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Dispositions themselves. To this they are led, not by observing a like Use of it in profane Writers; but from considering that this figurative Interpretation will, in many Places, be more natural, and more suitable to the Context.—Others again have extended the Signification of the Word, so as to take in Obedience to the Laws of the Gospel; which appears to me to be no otherwise included in Faith, than as every Effect is virtually included in it's Cause. And this too is a Sense only to be justified upon the same Grounds with the preceding. Such a Latitude in interpreting Scripture is not, I think, to be admitted without NeceJJity. But if any of my Readers chuse to enlarge the Signification of the Word, rather than deny the intrinsic Excellence of the Thing; I believe it will be found that there is no real Difference between their Notion and mine. They acknowlege, with me, that bare Asjent is and must be a worthless Thing. They join with me in ascribing the sole Merit to those virtuous Actions, which either precede Assent, or follow after it. And lastly they agree that all the Praises contained in the sacred Writings, were bestowed on the very fame Grounds.—Whether a figurative Sense is to be ascribed to the Word Faith, or whether the Praises themselves are to be taken figuratively, is a Thing of no Consequence at all.
SECT. SECT. II.
WE are taught in Scripture, that the whole Race of Mankind will finally be divided into two Classes; the one to be doomed to everlasting Punishment, the other to be made Heirs of eternal Life. The Words Damnation and Salvation, are commonly used to express these two contrary States: for as Condemnation infers Punishment; so a Release from Punishment, which is the proper Idea of Salvation, draws after it, by divine Appointment, a Participation of endless Happi?iejs. We are not allowed to suppose an intermediate State. Such a Supposition would offer the greatest Violence, not only to particular Passages, but to the whole Tenour of the Gospel.— By Salvation then, in general, is only to be understood a State of future and perpetual Bliss; and whatever procures us Admission to such a State, is properly a Means of Salvation.
But the fame Scriptures have also assured us, Reason itself bearing them Witness, that the Happiness to be enjoyed in a Future State admits of great and endless Variety. The House of God contains many Mansions, suited to the different Capacities, and the different Merits of their respective Inhabitants. On this Account Salvation is an indeterminate Thing; involving in itself all Degrees of Bliss, from the highest to the lowest, which are within the Reach of any Part of Mankind: and whatever procures us a higher Station in the World to come, whatever conduces to the Improvement of our Prospects beyond the Grave, may justly be considered as a Means of Salvation.
That the Faith of a Christian is in an eminent Degree productive of these valuable Effects, and, in some Sense, sufficient for their Production, it is my present Business to maintain and prove. S
Our first Inquiry then will be, Whether a Belief of the Doctrine: of Christianity conduces to the Security of our Future Happiness? whether such a Belief renders it more probable, that Jome Place will be allotted us in the Kingdom of God ?—Before we can settle this Point, we must first be determined by what Rule Men's final State, either of Happiness or Misery, will be fixed and ascertained at the last Day? Not that the Inquiry before us will require a particular Determination. It is sufficient for our Purpose, if we can resolve this single Question, Whether our Condition in the other World depends solely on our Conduct in this? whether any Thing else, befides * Moral Improvements can give us a Claim to Everlasting Life ?—Now this Question we may surely answer without the least Hesitation. That we shall be judged by our Works, and our Works only, is the uniform Voice both of Scripture and Reajon. I do not fay that eternal Life is purely the Result of our own Merit: I only affirm that good Works are the sole Condition, the necessary Qualification; without which that Gist of God cannot possibly be bestowed, and with which it will not be refused.
It would be deviating too far from my present Purpose to enter into a Detail of the Proofs on this Head. Especially as the Truth of my Assertion is not likely to be called in
* Some Readers may perhaps want to be reminded that .Christian Morality isa very different Thing from Social Virtue. It does indeed include that in a very high Degree: bur it also extends lo all Out Natural Obligations, whether respecting the Deity or our/elves. Not only so, but it comp.ehcnds a Variety of new Duties, discovered to us by the Light of Revelation. Whatever our Reajon, as improved by Christianity, recommends to our Choice, mult certainly be esteemed a Part of Morality. For, I presume, this Word signifie? a right Conduct of our Actions, not in one Respect, but in all.—When therefore I speak of Virtue, Moral Duty, Sec. I would always be understood to take in a Desire and Endeavour to inform our selves rightly concerning the Revealed Will of God; a Compliance with the Positive Institutions of the Gospel; and, in sliort, an unlimited Obedience to the Lanxs of Christ. Whoever allows, what, I think, no Christian denies i that a Legistative Authority was committed to our Saviour by God him/els, and yet niil/ully disobeys him in any Particular, is certainly guilty of an immoral Action. To fay otheiwise would be to make Rebellion against the Governor of the World no Breach of Morality.
Question by those Persons with whom I mean to contend. Let me therefore, for the Sake of Brevity, be allowed to suppose, without Proof, That the Judge of the World is a just Judge. That one essential Part of Justice is a right Distribution of Happiness and Misery; and lastly, That distributive Justice regards solely the Moral Worth of the Objects with which it is concerned.—These are Principles drawn from other Sciences Principles of Morality and Natural Religion: and, as such, have a Right to be admitted, without further Evidence.
This Foundation being once laid, we shall have a firm and immoveable Support for the Notion we are endeavouring to establish. For it seems, according to this Notion, that Means of Salvation and Means of Virtue are, in Efsect, one and the fame Thing j these two being inseparably conneSted. The Question then is reduced within narrower Bounds, and exposed more distinctly to our View.—It is, in short, only this, What Connection between Faith and Morality? between Belief and Practice? between embracing the Religion, and obeying the Laws of our Redeemer? Whatever Degree of Persection in Virtue is made requisite to our AdmiJJion into Heaven, is that Degree more likely to be obtained by an Infidel or a Christian f If the latter, it follows that the Knowlege of the Doctrines of