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miseries, which have rung with groans, and shrieks, throughout the whole reign of time, and from one end of heaven to the other. What a vast proportion of these evils has man created for himself, and his fellow-creatures! How small a portion has God created ! and how mild and proper a punishment has this been for the authors of the rest! Of this complication of guilt and wo, every man is, in some degree, the subject, and the author. All men are daily employed in complaining of others; and none, almost, in reforming themselves. Were each individual to begin the task of withdrawing from the common mass the evils which he occasions, the work would be easily done. Those, produced by men, would be annihilated, and those, occasioned by God, would cease; because, where there were no transgressions, God would not exercise his strange work of punishment.
How mighty would be the change! Benevolence would take place of malignity, friendship of contention, peace of war, truth of falsehood, and happiness of misery. This dreary world would become a Paradise. The brutal, deformed character of man, would give place to the holiness and dignity of angels, and all the perplexed, melancholy, and distressing scene of time would assume the order, beauty, and glory, of the celestial system.
With the nature and effects of the present human character, the selfishness of man, so fondly, proudly, and obstinately cherished by every human breast, you are all, at least in some degree, acquainted. It is scarcely necessary, that I should recall to your minds the universal corruption of the antediluvian world; and the violence and pollution, which rendered this earth too impure, and deformed, to be any longer seen by the perfect eye of Jehovah. It is scarcely necessary to remind you of the premature apostacy, which followed the deluge; the brutal idolatry, which, like a cloud from the bottomless pit, darkened this great globe to the four ends of heaven; the putrid infection, which tainted Sodom and Gomorrah ; the rank and rotten growth of sin, which poisoned and destroyed the nations of Canaan ; the deplorable defections of Israel and Judah; the bloody oppressions of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia; the monstrous ambition, and wild ravages, of Alexander; the base treacheries, and deformed cruelties, of his followers ; the iron-handed plunder, butchery, and devastation of Rome ; the terrible ravages of Mohammed and his disciples; or the fearful waste of man by Alaric, Attila, and their barbarous companions in slaughter. As little necessity is there to detail the wars, and ruins, of modern EUROPE ; the massacres of the Romish Hierarchy, the tortures of the Inquisition, the absolutions and indulgencies issued from the Vatican, to pardon sin, and to sanction rebellion against God. Your minds must be familiarized to the lamentable degradation, the amazing miseries, the death-like slavery of the nations, which fill the continent of Africa. You cannot be unacquainted with the swinish brutism of the Chinese ; the more brutal deformi
ty, the tiger-like thirst for blood, of the Hindoos and of the strangers, who have successively invaded Hindostan; the fell and fiendlike cruelty that has made modern Persia a desert; the stupid, but furious superstition, and the tainted impurity of Turkey. To these monstrous corruptions, these wonderful sins of nations claiming, generally, the name of civilized, add the crimes of the savage world; and fasten your eyes for a moment on the wolfish rage, which reigns, and riots, in the human animals, prowling, regularly, for blood and havoc around the deserts of America and Asia : and you will be presented with an imperfect, but for my purpose a sufficient, exemplification of the spirit, which rules the heart of man, and actuates the vast family of Adam.
But this spirit is unnecessary to man. The disposition, which I have described, might just as easily inform the mind, and control the conduct. We might as easily be benevolent, as selfish ; virtuous as sinful. No new faculties are necessary; and no change is required, but of the disposition. How superior is the disposition, here illustrated, to that, whose effects have been so uniformly dreadful! Hitherto I have used the language of supposition only; and have declared, that, if such were the character of our race, such also would be the state of this unhappy world. Now I inform you, that such, one day, will be the true character and state of man.
The period will one day arrive: the period is now on the wing: the day will certainly dawn: the morning-star is, perhaps, even now ascending in the east, of that day, in which Christ will return, and reign on the earth. I neither intend, nor believe, that he will appear in person, until the great and final day, which the Scriptures emphatically call his second coming ; for the heavens must receive him until ihe times of the restitution of all things. But he will appear in his Providence, and by his Spirit, to renew the face of the earth. A new heart and a right spirit will he create within them. His law he will write in their hearts; and his fear will he put in their minds; and their sins, and their iniquities, will he remember no more. This new heart, this right spirit
, will be no other than the disposition, which has been here considered; the very obedience of the Law, which will be thus written ; the new creation, which is thus promised.
By the implantation of this holy character in the soul, a change will be accomplished, which is exhibited in the Scriptures in terms of hyperbolical and singular sublimity. In their present state of Apostacy, mankind are considered in this sacred volume, as being all buried in a death-like sleep. From this benumbing lethargy, hopeless and endless, unless removed by Almighty power, they are represented as roused anew to consciousness, to feeling, and to action, by the awakening voice of God. In the present state, they are declared to be madmen ; groping in the gloom, wantoning in the excesses, and venting the rage, of Bedlam. In the new one,
they are exhibited as restored to reason, to sobriety, to intellectual dignity and usefulness, and as introduced again to the society, converse, and esteem, of rational beings. Originally, they are prisoners to sin and Satan, the victims of turpitude, and the sport of fiends : yet they are prisoners of hope. "In their renovation they have heard liberty proclaimed to the captide, and the opening, of the prison doors to them that are bound; and, at the sound of these glad tidings, they have shaken off their chains, and escaped from their dungeon into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God. In their present state ; they are pronounced to be dead, and fallen together in one great valley of the shadow of death; the appointed and immense receptacle of departed men ; where their bones are dispersed over the waste; dried, whitened, and returning to their original dust. A voice from heaven, resounding through the regions of this immense catacomb, commands the scattered fragments to assemble from the four corners of heaven; to re-unite-in their proper places ; and to constitute anew the forms of men. A noise, a shaking, a rustling, is heard over the vast GOLGOTHA; a general commotion begins; and, moved by an instinctive power, bone seeks its kindred bone; the sinews and flesh spontaneously arise, and cover the naked form; and the Spirit of life breathes with one divine and universal energy on the unnumbered multitude. Inspired thus with breath, and life, the great host of mankind instinctively rise, and stand on their feet, and live again with immortal life. The great world of death is filled with animated beings; and throughout its amazing regions, those who were dead are alive again, and those who were lost to the creation are found.
This resurrection is no other, than a resurrection to spiritual life; no other, than an assumption of this new and heavenly character. This character, this disposition, will constitute the sum, and the glory, of the Millennial state, and the foundation of all its blessings. When the heavens shall drop down dew from above, the skies pour down righteousness, and the earth open, and bring forth salvation; all the external good, all the splendour and distinction, of that happy period, will follow as things of course; as consequences, which, in the divine system, Virtue draws in its train.
The Lord of hosts will, therefore, make for all nations, a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees well refined. The Lord of hosts will swallow up death in victory; and will wipe away the tears from all faces ; and will take away the reproach of his people from all the earth. He will lay the stones of Zion with fair colours, and her foundations with Sapphires; will make her windows of agates, her gates of carbuncles, and all her borders of pleasant stones. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
TAE LAW OF GOD.- THE SECOND GREAT COMMANDMENT UTIL
ITY THE FOUNDATION OF VIRTUE.
Acts 57. 35.--I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring, ye ought to sup
port the weak; and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give, than to receive.
IN my two last discourses, I endeavoured to show by a variety of arguments, that a disposition voluntarily employed in doing good, is productive of more Personal and Public happiness, than any other can be. In those discourses, and in several preceding ones, it has, if I mistake not, been sufficiently proved, that the same disposition in the Creator and his intelligent creatures is the source not only of more happiness to the Creation at large, than any other, but of all the happiness which has existed or will ever exist.
Virtue, or Moral Excellence, is an object of such high import, as to have engaged, in every enlightened country, and period, the deepest attention of mankind. It has, of course, been the subject of the most laborious investigations, and of very numerous discussions. Inquisitive men have asked with no small anxiety, 6 What is Virtue ?" 66 What is its nature ?" " What is its excellence ?” And, " What is the foundation, on which this excellence rests ?” To these questions, widely different and directly opposite answers have been given. In modern times, and in this as well as other countries, much debate has existed concerning the Foundation of Virtue. It has been said to be founded in the Nature of things; in the Reason of things; in the Fitness of things ; in the Will of God; and in Utility. My intention in this discourse is to examine the nature of this subject.
The phrase, the foundation of Virtue, has been very differently understood by different writers. Indeed, the word, foundation, in this case seems to be a defective one; as being ambiguous; and, therefore, exposed to different interpretations. When Virtue is said to be founded in the Will of God, or in Utility, some writers appear to intend by this phraseology, that the Will of God, or Utility, is the Rule, Measure, or Directory, of virtuous conduct. Others evidently intend, that one, or the other, of these things, is what constitutes it virtue ; makes it valuable, excellent, lovely, praiseworthy, and rewardable. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary for me to observe, antecedently to entering on this discussion, that I use the
phrase in the sense last mentioned; and intend, by the Foundation of Virtue, that which constitutes its value and excellence. It is necessary, also, to premise further, that by the word, Utility, I mean a Tendency to produce Happiness.
Having premised these things, I shall endeavour, in the following discourse, to support this Doctrine : That Virtue IS FOUNDED IN Utility.
The Text is a general and indirect declaration of this doctrine. The word, blessed, is sometimes used to denote a state, happy in itself; and sometimes a state, made happy, or blessed, by God. To give, in the sense of the text, is voluntarily to communicate happiness; or, in other words, to be voluntarily useful. As we are in fact made happy by God, whenever we are happy; it is evident, that those moral beings, who are most happy, being made so by Him as a reward of their character and conduct, and not merely by the nature of that character and conduct, are most approved by him. That, which is most approved by God, is in itself most excellent. But the text informs us, that voluntary usefulness is most approved by God, because it is peculiarly blessed by him; and is, therefore, the highest excellence. A man may be virtuous in receiving good at the hands of his fellow-creatures. But his virtue will consist only in the disposition, with which he receives it: his gratitude ; his desire to glorify God; and his wishes to requite, whenever it shall be in his power, his created benefactors. This is being useful in the only way, which the situation, here supposed, allows; and the only thing which is virtuous, or excellent, in the mere state of receiving good.
To give, or communicate good, is a nobler, and more excellent state of being, than that of receiving good can be ; because the giver is voluntarily the originator of happiness. In this conduct he resembles God himself, the Giver of all good, in that characteristic, which is the peculiar excellence and glory of his nature. Accordingly. God loves, and for this reason blesses, him, in a preeminent degree. The proof of his superior excellence is complete in the fact, that he is peculiarly blessed: for these peculiar blessings, which he receives, are indubitable evidence of the peculiar favour of God; and the peculiar favour of God is equal evidence of peculiar excellence in him, who is thus blessed. But the only excellence, here alleged, or supposed, by Christ, is the spirit of doing good; or, in other words, the spirit of voluntary usefulness. In this spirit, then, Virtue or moral excellence consists; and the only excellence, here supposed, is of course founded in Utility,
To the evidence, furnished by the text, both Reason and Revelation add ample confirmation. This, I trust, will sufficiently appear in the course of the following Observations.
1st. Virtue is not founded in the Will of God.
Those who hold the doctrine, which I have here denied, may have been led, unwittingly, to adopt it from an apprehension, that