Front Page Titles (by Subject) section iii: Motives to Virtue from the Being and Providence of God - The Elements of Moral Philosophy
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section iii: Motives to Virtue from the Being and Providence of God - David Fordyce, The Elements of Moral Philosophy 
The Elements of Moral Philosophy, in Three Books with a Brief Account of the Nature, Progress, and Origin of Philosophy, ed. Thomas Kennedy (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Motives to Virtue from the Being and Providence of God
Two external Motives to VirtueBesides the interesting Motives mentioned in the last Section, there are two great Motives to Virtue, strictly connected with human Life, and resulting from the very Constitution of the human Mind. The First is the Being and Providence of God; the Second is the Immortality of the Soul, with future Rewards and Punishments.
Their ImportanceIt appears from Sect. 4. of Book II that Man, by the Constitution of his Nature, is designed to be a religious Creature. He is intimately connected with the Deity, and necessarily dependent on him. From that Connection and necessary Dependence result various Obligations and Duties, without fulfilling which, some of his sublimest Powers and Affections would be incomplete and abortive. If he be likewise an immortal Creature, and if his present Conduct shall affect his future Happiness in another State as well as in the present, it is evident that we take only a partial View of the Creature if we leave out this important Property of his Nature, and make a partial Estimate of human Life, if we strike out of the Account, or over-look that Part of his Duration which runs out into Eternity.—We shall therefore consider the Motives which arise from the former Connection in this Section, and those arising from the latter in the next.
PietyIt is evident from the above-mentioned Section,* that “to have a Respect to the Deity in our Temper and Conduct, to venerate and love his Character, to adore his Goodness, to depend upon and resign ourselves to his Providence, to seek his Approbation, and act under a Sense of his Authority, is a fundamental Part of moral Virtue, and the Completion of the highest Destination of our Nature.”
A Support to VirtueBut as Piety is an essential Part of Virtue, so likewise it is a great Support and Enforcement to the Practice of it. To contemplate and admire a Being of such transcendent Dignity and Perfection as God, must naturally and necessarily open and enlarge the Mind, give a Freedom and Ampleness to its Powers, and a Grandeur and Elevation to its Aims. For, as an excellent Divine† observes, “the Greatness of an Object, and the Excellency of the Act of any Agent about a transcendent Object, doth mightily tend to the Enlargement and Improvement of his Faculties.” Little Objects, mean Company, mean Cares, and mean Business cramp the Mind, contract its Views, and give it a creeping Air and Deportment. But when it soars above mortal Cares and mortal Pursuits, into the Regions of Divinity, and converses with the greatest and best of Beings, it spreads itself into a wider Compass, takes higher Flights in Reason and Goodness, and becomes God-like in its Air and Manners. Virtue is, if one may say so, both the Effect and Cause of Largeness of Mind. It requires that one think freely, and act nobly. Now what can conduce more to Freedom of Thought and Dignity of Action, than to conceive worthily of God, to reverence and adore his unrivalled Excellency, to imitate and transcribe that Excellency into our own Nature, to remember our Relation to him, and that we are the Image and Representatives of his Glory to the rest of the Creation? Such Feelings and Exercises must and will make us scorn all Actions that are base, unhandsome, or unworthy our State; and the Relation we stand in to God, will irradiate the Mind with the Light of Wisdom, and ennoble it with the Liberty and Dominion of Virtue.
A Guard and Enforcement to VirtueThe Influence and Efficacy of Religion may be considered in another Light. We all know the Presence of a Friend, a Neighbour, or any Number of Spectators, but especially an august Assembly of them, to be a considerable Check upon the Conduct of one who is not lost to a Sense of Honour and Shame, and contributes to restrain many irregular Sallies of Passion. In the same manner we may imagine, that the Awe of some superior Mind, who is supposed privy to our secret Conduct, and armed with full Power to reward or punish it, will impose a Restraint on us in such Actions as fall not under the Controul or Animadversion of others. If we go still higher, and suppose our inmost Thoughts and darkest Designs, as well as our most secret Actions, to lie open to the Notice of the supreme and universal Mind, who is both the Spectator and Judge of human Actions, it is evident that the Belief of so august a Presence, and such awful Inspection, must carry a Restraint and Weight with it proportioned to the Strength of that Belief, and be an additional Motive to the Practice of many Duties which would not have been performed without it.—As our Sense of Honour or Blame is increased in proportion to the Esteem we have of those who bestow either, shall we suppose no Sensibility to the Applause, or Censure of him whom we believe to be the Judge as well as Standard of all Perfection? And if we suppose such a Sensibility, can we deny that it will operate on every Mind which feels it, both as an Incentive to deserve that Applause and as a Guard to avoid that Censure? We may suppose some Cases in which the virtuous Man, through the Force of Prejudices against him, and because of the false Lights in which his Actions are viewed, may be tempted to renounce the honest Cause by which he happens to incur Reproach or Ridicule. But if he can make his Appeal from the Opinions of Men to the Searcher of Hearts, it is evident that the Consciousness of so high a Sanction may bear him out in his Course, and consequently be a Support to his Virtue, and in due time may teach him to despise the Strife of Tongues, nay the utmost Efforts of Malice and Envy.
In Cases of the greatest TrialBut a good Man may likewise fall a Sacrifice to Power or to Injustice; his Life may be a Series of Misfortunes, and his Virtue may have exposed him to many of them; the Constitution and State of his Body, and peculiar Pressures on his Mind, may incapacitate him for enjoying the natural Fruits of Virtue, at least with an high Relish. How supporting in such a Case, nay how preservative must it be to his Integrity, and what an Antidote against that Gloom and Fretfulness which are apt to invade the Mind in such Circumstances of Trial, to believe that infinite Wisdom and Goodness preside in the Universe;—that every Event being under their Direction, is the Cause or Consequence of some greater Good to him, or to the whole;—that those Misfortunes which befall him are appointed by Heaven to correct his Follies, to improve or secure his Virtues, and consequently to increase his Happiness! These Sentiments thoroughly felt must and will serve as a Charm to sooth his Sorrows, and confirm his Loyalty and Resignation to the supreme Providence.
In fine, let the Disposition of external Causes be ever so unfavourable to the good Man, yet, as he is conscious that the almighty Governor is his Parent, Patron and Friend, he may rest secure that he will either sustain and guard him in the midst of his Troubles, or direct and over-rule them to his greatest Good.
Exercises of Piety improving to VirtueIt may be observed farther, that “to live under an habitual Sense of the Deity and his great Administration, is to be conversant with Wisdom, Order and Beauty in the highest Subjects, and to receive the delightful Reflections and benign Feelings which these excite, while they irradiate upon him from every Scene of Nature and Providence.” How improving must such Views be to the Mind, in dilating and exalting it above those puny Interests and Competitions which agitate and enflame the Bulk of Mankind against each other! What genial and propitious Influence on the Temper must the Admiration and Love of Divine Goodness have, when it is considered as diffused through infinite Space, to infinite Races of Creatures, and stretching from Eternity to Eternity! What Candor, Mildness, Benignity of Heart, and what Grandeur as well as Sweetness of Manners must it inspire? To conclude, with what alluring and commanding Energy must his Benefits call forth our Gratitude, his Example our Imitation, his Wisdom, Power and Goodness, our Confidence and Hope, his Applause our Ambition to deserve it? And how must his Presence strongly believed, or rather powerfully felt, enliven and fortify these and every other Principle of Virtue?
[*] Sect. 4. Book II.
[†] Vid. Whichcot’s Serm. Part II. Serm. VI. [The English divine Benjamin Whichcote (1609–83) spent most of his career in Cambridge, first as a Sunday lecturer at Trinity Church and later as Provost of King’s College. Shaftesbury selected twelve of Whichcote’s sermons and, writing an anonymous preface to the sermons, first published them in London in 1698 as Select Sermons of Dr. Whichcote. This book was later published in Edinburgh (1742) with a message to young ministers and divinity students from William Wishart, principal of Edinburgh University. See Select Sermons of Dr. Whichcote, In Two Parts, 281.]