« ZurückWeiter »
ing God; what he is; what manner of being ; whether properly intelligent and willing; a being that has will and design, maintaining a proper, intelligent, voluntary dominion over the world. . Notions of the first being, like those of Hobbes and Spinosa, would prevail. Especially would they be at a loss concerning those perfections of God, which he exercises as a moral governor. For we find that some of the deists, though they, from revelation, have been taught these ; yet, having cast off revelation, apparently doubt of them all. Lord Bolingbroke, in particular, insists that we have no evidence of them.
§ 5. And though, with regard to many, when they have a revelation fully setting forth the perfections of God-giving a rational account of them, and pointing forth their consistence their reason may
rest satisfied in them; this is no evidence that it is not exceeding needful that God should tell us of them. It is very
needful that God should declare to mankind what manner of being he is. For, though reason may be sufficient to confirm such a declaration after it is given, and enable us to see its consistence, harmony, and rationality, in many respects; yet reason may be utterly insufficient first to discover these things.
Yea, notwithstanding the clear and infinitely abundant evidences of his being, we need that God should tell us that there is a great Being, who understands, who wills, and who has made and governs the world. It is of unspeakable advantage, as to the knowledge of this, that God has told us of it; and there is much reason to think, that the notion mankind in general have entertained in all ages concerning a Deity, has been very much originally owing to revelation.
On the supposition, that God has a moral kingdom in the world, that he is the head of a moral society, consisting either of some part of mankind, or of the whole; in what darkness must the affairs of this moral kingdom be carried on, without a communication between the head and the body; the ruler never making himself known to the society by any word, or other equivalent expression whatsoever, either by himself, or by any mediators, or messengers?
$ 6. So far as we see, all moral agents are conversible agents. It seems to be so agreeable to the nature of moral agents, and their state in the universal system, that we observe none without it; and there are no beings that have even the semblance of intelligence and will, but possess the faculty of conversation ; as in all kinds of birds, beasts, and even insects. So far as there is any appearance of something like a mind, so far they give significations of their minds one to another, in something like conversation among rational creatures. And, as we rise higher in the scale of beings, we do not see that an increase of perfection diminishes the need or propriety of communication and intercourse of this kind, but augments it. And accordingly, we see most of it among the most perfect beings. So we see conversation by voluntary immediate significations of each other's minds, more fully, properly, and variously, between mankind, than any other animals here below. And if there are creatures superior to mankind united in society, doubtless still voluntary converse is more full and perfect.
Especially do we find conversation proper and requisite between intelligent creatures concerning moral affairs, which are most important: affairs wherein especially moral agents are concerned, as joined in society, and having union and communion one with another. As to other concerns that are merely personal and natural, wherein we are concerned more separately, and by ourselves, and not as members of society, in them there is not equal need of conversation.
§ 7. Moral agents are social agents ; affairs of morality are affairs of society. It is concerning moral agents as united in society, in a commonwealth or kingdom, that we have been speaking. Particular moral agents so united, need conversation. The affairs of their social union cannot well be maintained without conversation. And if so, what reason can be given, why there should be no need of conversation with the head of the society? The head of the society, so far as it is united with it on a moral ground, is a social head. The head belongs to the society, as the natural head belongs to the body. And the union of the members with the head is greater, stricter, and more important, than one with another. And if their union with other members of the society require conversation, much more their greater union with the head. By all that we see and experience, the moral world, and the conversible world, are the same thing; and it never was intended, that the affairs of society, in any that are united in society among intelligent creatures, should be upheld and carried on without conversation.
There is no more reason to deny God any conversation with his moral kingdom, in giving laws, and enforcing them with promises and threatenings, than to deny him any conversation with them in another world, when judging them. But, can any that believe a future state, rationally imagine, that when med go into another world to be judged by their Supreme Governor, nothing will pass or be effected through the immediate interposition of the judge, but all things be left wholly to go on according to laws of nature established from the beginning of the world : and that souls pass into another state by a law of nature, as a stone, when shaken off from a building, falls down by gravity, without any miraculous signification from God? But there is as much reason to suppose this, as to deny any miraculous interposition in giving and establishing the laws of the VOL, VII,
moral society. If judgment and execution by law, be by immediate interposition and declaration, why not legislation ?
$ 8. The ground of moral behaviour, and all moral government and regulation, is society, or mutual intercourse and social regards. The special medium of union and communication of the members of the society, and the being of society as such, is conversation; and the well-being and happiness of society is friendship. It is the highest happiness of all moral agents; but friendship, above all other things that belong to society, requires conversation. It is what friendship most naturally and directly desires. By conversation, not only is friend. ship maintained and nourished, but the felicity of friendship is tasted and enjoyed. The happines of God's moral kingdom consists, in an inferior degree, in the members' enjoyment of each other's friendship; but infinitely more in the enjoyment of their head. Therefore, here especially, and above all, is conversation requisite.
$ 9. Conversation between God and mankind in this world, is maintained by God's word on his part, and by prayer on ours. By the former, he speaks and expresses his mind to us ; by the latter, we speak and express our minds to him. Sincere friendship towards God, in all who believe him to be properly an intelligent, willing being, does most apparently, directly and strongly, incline to prayer; and it no legs disposes the heart strongly to desire to have our infinitely glorious and gracious Friend expressing his mind to us by his word, that we may know it. The same light which has directed the nations of the world in general to prayer, has directed them to suppose, that God, or the gods, have revealed themselves to men. And we see, that the same infidelity that disposes men to deny any divine revelation, disposes them to reject as absurd the duty of prayer.
$ 10. If God's moral kingdom, or the society of his friends and willing subjects, shall be in a most happy state in another world—in the most complete friendship, and in perfect union with God their head, as some of the deists pretend to believe -is it reasonable to suppose any other, than that they will fully enjoy the sweets of their friendship one with another, in the most perfect conversation, either by words, or some more perfect medium of expressing their minds? And shall they have at the same time, no conversation at all with their glori. ous head, the fountain of all the perfection and felicity of the society, in friendship with whom their happiness chiefly consists?' That friendship, and the happiness they have in it, is begun in this world ; and this is the state wherein they are trained up for that more perfect state : and shall they nevertheless live here wholly without any intercourse with God of
this sort ; though their union with him, as their moral head, and their great friend, begins here ; and though their happiness, as consisting in friendship to him, and also the enjoyment of that subordinate happiness of holding a virtuous and holy conversation one with another, be begun here? The need of conversation in order properly to support and carry on the concerns of society, may well appear, by considering the need of it for answering all the purposes of friendship, which is one of the main concerns of society, in some respects the main social concern, and the end of all the rest.
Let us suppose, that some friend, above all others dear to us, in whose friendship consisted the main comfort of our life, should leave us in possession of something he had contrived and accomplished, some manifold complicated effect that he had produced which we might have always in our view. Sup. pose also that this work should be a very great and manifold evidence of the excellencies of our friend's mind, of his great, fixed, and firm benevolence to us; and that he should withdraw for ever, and never have any conversation with us; that no word should ever pass, or any thing of that nature ; and that no word should be left behind in writing, nor any word ever spoken left in the memory: would this sufficiently and completely answer the purposes of this great friendship, and satisfy its ends and desires, or be a proper support of this great end of society? I cannot but think, every sober, considerate person will at once determine, that it would be very far from it, for such reasons as these, -that it would not give us those views of things, pertaining to the support and enjoyment of friendship, suitable to the nature of intelligent, volitive, and conversible beings ; not giving the direct and immediate view, nor at all tending, in so great a degree and so agreeable a manner, to affect and impress the mind. And as, for these reasons, this alone would not answer the ends and purposes of society in this respect; so, for the same reasons, it would not answer the other purposes of society.
$11. As we may suppose, that God will govern mankind, in that moral kingdom which he hath mercifully set up among them, in a manner agreeable to their nature ; so it is reasonable to suppose, that he would make his moral government, with respect to them, visible, not only in declaring the general ends, methods, and rules of his government, but also by making known the chief of his more particular aims and designs. As in human kingdoms, in order to the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of the administration being properly visible--so far as is requisite for encouraging and animating of the subject, and in order to the suitable convenience, satisfaction, and benefit of the whole society of intelligent agents-it is needful, not only that the general end, viz, the public good, should be known, but also the particular design of many of the principal parts of the administration, among which we may reckon the main negociations, treaties, and changes of affairs, the cause and end of wars engaged in, the ground of treaties of peace and commerce, the design of general revolutions in the state of the kingdom, &c. Otherwise the society is not governed in a manner becoming their rational and active nature ; but affairs are carried on in ihe dark, and the members
; have no opportunity to consent or concur, to approve or disapprove, to rejoice in the goodness, wisdom, and benefit of the administration, and to pay proper regards to those in whose hands the government is, &c. These things are necessary for the establishment and confirmation of the government. God's moral government over his moral kingdom on earth, cannot, in such like respects, be carried on in a visible manner, and in a way suitable to our nature, without divine history and prophecy. Without divine history, we cannot properly see the grounds and foundation of divine administrations, the first formation or erection of God's moral kingdom, the nature and manner of the main revolutions to which it has been subject, which are the ground of future designs, and to which future events and intended revolutions have a relation. It is also necessary that those past events should be known, in order that the reason, wisdom, and benefit of the present state of the kingdom and of God's present dispensations towards it, may be known. And prophecy is needful to reveal the future designs and aims of government, and what good things are to be expected.
These things are necessary, in order to the proper establishment, health and prosperity, of God's moral, intelligent kingdom. Without them, the government of an infinitely wise and good head, is not sensible. There is no opportunity to see the effects and success of the administration. There is no opportunity to find it by experience. Neither the designs of government, nor the accomplishment of those designs, are sensible ; and the government itself, with respect to fact, is not made visiblc.
§ 12. If it be said, that reason and the light of nature, without revelation, are sufficient to show us, that the end of God's government, in his moral kingdom, must be, to promote these two things among mankind, viz. their virtue and their happiness:
in reply, I would ask, What satisfaction can men without revelation have, with respect to the design, wisdom, and success of God's government, as to these ends, when wickedness so yenerally prevails and reigns, through all ages hitherto, in the ar greater part of the world ; and the world, at all times, is so ull of calamities, miseries, and death, having no prophecies of a better state of things in which all is to issue at last, in the tatter ages of the world ; or assuring us that all these miserable