Slike strani

the permission of sin. The full exercise of equity must necessarily leave the moral system to its own tendencies and operations.

13. To permit the event of sin, or not to hinder it, implies, that the cause of defection is not in the permitter, but in the permitted; not in the governor, but the governed. There is in the moral part of the universe a cause why an event which ought not to take place, will take place, if not hindered. If there be no such cause in the system, how could the event take place on permission? If it be said, There is a chance it may not take place, and there is a chance of the contrary--it is but fair to ask, is this chance something which has a cause, or has it no cause? If the latter; the concession itself reduces chance to a mere nothingi For a contingent event, as the operation of chance is supposed to be, without any cause, is a metaphysical impossibility. If the former; what is the cause of what the objector calls chance? Is it something external, or internal? What is its nature and character? To say that liberty of indifference, or a self-determining power, is the chance which requires no preceding cause to produce the event, is to contradict absolute demonstration, if ever there was a metaphysical demonstration of any subject; as our author has abundantly shewn in his "Essay on the Freedom of the Will."

14 It is therefore inaccurate and unintelligible language to say, that either chance, liberty of indifference, or a self-determining power, independent of any antecedent cause, is adequate to account for the event of sin, or a deterioration of a moral system. God, therefore, permitting, there is an inherent adequate cause of failure, distinct from divine causation. What this cause is, and what is its nature, has been shewn and proved in a former note.

15. Permission is an act of equity; or, it is the exercise of rectitude, to the exclusion of benevolent influence; whether we regard that influence as preventing the event of sin, or as delivering from its power. Sovereign benevolence prevents the fall of angels; and it delivers, restores, and eternally saves a goodly number of the human fallen race. Without the permission of sin, restoring benevolence, or the exercise of mercy, would have been impossible; and consequently the glory of that perfection, which can be fully displayed only by its exercise towards the miserable, would have been eternally concealed.

16. If, therefore, equity be a glorious attribute of God, its emanation and exercise must be glorious. But the exercise of equity, in the strict sense, includes the permission of sin, as before proved.-And, here we may add, if not to hinder be an exercise of strict rectitude, the continued existence of sin is not inconsistent with it.

17. It will be allowed by every one, that, as mercy itself is a glorious attribute, so is the exercise of it a glorious thing. But this would have been impossible, if sin had no existence; nor could sin have had existence, if not permitted to exist; and sin could not have been permitted, if strict equity had not been exercised; nor could strict equity have been exercised, if the exercise of preventing sovereign benevolence had not been excluded, in those instances wherein moral defect actually took place.


18. The ultimate and chief end of God in the creation and government of the moral part of the universe, is the glory of his moral perfections; which are virtually included in strict rectitude and sovereign benevolence.

19. If strict rectitude be exercised towards the degenerate part of the system, the restoration of those who are the objects of it is not possible; that is, to suppose it possible involves a contradiction. Therefore,

20. If any degenerate moral agent be restored, it must necessarily be by the exercise of that sovereign benevolence which we call mercy.

21. "Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God! on them who fell, severity; but toward thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Goodness and severity are but other words for sovereign benevolence and strict equity, the glory of which is abundantly conspicuous in the various divine dispensations towards the children of men, even in this life; but will appear still more transcendent in the day when God shall judge the world in righteousness, and in the day of eternity.-W.

[blocks in formation]








Shewing wherein the Essence of true Virtue consists.

WHATEVER controversies and variety of opinions there are about the nature of virtue, yet all excepting some sceptics, who deny any real difference between virtue and vice, mear by it something beautiful, or rather some kind of beauty or excellency. It is not all beauty that is called virtue; for instance, not the beauty of a building, of a flower, or of the rainbow; but some beauty belonging to beings that have perception and will. It is not all beauty of mankind that is called virtue; for instance, not the external beauty of the countenance or shape, gracefulness of motion, or harmony of voice: but it is a beauty that has its original seat in the mind. But yet perhaps not every thing that may be called a beauty of mind, is properly called virtue. There is a beauty of understanding and speculation; there is something in the ideas and conceptions of great philosophers and statesmen, that may be called beautiful which is a different thing from what is most commonly meant by virtue.

But virtue is the beauty of those qualities and acts of the mind that are of a moral nature, i. e. such as are attended with desert or worthiness of praise or blame. Things of this sort it is generally agreed, so far as I know, do not belong merely to speculation: but to the disposition and will, or (to use a general word I suppose commonly well understood) to the heart. Therefore I suppose I shall not depart from the common opinion when I say, that virtue is the beauty of the qualities and exercises of the heart, or those actions which pro

« PrejšnjaNaprej »