« AnteriorContinuar »
ing, or not making reason the general rule and measure of their actions, so thac men of strong reason, are those who generally act agreeable to reason, and thereby controul their ap petites and passions more easily, and with less reluctancy; and men of strong appetites are such as generally follow what their natural appetites lead them to desire, and thereby those appetites are restrained with greater reluctancy; then, I say, that to be of strong or of weak reason, &c. is a matter of free choice to every man: because he may make either reason, or appetite, the rule of action to himself, as he pleases. So that neither reason, nor appetite, let them be considered in what way foever, necessarily determine men to act, as is here fupposed. Again,
Ninthly, It is urged that man is under a necessity to act, if he is influenced by any motive whatever, provided some equal or greater motive doth not hinder, and experience is urged, as proof, in the present case. Upon which I observe, that motives, arising from the same branch of the constitution, may be greater, or less ; but motives, which arise from different branches of the constitucion, admit of no comparison. As thus, my desire io drink may be greater, or less, as the liquor is more or less desirable, or as my thirstiness is greater or less, which excites that desire; and the reasonabless or unreasonableness of my gratifying that desire may be greater, or less, in proportion to the greater or less good, or evil, I may sustain thereby: but if reason and appetite come in competition, it is not the greater or less motive, with respect to these, but a freedom of election which is the foundation of action, with respect to either. For tho motives from appetites may be stronger, or weaker, as I observed, when compared with each other, and tho motives from reason may admit of the like distinction, yet a motive from appetite and a motive from reason cannot be greater, or less, with respect to each other, because there is not any foundation in nature for such a distinction. And, therefore, when men judge that a person is under a necessity to act from any motive whatever, if some equal or greater motive doth not hinder, because, they think, they experience this to be their case; all that they experience, I think, is only this; viz. that, with respect to action, fometimes they follow their reason, and sometimes their appetite, when it is a matter of free choice to them, which of these they will follow. And whichsoever of these they do follow, that is, whichsoever of these is to them the ground or reason of action, that, in that instance, they call the strongest motive; and the motive whose persuasive influence they reject, that, in this instance, they call the weakest ; the determination itself being the only ground of that distinction.
These few points I have here taken notice of, because I would remove every difficulty which the principle of liberty, and which, I think, is the truth of the cafe, may be supposed to be incumbered with. I will conclude with recommending one thing to my reader's consideración; viz. if action in man, allowing the expression to be the produce of 11cessity; then, self-consciousness of the good, or evil, of our actions is a gross delusion; because it was not in a man's power to have done otherwise than le did; and the pleasure, or unhappiness, which naturally flows from such a consciousness, is, in reason, groundless. But, I think, the principle of selfconsciousness of the good, or evil, of our actions, which naturally introduces happiness, or unhappiness, as aforesaid, is natural, and a part of the human constitution; and if this be the case as, I think, it is, then, surely, it will be allowed, that the placing such a principle in the human constitution must be wrong, because it is an unreasonable introduction to misery: and, if so, then, I think, it will be difficult to account for such wrong conduct in God, that is, for his placing such a principle of self-consciousness in man which, in reason, ought not to be in him, whether we consider action in God, as the produce of liberty, or necessity.
If it should be said, that tho the pleasure and uneasiness, which naturally flow from a consciousness of the good, or evil, of our actions, are, in reality, groundless; yet this answers a good purpose, by leading men to the practice of the like good actions, and preventing them from practising the like evil ones, and, therefore, such a consciousness was rightly placed in human nature. I answer, The remorse and uneahness of mind, which flows from the consciousness of having done a bad action, is very often the immediate attendant of those actions, which are the grounds of it; and tho those bitter reflections will, upon fome occafons, return upon a man ; yet it is feldom, when he is in the persuit of any enjoyment, but rather, when those persuits are over, and he is taking a review of them, or when under some affli&tion, or at the apprehension of death, and at such times as not to answer the purposes of restraint to him. So that the consciousness of having done a bad a on is not only groundless in itself, but it is an unreasonable introduction to misery, supposing action in man to be the produce of necesity.
TRE A TISE XXIX.
GLORI of C HRIST:
OR, A Discourse upon those Words, as they are in St. Paul's second Epistle
to the Corinthians, Chap. viii. Verse 23. Wherein is shewn, That the Christian Salvation is the only proper Expedient to take away Divine Displeasure, and to render Men truly acceptable and wellpleasing to God. Humbly offer’d to the Consideration of the Mo
dern Deists. I T will be needless for me to enquire, who was the author of this epistle, and
to whom it was sent? This being specified in the title; namely, that it was. wrote by the Apostle St. Paul, and was directed to the Corinthians; that is,
to the Christians at Corinth, an antient city in Greece. Neither shall I, at present, concern myself to enquire into the subject of this epistle, any farther than to
observe, that as the Christians, at that time in Yudea, were driven into great streights and difficulties, thro the violent persecutions which the Jews stirr'd up against them; fo St. Paul, who sympathiz'd with them in their afflictions, did all he could to render their burden as easy to them as possible. And, accordingly, he took care to acquaint the several churches, which were under his inspection, with the afficted state of their brethren in Judea; and callid upon them to raise contributions for their relief. And; thus, he address’d himself to the Corinthians, provoking them by the example of the great liberality of their neighbours, the Macedonians; and stirring them up, by many other arguments, to a chearful and a generous distribution of their charity. Upon this occasion, he likewise sent Titus and others to Corinth, to collect and receive their contribucions; men who had devoted themselves to promote the common tranquillity, and, therefore, were highly worthy of such a trust. And, as it was very natural and proper for the Corinthians to enquire,' who or what the persons were, by whose hand they should send this gift? fo St. Paul took care to satisfy them in this particular, by giving them a character, in the verse of which the text is a part.
Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellow-helper concerning you: cr cur brethren be enquird of, they are the messengers of the churches and the glory of Christ. As much as if he had said, if any ask the character of Titus, I presume, this will satisfy ; he is my partner in the labours and sufferings of the gospel, and assisted me much in my travels and preaching to the Gentiles. Or, if our brethren, whom I have sent with, him, be enquir’d of, they are persons of such reputation, and whose character and conduct are so well approv'd of by the churches, that they have constituted them their messengers. · Yea, they are such, upon whom the gospel has had its genuine effect, and who reflect back great bonour upon its author : they are the glory of Christ. As the success of any undertaking crowns the attempt, and gives glory to the undertaker; and as every performance brings more or less glory to the performer, as it more or less answers the design: so Christ receiv'd much glory from the brethren whom St. Paul sent to Corinth, inasmuch as the purposes of his ministry were answer'd upon them. The gospel of Christ had made such an impression upon their minds, as that they could willingly forego their own ease, pleasure, and profit, when their labour and service became useful and necessary to the common good. And, accordingly, they took upon them that long, laborious, and hazardous work, of going from place to place, in the provinces of Greece, to collect the churches contributions, for relieving their distressed
ersecution, and to carry what they had thus collected to Palestine. This I call a long, laborious, and hazardous undertaking; whether they t led from Greece to Yudea, by land, or by fea. And, thus, these brethren gave a noble instance of the blessed effects of the gospel of Christ, when it is receiv'd as it ought to be; and, thus, Christ receiv'd much glory from them. They were the glory of Christ. This is the character St. Paul gives of the persons referid to, which certainly render'd them worthy of that trust, he desir'd the Corinthians might repose in them. Having shewn the occasion, and given the finge of the text; two things naturally offer themselves to be consider’d, viz. first, What was the grand purpose of Christ's mission? And, secondly, how the means he used were adapted to answer that design? These two points being discuss’d, from hence it
will easily and evidently appear, in the third place, What it is to glorify Christ and who they are that in reality do so. And,
First, I am to consider, What was the grand purpose of Christ's mision? And, here, if we examine those sacred records, which relate to his person and ministry, and which alone are capable of giving us satisfaction in the present case; we shall find, that the great end which Christ had to prosecute, and for which he was sent into this world, was to take away divine displeasure, and to render men acceptable and well-pleasing to God. Thus, it was prophesied of him, lfaiah xlix. 6. That he should be given for a light to the Gentiles; and that he should be for salvation unto the ends of the earth, Acts xii. 47. Thus, Zachariah rejoiced at the birth of John the Baptist, because he was to be the Prophet of the Highest, who was to give the knowledge of salvation to his people, by the remillion of their fins, Luke i. 77. Thus, the angel, at Christ's birth, faluteth the shepherds with this joyful acclamacion, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, á Saviour, which is Christ the Lord, Luke ii. 10, II. And, thus, Christ declar'd concerning himself, that he was come to save that which was lost, as in Matt. xviii. 11. And that he was come, not to destroy men's lives, but to save them, as in Luke ix. 5, 6. And that he came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke xix. 10. And that he came not to judge the world, but to save it, yohn xii. 47. And, thus, by way of eminence, Christ is call’d a Saviour, and the Saviour, and the like, Aits v. 30, 31. Chap. xiii. 23. Phil. iii. 20. 1 Tim. i. 10. Tit. i. 4. 1 John iv. 14. Thus, again, Christ's gospel is callid salvation, Acts xiii. 26. Chap. xxviii. 28. Rom. i. 16. Eph. i. 13. In short, Christ's gospel is call'd the ministry of reconciliation; and he is said to reconcile us to God, 2 Cor. v. 18, 19. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ; and bath committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation, to wit, that God was, in Chrift, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. From all which, I think, it abundantly appears, that the grand end and purpose of Christ's ministry was to take away divine displeasure, and to render men acceptable and well-pleasing to God: which was the first point that lay before me to be consider'd. And, now, I proceed to the
Second, namely, to fhew, How the means, Christ made use of, were adapted to anfwer that design. But, before I do this, there is one thing which is very necessary to be enquir’d into, viz. what it is, in the nature of the thing, which renders men the suitable and proper objects of divine displeasure? For, when we have thus discovered the disease, then, we shall be much better qualify'd to discern and judge, whether the means, Christ made use of, were a proper remedy against it? That, then, which I am, at present, to enquire into, is this; viz. what it is, in the nature of the thing, which renders men the suitable and proper objets of divine displeasure? And this, I think, will easily appear, when we consider, what kind of creature man is, as he came out of his Maker's hand, viz. that he is a dependent creature, who, in his natural composition, is framed and constituted for fo. ciety. By a dependent creature, I mean, that every individual has a mutual dependence upon each other; and that man, when consider'd alone, is not qualified zo be happy: because, in a single capacity, he is not capable of procuring the
comforts, nor guarding against the evils of life. And, by being fram'd and constituted for society, I mean, that man's natural appetites, his affections, his understanding, and his speech qualify him for, and dispose him to society; and that the greatest part of his enjoyment arises from society. So that, I think, it may be said with strict justice, that man is a social creature, or a creature, who, in his natural composition, is framed and constituted for society, or for the being happy with others of his kind. And as man is, thus, fitly constituted to promote and carry on the common happiness; so he is capable of the contrary. Each and every of his appetites and passions are capable of being vitiated, by being exercised upon wrong objects, or by being indulged to an excess: by which means, man becomes a disagreeable and hurtful creature; and is so far from contributing to the common good, that, on the contrary, his selfish, brutal, and inhuman temper and conduct stands as a bar to it. And, when, or wherever this is the case, such men must be exceeding vile and disagreeable in the eyes of God, their minds and conduct being directly opposite to the mind and conduct of their Maker, and their designs and endeavours being to frustrate and disappoint God's kind intentions towards his creatures.
God is a Being, in whom all moral perfections take place, in the highest degree: and, therefore, as selfishness could not possibly be the motive, which induc'd him to call any of his creatures into being; so, of course, it must be true goodness; that is, a true regard to the happiness and well-being of the creatures themselves, which excited him to it. And as this planet is made a convenient habitation for a multitude of creatures, who have a mutual dependence upon each other, and whose happiness is bound up in the happiness of the whole, if I may so speak, so the common felicity was the common and the only end, which Gód propos'd, in giving being to this world. And as God has made man a social creature; fo the happiness of society, or, in other words, the publick good, was the great end which God intended that man should be in the persuit of, and to which all his actions should be principally directed. And when man carefully persues the great end of his creation, by rendering himself an agreeable and useful creature; then, of course, he renders himself agreeable and lovely in the eyes of his Maker. And, on the other side, when he opposes this end, and sets himself as a bar to the common felicity, he must lay a just foundation for divine displeasure. I shall not take upon me to Thew, how many ways, and in what instances, men are injurious to the common-wealth; it being sufficient to my present purpose, to observe, that when men covetoufy persue their own pleasures and desires, when they are injurious to others, and obstruct the common felicity; they, then, in the nature of the thing, become the proper objeets of God's displeasure. Surely, nothing can be more provoking to such a wife and good Being as God is, than for a moral agent, design'd and constituted to promote a common happiness; for such an one to kick against his Maker, by disappointing his gracious purposes, and by introducing that misery into being, which he was design’d to prevent. And yet this is the cate of every wicked man, who, by his disagreeable and unsocial temper and conduct, cbstructs the common felicity. "Having, thus, discover'd the diseases, by Thewing, ikat it is, in the nature of the thing, which renders men the suitable and proper objects of divine displeasure? I, now, proceed to the remedy; namely, to Thew, How the means, C)rift made use of, become a proper expedient, to take away