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do so;

actions; I shall now endeavour to prove

to

you, that there is no solid, firm foundation of virtue, but in a conscience directed by the principles of religion.

There is no way of judging how far we may depend upon the actions of men, otherwise than by knowing the motives, and grounds, and causes of them; and if the motives of our actions be not resolved and determined into the law of God, they will be precarious and uncertain, and liable to perpetual changes. I will show you what I mean, by an example: suppose a man thinks it his duty to obey his parents, because reason tells him so, because he is obliged by gratitude, and because the laws of his country command him to

if he stops here, his parents can have no lasting security ; for an occasion may happen, wherein it may be extremely his interest to be disobedient, and where the laws of the land can lay no hold upon him : therefore, before such a man can safely be trusted, he must proceed farther, and consider, that his reason is the gift of God; that God commanded him to be obedient to the laws, and did moreover in a particular manner enjoin him to be dutiful to his parents; after which, if he lays due weight upon those considerations, he will probably continue in his duty to the end of his life : because no earthly interest can ever come in competition to balance the danger of offending his Creator, or the happiness of pleasing him. And of all this his conscience will certainly inform him, if he hath any regard to religion.

Secondly; Fear and hope are the two greatest natural motives of all men's actions : but neither of these passions will ever put us in the way

of

virtue, unless they be directed by conscience. For, although virtuous men do sometimes accidentally make their way to preferment, yet the world is so corrupted, that no man can reasonably hope to be rewarded in it merely upon account of his virtue. And consequently the fear of punishment in this life will preserve men from very few vices, since some of the blackest and basest do often prove the surest steps to favour; such as ingratitude, hypocrisy, treachery, malice, subornation, atheism, and many more, which human laws do little concern themselves about. But, when conscience placeth before us the hopes of everlasting happiness, and the fears of everlasting misery, as the reward and punishment of our good or evil actions; our reason can find no way to avoid the force of such an argument, otherwise than by running into infidelity.

Lastly; Conscience will direct us to love God, and to put our whole trust and confidence in him. Our love of God will inspire us with a detestation for sin, as what is of all things most contrary to his divine nature: and if we have an entire confidence in him, that will enable us to subdue and despise all the allurements of the world.

It may here be objected, if conscience be so sure a director to us Christians in the conduct of our lives, how comes it to pass that the ancient heathens, who had no other lights but those of nature and reason, should so far exceed us in all manner of virtue, as plainly appears by many examples they have left on record ?

To which it may be answered; first, those heathens were extremely strict and exact in the education of their children; whereas among us this care is so much laid aside, that the more God

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has blessed any man with estate or quality, just so much the less in proportion is the care he takes in the education of his children, and particularly of that child which is to inherit his fortune: of which the effects are visible enough among the great ones of the world. Again, those heathens did in a particular manner instil the principle into their children of loving their country; which is so far otherwise now-a-days, that of the several parties among us, there is none of them that seem to have so much as heard whether there be such a virtue in the world, as plainly appears by their practices; and especially when they are placed in those stations where they can only have opportunity of showing it. Lastly; the most considerable among the heathens did generally believe rewards and punishments in a life to come; which is the great principle for conscience to work upon: whereas too many of those, who would be thought the most considerable among us, do, both by their practices and their discourses, plainly affirm, that they believe nothing at all of the matter.

Wherefore, since it hath manifestly appeared that a religious conscience is the only true solid foundation upon which virtue can be built, give me leave, before I conclude, to let you see how necessary such a conscience is, to conduct us in every station and condition of our lives.

That a religious conscience is necessary in any station, is confessed even by those who tell us that all religion was invented by cunning men, in order to keep the world in awe. For, if religion, by the confession of its adversaries, be necessary toward the well-governing of mankind; then every wise man in power will be sure, not only to

choose out for every station under him such persons as are most likely to be kept in awe by religion, but likewise to carry some appearance of it himself, or else he is a very weak politician. And accordingly, in any country where great persons affect to be open despisers of religion, their counsels will be found at last to be fully as destructive to the state as to the church.

It was the advice of Jethro to his son-in-law Moses, to“ provide able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and to place such over the people; and Moses, who was as wise a statesman at least as any in this age, thought fit to follow that advice. Great abilities, without the fear of God, are most dangerous instruments, when they are trusted with power. The laws of man have thought fit, that those who are called to any office of trust, should be bound by an oath to the faithful discharge of it; but an oath is an appeal to God, and therefore can have no influence, except upon those who believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those that seek him, and a punisher of those who disobey him : and therefore, we see, the laws themselves are forced to have recourse to conscience in these cases, because their penalties cannot reach the arts of cunning men, who can find ways to be guilty of a thousand injustices without being discovered, or at least without being punished. And the reason why we find so many frauds, abuses, and corruptions where any trust is conferred, can · be no other, than that there is so little conscience and religion left in the world; or at least that men, in their choice of instruments, have private ends in view, which are very different from the service of the public. Besides, it is certain, that

men who profess to have no religion, are full as zealous to bring over proselytes, as any papist or fanatic can be. And therefore, if those who are in station high enough to be of influence or example to others; if those (I say) openly profess a contempt or disbelief of religion, they will be sure to make all their dependants of their own principles; and what security can the public expect from such persons, whenever their interests, or their lusts, come into competition with their duty? It is very possible for a man, who hath the appearance of religion, and is a great pretender to conscience, to be wicked and a hypocrite; but it is impossible for a man, who openly declares against religion, to give any reasonable security that he will not be false, and cruel, and corrupt, whenever a temptation offers which he values more than he does the power wherewith he was trust ed. And if such a man doth not betray his caus and his master, it is only because the temptation was not properly offered, or the profit was too small, or the danger was too great. And hence it is, that we find so little truth or justice among us: because there are so very few, who, either in the service of the public, or in common dealings with each other, do ever look farther than their own advantage, and how to guard themselves against the laws of the country; which a man may do by favour, by secrecy, or by cunning, though he breaks almost every law of God. Therefore, to conclude: It plainly appears, that unless men are guided by the advice and judgment of conscience founded on religion, they can give no security that they will be either good subjects, faithful servants of the public, or honest in their mutual dealings; since there is no other tie,

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