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I do not think of denying, what I most sincerely believe, that the connexion between virtue and happiness is even in this world so great, that in an immense majority of cases, if not in every possible case, they may be proved to coincide. But though undoubtedly this consideration ought, and in a man of perfectly unclouded reason and obedient passions, would produce a life of virtue, the question still returns, whether in point of fact it does produce it, or whether it can reasonably be expected to have this efficacy on men .as we find them. In the more refined classes of society, it will perhaps be sufficient to induce men to comply with all the common decencies of life, to obey the established laws of society, and to conform to those usages, which prescription has sanctioned. But this is all that a motive of worldly interest is capable of effecting, and much more than it will effect on a majority of mankind. It is utterly incompetent to produce any of the nobler and more elevated virtues; any thing of that grandeur of sentiment, which raises us above the low calculation of the worldly advantage; of that fortitude, and purity of purpose, which dares to displease, in order to serve you ; of that integrity, which nothing can seduce, and nothing can intimidate; of that gratitude, which does not measure its returns by the extent of its obligations, but the limits of its powers; any thing in fine of that exalted love of truth and virtue, which finds in the practice of goodness itself a sufficient recompense ;
which regards the triumph of him, who elevates himself by vice, as far more to be pitied, than the disgrace of him, who falls by perfidy; and which believes that all which we can suffer in this world is nothing, so long as self-reproach is not among our sufferings. To expect to find virtues of this character in a heart which was never warmed by any other influence than that of interest, is as if you should look for the rich and luxuriant products of the tropics on the frost bound plains of Siberia.
But not only is this motive inadequate to produce
far from being a sufficient preservative from vice. I do not speak of those actions of common life, in which the passions stagnate without impulse. The time to try the efficacy of a motive is the hour of strong temptation. It is in those times, when worldly interest appears to come into collision with duty; when the practice of virtue requires the sacrifice of apparent advantage ; in the moments
: when desire is inflamed, and passion is raging ; when no eye sees you, and no tongue can proclaim your disgrace; these are the times to bring the motive to the test. It is when the clouds are gathered over the edifice, and the tempest is bursting on it, and all the winds of heaven are shaking it to its centre-this is the time to judge of the depth of its foundations, and the solidity of its pillars. And in this hour of trial, what are the supports on which the goodness of a man without a religious principle must rest ? Will you tell him of the temporal advantages of virtue ? He may reply to you that he believes in the general propriety and usefulness of laws of morality, but if you show him no law-giver, who has a right to obedience, who will reward him if he prefer virtue to interest, and punish him if he purchase pleasure at the expense of probity, you clearly make virtue a question of mere worldly profit and loss ; and if the balance in
any case appears to him to be on the side of indulgence, on your own principles you are completely answered.
But you would then, perhaps, change your ground, and discourse to him on the beauty of virtue, and its conformity to our nature.
66 Make him hear
Directed to the first and only fair." But if you cannot show that virtue is lovely, and true, and fit, because God has made it so, and connected it in another world with all that is fair and harmonious and happy, can you expect with these fine names to silence the impatient voice of appetite, subdue the wild struggles of desire, and charm the deaf serpent of passion, though you charm ever so wisely ? Has man then been found so reasonable, his affections so obedient, his moral sensibility so exquisitely alive, that in the moment of fearful temptation you may expect him to
listen to the gentle whispers of unsanctioned moral sentiment ? You might as well go to the sea shore, when the tempest has lashed the ocean into foam, and expect by the harmonious pleasings of a lute to lull its surges to repose.
It is then the result of our inquiries, that morals are inseparably united with religion ; that they can rest securely on no other basis ; and that however virtue may owe her panegyrics to reason, she must
, derive her authority from religion. Consider then, for a moment, some of the motives to goodness of a sincere follower of Christ. He has every motive,
, in its fullest strength, which may act on the man of the world ; and he has others also of an infinitely higher and weightier character. He regards the laws of virtue as flowing from the will of a supreme Legislator, who is able to make, and who will make, his laws respected; he considers that he is ever under the inspection of His all-searching eye; that though he may elude the observation of man, he cannot, though he should ascend into heaven, or make his bed in hell, avoid the presence of Him, who can make the darkness of night to be light around him. All his motives to virtue, and dissuasives from vice, are dilated to unspeakable magnitude, by considering that the consequences of his actions extend beyond the present life. There is unfolded in the gospel of Christ a view of futurity, which, to him who does it justice, must annihilate the influence of every attraction to sin. He
who believes that in another world he shall behold the triumph of suffering virtue, and the abasement of successful vice, may, while such a belief is present to his mind, be assaulted by temptation in vain. Say not in opposition to this, that these motives are proved by experience to be sometimes inefficacious. They are so—and that they are so is the strongest proof of their necessity. If the virtue of him, who sees in God his creator and benefactor, the origin of all virtue's laws; who sees in Christ his redeemer and judge, who lived to illustrate, and died to enforce them; who sees in eternity the scene of his happiness or despair, accordingly as he observes or violates them; if the virtue of such a man is not safe from temptation; if it be possible to sin in the face of such motives as these, how totally insecure must he be, on whom they have never operated ?
The improvement which we ought to make of these views, my friends, is to impress on our hearts the importance of a religious principle, not merely to illuminate the path of our duty, but to give strength to our steps in pursuing it. What then is the influence, which the ideas of God, and a future life have on our conduct ? Are they as present to our thoughts as they ought to be ? Do we habitually refer our actions to God's will ? And is the recollection of their consequences in a future life ever present to check every tendency to sin, and animate every impulse to virtue? Surely it is be