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would it avail him to range through all the arts and sciences, and traverse the intellectual world; if he is held within invisible chains, fettered with guilt, and tyrannized by his passions*?
Instead therefore of insisting upon a topic sufficiently evident of itself, let us proceed to consider briefly, whether this liberty iş now a part of our natural inheritance; and, if not, in what way we may acquire it.
1. Whether we place moral virtue in a conformity to the reason and fitness of things, or to the truth of things, or to their intrinsic worth and excellence; it will appear that the bulk of mankind are without the įm
1 The above remark was perhaps never more strikingly exemplified than in the late M. de Voltaire, whose ver, satility of genius could pass with facility and vigour from poetry to mathematics, from history to philosophy, from physics to metaphysics : this, however, although it gave variety and extent to his intellectual acquisitions, rendered them superficial and trifling, by preventing a regu. lar and steady application to any one subject. Every difficulty apparently giving way before him, he seems to have satisfied himself with the idea of what he could have accomplished, and to have assumed the praise of genius, without attaining the reality of knowledge.
mediate power of thus conforming their actions, and consequently without moral liberty. ',.'; i; } } ,
God, as Creator, is the absolute proprietor of the universe, and has a right to do what he will with his own; as possessed of infinite perfection, he alone is qualified to govern the world he has created: if we combine this right and fitness, we shall árrive at an adequate ground for an unlimited and voluntary submission to the divine authority and administration. : ..
What can be more fit and reasonable, or more according to the truth of things, than to bow to his dominion whose property we are, and from whose power it is impossible to escape; whose perfection should lead us, even though we were naturally independent, to place ourselves in subjection to him, as the only way to attain the highest dignity and felicity of our nature? Wherein does true virtue consist, but in rating things as they are, in valuing every thing according to its real worth, and consequently involving in it an unlimited regard to that Being whose excellence is infinite? 12:27.."
Such a regard is undoubtedly required from us, and from the whole intelligent creation, upon every principle of reason and fitness, of truth and excellence, of duty, and interest. Yet how little this is rendered by men in general, and how little they are immediately capable of rendering it, will be evident upon a very slight examination. : No proud man has the present power thus to regard his Maker, any more than he has the power instantly to assume a spirit of humility and dependance. He who has been accustomed to; indulge his own will and humour, is in no immediate capacity of freely sacrificing both to the will of another, and of submitting all his thoughts, words, and actions to divine control. He who has been used to do homage to himself, and perhaps to receive it from others, has po proximate power voluntarily to abase himself before the holiness' and majesty of God, in whose presence all creatures are as nothing, and sinful creatures worse than nothing. Every proud man is therefore morally a slave, without the power of doing that
which it is morally fit and right he should
The man of pleasure labours under the
“ To the first good, first perfect, and first fair.” Men devoted to wealth have, if possible, still less capacity to perceive the beauty, or to feel the obligation of true religion and virtue ; such is their degradation, that they are often looked down upon with contempt even by their fellow-slaves,' 'as the low drudges of the world, and as utterly devoid of every noble and generous sentiment. ???
We may therefore conclude, that the bulk of mankind are without the present power of preferring, actually and in prac
tice, the excellence and felicity of virtue, to the riches, the pleasures, and the pride of the world; consequently, that they are destitute of true moral liberty, and are slaves in the most deplorable sense.
Of this state of bondage the wiser heathens appear to have had some obscure notion, derived from tradition, which they dressed up after their own fancy. Plato represents the soul as originally winged, and flying through the heavens in the train of Jupiter and the gods; and at certain seasons he supposes her to have been admitted into some super-celestial region, where she contemplated truth, virtue, and justice, in their source. Thus, he says, she continued inexpressibly happy, till neglecting to accompany the chariot of Jupiter, being seduced by her passion for Nectar and Ambrosia, she lost. her wings, fell to the earth, and was sunk into the body*. Could Plato have told us how she might recover her wings, and again mount aloft to the banquet of the gods, he would have told us what we are principally con
* See Plato's Phædrus.