Page images
PDF
EPUB

poses that the ill desert of every sin, is durable, unalterable, and everlasting. The degree of punishment, which men deserve, is in proportion to the numbers and aggravations of their iniquities: but that degree of punishment, whatever it may be, they will deserve forever. Little things may be as lasting as things that are great. The soul of man is not infinite, yet we suppose it will exist without end.

If neither of the foregoing solutions should satisfy; there is yet another way of vindicating the sentence of eternal condemnation, as perfectly just. It may be considered as a sentence of reprobation to endless sin, and to endless misery as the necessary conscquence. Certainly it is a righteous thing in God to say, whenever he sees fit, He that is unjust, let him be unjust still ; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still. The most High is not under obligation in justice, to keep his creatures from falling into a state of sin and misery; surely then we cannot suppose him under any such obligation to recover fallen creatures to holiness and happiness. Those finally left to themselves will forever sin; and for this they will deserve to be forever vessels of wrath. Sin can never be innocent, or undeserving of punishment, by reason of the peculiar circumstances in which the sinner is placed Being in

a state of probation, and in a world of hope, is not certainly the only thing which renders impenitence, blasphemy, malice, or any kind of iniquity, culpable, and worthy of divine indignation. It is true we read that in the other world, every one shall receive according to the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad. But this needs not to be understood as implying, that nothing shall ever be received for things done after this life is ended. It may only mean that all, by the

ntence of the Supreme Judge, will commence their

[ocr errors]

fixed future existence in a degree of happiness or misery, proportioned to their good or evil conduct in the present probationary state. There are ways, undoubtedly, in which the perfect justice of God's holy law in its penalty, as well as in its precepts, may be fairly and fully vindicated.

We proceed to the vindication of its perfect goodness. A good law, is one that is necessary and well adapted to answer good ends. However pure or equitable a law may be, yet if it be needless, and will do no good, it cannot well be called a good law. A law perfectly good, lays no duty on the subject, nor any penalty on the transgressor, however justly it might be laid, but what is requisite for some important or beneficient purpose.

That the divine law, in the preceptive part of it, is thus perfectly good, may very easily be evinced. We may be sure that the commandments of God are perfectly good, because they require perfect goodness, and nothing but goodness. From those summaries of the moral law, which are given both in the Old Testament and in the New; and indeed from an attentive perusal of the whole book of the law, it is easy to see that the law of kindness, comprehends the whole law of God; or that every duty enjoined in the law and the prophets will readily and necessarily flow from love of God and our neighbour. Love is the fulfilling of the law; and such a law must certainly be dictated by love. No laboured proof will be required to convince any man that a law is good which obliges all others to be perfectly benevolent and good to him; and will any one be so inconsistent as not to acknowledge that it must be likewise a good law, which commands him to be perfectly benevolent and good to all others.

Besides, it is easy to show, that all the duties enjoined upon us are necessary for our own good, as well as for the glory of God and the good of our fellow creatures. We may truly say as Moses did, Deut. vi. 24. The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, for our good always.

Is not this evidently the case in regard to the personal duties of sobriety and temperance? Certainly it would not have consisted with a perfect attention to our private temporal happiness, for God to have given us a law allowing us to live in luxury and excess, in gluttony and drunkenness. It is requisite for our worldly interest, for our bodily health, and for our best enjoyment even of the pleasures of sense, that we should deny ourselves those inordinate, sensual gratifications which are made unlawful in the word of God. Fleshly lusts war against the soul, and against the body too. To abstain from them as we are commanded, is necessary for the comfort of the life that now is, as well as in order to the happiness of that which is to come.

Is not this evidently the case in regard to the commands of righteousness and charity towards our neighbour? It is generally found to be most for the security and advancement of a man's wealth and outward estate, and is always most for his real happiness, to do justly and love mercy; to provide things honest in the hsight of all men, and to be as liberal as the divine law - requires. All the commanded social affections, are delightful affections; and all the forbidden unfriendly passions, are painful passions. Had nothing been in view but only our own felicity, the feelings and duties of humanity could not have been enjoined otherwise than they are.

Is not this also evidently the case in regard to the duties of religion? The tempers and exercises com

manded immediately toward God? Can any thing be more essential to our highest happiness, than to remember our Creator, and trust in him? to fear and love the greatest and best of beings, and to worship him in spirit and in truth?

Every one who rightly understands the statutes of the Lord, and knows what it is to obey them in sincerity, can testify with David in the context; more to be desir d are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honey-comb. More. over, by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. The ways of God's commandments are all ways of our truest wisdom.Not only will they be infinitely profitable in the end, but for the present, they are ways of pleasantness, and paths of peace. How much more would good men find them to be so, if they observed them wholly, and with a perfect heart.

But perhaps it will be supposed, that the perfect goodness of the curse of the law, cannot so easily be made evident. I think, however, it may be shewn beyond contradiction, that we have no reason to believe the contrary. Not only the threatning, but the actual infliction of eternal death, for transgression and disobedience, for any thing that we can tell, may be dictated by perfect goodness. Not goodness to the individuals who are made to suffer this awful penalty, to be sure. Their good is given up. But goodness to the universe. We know not what severity against sin is necessary, for all the important purposes of perfect government, in the vast dominion of God. That other ends are proposed by penal laws, and the execution of them, in all communities, besides the good of the punished, we well know. A regard to the safety of society, to the support of government, and to the sup

port of his own character, will influence a good earthly judge, to condemn criminals of certain descriptions, to perpetual imprisonment, or to death; notwithstanding the tenderest feelings of humanity towards the unhappy sufferers. The same reasons will influence a good legislator to enforce his salutary laws with such terrible sanctions, when he supposes nothing less severe would be sufficient. In like manner, it must unquestionably seem good in the sight of the Supreme Ruler, who is perfectly benevolent, to punish the transgressions of his infinitely important statutes with eternal death, if the support and display of his own holy character, and the greatest good of the creation, so require. And why should it be thought a thing incredible, that this should be the case? The characters of law-givers and judges among men, are important characters; and it is incumbent on those who sustain these characters, carefully to support them, by enacting just laws, and by judging righteous judgment. How much more important the character of the Supreme Legislator and Judge of all worlds? And how much greater the necessity of its being perfectly supported?

The declarative glory of God, as it concerns himself, is an end of inconceivable weight. It is the highest end that can possibly be promoted. It is also a matter of the utmost consequence to all the good part of the intellectual creation; to holy angels and just men. In his light they see light. In the light of His countenance-in the knowledge and contemplation of His perfections, is their supreme felicity. By the declarative glory of God is meant, the manifestation of His essential glory; the giving rational creatures true ideas of His real attributes. In order to this, it seems necessary that He should make himself known by His

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »