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might not indulge his humour. But when he reflects that his scruples about lying have hitherto preserved him free from this vice; that occasions like the present will return, where the inducement may be equally strong, but the indulgence much less innocent; that his scruples will wear away by a few transgressions, and leave him subject to one of the meanest and most pernicious of all bad habits, a habit of lying whenever it will serve his turn : when all this, I say, is considered, a wise man will forego the present, or a much greater pleasure, rather than lay the foundation of a character so vicious and contemptible.
From what has been said may be explained also the nature of habitual virtue. By the definition of virtue, placed at the beginning of this chapter, it appears, that the good of mankind is the subject, the will of God the rule, and everlasting happiness the motive and end of all virtue. Yet in fact a man shall perform many an act of virtue, without having either the good of mankind, the will of God, or everlasting happiness in his thoughts. How is this to be understood ? In the same manner as that a man may be a very good servant, without being conscious, at every turn or a particular regard to his master's will, or of an express attention to his master's interest; indeed your best old servants are of this sort: but then he must have served for a length of time under the actual direction of these motives to bring it to this: in which service his merit and virtue con. ■St
There are habits, not only of drinking, swearing, and lying, and of some other things, which are commonly acknowledged to be habits, and called so; but of every modification of action, speech, and thought. Man is a bundle of habits. There are habits of industry, attention, vigilance, advertency; of a prompt obedience to the judgment occurring, or of yielding to the first impulse of passion; of extending our views to the future, or of resting upon the present; of apprehending, methodizing, reasoning; of indolence and dilatoriness; of vanity, self-conceit, melancholy, partiality; of fretfulness, suspicion, captiousness, censoriousness; of pride, ambition, covctousness; of overreaching, intriguing, projecting. In a word, there is not a quality or function, either of body or mind, which does not feel the influence of this great law of animated nature.
II. The Christian religion hath not ascertained the precise quantity of virtue necessary to salvation.
This has been made an objection to Christianity y but without reason. For, as all revelation, however imparted originally, must be transmitted by the ordinary vehicle of language, it behoves those who make the objection to shew that any form of words could be devised, which might express this quantity; or that it is possible to constitute a standard of moral attainments, accommodated to the almost infinite diversity which subsists in the capacities and opportunities of different men.
It seems most agreeable to our conceptions of justice, and is consonant enough to the language of scripture^* to suppose, that there ate prepared for us ffewards and punishments, of all possible degrees, from the most exalted happiness down to extreme misery; so that ** our labour is never in vain whatever advancement we make in virtue, we procure a proportionable accession of future happiness; as, on the other hand, every accumulation of vice is the "treasuring up of so much wrath against the day of wrath." It has been said, that it can never be
• ■ He which soweth sparingly snail reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." 2 Cor. ix. 6.—" Arid that •ervant Which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, shall be beaten with few stripes." Luke xii. 47, 48.—" Whosoever shall give you a Cup Of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward;" to wit, intimating that there is in reserve a proportional reward for even the smallest act of virtue. Mark i». 41.—See also the parable of the pounds, Luke xix. 16, &c. where he whose pound- had gained ten pounds, was placed over ten cities; and he whose pound bad gained five pounds, was placed •ver five cities.
a just economy of Providence, to admit one part of mankind into heaven, and condemn the other to hell, since there must be very little to choose, between the worst man who is received into heaven, and the best who is excluded. And how know we, it might be answered, but that there may be as little to choose in their conditions?
Without entering into a detail of scripture morality, which would anticipate our subject, the fol- ,lowing general positions may be advanced, I think, with safety:.
1. That a state of happiness is not to be expected by those who are conscious of no moral or religious rile. I mean those who cannot with truth say, that they have been prompted to one action, or withheld from one gratification, by any regard to virtue or religion, either immediate or habitual.
There needs no other proof of this, than the consideration, that a brute would be as proper an object of reward as such a man; and that, if the case were so, the penal sanctions of religion could have no place. For whom would you punish, if you make such a one as this happy ?—or rather indeed religion itself, both natural and revealed, would cease to have either use or authority.
2. That a state of happiness is not to be expected by those, who reserve to themselves the habitual practice of any one sin, or neglect of one known, duty.'
Because no obedience can proceed upon proper motives, which is not universal, that is, which is not directed to every command of God alike, as they all stand upon the same authority.
Because, such an allowance would in effect amount to a toleration of every vice in the world.
And because, the strain of scripture language excludes any such hope. When our duties arerecited, they are put collectively, that is, as all and every of them required in the Christian character. "Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity."* On the other hand, when vices are enumerated, they are put disjunctively, that is, as separately and severally excluding the sinner from heaven, ** Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor efem* inate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven."!
Those texts of scripture, which seem to lean a contrary way, as that "charity shall cover the multitude of sins ;"J that "he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall hide a multitude of sins cannot I think, for the reasons abovementioned, be extended to sins deliberately, habitually, and obstinately persisted in.
3. That a state of mere unprofitableness will not go unpunished.
This is expressly laid down by Christ, in the parable of the talents, which supersedes all further reasoning upon the subject. "Then he which had received one talent, came and said, Lord, I know thee that thou art an austere man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed; and I was afraid, and hid my talent in the earth; lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knowest (or knewesj thou ?) that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed; thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him Nfrhich hath ten talents; for unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath; and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."*
• 2 Pet. !. 5, 6, 7. t 1 C°r- «• 9i ><>' ♦ 1 Pet ir. «.
|| James v. 2a
III. In every question of conduct, where one side is doubtful and the other side safe, we are bound to take the safe side.
This is best explained by an instance; and I know of none more to our purpose than that of suicide. Suppose, for example's sake, that it appear doubtful to a reasoner upon the subject, whether he may lawfully destroy himself. He can have no doubt, but that it is lawful for him to let it alone. Here therefore is a case, in which one side is doubtful, and the other side safe. By virtue therefore o£ our rule, he is bound to pursue the safe side, that is, to forbear from offering violence to himself, whilst a doubt remains upon his mind concerning the lawfulness of suicide.
It is prudent, you allow, to take the safe side. But our observation means something more. We assert that the action, concerning which we doubt, whatever it may be in itself, or to another, would, in us, whilst this doubt remains upon our minds, be certainly sinful. The case is expressly so adjudged by St. Paul, with whose authority we will for the present rest contented. "I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.; Happy is he that con
demneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth; and he that doubteth is damned (condemned) if he eat, for whatsoever is not of faith (i. e. not done with a full persuasion of the lawfulness of it) i» «in."t
* Matt xxx. 24, &e. + Reman* siv. 14, 22, 29;