Front Page Titles (by Subject) Query IX - The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy
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Query IX - 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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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.
[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.