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they are exhibited as restored to reason, to sobriety, to intellectual dignity and usefulness, and as introduced again to the society, converse, and esteem, of rational beings. Originally, they are prisoners to sin and Satan, the victims of turpitude, and the sport of fiends: , yet they are prisoners of hope. In their renovation they have heard liberty proclaimed to the captive, and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound; and, at the sound of these glad tidings, they have shaken off their chains, and escaped from their dungeon into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God. In their present state; they are pronounced to be dead, and fallen together in one great valley of the shadow of death; the appointed and immense receptacle of departed men; where their |. are dispersed over the waste; dried, whitened, and returning to their original dust. A voice from heaven, resounding through the regions of this immense catacomb, commands the scattere fragments to assemble from the four corners of heaven; to re-unite in their proper places; and to constitute anew the forms of men. A noise, a shaking, a rustling, is heard over the vast Golgotha ; a eneral commotion begins; and, moved by an instinctive power, É. seeks its kindred bone; the sinews and flesh spontaneously arise, and cover the naked form; and the Spirit of life breathes with one divine and universal .."; on the unnumbered multitude. Inspired thus with breath, and life, the great host of mankind instinctively rise, and stand on their feet, and live again with immortal life. #. great world of death is filled with animated beings; and throughout its amazing regions, those who were dead are alive again, and those who were lost to the creation are found. This resurrection is no other, than a resurrection to spiritual life; no other, than an assumption of this new and heavenly character. This character, this disposition, will constitute the sum, and the glory, of the Millennial state, and the foundation of all its blessings. %. the heavens shall drop down dew from above, the skies pour down righteousness, and the earth open, and bring forth salvation; all the external good, all the splendour and distinction, of that happy period, will follow as things of course; as consequences, w .. in the divine system, Virtue draws in its train. The Lord of hosts will, therefore, make for all nations, a feast offat things, a feast of wines on the lees well refined. The Lord of hosts will swallow up death in victory; and will wipe away the tears from all faces; and will take away the reproach of his people from all the earth. He will lay the stones of Zion with fair colours, and her foundations with .#. ; will make her windows of agates, her gates of carbuncles, and all her borders of pleasant stones. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The LAW OF GOD.—THE SECOND GREAT COMMANDMENT.-UTILiTY THE FOUNDATION OF WIRTUE.
Acts xx. 35.-1 have shewed you all things, how that so labouring, ye ought to support the weak; and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is
more blessed to give, than to receive.
IN my two last discourses, I endeavoured to show by a variet of arguments, that a disposition voluntarily employed in doing . is productive of more Personal and Public happiness, than any other can be. In those discourses, and in several preceding ones, it has, if I mistake not, been sufficiently proved, that the same disposition in the Creator and his intelligent creatures is the source not only of more happiness to the Creation at large, than any other, i. of all the o which has existed or will ever eX1St. Virtue, or Moral Excellence, is an object of such high import, as to have engaged, in every enlightened country, and period, the deepest attention of mankind. It has, of course, been the subject of the most laborious investigations, and of very numerous discussions. Inquisitive men have asked with no small anxiety, “What is Virtue 7” “What is its nature ?” “What is its excellence 2'' And, “What is the foundation, on which this excellence rests " To these questions, widely different and directly opposite answers have been given. In modern times, and in this as well as other countries, much debate has existed concerning the Foundation of Virtue. It has been said to be founded in the Nature of things ; in the Reason of things ; in the Fitness of things ; in the Will of God; and in Utility. My intention in this discourse is to examine the nature of this subject. The phrase, the foundation of Virtue, has been very differently understood by different writers. Indeed, the word, foundation, in this case seems to be a defective one; as being ambiguous; and, therefore, exposed to different interpretations. When Virtue is said to be founded in the Will of God, or in Utility, some writers appear to intend by this phraseology, that the Will of God, or Utility, is the Rule, Measure, or Directory, of virtuous conduct. Others evidently intend, that one, or the other, of these things, is what constitutes it virtue; makes it valuable, excellent, lovely, praiseworthy, and rewardable. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary for me to observe, antecedently to entering on this discussion, that I use the
phrase in the sense last mentioned; and intend, by the Foundation of Virtue, that which constitutes its value and excellence. It is necessary, also, to premise further, that by the word, Utility, I mean a Tendency to produce Huppiness. Having premised these things, I shall endeavour, in the following discourse, to support this Doctrine : that Virtue is roundEd IN Utility. The Text is a general and indirect declaration of this doctrine. The word, o is sometimes used to denote a state, happy in itself; and sometimes a state, made happy, or blessed, by }. • To give, in the sense of the text, is voluntarily to communicate happiness; or, in other words, to be voluntarily useful. As we are in fact made happy, by God, whenever we are happy; it is evident, that those ...}beings, who are most happy, being made so by Him as a reward of their character and conduct, and not merely by the nature of that character and conduct, are most approved by him. That, which is most approved by God, is in itself most excellent. But the text informs us, that voluntary usefulness is most approved by God, because it is peculiarly blessed by him; and is, therefore, the highest excellence. A man may be virtuous in receiving good at the hands of his fellow-creatures. But his virtue will consist only in the disposition, with which he receives it: his gratitude; his desire to glorisy God; and his wishes to requite, whenever it shall be in his power, his created benefactors. This is being useful in the only way, which the situation, here supposed, allows; and the only thing which is virtuous, or excellent, in the mere state of receiving good. To give, or communicate good, is a nobler, and more excellent state of being, than that of ...; good can be ; because the fo. is ...} the originator o '''. In this conduct he resembles God himself, the Giver of all good, in that characteristic, which is the peculiar excellence and glory of his nature. Accordingly God loves, and for this reason blesses, him, in a preeminent degree. The proof of his superior excellence is complete in the fact, that he is peculiarly blessed: for these peculiar blessings, which he receives, are indubitable evidence of the peculiar favour of God; and the peculiar favour of God is equal evidence of peculiar excellence in him, who is thus blessed. But the only excellence, here alleged, or supposed, by Christ, is the spirit of doing good; or, in other words, the spirit of voluntary usefulness. In this spirit, then, Virtue or moral excellence consists; and the only excellence, here supposed, is of course founded in Utility. #. the evidence, furnished by the text, both Reason and Revelation add ample confirmation. This, I trust, will sufficiently appear in the course of the following Observations. 1st. Virtue is not founded in the Will of God. Those who hold the doctrine, which I have here denied, may have been led, unwittingly, to adopt it from an apprehension, that they could not ascribe too much to God. This apprehension is, without doubt, generally just ; yet it is not just in the absolute sense. There is neither irreverence, nor mistake, in saying, that Omnipotence cannot create that, which will be self-contradictory; make two and two five ; nor recall the existence of a past event; because these things would be impossible in their own nature. In the same manner, to ascribe to God that, which is not done by him, though the ascription may flow from reverence to his character, is not yet dictated by reverence. That, which God in fact does, is more honourable to him, than any thing else can be; and no error can in its nature be reverential towards God, or required by him of his creatures.
The Doctrine, that Virtue is founded in the will of God, supposes, that that, which is now virtue, became such, became excellent, valuable, praiseworthy, and rewardable, because God willed it to be so; and, had he not willed it to be so, it would not have been virtue. Of course, if we were to suppose Intelligent beings created, and left, without any law, to choose their conduct; or, if we were to sup
ose the universe to exist, just as it now exists, and exist thus either
y chance, or necessity; that, which is now virtuous, excellent, and praiseworthy, would at the utmost possess a nature merely indifferent; and, although all other beings remained just as they now are, would cease to be excellent, lovely, and deserving of approbation. According to the same scheme also, that, which is now sinful, or vicious, would cease to be of this nature; and no longer merit hatred, blame, or punishment. In plainer language, veracity and lying, honesty and fraud, justice and oppression, kindness and §y. although exactly the same things which they now are, and although producing exactly the same effects, would no more possess their present, opposite moral character; but would equally deserve our love and approbation, or our hatred and disesteem. If virtue and vice are such, only because God willed them to be such ; if virtue is excellent, and vice worthless, only because he willed them to be so; then vice in itself is just as excellent as virtue, and virtue just as worthless as vice. Let me ask, Can any man believe this to be true !
Further, the supposition, that virtue is founded in the will of God, implies, that God willed virtue to be excellent without any reason. If virtue and vice had, originally, or as they were seen by the eye of God, no moral difference in their nature; then there was plainly no reason, why God should prefer, or why he actually preferred, one of them to the other. There was, for example, no reason, why he chose, and required, that Intelligent creatures should love him, and each other, rather than that they should hate him, and hate each other. In choosing, and requiring, that they should exercise this love, God acted, therefore, without any motive .*. Certainly, no sober man will attribute this conduct to God.
This supposition, also, is inconsistent with the Omniscience of God. Every thing which exists, or which will ever exist, was, antecedently to its existence, or in other words, eternally and immutably, present to the divine mind. In the same manner, all other, ossible things, that is, things which God could have created if he ad pleased, were also present to his view. Every man knows, that a vast multitude of such things are successively present to his own imagination; and that he can think of new worlds, new beings to inhabit them, and new furniture to replenish them. But, unquestionably, God knows all things which are known by his creatures, and infinitely more. When created things were thus present to his eye, o, to their existence, they were exactly the same things in his view, which they afterwards were, when they began to exist; had exactly the same natures; sustained exactly the same relations; and were just as good, indifferent, or evil, just as excellent or worthless, as amiable or hateful, as commendable or blameworthy, as rewardable or punishable, as they afterwards were in fact. This may be illustrated by a familiar example. Most persons have read more or less of those fictitious histories, which are called novels; and every person knows, that the several actors, exhibited in them, never had any real existence. Yet every one knows equally well, that the characters, which they severally sustain, are as really good or evil, lovely or hateful, praiseworthy or blameable, as the same characters of the same persons would be, had they all been living men and women. It is, therefore, unanswerably evident, that moral characters,when merely seen in contemplation, are, independently of their actual existence in living beings, and therefore before they have existed in such beings, as well as when they never exist at all in this manner, good or evil to the eye of the mind. Of course, they are good or evil in their own nature. Of course, they were seen to be good or evil by the Omniscience of God. It is, therefore, inconsistent with the doctrine, that God is omniscient, to say, that virtue is founded in the will of God. Again; The scheme, which I am controverting, not only involves in it, that mankind, with all their impiety, injustice, cruelty, oppression, wars, and butcheries, are in their nature equall o, and excellent, as Angels, with all their truth and benevolence; but also, that the character of Fiends is in itself, and independently of the fact, that God chose it should be otherwise, just as lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy, as that of Angels. If, then, God had willed the character, which Satan adopted, and sustains, to be moral excellence, and that, which Gabriel sustains, to be moral worthlessness; these two beings, continuing in every other respect the same, would have interchanged their characters. , Satan would have become entirely lovely, and Gabriel entirely detestable. Must not he, who can believe this doctrine, as easily believe, that if God had willed it, two and two would have become five * Vol. III. 20