Page images

SERM. BEFORE I enter upon the particular XIV. explication of which Doctrine, there is

One thing needful to be premised; that the whole of what is to be said upon This Subject, must always be understood with an exception to the Case of Perfecution for Truth and Righteousness fake. For all moral and universal Propositions of this kind, expressing the general Tendency of things in their natural course, and the ordinary established Dispositions of Divine Providence ; are sufficiently veris fied, if they take place in all Cases where the natural Order of things is permitted to produce its proper Effect. When the Nature of things is perverted or overruled by any extraordinary Violence, an Exception must be made; without any detriment to the Truth of the general Proposition. And of This fort is the case of Perfecution for Religion. Virtue, in the Nature of things, and according to the general Promise and Appointment of God, is the Foundation and Cause of true Happiness among men. Yet the Perverseness of a wicked and corrupt World, may posibly load it, upon some particular



[ocr errors]

Occasions, with the greatest Temporal S Erm.
Calamities; and inflict the feverest Pu- XIV.,
nishments in their power, upon that
which really deserves the Highest Com-
mendation and Reward. In This case, the
Best of men, if in This life only they had
hope, might of All men become the most
miserable. But then, for this very Rea-
fon, God has promised them a Recom-
pence in a Future State; and herein they
may rejoice, even not accepting Deliver-

ance, that they may, obtain a better Refur.
r ection. Setting aside This cafe therefore,
· which is of peculiar consideration; the

Proposition I laid down, may evidently
be shown to be a General Truth, that the
Practice of Righteousness is mens True In-
terest, even in the present Life; and that
Wickedness is generally attended with Great
Mifery, even Here as well as Hereafter.
Evil pursueth Sinners; but to the Rightee
oxs, Good fall be repaid.

I. In the First place : If we consider
Mankind in general, in the largest and
most extensive View, under the notion of
that One Universal Community, wherein
St Paul considered them, when he told
Y 3



Serm. the Athenians, Acts xvii. 26 ; God has made
1: of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell,

on all the Face of the Earth : Under This
View, I say, it is very evident, that the
Only thing which distinguishes Men from
the Wild Beasts of the Forest, that devour
each other according to their Strength,
and have no Rights nor Property in any.
thing; The only thing which distinguishes
Men from these Wild Beasts, with regard
to any True Happiness. of Life; is Reli-
gion, or a Sense of Just and Right, and of
the Difference of Moral Good and Evil.
For Reason, as to That part of it which
denotes Sagacity only, or Understanding,
separate from all Regard to Moral Obli-
gation; does only enable men, if they be
wicked, more effectually, and with greater
Skill, to torment and destroy each other;
and to have a deeper and more affecting
and more lasting Sense of the Miseries
they endure, than irrational Creatures are
by their Nature capable of. It is Reason,
in that Other respect alone, as it implies
a sense of Moral Obligation, (on which Re-
ligion is founded;) it is This alone, on
which depends all possibility of Happiness

in Humane Life ; And to the degree of SERM,
Influence which This has in the world, XIV..
the Happiness Mankind enjoys above the
Wild Beasts of the Field, is always exactly
proportionate. Did not therefore the Paf-
fions, the Ambition, the Covetousness, and
other the like unnatural Vices of corrupt
Minds, hinder this Reafon and Moral Un-
derstanding, which is the peculiar Excel-
lency and Glory of Mankind, from pro-
ducing its natural and proper Effect in
the world ; the Earth would even in this
present time, bating Mortality only, be
that Scene of universal Happiness, which
God hath promised shall take place beria
after in the New Heavens and New Earth,
wherein dwelleth Righteousnefs. In the
mean time, from this abstract View of
the general Nature of Things and of the
Consequences which would be the natural
Result of universal Righteousness; it is ap-
parent enough, to what Originals, to what
Causes and Principles, the various degrees
and proportions of Happiness and Misery,
which are found in the present mixt and
confused state of things, are justly to be

[ocr errors]

Serm. II. Secondly, If we consider Mankind in
Xi, a somewhat less general View; not in the

universal abstract Notion, but in their more
restrained political Capacity, as formed
into particular distinct Nations and Go-
vernments: Under This View also it is no
less evident, that the only possible Foun-
dation of true and lasting Happiness to
any Nation or People, as such ; is the
Practice of Righteousness and True Virtue.
I infist not at present, in This Argument,
upon the extraordinary Blessings which
the Providence of God thinks fit at any
time to pour down in a peculiar manner
upon a Religious Nation; or the Judge
ments wherewith he sometimes punishes a
degenerate people, turning a fruitful Land
into Barrenness, for the Wickedness of them
that dwell therein: But what I observe,
is, that in the natural Tendency, in the
regular and proper Consequence of mens own
Bebaviour; Righteousness (as Solomon ex-
presses it) exalteth a Nation, but Sin is a
Reproach to any people. In proportion as
Justice, and Order, and Truth, and Fide-
lity prevail ; creating mutual Love and
Good-will, muțual Trust and Confidence


« PreviousContinue »