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wicked men. The princes and potentates of the earth are apt to exercise an arbitrary and a despotick power over their subjects, to manage their people with craft and mystery, and to pride themselves in the huzzas and acclamations of the multitude; and this is the very picture which fome Religionists draw of their Maker.
And, as there is a natural and an essential difference in things, and a rule of action resulting from that difference, which every moral agent ought in reason to govern his behaviour by, and, as God will most certainly govern his actions by this rule; so from hence it will follow that some actions are in themselves justly approvable, and others justly condemnable, when considered abstractedly from any promulged law; that some actions render the agent the proper objeɛt of approbation and affection, and other actions render the proper object of dislike and resentment to every other intelligent being, and therefore, to our Maker as such ; confequently, fome actions are in themselves religious, others irreligious, when considered in the abstract nature and reason of things; that man is by nature an accountable creature; and that there is in nature a just foundation for a future judgment and retribution. These, I think, follow by a natural and necessary consequence from the principles before laid down. If happiness is in nature better than misery, then the communication of happiness is in nature better or preferable to
the communication of misery, the former is justly approvable, and the latter is justly condemnable to every other intelligent being, and consequently, to our Maker as such. To render that to another which is the proper
every one's approbation and liking, is, in the nature of the thing, commendable and praise worthy; to render that to another which is the proper object of every one's aversion and Thunning, is, in the nature of the thing; difreputable and justly condemnable; and this is the case when considered abstractedly from, and independent of, any promulged law. Again, if the communicating of happiness is in nature justly approvable, and if the communicating of misery is in the nature of the thing justly condemnable, and if there is a reason resulting from the nature of things for the communication of the former, and a reaJon against the communicating of the latter; then the communication of the former renders the
agent the proper object of approbation and affection, and the communication of the latter renders the agent the proper objeet of diflike and resentment to every other intelligent being, and therefore, to the Deity as such; consequently, some actions are in themselves religious, others are irreligious; that is, some actions render the agent pleasing, others difpleasing to God, when considered in the abstract nature and reason of things. * As the - reasonableness of an action ought to determine -the will of every rational being for the choice of that action, suppofing no other motive be superadded, and supposing many temptations invite to the contrary; so upon this the equity and certainty of a future judgment is founded, and not upon any divine revelation concerning it. For, as there is a natural and an essential difference in things, and a rule of action resulting from that difference, which every moral agent is in reason obliged to govern
reason* See my Discourse intitled, The Sufficiency of Reason in Matters of Religion fartber considered.
his actions by, and as there is planted in man a capacity or power which enables him to discern that difference, and as it is left to his choice to act either agreeably with or repugnant to reason, and thereby to be either a benefactor or a plague to the intelligent world: so from hence arises the equity and reaJonableness of God's calling such creatures to an account, (when they have finished their course in this world,) and rewarding the virtuous, and punishing the vicious parts of our species, according as they have rendered themselves the suitable and proper objects of either. * Happiness is the end of being to intelligent beings; whoever therefore freely and generously contributes to the happiness of others, by this he becomes a benefactor to the intelligent world, and by this the intelligent world becomes in reason obliged gratefully and generously to return the kindness, by contributing to the increase of their benefactor's felicity, when power and opportunity serve, which contribution is properly called reward. And, as happiness is the end of being to intelligent beings; so whoever viciously opposes and endeavours to frustrate and disappoint the general end of being, by barring the happiness, and contributing to the misery of others, such an one is an enemy to the intelligent world ; and by this the intelligent world becomes in
generously * See my Discourse intitled, The Equity and Reafoxableness of a Future Judgment and Retribution exemplified ; or a Discourse on the Parable of the unmerciful Servant.
reason obliged, (except his repentance and re• formation has rendered him the proper object
of mercy,) to return the evil upon his head, by contributing to his misery, in proportion to the viciousness of his actions, which contribution is properly called punishment. So that rewards and punishments when juftly distributed are founded, not in pafsion or affection, but the reason of things. And therefore, when punishment is justly inflicted upon a proper object, this is not punishing for punishment fake, nor is it the effect of mere refentment; but it is punishing upon just grounds, and when the reason of things requires it; neither is it contrary to, but perfectly consistent with, true goodness, yea it results from it. For, a being who has the greatest concern and regard for a general good, has, in consequence thereof, the greatest dislike of, and a just indignation against, those who oppose it. This is the state of the case independent of any pro
mulged law, and when considered in the abu stract nature and reason of things.
As the three points I have been explaining: and proving, are (I think) the ground and foundation of argument, in all questions of moral confideration ; fo I have quoted at large what I have before written upon the subject, that hereby my reader may at once have a full view of the case, without having recourse to those writings; and that he may see those objections obviated, which may lay against it. These things being premised, I am now to apply them to the point in question, and accordingly I am to enquire first, whether Religion, when the term is used to express piety, has any foundation in nature, and what it is that nature points out to men with respect to it. And here I observe, that tho' those words piety, devotion, worship, &c. which I here use as synonymous terms, are usually applied to the outward a&tions of men, such as bowing the body, vocal prayer, and the like, yet these outward actions are not the thing itself, but only vihble marks and tokens of it. And in this case the sign is, by a figure of speech, put for the thing signified, and is therefore called by the same name. True piety consists in a just and worthy sense of God impressed upon the mind of man, which impression excites in him the affection of love, or joy, or hope, or desire, or the like, and which sense of the Deity affecting the mind of man as aforesaid is, or may be, expressed or made visible, if I