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Proposition II - George Turnbull, The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy, ed. and with an Introduction by Alexander Broadie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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According to revelation, we are made and placed here in our present state, chiefly to endeavour to attain to the love of the pleasures arising from rational, virtuous exercises; and to the contempt of mere sensual pleasure, in comparison of them; and this reason itself plainly proves to be the chief end of our being from the very nature of our frame, and from our present situation, which are admirably well adapted one to another.
What revelation teaches us to be our end and duty, will clearly appear, if we attend to the character given of the vitious in scripture, or the temper and character that is there condemned, and the description that is there given of the good, or of those who act suitably to the dignity of their nature, and the end of their creation in their present state. The wicked are said to be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.b And in the text, and several parallel places of holy writ, mankind are divided into two classes,c one that soweth to the spirit, and reaps the fruit of an everlasting, rational or spiritual life; and another that soweth to the flesh, and reaps the corrupt fruit of a depraved mind, sold under sin, and a slave to the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. As the whole of what the sensitive world perceives may be ranked under the two general heads of pleasure and pain, of happiness and misery; so the whole rational and moral world may very properly be distinguished under those two opposite and most important<259> characters of good and evil. Now in the scripture language, the one of these is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of light, the kingdom of truth and righteousness; the other is the kingdom of Satan, the power of darkness, the dominion of slavery and sin. The one of these is the way that leadeth unto life, rational life, the true life of a man, and his proper happiness that shall endure for ever. The other is the way that leadeth to destruction;a to the death and destruction of the rational powers, a vitiated depraved temper, and proportionable misery and corruption. The former live after the spirit, the other live after the flesh;b and what is the life of the flesh, but a carnal, sensual life; for what are the lusts of the flesh, but violent desires after mere bodily gratifications, which by St. Johnc are reduced to the lusts of the eye, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life? St. James tells us,31 that the pretended wisdom of wicked men descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish, full of envy, strife, confusion, and every evil work. But, on the contrary, he who lives to the spirit, hath his affections, saith St. Paul,d on the things that are above, the things which make the happiness of the higher orders of celestial beings, the proper happiness of our powers, and the happiness of a future spiritual state. And the wisdom which directs and influences to this wise choice, is from above, says St. James;32 and it is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Now this being plainly the doctrine of the christian revelation concerning virtue and vice, and the duty and dignity, or the degradation and corruption of the human mind, let us consider what may be inferred<260> from our constitution and rank; or whether it is agreeable to it. For it is hence alone that human duty, interest, or perfection, can be known; and whatever doctrine is repugnant to that, cannot be true.
Let us therefore look a little into our frame and constitution.
I. Now nothing can be more evident than that we are capable of various pleasures, various gratifications and pursuits, being endowed with many various capacities of enjoyment; many various affections and appetites, each of which hath its proper object toward which it naturally tends. And indeed without appetites and affections suited to objects we could have no incentive to action; we would be utterly incapable of pleasure; no object could be more satisfactory to us than another: nothing, in fine, could give us any enjoyment. It is no less obvious to experience, that our affections and appetites grow keener and stronger by habit. So true is this, that many of our appetites are ascribed entirely to habit, and called appetites, desires, or cravings of our own making. Not that any thing can be produced in us of which the seeds are not originally implanted in our minds by nature. But because in the same manner as habit, accustoming the nose to irritation, renders snuff necessary to the quiet and happiness of some; may any thing else be made requisite to our ease and pleasure, a title, a ribban, any the merest gew-gaw; what we have inured ourselves to, by way of amusement, becomes, in proportion to our idea of it, and our accustomance to it, an essential to our satisfaction and contentment. So are we made, because the power of association of ideas and habit is requisite to our well-being and perfection.
But then, on the other hand, have we not reason, a reflecting, judging, and governing principle in our composition, to manage our affections and appetites,<261> to regulate all our exercises, by the repetition of which our affections are strengthened, and habits formed? Are we not capable of estimating and appraising things; of discovering the fitness and unfitness of actions, and of weighing the different consequences of our pursuits? The same consciousness which assures us that we have certain appetites and affections which grow stronger by indulgence, likewise assures us, that we have in us a ruling principle to govern our exercises and pursuits by. And what can it be intended for; or what is its end and use, but to govern and rule our actions; or to shew us what we ought to pursue, and what to avoid, and with what degrees of activity and carefulness, according to the different moments of things? Surely we cannot say, that the spring of a watch is intended to give motion to its wheels; a ship to sail it; or that the eye is made for seeing, and the ear for hearing; and deny, that understanding is made to discern, judgment to judge, and reason to regulate. If we would know the natural end of any frame or constitution, we must consider its parts as making, by their mutual respects one to another, a whole. And if we consider the parts which make up our frame, it is plain, that we consist of capacities of pleasure, appetites after certain enjoyments, and affections towards certain objects, together with a principle capable of judging of the natures, consequences, and values of things, and therefore of giving law to us with regard to our choices and pursuits. But if so, then are we made to govern our appetites, affections, choices, and exercises by reason; then are our appetites, affections, and choices made to be guided and ruled; and our reason is intended to guide and rule. Our business therefore is to endeavour to establish and confirm reason in our mind, as the governing principle, to which we ought not only to attend, but to conform ourselves in our conduct and behaviour. And<262> he alone, for that reason, acts agreeably to his make, and is in a natural or sound state, who endeavours to maintain his governing principle in its natural and legitimate authority and power. He who does not, is a rational agent disordered, or out of its right and natural state, in the same sense that we say a watch, a ship, or any machine is not in due order, when it does not answer its end. Either perfection and imperfection have no meaning in any case; or man is perfect or imperfect in proportion as his reason maintains or not maintains its influence and dominion in governing him, i.e. in regulating all his appetites, affections, and passions; all his desires, choices, actions and pursuits. If we take a just view of things, and own any thing like a scale, or rising in perfection and excellence of beings one above another, we must acknowledge that to have reason is a more noble and excellent endowment, than not to have it. But this cannot be acknowledged, without owning at the same time that there must be such a thing as exercising reason in more and less perfect degrees. And of consequence, wherever reason takes place, the highest perfection and excellence belonging to that frame must lie in giving all diligence to improve reason to its highest degree of power and vigour by due culture. Seeing therefore we have reason implanted in us, capable of being improved to great perfection, our excellence must consist in diligently improving it; and we can only be said to grow in the perfection belonging to our frame, in proportion as our reason advances in perfection; in proportion as it becomes fit to govern; and in proportion as being fit to govern, it does actually exert itself in governing. This is too manifest to be longer insisted upon, since it cannot be denied, without asserting there is no such thing as perfection and imperfection belonging to any thing. We may therefore now advance a step further; and therefore,<263>
II. Let it be observed, that the natural happiness of a being must be similar to, of a kind with, and the result of the qualifications and exercises for which it is fitted by its frame and composition. The happiness of one constitution cannot be the happiness of another constitution, for this very reason, that the constitutions are different. The happiness of an insect can only make the happiness of an insect. A being with other powers and capacities must have other objects, other exercises and enjoyments, to make it happy, i.e. objects, exercises, and enjoyments, suited to its particular powers, capacities, and affections. This general truth is likewise too clear, to stand in need of any further illustration. Yet if it be true, it must of necessity follow, that the happiness of a being, constituted as man is, must consist in the exercises of his reason, in governing all his appetites, affections, and pursuits. Such is his make, and such must be his happiness, unless the happiness of a being can be of a kind quite opposite to its frame and constitution. Man indeed is not merely a rational creature, but he has sensitive appetites and affections to be governed by his reason; sensitive appetites and affections implanted in him, together with several other affections and appetites, not surely to prevail and triumph over reason, but to be directed and ruled by it. If therefore it be true in general, that the proper happiness of a being can be nothing else but the result of the just and proportionate exercises of its powers and affections about their proper objects; it must be true with respect to man, that his proper happiness can consist in nothing else but the exercises of his reason in regulating the pursuits of his affections and appetites. It must consist in the exercises of his reason, in regulating his affections and appetites, and their pursuits, because reason is in its nature the guiding and ruling principle; and with respect to us, our appetites and affections are the subjects<264> to be governed and regulated by our reason. And it cannot consist in gratifying our appetites without any rule, or, contrary to all rule, without exercising our reason about them, as their director and governor, unless reason be in us to no purpose; be in us not to be exercised; or, contrary to what we experience in the make and frame of every thing, we be supposed to be made with reason to govern our affections and appetites, on purpose that we may have happiness, by neglecting and despising our reason; in proportion as it is useless and insignificant in us; or trampled upon by our appetites and passions, which is to suppose a very contradictory and inconsistent constitution. If we attend to our frame, we shall immediately find, that our sensitive appetites and affections are but a part of our constitution; there is not only distinct from them the governing principle in us, reason; but they are not the only affections or appetites in our minds. There are others very different from them which do likewise make a part of the affections and appetites to be governed by our reason. Now as the proper and natural happiness of a being cannot result from the gratification of a part of its nature only; so much less can it result from the gratification of that part only, which in itself hath the most distant relation to the principal or ruling part; as of all the affections and appetites in our constitution, our sensitive ones most evidently have. For our moral appetites or affections, though made to be governed by our reason, as well as our sensitive ones, have however, in the nature of things, as being moral appetites or affections, a nearer relation to the governing principle in us, than sensitive appetites or affections. The appetite, for instance, after knowledge, implanted by nature in our minds, though it be one of the appetites or affections in our frame which reason ought to govern, yet it hath in its nature or kind a more immediate or nearer relation to our governing intelligent principle, than hunger, thirst, or any such like<265> sensitive appetite: it is in respect of all such appetites a moral principle in us. The love of beauty, order, and harmony, and affection towards the objects which present these ideas to our mind, is also, in respect of any merely sensitive appetite whatsoever, nearer a-kin, so to speak, to our reason, whose business it is to maintain good order, beauty, and regularity in our mind and conduct. And, to name no more, the desire of society so strongly inlaid into our constitution, though but an appetite or affection, is however, in respect of any sensitive appetite, lust, for instance, much more nearly allied to reason, whose chief use and business it is to govern all our appetites and actions in such a manner, as is most contributive to the upholding and well-being of society among mankind. Such appetites, and many others that might be mentioned, are in their nature compared with sensitive appetites on the one hand, and with reason on the other, really moral appetites, more nearly allied to reason, and consequently of a higher kind. And therefore of all the parts of our constitution considered singly, our sensitive appetites have the least pretension to be looked upon as the chief means of our happiness: i.e. of the happiness resulting from our complete frame; far less have they any right to be considered as the sole means or instruments of it. The preference, on the contrary, in this respect, if there can be any with regard to part of a frame considered singly, must of right belong to the affections, which in their nature have the nearest or most intimate relation to the governing principle in us; otherwise we must say, that the greater and better share of a being’s happiness may arise from its least valuable parts, the parts which have the remotest relation to its principal end or to that part which being placed to preside over and govern all the others, constitutes its chief excellence as a whole. To assert so with regard to man’s frame, is to affirm of it what will be owned not to hold with respect to any other constitution within our<266> cognizance: and it is to deny an abstract truth, which, if there be any that are indisputable, is certainly of that class, viz. That the principal or main happiness of a being must be of a kind with its frame and make. But if that abstract truth cannot be denied, and if experience, as far as we can carry observation, confirms it with respect to all sorts of constitutions of beings capable of enjoyment, “Then have we reason to conclude, previously to the particular examination of our pleasures, that our chief happiness must be the result of moral perfection, i.e. of the perfection of our reason, as a governing principle over all our affections, appetites and passions.”
III. But, in the third place, as from what hath been said, it plainly follows, that because to endeavour to attain to the government of our minds by reason, is endeavouring to attain to order and perfection in our constitution, in the same sense, that order or perfection is ascribed to any other frame, natural or artificial, in its kind; and it is acting agreeably to our natural make and constitution, and its end, in the same sense that any other constitution is said to be in its natural state, or to answer its end, therefore man is in this sense a law to himself; that is, he hath naturally a principle belonging to him, whose right and proper office it is to give law to all his appetites and affections. As this plainly follows from what hath been laid down; so that being granted, it necessarily ensues, that the Author of our frame (for it must of necessity have an author, the same who is the Author of all things, constituting the same system with it) must have intended, that we should act in this manner, which hath been found to be agreeable to our constitution. This we must infer, or not pretend to speak of any final causes, and absurdly say, a constitution may be fitted for an end, and yet not be designed for that end; or that the intention of its Author may be, that it should<267> act quite contrary to that end. But if it be yielded, that to govern our appetites by reason, is the end for which we are fitted, and consequently designed and intended by our Maker; then have we reason to consider our constitution, which hath been found to be, in a very proper sense, a law to itself, with regard to our manner of acting, as carrying along with it the force of a law in the strictest sense, i.e. of a law enacted by our law-giver, our maker, and upholder, the sovereign disposer of all our concerns and interests. In other words, we have good reason to argue thus with ourselves: “Our make and frame declares the will, the intention of our Maker, with respect to our rule of conduct; and therefore if there be any reason, either from reverence or interest, to conform ourselves to the will and intention of our Maker, our rule of conduct in that respect is plain: it is that which the end of our make, or our whole constitution declares to be such; that is, to maintain the presidence of reason in our minds over all our appetites, affections and passions. It is then our duty, and our interest, in every sense of these words, to set ourselves with all application to act conformably to this end.”
And indeed, since there is no reason to suspect, that the Author of such a make, could have any evil intention in so forming us; but there are, on the contrary, many excellent reasons to conclude from the consideration of all his works, to the order prevailing in all which such a constitution is very consonant, that he is perfectly good, or absolutely removed from all malevolent design:—we must infer, that our acting so, as hath been described, must, according to the constitution and connexion of things, upon the whole, be our greater good and happiness. But this conclusion being once fixed, it must necessarily be allowed, that to endeavour after moral perfection is our duty: or that we are obliged to it in every sense that can be put upon obligation. For to suppose such a Maker as hath<268> been described, and as ours must needs be concluded to be, from the consideration of our make, together with all his other works, not to have made our happiness in the final issue or result of things, to depend upon our acting conformably to our end, is a contradiction. We cannot know the intention of our Maker with respect to our conduct, but by knowing the natural end of our frame: but that being discovered, we may infer, that the way to our greatest good in the whole is, by acting agreeably to our natural end, with the same certainty, that we can infer our Maker, not to be malicious, but good. And this principle being established, it will of necessity follow, that tho’ our acting so, should at present be some time attended with an over-ballance of pain, yet it must still be our interest to act so, because that cannot possibly be the case for ever, or upon the whole under good administration. But how mightily is this argument strengthened, when we come to consider that it is singly in the extraordinary case of persecution for the sake of adhering to reason and conscience, that there is the least shadow of ground for saying, that acting agreeably to reason, or maintaining it in our mind as the ruler of all our appetites, affections, and pursuits, and yielding obedience to it as such, is contrary to present interest. For in all other circumstances of life, as hath been proved, to be governed by reason is really private interest, or what self-love, rightly informed, will persuade and induce us to choose. And in that single, very uncommon case, there is a satisfaction attending the firmness and constancy of the mind, in cleaving to what reason dictates and approves, in opposition to the violentest temptation to forsake reason, and act contrary to it, which to such sufficiently presages the kind regard of heaven to virtue, even while it suffers it to be so severely tried; and thereby gives a peculiar force in their minds to all the arguments above-mentioned, from which it may be inferred, that upon the whole, or in<269> the final issue of things, acting agreeably to our nature and end, must be our greater good; and therefore, that virtue, which eminently suffers in this life, shall, by such sufferings, be fitted for a peculiarly glorious share of after-happiness, by which those its present distresses shall be most abundantly compensated. This is the language of reason, as well as of scripture, That to him who overcometh, God will give a distinguishing crown of glory: a proportioned reward: they shall shine as stars in the kingdom of recompences. Blessed is the man, says St. James,a that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him, To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.b
IV. But, in the fourth place, as it cannot be asserted, that the exercises of understanding, reflexion and reason, are not the higher and more noble exercises of beings endued with those powers, without absurdly denying, that the faculty of perception is a greater perfection than imperceptivity; so, that these exercises are according to our make, attended with the purest, most durable, and most exalted enjoyments we are susceptible of; and consequently, that we are in every sense, or with respect to interest and happiness, as well as perfection and dignity, made for those exercises, and the satisfactions accruing from them, and not merely for the pursuit of sensible gratification, will appear from the few following considerations.
I. If we attend to our constitution and experience, we shall find, that the pleasure any sensible gratification affords us, is naturally in proportion to the violence of<270> the craving nature excites in us, when it is really necessary to the upholding of our bodily frame. So it is with eating, drinking, and every other bodily satisfaction: insomuch, that the vulgar saying, that no sauce can give such an excellent relish to food, as hunger does, holds with regard to them all. Luxury may rack its invention as much as it pleases to irritate appetite, or to give things a tempting taste and flavour; but if we abstract from the pleasures of the table, of love, or of dress and equipage, all regards to society, all that having its foundation in a nature made for community and social participation, and consequently belongs not to sense, but to affections of another class, very little will indeed be found to remain of real satisfaction, which is not truly no more than deliverance from a keen appetite or desire after what is wanting to bodily support. If we therefore judge fairly of matters, the intention of nature in so constituting us, cannot be understood to be that we should wholly abandon ourselves to sensuality; but, on the contrary, that we should only mind bodily gratification, so far as the present order of things requires for the preservation of our bodies; or, at least, not in any considerably higher degree. And this is yet more evident, when we consider,
II. That, in fact, we are so far from being framed for giving ourselves up entirely to sensual delights, that when these are pursued or pushed to any considerable degree beyond the use, or rather necessity, just mentioned, they not merely clog us, and produce violent loathing and nauseating at the very sight or mention of them; but very commonly occasion severe pains and uneasiness; very grievous and distressful diseases. And can such constitutions be said to be adapted for debauchery, for luxury, and wallowing in carnal voluptuousness, even supposing there were nothing in them otherwise contrary to our dignity, or misbecoming us? But,<271>
III. On the other hand, how pure and uncloying, how equally remote from all disgust and remorse, are the exercises of understanding? And what are the pleasures of this kind, but the contemplation of order and harmony? The foundation for which is laid in our minds, by our natural capacity of delighting in harmony, proportion and concord; that we might, by means of it, derive from our senses an enjoyment far superior to what the acutest, robustest organs of sense, can afford in the mere vulgar way of outward enjoyment, by the contemplation of those numbers, that harmony, proportion, and concord, which supports the universal nature, that whole immense material fabrick, the object of our sight, and touch, and all our other senses, and is essential in the constitution, and form of every particular species or order of beings; and that we might be led by this speculation to turn our eyes inward, and see whether a correspondent harmony, proportion and concord, prevails as it ought, in the discipline and government of our affections. How ready are even the voluptuous, if they have any notion of poetry, of painting, architecture, or of any other of those called the fine arts, to own, that the enjoyments of this kind are far preferable to the highest of mere sense? And,
IV. Need I stay to prove to those who have ever known the condition of the mind under a lively affection of love, gratitude, bounty, generosity, pity, succour, or whatever else is of a social or friendly sort, that speculative pleasure, however considerable and valuable it may be, or however superior to any motion of mere sense, must yet be far surpassed by virtuous motion, and the exercise of benignity and goodness; where, together with the most delightful affection of the soul, there is joined a pleasing assent and approbation of the judgment, to what is acted in this good and honest disposition, and bent of the mind. “We may observe<272> withal, says an excellent moralist, in favour of the natural affections, that it is not only when joy and sprightliness are mixed with them, that they carry a real enjoyment above that of the sensual kind. The very disturbances which belong to natural affection, tho’ they may be thought wholly contrary to pleasure, yield still a contentment and satisfaction greater than the pleasures of indulged sense: and where a series or continued succession of the tender and kind affections can be carried on, even thro’ fears, horrors, sorrows, griefs, the emotion of the soul is still agreeable. We continue pleased with the melancholy aspect or sense of virtue. Her beauty supports itself under a cloud, and in the midst of surrounding calamities. For thus when by mere illusion, as in a tragedy, the passions of this kind are skilfully excited in us, we prefer the entertainment to any other of equal duration. We find, by ourselves, that the moving our passions in the mournful way, the engaging them in behalf of merit and worth, the exerting whatever we have of social affection, and human sympathy, is of the highest delight; and affords a greater enjoyment in the way of thought and sentiment, than any thing besides can do in a way of sense and appetite.”a
V. Another proof that we are not made for self-indulgences, but, on the contrary, for submitting our sensitive appetites to reason, and for enjoyments accruing from the exercises of higher powers about their proper objects, and chiefly from the exercises of social affections, is at hand: for daily experience shews us, that as it happens among mankind, that whilst some are by necessity confined to labour, others are provided with abundance of all things by the industry and labour of inferiors; so, if among the superior and easy sort, there be not something of fit and proper employment raised in the room of what is wanting in common labour; if, instead of an application to any<273> sort of work, such as has an useful and honest end in society, (as letters, sciences, arts, husbandry, publick affairs, or the like) there be a thorough neglect of all duty or employment; a settled idleness, supineness and inactivity; this must of necessity occasion, and never fails to do it, a most disorderly and unhappy state of temper and mind; a total dissolution of the mind, which breaks out in the strangest irregularities, and ends in proportional fretfulness, discontent and misery.
VI. Let me just add, in the last place, that a being endued with understanding and reflexion cannot avoid looking inward on itself, and surveying its own temper and conduct. And there scarcely is, or can be any creature, whose consciousness of injustice, insociability or villainy, as such merely, does not at all offend. If there be such a one, it is manifest, he must be in his constitution totally indifferent towards moral good or ill. And that being the case, he can no way be capable of the pleasures redounding from social affection: he must be utterly insusceptible of all the delights arising from benign and kindly exercises: and consequently must be a stranger to all the best satisfactions of human life; if not absolutely miserable. But where conscience, or sense of good or ill desert is, there consequently, whatever is committed against candor, truth and honesty, must of necessity, by means of reflexion, be continually shameful, hateful, and grievously offensive. As for conscience of what is at any time done unreasonably in prejudice of one’s real interest, this disquieting reflexion must still attend, and have effect, wherever there is a sense of moral deformity contracted by injustice. For even where there is no sense of moral opprobriousness, as such merely; there must be still a sense of the ill merit of it, with respect to God and man. But where there is a conscience of worth, and its contrary; a sense of base and good conduct;<274> of a well disciplined, and an irregular, tumultuous, riotous mind, then it is impossible there can be any lasting self-enjoyment, any solid contentment, even amidst the greatest affluence, without the consciousness of serious endeavours to preserve good order, in our affections, and harmony and consistency in our life and manners. A man who lives dissolutely, and abandons himself to outward voluptuousness, without any regard to society, and without taking the least care of his moral part, hath no chance for ease or quiet, but by stupifying his reason, shunning himself, and living in a perpetual hurry and fluster. And is not this really the case with those who are vulgarly called men of pleasure? Nothing can bear the review of thought and reflexion, but the earnest endeavours of a good man to maintain the power and authority of his reason over his appetites, and to improve in his contempt of mere sensitive enjoyment, and in his relish for rational exercises; the exercises of understanding, and of social, generous affection. I have said nothing but earnest endeavours, because virtue is a progress, it is the effect of long management and sedulous art; much discipline and severe self-controul. No man is here arrived to perfect virtue, he is but in the progress towards it. And he is the best man, who hath made the greatest proficiency in the conquest of his appetites after carnal objects, and in delight in rational satisfactions. Why is virtue a struggle in moral fictions; or why is there no perfect character in poetry; or why would such a portraiture be thought unpoetical and false, but because in reality there is no such thing in life? Virtue is a warfare, because our appetites grow up, and become very strong, before our reason is able to exert its power, before indeed it knows, or can know its duty, and rule, and its proper functions. But the man, who is diligent in making progress to virtue, is not only in the road to future happiness, if the administration we are under be good; since, in that case, when moral perfection is arrived<275> by due culture and severe struggling to a perfection, fitted for being placed in circumstances that can afford it complete happiness, by administring to it objects suited to its perfection, then will it certainly be so placed: he is likewise at present in the only way that can give any true or solid pleasure to such a constitution, as is framed for advancing to moral perfection by due trials and diligent culture. And such is our constitution. Wherefore the holy scripture considers human nature in a right view; and addresses itself to man as he is really formed and constituted, when it calls us to set our affections not on things below; not on things on earth, but on things that are above: not to live and sow to the flesh, but to live and sow to the spirit.
It were easy to shew, that the best heathen moralists likewise considered human nature in the same view, and exhorted to the study and practice of virtue in the same strain. But it is sufficient to have shewn, that if the end of any creature can be inferred with any certainty from its make and constitution, this is the scope for which we are fitted; even to make progress toward moral perfection; that is, the perfection of those powers which entitle us to the character of rational or moral agents. It is for this end, that we have reason to govern, and appetites and affections to be governed: it is for this reason, we have a capacity for sensitive pleasures and sensitive appetites united with reason and a sense of order, beauty and proportion in an external world, and in the management of our own affections and actions; or the conduct of our life. This frame cannot be intended for any other purpose; and accordingly when that end is seriously pursued, the mind is easy and contented with itself, or is in its truly natural state; it thus brings no evils on itself, which can create the greatest of all uneasinesses, remorse and bad consciousness; but, on the contrary, it reviews itself with pleasure, and reviewing its merit, is inspired with double zeal to advance in its proper perfection, <276>cost what it will; whereas the neglect or abuse of our rational powers and sensuality fill with uneasiness, proportional to corruption and filthiness; often create the violentest bodily disorders, and never fail to render a being utterly averse to all inward thought and correspondence, or to the sight of itself. We are therefore made for the end we are exhorted by the sacred writings to pursue; and in pursuing it does the only true happiness this life can afford us consist. And indeed as the notion of man’s being made for a happiness in a future life to arise from his progress in virtue here, and proportioned to it, is a most comfortable idea; so if we do not suppose this to be the end of our frame, what consistent account can we give of our make? What account of it that is consonant to what it really is, or to the character of its author stamped upon all his other works? For if man be not made for that end, which the scripture expresly declares to be the end of his creation, and for which his present frame and situation are very well adapted, then he is the most inconsistent, absurd, nay, the most maliciously contrived piece of workmanship that can be imagined. For he is made for an end, on purpose that he may never attain to it, but may be cruelly disappointed if he aims at it, and pursues it. His whole frame points and prompts him to set a mark before him, which he shall never attain to, but be then most maliciously frustrated, when he thinks he is at the very point of obtaining it. All, according to the scripture account of man, is coherent, hangs well together, and gives a consistent as well as a joyful idea of the moral creation. But if it be not true, that man is made for progress in virtue and for a happiness, which is to be the result of improved virtue suitably placed; all nature, as many evident marks as it bears upon it every where of wisdom and benevolence, is truly but a deceitful appearance of goodness, under which lurks the most cruel malignant intention with regard to all moral beings. To conclude,<277> the perfection of a being endued with reason must be of the rational kind; and rational perfection is in the nature of things, a gradual acquisition, in proportion to culture, or diligence to improve in it. But man is a rational creature, capable of attaining to a very great degree of rational perfection by due pains to improve himself in it; and therefore diligence to improve in moral perfection is man’s present duty, whatever difficulties and strugglings it may cost; and such virtuous labour must terminate in happiness proportioned to the perfection so acquired, otherwise the rational world, that is, moral beings are under the worst of governments. But since even here, notwithstanding all the hardships virtue during its culture may meet with in order to its improvement, it carries along with it the only happiness suited to our frame in a very high degree, even tho’ there were no other signs of goodness in the administration of present things; why should virtue be imagined to be the object of our Creator’s hatred, detestation and revenge? As it must be supposed to be, if moral beings are not really made and intended for immortal progress in virtue, proportioned to their care and diligence to improve their moral powers; and virtue, which must in the nature of things be gradually perfectionated by culture and means of probation, after it is arrived to a great degree of perfection in its state of trial and discipline, perishes for ever, is rendered miserable, or is not placed in circumstances suited to its improvements, and from which it can derive to itself, by its exercises about proper objects, very full and complete happiness. For every one of these suppositions can have no other foundation, but in the imagination of a malignant maker and governor of all things, who is an implacable enemy to moral or virtuous improvements.<278>
From the preceeding account of human nature, and the perfection which man is made, formed and intended to pursue, we may plainly see, why man is so often exhorted in scripture, to mortify and subdue his bodily appetites. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth, says St. Paul,a fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry. For which things sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. And, in another place, the same apostle exhorts us to the same purpose in these words.b Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. And he tells us, that if we live after the flesh we shall die; but if we thro’ the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.a
And indeed they must not have attended, neither to the nature of virtue, nor to the close dependence of our body and mind, who think such precepts unnecessarily harsh, and that progress can be made in virtue, which is properly called in scripture, sanctifying our body and mind, without strict bodily discipline, without thwarting, opposing, denying, and subduing our carnal appetites. They must not have attended to the nature of virtue, or of progress towards moral perfection. For virtue, as it properly signifies strength and magnanimity of mind, so it properly consists in power and dominion over our appetites; in self-command and mastership<279> of the mind: so it was defined by the best ancient moralists. And this is the virtue or perfection we are made to attain to. Our senses grow up first, because reason is a principle, which in the nature of things must be advanced to strength and vigour by gradual cultivation; and their objects are continually assailing and solliciting us; so that unless a very happy education prevents it, our sensitive appetites must have become very strong, before reason can have force enough to call them to account, and assume authority over them. But being endued with reason, in its nature a governing principle, we are made to cultivate it into a capacity of governing, and to set it up, and maintain and support it as a ruler in our mind. In this does our perfection lie. And therefore it must be our duty to exert ourselves to acquire sufficient strength of mind; not only not to allow ourselves to be transported into any pursuit by any of our appetites till we have examined it soundly and carefully; but to be able on every proper occasion to contradict and oppose them. Self-command and strength of reason cannot be otherwise attained to. For he who doth not accustom himself to submit his appetites, and to deny them their requests, cannot but be a prey or dupe to them; he cannot be master or have dominion over them. But that habitual firmness and magnanimity of mind is attained, as all other habits, by repeated exercises, and must therefore be attained by frequent self-denials. And accordingly it hath been recommended by the wisest philosophers, contrary to the ordinary way, to inure children to submit their desires, and go without their longings; because the principle of all virtue and excellence lies in a power of denying ourselves the satisfaction of our own desires, where reason does not authorize them. And this power is to be got by custom, and made easy and familiar by an early practice. The very first thing therefore, say these writers, that children should learn to know, should be, that they were not to have any thing,<280> because it pleased them, but because it was thought fit for them. This is certainly the proper method of forming early in young minds the truly virtuous temper, real magnanimity, and strength of mind, or the habit of self-command. But this disposition is not surely to be formed in young minds by proper discipline and exercise, in order to be destroyed and effaced as soon as we grow up by opposite practice. We cannot take a right view of our make and present state, without seeing the necessity of continuing this discipline over ourselves throughout our whole life; without considering ourselves always as children, with respect to the perfection we may attain to, and ought to be continually aspiring and contending after. For what is the highest attainment in virtue or moral perfection, which is in other words the contempt of sensual delight in comparison of rational satisfaction; what is it in proportion to the perfection that may yet be arrived at by the continuation of proper care and culture?
But they must also be indeed great strangers to our make and constitution, insomuch as to have quite forgot the close and intimate reciprocal communion between our minds and our bodies, who imagine, that the temper which hath been described can be attained or upheld, if we pamper our bodies, and give full swing to all our corporeal appetites; or if contrariwise we do not live in the strictest habitual sobriety, and frequently deny ourselves even innocent gratifications, in order to make self-denial easy, when noble ends call for it at our hands; friendship, the love of our country, or any other such virtuous and generous affection. It does not follow from hence, that severe fastings, penances, and bodily chastisements at stated times are necessary, or even that they make any part of religion and virtue. They are commonly enjoined and undergone by way of attonement for habitual irregularity, and to make amends for the want of a true principle of virtue, which<281> always works regularly and uniformly, than which opinion nothing can be more absurd. Nor does it follow from what hath been said, that men are to live a rigidly abstemious life, and to deny themselves the necessaries to sustenance; habitually to starve and emaciate themselves, and live in downright contradiction to all that sense and sensitive appetite demands. Every thing hath its extremes; and therefore virtue and truth may be justly said in general to consist in the middle. We are commanded to raise our minds above all sensual gratifications, and to set our affections chiefly upon moral exercises, and the pleasures accruing from them; and we are as certainly made for that end as we have reason to govern our appetites. And therefore, far from making sensual enjoyment our main end, we are to submit all our sensitive appetites to reason, and to inure them to yield easily and readily to what duty requires, to what the improvement of our rational faculties, and the interests of mankind and society require. But this cannot be done, not only without habituating ourselves to sobriety; but without frequent acts of self-denial, even where the indulgence would not be in any degree criminal, nor even so much as indecent. And in this case, because different constitutions require different management, every man must be left to his own prudence: general rules cannot be laid down. It is every man’s business to study his temper and complexion, that he may know what is necessary for him to do, in order to maintain and improve in that spiritual turn of mind, which is the perfection of a rational being. I call it spiritual turn of mind, because it is called in scripture, the life of the soul, or living to the spirit, being properly the life of our rational powers, the life of all those powers and dispositions in our constitution, which exalt us to the rank of moral agents; our understanding, our judgment, our reason, and our sense of good and evil, orderly and disorderly, becoming and unfit. The pleasures that<282> result from the exercises, which improve these faculties and dispositions, are the noblest we are capable of; they are of a kind, not only with the enjoyments which make other moral creatures superior to us happy, but with the felicity of God our Creator himself, whose happiness results from the exercises of his infinitely perfect moral powers.
But the reasonableness of those christian precepts, by which we are commanded to subdue and mortify our bodies, and to quicken our spiritual part, and to make provision for it, will yet more plainly appear, if we attend to some other ways of speaking in holy writ on the same subject. “Now the study of virtue is there called, putting off the old man, and putting on a new nature, or becoming a new creature.” And the meaning of these phrases, with the reasonableness of the view that is given by them of the virtue belonging to men, as the excellence they ought to pursue and aspire after with all diligence, will be evident,
I. If we reflect, in the first place, that, though some few may, through the good influence of virtuous example, and of a wise and happy education, be said to be sanctified from the womb, so liberal, so generous, so virtuous, so truly noble is their cast of mind; yet generally speaking, men are so corrupt, the whole world always hath, and still lieth in such wickedness, that with respect to the far greater part of mankind the study of virtue is beginning to reform, and is a severe struggle against bad habits early contracted, and deeply rooted. It is therefore putting off an old inveterate corrupt nature, and putting on a new form and temper: it is moulding ourselves anew: it is being born again, and becoming as children, to be formed into a right shape; becoming docile, tractable, and pliable, as little children, in order to be instructed in, and formed to the temper which becomes rational creatures, and in order to have another set of affections<283> and appetites established in us than those which lead the wicked captive to their gross and impure pursuits. This is the case when the habitually corrupt are called to turn from their wickedness, and to change their ways. They are really called upon to change their hearts, and to form a new spirit within them. And how few are there in the world, who escape its pollutions, so as not to be early in that class; or to be among those righteous who have not need of repentance; nothing to reform in their temper or conduct; or nothing to do but to advance in the perfection they are already in the train of pursuing. Those to whom the apostles addressed these exhortations were plunged in vice and sensuality, as appears from the character given of them. And an exhortation to every man who is a slave to his appetites, and hath not yet attained to the power of right self-government by his reason must run in that strain. “Wash you, make you clean; sanctify yourself; purify your heart; mortify the body, and make provision for your spirit, that you may enter into the holy, virtuous, and spiritual life, which will end in a life everlasting of virtue and rational virtuous happiness.”
II. But farther, let it be considered on this head, that not only are we so made, that unless a very virtuous institution prevent it, our sensitive appetites must become very strong or rather very impetuous, before our reason can have attained to the authority it must have to govern them as they ought, which can only be acquired by gradual culture and exercise: but as all rational creatures can only attain to moral improvements in the same way of gradual culture; so it is probable, that all reasonable creatures have, tho’ not affections and appetites of the same species with ours; yet such as are in this respect analogous to ours, that they are implanted in them to be the subjects of their rational government, as ours are<284> to be the subjects of our reason and moral discipline; and thus to be to them, as ours are to us, means or materials of exercise and trial. We cannot conceive moral beings to be formed to virtue, but by the discipline of reason; nor can we conceive a state of discipline and probation, when there is nothing to temptortry; nothing to seduce, nothing to be conquered. And yet, whatever may be as to that, it is certain, that our sensitive powers and appetites, and the sensible objects suited to them, at the same time that they afford us means and materials of rational employments, on account of the order, harmony, and concord that prevails in the disposition and government of the sensible world, and in other respects, are really to us means of probation, because they give occasion to a competition between sensual and rational pursuit; they lay a foundation, as it were, for a warfare, and give opportunity for strength and conquest. Our senses do in fact strongly importune us, and yet because we have reason, and are capable of ruling, subduing, and conquering sense, and of pursuing rational delights, preferably to those of sense, we must certainly be made for that end; it must certainly be our perfection, and it must likewise be the sure way to our greatest happiness, unless our reason be made to be frustrated in pursuing the only end it can be thought to be made for, consistently with our way of judging about the end for which any frame whatsoever is intended. This being our make, we must necessarily conclude, that we are made to conquer sense, and to improve our reason; or to establish in our minds an habitual preference to rational delights, as those from which our happiness is to redound, when we have arrived by due culture in our state of discipline and probation to consider able perfection of the moral kind. For not to infer this from our make, is really to assert no less an absurdity, than that we are endued with<285> reason capable of being improved, and yet are not intended for rational improvement and perfection.
Now if all this be true, then we may see that our present state is justly represented in scripture, as our state of education and trial; our probationary state, in which we are to be schooled and disciplined; or rather are to school and discipline ourselves into a capacity for being perfectly happy in a future state, in the rational or moral way, that is, in consequence of the natural exercises of well-improved moral powers about their proper objects. I need not stay to prove that to be the scripture representation of our present and future state. I am afterwards to inquire particularly into the account given of our future life by the sacred writings. And the whole tenor of the exhortations to mankind in the scriptures runs in this strain, to sow to the spirit now, that we may in a succeeding state reap the happy fruits of that moral or virtuous seed we now sow; to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven; and to purify ourselves as God is pure, that we may dwell with him, and see him as he is. Consistently with this account of our present state, we are commanded to put on the whole armour of light, and to fight so that we may overcome. And virtue is every where represented as struggling for victory; as contending for a prize: as wrestling and battling against strong and powerful enemies. Nor is it so represented to us by the scriptures only, but likewise by the best antient moralists. And what else can it be with respect to those who have any evil habits to undo; any corrupt passions to submit to reason, and conquer? And who are not less or more in that case? What else can it be with respect to beings whose senses are continually importuning them to throw off the bondage of reason,<286> and give full swing to them? And who is there among mankind, who doth not often feel a law in his members, that is, some unruly head-strong appetite, warring against the law of his mind, the law of his reason and moral conscience?
But though this be true, yet the holy scripture is neither inconsistent with itself, nor repugnant to the nature of things, when it at the same time represents virtue as pleasant and agreeable; as man’s supreme happiness even here, and as what can only be rewarded by itself. In order to illustrate this, it seems proper to make the two following observations.
I. As in learning any art or science we distinguish two periods, the first of which is harsh, and attended with a great mixture of uneasiness, but the other exceeding pleasurable: so is it with regard to virtue, the first steps to it, like the first steps towards science or art, are painful, laborious, and in a great measure irksome; especially when the appetites to be subdued are very imperious, and the evil habits to be destroyed are very firmly rooted; but as science or art becomes easier and pleasanter in proportion to the advances made in it, so likewise does virtue: and, at last, when any considerable degree of perfection is attained to in it, then all goes very smoothly and very easily on; then its commands are not grievous, but light and sweet; nay, all its paths are pleasantness, and all its ways are peace. Virtue must become natural in the same way that any habit becomes natural, that is, by practice, before it can have that pleasant effect in its exercises, which that alone can have, that is, become habitual or natural, in proportion as it is such.<287>
II. But let not this be so understood as if it were quite so difficult a matter to conquer the most inveterate habits, as it may at first be imagined. The greatest difficulty in conquering bad habits arises from this natural language of that habitual unwillingness to exert ourselves in self-government, which must grow upon us with every habit that is otherwise established in our mind, then by force or dint of reason, or with its actual consent and approbation, with which language our natural inclination to extenuate and excuse our faults to ourselves very readily falls in; viz. That it is in vain to struggle against an old habit, or, at least, that it will cost a great deal of trouble and pain to gain the ascendant over it. If we can but once attain to force enough of mind to resist this natural suggestion of every bad habit in favour of itself, and to resolve upon asserting the dominion of our reason, the whole work almost is done. Vice is driven out of its strongest hold, and the victory is at hand. And for this reason all good moralists, as well as the scriptures, represent the whole, or, at least, the chief point in reformation, and the study of virtue to be daring to be wise (sapere aude) or taking the resolution not to be a dupe to every foolish appetite or fancy that may attack us, either with fair promises of pleasure, or specious representations of great trouble and uneasiness; but to act with reason, or upon rational deliberation, and always for very well and maturely weighed considerations. And what man, who is convinced that it is more becoming a reasonable being to act rationally than irrationally, may not easily upbraid himself into this resolution, by but considering frequently with himself, that not to have it is not to be a man; and that there is hardly any thing that human resolution may not master, as we may see from very various effects of it.<288>
III. Notwithstanding what hath been said of virtue, that it is not only a progress, but a progress that requires violent struggling, great magnanimity and resolution; yet it is certainly true, that this laborious progress is man’s great happiness here, and that virtue alone can be the reward of virtue.
I. The progress towards virtue or moral perfection, as troublesome as it can possibly be in any case, is however our chief happiness here. It carries along with it a delightful consciousness of be coming strength and greatness of mind in pursuing our chief excellence. It not only can comfort itself with the hopes of attaining to happiness of the highest kind, when the mind is by due culture prepared for it; but it knows itself to be acting the right part, the part suitable to our nature, and which God and all wise beings must approve. And in what other consciousness can a man rejoice: for what other exercise can he approve himself: upon what else indeed can he reflect, without condemning, hating, and abhorring himself, and all his ways? The virtuous man, that is, the man who assiduously sets himself to improve his mind, and to act a becoming part on every occasion; a part suitable to, and worthy of his rational nature, is conscious to himself of having inward strength and courage, true greatness of mind, and of being master of himself, and not a mere slave to every shameful lust, or cowardly fear: and what power, what dominion, what conquest can give joy equal to this? In this alone doth true independency and genuine heroism consist. So true is it, that the exercises of understanding, reason and generous affection, yield a satisfaction which none of the pleasures of mere sense bear any proportion to; that if we ask the truly virtuous man, what reward he would desire for any of these, and he will naturally tell you, other higher exercises of the same kind? Will he say sensual pleasure of whatever<289> kind? No surely; for he places his chiefest joy in sacrificing these pleasures to benevolence, or some other such virtuous principle.
II. And therefore it is, that virtue is justly said to be its own reward, or in other words, that the glory prepared for the virtuous, in a future state, is called grace, or virtue made perfect, and placed in circumstances for exercises adequate to its perfection. We shall have occasion afterwards to shew that this is the account given of the glory promised to the virtuous in a future state; and therefore we shall only take notice here, That those who say, virtue can have any reward but from virtuous exercises, must mean, if they speak consistently, that something like what is commonly called, the Mahometan Paradise, is to be the reward in a future state, for our care in this to improve our rational powers, and to attain to a contempt of sensual pleasures, in comparison of those accruing from moral or rational exercises; which is to say, that virtue is to be rewarded by sensuality; or that we are made and obliged to live godly, righteously, and soberly here, and to make provision for the spirit, and not for the body, to fulfil the lusts thereof, that we may be qualified to wallow in sensual pleasures in another life. The whole question about virtue is, whether rational exercises are not of a nobler kind than mere sensual indulgences. And the moment they are acknowledged to be such, it is granted that virtuous exercises can only be rewarded by virtuous exercises of a higher kind; or, in other words, by more improved virtue exercised about objects proportioned to its excellence and perfection. The moment the reality of virtue is owned, sensual gratification is given up as a low, mean, and sordid part of happiness, in respect of rational exercises and the enjoyments resulting from them. But if the mere delights of sense cannot be the reward of virtue, nothing can be its reward but<290> itself. The moment the happiness of the Deity is acknowledged to result from his moral perfection, moral perfection is owned to be, in the nature of things, the only source of happiness to moral beings: and that being owned, various degrees of moral powers and their exercises must make the only difference amongst moral beings in different states, or of different classes in respect of happiness. Virtue therefore is its own reward. And those who assert, that there is no obligation to virtue independently of the consideration of future rewards and punishments, do absurdly assert (in whatever sense they take obligation) that there is a happiness hereafter for the virtuous, not of the virtuous or rational kind, which makes the only good reason for the study of virtue here: or, in other words, that it is wise and prudent to be virtuous here, merely because in another life the virtuous may be as unvirtuous as they please; because they shall then be released from their obligations to troublesome, virtuous exercises, and shall have theira belly full of other delights far superior to all that virtue can by its noblest exercises afford to a rational mind. Their assertion must ultimately determine in this gross absurdity. And from what considerations they can ever infer such obligation to virtue, or such a succeeding reward for it, I cannot imagine. Sure they cannot reason from the excellence of virtue to prove such a state of rewards and punishments to come. And sure they cannot reason to prove it from any of the perfections of the Deity. From what other principle therefore can they conclude the probability of their future state, which according to them constitutes the sole obligation to virtue? There is indeed none, nor can there, in the nature of things, be any argument to prove a future<291> state, which does not suppose rational exercises to be the best, the noblest, and pleasantest exercises of reasonable beings, and which for that reason does not suppose, that, if there be a state of rewards for virtue, it must be a state in which virtue shall reap happiness, proportioned to its perfection from exercises about objects suited to it; and consequently, tho’ higher than any happiness virtue can afford in its first state of education and trial, yet of a kind with what it now gives, and alone can give: virtue therefore is its own reward, and only can be such.
All this will be yet more evident, when we come, in the succeeding proposition, to take a more particular view of the rational exercises recommended to us, by the christian religion, as our duties and excellencies, and to shew, in treating of them, how well man is furnished for the practice of them, or improvement by them. But before I leave what I have been now considering, it is fit to obviate an objection that may be made against what hath been said concerning our natural end, duty, and excellence: which is, That if the case be as hath been represented, then by the necessary state of human affairs, are men upon a very unequal footing, with respect to their ultimate end; since few have time and opportunity, if they have capacity, for moral improvements.
Now in answer to this, I shall not stay to prove, how much of this unequality among mankind with regard to present rational happiness is owing to ill-constituted society, or bad government. Though that be true, yet it is incontestible that the exigencies of human life do require, that more should be employed in manual labours, than in study. And therefore allowing as full force to the objection as can be required, I would only have it observed,
I. In the first place, That in all countries, where true science has made any progress, were men of<292> knowledge as generously and benevolently active in instructing others, as several of the ancient sages, Socrates in particular, are represented to have been; the commons, who are under the necessity of drudgery for the backs and bellies of others, as well as their own, and more for the gratification of the luxury of others, than for their own necessities, would be much more knowing than they are in the nature of God, and of moral obligations, in the wisdom of providence, and in the duties and rights of reasonable beings. And in countries where christianity being established there is an order of teachers set apart, chiefly for that noble, generous use, it is not the fault of the commons, if they are not very well instructed in the more important parts of science, those which have been just mentioned.
But, II. Every man may, by himself, if he would duly employ his mind in the contemplation of the works of God about him, or in the examination of his own frame, even while he is working at his lawful and useful business, make very great progress in the knowledge of human nature, and of the wisdom and goodness of God. This all men, generally speaking, might do with very little assistance, for they have all sufficient abilities for thus employing their minds, and have all sufficient time for it, tho’ their work did not admit of such reflexions, while they are engaged in it, as many of the more ordinary lower occupations in life plainly do. And indeed in all countries, some of the lower ranks are known to have made by themselves very great proficiency in such knowledge: and many more are known to have made wonderful progress in sciences, much more difficultly acquired.
III. The man who exercises his understanding with benevolent intention, in order to improve any useful<293> art; in order to encrease the lordship of man in nature, or his power and property; to abridge human toil, or add to the happiness of society in any respect, every person who thus employs himself, prefers the exercises of his understanding and the good of society to merely selfish and sensual enjoyments; he is therefore virtuous. Now that more men have not this excellent turn of mind, and greater abilities to gratify it, is the fault of society, in neglecting so much the education of the commons. For were it on a right footing, that industrious, benevolent turn would be early produced in them all; and every various genius being invited and assisted to disclose and improve itself, every one would be at once extremely happy and extremely virtuous, in laying himself out, each according to his genius, to invent or improve in some way that would be greatly advantageous to mankind. In one word, man’s lordship over nature, and happiness in consequence of such dominion, can only be enlarged by the knowledge and imitation of nature; and he who benevolently delights in the study and imitation of any part of nature, in order to extend human knowledge and human dominion, is rationally and virtuously employed. Now the same establishments with regard to the education of the commons, that are necessary to the advancement of our dominion and our happiness by the improvement of knowledge and arts, would make true virtue among mankind almost universal. But I propose to treat this subject fully in an Essay on Education.33 Mean time it is evident that christianity calls upon every man to choose to himself some particular calling, profession, or business, in which he may be most useful to mankind; and represents diligence, benevolent diligence and assiduity in it, as serving the Lord; as approving ones self to him; as acting a virtuous, a laudable, a praise-worthy part; and a part that qualifies for, and will be rewarded with a very happy situation in an after-life for the exercise of high<294> virtues. This is manifest from many exhortations to that effect, which have been already cited.
IV. But which is still of greater moment, even those, who, as things go at present in society, have almost no opportunity or advantage for improvement in knowledge, have, however, capacity and opportunity of attaining to command over their passions, and of exercising generous, or honest and benevolent affections. None want opportunities of improving their moral temper; and that being well formed, there is no difficulty in conceiving how such as have made progress in that chief part of moral perfection, may, in another world, be placed in such circumstances as they may soon and easily acquire very great knowledge of God, divine providence and moral obligations; especially with assistance from others, who being far advanced in such useful science, can hardly have an employment more suited to a generous mind, than instructing others, who are well-disposed and fond to learn.
And, in the last place, let what we shall have occasion to shew more fully afterwards not be forgotten here, that there is no reason to suppose the rewards of a future state to consist merely in the happiness resulting from contemplation. And as for active employments of various sorts, from which unspeakable enjoyments may accrue, they are sufficiently well fitted for them, who have self-command, and a generous disposition thoroughly established in their minds, together with that attentiveness to circumstances which is necessary to discover the best and wisest conduct, that a little practice in good offices soon produces in one of a beneficent turn. God, who knows all men fully, knows how to reward proportionately and adequately every degree of sincere virtue; and therefore the particular kinds of happiness in a future state proportioned to various abilities, not being specified to us by revelation, it can be no objection either against<295> the truth of it or the probability of a future state, if we are not able to form any idea of the matter. Yet if we give but a little room to our fancy, we may, consistently with analogy to the present life, while at the same time we make full allowances for diversity between this and a future state, easily imagine to ourselves as many very happy exercises and employments in it, as we can conceive differences among the virtuous in respect of scientifical improvements, or even with regard to several practical virtues, which require very particular circumstances for their formation or improvement here. But of this afterwards.
[b. ]2 Tim. iii. 4.
[c. ]Gal. vi. 8.
[a. ]Rom. iii. 16. vi. 16, &c. James i. 15.
[b. ]Rom. viii. 13.
[c. ]1 John ii. 15, 16, 17.
[31. ]James 3.14–16.
[d. ]Coloss. iii. 2, &c.
[32. ]James 3.17–18.
[a. ]St. James i. 12.
[b. ]Rev. iii. 21.
[a. ]See this, and the following argument, charmingly illustrated in the essay on virtue, Charac. T. 2. [Shaftesbury, “Virtue” II.ii.1, in Characteristics, ed. Klein, 203–4.]
[a. ]Col. iii. 5, 6.
[b. ]Rom. xiii. 12, 13, 14.
[a. ]Rom. viii. 6, 13.
[a. ]It is impossible to speak of enjoyments which are not virtuous or rational in phrases that are not as low as the enjoyments spoken of: it is not to give a gross air to the opinion I am refuting. I use this phrase; some such thing as coarse must be its meaning.
[33. ]Turnbull’s “Essay on Education” eventually appeared in 1742 with the title Observations upon Liberal Education.