Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV.: 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. - The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy
Return to Title Page for The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
IV.: 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. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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>
[a. ]Wisdom i. 15. vi. 10, 18, &c.
[45. ]Gal. 6.7–9.