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notions and distinctions. They were in the world before him; and if all tradition be not a fable, if the testimony of all antiquity whether found in poets or historians be not delusive, they were in the world in those early periods when the great body of the human race remained near the original seat of the parent families of all the modern and now widely extended nations of the earth; and in those early periods they were not regarded as distinctions of mere human opinion and consent, but were invested with a Divine Authority.

We have then before us two presumptions, each of great weight. FIRST, that those actions which among men have almost universally been judged good, have the implied sanction of the will of our wise and good Creator, being found in experience, by the constitution of our nature and of human society, most conducive to human happiness.-And, SECOND, that they were originally in some mode prescribed and enjoined as his Law, and their contraries prohibited.

If therefore there is presumptive evidence of only ordinary strength, that the rule by which our actions are determined to be good or evil is primarily a law of the Creator, we are all deeply interested in ascertaining where that law exists in its clearest manifestation. For ignorance of the law, in whole or in part, will be no excuse for disobedience, if we have the opportunity of acquainting ourselves with it; and an accurate acquaintance with the rule may assist our practice in cases of which human laws take no cognizance, and which the wilfully corrupted general judgment of mankind may have darkened. And should it appear either that in many things we have offended more deeply than we suspect, either wilfully or through an evitable ignorance; or that, from some common accident which has befallen our nature, we have lost the power of entire obedience without the use of new and extraordinary means, the knowledge of the rule is of the utmost consequence to us, because by it we may be enabled to ascertain the precise relation in which we stand to God our Maker; the dangers we have incurred; and the means of escape, if any have been placed within our reach.


The Rule which determines the Quality of moral Actions, must be presumed to be matter of Revelation from God.

IT IS well observed by a judicious writer, that "all the distinctions of good and evil refer to some principle above ourselves; for, were there no Supreme Governor and Judge to reward and punish, the very notions of good and evil would vanish away: they could not exist in the minds of men, if there were not a Supreme Director to give laws for the measure thereof." (2)

If we deny the existence of a Divine Law obligatory upon man, we must deny that the world is under Divine Government, for government without rule or law is a solecism; and to deny the Divine Government, would leave it impossible for us to account for that peculiar nature which has been given to man, and those relations among human concerns and interests to which we have adverted, and which are so powerfully affected by our conduct:— certain actions and habits which almost all mankind have agreed to call good, being connected with the happiness of the individual, and the well-being of society; and so on the contrary. This too has been matter of uniform and constant experience from the earliest ages, and warrants therefore the conclusion, that the effect arises from original principles and a constitution of things which the Creator has established. Nor can any reason be offered why such a nature should be given to man, and such a law impressed on the circumstances and beings with which he is surrounded; except that both had an intended relation to certain courses of action as the sources of order and happiness, as truly as there was an intended relation between the light and the eye which is formed to receive its rays.

But as man is not carried to this course of action by physical impulse or necessity; as moral conduct supposes choice and therefore instruction, and the persuasion of motives arising out of it, the benevolent intention of the Creator as to our happiness could not be accomplished without instruction, warning, reward, and punishment, all of which necessarily imply superintendence

(2) Ellis's Knowledge of Divine Things, &c.

and control, or in other words a moral government.

The crea

tion therefore of a being of such a nature as man, implies Divine government, and that government a Divine Law.

Law is the

Such a Law must be the subject of REVELATION. will of a superior power; but the will of a superior visible power cannot be known without some indication by words or signs, in other terms, without a revelation; and much less the will of an invisible power, of an order superior to our own, and confessedly mysterious in his mode of existence, and the attributes of his


Again, the will of a superior is not in justice binding until, in some mode, it is sufficiently declared; and the presumption therefore, that God wills the practice of any particular course of action, on the part of his creatures, establishes the farther presumption, that of that will there has been a manifestation; and the more so if there is reason to suppose, that any penalty of a serious nature has been attached to disobedience.

The revelation of this will or law of God may be made either by action, from which it is to be inferred; or by direct communication in language. Any indication of the moral perfections of God, or of his design in forming moral beings, which the visible creation presents to the mind; or any instance of his favour or displeasure towards his creatures clearly and frequently connected in his administration with any particular course of conduct, may be considered as a revelation of his will by action; and is not at all inconsistent with a further revelation by the direct means of language.

The Theist admits that a revelation of the will of God has been made by significant actions, from which the duty of creatures is to be inferred, and contends that this is sufficient. "They who never heard of any external revelation, yet if they knew from the nature of things what is fit for them to do, they know all that God will or can require of them." (3)

They who believe that the Holy Scriptures contain a revelation of God's will, do not deny that indications of his will have been made by action; but they contend that they are in themselves imperfect and insufficient, and that they were not designed to supersede a direct revelation. They hold also, that a direct

(3) Christianity as Old as the Creation, p. 233.-" By employing our reason to collect the will of God from the fund of our nature physical and moral, we may acquire not only a particular knowledge of those laws which are deducible from them, but a general knowledge of the manner in which God is pleased to exercise his supreme powers in this system." Bolinbroke's Works, Vol. 5, p. 100.

communication of the Divine will was made to the progenitors of the human race, which received additions at subsequent periods, and that the whole was at length embodied in the book called, by way of eminence, "The Bible."

The question immediately before us is,-on which side there is the strongest presumption of truth. Are there, in the natural works of God, or in his manner of governing the world, such indications of the will of God concerning us, as can afford sufficient direction in forming a perfectly virtuous character, and sufficient information as to the means by which it is to be effected? We may try this question by a few obvious instances.

The Theist will himself acknowledge, that temperance, justice and benevolence are essential to moral virtue. With respect to the first, nothing appears in the constitution of nature, or in the proceedings of the Divine administration, to indicate it to be the will of God that the appetites of the body should be restrained within the rules of sobriety, except that, by a connection which has been established by him, the excessive indulgence of those appetites usually impairs health. If therefore we suppose this to amount to a tacit prohibition of excess, it still leaves those free from the rule whose firm constitutions do not suffer from intemperate gratifications; it gives one rule for the man of vigorous, and another for the man of feeble health; and it is no guard against that occasional insobriety which may be indulged in without obvious danger to health, but which nevertheless may be excessive in degree though occasional in occurrence. The rule is therefore imperfect.

Nor are the obligations of justice in this way indicated with adequate clearness. Acts of injustice are not like acts of excessive intemperance, punishable in the ordinary course of providence by pain and disease and premature death, as their natural general consequences; nor, in most instances, by any other marked infliction of the Divine displeasure in the present life. From their injurious effects upon society at large, indications of the will of God respecting them may doubtless be inferred, but such effects arise out of the grosser acts of fraud and rapine; those only affect the movements of society, which goes on without being visibly disturbed by the violations of the nicer distinctions of equity which form an essential part of virtue, and never fail to degrade and corrupt individual character. Rules of justice, therefore, thus indicated, would, like those of temperance, be very imperfect.

The third branch of virtue is benevolence, the disposition and the habit of doing good to others. But in what manner except by revelation is the extent and the obligation of this virtue to be

explained? If it be said, that "the goodness of God himself as manifested in creation and providence presents so striking an example of beneficence to his creatures, that his will, as to the cultivation of this virtue, may be unequivocally inferred from it," we cannot but perceive, that this example itself is imperfect, unless other parts of the Divine conduct be explained to us, as the Scriptures explain them. For if we have manifestations of his goodness, we see also fearful proofs of his severity.-Such are the permission of pestilence, earthquakes, inundations, and the infliction of pain and death upon all men, even upon infants and unsinning animals. If the will of God in favour of beneficent actions is to be inferred from the pleasure which is afforded to those who perform them, it is only indicated to those to whom a beneficent act gives pleasure, and its non-performance pain; and it cannot therefore be at all apprehended by those who by constitution are obdurate, or by habit selfish. The rule would therefore be uncertain and dark, and entirely silent as to the extent to which beneficence is to be carried, and whether there may not be exceptions to its exercise as to individuals, such as enemies, vicious persons, and strangers.

Therefore whatever general indications there may be in the acts of God, in the constitution of human nature, or in the relations of society, that some actions are according to the will of God, and therefore good, and that others are opposed to his will, and therefore evil,-they form a rule too vague in itself, and too liable to different interpretations, to place the conduct of men under adequate regulation, even in respect of temperance, justice, and beneficence. But if these and other virtues, in their nicest shades, were indicated by the types of nature, and the manifestations of the will of God in his moral government, these types and this moral government are either entirely silent, or speak equivocally as to subjects of vital importance to the right conduct and effectual moral control, as well as to the hope and the happiness, of man.

There is no indication, for instance, in either nature or providence, that it is the will of God that his creatures should worship him; and the moral effects of adoration, homage and praise, on this system would be lost. There is no indication that God will be approached in prayer, and this hope and solace of man is unprovided for. Nor is there a sufficient indication of a future state of rewards and punishment; because there is no indubitable declaration of man's immortality, nor any facts and principles so obvious as to enable us confidently to infer it. All observation lies directly against the doctrine of the immortality of man. dies, and the probabilities of a future life which have been estab


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