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ON THE GROUNDS AND PRINCIPLES OF MORAL
THE INTIMATIONS OF A SUPREME MORAL GOVERNMENT TO
WHICH WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE.
THE being and perfections of God having been proved, it follows, that he is the proprietor of all things, and that he is the supreme moral governor of all. What other end could he have in the creation of all things than the manifestation of his own perfections, and the advancement of his own glory? That this end might be attained, he has placed on our world a being endowed with a capacity of discovering through the works of nature their author and their end, and of giving him the worship and adoration to which he is entitled ; and while he has given him dominion over the inferior animals, he has fixed the order of all things in subserviency to his happiness.
That God governs the world is as clear as that he is its author, and is proved by the same means.
Throughout the kingdoms of animate and inanimate nature, we observe an order so fixed and uniform, that we confidently reckon on its permanency. According to a few general laws, or principles, which the Lord and Ruler of all has established, are the varieties of the seasons and the glories of nature regularly produced. The sun by its light and heat is at once the means by which we discern objects, and the cause of moisture and of vegetation. Gravitation by its uniform action preserves the planets in their orbits, gives adhesion to the parts of the globe, and stability to the artificial structures which man erects on its surface; it is the cause of the alternate elevation and depression of the sea in the phenomena of tides; it drains the earth of its superfluous moisture by rivers; and communicates to our atmosphere that equal pressure which is necessary generally to our bodies, and more especially to inspiration in breathing. We see also among the tribes of the inferior animals an order established, not less constant, chiefly occasioned by those instinctive properties and tendencies which God has implanted in their nature, and to which they yield unvarying subjection. These, and all the other phenomena of the universe, are produced by the Creator and Preserver of all things, and shew him to be the wise and supreme ruler and governor of the works which he has formed. - To the seas he has set a bound that they may not pass over, that they turn not again to cover the earth. “ He sendeth the springs into the valleys which run among the hills: they give drink to every beast of the field. He causeth the grass. to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man; that he may bring forth food out of the earth—He appointed the moon for seasons ; the sun knoweth his going down. Thou makest darkness, and it is night; wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening. O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled ; thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created : and thou renewest the face of the earth. The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever : the Lord shall rejoice in his works.”
The government of God over the works he has made is adapted to their nature, properties, and designs. He is, therefore, the Supreme Moral Governor of man, whose authority he is bound to obey, and to whom he is accountable. And as God has not left himself, in any department of his works, without a witness in regard to his being and perfections, so neither has he with respect to his moral government; but has given intimations of it sufficiently numerous and powerful to leave those without excuse who comply not with its requirements. It will, therefore, be my endeavour to prove, in the first place, that the existence of the moral government of God in regard to his intelligent creatures is clearly discoverable from the light of nature; and in the second place, that this government is conducted in such a way in the present life, as unavoidably to lead our views to the certainty of a future.
THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD DISCOVERABLE FROM
THE LIGHT OF NATURE.
The moral government of God, the supreme King and Ruler of all, is clearly discoverable from the light of nature. When I speak of his moral government, it is scarcely necessary to remark, that I mean that government which is suited to creatures possessed of intelligence and understanding, liberty of choice and accountableness,-attributes with which man is endowed. Being endowed with these valuable qualities, by which he is constituted head of the visible creation, he is capable of obedience, and, therefore, bound to obey the divine will, wherever discovered, as the expression of immutable rectitude, as the law of the universe, and as the spring of life, and order, and happiness. His obligations to render this obedience, as they are undoubted, so are they constantly accumulating, from the continuance of his being, and in the possession of his exalted faculties, from the varied and boundless kindness of God, and from the numerous motives to virtuous conduct which his present circumstances, as well as his future prospects, present. This holds true of man, even when enjoying nothing more than the light of nature. For though his obligations are in proportion to his capacity, to the means given him for knowing the will of God, and the aids he possesses in its performance; and, consequently, are greatly increased by the light of the gospel; yet, this light does not diminish or impair the obligations which previously and necessarily exist.
It is clear, from more considerations than I can at present enlarge upon, that mankind, without revelation, have some notions of the authority, nature, and design of God's moral government. From the constitution of their own mind are these forced on their attention, as often as they reflect on the perfection of God, and especially on his wisdom, power, freeagency and goodness. The admission of each of these attributes as belonging to him follows from the admission of his existence.
Possessing, as the Creator of all, infinite intelligence, he must be unerring in wisdom. He who is everywhere present, and whose intelligence is everywhere co-existing with his presence; whose habitation is eternity, and to whom all the possible occurrences of an endless duration are intimately known; who pervades and surrounds the infinitude of space, and has in his view all beings, events, and contingencies,