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even after he has shewn the way? What then ought we to think of that Wisdom, which in its meanest productions baffles the deepest penetration of a capacity, whose acuteness baffles the general understanding of mankind ?
From the confideration of the wisdom we trace in the natural world, it is manifeft, paft all doubt, that the moral system (for the fake of which that of nature was brought into existence) is under the same conduct, and will hereafter appear to be a scheme altogether worthy of God. For either both, or neither, must be the contrivance of Divine Wisdom. Wecannot conceive of God as partly, or by halves, but wholly, the Creator and Go. vernor of all beings, natural and moral. And if so, we may be assured, that, as in the system of nature, final causes are fitted to produce their effects, and every part of the machine of the world is properly adjusted to its place and purpose; so in the moral, every rational being will be determined to the state and place he is found fit for : the good to happiness, and the wicked to punishment; the highly elevated and purified mind to a high and eminent station, and the corrupt and sordid to shame and misery ; the soul, which has perfected its faculties, and refined its virtues, by imitation of the Divine Perfections, to the conversation of angels and the beatific vision of God, and that which has by vice debauched and funk itself below the brutes, to the place of dæmons and fallen spirits. And all this may probably proceed as much according to the original conftitution of things, as a cause produces its effect in the natural world ; as fire produces the dissipation of the parts of combustible substances; as nourishment tends to the support of animal life; and as matter tends to decay. So that the only thing which hinders a wicked embodied mind from being now in torments, may be, its being fillembodied, and not yet let out into the world of spirits, where a new and dreadful scene will of course iminediately open upon it, as soon as it comes to be divested of the earthly vehicle, which now conceals those invisible horrors, and protects it from its future tormentors. And in the same manner, the virtuous and exalted mind would be now in a state of happiness, if it were not prevented from the commerce of blessed fpirits, and the view of the invisible world, by the impenetrable veil of flesh which surrounds it. But this supposition does not at all affect the doctrine of positive rewards and punishments, nor of separate places appointed for receiving the good, and the wicked, after the final judgment.
If we find the mere material system of nature to be wrought by a degree of wildom, altogether beyond our comprehension, it would be madness to suppose that we shall ever have fagacity enough to bafile the Divine Scheme in the moral government of the world ; that we shall be able to contrive any way of escaping from the punishment we may deserve. No. His counsel will stand ; and he will do all his pleasure. It will not be in our power to deceive his penetration, to get out of his reach, or to defend ourselves against his juitice.
To frame fome idea of the Divine Goodness in the creation of the world, it will be necesary to go back in imagination to the ages which preceded all creation, if such there were, or, however, to those, which were prior to the production of our world. Let us then view the awful Majesty of heaven surrounded with ineffable glory, and enthroned in absolute perfection, beyond conception blessed in the consciousness of unbounded plentitude. What motive could influence him, who already enjoyed complete perfeion and happiness, to call unsub#antial nothing into existence? What could be the views of Infinite Wisdom in speaking a world into being ? No prospect of any addition to his own perfection or happiness : for that which was already infinite, what addition could it receive ? Could the adorable Creator propose to be more than infinitely perfectand happy? It is evident, his fole view must have been to the happiness of the creatures he was to produce. His own was ever, and ever must be, unbounded, undiminished, and unchanged. The addition of bappmets therefore, which was to be produced, was to be bestowed upon those who were not yet creared. Does then Di. vine Goodness extend to that which has no existence ? Does the universal Parent think of what is not ? We, Bb
poor, narrow souls ! think it a mighty stretch of benevolence, if we can bring ourselves to regard with some measure of affection those of our fellow-creatures, who stand most nearly connected with us; in loving whom, we do little more than love ourselves, or love our friends and relations for our own fakes. If there be a mind yet more generous, it may take in its country, or the human species. A benevolence fill more extensive may perhaps enlarge itself so wide, as to comprehend ! within its generous embrace the various orders of being which form the universal scale ; descending from the flaming seraph to the humble reptile. Nor indeed can any mind sincerely love the Almighty Maker ; and bate, or despise any of the works of the same hand, which formed itself. But the Divine Benevolence is as far beyond all this, as infinitude is larger than any limited space. How peevish, and apt to take offence at every trifling injury, are narrow-hearted mortals! Yet what are the insults, our fellow-worms can offer us, when compared with the atrociousness of an offence committed by the dust of the earth against the infinite Majesty of the universe ? Though the Omniscient Creator from eternity foresaw, that the creatures, he was to form, would prove rebellious and disobedient; that they would violate all his wise and facred laws, and insult his sovereign honour, as Governor of the world; has he grudged to give them existence; to bestow upon them a temporary happiness; to make his fundine, and his rain descend on all promiscuously; and put it in the power of all to attain perfection, happiness, and glory? What neglect of every duty and obligation; how many acts of fraud, oppression, and cruelty; how many horrid execrations, and infernal blasphemies, does every day record against the daring race of men around the world? Yet feldom does the Divine Vengeance break loose upon the impious offenders. Our wicked species, if there were no other lawless order of creatures in the universe, are ever offending. And yet the thunder seldom strikes the guilty dead. Earthquakes and inundations are rarely let loose. A few cities purged by fire, and a world cleansed by a deluge once in fix
thousand years, ferve jast to put unthinking mortals in remembrance that there is a power above them. So that every moment of the duration of the world is an universal' witness declaring to all the nations of the earth, in a language distinctly intelligible to all, the goodness of the Maker and Governor of the universe, At the same time that the prince of angels receives from the immediate communications of the Divine Goodness, beatitude past utrerance, the humble peasant rejoices in his bounty, with which the fields are enriched, and the fair face of nature a dorned. Even the lonely savage in the wilderness, the fordid reptile in the dust, and the scaly nations, which people the unfathomable deep, all taste of the bounty, and are supported by the unlimited goodness, of the Universal Parent, who opens his unwearied hand liberally, and satisfies every living soul.
If human understanding apprehends any thing according to truth and right, the benevolent character is the proper object of the love of every rational mind, as the contrary is the natural object of aversion. If every human, or other finite mind, is more or less amiable, according as it has more or less of this excellent dispofition; it is evident, that Infinite Goodness is infinitely amiable. Who is he, that pretends to think and reason, and has no pleasure in contemplating the Divine Goodness? Who can reflect upon such goodness, and not admire it? Who can admire, and not endeavour to imitate įt? Who can imitate it, and not be an univerfai blefling ? Who can be an universal blefling, and not be happy ?
If the Divine Goodness be evidently disinterefled, it being impossible that the smallest happiness thau'd, from any enjoyed by the creatures, be added to that of the Creator, which is necessarily infinite; it is plain, what makes real and perfect goodness of disposition in any mind, viz. A propensity to contribute to the happiness of others, without any view to felf-intereit. In to far as a view to one's own happinels is the motive to his exerting himself for the good of his fellow-creatures, in so far it has less of the truly worthy and commendable in it. For self-love, being merely instinctive, has noBb 2
thing praise-worthy. And to promote the happiness of others for the sake of adding to one's own, is what the most selfish and sordid character is capable of. To be truly benevolent, is to imitate the Deity ; to do good for the sake of doing good ; to he bountiful from the disposition of the mind, from universal love and kindnels, from rational confiderations of the intrinsic excellence of that godlike disposition ; not from mere weak and effeminate foftness of nature.
It is strange, that ever it should have been questioned, whether it is reasonable for dependent creatures to address themselves to their infinite Creator for the supply of their wants. Yet books have been written to thew the unreasonablenefs of prayer. “ The supreme Being," says an objector, “ knows whether I am worthy to re“ceive favours at his hand, and what I molt need, “ before I apply to him. If I am worthy, he will “ bestow, whether I ask or not: If not, he will not be “prevailed on by any folicitation to bestow upon an “ unworthy object. If I ask what is unfit for me, “he is too wise and good to grant it; and if I ask what “' is fit, I gain nothing; for he would have bestowed it “ upon me of his own goodness, without my asking." There cannot be a more egregious fallacy than that
, on which this objection is founded. For it is evident, that, if it be rational to think of ourselves as beings dependent upon the Supreme, it is rational for us to express our dependence; if it be reasonable for us to express our dependence on our Creator, it is unjustifiable in us to neglect it; so that I can in no propriety of speech be said to be a worthy object of the Divine Favour, till I actually address myself to him. Again, it is evident, that no degree of homage, or submission, ought to be wanting from dependent creatures to their Creator. But the service of both body and mind is a greater degree of homage, than that of the mind alone, so that till I yield the bodily homage, as well as that of the mind, my service is deficient, which renders me an unworthy object of the Divine Favour.
It is likewise remarkable, that many of the more rational and pious writers on this subject, have laboured to represent the whole rationale of the duty of prayer