Page images
PDF
EPUB

that is, to take a view of that amiable character which shewed it self in the mind and life of Christ. And when men thus behold the beauty and amiableness of a virtuous character in the person of another, they are by it naturally invited to chuse to deserve such a character themselves; and consequently to form their minds and lives according to the pattern of that great example. And thus the forementioned christian institution is made subservient, as a means toward the attaining the most valuable end.

If it should be said, that tho'all positive duties of divine appointment are means to fome end; yet that end may be concealed from us, tho' it is well known to God; and therefore it is our duty to practise them, tho' we should not be able to discern what that end is: and this might poflibly be the case with respect to God's forbidding Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil:

I anlwer; as all positive duties have not a physical, but a moral influence upon those who practice them, therefore it is highly necessary that the end to which they are directed should be known, because otherwise, that end is not likely to be obtained ; and confequently it is highly fit and reasonable, , that the end, which every positive duty is intended to obtain, should be directly expressed, or else pļainly pointed out, in and

by

by the institution; and this is manifestly the case of the christian institutions. The

bread, and drink wine, being required to eat bread, and drink and to remember Christ in the performance of those actions, plainly points out to us the end to which those actions, as means, are intended to lead us, viz. to an imitation in mind and life of that holy person whom we are hereby required to remember. As to our first parents being prohibited to eat the forementioned fruit, if the' eating it had such a physical effect upon their constitutions, as to be a real injury to them, which seems most likely to be the case, (supposing it to be a real history) then the prohibition is not a positive, but a moral law, as it forbid our first parents to do injury to themselves : and if so, then this law is impertinently urged in the present case. Tho' it looks much more probable from the story it self, to be a parable rather than a history; in which, like other ancient fables, beasts are represented as speaking and reasoning like men. The design of which parable seems to be a representation to us, how cafily our first parents, even when in a state of innocency, were betrayed into fin. And,

As it is those positive duties which are required of us, as a means to some wise and good end, which come into the present question, and not those that are the produce of mere sovereignty, because it is the former only which can be of divine institution; so

faw, as it wolves: and

the present

those

those duties which constitute a means, are plainly distinct and different from that end, which they, as a means, are proposed to lead to, and therefore they are not to be blended together. The excellency and valuableness of a means, is only what arises from it, and belongs to it, as a means; and the same may be said of the end ; and we are not to transfer these from one to the other in our estimation of them, or in our reasoning about them. Thus, to eat bread, and drink wine, and to remember Christ in the performance of those actions, is made a duty by the christian institution. And as those actions were intended by the kind inftitutor, to be a means toward the attaining fome farther end, viz, to lead us to an imitation of that holy person, both in mind and life, whom we are hereby required to remember, and thereby to conform our affections and actions to that rule of action, founded in the reason of things, which the mind and life of Christ were the most perfect pattern of ; so the means, and the end, are plainly distinct and different from each other. And tho', in the use of the former, we may be led, that is, invited to the practice of the latter, and the practice of the latter may follow upon it; yet still they are two different things; one is not the other, and therefore are not so to be considered, neither is the excellency or usefulness of the one, to be transferred to the other,

Having shewn what I understand by moral, and what by positive duties, and what are the true grounds of our obligation to obedience in either case, I now proceed to consider in what respects there may be compared, that thereby we may form a judgment to which of these the preference is due, upon that comparison. And these duties, I think, admit of a threefold comparison. First, as they are more or less valuable in themselves. Secondly, as we become more or less valuable in the performance of them. And, thirdly, as the performing of these render us more or less pleasing and acceptable to God. And, · First, Moral and positive duties admit of a comparison, with respect to the intrinsick worth and value of the duties themselves. And, I think, in this view of the case, the preference is due and ought to be given to moral duties; becaule, with respect to thele, there is a real intrinsick worth and goodneís in the duties themselves: whereas, with respect to positive duties, these are good and valuable only relatively, as means to an end, and as they are subservient to that end; their worth and goodness arising only from their relation, as aforesaid ; so that if those duties are not performed, as means to an end, or if they do not become lubfervient to that end, then they have not that relative goodness in them, and consequently have no goodness in them at all. Froin which, I think, it is most manifest, that moral duties are vastly preferable to positive duties, with respect to the intrinsick worth and valuablenels of either. Again,

Secondly, Moral and positive duties admit of a comparison, with respect to our becoming more or less valuable in the practice of them. And here again, I think, the preference is due, and ought to be given to moral duties; because, in the practice of these, we become really valuable and praise. worthy, considered abstractedly from all other considerations; whereas, with respect to positive duties, there do not render us valuable, any otherwile than as they are a means to lead us to the practice of moral duties, as their end. And then our valuableness, ftrictly speaking, ariles from the practice of moral duties, and not from the way and nieans by which we are led on, or invited to the practice of them. Barely to eat bread, and drink wine, and to remember Christ in the performance of those actions, and to do this in obedience to a divine command, dioes not render a man more valuable than he was, antecedent to his performance of those actions ; because, in truth, he is not made a better man thereby. But if, in the use of these, he is led on to an imitation of the mind and life of Christ, and consequently to a conformity of his affections and actions to the law of reason, then he becomes more valuable, because, in reality, he is become

« PreviousContinue »