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this, as that twice two are four, if there be the smallest possibility that it may be otherwise, it is the very defperation of madness to run the least hazard of the destruction of your soul by living a wicked life.
Death-bed repentance, and death-bed charity, are much of a kind. Men give up their vices and their money when they can keep them no longer.
Can any person seriously think that he was formed ca. pable of reason, virtue, and religion, only to eat, drink, divert himself, and die?
Accustom yourself to the strict observance of your duty in all respects, and it will in time be as troublefome to omit, or to violate it, as it is to many people to practise it.
Study to grow every day wiser and better : For every day brings you nearer to death.
It is strange to hear unthinking people descant upon the actions of men of universally acknowledged abilities, and to see them take it for granted, that they have acted a part entirely inconfiftent with their known characters; which people very rarely do, and which it is therefore very unreasonable to suppose. If you were told of a mifer's having done a generous thing, would you not be apt either to doubt the fact, or to conclude, that it must have appeared to him a likely way of getting somewhat? If you were told of a very passionate man's bearing an insult with exemplary patience, would you not be surprised? Why then should you rashly give into the belief, that a person, whose good understanding you are apprized of, has played the fool? or one, whose integrity is known to you, has acted a treacherous part? Hear the accused before you condemn.
Value learning as much as you please. But remember, a judicious thinker is incomparably superior to a great reader.
What can be more monstrous than the common excuses for unfaithfulness to the marriage-bed ? People give their vows to one another in the most folemn manner; and then their first work is to think how to break them. They marry for better for worse ; for richer or poorer, younger or older; handsomer Dd 2
or plainer. And then, when they come to repent of their rash choice, they pretend to excuse the breach of solemn vows by the pretext of defects they find in one another ; of which it is wholly their own fault if they were not sufficiently apprized before their coming together.
To defeat calumny, 1. Despise it. To seem difturbed about it, is the way to make it be believed. And ftabbing your defamer will not prove you innocent. 2. Live an exemplary life, and then your general good character will overpower it. 3. Speak tenderly of every body, even of your defamers, and you will make the whole world cry, Shame on them who can find in their hearts to injure one so inoffensive.
You say, your misfortunes are hard to bear. Your vices are likewise hard to be forgiven. Is it terrible to think of your suffering pain, fickness, poverty, or the loss of dear friends or relations? It is more terrible to think of your having offended the infinitely great and good Creator, Preserver, and Judge of the world, your kind and bountiful Father and best Friend. Is pain a great evil? Vice is a greater. It is rebellion against the Supreme Authority of the universe. Is the loss of a beloved wife like tearing limb from limb? So is falsehood, cruelty, or ingratitude, like unhinging the universe, and bringing chaos back again : For they tend to universal disorder, and the destruction of the creation of God. Do you shudder at the thought of poverty or disease? Think with what eye Infinite Purity must behold wickedness; with what abhorrence absolute Perfection must see the ruin produced in his works by irregularity and vice. Do you desire to escape misery ? Fly from fin. Do you wish to avoid punishment? Above all things avoid wickedness, the cause of it.
D I G N I TY
HUMAN NATUR E.
Of REVEALED RELIGION.
"HAT it is in itself agreeable to rectitude, necessary
to the Dignity of Human Nature, and the requifite concurrence of moral agents with the general scheme of the Governor of the universe, that we study above all things to perform our whole duty, viz. Taking proper care of our bodies and of our minds, loving our fellow-creatures as ourselves, and loving and serving our Creator; that this is our indispensable duty, and that the habitual negle&, or violation of it, upon whatever pretence, will expose us to the Divine displeasure, as the conscientious observance of it is most likely to gain us his favour, and consequently final happiness; all this appears clear to human reason, separate from any confideration of the truth of revelation, and deducible from universally acknowledged principles. And if it may be supposed in the lowest degree probable, that the kind and merciful Parent of his creatures, who would have all men to be saved, and, in a consistency with eternal and immutable rectitude, to come to that happiness, of which their nature was formed capable; if it may be conceived in the lowest degree probable, that God Mould from the beginning have ordered things so, that one method, among others, for promoting universal goodness and
happiness, should be, the appearance of an express message, or revelation from himself, with a set of clearer and more striking instructions, than had been any other way communicated to mankind; if this be conceivable without any direct absurdity, then is it likewise evident from the principles of natural religion or reason, that it is the indispensable duty of all those of our species, to whom any such supposed Divine message, or revelation, may be offered, to bestow the utnioft diligence in examining its pretensions, and, if found sufficient, to ad mit them with candor and sincerity of mind, and to receive the revelation itself with that. veneration and fubmiflion, which it becomes dependent creatures to express to Him who sent it.
That there is nothing directly absurd, oś contradictory to reason, in the supposition of the possibility of a revelation given from God, for the reformation and improvement of mankind, is evident from its having been the opinion and the hope of the wiseft and beit of mankind, in all ages and various nations. Socrates, Plato, Confucius, and others, the bright and burning lights of antiquity, have given their authority to the opinion of the probability of a revelation from God. They have declared, that they thought it an affair of great consequence to re-kindle the light of reason, almoft extinguished by vice and folly; to recal a bewildered race of beings into the way of virtue, to teach mankind, with certainty and authority, how they ought to behave toward their Creator, so as to obtain his favour, and the pardon of their offences. They who were the best qualified of all uninspired men of those ancient times for instructing mankind, were ready to own themselves infufficient for the task of reforming the world. And it is notorious, that their worthy labours were in no respect adequate to the universal, or general amendment of manners, even in the countries in which they lived and taught. For that themselves greatly wanted instruction, appears plainly from what they have writ upon some of the most important points of morals, as the immortality of the soul; the nature, degree, and continuance of the rewards and punishments of the fu
ture ture ftate, and the means of obtaining the pardon of fin. And that their lessons should have any confiderable or powerful influence upon the people in generat, was not to be expected, as they could at best but give them as their opinions; reasonable indeed, and clear in the main, to any understanding, which should take the trouble to examine ; but backed with no authoritative fanction, or Divine atteftation, to command attention and obedience.
It is evident, that, as there can be, on one hand, no merit in believing what is true, even religious truth, without examination (for nothing is virtuous, or praiseworthy, that is irrational; and it is irrational to receive for truth what one has no folid reason to think is true); fo on the other, to reject truth, especially religious truth, on any indirect or ditingenuous account, or for any reason, besides fome unsurmountable inconsistency in the doctrine, or deficiency in the evidence, is perverse and wicked. The faith, therefore, that is acceptable to God, who is alike the Author of both reafon and revelation, is that rational reception of religious truth, which arises from candid and diligent examination, and a due fubmission to Divine Authority. And the unbelief, which is condemned in Scripture, is that rejection of the revealed Will of God, which is owing to prejudice, negligence, pride, or a fatal attachment to vice.
The guilt of wilfully rejecting or opposing Divine Truth must be more or less atrocious, according as the advantages for inquiry, and satisfaction upon the subject, are greater, or lefs. The inhabitants of the dark and barbarous parts of the world, and even of the countries, which are over-run by Popish superstition, will therefore be found much more excufable for their deficiencies both in faith and practice, than we of this enlightened age, and nation, who enjoy every imaginable advantage for free inquiry, and labour under no kind of bias either toward credulity or the contrary, but what we choose to subject ourselves to.
Besides our being indispensably obliged, in point of duty, to take the utmost care, that a genuine revelation from God do not meet with neglect, much less dilin