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however, the character of God, as a wife superintendant, and generous benefactor, with the state in which things at present appear, where virtue is often depressed and afflicted , and vice apparently triumphs, it will be treated with the infamy it merits, and virtue receive that happiness and honor, which from its own intrinsic worth, it deserves, and, from its conformity to the nature of God, it has reason to expect.
This subject, perhaps, has been too much exaggerated, and some pious men have weakly thought, the best way to convince us that order and happiness prevailed in a future state, was to persuade us that there was none at all in this. External advantages have been taken for the only goods of human nature; and, because, in this view, all things speak the appearance of mal-administration, we have been taught to expect a government of rectitude and benevolence hereafter. Let us , on the contrary, candidly own that virtue is sovereignly and solely good , lest, by depreciating her charms, we obliquely detract from the character of God himself. Let us confess her undowered excellence superior to all the inconveniences that may attend her, even in the present situation. But, without allowing some difference between poverty and riches, sickness and health, pain and pleasure, &c. we shall have no foundation to preference; and it will be in vain to talk of selecting where no one cho ce can be more agreeable or disagreeable to nature than, another. Upon this difference, therefore, however it be called, let the present argument proceed.
If infinite Goodness be the spirit and characteristic of this universal government, then every advantage, however inconsiderable in kind or degree, must either be supposed immediately bestowed on virtue; or, at least,that such retributions will, at some time, be made her, as may not only render her votaries equal, but superior to those of vice, in proportion to their merit. But how different the case is in human life, history and observation may easily convince us; so that one, whose eyes are not intent on the character of God, and the nature of virtue, would often be tempted to think this world a theatre merely intended for mournful spectacles and jjomps of horror. How many persons do we see perish by the mere wants of nature, who, had they been in different circumstances, would have thanked God with tears of joy for the power of communicating those advantages they now implore from others in vain? While, at the fame time, they have, perhaps, the additional misery of seeing the most endeared relations involved in the fame deplorable fate! How often do we see those ties which unite the soul and body, worn out by the gradual advances of a lingering disease, or burst at once by the sudden efforts of unutterable agony? While the unhappy sufferers, had they been continued in life, might have diffused happiness, not only through the narrow circle of their friends and neighbourhood, but as extensively as their country, and even the world at large. How many names do we see buried in obscurity, or soiled with detraction, which ought to have shone the first in fame? How many heroes have survived the liberties of their country, or died in abortive attempts to preserve them ;- and by their fall, only left a larger field for the lawless ravages of tyranny and oppression? But were it possible, how long and insuperable would be the task to enumerate all the ingredients which compose the present cup of bitterness? And is this the consummation of things? Will supreme and essential Goodness no way distinguish such as have invariably pursued his honor, and the interest of his government, from those who have industriousty violated the order he has appointed in things? who have blotted the face of nature with havock, murder, and desolation; and shown a constant intention to counteract all the benevolent designs of Providence? It is confessed that the virtuous, happy in the possession of virtue alone, make their exit from the present scene with blessings to their Creator, for having called them to existence, and given them the glorious opportunity of enjoying what is in itself supremely eligible. They are conscious that this felicity can receive no accession from any external lustre or advantage whatever. Yet it seems highly necessary in the divine administration, that those who have been dazzled with the false glare of prosperous wickedness, should at last be undeceived; that they should at last behold virtue conspicuous, in all her native splendor and majesty as she shines, the chief delight of God, and ultimate happiness of all-intelligent nature. ;'
The language of religion, and our own hearts,. on this important argument, is equally comfortable and decisive. It accumulates and enforces whatever can inspire us with confidence in that God, who is not the God of the dead, but of the living; who reigns in the invisible, as well as in the visible world; and whose attention to our Welfare cease; not with our lives, but is commensurate to the full extent of our being. Indeed the votaries of the foul's mortality may as well be honest for once, and speak out what so many fools think in their hearts.. For what is God to us, or we to him., if our connexion extends but to the pitiful space allotted us in such a pitiful world as this is? To be sure, no absurdity will be rejected, which can smother the feelings, or keep the vices of profligates in countenance; but, if only made like worms and reptiles beneath our feet, to live this moment, and expire the next, to struggle in a wretched life with every internal and external calamity, that can assault our bodies or infest our minds; to bear the moitificntions of malignity, and the unmerited abhorrence of those who perhaps may owe us the greatest and tenderest esteem, and then, funk in everlasting oblivion, our fate would stand on record, in the annals of the universe, an eternal exception to all that can be called good. *
Suppose a father possessed of the most exquisite tenderness for his son, delighted with his similarity of form, his promising constitution, his strength, gracefulness, and agility, his undisguised emotions of filial affection, with the various presages of a superior genius and understanding. Let us suppose this father pleased with the employment of improving his faculties, and inspiring him with future hopes of happiness and dignity: butthat he may give him a quicker sensibility to the misfortunes of others, and a more unshaken fortitude to sustain his own, he often prefers younger brethren, and even strangers, to those advantages which otherwise merit,. and the force of nature would determine him to bestow on so worthy an offspring. Let us go further, and imagine, if we can, that this father, without the least diminution of tenderness, or any other apparent reason , destroys his son in the bloom of life, and height of expectation: Who would not lament the fate of such a youth with inconsolable tears? Doomed never more to behold the agreeable light of Heaven ! never more to display his personal graces, nor exercise his manly powers ; never more to feel his heart warm with benevolent regards, nor taste the foul-transporting pleasure of obliging and being obliged ! Blotted at once from existence, and the fair creation, he sinks into silence and oblivion, with all his sublime hopes disappointed, all his immense desires ungratified, and all his intellectual faculties unimproved. Without mentioning the instihctiv'e'hotror which must attend such an action, how absurd to reason, and how inconsistent with the common feelings of humanity, would it be to suppose a father capable of such a deed. Forbid it, God! forbid it, Nature! that we should impute to the munificent Father of being and happiness, what even in the lowest of rational creatures, would be monstrous and detestable!
( s) The truth is , that form which all mankind have deemed immortal, is so far from being the frailest, that it seems in fact the most indissoluble and permanent of any other we know. All the rational and inventive powers of the mind happily conspire to proclaim her infinitely different in nature, and superior in dignity to every possible modification of pure matter. Were mankind joined in society, was life polished and cultivated, were the sciences and arts, not only of utility, but elegance, produced by matter ? by brute mass? A substance so contrary to all activity , and intelligence, that it seems the work of an omnipotent hand alone to connect them. What judgment should we form of that principle which informed and enlightened a Galileo, a Copernicus, or a Newton ? What inspiration taught them, to place the sun in the centre of this system, and assign the various orbs their revolutions round him, reducing motions so diverse and unequal to uniform and simple laws? Was it not something like that great eternal mind which first gave existence to those -luminous orbs, and prescribed each of them their province? Whence the infinite harmony and variety of sound , the copious flows of eloquence, the bolder graces and more inspired elevations of poetry, but from a mind, an immaterial being, the; reflected image of her ail-perfect Creator, in whom eternally dwells all beauty and excellence. Were man only endowed with a principle of vegetation , fixed to one peculiar spot, mid