« ElőzőTovább »
therefore what is required of thee: for nothing is insisted upon for our practice, but what is either good in itself, or has a tendency to make us so. God has too much knowledge not to understand what is necessáry to duty, and too much wisdom not to enjoin what is so; and, therefore, there is no man capable of duty, who has not within him clear intimations of that duty. For, to say, that even a single duty exists, which it is not in the power of man to know, is to fix an imputation upon the Almighty derogatory from his exalted and gracious attributes. God hath certainly shewed every man living what is good, and what it is he requires: and, therefore, every act of disobedience must be resolved into a want of inclination to duty, and not a want of knowledge of it. Even the Gentiles themselves had no sufficient excuse for sin : because, though without the law of revelation, they had a natural law within theinselves: their conscience told them, that there was an essential difference between right and wrong, and that there was an obligation upon them to follow the one and avoid the other.
Now this obligation to duty forces itself upon us in a variety of ways, by which we may be as sure that something is due to God, as that we had our being from him: for it cannot be ima
gined, that the Almighty should concern himself in stationing us upon this earth, and then withdraw every concern from us:---manifest therefore it is, that God has a demand upon our conduct, as he is our sovereign Lord, the eternal King. And his claim, like his being, is infinitely above every other; and we can no more be absolved from our allegiance as subjects, than we can from our dependence as creatures. We cannot create or maintain ourselves, and therefore we are not to live to ourselves: the right of creation clearly sounds the right to subjection. .
There is no lord but, has some service due from those who hold under him: and shall the Sovereign of all worlds have millions of dependent creatures, and receive no homage from them?--this cannot be:-and, therefore, to say, that there is no debt of obedience due from us, is to exalt our nature above God's design, or, rather, to step into the place of God himself.
But farther : we may clearly deduce our obligations to duty towards God, from the constitution of our own natures.
Where there is no capacity of knowing, reasoning, and determining, there, indeed, is a plain
exemption from duty : for, where nothing is known, nothing can be done. But is this the state of man? By no means. For, though one part of us be taken from the dust, yet another speaks a higher original, and shews that we have within us an inspiration from the Almighty.. By our mental powers, we are of the kindred of heaven, we are allied to God himself: and surely, when the relation is so great, the acknowledgment should be so too. We see ourselves the most éminent creatures of this lower world, and capable of the noblest purposes: it cannot be consistent therefore, that we should live for no purpose. Is there such a delightful thing as knowledge? Is there within us a power to know? Then, either we must employ the power to that end, or say that we have it from God in vain. Is there, again, such a thing as loving, honouring, and serving God? and is there in us a capacity of doing this? Then it clearly follows, that this capacity ought to be employed, and that God ought to have our best services. We are born 'subjects into the world, and, therefore, are not
to live unsubjected to laws, in the progress of - life. Our birth is, as it were, a consecration of . our being to God.". s.
· But, even were this short of argument; did not the constitution of our natures prove God's
claim to duty; yet his requisition of obedience brings the matter to a demonstrative certainty. For who can doubt whether man owes any thing to his God, when God himself declares, that he requires something of us? If we should think that his being our sovereign, or that our capacity of being governed by laws, are insufficient evidence of our obligation to duty; yet every doubt must cease, when we hear the voice of God himself declaring his laws to us, and requiring obedience from us: for God knows no such injustice as to make applications where he has no claim: he knows no such weakness as to arrogate dominion, where he has no jurisdiction, or to promulge laws, where he has no authority. Since, therefore, he demands our duty, we may be well assured that he has a right to it.
We may farther remark, that as God has a clear right to our duty, so -also he has clearly pointed out to us the line of our duty. “The .“ Almighty has shewed us what is good;""he does not expect obedience, without declaring: in what he would be obeyed. Even those who have not the revelation of Jesus, are not without the principles of knowledge and duty, though they may not reason upon them, or improve them -into thát amiable rectitude of manners to which
they would lead them : they have the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing them witness, condemning their vicious, and approving their virtuous conduct. But this knowledge of God and our duty, discoverable as it may be, in a great measure, by the natural reasonings of men, yet coines much improved to us by the kindness of God in the declaration of a Saviour. He, who came to save us from the destructive consequences of sin, brought to light so clear a manifestation of what God requires from us, as must ever remain an unanswerable argument against a thoughtless and unreclaimed sinner. For, whatever others, who have no relation, may plead for ignorance of duty, it is certain that the man, who has the privilege of a written word for his guide, can have no such plea: every page of this contains a full representation both of what he ought to do, and what he ought to leave undone. In the sacred volumes, we are so well taught the nature of God and that of man, that, without the greatest perverseness, we cannot be ignorant of the duties which result from them; especially, when we find the same duties confirmed to us by the documents of an internal monitor. For we do not so much learn any thing new in the sacred writings, as we find all our natural sentiments established, and the practice of what is good recom