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In which several important subjects are considered, re lating to the Doctrines of a Partial and Universal Salvation; or the final Restoration of all men to a STATE OF HAPPINESS.
It is by our rational and moral powers, that we are eminently advanced above the brute creation, and rendered capable of the pleasures of society and friendship; of improvements in knowledge and virtue; and of forming some idea of the Being whom we call God. It is by means of these powers, he has given us, that we alone, of the whole animated creation, are enabled to contemplate the Great Author of the universe, and celebrate the glory of his perfections. And our reason attributes to this Supreme Being, who is said to be love, every perfection in unison with eternal benignity, and unchangeable philanthropy.
Considering the infinite wisdom and power of this Being, with his infinite and immutable love and goodness, (for if it be as the apostle testifies, that God is Love, and as he is eternal and unchangeable, his love must be the same,) we are constrained to believe, that every thing will finally operate to his glory, and to the happiness of all his intelligent creatures.
All the laws in nature, by which he governs us, are the result of perfect wisdom and goodness, and calculated to promote our felicity.He has contrived and ordered all things for wise, and benevolent purposes. Every thing discovers the benignity of his nature, and the designs of his mercy to his intelligent offspring. Survey the work of God in creation; the exquisite harmony and beauty of the whole; the admirable connection and subserviency of the several parts; nay, survey thy own frame, the curious and astonishing structure of thy body, the noble faculties and capacities of thy mind; (especially when rightly cultivated and improved;) and from the wonderful marks of wisdom and goodness, which thou must distinctly perceive in thy own make, and in all things; we may draw this just and natural inference, that God hath contrived and provided for our happiness; and the world appears to have been constituted with this design at first. And so long as the world and all things are upheld by him, we must in reason conclude, that the same design will be continued: and I may add, so long as he wishes our happiness, he will find means to accomplish
An ingenious and judicious writer observes,* "When God created the human species, either he wished their happiness, or he wished their misery, or he was indifferent and unconcerned about both.
"If he had wished or intended our miser y, he might have made sure of his purpose, by form
*The cebrated Dr. Paley.
ing our senses to be as many soars and pains to us, as they are now instruments of gratification and enjoyment; or by placing us amidst objects so ill suited to our perceptions, as to have continually offended us, instead of ministering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, every thing we tasted, bitter; every thing we saw, laothsome; every thing we touched, a sting; every smell, a stench; and every sound, a discord.
"If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune, (as all design by this supposition is excluded,) both the capacity of our senses to recive pleasure, and the supply of external objects fitted to produce it.
"But either of these, and still more, both of them, being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing remains but the first supposition, that God, when he created the human species, intended their happiness, and made for them the provision which he has made, with that view and for that purpose.
"The same argument may be proposed in different terms, thus: Contrivance proves design; and the predominant tendency of the contrivance indicates the disposition of the designer. The world abounds with contrivances; and and all with which we are acquainted, are directed to beneficial purposes. Evil, no doubt, exists; but is never, that we can perceive, the object of contrivance. Teeth are contrived to eat, not to ache; their aching now and then is incidental to their contrivance, perhaps, insep
arable from it-or even, if you will, let it be called defect in the contrivance; but it is not the object of it. This is a distinction which well deserves to be attended to. In describing implements of husbandry, you would hardly say of a sickle, that it is made to cut the reapers fingers, though from the construction of the instument, and the manner of using it, this mischief sometimes happens. But if you had occasion to describe intruments of torture or execution, this engine, you would say, is to extend the sinews; this, to dislocate the joints; this, to break the bones; this, to scorch the soles of the feet.Here, pain and misery are the very objects of the contrivance. Now, nothing of this is to be found in the works of nature. We never discover a train of contrivances to bring about an evil purpose. No anatomist ever discovered a system of organization, calculated to produce pain and disease; or, in explaining the parts of the human body, ever said, this, is to irritate; this, to inflame; this duct, is to convey the gravel to the kidneys; this gland, to secrete the humour which causes the gout. If by chance he comes at a part, of which he knows not the use, the most he can say is, that it appears to be useless: no one ever suspects that it is put there to incommode, to annoy, or to torment. Thus we see, that God has, in his consummate wisdom, provided for our happiness, and has made nothing with design to make us miserable."
While we contemplate this earth, with all its variety of productions; while we behold it teeming with wonders and delights for man, and out
ward circumstances happily adapted to our situation-nothing is more shocking than to behold a soul uninfluenced by gratitude, and lost to devotion: well might Cicero adjudge the man devoid of all sense, who could not discover eternal design and contrivance, in the economy of nature's works. The whole machinery furnished by eternal design, announces the power, wisdom and goodness of God!
"We are so formed, and our passions so disposed, that it is impossible we can survey the beauties of scenery, or a portrait finished by art -(much less the charms of moral virtue,) unmoved, and where indeed, we have no immediate interest; but in God, centers eternally, all our hope, and from whom we derive all our good: him therefore, we can never contemplate without the most fervid devotion and filial gratitude!"
We should always consider the Deity, as the most amiable, benevolent and delightsome object of our contemplation; not as a wrathful, capricious being, whom we cannot reverence; nor as a rigid, tyrannical being, whom we cannot love. If our religion was founded on such principles, it would be wise and rational, and there could be no foundation for any undue fear of his displeasure, and of those superstitious and enthusiastie notions and conduct, which expose the most excellent thing in the world to contempt and ridicule.
From what has been said, we may clearly see, that universal, immutable and eternal benevolence, is the most lovely perfection of our Creator, and the supreme law to all rational beings.