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much is given, much is required; and where little, so much the less. Whether we have five talents, or two, or one, the perfect improvement of the talents we have, is all that is exacted. However weak our minds, or little our strength, to love the Lord our God with all our hearts with all our weak minds, and little strength, is the whole of the first commandment of the law. There is none other greater than this, or more difficult to obey. Did we thus love God, we should keep all his commandments; and none of them would be grievous.

But if it be meant, that we have not a perfect heart and willing mind, and therefore sinless perfection cannot justly be required of us; what is this more or less than saying, We have not a disposition to do our whole duty, and therefore our whole duty cannot in justice be enjoined? What is it but saying, We have a great inclination to do iniquity, and therefore we ought to be allowed to do some iniquity, in all reason and righteousness? Is the law sin, because we are sinners! Is that to be condemned because we are disposed to transgress; when it would be altogether reasonable, had we only an inclination to obey! If the divine law, in order to its being just, ought to be lowered at all, on account of the depravity of the hearts of men; for the same reason it must be brought down entirely to every man's heart, however depraved, or it will not be just. Let this objection be carried as far as it will necessarily go, if there be really any thing in it, and it will come to this, that no law can be just, which requires any man to be or do, more or better, than exactly as he is disposed.

I am sensible that it is one of the hardest things in the world, to beat this objection out of the heads and

hearts of men; notwithstanding the stupidity of it is so exceedingly obvious. And no wonder; for as long as any man can wink hard enough not to see the absurdity of such a way of reasoning, from the painful reproaches of his own conscience, he is so far entirely free, and feels completely self-justified; whether an imperfect saint, or a most profligate abandoned sinner. But I believe it will be found at last that there is the same law, as a rule of duty, for the one and for the other. A law which alters not as men alter in degrees of moral depravity. And that according to this law, which requires the wickedest of all mankind to be perfectly righteous, every mouth will be stopped, and all the world, notwithstanding the present boasted plea of being sinful fallen creatures, be found guilty before God. The only question is, which ought to be condemned, an imperfect creature, or a perfect law! The creature, because his heart is set in him to do that which is perfectly wrong; or the law, because it insists ́upon that which is perfectly right!

We are next to consider the justice of the penalty of God's holy law; and to show, that as he doth not lay upon man more than is right in its perfect requirements, so neither will he in the infliction of its awful threatenings.

Eternal death for every transgression and disobedience, is a dreadful punishment, indeed, and undoubtedly it seems to many, when they seriously think of it, excessively severe. "Can every idle word, every evil thought, every unlawful wish, every deviation, in the smallest punctilio, from perfect righteousness, really deserve everlasting destruction! Can even any crimes, of a finite creature, committed in a momentary life, justly merit endless misery!"

To this it may be replied. The sins we commit, however little many of them may appear in other respects, are transgressions of the law of the great eternal God. In this the evil, even of the grossest immoralities, as it were, wholly consists. Hence David, when he had been guilty of the atrocious crimes of adultery and murder, says, in his penitential confession to God, Against thee, thee only have I sinned. And hence St. Paul speaks of sin as becoming, by the commandment exceeding sinful. If all the evil of sin consisted in the present injury done to creatures like ourselves, temporal death would be a punishment too great by far for most offences. Were there no God, or had God given us no law in any way whatever, and had our iniquities no respect to him, many of them would be truly very trivial. But Disobedience is as the sin of witchcraft. And the criminality of disobedience is ever supposed to be enhanced, in some proportion to the authority commanding, and the obligation we are under to obey. Now the authority of God our Maker, and the obligations we are under to be obedient in all things to Him, are absolutely infinite. Infinite, therefore, must be the sin of breaking His laws, and dishonouring Him.

This is the common way of vindicating the justice of endless punishments. And certainly, known transgression of an express command of the infinitely great and glorious God, must be sinful beyond conception. But that every moral evil, in the most ignorant rational creature, so far partakes of this aggravation as to be a crime absolutely infinite, is a thing which cannot perhaps easily be made manifest to all men.

I therefore desire that it may be seriously considered, whether the ill desert of sin, whatever may be its aggravations, be not of such a permanent nature, that it may justly be punished with the fire which never shall H

be quenched. It may be a question worthy of consideration, whether any crime, be it greater or less, will not deserve the same punishment forever, that it deserves at first. Perhaps suffering pain can never take away blame-worthiness on account of sin : and perhaps as long as blame-worthiness remains, just desert of punishment must remain. Both these I believe, are real truths, and that they would be felt as such by every man's conscience, could all misapprehensions be prevented.

That suffering doth not, in any measure, take away the blame-worthiness of one who hath committed sin, may easily be perceived to be a plain dictate of common sense. After any criminal hath been punished as much as the laws of men require, is he ever thought to be at all less blame-worthy than he was before? The damage which his crime has done, or had a tendency to do, to the public, or to individuals, may be compensated or prevented by his punishment; but does any one suppose he is for that reason blameless, just as if he had never offended? Is he ever thought to be any freer from actual guilt, than if he had been permitted to escape with impunity? Has he less sin to repent of, or less reason to judge and condemn himself, because he has been imprisoned or scourged, or branded, according to law? The lash may change the Ethiopian's skin, or the leopard's spots; but it can never make a criminal innocent. Nothing is more evident than this, that crimes are not to be obliterated, and innocence restored, by involuntary sufferings. Sin is ever so written with a pen of iron, and the point of a diamond, as never to be effaced in regard to the ill desert, or blame-worthiness of the sinner.

That as long as blame-worthiness remains, just desert of punishment must remain, is what I apprehend

would also appear a plain dictate of common sense, were it not for some confusion of thought arising from inadequate comparisons; or from confounding ideas which are really different. I know we are apt to think that when a culprit hath suffered a certain number of stripes for a crime, for that particular offence he deserves no more. But I suppose the only reasons why we think thus are, either because in that case we measure desert by the law of the land, which is the judge's rule, beyond which he has no right to go: or else, because we measure desert by the supposed need there is of punishment. To punish beyond law, is wrong in a judge; it is illegal. To punish beyond necessity, is wrong in a legislator; it is unmerciful. But deserv ing punishment according to human laws, and deserv ing it in justice, are two things. Whether it would be necessary to punish, and whether it would be just, are also two things. In point of strict justice, abstractly from mercy, and from all idea of a limiting law, I think it must be a clear case, that blame-worthiness and punishment-worthiness, are ever exactly commenThat just as much, and just as long, as blame is deserved, punishment is deserved. Until therefore the sinner can stand up before his eternal Judge, and truly say, I have suffered so much, or so long, that I am become perfectly innocent, and deserve not to be faulted at all; he cannot plead releasement from prison, and from all further pains and penalties, as a matter of absolute justice. But I believe a sinner may suffer to all eternity, before he will be able truly to say this, of whatever magnitude his sins may have been.


This way of accounting for endless punishments, is far from supposing that all sins are of equal demerit. It does not go upon the supposition that they all, nor any of them, deserve infinite punishment. It only sup

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