« ForrigeFortsæt »
a prosperous providence attends them, they are 'tempted to excessive vanity and carnal joy; their hearts are not filled with thankfulness to that God from whom their mercies come, being too thoughtless and regardless of the original donor. On the other hand, when affliction smites them, they are in danger of despising the stroke of the rod, nor does the correction of their heavenly Father make so deep and useful an impression upon their spirit as it ought to do.
When in the course of our lives we maintain such a grave and composed frame as becomes a christian, we find our hearts more ready for all the duties of worship. We are prepared to receive evil tidings as well as good, and to attend on the will of God in all his outgoings of providence. We are ready to receive mes-, sages of sorrow, or the summons of death, for we are still conversing with God : We keep the invisible world in the eye of our faith : And our spirits are ready prepared to depart from the flesh, and to meet our God and our Saviour in the unknown re gions of light and immortality.
HYMN FOR SERMON XXIII,
Christian Morality, viz. Gravity, Decency, &c.
ARE we not sons and beirs of God? What if we wear the richest sest,
Lord, raise our hearts and passions Cao laughtír feed th' immortal mind?
bigber, Were spirits of celestial sind
Touch our vain souls with sacred fire ;
Theo with an elevated eye
And wait the call that bids us rise
Christian Morality, viz. Justice, &c.
Parlip. iv. 8.-Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, or
grave, whatsoever things are just think on these things.
Θσα εσιν δικαιαIN
many parts of the sacred writings, there appears a very close connexion of the subjects which are handled; a natural order is observed, and a beautiful transition made from one to the other: But this is not to be expected in every text, nor is it at all necessary that it should be so. When St. Paul enumerates several virtues or vices, he sometimes heaps them together, and doth not design any regularity or natural order in placing them. Our commentators therefore in such cases, when they are once resolved to find these beauties and connections where the holy writer did not intend them, they oftentimes torture and strain both their own invention, and the words of scripture. Thus, I fear, I should do, if I would attempt to give a reason why the apostle in this collection of virtues, named gravity or decency before justice, which is of so much greater importance in the christian life.
I take them therefore in the order in which they lie; and having treated of truth and gravity, I proceed now to consider the third piece of morality which he mentions, that is, justice, Whatsoever things are just,—think on these things ; let these be the objects of your meditation and of your practice.
And here if I should entertain you in two discourses with this single subject of justice, I hope I shall not exceed the limits of your patience : For it is what the apostle frequently insists upon as a glory to christianity, that those that profess it be just or righteous. You who have fixed your hope on the grace of God, and have a design to honour the gospel, to you I would recommend this great duty of the law, and that in this method :
I. I shall endeavour to shew what is the general nature of this justice, and lay down the universal rule of it.-II. Discover in various special instances what those things are, which are just, or wherein our justice or righteousness must appear.—III. I shall give some proof of this great duty of justice or righteousness by the light of nature, and according to the law of reason.--IV. Shew what forcible influence the gospel of Christ has to recom
mend justice to your meditation and practice.-V. Propose a few directions how to guard yourselves against temptations to injustice, or rather point out some of the chief springs of injustice, that you may avoid them.
And while I proceed in this work, you will rejoice inwardly if you find your own consciences sincerely answering to the characters of this virtne in any good measure: And if there be any shall find himself a guilty sinner, and very deficient in this practice, let him be reproved, ashamed, and amend.
First then, Let us consider the nature of this justice, and what is the most universal rule of it.
In general, justice consists in giving to every one their due. According to the stations in which God has placed us, and according to the several relations in which providence has joined us to our fellow-creatures, every person we converse with hath something due to him; and this we are bound to pay as men, and much more as christians. But since cases and circumstances are infinite, and it is impossible for any book to contain, or any man to receive and remember so many special rules for justice, as there may be occurring circumstances in the world, which require the practice of it; our Lord Jesus Christ has therefore given us one short rule whereby to judge what is due to every man, and fitted it to every purpose : Mat. vii. 12. All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them; For this is the law and the prophets.
I confess there may happen in human affairs some cases of such exceeding intricacy and difficulty, that very few persons have skill enough to determine precisely what is due, or what would be strictly just and righteous : Nor will this rule infallibly lead us into the perfect knowledge of it; but even in such cases, a sincere honest man consulting his own conscience, and asking, what he thought reasonable that his neighbour, in the like case, should do to him, would seldom wander far from strict justice; and by practising agreeably to this general law, would approve his conduct both in the sight of God and men.
Thus our blessed Saviour hath set up a court of equity in the breast of every man. This rule is easy to be understood, and ready to be applied upon every occasion. The meanest of them may learn and practise it, and the highest are bound to obey it. This is that divine and comprehensive
rule of justice or righteousDess, by which you must regulate all your actions, and give every one their due : “ Do to others, as you would have them do to you :" Not as an unreasonable self-love would wish to receive from others, but as your own conscience would think it reasonable others should do to you, as I have explained it at large in a sermon on that text.*
* See Sermon XXXIII.
The second thing proposed, was to discover in various instances what those things are which are just, or wherein our righteousness must appear.
Here it is necessary to distinguish justice into that which belongs to magistrates, and that which belongs to private persons.
That which belongs to magistrates is called distributive justice, because it divides and distributes such rewards and punishments as are due to every one, according to the merit or demerit of the person; and this is done either by the law and light of nature, or by the laws of the land in which we dwell. Now in this sort of justice the general rule of our Saviour, of which we have been speaking, is of excellent and constant use. Let a prince or a magistrate place himself in the room of a subject or inferior, and ask what is equitable and just that his governor should practise toward him, and let that be the measure of his own conduct toward his subjects or inferiors : Let him exercise his authority according to this sacred rule of righteousness.
But in our separate assemblies we have very little need to speak of the duty of magistrates, or of distributive justice, since there are very few of that rank and order of men among our hearers.' We have reason to give hearty thanks to our present governors, who distribute so much justice to us, as to give us the liberty of worshipping God in a manner that differs from theirs.
I apply myself therefore immediately to consider that justice which belongs chiefly to private persons, and which is their duty to practise. This is called commutative justice. This is that equity of dealing, that mutual exchange of benefits, and rendering to every one their due, which is necessary between man and man, in order to the common welfare of each other. This is that justice that is due from every person toward his neighbour, whether he be superior, inferior, or equal : And I think
the following instances which I shall mention, will comprehend most of the cases wherein the practice of justice is required :
I. It is just that we honour, reverence and respect those who are our superiors in any kind; whether parents, masters, magistrates, ministers, or teachers, or whatsoever other character of superiority there be in the natural, the civil, or the religious life; otherwise we do not pay them their due.
Honour and obedience are due to parents. It is the first command of the second table. Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land. "Children obey your parents, for this is right in the Lord. Manifest your affectionate duty toward them. Pay all due submission to their cominands, and all honourable regard to their advice.
Honour the king as supreme, and other ministers of justice as subordinate to him, and submit to them in all the just exeentions of their anthority: This is due from subjects to princes. Serrants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, in singleness of heart as untu Christ, with good-will, doing service as to the Lord, and not to men. Your faithful, diligent, and cheerful service is their due. Let those that labour in the word and doctrine be counted worthy of double honour, that is, of respect and inaintenance: It is due to them in the church where they are set as elders, if they rule well. I mention these hints but very briefly, and for the most part in the language of scripture, as instances wherein these characters of superiority demand honour and duty from inferiors.
I grant there may be other obligation's to respect and honour our superiors in some of these cases, besides the mere law of justice: but this law of commutative justice that I am now treating of, obliges us to it. The light of nature and scripture both suppose and oblige parents to take care of their children, to advise and instruct, nourish and provide for them ; therefore obedience ánd honour becomes their due. The command of submission given to subjects, supposes and obliges princes and rulers to protect and defend them from all injury. The precept of chearful and willing obedience given to servants, supposes and obliges masters to do the same things unto them ; that is, to treat them with good-will, and chearfully give them their food and clothing, or their wages and hire; Eph. vi. 9. Nature and scripture suppose ministers and teachers to be capable and willing to give good advice, counsel, and instruction to those who are younger, or who accept of their preaching; therefore let respect and honour be paid where it is due.
It is the foundation and rule of commutative jastice in all these instances, that whilst inferiors are obliged to pay due regards to those that are above them, the superiors are equally obliged to confer those benefits on persons of a lower character, which the law of God, and the light of nature require; but some of the cases I have mentioned, will fall in naturally under the following particulars.
II. Another instance of commutative justice, is the particular kindness that is due to near relations. This is a very beautiful and a pleasant part of life, where it is well managed, this affectionate and delightful exchange of good turns one for another.
Now that it is due to near relatives, according to the appointment of God, will be made evident in this manner :
God, the great Creator of all things, could have produced all men immediately by his own power, and have made them arise up in several successions of time, without such a propagation or dependance one upon another, if he had pleased; and then there