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< the test of our obedience; or had not such a test “ seemed necessary to God's infinite wisdom, and “ productive of universal good, he would never have
permitted the happiness of men, even in this life, to “ have depended on fo precarious a tenure, as their
mutual good behaviour to each other. For it is « observable, that he who best knows our formation, “ has trusted no one thing of importance to our rea“ fon or virtue: he trusts only to our appetites for the
support of the individual, and the continuance of our fpecies ; to our vanity or compassion, for our
bounty to others; and to our fears, for the preserva“ tion of ourselves; often to our vices for the support
government, and sometimes to our follies for the “ preservation of our religion. But since some test of “ our obedience was necessary, nothing sure could have « been commanded for that end fo fit and proper,
and at the same time so useful, as the practice of
virtue: nothing could have been so justly rewarded << with happiness, as the production of happiness in “ conformity to the will of God. It is this conformity 66 alone which adds merit to virtue, and constitutes a thé essential difference between morality and reli
gion. Morality obliges men to live honestly and
soberly, because such behaviour is most conducive “ to publick happiness, and consequently to their “ own; religion, to pursue the fame cuurse, because “ conformable to the will of their Creator. Morality
induces them to embrace virtue from prudential 66 considerations ; religion from those of gratitude and obedience. Morality therefore, entirely abstracted
a from religion, can have nothing meritorious in it; “ it being but wisdom, prudence, or good economy, “ which like health, beauty, or riches, are rather obli
gations conferred upon us by God, than merits in us ~ towards him; for though we may be justly punished “ for injuring ourselves, we can claim no reward for
self-preservation ; as suicide deserves punishment and ” infamy, but a man deserves no reward or honours “ for not being guilty of it. This I take to be the
meaning of all those passages in our Scriptures, in “ which works are represented to have no merit with
out faith; that is, not without believing in historical “ facts, in creeds, and articles; but without being “ done in pursuance of our belief in God, and in obe- dience to his commands. And now, having men« tioned Scripture, I cannot omit observing, that the “ Christian is the only religious or moral institution “ in the world, that ever set in a right light these two “ material points, the effence and the end of virtue “ that ever founded the one in the production of hap“ piness, that is, in universal benevolence, or, in their
language, charity to all men; the other, in the pro166 bation of man, and his obedience to his Creator. “ Sublime and magnificent as was the philosophy of “ the ancients, all their moral systems were deficient
in these two important articles. They were all “ built on the sandy foundations of the innate beauty
of virtue, or enthusiastick patriotism; and their
great point in view was the contemptible reward of “ human glory ; foundations which were by no means able to support the magnificent structures which
“ they erected upon them; for the beauty of virtue,
independent of its effects, is unmeaning nonsense ;
patriotism, which injures mankind in general for “ the sake of a particular country, is but a more “ extended selfishness, and really criminal: and all “ human glory but a mean and ridiculous delufion. “ The whole affair then of religion and morality, “ the subject of so many thousand volumes, is, in “ short, no more than this: the Supreme Being, in
finitely good, as well as powerful, desirous to dif“ fuse happiness by all possible means, has created “ įnnumerable ranks and orders of beings, all subser“ vient to each other by proper fubordination. One “ of these is occupied by man, a creature endued “ with such a certain degree of knowledge, reason, 6 and free-will, as is suitable to his situation, and
placed for a time on this globe as in a school of probation and education. Here he has an opportunity given him of improving or debasing his na
ture, in such a manner as to render himself fit for a “ rank of higher perfection and happiness, or to de
grade himself to a ftate of greater imperfection and “ misery ; necessary indeed towards carrying on the “ business of the universe, but very grievous and bur“ thensome to those individuals, who, by their own “ misconduct, are obliged to submit to it. The test of « this his behaviour, is doing good, that is, co-operat
ing with his Creator, as far as his narrow sphere of “ action will permit, in the production of happiness. “ And thus the happiness and misery. of a future state of will be the just reward or punishment of promoting
or preventing happiness in this. So artificially by
" this means is the nature of all human virtue and “ vice contrived, that their rewards and punish
ments are woven as it were in their very essence; “ their immediate effects give us a foretaste of their
future, and their fruits in the present life are the proper samples of what they must unavoidably produce in another. We have reason given us to
distinguish these consequences, and regulate our con« duct; and, left that should neglect its post, con“ science also is appointed as an instinctive kind of “ monitor, perpetually to remind us both of our inos terest and our duty."
Si fic omnia dixisset ! To this account of the effence of vice and virtue, it is only necessary to add, that the consequences of human actions being sometimes uncertain, and sometimes remote, it is not possible in many cases for most men, nor in all cases for any man to determine what actions will ultimately produce happiness, and therefore it was proper that revelution should lay down a rule to be followed in, variably in opposition to appearances, and in every change of circumstances, by which we may be certain to promote the general felicity, and be set free from the dangerous temptation of doing Evil that Good. may come.
Because it may easily happen, and in effect will happen very frequently, that our own private happiness may be promoted by an act injurious to others, when yet no man can be obliged by nature to prefer ultimately the happiness of others to his own; therefore, to the instructions of infinite wildom it was necessary that infinite power should add penal fanctions, That every man to whom those
instructions shall be imparted may know that he can never ultimately injure himself by benefiting others, or ultiinately by injuring others benefit himself; but that however the lot of the good and bad may be huddled together in the seeming confusion of our present state, the time shall undoubtedly come, when the moft virtuous will be most happy.
I am sorry that the remaining part of this Letter is not equal to the first. The author has indeed engaged in a difquisition in which we need not wonder if he fails, in the solution of questions on which philosophers have employed their abilities from the earliest times,
And found no end, in wand'ring mazes loft.
He denies that man was created perfect, because the system requires subordination, and because the power of losing his perfection, of rendering himself wicked and miserable, is the highest imperfeétion imaginable. Besides, the regular gradations of the scale of being required fomewhere such a creature as man with all his infirmities about him, and the total removal of those would be altering his nature, and when he became perfect he must cease to be man.
I have already spent some considerations on the scale of being, of which yet I am obliged to renew the mention whenever a new argument is made to rest upon it; and I must therefore again remark, that consequences cannot have greater certainty than the postulate from which they are drawn, and that no system can be more hypothetical than this, and perhaps no hypothesis more absurd.