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SECTION IV - 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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The scripture account of a future state compared with reason and experience.
We have of necessity anticipated, in a great measure, the scripture doctrine concerning a future state, in discoursing upon the former heads; so that it will be sufficient to add to what hath been said, some few illustrations on the following propositions, in order to shew, that as they are the doctrines of christianity, so they are exactly agreeable to what experience, analogy, and reason teach us with relation to an after-life.
Let it only be premised, that if the gospel of Jesus Christ does really pretend to be the doctrine of a future state, or to have brought life and immortality to light, it must be highly unreasonable not to give it a fair hearing and examination. If one is absolutely unconcerned about his interest and happiness, the end of his present situation, and what is to happen to him after this life; if one is heedless, and takes no thought about these momentous enquiries, does he deserve to be called a rational being? But how can one be concerned about his interest and happiness, and yet be indifferent with respect<384> to a doctrine which pretends to set not only his present, but his future, his eternal happiness in a satisfying light; or to give a clear and satisfactory account of his way not only to the present greatest felicity, but to immortal glory and blessedness? Now this is what the gospel of Jesus Christ pretends to do. It must therefore be worthy of our most serious attention and impartial scrutiny; or immortal happiness is an object of no moment, which surely no person can be so absurd as to assert. The christian religion doth not exact a blind, precipitant, implicit reception: it only requires, that we should give it such a fair trial, and diligent examination, as the importance of its pretentions evidently makes highly reasonable. Let those, therefore, who having opportunities of being instructed in the gospel of Christ, and the evidences of its truth, quite overlook, neglect, or despise it; let them consider what it is they despise, or refuse to give due attention to. They neglect and despise a doctrine, which, most certainly, merits their examination, if any thing can deserve it. They neglect and despise a doctrine which profers them instruction in matters of the last consequence to them; instruction in life and immortality: i.e. instruction in the way to eternal felicity. I am afterwards to consider the evidences, the plain and full, the truly philosophical evidences which the christian doctrine carries along with it of its truth as such. But in order to excite all thinking persons to enquire honestly and candidly into those evidences, I am now to shew that the gospel of Christ gives an account of a future immortal state that must be acknowledged to merit the attention of every one who desireth happiness, or who cannot approve to himself absolute indifference about his highest concerns, which no reasonable being can. For is it possible that any person who can reason, or think at all, should say, that a doctrine which pretends to make discoveries to us about ourgreatest interest, does not deserve an impartial attentive audience, an unbyassed and careful<385> examination? And yet, this is all that christianity requires of those to whom it is proffer’d: christianity, which pretends to have brought life and immortality to light.
Before we enter upon the grave and momentous enquiry now proposed, it is proper to make this preliminary observation.
A Preliminary Proposition
Nothing can be explained or made intelligible to any beings, which hath not some analogy or likeness to their present state: wherefore, so far only can our future state be laid open, or discovered to us by revelation, as it bears an analogy or likeness to our present condition and circumstances.
All our ideas or conceptions are and must be derived from experience, and analogy to experience. In other words, we cannot form or receive any notion, but either by immediate experience, or by analogy to such ideas as we have received by experience. As we could have no notion of colours and their various modifications, nor of any thing resembling them, had we never received these ideas from without; so is it, in like manner, with regard to all our other perceptions, into whatever classes they are distinguished: they are all of them ultimately owing to experience: and we can have no new ones till we have new experience. Were not we ourselves reflecting, rational beings, we could never have had any idea of rational powers, and their operations. And we cannot form to ourselves any notion of other rational beings, but by ascribing to them powers and operations of powers analogous to those we experience in ourselves. We can frame ideas of beings inferior to us, by imagining them possessed of some of the powers belonging to us, in an inferior degree. And as we can, in that manner, form to ourselves notions of very<386> various orders of beings inferior to man, rising, as it were by steps, nearer and nearer to the qualities and sphere of activity, which constitute us what we really are, or our rank and dignity in nature; so, on the other hand, we are able to form conceptions of various orders of beings ascending above mankind in a regular gradation, by supposing them endued with powers analogous to our rational faculties, indifferent degrees of perfection superior to us. We can thus by imagining powers like to our rational powers, rising one above another in various degrees of perfection, ascend to the idea of an infinitely perfect mind; the source of all created or derived power and perfection, in whom all excellencies meet and are united in their most perfect degree. But how is it we are able to do this, but by conceiving all the intelligent powers we are endued with, and all the perfections we are thereby enabled to acquire, belonging to the first author of all power and perfection, in a way absolutely removed from all imperfection and limitation. In fine, our ideas, the materials of all our knowledge or reasoning, cannot, as all philosophers agree, extend beyond our experience.
Now, from this obvious acknowledged truth, it is manifest, that no rational being, however superior to man, can make his own state known to us any farther than that state bears an analogy or likeness to our present state, and its laws and connexions. And for the same reason, the nature, circumstances, laws and connexions of our future state can no farther be declared, explained, or made intelligible to us at present by any being, however superior to us in the knowledge of nature and providence, than it is analogous or like to our present state. It can only be described to us so far as we are able to conceive or take ideas of it by the help of present experience; for our ideas cannot reach beyond the boundaries of our present experience: it can therefore only be so far described to us as it really hath any similitude to our present state; so far only as analogy<387> to present experience can furnish us with ideas or images of it.
This being certain, beyond all possibility of doubt, these two inferences plainly follow.
Hence it is plain, that a future state, being a new one, or a very different one from the present, which can only be similar or like to it in a few general respects, it can only be positively revealed, i.e. discovered or made known to us here in the few general respects, in which it is analogous or like to the present state of mankind. If we are to have there new ideas, new materials of knowledge, a new sphere of activity; if we are to have new experience; or, in other words, if there are to be any absolute differences between our future and present state, these differences, or whatever is absolutely new in it, cannot now be discover’d to us in a positive manner; no more than the ideas of light and colours can be to a blind man.
Hence it follows, in the second place, that in any account that can be given to us here of our future state, the greater number of truths discovered about it must run in a negative strain, or be merely negative propositions. A positive account of a state different from our present situation and circumstances can only be given us, so far as it is not different; so far as it is not absolutely new. The laws, the connexions, the circumstances, which are new, or different, can only be explained negatively. If, therefore, our future state be really a very new, a very different one, which is only analogous to our present condition in a few general respects, the positive account of it cannot reach beyond these few general respects in which it is analogous to our present;<388> and the account given of it must chiefly run in the negative way, by telling us, that it is not like to the present in such and such respects. I shall not stay to observe what all who are acquainted with the sciences will readily grant, viz. that a very considerable part of what is called science is but negative knowledge. It is sufficient to my present purpose to remark, that to object against a revelation, that most of the doctrines in it concerning our future state are but negative propositions, would be in reality to object against a revelation, because an account is not given by it of a future state, which cannot in the nature of things be given.
But having just suggested these general objections, I now proceed to shew, that the account given by the christian doctrine of a future state is very full, and very satisfactory, and comfortable. And as we advance in this discourse, it will plainly appear, that even the negative accounts which christianity gives us of a future state are of the highest moment, and do by themselves make up a very important discovery concerning it.
The thinking part of man does not perish at death, but is immortal.
That the thinking part of man does not perish at death, but endures for ever, is plainly imply’d in what the scripture says of our entrance after death into a state of rewards and punishments. There are not, indeed, any formal reasonings in the books of revelation to prove the immortality of human souls; but it plainly asserts a future eternal state after death: and therefore assumes to itself the title of the doctrine of eternal life; the doctrine of immortality.a Our Saviour exhorts his disciples not to suffer themselves to<389> be terrified by powerful, violent men into that which is displeasing to God, because though they can kill the body, they cannot destroy the soul.a And in the epistle to the Hebrewsb we are told, it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. Andc the same apostle tells us, that though in this life we continue not, yet after this life there is a continuing city, a continuing state. “We have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.” And to cite no more passages to prove a point which none, who are acquainted with the scriptures, can call into question, St. Paul,d in his epistle to the Thessalonians, thus comforts them; “Christ died for us, that whether we wake or sleep we should live together with him: Wherefore, comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” It hath been disputed, whether the doctrine of a future state made any part of the Jewish dispensation or revelation. But whatever be determined as to that point, it is beyond all doubt, that a future state was known to the Jews; or, that they generally believed the immortality of the soul, and an after-state of rewards and punishments, immediately succeeding to this state of moral trial and discipline. And, indeed, mankind, in all ages and countries, have been universally persuaded of this truth. But having sufficiently enlarged upon this important article in the principles of moral philosophy, let me only observe, 1. That christianity is said to have brought life and immortality to light, not as containing arguments from the attributes of God, and the nature of moral agents, to prove it, but because it assures us of the immortality of human souls and a future state, by another kind of evidence, which shall afterwards be explained; and gives us a very satisfactory view of a future life, as we shall immediately see. 2. In truth, the hope of a future<390> life natural to all men, is itself a sufficient proof that there is a future life. For whence could this universal hope, which is so noble an incentive to great actions; which so exalts and ennobles, or greatens the human mind in proportion to its steady prevalence; i.e. in proportion as it is exercised and indulged,—whence could it come?—or to what other origine can it be attributed, but to the kind care of heaven to give us a presentiment of our being designed for a greater, a nobler end than merely to exist a few years in this our present sphere, and then to perish for ever? But if it really takes its rise from an instinct or anticipation so implanted in us, it is a hope which cannot deceive us;—on the contrary, it is a hope which was intended to excite and animate us to live as becomes beings of celestial birth, and made to acquire to ourselves immortal honour and happiness in a future state; and to comfort and uphold us under all the discouragements or oppositions our adherence to virtue, truth, and goodness may now meet with while it is in its probationary state. 3. And how can those, who believe an infinitely wise and good providence, ever allow themselves to imagine, that any being perishes, or is annihilated? The question about our immortality is commonly so stated, as if it meant to enquire by what special marks or arguments we men can prove, that we are not to be annihilated, after having been allowed to exist for some little time, since all other beings within our ken cease to be, or are destroy’d:—It is stated, as if the enquiry was concerning evidence for some peculiar grant, or charter, to us of immortality. But in reality, a providence being admitted, the only remaining question is in general, whether there be any reason to apprehend that any beings perish, or are destroy’d. And a providence being supposed, that question can hardly bear any dispute: for we not only see no instances of a destroying disposition in nature, so far as we are able to pry into its revolutions and changes; but if the words<391> justice and goodness have any meaning in the mouths of men, we cannot but conclude it to be not merely ungenerous, but unjust to destroy any being, any perceptive being,—and a fortiori, to destroy beings of amoral or rational kind. We can conceive a consistency between good government, and the gradual rise or progress of beings: we can likewise conceive a consistency between good administration, and the gradual sinking of beings, or their powers, according to certain laws of improvement and degeneracy.—And of all this we see examples in nature. But we clearly see an inconsistency between the wilful positive destruction of perceptive beings and benevolence: and we see no instances of such destruction in nature. If the government of the world be good, (and what is it that we fully know of nature which does not proclaim boundless, pure goodness?)—If the government of the world, I say, be good, no being can ever be destroyed; for that cannot be done, but because the greater good of the whole requires such destruction. But tho’ the greater good of the whole may require gradual rising and sinking of moral powers, according to certain laws, yet it can never require the destruction of any being, unless to annihilate a certain quantity of capacity for happiness can be necessary to make a greater quantity of happiness, or greater good in the whole, which is a downright contradiction. For the quantity or sum total of capacity for happiness being lessened, the quantity of attainable happiness must of necessity be lessened. 4. If we consider man in particular, the only thing that can create any suspicion with regard to his subsistence, after what appears to us so terrible a shock, death, is this, that in this state our thinking powers have a very great dependence upon the laws of matter and motion, insomuch that certain bodily accidents make very dismal changes upon them. But there is ground to presume, that were the phenomena of that kind carefully collected and ranged, there<392> would remain no foundation for doubting about our immortality on that score; because, there are many instances of dying by diseases which gradually consume the body, while at the same time moral faculties remain intire, untouched, unviolated, nay, wax stronger and more vigorous; and there are many instances of emerging out of diseases, by which moral powers had been sadly depressed, to former vigour of understanding and virtue: And as we know that there can be no communication with a corporeal world, without subjection to its laws to some certain degree and extent; (because, being variously affected by the operations of the laws of a corporeal world, i.e. well by some, and ill by others, is implied in the very notion of union or communion with it;) so we likewise find, that the further we are able to carry our researches into the laws of our present corporeal state, or our present union with bodies, and by that means with a sensible world, the more and clearer evidences we perceive of the wisdom, fitness and goodness of these laws in various respects. Further, since it is evident, and is indeed acknowledged by all philosophers, that the connexions between different sensible qualities are arbitrary, or must be ultimately resolved into the will of the creating mind appointing them for wise and good ends; that it is mind alone that can properly be said to exist; and that all the ideas a mind receives from without, are conveyed into it by laws of arbitrary institution, or according to an order of positive establishment for good ends; since all this is so evident, that it is not disputed by any philosopher, it plainly follows, that whatever connexions may now take place between mind and body, or however the former may be affected by the latter, yet all these connexions and influences are arbitrary, and consequently may cease to take place, and yet mind or moral powers may continue in full vigour, fit for exercise independent of such connexions, or to be influenced and affected by connexions of a quite different nature.<393> Wherefore, all the arguments taken from the consideration of our moral powers, together with the moral attributes of the Creator and Governor of the world, to prove the immortality of our moral powers, have the same force as if no such connexions between our bodies and minds, as now take place, did subsist. That is, whatever probability or certainty, whatever degree of evidence results from the consideration of the manifold tokens we every where perceive of the wisdom and goodness of providence, that no beings capable of happiness, and much less moral beings, capable of moral, the highest happiness in kind that can be conceived, shall be destroyed; all such evidence remains the same as if there were none of those appearances of that strict intimate connexion with, and close dependence upon the laws of matter and motion in our present state, whence all doubts about our immortality are derived. In fine, the phenomena relating to our moral powers, and their dependence on matter and motion, what do they amount to but an arbitrary dependence, which produces many very good effects while it lasts, and which cannot last always: And therefore it is so far from being repugnant to the idea of good administration, when it is not considered as the only state the moral powers thus subjected, are to be placed in, that it is itself considered as but the first state of those moral powers, exceedingly agreeable to such an idea: whereas, on the other hand, what can be more opposite to all the signs of wisdom and good government we every where meet with in the world, and to all notions of divine benevolence, nay, of ordinary goodness, than to suppose any perceptive beings to be wilfully destroyed, any degree of capacity for happiness to be annihilated? Either we understand what wisdom and goodness mean, and may reason about these ideas, or they are words without any signification, and we cannot reason at all about any such ideas as these words seem to import. But if we can reason with any certainty at all about these ideas, we may rest satisfied,<394> that the rising or progress of perceptive beings to higher capacities; and the advancement of moral agents in moral perfection, in proportion to their care to cultivate and improve their rational faculties, the necessary opposite to which is sinking in consequence of neglectand abuse, are essentially involved, in the very idea of a good whole, or of perfect administration. We cannot otherwise give any coherent account or explication to ourselves of what would deserve to be called good administration, or of that government of the universe which we are led to apprehend, by whatever appearances we perceive to be tokens of wisdom and benevolence, and naturally rejoice in as such. But when we thus represent nature, or the universe to ourselves, all is agreeable, pleasant, consistent, harmonious; we comprehend it clearly to deserve the character of perfectly wise, kindly, generous: The worst appearances admit a solution on this supposition: And upon the contrary hypothesis, appearances in nature are the more unaccountable, in proportion to their seeming wisdom and goodness; be cause they evidently point out wisdom and goodness, which, were they what they have all the appearance of being, any instances of good and wise management can suggest to those who see not the whole of things, would certainly operate in away directly opposite to what is supposed, when beings are imagined to be wilfully destroyed. This reasoning does not barely mean, that it is impossible for a benevolent mind to discover instances of wise and good administration, as far as it can carry its enquiries; especially in those things, which at first sight, or till they were more fully canvassed and understood, appeared very irregular and exceptionable, without being disposed to believe the government of the universe thoroughly perfect; but this reasoning means further, that as there is no reason to infer any thing but the most perfect administration, from samples of wisdom and goodness in the government of the world; so he who<395> hath, from whatever arguments, once inferred a divine providence over-ruling all things, must, of necessity, acknowledge the immortality of all perceptive beings; it being impossible to frame a clear consistent idea of good government, without so conceiving of all beings. But having elsewhere insisted at full length upon the arguments for our future existence, I shall now pass to another proposition. Let me only add, that the christian revelation sets our immortality beyond all doubt, the chief intent of it being to excite to the practice of virtue here, as laying a foundation for our perfection and happiness in an immortal state, to which death is the transition or entrance; and to give us a just idea of the rewards and punishments, the laws and connexions in a future life, so far as is requisite to that excellent end. Now that it does so, will appear when we have considered the ensuing propositions.
Our future state, which immediately succeeds to this life, is a state of rewards and punishments, in which it shall be rendered to every one according to the deeds he hath done in the body, whether they be good or evil.
Not only is a future state asserted in the christian revelation, but this future state is affirmed to be a state of rewards and punishments, i.e. as the scripture explains it, a state in which it shall be rendered to every one “ according to the deeds he hath done in the body”; according to the deeds done in this present life: a state in which every one shall reap the fruit of his doings, whether good or evil: a state in which he who hath in this life sown to the flesh shall reap corruption, and he who hath sown to the spirit shall reap the fruits of the spirit, the fruits of virtue, the fruits of righteousness, and a well formed mind; the fruits of joy and peace,<396> which virtue alone can give. Thus it is the sacred writings speak in innumerable places.a “Be not deceived, says St. Paul, God is not mocked”: the rule of his government, resulting from his immutable moral rectitude, which cannot therefore be changed nor frustrated is, “That whatever a man soweth in this life, that shall he reap in the life to come. God will then render unto every one according to his doings.” Now, what do these and such like equivalent phrases amount to, but that this present state is our state of education, trial and discipline, to which our succeeding state shall be exactly proportioned and correspondent: Or that as this is the state in which we have opportunity of forming our minds to knowledge and love of virtue, or moral perfection, so our future state shall be correspondent to the state of mind formed and acquired in this our present school of discipline and improvement. The state of our rational powers and affections formed in this state, shall be the rule and measure, the foundation and source of our condition in our succeeding state: our after-harvest, as the apostle speaks, shall be answerable to this our seed-time; to this our present state of culture. “As we sow, so shall we reap.” Harvest cannot precede seed-time. The effect cannot take place before or without the cause. The end cannot prevent the means. The effect of education and culture cannot go before education and culture, or take place without it. The happiness which is the result of a good temper and disposition of soul, of a well-improved mind, of moral perfection, or virtue arrived by proper diligence in improving it to a certain degree of excellence, cannot take place till the mind is well-improved; or is by due exercise and discipline arrived at that degree of moral perfection. But, saith the holy scripture, whatever may be the outward situation of the virtuous mind in this state of education<397> and discipline, yet in a future state, duly improved, virtues shall have their natural and compleat effect, and produce unspeakable happiness, by being then placed in circumstances suited to such perfection, and proper to give it due happiness, by affording it suitable means, occasions, and subjects of exercise. In order to compleat happiness, there must be powers and objects adjusted to one another. Powers cannot make happy, unless there are objects suited to them. Nor can objects make happy, unless there are powers congruous or suitable to them. But virtuous powers, or more properly speaking, powers which render capable of virtuous qualities, and their proper exercises and employments, must be formed and advanced to a perfect state by gradual culture, and the exercises which such gradual improvement require. And therefore, in the nature of things, they cannot receive happiness from objects suited to their perfect state, till they are brought to that state. But when they are arrived, by due culture, to an improved state, which they cannot be brought to previously to culture or probation and discipline, then, saith the scripture, God the righteous judge and governor of the world, will render to virtue according to its perfection; that is, place it in circumstances suited to its improvement. The harvest, in this part of God’s government, shall be congruous to the seed-time, correspondent to the husbandry and good culture. Now, what idea can we form of a future state, more agreeable to the perfections of a just, a wise, a benevolent ruler of the world, and more agreeable to the nature of rational creatures, and their powers, than such a future state as hath been described, in which a well-improved mind shall reap the full and compleat harvest of its goods owing, its good culture, its good labours, its noble and glorious acquisitions: a state in which, as the scripture speaks, glory, honour and immortal life shall be rendered to those who bya patient<398> continuance in well-doing have sought after, contended for, and rendered themselves capable of the happiness which can only result from highly improved rational faculties; the happiness which can only flow from a pure and sanctified mind; or the empire of reason over all the passions. But if the reward, the recompence, the fruit, the harvest of a well-formed mind, and a well spent life, be joy, peace and happiness; what must be the reward, the fruit, the harvest of an impure corrupted mind, a defiled conscience, a life spent in degrading, abusing and prostituting the powers which constitute the dignity of mankind, and his capacity of moral happiness, instead of refining and exalting ourselves to a capacity and fitness for rational felicity! Must not opposite causes have opposite or contrary effects in the moral as well as the natural world? Can good and evil, happiness and misery spring from the same root? Can virtue, which is the improvement and right use of moral powers, and vice, which is the abuse and corruption of those powers, have the same effect, the same result? Can they produce or terminate in the same harvest? If of two things diametrically contrary one to another, as improvement and degeneracy, virtue and corruption certainly are, the natural fruit, or the just reward of the one, be eternal happiness resulting from moral perfection suitably placed; must not the fruit, the wages, the punishment of the other, be proportionable misery, resulting from deformity, guilt and pollution? The fruit of good seed and good husbandry (to keep to the apostle’s excellent similitude) cannot be more different from the fruit and product of corrupt seed and bad husbandry in the natural world, than the ultimate result or harvest of virtue and improved reason must be from that of abused reason and confirmed vice, inveterate corruption. These truths are of great importance, and therefore it is proper to enlarge yet more<399> fully upon them, and for that reason to separate them into several distinct propositions.
The scripture assures us, that in the future state of rewards and punishments, distributive justice is strictly observed.
This is the express doctrine of the holy scriptures in almost innumerable places.
“He cometh to judge the earth: and he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”a “If thou sayest, Behold web knew it not: doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?” “God shall bring every secret wish into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”c “The eyes of Godd are upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” “But we know, says St. Paul,e that the judgment of God is according to truth. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and dost the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thy self wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds”—For there is no respect of persons with God. So likewise St. Peter,a “It is written, Be ye<400> holy for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who with out respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.”
These declarations are very clear and full, and naturally lead every thinking person to the following reflexions.
I. That as, if the reality of virtue be not owned, justice and righteous judgment are words without a meaning; so the reality of virtue cannot be conceived, without concluding, that if the governor of the world be just, true, righteous, such must the constitution, the frame, and administration of things be, that every moral being shall reap the fruit of his doings, the proper consequences of his behaviour and conduct: or, in other words, the frame and government of things must be agreeable to the essential immutable differences of things, and consequently in favour of virtue; which it cannot be if virtue and vice have the same or equivalent effects, with regard to happiness and misery in the sum of things; or if virtue and vice is not distinguished according to its excellence and merit. Justice involves in its idea a regard to a rule in the distribution of things, or in appointing and adjusting their consequences. If there be no essential difference between virtue and vice, there can be no rule with regard to the distribution and connexion of things; but if there be any rule, a just governor must adhere to it in his government. And what other can that rule be, but regard to virtue, love of it, and concern about it; care to provide for it, and to honour and reward it suitably to its excellence? Now this being supposed to be the rule with regard to virtue, it necessarily follows, that with regard to the opposite to virtue, opposite conduct must take place. If the constitution of things be in favour of virtue, it cannot be in favour of vice. If virtue is to be treated according to its excellence, and suitably distinguished,<401> vice cannot but be treated in the contrary manner, or suitably to its contrary demerit; that is, it cannot but be the road to misery: it cannot but be attended with consequences correspondent to its natural repugnancy to virtue and good desert. We are too apt to consider the rule of justice only on one side. But we cannot take a full view of it without perceiving, that we cannot affirm positively there is justice in the administration of the world, with respect to virtue, without, at the same time, affirming as positively, that such is the government of the world, that vice must have as bad consequences in it, on the whole, as virtue has good consequences. It cannot be the general law in the government of moral beings, that virtue shall make happy, without being the general law, that vice shall make miserable. These are, in reality but two different views, or rather expressions of the same general law. 2. With regard to punishment in particular, our natural notions of justice necessarily lead us to conceive, that in the government of the world, the consequences designed to be the punishments of vice, are exactly proportioned to the ends of good government, not appointed or inflicted in an arbitrary way, that can only serve to produce pain and misery; but so regulated and adjusted, as the greater good of moral beings in the whole absolutely requires. We reason in this manner concerning vindicative or punishing justice in human society. And if we do not reason in the same manner with regard to vindicative or punishing justice in the government of the world, we quit our sole idea of justice, and utter words without any meaning. But if we thus conceive of justice in the government of the world, we in other words assert, that there will be no punishments in the government of the world, merely for the sake of producing pain or suffering; none but what the great and good end of that government requires; none but what are necessary to virtuous administration; or to a constitution of things, in favour of<402> virtue, and in opposition to vice. 3. Now, if we keep this idea of justice before us, we can never be at a loss to understand any ways of speaking in scripture concerning the punishments of the vitious in a future state, either with respect to intenseness or duration. Because such phrases must be consistent with what is necessarily implied in the justice and righteousness attributed to God as a governor and judge, in the strongest and clearest terms. But to clear up some difficulties with regard to the scripture doctrine of punishments, it is not amiss to suggest the few following remarks. 1. The punishments threatened to the wicked in scripture, when they are represented under the idea of punishments (I say, under the idea of punishments, because the evils which are to befal the vitious in another state, are often represented to us in scripture under another view, as we shall see afterwards) they are represented to be strictly just, strictly approportioned to ill desert; to be punishments which wise and just government make necessary. God is no where represented as delighting in exercising his power to inflict evil: punishing is on the contrary represented to be his strange work; or what he is obliged to by his regard to virtue, and to the great ends of moral government. He is not willing that any should perish, but on the contrary, he wills that all men would act so as that they may have eternal happiness: and the evils sinners draw upon themselves are commensurate to their desert; such as they themselves shall see to be just and equal; the effects of laws and rules necessary to perfect government. Governors of human societies may be tyrants, and delight in cruelty; or may err in their judgments, as well with regard to the general laws of punishment, as with regard to the particular applications of the general laws, without any evil intention, merely through imperfection of knowledge.—But God cannot err in any of these respects,—far less can he act arbitrarily. And what is the consequence of this, but that his judgments,<403> his punishments, must be according to right and truth, agreeable to justice, exactly fitted to serve the great purpose of his administration, which can be nothing else but the greater good of moral beings? Wherefore, nothing can be meant by the phrases expressing the duration, or the kind of future punishments, which is contrary to justice, nothing which is arbitrary or tyrannical. But he who ventures on a sinful life, because he thinks the punishments to be inflicted upon sinners after this life can neither be so intense, nor of such long continuance, as some ways of speaking about them in scripture seem to import,—how must such a person reason with himself, if he believes the reality of virtue, and consequently the reality of God’s adherence to the interests of virtue in the government of the world: how must he reason with himself: let him but speak out his meaning clearly to himself, and he will soon cease to be any longer influenced by such unaccountable reasoning. For however he may disguise his reasonings upon this subject, this must ultimately be the meaning of it. “The constitution of things, if it be just, if it be good, it must be in favour of virtue; but surely regard to virtue and its interests cannot make the consequences of vice so extremely fatal as the scripture speaks: ’tis true, the scripture says all the direful consequences of vice are just, are necessary to perfect government; but surely, as odious as vice is, it cannot have so very unhappy effects; and therefore I may venture upon sinful indulgences: I am sure, in a just government, virtue must be fully distinguished from vice; virtue alone can recommend to the divine favour; and vice must have very miserable consequences: I am sure, on the one hand, that there can be no consequences of vice which are not agreeable to justice, to perfect government; but I am as sure, on the other, that under a good administration, virtue only can be the road to rewards, to happiness,—yet I can’t think a vicious life will render so intensely and lastingly miserable as the<404> scripture speaks; and therefore, I need not be quite so afraid of continuing in a sinful course as these scripture phrases would make me, did I take them in their severest sense.” This, I say, must be the reasoning that passes in his mind who believes the reality of virtue, and of a divine infinitely perfect administration, when he would diminish his fears with respect to his continuance in an irregular, dissolute, vitious course of life.—And what thinking man can approve of such reasoning, or draw any encouragement to sin from it? Can any way of diminishing fears, or solacing one’s self, be more weak and unreasonable? And yet this is indeed all it amounts to. If persons do not believe the moral differences of actions, and a divine providence, I am not now reasoning with them. But if they do, how can they possibly draw any consolation to themselves, from an imagination, that tho’ the consequences of a vitious life must be very fatal, yet they cannot be such very intense or durable evils as the scripture threatens? Is it a way of arguing with themselves, that they can possibly vindicate? 3. Let it be observed on this head farther, that in whatever phrases the intenseness, the kind, or the duration of punishments in another life are expressed, it is the wicked, the hardened, the impenitent, which are said to suffer them. It is no where said, that moral agents lose their liberty; their moral agency, and cease to be intelligent free beings.—It is no where said, that moral agents are tied to vice by any other setters but those which arise from the power of evil habits, with which wicked men are held so fast entangled, as we see by experience, that they become not merely impotent, but really averse with respect to virtue. But, on the other hand, the scripture, as well as reason assures us, that without virtuous habits there can be no happiness, no reconciliation with God, no attaining to his favour and love. And what is the conclusion from all this, but that the scripture represents to us in the strongest terms, the necessity of<405> virtue in order to happiness, in order to avoid extreme misery, in consequence of the justice and perfection of the divine government, in consequence of the divine moral rectitude, or of his strict regard to the unalterable relations of things; the essential differences between virtue and vice, in consequence of the divine benevolence, or his disposition to promote the moral perfection, and moral happiness of intelligent beings, capable of moral improvements and enjoyments; all these ways of considering providence being, according to the scripture account of God’s government or providence, necessarily connected together, if not essentially involved in one another. 4. Let me add, that some of the best ancient moralists, in their representations of, or reasonings about the punishments of a future state, have considered some diseases, i.e. some vitious states of the mind, as incurable. Socrates says, “The design of wise and just punishments must be, not only to better others, but to better the immediate sufferers: But in cases when the disease being incurable, the latter end cannot be gained, still the former end may make punishments necessary, and will sufficiently justify them.”a And that excellent philosopher often speaks of the havock vice long continued in makes upon the mind; upon our mental powers, in the most awakening manner. He says oftner than once, “That voluptuousness so dissolves the force of the mind, so putrifies it, that it at last renders it quite incapable of moral exercises.” And indeed when we seriously reflect upon the fatal tendency of vitious indulgences in that respect, we have good reason to tremble at the thoughts of losing the empire of our reason, and suffering evil passions to prevail over it, till it is as it were extinguished by them. I am apt to think the ancient doctrine of the Metempsychos is, was designed as an allegory to express the different direful changes various<406> vices make upon intellectual powers and capacities, and the temper or bent of the mind. But whether that doctrine was so intended or not, it is visible, that if the mind is not daily improving in rational perfection, it is daily sinking; if it is not cultivated, it corrupts.—And some do in this state, through vicious indulgencies of their passions, degenerate into such an utter disrelish of and in capacity for all rational exercises, into such a corrupt vitious disposition, that it seems morally impossible they can ever return to a condition or temperature of mind necessary to moral happiness and perfection, necessary to the gradual improvement such happiness presupposes.—Some indeed become so low, so mean, so sensual, so polluted and others so savage, so bloody, so cruel, so insolent, so ferocious, so malignant, that their degraded condition of mind, or vitiated disposition, cannot be expressed but by likening them to certain brute animals, according to the language of the Metempsychosis system. But not to insist longer on this melancholly subject, I shall conclude this article with observing, that according to reason, as well as scripture, there can be no happiness in a future state without virtuous habits; and the contrary to happiness is misery; and to object against christianity upon account of the strongest declarations of this truth (which is all it can be said to do) is to object against it for inculcating the advantages of virtue, and the danger of vice upon us, in terms that cannot lead us into any mistake about our happiness here or hereafter, while it remains true, “That virtue, and virtue only, can be acceptable to God, recommend to his favour, merit his esteem and love, or produce rational happiness.”
III. I proceed to another observation upon the scripture doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, which is, that God is said to dispense them without respect of persons. Now this expression, so often repeated in scripture, ought to lead us to these<407> following reflexions. 1. That in the dispensation of future rewards and punishments, God the righteous judge, cannot fall into the error human judges may; which is to be biassed in their sentences or determinations by any partial regards, by prejudices of any kind, either in favour of persons, or contrariwise. This is a truth too evident to be insisted upon. It is however worth while to remark, that there was good reason to insist much upon it to the Jews, whose prevailing error it was, that they were in a particular manner the only favourites of heaven; the only people for whom God had any regard or love. Nor can we wonder that people should ever have entertained so gross, so absurd a notion of God, if we reflect, that even among christians, not a few seem to conceive of God, as having chosen from among mankind arbitrarily, or without any reason, a particular determinate number of favourites, of elect persons to whom all his bounty is confined. The Jews were distinguished from the other nations of the earth in so extraordinary a manner, in order to carry on God’s scheme, not of partial, but of universal benevolence, that it may be easily conceived how they came to be puffed up with a very high conceit of themselves above all other nations of mankind, which it was extremely difficult, not only for their own prophets, but for our Saviour and his apostles to correct. But after christianity hath declared to us in the strongest terms, that no man, no nation of men, is common or unclean, i.e. to be deemed or called such: But that of a truth, God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him:a after this plain declaration, that the favour of God extended to all men equally; and that his giving a particular revelation, with other distinguishing privileges, to the Jews, was not done out of any partial regard to them,<408> as earthly kings may distinguish particular favourites to the prejudice of their states in general; but with a benevolent purpose towards all mankind in general; after this declaration, to imagine contrary to the clear voice of reason, that God hath any other purpose, or will judge according to any other rule, in the dispensation of future rewards and punishments, besides regard to good and ill desert, is certainly something extremely unaccountable. 2. But it is sufficient to have just mentioned that absurdity; and far less need I stay long to prove, that in the dispensation of future rewards, God will not pay any regard to the distinctions of rich and poor, high and ignoble birth, &c. which now take place among mankind. This is so manifest, that it does not stand in need of any illustration. But how happy would it be for the world in general, and for persons of distinction, as they are called, themselves in particular, if they would frequently reflect upon this plain truth. The more obvious it is, the more unaccountable certainly is every sentiment, every behaviour which is not strictly agreeable and correspondent to it. And yet surely pride and insolence, in whatever degree, on the account of temporary external distinctions, are by no means reconcilable with that truth. Thinking men will not find it an easy matter to conciliate certain distinctions which are the sources of most insufferable vanity and arrogance, and by consequence, of great depression and misery in society, with the law of nature; or what must, according to it, be the sole legitimate end of magistracy and government, viz. to diffuse happiness, as universally as may be, among mankind. But whatever be as to that, surely it is fit for the distinguished, for the great, as they are called, frequently to reflect, that in the life to come, God the righteous judge cannot pay regard to persons in any other sense but that of personal or real merit; and consequently, those who have had great power, large means in their hands in this life for doing good,<409>have a proportionably large stock to account for. 3. What hath been said of merely external advantages, such as birth and riches, and their concomitants in this life, is equally true of intellectual endowments and acquisitions; that is, God in the dispensation of future rewards and punishments, will not pay regard to the understanding, the imagination, the reasoning faculties and their improvements, as constituting a kind of merit by themselves. For without virtue, i.e. without a benevolent disposition reigning in the heart, and submitting every appetite and passion in the soul habitually to the publick order and good of society, there is no merit in the finest imagination, nay, nor the most extensive reach of understanding. Great abilities, without a good heart, must render one in the sight of God exceedingly contemptible; for do they not appear so in the eyes of all good men? And in what community must they not, in the nature of things, be pernicious! What makes it chiefly necessary to dwell a little on this head is this. Men are too apt to place a great deal of merit in cultivating their imaginations into a fine taste, and in replenishing their understandings with great variety of knowledge; and no doubt, this is a very worthy employment, and every man’s duty in proportion to his circumstances, as we have already had occasion to prove: But all this we know may be often done to a very high degree, while yet the heart remains very vitious in many respects; very sensual, very ambitious, nay, very inhuman. For how many men of vast learning, and of exquisite taste, are yet quite slaves, some to one and some to another very wicked and unruly appetite? And yet certain it must be, that if the temper be not virtuous, if there is not perfect inward liberty, or self-command, and an exact government of the passions; i.e. if to attain to virtuous habitudes be not the chief study, such a man is really not a good man, however many other qualifications he may possess; he is not in the way to be a partaker of the divine nature<410> or temper; he is not in the way to be like God; or to have that real worth and excellence which alone can merit his favour and approbation, and the want of which is indeed highly aggravated in his sight by other mental accomplishments. This is a plain consequence from what hath been said of the nature of virtue or moral perfection. And it well deserves our attention, that we may not lay too great stress upon our care to improve our understandings, as if such care comprehended in it the whole of human duty and perfection, and could not but qualify for and entitle to great rewards in another life. All improvements of our intellectual faculties are certainly very valuable acquisitions, and do fit for high exercises and enjoyments, when united with virtue, or a well governed mind; but when real merit and demerit is to be judged in order to be rewarded or punished, they cannot enter into the consideration in any other view before God, than as aggravations of guilt, if virtue be wanting; for such just judges amongst men must account them. 4. God is no respecter of persons, but will render to every one according to his real desert; according to his works, whether they be good or bad; according to the character of his mind: that is, it is virtue and vice that shall then only make the distinction or difference among men: then shall they be fully perceived to make the only difference among men in the sight of God. Where there is a right disposition of soul; diligence to improve our understanding in the knowledge of God and his works, and of moral relations and obligations, and in all useful science, in proportion to its moment or usefulness, to the utmost of his power, will not be wanting; that will evidently be perceived to be duty; and it will be constantly and seriously in one’s view as such; but the circumstances of mankind being very different with respect to the acquisitions of knowledge, as well as the actual exercise of several virtues, it would be unjust, according to all our notions of justice and<411> injustice, according to which we must reason, to reward or punish men in another life according to any other rule, but the virtue that prevails in the temper of their minds, and their serious disposition to have improved themselves, and bettered society here, as far as they could by all their diligence to enlarge their powers and exert them. This would be unjust; for nothing else depends upon us, or is at our disposal: all other things are independent of us, and no man can be justly punished or rewarded for what it neither depended upon him to do, nor not to do. This would be to respect persons in the same sense that we say, judges on earth respect the persons and not the merits of men. Accordingly the scripture doctrine is, that God will require of men according to what they have received; according to the stock put into their hands for improvement and doing good in the world. a “For the kingdom of heaven, saith our Saviour, the method of God’s dispensations and dealings with mankind, which I am come to declare unto you, may be fitly represented by this similitude: A certain man being to take along journey into a far country, divided a stock amongst his servants. Now, to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, according to each one’s prudence and ability: and then took his journey, expecting that every one should make an improvement proportionable to what had been committed to him.” Thus the gifts, talents and abilities wherewith God entrusts men, are many and various, and God will require of each one proportionable to his power and opportunities of doing good. “Then he that had five talents traded and gained five others: likewise he that had two talents traded and gained two more.” Thus some men improve according to their proportion, those gifts and faculties wherewith God <412>has endued them to the increase of virtue and religion, and the good of the world. “But he that had received one talent, traded not with it, but hid it, and it became useless.” Thus other men make no improvements of those gifts wherewith God has blessed them, but they live idly, and are useless in the world. “After a long time the lord of these servants returned home, and called them all to an account.” Thus God will call all men after their state of probation to judgment. “Then he that had five talents gave in his account, that he had traded with them and had gained five talents more: and his lord commended him for having been faithful in a small trust, and advanced him to a place of greater honour, and gave him a very great reward. In like manner, he that had two talents gave in his account, that he had traded with them, and gained two talents more: and his lord commended him also for having been faithful in a smaller trust, and gave him likewise a great reward.” Thus those who have less or fewer abilities and opportunities than others, if they do but diligently improve and suitably use them they are endued with in their several proportions, shall be suitably or proportionably honoured and rewarded with higher trusts, with greater abilities and opportunities. “But he that had received one talent, and made no use of it, began to excuse his own negligence, by accusing his lord’s severity in exacting more of him than had been committed to him. But his lord answered and said; you are an idle and slothful person: if you knew that I expected an improvement of what I left you, why did not you trade with it and improve it, that when I came home I might receive my own encrease.” Thus wicked men, who make no use of those abilities and opportunities which God has put in their hands, think it a hardship that God should require them to take pains and improve his gifts, and employ and use them for the good of the world. But when God calls them to an account,<413> they shall be silenced and condemned, because though they know that God expected they should employ and improve his gifts to his honour, and to their own and others advantage, yet they were slothful and did it not. “Take away therefore, saith the lord of the servants, from this slothful servant his one talent, and give it to him that has ten, that he may increase more and more, and cast the unprofitable servant out of doors, into darkness and misery.” Thus God, to those who improve his gifts and graces here, will add more in the world to come, that they may yet farther encrease, and be more fully blessed by so doing: but from those who improve not his gifts, and the advantages he affords them, he withdraws what he had already given, and finally punishes them with misery proportionable to their negligence, sloth, or misuse. This is an excellent account of the method of God’s dealing with mankind. It is exactly agreeable to the best notions of equality, and justice, and good moral government. For the plain purport of it is, that it is according to the diligent use we have made of our trust for the good of mankind that we are to be rewarded, and in proportion to our neglect or misuse of our trust that we are to be punished. Men are not to suffer for not having done or acquired what it was not in their power to do or acquire, but for their not improving to the best advantage the faculties and opportunities put into their hands by providence. Now, as it hath been shewn, to acquire a right temper of mind, command over the passions, and contempt of sensual enjoyments, in comparison of the exercises of moral powers, the exercises of a benevolent disposition, more particularly is in every man’s power, whatever his outward situation may be: and our outward situation ought to be looked upon by us, whether it be prosperous or adverse, as a situation we are to make the best use of for attaining to self-command, inward liberty, and mastership of the mind, love to God and mankind, and every virtue it<414> gives us opportunity of exerting and strengthening. And it is therefore for improvement in virtue, and actual exercises of it, suitable to one’s circumstances, for which every man is to be called to account, and according to which he is to be accepted or condemned by God, the judge and governor of all moral beings, the end of whose government must as certainly be the promotion of moral perfection and moral happiness, as he is holy, pure, just, and good. Various differences among mankind, as it hath been often observed in this essay, are necessary to make them one community, having a common interest to be effected by common rightly conjoined force. And in so constituting one kind or community, whatever share of the differences requisite to that effect be ascribed to original formation; or to the external circumstances in which beings are placed, i.e. to the operations of external laws, by which various circumstances are occasioned: however, I say, the differences necessary to community be divided between these two sources, to one or the other of which they must all be owing; there is in so constituting a community no act of arbitrary sovereignty, no arbitrary predeliction, if the good of the whole be the reason of that constitution; that is, of the differences which compose it. In truth, variety of parts being once acknowledged necessary to a constitution or whole, to ask why such a one is such a part, and not another, is to ask why the parts necessary to a whole are themselves the parts necessary to that whole. It is the same absurdity as to ask why the eye is not the ear in the natural body. If God, the creator of mankind, pursues the general good in framing and placing mankind, he is no respecter of persons, in originally constituting that community, whether we consider him as originally framing various genius’s; or, if we may so speak, casting minds in different moulds; or appointing general laws, which by their operation shall produce different influences, or give different turns to the same powers and affections, unless to regard the good of the whole,<415> in framing the parts, and in appointing all the general laws, according to which the members composing the whole shall be influenced, be to respect persons, to respect parts or members, and not the whole. Now that there cannot be a whole, moral or natural, without parts, is self-evident. And there is no reason to imagine, that the independent creator of a whole world could have any end in view besides the good of the whole. But which is yet more satisfactory, the further, the more narrowly we enquire into any of the parts of the system, of which mankind is a part, and in to the frame, constitution, and situation of mankind in particular, the better reason we perceive to conclude, that our author intends the universal good. Wherefore it is highly reasonable to infer, that the greater good of the whole is the scope intended, and that will be effected by God in his creation and government. He is therefore no respecter of persons in the formation of mankind; and he will not be a respecter of persons in judging mankind, and allotting them their several situations in another life. If he be not a respecter of persons in the former, there is no ground to apprehend he will be so in the latter. But if he be not a respecter of persons in the latter, but intends and pursues the general good of the whole, then it must be true not only; first, that mankind will be judged and called to account, in order to be rewarded or punished only for the right use they have made of their abilities and opportunities for doing good, and not for what was not committed or entrusted to them: because to treat moral beings otherwise would evidently be contrary to justice, truth, and benevolence; diametrically repugnant to that advancement and promotion of moral perfection and happiness, which must necessarily be the greater good of a moral system. 2. But it must likewise be true, in the second place, that mankind will be called to a strict account for their imployment of their trust, and be rewarded<416> or punished accordingly: be cause not to distinguish beings in this manner after their state of probation, would not be to respect persons according to their merits and demerits: such government could not be called moral government, for promoting virtue and virtuous happiness; it would be quite the reverse. The idea the scripture gives us of God’s moral government, (and that idea alone can be stiled just moral government) is not respecting persons, but pursuing the general good of moral systems, viz. that he will dignify and reward, degrade and punish moral beings in a future state according to their behaviour in their state of trial and discipline. Thus, and thus alone, can virtue be promoted, or moral government answer any of the ends that can be supposed to be pursued by it, when we conceive it to be just or good. And there is no reason, from the present constitution of things, to apprehend that the government we are under is not such a government. There is, therefore, no reason to apprehend, that the scripture account of God’s government, and of a future state, is not true. And to whom, indeed, can this idea of God’s government be disagreeable; nay, not highly comfortable, but to such as absolutely hate virtue, if any such creature there can be. Every man hath it in his power to be good. And therefore there is no man to whose interest this scheme of government is repugnant. Can it possibly be made an objection against it, that if this be the case the vicious must be great losers? And yet no other objection can be made against it: for according to it virtue is great, unspeakable gain. But that such is the scheme of divine providence, that in the whole of things virtue shall be the gainer beyond all expression, and vice the only loser or sufferer, in proportion to its guilt and demerit—that this is the scheme of providence, as the scripture declares to us in the strongest terms, who can doubt; since, even in this life, such is the constitution and situation of mankind; such are all the powers, laws,<417> and circumstances of powers belonging to our present state and rank, that in reality it is owing to the want of virtue, and to the prevalence of vice, that men are not exceeding happy—even in our present state of probation, such is the natural tendency; such is the natural influence of all causes, that mankind are more or less happy, more or less miserable, in proportion as virtue or vice prevails—in proportion as men unite and confederate to promote virtue, in proportion as society is well constituted and regulated, and wisdom and virtue have the ascendant. For this being the case, as it evidently is, what else can we imagine the ultimate result of things must be, but the depression of vice and the prevalency of virtue, or the triumph of virtue over vice, and the full effect of its natural influence and tendency, which is happiness? If we consider what a happy effect a well ballanced civil constitution, whose orders, to use the words of a very great man,awould constrain the members to operate towards the best interests of the whole, must necessarily have—how can we either doubt of the real excellency of virtue—its necessary connexion with private and publick happiness—of the wisdom and goodness of our author—or of the excellent final tendency of the powers and laws of powers which constitute our present condition—the excellent final tendency of virtuous dispositions and improvements? How great, how glorious a happiness hath that excellent author shewn to be within the present reach of mankind, because it would be the natural and necessary result of good government? And is the author of our nature to be blamed for only putting it in our power to attain to such happiness in that way? Or hath he by so doing given us such a convincing proof of his generous, beneficent intention towards us; and shall we doubt of the justice, the goodness, the full perfection of that scheme which he is carrying on towards<418> its completion? Virtue is the basis of private and publick happiness here; and vice is the source of all the greatest evils or miseries we complain of in this life. Ought we not therefore to conclude, that virtue and vice must be in another life, the former the compleat source of happiness, and the latter the proportionable source of misery? Is it reasonable to judge of the whole government of the moral world, contrary to what we perceive of it? But what else does what we perceive indicate, but a natural tendency in virtue of itself to produce publick and private happiness, and a natural tendency of vice to produce publick and private misery; and what does this point out to us, but that the government of the Author of our nature, and of all things, is as much in favour of virtue as it can be in a state for forming and improving virtuous habits; and that our Maker and Judge will finally render unto virtue and vice, according to their natural or essential desert, without respect of persons? This reasoning deserves to be more fully developed. Let me therefore enlarge a little upon it. The scripture doctrine, that God will finally reward and punish men in another life according to this rule, namely, as they act virtuously or vitiously here, certainly falls in much better with our natural apprehensions of just and good government, than not rewarding or punishing; or doing so by any other rule whatever. That method of government necessarily appears more natural than any other, to minds formed as the author of nature has framed ours. Our frame and disposition to approve distributive justice in the government of the world, to look out for it and to expect it, is a natural presage or warning to us, that it actually obtains: it is, upon any other supposition, a most unaccountable make and formation. We can easily satisfy ourselves how it comes about, that till the scheme of providence be further advanced, we should not be able to see such a perfect distributive justice in the administration of the world, as our natural determination<419> to apprehend and approve it, as a right rule, unavoidably disposes us to conclude, must obtain in the whole. But upon supposition, that there is not in the whole perfect distributive justice, we cannot possibly account for the frame of our mind, by which we are unavoidably led to the conception and approbation of it, as the only right rule. There is, therefore, at least a very strong presumption from the abstract consideration of our moral nature, independently of all other arguments, that the distributive justice, which revelation assures us of, does actually obtain in the government of the world. But the conviction arising from this single consideration is mightily enforced, when we look attentively into the connexions of things with regard to virtue and vice, even in this present state: for there we plainly discover, first, several clear and striking evidences of that distributive justice, of which revelation assures us, and which our own moral frame naturally leads us to apprehend: such clear evidences of distributive justice, that we can then reason with ourselves in this manner; “The distributive justice, which revelation assures us shall be compleated in a future state; and which our natural apprehensions and sense of things determine us to think must prevail in the whole of the divine government, is actually begun here, it prevails in a very great degree: there are plain traces of its being begun: and therefore there is no reason to doubt but it will be carried on to its completion.” Secondly, we may learn from our moral frame, and the connexions of things, several reasons why distributive justice does not perfectly appear here; why it cannot, in the nature of things, fully take place in this state; and if this likewise be the plain language of nature to us, then the full language of the present constitution of things concurs with revelation, and manifestly declares to us, “That according to the established frame and order of things the distributive justice, which our natural disposition of mind leads us to<420> look out for the observance of, in the government of the world, as the only approveable rule of government, is begun and carried on here as far as the present state of things permits, and will be compleated when the scheme of providence is farther advanced.”
Our great business here is, to attend to our own make and frame, its situation, and the connexions of things relative to us; relative to our moral powers in particular; to observe what is the natural language of these connexions; what kind of government they point out to us; and to consider how our behaviour ought to be directed in consequence of the language they speak to us; or the rules they indicate to us. Now, if we attend to the connexions of things, and their natural language, we shall clearly perceive the beginnings of distributive justice, such a tendency as plainly points out the same distributive justice here in kind, which revelation says, is to be perfected in degree hereafter. For are not all the good and bad effects of virtue and vice here, whether upon mens own minds, in consequence of our moral determination to approve the one and disapprove the other, or in consequence of the course of human affairs, turning chiefly upon the same moral make; the same approbation and disapprobation unavoidably influencing mankind to favour and reward virtue, and to discountenance and punish vice—are not all these effects plain evidences of an administration in favour of virtue, and in opposition to vice; or, in other words, of distributive justice actually begun? It is to no purpose to say, that it is not the author of nature who rewards and punishes when effects are brought about by the instrumentality of men. For that course of nature in which the instrumentality of men bears a part, whatever that part be, is still the course of nature; it is still a course approved, established, and upheld by the supream Author of nature: it is still his government; and therefore, whatever distributive justice is in it, is distributive justice in God’s government, or<421> in consequence of the order settled and established by him. That in the present order of the world, the instrumentality of men makes a part, is no ground of objection against the wisdom of the course of nature, unless it can be thought a good ground of objection against it, that there should be created moral agency in the course of nature; that is, moral creatures: for where there are created moral agents, there created moral agency, or the instrumentality of moral agents, must be a part of the course of nature: or, unless it can be thought a good ground of objection against providence, that there is such a particular kind of moral agents as mankind in the world: for if men exist, the instrumentality of men must be a part of the course of nature. But the instrumentality of men being admitted to be a part in the course of nature, against which there is no ground of objection, the distributive justice in the course of nature that is so brought about, can be no ground of objection against nature: that is, 1. Deficiencies in distributive justice necessarily or unavoidably arising from the dependence of distributive justice upon the instrumentality of men, are no ground of objection against the course of nature; because that from which they arise is no ground of objection against the course of nature. 2. Whatever distributive justice takes place in the course of nature by the instrumentality of men, since it takes place in consequence of the moral nature God has given to man, and the condition in which God has placed our moral nature in order to its operation, it is distributive justice intended by God, carried on by his government, or in consequence of the connexions of things established by him, and therefore plainly bespeaks to us his regard to virtue and disregard to vice. I mention the former of these two conclusions, because punishing and rewarding mean making happy or miserable in some degree; and the instrumentality of men in the course of nature, means our dependence upon one another in respect of happiness<422> and misery; whence it follows, that deficiencies in the present state of the world, with respect to rewarding the virtuous and punishing the vitious, i.e. deficiencies in distributive justice in the course of nature, which are resolvable into the instrumentality of men, i.e. into our mutual dependence upon one another in respect of happiness and misery, can be no objection against the present course of nature, unless it be a reasonable ground of objection against the course of nature, that we men are dependent one on another; we men, who are made to attain to comprehensive views and virtuous habits by observation and exercise, or, in one word, gradual culture: And yet, it is evident to every one who will reflect upon the order and connexions of things, and the events happening in consequence of them, that the greater part of what is called deficiency or imperfection with respect to distributive justice in this world, is to be resolved into the dependence of it upon men; that is, into the dependence of human happiness and misery upon the instrumentality of men, who cannot be perfect but by perfecting themselves. Distributive justice must depend upon the instrumentality of men, as far as the mutual dependence of men upon one another in respect of happiness and misery reaches. As far therefore as the imperfection of men reaches, must there be deficiencies or imperfections in it, which can only amend as men amend, i.e. as men become wiser and better. And therefore ultimately, all deficiencies in distributive justice resolvable into the imperfections of men, are accountable in the way that the imperfection of men is accountable: they do not make a separate objection, though they be often stated as if they did; but being a necessary consequence from the imperfection of men, they stand or fall with it. But as it hath been often said in this discourse, when we consider the natural furniture of mankind for advancement to great moral perfection, to bring an objection from the imperfection of men against the wisdom of providence,<423> is to accuse providence for having made a species of beings which has in its power to attain to a very great degree of moral perfection, by due culture and diligence to improve; which is ultimately to object against providence for creating a certain capacity of virtue and merit; for furnishing creatures with powers and means of improving, is all that can be done to produce virtuous creatures, or beings capable of merit. To demand more is to demand something that cannot be specified.
The other conclusion, viz. That whatever degree of distributive justice takes place by the instrumentality of men, naturally points out the regard of God, the maker and governor of the world, to distributive justice, is no less manifest: For whence comes it about that virtue is rewarded or vice punished by the instrumentality of men in any degree? Does it not arise from the moral nature of man, and the circumstances influencing that moral nature to act, determining men to approve virtue and disapprove vice; to esteem, countenance and honour beneficent intention, and to despise, abominate and resent injurious intention? Were there no such disposition prevailing in men, virtue would never be esteemed, rewarded or honoured as such; nor vice hated and punished as such. And therefore, whatever honour, esteem and reward virtue meets with in the world as such; and, on the other hand, whatever hatred and punishment vice meets with in the world, as such, must be ascribed to our disposition to approve virtue and disapprove vice. And for that reason, such a disposition in our minds must be considered as a provision the author of nature hath made for distributive justice among mankind. The more perfect men are, and the more perfect society is, the more prevalent will this moral disposition be; the more steady and uniform, as well as more discerning will its operations be; and consequently, the more perfect will distributive justice be. Were society perfect, there would be but small ground<424> of complaint against the course of distributive justice: righteousness would flow through as a river, and there would be no complaining of iniquity or oppression heard in the streets. Consequently, whatever provision the author of nature hath made for the perfection of mankind, the perfection of human society; such provision hath he made for the perfection of distributive justice. So that the fact with regard to distributive justice here, as far as it depends upon the instrumentality of men, stands thus: “It is proportionable to the perfection of men; to the perfection of human society: it increases and decreases with it. And therefore all the provision made by the author of nature for the perfection of mankind, of human society, whether in respect of affections, powers, means, occasions, or in whatever respects, is really provision for a proportionably perfect course of distributive justice.”
I have said all along distributive justice, as far as it depends upon the instrumentality of men; or, in other words, upon our dependence on one another, because there are rewards of virtue and punishments of vice, which are the effects of the course of nature, independently of the instrumentality of men; and are therefore called natural by way of distinction from those which accrue to virtue and vice through the instrumentality of men; not as if the latter were not as natural, or as much the effects of settled connexions of things as the former; but to denote the more direct and immediate manner in which they are produced. Of this kind are the immediate effects of virtue and vice upon the mind and temper; the different inward feelings with which they are naturally, and in a considerable degree necessarily attended, which have been often mentioned in this discourse. Now, these being immediate effects of the frame of our minds and the constitution of things, by compensating the deficiencies in distributive justice, arising from its dependence on the instrumentality of men, which, by a careful observation of<425> mankind, they will be found to do in a greater measure than is commonly apprehended, they sufficiently shew on which side the administration of the world is, and whither it tends: namely, in favour of virtue, and against vice. But having sufficiently, on several occasions, shewn what these natural rewards of virtue and punishments of vice are; I shall conclude all this reasoning with the few following queries, to such as may happen to doubt of the fundamental point I have been endeavouring to prove: queries, which I think studiers of nature will own to be proposed in the proper way of stating questions about the government of the world; questions about fact, as all questions about the government of the world, natural and moral, are in the nature of things; and ever ought to be considered to be.
Whether the constitution of mankind, and of all things relating to mankind, or of the world in general, does not, so soon as we reflect upon it, clearly point out to us the necessity of conducting ourselves prudently; the necessity of studying the connexions which obtain in nature; the necessity of acting agreeably to the connexions of nature, in order to judge of or execute ends; the necessity of improving as much as we can in the knowledge of the connexions that obtain in the world; the necessity of directing our conduct by this knowledge; and consequently, the necessity of having the knowledge of the connexions in the world constantly present to us; and the necessity of self-command, or an established deliberative habit of thinking well before we act. But is not the whole language of such a state of things, a language that inculcates prudence, deliberation and self-command? Is it not wholly a state of discipline? And if such a state of discipline has once its due effect upon us, are we far from a state of virtue?<426>
Can we conceive to ourselves, that is, does the analogy of nature lead us to conceive any other first state (in kind) of created moral agents? I say in kind, because the question I now propose is not, whether we cannot conceive moral creatures gathering their knowledge faster, retaining it more easily, and so attaining prudence sooner than men; but whether we can conceive to ourselves any state of moral agents differing in kind from our state, or in which knowledge of their sphere of activity, however large it be, and of the connexions of nature, by which they are to regulate to themselves, and the habit of judging readily of connexions, and acting with promptitude and alacrity, in conformity to them, are not acquired by observation and exercise? It might justly be questioned in general, whether knowledge can be got but by observation; or habit but by exercise. And it might as justly be asked, whether there be any merit, any foundation for self-approbation, or for praise from others, but in acquired knowledge, and acquired virtuous habits. But it is sufficient to carry the question so far as we have done; because it is evident, that however much strangers to the connexions of things men must have been at their first setting out; it is plain that a great deal of knowledge must soon be acquired, by giving attendance to the connexions in nature; and men having once acquired knowledge, they have it in their power easily to communicate it to others; so that, after a few men had subsisted for some time in the world, if they did not acquire a good deal of knowledge, it must have been owing to their not attending to nature, to which attention all their interests conspired to excite them; and if they who had acquired knowledge themselves, did not take care to communicate it, it must be owing to their not acting according to impulses in their nature, to assist<427> others in that and every respect, than which better in kind, or better for the purpose, cannot be conceived. Perhaps what has been now said will be better understood by the following query.
Whether we can conceive a better provision in kind for exciting men to acquire the knowledge of nature, and to preserve and communicate it; or a better provision in kind, for directing and exciting men to act rightly, previous to their knowledge of nature, than the instincts or determinations with which men are originally furnished, such as the love of knowledge, curiosity, love of power, or inclination to extendur capacity and sphere of activity; compassion, benevolence, and a moral sense of beauty in veracity, gratitude, and every action which by experience will be found to be really conducive to publick good? But if better provision for that effect in kind cannot be imagined, let us consider.
Whether the augmentation of all our affections, appetites and powers by exercise, be not one of the best laws that can be imagined with respect to improvement? Whether any other method of augmentation would have such good or agreeable effects? Now these questions being premised about our constitution in general, let me ask in the next place,
Whether the social affections and moral sense with which our minds are endued; and the feelings which virtuous and vitious actions produce in us in consequence of them, be not a rich provision for qualifying<428> and exciting us to be virtuous, to be social and benevolent; and be not an argument, that the author of nature designed us for virtue, for virtuous improvements and enjoyments: whether it be not an argument for such intention, of the same kind with all arguments from final causes; as for example, that we are not made to live either in fire or water, &c. Natural connexions, as they are called commonly, in contradistinction to moral connexions, or those which relate more immediately to our moral powers, are allowed to be a language of nature, that tells us what we ought to do, and what we ought to forbear. But are not the moral connexions just mentioned also a language with respect to our conduct and the intention of our maker. If the former, and not the latter are a practical language in the sense mentioned, what makes the difference? And if the latter, as well as the former, speak a language with regard to our conduct,—what else is that language but a call to us to be virtuous, in order to have the best enjoyments,—the full meaning of which, when our dependence on one another is considered, than which nothing can be more evident, since every thing suggests it to us, amounts to this exhortation to us, “Enter into a right form of society or union for the promotion of general happiness; of the general best happiness of beings, endued with the affections, appetites and powers, that is, with the capacities of happiness you are as men naturally possessed of, in order to be happy by right social union.” If this be not the language of our frame to us, final causes, a language of nature, rules of imitation or practice deducible from natural connexions, are words without a meaning. But,
If mankind should enter into a right society, such as perhaps never wholly obtained, but such however as<429> nature fully points out to us, and prompts us to establish; would they not be extremely happy? Would not knowledge, virtue, and all the goods of the mind, as well as all outward goods, be very largely and very universally shared? Are not societies happy in proportion as their social union approaches to the best model of it; and are they not miserable, in proportion as their manner of union or confederacy is distant from it? Is there not in nature a really practicable union, which would make men very virtuous and proportionably very happy? And isa not such an union being practicable, the intention of nature? Is any thing that nature could do to establish it wanting, that can be specified? And if so, is nature, the author of nature to be blamed, that it is not established?
But as the world goes on still, and ever did, if we abstract from what a good model of government, to which nature sufficiently directs, alone can produce, what goods or evils in the world flow from blameable causes or laws. Those which proceed from the law of industry, by which goods internal and external must be acquired by application to acquire them, certainly do not proceed from a bad law. Those which proceed from the law of habits, do not flow from a bad one. And those which proceed from perversions of passions, which are in themselves of great use, or rather necessity, are not the effects of bad laws or causes. What effects then, in the course of nature, are with respect to their causes bad? None certainly can be named: for all the goods and evils in human life are reducible into something comprehended in one or other of these causes. The evils flowing from the sources mentioned, are not<430> evil in respect of their sources, for their sources even where the greatest confusion prevails in consequence of want of right civil government, or of bad civil government, are the sources of great goods; and they are not only necessary to qualify men for a social union, from which unspeakable happiness and perfection would as naturally arise as good fruit from a good well cultivated tree; but they are incentives, prompters, nay directors and guides, to finding out and executing such a model.
Now, all these things being considered, is not the present establishment or order of nature as much in favour of virtue and against vice, i.e. is there not as much provision made for distributive justice, in the course of human affairs, as can be supposed to take place in consequence of natural constitutions, in a first state of mankind, formed to acquire knowledge and virtuous habits by culture, and to arrive to happiness by right social union? Especially, if we add to all that hath been said one other consideration, which is the fitness or rather necessity of various temptations to vice, and of various trials of virtue, in order to the formation of virtuous habits; or in a state where they are not yet acquired, but to be acquired. I add this consideration, which hath been often already mentioned, because it well deserves the serious reflection of those who believe the reality of virtue, and yet are perplexed with doubts about the government of the world (for with such only am I now reasoning) whether the result of all that disorder and confusion in the world, which right human government would in a great measure diminish, if not put an end to, can be said to amount to, more than such trials of virtue and temptations to vice, as make a very proper theatre for forming the virtues, for making mens characters known, and for improving<431> in moral prudence and every great and noble accomplishment of the mind those who set themselves to do it; which cannot be called a bad constitution, since, while it serves that excellent purpose, it is in a great degree but the effect of the want of that right social union man is excellently fitted for, and strongly incited to by nature; and to which therefore, as hath been already said, we must be understood to be called by the author of nature, by natural connexions, in the same sense any other connexions are said to speak or point out a rule of action to us. Here then is evidently great good arising by the constitution and government of things, out of an evil against which there is, by the same constitution, all conceivable remedies, i.e. all the remedies consistent with leaving it to men to improve themselves, and to work their own happiness, i.e. all the remedies consistent with the first state of beings capable of exercising reason, acquiring knowledge, and gratifying either self-approbation or benevolence. And therefore, last of all let me ask,
What seems to be the natural tendency of such a state, whether total extinction at death, or continued existence and a transition into a new state. And if the latter, whether is it more probable that it shall be a state in which virtuous habits being formed, virtue shall have its excellent natural tendency fully accomplished; or a state in which vitious habits shall be the gainer by the exchange of conditions, and triumph over virtue; a state in which men having attained to characters, to formed tempers and dispositions, distributive justice, the same we perceive here in our first state, while our characters and tempers are but forming in kind but to a higher degree, i.e. in a proportion and manner suitable to formed tempers and characters: or a state in which virtuous dispositions and habits shall meet with disappointment, find no objects<432> correspondent to them; and vice shall exult over virtue, in the vile employments, exercises and enjoyments belonging to its corrupt nature. The former revelation assures us shall be the case. And is it not likewise the language of the present state of things that it shall be so? What else does it presage, to what else does it tend? But shall not the end be as the beginnings prognosticate? Shall not the completion be answerable to the present tendency? And when we consider the nature of an infinitely perfect author and governor of the universe, must we not reason with ourselves in this manner: “It becomes the father of rational beings, it is agreeable to his wisdom and goodness to pursue the best methods of promoting virtue: for of all his works rational beings are the most excellent: and the highest excellency of rational beings is well-improved reason, a virtuous temper and right action. It therefore highly becomes the universal Father and governor, to make every thing contribute to the increase, the promotion, the honour and advantage of virtue. It must be the noblest exercise of his wisdom and goodness, and the greatest benefit to the universe, to execute a scheme for forming, exercising, exhibiting, illustrating and rewarding the virtue of all beings, according to their several ranks and degrees; and if that be the scheme God intends and pursues, he will certainly make the promotion of virtue the measure and rule by which he acts, in conferring benefits and favours, in distributing happiness and misery; and consequently virtue must be sufficiently taken care of in all its stages; and vice cannot in the ultimate result of things be the gainer, the triumpher; but must, on the contrary, be made fully to feel its odiousness to God, on account of its intrinsick deformity and guilt, its contrariety to the rational nature, and its repugnancy to all the noblest exercises of moral powers.”
Thus then, whatever view we take of things, the scripture doctrine of a state succeeding after death to<433> the present, in which distributive justice shall have its compleat accomplishment, is the most natural, consistent and probable opinion. This sure is saying the least of it. But let it be but granted to be the most probable opinion, what its influence ought to be upon our conduct in life, is too evident to be insisted upon.
The Scripture represents the future state of the virtuous as a state in which they are separated from the vitious.
The virtuous are said to enter into a “kingdom, the kingdom of their father, a kingdom prepared for them, into which no wicked or unclean person can enter, a kingdom of the just, a society of the pure in heart, and of the spirits of just men made perfect: And the wicked are said to be refused admittance into this kingdom or state; to be cast out from it into a state of darkness and misery; it is said they cannot inherit it; they cannot enter into it; their state is represented to be a state of fallen, degenerated, corrupted, impure beings.”a Now we may easily conceive how the distributive justice begun and carried on here, as far as the nature of a first probationary state of mankind permits, may have its full effect, according to this representation, if we but reflect what would be the natural result, even in this world, of a state in which virtue reigned; or how very happy such a state would be; and, on the other hand, how miserable a state consisting intirely of vitious beings, or in which there was little or no virtue, must be. If we figure to ourselves such states, we will immediately perceive the natural tendency of virtue and<434> vice; that it is the mixture of virtue that is in the world, in any society, which makes it tolerably happy; and how virtue and vice would, in consequence of a separation of the just from the unjust, naturally and necessarily display their opposite natures and tendencies; naturally and necessarily produce happiness and misery; naturally and necessarily produce good and bad effects, exactly corresponding to merit and demerit, i.e. how distributive justice would have its full completion. This is a mixed state, in consequence of its being a state of formation and discipline, in which characters are to be formed and displayed; and in such a state virtue being mixed with vice, the effects of the one must be mixed with those of the other; nor can a separation be made of characters, till they are formed and have been exhibited; but characters being formed, if we suppose the separation the scripture teaches to take place, we can be at no loss to conceive what the effects must be. For then, on the one hand, the effects of virtue will not be mixed with those of vice; the tendencies of virtue will not be thwarted by those of vice: there will be no other mixture but what arises from differences of genius’s, abilities, and turns, consistent with virtuous temper, and a rightly disposed and modelled heart: And, on the other side, the effects of vice will not be mixed with those of virtue; the tendencies of vice will not be thwarted by those of virtue; and there will be no other mixture but such as arises from differences which may obtain even among the vitious; from variety of talents and abilities, consistent with a vitious temper, or an impure corrupted malignant heart. This present state of mankind (and every first state of moral creatures must be such in kind, in some proportion) is a state in which men are placed to form themselves, to improve their rational powers; and accordingly in it they are provided not only with the powers to be formed and improved into virtues, but with all proper means and occasions for so doing. Now such a state must be mixed: in it, to use our Saviour’s excellent similitude, the tares must<435> grow up with the wheat;a nor can the wicked be separated from the good without violent interpositions, which would make this state a most irregular one, no more than the tares can be plucked up or destroyed before harvest, without destroying the wheat also: but as at the natural harvest the tares are separated from the wheat; so at the moral harvest, the end of this state of our probation and discipline, shall the sincere and good be separated from the wicked and hypocrites. And this separation being made, there are no expressions in the scripture representing the happiness of the one state, or the opposite misery of the other, of which the significant propriety may not be understood. That of the wicked must be a state of great misery and horror, violent remorse, anguish, disappointment: a state in which vitious tempers, impure appetites, tumultuous passions, evil-consciousness, deformity, corruption, guilt, must have their effects, unmixed with, and therefore unallayed by virtue. And that of the virtuous must be a state of great virtue, great glory and perfection; a state, in one word, wherein dwelleth righteousness, and all its happy effects, unallayed by the evil consequences and fruits of vice.
All this will be yet more evident, if we call to mind that,
The Scripture represents the future state of the virtuous as a state free from all pains and uneasinesses; and the state of the vitious, as one in which none of their sensual appetites and passions can have any gratifications.
I. It represents the future state of the virtuous as a state far removed from all the pains and uneasinesses which disturb the present state. It must be free from<436> all those which are occasioned by vice, in consequence of the separation just mentioned. It must likewise be free from all pains and uneasinesses of the sensitive kind, or which arise from our present union with bodies, and a material world; and that not only in a state of separation from our present bodies, but even in that state of re-union with bodies, of which christianity speaks; because, as we shall see afterwards, the bodies with which our souls are to be united at the resurrection, are not animal, mortal, corruptible bodies, like to our present bodies; but spiritual, incorruptible, immortal ones. Now to these two classes are all the pains and uneasinesses of the present state of the virtuous reducible. And the sacred writings declare, that in the future happy state of just men, or of the souls of just men made perfect, there shall be no more any pain or sorrow, but that God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.a We have often had occasion in this discourse to observe, that all the laws in this state whence pains and uneasinesses arise are excellent general laws; and that pains and uneasinesses are necessary to the formation of virtue, of patience, magnanimity and resignation to the will of God; and to give opportunity for exerting compassion, benevolence, and every generous and social virtue. This is one of their chief present uses; that is, it is the use that ought to be made of them, and which the Author of our reasonable nature intends we should make of them. But the virtuous habits being once formed; a good temper of mind being once acquired and fully established, the mixture of evils, i.e. of uneasinesses and pains requisite to the formation and establishment of good habits and dispositions, is no longer requisite on that account; and therefore, consistently with the ends of moral government, that is, the formation and promotion of virtue, they may then cease,<437> as the scripture assures us all pains and uneasinesses do in the future state of the virtuous. It cannot, certainly, be asked here why the means should take place in this state, by which patience, fortitude and magnanimity must be formed, since there being no evils in a future state, those virtues can be of no use in it. For though there can be no scope for patience, when sorrow shall be no more, there may be need for a temper of mind which shall have been formed by patience: And there must always be need for that habitual resignation to, and approbation of the divine will, which is a temper that cannot be attained but, like other habits, by exercising ourselves in exerting it: a temper, for forming which trials by affliction make a proper discipline.
The general doctrine of the scripture is, that we are here in this state to acquire, by various exercise, the several virtuous habits which constitute the temper of mind requisite to happiness in a future state, as making in itself the most perfect character of a rational mind: that this state is excellently fitted for that end, excellently fitted to be a state of discipline for our improvement in piety and every virtue: not, to be sure, whether persons will or will not fit themselves to improve their minds; but if persons will set themselves to make a proper use of this state, to form and improve in their minds the habits of virtue; in like manner, as the fittest school for being improved in any science is a proper school for those only who will give attention: and lastly, that the virtuous temper being formed, or man being advanced to the perfection which belongs to his nature, and which he is intended to acquire, in the circumstances peculiarly fitted to be a state of discipline to him for his improvement in virtue, the state of discipline shall then cease, and be succeeded by a state for which the virtuous temper prepares or renders meet. This is the scripture doctrine; and as we know that habits of virtue are improvement in moral perfection, which must be made in circumstances fitted to their<438> formation; so we know, that improvement in virtue must be advancement in happiness, if the government of the universe be morally good, that is, if its end be the formation, illustration and promotion of virtue. Wherefore, supposing revelation gave us no particular account of the objects and exercises constituting the future happiness of virtue; but merely declared in general, that it is a happiness for which virtue only can prepare and qualify; that would be sufficient for our direction, and for our comfort. For what more is necessary for our direction and comfort, but to be assured, that the habits which a proper use of our present circumstances will form in our minds, are necessary to qualify for happiness in a future state; and that there is a future happiness, which as they qualify for, so they shall certainly be put in possession of? This consideration is not only sufficient to satisfy us with regard to the fitness, in respect of a future state, of a present state of discipline for the formation of patience, fortitude, magnanimity and resignation to the will of God; or, more properly speaking, for the formation of that temper of mind which these acquired virtuous habits constitute: It is not only sufficient to take off any difficulty with respect to such virtues; but it serves to give us satisfaction with respect to another question, which may naturally come across the reader’s mind, in consequence of what hath been said of virtuous improvements, and their future result: namely, “How there will be scope in a state of spirits of just men made perfect, where there are no sorrows, no evils, for the exercises of veracity, justice and benevolence?” It is sufficient to satisfy any reasonable person even as to that point likewise. For though we could not imagine to ourselves any particular exercises of these virtues in a perfect state, yet it will not follow from hence, that there can be, or will be no sphere of exercise for those virtues: much less will it follow, that because we are not able to figure to ourselves in our imaginations the particular exercises of those virtues in a future state, that there<439> will be no occasion for that frame of mind or character, which is formed by the daily practice of those particular virtues here, or which results from it: or, in other words, that there may not be a future happiness for which, the temper arising from the virtuous habits formed by the repeated exercises of justice, sincerity and charity here, qualifies, and alone can qualify. It is certain, that if the government of the world be virtuous, or morally wise and good, the temper and character formed by the repeated exercises of virtue must in some way or other be the condition of our happiness, or the qualification for it. And revelation assures us, that it is so. But it hath been already observed, that revelation cannot make a future state positively known to us, farther than its analogy to the present reaches. And yet after all this, when we come to consider the scripture account of the happiness of a future state more particularly, we shall see that in consequence of it, or consistently with it, by means of analogy, we can form to our selves some idea of large, proper scope for all the active virtues in a perfect state. In the mean time, 2. We are to consider, that the scripture represents the future state of the vitious, as absolutely removed from all objects and means of gratification to their wicked appetites, lusts and passions. Beings divested of their bodies, and quite separated from a material world must be so. And how miserable must they then be, whose affections and appetites are wholly carnal; whose passions are wholly fixed upon sensual pleasure, and who are utter strangers to all rational exercises and enjoyments? What can then be the effect of their impure desires, their corrupt passions, and gross vitious habits, but utter misery? If we but suppose added to this, a sense of guilt; a sense of neglected opportunities for improvement in rational and virtuous qualities; conciousness of inward worthlesness and deformity in the sight of God and all wise beings; self-dissatisfaction, and conviction of the justice of their suffering;<440> a full view of their own obstinacy in not listening to the dictates of their reason, and the plain language of nature to them while they were in this world what condition can be conceived more intolerable? The state of corrupted impure minds, when far removed from all the objects of their desires, what else can it be but a state of anguish and despair; a state of the most bitter suffering and torment? Burning lusts that cannot be satisfied, are indeed a scorching, a tormenting, a consuming fire; and the gnawing of a worm, of a gangrene, or of any pain of the most vexatious fretful kind, are but faint expressions to mark out all the tortures of a guilty conscience, when it sees the beauty of abandoned virtue, the excellence of all its enjoyments; and it can find no relief from the vile gratifications which were once preferred before them, in opposition to the strongest calls from reason and a moral sense; in opposition to the clear language of nature, as well as to revelation.
But let us turn our minds to a more pleasing subject.
The Scripture represents virtue or holiness not only as the condition of, and the qualification for the happiness of a future state; but it represents the happiness of a future state as consisting in, or resulting from virtuous exercises and enjoyments: and it represents a future state of happiness, as immortal, as enduring for ever.
The scripture, as we have seen, represents God’s government as a moral government for the promotion of virtue, and for advancing happiness in proportion to improvement in virtue. Such a government is a government in which distributive justice, in the proper just sense of it, prevails; and such does the scripture represent the moral government of God to be. According to revelation, this our present state is but our first probationary state. All this we<441> have already seen. And consequently there can be little or no difficulty in apprehending why sometimes the future happiness of virtue, and the future misery of vice should be set forth under the notion of rewards and punishments, and sometimes be represented as effects or consequences resulting from the nature, the constitution and order of things. For it is plainly the same to all intents and purposes, whether it is said that such is the constitution of things and the conduct of providence, that virtue in a future state shall be happy, and vice miserable; or that by the administration of things, virtue shall be rewarded, and vice punished in a future state. There cannot be so much as any seeming inconsistency between these two different expressions to those who know and reflect that the course of nature can mean nothing else but the order of things established by the author of all things; that the tendency and result of things can mean nothing but the tendency and result of connexions established and upheld by God; and that whatever happiness, or whatever misery, is the final result of God’s government, is the effect of his will, by which all things are appointed and effected. When things are said to happen, either in this world or in a future state, or at any period in consequence of general laws, the meaning is not, that certain rules or laws operate independently of a governing mind; for that is a direct contradiction or absurdity: But the meaning is, that the Author or Governor of the world hath appointed such and such effects to happen, according to such and such general laws or rules. Now, the advantages that are, in consequence of the will of the author of the world, the Father of all rational beings appointing a certain order and constitution of things, to happen to virtue in a future state, and the disadvantages that are to happen by the same will, and in consequence of the same constitution and order of things, to vice, because they are to happen by that cause, and in that manner, are as properly the natural results of things, as any effects<442> of the material kind are natural effects: but then the constitution appointed by the governor of the world being a good moral constitution, or a constitution intended for and adjusted to the promotion of virtue, and for that reason to the advancement of happiness with improvement in virtue; that being the end of the constitution appointed by the Author and Governor of the world, the high happiness to which virtue is to be advanced in a future state, after it hath been formed and established here by a course of discipline, may very properly be called its reward, being the honour and happiness to which it shall then be advanced, and to advance it to which, by fitting it for it, is the scope of its present state of discipline; and the future misery which is to be the fate of a vitious life in a future state, may very properly be called its punishment, being the depression and misery into which the abuse of moral powers in a state fitted to be a state of discipline for improvement in virtue, shall, according to the moral constitution and order of things, sink and degrade minds indued with rational affections and powers. For in this sense is the perfection one attains to in science, the reward of study; and is ignorance, on the other hand, the punishment of unattention and thoughtlesness, or wilful neglect of instruction: In this sense likewise, the honour and preferment bestowed on one, because he is qualified for it, and deserves it, is a reward to merit; and, on the other hand, the refusing favours to one who does not deserve them, is not qualified to use them well, or disposed to make an ill use of them, is a punishment to demerit. In this sense do we use the words rewards and punishments: it is the proper application of them. But to clear up a little the nature of future rewards and punishments, as well as to shew that there is no inconsistency in representing the same effects at the same time as rewards or punishments, and as the natural result of certain qualities; let it be observed, that ’tis not powers alone that can make happy, but in order to happiness<443> there must be powers, and objects suited to powers. Wherefore, when the happiness of the virtuous in a future state is said to be the effect of virtue, the effect of sowing to the spirit, reaping the fruits of one’s doings, or reaping as one had sown; the meaning must be, that it is a happiness resulting from moral powers improved into virtues, as exercised about objects proper or suited to them. There are, by consequence, two things which must concur to make the virtuous happy in another world, The improved state of their minds, and objects suited to that state of their minds. Now ’tis only the improved state of the mind that can properly be said to be the effect of virtuous exercises here: the objects which in a future state are the means of employment and gratification to the virtuous are not the effect of virtuous habits acquired here, but their existence or their taking place is the effect of the will of the governor of all things, in order that improved minds may have due happiness in a future state. The former properly comes under the denomination of the effect of a general law with regard to improvement in virtue in a state of discipline established by the Author of nature, the Father of spirits. The other comes properly under the denomination of an appointment of the same universal Father of all rational beings, for rewarding virtue after it is formed and acquired in a state of discipline; an appointment for making it happy, or for suitably employing and promoting it; and may therefore be very properly called positive reward. So that to speak properly and distinctly of a future state, as well as consistently with the scripture account of it, we ought to say, “there is a future happiness, a future glory, for which virtue alone can render fit, actually prepared for the virtuous, in order to reward their diligence to attain to moral perfection, by the right use of their moral powers in their first state of education and discipline.” This is the scripture doctrine concerning this present life, and our future state. And it highly<444> concerns us frequently to call to mind all these important truths, that we may be habitually influenced by them in our conduct.
Virtue or holiness is the condition of eternal happiness; without it we cannot have a right to it, or be made sharers of it.
It is expressly said, that nothing that defileth, no unclean or wicked person can enter into the kingdom of God, or heaven. The wicked cannot inherit that kingdom. It is the inheritance of the sanctified. Without holiness none can see the Lord, or dwell with him. In order to partake of the felicity of the blessed, one must partake of the divine nature; be holy and pure, as God is holy and pure. And therefore the constant language of holy writ to us, is, “having therefore these promises, this hope, let us sanctify ourselves, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”a And indeed we must first be persuaded that the government of the world is immoral, or that there is no difference between moral good and evil, before we can imagine that the happiness, the rewards of a future state can be given to any but the pure in heart, the virtuous, those who have given all diligence to perfect their rational nature. This is not a principle merely of revealed religion; it is the basis, or rather the whole of natural religion. It stands upon the same bottom with the reality of virtue and of a divine providence. But further,
Holiness or virtue is absolutely necessary to qualify for future happiness.
The happiness of the virtuous in a future state is represented to us under all the pleasant, grateful images that can raise our admiration, excite our desires, or rouse our ambition, to contend diligently for it: and<445> it is said to excel all that we can now be made to conceive, all description. “Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive the good things God hath prepared for, and will bestow upon those who loving him, give all diligence to imitate his holiness, and to become like to him.” But, at the same time, we are assured, that it is a happiness resulting from virtue, or for which a virtuous mind only is qualified. “It is reaping the fruits of a well-improved mind; the fruits of having sown to the spirit, the fruits of righteousness, and holiness, and charity.” It is a happiness of a pure and rational kind; a happiness suited to rational powers duly refined and improved by culture in a state of discipline. It is declared negatively to be a happiness which the vitious, the carnal, the impure and corrupt cannot relish, or are utterly incapable of. And it is declared positively to be a felicity resulting from, of a kind with, and proportioned to the rational nature; a happiness of which the pure, the holy only are susceptible, and which to them shall give light, liberty, joy, and felicity unspeakable. The meaning of all which is, briefly, that it is happiness unspeakable, arising from the exercise of a virtuous mind, about objects suited to its excellent disposition, suited to its noble affections, and highly improved powers.
The scripture represents the happiness of all beings superior to man, as consisting in virtuous dispositions suitably exercised. Nay, the happiness of God himself, the Father of spirits, is represented as resulting from the purity, the holiness of his nature, or his absolute moral perfection. And whence else can the chief happiness of any moral being arise, but from its moral powers improved into a capacity for being exercised about objects adequate to improved moral powers? If such happiness be not superior in kind to all other enjoyment, then are not moral powers superior in kind to merely animal faculties, which is an absurdity too gross to be<446> asserted, as hath already been often shewn in this discourse. But if moral powers, and the happiness they are capable of receiving by means of their natural exercises about proper objects, be superior in kind to all other faculties and their gratifications, then to imagine any other rewards for virtue, for moral perfection, besides the happiness resulting from the exercises of improved moral powers about objects commensurate or adapted to them, is to suppose them rewarded by a happiness in its nature inferior to those exercises, which is likewise absurd.
Further, the scripture specifies to us the exercises from which the future happiness of the virtuous flow.
I. It represents that future happiness as resulting from knowledge, that is, from the exercises of the understanding about objects fitted to give it high delight, fitted to give it noble employment and full satisfaction. We are told in the passages already quoted, that we shall see God, and rejoice in the light of his countenance. The meaning of which must be, that we shall see far into the works of God, far into the scheme of providence, and all that wonderful order and beauty which must prevail throughout the government of an infinitely wise and good ruler. To see or know any mind is to have a clear and satisfying view of its character from its productions, its plans, its thoughts, its sentiments and affections, its conduct: and therefore to know God, in whatever degree of perfection, must mean, to have, to a certain degree, a clear and satisfactory view of his temper and character, from the knowledge of his works, his productions, his scheme of government. And how delightful is the contemplation of the order and harmony that appears in God’s works, to those who search them out, even now that we are able to see so small a part of them? How unspeakable therefore must our satisfaction be when we<447> shall have a fuller view of them; when all that is now involved in darkness shall be light to us? We now see but a very small part, we have now but a very narrow confined view; and yet what we see sufficiently manifests to us the infinite perfections of the great Creator and Governor of the universe; his eternal power, wisdom and goodness; and therefore highly ravishes and transports the mind. But then we shall have a much larger prospect of God’s government; then we shall be daily advancing in a more perfect knowledge of his administration? The knowledge we shall then be capable of receiving shall be so great, in comparison of what our present situation or point of view can afford us, that in respect of the former the latter is called, knowing as children know—Nay, so far superior shall it be to our present knowledge, in clearness, comprehensiveness, and satisfaction, that in respect of it our present knowledge is called, seeing but darkly, as thro’ a glass; and it is said to be, seeing God face to face, and knowing him even as we are known of him. The scripture, ’tis plain, here labours to give us a very high conception of our delight, arising from the perfection of our knowledge in a future state; and the expressions must not be understood as meaning that our knowledge shall ever bear any proportion to the fullness, the infinite perfection of the divine knowledge. What they are designed to signify to us, is the vast superiority in respect of extent and delight by which our future knowledge shall surpass the most perfect insight we can now acquire into the works of God. It shall be, in comparison of our present knowledge, what seeing and conversing with one, is in respect to knowing him only by report. It is seeing God, not darkly through a glass, but face to face. It is seeing him in his works, so as not to mistake him, but to have a clear and just apprehension of their beauty and excellency, and his perfections. It is seeing his divine excellencies fully display’d, as we see the character of one fully manifested<448> to us by his actions and conversation, with whom we are in intimate acquaintance and correspondence. ’Tis no wonder that some men, endeavouring to comprehend the full adequate meaning of such expressions about the perfection of our future knowledge of God, have over-strained or over-heated their imaginations, and quite lost themselves: their full import is too big for our present comprehension: and it is dangerous for us to indulge our imaginations upon so raptorous a subject, without keeping a strict guard over ourselves. For the command and ballance of the mind may be lost by admiration, even when the subject is truly noble and pure, as well as by too great indulgence to other affections. And it is sufficient for our present comfort to know, that there is a state prepared for well improved minds, in which their joy resulting from the intelligent admiration of God’s works, or of God in his works, in his administration, shall far exceed what revelation can now describe or paint out to us by the strongest images. Those who are acquainted with the pleasures of knowledge, the divine satisfaction which the discovery of beauty and order in the works of God now affords to an enlarged understanding, united with a sound, a well disposed heart, cannot be at a loss to conceive what is meant, when the happiness which is to arise from larger and clearer, yet ever growing knowledge of God, and the pious affections such knowledge must excite and maintain in the mind, is said to be unutterably, inconceivably great.
II. But our future happiness is not represented in scripture, as wholly consisting in the pleasures accruing from the contemplation of God in his works, from knowledge of the divine perfections and administration, and the devout affections towards God, which the knowledge of him must kindle and keep alive in the mind. It is represented, as, in a great measure, the fruit of active, social exercises and employments. If we<449> judge at all from the analogy of nature, we must suppose that our hereafter state will be a community; nothing which we at present see can lead us to the thought of a solitary, unactive, unsocial, disunited state in another life. Nothing here leads us to imagine, that men do not continue to be in another life one kind, mutually dependent one on another: much less does any thing here lead us to suppose, that men cease to be agents; or to have active powers and faculties. Nor can we, indeed, in our thoughts, imagine men to become so many unactive, solitary individuals, without sinking and degrading mankind, instead of exalting them in our imagination. And in scripture, a future life is not represented as a solitary, disunited, unactive state; but, on the contrary, as a community, and an united, active state. We are not represented as merely contemplative beings, wholly engaged, each particular by himself in contemplation, admiration, and worship, without any correspondence, without any sympathy, connexion, dependence, or commerce. No: a future state of happiness is represented as a kingdom, a city under the supreme direction of God, of which the blessed inhabitants are fellow-citizens, contributing to one another’s happiness, mutually serving and served. It is called a glorious kingdom, the glorious kingdom of God, a glorious city, a new Jerusalem, a heavenly state, or community; a kingdom wherein dwelleth righteousness; a city whose builder and maker is God, and which abideth for ever; and the rewards constituting the happiness of that state are expressed by receiving a kingdom, a trust, a rule. “Thou hast been faithful, saith our Saviour to the righteous and profitable servant, over a few things, and therefore I will make thee ruler over many.”43 The blessed are said to reign with God, and to rejoice in doing his will, in executing his commands, and to receive a crown from him, a crown of righteousness.<450>
Let it be observed on this head, that the scripture no where represents to us any state of unactive happiness. The happiness of God himself is set forth to us as consisting in the continual communication of his goodness; in the uninterrupted exercise of his power and wisdom, for the best and noblest purposes, in order to promote the greatest general good. This is the idea the scripture gives us of the divine felicity: it consists in his unbounded, uninterrupted, active benevolence. Now, in order to be happy in another life, we are told in scripture, we must be like to God in love, i.e. benevolence; and that must certainly mean active benevolence; but not surely in order to have no occasion for an active principle of benevolence. The idea of the happiness of angels and archangels, and of all the choirs of celestial beings superior to man, is represented as consisting in their being ministring spirits to God; or beings employed in great and important offices to promote the glorious scheme of divine providence, and who are extreamly happy in this their instrumentality; or in their thus co-operating with God, or for God.a
Again, Jesus Christ in scripture is represented as delighting to do the will of God; as rejoicing in executing his commands; as having a high charge committed to him, and as having fulfilled it in part, and going on to fulfil it thoroughly. Two things are very evidently asserted in scripture concerning Jesus Christ, his visiting mankind, and his return to the Father after his resurrection, when he ascended into heaven. “That what he did for mankind was undertaken and performed by him from a noble principle of benevolence and virtue, in obedience to the will of God, with great delight and complacency; and that the commission<451> with which he was trusted was given him because of his worthiness; that he undertook and executed it with high satisfaction; and that he was to receive, and has received, for what he did on earth, a glorious recompence of reward. Lo, I come, I delight to do thy will, O my God, yea, thy law is within my heart. He loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even his God, anointed him with the oil of gladness above his fellows. He was made flesh, took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man: and being found in fashion as a man, was in all things tempted as we are. He became obedient to the death, even the death of the cross—and God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers, might and dominion, and every name which is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things in the church—Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof—for worthy is the lamb which was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing—The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign—Blessing, honour, and glory, and power be unto him who sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb for ever—” And we are thus exhorted by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews: “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us; looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”44
Now, from all these ways of speaking laid together, without enquiring at present into the commission given<452> to Christ, with regard to mankind; or what that part is which he is employed in carrying on in God’s universal government; it is very manifest, 1. That his commission was given to him on account of his worthiness, his consummate virtue. The plain language of the scripture, of all that is said in the holy writings, about Jesus Christ, his commission, the power, the authority given to him of the Father, is, that true virtue is the only valuable consideration that prevails with God, the only power or quality, in heaven or in earth, that can be honoured and rewarded by him. 2. That as in this world, or God’s visible government, all is carried on chiefly by the instrumentality of men; so the invisible government of God is carried on by the instrumentality of agents superior to man. And, indeed, we must suppose the happiness of other rational agents to arise in a manner analogous to the happiness of good men, though in a superior degree, from their instrumentality in doing good; from their virtuous employments in promoting universal happiness. 3. It is no less evident from what is said of Jesus Christ, and his glorious commission and charge from the Father, and of the angels being ministring spirits to the heirs of salvation, and to execute other great purposes of God’s universal benevolence, that beings of the noblest and most perfect orders may have occasion for fortitude, for magnanimity and resignation to the divine will, in order to their noble employments, in the execution of which they are happy beyond all expression. The patience, the magnanimity, the resignation to God, and the benevolence to mankind, with which Jesus Christ bore the contradiction, the raillery, the persecution of sinners, is set before us in scripture, at once as an example of, and a strong motive to our sedulous study of those virtues. And they shew, that there may be occasion for these virtues in the most perfect state. But my design being merely to shew the consistency of the principles of religion discoverable by reason, with the fundamental<453> doctrines of revelation concerning God, providence, virtue, and a future state, and not to enter into any enquiry concerning any doctrine peculiar to christianity; ’tis sufficient to have observed, that according to the accounts given us in scripture of the divine felicity, and of the happiness of all moral beings, there is no ground to imagine, that the happiness of any moral being in any state, however perfect, is an inactive happiness. And therefore though we are not able to see here into the employments of our future state; nor indeed to receive any account of them from revelation, except a very general one, as hath been observed, we have reason to conclude, that our happiness in a future state is not an inactive but an active one, to which all the habits of virtue formed in this present state of discipline are necessary preparatives, or qualifications. Nor can we indeed conceive ourselves changed into a passive state without being sunk and degraded. Though the scripture had not expressly said, that our future state shall be a society, a regular social state, we must, we cannot chuse but imagine it to be such; for analogy inevitably leads us to conceive every state of moral beings of whatever rank or dignity, as such. And considering what variety there must be in respect of genius, temper, and abilities among men, as they enter into a future state upon their leaving this world, partly owing to original differences, and partly the effect of various situations and circumstances in this life; all which diversity is very consistent with virtuous tempers—what immense variety of happy employments may we fancy to ourselves in consequence of perfect union and harmony—perfect government to promote universal good, universal advancement in knowledge, and higher moral perfection? For though the habits of virtue be necessary to qualify us for the heavenly state, let us not imagine, that there is no farther progress to be made, after our entrance in to it, in moral perfection. This is equally contrary to scripture, and to all our ideas of<454> moral beings. Their capacity of progress knoweth no stop, no bounds; but their perfection will ever be advancing in proportion to culture, which, the first habits of virtue being well established in the mind, will never afterwards be wanting. In order to help our imaginations in this pleasing attempt to form some faint idea of future happiness in the active way, let us first figure to ourselves the vast happiness that mankind would enjoy even here in consequence of perfect government; such government, as the best writers on politicks have demonstrated human nature to be capable of, and consequently not to be impracticable—and then let us raise our minds to a celestial state of beings, compleatly virtuous, and unanimously conspiring to the promotion of their best common interests, in a social well-regulated state, the orders of which secure the constant advancement of the greatest publick good such beings are capable of—i.e. the souls of good men are capable of in a state where they can take in larger views of God’s providence; and are redeemed from the necessity of attending to low animal cares. For let it be remembered, that though christianity tells us we are again at the general resurrection to be embodied; yet, according to the account christianity gives of that re-union with bodies, it is to be with bodies capable of affording our minds higher and nobler means of enjoyment and exercises than our present bodies are. Our present bodies are admirably adjusted to the present state of our minds. And the bodies with which the spirits of just men made perfect are to be cloathed at the resurrection, shall be equally well adapted to that state of our souls.a “All bodies, saith St. Paul, are not the same. There are terrestial and celestial bodies. And the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised<455> in incorruption. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. This corruptible shall therefore put on incorruption; and this mortal shall put on immortality.” And these bodies are to qualify us for inheriting a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.a “Then shall the tabernacle of God be with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” By these and many parallel passages is evidently pointed out to us a happiness to the virtuous, to commence at that period, resulting from righteousness, the universal prevalency of righteousness, from perfect government and society; from a government so perfect as to deserve, in a peculiar manner, the name of a Theocracy, or God’s immediate government. The revelation of these future things cannot extend beyond certain bounds; because nothing can be discovered to us concerning future felicity, but what is analogous to our present experience. And there may be wise and good reasons for its not being so extensive and full as analogy admits, though we cannot possibly determine whether it is so or not. It is sufficient for us, that revelation concurs with reason to assure us of a future state, in which every man shall reap as he has sown here. The holy scripture represents the future state of the virtuous, as a social active state. And reason and analogy oblige us to conceive of it as such; to conceive of every state, of every class of moral beings as such; i.e. as a state in which their power encreases with their knowledge of the connexions of things; a state in which all goods, all enjoyments are the purchase of industry, and in which there is a common interest to<456> be promoted. Here in our present state, to use the expression of a very great man, “nature sells all to industry: it is the treasure which purchases all of God.” And there is good reason to imagine, that this law of industy is universal. It seems, indeed, necessarily to belong to the very character of created agents. We cannot suppose this law altered, with regard to the exercise of power, and the acquisitions of industry, without sinking created agents into a lower class of merely passive beings. Agency includes in it a capacity of extending power by knowledge, and of acquiring by the exercises of intelligent power. Beings who have no power can acquire nothing; they cannot act. And as it is acting, and acquiring by acting, which alone distinguishes an agent from a merely perceptive being; so it is difference with regard to spheres of power, that constitutes higher and lower, superior and inferior agents in nature. Wherefore, if beings in a future state have no more any sphere of activity, they are no more agents. But where there is a sphere of activity, there industry or exercise of power is the purchaser of all goods. Further, where there is no activity, no sphere of power, and where the law of industry does not take place, there can be no virtue or merit. For what is virtue or merit, but greatness of mind, or a disposition to extend and enlarge one’s power, guided and directed by benevolence: a disposition to promote publick good by our power; and to extend our capacity to promote it. We can form no other notion of virtue or merit: it can be nothing else in any state. It cannot therefore belong to any state of beings, where there is no sphere of activity, and where the law of industry does not take place. Again, where the law of industry takes place, and beings are capable of virtue and merit, there must be a publick interest to promote, as well as a private one. Virtue and merit, as they suppose a sphere of activity or power, so they include in their notion the dependence of a publick interest upon the use<457> particulars make of their power, a mutual relation and connexion, regular society and the instrumentality of particulars in promoting the general interests. What entertainment, in fine, what employment can we imagine to belong to beings who have no sphere of power, and no common good to promote? Such beings must be lower than men are in their present state. And, on the other hand, what a variety of excellent, noble entertainments and employments may belong to men, in whose minds benevolence predomines when their sphere of activity being enlarged, i.e. their capacity of encreasing in knowledge, and of encreasing in power proportionably to encrease in knowledge being enlarged, they have a great common good to pursue, even the common advancement of the whole society, or state of good men from greater to greater moral perfection; in a state where no differences inconsistent with virtue remaining, every particular will be continually laying himself out withfull complacency and delight to promote the publick interest; in a state where the habits of virtue being fully established in every mind, the diversity which then takes place shall be no other than what is necessary to lay a foundation for mutual union, for mutual giving and receiving; and thus every one shall mutually give an dreceive; and all shall be equally happy in giving and receiving: what a vast variety of very noble employments may, must take place in such a perfect state? And towards such a state is the natural tendency of reason, of virtue, of a moral constitution. Whatever happiness would be the effect of general virtue here, in our first state, while our powers are but in embrio, as it were, and while our sphere of power, though not contemptible, but rather great, is yet narrow in respect of what it may be in another situation; that happiness must, however, be but in considerable in comparison of the happiness general virtue must produce, when our powers are formed to great perfection by culture, and our sphere<458> of activity, is greatly enlarged, and continually enlarging. And yet, who can express all the happiness which the prevalence of virtue, according to its natural tendency, would produce even in our present state? It is almost above description. Our present sphere of activity is very well adapted to our powers in their first state to be perfected by culture; very well adapted to make a proper school of exercise for perfectionating them; for perfectionating virtuous habits in us in particular; and our present happiness depends upon the prevalence of virtue, and rightly constituted society, in order to make men good, or promote virtue: it is the effect of the natural tendency of virtue; and holds proportion to its prevalence. And therefore as it is reasonable to think, that enlargement of our sphere of activity will be the reward of virtue; so the general prevalence of virtue in a state where our sphere of activity is enlarged, and continually enlarging, must, in consequence of the natural tendency of virtue, produce the most perfect happiness—happiness too big for the mind at present to comprehend—the prospect of which ought powerfully to animate us to give all diligence now to add virtue to virtue; to grow and advance in spiritual strength, in vigour and perfection of mind, and not to faint or weary; forasmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vain; that our acquisitions shall not be destroyed; but that in a future state we shall continue to go on from strength to strength, from glory to glory, rejoicing in God the rewarder of virtue. This delightful hope ought ever to be present with us, that we may look upon every circumstance in our present life, as an opportunity for perfecting ourselves in some virtue, for which there is a glorious recompence in store; for some virtue which shall add to our crown of glory in the life to come, where the righteous shall shine in proportion to their righteousness; and those who by their counsel, joined with a noble example, have turned many to righteousness, shall rule with God.<459> These strong expression sare authorised by the scripture. And it is no small satisfaction to a virtuous mind to find all good and wise men in all ages of the world representing the future state of the virtuous in like expressions: for as an excellent ancient philosopher observes, “the greater, the nobler the mind is, the more it becomes in love with virtue and virtuous exercises; the more it delights itself in the hopes of future happiness in the society of the virtuous, resulting from greater power and greater perfection in virtue proportioned one to another, or keeping pace one with another.” It only now remains to observe in the last place,
That according to the scripture account of the state of the virtuous in the life to come, it is a state of unchangeable, immortal glory and happiness.
Now it is absurd to imagine this security to arise from an impossibility of falling from virtue; for a possibility of falling from virtue is included in the very nature of moral or free agency. This security arises from the perfection of virtue acquired in a state of discipline; from the strength and power of virtuous habits gradually formed. Some men arrive in this state to such a perfection of virtue, that we say, without any hesitation, it is impossible for them to degenerate. i.e. It is morally impossible they should, on account of their strong sense of the excellency of virtue, and of the firmness of their virtuous habits, settled and fixed in them by long practice; by habitual self-government uniformly and vigorously persisted in, till now virtue is become the very temper and bent of their soul. And in this sense is it, that the virtuous, in a future state, are secure from degeneracy. It is, 1. Because their virtue is become habitual, become temper, or is firmly established. It is a state of discipline that must form this perfect virtue; but the habits of virtue being formed in a state of discipline by<460> habitual self-government unto perfection, they will then be in no danger of being over-power’d, but will bind to virtue by the cords of love, by that close union and coherence which confirm’d love of virtue, and continued practice in it, necessarily produces, in consequence of the very nature of habit. There is no reason to imagine that there will be no particular affections then belonging to us, or that many of our present particular affections shall not then remain with us: self-love must remain while sensibility remains: and the desire of extending our power, together with delight in the happiness of others, and desire of their esteem, and all other social affections, will doubtless remain. But benevolence being settled into a firm principle, our sense of the excellency of virtue, and our satisfaction with virtuous exercises, as the best, the noblest, and pleasantest exercises of the mind, being deeply rooted in us by long practice, by various trial and discipline, reason and virtue will govern us uniformly and irresistibly; order and harmony will prevail uninterruptedly in our souls. It will be impossible to fall away from virtue, because it will be impossible to lose sight of its excellence, to lose the relish of its uncloying delights; and to become vitious would cost the violentest, the most painful struggle. 2. No doubt, the remembrance of our state of discipline, and a larger view of the fatal consequences of vice to rational minds, in consequence of the moral rectitude of the divine government, together with a more comprehensive knowledge of the wise ends of all the trials alloted to the virtuous in this state, will add mightily to the strength of virtue in a future state, and by consequence, to the security of the virtuous; as well as make a considerable part of the happiness of that state. For how doth a just view of the excellence of virtue, and of its agreeableness to God the Father of spirits, and the hope of eternal happiness in consequence of the perfection of the divine government, strengthen and<461> embolden here, even amidst prevailing corruption, and when virtue is most violently persecuted? 3. And when virtue is general, then must virtuous ambition and emulation be universally prevalent: then virtue will animate virtue: it will be continually whetted and invigorated by noble examples. Evil example is indeed a powerful corrupter, but good example is a no less powerful incentive to virtue: and how can virtue decline, while the sense of its excellence, the unspeakable blessings it daily rewards with, and glorious patterns of it are incessantly stimulating to make further advances in what we shall then feel not to have been fruitless labour in our first state of discipline; but to have been indeed contending towards glory and fulness of joy, far beyond what we could then conceive, that shall daily augment as we advance in moral perfection, which, in the nature of things, knows no bounds or limits? How can virtue degenerate in such a state? It is impossible. Before virtue is perfected into habit, it may decline, even after great advances have been made in it; but after it is fully established by discipline, and hath tasted the fruits of its perfection, it must then be natural to the mind; it must then be, so to speak, the very complexion, the very temperament and constitution of the soul, which cannot be changed. The happiness of the virtuous endureth for ever, because their righteousness endureth for ever; and righteousness, or virtue thoroughly formed, is in its nature a living principle, a never dying, immortal, un-changeable principle.a Righteousness, says the wise man, is immortal; “wisdom is glorious, and never fadeth away.” The very true beginning of her is the desire of discipline, and the care of discipline is love, and love is the keeping of her laws, and the keeping of her laws is the assurance of incorruption, and incorruption makes us near to God: therefore the desire of wisdom bringeth to a kingdom, a kingdom immortal.<462> The righteous live for evermore, their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them with the most high: therefore they shall receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord’s hand; but as for the wicked, they shall say, “this was he whom we had sometimes in derision, and a proverb of reproach; we fools accounted his life madness, and his end to be without honour: but now is he numbered among the children of God, and his lot is among the saints! therefore have we erred from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness hath not shined upon us, and the sun of righteousness arose not upon us; we wearied ourselves in the way of wickedness and destruction; yea, we have gone through desarts, where there lay no way: but as for the way of the Lord we have not known it. What hath pride profited us? or what good hath riches with our vaunting brought us? all those things are passed away like a shadow,—and we are consumed in our wickedness.”
To conclude, why may we not suppose the security of the virtuous in a future state to arise in a great degree from the perfect government of that state; from its excellent orders conspiring to preserve and promote virtue. In this our first state, while virtue is but in the very initial steps of its progress, “good orders in a government make good men; virtue is promoted and prevails in proportion to the aptitude of the orders constituting government to promote, spread, and advance it.” And if we suppose any public union or government in a state of just men made perfect, as we cannot chuse but suppose there must be, that government will be perfect; it will be immortal; it will be a government so constituted, that virtue shall never perish, but be ever advancing, and by its perpetual advancement be perpetually adding to the glory and felicity of the citizens of that heavenly state. Thus analogy leads, nay, in a manner necessitates us to paint out a future state to ourselves; and revelation, by representing<463> a future state to us as a community, sufficiently authorises our figuring it to ourselves under the notion of perfect happiness, resulting from perfect government, in consequence of the natural tendency of the universal prevalence of virtue and virtuous union. In this sense it is properly called the harvest of virtue; its ripeness; its completion: and this life is as properly represented to be our seed time. In such a state as hath been described, every one shall reap the fruit of the seed he hath sown here; the fruit of his doings. To improve in virtue is to lay up treasures in heaven; or to lay a foundation for eternal happiness: and if the government of the moral world be moral, i.e. wise and good, this must be the rule; “that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” All we have said of providence, of virtue, or of a future state, is concluded in the meaning of this comprehensive, emphatical doctrine of St. Paul, which it was proposed to illustrate: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap; for he that soweth to his flesh, shall of his flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. Let us not therefore be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”45 As certain as it is that the government of the world is under the direction of an infinitely wise and good God, so certain is it that there is a future state succeeding to this life, in which virtue shall be fully rewarded; and that the serious study and practice of virtue here must finally terminate in perfect happiness, arising from perfect habits of virtue suitably placed, in order to have proper exercise, and high enjoyment by such exercise: for if there be a God, he must delight in virtue; and what he delights in, he will make happy: but improved virtue can only be made happy by being placed in circumstances for larger exercise of virtue, and higher advancements in it. If there be a God, and that there is all<464> nature cries aloud, his government must be equal, wise, and good, exceeding good; but if the government of moral beings be such, moral improvements and acquisitions will not be destroyed or annihilated by him; but virtue shall at last have the full effect and completion of its natural tendency, which is to make a society of the just perfectly happy. Virtue, or care to improve moral powers, is the delight of God, and it shall have success; it shall have its wishes and desires accomplished, which is to arrive at perfection and great felicity, in consequence of that perfection suitably situated or circumstantiated. Finally, if there be a God. He who soweth to the spirit, and not to the flesh; he who by patient and unwearied diligence in well-doing seeketh for glory, honour, and eternal happiness, shall obtain it, and not be disappointed: He shall reap the glorious fruits of his labours, the fruits of righteousness, joy, and peace; all the happy fruits which highly improved virtue is able to afford to the mind, if it be placed suitably to its merit and tendency. But if the natural harvest of moral improvements be happiness; if, by the constitution of things, virtue be the road to eternal happiness, what must the natural harvest, the natural effect, the ultimate result of sowing to the flesh and corruption, or of abused reason, impure affections, and a vitious life, be? All this is included in the apostle’s account of the divine government, and of the final issue of things, after our state of probation, our seed-time is at an end. And all these important truths have been illustrated and confirmed in this discourse from various considerations. The following general corolaries do therefore manifestly result from what hath been proved to be the joint doctrine of reason and of revelation concerning God, providence, virtue, and a future state.<465>
That there is a God, and a future state, and that to grow and improve in virtue, is the duty of mankind, is a doctrine which reason clearly teaches: it is a doctrine deducible from the natural relations and connexions of things; it is therefore a doctrine which may be known to be true without revelation.
And by consequence it is a doctrine which divine revelation cannot contradict. There can be no doctrine in a divine revelation in consistent with this immutable truth. Nay, revelation must place the whole of religion in living agreeably to this doctrine. It may add a particular kind of evidence to this truth, distinct from what it intrinsically carries with it, very proper to engage men to attend to its intrinsick evidence. But it cannot substitute any thing in the room of natural religion; for natural religion must remain the same, while the nature of things remains unchanged; while moral creatures are moral creatures; or a moral constitution is a moral constitution. The practice of virtue is therefore the whole of human duty, and the sure road to eternal happiness, whether there be any such thing as a divine revelation or not. And they are led into a fatal mistake by revelation; i.e. they sadly pervert divine revelation, who understand it as commuting the practice of virtue for any thing else; or as substituting any other thing in its room: for revelation cannot misrepresent the nature of things; it cannot contradict the very principles upon which its own evidence must depend. But it is plain from the nature of things, that there is a God, and that virtue alone is acceptable to him:<466> and this principle being removed, divine revelation is a term without any meaning.
If God hath at any time given to mankind a revelation of his will concerning their duty and interest; or if any being hath at any time by divine authority interposed to give mankind a call to the study of virtue, by giving them an account of God’s government of rational beings, and the final issue of things with regard to mankind; such an event must be considered as making a part of the general scheme of God’s just, righteous, and merciful government; and not as an accident a levent, not originally comprehended in the design or plan of providence, but extraneous to it, and quite separate from it: as a part therefore of God’s universal plan for promoting general good, by promoting moral perfection among his moral creatures. This plainly follows from what hath been said of God’s government by general laws. But a revelation from God to take mens minds off from the study of virtue, to place their duty, to place religion and piety in any thing else is a downright contradiction: to suppose such a revelation coming from God, is to suppose God become an immoral agent, or a promoter of vice. This follows from the nature of virtue and the perfections of God; or from the very nature of moral powers, as hath been shewn.
It must therefore be a perversion or gross misunderstanding of revelation, to derive any hopes from it of eternal happiness without virtue; without true and sincere goodness of heart and mind. One must be an utter stranger to the course of nature or providence to object against revelation, because the promotion<467> of virtue and happiness among mankind is there ascribed to the instrumentality of Jesus Christ. But without entering into an enquiry which belongs not to our present design, we may most certainly conclude that it is mistaking revelation fundamentally, because it is destroying the very fundamentals of natural religion to hope for salvation, favour with God, and eternal felicity, without virtue. If there be no natural religion, there can be no such thing as revealed religion. But what is the very essence of natural religion? Is it not that the sincere study and practice of virtue is the sole way to the divine favour and approbation; and that as it is the only way, so it is a sure and certain way to it? In what indeed doth the belief of a God and a providence, of the reality of virtue and a future state ultimately terminate, but in this momentous truth, “That according to the constitution and government of things it being morally good, virtue is the only road to eternal happiness; nothing else can give a right to it; nothing else can qualify for it.” If this be not true, natural religion is a mere sound; and consequently it is absurd to enquire about a divine revelation. But, on the other hand, if it be true, we must carry that truth along with us in our enquiries, as the test by which we are to try pretences to revelation, and as the key for interpreting a divine revelation. And in reality it is ignorance of natural religion, or losing sight of its very first principles, which hath misled men, or suffered them to be misled into mistakes about christianity, and given rise to interpretations of scripture, which encourage vice, and subvert the very foundations of morality. For whatever may be thought obscure in it, this is its plain and uniform language, “That without holiness no man can see the Lord.” But the truth I chiefly proposed by this discourse to establish, is,<468>
That whatever motive may induce one to treat christianity as an imposture, he who imagines that, christianity being removed, the obligations to the practice of virtue become less strict and rigid, is an utter stranger to the extent of natural religion and moral obligations. It would be a breach of that charity which christianity so strongly recommends, to suppose that all who doubt of christianity are seduced into that scepticism by inclination to give themselves up to corrupt affections, without fear of hereafter. But it is of great importance to us to fix this truthfirmly upon our minds, “That virtue, firm adherence to virtue, is a moral obligation arising necessarily from the nature of a moral creature; and that every immoral indulgence is as repugnant to the law of nature as it is to christianity.” And it is to prove and enforce that important truth that I have been comparing the doctrine of the christian revelation concerning God, virtue, and a future state, with the doctrines of reason; with what may be plainly deduced from the nature of things; or may be clearly perceived to be true by all who will but give any attention to the frame and constitution of the human mind, and the connexion of things about us. It is not because it is a difficult, but because it is an important truth, that I have insisted so long upon all the more considerable branches and consequences of it; and because as he who does not often meditate upon it, passes his life in a most irrational manner; so he who daily reflects upon it with due attention will there by be daily excited to more and more diligence to improve in virtue, in purity of mind, in true goodness; and he will never want true joy; joy which nothing can take from him, and in comparison of which all other delights are mere vanity.—Joy which may be<469> justly called joy in the Lord, because it is joy arising from the belief of his moral rectitude and all-perfect administration; from the sense of his esteem, approbation and love, and from the assurance of eternal happiness in consequence of his good-will toward virtue, his love of it, and delight in it. “Having therefore this hope, let us act agreeably to it, and comfort ourselves with it: having this glorious hope, let us cleanse ourselves from all pollution of the flesh, and of the spirit, and perfect holiness in the filial fear of God, for as much as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord: for unto every one who by patient continuance in well-doing seeketh for glory, honour, and immortality, God will render glory, honour, peace, and eternal life, whether he be Jew or Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with God; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him; and we know that under his infinitely wise and good government all things shall work together for the eternal good of them who love him, and loving him imitate his moral excellencies.”46 This is the doctrine of reason, and it is likewise confirmed to us by revelation, by an evidence of another kind.
I shall conclude by shewing what kind of evidence divine revelation gives to that important, joyful truth.
[a. ]2 Tim. i. 10. 1 John v. 11.
[a. ]Mat. x. 28.
[b. ]Heb. ix. 27.
[c. ]Heb. xiii. 14.
[d. ]1 Thess. v. 10–11.
[a. ]See the texts quoted in the introduction to this discourse.
[a. ]Rom. ii. 7, 8, &c.
[a. ]Ps. xcvi. 13. xcviii. 9.
[b. ]Prov. xxiv. 12.
[c. ]Eccl. iii. 17. xii. 14.
[d. ]Jerem. xxxii. 19. Ezek. xxxiii. 8, 9.
[e. ]Rom. ii. 2–6.
[a. ]1 Pet. i. 16, 17.
[a. ]Plato’s Gorgias. [Plato, Gorgias, 525c.]
[a. ]Acts x. 28, 34, 35.
[a. ]Matt. xxv. Dr. Sam. Clarke’s Paraphrase. [Clarke, Works, 3:110–12.]
[a. ]Mr. Harrington in the Oceana. [This appears to be a paraphrase, rather than an exact quote, from Harrington’s Oceana; see Political Works, ed. Pocock, 171–73.]
[a. ]If any one can doubt of this, let him consider Mr. Harrington’s scheme of government, and his reasonings upon it. [Harrington’s “scheme of government and his reasonings upon it” are developed in extenso in his A Commonwealth of Oceana and A System of Politics, in Political Works, ed. Pocock.]
[a. ]Matt. viii. 11. xiii. 43. xxv. 34. Luke xii. 31. James ii. 5. John xvii. 22. 2 Cor. v. 1. 1 Thess. iv. 17. 2 Tim. ii. 10. iv. 8. Heb. xi. 10. xiii. 14, &c.
[a. ]Matt. xiii. 24, 40, &c.
[a. ]Revel. iii. 4, &c. vii. 9, &c. xxi. 22. Isa. xxv. 8. 2 Pet. iii. 13, &c.
[a. ]Mat. v. 8. xiii. 43. xxv. 34. Rom. ii. 7. 10. 1 John iii. 2. iii. 7. 2 Cor. vii. 1. Ep. i. 4. iv. 1, 17, 20, &c. 1 Thess. ii. 12. 1 Tim. ii. 2, 4, 7, 8. Titus ii. 11, 12.
[43. ]Matt. 25.21.
[a. ]Heb. i. 7. 14. Ephes. i. 20, 21, &c. Philip. ii. 5, &c. Heb. i. 2, 3, &c. Rev. v. 5, &c. Rev. vi. 15, &c. Heb. xii. 2, 3.
[44. ]Heb. 12.1–3.
[a. ]1 Cor. xv. 39–44, 50, 53.
[a. ]2 Peter iii. 13. Isa. lxv. 17, &c. Rev. xxi. 3, &c.
[a. ]Wisdom i. 15. vi. 10, 18, &c.
[45. ]Gal. 6.7–9.
[46. ]The quoted passage starts with a paraphrase of Rom. 2.7, 10, followed by Acts 10.35.