« PreviousContinue »
move and influence their Wills to Obedience; in which Cafe the Principles and the Motives of Religion would be exactly the same; and the Act of Obedience would be fincere and pure, and of the same Kind with the Light of Reason from which it flows. Such Obedience as this is in the highest Degree rational and religious; and though Laws, both human and divine, are guarded with Hopes and Fears, yet the Workings of such Hopes and Fears cannot add to the Religion of such Obedience; unless you suppose that there is more Religion in being moved by our own Passions, than in being conducted by the clear Light of our Reason and Understanding. · When once a Man has attained to the Knowledge of God, and of the Relation he bears to him, and feels the natural Obligations from thence arising to love, honour, and obey his Maker ; though other Confiderations may come in with good Effect to incline his Will to his Duty, yet no other Confiderations can add to his Obligations, or make the Duty of Obedience more a Duty, or more an Act of true Religion, than it was before: for he who honours and obeys God, because he knows that God
ought ought to be honoured and obeyed by him, his Creature and his Servant, acts upon as high and as true a Principle of Religion, as a rational Mind is capable of.
The second Principle of Duty, which is the Love of our Neighbour, may be confidered in two Views, either as it results from the common Relation which all Men bear to God, or from the Relation which Men bear to each other : in the first View, to'love our Neighbour is properly a religious Act, and Part of the Duty we owe to God; and he knows but little of God and his Attributes, who cannot from thence difcern that to do good to our Fellow-Creatures is an acceptable Part of Obedience to him ; that to vex, injure, and oppress them, is injurious to him, the common Father and Maker of all Men.
But besides this, could we suppose Men to forget God, without forgetting themfelves, and losing the Reason with which they are endowed; the very Light of Reafon, assisted by the natural Faculty of what is right and wrong, would oblige Men to use each other with Justice, and with Tenderness: for Reason itself is a Law to a reasonable Mind : and in the present Cafe,
you must either say, that it would be altogether as reasonable an Act in a Man, who believes not in God, to murder an innocent Child, as to nourish and support it; or you muft allow that Reason alone in this Cafe makes a Difference, and creates such an Obligation as a reasonable Mind must ever be sensible of, and inclined to follow. I would not call this religious Obedience, but it is Obedience to the Law of our own Minds; and could we be so ftupid as to forget the Hand which planted this Law in our Hearts, yet whilst the Law itself lives in us; that is, as long as we continue to have Reason and Senfe, so long shall we feel the Obligations we are under in Obedience to it; so long shall we be dissatisfied with ourselves, for acting contrary to what we see, and know, and feel to be right and becoming
But join these two Considerations together, and you see into the very Source of all the Obligations a Man can be under to do good to his Fellow Creatures. We can consider Men only as they stand related to - us, or as they and we stand equally related to God, our common Father; and under these Views we may discover whatever we
owe to Man for his own Sake, or for the Sake of God who made him; and discern the whole Compass of our Duty with Respect to the second great Branch of it, Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thyself
Let us then proceed to the third Thing, viz. the Love of ourselves, and our own Happiness; and consider how far this will and ought to influence our religious Obedience.
· It is very evident from the common and universal Sense of Mankind, that the Defires of Life and Happiness are Impressions which come from the Author of Nature ; and consequently that to follow these Impressions, and to act in Pursuance of them, is according to Nature, and agreeable to the Will of God, the Author of them. It is reasonable for a Man to be concerned for his own Happiness ; and since the Will of God can never contradict right Reason, it is consonant to the divine Will for Men to act upon this Principle, the Care of themselves and of their own Welfare. This Concern for our own Happiness is a very strong Principle of Action in us, and when duly pursued, within its proper Bounds, a very justifiable one ; and though in Strictness of
Speech it cannot be termed a Principle of Religion, because the Reason of our own religious Obedience is not to be resolved into Self-love ; yet considering the strict Union which God has made between our Happiness and our Duty, the Concern for our own Happiness, when duly regulated, will always be a powerful Principle of Action in Matters of Religion..
The natural Care and Concern therefore which all Men have for themselves and their own Happiness, is the great Source from which the Motives of Religion are deduced : and the Reason why this natural Principle of Action does often furnish very powerful Motives to the Cause of Vice and Irreligion, is no other than this; that Men often, through the Corruption of their Affections, judge amiss of their Happiness, and pursue those Things as pleasant and profitable, which are really pernicious and destructive. In which Case Men are not to be blamed for pursuing their own Happiness, but for the Corruption of their Hearts, which makes them place their Happiness in the Things the most contrary to it. For since God made Man to be happy, and has endowed him with Reason, to discern