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Corolary III - 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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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.
Man is well furnished for attaining to the moral perfection he is commanded by revelation to labour to attain to: and revelation considers man in a true light; or gives a just idea of human nature in the representation it gives of human duty and happiness.
After having enlarged at such length on the principles whence all moral obligations must take their rise, a very few observations on the scripture doctrine of virtue will suffice to illustrate and confirm this proposition. Let me therefore only insist a very little on each of these three observations.
I. The scripture no where sets a mark before man too high above him; or no where represents human nature in a too favourable and flattering light.
II. The scripture doctrine of virtue no where sinks too low; or no where gives too low and mean a view of human nature.
III. In the christian morality no moral duty or virtue is overlooked or excluded.<296>
If all this can be proved, it must follow, that the christian doctrine concerning virtue is perfect; and that frequent reading the scriptures must be of great use to fix a sense of our duty on our minds, and to furnish us for every good work.
I. The sacred writings do not set a mark before us, too high for man to aim at; or represent human nature more perfect than it is. To prove this, we need only shew, that when the scripture exhorts and commands us to set the perfection of God before us, and to imitate it, it does not set a mark before us, too high for man to aim at; or represent human nature capable of attaining to a degree of moral perfection above its reach: for it will be owned, that a higher, a sublimer, a more perfect pattern cannot be proposed to our imitation. Let us therefore attend a little to the scripture doctrine about imitating God. The whole of virtue and religion is placed by the scriptures in imitating God. At the delivery of the law to Moses, the particulars of duty by which the worshippers of the true God were to be distinguished from all other nations, are introduced with this general preface to the whole. a “The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.” And the apostle St. Peterb exhorts christians to holiness, confirming his own argument by the citation of these words, spoken thus from the mouth of God himself to Moses, “As he which hath called you is holy; so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: because it is written, be ye holy, for I am holy.” I need not tell any who are acquainted with the scriptures, that holiness signifies originally in the Jewish language, separationfrom common use: in that sense all the<297> utensils of the temple are in the old testament stiled holy. And in the same sense ’tis used of persons also employed in the service of God. But the word is often transferred from this literal to a moral signification, expressing purity and sanctity of manners, distance and separation from all corrupt and vitious practices. When applied to God, it signifies his infinite distance from every kind and degree of moral evil: his infinite moral perfection: the spotless rectitude of his nature. And when we are exhorted to imitate God, it is to imitate him in his love of virtue, his love of truth and righteousness; his benevolence and goodness; his hatred of sin, and his making to himself the eternal immutable rules of justice, goodness, and truth, the measure of all his actions. Accordingly the apostle St. Paul commands us,a Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh, and of the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. And our Saviour calls upon us thus, “Be ye perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect.”b And in the same discourse he tells us, that the pure in heart only shall see God. In other passages of scripture particular moral attributes of God are set before us, as a pattern to follow after and copy. St. Peter in the passage above cited sets forth the justice of God as such,c “Be ye holy in all manner of conversation, calling on the father, who, without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man’s work.” And in the sermon on the mount, our Saviour directs us to imitate the goodness of God as the most essential means to obtain a share in his favour, and a part in his most perfect happiness. Love your enemies, saith he, that is, desire and promote their amendment, and then be ready to forgive them; do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you:<298> that ye may be the children of your father which is in heaven: that is, that ye may be like him who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. In the epistle to the Ephesians,d those who are immersed in sensuality and impurity, whose understandings are darkened, and who live in sin and corruption, are said to be alienated from the life of God, thro’ the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. And the design of christianity is, saith the sacred penman, to restore them who are thus ignorant and past feeling, or who have quite, as it were, lost all sense of the difference between moral good and evil to a right understanding and judgment of moral things, and to perswade them to put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of their mind, putting on the new man, which, after the image of God, is created in righteousness and true holiness: and in the succeeding verses this righteousness and holiness is shewn to comprehend all moral excellencies.a St. Peter represents those who by true repentance and real amendment of life return to their duty, as being restored, and made partakers of the divine nature. The manner of speaking is figurative, and very elegantly expressive of that moral likeness to God, which is elsewhere stiled literally, being partakers of his holiness.b And to add no more on this head, the perfection of that glory and happiness in an after-state, which is set before us in the christian religion, principally consists in our being like to God in purity and holiness.c “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”<299>
But now, as high as this mark may appear to be, yet it is not too sublime an end to be proposed to beings indued with moral powers, and in this sense created after the image of God, as man is said to be in scripture, and really is. ’Tis needless to observe, that our imitation of God, of the moral perfections of God, is always to be understood as signifying an imitation of likeness, and not of equality. A perfect and most complete example is set before us to imitate, that aiming always at that which is most excellent, we may grow continually, and make a perpetual progress in virtue. Our business here is to give all diligence to advance and improve in moral perfection. Virtue is, in the nature of things, a progress, and it is represented to be so in scripture. But towards what is it a progress, but towards the highest perfection our reason and the temper of our mind are capable of? And what else can that be, but progress or advancement in greater and greater resemblance to him, who is absolute moral perfection? Progress therefore in virtue is, in the nature of things, progress in likeness to God, or imitation of God. And under this notion accordingly is it represented by the best and wisest heathen philosophers, as well as in the sacred writings. Nor can there be a more proper way of conceiving to ourselves our duty, our dignity, our happiness, the end of our creation, and the perfection we ought to be continually labouring to attain to, in any respect, than under the notion of imitating God, or improving in likeness to him. It is the properest way of conceiving to ourselves, and of keeping before our eyes the high dignity and excellency of the perfection of moral powers, the beauty and amiableness of virtue; and it is at the same time the properest way of conceiving to ourselves the true happiness belonging to moral beings as such. For thus we have before our eyes the perfection of virtue, and the happinessre sulting from that perfection.<300> Thus we at once perceive the intrinsick excellency of moral rectitude, and the natural immutable connexion between advancement to perfection, and advancement or growth in happiness. While this idea therefore is before us, every thing is present to our minds that can excite us to the most earnest pursuit of virtue. The amiableness of virtue, its agreeableness to the character and will of our creator; its connexion with our happiness, the necessity of it to render us acceptable to God, and his love of it, and care and concern about it, all these considerations are implied in it, and must be present to us while we consider our end under the idea of becoming like God, of imitating him, and by becoming partakers of his nature, becoming partakers of his excellency and of his happiness.
All this is too evident to be insisted upon after what hath been already said of the very nature of moral powers. And indeed it cannot be denied, that imitation of God, as it hath been defined, is the properend of moral beings, without denying that the perfection of moral powers is their proper end; or what they are intended to pursue and seek after. Man cannot be said not to be capable of imitating the divine moral excellencies, or not to be made for that noble end, unless it is affirmed that he can have no notion of moral perfection; or that it is above his reach to make any advances towards it. But will any affirm that we cannot form an idea of progress in moral improvement; we, who have naturally so quick and lively a taste of perverse and upright things, as Job expressesit?34 We, who cannot look upon any sin without abhorrence. We, whose consciences so strongly upbraid us for every debasement of our nature, for every vice. We, who cannot paint to ourselves, or behold any virtue without admiring, approving, and loving it. For all this is true, even of the worst of men. No man can absolutely lose all sense and discernment of moral good and evil while he<301> retains his understanding. No person can exercise his judgment about moral things, about affections, actions and characters, without perceiving moral differences. And however little some men exercise their thinking powers; however little they care to reflect upon themselves and their conduct; or how ever much they lay themselves out to avoid serious thoughts; yet, in fact, so is man constituted, and such is the order of things, that moral ideas are ever coming across even those who fly from them; and are at the greatest trouble to keep them out, in such a manner, that they are often made to see their deformity, whether they will or not, and are stung with the sharpest remorse. The heart of man cannot be corrupted to such a degree, but it will continue to tell him as often as he looks into it, that sin debases the human nature; and that man was created a reasonable being, that he might, by assiduous care to improve his mind, become pure as God is pure; benevolent as God is benevolent; like God, and fit for a share of that same kind of happiness, which, in its perfect degree, is the felicity of the supreme being, in consequence of his absolute moral perfection.
It cannot be said to be above our power to make gradual progress towards that high degree of moral perfection we are made capable of conceiving and approving. For in the corruptest ages of the world, there have been eminent examples of virtue, which upbraid the wicked with their offending the law; and object to their infamy the transgressions of their lives, which reprove their thoughts, and abstaining from their ways as filthiness are grievous unto them even to behold.a Such examples shew us at once what is the true glory of human nature; and that it is in our power to attain to it; and that to say otherwise is the language of a mean heart immersed in the love of gross pleasures, which sadly degrade, and sink all that is noble and manly in our minds: for, in order to be virtuous, no more is<302> necessary than to rouze our souls to the pursuit of virtue, as the only worthy scope we can set before us. By this noble ambition, by this courage, this magnanimity did all they, whose glorious example casts us at such a distance, become such bright patterns of every virtue that truly exalts human nature: and by the same brave and vigorous resolution of mind to perfect themselves, may all men become images of God on earth, and worthy of dwelling with him for ever: for so is that state of high dignity and glory in an after life, to which the arduous and perseverant pursuit of virtue leads emphatically expressed in scripture.
None can reflect upon the high epithets and compellations bestowed on the virtuous in sacred writ, such as children of God, sons of God, heirs of his kingdom: none, I say, can reflect upon these high compellations, without being excited to endeavour to merit them, if he hath any seeds of generous ambition in his soul: for what is worthy of our emulation; or what can stir up our ambition, if to be in favour with the highest of beings, and to be crowned with glory and honour, and to be invested with a noble rule, or placed in some high sphere of action by him, make no impression on us? Now to deserve these compellations, and all the honour and felicity enveloped in their comprehensive meaning, men must exert themselves to improve their minds into a likeness to God, the Father of minds. And all reasonable beings, as such, are capable of so improving themselves. It is the capacity of such improvement that denominates one a reasonable being. In order to palliate and excuse to ourselves, our meanness, our pusillanimity, in not daring to aim at very high moral perfection, at likeness to God, we may represent to ourselves, our faculties, our sphere of action, our circumstances in this life as very disproportioned to so high an ambition. But to what virtue have not some men attained? And to what virtue may not all men attain in this life, if the love of virtue be not dead and languid; or if strength<303> of mind be not wanting. The universal language of nature to us, as well as of revelation, is a call to glory and virtue; for whether can reasonable beings turn their eyes, and not see that their dignity consists in despising the corruptions that are in the world thro’ base and ignoble lusts; and in sanctifying themselves, that they may be like to that infinitely perfect being, the Father of spirits, whose works proclaim him to be holy, just and pure; perfect reason, perfect goodness. And while this idea is present to the mind, what is it not able to do; what difficulty is it not able to surmount; and how mean and base do all impure pursuits appear to it? It is indeed want of ambition, and a cowardly, dastardly disposition, that alone hinders men from making progress in virtue. None ever fell short of perfection who persevered in the pursuit of it. And since nothing can be gained but by labour and assiduity; we must either say to ourselves, that likeness to God in virtue is not worthy our pursuit; or we ought to awaken ourselves out of the ignominious sloth into which sensual indulgence plunges; and say, as for me, I will set the Lord before me, and will content myself with no lower aim, than to become, by adding virtue to virtue, every day more and more like to him. And while the Lord is before me I cannot be moved: no wicked, corruptive lust can have dominion over me.
As much as some seem to delight in vilifying human nature, by representing it as originally under bondage to sin, and unable to rise to the pursuit of virtue; Nay, averse to all that is truly good and great; yet if God hath indeed called us to holiness, we must certainly be capable of attaining to it; and be ye holy as God is holy, is the universal voice of revelation. It is a language which cannot proceed from an impostor: and if it be indeed the language of heaven, then must man be created after the image of a holy God, and be furnished with all that is necessary to perfect himself as God is perfect. Accordingly, if we look into our<304> frame, we shall find, that as high as the virtue is which is set before us in scripture as our duty, we have all the affections, dispositions, powers and faculties, which progress towards it pre-supposes or requires. We have not only a benevolent disposition; but a sense of beauty and order; a strong sense of the beauty of holiness, and of the deformity and vileness of vice; and together with this we have strength of mind, if we will but exert it, which is able to cleave to virtue in spight of all temptation or opposition. What therefore is wanting to us, in order to our making immortal advances in virtue, if we are not wanting to ourselves? What human resolution is able to do, we may often see, not only in history, but in our own experience. And this is the reflexion we ought to make upon all instances of it, even that the human mind is furnished with all that vigour and strength, in order chiefly to its progress in virtue, in likeness to God; in order to a perseverant, undaunted, unconquerable pursuit of moral perfection. Shall we shew our resolution and firmness of mind, and what that is able to do in other instances, and yet allow the pleasures of sin, which are all softness and dissolution, to deceive us into an opinion of the impracticability of temperance and self-command, of generous self-denial for the sake of the publick good, of patience and resignation to the divine will? Do not other exercises and acquirements of our assiduous, unwearied application and resolution, tell us, that this is the language of that sloth, which, if indulged, will soon efface all that is noble in man, all that exalts him above the brute creation, and leave nothing in him who is created after the image of God, but impotence, slavery and corruption, darkness of mind and monstrous passions, ignorance and deformity? To be satisfied of this important truth, that we are fitted for the immortal progress in virtue, to which God calls us by revelation, if we but set ourselves to advance and improve in it; let us but reflect, whether what must be owned to be<305> the difficultest of all the precepts of revelation, doth appear so to us, while we set the Lord before us; even cheerful approbation of the divine will under the severest afflictions for the sake of virtue and a good conscience. If we are able to attain even to this pitch of divine fortitude, surely no other virtue is above our reach. But who can reflect upon the excellence of virtue, the necessity of its being severely tried, in order to its shining forth with all its glory, and the unerring wisdom and goodness with which the world is governed, without feeling himself enabled, not only to sacrifice every thing in life to virtue, but even desirous to be brought upon that theatre, on which alone the greater virtues can have opportunity to shew forth all their power and excellence? Now the same thought continually present to the mind, would render such resolution, such magnanimity, habitual to it. It is the presence of such reflexions to the mind that constitutes patience, resignation, fortitude, truly virtuous heroism. This is the faith, the perswasion that overcometh the world. It cannot but produce true fortitude and steady perseverance in virtue: it hath as natural a tendency to produce it, as any other cause hath to produce its effect; any other idea or opinion hath to produce its correspondent affection. And therefore, in order to attain to this sublime pitch of virtue, this exalted magnanimity of mind, our whole business consists in keeping this perswasion ever before our minds. If we would imitate God, and adhere immoveably to truth and virtue, let us set the Lord always before us, as the pattern we ought to endeavour after greater and greater likeness to; and as the protector, defender, and lover of those who sincerely cultivate virtue; as the model or pattern, the author, the judge, and the rewarder of holiness; for then shall we be strong in the Lord, strong in his cause, in consequence of our love of him, and our faith, trust, and reliance upon him. This idea, this faith, or perswasion, deeply rooted and established in the mind, is<306> its strength; it gives life and vigor to it, and all its noble efforts to improve in grace, in goodness, in virtue: and to overcome all temptations to immoral indulgencies. This is the meaning of this, and other such like ways of speaking in the old testament, “they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall walk and not faint: they shall run and not weary.”35 This is likewise the meaning, when in the new testament our faith is said to be, “the victory whereby we overcome the world, and are enabled to escape its pollutions, and to raise our affections towards heavenly objects.” It is the belief of the doctrine of revelation concerning God and providence, and the happy ultimate tendency of virtue, that gives us strength to adhere firmly to duty. And indeed to deny that piety is at once the perfection, and the chief support of virtue; or that to consider virtue, as conforming ourselves to the image of God, who being perfect wisdom and goodness, must have so constituted things, that the study of virtue here shall have glorious effects or fruits in another life; is not to take the view of it, that is, in the nature of things the most animating, encheering, and invigorating to virtue, is to deny the most evident truth in the world. There may be virtue without piety, and where there are great doubts about the government of the world; and there is an obligation to virtue independent of all consideration of the supreme being: but he who loves virtue, must delight in the idea of an all-perfect providence; it must be exceeding agreeable to him. And the motives to virtue, arising from the perswasion of an all-perfect providence, that must delight in virtue, and take care of it for ever, are truly insurmountable, by whatever difficulties or temptations, while the eye of the mind is stedfastly fixed upon them.
The scripture therefore does not talk to men in too high astrain, when it represents the imitation of God, in order to become partakers of the divine nature,<307> and of the divine felicity; that is, of perfection and happiness of the same kind with it, as the mark we ought to set before us; but it thus gives us an idea or representation of the dignity our nature is capable of, and of the noble pitch of perfection we ought vigorously to aspire after, which is the properest to excite and animate us to, and to invigorate, comfort, strengthen, and uphold us in that glorious pursuit.
II. To shew that the scripture doctrine of virtue no where sinks too low, or no where gives too mean a view of human nature, which is the second observation I proposed to enlarge a little upon, in confirmation of the proposition now under our consideration; to evince this, it will be sufficient to observe, 1. That no injustice or indignity is done to human nature, by representing it as capable of becoming corrupt to the greatest degree of depravity. 2. That the humility and poverty of spirit recommended by christianity, are truly noble and sublime virtues. 3. That the exhortations in scripture to be upon our guard against the subtle wiles, the deceitfulness of sin; and to watchfulness, and jealousy over our own hearts, are founded upon principles very consistent with our natural ability to improve in virtue, that hath been asserted, and is indeed supposed in all precepts to the study of it.
I. In the scriptures we have very moving descriptions of the depravity into which men may degenerate. There is no error so absurd, no vice so monstrous, into which men may not be corrupted and seduced by evil concupiscences. “Even thosea who have made great advances in virtue may go astray, and forsake the right way, and so sadly degenerate as to prefer the wages of unrighteousness to the pleasures of virtue, which they have tasted, and to allure into vitious practices, through the lusts of<308> the flesh, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error; and boast of their liberty, tho’ they be the slaves of corruption. Even those who have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the truth, may be entangled again therein and overcome.” “Even those,b who, as another apostle expresses it, were once enlightened, and had tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and had tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, may fall away, and become monsters of impurity and iniquity.” In these, and such other descriptions, the sacred writers are not merely speaking of what may happen, but they are setting forth what had really happened; actual degeneracy and wickedness. And there is no need of staying to prove, that, in reality, there is no imaginable degree of corruption to which men may not, nay, do not actually proceed. But let it be remembered, that the scripture speaks to us likewise of the apostacy of moral beings of a higher order than man. And there is indeed no inconsistency between the original integrity of a reasonable nature and peccability. The original integrity of a moral being does not consist in having no temptations to vice, but in being able to subdue and conquer them; which every reasonable being, as such, is. For a reasonable being, signifies a being, which hath reason and moral conscience, or a sense of moral good and evil, to direct it to what is right and fit to be done, and which hath the power of acting according to its right judgment of things. A being thus constituted is made upright whatever inventions it may seek out; into whatever error or depravity it may go astray. In this sense we are told God made man upright.c And in this sense every reasonable being is formed upright. We have no reason to imagine, that any beings are formed by the father of spirits, with a depraved sense of moral good and evil, or<309> with such a natural bias and propension to vice, as to love evil, and to hate good: but, on the contrary, we have good ground to believe, that all beings capable of reflexion are so constituted by their Creator, that their moral sense can never be totally effaced or perverted, tho’ it may be sadly over-powered by vitious appetites; and thro’ wicked practices, joined with false philosophy, may be at last extreamly vitiated and corrupted: for such a formation is directly repugnant to the very notion of a good Creator. But that reasonable beings may become exceeding wicked and depraved, only proves, that reason and moral conscience may be contradicted; that the love of unlawful pleasures may prevail and get the ascendant in the mind; or, in one word, that moral powers may be not only not cultivated and improved as they ought, but abused and perverted; and that according to the constitution of things depravity, thro’ continuance in it, will grow to a most monstrous pitch of vileness and deformity.—All which is involved in the very notion of a reasonable creature, that is, of a moral agent, whose improvement or degeneracy depends upon himself. To suppose a creature who cannot exercise his moral powers amiss, or who cannot act contrary to reason, and a right judgment of things, if he would, is certainly to suppose a creature, at the same time endued with the power of choosing, and yet not endued with it; or invested with a certain sphere of activity, and thereby capable of virtue and merit, and, at the same time, not invested with any such power or dominion, in consequence of which any thing can be called his own acquisition, and so be either, with regard to himself, or others, subject of praise or blame; which is a contradiction. But not only is it impossible, in the nature of things, but beings endued with reason, and with the power of judging, choosing and acting, may not only err in their judgments, but also act contrary to their sense of right and wrong: not only is this an impossibility: not only is this impossible, but it is likewise absurd to suppose<310> it necessary to the perfection of the universe and providential government, that every state in which moral agents are placed should be quite free from all temptations to vice; or so constituted, that pleasures of all sorts and degrees should be solely the consequence of virtuous choice; and nothing but pain should accompany any the least vitious indulgence; such pain, as would effectually deter, and restrain from every vice, and necessitate or force to virtue. For, in such a state, what would temperance, or self-denial, patience, meekness, magnanimity mean? How could these virtues have their theatre, their trial, their conflicts, their victory? Whence have the virtues their names, their being? What merit except from combate? What virtue without the encounter of such enemies, such temptations, as arise both from within and from abroad? To be virtuous, is to prefer the pleasures of virtue to those which come into competition with it, and vice holds forth to tempt us; and to dare to adhere to truth and goodness, whatever pains and hardships it may cost. There must therefore, in order to the formation and trial, in order to the very being of virtue, be pleasures of a certain kind to make temptations to vice. And then is a first state of moral beings well constituted, when it affords such occasions for the trials and triumphs of virtue, as shew it to be a school of discipline, a theatre for exercise, and conflict to various virtues, that moral beings may thereby be made meet for a higher and nobler sphere of action in a succeeding life; meet for rewards and honours in it, which God, the righteous judge, the chief object of whose care must be virtue, or well-improved moral powers, will then certainly render unto all, who have rendered themselves worthy of them by their diligent culture of all the virtues in their minds, their contempt of sensual pleasures, and their firm adherence to the dictates of reason and moral conscience, in spight of all allurements to sin, or the most violent opposition to and persecution of virtue<311> they may be tried by in their first state. In this our first state many temptations to vice of various sorts are continually assailing us; but there is no pain we can suffer, nor pleasure we can forego for the sake of virtue and a good conscience, which is not abundantly compensated by the present consciousness of our having acted the best and worthiest part; the part suitable to the dignity of our nature, and that is highly pleasing to our Lord and Creator, the governor of the universe, who will never leave nor forsake the virtuous, but will make all things work together for their good; it being evident from the very idea of a good creator and administrator of the world, that he must love virtue, and have had the suitable treatment of it principally in his view, in the constitution and frame of things. Now our state at present, considered in this light, is an excellent state. And every state of moral beings must be a good state, with regard to the general interests of moral beings, if the administration be in favour of virtue or moral improvements, as the administration of the world must be, if it be perfect.
Whether there may not be temptations to vice, and trials of virtue, in a state succeeding to a first state of probation, which, with respect to it, is properly a state of rewards, is another question that shall be considered afterwards, when we come to inquire into the scripture doctrine concerning our future state: but temptations are certainly necessary to a state of trial, to a state of education and discipline; for virtue must be exercised and proved in various manners before it can be brought to perfection. The first state of moral powers must be a school, a theatre, for forming and exercising them, because virtue is and must be a progress.
Human nature has indeed been represented by some in so base, disagreeable, and monstrous a form, that the contemplation of it must needs be frightful and shocking to a generous mind; as having lost its noble powers of reason and liberty, and being the seat of nothing<312> but irregular and mischievous passions, as a complication of mean-spiritedness, sensuality, ill nature and corruption; in one word, as incapable of any thing that is good and virtuous, and prone to all manner of vice and wickedness. And upon this foundation, injustice, cruelty, ingratitude, pride, revenge, and the worst of villanies have been represented as natural to mankind; and not imputable to them, but chargeable upon the necessary corruption and depravity of their nature; or, which is yet more absurd, imputable to them, and to be severely punished, tho’ they be inevitably necessary effects of our depraved make and formation.
The grand foundation of this error has been either that they have taken their estimate of human nature from the force of perverted passions among mankind, and represented to their minds as the original state of it such evil dispositions and wicked habits as are of their own creating, and cannot take place originally in a reasonable nature, all the habits belonging to which are formed, and can only be formed by repeated exercises; or else that they have understood particular passages of scripture, which give the character of the most profligate and abandoned sinners, as describing the natural temper of all mankind. But were this a true picture of human nature, religion falls to the ground. For upon that supposition, what must we think of our Creator? Would it not be a contradiction to speak of his goodness, or his regard to virtue, and concern about it, the belief of which alone can render the Deity that amiable, that all-perfect character, which piety or religion must have for its object; and which revelation must, in the nature of things, presuppose as acknowledged to belong essentially to the Deity? There is indeed no foundation for this doctrine in the sacred writings. And if we search into our constitution, it will immediately appear, that virtue is natural to us. For does not nature teach us to be just and charitable, to<313> compassionate, and relieve the distressed? Does it direct us to prey upon our own kind, to delight in oppression, and in injustice, and in the misery of our fellow-creatures? Are not, on the contrary, cruelty, injustice, and oppression, naturally so hateful to us, that we cannot look upon them without detestation and abhorrence? Does our nature impel us to hate the Author of our being, to conceive an evil notion of him, and to spurn and rebel against him as an enemy to our happiness? Is it not, on the contrary, agreeable to our nature to think well of nature and of its author; to represent him to ourselves in the most amiable characters; and can we so paint him out to ourselves, without admiring and loving him, and feeling the strongest disposition to imitate his perfections, and to gain thereby his favour and approbation? In fine, let us review all the affections implanted in us by nature; and tho’ we will find that there is none of them that may not be sadly misguided and abused, yet they are all of them of excellent use, and the foundations upon which most noble virtues may be raised: none of them directly leadeth to evil, or seems implanted in us to make opposition to our progress in virtue, but rather to be rendered itself a virtue, and an assistant, or incentive to all other virtues. Anger and resentment may at first sight be thought contrary to benevolence. But when duly considered, they will be found to be very useful instincts, and to have an inseparable connexion with the sense of virtue. For what is sudden anger, as it is distinguished from resentment, but an instinct, that works as naturally and necessarily, as the disposition to close our eyes upon the apprehension of somewhat falling unto them; and no more implies any degree of reason than the latter. And the reason and end for which man was made thus liable to this passion, is, that he might be better qualified to resist and defeat sudden force, violence and opposition, considered merely as such. It is in reality the necessary operation<314> of self-defence. And it is very fit, that self-defence should thus operate, since there are many cases, especially where regular governments are not formed, in which there is no time for deliberation, and sudden resistance is the only security. This is the case with respect to momentary anger, which is raised without any appearance of injury, as distinct from hurt and pain. It is not the effect of reason, but is occasioned by meer sensation and feeling. But the only way in which our reason and understanding can raise anger or resentment, is by representing to our mind, injustice, or injury of some kind or other. Its object is not natural but moral evil: it is not suffering, but injury; it is not one who appears to the suffering person to have been only the innocent occasion of his pain or loss; but one who has been in a moral sense injurious either to ourselves or others. Resentment therefore in us is plainly connected with a sense of virtue and vice, of moral good and evil. The indignation raised by cruelty and injustice, and the desire of having it punished, which persons unconcerned feel, is by no means malice. No, it is resentment against vice and wickedness: it is one of the common bonds by which society is held together: a fellow-feeling which each individual has in behalf of the whole species, as well as of himself. It does not appear, that this, generally speaking, is at all too high amongst mankind. And this seems to be the whole of this passion, which is, properly speaking, natural to mankind: namely, a resentment against injury and wickedness in general; and in a higher degree when towards ourselves than for others; as must needs happen; for from the very constitution of our make we cannot but have a greater sensibility to what immediately touches or regards ourselves.
But the natural object or occasion of deliberate resentment being injury, as distinct from pain or loss, it is easy to see, that to prevent and to remedy such injury, and the miseries arising from it, is the reason<315> and end for which this passion was implanted in man. It is to be considered as a weapon put into our hands by nature against injury, injustice and cruelty, which may be not only innocently, but very usefully employed.a
Love of power, because, when it is misguided or wrong directed, it produces very great evils in society, may at first sight likewise be considered as repugnant to virtue. But we have shewn in the principles of moral philosophy, that it is necessary to all virtuous improvements; or that without it the greater virtues could not take place among mankind. Without it we would be utterly incapable of them, it being indeed as far as, properly speaking, it is natural to us, no more than a desire to improve or enlarge our powers, and extend our sphere of activity, our liberty, our dominion, our independence. Noble ambition and emulation could not take place without such a natural disposition toward power or love of it. And envy is but the misguidance of it; or more properly the product of sloth and indolence, inconsequence of our want of the power we naturally desire, and yet are too much plunged in indolence to pursue with the vigour and perseverance necessary to obtain it. For this is the case with respect to envy, whether the objects of it be natural or moral qualities. The mind is fretted and galled to perceive itself surpassed. The soul, which steadily pursues its own improvement and true dominion or power, is quite a stranger to this idle, slothful, peevish passion, the bitterness of which consists in that mixture of self-dissatisfaction, which necessarily goes along with it, or makes the chief ingredient in it, and consequently renders it its own punishment.
To conclude, however much some philosophers have laboured to prove, that there is nothing social or generous in the human frame; yet the contrary is really the truth: there is nothing in it naturally, i.e.<316> uncontracted by vitious indulgence, which is not social and generous. If one can doubt of it, he needs only impartially consider, what strange explications certain philosophers are forced to give of compassion, natural affection between parents and their offspring, and the other affections which carry us beyond ourselves, and directly to the good of others, in order to make out their system. Let me only observe, that to say, all must be resolved into self-love, because none can be pleased with what does not give him pleasure, is to say no more, than that whatever pleases us, ought to be called our pleasure. And so certainly it may. But when it is granted, that acts of benevolence could not please us without giving us pleasure; and therefore that the pursuit of the pleasures acts of benevolence afford us, is a pursuit of pleasures to ourselves, or a pursuit to which our love of our own happiness impells us; when this is granted, will it follow that such pursuits are not benevolent? When our nature is said to be social and benevolent, it is said to be so constituted, that its greatest pleasures consist in affections and actions which produce publick good, and have it as immediately for their object, as hunger, for instance, hath food for its object. And therefore, in order to prove, that there is nothing social in our nature, it must be proved, that the pursuit of publick good, in consequence of our constitution, affords us no pleasure. All our pleasures, whencesoever they come, are our own pleasures. And in that sense, if philosophers will, all our pursuits or gratifications are selfish, and none of them are disinterested. But what is such language but play with words? All the arguments brought to recommend benevolence from the pleasures, it, and it alone can give, acknowledge, that self-love, or the desire of happiness, is natural to all beings capable of reflexion; for they are addressed to this desire, in order to shew it how its end may<317> be best obtained: the result of them all is briefly this, that if one is rightly or wisely selfish; that is, if he duly consults his own interest, he will not oppose, but encourage and improve the affections in his nature, which lead him to the pursuit of the good of others; the affections which intend it, aim at it, and are gratified by it. And one may as philosophically, as consistently say, that none of our affections can tend towards an external object, if we have self-love; as say, we cannot have self-love, and at the same time have affections towards the good of our fellow-creatures. Yet that several of our affections tend towards, and rest in objects, without or beyond ourselves, will hardly be denied.
But that I may go on to another remark on christian morality, I shall just give one specimen of the manner in which some passages of scripture are wrested into the defence of a doctrine, that indeed subverts all religion and morality. “In the prophesy of Jeremiah,a it is thus writ, ‘The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?’ This passage, divided from the context, and considered as a general proposition, has been used to prove, that men are not acquainted with themselves, and cannot know their own views and intentions, and that all men are originally full of corruption and wickedness, desperately, incurably depraved. But if we consider the connexion and the general reasoning the prophet is pursuing, this will appear to be a very gross misinterpretation of what he asserts. In the fifth verse, God is introduced as denouncing a woe against all those who fix their ultimate dependence on human power and policy. And in the seventh and eighth verses, the wisdom and happiness of trusting in the Lord, and making him our strength, is described. Then follows the text we<318> are considering, which by all rules of good interpretation must be referred to the same argument, and contain another reason against making man our confidence. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?’ i.e. There may be infinite devices and subtleties in the hearts of men, which cannot be penetrated. While they promise fair, and make the warmest protestations of affection and zeal for your interest, their intentions may be directly contrary, and their views very selfish. Their resolutions are fickle, and many little circumstances may prevail with them to change their purposes, and so render their promises vain and delusory. Nay, ’tis possible they may arrive at such a pitch of premeditated and desperate wickedness, as to endeavour, even under friendly pretences, to undermine your interest. Place not therefore your supreme confidence in man, but repose in the unchangeable God, who, as by reason of the perfect and necessary rectitude of his nature he can’t deceive thee, so, as he is absolute Lord of the universe, and the incontroulable disposer of all events, he must be able with ease to effect every thing that is necessary for thy security and happiness.”
II. In order to shew, that christian morality no where sinks too low, let me but just suggest the true notion of that humility and poverty of mind recommended so earnestly to us by Christ and his apostles, which some are pleased to turn into ridicule, confounding it with pusilanimity, and total want of courage and ambition.a “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” says our Lord.
Now we can be at no loss to find out the true meaning of the virtue here recommended, as odd as the words may sound to some, if we but reflect,<319> that in the Jewish language, what we now call literal and figurative, were commonly denoted by the words flesh and spirit.
“The flesh, says our Saviour,b profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
His meaning is, he intended not to be understood literally, but figuratively. To be therefore, or do any thing in spirit, signifies, being or doing that thing figuratively, in the spiritual or moral sense, in opposition to the gross and more literal meaning, in which the same words may at other times be understood. Thus, that moral holiness and purity of mind which is opposed to the ritual and ceremonious performance of the Jewish law, our Saviour calls worshipping the Father in spirit and in truth.c
And that absolute departing from all unrighteousness so effectually required in the gospel, of which the Jewish circumcision was but an emblem, is by the apostle most elegantly stiled,dcircumcision in the spirit.
Answerable therefore to this figurative manner of expression in so many other places, the phrase, poor in spirit, in contradistinction to literal poverty of estate, signifies a temper of mind, disingaged from the covetous and ambitious desires of the present world; that moderate and good temper or disposition of mind, which enables those who have riches not to set their hearts upon them, not to trust in them, not to place any merit in having them, but to employ them virtuously to the good of mankind, and to be at all times willing rather to part with them, than betray the interests of truth and virtue: and which, for the same reason, enables those who have no riches to be contented, and not murmuring nor unthankful towards God, but willing rather to continue<320> always in a mean and low estate, than to gain riches by wicked and unlawful methods. This is being poor in spirit. This is the temper of those, whom St. James calls the poor of this world, but rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom: the temper of which St. Paul declares, that godliness with contentment is great gain; and which our Saviour describes in his character of the church of Smyrna.a
“I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty; but thou art rich; rich in virtue, rich in good works, rich towards God, rich with respect to a future life; richly prepared for great happiness in it.” According to this account of the virtue of being poor in spirit; an eminent instance thereof was the practice of Moses, when he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, chusing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. And the contrary spirit is that which our Saviour speaks of,b “So is he that layeth up treasures for himself, and is not rich towards God.” This excellent temper of mind is what the poor are naturally led to by their very circumstances; being under the advantage of escaping many temptations, which others are continually subject to; and being perpetually called upon by the afflictions of this life, to turn their thoughts to the expectation of a better. And therefore the christian doctrine calls upon us to consider it as matter of just comfort; and support; nay, even of thankfulness under many kinds of temporal wants and afflictions, that such circumstances give men great advantages for obtaining this virtue of being poor in spirit. It is because our Saviour looked upon this virtue as so natural and easy to be practised by persons in that state, and so properly their vocation or the duty they are called to by their circumstances, that he sometimes<321> uses that general and seemingly unlimited expression, “Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” And, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” For the same reason, on the other side, to those who abound in riches and power, and the good things of this life, our Saviour suggests particular matter of caution, by annexing the heavenly reward to that temper and disposition of mind, which they in particular are surrounded with so many temptations to depart from; so that when he sometimes pronounces in words seemingly absolute, “Wo unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation,” his design was to admonish and put us in mind, how dangerous a state great prosperity generally is; how full of temptation; how ready to puff men up with pride and arrogance; how apt to make them covetous, insolent, and vain-glorious; and to destroy in them that meek, that humble, that equitable, that moderate disposition of mind, which is the foundation of virtue, or rather the chief of the virtues.
In fine, if we keep in mind, that the scripture represents this life as a state of preparation and probation for another; and consequently all the various circumstances of the present state of mankind, prosperous or adverse, as means of trial; as calls to the study and exercise of certain particular virtues, each condition of life having virtues more properly belonging to it, it will be very easy to conceive what it is to be poor in spirit, and rich towards God; to lay up treasures to ourselves, not in earth, but in heaven. They only in the scripture language are rich, who are rich in virtue and good works; they who are not, however prosperous their state may be, are poor, blind, wretched, miserable; and why, but because this is our seed-time, the state which succeeds to it is our harvest. We are here to make provision for our after-state; to make ourselves meet for great<322> happiness in it; to enrich ourselves with those virtues, the fruits of which are immortal glory, honour, and felicity. We are here to make the best use of the circumstances in which we may be placed, whatever they are, in order to the building ourselves up in holiness; in order to qualify ourselves for high felicity of the spiritual or moral kind in another life. We are here, not to amass worldly riches, and to give ourselves up to sensual indulgences; but to mortify all the evil affections, which great possessions are apt to excite and foster in the mind; and thereby to prepare to ourselves a stock of good affections and virtuous habits, which being properly placed in another life, must yield an unspeakable harvest of truly rational happiness. This is evidently the temper of mind, which is recommended to us by the christian doctrine, under the notion of poverty of spirit, or spiritual poverty. Nor can disengagement from worldly views and carnal appetites be more properly expressed than by that appellation. But whatever may be thought of the phrase itself, the temper meant by it, as plainly appears from several other passages of scripture, and indeed from the general tenor of the christian doctrine, is a truly noble and sublime virtue: it is that contempt of carnal gross pleasure, without which it is impossible to be stedfast to virtue: It is true greatness of mind; for it consists in despising those things which it is greater to despise than to possess, as several heathen moralists have said of the pomp and pageantry of this world, and of all merely sensual gratifications. It is greatness of mind, because it is to cleave firmly to that which is truly great and noble in spight of all temptations from the side of pleasure or pain to forsake it. And to do this requires not only an enlarged understanding, and just judgments of things deeply fixed and rooted in the mind; but vigour and strength of soul sufficient to oppose the most impetuous appetites, and<323> to persevere in adherence to that which is good and right, whatever forfeiture of pleasures or painful sufferances it may cost. It is not a narrow, mean, timorous disposition to which we are called in scripture; but, on the contrary, a bold, undaunted, and truly noble courage; the most lofty and generous ambition; courage that fears nothing but vice, or the degradation of our nature into a state of slavery to impure, disorderly and ungenerous passions; courage that dreads sin, as the greatest calamity that can befal a reasonable being: ambition to shine in virtue; ambition to distinguish one’s self by good works; ambition to deserve the approbation of God, and all good and wise beings; ambition to acquit ourselves in such a manner here, as to be fit for and worthy of being highly exalted in the life to come. In fine, poverty of spirit is the opposite to having our minds wholly set on the riches and honours which so dazzle and bewitch sensual and corrupt men. And without this poverty of spirit, that is, without sincere indifference to, or rather contempt of all enjoyments that may come into competition with a good conscience, and the pleasure arising from the merit of acting the best and worthiest part, neither fortitude, magnanimity, patience, nor benevolence, can have their perfect work in us. It is the very soul of all these virtues. And in this does the excellency of the christian morality consist, as the great Verulama observes, “That there never was any philosophy, religion, law, or discipline found out in the world, which so far exalts regard to the publick good, and debases private interest, as the christian institution hath done.” Without ambition; that is, without great and noble views, or without affections set upon truly noble and worthy objects, a man cannot do great and generous actions; he can neither bear nor forbear with firmness<324> and constancy of mind. But what are the views which ennoble the mind; or what are the affections which prompt to glorious deeds, and enable one to adhere to duty unmoveably, in despight of sensual gratification, or of violent suffering? Is it not the love of virtue, desire to approve ourselves to God, regard to the publick interest of society, and the contempt of all vice can give or procure? And where are these considerations more strongly recommended or enforced upon us, than by the christian religion? In what else does it place virtue and merit? Or to what else are the glorious rewards of another life it sets before us annexed? The constant language of christianity is, “Set your affections on the things that are above, and not on things that are below,” that is, on God, or virtue, on rational exercises and employments, and not upon the gross pleasures of unbridled, ungoverned sense, and the vain honours and possessions which tempt men, unmindful of their true dignity and happiness, to forsake virtue, and to do base and unworthy, mercenary actions. For what, saith our Saviour, is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul? Or, what can a man have in exchange for his soul? What can compensate the loss of virtue; the loss of a good conscience; the loss of inward probity and worth; the loss of that virtuous taste and disposition of mind, which alone can recommend to the divine favour here or hereafter; which alone can qualify one for the best and noblest enjoyments here; and alone can constitute capacity, or fitness for moral happiness in the life that is to come, in which the natural harvest of virtue and vice must take place, and every one shall fully reap as he has sown. A regard to futurity is greatly insisted upon in the christian doctrine; but such a regard to futurity as is indeed the very perfection of virtue, and produces regard to publick good above all temporal interests. A regard to futurity that is utterly inconsistent with selfish and mercenary views<325> in this world, and begets and upholds publick spirit. We shall see afterwards, that it is impossible for any but a virtuous person, to set his affections upon the future rewards promised by christianity, because these rewards are nothing else but virtuous exercises. But he who sincerely believes the scripture doctrine concerning future rewards hath an idea of virtue, and of the constitution and government of the world, that must render the sincere and perseverant pursuit of publick good here, the sole end of all his thoughts and actions; an idea that must render a vitious life the greatest folly in his sight, in respect of interest, as well as exceeding base and shameful in its nature; and that must hold forth virtuous progress to his view, in a light that makes its cause truly triumphant. Virtue is in itself exceeding amiable. And so it is every where in scripture represented to be. But then alone is virtue beheld or contemplated in a view that gives it compleat force in the mind, when it is considered to be the chief or rather the sole object of the divine love and concern for ever and ever; when it is considered to be an immortal principle or source of happiness, in consequence of the frame and constitution of things; a progress towards perfection, that after its state of schooling and discipline is at an end, shall then fully appear to have been indeed contending for glory, honour, and immortality. This therefore being the representation christianity every where gives of virtue, providence, and the life to come, no system of morals can possibly excell it, or have greater force; because virtue cannot possibly be set forth in a more engaging, a more inviting and perswasive light. And, on the other hand, every scheme of morals which falls short of this view of virtue, must be, in respect of it, exceedingly deficient. Now if we keep this representation which christianity<326> gives us of our duty and end before us, we can never be at a loss to find out the true meaning of any of the expressions, by which it recommends any particular virtue to us, or virtue in general. For in the case now under our consideration, is it to be wondered at, that an institution designed to refine and purifymens minds from all carnal desires and appetites, into the pure love of virtue, should recommend to us that love under the notion of moral or spiritual poverty; since, if we duly attend to the nature of things, we must perceive, that prosperous circumstances are in themselves of a contagious and corrupting nature; and that, as the poor are less liable to pride, vanity, sensuality, and many other vices than those who abound in wealth; so the sincere love of virtue will render a rich man as great a stranger to those vices, as moderate and temperate, as uncarnal and self-denied, as if he were quite destitute of the means of sensual indulgences, with which he is surrounded. The exhortation to poverty of spirit really means, being more effectually weaned from those sensual lusts, which riches tend to engender and nourish in the mind by right inward government, than the poor man is or can be by his real poverty; or attaining amidst affluence to the virtues which mean circumstances render easy to be acquired, and prosperous ones, on the contrary, make very difficult. Our Saviour’s words may be thus paraphrased, “Blessed are those who are in the most pinching straits in this life, if they do really set their affections on spiritual objects, or God and virtue, and their minds are filled with those graces, to the study and practice of which their circumstances call them. For they are not bettered by distresses, or outward poverty, whose imaginations and affections are set on worldly riches; but they, who likewise are morally poor; or, whose minds are as far removed from the love of luxury and sensuality<327> as their outward circumstances are from the means of such indulgences, they only are really gainers by their poverty; and being fit for, they shall have a glorious share of true happiness in the kingdom of God; that kingdom in which nothing avails but true inward merit. And blessed are those, who in the midst of prosperity and temptation to worldly-mindedness and carnal living, are pure in their desires, humane, meek, and beneficent; and not placing any merit in their riches, but having their affections set upon qualities and enjoyments of a higher nature, are as great strangers to voluptuousness as the poorest can be. Such, though they be rich, are poor in a spiritual sense; they, in spight of all temptations, are as clean from the pollution, and contagion of wealth, as if they were outwardly poor. And they, by their virtuous use of their earthly treasures; by their temperance, their humility, and their charity, shall lay up for themselves much greater treasures in the kingdom of heaven.” This, if we compare several ways of speaking about the same thing in scripture together, is the true meaning of that poverty of spirit, which some carp at as a very uncouth precept. And were it necessary, it might be shewn, that the best antient moralists have not only represented virtue as consisting in the contempt of wealth, in escaping its pollutions, and in placing our happiness in things so remote from and independent of outward circumstances, as to be able to be happy even in poverty; and in the midst of plenty, to live as abstemiously, in order to make a generous use of riches, as if one was really poor: the best ancient moralists, I say, have not only so defined virtue, but have likewise expressed the fruits of this temper in almost the same manner; that is, in such a way as that, at first sight, they seem to be really recommending poverty, or a voluntary renunciation of riches.a But it is sufficient for us<328> to observe, that according to the law of nature, as well as the gospel, it is our duty to employ riches to virtuous purposes; neither to seek after them, nor to use them as means of sensuality, but always to maintain in our minds that superiority and command over all our fleshly lusts, which, because it maketh the poor man happy, and the rich moderate, humble and spiritual, even amidst his plenty, may be justly called poverty of spirit. For this must be the duty of reasonable beings made for society, and the pursuit of publick good here, and for an immortal happiness hereafter, which is to result from a well-governed mind, highly improved rational powers, and their exercises about objects adequate to their vigour and perfection. It is the same excellent temper of mind which is thus represented to us in the epistle of St. Paul to Timothy.b
“Withdraw thyself from those who count gain godliness.” This is the doctrine of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. That they do good, that they be rich in good<329> works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up to themselves a good foundation against the time to come, and that they may lay hold on eternal life.a
III. Let us now enquire a little into the meaning of the exhortations in scripture, to guard against the deceitfulness of sin, and to watch over our own heart. 1. Sin is represented to be exceeding deceitful; the world is said to be full of snares and allurements to vice; and a life of virtue is held forth to us under the notion of guarding, watching, fighting, and wrestling against the wiles, the delusions, the artifices of evil passions. After what hath been said in another place of the scripture language, I need not stay here to prove, that by the snares, temptations, and wiles of the devil or evil one, is to be understood corrupt lusts and passions, and the various arts by which they seduce into sin; their tendency to blind, darken, and pervert the judgment; to obscure our sense of duty, and to hurry and transport us into unreasonable and wicked pursuits. “Whosoever is tempted, saith the apostle St. James,36 is drawn away of his own lust and entic’d.” Now, no person who is acquainted with human nature, will wonder, that the scripture should insist so much upon the seducive artifices of evil passions. For their cunning and sophistry is indeed extreamly dangerous, extreamly difficult to see through and guard against. And vice, in a constitution like ours, must have a very strong party on its side, till virtue by long practice is arrived to great strength and firmness. If we look into ancient moralists, we shall find them discoursing in the same strain of the enchanting fancies or passions by which men are deceived into perverse paths, contrary to the dictates of their reason, and their natural abhorrence of vice. By these moralists the temptations to sin are very properly set forth to us as the delusive devices of false pleasure. And in holy writ, because<330> when corruption prevails universally, we are then not only continually sollicited to irregular indulgences by our sensitive appetites, and the objects which are ever assailing them; but evil example hath itself a very contageous, depraving influence, and is a very strong temptation; for these reasons the world is represented to us as the great seducer. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, says St. John:a if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Now what the apostle means by the world, and the things that are in it, he expresly declares in the following words. For all that is in the world, saith he, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world. The lusts of the flesh; i.e. the desire of unlawful pleasures, all intemperance, lasciviousness, and impurity. These are called the lusts of the flesh, because men are hurried or seduced into them by passions and appetites, which the scripture stiles, flesh, in opposition to the dictates of reason or moral conscience, which is called in scripture, being led by the spirit. Now, though all the good things of life, which God hath created to be enjoyed with temperance, according to the ends and measures of nature, within the limits of reason and good order, and consistent with the more noble views and improvements of our rational and social part; though they be all the gifts of God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; yet when men, instead of bridling and governing their appetites by reason, do on the contrary suffer their reason to be overruled by passions and appetites, subverting the natural order of God’s creation, and denying due authority to those superior faculties designed to distinguish men from mere sensitive creatures; their enjoyments in this case are not of God, but are condemned by him; they are of what the apostle here stiles, by<331> way of opposition, to the design and will of God, the world.
The lusts of the eye, the desire of riches by unlawful means, and to no valuable purposes. And these are here stiled, the lusts of the eyes; because the love of riches, as such, and as it stands here distinguished from other vitious affections, the covetous desire of riches for riches sake, without any regard to the true, and beneficial uses of them, is but feeding the eyes with a mere fruitless view of unprofitable treasure, with the empty shows of vanity and deceit. It is the vice described thus by the wiseman, “There is one alone, and there is not a second, yea, he hath neither child nor brother, yet is there no end of all his labour, neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, for whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good?” This also is vanity. And from hence have been derived those particular manners of speaking in scripture, where liberality is styled, a bountiful eye, and a single or open eye; and covetousness, an evil or niggardly eye. Whenever riches are desired and employed as instruments of liberality, or of doing good service to society, they are then indeed real blessings of providence. Blessings to the possessors of them whom they enable to have great influence in promoting virtue, and every thing that is valuable in society, or adds to the happiness of mankind. And blessings to others who are partakers of those good influences. But when they are only, what the apostle here stiles, the lust of the eyes; the food either of covetousness merely without use, or of vanity and folly in an ill use of them, the desire of them in that case is not an appetite of God’s creating. ’Tis not of the Father, but of the world. ’Tis the creature merely of a perverted imagination, and of a corrupt will: ’tis a desire that will perpetually put men upon obtaining wealth by ill methods, and upon employing it contrary to the design of God, in creating mankind, and the means of outward enjoyment.<332>
The pride of life, i.e. ambition, or the unlawful desire of dominion and power. And this is here stiled the pride of life; because, both the desire of obtaining power by unrighteous methods, and the pleasure of increasing it in ways of insolence and oppression, have their whole foundation in pride; in a presumptuous imagination, that right reason and equity are things of no reality, and which may, at any time, give place to our will and pleasure. Desire of power, in order to increase it to the benefit of our fellow-creatures, is indeed a noble passion. But the desire of power for the purposes of ambition only, and for the pleasure of tyranizing over others, is with great propriety called here the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but of the world. ’Tis that pride, or that setting up of self-will, in opposition to reason and equity, which is the ground and foundation of almost every immorality. The intemperances and debaucheries men are guilty of for want of improvement of themselves, are most properly included under the first head, which is the lust of the flesh. The second head, which is the lust of the eye, or the covetous desire of riches, for riches sake, is also frequently the occasion of much corruption, of many and great particular acts of injustice and oppression towards others. But the most general and extensive cause of an habitually injurious and inhuman temper is this pride of life; this love of power, domination and self-will. From hence arise wars, desolations, tyrannies, and all the great, extensive and merciless oppressions which totally extinguish that universal benevolence towards mankind, which is the charity represented in scripture as the fulfilling of the whole law; because benevolence ought to preside in the mind, and while our appetites are ruled by it, they are regular and orderly, and answer the good ends for which they were implanted in us.a
Those evil appetites are the tempters by which we are misled into the ways of unrighteousness and filthiness,<333> contrary to our reason, and inward sense of virtue and duty. And they are not of God: they are not of the Father; because, tho’ all our appetites after outward objects, all our sensitive affections and desires, as well as our rational powers be of God’s creation; yet he hath given us a governing principle to direct them; he hath created them on purpose to be restrained and regulated by the rules of virtue and sober reason; to be the subjects of our moral government, and thus to be to us the means, the occasions, the materials of various virtues. Separate them from us, and we have nothing to rule, nothing to curb or regulate. Take them away, there would be indeed no temptations to excesses and irregularities. But at the same time, what would become of self-government, of temperance, of fortitude, of benevolence, and in one word, of all that gives a man a title to the character of virtuous and good. Wherein the virtues of other created agents may consist, or what the objects of them may be, we cannot tell; but with respect to us, ’tis our sensitive part chiefly that is the object of our good or bad administration; of our reasonable or unreasonable deportment. And with regard to all beings capable of virtues analogous to ours, there must be similar means and objects of moral government. The moral perfection of the Deity consists in not exerting his power omnipotent, for the sake of triumphing in his power, but in exercising it for the greater good of his creation, according to the rules of justice, equity and truth.
Now, how our natural appetites sollicit us to place our happiness in giving full swing to them, and oppose themselves to the government of our reason, we may all feel, if we but attend to our minds: for do we not, on many occasions, experience a law in our members warring against the law of our minds. The real state of mankind, as corrupt as the world is, is this: men have naturally a strong sense of virtue and good order<334> in the government of their sensitive affections; so that it is not easy for them to despise the dictates of reason and conscience. And therefore, few men become highly corrupt all at once: few begin, in their first instances of unrighteousness, with acts of violent oppression; few run immediately into all excess and extravagancy of debauchery and riot; seemingly small immoral indulgences present themselves first, and gain admittance into their hearts, under the deceitful colours of very venial ones. But when a man has yielded to one sin because it is but small, he cannot resist the next, because it is not much greater; and so, by the same delusive argument, and by the same foolish repeated temptation, he is by degrees betrayed into the commission of the most enormous crimes; which, if any man at his first being tempted to transgress, had foretold that he should in process of time be induced to commit, he would have answered, as Hazael did to the prophet that foretold his cruelty, “Am I a dog that I should do this thing?” But at last, the severy greatest of crimes make no more dreadful an appearance to his corrupted conscience, than at first the least sins did to his innocent and undebauched judgment. When men have once been guilty of some great enormity, having lost the guard of their innocence, the banks of modesty and good resolution being broken down, the customs of a wicked world, and the habits of debauchery prevail over them, and bear them down irresistibly like a torrent: men thus become gradually reconciled to vice; the second crime is committed with less reluctance than the first; and the habit of wickedness growing upon them by repeated acts, in process of time, besides the proper and immediate temptation to every act of sin, the very custom of having done it makes it difficult for them not to return to it. They at last become ashamed to retreat, and indeed have no other arguments to oppose to the enticements of sin, and to the importunities of vitious<335> company, than such as having been often baffled and overcome have little or no force. And thus their return to virtue becomes, in a manner, as difficult as that the Ethiopian should change his colour, or the leopard his spots. The temptations which one could not resist in the days of his greater strength and best advantages, are become much more powerful by being often complied with; and if ever he recovers from the slavery of sin, it must be by overcoming an enemy much stronger, when he at the same time is much weaker himself. The effect of this is, that the conscience at length becomes fear’d and insensible, and the heart entirely hardened; and the sinner has no desire left of recovering his liberty, any more than he has power to do it. The last and highest degree of this evil is, when a man having wholly laid aside the thoughts of reforming himself, makes it his business, on the contrary, to corrupt others, and to tempt them likewise into debauchery, in temperance, corruption and venality; when he makes a mock of virtue, of sobriety, and honesty, of publick spirit, religion and conscience, when he scoffs at piety and goodness, and sets himself down (as the Psalmist expresses it) in the seat of the scornful.37 St. Paul, after a long catalogue of sins which the light of nature clearly discovers to every person to be highly abominable, gives this character of those who are arrived to the utmost heighth of depravity; “Who knowing the judgment of God (that they which commit such things are worthy of death; worthy of the punishments threatened by God against sin, worthy of the direful effects a corrupted immoral temper and life must produce in a good administration of moral beings;) not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”38 No man thinks it possible for him, at his first setting out in the world, ever to arrive to such a monstrous degree of wickedness; but this is the natural progress of vice, which nothing can prevent but firm resistance to every temptation, to every immoral<336> indulgence, however trifling it may appear; or a strict guard against being betrayed into any sin, by the fairest, the most specious solicitations of any of our appetites after outward pleasure. It is for this reason that the scripture commands us to watch over our hearts, to take heed to our ways, to commune often very seriously with our moral conscience, to examine ourselves, and to call ourselves frequently to a very strict account for all our actions. “Take heed, brethren, says the author of the epistle to the Hebrews, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”a To be hardened, or to harden a man’s own heart, signifies to have laid aside that natural abhorrence of sin which usually, at first, restrains men from venturing upon great wickedness. It signifies to have lost or laid asleep that quick sense, that uneasy judgment of the mind and conscience, which by continually representing to us the baseness and vileness, the danger and evil consequences of sin, will not permit men (so long as they give attention to it) to become abandoned sinners. It signifies, men’s being at length reconciled to sin; their chusing it with deliberate choice; their becoming shameless and incorrigible, open and daring, not only in committing wickedness, but in defending it; and denying all moral differences of actions. Men do not fall into this wretched state on a sudden and at once; but they arrive at it by degrees, being seduced into it insensibly by the enticements, and drawn on gradually by the deceitfulness of sin. This is the natural tendency of our yielding to temptation, of our complying with the customs of a depraved world, and suffering ourselves to be overcome by any passion or appetite till we have first examined it at<337> the bar of reason and conscience. There is, nor can be no other way of preserving ourselves secure against this most fatal of all evils to which reasonable beings can be exposed, and which, for that reason, was the only thing that certain ancient moralists would call evil; (total depravation of the mind) but not to enter into the road which directly leads to it; or if we are betrayed into it, to recover ourselves by reflexion and resolution immediately, and to redouble our watchfulness over the language of our passions to us. This direful growth or progress of the vitious temper in consequence of our listening to false pleasure, or unexamin’d appetites and fancies, is frequently represented to us by ancient moralists in the most rousing and awakening manner. And indeed they must be utter strangers to the ballance of the affections, which constitutes soundness and integrity of mind, to the power of habits; and, in one word, to all the laws relative to our progress in virtue, and to all the effects of not maintaining our reason and moral conscience in full and uncontroulable power and authority, who do not see the necessity of our keeping a strict watch over our minds, and of giving heedful attention to the enticing shapes and forms in which our appetites after outward objects are apt to represent them to us, especially when we have in any degree accustomed them to rule and guide us. ’Tis by such moral discipline alone that men can retain their integrity, improve in virtue, nay, not degenerate gradually into absolute depravity. Several moralists have unfolded and laid open to our view the seductive promises with which different passions often tempt us. And there is not indeed any thing more necessary to mankind, than that they should be early apprised of the deceitful representations of things our appetites are apt to exhibit to us, and of the false assertions and judgments we cannot but be betrayed into by them, if we are not exceedingly upon our guard against being deluded; if<338> we are not severe self-examiners, severe chastisers of all our ideas or fancies; for according to them will our affections and pursuits be. It is impossible that one can preserve his dominion over his appetites any longer than he looks upon a right mind as the greatest of all treasures, and a corrupt one as the most horrible of all evils; any longer than he looks upon generous affection, and the calm and steady presidence of reason, as having more beauty and charm than all other things in the world besides, and a grain of honesty and native worth is of more value, in his apprehension, than all the adventitious ornaments, estates or preferments, for the sake of which so many turn knaves; forsaking their natural principles and sentiments, quit their true honour and freedom for a mean, timorous, shifting state of gaudy servitude; and for insipid wretched honours of a deceitful kind, exchange inward merit, honour, and a character of a sincere and lasting relish. But how can this just notion of worth be kept up in the mind, otherwise than by the habitual self-examination and watchfulness so earnestly recommended by the excellent moralista whose words I have been now quoting, which is indeed the very same with that keeping of the heart with all diligence, that frequent meditation upon the excellence of virtue, the dignity to which human powers may be improved, the end of our being, and the will of our creator; and that continued, unintermitted attention that we be not deceived by the delusive appearances of sin, so often inculcated upon us in the sacred writings. 2. Let me only add to what hath been said, that the commands in scripture not to trust to our own hearts, and to take heed that we do not deceive ourselves, do not imply any other difficulty in knowing ourselves, or in judging truly of our advancements in virtue, besides what arises from self-love or self-flattery; of which he, who<339> is not aware, must be very unacquainted with human nature. It is certainly of moment to us, in order to our progress in virtue, not to be deceived with regard to our moral character, or not to imagine ourselves more perfect, or more proof against sollicitations to vice of any kind than we really are. With regard to other qualities, as beauty, strength, agility, learning, wit, &c. it cannot but be owned that very few are able to prevent very great partiality in their judgments about their share of them. For how apt are we to magnify all our accomplishments, and to extenuate all our imperfections to ourselves? How doth flattery work upon persons so as not only to perswade them that they may perhaps have good qualities in a higher degree than they imagined, but even so as to induce them to venture on undertakings far above their abilities.—How doth this happen but through our disposition to judge too favourably of ourselves? Were it not for this tendency to flatter ourselves, the flattery of others could never seduce us. The latter indeed can only hurt us in proportion to the power the other hath over our minds. Now surely, none will say that there is danger from our aptitude to partiality with regard to ourselves in every other respect, and no danger of our mistaking with regard to our moral character, or our improvements and advances in virtue. But if it be possible to deceive or flatter ourselves in that respect, it is certainly a self-deceit, a self-flattery which ought to be strictly guarded against; for no other branch of self-partiality can be of so dangerous consequence to us. Surely in this article, if a man thinketh himself something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.a But the only way to be certain we do not deceive or flatter ourselves in this important article, is not to suffer ourselves to relish praise from others which we are not very sure of our deserving, upon a close and<340> severe review of our heart, temper and life; not to take our idea of ourselves from others, but from our own inward conscience alone. “That no man may deceive himself, saith the Apostle St. Paul, let him prove his own work; and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another”:39 Then the flattery of others will not mislead him into a false opinion of himself; and then shall he, if he be injuriously calumniated, have rejoicing in himself from the testimony of a good conscience. The great danger with respect to mistaking our moral character lies in our not attending to the real difference between our being deeply affected with a sense of the excellence of virtue, as often as it is presented to us, and our being actually virtuous. Some men fancy themselves highly improved in virtue, and absolutely secure, at least against every gross vice, whatever temptations to commit it they may happen to fall into; because at times they have very high notions of the beauty and amiableness of virtue, and of the deformity of every sinful passion and action. But they do not consider, that the worst of men must, on some occasions, feel the same sentiments excited in their minds; and that the sincerity and reality of virtue is to be measured by the good deeds it produces, by the general tenor of the life; for if sentiments of virtue and duty do not govern the life, they do not make one really good, because they do not render one really useful and beneficial to mankind. If a man have not good sentiments, he cannot be virtuous, but in order to deserve the character of a virtuous man, his good sentiments must be a principle of action in him; a living, a moving, an active principle. The soundest faith, the best notions about God and virtue are dead, saith St. James, unless they shew themselves to be active by the good fruits they bring forth. Faith without works is dead. As others can have no evidence of our good principles but by the advantages they reap from the good fruits of them in<341> our lives, so we are to prove our faith, our good principles and sentiments, our right notions of things to ourselves by our conduct and behaviour: Not to flatter ourselves on account of the truth and reasonableness of our opinions, or of the warmth with which we at times contemplate virtue, but to call ourselves to an account for the good we actually do in consequence of these good principles; and then only to pronounce ourselves good, when we are really useful to society. It signifies but little how virtuous the head be, if the heart be not equally so. Virtue means a virtuous temper, working habitually all the good it hath opportunity of doing; a generous benevolent disposition, that controuleth every sensual appetite, and delights to exert itself in promoting, with unwearied assiduity, the best interests of mankind. Now every man hath it in his power, almost every day of his life, to do some good to society. And he therefore hath just ground to suspect his virtue, who not being able to point out to himself what he does that is truly good, easily prevails upon himself to believe it was because he had no opportunity, or it was not in his power. For that is not the language of virtue, but of indolence or self-love. And this leads me to observe in the first place, that many placing virtue or religion in acts of pious meditation and worship, not only dispense with their not laying themselves out to be useful to society, but think themselves much better employed than if they minded temporal affairs, or concerned themselves about what they diminutively call worldly business. But christianity calls upon us to be diligent in some useful business, and to be rich in good works. And because our righteousness, as the scripture speaks, cannot profit God, then only is it profitable, or of real worth, when it is profitable to our fellow creatures. We are placed in this world not to retire from it; but to be active in it, and to exert our selves to promote publick happiness. And indeed to suppose, that the virtue required<342> of us is any thing besides such a temper of mind as prompts and excites to doing good in the world, is to suppose our excellence to consist in separating ourselves from our kind, and living independently of them. It is to place it in something that cannot make us like God, whose moral perfection consists in the continual exertion of his goodness; in something which absolutely centers in ourselves, and is therefore wholly selfish. If we have just apprehensions of God, religious meditation must be of excellent use to excite and strengthen the generous affections, and to subdue the narrow or impure appetites, which are the great obstacles to virtuous activity. But if what is called devotion, pious contemplation, or acts of religious worship, have not this effect, we may be as sure that we are deceived by some false opinion about God, and what is acceptable to him, as it is plain and evident “That he made us so to govern our appetites, and so to exert ourselves every one in his sphere as may best serve to advance publick happiness.” Now, tho’ christianity had not told us so, what can be more evident, than that nothing can be acceptable to God, or recommend to the divine favour, but our acting the best part as rational and social creatures, as creatures not made for ourselves, but for the general good? Some, in the second place, are easily perswaded that acts of religious worship are not sufficient to compleate the character of a good man, but that if to frequent exercises of devotion, almsgiving be joined, then is a man perfect. But St. Paula distinguishes between charity, and giving to the poor. “Tho’ I bestow all my goods on the poor, saith he, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” The charity which in scripture is called fulfilling of the law, and the bond of perfectness, is now too generally understood to mean no more than almsgiving, which is but a small part<343> of it. It means that universal love to mankind which not only disposes us to pity and compassionate our fellow creatures in distress, but excites us to employ our whole life busily in some way advantageous to society. Very great things are indeed spoken in scripture concerning this particular virtue of liberality to the poor. But it deserves to be particularly taken notice, that not only in the text just cited, but in all other places also, without exception, through the whole new testament, the word charity never once signifies the giving of alms, but always that sincere benevolence and good will towards all men, of which almsgiving to the poor is but one single branch, or one particular effect. It is very plain that almsgiving, if it springs not from a right principle, if it be accompanied with, and made subservient to designs of pride and ambition, of imperiousness and dominion, of party, faction and worldly power in matters of religion, it is of no esteem in the sight of God: it is not a virtue but when it proceeds from real love to mankind; and in order to its answering the end of the principle from which it ought to flow, in order to be called a virtue, it ought to be directed by wisdom in its choice of objects and means.
Pretences of love towards God, which do not produce benevolence towards our fellow-creatures, the apostle St. John tells us,a they are nothing more than mere enthusiasm, and a gross deceit. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.” The reasons he gives for it are, He that loveth not mankind, knoweth not God, for he is love.—And, he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen. The meaning of which reasoning is plainly to this effect. He who is not be nevolently affected toward mankind cannot have a just notion of God, for God is love; he cannot love God, without considering him as infinitely benevolent<344> and good: But how can one love infinite benevolence, without having a benevolent disposition. Besides, it is only a benevolent disposition towards mankind that can lead one to that delight in an universal father of mankind, and of the whole world of perceptive and rational beings, in which the love of God consists. We cannot rise to that sublime act of love, but gradually from acts of love and kindness towards beings which fall more immediately under our observation: if our love doth not operate towards our kind, there can be no such principle of benevolence in us, as is necessary to our being able to form to our selves an idea of God, and to delight in him.
Now, as for a principle of real benevolence, either toward God or mankind, tho’ it be very true that, as the same apostle says,a that whosoever hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, it cannot be in him; for how dwelleth the love of God in such a breast, saith the apostle: Yet that principle doth not satisfy it self with frequent giving for the relief of the poor; but the person who is really influenced by it, will be led and determined by it to devote his whole life to the service of mankind. He will be diligent to find out ways of being really and constantly useful to society, and will think every moment lost in which he is not employed in doing something really good. Persons in the lower stations of life are very apt to censure those who have large estates for their idleness, and particularly for their doing so few deeds of generosity in proportion to their fortunes. And they are indeed highly culpable. But let no man deceive himself, by saying to himself he would do great and beneficial things, if he had a plentiful income, unless he dare say to himself, that he does all the good in his present power; that he lays himself out to be useful to society to the utmost of his capacity;<345> and is in no respect less beneficial than he may be. Christianity exhorts in the strongest terms to charity, to benevolence, to active virtue. But tho’ we had no such extraordinary calls from divine revelation to be assiduous in advancing the general good and perfection of mankind, every one of us, in some particular way best suited to our abilities, genius and circumstances, how can we answer it to our natural conscience; to that inward sense of duty to God, and of right and wrong, which the author of our nature hath implanted in all men, to point them to their proper employment, as active and social creatures, if we are mere cumberers of the earth, like the barren unprofitable tree, which only serves to draw away nourishment from the good and fruitful ones? Yet such are all men who do not exert themselves to be useful to others. They are barren unprofitable trees; for what fruits doth society, for whose good all men are born, reap from them? The greatest vice in the world is idleness. It is justly said by moralists to be the mother of irregular passions. But, independently of that consideration, an idle life is contrary to the first and fundamental law of nature, with regard to our improvement, and to the improvement of mankind and human happiness in general, by which all is the fruit or purchase of industry. To improve ourselves, is to fit ourselves for doing great good, for being more extensively useful to society; and therefore time wholly laid out in improving ourselves in knowledge, without ever exerting our abilities for the advantages of others, is laying out our time wholly upon having the means by which an end may be gained, and no part of it upon the end itself. But if to enrich our minds with knowledge, without employing ourselves to be serviceable to mankind by it, be but at best the most innocent sort of idleness, what must be said of those who are indeed mere drones, who live luxuriously upon the industry of the active and laborious? ’Tis a fatal mistake, to affix an idea<346> of meanness to any business or employment which is really beneficial to society. And it is an equally pernicious one for any to think, that they have a right by their lucky birth, to be exeemed from all concern about the advancement of publick happiness; and to imagine they do enough, if now and then they are prevailed upon to part with a little of their superfluity for the relief of the indigent and distressed. No man is born for himself; and therefore no man discharges the duty of his life, or lives answerably to the end of his creation, who doth not consider himself as obliged to be a useful member of society, in proportion to his power of doing good; and to increase his abilities and power, in order to increase his power of doing good. This is not the language of christianity only, which is thought by some, upon that account, to impose a grievous yoke upon the rich and great by birth. It is the language of natural religion also; and is accordingly set forth to us as our duty in the most urgent and emphatical, moving manner, by several heathen moralists. Nor is there indeed any possibility of evading the necessity of acknowledging the obligation of all men equally to active virtue, till it can be proved, that all men are not made for society; but that some have by birth-right, or may acquire by getting wealth, a dispensation from all obligation to society, and a right to live as they list, without any concern about the interests of mankind in general, or of their country in particular. In truth, one cannot be idle without being really hurtful. But supposing there were any kinds of innocent idleness to which one’s life might be wholly devoted;—Is it the life of a man; the proper life of a creature endued with reason and active powers; the proper life of a social creature, blessed with so many faculties capable of such highly beneficial exercises? Is it a life that can be approved of by God; or merit happiness in another world? What merit hath such a life with regard to men; and how can it but be condemned by God and all good beings? To what rewards<347> or honours can it intitle hereafter? Their memory here must quickly be lost; and what can they flatter themselves to have deserved or prepared themselves for in another world? But the memory of the good man shall ever be precious here as ointment poured forth; and the good works hehath done in this world shall follow him into another, and obtain him a place suited to his worth, among those who have lived here, not to themselves, but to the glory of God, who created men to be co-workers with him for promoting universal good. I need not stay to prove that every man who from a sense of his duty to society, exerts himself with assiduous and cheerful application to some useful business, to do good to society, is an honourable member of society, and truly deserves the character of a virtuous man; nor that there is no man, especially in a well-governed society, who may not be useful. But I cannot choose but take notice of that affecting transition of the son of Syracha from magnifying God in all his works of creation and providence to the praise of good men. “Let us now praise famous men. The Lord hath wrought great glory by them, through his great power from the beginning. Such as did bear rule in their kingdoms, men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and declaring prophesies. Leaders of the people by their counsels, and by their knowledge of learning meet for the people, wise and eloquent in their institutions. Such as found out musical tunes, and recited verses in writing. Rich men furnished with ability, living peaceably in their habitations. All those were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times. There be of them that have left a name behind them, that their praises might be reported. And some there be which have no memorial, who are perished as though they had never been.”a <348> The ways of being really useful to society are innumerable, and will be easily found out by those who have a principle of active virtue in their minds; that virtue or wisdom, which, as St. James expresses it, is pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits. And what a poor thing is it, said even a wise heathen sage, not to hurt him, whom you ought to benefit? It was a noble saying of Plato, which Tully hath beautifully enlarged upon in his offices. “We are not born for ourselves alone; our country, our parents, and our friends have all a share and an interest in our being.” ’Tis a maxim with the Stoicks, saith Tully, that as the earth, and all the productions of it, were created for the use of men, so men themselves were brought into the world, that they might assist and benefit each other. In this we ought to follow the guidance of nature, to bring common goods together, and freely lay them in common, and by an intercourse of giving and receiving kind offices, by art and industry, and all our faculties, to cement the society of mankind. It is more agreeable to nature, saith the same author, for a man to undertake all sorts of labour and trouble for the service and advantage of society, than to live in solitude, not only free from cares, but in the midst of the greatest pleasures. We are all members of one great body. Nature produced us under mutual relation, from the same principles, and for the same designs. It is she that has inspired us with love one for another: it is she who has taught us the lessons of equity and justice. It is upon account of her constitutions that we ought to esteem it a greater unhappiness to do hurt, than to receive it. It is by her orders that our hands move so readily to the assistance of an injured neighbour. Let that good saying therefore be ever in your mind, “I am a man, and I esteem nothing foreign to me which is of kin to humanity. Let us lay our natural powers in common. Human society is built like an arch of stones, which is<349> by this means only supported and upheld from ruin, that each part hinders the fall of the others.” This is the constant language of the ancient moralists concerning benevolence and virtue. And it is indeed the language of nature, as well as of revelation, that he who thinketh himself virtuous because he hath pious or virtuous sentiments, contenting himself that he does no hurt, without laying himself out, to the utmost of his power, to be useful to society, mistakes the shadow for the substance. “For, as the apostle St. James reasons,a if a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one say unto them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled, but does not give to them those things which are needful, what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone. Yea a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” No opinions, no faith, no perswasion, no sentiments, can be of real use or value but in proportion to the good influence they have upon one’s actions. If they produce a good temper and disposition of mind, that good temper will produce a conformably good life. And till principles influence the temper, they are but ideas floating in the head. It is not the head but the heart, said a good ancient, that makes the man of probity and worth. And in vain doth one pretend to a good heart, if he is not fruitful in good works. For it is not more true, that a good tree bringeth forth good fruit, than that a good heart is not barren, but active and fruitful in counsels, in words, and in deeds, which are of real utility to all within it sreach or influence. I have insisted the longer upon these mistakes about virtue, because, as nothing more effectually supplants true science than false learning; so nothing more effectually prevents progress in real virtue, than the pursuit of something<350> that has a fair but false shew of it. And in christian countries, placing religion intirely in contemplation and acts of religious worship, and in almsgiving, instead of placing it in benevolent assiduous industry to promote the good of society, seems to be a very prevailing mistake, tho’ christianity expresly declares, that our duty consists in doing good, in being ready to distribute, willing to communicate, and in being rich in good works; and this is laying up to ourselves in store a good foundation against the time to come, in which every one shall reap as he has sown; and God the righteous judge and governor of the world will render to every one according to his works. And indeed, did it teach any other doctrine, or place religion in any thing else, it could not come from God. For reason plainly declares to us, that the good of society is the end of our creation; and that promoting it is our duty; and that nothing else can recommend us to the love and approbation of God, who is perfect goodness, but being steadily and uniformly actuated by a benign disposition: or, in other words, that in consequence of a constitution of things, framed and upheld by an infinitely perfect author, active benevolence must be the temper of soul from which alone eternal happiness can spring. To imagine the rewards in another life annexed to any other qualities but benignity and goodness of mind, is to imagine God to love, honour and reward something of inferior merit more than that which constitutes his own supreme excellence. It is to suppose him to delight in something inferior to virtue more than in virtue. And, on the other hand, to measure the goodness of mankind by any other rule or standard but the good fruits it produces, that is, the good it does in society, in proportion to our circumstances, or the extent of our power duly improved and exerted, is the same absurdity in morals, as it would be in physicks to say, that the cause is not proportional to the effect, and alternately the effect to the<351> cause. The rule must hold equally true in both, that as is the cause, such are its effects; as is the cause, such is the power or energy with which it operates. The only mark therefore by which thorough, unaffected, sincere benevolence may be known is this, that it will not be satisfied with itself, while it is conscious of its having neglected any opportunity of benefiting mankind it hath or could have had in his power, by duly exerting itself, while in the mean time it is very indulgent to others, and presumes very charitably of them, instead of rashly condemning or censuring them. Let us therefore judge favourably of others, and severely of ourselves; that is, call ourselves to a strict trial, and make our pretences to virtue and goodness give an account of their good effects, being perswaded that as nothing can assimulate us to God but goodness of heart; so goodness is and must be proportional to the energy with which it works, to its operativeness or fruitfulness. This may appear a severe test; and it is impossible to lay down rules about it, without entering into the examination of particular circumstances and cases. But if there be any such thing as religion or morality, it must consist in benevolence; that is, in the prevailing power of benevolence over all our other affections: benevolence must have the ascendant; or be the governing principle in our mind. And hence love is justly called in the scripture the fulfilment of the law. Whatever affection is not submitted to it, but baffles and overpowers it, whether it be revenge, pride, ambition, private interest, or sensual gratification, must be stronger than it. But when one regulates all his appetites and pursuits by a principle of benevolence, then are all his affections in due order; then is he with respect to himself, sober, temperate, chaste, nay, self-denied; and with respect to others, social, humane and generous; not merely just, but beneficent, merciful and affectionate. Nothing can be of consequence to mankind, or any creature but happiness.<352> And therefore, this is all which any person can, in strictness of speaking, be said to have a right to. We can owe no man any thing, but only to promote his happiness according to our abilities. “We therefore, as the apostle speaks,a can owe no man any thing but to love one another: for which reason, he that loveth mankind hath fulfilled the law. For this, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self.” The phrase, as thy self, cannot be understood to mean an equal, much less can it mean a greater sensibility with regard to others than ourselves, for that is impossible, it is a contradiction. But the meaning of it is well explained by that most equitable rule,a “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them,” i.e. be willing to do, or do cheerfully and willingly that always to another which you can in reason expect another should do to you. Put your self in your neighbour’s circumstances, and whatever you would think reasonable to expect from another, were you in these circumstances, let that be the rule of your dealing with him who is actually in these circumstances.
This, says our saviour,bis the law and the prophets. This is that great rule wherein is contained our whole duty to our neighbour. This is the sum of true religion, of righteousness and equity: This is what the nature and the reason of things teaches: This is a rule of easy application: And this is what all God’s revelations to mankind tend ultimately to establish. He who loveth mankind will make the joys and sorrows, the interests of his fellow creatures his own. It is from self-love that we form the notion of private good; and love of our neighbour, where it prevails, will dispose<353> us to appropriate to ourselves his good and welfare; and thus it will not only prevent our being injurious to him, but will also put us upon promoting his good. As the private affection makes us in a peculiar manner sensible of justice or injustice, humanity, equity, tenderness and beneficence, when it is exercised towards our selves; love of our neighbour would give the same kind of sensibility in his be half; teach us what we ought to do toward our neighbours, by making us feel what we would highly approve of, if done by a neighbour to us in the like circumstances. And we may certainly fix upon this general rule with regard to benevolence, that the more of our care and thought and labour we employ in doing good to our fellow creatures, the nearer we come up to this law of perfection, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thy self.” The love of our neighbour, in proportion as it prevails, will be an advocate in our breasts to take care of the interests of our fellow creatures, in all the competitions and interferings, which cannot but be from the imperfection of our nature, and the state we are in; and which, as hath been often observed, are in a great measure designed for the trial and exercise of benevolence, in order to its being brought to perfection in our breasts. It will likewise, in a great degree, lessen that interfering, and hinder men from forming so strong a notion of private good, exclusive of the good of others, as we are apt to do. It will lead us naturally to examine the dictates of self-love, and to observe whether it gives us a just and fair representation of our true interest. For it is not commanded us, nor is the seed and principle of it implanted in us to exclude self-love, but to direct and guide it. And indeed, as a person who hath benevolence prevailing in him to any degree, if he takes a view of his frame and constitution, and of the natural connexions and tendencies of things in his state, must soon perceive, that the gratifications of benevolence, considered as a particular affection,<354> are far superior to the gratifications of any other particular affection; and that benevolence, considered as forming a general temper of mind, is itself the temper of satisfaction and enjoyment; so in reality, competition or interfering happens much oftner between pride, revenge, sensual gratifications and private interest, than between private interest and benevolence. For nothing is more common, as an excellent writer has observed on this head,a than to see men give themselves up to a passion or an affection, to their known prejudice and ruin, and in direct contradiction to manifest and real interest, and the loudest calls of self-love: whereas the seeming competitions and interfering between benevolence and private interest, relate much more to the materials and means of enjoyment, than to enjoyment itself. There is often an interfering in the former, when there is none in the latter.
As for the love of God, scripture as well as reason tells us, that it cannot take place but where benevolence is the reigning principle in the heart; and that as benevolence cannot rise to the love of God, unless it hath first operated towards our fellow creatures, so where it prevails towards our kind, the idea of an infinitely good being can no sooner be formed, than it must embrace such an object with the highest degree of complacency, delight and love. And thus benevolence is the root of piety: and all virtue and piety at last necessarily runs up into one and the same point; and love is in all senses the end of the commandment, the bond of perfectness. Benevolence does really, in the nature of things, include in it all that is good and worthy; all that is good which we have any distinct particular notion of. We have no clear conception of any moral attribute in the supreme Being, but what may be resolved up into goodness or benevolence. And therefore, if we consider a reasonable or moral agent, abstractly or without<355> regard to the particular relations and circumstances in which he is placed, we cannot conceive any thing else to come in towards determining his merit, but the degree in which benevolence prevails in him, its largeness or comprehensiveness, and its force and power in his mind.
What stress christianity lays upon the prevalency or ascendency of benevolence in the mind, and its fruits, is very evident; for it commands us in the strongest terms, not only to be just and equitable in our dealings, and as much as in us lies to follow peace with all men, but to overcome evil by good; to forgive our enemies.a Ye have heard, says our Saviour, this law Thou shalt love thy neighbour, misinterpreted, as if it meant, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust: for if ye love them which love you, what reward have you? what merit have you, or what extraordinary reward do you deserve? do not even the publicans the same? It is no more than what is generally done by persons of the lowest character, persons of very little virtue. And if ye salute your brethren only, if ye be kind and friendly only to those who are the same to you, what do you more than others? Do not even the publicans do so? This is no more than what the worst of men think themselves bound to do in common gratitude. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect: be ye merciful even as your father which is in heaven is merciful: let your charity and well-doing extend itself universally, in imitation of the divine goodness, which is the greatest excellence and perfection of God.” Now, however much this precept, and others having the<356> same meaning, have been carped at, yet if the obligation to benevolence be owned, then must these precepts likewise be confessed to be obligatory. Benevolence comprehends them. For surely, if benevolence be obligatory, all malice and revenge which are directly opposite to it, must be forbidden. But what is it, not to indulge malice and revenge, but to moderate our resentment, and to extend our good-will even to the unthankful, even to our enemies? When we consider ourselves as creatures liable to many defects and faults, we must certainly think it reasonable that others should consider themselves as the same, and shew compassion, indulgence and tenderness to us. When we have failed in our duty to our neighbour, do we not think it fit and equitable, or due to human nature, that we should be forgiven when we return to a sense of our fault, and are willing to make all the reparation or satisfaction in our power; and that forgiving instead of avenging is a noble and highly approveable part? In fine, do we not in general, look upon man as the proper object of good-will, whatever his faults be, when they respect others? But, as an excellent writer observes,a if all this be true, what can a man say who will dispute the reasonableness or the possibility of obeying the divine precept we are now considering. Let him speak out, and it must be thus he will speak. “Mankind, i.e. a creature defective and faulty, is the proper object of good-will, whatever his faults are, when they respect others, but not when they respect me myself.” Now, that man should be affected in this manner, and act accordingly, is to be accounted for like othervices; but to assert that it ought, and must be thus, is self-partiality posses’d of the very understanding. Thus love to our enemies, and those who have been injurious to us, is so far from being rant, as it hath been profanely called, that it is in truth the law of our nature, and what every one must see and own, who is not quite blinded with<357> self-love. The same author observes, that as God Almighty foresaw the irregularities and disorders, both natural and moral, which would happen in this state of things, he hath generously made some provision against them, by giving us several passions and affections, which arise from, or whose objects are those disorders. Of this sort are fear, resentment, compassion, and others, of which there could be no occasion or use in a perfect state: But in the present we should be exposed to greater inconveniencies without them, tho’ there are very considerable ones which they themselves are the occasions of. They are necessary to us here, some of them as a guard against the violent assaults of others, and in our own defence; some in behalf of others; and all of them to put us upon, and to help to carry us through a course of behaviour suitable to our condition. Mankind naturally feel some emotion of the mind against injustice, whoever are the sufferers by it; and even tho’ the injurious design be prevented from taking effect. This indignation is natural, and is generally moderate enough in mankind, in each particular man, when the injury which excites it doth not affect himself, or one whom he considers as himself. Therefore the precepts to forgiveness, and to the love of our enemies, do not relate to that general indignation against injury, and the authors of it, but to this feeling or resentment, when raised by private or personal injury. But no man could be thought in earnest who should assert, that tho’ indignation against injury, when others are the sufferers, is innocent and just, yet the same indignation against it, when we ourselves are the sufferers, becomes blameable. These precepts therefore cannot be understood to forbid this feeling in the latter case, tho’ raised to a higher degree than in the former; because, from the very constitution of our nature, we cannot but have a greater sensibility to what concerns our selves. Therefore these precepts must be understood to forbid only the excesses<358> and abuses of this natural feeling in cases of personal injury. And all these, excepting that of retaliation, do so plainly, in the very terms, express somewhat unreasonable, disproportionate and absurd, as to admit of no shadow of justification. But suppose retaliation innocent, and what would be the consequence? Malice or resentment towards any man hath plainly a tendency to beget the same passion in him who is the object of it, and this again increases it in the other. It is of the very nature of this vice to propagate itself, not only by way of example, which it does in common with other vices, but in a peculiar way of its own; for resentment itself, as well as what is done in consequence of it, is the object of resentment: Hence it comes to pass, that the first offence, when even so slight as presently to be forgotten, becomes the occasion of entering into a long intercourse of ill-offices: neither is it uncommon to see persons in this progress of strife and honour, change parts, and him who was at first the injured person, become more injurious and blameable than the aggressor. Put the case then, that the law of retaliation was universally received as an innocent rule of life; and the observance of it thought by many (and then it would soon come to be thought by all) a point of honour. This supposes every man in private cases, to pass sentence in his own cause; and likewise, that anger or resentment is to be the judge. Thus, from the number less partialities which we all have for ourselves, every one would often think himself injured when he was not: and in most cases, would represent an injury as much greater than it really is: the imagined dignity of the person offended would scarce ever fail to magnify the offence. And if bare retaliation always begets resentment in the person whom we retaliate, what would that excess do? Add to this, that he likewise has his partiality.—There is no going on to represent this scene of madness: It is manifest there would be no bounds, nor any end. Further, that mankind is a community; that we are all one body; that there is a<359> publick interest of society, which each particular is obliged to promote, is the sum of morals. Consider then the passion of resentment as given to this one body, as given to society. Nothing can be more manifest, than that resentment is to be considered as a secondary passion, placed in us upon supposition, upon account of, and with regard to injury; not, to be sure, to promote and further, but to render it and the inconveniences and miseries arising from it, less and fewer than they would be without this passion. Thus then, the very notion or idea of this passion, as a remedy or prevention of evil, and as in itself a painful means, plainly shews that it ought never to be made use of, but only in order to produce some greater good. The gratification of resentment, if it be not conducive to publick good, must necessarily contradict not only the general obligation to benevolence, but likewise the particular end of that passion itself; because the end for which it was given is to prevent or remedy injury, i.e. the misery occasioned by injury, i.e. misery itself. And the gratification of it consists in producing misery, i.e. in contradicting the end for which it was implanted in our nature. This reasoning is built upon the difference there is between this principle, this passion, and all others. No other principle or passion hath for its end the misery of our fellow creatures. But malice and revenge meditates evil itself; and to do mischief, to be the author of misery, is the very thing which gratifies the passion: This is what it directly tends towards, as its proper design.
Thus therefore, it plainly appears that malice and revenge are contrary to the law of nature; and that it is naturally our duty to moderate our resentment, as benevolence, or regard to the publick good, directs and requires. And accordingly, loving our enemies, and overcoming evil by good, have always been acknowledged by the best ancient moralistsa to be duties of the law<360> of nature. They are the natural fruits of benevolence, and have ever been recommended as such. After what hath been said, I need not here stay to prove, that the meaning of the christian precepts is not that christian magistrates are to neglect the punishing of malefactors; not that private christians are to forbear bringing publick offenders to justice; not that it is not lawful for men to recover their private just dues, by such methods of law and equity as are in well-regulated countries appointed for the administration of justice; nor that in common life we are, in such a sense, to forgive those who continue to wrong us, as that we needlesly and causelesly trust them, and as it were tempt them to wrong us more: but we are to forgive those who do repent. And those who do not repent, but persist in injuring us, we are to pray for, and be willing to do acts of charity and humanity to them, when need requires; and not to be sollicitous for revenge, but much rather to desire their amendment, and by all reasonable means promote reconciliation: And if at any time we are forced, by the necessity of things, to have recourse to the magistrate to do us right, we are even then to desire only equity for ourselves, and not needless damage and vexation to our adversary. Now forgiveness of injuries, and love to our enemies in this sense, is of the law of nature; for it is equitable that men, conscious of their own weaknesses and passions, and of their aptness to be too soon and too often provoked, should be very ready to forgive, and be reconciled to others. It is dealing with others, as we would think reasonable they should deal with us. It is a desirable temper, for the inward peace and ease of mens own minds, that they should not be under the power of fretful passions, and the lasting resentments of a revengeful spirit; but that they be meek, gentle, peaceable, and easy to be reconciled. This meekness is in a peculiar manner a reward to itself. “The merciful man, saith Solomon,40 doth good to his own soul, but he that is<361> cruel troubleth his own flesh.” Nor is it less beneficial to the publick, being the greatest preservative against that beginning of strife which the same wise man elegantly compares to the letting out of water. It is also the most effectual way of doing ourselves right, as is implied in the expression, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”a for gentleness, meekness, and easiness to forgive, is the most probable way of working upon men, if they be at all capable of amendment. And how can we with any assurance ask or hope for pardon from God, if we are of an unforgiving temper? How can we presume to pray to God that he would graciously forgive our failures, but in the way our Saviour has taught us to pray. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.” The reasonableness of the condition is well expressed by the son of Syrach in a passage already quoted. “He that wrongeth shall find vengeance from the Lord, and he will surely keep his sins in remembrance. Forgive thy neighbour the hurt that he has done thee; so that thy sins also be forgiven when thou prayest. One man beareth hatred against another, and doth he seek pardon of the Lord? He sheweth no mercy to a man which is like himself, and doth he ask forgiveness of his own sins?”41 In fine, he who hath not a forgiving temper cannot have benevolence, for benevolence is tender and compassionate, slow to wrath, ready to forbear and forgive; far less is he like to God, whose principal attribute is his mercifulness. Creatures sensible of pain must be offended, provoked, and roused to self-defence by hurt or pain. And creatures who have a sense of virtue and vice, justice and injustice, must feel indignation arise within them against injury or injustice. But God, who hath implanted these useful affections in us, hath likewise implanted in our nature a strong principle of pity and compassion to bridle<362> and restrain them from the excesses into which they would otherwise run. If therefore our resentment is excessive, or goes beyond the bounds necessary to publick good, or to prevent the mischievous consequences of injustice, where is our compassion.—But if our compassion does not work, is not an affection wanting in us, which as naturally hath place in the human constitution as any other? Thus therefore, setting aside all other considerations but the natural texture of the human mind, it is evident from the ballance intended to be preserved amongst our natural affections or passions, that malice and revenge are contrary to nature; or that resentment ought to be mixed with and tempered by compassion. And if we consider ourselves as formed for the imitation of God, and high attainments in virtue, what must our scope be? Must it not be to attain to that which includes in it all the divine perfections, and without which no other of his moral attributes can be conceived, even perfect benevolence? But what is benevolence, when we remove from the idea of it readiness to forgive; nay, goodness even to the obstinately unthankful? This alone is truly divine, or god-like bounty and generosity, to have bowels of pity and compassion towards those who cruelly hate and persecute us. Of this Christ set us a noble example: And who can reflect upon Christ expiring with this divine prayer, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”; or St. Stephen, in imitation of his example, with these generous words, “O God lay not this sin to their charge?” Who can reflect upon these noble acts of benevolence without admiring them; without feeling how much more glorious it is forgive than to revenge? In truth, no man is so lost to humanity, and to all sense of the beauty of virtue, but he must admire and approve the forgiving, generous temper; hate the revengeful, cruel, unrelenting, unforgiving one, and esteem the conquest of passion and resentment as greater, more heroick, more noble and praiseworthy,<363> than the conquest of a kingdom. “He that ruleth or conquereth his own passions, says the wise man, is greater than he who taketh a city.” Without love to mankind, and sincere ardent regard to publick good, there can be no such thing as true heroism: without benevolence and generosity, courage is cruelty. And therefore, in the opinion of all wise men even among the heathens, those who are vulgarly called heroes, were reputed ravagers and destroyers of mankind; savage, blood-thirsty monsters. The meekness, the gentleness, the forgiving spirit, the generous beneficence even to the ungrateful, recommended by christianity, is not a mean, submissive dastardly temper, but true goodness, nay, true greatness of mind, and it is so natural to mankind, that it is properly called humanity.
III. Let us proceed to consider whether the christian morality is deficient in any respect; leaves out, excludes or overlooks any virtue. Now, so particular are the precepts of the christian institution with regard to relative duties, that it seems needless to prove to any who are acquainted with it, that these cannot be more particularly or fully explained and enforced than they are by it: yet it hath been objected that those which are rank’d among the most heroic virtues among moralists, are no essential parts of christian charity; namely, private friendship, and the love of our country.
Now, in answer to this censure upon christianity, a most excellent writera hath observed, 1. “Universal benevolence is the supreme law to all rational beings, a law of eternal and immutable obligation, the authority of which ought not to be superseded, limited, or in the least weakened, by any selfish or partial affections. For if there be any beauty and amiableness at all in doing good, the more extended our views are, it must be so much the more meritorious and honourable; and<364> consequently, to aim at the universal good must be the highest degree of virtue.—Nothing forms so great and worthy a character.—’Tis indeed the chief part of God’s moral rectitude;—and must therefore be the supreme dignity and perfection of man. Again, the happiness of the whole species cannot be too intensely pursued, whereas all other affections are no longer innocent than as they are at least consistent with this; are only virtuous, so far as they directly promote it, but are base and detestable when they interfere with it. 2. To apply this to the case of private friendship. When my regard to my friend is inconsistent with the love I owe my country, and much more with the general good of mankind, to whom all my services are more immediately and strictly due, ’tis an unnatural passion, and ought to be rooted out of the mind; because, were it universally indulged, it would introduce the utmost confusion, and an intire subversion of all order and government. This being the great rule by which we are to determine in all cases concerning the expediency and fitness of private friendships, it follows, that they have nothing truly generous in them, but as they tend to cultivate and improve universal benevolence, and are a natural means to make the whole species happy. For if they are not chosen for this reason because they are best upon the whole, if they are only not contrary to the publick happiness, but have no direct influence to promote it, our views must be mean and selfish; and friendship will become a mere matter of private convenience, or else of humour and fancy; in either of which cases it must be uncertain and variable, as circumstances, opinions and interests alter: or finally, it will be the love of ourselves, i.e. of the resemblance of our own way of thinking, dispositions and manners in others; and consequently, nothing like the sublime and heroic virtue for which it has been recommended, and which indeed, it is in itself, so long as ’tis the medium of universal benevolence. Again, all<365> friendship, in order to its being truly rational and praise-worthy, must be founded in virtue. For this is the only ground of that esteem and steady confidence which are inseparable from a worthy and generous friendship. ’Tis in this way alone that it can be useful, or in any measure promote the end of every lesser alliance, viz. the welfare of the great community of mankind. ’Tis this distinguishes true friendship from the vile cabals of robbers and traitors, men of dark and mischievous designs, who may have all the other characters of it, such as ‘similitude of tempers, passions, interests, secrecy, confidence, constancy; nay, a reciprocal tenderness and affection for each other.’ And from hence it follows, that the love of a friend must be proportioned to his real merit, otherwise it is foolish and unreasonable partiality; and we ought to prefer every man before him that has really a more excellent and useful character. In our esteem we must necessarily do it, unless our private affection has blinded and perverted our judgments; and there are some cases supposable, in which, if we would not forfeit the glorious character of being the friends of mankind for a little fantastick name of friendship, we must do it in our services too. I may add, there is something in almost all accounts of private friendship, that is in a great measure mechanical. A high esteem of a wise, virtuous and useful character, an ardent zeal to serve our friends, and faithfulness to their interests, is what all may attain to; but the fervour and strength of passion that sometimes mixes with it, what we may call the enthusiasm of friendship, depends very much upon a particular constitution. ’Tis the more gross part.—And if we separate the mechanical part, and all extravagant transports from private friendship, and consider it as a thing that reason may approve and justify, we shall find it is nothing more than the reciprocal esteem and affection of virtuous minds, united by a harmony of inclinations, views and interests, all upright and generous.<366>—That it never exceeds in any instance the rules of justice, truth and honour,—is always subservient to the great law of universal benevolence;—and valuable, not as ’tis an attachment to private persons, but as a means of promoting the cause of virtue, and the happiness of the world. 3. The same may be said of the love of our country. That it is a rational and virtuous disposition, not merely as it is a regard for a particular part of the species, but as it has a tendency to advance the universal good. For their security against injury and violence, and to answer in the most effectual manner the great end of their benevolent and generous affections, mankind found it necessary to form particular societies. The reason of supporting these voluntary combinations is not only self-defence, but because such a method is for the general good. These two ideas ought never to be separated, because things can’t continue in a regular and natural state, but while the good of every part is considered as subordinate to the whole. Now the good of the whole is unquestionably best promoted by every person’s having a hearty affection for the society to which he belongs, and a strong zeal for its welfare. This is his immediate concern;—the station and sphere of usefulness that providence has assigned him. The undeniable consequence of which is, that love of one’s country is only a rational principle, when it is intirely consistent with, and subservient to the supreme law of universal benevolence. Universal benevolence is infinitely the most exalted and heroic spring of action, because the universal good can’t be pursued to an excess; but private friendship, and the love of our country, may be so perverted as to become mischievous and destructive principles. The former is intirely disinterested, and can proceed only from the love of goodness, and consequently is a most god-liked is position: the latter may both spring from little selfish motives, and terminate in a narrow private interest. The former contains every instance of restrain’d<367> and partial affection, and is therefore the whole sum of social virtue; whereas the latter, without more enlarged views than the mere pleasure of a friend, or the welfare of our country, forms a character so far from being eminently good, that it wants the very essentials of goodness.
“This alone, saith our author, is sufficient to vindicate our saviour’s scheme of benevolence. But, 4. further, let it be considered, that the christian principle includes both these, so far as they are founded in reason, and have any thing virtuous and praise-worthy in them. Universal benevolence must, in the very nature of the thing, comprehend every species of real benevolence: and a command to promote the general good, necessarily implies all the proper means of doing it; and consequently, every instance of private friendship, and zeal for the interest of particular communities that appears to have this natural tendency. ’Tis no objection against moral discourses, that they lay down chiefly general rules for the right conduct of life; for these alone are eternal and unchangeable morality: and the true application of them to particular cases must be left to every man’s own reason, because it depends on a variety of circumstances that alter the expediency of things. General benevolence is a fixed and immutable duty, but friendship is not a strict duty upon all, but, for the most part, a purely voluntary engagement.
“An esteem of good and virtuous characters is always rational, because it is necessarily connected with the love of virtue itself. But this is not the notion of friendship, which is a peculiar relation, form’d by a consent and harmony of minds, as well as founded in virtue; from whence it is an undeniable consequence, that it can’t be every man’s duty, since it evidently depends on circumstances that are quite out of our power. There are innumerable instances in which persons may find several among their acquaintance, and in the same<368> sphere of life, whom they highly esteem, but not one proper to be chosen for a close and intimate friend: so that the recommending private friendship in the general must have been very absurd, since it is only a rare and accidental obligation, and never falls in the way of a great part of mankind. And besides, it might have been attended with mischievous effects. For the bulk of mankind thinking it a duty of religion, and a necessary branch of sublime heroic virtue, would enter into rash, unconcerted and disagreeable alliances, which must naturally produce a great deal of disorder, and disturb the peace of societies: whereas, while they act upon the principles of universal benevolence, no ill consequences can ensue; and therefore the inculcating this principle only as an essential part of morality, and leaving private friendship to fall in as a branch of it, just as prudence, on a view of all circumstances, directs, is the wisest and best way of instructing mankind. Further, there has been very little need in any age, to put men upon cultivating private friendships, and the love of their country; but rather to give a check to these narrow limited affections, and correct the exorbitancies of them. The experience of our own times, and the history of all ages, is an ample justification of the truth of this remark. Friendships have always been frequent enough;— but of what kind are they? Do they not spring from humour and caprice, from a harmony of odd, whimsical and unaccountable tempers, from singularity and selfishness?—Or are they built upon the solid foundations of honour and virtue? In like manner, zeal for the interest of a particular country is it not universal?—But then, is it truly benevolent and publick-spirited? It is more commonly an absurd and childish prejudice that makes men so extravagantly fond of themselves as to treat all other nations with insolence and contempt. It is a zeal that makes an idol of our country, and is ready to sacrifice even the good of the whole species to it.<369>
“There was no reason then, that our saviour should particularly inculcate these things, to which mankind have so natural a turn, and are so apt to indulge to excess. His great work was to rectify all disorders, and in an especial manner the abuse of good principles, and the extravagancies that arise from it. And this he has effectually done in the case before us, by enforcing the obligations of universal goodness, which will regulate all inferior affections, without destroying them. For the observing this rule, will lead to every instance both of friendship and love of our country that is really amiable and beneficial, and discourage such only of either kind as are unmanly and mischievous. But besides, there was a particular reason, from the circumstances of the world at that time, why the christian religion should not directly recommend the love of our country; for then an affection for particular countries was a general nusance, and triumphed over justice and humanity: for it is well known that the Jews were so partially fond of their own nation, that they looked upon themselves as the only favourites of heaven; which made them severe and rigid in their censures, and morose and unsocial to all who were not of their religion.—And as for the Romans, whose noble lectures of benevolence and generosity are so much boasted of, and their love of their country represented as the very perfection of heroic virtue, they were the plagues and scourges of mankind, and had actually carried their arms and conquests, and together with them terror, slavery and ruin, through the greatest part of the then known world.—Was this now a time to recommend narrow views, and an attachment to particular societies, when the general interest had suffered so much by it? It was rather the way to have destroyed publick benevolence altogether.
“In the last place, he adds, that tho’ the christian religion does not, for these weighty reasons, particularly enjoin private friendship, and the love of our country,<370> yet it is a false insinuation, that it has given no encouragement to them. For we have in the character of Christ himself an eminent example of each of these virtues, which is equally binding as an express law, upon all who acknowledge his authority. He chose but twelve persons to be his immediate and constant followers, and one of them he made his friend. Accordingly we read in the history of the New Testament, of the disciple whom Jesus loved; whom he always treated with confidence, and particular marks of tenderness and affection.
“And was not his weeping over Jerusalem from a sense of its impending ruin, a noble proof of his ardent concern for the publick welfare? Were not all his labours to make his people happy, by reforming their corruptions and vices? Was it not for this that he suffered so many abuses? Nay, did he not even die for the good of his country? I may add to this the example of St. Paul, who was so transported by his affection to his country, as to wish that the greatest of evils might befal himself, even to be accursed from Christ, if by that means he might be the instrument of preserving and establishing their prosperity.a These are instances, than which, if we take in all circumstances, none ever were, or can be more great and heroical: and had they been found among the old Greeks or Romans, they would have been celebrated with the most laboured and magnificent encomiums.”
Thus, we have sufficiently vindicated the christian scheme of morality, by shewing its congruity with the affections and powers naturally belonging to man, and its tendency to raise him to a truly noble degree of perfection. And the following truths are either plainly included in the preceeding reasonings, or do directly follow from them.<371>
[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.
[a. ]Levit. xix. 1–2.
[b. ]1 Peter i. 15–16.
[a. ]2 Cor. vii. 1.
[b. ]Matt. v. 48.
[c. ]1 Peter i. 16–17.
[d. ]Chap. iv. 18, &c.
[a. ]2 Peter i. 4.
[b. ]Hebr. xii. 10.
[c. ]1 John iii. 2.
[34. ]Job 6.30.
[a. ]Ecclus. ii. 13, &c.
[35. ]Isaiah 40.31.
[a. ]2 Pet. ii. 15–20. &c.
[b. ]Heb. vi. 4. &c.
[c. ]Eccles. vii. 29.
[a. ]Dr. Butler’s Sermons. Sermon on resentment. [This long paraphrase, startingon p. 764, is from Joseph Butler (1692–1752), Fifteen Sermons, Sermon VIII: “Upon Resentment” §8, in The Works of Joseph Butler, ed. W. E. Gladstone, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897), vol. 2.]
[a. ]Chap. xvii. 9. See Mr. Foster’s Sermons. [James Foster, Sermon 10, in Sermons ..., vol. 1, 4th ed. (London, 1745), 259–61.]
[a. ]Matthew v. 3.
[b. ]John vi. 63.
[c. ]John iv. 23.
[d. ]Rom. ii. 28.
[a. ]Revel. ii. 19.
[b. ]Luke xii. 21.
[a. ]Advancement of learning, Book vii. chap. 1. [Bacon, Advancement of Learning, VII.1, in Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, ed. Michael Kiernan (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), 136.]
[a. ]See the lives of Pelopidas and Epaminondas in antient authors. [For the story of Pelopidas and Epaminondas see Plutarch’s Lives, ed. and trans. Bernadotte Perrin, 11 vols., Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam, 1914–26), 5:347ff.]
[b. ]1 Tim. vi. 5, &c.
[a. ]Poverty of mind, is not to be disinterested; to despise riches; to be above the insolence of wealth.
[36. ]James 1.14.
[a. ]1 John ii. 15.
[a. ]This paraphrase is chiefly taken from Dr. Sam. Clarke. See his Sermons.[Clarke, Sermon 154, in Works, 2:251–56.]
[37. ]Ps. 1.1.
[38. ]Rom. 1.32.
[a. ]Heb. iii. 12–13.
[a. ]See Arrian, Marcus Antoninus, and the Character is ticks. [The sentiment is well represented in Shaftesbury’s “Miscellany” IV in Characteristics, ed. Klein; see especially 422–25. See also Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Meditations VI.13.]
[a. ]Gal. vi. 3, &c.
[39. ]Gal. 6.3–4.
[a. ]1 Cor. xiii. 3.
[a. ]1 John iv. 20, &c.
[a. ]1 John iii. 17.
[a. ]Ecclus. xliv.
[a. ]It appears from hence, that in ancient times making honourable mention of great and good men, to excite noble emulation in the living, was a part of religious service.
[a. ]James ii. 15–18.
[a. ]Rom. xiii. 8, &c.
[a. ]Matt. vii. 12.
[b. ]Gal. v. 14.
[a. ]Dr. Butler. Bishop of Bristol, in his sermon on Love to our neighbour, whence this whole reasoning is taken. [Joseph Butler, Sermon XI: “Upon the Love of Our Neighbour,” §18, in Works, vol. 2.]
[a. ]Matt. v. 43.
[a. ]Dr. Butler’s Sermons. [The question Turnbull ascribes to Butler is answered by Butler in extenso in Sermons XI and XII, “Upon the Love of Our Neighbour,” in Works, vol. 2.]
[a. ]See Plato’s Gorgias, Crito, Repub. 1. Xenophon Mem. Soc. l. 2. [Plato, Gorgias 478B-479E, Crito 49C-E, Republic bk. 1 passim; Xenophon, Memorabilia, “Socrates” I.2.]
[40. ]Prov. 11.17.
[a. ]Rom. xii. 21.
[41. ]Ecclus. 28.1–4.
[a. ]Mr. Foster in his admirable Sermons, whose reasoning I here abridge. [James Foster, Sermon 3, in Sermons, 1:51ff.]
[a. ]Rom. ix. 3.