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partial being in the universe. They approve, they celebrate, they admire, and love all the displays of punitive justice, as necessary to the public good: and their judg. ment may be depended on; it is not misled by ignorance nor perverted by self-interest. To whom would you appeal as judges of the proceedings of courts of justice among men? To malefactors in a dungeon, who have made justice their enemy, and who are therefore enemies to it? No; but you would appeal to obedient subjects, who are not obnoxious to justice themselves, but enjoy protection under its guardianship, and are sensible of its beauty and public utility. They all approve it with one voice, and would look upon a supreme magistrate without it as a very contemptible and odious character, and essentially deficient in goodness. Hence it follows that even the punitive justice of God not only is in reality, but to all impartial judges appears to be a most amiable, engaging, and beneficent perfection ; majestic indeed, but not forbidding; awful, but not sullen and hateful; terrible, but only to criminals; and destructive only to what destroys the public good. I have so far anticipated myself that I need hardly add,
IV. “ That proceedings similar to those of the divine government are not only approved of as just in all human governments, but also loved and admired as amiable and praise-worthy, and highly essential to the goodness and benevolence of a ruler.”
Does the supreme Lawgiver annex severe penalties to his laws, which render the disobedient miserable for ever? So do human governments, with the unanimous approba. tion of their subjects ; they inflict punishments that alfect life, and cut off the offender from civil society forever; and this is the only kind of everlasting punishment that can be endured or executed by mortals. Does Jehovah maintain good order in his immense empire, protect his subjects, and deter them from offending by making examples of the guilty ? and does he secure and advance the good of the whole by the conspicuous punishment of obnoxious individuals ? This is done every day for the same ends in human governments, and that with universal approbation! Does he inflict punishments that are not at all intended for the reformation and advantage of the guilty sufferer, but only for the admonition and
benefit of others? This is always the case in human governments when the punishment reaches to the life ; for then the offender himself is put out of all capacity of reformation or personal advantage by it, but he suffers entirely for the good of others. Even criminals must be made useful to society; and this is the only use they are fit to answer. Would it not be inexpedient and greatly injurious for a magistrate, in his public character, to forgive crimes and suffer criminals to escape, though to do so in a private character might be a virtue į Just so God, who is the supreme Magistrate of the universe, and not at all to be considered, in this case, as a private person acting only in a private character; the great God, I say, is obliged, by his regard for his own honor and the benefit of his subjects, to inflict proper punishments and distribute his pardoning mercy to individuals consistently with the general good of the whole. What would be revenge in a private person, which is the ruling passion of devils, is justice, honor, and benevolence itself in the supreme Ruler of the world ; and a failure in this would render him not only less glorious and majestic, but less amiable, less beneficent to his creatures.
I know hardly any thing of so much importance to give us just sentiments of the proceedings of God with his creatures, as that we should conceive of him as a moral Ruler, or the supreme Magistrate of the world. And it is owing to their not considering him in this character that sinners indulge such mistaken, dangerous presumptions concerning him. They choose to conceive of him under some fond and tender name, as a Being of infinite grace, the indulgent Father of his creatures, &c. All this is true; but it is equally true that he is their moral Ruler as well as their Father. His creatures are his subjects as well as his children ; and he must act the wise and righteous Magistrate as well as the tender Father towards them. His goodness is that of a Ruler, and not of a private person; and his pardoning of sin and receiving offenders into favor, are not private kindnesses, but acts of government, and therefore they must be conducted with the utmost wisdom ; for a wrong step in his infinite administration, which affects such innumerable multitudes of subjects, would be an infinite evil, and might admit of no reparation.
Though I have thus enlarged upon this subject, yet ! am far from exhausting my materials. But these things, I hope, are sufficient to convince your understandings that divine justice is not that unkind, cruel, and savage thing sinners are wont to imagine it; but that God is just, because God is love ; and that he punishes not because he is the enemy, but because he is the friend of his creatures, and because he loves the whole too well to let particular offenders do mischief with impunity.*
I shall only add, that this is the view Jehovah has given of himself in the clearest manifestation of his perfections that he ever made to mortals. He promises his favorite Moses, that he would make all his goodness pass before him. Observe, it is his goodness he intends to exhibit; and the proclamation runs thus : “ The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, forgiving iniquity," &c. That these are acts or modifications of goodness, will be easily granted. But observe, it is added even in this proclamation of his goodness, That he will by no means clear the guilty; intimating, that to be just and punish sin is an act of goodness, as well as to be merciful and to forgive it.
And now when we have this copious subject in review, does it not suggest to us such conclusions as these :
I. May we not conclude that the case of impenitent sinners is desperate indeed, when it is not excessive rigor, not a malignity of temper, nor tyranny, or a savage delight in torture that condemns them, but goodness itself, love itself? Even the gentler perfections of the Deity, those from which they derive their presumptuous hopes,
It may perhaps be objected, " That to represent justice under the notion of love is to affect singularity in language, to destroy the distinction of the divine attributes, and the essential difference of things.—To which I answer, 1. That a catachresis may be beautiful and emphatical, though it be always a seeming impropriety in language. Such is this represeni. ation, “Divine justice, divine love." 2. I do not deny that God's executing righteous punishment upon the guilty may be called justice ; but then it is his love to the public that excites him to do this; and there. fore his doing it may be properly denominated love, as well as justice, or love under the name of justice, which is love still. 3. I do not mean that the usual names of things should be changed, but that we should affis suitable ideas to them. We may retain the name of justice still, but let us not affix ideas to it that are inconsistent with divine love. Let us not look upon it as the attribute of a tyrant, but of a wise and good ruler.
are conspired against them, and unite their forces to render them miserable, in order to prevent greater misery from spreading through the universe. Impenitent sinners! even the unbounded love of God to his creatures is your enemy. Love, under the name and form of justice, which is equally love stiil, demands your execution ; and
n to suffer you to escape would not only be an act of injustice, but an act of malignity and hostility against the whole system of rational beings. Therefore repent and be holy, otherwise divine love will not suffer you to be happy. God is love; therefore will he confine you in the infernal prison, as a regard to the public welfare in human governments shuts up criminals in a dungeon, and madmen in Bedlam.
II. May we not hence conclude that all the acts of the Deity may be resolved into the benevolent principle of love? God is love ; therefore he made this vast universe, and planted it so thick with variegated life. God is love; therefore he still rules the world he has made, and inflicts chastisements and judgments upon it from every age. God is love ; therefore he spared not his own Son, but made him the victim of his justice. God is love ; therefore he requires perfect holiness, perfect obedience from all his subjects. God is love ; therefore he has
; enacted such tremendous sanctions to his law, and executes them in their full extent upon offenders. God is love ; therefore he has made the prison of hell, and there confines in chains of everlasting darkness those malevolent creatures, that would be a nuisance to society, and public mischiefs, if suffered to run at large. In short, whatever he does, he does it because he is love. How amiable a view of him is this! Therefore,
III. We may certainly conclude that if God be love, then all his creatures ought to love him. Love him, O all ye inhabitants of heaven! But they need not my exhortation ; they know him, and therefore cannot but love him. Love him, all ye inhabitants of the planetary worlds; if such there be. These also I hope need no exhortation, for we would willingly persuade ourselves that other territories of this immense empire have not rebelled against him as this earth has done. Love him, Oye children of men! To you I call: but O! I fear I shall call in vain.' To love him who is all love is the
most hopeless proposal one can make to the world. But whatever others do, love the Lord, all ye his saints ! You I know cannot resist the motion. Surely your love even now is all on fire. Love the Lord, O my soul ! Amen.
THE GENERAL RESURRECTION.
John v. 28, 29.—The hour is coming in the which all that
are in the grave shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
Ever since sin entered into the world and death by sin, this earth has been a vast grave-yard, or buryingplace, for her children. In every age, and in every country, that sentence has been executing, Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return. The earth has been arched with graves, the last lodgings of mortals, and the bottom of the ocean paved with the bones of men.* Human nature was at first confined to one pair, but how soon and how wide did it spread! How inconceivably numerous are the sons of Adam! How many different nations on our globe contain many millions of men even in one generation! And how many generations have succeeded one another in the long run of near six thousand years! Let imagination call up this vast army : children that just light upon our globe, and then wing their flight into an unknown world ; the gray-headed that have had a long journey through life; the blooming youth and the middle-aged, let them pass in review before us from all countries and from all ages; and how vast and astonishing the multitude! If the posterity of one man (Abraham) by one son was, according to the divine
No spot on carth but has supply'd a grave;