« IndietroContinua »
ceived to spring into existence conformably to the moral standard of their original nature, or in possesfion of holiness and happiness. By one man sin entered into the world, the system of mankind, and death by fon: not only the disolution of the body followed, (which in case of continued perfection would have been miraculously prevented from taking its natural course like other animal bodies,) but, what is far more important, the Spirit of life was lost from the soul. As a tree withers when the vital sap is gone, and the animal dies when the vital principle ceases to operate; so the spiritual life or well-being of an accountable creature departs when it loses the possession of the chief good.
$9. According to equity, man's obligations to be perfect are in proportion to the exhibition of means suited to that end. Thus, because the invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly feen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, all men are without excuse. And in proportion as any have additional discoveries, are they additionally obliged to improve them. A mind reasonably affected with the human frame, supposing every other object were fealed up in darkness, would say devoutly: “ I am fearfully " and wonderfully made; I am not my own, but
of an all-wise, almighty, and bene. “ volent being; let me never withhold his due from
him, but renounce myself to his absolute dif
posal perpetually.” Thus the most benighted of human kind is not deftitute of means, so far as to justify his accountableness; what then shall we say E
« the property
of those who live in the open blaze of divine exhibited benefits ? To whom the gospel of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared ? How inconceivably great must their obligations be! Bleftings high as heaven, and deep as our helpless miseries, demand no small share of affection and grateful obedience. We shall have occasion to resume this idea in the next Section, when treating of the rule of moral government.
§ 10. But what is the real fait with respect to men's improvement of the means they have? Can it be proved that there ever existed a mere man who was as perfect as he had means of being so? I am confident it cannot. If so, then, here is an incontrovertible ground of personal delinquency, culpableness, and exposedness to penal evil, the necessary effect of moral evil. If God therefore should mark iniquity, and give to every one his due, who could avoid the fate of the wicked and unprofitable servant?* All are gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable ; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Every mouth is popped, and all the world is become guilty before God.
* Matt. XXV. 30.
SE C T. II.
Of the Rule of moral Government.
$1. The foundation of this rule is the relation
subfifting between God and man. § 2. Hence results the MORAL LAW. § 3. The law results, not merely from what man now is, but also from the state of original probation in which was placed our progenitor. $ 4. The discovery of new relations produces new obligations. $5. Positive Laws morally oblige.
$1. HE immediate foundation of that rule
which is the great standard of moral government over mankind, is the relation subsisting between the divine Governor and man the governed. But how fhall we ascertain this relation? There seems to be no other satisfactory method but by fixing the true chara&ters of the beings related, and from thence to deduce the relation itself. Let us then observe :
1. God is a being possessed of all possible per. fection. He is self-existent, independent, and all. sufficient; he is eternal and infinite; he is infinitely benevolent, wise, and powerful; he is infinitely just, and yet absolutely fovereign; so just, that he wrongeth none, but giveth to every one to the full extent of his true claim; and so absolutely sovereign, that he never fails to secure his own ends, which are ever benevolent and wise.
2. Man is a being absolutely dependent on God for his existence, properties, and real acts; yet he has a capacity of intellect and will, and a power which we call freedom ; he is made capable of knowing God, and therefore of religion, which be. longs to no irrational creature, however sagacious in other respects; he is made capable of loving God as the supreme good and suitable rest of the active principle of volition, a privilege peculiar to moral agents.
3. God makes an exhibition of himself and other inferior good things to man, and bestows upon him favours and benefits innumerable. The wants of his body are provided for, and the means of comfort pointed out in the various ways of providence. The wants of the soul are consulted, so that there is no mental faculty, no principle of affection, but has presented to it a corresponding object. Hence results,
§ 2. The rule of moral government, which may be called the moral law. This rule, or law, is the immediate or proximate ground of moral obligation ; the intermediate is the decretive will of God which constituted those relations from whence the law results; and the ultimate is the divine intellect and effence. Hence we see, that the “ moral law” is not a separate thing, which may be abstractedly confidered without any reference to the characters of God and of man, and the consequent relations; but its very existence, its extent and obliging power, bear an exact proportion to characters, and the relations constituted by creation, providence, or grace.
$ 3. But it is necessary to observe here, That the obliging law results, not merely from what man now is, but also from what the human system was originally. Were not this the case, ignorance and the conscious want of the chief good, would be no fault, which would be impious to assert. If God had a right to manifest that he is strictly equitable as well as merciful, in his transactions with the father of our race; if it was right that men should exist by fucceffion, and that the son should be as the father that begat him; and if the transgression of a law does not annihilate its authority to oblige ; it follows, that all Adam's posterity are bound to be as perfect as he was, according to the obječtive means afforded. If they have the same physical capacities and powers as he had, and if “ the invisible things of God may be known,” (and therefore enjoyed,) by the ftupendous monuments of creation and providence, did not the fault lie in their own dispositions, it is manifest that they are bound to be perfeet as Adam was. And if they have additional discoveries to what he had, by way of moral means, their obli. gations must rise in proportion. — Hence we are led to another conclusion
$ 4. The discovery of new relations produces new obligations. And these discoveries are extremely various to various subjects. To whom much is given, of him much is required. To some