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tioned, actually rewarded and punished at present, in a certain degree, gives just ground to hope and to fear, that they may be rewarded and punished in an higher degree hereafter. It is acknowledged, indeed, that this alone is not sufficient ground to think, that they actually will be rewarded and
punished in a higher degree, rather than in a lower: But then,
Lastly, There is sufficient ground to think so, from the good and bad tendencies of virtue and vice. For these tendencies are essential, and founded in the nature of things; whereas the hinderances to their becoming effect are, in mumberless cases, not necessary, but artificial only. Now, it may be much more strongly argued, that these tendencies, as well as the actual rewards and punishments of virtue and vice, which arise directly out of the nature of things, will remain hereafter, than that the accidental hinderances of them will. And if these hinderances do not remain, those rewards and punishments cannot but be carried on much further towards the perfection of moral government, i. e. the tendencies of virtue and vice will become effect; but when, or where, or in what particular way, cannot be known at all but by revelation.
Upon the whole, there is a kind of moral government implied in God's natural government; virtue and vice are naturally rewarded and punished as beneficial and mischievous to society, † and
rewarded and punished directly as virtue and vice.* The notion, then, of a moral scheme of government, is not fictitious, but natural; for it is sug- . gested to our thoughts by the constitution and course of nature, and the execution of this scheme is actually begun, in the instances here mentioned. And these things are to be considered as a declaration of the Author of nature, for virtue, and against vice; they give a credibility to the supposition of their being rewarded and punished hereafter, and also ground to hope and to fear, that they may be rewarded and punished in higher degrees than they are here. And as all this is confirmed, so the argument for religion, from the constitution and course of nature, is carried on farther, by observing, that there are natural tendencies, and, in innumerable cases, only artificial hinderances, to this moral scheme being carried on much farther towards perfection than it is at present.t The notion, then, of a moral scheme of government, much more perfect than what is seen, is not a fictitious, but a natural notion, for it is suggested to our thoughts by the essential tendencies of virtue and vice. And these tendencies are to be considered as intimations, as implicit promises and threatenings, from the Author of nature, of much greater rewards and punishments to follow virtue and vice, than do at present. And, indeed, every natural tendency, which is to continue, but which is hindered from becoming effect by only acci
* Page 63, &c.
+ Page 72, &c.
dental causes, affords 'a presumption, that such tendency will, some time or other, become effect: a presumption in degree proportionable to the length of the duration through which such tendency will continue. And from these things together arises a real presumption, that the moral scheme of government established in nature, shall be carried on much farther towards perfection hereafter, and, I think, a presumption that it will be absolutely completed. But from these things, joined with the moral nature which God has given us, considered as given us by him, arises a practical proof* that it will be completed; a proof from fact, and therefore a distinct one from that which is deduced from the eternal and unalterable relations, the fitness and unfitness of actions.
. See this proof drawn out briefly, chap. 6.
Of a State of Probation, as implying Trial, Diffi
culties, and Danger.
The general doctrine of religion, that our present life is a state of probation for a future one, comprehends under it several particular things, distinct from each other. But the first and most common meaning of it seems to be, that our future interest is now depending, and depending upon ourselves; that we have scope and opportunities here for that good and bad behaviour, which God will reward and punish hereafter; together with temptations to
: one, as well as inducements of reason to the other, And this is, in great measure, the same with say- . ing, that we are under the moral government of God, and to give an account of our actions to him. For the notion of a future account, and general righteous judgment, implies some sort of temptations to what is wrong, otherwise there would be no moral possibility of doing wrong, nor ground for judgment or discrimination. But there is this difference, that the word probation is more distinctly and particularly expressive of allurements to wrong, or difficulties in adhering uniformly to what is right, and of the danger of miscarrying by
such temptations, than the words moral government. A state of probation, then, as thus particularly implying in it trial, difficulties, and danger, may require to be considered distinctly by itself.
And as the moral government of God, which religion teaches us, implies, that we are in a state of trial with regard to a future world; so also his natural government over us implies, that we are in a state of trial, in the like sense, with regard to the present world. Natural government, by rewards and punishments, as much implies natural trial, as moral government does moral trial. The natural government of God here meant,* consists in his annexing pleasure to some actions, and pain to others, which are in our power to do or forbear, and in giving us notice of such appointment be. forehand. This necessarily implies, that he has made our happiness and misery, or our interest, to depend in part upon ourselves. And so far as men have temptations to any course of action, which will probably occasion them greater temporal inconvenience and uneasiness than satisfaction, so far their temporal interest is in danger from themselves, or they are in a state of trial with respect to it. Now, people often blaine others, and even themselves, for their misconduct in their temporal concerns. And we find many are greatly wanting to themselves, and miss of that natural happiness which they might have obtained in the present life; perhaps every one does in some degree. But many