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be a juft oeconomy of Providence, to admit one part of mankind into heaven, and condemn the other to hell, since there must be very little to choose, between the worst man who is received into heaven, and the best who is excluded. And how know we, it might be answered, but that there may be as little to choose in their conditions ?
Without entering into a detail of scripture morality, which would anticipate our subject, the following general positions may be advanced, I think, with safety:
1. That a state of happiness is not to be expected by those who are conscious of no moral or religious rule. I mean those, who cannot with truth say, that they have been prompted to one action, or withheld from one gratification, by any regard to virtue or religion, either immediate or habitual,
There need no other proof of this, than the consideration, that a brute would be as proper an object of reward as such a man ; and that, if the case were fo, the penal sanctions of religion could have no place. For whom would you punish, if you make such a one as this happyor rather indeed religion itself, both natural and VOL. I. . E
revealed, would cease to have either use or au
2. That a state of happiness is not to be expected by those, who reserve to themselves the habitual pra&ice of any one fin, or neglect of one known duty.
Because, no obedience can proceed upon proper motives which is not universal, that is, which is not directed to every command of God alike, as they all stand upon the same authority.
Because, such an allowance would in effect amount to a toleration of every vice in the world.
And because, the strain of scripture language excludes any such hope. When our duties are recited, they are put collectively, that is, as all and every of them required in the Christian character. " Add to your faith virtue, and to vir“ tue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, “ and to temperance patience, and to patience “ godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, " and to brotherly kindness charity.”* On the other hand, when vices are enumerated, they are put disjunctively, that is, as separately and severally excluding the sinner from heaven. “ Nei“ther fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, á nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with
* 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7.
“ mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor “ drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall “ inherit the kingdom of heaven.” *
Those texts of scripture, which seem to lean a contrary way, as that “ charity shall cover the “ multitude of sins;” Ithat “he which converteth “ a finner from the error of his way shall hide “ a multitude of sins;" || cannot, I think, for the reasons above-mentioned, be extended to fins deliberately, habitually, and obstinately perfisted in.
3. That a state of mere unprofitableness will not go unpunished.
This is expressly laid down by Christ in the parable of the talents, which supersedes all farther reasoning upon the subject. “ Then he “ which had received one talent, came and said, “ Lord, I know thee that thou art an austere “ man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and “ gathering where thou hast not strawed; and I
was afraid, and hid thy talent in the earth;
lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord “ answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and 6 slothful servant, thou knewest, (or knewest “ thou?) that I reap where I sowed not, and * Cor, vi. 9, 10. I 1 Pet. iv. 8. | James v. 20. E 2
“ gather where I have not strawed; thou oughtest “ therefore to have put my money to the ex“ changers, and then at my coming I should “ have received mine own with usury. Take “ therefore the talent from him, and give it unto “ him which hath ten talents; for unto every “ one that hath shall be given, and he shall have “ abundance ; but from him that hath not shall “ be taken away even that which he hath ; and “ cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, “ there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”*
III. In every question of conduct where one side is doubtful, and the other side safe, we are bound to take the safe side.
This is best explained by an instance, and I know of none more to our purpose than that of suicide. Suppose, for example’s fake, that it appear doubtful to a reasoner upon the subject, whether he may lawfully destroy himself. He can have no doubt, but that it is lawful for him to let it alone. Here therefore is a case, in which one fide is doubtful, and the other side fafe. By virtue therefore of our rule, he is bound to pursue the safe side, that is, to forbear from offering violence to himself, whilst a doubt remains upon his mind concerning the lawfulness of suicide.
* Mat. xxv. 24, &c.
It is prudent, you allow, to take the safe fide. But our observation means something more. We assert that the action, concerning which we doubt, whatever it may be in itself, or to another, would, in us, whilst this doubt remains upon our minds, be certainly sinful. The case is expressly so adjudged by St. Paul, with whose authority we will for the present rest contented. “ I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, " that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to “ him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean to him “ it is unclean. ---------- Happy is he that “ condemneth not himself in that thing which " he alloweth ; and he that doubteth is damned “ (condemned) if he eat, for whatsoever is not “ of faith (i. e, not done with a full persuasion “ of the lawfulness of it) is sin."*
* Romans xiv. 14. 22, 23,