« PreviousContinue »
sures of life. It is likewise evident, that the greatest happiness of society proceeds from the virtue and good conduct of men; particularly from their being well affected towards the public, and employing the several talents, powers, and advantages which they may be possessed of, for promoting the common good; from the magistrates framing and executing wise and righteous laws, and the subjects paying a just respect to lawful authority, and contributing cheerfully to the necessary support of the government and constitution; from the diligence and industry of men in the business of an honest calling; from their observing the maxims of truth, justice, meekness, compassion, and charity, in their conversation and dealings with one another, and their performing readily all the social and relative duties of life. Both reason and experience assure us, that these are the things from whence the public happiness directly and immediately flows, and that they will never fail to make a society flourish in prosperity and glory. Now when this is considered, it will be very easy to shrw the tendency of the Christian religion to promote the present happiness of men, and the peace and welfare of this world. For let any one read the Gospel with the least attention and impartiality, and he must needs see, that the great design and business of it is to press and inculcate all those virtues, which are the source both of public and private happiness ; that it strictly enjoins all the branches of piety towards God, and awful veneration of his majesty; strong love and gratitude for his mercies, perfect res to his will, and a firm confidence in his power and goodness; that it indispensibly requires an exact performance of all the duties of justice, faithfulness, compassion, and goodness towards men, and will not allow us to gratify our private desires and inclinations, in any instances, to the prejudice and detriment of others; that it insists, particularly upon those duties and virtues, the practice of which affects the order and happiness of the public; requiring magistrates to provide for the safety and welfare of the communities in which they govern, by a steady and impartial administration of justice, and subjects to honour and obey magistrates, as persons set over them for their good, and to support and assist them in the just execution of their offices, and in maintaining the harmony and order of society; commanding all men to fulfil the duties of their several relations ; to be laborious and diligent in their callings, that, instead of being burthensome to the community, they may have wherewithal to communicate to the necessities of the indigent members of it; to be perfectly honest, true, and equitable in all their commerce and intercourse in the world, to cultivate a spirit of humanity, meekness, forgiveness, condescension, and universal benevolence; not to confine their good-will to any one party or denomination, but to do good, as they have opportunity, to all; and to be ready to sacrifice every private interest, even life itself, for the common benefit and interest of their brethren. This is the constant strain and tenour of cur holy religion; these are the things which it inculcates most af: fectionately and earnestly upon us, and on which it lays the greatest stress; assuring us, that they are essential to true religion, the very life and end of it, and the marks by which we shall be known to be Christians; that they are the most acceptable services that we can possibly offer to Almighty God, and far more pleasing to him than any of the instituted parts of his own worship; and that they must be performed by us, as ever we would answer the obligations which the infinite love of God, and of our blessed Saviour, hath laid upon us, and as ever we would be entitled to the favour of God and the happiness of another world. This is what every one, who looks into the New Testament, must know to be a just account of the nature and design of the Christian religion ; and consequently that is entirely contrived for the benefit of the world; that it has the plainest tendency to promote the happiness, both of every man; considered particularly in himself, and of all men in general, as united together in society. In: deed, the Gospel is so apparently calculated for raising and cherishing a spirit of universal love and goodness in mankind; it abounds so much in precepts, exhortations, and motives to the exercise of patience, temperance, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, charity, and such virtues as contribute most immediately and effectually to the peace and prosperity of the world, that some have accused it upon this very score, as if, by insisting so much upon these virtues, it dispirited and enfeebled the minds of men, and rendered them incapable of great and heroic actions. This objection might certainly be shown to stand upon a very false foundation, were it necessary to enter into a confutation of it; but all that I intend by
mentioning it, is only to observe, that even in the judgment of those who bear no good-will to Christianity, it appears to be a most good-natured and benevolent institution, which intends to calm and soften the passions and tempers of men, to remove every fierce and cruel quality out of their nature, and to make them all mild and gentle, peaceable and kind, and to take pleasure in nothing so much as in promoting one another's happiness. Orr.
INSIGNIFICANCE OF MAN, NO OBJECTION TO
CHRISTIANITY. By some well-meaning but weak minds, and by some of a different character, who were vain of their philosophy, the apparent insignificance of the human race may have been thought to lessen tủe credibility of the Christian religion. Compared to the extent of our solar system, this earth is but a point; and the solar system itself, compared to the universe, may be little more. How then, say they, is it possible, to imagine that such creatures as we are, can be of so great importance, as that the Deity should send his Son, accompanied with so many displays of divine power, into this little world, to instruct us by his doctrine and example, and die on a cross to accomplish our salvation ?
This is indeed an astonishing proof of the goodness of the Creator, and of the condescension of that glorious Person, who, foç. our sake, willingly submitted to such debasement. But the infinite goodness and power of God, though surpassing all comprehension, cannot exceed the belief of those who know, that he, in order to communicate felicity, created this boundless universe, with all the varieties of beings it contains; whom he continually supports and governs, and with every individual of whom he is continually present. The object may be too vast for any intelligence that is short of infinite: but to Him who sees all things, and can do all things, who had no beginning, and can have no end, all this must be easy ; incomparably easier, indeed, than it is for a father to take care of his child, or for a generous friend to relieve his indigent neighbour. God's dispensations with respect to man may reasonably enough overwhelm us with gratitude and adoration, and with a most humiliating sense of our own unworthiness; but let us take care that they do not raise within us an evil spirit of unbelief, which they will not do, unless we have the inexcusable temerity to judge of him by ourselves; and to infer, because our goodness is nothing, that his cannot be perfect; and, because we are ignorant and weak, that he cannot be omniscient and almighty. Far less absurd would it be, for the ynlettered peasant to deny the possibility of calculating eclipses; for the blind to believe, that because they cannot see, there is none else who can; and for the poor to conclude, because they cannot relieve themselves, that it is not in the power of generosity to relieve them.