« AnteriorContinuar »
had been men of dishonest principles, they would uge doubtedly have revoked their testimony to save their lives. As they could get nothing in this world by their teftimony, it can never be imagined they would have persisted in it, if they had not been very sure that How fiah had returned from sea. And they could not but be: sure of this, because their friend had been abfent but à few days. Conducted by such reasoning, almost all that: knew the story are fully satisfied that their evidence is true, and that Hosiah was really preserved, and restored to his country: yet still the Emperor would not be convinced, but settled Hosiah's brother in poffeffion of the whole estate.
The reader, who is no way interested in the story, one way or another, and who can judge freely, without : any influence of worldly hope or fear, will undoubtedly. condemn the Emperor as very partial, unreasonable, and cruel. It is a plain cafe, he ought to have believed
e evidence of eight fuch substantial witnesses, and to : have restored Hosiah to his estate, i
As the reader has already condemned the unreasonable conduct of the partial Emperor, he is entreated to coin-:. pare with it the conduct of those who neglect or refuse the testimony of the apostles, concerning the resurrection , of our Lord Jesus Christ. If the intimate acquaintance, that Hosiah's friends had with him for above three years together, made it impoffible for them to be mistaken in the man, the intimate acquaintance of the apostles with Chrift, for full as long a time, must have made it equally impossible for them to be deceived by any one that should come to them in his name, and converse familiarly with them for forty days together. If Hofiah's friends demonstrated their fincerity, by giving up all the comforts of life, and life itself, rather than fevoke their testimony, there is, at least, as much proof of the fince- , rity of the apostles, in testifying the resurrection of Je- . sus, since they were so far from getting any thing in this world by fpeaking in his favour, that, on tbe contrary a
by this means they lost all the comforts and accommo. dations of this world, and even their own lives. The writers of the New Testament are eight, who all concur. in giving the same testimony. Now, I would defire to know of any man, whether he would not receive the testimony of the eight men of Morocco before mentioned; and whether he does not blame the Emperor for not believing them, when they gave the strongest polfible proof of their testimony, by fealing it with their blood ? If so, let him consider whether he is not much moré unreasonable if he does not believe the refurrection of Christ upon the testimony of the eight writers of the New Testament, and of many others also, who likewise sealed their testimony with their blood ? Whatever réafons he can give for believing the friends of Hofiah, will equally, at least, oblige him to believe the disciples of Jesus. And if he will not believe them (though they could not be mistaken, and proved by their sufferings, that they were sincere in their teftimony), I fhould be glad to be informed for what reason he would believe the friends of Hosiah. A serious comparison of these things must needs fatisfy any impartial searcher after truth, that the apostles have given us sufficient evi. dence of the resurrection of Jesus, and if that one fact be true, the whole scriptures which we call sacred, are justly lo entitled, and worthy of all acceptation.
ON THE EVIL OF SIN. . .in Question. T THETHER there be evidence that
u VV fin is infinitely evil? Answer. The beauty of virtue, and the deformity of vice, both arise, I suppose, from the relation they bear to the happiness of the system in general, and the af. pect they have upon it. The worth of virtue arises from its tendency to general happiness; and the demesit and hatefulness of vice, from its tendency to misery, Could it be that there were no more tendency either to happiness or misery, in the one, than in the other, they would be equally indifferent in resped of praiser worthiness, and the reverse. . Happiness is, itself, a real good, and to be valued for its own fake; misery a real evil, and for its own fake to be deprecated. For this reason, those moral exercises and actions of creatures which, in themselves, tend to the former, are of seal intrinsic worth; those which have a like tendency to the latter, are intrinsically hateful and deformed. -.We know of no other rule by which we can estimate the degree of worth or deformity of these different actions and exercises, than the degree of advantage or disadvantage, respecting the general happiness which, in a natural course of things, will arise from the practice of the one or of the other. Every moral action which, in its genuine tendency, contributes something to the general good, is praiseworthy; and the degree of its praiseworthiness is in proportion to what it contributes to the general interest, just as the value or worth of a contribution, made by a particular member of a general partnership, is to be estimated by the increase it makes in the common stock, Those moral actions which, in their genuine tendency of operation, contribute largely to the common interest, the general suin and stock of happiness, poffess a proportionably large share of merit and 'worth. On this ground it appears, that God's virtue is of infinite worth; also, that the merit and work of the virtue of Jesus Christ are infinite,
On the other hand; as the evil of fin arises from the injury it does to the general interest, or the tendency it has, in its genuine course and operation, to obstruct the happiness of the system, and produce misery in it; its demerit, or the degree of its hatefulness, is to be eftimated by the hurt which, in the comipon and natusal course of things, it actually duth; the happiness it destroys, and the misery it produceth. Thefe, I fuppore, are the general rules by which crimes are estimated among men, both by the legislative and judicial powers; and thole, in part at least, by which punishments are apportioned to them.
" Curles is ourd,
By this rule, if it be just, it will appear, that there is more demerit in vice than there is merit in the creat türe's virtue; as every one will readily conceive, that a creature is capable of doing more mischief than he is good. According to this rule, the holy scriptures evic dently estiinate the virtues and the vices of men. In relation to the former, Christ says, Luke xvii. 10... So likewise ye, when ye have done all those things whichi are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants : we have done that which is our duty to do." But, on the other hand, « Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Gal. in. 10. • If a man make me a present of ten dollars, it is a benefit;--a benefit, however, greatly disproportioned to the injury he does me, if he feal the same sum froin me.By the present, my own enjoyments are increased; and I am enabled to do more good to my neighbours. But, by the theft, my own private enjoyments are diminished, to a degree far exceeding their increase by the present : For, by the theft, I not only suffer the direct and immediate loss of that fum, but also all my remaining interest, and even my own personal safety are rendered insecure. Nor does the mifchief Atop here. For, if there be not a power fome where, and that too put into immediate exertion, for laying an effectuat restraint upon the thief, the whole neighbourhood are flung into terror, and necessarily feel all their intereft and fafety to be endangered. The mischief still proceeds, and naturally extends through the whole community: and, if it be found that there is no power to fupprefs and, punith theft, government is diffolved, the community Aung into confufion, and all safety and intereft rendered doubtful and insecure. If this group of evils be the neceffary consequence, e. g. of a piece of theft, according to a common course of nature, it is, hence, manifeft, that a person may do much more hurt than it is in his power to do good. The exertion of the powers of the community to prevent the evils which would otherwise come upon society, do not at all diminish the crime of
the theft ; if it did, the effe&ual exertions of the power of God for preventing any real effential detriment to the moral system, by the rebellion which has taken place in it, would wholly take away the evil of sin. The criminality of theft, therefore, may justly be estimated by the mischiefs which, in a common course of nature, would be its necessary effects, unless restrained, and its natural tendency counteracted by some foreign power, fome extriolic force; and every crime ought to be estimated by the mischiefs which it tends, in this sense, to produce, without making any abatement on account of the actual prevention of these mischiefs, by the wise and timely exertions of some foreign power. : It cannot be said with propriety and truth, on the other hand, that the tendency of virtuous action, to the general interest and happiness, is equally extensive. Granting, that a present of ten dollars to any one should diffuse happiness among a number, this effect muft arise, either from the expectation it begets in others of receiving an equal sum, or from the exercise of those benevolent affections whereby we rejoice in every accession of good to our neighbour. If the happiness produced by the present arise from the former consideration, it cannot be very extensve; nor can it be diffused among any considerable number: for a present of such a sum to a man, from a kind and generous friend, gives very little realon to the neighbours, in general, to expect a similar fruit of generosity. For, we all know there are but few persons, however benevolent and generous, who have it in their power to make any very large number of such presents. Besides, taking mankind as they are, the fact is, that such an instance of generosity to a particular friend as frequently excites heart-burnings, and a spirit of envy in others, as it does gratitude and joy. But if the general joy diffused on such an occafion arise from the exercise of benevolent affections, which are gratified by the bestowment of blessings, on whoinever the benefit be more immediately conferred; this good is to be ascribed not to the virtue of the donor, as its genuine and natural