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of God, and is of equal extent with it, and joins its voice with it in every article.
And thus, in particular, we may see in what respect this natural conscience that has been described, extends to true virtue, consisting in union of heart to Being in general, and supreme love to God. For, although it sees not, or rather does not taste its primary and essential beauty, i. e. it tastes no sweetness in benevolence to Being in general, simply considered, or loves it not for Being in general's sake (for nothing but general benevolence itself can do tkat) yet this natural conscience, common to mankind, may approve of it from that uniformity, equality and justice, which there is in it, and the demerit which is seen in the contrary, consisting in the natural agreement between the contrary and being hated of Being in general. Men by natural conscience may see the justice (or natural agreement) there is in yielding all to God, as we receive all from God ; and the justice there is in being his that has made us, and being willingly so, which is the same as being dependent on his will, and conformed to his will in the manner of our Being, as we are for our Being itself, and in the conformity of our will to his will, on whose will we are universally and most perfectly dependent; and also the justice there is in our supreme love to God, from his goodness....the natural agreement there is between our having supreme respect to him who exercises infinite goodness to us, and from whom we receive all well being...Besides that disagreement and discord appears worse to natural sense (as was observed before) in things nearly related and of great importance ; and therefore it must appear very ill, as it respects the infinite Being, and in that infinitely great relation which there is between the Creator and his creatures. And it is easy to conceive how that sense which is in natural conscience, should see the desert of punishment, which there is in the contrary of true virtue, viz. opposition and enmity to Being in general, For, this is only to see the natural agree. ment there is between opposing Being in general, and being opposed by Being in general ; with a consciousness how that if we were infinitely great, we should expect to be regarded
according to our greatness, and should proportionably resent contempt. Thus natural conscience, if weli informed, will approve of true virtue, and will disapprove and condemn the want of it, and opposition to it; and yet without seeing the true beauty of it. Yea, if men's consciences were fully en: lightened, if they were delivered from being confined to a private sphere, and brought to view and consider things in general, and delivered from being stupified by sensual objects and appetites, as they will be at the day of judgment, they would approve nothing but truc virtue, nothing but general benevolence, and those affections and actions that are consistent with it, and subordinate to it. For they must see that consent to Being in general, and supreme respect to the Being of Beings, is most just ; and that every thing which is inconsistent with it, and interferes with it, or flows from the want of it, is unjust, and deserves the opposition of universal existence.
Thus has God established and ordered, that this principle of natural conscience, which, though it implies no such thing as actual benevolence to Being in general, nor any delight in such a principle, simply, cor:sidered, and so implies no truly spiritual sense or virtuous taste, yet should approve and condemn the same things that are approved and condemned by a spiritual sense or virtuous taste.
That moral sense which is natural to mankind, so far as it is disinterested and not founded in association of ideas, is the same with this natural conscience that has been described. The sense of moral good and evil, and that disposition to approve virtue and disapprove vice, which men have by natural conscience, is that moral sense, so much insisted on in the writings of many of late : A misunderstanding of which seems to have been the thing that has misled those moralists who have insisted on a disinterested moral sense, universal in the world of mankind, as an evidence of a disposition to true virtue, consisting in a benevolent temper, naturally implanted in the minds of all men. Some of the arguments made use of by these writers, do indeed prove that there is a moral sense or taste, universal among men, distinct from what arises from
self love. Though I humbly conceive, there is some confusion in their discourses on the subject, and not a proper distinction observed in the instances of men's approbation of virtue, which they produce. Some of which are not to their purpose, being instances of that approbation of virtue, that was described, whịch arises from self love. But other instances prove that there is a moral taste, or sense of moral good and evil, natural to all, which does not properly arise from self love. Yet I conceive there are no instances of this kind which may not be referred to natural conscience, and particularly to that which I have observed to be primary in the approbation of natural conscience, viz. a sense of desert and approbation of that natural agreement there is, in manner and measure in justice. But I think it is plain from what has been said, that neither this or any thing else wherein consists the sense of moral good and evil, which there is in natural conscience is of the nature of a truly virtuous taste, or determination of mind to relish and delight in the essential beauty of true virtue, arising from a virtuous benevolence of heart.
But it further appears from this. If the approbation of conscience were the same with the approbation of the inclination, of the heart, or the natural disposition and determination of the mind, to love and be pleased with virtue, then approbation and condemnation of conscience would always be in proportion to the virtuous temper of the mind ; or rather the degree would be just the same. In that person who had a high degree of a virtuous temper, therefore, the testimony of conscience in favor of virtue would be equally full : But he that had but little, would have as little a degree of the testimony of conscience for virtue, and against vice. But I think the case is evidently otherwise. Some men through the strength of vice in their hearts, will go on in sin against clearer light and stronger convictions of conscience, than others. If conscience's approving duty and disapproving sin, were the same thing as the exercise of a virtuous principle of the heart, in loving duty and hating sin, then remorse of conscience will Þe the same thing as repentance ; and just in the same degree as the sinner feels remorse of conscience for sin, in the same
degree is his heart turned from the love of sin to the hatred of it, inasmuch as they are the very same thing.
Christians have the greatest reason to believe, from the scriptures, that in the future day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, when sinners shall be called to answer before their judge, and all their wickedness in all its aggra. vations, brought forth and clearly manifested in the perfect light of that day, and God will reprove them and set their sins in order before them, their consciences will be greatly awakened and convinced, their mouths will be stopped, all stupidity of conscience will be at an end, and conscience will have its full exercise : And therefore their consciences will approve the dreadful sentence of the judge against them, and seeing that they have deserved so great a punishment, will join with the judge in condemning them. And this, according to the notion I am opposing, would be the same thing as their being brought to the fullest repentance ; their hearts being perfectly changed to hate sin and love holiness; and virtue or holiness of heart in them will be brought to the most full and perfect exercise. But how much otherwise, have we reason to suppose, it will then be ? viz. That the sin and wickedness of their heart will come to its highest dominion and completest exercise ; that they shall be wholly left of God, and given up to their wickedness, even as the devils are ! When God has done waiting on sinners, and his spirit done striving with them, he will not restrain their wickedness, as he does now. But sin shall then rage in their hearts, as a fire no longer restrained or kept under. It is proper for a judge when he condemns a criminal, to endeavor so to set his guilt before him as to convince his conscience of the justice of the sentence. This the Almighty will do effectually, and do to perfection, so as most thoroughly to awaken and conconvince the conscience. But if natural conscience, and the disposition of the heart to be pleased with virtue, were the same, then at the same time that the conscience was brought to its perfect exercise, the heart would be made perfectly holy ; or, would have the exercise of true virtue and holiness in perfect benevolence of temper. But instead of this, their
wickedness will then be brought to perfection, and wicked men will become very devils, and accordingly will be sent away as cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
But supposing natural conscience to be what has been described, all these difficulties and absurdities are wholly avoided. Sinners, when they see the greatness of the Being, whom they have lived in contempt of, and in rebellion and opposition to, and have clearly set before them their obligations to him, as their Creator, preserver, benefactor, &c. together with the degree in which they have acted as enemies to him, may have a clear sense of the desert of their sin, consisting in the natural agreement there is between such contempt and opposition of such a Being, and his despising and opposing them; between their being and acting as so great enemies to such a God, and their suffering the dreadful consequences of his being and acting as their great enemy : And their being conscious within themselves of the degree of anger,
which would naturally arise in their own hearts in such a case if they were in the place and state of their judge. In order to these things there is no need of a virtuous benevolent temper, relishing and delighting in benevolence, and loathing the contrary. The conscience may see the natural agreement between opposing and being opposed, between hating and being hated, without abhorring malevolence from a benevolent temper of mind, or without loving God from a view of the beauty of his holiness. These things have no necessary dependence one on the other.
of particular Instincts of Nature, which in some
respects resemble Virtue.
THERE are various dispositions and inclinations natural to men, which depend on particular laws of nature, determining