Imatges de pàgina
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how to distinguish between outward acts and positive duties, and between slighting some positive duties, and slighting them as such; he may then easily answer every objection he has raised.

He goes on to St. James, who, as he observes, describing pure religion, “ puts it upon moral actions, to visit “the fatherless and widow 4, &c." No doubt but the duties which St. James there mentions, if performed as they should be, and upon right Christian principles, are parts of pure religion : and so are many other duties both positive and moral, which he has not there named, and which yet are as necessary as the other, and necessary to complete the other; for God will not be served by halves. The same St. James exhorts his converts to " submit “ themselves to God," which certainly includes submission to all his commandments : and he further advises them, in time of sickness, to call for the elders of the Church, to pray over them, and to anoint them with oil, promising them that the prayer of faith should save the sick y, and that if he had committed sins, they should be forgiven him. Surely St. James bad no contemptible opinion of positive ordinances. I may add, that he speaks very highly of Abraham's obedience to a positive precept.

But the Objector has another text, which one would not easily have thought of, and it is to show “the efficacy “ of moral virtue beyond dispute.” It is Rom. ii. 25, 26. which runs thus : “ Circumcision verily profiteth if thou “ keep the law, but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy “ circumcision is made uncircumcision.” It is very odd to cite a text to prove the efficacy of the works of the law, against the whole tenor of the Apostle's doctrine every where else. For the Apostle's professed design, and the whole turn of his argument in several of his Epistles, is to persuade men not to trust to the efficacy of the works of the law, because indeed no man's works would be or could be perfect enough to trust to; for which reason he advises them rather to trust to the efficacy of faith, that is, to the grace of the Gospel covenant sealed in the blood of Christ, by which alone men might justly hope for salvation. Not that good works were not necessary conditions, though wanting that proper efficacy to salvation which the alone merits of Christ's death supplied.

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u James i. 27.

* James iv, 7.

y James v, 14, 15.

But to return to our Objector, and to take notice of his marvellous comment. “ Positive institutions,” says he,

profit, if thou keep the law,” (N. B. the Jewish law, for that the Apostle is plainly speaking of,) “ they are “good means to make men virtuous, and consequently “ are profitable.” The truth is, the works of the Jewish law, both natural and positive, (for the Apostle takes all in, ceremonial, moral, and judicial,) those works if exactly and to a tittle performed, might have answered some purpose, because, according to promise and covenant, a Jew that should keep the law was to have life therein 2. And therefore circumcision, (considered here as the seal of the covenant, rather than as a positive duty,) which made a man “ debtor to the whole lawą,” might be of some use, provided he should keep the whole law, otherwise it would be hurtful, being the taking up a burden that he should not be able to bear. Therefore since no man could wisely trust so far to his own strength, as to hope to be saved by works, St. Paul constantly advises to trust to the grace of God in Christ, which alone could supply the defective obedience even of the best men, and make it acceptable with God. But this part of the dispute may more properly come in under what I intend upon the Sacraments, and is but a kind of digression in this place : only because positive institutions are concerned in it, it was necessary to take some notice of it.

I have now run through all that the Objector had to

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urge from Scripture, in favour of moral duties, as being absolutely preferable to positive: and it does not appear that he has been able to prove his point.

II. I come in the next place to objections drawn from the nature or reason of the thing.

1. The first and principal b, in the words of Archbishop Tillotson, is as follows : “ Natural and moral duties are

approved of God for themselves, on their own account, " and for their own sake, upon account of their own na“ tural and intrinsical goodness; but the ritual and instru“ mental parts of religion are only pleasing to God in “ order to these, and so far as they tend to beget and “promote them in us.”

In answer to this plea, I must first observe, that the intrinsical goodness here spoken of, means natural goodness only, or beneficial tendency, such as appears in almsgiving, liberality, &c. and which is the same, though the thing be done out of vanity, or ostentation, or other worse principle : it follows the outward act. But our question is about moral goodness, which lies in the obedience to the Divine law, and which is equally seen in an indifferent matter, as in a thing which is naturally and materially of beneficial tendency. I must next observe, that obedience to a positive law, as preaching the Gospel, for instance, may be of more beneficial influence, and may therefore have more intrinsical goodness in it than moral duties, because it tends to instruct, enlighten, improve, and save mankind, and that not for the present only, but to all eternity. It must not therefore be said that positive duties, as to their material part, or outward act, have not a beneficial tendency: they generally have, and God ordains them for those outward ends and uses, besides the inward use they have upon the person practising the same, if he does it out of a good heart. As to the moral goodness of positive duties, that stands exactly upon the same foot with the moral goodness in natural duties. The obedi

Answer to the Remarks, p. 75,

ence to the Divine law (which is moral goodness) is alike in both, only more or less excellent, according to the circumstances, as I have more than once observed.

I must further take notice, that it is entirely begging the question, to say that all positive duties are instrumental parts only of religion. They may be as direct religion, or even more direct religion, than any moral performances. So long as Adam obeyed the positive precept, his obedience was an exercise of self-denial, faith, hope, and the love of God. And Abraham's obedience to positive precepts (as I have often hinted) was an exercise of the most exalted faith in, and love to, bis Maker. What other virtues could those be instrumental to? There could be no greater. I very much suspect that this instrumentality, as commonly stated, is mostly founded in mistake. It is true that all virtues have such a close connection with other virtues, that they may, in some sense, be said to be instrumental one to another. But unless we have a inind to set the second table before the first, and to confound every thing, we must allow that piety towards God is not so properly instrumental to other duties, or the means to them, (for the end is nobler than the means,) as it is the foundation of other virtues, which are superstructure only, built upon it. The love of God is the stock or stem, out of which all other virtues spring forth. The love of God, expanded or branched out into all its divisions and subdivisions, is the whole of virtue, the whole of religion and morality. Let us begin then at the head, and so may we set every virtue and every grace in its due order.

I cannot here help observing of Archbishop Tillotson, whose objection I am now answering, that that great and good man, and, for the most part, excellent Divine, was not altogether so accurate in his notions of the instrumentality of some virtues to others, as might have been wished. He has a pointed saying in one of his Sermons : 6 cTo separate goodness and mercy from God, compas

« Tillotson, Serm. xix, vol. i. p. 206. fol.

“sion and charity from religion, is to make the two best

things in the world, God and religion, good for no“ thing." He has another near akin to it, a little lower in the same page. “What is religion good for, but to “ reform the manners and dispositions of men, to restrain “ human nature from violence and cruelty, from falsehood “ and treachery, from sedition and rebellion?” The thought is free and bold, and, probably, in some measure shocking to many a serious reader; who may suspect there is something amiss in it, though it is not presently perceived where the fault lies. The truth is, there is an ússpor apóTepov, there is a subjecting the laws of the first to the laws of the second table; there lies one impropriety: and further, God the ultimate end of all, and to whom all things are to be ultimately referred, is considered here as subservient to man, or to the creatures, as if they were the end, and God was to be referred to them. I cannot say but the turn is pretty, and surprising, as an ógúuwpor : but it might as well have been spared in so serious a subject, where it much concerns us to have strict and just notions, and not to confound ideas. The love of God is the root of all virtue, and into that all virtue resolves. Piety is not instrumental to social virtues, but it is the source and fountain from whence they flow. We are to be trained up to social virtues here, in order to a social life both in this world and the next. But the Head of all society is God : and the duties that directly terminate in him are the prime duties : and then social virtues towards men, springing from the other, and subordinate also to the other, follow in their place. God may in some special cases dispense with our immediate services to him, to give us leisure to serve mankind, and may accept it in such circumstances, as the most valuable service : but still, absolutely speaking, his immediate service is first in order, and first in dignity, and first in obligation, because all the rest depend upon it, and are wrapped up in it. I have spent the more pains in answering this first objection,

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