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“ tioners, shall inherit the kingdom of “ heaven*."
Those texts of Scripture, which seem to lean a contrary way, as that “ charity shall " cover the multitude of sinst;" that “ he “ which converteth a sinner from the error
of his way, shall hide a multitude of “ sinst;" cannot, I think, for the reasons above mentioned, be extended to sins de liberately, habitually, and obstinately pero
3. That a state of mere unprofitableness will not go unpunished.
This is expressly laid down by Christ, in the parable of the talents, which supersedes all farther reasoning upon the subject. 6. Then he which had received one talent, 6 came and said, Lord, I knew thee that “ thou art an austere man, reaping where " thou hast not sown, and gathering where “ thou hast not strawed; and I was afraid, “ and hid thy talent in the earth ; lo, there * thou hast that is thine. His lord an“ swered and said unto him, Thou wicked “ and słothful servant, thou knewest (or, “ knewest thou?) that I reap where I sowed
* 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10.
+ 1 Pet, iv. $.
James v, 20. “ not, and gather where I have not strawed; so thou oughtest therefore to have put my “ money to the exchangers, and then at “ my coming I should have received mine “ own with usury. Take therefore the ta“ lent from him, and give it unto him which “ hath ten talents : for unto every one that “ hath shall be given, and he shall have “ abundance; but from him that hath not, “ shall be taken away even that which he “ hath : and cast ye the unprofitable servant 6 into outer darkness, there shall be weeping “ and gnashing of teeth*.”
III. In every question of conduct, where one side is doubtful, and the other side safe; we are bound to take the safe side.
This is best explained by an instance; and I know of none more to our purpose than that of suicide. Suppose, for example's sake, that it appear doubtful to a reasoner upon the subject, whether he may lawfully destroy himself. He can have no doubt, that it is lawful for him to let it alone. Here therefore is a case, in which one side is doubtful, and the other side safe. By virtue therefore of our rule, he is bound to
* Matt. xxv. 24, &c.
pursue the safe side, that is, to forbear from offering violence to himself, whilst a doubt remains upon his mind concerning the lawfulness of suicide.
It is prudent, you allow, to take the safe side. But our observation means something more. We assert that the action concerning which we doubt, whatever it may be in itself, or to another, would, in us, whilst this doubt remains upon our minds, be certainly sinful. The case is expressly so adjudged by Saint Paul, with whose authority we will for the present rest contented.—“ I know and am persuaded “ by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing “ unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth “ any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. " —Happy is he that condemneth not him“ self in that thing which he alloweth; and “ he that doubteth, is damned (condemned) 66 if he eat, for whatsoever is not of faith “ (i. e. not done with a full persuasion of “ the lawfulness of it) is sin*.”
* Rom. xiv. 14, 22, 23.
THE QUESTION, WHY AM I OBLIGED TO KEEP MY
Why am I obliged to keep my word ?
Because it is right, says one.-Because it is agreeable to the fitness of things, says another. Because it is conformable to reason and nature, says a third.-Because it is conformable to truth, says a fourth.-Because it promotes the public good, says a fifth.-Because it is required by the will of God, concludes a sixth.
Upon which different accounts, two things are observable:
First, that they all ultimately coincide.
The fitness of things, means their fitness to produce happiness: the nature of things, means that actual constitution of the world, by which some things, as such and such
actions, for example, produce happiness, and others misery: reason, is the principle, by which we discover or judge of this constitution : truth, is this judgement expressed or drawn out into propositions. So that it necessarily comes to pass, that what promotes the public happiness, or happiness on the whole, is agreeable to the fitness of things, to nature, to reason, and to truth: and such (as will appear by and by) is the Divine character, that what promotes the general happiness, is required by the will of God; and what has all the above properties, must needs be right; for, right means no more than conformity to the rule we go by, whatever that rule be.
And this is the reason that moralists, from whatever different principles they set out, commonly meet in their conclusions ; that is, they enjoin the same conduct, prescribe the same rules of duty, and, with a few exceptions, deliver upon dubious cases the same determinations.
SECONDLY, it is to be observed, that these answers all leave the matter short; for, the inquirer may turn round upon his teacher with a second question, in which he will expect to be satisfied, namely, Why