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For MARCH 1752..


ART. XXI. Difcourfes on all the principal branches of natural religion and focial virtue. By James Fofter, D. D. vol. 2d. wsth fuitable offices of devotion. 4to.

T length we have received that entertainment from the publication of the second volume of the ingenious Dr. Fofter's difcourfes, which his bad ftate of health has fo long deprived us of; and it must afford no fmall pleasure to every one who is acquainted with the author's true character, to fee with what a large and handsome subscription it is introduced.

In the first volume of thefe excellent difcourfes (fee the first volume of our Review) the great and fundamental principles of natural religion were demonftrated with great perfpicuity and strength of reafoning; and in the volume now under our confideration, focial and relative duties are diftinctly stated, clearly and fully explained, and ftrongly enforced. In treating his fubject, our worthy author does not perplex his readers with any abftract reafonings, or metaphyfical refinements and fubtleties, which feldom reach the heart, or influence the practice; but adapts his reafonings. to the capacity of every reader who is endued with a moderate fhare of reflection, and endeavours, throughout the whole of his work, to strike those inward feelings of huma nity and benevolence, which the all-wife and gracious author of our frame has implanted in every breaft, as the feeds of virtue and the most durable happiness. M

Vol. VII.


In the first chapter he attempts a particular explanation of the true ground of all facial morality, which he thinks may be deduced from the focial nature and character of man.

The entire community of mankind is, fays he, in an allufive fenfe, juftly reprefented as one grand and vast body; in the plan of the creator, of admirable conftitution, and moft excelling order, and formed for the nobleft purposes of reafonable life, intermingling benevolence, moral rectitude, and happiness. And from hence it follows, that the relations of men to men, and of each to the whole, muft, while the present state of things continues, be indiffoluble; their dependance mutual, univerfal, eternal; their right to all humane and focial offices unalienable; their interefts ftrictly united and infeparable. Thus has the almighty fource of being, and parent of good, founded, and established, the widely extended community of mankind, to be enlivened, and cherished, by a spirit of benevolence, diffused through all its parts; and given it a rank, fuited to its powers, amongst intelligent and moral orders, the moft fublime and glorious of all his works.

• What the members of the natural body are to each other, and with refpect to the whole body, that the rational human members are among themselves, and as parts of the complete conflitution and fociety of men. There are very

few exceptions, that can, I think, be made to the general comparison; and scarce one perhaps, in thofe effential inftances, on which alone the allufion is grounded. In the outward corporeal structure, there are no jarrings and contrarieties; there is no fuch thing as a detached member, all whofe functions terminate in itself. This would introduce the utmost diforder and confufion; render the body of man, as a compound frame, quite unferviceable and ufelefs; and blot out all the characters of adoreable divine wisdom, that are now so strongly engraven upon it: nay, the consequence, in many cafes, muft be, the immediate and utter extinction of animal life.

On the contrary, on what does its health, its eafe, its very fubfiftence, as a fenfitive machine, its miniftration to the foul, and to the high purposes of reafon, fo evidently depend, as on the nice proportion and adjuftment, and the harmonious concurring operation, of its various parts ? might not a man altogether as well want a head, a heart, eyse, hands, and the like, as not have them united, and confpiring in their influence, for common prefervation and defence


In like manner, when man indulges to narrow and contracted views, and consults, and acts, for himself alone, as if he was an unallied, self-sufficient, and independent frame; are not all his benevolent affections, all his natural powers of doing good, in effect represented as abfurd and vain; as fit only to be difcouraged, and rooted out of the foul! Is not the life of reafon loft! The focial, the divine life! employed in the moft exalted purfuits, and abounding in the pureft and sweetest pleasures, that human nature is capable of! And if the glowings of humanity were univerfally checked, and repreffed, and the mutual communication of kind and friend ly offices univerfally fufpended, what could this open to our view, but one wide and general scene of distress and mifery! What could it portend lefs, than inevitable ruin to the whole fpecies!

To openness of heart, and mutual confidence, would then fucceed everlasting distrusts, and uneafy fufpicions; to delight in the profperity of others, a malignant spirit of envy; to concord and harmony, difunion, and alienation of affection; to compaffion, hardness of heart. These are the neceffary attendants of a felfifh unfocial difpofition. And they, in their turn, must propagate and spread the mischief much farther; begetting mutual reproaches and animofities; rage, revilings, cool deliberate malice, and other inflamed and unnatural paffions; which deface the light and luftre, and the ftrong tendencies to good, which, in the language of the fon of Syrac, God originally poured out over all his rational works; and anticipate the blackeft horrors of hell itself.

• That mankind therefore are a fociety, or fyftem, linked together by inviolable bonds of reafon, inftinct, intereft, no one who has examined his own inward frame, or made obfervations on the general propenfities, and workings, of human nature in others; no one, who has reflected juftly on the fatal confequences of the contrary scheme, can be tempted to doubt. That this is a fentiment, which most powerfully inforces univerfal benevolence, and Sympathy, that enlarges and raises the heart, above the influence of every base-earthborn paffion, that inspires it with great defigns of public usefulness, and gives it god like feelings; the generous and good experience, and have ever allowed. There can be no true religion, no right knowledge of God, or of his immutable laws of nature and providence, where this is not admitted, as a fundamental principle; and all the duties of focial morality may be deduced, and in a great measure, derive their obligation, from it. And accordingly we find, that St. Paul

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has wifely affigned it, as a reason, the firft and chief reafon (within the Jcope of which all others are comprehended) why we fhould put away lying, and Speak every man truth with his neighbour.'

After this our author proceeds to obferve, that the Social character of man is not accidental, and acquired, but natural -that man is formed by nature a moral focial being, with a view to his own happiness---and that the idea of men, as a community, neceffarily implies in it, that there is a governor of this community, to whom the whole, and every individual member of it, is accountable. • And from hence, says he, it appears, that the authority of God is moft properly introduced, to fupport the obligation of all relative duties. The focial nature, from whence they spring, the motives by which they are enforced, the pleasures which they yield at prefent, the happiness, to which they ultimately tend, are all his wife contrivance and conftitution. Without him, nature, and all its laws, are no more than empty founds, without a meaning. By his influence and power, they are invigorated; feparated from him they die, or are reduced to a ftate of non-existence.

Can we then, without renouncing our reason, confider any thing as a natural, and not regard it likewife, as a divine, law? Can any office in fociety, be a dictate of nature, which is not, at the fame time, a duty of piety? Can we esteem ourselves to be truly moral men, for treating, with a becoming tenderness and refpect, the inferior members of the great community, to which we belong; when God, the founder, the head, the life of it, is not in all our thoughts? It is, moft furely, an inexcuseable omiffion, to drop the confideration of God, in any branch of human duty; on whose being, preservation, and government, the universe, and all its parts, do continually depend.—

So that, upon the whole, we are hereby plainly taught, the grofs abfurdity of endeavouring, in any inftance whatever, to separate morality from religion; fince even in relative duties, to which the notion of morality is chiefly confined, it is impoffible to exclude a reverence of God, and a ferious regard to his will and conftitution: or, if we act reafonably and wifely, to avoid confidering them in a religious, as well as in an abstracted moral, light.'

The doctor having, in the firft chapter, difcourfed of the focial nature of man, and the univerfal obligations arifing from it, proceeds, in the fecond, to fhew the great importance of a confcientious and ftrict difcharge of relative du

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ties, and to enumerate the principles, that are neceffary to be habitually impreffed on our minds, together with the rules to be obferved, in the government of our temper and conduct; that we may be the better prepared to behave with honour and usefulness to others, in every relation. The best general preparation, for an exact and chearful discharge of all relative duties he tells us, is a benevolent honeft heart. Where benevolence is wanting, fays he, there is wanting likewise, the very temper of fociety; its animating fpirit, and the fpring of its moft enobling pleasures; and where honefly, it is abfurd to expect, that any regard will be paid to the most important focial offices, when they interfere with corrupt and finifter views of private advantage. In a word selfishness cannot, and art and diffimulation will not, act steadily for the common good, or in support of the mutual equitable rights of mankind.'

In order to our discharging our duty properly in every relation of life, he lays down the following directions-That, before we enter into any relation, we set ourselves to examine with care, what are the duties, which it especially requires; what kind of behaviour will render us moft agreeable, and useful, to those with whom we are concerned, and beft fubferve the general good---That we expect not perfection in any, nor lay too much stress on nice punctilio's of honour, and refpect---That we make favourable interpretations, and the most indulgent candid allowances, in all cafes, that the nature of the cafes themselves will bear---. That we animadvert not, too frictly, on little failings and indifcretions; nor be over-rigid, in cenfuring greater mifcarriages; which appear to have proceeded from precipitation, overfight, want of due reflection, and the like, and not from a vicious malevolent heart, or a real intention to offend-That we avoid morofenefs, which quickly fpreads and propagates itself, and makes others fullen and difobliging; unjust fufpicions, which are the bane of friendship, and deftroy mutual confidence; exceffes of paffion, which blind the understanding, that it cannot form a right jndgment; and pride, one of the most turbulent, and unfociable, of the bad principles, by which human nature is actuated; the parent of discord, and averfe to every office of humanity--And finally, that we preferve a calm temper, or if it happens to be at any time inflamed and irritated, allay the ferment, and reduce it to a state of composure and tranquility, as foon as poffible; that, being free from inward perturbation, we may the more regularly attend, to our own incum

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