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us; and disapprove his treatment of us, when we are conscious that we should think it unjust, if we were in his case. Thus men's consciences approve or disapprove the sentence of their judge, by which they are acquitted or condemned. But this is not all that is in natural conscience. Besides this approving or disapproving from uneasiness as being inconsistent with ourselves, there is another thing that must precede it, and be the foundation of it. As for instance, when my conscience disapproves my own treatment of another, being conscious to myself, that were I in his case, I should be displeased and angry with him for so treating me; the question might be asked, What would be the ground of that supposed disapprobation, displeasure, and anger, which I am conscious would be in me in that case? Therefore,
2. The other thing which belongs to the approbation or disapprobation of natural conscience, is the sense of desert which was spoken of before; consisting as was observed, in a natural agreement, proportion and harmony, between malevolence or injury, and resentment and punishment; or between loving and being loved, between shewing kindness and being rewarded, &c. Both these kinds of approving or disapproving concur in the approbation or disapprobation of conscience: the one founded on the other. Thus when a man's conscience disapproves of his treatment of his neighbour, in the first place he is conscious, that if he were in his neighbour's stead, he should resent such treatment from a sense of justice, or from a sense of uniformity and equality between such treatment, and resentment, and punishment; as before explained. And then in the next place, he perceives that therefore he is not consistent with himself, in doing what he himself should resent in that case; and hence disapproves it, as being naturally averse to opposition to himself.
Approbation and disapprobation of conscience, in the sense now explained, will extend to all virtue and vice; to every thing whatsoever that is morally good or evil, in a mind which does not confine its view to a private sphere, but will take things in general into its consideration, and is free from speculative error. For as all virtue or moral good may be resolved into love to others, either God or creatures, so men easily see the uniformity and natural agreement there is between loving others, and being accepted and favoured by others. And all vice, sin, or moral evil summarily consisting in the want of this love to others, or in malevolence; so men easily see the natural agreement there is between hating and doing ill to others, and being hated by them, and suffering ill from them, or from him that acts for all, and has the care of the whole system. And as this sense of equality and natural agreement extends to all moral good and evil; so this lays a foundation of an equal ex
tent with the other kind of approbation and disapprobation, which is grounded upon it, arising from an aversion to self-inconsistence and opposition. For in all cases of benevolence or the contrary towards others, we are capable of putting our selves in the place of others, and are naturally led to do it; and so of being conscious to ourselves, how we should like or dislike such treatment from others. Thus natural conscience, if the understanding be properly enlightened, and stupifying prejudices are removed, concurs with the law of God, is of equal extent with it, and joins its voice with it in every article.
And thus, in particular, we may see in what respect this natural conscience extends to true virtue, consisting in union of heart to being in general, and supreme love to God. For although it sees not, or rather does not taste its primary and essential beauty, i. e. it tastes no sweetness in benevolence to being in general, simply considered, for nothing but general benevolence itself can do that, yet this natural conscience, common to mankind, may approve of it from that uniformity, equality and justice, which there is in it; and the demerit which is seen in the contrary, consisting in the natural agreement between the contrary, and being hated of being in general. Men, by natural conscience, may see the justice or natural agreement, there is in yielding all to God, as we receive all from him; and the justice there is in being his that made us, and willingly so, which is the same as being dependent on his will, and conformed to it in the manner of our being; as we are for our being itself, and in the conformity of our will to his, on whose will we are universally and most perfectly dependent. There is also justice in our supreme love to God; a natural agreement in our having a supreme respect to him who exercises infinite goodness to us, and from whom we receive all well-being. Besides disagreement and discord appears worse to natural sense in things nearly related, and of great importance: and therefore it must appear very ill, as it respects the infinite Being, and in that infinitely great relation which there is between the Creator and his creatures. And it is easy to conceive how natural conscience should see the desert of punishment, in the contrary of true virtue, viz. opposition and enmity to being in general. For this is only to see the natural agreement there is between opposing being in general, and being opposed by being in general; with a consciousness how, if we were infinitely great, we should expect to be regarded according to our greatness, and should proportionably resent contempt. This natural conscience, if wellinformed, will approve of true virtue, and will disapprove and condemn the want of it, and opposition to it; and yet without seeing the true beauty of it. Yea, if men's consciences were fully enlightened, if they were delivered from being confined to
a private sphere, and brought to view and consider things in general, and delivered from being stupified by sensual objects and appetites, as they will be at the day of judgment, they would approve nothing but true virtue, nothing but general be nevolence and those affections and actions that are consistent with it, and subordinate to it. For they must see that consent to being in general, and supreme respect to the Being of beings, is most just; and that every thing which is inconsistent with it, and interferes with it, or flows from the want of it, is unjust and deserves the opposition of universal existence.
Thus has God established and ordered that this principle of natural conscience, which, though it implies no such thing as actual benevolence to being in general, nor any delight in such a principle, simply considered, and so implies no truly spiritual sense or virtuous taste, yet should approve and condemn the same things that are approved and condemned by a spiritual sense or virtuous taste. And that moral sense which is natural to mankind, so far as it is disinterested, and not founded in association of ideas, is the same with this natural conscience.
The sense of moral good and evil, and that disposition to approve virtue and disapprove vice, which men have by natural conscience, is that moral sense so much insisted on in the writings of many of late. A misunderstanding of this seems to have misled those moralists, who have insisted on a disinterested moral sense, universal in the world of mankind, as an evidence of a disposition to true virtue, consisting in a benevolent temper, naturally implanted in the minds of all men. Some of the arguments used by these writers, indeed prove that there is a moral sense or taste, universal among men, distinct from what arises from self-love. Though I humbly conceive there is some confusion in their discourses on the subject, and not a proper distinction observed in the instances of men's approbation of virtue which they produce. Some of which are not to their purpose, being instances of that approbation of virtue which arises from self-love. But other instances prove, that there is a moral taste, or sense of moral good and evil, natural to all, which do not properly arise from self-love. Yet I conceive there are no instances of this kind which may not be referred to natural conscience, and particularly to that which I have observed to be primary in the approbation of natural conscience, viz. a sense of desert, and approbation of that natural agreement there is, in manner and measure in justice. But I think it is. plain from what has been said, that neither this, nor any thing else wherein consists the sense of moral good and evil which there is in natural conscience, is of the nature of a truly virtuous taste, or determination of mind to relish and delight in the essential beauty of true virtue, arising from a virtuous benevolence of heart.
But it further appears from this; if the approbation of con
science were the same with the approbation of the inclination of the heart, or the natural disposition and determination of the mind to love and be pleased with virtue, then approbation and condemnation of conscience would always be in proportion to the virtuous temper of the mind; or rather, the degree would be just the same. In that person who had a high degree of a virtuous temper, therefore, the testimony of conscience in favour of virtue would be equally full: But he who had but little, would have as little a degree of the testimony of conscience for virtue, and against vice. But I think the case is evidently otherwise. Some men, through the strength of vice in their hearts, will go on in sin against clearer light and stronger convictions of conscience than others. If conscience, approving duty and disapproving sin, were the same thing as the exercise of a virtuous principle of the heart, in loving duty and hating sin, then remorse of conscience will be the same thing as repentance; and just in the same degree as the sinner feels remorse of conscience for sin, in the same degree is the heart turned from the love of sin to the hatred of it, inasmuch as they are the very same thing.
Christians have the greatest reason to believe, from the scriptures, that in the future day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, when sinners shall be called to answer before their judge, and all their wickedness, in all its aggravations, brought forth and clearly manifested in the perfect light of that day; and God will reprove them, and set their sins in order before them, their consciences will be greatly awakened and convinced, their mouths will be stopped, all stupidity of conscience will be at an end, and conscience will have its full exercise; and therefore their consciences will approve the dreadful sentence of the judge against them; and seeing that they have deserved so great a punishment, will join with the judge in condemning them. And this according to the notion I am opposing, would be the same thing as their being brought to the fullest repentance; their hearts being perfectly changed to hate sin and love holiness; and virtue or holiness of heart in them will be brought to the most full and perfect exercise. But how much otherwise have we reason to suppose it will then be? Then the sin and wickedness of their heart will come to its highest dominion and completest exercise; they shall be wholly left of God, and given up to their wickedness, even as the devils are! When God has done waiting on sinners, and his Spirit done striving with them, he will not restrain their wickedness, as he does now. But sin shall then rage in their hearts, as a fire no longer restrained or kept under. It is proper for a judge when he condemns a criminal, to endeavour so to set his guilt before him as to convince his conscience of the justice of the sentence. This the Almighty will do effectually, and do to per
fection, so as most thoroughly to awaken and convince the conscience. But if natural conscience and the disposition of the heart to be pleased with virtue, were the same, then at the same time that the conscience was brought to its perfect exercise, the heart would be made perfectly holy; or would have the exercise of true virtue and holiness in perfect benevolence of temper. But instead of this, their wickedness will then be brought to perfection, and wicked men will become very devils, and accordingly will be sent away as cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
But supposing natural conscience to be what has been described, all these difficulties and absurdities are wholly avoided. Sinners when they see the greatness of the being in contempt of whom they have lived with rebellion and oppósition and have clearly set before them their obligations to him as their Creator, preserver, benefactor, &c. together with the degree in which they have acted as enemies to him, may have a clear sense of the desert of their sin, consisting in the natural agreement there is between such contempt and opposition of such a being, and his despising and opposing them; between their being and acting as so great enemies to such a God, and their suffering the dreadful consequences of his being and acting as their great enemy; and their being conscious within themselves of the degree of anger, which would naturally arise in their own hearts in such case, if they were in the place and state of their judge. In order to these things, there is no need of a virtuous benevolent temper, relishing and delighting in benevolence, and loathing the contrary. The conscience may see the natural agreement between opposing and being opposed, between hating and being hated, without abhorring malevolence from a benevolent temper of mind, or without loving God from a view of the beauty of his holiness. These things bave no necessary dependence one on the other.
Of particular instincts of Nature, which in some respects resemble virtue.
THERE are various dispositions and inclinations natural to men, which depend on particular laws of nature, determining their minds to certain affections and actions towards particular objects; which laws seem to be established chiefly for