« AnteriorContinuar »
good or evil, and become objects of a distinct Serm. affection, that, like others, is a spring of ac- I. tion, influencing and directing our practice. It is this that makes us moral agents, which is the most important part of our constitution. It implies not only intelligence, free agency, and direct affections to other beings, but affections arising from our reflecting upon characters, affections, and actions morally distinguished, that is, appearing good or evil to our minds, according to a certain invariable standard planted in them. Our highest enjoyment arises from self-approbation, or a consciousness of intire moral affection, and a course of morally good action, so far as human nature can attain to it. And our most intense affection to other beings, accompanied with the greatest, the purest, the most rational pleasure we know, terminates on the same characters in them, manifested by their works.
Now, if the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made ; if from the powers and capacities of the creatures we justly infer his existence and perfections ; par. ticularly, if the conscious intelligence and active powers of some beings formed by him, be a proof of his own self-original intelligence A 2
Ser M. and activity, may we not in like manner I. from the moral powers he has given to man
kind and other rational creatures infer his moral agency ? especially since this character necessarily appears to our minds the most excellent and amiable, and of all others the most important to a rational happiness. Is it possible for any man who believes God to be the father, the designing cause of spirits, of their intelligence, liberty, and all their other rational faculties and enjoyments, to doubt whether he himself is pofseffed of intelligence, liberty, and rational enjoyment? Whether fince he has indued them with a power of self-reflection, particularly, of reviewing their own affections and actions, and judging concerning their rectitude, his own actions and the principles from which they proceed, be not the object of his own underftanding and attention ? Whether having annexed the highest enjoyment to their self-approbation upon this review, and made their principal happiness to depend upon it, he poffesses the like, or a more exalted enjoyment in the approbation of his own actions and principles of action ? And this being the sum of what we mean by moral-agency, can we doubt whether God be a moral agent?
ve lupposed on
Another way of apprehending this subject, Serm. will lead us to the fame conclusion. It has 1.. been proved, * and must here be supposed, that God is the designing cause, the preserver and governor of the world, and all things in it; and from the relations and correspondencies of things which he has made, and continues to uphold, we discern his particular ends. Now this implies a Character or a Will, a permanent principle determining him to act after one particular manner, rather than another. But it has been also proved t that morality is an eminent part of the human conftitution; that is, the mind of man is so framed, as when it attains to the full exercise of its rational powers, to be necessarily sensible of moral obligations, and to have all the de- , termination to satisfy them, which is consistent with the nature of such a being, and is the nature of virtue itself, i.e. with free-agency in an imperfect state : That morality is of the greatest moment to the perfection and happiness of every individual, and the whole collective body of mankind: And therefore it must be attributed to our intelligent Creator as the true cause of it, thereby intending those very ends, the perfection and happiness of our nature, which it is naturally apt to A3
serve. * Vol. I, + Vol, I. Serm. 3:
Serm.serve. If it be so, it must then, I think, be I. allowed a just consequence, that it is the will
of God, man should practise virtue and abstain from vice, or that he approves the one, and disapproves the other. Is it possible to conceive that he should not be pleased with his intelligent creatures acting agreeably to his own designs, voluntarily fulfilling the law of theit nature; and displeased with their wilfully rebelling against it? Since he has made them capable of discerning the end of his constitution, and of acting freely either in pursuance of it, or in opposition to it, to suppose that he is indifferent to the choice and to their course of action, is absurdly to suppose that he is indifferent to the intention of his own works ; indeed, to suppose such confus fion and inconsistency in his counsels, as cannot be reconciled to any noțions of wisdom. Inanimate things are altogether passive in fulfilling his purposes; that is, they are moved and disposed of merely by his sovereign irrefistible Will. As they can never be the ob. jects of his dislike, all the complacency, he can be supposed to have in them, is properly no more than self-enjoyment, which arises from the exercise and manifestation of his own attributes, and which in proportion to, the degree of its perfections, must belong to
övery intelligent nature in a natural and SER M. happy state. But free agents are the proper ob- I. jects of his approbation or disapprobation, according as they do or do not actively comply with his will'made known to them, and with that eternal invariable reason by which his whole administration is conducted. I believe it is scarcely in our power when we think seriously, to imagine that the most perfectly wise Being is not pleased with his creatures choosing to conform themselves to the wifdom of his counsels, and displeased with such as obstinately set themselves in opposition to his will, though we ought never to impute to him any thing like that passion, which in our weak minds accompanies resentment or aversion. But it may be said, that by the same reasoning, our natural actions, such as eating and sleeping, are agreeable to the will of God; because they are the means he has appointed us to use for preserving our lives. Be it so. As natural governor of mankind, it is his will we should use the necessary means for the preservation of our lives ; as governor of moral agents, it is his will they should conduct themselves with a regard to moral deficiencies *. Therefore as the governor of such agents, (which relation is to us most important and comprehensive, and in it our . A 4
highest * Mr.4. here means, meral reftitude, as well as Deficiency,