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that is, it is unreasonable to expect that he should be without error, or without fault, because it is great odds but he will in some instances fall into both. And, as this is the prefent state of mankind; fo from hence it will follow, that when a man does his best to have his understanding rightly informed, and when, in the general course of his actions, he acts agreeably thereto, and in those instances in which, through the strength of temptation, he has transgressed the rule of his duty, he is sensible of, and humbled for his faults, and makes his miscarriages à reason to himself to be more watchful and careful of his behaviour in time to come, such a man must and will be accepted and approved of God, because he has, by such a bebaviour, rendered himself the suitable and proper object of the divine approbation and affection.
This, I say, ought in reason to be the case; and therefore, most certainly it is so, For, as man is so constituted and circumstanced as that it is ten thousand to one but he will att wrong in some instances; and were God to be so extream as to mark every thing that man does amiss, and would not accept of a man's sincere repentance and reformation as a proper ground of mercy to him, for those offences which through the strength of temptation he has been hurried into; then, man would lie under a very great disadvantage, and existence would be so far from being a favour and a benefit, that, on the contrary, it would be a very great hardship and an injury to him ; and then, it could not have been goodness and kind ness, but it must have been malice and ill will which was the spring of action to God in the creation of man. And, if this were the cafe, then, man would not be dealt with in a way of justice and equity. For, if man's feet are, by his Creator, fet in such slippery places, as that it is ten thousand to one but he will fall; then, if he should fall, and should rise again by repentance and reformation, and yet should not find mercy at the hands of his Maker, which in' reason and equity he' ought, in this cafe, his existence would be a very great hardship, and an injury to him, and he would noť be equally dealt with. And, on the other side, he, who in the general course of his actions, acts the contrary part, must and will be difapproved of God, because, by such a conduct, he renders himself the suitable and proper object of the divine reprobation. It is not a particular action, but a man's general behaviour which constitutes his character, and denominates him to be a good or bad, a virtuous or vicious, a religious or irreligious,
From what I have observed, I think, it plainly appears, that Religion (when the term is used to express the grounds of our acceptance with God) is founded in nature, and that nature or reason affords a plain obvious rule, by which true religion may be distinguished from that which is falfe. For, if there is a natural
and an essential difference in things; and if there is a rule of action resulting from that difference, which every moral agent ought in reason to govern his behaviour by; and if God makes this rule the measure of his actions, in all instances and cases in which it can be a, rule to him, which is most apparently the true state of the case ; then, from hence it will naturally, necessarily, and unavoidably follow that personal valuableness, or the governing our minds and lives by that rule of action which is founded in the reason of things, or, in other words, the acting that part in life which in reason we ought, this is true religion; this will render us truly pleasing and acceptable to God. And, on the other side, whatever is represented as the grounds of our acceptance with God, besides personal valuableness in us, besides the being in our selves the suitable and proper objects of the divine approbation and affection, such things will not render us truly pleasing and acceptable to the Deity, and consequently, all such things are false religion, let them come from what quarter soever, even though Paul, or an Angel from Heaven, were to be the promulger of such doctrines. God. is not only infinite in all natural perfections, as he is all presence, all knowledge, and allpower ; but he is also infinite in all moral perfections, as his conduct, in the exercise of his knowledge and power, is, in all instances and cases, perfectly conformed to that eternal and invariable rule of action which refults,
from, and is founded in the natural and efsential differences in things. And, as the reason of the thing requires, that nothing should be approved by an intelligent being, but what is in itself the proper object of such approbation, and it's being such an object should be the ground or reason of that approbation ; and, on the other side, that nothing should be difapproved by an intelligent being, but what is in itself the proper object of such reprobation, and it's being such an object should be the ground or reason of that reprobation ; I say, as the reason of the thing requires this ; so from hence we may be morally certain, that nothing but personal valuableness in a moral agent, can be the ground of that agent's acceptance with God; and that nothing but personal vileness in such an agent, can be the ground of the divine reprobation of him. So that true religion, in the present case, confifts in this, and in this only, viz. the acting such a part in life as in reason we ought; or, in other words, the governing our affections and actions by the law of reason; or, at least, the coming as near to this as may reasonably be expected from us in our present circumstances. This, I say, is true religion, and this only; because it is this, and this only, which renders us the proper objects of the divine approbation and affection; and therefore, it must be this, and this only, which can and will be the ground of our acceptance with God. And for as much as there is
nothing nothing in nature but personal valuableness in us, which can render us the proper objects of God's approbation and affection, therefore, whatever beside this is represented as the grounds of our acceptance with the Deity, that must of necessity be false religion, and cannot poflībly be otherwise. As to any instituted means of religion, these are to be considered as means only, and not as the end which is intended to be promoted by them. And they become means, not by being institutéd, nor yet barely by being used, but only when they are so used, as to become subfervient to that end, viz. the making us wise and good, which constitutes true religion, in the present case.
I am sensible, that these are truths which will not be acceptable to many Religionists, even to many zealous and orthodox Chriftians, who are very unwilling to be convinced that virtue and happiness are so necessarily connected together, that the latter cannot be obtained without the former.; that a man cannot obtain the happiness of another world, without becoming a good man in this.
Alas! how many Christians are there who would much rather be carried safe to heaven, by the strength and virtue of their Master's merits; than be obliged to follow him, in that narrow way, and through that streight gate of virtue and good works, which is the only path that leads thither. It is not the offering to God thousands of rams, nor ten thousands of rivers