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in which there may sometimes be Room for Doubts unresolvible by any thing but our own Discretions. —Thus Obligations may chance to clash together, and we may not be able to do Service to the Community without prejudicing a Neighbour, or betraying a Friend; and it may be questionable whether such Service will upon the whole do more Good, than the Prejudice or Treachery will do Harm.—Thus it may be difficult to determine by what precise Rules and Proportions every Individual is to dispense his Charity; for what is Charity in one Man may be Extravagance in another, and Avarice in a third.—Thus it may be no easy Matter to say exactly how far, and in what Respects a Man may and ought to " take thought for" his present State, and how far and in what Respects he is wholly to depend upon Divine Providence; to which, if Need were, might be added more Cases, which the Reader's own Imagination will suggest to him.—But although Casuistry may start Difficulties from a Variety of supposable Circumstances, we may yet venture to affirm that they will either relate to Cases of so extraordinary a kind as will not affect the general Tenor of our Conduct, or of so nice and delicate a Nature, that our Mistakes concerning them will not be attended with any bad Consequences to others, or to ourselves. , Again; as a doubtful Conscience may err, so may a weak one too; and yet no reasonable Objection
H £ will will lie against the Gospel upon this Account.A Man may, by misapplying & general Rule to his particular Cafe, by laying too much Stress upon Doctrines purely local and temporary, by not considering Precepts and Rules in their due Latitude, by adhering to the Letter rather than the plain Scope of Scripture, by forgetting to compare Passages and Directions of a seemingly opposite Tendency, which evidently qualify, illustrate, and explain each other, &c. &c. i. e. by erroneous Judgment, or superstitious Attention, he may misunderstand the Scripture, and mistake the true Nature of divers Obligations; but in the mean time, if he will not, or thinks he ought not to be directed in these Matters by others qualified by Abilities, Office, &c. &c. to advise and instruct him, it would be unjust, and indeed absurd to urge the Weakness of such a Man's Conscience or Understanding, as an Argument against the Perfection and Excellence of the moral Law itself.«—The above Considerations then, duly attended to, we shall not be surprised that the Gospel contains not a methodical System of Morality any more than, as we have already observed, it does of 'Theology; and that our Saviour, instead of laying down a regular Plan of Laws, &c. delivered his moral Precepts as Occasions and Circumstances demanded them.— This Divine Teacher, in his excellent Discourse on the Mount (for a Sermon it cannot so properly be
called) called) supposes his Hearers to be acquainted with the moral Law of Moses, and accordingly does not recapitulate the several Articles of it, or range them under their separate Classes and Subdivisions, but exposes and condemns the falseplosses and Interpretations, which had been artfully and wickedly put upon many of them by the Scribes and Pharisees.—In like manner, the Epistles of the Apostles to the Chrijtian Converts are very few of them immediately and directly of a practical Nature, (as those which are most so observe little Order or Method in the Arrangement of moral Duties) but were for the most part written upon particular Occasions, some to oppose slavish Doctrines, or heretical Notions that had insinuated themselves into the Church; some to give Instructions for the better Discharge of the Ministerial or Episcopal Office; and others to illustrate the peculiar Advantages, and Preeminencies of the Gospel Dispensation; and refer only to moral Duties as they naturally resulted from the Subject in hand, or in general Directions to a good Life and Conversation, by way frequently of Postscript or Conclusion.— Again; from this great Consideration, that the Cbrijlian Religion is a Law or Rule of Conr science, we may likewise account for that Diversity, and even Contrariety of Expression under which true Religion and the Conditions of Salvation are described to us. Thus from one Text we might be led to infer that Faith without Works will be effectual for Salvation; for-—if thou jljalt confess with thy Mouth the Lord Jesus, and Jhalt believe in thine Heart that God hath raised him from the Dead, thou Jhalt be saved \ (fee Rom. x. 9.) From another we might conclude that a moral Life without Faith in the great Mysteries of Christianity will be sufficient for the same Purpose; for pure Religion and undef led before God and the Father, is this,to visit the Fatherless and Widows in their Affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the World; (see James \. 27.) Again, sometimes Religion, as we have observed, is said to consist in the practical Application of those two general Articles, the Love of God, and of our Neighbour, for on these two Commandments hang alt the Law and the Prophets, (fee Matt. xxii. 40.) Sometimes the whole of our Christian Duty is included in the latter; For all the Law is fulfilled in one Word, even in this; T'hou Jhalt love thy Neighbour as thyself; (fee Galat. v. 14.) Now, would any Man of common Sense, who looked upon himself to be bound in Conscience tq believe and to do as the Scriptures have pointed out to him the Objects of his Faith and his Practice, resolve the whole of Religion into a lifeless Faith,or mere Profession of Christianity, upon the Authority of theText above quoted, or into bare moral Honesty x or indeed only some particular Branches even of that, as Charity, Justice, &c. &c' upon the Strength
of of the other Texts produced ?—In short, Purity of Faith, and Sincerity of Obedience, are equally required in the Gospel; and whoever will consult it seriously and conscientiously will never be at a loss for sufficient Instructions in the one, and solid Foundation for the other. To conclude this Head; if the Chrijlian Religion, considered as the Law of Life and Manners, be an adequate Rule of Conscience, the Objection we have been considering must appear to be utterly insignificant; and that it is such a Rule in all Matters absolutely and intrinsically of a moral Nature, I believe, was never yet disputed. As for other Matters, whose Obligations are derived from Authority, 'Tradition, pofitive Institution, &c. which have divided the Judgments, or perplexed the Consciences of Mankind, they bear no Relation to Life and Manners, and therefore fall not properly under present Consideration.—After this, it is idle to object the Want of Method, Order, or Connection to the Morality of the Gospel, which were neither requisite in Fact, nor, by the way, suitable to the Nature of historical, or epistolary Writings.