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ood. There are, therefore, as many separate interests in a colf. of selfish beings, as there are individuals; and to each of these interests the individual, whose it is, intends to make those of all others subservient. Of consequence, these interests cannot fail to clash; and the individuals to oppose, and contend with, each other. Hence an unceasing course of hatred, wrath, revenge, and violence, must prevail among beings of this character; of private quarrels, and public wars. All, who oppose this darling interest, are regarded by the individual as his enemies: and thus all naturally become the enemies of all. Where this disposition is in a great measure unrestrained, it makes an individual a tyrant, and a society, a collection of banditti. Where it is wholly unrestrained, it converts Intelligent beings into fiends, and their habitation into hell. . The ruling principle, here, is to gain good from others, and not to communicate it to them. This darling spirit, so cherished by mankind, so active in the present world, so indulged, flattered, and boasted of, by those who possess it, is, instead of being wise and profitable, plainly foolish, shameful, ruinous, and deserving of the most intense reprobation. Notwitstanding all the restraints, laid upon it by the good providence of God; notwithstanding the shortness of life, which prevents us from forming permanent plans, making great acquisitions to ourselves, and producing great mischiefs to others; notwithstanding the weakness, frailty, and fear, which continually attend us; notwitstanding the efficacy of natural affection, the power of conscience and the benevolent influence of Religion on the affairs of mankind; it makes the present world an uncomfortable and melancholy residence; and creates three fourths of the misery, suffered by the race of Adam. All these evils exist, because men are disinclined to do good, or to be voluntarily useful. Were they only disposed to promote each other's happiness, or, in other words, to be useful to each other; the world would become a pleasant and desirable habitation. The calamities, immediately brought upon us by Providence, would be found to be few ; those, induced by men upon themselves and each other, would vanish; and in their place beneficence would spread its innumerable blessings. 3dly. These observations strongly exhibit to us the miserable state of the world of Perdition. In this melancholy region no good is done, nor intended to be done. . No good is therefore . Still, the mind retains its original activity; and is wise and vigorous to do evil, although it has neither knowledge, nor inclination, to do good. Here, all the passions of a selfish spirit are let loose; and riot, and reign, and rayage. Here, therefore, all are enemies. Here, the wretched individual, surveying the vast regions around him, and casting his eyes forward into the immeasurable progress of eternity, sees himself absolutely alone in the midst of millions, in solitude complete and Vol. III. 21
endless. Here, voluntary usefulness is for ever unknown, and unheard of; while selfishness in all its dreadful forms assumes an undisputed, an unresisted, dominion, a terrible despotism; and fills the world around her with rage and wretchedness, with terror and doubt, with desolation and despair.
4thly. How delightful a view do these observations give of Heaven 1
Heaven is the world of voluntary usefulness. The only disposition of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, is to do good; their only employment, to produce happiness. In this employment all the energy of sanctified and perfect minds is exerted without weariness, and without end. How vast, then, how incomprehensible, how endlessly increasing, must be the mass of happiness, brought by their ...} efforts into being! How ample a provision must it be for all the continually expanding wishes, the continually enlarging capacities, of its o inhabitants' How wonderfully, also, must the sum of enjoyment be enhanced to each, when we remember, that he will experience the same delight in the good jo. by others, as in that which is immediately his own! Who would not labour to gain an entrance into such a world as this? Who would not bend all his efforts, exhaust all his powers, encounter any earthly suffering, and resolutely overcome every earthly obstacle, to acquire that divine and delightful character of voluntary usefulness, which makes heaven such a world; which makes it the place of God’s peculiar presence, the means of his o: glory, and the mansion of everlasting life, peace, and joy, to his children?
IN the series of discourses, which I have lately delivered concerning the two great commands of the Moral Law, it has, if I mistake not, been sufficiently shown, that the disposition, required by the Creator of his Intelligent creatures in this law, is Disinterested Love, or the Spirit of doing good. The tendency of this disosition is always to do what is right. It will not, however, folow, that the mind, in which it exists, will be able always to discern the course of conduct, which it ought, upon the whole, to pursue. The disposition may, with absolute correctness, dictate what is absolutely proper to be done in a case, already before the view of the mind; an 3. the mind be wholly ignorant, whether that case, or the conduct in question, is such, as would, upon the whole, be best for it to pursue; or whether superior wisdom would not be able to devise for it other, and much more desirable, courses of action. A child may be perfectly holy; and yet possess too little understanding to know in what way he may best act; in what way he may most promote the glory of God, the good of his fellow-creatures, or the good of himself. His disposition may prompt to that, which is exactly right, in all the conduct, which is within the reach of his understanding. Yet, if he had more comprehensive views, he might discern far more desirable modes of action, in which he might i. much more useful, than in any which he is at present able to devise. He may be able to apply the two fo. commands of the Moral Law, which have been so extensivey considered, with exactPro to all such cases, as are actually within his view ; and yet be utterly unable to devise for himself those kinds of conduct, in which his obedience to these commands might be most profitably employed. What is true of a child, is true, in different degrees, of all Intelligent creatures. God only, as was shown in a former discourse, is able to discern, and to prescribe, the conduct, which, upon the whole, it is proper for such creatures to pursue. He sees from the beginning to the end; and perfectly understands the nature, and the consequences, of all Intelligent action. This knowledge, which he alone possesses, and which is indispensable to this purpose, enables him to accomplish it in a manner absolutely perfect.
What is true, in this respect, of Intelligent creatures universally, is peculiarly true of Sinful creatures. The disposition of sinners leads them, of course, to that conduct, which is wrong and mischievous. They are, therefore, always in o: of erring from mere disposition. Besides, sin renders the mind voluntarily ignorant; and in this manner, also, exposes it continually to error. A great part of all the false opinions, entertained by mankind coneerning their duty, are to be attributed solely to the biasses of a sinful disposition. None are so blind, none so erroneous, as those who are unwilling to see. From a merciful regard to these circumstances, particularly, of mankind, God has been pleased to reveal to them his pleasure, and their duty; to disclose to them all those modes of moral action, all those kinds of moral conduct, in which they may most romote his glory, and their own good. The importance of this evelation is evidenced, in the strongest manner, by the moral situation of that part of the human race, to whom it has never been published. }. not inform you, that they have been wholly ignorant of the true God, and of a great part of the principles and . of the moral system; that they have worshipped men, animals, evil spirits, and gods of gold and silver, of wood and stone. I need not inform you, that they have violated every moral precept, and every dictate of natural affection. I need not inform you, that without Revelation we should have been heathen also : and should, in all probability, have been this day prostrating ourselves before an ox or an ape, or passing children through the fire unto JMoloch. Among the several parts of the Revelation, which has raised our moral condition so greatly above that of the heathen, the Decalogue, is eminently distinguished. The decalogue is a larger summary of our duty, than that which is contained in the two great commands, already considered. The same things, in substance, are required in it; but they are branched out into various important particulars; all of them supremely necessary to be known by ws. To enforce their importance on our minds, God was pleased to utter the several precepts, contained in this summary, with his "own voice; and to write them with his own finger on two tables of stone, fashioned by himself. They were published, also, amid the thunderings and lightnings of Mount Sinai, from the bosom of the cloud, by which it was enveloped, and out of the flame, which ascended from its summit. The four first of the commands, contained in the decalogue, regulate our immediate duty to God; the six last, our duty to men. The former were written on one, properly called the first, table; the latter on another, usually styled #. second, table. Two of these commands, one of the first and one of the second table, are positive, that is, direct injunctions of our duty: the remonong eight are negative, or prohibitory. Both classes, however,
are of exactly the same extent: those, which are positive, forbidding the conduct, which is contrary to what they enjoin; and those, which are negative, requiring that, which is contrary to what they forbid. The first of these commands is the text. The duty, enjoined in it, is of such a nature, that, to a mind governed by the dictates of reason, an express injunction of it would seem in a great measure unnecessary, if not altogether superfluous. So vast is the difference between the real God, and every possible substitute, that sober contemplation would scarcely suspect it to be possible for a man, who is not berest of Reason, to put any other being into his place, even under the influence of the most wandering fancy. How unlike all other beings must He evidently be, who made the heavens and the earth; whose breath kindled the sun and the stars; and whose hand rolls the planets through immensity . How infinitely superior does he obviously appear to every thing, which he has made; and how infinitely remote from any rival, or any second Still, experience has amply testified, that mankind have, almost without ceasing, substituted other Gods for Jehovah. Nay, it has clearly evinced, not only that we need to be taught the duty, required by him in the text, but that no precepts, no instructions, and no motives, have been sufficient to keep the world in obedience to this first and greatest law of moral conduct. Nothing, indeed, has so strongly evinced the madness of the human heart, as the conduct, which it has exhibited towards the Creator ; and the idolatry, which it has rendered to a vast multitude of the works of his hands. The word, gods, in this passage, may be regarded as denoting not only the various objects of religious worship, but also all the objects of supreme regard, affection, or esteem. The command, it will be observed, is expressed in the absolute, or universal, manner, and may be fairly considered as including every thing, to which ...} render, or can be supposed to render, such regard. The phrase, before me, is equivalent to the expressions, in my sight, in my presence; and teach us that no such gods are to be admitted within the omnipresence, or within the view of the omniscience, of Jehovah. With these explanations, it will be easily seen, that the text indispensably requires us to acknowledge the real God as our God; and forbids us to regard any other being in this character. To acknowledge Jehovah as our God is to love him supremely, to fear before him with all the heart, and to serve him throughout all our days; in absolute preference to every other being. In this manner we testify, that we esteem him infinitely more excellent, venerable, and deserving of our obedience, than all other beings. After the observations, which I have heretofore made concerning these subjects, it will be unnecessary to expatiate on them at the present time. I shall only observe, therefore, that this is the