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SECTION VI. Of the moral perfections of God deduced from
THE power and wisdom of God, toge1 ther with those attributes which are derived from them, and also those which are deduced from his being considered as an uncaused being, may be termed his natural perfections; whereas his benevolence, and those other attributes which are deduced from it, are more properly termed his moral perfections; because they lead to such conduct as determines what we commonly call moral character in men.
The source of all the moral perfections of God seems to be his benevolence; and indeed there is no occasion to suppose him to be influenced by any other principle, in order to account for all that we see. Every other truly venerable or amiable attribute
can be nothing but a modification of this. A perfectly good, or benevolent being, must be, in every other respect, whatever can be the object of our reverence, 'or our love. Indeed the connection of all the moral virtues, and the derivation of them from the single principle of benevolence are easily traced, even in human characters.
1. If a magistrate be benevolent, that is, if he really consult the happiness of his subjects, he must be just, or take notice of crimes, and punish the criminals. Otherwise, he would be cruel to the whole, and especially to the innocent, who would be continually liable to oppression, if there were no restraint of this kind.
2. But whenever an offence can be overlooked, and no injury accrue from it, either to the offender himself, or to others, the benevplence of God, as well as that of a human magistrate, will require him to be merciful; so that implacability, or a desire of revenging an affront, without any regard to the prevention of farther evil, must be careE 3
fully fully excluded from the character of the divine being. He must delight in mercy, because he wishes to promote happiness, though he may be under the necessity of punishing obstinate offenders, in order to restrain vice and misery.
There is more room for the display of mercy in the divine government than in that of men; because men, not being able to distinguish true repentance from the appearances of it, and pretences to it, must make but few deviations from general rules, left they should increase crimes and hypocrisy; whereas the secrets of all hearts being open to God, he cannot be imposed upon by any pretences ; so that if an offender be truly penitent, and it is known to him that he will not abuse his goodness, he can receive him into favour, without apprehending any inconvenience whatever. Such cases as these, how dangerous foever the precedent might be in human governments, are not liable to be abused in the perfect administration of the divine being. Justice and mercy, therefore, are equally attributes
of the divine being, and equally deducible from his goodness or benevolence; both, in their places, being necessary to promote the happiness of his creation.
3. As perfect benevolence is the rule of the divine conduct, and leads him to be both just and merciful, so we cannot but conceive that he must govern his conduct by every other rule that we find to be equally necessary to the well-being of society, particularly that of truth, or veracity. All human confidence would cease if we could not depend upon one another's word; and, in those circumstances, every advantage of society would be lost. There can be no doubt, therefore, but that the divine being, if he fould think proper to have any intercourse with his creatures, must be equally removed from a possibility of attempting to impose upon them.
4. As to those vices which arise from the irregular indulgence of our appetites and paffions, we can have no idea of the possibility of their having any place in the divine
being. being. We therefore conclude that he is, in all respects, boly, as well as just and good.
There are, also, some evidences of the justice and mercy of God in the course of providence. The constitution of human nature and of the world is such, that men cannot long persist in any species of wickedness without being sufferers in consequence of it. Intemperance lays the foundation for many painful and dangerous diseases. Every species of malevolence and inhumanity consists of uneasy sensations, and exposes the person in whom they are predominant to the hatred and ill offices of his fellow creatures. Want of veracity destroys a man's credit in society; and all vices make men subject to contempt, or dislike; whereas the habitual practice of the contrary virtues promotes health of body and peace of mind; and, in general, they insure to him the esteem and good offices of all those with whom he is connected.
Now, since these evils which attend upon vice, and this happiness which results from