Imágenes de páginas

many commendable actions, and to prevent them from becoming as abandoned, as they would otherwise have been. The errors, which they contained, have, so far as they were believed, been the means of sin only. Of cordial and thorough reformation they have been absolutely barren. Truth and Falsehood have been blended in them with such confusion, as to be inseparable by the men who embraced them, without very different efforts from those, which they have been inclined, and in most cases able, to make. They have, therefore, been swallowed whole; and have produced just such effects, as a mind, enlightened by Revelation, could not fail to foresee. Error became the predominating rule of action to all their votaries ; and the Truth was chiefly lost, and forgotten.

But Moral Truth is not merely a rule, to teach us what Virtue is, and to guide us ultimately to this glorious attainment. To discern it with the understanding, and to welcome it to the heart, is virtue itself, as existing in the soul; and, when carried out into action, conformed also to its dictates, is all, which is included in the name of Virtue. In other words, Virtue is nothing, but voluntary obedience to truth.

Error, on the contrary, is the foundation of all iniquity. It leads the soul only away from duty, from virtue, from salvation, and from God. To the Divine Kingdom it is only hostile. To the reformation, and happiness, of man it is ruinous. It promotes no cause, but that of Satan: it forms no character, but that of Sin. All the just definitions of Sin are involved in this; that it is nothing, but voluntary obedience to Error,

In the mean time, all the Motives to Virlue are found in the general system of Truth: as all the motives to sin are found in systems of Error. Error contains nothing in it, to prompt us to obey God, to perform our duty, or to seek the salvation of ourselves and others. As a Motive, or combination of motives, Error contains nothing, but inducements to sin ; and Truth no

i thing, but inducements to holiness. In all these important particulars, Truth is the basis of Virtue.

It cannot be thought strange, then, that Love, or Evangelical excellence, or in other words real Virtue, should rejoice in the Truth; that Holiness should be styled by St. Paul, holiness of Truth ; or that those, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel, or Truth, of our Lord Jesus Christ, should be classed together in the ruin of the Final Day.

By these views of the Importance of Truth, we are naturally led to the second subject of discourse, viz. Veracity.

The Importance of Veracity will sufficiently appear from the following Considerations.

1. Almost all the Truth, which we know, we derive from Communication ; and, of course, almost all the benefits of Truth, which we enjoy

A man, deprived of the communication of others, and left wholly to his own observation, would possess little more knowledge than a brute. It would be no easy matter to explain how he could subsist. If we suppose him to subsist through the ordinary period of human life; it is certain, that he would know no

2 thing, beside his own feelings; and the little number of objects, which fell under his observation. Even of these he would rather form ideas, than possess knowledge. Of the relations between them he must remain almost absolutely ignorant. Nor would he easily acquire the skill, necessary to construct even the simplest propositions. Still less would he be able to reason, to illustrate, and to prove. In a word, his mind would rise, in very few things, above that of a dog, or an elephant; while, in almost all, he would fall far below them.

As he would know scarcely any thing concerning the present world; so, it is plain, he would know nothing of the world to come. Of God, of duty, of virtue, and of immortality, he would not form a single idea. Nor could he, without manifest impropriety, be styled a rational being. How could such a man en. joy the benefits of Truth at all ?

The difference between this man as an intelligent being, and Newton, Berkley, or Locke, is made by Communication. The mass of ideas, accumulated by an individual, is communicated to others; and those of a preceding generation, to the generation, which follows. By the labours of many individuals, and in the progress of successive generations, the knowledge, formed out of these ideas, has increased to that height, and extent, which exists at the present period. Every kind of business, art, and

[ocr errors]

science, has been thus brought to the perfection in which we possess it; and all the benefits, which these things confer upon the present race of mankind, are derived solely from communication. For our knowledge of the future World, we are indebted wholly to communications from God. To the same source we are indebted for the chief knowledge, which we possess concerning the Moral system. All this knowledge is, indeed, contained in the Scriptures : yet a part of it may be, and has been, acquired without their assistance. To this knowledge we are indebted for the direction, comfort, and hope, which we enjoy in the character of moral beings; as we are to natural knowledge for the necessaries, and conveniences, of the present life. To communication, therefore, we owe almost every thing, whether present or future, which can be called desirable.

But the whole value, the whole usefulness, of communication is derived solely from the truths, which it conveys. False information can be of no use to us. As our own concern lies with the real state of things ; and the good, or evil, which we are to enjoy, or suffer, is dependent on our knowledge of that state, and the conduct, dictated by this knowledge ; it is evident, that the information, which leads us to conceive erroneously of the things, with which we are connected, will both hinder us from the acquisition of good, and expose us to the sufferance of evil. The measures, by which we design to acquire good, and to avoid evil, will, in both cases, fail of their effect; because, being founded on erroneous apprehensions, they will be unsuited to the existing state of things, and therefore to the accomplishment of the intended purpose. If we are falsely informed of business, we shall conduct it unhappily; if of the markets, we shall buy and sell with loss; if of our duty, we shall perform it amiss, or not at all; if of the means of salvation, we shall fail of it; if of the character and pleasure of God, we shall offend him in all our attempted services. Thus it is plain, that all the benefits of Communication are dependent on its truth ; and that almost every benefit of truth, experienced by rational beings is derived from their mutual veracity.

2. Veracity is the only foundation of Confidence.
Confidence is the great bond of Society among Intelligent be-

ings. Intelligent creatures are supremely dependent on their Creator, and, to a vast extent, on each other. From Him, ultimately, they derive all the good, which they enjoy: and without his perpetual protection, and blessing, they must not only be miserable, but must perish. A great part of these blessings He has been pleased to communieate to us through the instrumentality, and agency, of his rational creatures. To them, immediately, we are indebted for blessings, innumerable in their multitude, incalculable in their importance, and indispensable to our daily safety, peace, and comfort, and not unfrequently to the continuance of our lives. So numerous, and so continual, are these blessings, that they are generally regarded as things of course; and pass by us, unnoticed, and unseen.

Originally, all these blessings are unpossessed by us: all of them from time to time being future. It is necessary, therefore, that we should provide for the acquisition of them by such means, as are in our power. As for almost all of them we must be indebted to the agency of others; we are compelled, unavoidably, to rely on their engagements to supply them. Here the field opens, in which confidence is to be exercised; and, almost at our very entrance into life, it becomes boundless. We are obliged to trust to parents, and others, for protection, food, raiment, and innumerable other things, indispensable to our subsistence, as well as our comfort, from infancy to manhood. The offices, for which we rely, are necessary, and are rendered; the benefits are indispensable, and are communicated; every day, hour, and moment. Confidence is thus diffused every where, and at all times. We trust as naturally, and unceasingly, as we breathe; and with as little consciousness of the fact. In the same manner is the same confidence extended through life; exercised every moment; placed, in a greater or less degree, on every person, with whom we correspond; and employed about every oh. ject, with which we have any concern. If we could not confide; we should, in a sense, know nothing, acquire nothing, and do nothing, to any valuable purpose.

Equally indebted are we to confidence for almost the whole of our happiness. The emotion is delightful in itself, and indispensable to every other delightful emotion. It is equally plea

sant to trust, and to be trusted. No supposable union of esteem and good-will is more pleasing, more elevated, or more refined. Accordingly, it is thus regarded by those, who exercise it, and by those, towards whom it is exercised. Parents are never more delighted, than in the entire confidence of their children. Children are never more happy, than when they entirely confide in their parents.

Equally necessary is confidence to the existence, and opera. tions, of Government. Indeed, Government, without it, would be a nullity. Even the despot himself must rely on a numerous train of agents for the accomplishment of his purposes. Without their co-operation, he could do nothing towards the control of his subjects, beyond what he could accomplish by his own physical strength. Accordingly, he is always compelled to buy the assistance of such agents with extensive gratuities of wealth and honour, as well as to force it by terror.

Virtuous Rulers, who govern a free people by laws, and by influence, stand only on the mutual confidence of themselves and their subjects. Withdraw this confidence; and the Government is annihilated at once. The Rulers become powerless; and the Society is lost in anarchy.

A state of absolute distrust is a state of absolute misery. Like the cold hand of death, Distrust would dissolve the whole frame and texture, of the social body; the joints and the ligaments, the energy and the life.

and the life. A country could no longer contain its inhabitants; nor eyen the den, its banditti. Such a state of

a things in this world has, hitherto, never existed in the absolute

[ocr errors]


Without confidence, God himself would cease to be thc Moral Governor of Intelligent creatures. As I have elsewhere consi. dered this subject; it will be the less necessary to insist upon it here. Still, a few observations concerning it cannot be improper.

It is clear, even to a very limited and obtuse apprehension, that, without confidence in a ruler, voluntary obedience can never exist; that, without voluntary obedience, God can never be pleased with his Intelligent creatures; since no other can be honoura ble to Him; and that, without the same obedience, those crca

« AnteriorContinuar »