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life, and in the hour of temptation, can it be affirmed, that his moral conduct will not bend and accommodate itself to the shifting circumstances in which he is placed ? Or should bis principle of action be honour or custom, which will lead him, of course, constantly to look to the changing opinions of his fellow-creatures, to human estimation as his great rule and ultimate end, his morality will fluctuate with the fluctuation of fashion and feeling around him.
But though it were not liable to this and other exceptions, it falls very far short of the true standard of moral feeling and conduct. That action alone is morally good which proceeds from a morally good principle. Expediency is not of this description, since its direct tendency is to set loose from the authority of conscience, to furnish a law different and opposite from the immutable law of God, and to suggest a pretext for the commission of crime both in public and private life. Neither does honour possess this character; for that teaches us to refer to the opinion and decision of man, and not to God; and to regard with indifference some of the grossest immoralities, such as pride, revenge, drunkenness, and impurity.
These principles are widely injurious in their ope. ration and consequences. The readiness with which man embraces any doctrine, which allows him to make an occasional surrender of duty and conscience to present gratification, renders every false system of morals extensively pernicious. The direct tendency of every such system, is, to lower the standard of morals, to represent more or less the indulgence of those evil propensities which do not immediately interfere with the order and existence of human society as venial; to remove restraints from the passions ; and generally to enfeeble the obligation of moral truth and duty. As the consequence, there is in the mind of the multitudes by whom such principles are adopted, either singly, or in combination, an indistinctness of moral perception, and erroneous views of the extent and authority of moral obligation. The mischievous effects which result from the operation of errors of so grave a character; are incalculable, both in respect to the feelings and conduct of the individuals subjected to it, and of the community of which they form. so great a part.
The love of God and of man, on the other hand, is a pure, disinterested, and powerful principle of moral conduct, which maintains the desire and the effort of making all happy, constantly, consistently, and uni. versally operative, producing, without regard to consequences, a willing obedience to God, and genuine benevolence to man. The morality of which it is the spring, being regulated by the word of God, by that unchanging law which is a transcript of the divine holiness, is of a different nature from the fluctuating, accommodating, and lax morality which is the effect of worldly principles. It forbids every sinful indulgence, proscribes every passion, cherishes every virtue, gives to conscience, enlightened by heavenly truth, its legitimate supremacy, and it presents the harmony and happiness of the universe as objects to which we are ever to devote our labours and energies. It teaches us to make all our conduct, and all our pursuits, whether they immediately affect ourselves or others, acts of obedience unto God, whose authority is in all things our rule, and whose glory it is our privilege to promote. It thus leads us " to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world"
ON THE WAY IN WHICH BENEVOLENCE IS TO BE EXERCISED, : SO AS TO BE PRODUCTIVE OF THE GREATEST GOOD TO
It has been maintained by certain writers, that as We are bound to love our neighbour with the same pure and disinterested affection which we bear to ourselves, we are bound to express our love to all in the same manner. It is, therefore, say they, wrong to appropriate exclusively to our own use blessings which the law of love makes common to all; or to make that particular provision for our families which should be given freely to the members of the family of mankind. As it is our duty to love others as ourselves, ought we not to share with them in common, whatever good we may procure by our talents and industry? Without this, what is our love but empty profession, and does it not consist merely in word and in tongue ?
In reply to this sophistical objection, which, if followed out, would fill the world with anarchy and misery, by annihilating those means and institutions which Providence has ordained for cherishing virtue VOL. II.
and checking vice, for increasing human happiness and alleviating human evil, I remark, -
I. That the law which enjoins us to love our neighbour as ourselves, is a law designed to regulate the moral feelings and conduct of reflecting and intelligent beings in regard to their fellow-creatures. In obeying this law, that is, in loving others as themselves, they are not only allowed, but required to act in the exercise of their best judgment, and in that way in which the great object of love, human happiness, may be most effectually promoted. Should the convictions of judgment and experience on this subject be confirmed by the decision of the only wise God, the Supreme Ruler and Legislator, there, of course, would be no room for hesitation as to the best, the only method of following out the law of love. That decision from the first creation of mankind was given; it has been explained and enforced by subsequent revelations; and its wisdom and beneficence are amply confirmed by the history of the human race. I observe, therefore,
II, That according to the decision of divine authority, as well as of human experience, the happiness of mankind is best secured by their living in families. It is unnecessary to mention all the purposes intended to be accomplished by this institution; but it is obvious that one great object designed to be attained by it is, the religious education and improvement of children. The great Lord and Ruler of all trains up, under this system of discipline, the intelligent and accountable beings whom he forms, and thus prepares them for the duties and trials of life, and for giving a cheerful obedience to his laws, whether immediately enacted by himself, or enjoined by human authority. The heads of families are thus peculiarly constituted the servants of God; he rules through their instrumentality the little community over which they preside; he makes them kings and priests to their own household; and he intrusts them with a charge endeared to them by all the ties of nature, and of infinite importance both in relation to this world and the next.
It is in families also that the natural affections are cherished-those affections which soften human nature, which are the source of so much happiness, and which are such important auxiliaries to whatever is good in man. Had there been no such institution, and had human beings been so circumstanced that the tender ties of kindred could not be formed, the parental, filial, fraternal, and other affections which are called natural, could have had no existence. Dark and miserable must have been the condition of a fallen world, with inhabitants destitute of
pure benevolence, and at the same time wanting in those instinctive feelings and affections which, in the absence of a higher principle, are essential to the existence of society.
In consequence of their living in families also, mankind are capable of prosecuting their worldly business with the greatest effect. That which is the business of all is seldom done by any. To enable us to apply our powers successfully, we find it necessary to limit our attention to some definite object. Families can easily and effectually conduct the government of their respective establishments, and embrace, without