« AnteriorContinuar »
this remark, let us suppose the inhabitants of a province to throw off the government of a just and lawful prince. Being once engaged, they may feel themselves impelled to go forward. They may choose new rulers, and use all possible means to efface every sign and memorial of the authority of their ancient sovereign. They may even labour to forget, and teach their children to forget, if possible, that there ever was such a character in being, to whom they owed allegiance. Yet, after all, there may be certain traces and memorials of his government which it is not in their power to efface. Yea, there may be continued instances of forbearance and clemency, which, in spite of all their efforts, will bear witness of his goodness and just authority over them. Thus it was that God, while he suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, nevertheless LEFT NOT HIMSELF WITHOUT A WITNESS, in that he did good, and gave them rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. But, as the memorials of just authority, in the one case, though sufficient to leave the rebellious without excuse, would not contain a full expression of the prince's will, nor be conveyed in so advantageous a manner as that in which he treated his professed subjects; so the light afforded by the works of nature and the continued goodness of God, in the other, though sufficient to leave the world without excuse, does not express his whole will, nor convey what it does express so advantageously as by revelation. And, as an individual residing in the midst of the rebellious province, whose heart might relent, and who might long to return to his allegiance, would be under inexpressible disadvantages, so it must necessarily be with a heathen whose desire should be towards the God against whom he had sinned.
The amount is, that modern unbelievers have no standard of morals, except it be their own inclinations. Morality with them is any thing or nothing, as convenience requires. On some occasons they will praise that of Jesus Christ but ere we can have time to ask them, Why then do you not submit to it? they are employed in opposing it. Attend to their general declamations in favour of virtue, and you will be ready to imagine they are its warmest friends: but follow them up, and observe their exposi tion of particular precepts, and you will be convinced that they
are its decided enemies; applauding in the gross that which they are ever undermining in detail.
By the foolish and discordant accounts which these writers give of morality, it should seem that they know not what it is. Every new speculator is dissatisfied with the definition of his predecessor, and endeavours to mend it. "Virtue," says Lord Shaftesbury, "is a sense of beauty, of harmony, of order, and proportion, an affection towards the whole of our kind, or species." "It is," says Lord Bolingbroke, "only the love of ourselves." "It is every thing that tends to preserve the perfect man," says Volney; and as "good reputation" has this tendency, it is, in his account, "a moral good." "It is whatever is useful in society," says Mr. Hume; and as "health, cleanliness, facility of expression, broad shoulders, and taper legs," are of use, they are to be reckoned among the virtues. To this might be added, a large portion of effrontery, as the last named writer assures us, (it may be from his own experience,) that "nothing carries a man through the world like a true, genuine natural impudence." Mr. Paine brings up the rear, and informs us," It is doing justice, loving mercy, and.... endeavouring to make our fellow creatures happy." Oh Paine! had you but for once suffered yourself to be taught by a Prophet, and have quoted his words as they stand, you would, undoubtedly, have borne away the palm but you had rather write nonsense than say any thing in favour of godliness.
It is worthy of notice, that amidst all the discordance of these writers, they agree in excluding the Divine being from their theory of morals. They think after their manner; but God is not in all their thoughts. In comparing the Christian doctrine of morality, the sum of which is love, with their atheistical Jargon, one seems to hear the voice of the Almighty saying, Who is this that darkeneth counsel with words without knowledge? Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man.
* Law of Nature, p. 17.
+ Enquiry concerning the principles of Morals, 6, 7, 8. Essays Moral and Political, Essay III. p. 15.
The words of scripture are spirit and life. They are the language of love. Every exhortation of Christ and his apostles is impregnated with this spirit. Let the reader turn to the 12th chapter to the Romans, for an example, and read it carefully; let him find, if he can, any thing, in the purest part of the writings of Deists, that is worthy of being compared with it. No; virtue itself is no longer virtue in their hands. It loses its charms when they affect to embrace it. Their touch is that of the cold hand of death. The most lovely object is deprived by it of life and beauty, and reduced to a shrivelled mass of inactive formality.
CHRISTIANITY FURNISHES MOTIVES TO A VIRTUOUS LIFE; WHICH DEISM EITHER REJECTS, OR ATTEMPTS TO UNDERMINE.
So long as our adversaries profess a regard to virtue, and, with Lord Bolingbroke, acknowledge that "the gospel is in all cases one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, of benerolence, and of universal charity," they must allow those to be the best principles which furnish the most effectual motives for reducing it to practice.
Now, there is not a doctrine in the whole compass of Christianity but what is improveable to this purpose. It is a grand pe culiarity of the gospel, that none of its principles are merely speculative each is pregnant with a practical use. Nor does the discovery of it require any extraordinary degree of ingenuity: real Christians, however weak as to their natural capacities, have always been taught by the gospel of Christ, that denying ungod liness, and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world.
Ancient philosophers have taught many things in favour of morality, so far at least as respects justice and goodness towards our fellow-creatures; but where are the motives by which the minds of the people, or even their own minds, have been moved to a compliance with them? They framed a curious machine; but who among them could discover a power to work it? What principles have appeared in the world, under the names either of philosophy or religion, that can bear a comparison with the following? God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.—Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.-Be ye therefore followers (or imitators) of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour.-Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.-Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.-Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. -If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy :-be of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul: having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirits which are God's.-The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.—The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall