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"conferred upon us by God, than merits in us to"wards him; for though we may be justly punish"ed for injuring ourselves, we can claim no reward "for self-preservation; as suicide deserves punish"ment and infamy, but a man deserves no reward "or honours for not being guilty of it. This I "take to be the meaning of all those passages in "our Scriptures, in which works are represented to "have no merit without faith; that is, not with" out believing in historical facts, in creeds, and "articles; but without being done in pursuance of "our belief in God, and in obedience to his com"mands. And now, having mentioned Scripture, "I cannot omit observing, that the Christian is the only religious or moral institution in the world, "that ever set in a right light these two material "points, the essence and the end of virtue, that ever "founded the one in the production of happiness, "that is, in universal benevolence, or, in their language, charity to all men; the other, in the pro"bation of man, and his obedience to his Creator. "Sublime and magnificent as was the philosophy "of the ancients, all their moral systems were defi"cient in these two important articles. They were "all built on the sandy foundations of the innate "beauty of virtue, or enthusiastick patriotism; and "their great point in view was the contemptible "reward of human glory; foundations which were "by no means able to support the magnificent "structures which they erected upon them; for the "beauty of virtue, independent of its effects, is un
meaning nonsense; patriotism, which injures man"kind in general for the sake of a particular coun
"try, is but a more extended selfishness, and really "criminal: and all human glory but a mean and “ridiculous delusion. The whole affair then of "religion and morality, the subject of so many "thousand volumes, is, in short, no more than this: "the Supreme Being, infinitely good, as well as powerful, desirous to diffuse happiness by all 66 possible means, has created innumerable ranks "and orders of beings, all subservient to each other by proper subordination. One of these is occu66 pied by man, a creature endued with such a cer"tain degree of knowledge, reason, and free-will, "6 as is suitable to his situation, and placed for a "time on this globe as in a school of probation and "education. Here he has an opportunity given "him of improving or debasing his nature, in such 66 manner as to render himself fit for a rank of
higher perfection and happiness, or to degrade "himself to a state of greater imperfection and "misery; necessary indeed towards carrying on "the business of the universe, but very grievous "and burthensome to those individuals, who, by "their own misconduct, are obliged to submit to it. "The test of this his behaviour, is doing good, that "is, co-operating with his Creator, as far as his narrow sphere of action will permit, in the pro"duction of happiness. And thus the happiness. "and misery of a future state will be the just re"ward or punishment of promoting or prevent"ing happiness in this. So artificially by this means "is the nature of all human virtue and vice con"trived, that their rewards and punishments are "woven as it were in their very essence; their im
"mediate effects give us a foretaste of their future, " and their fruits in the present life are the proper "samples of what they must unavoidably produce "in another. We have reason given us to distinguish these consequences, and regulate our con"duct? and,l est that should neglect its post, con"science also is appointed as an instinctive kind of "monitor, perpetually to remind us both of our in"terest and our duty."
Si sic omnia dixisset! To this account of the essence of vice and virtue, it is only necessary to add, that the consequences of human actions being sometimes uncertain, and sometimes remote, it is not possible in many cases for most men, nor in all cases for any man, to determine what actions will ultimately produce happiness, and therefore it was proper that revelation should lay down a rule to be followed invariably in opposition to appearances, and in every change of circumstances, by which we may be certain to promote the general felicity, and be set free from the dangerous temptation of doing Evil that Good may come.
Because it may easily happen, and in effect will happen very frequently, that our own private happiness may be promoted by an act injurious to others, when yet no man can be obliged by nature to prefer ultimately the happiness of others to his own; therefore, to the instructions of infinite wisdom it was necessary that infinite power should add penal sanctions. That every man to whom those instructions shall be imparted may know that he can never ultimately injure himself by benefiting others, or ultimately by injuring others benefit himself;
but that however the lot of the good and bad may ⚫be huddled together in the seeming confusion of our present state, the time shall undoubtedly come, when the most virtuous will be most happy.
I am sorry that the remaining part of this Letter is not equal to the first. The author has indeed engaged in a disquisition in which we need not wonder if he fails, in the solution of questions on which philosophers have employed their abilities from the earliest times,
And found no end, in wand'ring mazes lost.
He denies that man was created perfect, because the system requires subordination, and because the power of losing his perfection, of rendering himself wicked and miserable, is the highest imperfection imaginable. Besides, the regular gradations of the scale of being required somewhere such a creature as man with all his infirmities about him, and the total removal of those would be altering his nature, and when he became perfect he must cease to be a man.
I have already spent some considerations on the scale of being, of which yet I am obliged to renew the mention whenever a new argument is made to rest upon it; and I must therefore again remark, that consequences cannot have greater certainty than the postulate from which they are drawn, and that no system can be more hypothetical than this, and perhaps no hypothesis more absurd.
He again deceives himself with respect to the perfection with which man is held to be originally vested. That man came perfect, that is, endued with
all possible perfection, out of the hands of his Creator, is a false notion, derived from the philosophers.-The universal system required subordination, and consequently comparative imperfection. That man was ever endued with all possible perfection, that is with all per fection of which the idea is not contradictory of destructive of itself, is undoubtedly false. But it can hardly be called a false notion, because no man ever thought it, nor can it be derived from the phi losophers; for without pretending to guess what philosophers he may mean, it is very safe to affirm, that no philosopher ever said it. Of those who now maintain that man was once perfect, who may very easily be found, let the author enquire whe ther man was ever omniscient, whether he was ever omnipotent, whether he ever had even the lower power of archangels or angels. Their answers will soon inform him, that the supposed perfection of man was not absolute, but respective, that he was perfect in a sense consistent enough with subordination, perfect, not as compared with different beings, but with himself in his present degeneracy; not perfect, as an angel, but perfect as man.
From this perfection, whatever it was, he thinks it necessary that man should be debarred, because pain is necessary to the good of the universe; and the pain of one order of beings extending its salutary influence to innumerable orders above and below, it was necessary that man should suffer; but because it is not suitable to justice that pain should be inflicted on innocence, it was necessary that man should be criminal.
This is given as a satisfactory account of the