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aétion * is not only distinct from, but is allo preferable to, another in nature ; fo, of necessity, there must be a rule of affection and a&tion, resulting from that difference, which will always take place, in all instances and cafes, where a rule of affection and action is wanting, whether it relates to God, our neighbour, or ourselves; or, in other words, there will be a reason, resulting from the natural difference in things, why we should be affe&ted, and why we should aft, this way, or that way, rather than their contraries; which reason is, of itself, and from the very nature of the thing, a law,

a law, or rule, to every intelligent being, who is capable of discerning that difference. And as man is, by the author of the universe, constituted an intelligent creature, by which he is rendered capable of discerning the essential difference in things, and thereby of coming at the knowledge of

that

* The word action, both here and elsewhere, is not used to express the bare simple idea of motion, but the complex idea of motion under a certain direction; fo that when actions are said to be good, or bad, the term action is used to express, not only bare motion, but also the motive or moving cause of, or rather the ground and reaJon of, the exertion of the moving power, and the end and purpose, which the exertion of that faculty is intended to serve, or which is served by it.

238 The Author's Farewel. that law, tho', in difficult and complex cases, he is liable to err, with respect to it; so, by a ftri&t conformity to this rule, he must, of necessity, render himself approveable to his maker, because thereby he acts consonant to his intelligent nature, and thereby anfwers the end of his creation : I say, a strict conformity to the fore-mentioned rule must, of necessity, render a man approveable to God; and the reason is obvious, viz. because, hereby, a man renders himself the proper object of approbation and affection to every intelligent being, and, consequently, to the Deity, as such ; and, therefore, to suppose otherwise, is to suppose that God is morally imperfeet, which supposition is not to be admitted. And, as the natural and efsential difference in things exhibits a rule of affection and action, as aforesaid ; so, conformity to this rule constitutes the pure and uncorrupted religion of nature. This is called religion, as it renders us approveable to God, and is the ground of our acceptance with him ; and it is called the religion of nature, both as it results from the natural and effential difference in things, and also as it does, from the very nature of the thing, make us the proper objects of approbation, and thereby

render

a strict

Tender us truly approveable to our maker. And this original and primary rule of action, must, of necessity, be both a perfect and a perpetual law. It must be perfect, as it is a proper rule, in all instances, and cases, where a rule of affection and action is wanting. It is a law that has no defeet, no deficiency, but takes in all cases, under all circumstances; and, therefore, whatever errors men may fall into, with regard to this law, and whatever misrepresentations may have been given of it, yet it is, in itself, abstractedly from such errors and misrepresentations, a most compleat and perfect law, to which not any thing can possibly be added to make it more so. It is also a perpetual law, as it is always the same, and admits of no addition, no decrease, no alteration, through distance of time or place ; for whenfoever, and wheresoever, the same things, under the same circumstances and relations, take place, the same obligations will naturally and unavoidably flow from them, at all times, in all places, under all dispensations, and in all worlds. And,

As a conformity of mind and life to the original and primary law of nature constitutes true religion, and, consequently, denomi

nates

240

The Author's Farewel. nates the conformist a truly religious man; fo, of course, the contrary constitutes irreligion, and denominates the practitioner an irreligious man ; and the making any thing, but such conformity, the ground of God's tavour, that constitutes false religion, as it is considered and represented to be what it really is not. I am sensible, it may be urged, that as God is the fole fountain of our beings, who has us absolutely in his disposal, so he can make what he pleases the conditions of his favour ; and, therefore, tho' he cannot increase, nor decrease, nor any way alter the original and primary law of nature, yet he can do what is equal to it, with refpect to us, he can lay upon us what commands be pleases, and thereby can increase our obligations. To which it may be answered, that what God can do, and what he will do, are two distinct and different things ; God can, with regard to his natural power and liberty, act the part of an arbitrary and absolute Governor to men, or, in other words, God can play the Tyrant with his creatures; this he can do, as he is under no external restraint, and this does not admit of a dispute, at least, with respect to me : but then, that God will act thus, is not to be

admitted,

ز

admitted ; because to act thus, is to act contrary to the propriety and fitness of things ; and, consequently, were God to act thus, he would forfeit his moral charac. ter, as a wife and good being; and this affords a moral certainty, that God will not act arbitrarily, as aforesaid. God has nothing to gain, nor nothing to lose, by any thing that can be done by his creatures, nor by any thing that he can do to them, or for ihem, nor by any thing that he can require at their hands ; and, therefore, as the Spring of action to God, in all his dealings with mankind, must needs be their good, so this will effectually restrain him from laying any unreasonable burthen, any groundless taxation, any unnecessary commands upon them ; and, consequently, it will most certainly prevent him from making any thing to be the ground of his favour, that is not so in itself, or that the nature of things does not make so, which is the case of commands that are the produce of arbitrary and despotick power, obedience to which, it is much to be feared, springs rather from servility and fear, than from gratitude and love. I say, God will not make any thing to be the ground of his favour, but what, in

R

the

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