Page images

ness of an action, but all other motives that may be added to it, viz. the hopes and fears of this world, and the hopes and fears of the world to come, are not sufficient, in fact, to restrain some men from unreasonable actions. ,

And, as there is a reason or rule of action resulting from the natural and essential differences in things ; so this rule is, in common language, called the law of nature. It is also called the law of * God, as it is that rule by which God governs his behaviour towards his creatures. And it is God's law as he adopts it and makes it his, by giving it as a rule of action to his subjects, (he being the great governor of the moral world,) all God's laws being founded upon it, and conformed to it. But it is not God's law as founded solely on his will and commandment, because it is, and ought to be a rule of action to all intelligent beings, whether God willed or commanded it, or not. And, this law of nature is in order of nature above and before all other laws, it being the ground and foundation of them ; all law and government whether human or divine being originally founded, not in a superiority of power, but in the reason of things as aforesaid. And, as government itself is founded in the reason of things; so all authority, and all laws flowing from it ought to be directed and governed by this original and primary law of nature. It being a manifest . E 2

absurdity * See my Tract intitled, A Discourse concerning Reafon with regard to Religion and Divine Revelation.

absurdity to fuppose that any law-giver can in reafon have a right to command what is not fit nor reasonable to be commanded, and which has not a laudable reason for it's performance, that of it's being commanded not being such. And this is manifestly the case, with respect to all laws, and all law-givers, whether human or divine. It being equally as unreasonable and unfit that God should make an unreasonable law, as that any other lawgiver should act thus ; seeing the reason of things is, and ought to be as much a rule of action to him, as to any other intelligent being. God indeed is our creator, and as he called us into being without our confent; so hereby he became our common parent, and the natural guardian of our happiness, and hereby he has a right to govern us, not by making what law he pleases, but only to rule us for our good, it being very unequal and unreasonable that he should exercise any other authority over us ; seeing his calling us into being, or his being poffeffed with such power as we are not able to resist, does not alter the nature of things, by making that fit and reafonable which otherwise would not be so. And, - As this rule of action is founded in the reafon of things; our obligation to obedience is founded on the same principle. That is, we are in reason obliged to yeild obedience to this law supposing no promulged law had ever been given to mankind. Thus, the grateful


acknowledgment of a favour received, and a grateful return for it, to proper persons, and under proper circumstances, (when, and where such returns can be made,) are duties which every intelligent being is in' reason obliged to perform, when considered abstractedly from, and antecedent to, any promulged law of any kind. For whatever in reason becomes a law to intelligent beings, those beings, will for the Jame reason be obliged to yeild obedience to that law. And where there is no reason for a command, there can be no reason for our complying with it, except it be that prudential one of avoiding the evil, which otherwise our disobedience may bring upon us. And this is the case of all laws, whether human or divine. That is, our obligation to obedience in any case, does not arise from the thing's being commanded, but from it's being fit and reasonable, upon some account or other, when all things are taken into the case, (and when considered abstractedly from the will of the law-giver,) that we should yeild obedience to that law. For, as the reason of things is the ground and foundation of all authority and government; so it must likewise, in the nature of the thing, be the ground and foundation of all obligations to obedience. And,

As there is such a rule of action founded in the nature of things as aforesaid; so the moral perfections of all intelligent beings arise from, and consist in, their being perfectly subjected


to this law. Thus, the moral perfection of the Deity consists in his being absolutely and perfectly subjected to this law of reason; that is, in his making the reason of things the rule and measure of his affections and actions, in all his dealings with his creatures. And, herein consists the moral perfection of the human nature, (when such perfection is attained,) viz. in being perfectly subjected both in affections and actions, to this law of reason; and every approach to it is an approach to the perfection of our nature. And, if our species were universally and perfe&tly subjected to this law, then there would be no use nor place for any promulged law of any kind; because the use and end of all promulged law and government, whether human or divine, is, (or at least ought to be,) to enforce and lead men on to obedience to this original and primary law of nature again. :* Thirdly, as there is a natural and an essential difference in things, and as there is a rule of action resulting from that difference which is equally obliging to every moral agent; so Almighty God makes that rule, viz. the reason of things, the measure of his actions; and this he does in all instances and cases in which it is capable of being a rule to him.

And, that this is a true principle, and a proper foundation for argument I prove thus. Almighty God is present to, and in, and with,

all all things, and thereby has the most perfect knowledge of them. And, as he molt clearly discerns the natural and essential difference in things, and the reason or rule of action resulting from it in every case, and, as this is and ought to be as much a rule of action to God as to any other moral agent, and, as he is far above and thereby perfectly free from all temptations which might mislead him and draw him into a wrong choice, so this affords a moral certainty that he will always chuse to act right, or agreeably to that rule of action, which is founded in the reason of things as aforesaid. For, tho' we may have different, and sometimes opposite interests in view, and are surrounded with many temptations of various kinds to invite us to a wrong choice, and which too often is the ground and reason of our foolishly and wickedly acting contrary to that rule of action, which is founded in the reason of things ; yet this is by no means the case with respect to God; and therefore, it cannot be a ground or reason to him to chuse to act wrong in any case whatsoever. God has not different and opposite interests in view, he has no wrong affections within to mislead, no temptations from without to intice and allure him, no pleasing prospect to invite, nor any superior power to threaten and awe him; in fine, nature does not afford a motive to excite him to a wrong choice, and therefore, we are sure that he never will act so ; but on the contrary he always will make the

* See my Discourse intitled, The Sufficiency of Reafon in Matters of Religion farther considered.


« PreviousContinue »