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happiness in this world, we depend, in a considerable degree, one upon another, the approbation of our fellow-men is no contemptible recompense of virtue, and their disapprobation no trifling punishment of vice. Who does not feel the worth of a good character? Who is not aware that it opens a door to many of the most valuable enjoyments of the present state ? On the contrary, who does not know that a bad character is an unceasing source of mortification and uneasiness ?
Fourthly - the authority of parents over children, and the civil government of states are both natural; for such is the constitution of our nature, that they are necessary to our wellbeing in the world, and they clearly belong to the known order of God's providence. When, therefore, the child is punished by his parents because he has committed an action which dis. turbs the order of the family, and when the criminal is punished by the State, because he has been guilty of an offence which endangers the peace of society; these are instances, as far as they go, of the moral government of God. But when the child is punished — or punished the more severely - because his action is vi
cious in itself ; and when, for the same reason, the offender against society (as it frequently happens,) is prosecuted more readily, convicted more certainly, and visited with a heavier penalty, than he otherwise would have been it is plain that we are then furnished with unquestionable examples of God's moral government. True indeed it is, that in consequence of the corrupt and disordered state of mankind, actions are sometimes rewarded, although they are vicious, and punished, although they are virtuous. Yet actions are never rewarded as vicious, nor punished as virtuous. Although the rule of rewarding virtue as such, and of punishing vice as such, may often be interrupted, it is never reversed.
When, therefore, we consider the effects produced by virtue and vice on our bodies, minds and circumstances; the pleasures bestowed, and the pains inflicted, by conscience; the approbation and contempt of our fellow-men ; and the rewards and punishments of domestic and civil life,
we cannot fail to perceive that the righteous, and the righteous only, are on the side of the divine administration. They are the friends of God the heirs of his favour and
protection. On the other hand, it is equally clear that the wicked are rebels against his government, and exposed to the vials of his wrath. Happiness is the natural consequence of virtue, and misery the natural consequence of vice; and we have reason to believe that the tendencies of virtue and vice to produce their own consequences, are uniform and invariable. Like the God of nature himself, by whom they have been fixed, they do not, cannot, change.
While these conclusions rest upon obvious grounds, we ought never to forget that our present state of being is an imperfect one — that we are living in a degenerate and disordered world. Hence it follows that these settled tendencies of virtue and vice, though always the same, and always, as it were, alive, are exposed to innumerable obstructions, and seldom carried into full effect. The pains naturally produced by vice are here often avoided ; and the pleasures bestowed by virtue, are mingled with many sorrows. The righteous are often afflicted, oppressed, and persecuted; the wicked often prosper, often triumph. But while the proper tendencies of virtue and vice may well be deemed unchangeable, the obstructions
which are here permitted to oppose their effect, belong to the circumstances of this present world, and are in their nature temporal.*
What then are the conclusions from these premises, which force themselves on the mind of every inquirer after truth, who takes into view the holiness and omnipotence of God? They appear to be as follows — that virtue, militant here, will be triumphant hereafter ; that the first fruits of God's moral government which are now perceptible, are the sure tokens of the future perfection of the system ; that in the world to come, all things which now appear to be morally uneven in the lot of mankind, will be balanced and rectified; and finally, that when all obstructions are removed, the essential tendencies of virtue to produce happiness, and of vice to produce misery, will operate in their full force, without interruption, and forever. We have already considered the natural evidence of a future life. This is its moral proof, of which, the more we reflect on the subject, the more we shall feel the strength.
* Those who are acquainted with the writings of Bishop Butler, will easily perceive that many of the sentiments contained in the present section are borrowed from his “Analogy." I would earnestly recommend this admirable work to the attentive perusal of every inquirer after truth. In the mean time I am happy, like other writers on Christian evidences, to avail myself of the resources of the Bishop's great and truly original mind.
In his chapter on the moral government of God, Butler justly observes, that there is an essential tendency in virtue, to procure, for its possessor, not only happiness, but influence and power. Even in the present disordered state of things, an individual who maintains integrity, self.denial, and charity, in his whole life and conversation, is sure to obtain considerable influence over others. He rules over them in the authority of virtue and love; and ButJer has clearly shown, that if a large body of people - a nation for example -- were united in the practice of virtue - if all their private conduct, and all their public acts were ordered by these principles — they would obtain universal dominion. With a sway at once gentle and irresistible, they would rule over the world.
It is remarkable, that in accordance with these sentiments, the Bible promises to the righteous, not only future happiness, but future power. In the world of spirits nothing will resist the paramount influence, the natural omnipotence, of virtue. “If we suffer with Christ,” says the apostle, “we shall also reign with him.” “ And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers, even as I received of my Father.” “TO him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me, in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."
It now only remains for us to compare these results of experience and the reasoning to which they lead, with the declarations of Scripture. We
e open our Bibles and there we find the fulness of light on this, to us, the most important of subjects - our moral responsibility, our future destiny. The sacred volume declares under multiplied forms yet in the plainest terms, that God is the moral Governor of the world that he abhors vice, and delights in virtue, rewards the righteous, and punishes the wicked.
Let the sinner tremble before the light of revelation, which fully detects him as the enemy