowledgment, of the effects of his goodness, communicated either to ourselves, or to others. All these are affections in the highest degree active; and prompt us to study what we shall render to the Lord for his benefits, and to co-operate with all our powers in the promotion of the designs which he has made known to us. AU the good, indeed, which we can do to him, if it may be called by this name, is no other than to please him; by exhibiting always a disposition like his own.
With this disposition he is ever delighted; and he has been pleased to inform us, that in his sight it is of great price.
Virtue, as exercised towards our fellow-creatures, is the same love directed to them, and perfectly active in promoting their well-being.
In all the forms of justice, faithfulness, truth, kindness, compassion, charity, and forgiveness, in every act of self-denial and selfgovernment, this is still the soul and substance. But Virtue is a character, beyond comprehension superior to any other, and in a literal sense infinitely more desirable. It is the only worth, the only excellence, the only beauty, of the mind; the only dignity; the only glory.
To the spirit, which is occupied in gaining good from others, or which aims at enjoyment merely, it is transcendently superior, in numerous particulars
It is the source of all internal, moral good.
The mind is a world of itself; in which happiness, of a high and refined kind, can exist: a happiness, without which external good can be but of little value. In the great business of forming happiness, its first concern is with itself. If disorder, tumult, and tempest, reign within : order, peace, and serenity, from without, will find no admission. The first step towards real good is selfapprobation. So long as the mind is necessitated to see itself deformed, odious, and contemptible; so long as the conscience reproaches and stings; so long as the affections are inordinate, base, insincere, rebellious, impious, selfish, and guilty; so long as fraud is cherished, truth rejected, sin loved, and duty opposed; it is impossible, that quiet consolation, or hope, should find a residence there. Self-condemned, self-abhorred, self-despised, it must fly of design, from all conversation with itself; and find its poor and transient pleasure in the forgetfulness of what it is, and in the hurry and bustle of external employments and companions. From the sweet and peaceful fireside of harmonious and happy affections and purposes; from the household serenity of a satisfied conscience, and of a blameless life, it is forced abroad, to seek, without success, to slake its thirst for happiness in streets and taverns, in routs and riots. Sickly, pained, and languishing, it looks for health and ease, in medicines which cannot reach the disease, and turns in vain for relief to sports and sounds, for which it has neither eye, nor ear.
But when the love of doing good has once gained dominion over the man, he is become reconciled to his Creator, and to all his commands. This ruling disposition, wholly excellent and lovely in itself, is of course seen to be lovely and excellent. The Conscience smiles with approbation on all the dictates of the heart. The mind becomes at once assured of its own amiableness and worth; and, surveying the landscape within, beholds it formed of scenes exquisitely beautiful and desirable. The soul, barren and desolate before, is clothed, by the influence of the Moral Sun, and the rain of heaven, with living verdure, and with blossoms and fruits of righteousness. All is pleasant; all is lovely to
No tumult ruffles, no storm agitates. Peace sooths and hushes every disordered affection, and banishes every uneasy purpose ; and serenity, like the summer evening, spreads a soft and mild lustre over the cheerful region. Possessed of new and real dignity, and assuming the character of a rational being, the man for the first time enjoys himself; and finds this enjoyment not only new, but noble and expansive; and, while it furnishes perpetually varied and exquisite good, it sweetens and enhances, all other good. From his happiness within, the transition to that which he finds without, is easy and instinctive. Of one part of this, himself is the immediate parent. When he surveys. the objects, to whom he has communicated happiness by relieving their distresses, or originating their enjoyments ; the first thing, which
naturally strikes his attention, is, that their happiness is the work of his own hands. In the exalted character of a benefactor, a voluntary and virtuous benefactor, he survoys and approves himself; not with pride and self-righteousness, but with humble gratitude to God, for vouchsafing to raise him up to such exaltation and worth, and to make him a willing instrument, in his hand, of the good of his fellow-creatures.
In this character, the man, who seeks happiness in gaining good, has no share. A child of sense, a mere animal, his only business has been to taste and to swallow; while nobler and more active beings have been employed in producing the food, on which he regales his appetite.
In this character of a common benefactor, the virtuous man is seen, and acknowledged, by others, as well as by himself. By all who see him he is approved ; and by the wise and good he is beloved. Conscience owns his worth ; Virtue esteems and loves it; and the public testimony repeats and applauds it. To the world he is considered as a blessing; and his memory survives the grave, fragrant and delightful to succeeding generations.
In the mean time, those, who are most unlike him in character, pay an involuntary testimony to his worth. Whenever they seek esteem and commendation, they are obliged to profess his character, and to counterfeit his principles ; to pretend to do good, and to seem to love the employment. In this conduct they unwillingly declare, that there is no honour, and no worth, even in their view, beside that, of which his character is formed.
In addition to these things, he is daily conscious of the approbation of God; a privilege, a blessing, transcending all other blessings; a good, which knows no bounds of degree or duration. The proofs, given of his approbation to this character, are such, as leave no room for doubt, or question. It is, he has declared it to be, his own character. God is Love. His law has demanded it, as the only article of obedience to himself. Love is the fulfilling of the Law. To this character, as formed in the soul through the redemption of Christ, all his promises are made. In consequence of the existence of this character, sin is forgiven; the soul justified; and the man adopted into the divine family as a child of God, and an heir of eternal life. Of the approbation of God, therefore, he is secure. Think, I beseech you, of the nature of this enjoyment. Think of the character of him who
approves. Think what it is to be approved by infinite Wisdom. What a seal of worth; what a source of dignity; what a foundation of honour! How virtuous an ambition may be here gratified; what an immense capacity for happiness may here be filled!
Beyond the grave, his excellence will find a complete reward, There, all around him will be wise and good; and will joyfully feel and acknowledge, will esteem and applaud, his worth of their
Of esteem, and love, the testimonies will be sincere, undisguised, un
changed, and eternal. There he will be acknowledged, and welcomed, as one of the virtuous and happy number, who have voluntarily glorified God, and befriended the Universe, during their earthly prilgrimage ; and who are destined to the same delightful employments, and to the same glorious character, for ever. heavenly Father will also there testify his own divine approbation, in an open, full, and perfect manner; will adorn him with every grace ; remove from him every stain ; and advance him through successive stages of excellence, which shall know no end.
It is the actual, and probably the necessary, law of Intelligent nature, that we love those, to whom we do good, more than those who do good to us. Thus God loves his Intelligent creatures incomparably more, than they can love him. Thus, the Saviour loved mankind far more intensely, than his most faithful disciples ever loved him. Thus parents regard their children with a strength of affection unknown in children towards their parents. Thus friends love those, whom they have befriended, more than those, who have befriended them. Thus also in other, and probably in all, cases. According to this undeniable scheme of things, he who seeks his happiness in doing good, is bound to his fellow-creatures, and to the universe, and will be eternally bound, by far stronger, and tenderer ties, than can otherwise exist. He will contemplate every fellow-creature, primarily, as an object of his own beneficence; and, while he feels a parental, a godlike, attachment to all, will enjoy a delight in their prosperity, not unjustly styled divine. This glorious disposition will make the happiness of every being his own, as parents make that of their children. Even in this world, he will thus multiply enjoyment, in a manner unknown to all others; and in the world to come, will, in a progress for ever increasing and enlarging, find the most pure and exquisite delight springing up in his bosom, wherever he dwells and wherever he roves. His mind, a bright, and polished mirror, will receive the light of the Sun of Righteousness, and of all the stars which adorn the heavenly firmament; and will, at the same time, warm and brighten within itself, and return the enlivening beams with undiminished lustre.
III. To do good is the only and perfect character of the everblessed Jehovah.
When God created the universe, it is most evident, that he could have no possible view in this great work, but to glorify himself in doing good to the creatures which he made. Whatever they were, and whatever they possessed, or could ever be, or possess, must of course be derived from him alone. From them, therefore, he could receive nothing, but what he had given them. Accordingly, he is not worshipped as though he needed any thing; seeing he giveth unto all life, and breath, and all things. The whole system of his designs and conduct is a mere system of communicating good; and his whole character as displayed in it, is exactly summed up by