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anity itself; for St. Paul himself places the perfection of the Christian character in that quality of disinterested virtue which some have injuriously supposed cannot belong to it. It may seem, perhaps, that the strictness and purity of the precepts of Christianity rather heighten the objection than remove it; that the objection, rightly understood, is this, that the Christian system is at variance with itself, its precepts exacting a perfection of which the belief of its doctrines must necessarily preclude the attainment; for how is it possible that a love of virtue and religion should be disinterested, which, in its most improved state, is confessedly accompanied with the expectation of an infinite reward? A little attention to the nature of the Christian's hope, to the extent of his knowledge of the reward he seeks, will solve this difficulty. It will appear, that the Christian's desire of that happiness which the Gospel promises to the virtuous in a future life, that the desire of this happiness, and the pure love of virtue for its own sake, paradoxical as the assertion may at first seem, are inseparably connected: for the truth is, that the Christian's love of virtue does not arise from a previous desire of the reward; but his desire of the reward arises from a previous love of virtue. Observe that I do not speak of any love of virtue previous to his conversion to Christianity. But I affirm, that the first and immediate effect of his conversion is to inspire him with the genuine love of virtue and religion; and that his desire of the reward is a secondary and subordinate effect, -a consequence of the love of virtue previously formed in him: for, of the nature of the reward it promises, what does the Gospel discover to us more than this, that it shall be great
and endless, and adapted to the intellectual endowments and moral qualities of the human soul in a state of high improvement? - And from this general view of it, as the proper condition of the virtuous, it becomes the object of the Christian's desire and his hope. "It doth not yet appear," saith St. John, "saith St. John, "what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear (i. e. when Christ shall appear) we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." This, you see, is our hope, to be made like to Christ our Saviour, in the blessed day of his appearance; and "he that hath this hope in him,” this general hope of being transformed into the likeness of his glorified Lord, of whose glory, which, as he hath not seen, he hath no distinct and adequate conception, purifies himself, as he is pure." Of the particular enjoyments in which his future happiness will consist, the Christian is ignorant. The Gospel describes them by images only and allusions, which lead only to this general notion, that they will be such as to give entire satisfaction to all the desires of a virtuous soul. Our opinion of their value is founded on a sense of the excellence of virtue, and on faith in God as the protector of the virtuous. The Christian gives a preference to that particular kind of happiness to which a life of virtue and religion leads, in the general persuasion, that of all possible happiness, that must be the greatest which so good a being as God hath annexed to so excellent a thing in the creature as the shadow of his own perfections. But the mind, to be susceptible of this persuasion, must be previously possessed with an esteem and love of virtue, and with just apprehensions of God's perfections and the desire of the reward can never divest
ness on which it is itself founded; nor can it assume the relation of a cause to that of which it is itself the effect. It appears, therefore, that the Christian's love of goodness, his desire of virtuous attainments, is, in the strict and literal meaning of the word, disinterested, notwithstanding the magnitude of the reward which is the object of his hope. The magnitude of that reward is an object of faith, not of sense or knowledge; and it is commended to his faith, by his just sense of the importance of the attainments to which it is promised.
If any one imagines he can be actuated by principles more disinterested than these, he forgets that he is a man and not a god. Happiness must be a constant object of desire and pursuit to every intelligent being, that is, to every being who, besides the actual perception of present pleasure and present pain, hath the power of forming general ideas of happiness and misery as distinct states arising from different causes. Every being that hath this degree of intelligence is under the government of final causes; and the advancement of his own happiness, if it be not already entire and secure, must be an end. It is impossible, therefore, that any rational agent, unless he be either sufficient to his own happiness (which is the prerogative of God), or hath some certain assurance that his condition will not be altered for the worse (which will hereafter be the glorious privilege of the saints who overcome), - but without this prerogative or this privilege, it is impossible that any rational being should be altogether unconcerned about the consequences of his moral conduct, as they may affect his own condition. In the present life, the advantages are not on the side of virtue: all comes alike to
all," to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not; to him that sweareth, and to him that feareth an oath :" and if a constitution of things were to continue for ever in which virtue should labour under disadvantages, man might still have the virtue to regret that virtue was not made for him; but discretion must be his ruling principle; and discretion, in this state of things, could propose no end but immediate pleasure and present interest. The Gospel, extending our views to a future period of existence, delivers the believer from the uneasy apprehension that interest and duty may possibly be at variance. It delivers him from that distrust of Providence which the present face of things, without some certain prospect of futurity, would be too apt to create; and sets him at liberty to pursue virtue with all that ardour of affection which its native worth may claim, and gratitude to God his Maker and Redeemer may excite.
It is true, the alternative which the Gospel holds out is endless happiness in heaven, or endless suffering in hell; and the view of this alternative may well be supposed to operate to a certain degree on base and sordid minds, on those who, without any sense of virtue, or any preference of its proper enjoyments as naturally the greatest good, make no other choice of heaven than as the least of two great evils. To be deprived of sensual gratifications, they hold to be an evil of no moderate size, to which they must submit in heaven; but yet they conceive of this absence of pleasure as more tolerable than positive torment, which they justly apprehend those who are excluded from heaven must undergo in the place of
the alternative of endless happiness or endless misery was intended to operate; and it is an argument of God's wonderful mercy, that he has been pleased to display such prospects of futurity as may affect the human mind in its most corrupt and hardened state, —that men in this unworthy state, in this state of enmity with God, are yet the objects of his care and pity, that he willeth not the death of a sinner, but that the sinner should turn from his way and live." But, to imagine that any one whom the warnings of the Gospel may no otherwise affect than with the dread of the punishment of sin,
that any one in whom they may work only a reluctant choice of heaven as eligible only in comparison with a state of torment, does merely in those feelings, or by a certain pusillanimity in vice, which is the most those feelings can effect, satisfy the duties of the Christian calling, -to imagine this, is a strange misconception. of the whole scheme of Christianity. The utmost good to be expected from the principle of fear is that it may induce a state of mind in which better principles may take effect. It may bring the sinner to hesitate between self-denial here with heaven in reversion, and gratification here with future sufferings. In this state of ambiguity, the mind deliberates: while the mind deliberates, appetite and passion intermit : while they intermit, conscience and reason energize. Conscience conceives the idea of the moral good: reason contemplates the new and lovely image with delight; she becomes the willing pupil of religion; she learns to discern in each created thing the print of sovereign goodness, and in the attributes of God descries its first and perfect form. New views and new desires occupy the soul: virtue is understood