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In the genuine alliance of religion and morality, the wisdom SECT. VIII. and goodnefs, which we perceive to be the conftituents of happiness, are likewife enjoined by the fovereign command of God. They are prefented to our thoughts, as attributes of the Supreme Being himself, and as forming in him the objects of reverence and of love; and our own capacity of attaining, in any degree, to a participation of these qualities is confidered as the highest perfection or prerogative of our nature.
To the ingenuous mind this conftitutes the obligation, and the fanction, whether of religion itself, or of moral duty. If we fhould be difpofed farther to enquire; by what fanction the profligate may be reclaimed from their profligacy, or by what means those who are difpofed to the commiffion of crimes may be actually restrained from disturbing the peace of fociety? the anfwer may be difficult.
Mankind from age to age have laboured upon this fubject; have urged the reasons of morality; have denounced the vengeance of God against iniquity; have held up the fword of justice, and threatened to exterminate the wicked; and all this, though no doubt with great effect, ftill without being able to reclaim the depraved from their vices, or to prevent the commiffion of crimes.
Happiness is misunderstood; religion is flighted, the movements of justice are flow, and defer the infliction of punishment, till after the wrong is committed.
Men have the concerns of animal life, as well as those of in3
telligent being, to care for; and, however evident the co-incidence PART II. of happiness and of duty, neither the degree of this evidence, nor that of any other fact, is at all times fufficient to guard the imagination against the admiffion of falfe apprehenfions.
CHAP. II. SECT.VIII.
In the conceptions of ordinary men, there are advantages, whether of wealth or pleafure, which it is their intereft or paffion to obtain: But there are means feemingly effectual to obtain these advantages, from which they conceive it their duty to refrain. They are tempted by the end; they are restrained by the law of morality, which forbids the means. While they continue to think in this manner, the obligation and the fanction of the moral law may, in their apprehenfion, be either the consciousness of what is right and wrong; the general esteem or contempt of mankind; the awe in which they stand of the supreme Being; or the arm of the magistrate, which is lifted up to protect the innocent against the wrongs which they are difpofed to commit: So that, in this view of the matter, and as conceived by ordinary men, the fanctions of morality may be enumerated under the titles of conscience, public repute, compulsory law, and religion.
With respect to the first, it may be obferved, that perfons who diftinguish between their intereft, on the one hand, and their duty on the other, frequently conceive thefe objects to be in oppofition, and fit to distract their choice. They frequently feel the confideration of their interest more cogent than that of their duty, but still do not confound these confiderations together, nor lose the sense of moral obligation while they trespass on the maxims of moral law. In departing from their duty, they are ftill confcious of its reality, and affected with remorfe and fhame: So that the fanction of conscience is entire, even when it is neglected.
It were irrational in a man to hurt himself; and the neglect of SECT. VIII. this rule is marked with a consciousness of folly. But it has pleased ~the Almighty, that we should hold every person under a different form of obligation required to confult the welfare, or to abstain from the offer of harm to his neighbour. This form of obligation perceived carries with it the fanction of innocence, amounting to a high measure of fatisfaction in the consciousness of integrity, and a high measure of remorse, of dissatisfaction, and suffering, in the consciousness of any criminal trespass on the rights of a fellow creature.
With this, in fome degree, is connected the fanction of public repute alfo, in which every person apprehends that he is an object of esteem or reprobation to other men.
As man is formed for fociety, he is justly made to enjoy or to fuffer under the approbation or difapprobation of other men, as well as under his own. The complacency, therefore, of his fellow creatures, who efteem and who confide in him, or the averfion with which they reprobate or fhun him, are powerful acceffaries to confcience in urging its dictates.
Many articles of decency, or even propriety of manners, are derived from custom, or the arbitrary conceptions of men, relating to fuch matters. For the obfervance of these articles, public repute is the peculiar fanction. The observance of fome determinate forms is of great confequence to public order; and individuals, even in matters of indifference, must not think themselves at liberty to flight the authority of their age and country, in the forms of behaviour, which they are required to observe.
States or regular communities also have their rights, which they are prepared to maintain by force. They have their laws to which the magiftrate is empowered to compel obedience. For thefe purposes the community is armed, fortreffes are built. and military forms established. Tribunals are erected for the trial of crimes; officers are entrusted with public force; chains, fetters, and public prisons, and the other apparatus of coercion, are provided for the guilty. In these institutions, there is a fanction of force to fupport the obligation to innocence, to preserve the public peace, and to fecure the harmless in the poffeffion of his rights. Such may be termed the fanction of compulfory law, which, though not in every inftance proper to obtain acts of beneficence, yet in every inftance is applicable to restrain the commiffion of
In aid of the magiftracy, alfo, in every well ordered community, inftitutions of religion are wifely adopted, and the authority of religion is impreffed on the minds of men, by folemn rites fignificant of the prefence of God and the homage which is due to him.
We may avoid for the prefent entering into any question relating to the abuse of fuch inftitutions, whether to the purposes of public tyranny or private gain. We confider them only with a view to their proper ufe in confirming the obligations to innocence and duty.
Man, we have had occafion to observe, is formed for religion as well as fociety. He is capable of perceiving univerfal intelligence in the fabric of the univerfe. He perceives in the predi
PART II. SECT. VIII.
lection for justice and innocence, in the horrors at guilt which are impreffed on his own mind, the will of that fovereign authority which reigns in the system of nature. To him the confcioufnefs of integrity and goodness is peace and amity with God: The consciousness of depravity and wickedness is rebellion and enmity; the one rendering existence itself a bleffing, in the confidence of present and future protection; the other rendering life itself a curse, under the horrors of present remorse, and the fear or apprehenfion of future and impending evils.
Such is religion in the form of mere reflexion as it operates in the mind; in the form of a public establishment it operates in the manner of compulfory law, with the denunciations of future punishment and the hopes of future reward. But the But the government of God, more comprehensive than the government of man, extends to the mind as well as to external actions, and carries the application of compulsory law to restrain not only the overt acts of iniquity, but even the thoughts, wishes or purposes which may lead to fuch external effects; requiring fuch a guard upon the mind itself as may fupprefs the first approaches to evil, and induce habits of innocence and of virtue.
Just religion, besides its effects as a restraining principle is in itself a fource of elevation and of goodness in the mind of man. In what is the love of God different from the love of goodness itself? Or in what is the defire to act a part agreeable to the Supreme Being different from that elevation of mind with which the worthy afpire to perfection ?
In this enumeration of fanctions, or motives to determine the virtuous choice, included in the general and comprehenfive dif