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repentance. Whatever else may be the meaning of Christ in this passage, it is unquestionable, that the inhabitants of heaven experience a real joy in the repentance of a sinner. Reason, as well as Revelation, clearly teaches us, that virtuous beings cannot fail to find enjoyment in this subject, because Repentance is an exercise of virtue, and the means of securing happiness. In the future virtue, and future happiness, of such a sinner, the same beings will, at all times, find similar enjoyment; increasing continually in degree, as these objects of it increase. As these will, at the commencement of a future existence, be perfect ; and will rise higher, and higher, in the same perfection for ever; so it is plain, the enjoyment, found in them, will increase throughout every succeeding period. Thus every inhabitant of this world, who secures his own eternal life, becomes an everlasting, and perpetually increasing, benefit to the virtuous universe ; a blessing, which no words can describe, and whose value no numbers can reckon. Can it be necessary to ask, whether it is virtuous to aim at this character ?
7thly. God is glorified, whenever we seek, and obtain, eternal life.
When Christ was born, a multitude of the heavenly host sung, Glory to God in the highest, because there was peace on earth, and good-will towards men. But if none of the human race should experience this good-will; that is, if none of them should obtain eternal life; the glory, otherwise springing from this source, would be prevented. To this glory of God every person, then, who secures eternal life, contributes, by accomplishing, in one instance, that, out of which the glory arises. The glory of God, in this case, is a whole, made up of the individual instances, in which he is glorified. If therefore, no individual sought his salvation, none would obtain it; and, if none obtained it, the work would not be done ; and the glory of God, in this important particular, would not be accomplished. How important it is, may, in some measure, be discerned from these facts: that God sent his own Son, to die, that we might live; and his Spirit, to renew us, that we might become heirs of life.
Thus have I endeavoured to show, that the pursuit of eternal life is so far from being opposed to the nature of disinterested Love, that it is one of its primary dictates; a conduct, invariably springing from its influence ; and that the Scriptures, instead of lessening, or destroying, virtue, by requiring this conduct of us, have increased the obligations to it, and directed it to its proper end.
Those, who make the objections, contended against in this discourse, have in my view, always failed of distinguishing between disinterestedness and uninterestedness. The distinction between them is, however, perfectly clear, and incalculably important. To be disinterested is to be without a selfish interest in any given thing or things; to be uninterested is to have no interest in them at all. disinterested man may take the deepest interest in any subject; and,
the deeper the interest, the more disinterested he may be. The uninterested man can have no interest in that subject, either selfish, or benevolent. To be absolutely disinterested is to be absolutely free from selfishness. To be absolutely uninterested is to be absolutely without any interest, or concern, in any thing. A perfectly disinterested man would experience a supreme delight in the perfect happiness of the universe. A perfectly uninterested man, if we can suppose
such an one to exist, would feel no concern in any happiness whatever. The reason, why these terms have been supposed to denote the same thing, may have been, that the word in. TERESTED is frequently opposed to each of them. This word originally denotes the concern, which we feel in any thing ; but has long been figuratively, and very commonly, used to denote a „selfish concern; probably, because the interest, which the human heart feels in most things, is so generally a selfish interest.
It is not my design to contend, that there is not a real and great pleasure, found in the exercises of virtue ; nor that the virtuous man does not always experience this pleasure in such exercises ; and that, in exact proportion to his virtue; nor that this is not a proper motive to engage him to these exercises.
The true nature of virtue is well described in this definition: the love of doing good; or the love of promoting happiness. In all the good, therefore, which is done by ourselves, or others, and, of course, in all that is enjoyed by ourselves or others, whenever it is not inconsistent with some greater good, virtue delights of course. In its own proper nature, it aims at such good; and for such it labours, whoever is to be the recipient. Its true excellence lies in this: that it is the voluntary, and only source of happiness in the universe. In aiming at our own happiness there is no necessary selfishness. Selfishness consists in a preference of ourselves to others, and to all others; to the universe, and to God. This is sin ; and all that in the Scriptures is meant by sin. In every individual sin, this will invariably be found to be the essential and guilty character. Thus sensuality is the desire of selfgratification, at the expense of any, and all, other happiness. Thus ambition is the desire of aggrandizing, and avarice the desire of enriching, ourselves, in preference to the interests of all others. From this spirit arises all our opposition to God, and all our injustice to his creatures. He, who has seriously and entirely preferred God to himself, or the good of the universe to his own private, separate good, has, in the complete sense, become vir. tuous.
God wills our happiness. It is therefore right, it is virtuous, in us to seek, and promote it, both here and hereafter. In this conduct there is no selfishness. We do, indeed, commonly pursue it, in preference to that of all others. Such a pursuit of it is sinful; and the spirit, with which we pursue it, is, by turns, every sinful pass sion and appetite, and the source of every evil purpose and effort,
towards God and our fellow-creatures. Our pride, impiety, rebellion, and ingratitude; our self-dependence, our impatience, and murmuring, under the government of God; are all only different forms of this disposition. The parsimony, fraud, and oppression, of the Miser; the envy, intrigues, conquests, and butcheries, of Ambition; the rapacity, injustice, and cruelties, of Despotism; the sloth, lewdness, gluttony, and drunkenness of the Sensualist; the haughtiness, wrath, revenge, and murders, of the Duellist; are nothing but selfishness, appearing in its true nature, and genuine operations.
REMARKS. In these observations we have another specimen of the havoc, which philosophy has made of divine subjects, and of the great interests of
Few writers have been more admired, and applauded, than Lord Shaftsbury; and, among all his writings, none have been more applauded, than the Work, in which the doctrine, opposed by me, is taught. Yet in this work we are informed, that to have any regard either to future rewards or punishments, is mean and mercenary; and, of course, instead of being virtuous, or consisting with virtue, is only criminal. It must, threrefore, be odious in the sight of God; and the proper object of his wrath and punishment. Accordingly, this writer informs us directly, that “all reference, either to future rewards or punishments, lessens and destroys virtue, and diminishes the obligations to be virtuous." The anger of God against a sinner is a dreadful punishment. The approbation of God, and his consequent love, are glorious rewards. But to regard this
anger, to be afraid of it, to seek to avoid it, is, according to Lord Shaftsbury, mean and mercenary, odious and wicked. The contrary conduct must, of course, bear the contrary character. It must be honourable and generous, spirited, amiable, and virtuous, to disregard the divine anger; to have no fear of God before our eyes; and willingly to become the objects of Infinite indignation. Equally mean and mercenary, and therefore equally hateful and guilty, is it, in the eyes of this writer, to prize the approbation of God; to desire an interest in his love; or to seek the attainment of either. Of course, to disregard both must, according to this scheme, be virtuous, honourable, and deserving of commendation. The real nature of all conduct God cannot but know intuitively; and, without injustice, cannot fail to regard it according to its real nature, and treat the subjects of it as they actually merit. Hence, as he cannot but discern the meanness and mercenariness, the odiousness and guilt, of those who dread his anger, and seek to avoid it; who prize his approbation; and love, and labour, to obtain them; he is bound, he cannot fail, to punish them for this criminal conduct. As he equally discerns the virtue of those, who
disregard his anger, approbation, and love ; he cannot fail to reward them.
If God is angry with any of his Intelligent creatures ; it is undoubtedly with those, who have broken his law. That he has given a law to mankind, Lord Shaftsbury himself acknowledges; nor does he deny, that mankind have, in some instances, broken this law. Indeed, it could not be denied with common decency. In this law, whatever it be, his pleasure is expressed, and enjoined, as the rule of duty to rational beings. This rule is, in his view, and therefore in fact, a wise, just, and good rule for the direction of their conduct. Conformity to it is conformity to what is wise, just, and good; or, in other words, is virtue, or excellence of character: while disobedience to it is opposition to what is wise, just, and good; or, in other words, sinfulness and turpitude of character. Every law, and this as truly as any other, annexes a reward to obedience, and a punishment to disobedience; otherwise it could not be a law. But to regard either this reward, or this punishment, is, according to Lord Shaftsbury, to be mean and mercenary; and so far, therefore, ceasing to be virtuous. If this reward and punishment are to have no influence on mankind; they are nugatory; and God has merely trifled with his creatures, in annexing them to his law. If they are to have influence on mankind; the influence is merely such, as to destroy, or at least lessen, both virtue, and the obligations to it. God, who sees this to be true, if it be truth, has, therefore, in annexing them to his law, and in endeavouring to influence mankind by them, attempted to destroy, or lessen, virtue, and to diminish their obligations to be virtuous.
Further; as without rewards and penalties no law can exist; it is evident, that God cannot make a law, in which he must not, of course, either merely trifle with his creatures, or destroy, or lessen virtue, and diminish their obligations to be virtuous.
The reward, promised to obedience in this and every other law, is happiness; and the punishment threatened to disobedience, is suffering, or misery. To desire the happiness of every rational being, and our happiness, as truly as that of others, is the genuine dictate of virtue; and the indispensable duty of all such beings. It is the duty, then, of every other rational being to desire our happiness; and for this plain reason : it is in itself desirable. According to Lord Shaftsbury, then, we cannot, without being mean and mercenary, desire that, which all other rational beings are bound to desire, and which in itself is desirable.
To be virtuous, is the same thing as to be meritorious, or to deserve a reward; and is the only real desert in the universe. The reward which virtue deserves, is such treatment, as is a proper retribution to virtuous conduct; such a kind, and measure, of happiness, as it becomes the wisdom, justice, and goodness, of the lawgiver to communicate, as a proper expression of his approbation of that conduct. To be influenced by a regard to this happiness, although
the very thing which his virtue has deserved, and which God has pronounced to be its proper reward, is, according to this scheme, to become mean, and mercenary, and undeserving of the reward itself. The reward is holden out by God, to encourage his creatures to be virtuous. In doing this, according to Lord Shaftsbury, he discourages virtue, and lessens their obligations to be virtuous.
There are two kinds of original good ; enjoyment, and deliverance from suffering; or, as the case may be, from the danger of suffering. These two are the only possible objects of desire to percipient beings; and to Intelligent beings, as truly as any others. When virtue itself is desired, it is desired only for the enjoyment which it furnishes. Were there no such objects in the universe, there would be no such thing as desire ; and consequently no such thing as volition, or action. Percipient beings, and, among them, Intelligent beings, would be as absolutely inactive, as so many lumps of matter. But, according to Lord Shaftsbury, to regard future enjoyment, or misery, and, for the very same reasons, to regard them when present, is to be mean and mercenary, and to cease from being virtuous. He, who regards them, therefore, cannot be virtuous : he, who does not, must of course be a block.
In the mean time, not to regard enjoyment and suffering, when present to our view, is physically impossible. In order to be virtuous, then, we must, in every instance, accomplish a physical impossibility
Finally; a moral government is entirely founded on motives. All motives are included in the two kinds of good, mentioned above. In every moral government these motives are presented to the subjects of it, by the law on which it is founded, in the forms of reward and punishment; both necessarily future to obedience, or disobedience. On the influence, which these motives have upon the moral character and conduct of subjects, all moral government rests; nor can any such government exist, for a moment, without them. But to be influenced by them is, in every subject of such government, according to this scheme, mean and mercenary. God, therefore, in establishing a moral government over intelligent creatures, has directly endeavoured, by his authority, to render them mean and mercenary; and, so far as this influence extends, has prevented them from being virtuous.
It is, I presume, unnecessary to add any thing further. More striking, or more conclusive, evidence cannot be given of the havoc made by Philosophy in the moral system. If the doctrines of one of her most admired votaries end in these consequences; what absurdities are we not to expect from Philosophers of every inferior order?