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nimity among christians, in regard to moral duties, is not so complete, as is commonly imagined. Not that I would have the student at first to enter into these questions in relation to morality, any more than into such as are of a speculative nature and relate to doctrine. Let it be his first aim in both provinces, to inquire impartially into the mind of the spirit, as it appears in revelation itself, without admitting any interruption from the visions and speculations of men. Something of a plan or outline has been suggested to assist him in his inquiries into the doctrine of scrip. ture; it will not be improper to proceed in the same way in what regards the system of duty which may be collected from the same volume. Only it will be proper to premise, that though the law of the gospel be not as was the law of Moses, what the apostle styles a law of commandments or a law of ordinances, yet there are some things (as is absolutely necessary in every religious institution calculated for a creature such as man) of a ceremonial, and some of a mixed nature partly ceremonial and partly moral, as well as some things purely moral. Of the first kind are what we now call the christian sacraments, baptism and the
of the second what regards social and public worship and the separation of particular times for the purpose ; and of the third, all the duties directly comprehended under charity or the love of God and man.
As to the doctrine of the New Testament : in regard to the two first, I meant to comprehend them under the sixth head of the sketch I gave in relation to the christian doctrine, which I termed the regeneration or the recovery of man. Under this was comprised the consideration of the external means, their
Lord's supper ;
use, their difference under different dispensations, and their connection with the effect to be produced. The subject to which I here confine myself is christian morality, or the pure ethics of the gospel. Every thing that is of a positive nature falls much more properly under the former part. In regard to this, it is evident, that different methods may be adopted for classing the different branches of duty, and there may be a conveniency in viewing the same subject in a variety of lights.
The only method which I shall take notice of at present, and which is both the simplest and the most obvious, is that which results from the consideration of the object, God, our neighbour, and ourselves. This division the apostle Paul has given of our duty in a passage well deserving the christian's most serious attention, as intimating the great and ultimate end of the gospel dispensation : “ The grace of God,” says he, “ that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.' The whole of christian morality is here divided into three great branches; sobriety, or the duty which every man owes to himself, and which consists in what we may call self government in the largest acceptation of the word, implying two great articles, a due command, first of appetite, secondly of passion; which we may distinguish by the titles of temperance and moderation, the former as it stands opposed to these vices, intemperance, incontinence, and sloth, which are different branches of voluptuousness; the latter as it stands opposed to pride, anger, avarice, and the love of life, being distinguished by these several names, humility, meekness, contentment and fortitude.
Again, the second general branch into which the christian morality is divided, is righteousness, or that duty which every man owes to all mankind. This may be subdivided from a regard to what is implied in the nature of the subject, into these two virtues, justice and beneficence. The former, that is justice, however highly valued and rarely found, is but at best a kind of negative virtue, and consists in doing no ill to others, in not injuring them in their persons, property, virtue, or reputation, which is but the lowest effect of that love, which every man owes to another. “For this,” says the apostle, “ thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not covet ; and if there be any other commandment it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour.” It proves an effectual check to injury in thought, word and action. But I call it the lowest attainment of that divine principle, not to injure those, to whom it obligeth us to do all the good we can. This constitutes the nature of that beneficence, which was mentioned as the second branch of that duty, which we owe to other men. Justice or equity is sufficient to prevent our doing that to another, which on a change of circumstances we could not approve, or think just and equitable if done to ourselves; but be
neficence goes further and applies the golden precept of our Lord in its full extent,“ Whatsoever ye would, that men should do unto you, do ye also so unto them.” This leads to all the different exertions of love, which the different situations of the object, or the different relations, which the object bears to us, require at our hands, and which are distinguished by the names of generosity, benevolence, patriotism, hospitality, friendship, natural affection, brotherly love, humanity, gratitude, clemency, mercy and forgiveness.
The third branch in the general division is godliness or piety; which has the great author of our being for its immediate object. The duties which we owe to him, and which constitute that spiritual worship which the devout soul habitually at all times and in all places pays him, are reverence, love, trust and resignation. The object of the first, which is reverence, is the supereminent excellency of all the divine attributes, considered in themselves : that of the second, which is love, is his goodness and mercy, particularly as they appear in his works of creation and redemption; the object of the third, which is trust, is in a special manner the veracity and faithfulness of God, considered in conjunction with his wisdom and power; and the object of the fourth and last, which is resignation, is providence, that is to say, all the divine perfections considered as employed in the government of the world, and in overruling all events in such a manner, as that they shall fulfil the ends of infinite wisdom and goodness, and complete at last the happiness of God's people. This view of the christian plan of morals.is the more agreeable, that it exhibits to us our duty in a kind of scale or climax, not unlike the ladder which Jacob saw in his dream, whose foot was fixed upon the earth, and whose top reached the heaven. It begins at self, at the regulation of the inferior appetites and passions, the great hindrances to spiritual illumination, and to all moral improvement, and at the acquisition of those virtues which are in effect little other in themselves than the negation of vices; and from these, it rises and expands itself so as to embrace the human race, thence again it ascends even to the throne of the most high God.
The end of the christian religion is often represented as being the assimilation of the soul to God, by which alone we can be qualified for the enjoyment of him. Now as virtue in man, so the moral perfections of God have been represented as concentering in the single character of love. “Love is of God,” says
the apostle John, “ and God is love.” Agreeably to this doctrine, the acquisition of this quality is represented as the end of the whole christian dispensation, which our apostle styles “ the commandment” by way of eminence. “ Now the end of the commandment is charity,” (or love, for the word in the original is the same) “out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” To the same purpose we are told that it is “the bond of perfectness," or that which must consummate the christian character. You need not be told, that in the love of God and the love of our neighbour our duty to both is in the New Testament commonly comprehended, and these two constitute the second and third classes of duty in the gospel system above enumerated.
With regard to the virtues of the first class, which have self for the object, and which consist in tempe