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tion to their misbehaviour, but that there are very many instances of misbehaviour punished in the several ways now mentioned, and very dreadful instanees. too, sufficient to shew what the laws of the universe may, admit; and, if thoroughly considered, sufficient fully to answer all objections against the credibility of a future state of punishments, from any imaginations, that the frailty of our nature and external temptations almost annihilate the guilt of human vices : as well
, as objections of another sort; from necessity ; from suppositions that the will of an infinite Being cannot be contradicted ; or that he must be incapable of offence and provocation. *
Reflections of this kind are not without their ter.. rors to serious persons, the most free from enthusi.. asm, and of the greatest strength of mind; but it is fit things be stated and considered as they really are. And there is, in the present age, a certain fearlessness with regard to what may be hereafter under the government of God, which nothing but an universally acknowledged demonstration on the side of atheism can justify, and which makes it quite necessary that men be reminded, and, if possible, made to feel, that there is no sort of ground for being thus presumptuous, even upon the most sceptical principles. For, may it not be said of any person, upon his being born into the world, he may behave so as to be of noservice to it, but by being made an example of the woful effects of vice and folly : That he may, as any one may, if he will, incur an infamous execution from the hands of civil justice ; or in some other course of extravagance shorten his days; or bring upon himself infamy and diseases worse than death? So that it had been better for him, even with regard to the present world, that he had never been: born. And is there any pretence of reason for people to think themselves secure, and talk, as if they had. certain proof, that, let them act as licentiously as they will, there can be nothing analogous to this, with regard to a future and more general interest, under the providence and government of the same God?
* See Chap. 4. and 6.
As the manifold appearances of design and of final causes, in the constitution of the world, prove it to be the work of an intelligent Mind, so the particular final causes of pleasure and pain, distributed amongst his creatures, prove that they are under his government; what may be called his natural government of creatures, endued with sense and reason. This, however, implies somewhat more than seems usually attended to, when we speak of God's natural government of the world. It implies government of the very same kind with that which a master exercises over his servants, or a civil magistrate over his subjects. These latter instances of final causes as really prove an intelligent Governor of the world, in the sense now mentioned, and before * distinctly treated of, as any other instances of final causes prove an intelligent Alaker of it.
But this alone does not appear, at first sight, to dee termine any thing certainly, concerning the moral character of the Author of Nature, considered in this relation of governor; does not ascertain his government to be moral, or prove that he is the righteous Judge of the world. Moral government conca sists, not barely in rewarding and punishing men for their actions, which the most tyrannical person may do; but in rewarding the righteous and punishing the wicked; in rendering to men according to their actions, considered as good or evil. And the perfection of moral government consists in doing this, with regard to all intelligent creatures, in an exact proportion to their personal merits or demerits.
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Some men seem to think the only character of the Author of Nature to be that of simple absolute benevolence. This, considered as a principle of action, and infinite in degree, is a disposition to produce the greatest possible happiness, without regard to persons' behaviour, otherwise than as such regard would produce higher degrees of it. And supposing this to be the only character of God, veracity and justice in him would be nothing but benevolence conducted by wisdom. Now surely this ought not to be asserted, unless it can be proved; for we should speak with cautious reverence upon such a subject. And whether it can be proved or no, is not the thing here to be inquired into; but whether, in the constitution and conduct of the world, a righteous government be not discernibly planned out ; which necessarily implies a righteous governor. There may possibly be in the creation beings, to whom the Author of Nature manifests himself under this most amiable of all cbaracters, this of infinite absolute benevolence; for it is the most amiable, supposing it not, as perhaps it is not, incompatible with justice: but he manifests himself to us under the character of a righteous governor. He may, consistently with this, be simply and absolutely benevolent, in the sense now explained; but he is, for he has given us a proof in the constitution and conduct of the world, that he is a governor over servapts, as he rewards and punishes us for our actions. And in the constitution and conduct of it, he may also have given, besides the reason of the thing, and the natural presages of conscience, clear and distinct intimations, that his government is righteous or moral: clear to such as think the nature of it deserving their attention; and yet not to every
careless person who casts a transient reflection on the subject *.
But it is particularly to be observed, that the divine government, 'which we experience ourselves under in the present state, taken alone, is allowed not to be the perfection of moral government. And yet this by no means hinders, but that there
be somewhat, be it more or less, truly moral in it. A righteous government may plainly appear to be carried on to some degree; enough to give us the apprehension that it shall be completed, or carried on to that degree of perfection which religion teaches us it shall 3 but which cannot appear, till much more of the di. vine administration be seen, than can in the present life.
And the design of this chapter is to inquire, how far this is the case ; how far, over and above the moral nature + which God has given us, and our natural notion of him, as righteous governor of those his creatures to whom he has given this nature; I I say
how far, besides this, the principles and beginnings of a moral government over the world
may be discerned, notwithstanding and amidst all the confusion and disorder of it.
Now one might mention here, what has been often urged with great force, that, in general, less uneasiness, and more satisfaction, are the natural consequences ģ of a virtuous than of a vicious course of life,
* The objections against religion, from the evidence of it not being universal, nor so strong as might possibly have been, may be urged against natural religion, as well as against revealed. And therefore the consideration of them belongs to the first part of this Treatise, as well as the second. But as these objections are chiefly urged against revealed religion, I chose to consider them in the second Part. And the answer to them there, chap. vi. as urged against Christianity, being almost equally applicable to them as urged against the Religion of Nature, to avoid repetition, the reader is referred to that chapter. + Dissertation 2.
1 Chap 6. Ś See Lord Shaftesbury's Inquiry concerning Vårtue, Part 2.