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But to believe this important doctrine in a mannes becoming a rational creature, is to bear in mind a conftant and habitual impresion of an infinitely perfed nature, the Author and Fountain of existence, the wife and righteous Governor of the universe, who is every where prefent, beholding all the actions and intentions of his creatures, to whom all rational beings are accountable, and upon whose favour or disapprobation their fate to all eternity wholly depends. To think of the Supreme Being in any other way than this, is not believing His existence in a rational and confiftent manner.
And did men really admit the rational belief of 2 God; did they impress their minds with a fixed and constant attention to the awful thought of their beinz under the continual inspection of their judge, we mould not see them proceed in the manner they do, For I alk, How the bulk of mankind could behave worse than they do, if they were sure there was no God? We sce them ready to catch at every unwarrantable gratification of pallion or appetite; to put every fraudulent or wicked scheme in execution, from which they are not restrained either by human laws, or by fear of losing the esteem and confidence of their fellow-creatures, with the advantages connected with it. What could they do more, if there was no God? Is there, taking mankind upon an average, one of an hundred who hesitates at any vicious thought, word, or action, from the single consideration of its being perhaps displeafing to God? Is their one of an hundred who habitually regulates his thoughts, words, and actions, by the standard of the Divine Will, and would rather lose the favour and approbation of all the men on earth, and all the angels of heaven, than his Maker's aloneHow feldon do we meet with an instance of a person, who will nut truckle and temporize, commute and compound with conscience, or even ftifle its remonftrances to gain the favour of the great ? Whereas, if men acted upon the principle of a rational belief of a God, they would rather make a point of giving up all human favour, to make sure of keeping strictly to their duty; they would take
care always to be on the safe fide, to be fcrupulously exact, rather than too free, in their lives and conver-, sations; they would labour, if poflible, to do more than the exact duty of their stations; and io avcid tven the least appearance of evil; as they who wild nale their court to a prince, do not grudge any extracrdin'ry service, attendance, or expence for him; de coutus of so much as seeming to look toward what may veuilagreeable to his humour or inclination, or in the i att favouring, or seeming to favour, those whon he voes not approve. Did men in any rational and custiftent manner believe the existence of a God, or think of him as the Governor and Judge of the world, ander woofe immediate inspection we itand at all moments, we should see their conduct corrected and regulated by that constant awe and fear, which becomes dependent, accountable beings, whose minds are duly impressed with a sense of their present condition and future expectations. Their belief would be practical as well as fpeculative. It would affect their hearts, as well as impress their understandings.
How some men contrive to satisfy their own minds upon the subject of their duty to God, is inconceivable. One would imagine it impossible for a being, at all rapable of thought, to bring himself to believe, that tho' he owes his existence, his body, his fonl, his reasooing faculty, speech, and all his powers, corporeal and mental. with whatever he enjoys now, or hopes for hereafter. to an infinitely perfect and amiable Beinr, who hi made him capable of apprehending his perfections, ano his absolute power over him; one would imagina j! impossible, I say, for a being endowed with a reasoning faculty to believe all this, and yet think he oves no duty at all, no gratitude, love, or service, no positive adoration or praise to his Creator, Governor, and Judge. Yet is there, even in this enlightened age, and this land of knowledge, a perfon among an hundred who makes conscience of regularly and habitually performing, in a rational and devout manner, the positive duties of meditation upon the Divine perfections, in order to raise his mind to an imitation of them; of addreffing God
by prayer for the supply of all his wants; or of praising him for the bounties received ? On the contrary, is there not too much reason to conclude, that by far the greatest part of mankind have not God in all their thoughts; or if they have, the thought of him produces no visible effect? They attend the public worship indeed from a sense of decency. But it is plain, from their general levity of behaviour, that their hearts are not in it. And, as for worshipping God daily in their houses, with their families, or by themselves in their closets, they see no necessity for it, and conclude, that whoever lives soberly, and is good-natured, though he habitually neglects the whole third part of his duty, is likely to meet with the Divine approbation, and to be happy at last.
It is proved above, that the Author of all things must be infinite in his essence, and in all possible perfections, as wisdom, power, goodness, and rectitude. If so, it is evident, not only that he is the proper object of the admiration, love, gratitude, and every other noble affection, of the minds of such low creatures as mankind, who are probably the meanest of all rational beings; but that it is the glory of the highest archangel in heaven to adore Infinite Perfection; nay, that the whole of the reverence, love, and praise of any conceivable number of created beings, paid by them through all eternity, must fall infinitely short of what is juttly his due : because the whole of the tribute of honour and service, which all created beings can pay, will be finite; whereas the Divine Perfections are infinite: Now every finite is infinitely deficient, when compared with what is infinite.
To be more particular; the confideration of the Divine Immensity, or Omnipresence, ought to strike every thinking mind with the most profound awe and veneration, which ought to dwell upon it constantly and habitually, of its being at all times surrounded with the Divinity, which pervades all matter, and is the Spirit within every spirit, seeing, or rather intimately feeling, every motion of every mind in the universe. Whoever has just and habitual impressions of the Divine Omnipresence, will no more presume to do any thing amiss,
or even to think a bad thought, than a considerate person will dare to behave rudely in the royal preience, A thinking mind considers itself as at all times, by day and by night, in public and in private, abroad and at home, in the immediate and intimate presence of the great King of the World, whose boundless palace is the whole universe. It will therefore be continually and habitually on its guard; and, as one who appears before an illustrious character, whose favour he greatly values, will be above all things fearful of misbehaving ; so will the considerate mind dread the danger of lofing the approbation of that ever-present Judge, upon whom his fate depends, infinitely more than pain, or poverty, or shame, or death, and will cheerfully expose himself to any or all of them, rather than act an unbecoming part before that Eye, which is not to be deceived. He, who thinks how vice, or even frailty, must appear before that Being, whose very nature is rectitude in perfection, and who knows not the least shadow of error, or deviation; can he think of voluntarily departing from the eternal rule of right, or allowing himself in any practice, which must offend Infinite Purity ?
The confideration of the eternity, or perpetual existence hereafter, of the Divinity, together with that of the necessary immutability of his nature, fuggests to the pious and well-disposed mind, the comfortable prospect, that after all the changes and revolutions which may happen to it, to the kingdoms, and empires of this world, and to the world itself; after all the visible objects, which now are, have performed their courses, and are vanished, or renewed ; after a period of duration long enough to obliterate from all human memory the the idea of a fun, and stars, and earth; itill he, who is now Governor of the Universe, will continue to fill the Supreme Throne, and to rule with boundless and uncontrouled fway over his infinite dominions; and consequently, that whoever is so wise as to strive above all things to gain his favour, may depend upon being always secure of the enjoyment of the happiness assigned him by the general Judge, and that no change in the affairs even of the whole universe, will ever remove him from that station which has been appointed him. For the Universal Governor will raise no one to happiness hereafter, but such as he finds qualified for it. Nor will the time ever come, when it will not be in his power to
from but those who
keep those beings happy, which he has once made fo; : for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and of his
kingdom there will never be an end. Nor will the time ever come, when he will change his purpose or scheme of government; or, like a weak earthly prince, degrade his favourites, or reverse his laws, to indulge uncertain caprice.
This thews the Supreme Being to be a very proper object of the trust of all his creatures. Had I the favour of all the crowned heads in the world, it is evident, that in so short a time as a century hence, it must be of no manner of value to me. Death will, in all probability, before that short period be elapsed, remove every one of them, and myself too, into a state, in which no favour will be of any avail, but that of the King of Kings, upon whom they must be as much de. pendent as I. But to trust to Him who is eternal in his nature, and unchangeable in his purpose, and who has it in his power to make and keep his favourites eternally happy, is building upon a fure foundation.
Here it is to be remembered, that it is only in a course of obedience that we have any pretence to trust in God. All confidence in him, that is not founded in well-doing, is vain and presumptuous, and will in the end be disappointed. As the king on the throne has power to raise any person, whom he may judge worthy of honour, at the same time that it is vain and presumptuous to think of trusting to him in any other way, than such as may be likely to gain his favour; so, though the Supreme King of the Universe has power to raile any of his creatures to inconceivable happiness, it is not to be expected that he will bellow his favour upon any, but such as shall be found worthy of it. And his intinite wisdom will effectually prevent his being mistaken in his judgment of characters; and renders it impoflible that he should bestow his approbation amiss. So that there is no ground of confidence for any,