« AnteriorContinuar »
Defence, would be an endless, and perhaps an useless Labour. It will be sufficient to form a sew general Classes j to some or other of which all particular Texts may easily be referred: and to consider these distinctly and separately. If this be not sufficient, I presume it will not be owing to the Impropriety of the Methods but to Desects or Mistakes in the Prosecution of it.
Agreeably therefore to the Principles already laid down, I proceed to inquire in what Respects, and on what Accounts, Faith is recommended to us in Scripture ?—Now the different Recommendations, which are given it, may, if I mistake not, be reduced to three, viz. its Excellence, as a Moral Virtue; its Advantage and SufficiEncy, as a Means of Salvation ; and lastly, its Necessity, as a Condition of the GospelCovenant. If I can maintain it in Pofleflion of this threefold Character, I shall not be charged with derogating from the high Encomiums, which are bestowed upon it in Scripture; if I establish all the Parts of this Character on a rational Foundation, I ought not to be accused of deserting Reason; and lastly, if Reason and Scripture are shewn to be both on the same Side, the latter is then compleatly vindicated.
IT has already been admitted that Faith, when considered in itself, I mean abstractedly from its Causes and Consequences, cannot be ranked in the Number of the Virtues. Its Value therefore, in a moral Sense, mufi be derived from something without itself.—But mail we limit the Idea of Moral Excellence, to those Objects which are intrinsically good? Shall no Quality be esteemed praise-worthy, besides those which have an inherent Value ?—If the Conceptions and Language of the Generality of Mankind were strictly just and philosophical, such a Limitation might perhaps take place; and it is
equally equally true, that all Figures of Speech must be utterly banished from Conversation and Writing. For, according to this rigorous Procedure, they are only so many Mijapplitions of Words and Ideas. The Metaphor, upon a very slender Resemblance, shifts and changes the Properties of Things j the Metonymy jumbles Cause and Effect, Subject and Adjunct; the Synecdoche confounds the Whole with its Parts: and so on of all the rest. When these Improprieties are all out os use, it will then be reasonable to confine our Praise to the immediate Objects of Praise; that is, to the Determinations of the Will, But while our ways of speaking continue what they are, 2nd what they always have been; nothing can be more obvious, or more natural, than to transfer the Excellence of the Cause to the Effect, and v. v. that of the Effect to the Cause.—The use of this Figure in moral Subjects is neither less proper, nor less sreguent, than in Subjects of any other kind. So far from it, that a total Disuse of it would overturn at once our whole moral Language. So that whoever denies the Excellence of Faith, on no other Grounds than what I am here opposing; must, on the very same Grounds, deny the Worth of all good Qualities whatever. I fay good Qualities: by which I understand good Affections; good Habits; good Dispositions of Mind. All
these derive their Excellence from the particular Series of good ASlions, by which they are produced, improved, and cultivated: and yet this derivative Excellence is universally esteemed and acknowleged a just Title to Approbation and Praise. Those two great Principles of all Duty, the Lave of God and our Neighbour, are, if considered abstractedly, utterly incapable of moral Worth. For Love is an AfeStion of the Mind; and Assertions arc not Actions. But because these Affections are the Result of some Virtues, and the Foundation of many more; because they are the natural EfeSl, and the probable Mi am of Right ConduBt: they assume to them/l'hes those Praises, to which they generally presuppose, and frequently produce a just Title.—May we not then maintain that Faith is a moral Virtue; if we are able to shew that it springs from the noblest Causes, and is productive of the most valuable Consequences? That it is, in short, the Efeel, and the Ground of Virtue?— Nothing surely will hinder us from applying the fame Figure of Speech in both Cases. But then we shall be forced to acknowlege, what has been too often either denied or overlook'd, that if Faith may accidentally subsist; without these Causes, and those Efeels: such a Faith is, morally speaking, of no Value at all. Just as an innate Benevolence, or a Benevolence accidentally acquired, or a Benevolence