Promised Rewards and threatened Punishments.
9. It is necessary to be extremely moderate and cautious in employing the influence of promised rewards or threatened punishments as a means of promoting early piety. In a religious point of view, as in every other, goodness that is bought is only a pretense of goodness—that is, in reality it is no goodness at all; and as it is true that love casteth out fear, so it is also true that fear casteth out love. Suppose—though it is almost too violent a supposition to be made even for illustration’s sake—that the whole Christian world could be suddenly led to believe that there was to be no happiness or suffering at all for them beyond the grave, and that the inducement to be grateful to God for his goodness and submissive to his will, and to be warmly interested in the welfare and happiness of man, were henceforth to rest on the intrinsic excellence of those principles, and to their constituting essentially the highest and noblest development of the moral and spiritual nature of man—how many of the professed disciples of Jesus would abandon their present devotion to the cause of love to God and love to man? Not one, except the hypocrites and pretenders!
The truth is, that as piety that is genuine and sincere must rest on very different foundations from hope of future reward or fear of future punishment, so this hope and this fear are very unsuitable instrumentalities to be relied on for awakening it. The kind of gratitude to God which we wish to cherish in the mind of a child is not such as would be awakened towards an earthly benefactor by saying—in the case of a present made by an uncle, for instance—“Your uncle has made you a beautiful present. Go and thank him very cordially, and perhaps you will get another.” It is rather of a kind which might be induced by saying, “Your uncle, who has been so kind to you in past years, is poor and sick, and can never do any thing more for you now. Would you like to go and sit in his sick-room to show your love for him, and to be ready to help him if he wants any thing?”