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SERM. frequently ufing expreffions not found in Scripture, are not understood by all: and that, whereas we often lay a much greater ftreffe upon fome things than others, when these also are commanded by the divine being; the reason of this is not perceived, though fuch conduct be perfectly agreeable to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
My aim therefore is to fet this matter in a clear light, in a few words, that we may be the beter understood in our ordinarie dif courses, without repeated explications of the phrafes and expreffions made ufe of
I. I begin with fome obfervations concerning virtue, or moral righteousneffe.
1. Morality always fuppofes rational, intelligent, and free beings. In order to any action being morally good or evil, it must be the act of a being capable of distinguishing. things, and of choofing or refufing. Such a being, or agent, we fuppofe man to be. We perceive ourselves to have the powers of thinking, understanding, reafoning, choofing or refufing. And the Scripture always fuppofeth these powers in man. finful men by his Prophets
God fays to
turn yourselves from all your tranfgreffions: SERM. fo iniquity fhall not be your ruin. Caft away from you all your tranfgreffions, whereby ye have Ezek tranfgreffed, and make you a new heart, and xviii. 30. a new spirit: for why will ye die, o house of Ifrael? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, faith the Lord God. Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. And Mofes reminded the people, who had been long under his care, and to whom he had with divine authority delivered a fyftem of laws : See, 1 bave fet before thee life and good, and Deut.xxx. death and evil... I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you, that I have fet before you life and death, bleffing and curfing. Therefore choofe life, that thou mayeft live. And our Lord faid to the Jews, his hearers: Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have John v. life.
2. The word, morality, is used in two fenfes the one more restrained, the other more comprehenfive. In the reftrained sense of the word are included fobriety, jus tice, equity, goodneffe and mercie S or the duties more efpecially refpecting ourfelves, and other men, our neighbours. In the more enlarged and comprehenfive mean
SERM. ing of the word are included not only the duties just mentioned, but likewife the duties owing to God.
This comprehenfive fense of these terms and expreffions, morality, virtue, moral righteousneffe, as including all the neceffarie duties of a rational being, I take to be the more proper fenfe and meaning of the terms, as they are generally used by wife and knowing perfons.
I fuppofe, this to be evident from thefe two confiderations: first, that we often speak of the moral perfections of God, as diftinguished from natural. And when we do fo, by his moral perfections we mean every kind of perfection, that is virtuous and righteous, or the whole rectitude of the divine will. Secondly, when we fpeak of moral righteoufneffe, or obedience to rules of moral virtue, as distinct from pofitive appointments, and a ritual, ceremonial righteous neffe or holineffe; we muft mean our duty to God, as well as to ourselves and other men : or all virtue, and every duty, which has a foundation in the reason of things.
These two confiderations, I think, evidently fhew, that this is a common fenfe of
the word. And as the love of God and our SERM. neighbour is comprehended in morality, or IV. that which we call moral good, fo the contrarie is moral evil: lying in the neglect of any duty toward God or man, or the tranfgreffion of any reasonable law or commandment, regulating and prefcribing fuch duty.
The defign of this obfervation is to fhew the fense of fome terms and expreffions made use of concerning this matter.
We are next to obferve the nature of morality or to fhew, wherein moral good, moral righteousneffe, or virtue, consists, and how it may be known and discerned.
3. The things, faid to be morally good, are fuch as are fit and reasonable in themselves, according to the cafe and circumftance, which any being is in, and the relations he bears to others. To mention some instances. It is, and appears to be, fit and reafonable, that a rational and intelligent being fhould preferve the ufe and exercise of his rational powers, and not lofe the government of himself by exceffe and intemperance, or by any paffions and affections, excited by external things, whether good or evil.
It is also fit and becoming, that rational creatures fhould, according to their abilities, humbly praise and adore the author of their being acknowledging the power, wisdom and goodneffe, of which they fee manifold proofs and traces in themselves, and in all things around them: and that they should be thankful to him for all his benefits, and fear and reverence him, and acquiesce in his disposals.
It is likewife fit and reasonable in itself, that these rational, intelligent beings should bear good will and kind affection to one another as they all fhare in the like powers, and benefits, and are all exposed to the like casualties, weakneffes and wants, and are dependent upon each other.
All these things appear on the first view to be fit and reasonable. Moreover moral good and evil are known by their tendences. All the things just mentioned are beneficial, conducive to the perfection, and the happineffe of individuals, and focieties. And the things contrarie to them are, and appear to be evil, inafmuch as they weaken those who allow of them, and are detrimental to others around them.