« ForrigeFortsæt »
mere ignorance affords no just objection against the PROP. certainty of any truth. Were there upon earth a nation of rational and considerate persons, whose no. tions concerning moral obligations, and concerning the nature and force of them, were universally and directly contrary to what I have hitherto represented, this would be indeed a weighty objection; but ignorance and stupidity are no arguments against the certainty of any thing. There are many nations and people almost totally ignorant of the plainest mathematical truths; as, of the proportion, for example, of a square to a triangle of the same base and height: And yet these truths are such, to which the mind cannot but give its assent necessarily and unavoidably, as soon as they are distinctly proposed to it. All that this objection proves, therefore, supposing the matter of it to be true, is only this; not, that the mind of man can ever dissent from the rule of right, much less that there is no necessary difference in nature between moral good and evil, any more than it proves that there are no certain and necessary proportions of numbers, lines, or figures; but this it proves only, that men have great need to be taught and instructed in some very plain and easy, as well as certain truths; and if they be important truths, that then men have need also to have them frequently inculcated, and strongly enforced upon them: Which is very true; and is (as shall hereafter be particularly made to appear,) one good argument for the reasonableness of expecting a revelation.
4. Thus it appears, in general, that the mind of of the man cannot avoid giving its assent to the eternal law principal of righteousness, that is, cannot but acknowledge the gations in reasonableness and fitness of men's governing all particular. their actions by the rule of right or equity; and also that this assent is a formal obligation upon every man, actually and constantly to conform himself to that rule. I might now from hence deduce, in particular, all the several duties of morality or natural religion ; but, because this would take up too large
PROP. a portion of my intended discourse, and may easily
be supplied abundantly out of several late excellent writers, I shall only inention the three great and principal branches from which all the other and smaller instances of duty do naturally flow, or may
without difficulty be derived. Of piety,
First, then ; in respect of God, the rule of rightduty to
eousness is, that we keep up constantly in our minds wards God. the highest possible honour, esteem, and veneration
for him, which must express itself in proper and respective influences upon all our passions, and in the suitable direction of all our actions ;-that we worship and adore him, and him alone, as the only supreme author, preserver, and governor of all things; -that we employ our whole being, and all our powers and faculties in his service, and for his glory, that is, in encouraging the practice of universal righteousness, and promoting the designs of his divine goodness amongst men, in such way and manner as shall at any time appear to be his will we should do it ;-and, finally, that, to enable us to do this continually, we pray unto him constantly for whatever we stand in need of, and return him continual and hearty thanks for whatever good things we at any time receive. There is no congruity or proportion in the uniform disposition and correspondent order of any bodies or magnitudes, no fitness or agreement in the application of similar and equal geometrical figures one to another, or in the comparing them one with another, so visible and conspicuous as is the beauty and harmony of the exercise of God's several attributes, meeting with suitable returns of duty and honour from all his rational creatures throughout the universe ;-the consideration of his eternity and infinity, his knowledge and his wisdom, necessarily commands our highest admiration ;-the sense of his omnipresence forces a perpetual, awful regard towards him ;-his supreme authority, as being the creator, preserver, and absolute governor of all things, obliges us to pay him all possible honour
and veneration, adoration, and worship, and his unity PROP. requires that it be paid to him alone ;-his power and justice demand our fear ;-his mercy and placableness encourage our hope ;-his goodness necessarily excites our love ;-his veracity and unchangeableness secure our trust in him ;-the sense of our having received our being, and all our powers from him, makes it infinitely reasonable that we should employ our whole being and all our faculties in his service ;-the consciousness of our continual dependence upon him both for our preservation and the supply of every thing we want, obliges us to constant prayer ;-and every good thing we enjoy, the air we breathe, and the food we eat, the rain from heaven, and the fruitful seasons, all the blessings and comforts of the present time, and the hopes and expectations we have of what is to come, do all demand our heartiest gratitude and thanksgiving to him.* The suitableness and proportion, the correspondency and connexion of each of these things respectively, is as plain and conspicuous as the shining of the sun at noon-day:f and it is the greatest absurdity and perverseness in the world for creatures, indued with reason, to attempt to break through and transgress this necessary order and dependency of things: All inanimate and all irrational beings, by the necessity of their nature, constantly obey the laws of their creation, and tend regularly to the ends forwhich they were appointed; how monstrous then is it that reasonable creatures, merely because they are not necessitated, should abuse that glorious privilege of liberty by which they are exalted
Quem vero astrorum ordines, quem dierum noctiumque vicissitudines, quem mensium temperatio, quemque ea quæ gignuntur nobis ad fruendum, non gratum esse cogant; hanc hominem omnino numerare qui decet ? -Cic. de Legib. lib. 2.
+ Ει γάρ νούν είχομεν, άλλο τι έδει ημάς ποιείν και κοινή και ιδία, ή υμνείς το θείον, και ευφημεϊν, και επεξέρχεσθαι τάς χάριτας ;' Ουκ έδει και σκάπτοντας και αρoύντας και έσθίοντας άδειν τον ύμνον τον εις τον θεόν Μέγας ο θεός, ότι ήμώ παρέσχεν οργανα ταύτα διών την γην εργασόμεθα ; Μέγας ο θεός, ότι χείρας Odwxfv, &c. -Arrian. lib. 1. cap. 16.
men one towards another.
PROP. in dignity above the rest of God's creation, to make
themselves the alone unreasonable and disorderly part of the universe !-that a tree planted in a fruitful soil, and watered continually with the dew of heaven, and cherished constantly with the kindly warmth and benign influence of the sunbeams, should yet never bring forth either leaves or fruit, is in no degree so irregular, and contrary to nature, as that a rational being, created after the image of God, and conscious of God's doing every thing for him that becomes the relation of an infinitely good and bountiful Creator to his creatures, should yet never on his part make any return of those duties which arise necessarily
from the relation of a creature to his Creator. Of righte
Secondly. In respect of our fellow-creatures, the vusness or rule of righteousness is ; that in particular we so deal the duty of
with every man, as in like circumstances we could reasonably expect he should deal with us, and that in general we endeavour, by an universal benevolence, to promote the welfare and happiness of all men: The former branch of this rule is equity, the
latter is love. Of justice As to the former, viz. equity ; the reason which and equity. obliges every man in practice, so to deal always with
another as he would reasonably expect that others should in like circumstances deal with him, is the very same as that which forces him, in speculation, to affirm, that if one line or number be equal to another, that other is reciprocally equal to it. Iniquity is the very same in action as falsity or contradiction in theory, and the same cause which makes the one absurd makes the other unreasonable. Whatever relation or proportion one man in any case bears to another, the same that other, when put in like circumstances, bears to him. Whatever I judge reasonable or unreasonable, for another to do for me, that, by the same judgment, I declare reasonable or unreasonable that I in the like case should do for him. And to deny this either in word or action, is as if a man should contend, that though two and three are equal to five, yet five are not equal to
two and three.* Wherefore, were not men strange- PROP. ly and most unnaturally corrupted by perverse and unaccountably false opinions, and monstrous evil customs and habits, prevailing against the clearest and plainest reason in the world, it would be impossible that universal equity should not be practised by all mankind, and especially among equals, where the proportion of equity is simple and obvious, and every man's own case is already the same with all others, without any nice comparing or transposing of circumstances. It would be as impossiblet that a man, contrary to the eternal reason of things, should desire to gain some small profit to himself, by doing violence and damage to his neighbour, as that he should be willing to be deprived of necessaries himself, to satisfy the unreasonable covetousness or ambition of another. In a word, it would be impossible for men not to be as much ashamed of doing iniquity, as they are of believing contradictions. In considering indeed the duties of superiors in various relations, the proportion of equity is somewhat more complex, but still it may always be deduced from the same rule of doing as we would be done by, if careful regard be had at the same time to the difference of relation ; that is, if, in considering what is fit for you to do to another, you always take into the account, not only every circumstance of the action, but also every circumstance wherein the person differs from you, and in judging what you would desire that another, if your circumstances were transposed, should do to you, you always consider not what any
* Nihil est unum uni tam simile, tam par, quam omnes inter nosmetipsos sumus. Quod, si depravatio consuetudinum, si opinionum vanitas, non imbecillitatem animorum torqueret, et flecteret quocunque cæpisset; sui nemo ipse tam similis esset, quam omnes sunt omnium ; -et coleretur jus æque ab omnibus.-Cic. de Leg. lib. 1.
+ Hoc exigit ipsa naturæ ratio, quæ est lex divina et humana, cui parere qui velit, nunquam committet ut alienum appetat, et id, quod alteri detraxerit, sibi assumat.--Cic. de Offc. lib. 3.