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Men would not so generally confound the mere operations of natural instincts and affections with true virtue, were it not that there is often a near resemblance between them. Both are pleasing in their exercise to the possessor, and beneficial to mankind. The effect of both is to diminish the sum of human wickedness and misery. The direct tendency of natural affection, of natural compassion, and of the operation of natural conscience, is to restrain sin, to soften the habits and manners, and very greatly to add to human enjoyment. None can question that the immediate tendency of the exercise of virtue is to produce the same results, and to a much greater extent.
We are apt, from another cause, to confound the operation of natural affection with true virtue, and to callthe former by the name of the latter; our natural affections and principles, when exercised under the influence of supreme love to God, and regard to his glory, become truly virtuous. All the instinctive feelings of human nature, the love of parents to children, and of children to parents, of relations, neighbours, kindred, and country,-compassion to the distressed, gratitude to benefactors, and the exercise of conscience as a directing and governing power, are now holy. Let this single affection of love to God be introduced into the mind, and it gives a new character to all the acts of the will, to all the feelings of the heart, and to the operation of the instinctive principles of our nature. It was doubtless to this important change, which philosophy no less than religion de clares to be necessary, that the Apostle alluded, when he said, " If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
But that there is nothing of real virtue in the operation of natural instincts and affections is very obvious. That only, it must be allowed by all, is virtuous which proceeds from virtuous principle. The effect cannot be of a nature different from the cause. The stream does not possess qualities more excellent than the fountain. Mere natural and instinctive affection, however varied may be its results, however beautiful, and useful, and necessary, is totally different in nature from that product of the will and the understanding, acting with a reference to the noblest objects, which we call virtue.
“ If God has given to man a power which we call conscience, the moral faculty, the sense of duty, by which, when he comes to years of understanding, he perceives certain things that depend on his will to be his duty, and other things to be base and unworthy ; if the notion of duty be a simple conception of its own kind, and of a different nature from the conceptions of utility and agreeableness, of interest or reputation; if this moral faculty be the prerogative of man, and no vestige of it be found in brute animals; if it be given us by God to regulate all our animal affections and passions ; if to be governed by it be the glory of man and the image of God in the soul, and to disregard its dictates be his dishonour and depravity: I say, if these things be so, to seek the foundation of morality in the affections which we have in common with the brutes, is to seek the living among the dead,
and to change the glory of man, and the image of God in his soul, into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.
“A dog has a tender concern for her puppies; so has a man for his children. The natural affection is the same in both. But why do we impute moral virtue to the man on account of this concern, and not to the dog? The reason surely is, that in the man the natural affection is accompanied with a sense of duty, but in the dog it is not. The same thing may be said of all the kind affections common to us with the brutes. They are amiable qualities; but they are not moral virtues *.”
“ Whatever we do, we should perform it,” says the profound and eloquent Barrow, "with this formal reference, as his servants, from conscience of the duty we owe to him; with intention therein to serve him, in expectation of a reward only from him.--So that St. Paul enjoins us, that whatever we do, we perform it heartily as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that from the Lord we shall receive the recompence of the inheritance.-In fine, all our actions should, in our intention, be works of religion, dedicated to God's service and honour; sacrifices, as it were, of gratitude and homage to God; so they ought all to be offered up in the name of Jesus t."
“ To constitute true christian virtue,” says Dr. Beattie,
good affections, disposing to good actions, and accompanied too with a sense of duty, are not sufficient without the aid of another principle, and * Reids Essays ; Essay v. chap. v. vol. iii. p. 495.
op Vol. iii. p. 7
that is piety. The love of God ought continually to predominate in the mind, and give, to every act of duty, grace and animation. Christians do what is right, not only because good affections prompt them to it, and because their conscience declares it to be incumbent; but also because they consider it as agreeable to the will of God, to please whom is ever their supreme desire *.”
REASONS ON WHICH THE DOCTRINE OF THE FOREGOING
CHAPTER IS FOUNDED.
Thus it appears that the glory of God is the ultimate object which he has in view in all his works,–in the creation and preservation of the universe. It also appears to be the ultimate object of reference to all moral agents, to the attainment of which they are bound to consecrate themselves. That this ought to be their chief end in all their conduct appears to me evident from the following considerations.
I. Because it is the end which God proposes to himself in all his works. Scripture, the only source . whence we derive information on this head, does indeed speak of the communication of happiness as his ultimate end. There are numerous expressions which seem to intimate that God's object in imparting his goodness is the happiness of his creatures. “The
* Beattie's Moral Science. Vol. II.
Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people, for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you.—God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.' To shew the unbounded delight and complacency with which God regards the felicity of his people, it is said,—“ The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will rejoice over thee with singing.”
These declarations, which shew forth the pleasure which God takes in the happiness of his creatures, are perfectly consistent with the position, that his ultimate end in all his works is his own glory. For what is the glory of God! It was before observed, that it is the riches, the infinite fulness of the divine nature, consisting in infinite knowledge, holiness, and happiness. That which is more especially called the glory of God is the manifestation of these; and particularly the communication of them to the creatures whom he has formed in his own image. “The communication of his knowledge is chiefly in the knowledge of himself; the communication of his virtue or holiness, is principally in communicating the love of himself; and the communication of God's joy and happiness consists chiefly in communicating to the creature that happiness and joy which consists in rejoicing in God, and in his glorious excellency; for in such joy God's own happiness does principally consist. In these things, knowing God's excellency,