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fore the highest rule of duty to intelligent creatures ; a conformity or nonconformity to it determines their actions to be morally good or evil.
2. Whatsoever is really an immediate duty toward ourselves, or toward our fellow-creatures, is more remotely a duty to God; and therefore in the practice of it we should have an eye to the will of God as our rule, and to his glory as our end.
8. Our wise and gracious Creator has closely united our duty and our happiness together; and has connected sin, or vice and punishment; that is, he has ordained that the highest natural good and evil should have a close connection with moral good and evil, and that both in the nature of things, and by his own positive appointment.
4. Conscience should seek all due information, in order to determine what is duty, and what is sin, because happiness and misery depend upon it.
5. On this account our inclination to present temporal good and our aversion to present temporal evil, must be wisely overbalanced by the consideration of future and eternal good or evil, that is, happiness or misery. And for this reason we should not omit a duty, or commit a sin, to gain any temporal good, or to avoid any temporal evil.
6. Though our natural reason in a state of innocence might be sufficient to find out those duties which were necessary for an innocent creature, in order to abide in the favour of his Maker, yet in a fallen state, our natural reason is by no means sufficient to find out all that is necessary to restore a sinful creature to the divine favour.
7. Therefore God hath condescended, in various ages of mankind, to reveal to sinful men what he requires of them in order to their restoration, and has appointed in his word some peculiar matters of faith and practice, in order to their salvation. This is called revealed religion; as the things knowable concerning God and our duty by the light of nature, are called natural religion.
8. There are also many parts of morality, and natural religion, or many natural duties relating to God, to ourselves, and to our peighbours, which would be exceeding difficult and tedious for the bulk of mankind to find out and determine by natura reason; therefore, it duas pleased God in this sacred book of divine revelation, to express the most necessary duties of this kind in a very plain and easy inanger, and make them intelligible to souls of the lowest capacity ; or they may be very easily derived tience by the use of reason.
9. As there are some duties much more necessary, and more imporlant than others are, so every duty requires our application
to understand and practise it, in proportion to its necessity and importance.
10. Where two duties seem to stand in opposition to each other, and we cannot practise both, the less must give way to the greater, and the omission of the less is not sinful. So ceremo-, pial laws give way to moral ; God will have mercy and not sacrifice.
11. In duties of natural religion, we may judge of the different degrees of their necessity and importance by reason, according to their greater or more apparent tendency to the honour of God, and the good of med: but in matters of revealed religion, it is only divine revelation can certainly inform us what is most necessary and most important; yet we may be assisted also in that search by the exercises of reason.
12. In actions wherein there may be some scruple about the duty or lawfuloess of them, we should choose always the safest side, and abstain as far as we can froin the practice of things whose lawfulness we suspect.
13. Points of the greatest importance in human life, or in religion, are generally the most evident, both in the nature of things, and in the word of God; and where points of faith or practice are exceeding difficult to find out, they cannot be exceeding important. This proposition may be proved by the gooddess and faithfulness of God, as well as by experience and observation.
14. In some of the outward practice and forms of religion, as well as human affairs, there is frequently a present necessity of speedy action one way or another : in such a case, having surveyed arguments on both sides, as far as our time and circumstances admit, we must guide our practice by those reasons which appear most probable, and seem at that time to uverbalance the rest; yet always reserving room to admit farther light and evidence, when such occurrences return again. It is a preponderation of circumstantial arguments that must determine our actions in a thousand occurrences.
15. We may also determine upon probable arguments where the matter is of small consequence, and would not answer the trouble of seeking after certainty. Life and time are more precious than to have a large share of them laid out in scrupulous enquiries, whether smoaking tobacco, or weariog a periwig be lawful or no.
16. In affairs of greater importance, and which may have a long, lasting, and extensive influence on our future couduct or happiness, we should not take up with probabilities, if certamty may be attained. Where there is any doubt on the mind, in such cases; we should call in the assistance of all manner of circumslauces, reasons, motives, consequences on all sides': we wust
wait longer, and with earnest request seek human and divine advice before we fully determine our judg:nent, and our practice; according to the old Roman sentence, Quod statuendum est semel, deliberandum est diu. We should be long in considering what we must determine once for all. Sect. IV. Principles and Rules of Judgment in Matters of
human Prudence. THE great design of prudence, as distinct from morality and religion, is to determine and manage every affair with decency and to the best advantage. That is decent which is agreeable to our state, condition or circumstances, wbether it be in behaviour, discourse, or action. That is advantageous, which attains the most and best purposes, and avoids the most and greatest inconveniences.
As there is infinite variety in the circumstances of persons, things, actions, times and places, so we must be furnished with such general rules as are accomodable to all this variety by a wise judgment and discretion : for what is an act of consummale prudence in some times, places and circumstances would be consummate folly in others. Now these rules may be ranged in the following manner :
1. Qur regard to persons or things should be governed by the degrees of concernment we have with them, the relation we have to them, or the expectation we have from them. These should be the measures by which we should proportion our diligence and application in any thing that relates to them.
2. We should always consider whether the thing we pursue be attainable; whether it be worthy our pursuit ; whether it be worthy of the degree of pursuit ; whether it be worthy of the means used, in order to attain it. This rule is necessary both in matters of knowledge, and matters of practice.
3. When the advantages and disadvantages, conveniences and inconveniences of any action are balanced together, we must finally determine on that side which bas the superior weight ; and the sooner in things which are necessarily and speedily to be done or determined.
4. If advantages and disadvantages in their own pature are equal, then those which are most certain or likely as to the event, should turn the scale of our judgment, and determine our practice.
5. Where the improbabilities of success or advantage are greater than the probabilities, it is not prudence to act or venture, if the action may be attended with danger or loss equal to the proposed gain. It is proper to enquire whether this be not the case in almost all lotteries, for they that hold stakes will certainly secure part to themselves; and only the remainder being divided into prizes, must render the improbability of gain to each adventurer greater than the probability.
6. We slould not despise or neglect atiy real advantage, and abandon the pursuit of it, though we cannot attain all the advantages that we desire. This would be to act like children, who are fond of something which strikes their fascy most, and sullen aud regardless of every thing else, if they are not bamoured in that fancy.
7. Though a general knowledge of things be useful in science and in human life, yet we should content ourselves with a ktore superficial knowledge of those things which have the least relation to our chief end and design.
8. This rule holds good also ia matters of business and practice, as well as in matters of knowledge ; and therefore we should not grasp at every thing, lest in the end we attain nothing. Persons that either by an inconstancy of temper, or by a vain ambition, will pursue every sort of art and science, study and business, seldom grow excellent in any one of them; and projectors who form iwenty schemes, seldom use sufficient applicaLion to finish one of them, or make it turn to good account.
9. Take heed of delaying or trifling amongst the means in stead of reaching at the end. Take heed of wasting a life in mere speculacve studies, which is called to action and employ ment: dwell not too long in philosophical, mathematical, er grammatical parts of learning, when your chief design is lax, physic or divinity: Do not spend the day in gathering flowers by the way-side, lest night come upon you before you arrive at your journey's end, and then you will not reach it.
10. Where the case and circunstances of wise and good men resemble our own ease and circumstànces we may borrow great deal of instruction toward our prudent conduct from their erample: as well as in all cases we may learn much from their conversation and advice.
11. After all other rules remember this, that mere speculation in matters of lumen prudence can never be a perfeet die rector, without experience and observation. We may be context therefore in our younger years to commit some unavoidable mistakes in point of prudence, and we shall see toistakes enow in the conduct of others, both which ought to be treasured op amongst our useful observations, in order to teach us better judge nient for time to come. Sometimes the mistakes, imprudencies and follies, which ourselves or others have been guilty of, give us brighter mod more effectual lessons of prtidence, then the wisest 'counsels, and the fairest examples could ever have done. Sect. V.-Principles and Rules of Judgment in Matters of
us into the knowledge of the essence and inward nature of things, as to acquaint us with the existence of things, and to inform us of matters of fact both past and present. Aod though there be a great deal of fallibility in the testimony of men, yet there are some things we may be almost as certain of, as that the sun shines, or that five twenties make a bundred. Who is there at London that knows any thing of the world, but belioves there is such a eity as Paris in France ; that the Pope dwells at Rome; that Julius Cesar was an emperor ; or that Luther bard a great hand in the reformation ?
If we observe the following rules, we may arrive at such a certainty in many things of human testimony, as that it is morally impossible we should be deceived, that is, we may obtaip a moral certainty.
1. Let us consider whether the thing reported be in itself possible; if not, it can never be eredible, whosoever relates it.
2. Consider farther whether it be probable, whether there are any concurring circumstances to prove it, beside the mere testimony of the person that relates it. I confess, if these last conditions are wanting, the thing may be true, but then it ouglut to þave the stronger testimony to support it.
3. Consider whether the person who relates it be capable of knowing the truth : whether he be a skilful judge in such matters, if it be a business of art, or a nice appearance in paturé, or some curious experiment in philosophy. But if it be a mere occurrence in life, a plain, sepsible matter of fact, it is enough to enquire whether he who relates it were an eye or an ear-witness, or whether he himself had it only by hearsay, or can trace it up to the original,
4. Consider whether the narrator be honest and faithful, as well as skilful : whether he bath no bius upon his mind, po peculiar gain or profit by believing or reporting it, no interest or prin. ciple which inight warp his owo belief aside from truth : or which might tempt him to prevaricate, to speak falsely, or to give a representation a little different from the naked truth of things. In short, whether there be no occasion of suspicion concerning this report.
2. Consider whether several persons agree together in the report of this matter; and if so, then whether these persons who joined together in their testimony, might not be supposed to combine together in a falsehood. Whether they are persons of sufficient skill
, probity, and credit. It might be also enquired, whether they are of different nations, sects, parties, opinions, or daterests. For the more divided they are io all these, the more likely is their report to be true, if they agree together in their Account of the same thing; and especialy if they persist in it with. out wavçripg