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knowledge ? And if it cannot be proved, as it is impossible it should, that they received it by divine revelation, then this opinion will still center in imagination or contrivance.
AND as to the information of eternal ponishments being given to men by the scriptures, should this, for argument sake, be admitted, a question might then arife: how came the authors of scripture to know that such punishments would be inflicted? The answer undoubtedly will be,-by inward divine revelation: indeed they could obtain it no otherwise. Then their knowledge of this fact was absolutely certain: but those persons who are not favoured with inward 'divine revelation have only the report of others, , which is far short of knowledge ; and much the greater part of mankind know even nothing of this report. Now, pray, are not all men as much concerned to be at a certainty: respecting these punishments, as the writers of the bible were ? Undoubtedly they are. How then has it happened that all are not at equal certainty ? Could not Omnipotence as easily have given this knowledge directly to every man, as to a few to inform others? Surely he might. As all men then were: equally concerned to know of these punishments, how came it to pass, that the knowledge of them was revealed only to a few.
who were to convey it to the rest of mankind, multitudes of whom they neither did or possibly could inform of it"?
Is this like the proceedings of a being of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness ? Nay, is this as wise and equitable as the proceedings of limited and weak men? In all governments, when laws are made, and punishments annexed to the breaking them, are not the most effectual means used to publish these laws and punishments, that may know for what crimes, and in what manner he is to suffer ? Were not this method taken, punishments among men would be extremely unjust. The true reason then, why the righteous Judge of all the earth, the great Lawgiver and Governor of the universe, hath not made known to all mankind, that they are liable to eternal punilhments, is evi.. dent :-mshe never intended to inflict them.
ECONDLY, If the justice and glory of
God require, that he should punish finners and unbelievers with everlasting torments, then undoubtedly both justice and reason require also, that it should be in the
power of the former not to sin, and of the latter to believe aright.
In making an inquiry if they have this power, I shall not enter into a long, puzzling, metaphysical dissertation on free-will; a subject upon which a great deal has been said, and perhaps to little satisfaction; bút chuse much rather to appeal to common sense and experience. Both these will shey us, that, if the circumstances which direct and determine mens moral actions and religious belief are not in their power, then those actions and this belief are not in their power. Byt, that these circumftances are entirely oật of mens power, a little observation and reflection will evidently prove. Of this we will give some instances; and first of moral actions.
A BOY is born of poor, necessitous, and profligate parents, and with a strong natural propensity to vice: in his very infancy, fpirituous liquors, which serve to inflame his pafsions and extinguish his reafon, are frequently given him. As soon as this child is capable of good or bad actions, instead of being carefully instructed in the former, he is diligently taught the latter, particularly to pick pockets : if he performs this dextrously, he is commended and rewarded; if not, he is blamed and punished. This boy never associates with any persons but those who are as
bad or worse than himself, and is immersed
ANOTHER youth is placed as page to some great person at a court, where he sees nothing but luxury, lewdness, pride, envy, dissimulation, and vice, in the most alluring shapes : he perceives, that virtue and piety are so far from being efteemed and rewarded, that they are constant subjects of contempt and ridicule, and that the only path to preferment and honours lies through the temple of vice. What chance has a youth thus educated, and with such examples continually before his eyes, to become chaste, temperate, sincere, and honeft; in a word, to be virtuous and
MULTITUDES of other instances might be given, in which mens moral actions, by cir
cumstances entirely independent of their own choice, are as much influenced as those of these children.
UNDOUBTEDLY, many men who have acted very profligate and vile parts in the world, would, if differently circamstanced, have been excellent persons. That temper of mind which has rendered even some banditti so remarkably faithful to their wicked comrades, fo fearless and amazingly intrepid, if properly cultivated and directed by an early, a liberal, a virtuous, and religious education, might have formed firm friends, courageous defenders of their country, or even resolute martyrs.
Doth it not then plainly appear, that mens natural tempers, and such accidents or circumstances of their lives as are entirely out of their power, do, in a great degree at least, direct and determine their behaviour and actions ?
SINCE • A question may here arise :- Whether, if mens behaviour and actions are thus determined by circumItances out of their power, it is just and reasonable to punish them at all even in this world? To which I answer :--If mens behaviour and actions are determined by such circumstances, punishments are very properly to be reckoned among them, and may be, as we see they frequently are, of great force and efficacy to prevent mens doing ill, like weights thrown into a scale to turn the balance : therefore this opinion doth not at all render