صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

PART ral Discipline, by any who at all observe the

1. Analogy of Nature. For, of the numerous muSeeds of Vegetables and Bodies of Animals,

which are adapted and put in the Way, to
improve to such a Point or State of natural
Maturity and Perfection, we do not see
perhaps that one in a million actually does.
Far the greatest Part of them decay before
they are improved to it; and appear to
be absolutely destroyed. Yet no one, who
does not deny all final Causes, will deny, that
those Seeds and Bodies, which do attain to
that Point of Maturity and Perfection, an-
swer the End for which they were really de-
figned by Nature ; and therefore that Nature
designed them for such Perfection. And I
cannot forbear adding, though it is not to the
present Purpose, that the Appearance of such
an amazing Waste in Nature, with Respect
to these Seeds and Bodies, by foreign Causes,
is to us as unaccountable, as, what is much
more terrible, the present and future Ruin of
so many moral Agents by themselves, i.e. by

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Against this whole Notion of moral Discipline, it may be objected, in another Way ; that so far as a Course of Behaviour, materially virtuous, proceeds from Hope and Fear, so far it is only a Discipline and Strengthening of Self-love. But Doing what God com


mands, because he commands it, is Obedi- ČH AP. ence, though it proceeds from Hope or Fear. V. And a Course of such Obedience will form mi Habits of it. And a constant Regard to Veracity, Justice and Charity, may form distinct Habits of these particular Virtues ; and will certainly form Habits of Self-government, and of denying our Inclinations, whenever Veracity, Justice or Charity requires it. Nor is there


Foundation for this great Nicety, with which some affect to distinguish in this Case, in order to depreciate all Religion proceeding from Hope or Fear. For, Veracity, Justice and Charity, Regard to God's Authority, and to our own chief Interest, are not only all three coincident; but each of them is, in itself, a just and natural Motive or Principle of Action. And he who begins a good Life from any one of them, and pers severes in it, as he is already in some Degree, so he cannot fail of becoming more and more, of That Character, which is correspondent to the Constitution of Nature as moral; and to the Relation, which God stands in to us as moral Governor of it: nor consequently can he fail of obtaining That Happiness, which this Conftitution and Relation neceffarily suppose connected with that Character.

These several Observations, concerning the active Principle of Virtue and Obedience to

L 2


PART God's Commands, are applicable to passive

1. Submiffion or Resignation to his Will : which mis another essential Part of a right Character,

connected with the former, and very much in our Power to form ourselves to. It


be imagined, that nothing but Africtions can give Occasion for or require this Virtue; that it can have no Respect to, nor be any way necessary to qualify for, a State of perfect Happiness: But it is not Experience which can make us think thus. Prosperity itself, whilst any thing supposed desireable is not ours, begets extravagant and unbounded Thoughts. Imagination is altogether as much a Source of Discontent, as any thing in our external Condition. It is indeed true, that there can be no Scope for Patience, when Sorrow shall be no more: but there may be Need of a Temper of Mind, which shall have been formed by Patience. For, though Self-love, considered merely as an active Principle leading us to pursue our chief Interest, cannot but be uniformly coincident with the Principle of Obedience to God's Commands, our Interest being rightly understood; because this Obedience, and the Pursuit of our own chief Interest, must be in every Case one and the fame thing: yet it may be questioned, whether Self-love, considered merely as the Defire of our own Interest or Happiness, can, from its Nature, be thus absolutely and uni-CHAP. formly coincident with the Will of God; any V. more than particular Affections can b: coin

from proper

mi cident in such Sort, as not to be liable to be excited upon Occasions and in Degrees, impossible to be gratified consistently with the Constitution of things, or the divine Appointments. So that Habits of Resignation may, upon this Account, be requisite for all Creatures : Habits, I say; which signify what is formed by Use. However, in general it is obvious, that both Self-love and particular Affections in human Creatures, considered only as paffive Feelings, distort and rend the Mind and therefore stand in need of Discipline. Now Denial of those particular Affections, in a Course of active Virtue and Obedience to God's Will, has a Tendency to moderate them; and seems also to have a Tendency to habituate the Mind, to be easy and fatisfied with that Degree of Happiness which is allotted us, i. e. to moderate Self-love. But the proper Discipline for Resignation, is Affliction. For a right Behaviour under That Trial; Recollecting ourselves so as to confider it in the View, in which Religion teaches us to consider it, as from the Hand of God; Receiving it as what He appoints, or thinks

[merged small][ocr errors]

PART proper to permit, in His World and under I, His Government; this will habituate the

Mind to a dutiful Submiflion. And such Submission, together with the active Principle of Obedience, make up the Temper and Character in Us, which answers to His Sovereignty; and which absolutely belongs to the Condition of our Being, as dependent Creatures. Nor can it be said, that this is only breaking the Mind to a Submission to mere Power ; for mere Power may be accidental, and precarious, and usurped ; But it is forming within ourselves the Temper of Resignation to His rightful Authority, who is, by Nature, supream over all,

Upon the whole : Such a Character, and such Qualifications, are necessary for a mature State of Life in the present World, as Nature alone does in no wise bestow; but has put it upon us, in great Part, to acquire, in our Progress from one Stage of Life to another, from Childhood to mature Age: put it

upon us to acquire them, by giving us Capacities of Doing it, and by placing us, in the Beginning of Life, in a Condition fit for it. And this is a general Analogy to our Condition in the present World, as in a State of moral Discipline for another. It is in vain then to object against the Credibility of


« السابقةمتابعة »