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ceives that a particular action hath such a fitness, or hath it not, he will declare, without hesitation, that the action is just or unjust. If he hesitate in some cases, it is because he doth not perceive the relation of the action in question to this fitness. It belongs to casuists to solve difficulties of this kind. I perceive at once a relation between him who receives a benefit, and him who confers it, and from this relation I conclude that there is a fitness between gratitude and the circumstances of the receiver: therefore I declare, without hesitating, that gratitude is a virtue, and that ingratitude is a vice. But should I be asked whether it were a virtue or a vice to kill a tyrant, I night hesitate ; because I might not at first perceive what relation there is between the killing of a tyrant and the fitness that ought to subsist between the conduct of a subject and his relation to a tyrant.
Should any one still urge me to give him clearer ideas, of that which I call the proportion, the harmony, or the fitness of an action, I would freely own I could not answer his enquiry. But at the same time, I would declare that my inability did not arise from the obscurity of my subject, but from the all-sufficiency of its evidence. I would recur to the maxim just now mentioned, that when a subject is placed in a certain degree of evidence and simplicity, every thing added to elucidate, serves only to darken and perplex it.
Should my enquirer still reply, that he had no idea of that which I call the proportion, the harmony, or the fitness of an action, I should consider him as a being of a species different from mine, and I should not think of conversing with him. There are some common ideas, some maxims, that are taken for granted, even by the most opposite parties, and when those maxims are disputed, and those ideas not admitted, there is an end of conversing and reasoning
This is a general notion of holiness. But the holiness, that is attributed to God, and prescribed to men, in the text, cannot belong in the same sense, and in every respect, to such different beings. We are going to examine then, in the second place, in what sense it agrees to God, and in what sense it agrees to man.
II. What hath been said of holiness in general, will serve to explain in what sense God is holy, and in what sense men ought to be holy. The general principle of holiness is common to God and man. The general principle of holiness, as hath been already shewn, is a perfect proportion, harmony, or fitness between the conduct of an intelligent being and his relations to other beings. The holiness of God is that perfect harmony, proportion, or fitness, that subsists between his conduct (if I may be allowed to speak thus of God) and his relation to other beings. The holiness of man consists in the same. But as the circumstances and relation of God differ from those of men, the holiness of God and the holiness of men are of different kinds. And it is the difference of these relations that we must distinguish, if we would give a proper answer to the questions in hand: In what sense, and in what respects is holiness ascribed to God? In what sense, and in what respects is holiness prescribed to men?
The first question, that is, What relations hath God with other beings, is a question so extensive, and so difficult, that all human intelligence united in one mind could not return a sufficient answer. We have been accustomed to consider our earth as the principal part of the universe, and ourselves as the most considerable beings in nature. Yet our
earth is only an atom in the unbounded space in which it is placed : and we are only a very inconsiderable number in comparison of the infinite multitude and the endless variety of creatures which the great Supreme hath made. There is an infinite number of angels, seraphims, cherubims, thrones, dominions, powers, and other intelligences, of which we have no ideas, and for which we have no names. God hath relations to all these beings, and on the nature of those relations depends the nature of that order, justice, or holiness, which he inviolably maintains in respect to them. But let us not lose ourselves in these immense objects. Let us only fix our meditation on God's relation to men, and we shall form sufficient ideas of his holiness.
What relation doth God bear to us? God hath called us into existence; and there are between us the relations of Creator and creature. But what harmony do we think there ought to be between the conduct of God to us, and the relation he bears to us of a Creator to creatures ? Harmony, or fitness, seems to require, that God, having brought creatures into existence, should provide for their support, and having given them certain faculties, should require an account of the use that is made of them. This is the first idea that we form of the holiness of God. It does not appear to us fit, or agreeable to order, that God, after having created intelligent beings, should abandon them to themselves, and not regard either their condition, or their conduct. On this principle we ground the doctrine of Providence, and reject the extravagant system of the Epicureans.
What relation doth God bear to us? God hath given us a revelation. He hath proposed some principles to us, Between God and us there are the relations of tutor and pupil, But what fitness
do we think there ought to be between the conduct of God and the relation of a tutor to a pupil, that subsists between him and us? It is fit, methinks, that a revelation proceeding from God should be conformable to his own ideas; and on this principle we ground the doctrine of the truth, or as the schools call it, the veracity of God, and maintain with St. Paul, even independently on the authority of St. Paul, that it is impossible for God to lie, Heb. vi. 18.
What relation doth God bear to us? God hath made a covenant with us: to certain conditions in that covenant he hath annexed certain promises. Between God and us there subsists the relations of two contracting parties. What fitness do we think there ought to be between the conduct of God and the relation of an ally which he bears to us? We think that there is a harmony, or a fitness, in his fulfilling the articles of the covenant, and on this principle we ground our expectation of the accomplishment of his promises, and believe that all the promises of God are yea, and amen, 2 Cor. i. 20.
What relation subsists between God and us? God hath given us certain laws. Between God and us there are the relations of a law-giver and subjects. What harmony, do we think, there ought to be between the conduct of God and the relation of a legislator to a subject? We think harmony requires that the laws prescribed to us should be proportional to our ability; that nothing should be required of us beyond our natural power, or the supernatural assistances which he affords : and on this principle we reject a cruel system of divinity, more likely to tarnish than to display the glory of the Supreme Being: on this principle we say with St. James, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraid
eth not, chap. i. 5. on this principle we say with St. Paul, that as many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law : and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law, Rom. ii. 12. Follow this train of reasoning, my brethren, reflect on the other relations, which God bears to mankind, examine, as far as you are capable of examining, the harmony that subsists between the conduct of God and those relations, and the further you proceed in meditations of this kind, the more just, and the more enlarged will be your ideas of the holiness of God.
But perhaps, some may accuse me of taking that for granted which remains to be proved, and of grounding my whole system of the holiness of God on a disputed principle, the truth of which I have not yet demonstrated : that is, that there doth subsist such a perfect harmony or fitness between the conduct of God and his relations to men. Perhaps I may be asked for the proofs of this principle, the ground of my whole system, for if the principle be doubtful the whole system is hypothetical, and if it be false the system falls of itself. I answer, my brethren, that we have a strong and demonstrative evidence of the holiness of God as it is possible for finite creatures to have of the attributes of an infinite Being. We may derive sound notions of the conduct of God from three different sources, each of which will prove that a perfect harmony subsists between the conduct of God and his relations to us, and all together will fully convince us that God possesseth in the most eminent degree such a holiness as we have described.
1. We shall be fully convinced that God possesseth this holiness if we regulate our ideas of his conduct by our notion of his nature. Let me beg leave to remark, to those who have been accustomed