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independence of their former colonies. The same principle commenced, and still carries on, that abominable traffic, the slave trade,-a traffic which has entailed misery on inillions of the sons of Africa; which has excited wars, and seuds, and massacres, among her numerous tribes; which has forever separated from each other brothers and sisters, parents and children; which has suffocated thousands of human beings in the cells of a floating dungeon, and plunged ten thousands into a watery grave;—a traffic which is a disgrace to the human species; which has transformed civilized men into infernal fiends; which has trampled on every principle of justice; which has defaced the image of God in man, and extinguished every spark of humanity from the minds of the ferocious banditti which avarice has employed for accomplishing her nefarious designs.” Ambition, or, an inordinate desire of power, superiority, and distinction, is another modification of this malignant principle. This passion is manifested, in a greater or less degree, by men of all ranks and characters, and in every situation in life. It is displayed in the school-room by the boy who is always eager to stand foremost in his class; in the ball-room, by the lady who is proud of her beauty, and of her splendid attire; in the corporation-hall, by the citizen who struts with an air of conscious dignity, and is ever and anon aiming at pompous harangues; on the bench, by the haughty and overbearing judge; in the church, by those rulers who, like Diotrephes, “Love to have the pre-eminence;” in the pulpit, by the preacher whose main object it is to excite the admiration and applause of a surrounding audience; in the streets, by the pompous airs of the proud dame, the coxcomb, and the dashing squire; in the village, by him who has a better house, and a longer purse, than his neighbours; in the hamlet, by the peasant who can lift the heaviest stone, or fight and wrestle with the greatest strength or agility; and in the city, by the nobleman who endeavours to rival all his compeers in the magnificence of his mansion, and the splendour of his equipage; among the learned, by their eager desire to spread their name to the world, and to extend their fame to succeeding generations; and among all classes
• That this accursed traffic is still carried on, with unabated vigour, by the civilized powers of Europe, appears from the following statement: — "The boats of a British Frigate, the Maidstone, boarded, in eleven days of June, 1824, no less than ten French vessels, at a single spot upon the coast of Africa; the measurement of which vessels was between 1400 and 1000 tons, while they were destined for the incarceration—we might say, the living burial—of 3000 human beings!” The report to Government says—“The schooner La Louisa, Capt. Armand, arrived at Gaudaloupe, during the first days of April, 1824, with a cargo of 200 negloes, the remainder of a complement of 375, which the vessel had on boaril. The vessel not being large enough to accommodate so great a number of men, the operplus were consigned ALIVE to the waves by the Captain 1"
who assume airs of importance, on account of the antiquity of their families, their wealth, their exploits of heroism, and their patrimonial possessions. But it is chiefly on the great theatre of the world that ambition has displayed its most dreadful energies, and its most overwhelming devastations. In order to gain possession of a throne, it has thrown whole nations into a state of convulsion and alarm. The road to political power and preeminence, has been prepared by the overflow of truth and justice, by fomenting feuds and contentions, by bribery, murder, and assassinations, by sanguinary battles, by the plunder of whole provinces, the desolation of cities and villages, and by the sighs, the groans, and lamentations of unnumbered widows and orphans. . In order to raise a silly mortal to despotic power on the throne of Spain, how many human victims have been sacrificed at the altar of ambition how many families have been rent asunder, and plunged into irremediable ruin! and how many illustrious patriots have been immured in dungeons, and have expired under the axe of the executioner! At the present moment, the fertile vales of Mexico, the mountains and plains of South America, the forests of the Burmese, and the shores of Turkey and of Greece, are every where covered with the ravages of this fell destroyer, whose path is always marked with desolation and bloodshed. To recount all the evils which ambition has produced over this vast globe, would be to write a history of the struggles and contests of nations, and of the sorrows and sufferin of mankind. So insatiable is this ungovernable passion, that the whole earth appears a field too small for its malignant operations. Alexander the Great, after having conquered the greater part of the known world, wept, because he had not another world to conquer. Were there no physical impediments to obstruct the course of this detestable passion, it would ravage, not only the globe on which we dwell, but the whole of the planetary worlds ; it would range from system to system, carrying ruin and devastation in its train, till the material universe was involved in misery and desolation; and it would attempt to subvert even the foundations of the throne of the Eternal. Such are some of the dismal and des'ructive effects of covetousness, when prosecuting the paths of avarice and ambition: and when we consider that it is uniformly accompanied in its progress, with pride, envy, discontentment, and restless desires,-it is easy to perceive, that, were it left to reign without control over the human mind, it would soon desolate every region of the earth, and produce all the destructive effects which, as we have already shown, would flow from a universal violation of the other precepts of God’s law. On the other hand, Contentment, the duty implied in this command, would draw along with is an unnumbered train of blnssings, and would restore tranquility and repose to our distracted world. To be contented under the allotments of the providence of God, is one of the first and fundamental duties of every rational creature. By contentment and resignation to the divine disposal, we recognise God as the supreme Governor of the universe ; as directed by infinite wisdom, in the distribution of his bounty among the children of men; as proceeding on the basis of eternal and immutable justice, in all his providential arrangements; and as actuated by a principle of unbounded benevolence, which has a regard to the ultimate happiness of his creatures. Under the government of such a Being, we have abundant reason, not only to be contented and resigned, but to be glad and to rejoice. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth be glad, let the multitude of the isles thereof rejoice.” However scanty may be the portion of earthly good measured out to us at present, and however perplexing and mysterious the external circumstances in which we may now be involved, we may rest assured, that, under the government of unerring wisdom, rectitude, and benevolence, all such dispensations shall ultimately be found to have been, not only consistent with justice, but conducive to our present and everlasting interests. Were such scntiments and affections to pervade the ninds of all human beings, what a host of malignant passions would be chased away from the hearts and from the habitations of men? Restless cares, and boundless and unsatisfied desires, which constitute the source and the essence of misery, would no longer agitate and torment the human mind. Voluptuousness would no longer riot at the table of luxury on dainties, wrung from the sweat of thousands;–nor avarice glut its insatiable desires with the spoils of the widow and the orphan;–nor ambition ride in triumph over the miseries of a suffering world. Every one, submissive to the allotments of his Creator, and grateful for that portion of his bounty which he has been pleased to bestow, would view the wealth and enjoyments of his neighbour with a kind and benignant eye, and rejoice in the prosperity of all around him. Benevolence and peace would diffuse their benign influence over the nations, and mankind, delivered from the fear of every thing that might “hurt or destroy,” would march forward in harmony and affection, to that happier world where every wish will be crowned, and every holy desire satisfied in God “their exceeding great reward.” Thus it appears, that, on the observance of this law, which closes the Decalogue, and which has a reference to a single affection of the mind —the order and happiness of the intelligent system almost entirely depends. Let the floodgates of Covetousness be burst open, and let it How in every direction without control, in a short period the world is desolated, and over
whelmed with a deluge of miseries. Let the current of every passion and desire be restrained within its legitimate boundary, and let contentment take up its residence in every heart, and this deluge will soon be dried up, and a new world will appear, arrayed in all the loveliness, and verdure, and beauty of Eden. May Jehovah hasten it in his time !
Thus I have endeavoured, in the preceding sketches, to illustrate the reasonableness of those laws which God has promulgated for regulating the moral conduct of the intelligent creation. If the propriety of these illustrations be admitted, they may be considered as a commentary on the words of the Apostle Paul: “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.” In like manner it might have been shown, that all the Apostolic injunctions, and other precepts recorded in the volume of inspiration, are accordant with the dictates of reason, and with the relations of moral agents; for they are all so inany subordinate ramifications of the principles and laws, which I have already illustrated.
General Conclusions and Remarks, founded on the preceding illustrations. I shall now conclude this chapter with the statement of a few remarks in relation to the moral law, sounded on the illustrations which have been given in the preceding pages; which may be considered as so many inferences deduced from the general subject which has now occupied our attention. I. In the first place, one obvious conclusion from the preceding illustrations is, That the laws of God are not the commands of an arbitrary Sovereign, but are sounded on the nature of things, and on the relations which exist in the intelligent system. Many divines, especially those of the supralapsarian school, have been disposed to ascribe every regulation of the Deity to the Divine Sovereignty. I have been told that, in one of the Latin treatises of Mr. Samuel Rutherford, Professor of Divinity, in St. An drews, there is a sentiment to the following purpose: “That such is the absolute sovereignty of God, that had it so pleased him, he might have made every precept of the moral law given to man exactly the reverse of what we now find it.” A sentiment more directly repugnant to the scriptural character of God, and to every view we can take of the divine attributes, it is scarcely possible for the human mind to entertain; and it shows us the dangerous consequences to which we are exposed, when we attempt to push certain theological dogmas to an extreme. If it were possible to suppose the Deity capable of such an act, it would overturn all the grounds on which we are led to contemplate him as glorious, amiable, and adorable. At some future period in the revolutions of eternity, his love, his rectitude
and his faithfulness, might be changed into malevolence, injustice, and falsehood. If the requisitions of the moral law depended solely on the Divine Sovereignty, then there is no inherent excellence in virtue; and thest, falsehood, murder, idolatry, profanity, cruelty, wars, devastations, and the malevolence of infernal demons, might become equally amiable and excellent as truth, justice, benevolence, and the songs and adorations of angels; provided the Deity willed the change to take place. But this is impossible; and it is evident, I trust, from the preceding illustrations, that, were moral laws, directly opposite to those contained in the scriptural code, to be prescribed to men, or to any other class of moral agents, not only would misery reign uncontrolled through the universe, but, in a short time, the operation of such laws would annihilate the whole intelligent creation. It is evident, then. that the moral law is not founded on the will of God, but on the relations of intelligent beings, and on its own intrinsic excellence; or, in other words, on its tendency to produce happiness throughout the intelligent system. This idea nearly coincides with that of some of our modern moralists, who maintain “that virtue is founded on utility,”—if by utility, is meant a tendency to promote happiness. But it by no means follows, from this position, as some moralists have concluded, that utility is the guide, or the rule by which we are to be directed in our moral conduct. This may be considered as the rule which directs the conduct of the Divine Being, whose eye takes in the whole system of creation, whose knowledge extends from eternity past, to eternity to come, and who perceives, at one glance, the remotest consequences of every action. But it cannot be a rule for subordinate intelligences, and especially for man, who stands near the lowest degree of the scale of intellectual existence. From the limited range of view to which he is confined, he cannot trace the remote consequences of any particular action, the bearings it may have on unnumbered individuals, and the relation in which it may stand to the concerns of the eternal world. An action which, to our limited view, may appear either beneficial or indifferent, may involve a principle which, if traced to its remotest consequences, would lead to the destruction of the moral universe. It might appear, at first view, on the whole, beneficial to society, that an old unfeeling miser should be gently suffocated, and his treasures applied for the purpose of rearing asylums for the aged poor, and seminaries of instruction for the young. But the principle which would sanction such an action, if generally acted upon, would lead to universal i. robbery, and bloodshed. To tell a lie to a child, in order to induce it to take a nauseous medicine which is essential to its recovery from disease, may appear, in such a
case, to have a benevolent tendency; but we have already shown, that were such a principle universally admitted, it would introduce anarchy and misery through the universe, and would ultimately annihilate the intelligent creation. Man, in his present state, can be directed only by positive laws proceding from the Almighty, whose comprehensive mind alone can trace all their consequences to the remotest corners of the universe, and through all the ages of eternity. These laws are contained in the Scriptures—a comprehensive summary of which has been the subject of the preceding illustrations. And we know, in point of fact, that in every country where these laws are either unknown, or not recognised, there is no fixed standard of morals: and vice, in its various ramifications, almost universally prevails. From what has been now stated we may infer —that a full and unreserved obedience to the Divine law is a most reasonable requisition. Men are too frequently disposed to view the commands of God as the dictates of an arbitrary Sovereign. There is a secret thought that occasionally lodges in the heart of every human being, that the law of God is too extensive and rigorous in its demands, accompanied with a secret wish, that the severity of its requisitions could be a little modified or relaxed. Every man is subject to some “besetting sin,” and he is apt to say within himself—“If I were allowed but a little license with regard to one precept of the law, I would endeavour to do what I could to comply with the requisitions of the rest.” But, it would be inconsistent both with the benevolence of the Deity, and with the happiness of his moral creation, either to modity or to relax any one requirement of his law; for it is a perfect law, from which nothing can be taken without impairing its excellence and utility. Were he to do so, it would be in effect, to shut up the path to happiness, and to open the flood-gates of misery upon the universe. Although it is impossible for man in his present degraded condition, to yield a perfect obedience to this law, yet nothing short of perfect obedience ought to be his aim. For in as far as we fall short of it, in so far do we fall short of happiness; and consequently, till that period arrives when our obedience shall reach the summit of persection, our happiness must reinain incomplete, and a certain portion of misery must be expected to mingle itself with all our enJoyments. II. There is so intimate a connerion between all the parts of the Divine law, that the habitual violation of any one precept necessarily includes the violation of the greater part, if not the whole of the other precepts. This is evident from the general tenor of the preceding illustrations. It has been shown that a breach of the first commandment includes pride, falsehood, blasphemy, ingratitude, and hatred of moral excellenco, and that it leads to injustice, cruelty, murder, obscenity, and the most revolting abominations. A breach of the fifth involves a principle which would sap the soundations of all government and moral order, and transform society into a rabble of lawless banditti. The violation of the eighth is connected with falsehood, treachery, and cove:ousness, and leads to oppression, robbery, plunder, murders, and the devastation of empires; and the violation of the tenth, though consisting only in the indulgence of an irregular desire, is the origin of almost every other species of moral turpitude, in relation either to God or to man. In like manner it might be shown, that the strict and regular observance of any one precept is necessarily connected with a regardsor all the other requirements of God's law. III. It appears, from the preceding illustrations, that a universal violation of any one of the six precepts of the second table of the law, would lead to the entire destruction of the human race. In the case of the sixth commandment being supposed to be reversed, or universally violated, this eflect would be most rapidly produced; but the destruction and complete extirpation of human beings from the ealth would be as certainly efsected, in the course of two or three generations, by the universal violation of any one of the other five precepts. Some of the circumstances which would necessarily produce this effect, are alluded to, in the preceding illustration of these precepts. And as the first principle of the moral law, love to God, is the foundation of the precepts contained in the second table, it is obvious, that the same effect would ultimately follow from a universal violation of the first four precepts of the Decalogue. 1W. It follows from what has hitherto been stated, That the moral law has never yet been universally violated, nor has any one of its precepts been completely reversed in the conduct of the inhabitants of our globe. Every individual, of all the millions of mankind that have existed since the fall of Adam, has, indeed, in one shape or another, broken every one of the commandments of God; but such breaches have not been constant and uniform, and running through every action he performed. Falsehood has always been iningled with a portion of truth, theft with honesty, cruelty with clemency and mercy, anarchy with subordination, and licentiousness with chastity and purity. It is owing to this partial obedience to the dictates of the law of nature, impressed upon every human heart, that the world of mankind has hitherto been preserved in existence. The partial violation, however, of the divine law, which has characterized the actions of mankind, in all ages, has been the source of all tile calamities, miseries, and moral abomination-, under which the earth has groaned from generation to generation; and, in proportion to the extent of this violation, will be the extent of
CLUSIONS. 117 wretchedness and misery entailed on the human race.—That a universal violation of God's law has never yet taken place in any region of the earth, is not owing so much to any want of energy, or of maliguity in the principle of disobedience which is seated in the hearts of men as to the restraining influence of the moral Governor of the world, and to the physical impediments which he has placed to prevent the diabolical passions of men from raging without control. Whether it be possible for any class of intelligent organized beings to subsist for any length of time, under a complete violation of the moral law, it is not for us positively to determine; but it is evident to a demonstration, that in the present physical condition of the human race, such a violation would unbinge the whole fabric of society, and, in a short time, exterminate the race of Adam from the earth. V. The greater part of the precepts of the Decalogue is binding upon superior intelligences, and upon the inhabitants of all worlds, as well as upon man. For any thing we know to the contrary, there may be worlds in different regions of the universe, and oven within the bounds of our planetary system, where their inhabitants are placed in circumstances similar to those in which man was placed in his paradisiacal state; and, consequently, where the precepts which compose their moral code may be exactly the same as ours. But, it is highly probable that, in general, the inhabitants of the various globes, which float in the immensity of space, differ as much in their moral circumstances and relations, as the globes themselves do in their size, their physical constitution, and their natural scenery. I have already shown, (p. 78, &c.) that there are seven precepts of our moral law which are common to the inhabitants of all worlds, namely, the first, second, third, fourth, (see p. 114,) the sirth, the ninth, and the tenth. And, if there be no portion of the intelligent system in which subordination, in a greater or less degree, does not exist, then, the fifth precept of our code must also be a law common to all intelligences. It was formerly stated, (p. 102,) that the seventh precept is in all probability, a law peculiar to the inhabitants of the earth, during the present economy of Providence; and, perhaps it is the only one which is not applicable to the other inhabitants of the universe. So that the moral laws given to man may be considered as substantially the same with those which govern all the other parts of the universal system. VI. From the preceding illustrations, we may inser, the excellency and the divine origin of the Christian Revelation. The Scriptures contain the most impressive evidence of their heavenly original in their own bosom. The wide range of objects they embrace, extending from the commencement of our earthly system, through all the revolutions of time, to the period of its termination and from the countless ages of eternity past, to the more grand and diversified scenes of eternity to come—the plan of Providence which they unfold, and the views they exhibit of the moral principles of the Divine government, and of the subordination of all events to the accomplishment of a glorious design—the character and attributes of the Creator, which they illustrate by the most impressive delineations, and the most lofty and sublime descriptions—the views they exhibit of the existence, the powers, the capacities, the virtues, and the employments of superior orders of intellectual beings—the demonstrations they afford of the dignified station, and of the high destination of man—and the sublime and awful scenes they unfold, when the earth “shall melt like wax at the presence of the Lord,” when the throne of judgment shall be set, and the unnumbered millions of the race of Adam shall be assembled before the Judge of all—infinitely surpass every thing which the unassisted imaginations of men could have devised, and every thing which had ever been attempted by the greatest sages of antiquity, either in prose or in rhyme; and, consequently prove, to a moral demonstration, that a Power and Intelligence, superior to the human mind, must have suggested such sublime conceptions, and such astonishing ideas; since there are no prototypes of such objects to be found within the ordinary range of the human mind. But the subject to which we have been hitherto adverting, when properly considered, suggests an evidence of the truth and divinity of the Scriptures, as striking, and, perhaps, more convincing than any other. They unfold to us the moral laws of the universe—they present to us a summary of moral principles and precepts, which is applicable to all the tribes and generations of men, to all the orders of angelic beings, and to all the moral intelligences that people the amplitudes of creation—to man, during his temporary abode on earth, and to man, when placed in heaven, so long as eternity endures—precepts, which, if universally observed, would banish misery from the creation, and distribute happiness, without alloy, among all the intellectual beings that exist throughout the empire of God. Can these things be affirmed of any other system of religion or of morals that was ever published to the world? The Greek and Roman moralists, aster all their laboured investigations, could never arrive at any certain determination with regard to the nature of happiness, and the means of attaining it. We are to'd bw Varro, one of the most learned writers of the Augustan age, that, the heathen philosophers had embraced more than two hundred and eightv different opinions respecting the supreme good. Some of them taught that it consisted in sensual enjoyments, and in freedom from pain; others considered it as placed in study and contemplation, in military
glory, in riches, honours, wealth, and same. Some of their moral maxims, separately considered, were rational and excellent; but they were connected with other maxims, which completely neutralized all their virtue, and their tendency to produce happiness. Pride, falsehood, injustice, impurity, revenge, and an unfeeling apathy to the distresses of their fellow-creatures, were considered as quite consistent with their system of morality; and such malignant principles and practices were blended with their most virtuous actions. But we have already shown, that the uniform operation of such principles would necessarily lead to the destruction of all happiness, and to the overthrow of all order throughout the intelligent creasion. Now, can it be supposed, for a moment, that a Jew, who had spent forty years of his life as a shepherd in a desert country, who lived in a rude age of the world, who had never studied a system of ethics, and whose mind was altogether incapable of tracing the various relations which subsists between intelligent beings and their Creator, could have investigated those moral principles and laws which form the soundation of the moral universe, and the basis of the divine government in all worlds; unless they had been communicated immediately by Him, who, at one glance, beholds all the physical and moral relations which exist throughout creation, and who can trace the bearings and the eternal consequences of every moral law Or can we suppose, that, throughout the whole period of the Jewish economy, and during the first ages of the Christian dispensation, a multitude of writers should appear, many of them unknown to each other, all of whom should uniformly recognise those laws in their minutest bearings and ramifications, unless their minds had been enlightened and directed by the same powerful and unerring Intelligence 2 If these laws are distinguished by their extreme simplicity, they are the more characteristic of their divine Author, who, from the general operation of a few simple principles and laws in the system of nature, produces all the variety we perceive in the material world, and all the harmonies, the contrasts, the beauties, and the sublimities of the universe. Is it be asked why these laws, which are so extremely simple and comprehensive, were not discovered nor recognised by the ancient sages It might be answered, by asking why the laws of gravitation, which are also simple and comprehensive, were not discovered, till Newton arose to investigate the agencies of nature, and to pour a flood of light on the system of the universe But the true reasons are—the unassisted powers of the human mind were inadequate to the task of surveying all the moral relations which subsist throughout the intelligent system, and of tracing those mornl principles which would apply to the whole assemblage of moral agents, so as to se