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6 that induces God to command some actions, and “ forbid others. They who extol the truth, beauty, “ and harmony of virtue, exclusive of its conse

quences, deal but in pompous nonsense; and

they who would persuade us, that Good and “ Evil are things indifferent, depending wholly on “ the will of God, do but confound the nature of "things, as well as all our notions of God himself, “ by representing him capable of willing contra“ dictions; that is, that we should be, and be

happy, and at the same time that we should tor« ment and destroy each other; for injuries cannot “ be made benefits, pain cannot be made pleasure, “ and consequently vice cannot be made virtue by

any power whatever. It is the consequences, “ therefore, of all human actions that must stamp " their value. So far as the general practice of any " action tends to produce good, and introduce hap

piness into the world, so far we may pronounce “ it virtuous ; so much Evil as it occasions, such is “ the degree of vice it contains. I say the general

practice, because we must always remember, in “ judging by this rule, to apply it only to the ge“ neral species of actions, and not to particular " actions; for the infinite wisdom of God, desirous " to set bounds to the destructive consequences “ which must otherwise have followed from the “ universal depravity of mankind, has so wonder“ fully contrived the nature of things, that our most “ vicious actions may sometimes accidentally and “ collaterally produce good. Thus, for instance, “ robbery may disperse useless hoards to the benefit “ of the public; adultery may bring heirs and


good humour too into many families, where they « would otherwise have been wanting ; and mur6 der free the world from tyrants and oppressors.

Luxury maintains its thousands, and vanity its “ ten thousands. Superstition and arbitrary power « contribute to the grandeur of many nations, and “ the liberties of others are preserved by the per“ petual contentions of avarice, knavery, selfish

ness, and ambition; and thus the worst of vices, “ and the worst of men, are often compelled by “ Providence to serve the most beneficial purposes,

contrary to their own malevolent tendencies and “ inclinations; and thus private vices become pub“ lick benefits, by the force only of accidental cir“ cumstances. But this impeaches not the truth of the “ criterion of virtue before mentioned, the only solid “ foundation on which any true system of ethicks can “ be built, the only plain, simple, and uniform rule by “ which we can pass any judgment on our actions ; “ but by this we may be enabled, not only to deter“mine which are Good, and which are Evil, but al“most mathematically to demonstrate the proportion - of virtue or vice which belongs to each, by com

paring them with the degrees of happiness or misery “ which they occasion. But though the production “ of happiness is the essence of virtue, it is by no “ means the end; the great end is the probation of “ mankind, or the giving them an opportunity of “exalting or degrading themselves in another state “ by their behaviour in the present. And thus in6 deed it answers two most important purposes ; “those are the conservation of our happiness, and

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“ the test of our obedience ; or had not such a test “ seemed necessary to God's infinite wisdom, and

productive of universal good, he would never have “permitted the happiness of men, even in this life, to “ have depended on so precarious a tenure, as their “ mutual good behaviour to each other. For it is “ observable, that he who best knows our formation, “ has trusted no one thing of importance to our rea

son or virtue : he trusts only to our appetites for “the support of the individual, and the continuance “ of our species; to our vanity or compassion, for our “ bounty to others; and to our fears, for the preser« vation of ourselves; often to our vices for the sup

port of government, and sometimes to our follies “ for the preservation of our religion. But since “ some test of our obedience was necessary, nothing “ sure could have been commanded for that end so “ fit and proper, and at the same time so useful, as “ the practice of virtue: nothing could have been so

justly rewarded with happiness, as the production “ of happiness in conformity to the will of God. It “ is this conformity alone which adds merit to virtue; " and constitutes the essential difference between “ morality and religion. Morality obliges men to “ live honestly and soberly, because such behaviour " is most conducive to publick happiness, and con.

sequently to their own ; religion, to pursue the “ same course, because conformable to the will of “ their Creator. Morality induces them to embrace “ virtue from prudential considerations; religion “ from those of gratitude and obedience. Morality “ therefore, entirely abstracted from religion, can

« have

“ have nothing meritorious in it; it being but wis“ dom, prudence, or good æconomy, which like “ health, beauty, or riches, are rather obligations “ conferred upon us by God, than merits in us to“ wards him; for though we may be justly punished “ for injuring ourselves, we can claim no reward for “self-preservation; as suicide deserves punishment “ and infamy, but a man deserves no reward or ho

nours for not being guilty of it. This I take to be “ the meaning of all those passages in our Scriptures, “ in which works are represented to have no merit " without faith; that is, not without believing in “ historical facts, in creeds, and articles; but with“out being done in pursuance of our belief in God, os and in obedience to his commands. And now, “having mentioned Scripture, I cannot omit observ“ ing that the Christian is the only religious or moral “ institution in the world, that ever set in a right

light these two material points, the essence and the “ end of virtue, that ever founded the one in the

production of happiness, that is, in universal be

nevolence, or, in their language, charity to all “men; the other, in the probation of man, and his “ obedience to his Creator. Sublime and magnifi. “cent as was the philosophy of the ancients, all “ their moral systems were deficient in these two

important articles. They were all built on the sandy foundations of the innate beauty of virtue,

or enthusiastick patriotism; and their great point “ in view was the contemptible reward of human

glory; foundations which were by no means able " to support the magnificent structures which they E 3

« erected

“ erected upon them ; for the beauty of virtue, in

dependent of its effects, is unmeaning nonsense;

patriotism, which injures mankind in general for “ the sake of a particular country, is but a more “ extended selfishness, and really criminal: and all "human glory but a mean and ridiculous delusion, “ The whole affair then of religion and morality, “ the subject of so many thousand volumes, is, in “ short, no more than this: the Supreme Being, in

finitely good, as well as powerful, desirous to dif“ fuse happiness by all possible means, has created “ innumerable ranks and orders of beings, all subser“ vient to each other by proper subordination. One “ of these is occupied by man, a creature endued “ with such a certain degree of knowledge, reason, « and free-will, as is suitable to his situation, and

placed for a time on this globe as in a school of

probation and education. Here he has an oppor“ tunity given him of improving or debasing his na

ture, in such a manner as to render himself fit for a “ rank of higher perfection and happiness, or to de“ grade himself to a state of greater imperfection and " misery; necessary indeed towards carrying on the “ business of the universe, but very grievous and bur“ densome to those individuals, who, by their own « misconduct, are obliged to submit to it. The test of « this his behaviour, is doing good, that is, co-operat“ ing with his Creator, as far as his narrow sphere of

action will permit, in the production of happiness, “ And thus the happiness and misery of a future state “ will be the just reward or punishment of promoting “ or preventing happiness in this. So artificially by


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