« PreviousContinue »
find that it is the moral fitness of things. Whoever takes a view of this planet, and of all the other works of God, which come within the reach of human knowledge, will easily see the marks of wisdom and goodness that run thro' the whole, every part being directed to answer fome wife and good end. To go about to exemplify this, by an induction of particulars, would be to offer an affront to the common sense and reason of mankind; it being that which falls within every man's obfervation, tho' it is more abundantly evident to all those who are qualify'd to examine and look into the works of nature; and therefore, if an argument, drawn from analogy, is at any time of weight, it must be so in the present case; and consequently, true religion is not founded on arbitrary pleasure, but on the moral fitness of things. Again,
Secondly, If we examine what it is, in the nature of things, which is most likely to direct and determine God's actions, we shall find it to be the moral fitness of things, as aforesaid. That God is, and what he is with regard to his natural properties, these I shall not meddle with the proof of; but shall take it for granted, that God is, and that he is necessarily an immense, eternal, allknowing, all powerful, and consequently a felfsufficient, independent, and unchangeable Being. This being allowed, from hence it will follow, that as God is always capable of doing what is molt worthy and valuable in itself, and which in the nature of things is right, good, beft, and fittest to be done ; feeing he knows wherein the goodness, fitness, and valuableness of every action lies; fo it is most likely, that he always will act thus, because right, good, &c. are so very beau. riful and excellent in themselves, and so highly preferable, in the nature of things, to arbitrary
pleasure, that God cannot but be under a stronger disposition to make these, rather than the other, the rule and measure of his actions. So that, whether we consider the method of God's dealing in other cases, or whether we consult the nature of things; these both conclude very strongly, that true religion arises from, and is founded upon the moral fitness of things, and not on the arbitrary will of God.
If it should be urged, allowing that God does generally make the fitness of things the rule of his actions, yet it will not follow that he always does fo; he is the great and only Potentate, whose dominion is underived, and therefore he may sometimes act arbitrarily, to lhew his creatures the abfolute fovereignty he has over them. I anfwer, God may or can do thus, with regard to any sical necessity he is under to the contrary ; but that he does act thus will not be allowed; for if the moral fitness of things is a motive proper and fufficient to influence the divine conduct in one case, it must be so in every case ; the reafon being the same, and as proper to influence in all cases, as in some. Besides, this is measuring the ways of God, by what we fee take place among weak and vain men; they are apt to fhew the power and dominion they have over their fellow-creatures, by acting fuch a part as the objection supposes : But can we have so mean and contemptible a thought of our Maker? can we imagine that our wise and good God will prefer such an affected shew of greatness, to what is truly great and valuable yea, rather let us call back the ungenerous thought, with a God forbid !
Note, When I say it will not be allow'd that God acts arbitrarily, my meaning is, that he will not act thus in all those cases where the moral fitnefs of things can be a rule to him ; as to all
other cases, he must act arbitrarily, if he acts at all, because the fitness of things does not come into the question. As thus, suppose it equally indifferent with regard to this system, and all other fyftems in the universe, that the solar system be placed where it now is, or in any
part of space, then fitness, or unfitness, does not come into the case ; and therefore the placing the solar system in this part of space, and not in any other, must be arbitrary ; because there was not any thing, in the nature of things, which could give the preference, and make it more fit, that it should be placed where it is, rather than in any other part of space.
A S U P L E M E N T
TO THE Previous Question, with regard to
RELIGION. Wherein several objections made to
the Previous Question are examined, and in which God's moral character is more fully vindicated. In a Letter to a Friend, SIR, Take it very kindly, that you would inform me of what has been urged to you, by way of obječtion, to my previous question. For tho',
I cannot but think myself in the right, the contrary supposition implying in it a plain contradiction; yet feeing error is what all men are liable to, and seeing my mind may possibly be biassed by some unseen prejudice in its favour ; therefore I cannot but think it proper, to examine, with care and freedom, what is offered against any opinion I embrace or maintain. In the tract referred to, I only gave a fair representation of the case, without entering into
of those questions the subject is liable to, or might be perplexed with; designing thereby to bring it into as narrow a compass as possible. And if this was a defect, I hope it will be supply'd in the following lines, in which I shall examine
what the Gentleman (your friend) has been
to the moral fitness of things, yet he does not always
vine acceptance, does consist in doing what is right
Before I proceed, I beg leave to observe, that,