Obrazy na stronie

cides with him in promoting the great end of all his works ; viz. the happiness of his immense kingdom. But it is plain, that this voluntary coincidence of his Intelligent creatures he must necessarily approve, and love: such approbation and love being, in every such case, inseparable from an Intelligent nature. All beings, and God as truly as any other, love, of course, a voluntary coincidence with their favourite designs; and necessarily approve of it also, whenever the designs themselves receive their approbation.

Finally; it is the only amiable disposition. There is nothing amiable, beside the voluntary promotion of happiness, and those minds which voluntarily promote it. But benevolence is the only disposition, and the minds in which it exists are the only beings, by which happiness is voluntarily promoted. These, therefore, are not only amiable, but the only things in the universe, which are amiable in any serious degree.

But to suppose, that God has not created such beings in the universe, as he can approve and love ; such beings, as voluntarily become the instruments of his glory; such beings, as in their nature and efforts show, incomparably more than all others, his wisdom and goodness, as the Creator of all things; is an absurdity, too monstrous to be admitted by a sober man.

I shall only add to the proofs, already alleged, that the existence of this disposition is unanswerably evinced by facts; partly disclosed by Revelation, and partly obvious to Reason.

God, as was shown in a former discourse, is infinitely benevolent, and wholly disinterested. Christ has also been proved to sustain the same character. That the same mind was in the Apostles, which was also in Christ, cannot be disputed; nor can it reasonably be disputed, that it is possessed by every good man, and is that which constitutes the excellence of his character.

REMARKS. 1st. If these things be true ; it is manifest, that Evangelical Religion is a very different thing from what it has been very frequently supposed.

Evangelical Benevolence is the sum and substance of Evangelical religion; that, which, entering into Faith and Repentance, renders them excellent and lovely in the sight of God. It has its seat in the heart only; and not in external conduct, nor in the understanding. It is, therefore, totally different from all the external worship, and the external actions, sometimes termed moral, of the superstitious or merely moral man; from the rhapsodies, visions, and pretended revelations of the enthusiast; and from the speculative faith, and the enlarged understanding, of the mere philosopher.

2dly. From these observations, also, it is evident, that the Religion of the Bible is as noble, as divine, as could be expected in a Revelation from God.


The disposition, required of mankind by their Creator, as the amount of all that, which he chooses them to be, must be supposed to accord, in some good measure, with the excellence and dignity of his own nature. If, therefore, in a book, professing to be a Revelation froin him, we should find the contrary character ; viz. one, which was chiefly uscless, and destitute of dignity and worth ; demanded, as the sum of human duty; this fact would greatly weaken, nay, it would wholly destroy, its pretensions to be a Revelation from God. But, if the character, required in such a book, should be wholly pure, noble, and excellent; should this book be, at the same time, the only one, which either disclosed, or required, such a character; and should every thing, contained in it, perfectly accord with the requisition; strong presumption would be furnished in this manner, that it was indeed a revelation from God. Such is the character, required in the Scriptures.

3dly. How desirable is that Change of heart, to which this disposition in man owes its existence.

Who, with calm and just consideration of this subject, would not rejoice to be delivered from a narrow-minded, partial, bigoted, envious, proud, avaricious, malignant temper; and to become the subject of a benevolent, sincere, disinterested, pious, and expansive disposition, inclined to all good, and effectually prepared to love and promote, as well as to enjoy, it ? a disposition, the same with that of the general assembly of the first bom; the same with that of angels; the same with that of Christ; the same with that of God? All real and enduring good commences within the soul. This disposition is itself that commencement; the beginning of all noble pursuits, and dignified enjoyments; the means of ensuring peace and joy, within and without; of securing the love of all virtuous and excellent beings, and of gaining the favour and complacency of God. It fits us to live eternally; eternally to do good to our fellow-creatures; to improve and benefit ourselves; and to glorify our Maker and Redeemer, for ever. Eternal life, beauty, and happiness, in itself; it is the source of all other happiness, and peculiarly of the happiness and glory of heaven.

4thly. How manifest is the Wisdom of God in effectuating, and requiring, this excellent disposition.

Benevolence is to the Intelligent universe what Attraction is to the material one : the power which holds the parts together, and unites them in one immense and incomprehensible system. In accomplishing this end, it first forms them of such a character, as renders them capable of this union; a spirit expansive, harmonious, discerning the universal good, and delighting in it with complacency supreme and eternal. Each member of this great kingdom it attaches to each; and all to God. Eachit prepares to under, stand, and to love, his own place, allotments, and enjoyments; and to be equally satisfied with the stations, and circumstances, of others. These, universally, he knows, are determined by Wisdom,

which cannot err, and by Benevolence, which cannot injure, in such á manner, as most perfectly to accomplish the supreme good of each, and of all. This good he prefers to every other: in this he unceasingly rejoices; to the accomplishment of this he consecrates all his powers. Whatever coincides with it he approves : whatever voluntarily promotes it he loves. To every such being be is bound by this great bond of perfection ; perfectly binding together all perféct beings.

God, at the head of this amazing kingdom, he sees labouring with infinite power and goodness to accomplish this mighty purpose; and rejoices, that these perfections ensure its certain accomplishment. His virtuous creatures, also, he beholds honourably and delightfully employed, as voluntary agents and instruments, in the same exalted design. To love, and do, this is equally his glory, and their excellence and beauty. To both, therefore, he is inseparably and eternally united, with an attachment, which nothing can sunder; nothing weaken; by bands, which improve and strengthen for ever.

This divine union includes, alike, every member of the great system of Virtue. In Jehovah, it unites him with infinite attachment to his children. In them, it unites all, as one vast family, to him, with an attachment occupying all the faculties of the soul.' He is the Sun, they the worlds and systems, which with perfect harmony move around him; attracting and being attracted; enlightened and reflecting light; enjoying and being enjoyed. With a perpetual emanation, his glory informs, pervades, and animates, the whole : while the respective stars, differing indeed from each other, are yét all really glorious ; and shine with immortal beauty, and lustre.

This system of good, Selfishness aims, and attempts, to destroy: The atoms, which, when joined together, formed worlds and systems of usefulness and beauty, it finally separates by annihilating the attracting influence, which held them together. No longer drawn to their great Centre, no longer united to each other, they recede continually from God, and light and good, and from all future connexion with the Intelligent universe. The soul ceases from its union to its Maker, and becomes a stranger to its fellow-creatures. Deserting voluntarily all social beings, and by all deserted, it is henceforth alone, separated, and solitary, in the universe ; a wanderer beyond the limits of the virtuous creation ; moves only to disorder, and operates only to mischief : a dishonour henceforth to its Creator, and a nuisance to his Intelligent kingdom.

How infinitely important is it, then, that this glorious principle of Love should exist; that it should be effectuated by God; and that it should be required by the solemn authority, the supreme sanctions, of that Law, by which, throughout immensity and eternity, he governs the universe of virtuous beings.




1 TIMOTHY v. 8.—But if any provide not for his own, especially for those of his own

house ; he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

i we

In the last discourse, I attempted to explain the Nature, and to prove the Existence, of disinterested Love." To this doctrine there have been many Objections; as there have also been to every other peculiar doctrine of the Scriptures. It is now my design to consider some of the principal.

None of these objections is more frequently made, or made with stronger appearances of confidence, than the following: that if we are required to love others as ourselves, we are, of course, required also to do as much for them, as for ourseltes ; to make the same provision for their wants, and to take the same effectual care of their concerns. “The Scriptures," say the objectors, “ inform us, that

, love, existing merely in word and in tongue, is not the love, which they require, nor at all the object of their approbation ; that, as it is productive of no real good to others, it is clearly of no value. The love, which they require, is that, which exists indeed, and in truth; which, being the source of solid good, is necessarily the object of rational esteem. If, then, we are required to love are, of course, required to perform the actions which flow from love, and which prove its reality, and sincerity. If, therefore, we are required to love in any given degree; we are required also to perform the actions, which flow from it, in that degree. If we are to love others as ourselves; we are bound to do for them the same things, which we are bound to do for ourselves."

I can easily suppose this objection to be made with soberness and conviction. The reasoning, by which it is supported, has a fair appearance ; and cannot be denied to be specious. It deserves, therefore, a sober consideration, and a rational answer. Such an answer I will endeavour to give; and will attempt to show, that the conclusion, drawn from this reasoning by the objector, is disproved by the very principles, on which it is founded ; by the very nature of disinterested love, when considered in connexion with the circumstances of the present world. To this end, I observe,

1. That, whenever the conduct proposed is physically impossible, it cannot be our duty.

This assertion will be denied by no man. It can no more be denied, that it excludes from our active beneficence a very great proportion of the human race; viz. all, or almost all, those who are remote from us, and a very great proportion of those who are near

From doing good to the former we are prevented by distance of place. From doing good to very many of the latter we are equally prevented by their multitude : the number being so great, that we cannot benefit all, unless we give up the duty of being really useful to any.

It ought, however, to be here remarked, that all men can exercise a benevolent spirit towards all men, and can supplicate blessings for all in their prayers. It is also to be observed, that some persons can extend their acts of kindness very far; to distant nations, and to distant ages: particularly those, who are eminently qualified to instruct and inform mankind by their writings; and those who regulate the affairs of nations, and thus seriously affect the state of the world. I need not say how few of the human race are included in both these classes.

II. Wherever this conduct would frustrate the great end of benevolence by lessening human happiness, it cannot be our duty.

It will not be pretended, that the law, which requires us to exercise benevolence, or the love of doing good, requires us also to act in such a manner, as to prevent the existence of that good. That this would be, necessarily, the effect of the conduct, proposed by the objector, will be evident from the following considerations.

1st. If the affairs, interests, and duties, of mankind were all thrown, as according to the objection they must be thrown into a common stock; there would be little or no good done to any.

The mass of concerns would be immense; could never be comprehended by the mind of man; and could, therefore, never be arranged into any order or method. But, without such arrangement, there could be no knowledge of what would be necessary, useful, or desirable. Without such knowledge, the interests of men could never be so disposed, as to be pursued with any advantage. Without such knowledge, the duties of men would never be wrought into such a system, as to be understood by him, who directed the efforts of others. Much less could they be understood by those, who are to make the efforts; or, in other words, to perform the active duties of society.

A small mass of ideas easily becomes too complex an object for the mind distinctly to comprehend, until the ideas are arranged in a regular scheme. Without such arrangement, the human capacity is too limited to think with any clearness, or success, wherever the objects of thought are even moderately numerous. But, in the case proposed, the number of objects in the affairs of a single town would be exceedingly numerous; and would wholly surpass the utmost comprehension of man.

« PoprzedniaDalej »