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dient to the Supreme Governor of the world, is the very perfection of every created nature. Again, the various connexions among mankind, and the different duties resulting from them, naturally tend to work in us a settled and extensive benevolence for our fellow-beings, and to habituate us to think and act with tenderness, forbearance, and affection, toward them. And it is evident that this sublime and godlike disposition cannot be too much cultivated. We can never be in a state in which it will not be for our advantage, and for the advantage of all the other beings with whom we may be connected, that we be disposed to extensive and unbounded benevolence for one another. It is obvious, that a happy society, in which hatred and ill-will should universally prevail, is an inconceivable and contradictory idea. Whatever may be the nature of the states we may be hereafter designed for, it is evident we shall be the fitter for them for having culti vated in our minds an extensive universal love of all other beings. But if we suppose, what seems agreeable to Scripture views, as well as to reason, that those who shall be found worthy of a future life, are to be raised to sta tions, not of indolence and inactivity, but of extensive usefulness in the creation, such as we suppose to be filled at present by angels, I mean of guardians and governors over beings of lower ranks, during their state of trial and discipline; if this be a reasonable supposition, it is plain that the sublime virtue of benevolence cannot be carried too far. And this sets forth the Divine Wisdom in placing us in a state in which we have such opportunities of being habituated to a disposition so useful and necessary for all orders of rational beings throughout all periods of their existence.
It will be the reader's wisdom here carefully to examine his conduct, that he may know whether he acts the part of a valuable and useful member of society. If he has wrought into his soul a kind, a generous, and extensive. benevolence toward all his fellow-creatures, whether in high or low stations, whether rich or poor, whether foreigners or countrymen, whether of his own religion or any other, learned or unlearned, virtuous or vicious, friends or enemies; if he finds it recommendation enough to his
regard or affection that it is a fellow-creature who wants his assistance, a being produced by the same Almighty hand which created himself; if he earnestly wishes, and is at all times ready to promote the good of his fellowcreatures by all means in his power, by his riches, bis advice, his interest, his labour, at any time, seasonable or unseasonable, in a way agreeable to his own particular temper and inclination, or in a manner that may be less suitable to it; if he finds himself ready with the open arms of forgiveness to receive his enemy, the moment he appears disposed to repentance and reconciliation ; if he finds that it would be a pleasure to him to do good to those who have injured him, though his goodness should never be known; if he finds that he is in no part of his private devotions more zealous than when he prays from his heart to Him who searches all hearts, that bis enemy may be pardoned, reformed, and made as happy hereafter as if he finds that one disappointment or abuse of his goodness, or ten such discouragements, do not cool his ardour for the good of mankind ; that he does not immediately fall out of conceit with a public-spirited design, because of its difficulties or uncertainty of success, but that he can stand the railery of those narrow souls who cannot rise to his pitch of disinterested benevolence; and that though he goes on resolutely, and without wearying in well-doing, he does not do it from pride or self-sufficiency, but from real well-meant goodness of heart and design; if he does not search for excuses, but considers himself as obliged to be always endeavouring to gain some kind and beneficial end, without regard to its being more or less directly in bis way, or more or less promising of success, if it is the best he can do at the time, and if no one else will do it better, or engage in it at all; and that after all, he considers bimself as an unprofitable servant, as having done still only his indispensable duty; if the reader finds this to be the turn of his mind, he may conclude that he is not far from that perfection of benevolence which the Divine rectitude and law require, and which is necessary to fit every human
mind for being a member of an universal society hereafter. · If, on the other hand, he finds that he is wholly wrapt up
in himself; that he thinks with po relish of the happiness
of any one else ; that his utmost benevolence extends no wider than the circle of his own family, friends, or party; that all he wants is to enrich himself and his relations; that he cannot look with any personal tenderness or conșiderations upon a Frenchman, or Spaniard, a Jew, or a papist, or even a churchman or dissenter, if he differs from them in profession; if, reader, thou findest this to be the turn of thy mind; if, in a word, thou dost not find it to be thy meat and thy drink to do thy fellow-creature good, if thou dost not love thy neighbour with the same affection as thyself, be assured thou art not at present of the disposition of mind which the Universal Governor would have all his rational creatures brought to; and mayest judge what chance thou hast for His favour, whose favour is life and happiness; whose love to all his creatures tends to draw and unite them to bimself, and would have them all love one another, that by universal love they may be united into one society, under one infinite Lord and universal Father.
Of our Obligations with Respect to our Creator. We come now to the third and noblest part of the duty of rational beings, which is also their highest honour, I mean, that which they owe to the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of themselves and the Universe : the first part, or foundation of which is, the belief of his existence. • The abstract proof of the existence of God requires nothing to be granted, but only, that something now exists; which concession forces the mind to confess the necessity of some First Cause, existing naturally, necessarily, and independently upon any other; Himself the cause of all things; Himself the fountain of being, and plenitude of perfection.
This proof leaves no room for cavilling : but effectually cuts off the subtle disputer from every possible evasion or | subterfuge. It is not however so easy for those who have
been accustomed to abstract reasoning, to see the conclusive force of it. For the bulk of mankind, the fittest arguments for the being of a God are taken from the stupendous
works of Natúre. And what object is there in the whole compass of nature, animate or inanimate, great or small, rare or common, which does not point to the Almighty Author of all things ? Not only those which strike us with astonishment, and fill our minds with their greatness; not only the view of a rolling ocean, a blazing sun, or the concave of heaven sparkling with its innuinerable starry fires, but even the sight of a flower, a pile of grass, or a reptile of the dust, every particle of matter around us, the body into which his breath has infused our life; the soul by which we think and know ; whatever we fix our eye or
'. thought upon, holds forth the ever-present Deity. In what state or place must we be to be insensible of Him by whom our very being is preserved? Whither must we withdraw ourselves to be out of the reach of His divine communications who minutely fills every point of boundless space? Is it possible to obliterate from our minds the thought of Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being ?
The first and fundamental duty of all rational beings to God, is, as I have said, to believe his existence. Now, though there is nothing praiseworthy in believing the most important truth upon insufficient grounds; and though, on the contrary, credulity is a weakness unworthy of a being endowed with a capacity of examining and finding out truth : yet there may be a great wickedness in unbelief for a person may, from obstinacy and perverseness, reject important truth, or through levity, folly, or an attachment to vice, may avoid the proper and natural means of conviction, so that the effect, which the rational and clear persuasion of important truth might have had upon his disposition and practice, may be lost. And it is greatly to be suspected, that multitudes are guilty of this last crime, with respect to the awful doctrine of the existence of God. If they be asked, whether they believe that there is a God, they will take it amiss to be suspected of the least inclina. tion to Atheism. But it is evident, from their lives and conversations, that if they believe the existence of God at all, it is in such a manner as is next to no belief. They think bot of the matter. There may, or may not be a God for any thing they know or care.
But to believe this important doctrine in a manner becoming a rational creature, is to bear in mind a constant and habitual impression of an infinitely perfect nature, the Author and Fountain of existence, the wise and righteous. Governor of the Universe, who is every where present, beholding all the actions and intentions of his creatures; to whom all rational beings are accountable, and upon whose favour or disapprobation their fate to all eternity wholly depends. To think of the Supreme Being in any other way than this, is not believing His existence in a rational and consistent manner.
And did men really admit the rational belief of a God; did they impress their minds with a fixed and constant attention to the awful thought of their being under the continual inspection of their
judge, we should not see them proceed in the manner they do. For I ask, how the bulk of mankind could behave worse than they do, if they were sure there was no God? We see them ready to catch at every unwarrantable gratification of passion or appetite; to put every fraudulent or wicked scheme in execution, from which they are not restrained either by human laws, or by fear of losing the esteem and confidence of their fellowcreatures, with the advantages connected with it. What could they do more if there was no God ? Is there, taking mankind upon an average, one of an hundred who hesitates at any vicious thought, word, or action, from the single consideration of its being perhaps displeasing to God ? Is there one in an hundred who habitually regulates his thoughts, words, and actions, by the standard of the Divine Will; and would rather lose the favour and approbation of all the men on earth, and all the angels of heaven, than his Maker's alone? How seldom do we meet with an instance of a person who will not truckle and temporize, commute, and compound with conscience, or even stifle its remonstrances, to gain the favour ofthe great! Whereas, if men acted upon the principle of a rational belief of a God, they would rather make a point of giving up all human favour, to make sure of keeping strictly to their duty; they would take care always to be on the safe side, to be scrupulously exact, rather than too free, in their lives and conversations; they would labour, if possible, to do