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stances of our outward condition, as the difeSERM. positions of cour minds and our moral con

XI. duct. -This argument has been largely insisted on, and the force of it clearly seen by wise and thoughtful men, without the advantage of a revelation, even when they were una certain concerning a future ftate, as some of them at all times, and probably all of them at sometimes, were: It was the foundation on which they maintained the excellence and the eligibleness of virtue, as most becoming the dignity of a rational nature, and the chief good of man, abstracting from any consideration of God's interpofing, to reward and punish men according to their works. But if we take in that confideration, the strength of the argument will become irresistable, and the prophet's assertion in the text will rest, not only on the conftitution and state of human nature, as we find it by observation and experience, but the evidence we have of the being, the perfections, and the moral government of God, from which it is a just consequence. We are, then, to consider righteousness not merely as the glory of the human mind, and the naturally felicitating exercise and

attainment

Serm.attainment of its powers, but farther as it is XI. approved, and recommended to mankind,

by the Deity, their rightful and supreme ruler. That there is an intelligent and good author of nature, all his works proclaim; and that he has manifested his will and some of his designs in his works of creation and providence to his rational creatures, thereby to direct them in the course of their voluntary actions, is also very evident. For as we cannot but conclude in general what he intended by the relations, dependency, and order of things. For instance, to what end the sun and the earth were placed in such a Gtuation, with respect to each other as they are; that the earth affording such a variety of conveniencies for animals was design'd for their habitation; we know by considering the uses of the several parts in our animal frame, what nature, that is, the author of nature form'd them for; that eyes were made for seeing, feet for walking, and hands to be instruments for action; so fince; in particular, it appears that we are creatures capable of various pleasure and pain, in consequence of our own voluntary actions, and we can foresee the consequence, it is not with any pretence of reason to be doubted, but the wife and good author of nature de

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fign'd, hereby that the course of our actions SEPTI.
Thou'd be fo directed, as we might pro-
mote our own happiness and avoid misery.
Now this is as evidently true, with respect
to moral actions, and the consequences of
them, as any other ; we know their differ-
ence as clearly, and are as free in our choice,
we are as certain, too, of the event of the
connection between virtue and happiness,
between wickedness and misery ; from
whence it plainly follows, that God de-
fign'd by this constitution and state of things
wherein we are placed, that we should
choose what is morally good, and refuse the
evil ; in other words, that we are under a
moral law, and God is our moral governor,
or that he has declared his will concerning
our conduct, and given us a rule of action,
enforced by a sanction, or by rewards and
punishments, annexed to the observance of
it, and our disobedience to it, which should
determine our behaviour as rational crea-
tures.

Hence arises a consideration of great
weight; not only we find by experience, in
the ordinary course of things, that it is well
with the righteous, and ill with the wicked;
or, that there is in fact a connection between
VOL. I.

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virtue

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Serm.virtue and happiness, and between 'vice and XI. misery ;, but it is so established by the 1oz

vereign will of the great law-giver, whose power none can resist. We have the cleareft evidence that he approves the good actions of men, and disapproves the bad; whence we infer that one part of his own character is moral recțitude, which is a perfection that necessarily appears to our minds amiable, and every way worthy of the most excellent nature; and since he is our natural governor, by whose will we exist, are preserv'd, and all the circumstances of our condition are determined, here is a sufficient intimation of the rule, according to which he doth, and will always proceed, in his difpenfations towards us, making us happy or unhappy. This being suppos’d as a certain principle, let us see how it is to be applied to the prefent state of things, and what consequences follow from it. The administration of providence in this world has a contrary appearance, for it seems to be promiscuous : As Şolomon speaks, all things come alike to all, none knows either love or hatred; that is, the favour or displeasure of God, by all that is before bim, by the events which happen

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to men in the ordinary course of the world, SERM, which makes the point we are now confi- XI, dering appear doubtful; and great multitudes of mankind seem not to believe it; at least, it has not that influence on their difpositions and their lives, which a principle of such importance seriously believed and attended to might be expected to have. The true answer to this difficulty, is, that though God be a ruler perfectly righteous, who most certainly will distribute rewards and punishments to his reasonable creatures, according to their works, yet in this he acts freely and with perfect wisdom ; not necessarily at all times, and in every dispensation towards them, making the difference among them which is to be made finally and in the whole, but choosing the manner and the time for his righteous distribution, which to his infinite understanding appears the most proper : And that we now appear plainly to be in a state of discipline, wherein one part of our appointed trial arises from the imperfection of our knowledge, concerning the event of virtue and vice in our practice. It pleases God now to leave the obligations of virtue more imperfect, and the motives to it less over

bearing

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