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entertaining; but especially the principle of univerfal benevolence, the fupremacy of that moral faculty by which we are made to approve it, those several diftinct propensities which are implanted in our natures in fubordination to it; fuch as parental tenderness and filial affection, the love of our friends and country, and the ftrong emotions of fympathy towards the afflicted and diftreffed, and the intire confent and beauteous harmony obfervable between these public and generous affections, and the principle of selflove, together with those particular paffions and appetites, which more immediately terminate in its gratification; by all which the wifeft and most immediate provifion is made not only for the happiness of individuals, but for the good and welfare of the whole: what, I fay, is or can be the refult of thefe more particular and diftinct inquiries, but a fuller and more ftriking demonftration of the goodness and loving-kindness of the fupreme creator and governor of the world? And the moft extravagant folly muft it be, to a fcribe fuch an univerfal tendency to happiness in the very frame, conftitution, and first principles of things, fupported and kept up by fuch nice dependencies, fuch wonderful connexions, fuch regular and flated order, and appearing in fo much magnificence and grandeur, and throughout such a vaft extent of being, to any thing but the determined, diffufive goodness of the great Creator, propofing and defigning the happiness of his creatures as the very end of bringing them into exiftence. A mixture of evil is indeed abundantly apparent in the present ftate of things. But how prepofterous muft it be, to fuffer this to preponderate against a general tendency to good, and a prevailing evidence of kind and friendly intention in the univerfe? especially when it is confidered, that, in a plan of boundless extent, and contrived by infinite wisdom, there muft, of neceffity, be many things, the particular intent of which, and their connexion with the good of the whole, cannot be difcerned by beings of finite and limited capacities; whose views and apprehenfions of fuch a fcheme muft at beft be very partial and defective. And yet what repeated and manifold inftances have we, in the prefent world, both of the good tendency and effect of these fo highly complained of evils, and the valuable purposes to which the infinite wifdom of God renders the confequences of men's wicked, and by them ill intended actions, fubfervient. And how many other inftances must there undoubtedly be of the like kind, which have not fallen within our particular obferva
tion and view? From whence we may naturally and juftly conclude, with refpect to thofe appearing evils, the good effect of which do not take place in the prefent world, that fuch effect will certainly be the refult in that future ftate, which, from the present order and condition of things, and from our natural notions of the divine perfections, is fo clearly and ftrongly inferred; the knowledge or discovery of which ought therefore to be confidered as a part of the prefent fyftem, and taken into our account, when eftimating the evidence it affords of a friendly and all-perfect go.vernment in nature.’
He now comes to fhew, that the goodness of God involves in the very idea of it all the other moral perfections of his nature; fuch as juftice, patience, mercy and faithfulness: and then confiders fome of the general characters and properties of this comprehenfive attribute. He obferves, that the divine goodness is free and difinterested, univerfal and unconfined, extending itself even to the offending and difobedient; that it always purfues its defigns, according to thofe rules and measures which infinite wifdom points out as most effectual for accomplishing them; and that, as the completion and glory of all, it is immutable and everlasting.
After this he proceeds to the fecond head of his discourse, which is, to fhew, that our imitation of the moral perfections of God includes in it the whole of religion and human duty. Under this head he observes, that the fame general temper or difpofition of mind may eafily be fuppofed to manifest itself in different ways, according to the different ranks which thofe, who are fuppofed to be poffeffed of it, bear in the general order and fcale of beings, or in particular focieties; that this is in fact the cafe with respect to men, amongst whom the principle of virtue, though one and the fame, exerts itfelf with a diverfity answerable to the different relations and circumftances of life and that thus we may eafily conceive how the infinite goodness of the Deity in his univerfal government may be imitated by his creatures in the practice of the particular virtues that fuit their ftations and relative characters. He concludes this head, and his first discourse upon the subject, with obferving, that there are fome general properties of human virtue neceffary to its being genuine and acceptable, which immediately and directly correfpond to the general descrip- tion that was given of divine goodness.
Our author having, in his first discourse, given a fhort view of the moral perfections of God, ahd fhewn, that our imitation of them includes in it the whole of religion and human duty, proceeds, in the second, to point out the advantages of confidering religion as an imitation of God, `and the motives, recommending it to our approbation and purfuit, which naturally arife from this view of it."
He obferves, that, by confidering religion under this notion, we may fee its amiablenefs and beauty in the strongest light and to the best advantage; and that from this view of religion, there arifes an immediate and diftinct proof, not only of its amiablenefs and excellency, but likewife of its binding and obligatory nature, and of its being, in the ftrictest and most proper fenfe, the standing and immutable law of that rational and moral kingdom, of which we are fubjects and members, and God the great fovereign and head-that, by confidering religion as confifting in the imitation of God, we may fee, in the ftrongest point of view, the abfolute and unalterable neceffity of it, in order to our obtaining his favour, and that happiness which is its immediate refult, and our avoiding his difpleafure and, the mifery that must be confequent upon it; that, by viewing religion and moral virtue in this light, we may be made moft deeply fenfible of the great imperfection and deficiency, of our prefent attainments in it, and thus have a conftant motive before our eyes, exciting us to a farther and more ardent purfuit; and that the confideration of religion as an imitation of God will be the moft effectual defence and fecurity, againft our being influenced or enfnared by the evil example of those who difregard and neglect it as a thing mean and contemptible.
After this he proceeds to make fome natural and useful reflexions upon the fubject. And firft, fays he, from what has been faid, we may learn of how much importance it is to form right and worthy notions of God. We have been obferving, that, as the character of God is infinitely excellent and amiable, and cannot but appear fo to the judgment and apprehenfion of all men, the confidering religion as an imitation of that character must be confidering it in the moft amiable light, and under a view that is moft likely to engage us to the practice of it: but then this is only upon the fuppofition of the infinite goodness of the divine nature, and the unchangeable loving-kindness and mercy of the divine government in the univerfe. And when once we come to conceive of God in any other light,
as an arbitrary fovereign, as a revengeful, unrelenting being, demanding ftrict and rigorous fatisfaction for every the leaft offence, difpenfing good and evil amongst his creatures, not according to the dictates of goodnefs and the measures of justice, but by mere capricious will; we must then, of neceffity, either look upon religion to be fomething different from the character of God, and even opposite to it, or else entertain false notions of religion itself, and be led to look upon that as an acceptable fervice to God, which is in fact the greatest affront to the effential and most glorious perfections of his nature. It is true indeed that many of those who are fo unhappy as to form fome fuch apprehenfions as thefe of the Deity, do ftill allow, acknowledge, and even contend for his infinite and unchangeable goodness: but how greatly muft the loveliness and beauty of this divine attribute be fullied and obfcured to our view, by notions thus directly inconfiftent with it? Efpecially when we confider how apt men are to be more fondly impreffed with those opinions which are the growth of fuperftition, and of an imagination terrified and awed by the name of mystery, than with those that flow from pure nature, and the plain and obvious meaning of the chriftian records. And when we confider, as has likewife been obferved, that nothing is more natural than for men to conceive of religion as confifting in an imitation of God, and to look upon it as the will and law of their maker, with refpect to their temper and conduct, that they should imitate his own character, what can have a more direct tendency to weaken and pervert our natural sense of right and wrong, and to debafe and corrupt our notions of moral obligation, than falfe and unworthy apprehenfions of divine perfections? It has been farther ob ferved, that, by confidering religion as an imitation of God, we immediately fee the abfolute neceffity of it, in order to our obtaining his favour, and avoiding his dif pleasure but if we conceive of God as having no uniform character at all, but as acting by mere humour and sovereign will, this may eafily lead us to imagine, that, by fome flight and trivial performances of the external kind only, we may avert his displeasure, and become his favourites. And to what elfe can we afcribe those many idle and superftitious methods that have been invented and practifed by men, with a view of rendering themselves acceptable to their maker, than their not fufficiently attending to his invariable moral character, from whence it would fo evidently appear, that nothing but inward righteousness and
goodness and a prevailing temper of virtue could recommend to his favour, and that this would moft certainly do it, whatever elfe was wanting? We have indeed many inftances of perfons, who have very mean, falfe and unworthy notions of God, and are yet of a moft amiable temper and character. But tho' fuch perfons are so happy as not to be corrupted by their own falfe opinions, yet ftill they must lose all the advantages that naturally arise from entertaining juft and honourable notions of God and religion. And if, with all these disadvantages of fentiment, they are of fo virtuous and excellent a difpofition, how much more might they be fuppofed to excel and improve in every great and amiable quality of foul, if, befides the other motives to virtue, they had thofe additional ones, which would arise from more correct and amiable ideas of the divine attributes and character? And how much is it to be lamented, that the kindly temper and native sweetness of humanity, which, with a juft and due cultivation, is capable of being improved into the moft generous and exalted virtue, fhould (as it is to be feared is in innumerable inftances the cafe) be checked and borne down, nay, almost destroyed and rooted out by dishonourable, gloomy, and unnatural fentiments of religion and of God? By fuch confiderations as thefe, let us all be induced to take the utmost care, in endeavouring to form the trueft and moft exact judgment, upon that moft interefting and fundamental article, the divine character and perfections. And to this purpose, let us lay afide all the prejudices and prepoffeffions of partyfchemes, and study nature and the gospel.'
He obferves, in the fecond place, the great excellency and value of the chriftian religion, in that it prefents to our view fuch plain and clear, fuch juft and worthy principles upon this most important fubject; and, in the laft place, the inconfiftency of attempting to feparate piety and virtue, either in fpeculation or in practice.
ART. XXXVI. A difcourfe on the preparation of the body for the Small-Pox, and the manner of receiving the infection. As it was delivered in the public hall of the academy, before the trustees, and others, November 21, 1750. By Adam Thomson, physician in Philadelphia. 4to, 6 d. Wil
His author acquaints us with his motives for publish-