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other corrupt propensity. You are not pressed to consider what men will think of you, or how it will affect your temporal interest; but what is right, and what is necessary to your eternal well-being. If you comply with its precepts you must be, and not merely seem to be. It is the heart that is required: and all the different prescribed forms of worship and obedience are but so many modifications, or varied expressions of it.
Is any thing like this to be found in the writings of Deists? No. Their deity does not seem to take cognizance of the heart. According to them "There is no merit or crime in intention."* Their morality only goes to form the exterior of man. It allows the utmost scope for wicked desires, provided they be not carried into execution to the injury of society.
The morality which the scriptures inculcate is summed up in these few words; Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, with all thy strength; and thy neighbour as thyself. This single principle is competent to the government of all intelligent nature. It is a band that would hold together the whole rational creation; and diffuse peace, order, and happiness, wherever it existed.
If mankind loved God supremely, there would be no idolatry upon earth, nor any of its attendant abominations; no profaning the name of God, nor making a gain of godliness; no opposing, corrupting, perverting, nor abusing the truth; no perjuries, nor hypocrasies; no despising of those that are good; no arrogance, ingratitude, pride, nor self complacency, under the smiles of providence and no murmuring, heart-rising, sullenness, nor suicide, under its frowns. Love would render it their meat and drink to fear, honour, and obey him, and induce them to take every thing well at his hands. And if they loved their fellow creatures as themselves, for his sake, there would be no wars, rivalships, antipathies, nor breach of treaties, between nations; no envyings, strifes, wrongs, slanders, duels, litigations, nor intrigues, between neighbours; no flattering complaisance, nor persecuting bitterness, in religion; no deceit, fraud, nor over-reaching, in trade; no tyrrany, venality, haughtiness, nor oppression, among the great; no envy, discon* Volney's Law of Nature, p. 18.
tent, disaffection, cabals, nor evil-devisings, among common people; no murders, robberies, thefts, burglaries, nor brothels, in city or country; no cruelty, in parents or masters; no ingratitude nor disobedience, in children or servants; no unkindness, treachery, nor implacable resentments, between friends; no illicit connexions between the sexes; no infidelities, jealousies, nor bitter contentions, in families; in short, none of those streams of death, one or more of which flow through every vein of society, and poison its enjoyments.
Such is the principle and rule of Christian morality; and what has Deism to substitute in its place? Can it find a succedaneum for love? No, but it proposes the love of ourselves instead of the love of God. Lord Bolingbroke resolves all morality into selflove, as its first principle. "We love ourselves," he says, "we love our families, we love the particular societies to which we belong; and our benevolence extends at last to the whole race of mankind. Like so many different vortices, the centre of all is self love." Such also are the principles of Volney.
Could this diposition be admitted as a proper source of moral action, the world would certainly not be wanting in morality. All men possess at least the principle of it, whether they carry it to the extent which Lord Bolingbroke proposes, or not for though some may err in the choice of their end, and others in the means of obtaining it; yet no man was ever so wanting in regard to himself as intentionally to pursue his own injury. But if it should prove that to render self-love the source of moral action in the same thing as for every individual to treat himself as the Supreme Being; and, therefore, that this principle, instead of being a source of virtue, is the very essence of vice, and the source of all the mischief in the universe, consequences may follow of a very different complexion.
To subordinate self-love I have no objection. It occupies a place in the Christian standard of morality, being the measure of that love which we owe to our fellow-creatures. And, as the universal love which we owe to them does not hinder but that some of them, by reason of their situation or peculiar relation to *Posthumous Works, Vol. V. p. 82.
us, may require a larger portion of our regard than others, it is the same with respect to ourselves. Our own concerns are our own immediate charge; and those which are of the greatest importance, such as the concerns of our souls, undoubtedly require a proportionate degree of attention. But all this does not affect the present subject of inquiry. It is our supreme, and not our subordinate regard, that will ever be the source of action.
I take it for granted, that it is the intention of every good government, human or divine, to unite its subjects, and not to set them at variance. But there can be no union without a common object of regard. Either a character whom all love and venerate, or an end which all pursue, or both, is that to a community which a head-stone is to an arch; nor can they keep together without it. It is thus that the love of God holds creation together. He is that lovely character to whom all holy intelligencies bear supreme affection; and the display of his glory, in the universal triumph of truth and righteousness, is that end which they all pursue. Thus united in their grand object, they cannot but feel a union of heart with one another, arising from, what is common to every other voluntary union, a congenialty of sentiments and pursuits.
But if our supreme affection terminate on ourselves, and no being, created or uncreated, be regarded but for our own sakes, it is manifest there can be no union beyond the sphere in which other beings become voluntarily subservient to our wishes. The Supreme Being, if our plan do not comport with his, will be continually thwarting us; and so we shall be always at variance with him. And as to created beings those individuals whom we desire to be subservient to our wishes, having the same right, and the same inclination, to require that we should be subservient to theirs, will also be continually thwarting us; and so we shall always be at variance with them. In short, nothing but an endless succession of discord and confusion can be the consequence. Every one setting up for pre-eminence, every one must of course contribute to the general state of anarchy and misery which will pervade the community. Such, is in fact, the state of this apostate world; and, but for divine providence, which for wise ends balances all human affairs, causing one set of evils to counteract the influence of another,
and all to answer ends remote from the intention of the perpetrators, it must be overset by its own disorders.
To regard every other being, created or uncreated, only for our own sakes, is supreme self-love; and instead of being a source of virtue, is itself abominable, and the source of all the mischief and misery in the universe. All the evils just enumerated are to be traced to this principle, as their common parent; nor is there any ground of hope that it will ever produce effects of a different nature. Some persons have talked much of “self-love ripening into benevolence." Had it been said malevolence, it had been nearer the truth; for it is contrary to all experience that any thing should change its nature by becoming more mature. No, a child in knowledge may discern, that, if ever genuine benevolence exist in the breast of an individual, or extend its healing wings over a bleeding world, it must be by the subversion of this principle, and by the prevalence of that religion which teaches us to love God supremely, ourselves subordinately, and our fellow creatures as ourselves.
To furnish a standard of morality, some of our adversaries have had recourse to the laws of the state; avowing them to be the rule or measure of virtue. Mr. Hobbes maintained that The civil law was the sole foundation of right and wrong, and that religion had no obligation but as enjoined by the magistrate. And Lord Bolingbroke often writes in a strain nearly similar, disowning any other sanction or penalty by which obedience to the law of nature is enforced, than those which are provided by the laws of the land.* But this rule is defective, absurd, contradictory, and subersive of all true morality. First, It is grossly defective. This is justly represented by a prophet of their own. “It is a narrow notion of innocence," says Seneca, “to measure a man's goodness only by the law. Of how much larger extent is the rule of duty, or of good offices, than that of legal right? How many things are there which piety, humanity, liberality, justice, and fidelity require, which yet are not within the compass of the public statutes?"
*Works, Vol. V. p. 90.
+In Leland's Advantages and Necessity of Revelation. Vol. II. Part II. Chap. III. p. 42. VOL. III.
Secondly, It is absurd; for if the public statutes be the only standard of right and wrong, legislators in framing them could be under no law: nor is it possible that in any instance they should have enacted injustice. Thirdly, It is contradictory. Human laws, we all know, require different and opposite things in different nations; and in the same nation at different times. If this principle be right, it is right for Deists to be persecuted for their opinions at one period, and to persecute others for theirs at another. Finally, It is subersive of all true morality. "The civil laws," as Dr. Leland has observed, " take no cognizance of secret crimes, and provide no punishment for internal bad dispositions, or corrupt affections. A man may be safely as wicked as he pleases, on this prinple, provided he can manage so as to escape punishment from the laws of his country, which very bad men, and those that are guilty of great vices, easily may, and frequently do evade."
Rosseau has recourse to feelings as his standard. "I have only to consult myself," he says, " concerning what I ought to do. All that I feel to be right is right. Whatever I feel to be wrong is wrong. All the morality of our actions lies in the judgment we ourselves form of them."* By this rule his conduct through life appears to have been directed; a rule which, if universally regarded, would deluge the world with every species of iniquity.
But that on which our opponents insist the most, and with the greatest show of argument, is the law and light of nature. This is their professed rule on all occasions; and its praises they are continually sounding. I have no desire to depreciate the light of nature, or to disparage its value as a rule. On the contrary, I consider it as occupying an important place in the divine government. Whatever may be said of the light possessed by the heathen as being derived from revelation, I feel no difficulty in acknowledging that the grand law which they are under is that of nature. Revelation itself appears, to me, so to represent it; holding it up as the rule by which they shall be judged, and declaring its dictates to be so clear, as to leave them without excuse. Nature and scripture appear, to me, to be as much in harmony, as Moses and Christ; both are celebrated in the same Psalm.‡
*Emilius, Vol. I. pp. 166-168.
Rom. ii. 12-16, i. 20. Psa. xix.