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the means to the end. Holiness being the end of the divine administration, would not this have been more effectually answered ; would not sin have been more discouraged, if it did not enjoy even a temporary triumph?
But let us reflect on the constitution of man; let us consider, that, he is a free agent, and that the present life is a state of trial and probation for a future; we will then, immediately, see that that state of things which is the source of difficulties lo many, and a cause of complaint to some, is absolutely necessary in such a constitution.
There can be no virtue or vice in actions which are not free ;
and no action can be free which is produced by the strength of any passion or motive without regard to the determination of the will. Some situations of the mind are such that the will's self-determining power cannot be exerted, and some passions are so violent that, irresistibly and by a blind impulse, they hurry the man on to action. For the actions which proceed from such causes a man can deserve neither praise nor blame : he is answerable only for the passion, or the state of the mind, which gives rise to them. The influence of moral motives may likewise be so strong as, infallibly, to direct the will, and leave no room for its self-determination. In this case, they operate exactly as animal principles, and however right the line of conduct may be to which they lead, the man himself has no merit in it, because his will was determined by a force irresistible and external to itself. Let us illustrate this by an instance. To preserve our lives and faculties in a condition fit for the service of that being to whom we owe them is a duty incumbent on us : and we would have great merit in doing so if our actions were free, and proceeded from the dictates of reason and conscience. But as this was a matter too pressing and important to be left to the slow deliberations of reason, we are provided with an instinct which leads us to self-defence and preservation. In such actions, then, there can be no merit, because they proceed from a mere animal principle which is guided by blind necessity, and acts whenever it is moved by its proper object, just as the fire consumes the fuel which is heaped upon it. Now if punishment were to follow in this life immediately upon the commission of sin, or even if we could pierce within the veil, and see the just in their bles
sed abodes, serving God day and night in his temple not made with hands ; if the gates of hell were unbarred to our view, and we beheld the wicked in their place of torment, no man could possibly continue a moment longer in iniquity : the motives to virtue would entirely overpower the will, and destroy the freedom of action. But why should we be thus made free agents, and at the same time he placed in a state where we would be to all intents and purposes impelled by necessity ? why give us a power of choosing without leaving any room for its exertion ? For in a constitution of things like this, the love of virtue would be nothing but a desire of self-preservation, and hatred of vice nothing but a dislike of pain and suffering. In this case the very ideas of conscience and duty could have no existence, because there could be no motive to action but presentadvantage or disadvantage. We could derive no benefit from being endowed with reason and understanding, from being able to discern between good and evil, to look into the future, to foresee the consequences of events and actions, to compare joys, which are unseen and at a distance, with present pleasures, which are near at hand, and strong
ly solicit our acceptance: all this part of our constitution would be useless, if we were compelled to be virtuous by a principle similar to that by which we are led to eat, drink, sleep and defend ourselves from danger.—That we are free and reasonable beings we know from fact: and our being free and reasonable is inconsistent with present rewards and punishments : for one part of such a corsa would amount to a destruction of the car. But still you maintain that preunt resu,
:6 and punishments would answer the era pas sed : that their consequences would is. Ltremely happy, very discouraging to sice a favourable to virtue. You think tha i nery impure action was punished as ins:* 21 the crime of Zimri, who met lis iate in se very tents of the daughters of Jician, 19:00 would be less of that lewdness and descauctie. ry which in the Apostle Paul's time was dois in private, but which in our days is consin publick. You believe, that, if the thundet did instantly come forth to blast those impi. ous persons who open their mouthis against the heavens, and blaspheme the majesty o the Most High, the language of men would soon approach that standard of perfection pointed out in the gospel which requires our conversation to be yea, yea, and nay, nay.
. If fire should descend from heaven and consume those prophane worshippers who offer impure incense upon God's altar, then perhaps fewer would draw near to him with their lips and worship him with their mouths while their hearts were estranged from him, and that all would worship in spirit and in truth.
It might be so. There might be less impurity, hypocrisy, and profane swearing ; there might be more conformity to the law ; there might be more obedience, if you please, but not a grain of more virtue. If we act as mere machines, our actions can deserve no praise. That virtue which is the effect of force and constraint, is no virtue at all. Can God, think you, approve or reward an obedience which springs not from love to him, but from love to ourselves ? Can that conduct (whatever it may be) be called virtuous which is the fruit, not of reason and conscience, but of mere animal impulse ? Be ye judges yourselves ; would you not prefer one act of kindness done you freely, out of choice and affection, to the obedience of many slaves, whose sole motive of conduct is the fear of