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prize and seek that which it had no value for. Because to love an inclination to the good of Being in general, would imply a loving and prizing the good of Being in general. For how should one love and value a disposition to a thing, or a tendency to promote a thing, and for that very reason, because it tends to promote it.......when the thing itself is what he is regardless of, and has no value for, nor desires to have promoted.
Shewing how that Love, wherein true Virtue consists, respects the Divine Being and created Beings.
FROM what has been said, it is evident, that true virtue must chiefly consist in love to God; the Being of Beings, infinitely the greatest and best of Beings. This appears, whether we consider the primary or secondary ground of virtuous love. It was observed, that the first objective ground of that love, wherein true virtue consists, is Being, simply considered: And as a necessary consequence of this, that Being who has the most of Being, or the greatest share of universal existence, has proportionably the greatest share of virtuous.benevolence, so far as such a Being is exhibited to the faculties of our minds, other things being equal. But God has infinitely the greatest share of existence, or is infinitely the greatest Being. So that all other Being, even that of all created things whatsoever, throughout the whole universe, is as nothing in comparison of the divine Being.
And if we consider the secondary ground of love, viz. beauty, or moral excellency, the same thing will appear. For as God is infinitely the greatest Being, so he is allowed to be infinitely the most beautiful and excellent: And all the beauty to be found throughout the whole creation, is but the reflection of the diffused beams of that Being who hath an infinite fulness of brightness and glory. God's beauty is infinitely more val
uable, than that of all other Beings upon both those accounts mentioned, viz. the degree of his virtue, and the greatness of the Being possessed of this virtue. And God has sufficiently exhibited himself, in his Being, his infinite greatness and excellency: And has given us faculties, whereby we are capable of plainly discovering immense superiority to all other Beings, in these respects. Therefore he that has true virtue, consisting in benevolence to Being in general, and in that compla cence in virtue, or moral beauty, and benevolence to virtuous Being, must necessarily have a supreme love to God, both of benevolence and complacence. And all true virtue must radically and essentially, and as it were summarily, consist in this. Because God is not only infinitely greater and more excellent than all other Being, but he is the head of the universal system of existence; the foundation and fountain of all Being and all Beauty; from whom all is perfectly derived, and on whom all is most absolutely and perfectly dependant; of whom and through whom, and to whom is all Being and all perfection; and whose Being and beauty is as it were the sum and comprehension of all existence and excellence: Much more than the sun is the fountain and summary comprehension of all the light and brightness of the day.
If it should be objected, that virtue consists primarily in benevolence, but that our fellow creatures, and not God, seem to be the most proper objects of our benevolence; inasmuch. as our goodness extendeth not to God, and we cannot be profitable to him..... To this I answer,
1. A benevolent propensity of heart is exercised not only in seeking to promote the happiness of the Being, towards whom it is exercised, but also in rejoicing in his happiness. Even as gratitude for benefits received will not only excite endeavors to requite the kindness we receive, by equally benefiting our benefactor, but also if he be above any need of us, or we have nothing to bestow, and are unable to repay his kindness it will dispose us to rejoice in his prosperity.
2. Though we are not able to give any thing to God, which we have of our own, independently; yet we may be instruments of promoting his glory, in which he takes a true and
THE NATURE OF VIRTUE.
proper delight. [As was shewn at large in the treatise, on God's end in creating the world. Chapter 1. sect. 4. Whither I must refer the reader for a more full answer to this objection.]
Whatever influence such an objection may seem to have on the minds of some, yet is there any that owns the Being of a God, who will deny that any love or benevolent affection, is due to God, and proper to be exercised towards him? If no benevolence is to be exercised towards God, because we cannot profit him, then for the same reason, neither is gratitude to be exercised towards him for his benefits to us; because we cannot requite him. But where is the man, who believes a God and a providence, that will say this?
There seems to be an inconsistence in some writers on mo¬ rality, in this respect that they do not wholly exclude a regard to the Deity out of their schemes of morality, but yet mention it so slightly, that they leave me room and reason to suspect they esteem it a less important and a subordinate part of true morality; and insist on benevolence to the created system in such a manner as would naturally lead one to suppose, they look upon that as by far the most important and essential thing. But why should this be? If true virtue consists partly in a respect to God, then doubtless it consists chiefly in it. If true morality requires that we should have some regard, some benevolent affection to our Creator, as well as to his creatures, then doubtless it requires the first regard to be paid to him; and that he be every way the supreme object of our benevolence. If his being above our reach, and beyond all capacity of being profited by us, does not hinder but that nevertheless he is the proper object of our love, then it does not hinder that he should be loved according to his dignity, or according to the degree in which he has those things wherein worthiness of regard consists so far as we are capable of it. But this worthiness none will deny consists in these two things, greatness and moral goodness. And those that own a God, do not deny that he infinitely excceds all other Beings in these. If the Deity is to be looked upon as within that system of Beings which properly termin
ates our benevolence, or belonging to that whole, certainly ho is to be regarded as the head of the system, and the chief part of it; if it be proper to call him a part, who is infinitely more than all the rest, and in comparison of whom and without whom all the rest are nothing, either as to beauty or existence. And therefore certainly, unless we will be atheists, we must allow that true virtue does primarily and most essentially consist in a supreme love to God; and that where this is wanting there can be no true virtue.
But this being a matter of the highest importance, I shall say something further to make it plain, that love to God is most essential to true virtue; and that no benevolence whatsoever to other Beings can be of the nature of true virtue, without it.
And therefore let it be supposed, that some Beings, by natural instinct, or by some other means, have a determination of mind to union and benovolence to a particular person, or private system,* which is but a small part of the universal system of Being: And that this disposition or determination of mind is independent on, or not subordinate to benevolence, to Being in general. Such a determination, disposition, or affection of mind is not of the nature of true virtue.
This is allowed by all with regard to self love; in which, good will is confined to one single person only. And there are the same reasons, why any other private affection or good will, though extending to a society of persons, independent of, and unsubordinate to, benevolence to the universality, should not be esteemed truly virtuous. For, notwithstanding it extends to a number of persons, which taken together are more than a single person, yet the whole falls infinitely short
* It may be here noted, that when hereafter I use such a phrase as private system of Beings, or others similar, I thereby intend any system or society of Beings that contains but a small part of the great system comprehending the universality of existence, I think, that may well be called a private system, which is but an infinitely small part of this great whole we stand related to. I therefore also call that affection, private affection, which is limited to so narrow a circle; and that general affection or benevolence which has Being in general for its object.
THE NATURE OF VIRTUË.
of the universality of existence; and if put in the scales with
However, it may not be amiss more particularly to consider the reasons why private affections, or good will limited to a particular circle of Beings, falling infinitely short of the whole existence, and not dependent upon it, nor subordinate to general benevolence, cannot be of the nature of true virtuė.
1. Such a private affection, detached from general benevolence and independent on it, as the case may be, will be against general benevolence, or of a contrary tendency; and will set a person against general existence, and make him an enemy to it. As it is with selfishness, or when a man is governed by a regard to his own private interest, independent of regard to the public good, such a temper exposes a man to act the part of an enemy to the public. As, in every case wherein his private interest seems to clash with the public; or in all those cases wherein such things are presented to his view, that suit his personal appetites or private inclinations, but are inconsistent with the good of the public. On which account a selfish, contracted,.narrow spirit is generally abhorred, and is esteemed base and sordid.—But if a man's affection takes in half a dozen more, and his regards extend so far beyond his own single person as to take in his children and family; or if it reaches further still, to a larger circle, but falls infinitely short of the universal system, and is exclusive of being in general; his private affection exposes him to the same thing, viz. to pursue the interest of its particular object in opposition to general existence; which is certainly contrary to the tendency of true virtue; yea, directly contrary to the main and most essential thing in its nature, the thing on account of which chiefly its nature and tendency is good. For the chief and most essential good that is in virtue, is its favoring Being in general. Now certainly, if private affection to a limited system had in itself the essential nature of virtue, it would be impossible, that it should in any circumstance whatsoever have a tendency and inclination directly contrary to that wherein the essence of virtue chiefly consists.