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UNITARIAN BAPTIST ADVOCATE.
"One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all."
LET us, then, with candour and humility patronize those arguments which illustrate this doctrine, and convince us of its truth.
First, then, there appears to every considering mind an inseparable connection between the natural essential perfections of God and the moral rectitude of his conduct. The same arguments which demonstrate the existence of the Deity, do likewise prove that he must be infinite in power, wisdom, and knowledge. And the exercise of these infinite perfections must always terminate in a moral rectitude of conduct. For infinite Knowledge must know, infinite Wisdom must choose, and infinite Power must always perform that which is
"Justest, rightest, virtuousest, best."
To throw farther light on this argument, we see that whenever mankind deviate from the dictates of justice and virtue, their conduct is always resolved into a deficiency of power, wisdom, and knowledge, or a want of exerting those faculties in a proper manner. For what other reason can be assigned for a man's defrauding his neighbour of his right and property, but that he sees him in possession of that which he desires, and finds it not in his power to attain his wishes but by iniquitous practices? It clearly follows, that a Being of infinite perfections cannot be liable to any temptations to violate the eternal obligations of truth and justice. Agreeable to which is the observation of an inspired writer, that "God cannot be tempted with evil." For all temptations arise
from the narrowness and imperfection of our finite capacities; and therefore a Being whose nature and perfections are infinite cannot possibly be obnoxious to any incident to tempt him to act contrary to what is in itself excellent, just, and perfect.
Another argument to confirm this doctrine offers itself from the consideration of our own nature and constitution.
Man is endued with rational powers, by which he perceives things in their remotest consequences, and finds in himself a moral sense, which discovers to him the beauty and obligation of virtue and the deformity of vice. Whenever, by the impetuosity of passion, or the predominancy of any sordid affection, he is carried away to the commission of vice, the remorse, the uneasiness that immediately follows, sufficiently indicates his conduct to be contrary to reason, and the dignity of his nature.
Self-approbation is inseparably connected with virtue, is always promotive of its interest, and, like heat and fire, is not only inseparable, but almost indistinguishable from it. Seeing we have received these exalted faculties from the hands of the Deity, whose province it is to acquaint us with the eternal difference between good and evil, it is self-evident that the Being who has communicated them to us must himself perceive what is in its own nature morally excellent, and ever conform his conduct to those rules. And what the Psalmist says on another occasion may, with the greatest propriety, be adapted to this," He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?" Or, according to the dialect of modern times, he that has implanted in man those faculties by which he is enabled to discern the excellency of moral virtue, must himself perceive those beauties in the most perfect light. For, as no effect can possibly possess any real perfection, unless it was communicated by, and was first inherent in, the cause from whence it derived its existence, it evidently follows, that the great First Cause of our rational conscious natures must himself be an intelligent agent, to whom moral virtue appears eternally fit, and whose conduct is resolvable into the dictates of moral rectitude.
As a farther confirmation of this important truth, let us
consider the evidence which arises from the works of nature. But it is not my intention to anticipate the reader's own reflections on this subject; but to give him hints to pursue them. I shall treat this copious field in a more concise manner than otherwise might be expected.
Agreeable to the Mosaic account of the creation, we find that, after this globe and its beauteous appendages of necessaries and comforts were spoken into being by the word of Omnipotence, man was introduced into the glorious scene. And as, from his make and constitution, he stood in need of many external supports for the preservation of his frame, and the continuation of his happiness, so, as soon as he found himself in existence, he saw that his benign Author, his paternal Creator, had, prior to his formation, graciously produced every thing necessary to, and productive of, his welfare and happiness. From the very moment he began to breathe, he found himself surrounded with every thing that could yield him support, charm him with pleasure, and bless him with happiness; and could he desire any more convincing argument of the rectitude, justice and benevolence of the liberal benefactor?
If we consider the circumstances attending our own appearance in the world, we shall find sufficient reason to laud the moral rectitude of our great and paternal Cause. Man comes into the world a weak and frail being; his infant state is subject to innumerable wants; his wants daily increase, and their increase renders it impossible for him to contribute to his own support. But, in order to counteract these infirmities, we see that the benevolent Author of Nature has implanted such strong affections, such tender regards in parents towards their offspring, that they undergo the greatest fatigue, expose themselves to the greatest dangers, for the nurture and support of their infants; and that this warm, this incessant principle of sympathy, like that of hope,
"Travels through, nor leaves us till we die."
A stronger evidence, sure, cannot be desired, to evince the wisdom, goodness, and tender affections that the great and universal Parent of mankind exercises towards the works of his hands.
If it he objected, that the many afflictions and calamities incident to persons of all characters are inconsistent with the specious hypothesis we have endeavoured to establish, I beg leave to reply, that, granting the objection all its most virulent signification, it is rather an illustration than a subversion of this doctrine. For, First, We ought to distinguish between those afflictions which men bring on themselves by their own inadvertence and folly, and those which befal them by the unavoidable distribution of Providence; for, certainly, those calamities which we bring on ourselves by our own vices, should not be urged against the moral rectitude of the great Governor of the world. And as for those which, by the Divine economy, we are necessarily subject to in this transient state of things, we may consider them as wisely adapted to promote our good upon the whole.
afflictions tend to call forth many virtues into exercise which would otherwise lie dormant, and to strengthen others which would perhaps languish for want of difficulties to encounter with. Besides, we may go farther, and assert that afflictions have not only a distant but an immediate tendency to promote the cause of virtue, and consequently the true happiness of mankind. They alarm and arouse those who are abandoned to a state of inconsideration and levity; they startle the intemperate, they terrify the voluptuous, they intimidate the obstinate; they tend to rectify their errors, to bring them off from the paths of vice, and shew them the vast importance of that wisdom and virtue with which their highest interest is inseparably connected. These being the apparent tendencies of affliction in this life, it must certainly be highly becoming the wisdom and goodness of God to discipline us by them. But if we consider, farther, that this world is intended by the Author of our being to fit us for the enjoyment of another, that this life is a state of probation, we shall then look upon all our afflictions not only as so many proofs of our obedience to our Eternal Legislator, but as so many steps in the scale of happiness. Yet, if this should not satisfy the objectors, let me recommend this one awful truth to their serious consideration: We cannot pretend to have a perfect knowledge of the propriety of the particular parts of any system unless we