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choicest motives to right conduct founded; and to bring these into exercise, is every attempt made which can impress a liberal and a grateful mind. Through the medium of this last Dispensation it is, that the Divine Benignity to the human race is fully displayed. It finally proclaims to mankind an important truth, which reason approves, which the apostle John was authorized to assert, and to which every page in the gospel history beareth record; GOD IS LOVE. Love, universal, unwearied, inexhaustible, is the centre, from which the exercise of every moral or relative attribute is an emanation. It is the attribute which gives efficacy to wisdom and knowledge; rendering them productive of good to the extent of their exercise; and by which the awful attribute of irresistible power, becomes a source of consolation.
When we were particularly contemplating the nature of Benevolence, we attempted to trace its principal ramifications, according to the state and character of its immediate objects. It assumes the title of liberality, pity, compassion, and commiseration, condescension, and mercy, as it refers to the exigencies, helpless, distressed, humble state of the object, or to the nature and extent of his demerits. All these modifications of beneficence, are impressively manifested in
the Gospel of Christ. It not only represents the Deity as the inexhaustible source of good to all his creatures, but as exercising compassion towards the wretched; administering aid to the helpless; consoling the distressed, and proclaiming pardon to the guilty.
Such manifestations of benignity from God, under the character of an universal Sovereign, are calculated to excite the emotions of love, gratitude, and admiration, in every breast. But the truths revealed to us, in this last and best Dispensation, are still more animating, The Supreme Creator, in these latter days, proclaims himself to the astonished world, as the UNIVERSAL FATHER! He condescends to receive those whose nature is so distinct; whose powers are so feeble; whose characters are so undeserving; whose offences have been so numerous and habitual; into the adoption of sons. This most interesting fact has justly called forth the admiration and astonishment of the beloved disciple John. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God."
In a former Disquisition, on the nature of moral obligation, we minutely examined the religious principles which are most conducive to
the uniform practice of virtue; and we observed that, connected with a conviction of the Unity, Holiness, Knowledge, Wisdom, Justice, and Goodness, of Deity, the Parental Character presents us with a motive peculiarly interesting. By this we are encouraged to contemplate the great Lord of all, not as a foreign cause of some occasional good, but as the Source of our existence; as the universal Purveyor for a numerous and beloved offspring. In consequence of so honourable and intimate a relation; Obedience is no longer to be considered in the light of a compact simply, or the obligation of a subject, but as arising naturally from the relation of a Son to a Parent. By Filiation we are taught to consider every injunction, as a necessary prerequisite to future advancement; and the practice of virtue as a preparatory occupation, which is to qualify us for the enjoyment of the good destined to be our future portion. In the obedience of a Son, a refined sense of justice is also blended with the perception of advantage. Love and Gratitude are united with every other motive, and by these it is purified from the sordidness of mere self-interest.* *
* See Eth. Treat. Part ii. On Moral Oblig. Sect. 4. Relig. Principles most conducive to virtue.
The relation between a Father and a Son, or a Child, is the closest relation in nature. It is a relation in which there is the least of passion, and the most of affection. It neither requires nor admits of violent transports; but an inviolate attachment becomes a steady uniform principle of action. Where it is respectably supported, the warm affection of the Parent receives the returns of love, gratitude, and obedience from the offspring. A Parent is the dignified source of existence. In this sense he considers his offspring, in the light of a peculiar kind of property; and over this property a perpetual watchfulness is exercised with anxious care. From every other species of property, the possessor expects to enjoy some kind of personal advantage; in this singular species the habitual solicitude of the Parent becomes a generous, liberal state of mind, prompting to communicate; expecting no other remuneration than the success of endeavours.
Such is the character, in which the Deity has finally condescended to make himself known to his creatures. He publicly avows the title of Parent, over his moral and intellectual offspring. Man, and man alone, of the numerous beings inhabiting the globe, can be dignified with the
appellation of a child, or a son of God. Notwithstanding the infinite distance between the great Creator, and the most exalted of his productions, he deigns to call himself the God and Father of the human race. Man is made in the image of God, by the endowment of moral and intellectual powers. This endowment enables him to possess a resemblance in the enjoyment of eternal felicity; and he who created the endowment, is resolved to bestow the gift, by adopting man into the family of heaven.
The character of Universal Father, was concealed from the most ancient and gross idolaters. It was of too refined and exalted a nature, for the ages of palpable darkness and depravity of manners. Nor were the extensive privileges of Filiation made known to the Israelites. Very few are the instances in which any seference is made to the character; and it is always by way of reproach, reproof, or admonition: never with the cordiality of a reconciled Parent. Moses, expostulating with this rebellious people, exclaims, "Do you thus requite the Lord, O foolish and unwise? Is not He thy Father that has bought thee? Has he not made thee?” In the same manner the prophet Malachi expostulates: "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if, then, I be a father,