« PreviousContinue »
the slaughter; because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear.” To the same people he says by Jeremiah, “Behold, I will bring evil upon this city, and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my word.” And again he says by the same prophet, “Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day, I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck. Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken unto thee: thou shalt call unto them; but they will not answer thee: But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation, that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receiveth instruction.” The curse deserved and threatened is "the land shall be desolate.” God is the same holy and righteous being from age to age. He is as much displeased with us, as he was with his ancient people, for despising and abusing the instructions and admonitions of his word; and we have just ground to fear, that he will punish us as severely, as he did them, for sinning against all the light and instruction, which he has given us by his faithful servants. In the view of our guilty and dan. gerous situation, we have abundant reason for humili. ation, fasting, and prayer before God this day. We ought to bewail the atheism, the infidelity, the licentiousness, the impenitence, and stupidity, which abound through the nation. These national sins will certainly draw down national judgments, unless we reform, repent, and return to the God of our fathers, from whom we have unreasonably revolted. This is the duty which God requires of a degenerate people, and Occa.
upon the performance of which he promises to forgive and save them. “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your
God. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach. Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people." Amen.
Delivered on the Annual Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, November 29, 1804.
i 'TIMOTHY vi, 5. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and
destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is god. liness. From such withdraw thyself.
TO reason justly from a false principle is the perfection of sophistry, which it is much more difficult to expose, than to refute false reasoning. It is easy to discover any error in false reasoning, and, by just reasoning, to refute it. But if men reason justly from any principle, whether true or false, their reasoning is conclusive, and the more it is examined, the more conclusive it will appear. We often find as strong and conclusive reasoning in favor of error, as in favor of truth. The only proper way, therefore, to expose the errors of profound sophisters, is to make it appear, that they have built all their just and conclusive reasonings upon some false or absurd principle. Accordingly Paul took this method to expose men of eorrupt minds in his day, who endeavored, by their sophistical and perverse disputings, to subvert the foundation of all religion and morality. They reasoned fairly and forcibly from a false principle, which they arbitrarily assumed. The apostle, therefore, does not pretend to examine their arguments, but only exposes and condemns the false and primary principle, upon which they had founded their whole system of error. This appears from the words I have read and those im- . mediately connected. “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own master's worthy of all honor, that the name of God be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful, and beloved partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud knowing nothing, but doating about questions, and strifes of words: whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of truth, supposing that gain is godliness: From such withdraw thyself.” These sophisters took it for granted, that “gain is godliness," and from this false principle it was easy to prove, by fair and conclusive reasoning, that servants were not bound to obey their masters, nor children to obey their parents, nor subjects to obey their rulers, nor creatures to obey their Creator. This was the most artful way of spreading the poison of fatal errors. The apostle, therefore, seasonably warns Timotby to avoid those evil men and seducers, Jest he should be led astray, by their subtile and plausible sophistry. “From such withdraw thyself.” Hence we may naturally conclude,
That men are greatly exposed to embrace the absurd doctrine, that virtue consists in utility. I shall attempt,
1. To explain the meaning of the doctrine. II. To demonstrate its absurdity.
JII. To show why men are greatly exposed to embrace it.
I. I am to explain the meaning of the doctrine that virtue consists in utility.
This sentiment has been maintained by those who believe, as well as by those who disbelieve divine revelation. Divines as well as infidels have supposed, that virtue consists in utility, and both have plainly explained their meaning. Bishop Law, in his Theory of Religion, after exploding what he considered a wrong notion of virtue, gives what he calls a more just and enlightened definition of it. “Now, since the subject of morality has been reduced to a science, and as such, built on rational principles, the sense of all the terms relating to it has been pretty well agreed upon, and it is generally understood to include thus much: The doing good to mankind in obedience to the will of God, and for the sake of everlasting happiness. Obedience to God is the principle, the good of mankind the matter, our own happiness the end, of all that is properly termed moral virtue. We cannot, therefore, distinguish between that which leads to the ultimatum of all private happiness, and real virtue; since nothing is materially good on any other account than as it properly conduces to such end; nothing bad or vicious, farther than it tends to the contrary: and the producing of the first among mankind entirely and uniformly, must be true virtue; call it moral or artificial; so long as we have any meaning to the word.” According to this labored definition of virtue, it whol. ly consists in utility, and all its excellence lies, not in its nature, but in its tendency to promote personal happiness. Dr. Paley, a friend and admirer of Bishop, Law, has taken his definition of moral virtue, in his, Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, from that favorite author. And he further observes, “It is the utility of any moral rule, which alone constitutes the obligation of it.” The most ingenious Infidels give
* Page 254, 255,