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Here then is an argument which the law hath within itself, in addition to these many obligations mentioned above, which the author hath upon us for all his bountiful gifts. It is not only the voice of God our parent, preserver, patron, and friend--but it is the devise of wisdom for securing the welfare of the world. It is bound upon us not only by early and affectionate ties of nature, but by ties of interest--not only a bond upon the heart, but a preservative of peace between man and man, and the insurance of the common safety. Thus it hath in it all that gives to political government reverence and authority. It is a constitution of social intercourse for the wide world, leaguing men together in community-owning no locality of jurisdiction or separation of interests, but embracing human nature, every where, extending from pole to pole, and round the five zones of the earth. Now, among the many causes, well or ill-grounded, against any political institution, I never heard any one murmur against tribunals of justice and execution of judgment. No one ever imagined that a state could stand without a judge and a punishment, The mode may be objected against the facility or severity -but the necessity of the thing was never questioned. On the same ground, it is necessary to the stability and extension of this universal law for the hearts and lives of men.
While I thus argue from all kind of analogies the reasonableness and pleasure of responsibility to God, with the necessity of judgment in the divine as in the human procedure, I am willing to admit that here also punishment should be the last direful resource, only to be called in when every thing else has failed. Man should be tried by every means before you have recourse to the cruelty of punishment. Address every nobler part before you make your appeal to fearwork upon him by every argument to change his course, before you pass a sentence upon him which cuts him off from repentance, and makes an end of his prospects for ever. Now I fearlessly appeal to the knowledge and experience of every one, if God is not slow to judgment, and patient to pursue every method of grace and love-willing to take repentance at any season, to wipe all past misdemeanors away, so that we will turn and behave towards him with affection. In this respect, the divine government surpasses all other governments whatever. A father will take his prodigal son back to his bosom, and forget in the transports of his affection, all the follies of a child who was lost and now is found. But a father will not do this many times; once and again, and peradventure thrice. But if he find promises vain, confidence betrayed, and affection unanswered, he is compelled for the credit of his house and the sustenance of parental authority, to bid the perverse youth begone, and to cut him off from his inheritance. So also in every other association, whether of nature or of compact.
Political administrations are less patient, because it is not private affection but common interest they steer upon, yet even there a first offence hath mitigation of punishment, perhaps forgiveness--a second sometimes commutation of punishment--but an old offender, one in habit and repute an offender, gets the heavier doom. Private friendship will hardly cement again when its duties have been once violated. In business, one who hath been dishonest to his engagements is not easily trusted the second time. There is need for a sharp outlook in all the affairs of life; and though Mercy hath, we trust, often a glorious pre-eminence in men's hearts as in God's, still she cannot bear to be trampled on or abused; otherwise she steps to a side, and lets Justice with her scales and sword come in to weigh and determine. But, in God mercy rejoiceth over judgment. All a man's lifetime is the reign of grace. Till he closes his eyes mercy weeps over him, to melt his stony heart. God's own Son, whose daughter Mercy is, weeps over him to melt his stony heart-He shows to him his wounds, and his cross, telling him he hath died once, and could die again to save him. There is no argument he does not use-calling upon us by our ancient noble stock from God derived, not to degenerate-calling upon us by all heavenly affections lurking still within us, love of excellence, gratitude for favours, desire of self-satisfaction and inward peace, to attach ourselves to God-calling upon us by the assurance of a glorious regeneration, and reinstatement in the divine image through the powerful operation of the Spirit, to cleave unto the Lord; -finally, calling upon us by an unspeakable weight of glory to be revealed in heaven, to persevere in the service of God. There is nothing noble, nothing tender, nothing spirit-stirring, which the Son of man doth not address unto his brethren. His words drop over them like the tears of a mother over her darling child. He watches and waits for their late return-he comes to their sick-bed suing, and to their deathbed he comes praying. He stands at the door of every heart, and knocks. Our enemies he fought unto the death, and he hath conquered them in death. He hath singly beat our tyrants, and put into every man's hand a patent of his liberty. And now he goeth about and about amongst us, rousing us
with songs and sweet melody to rise from slavery and be ourselves again. He asks nothing of us for what he hath done—he lays on no new masterybut shows the ways of heaven and of sinless happy creatures, and craves us by the memory of his death, and by our own eternal life-all our life long craves us to be ourselves again, to be the noble sons of God as our father was.
Is this a reign of terror? a reign of judgment ? a reign of punishment? What then is a reign of mercy, persuasion, and forgiveness ?-He takes no hostages of you, lays on no fines for the past, no penalties for the future—free forgiveness even unto the end, unto sincere repentance. Surely God is slower to judgment than man is-Surely unto the last he putteth off-Surely there is not any thing he would not do, sooner than bring it to the grand and finishing crisis.
The argument of this discourse thus completes itself. Man it seems by all his institutions for securing his welfare is made for responsibility, and for submitting himself to judgment, when all other methods fail of preserving the peace. This is the nature of man, wherever he is found and into whatever community he enters. God, legislating for man, hath adapted himself to this his nature, placing him under responsibility ; yet taking every measure of his wisdom, and applying to every faculty of human nature by each kind ly, noble method, to secure sweet harmony ; putting off issues of judgment to the last, and not ringing the knell of doom until every other note and signal hath entirely failed to have effect. Therefore, he having taken that course which men uniformly take and admire, is devoutly to be adored for accommodating himself so sweetly to our nature and our condition.
OF JUDGMENT TO COME.
THE CONSTITUTION UNDER WHICH IT HATH PLEASED GOD
TO PLACE THE WORLD,
HAVING shown at length in our former discourse that it is not unpleasant to the nature of man, nor uncongenial with the softest, tenderest relations of human life, to be held under responsibility to God, and amenable to his future judgment,--we now proceed to examine the constitution under which he hath actually placed us, and upon which he is to enter into judgment with the sons of men. For God, who in this respect might be a pattern to all lawgivers, hath so contrived it in his wisdom, that his laws and ordinances should be within narrow compass, and he hath brought them by his providence within the reach of small expense, while in his wisdom he hath written them, so that he who runneth may read, and the way-faring man, though a fool, shall not err therein. Upon man therefore, the knowledge of them is incumbent; and surely he will not hold us guiltless if we refuse to lend our ear to the hearing of those words which he hath been at so much pains to reveal. Let us, therefore, gird up the loins of our mind, and draw near with full purpose to discover what the Lord our God, our Creator and our preserver, our father and our friend, requireth of his children, in order that, if we find it good and wholesome to our nature, we may walk before him in the cheerful obedience of an enlightened and convinced mind. For while allegiance to any constitution, human or divine, is blind prejudice and slavery, so long as you know it not, neither are convinced of its wisdom, it doth become, when the mind approves it as right and just, both dutiful and honourable to adhere to it; and the strictest obedience is then the greatest freedom, being emancipation from what the mind rejects and obedience to that which it approyes.
There is a great peculiarity in the divine constitution, and a great difficulty in bringing it completely before the mind; not because of the number of its details, but because of that intermixture of justice and mercy in which God hath made it to consist. And yet, if he open our mind to comprehend, and guide our pen to express the wonderful harmony of these its parts, and the wise adaptation of the whole to the present condition and faculties of man, we shall present the purest, the most just, the most merciful institute under which man can live, and to which the mind will spontaneously offer the witness of every good and noble sentiment.
The first office which the Christian lawgiver discharged, was to take to task the principles upon which men had been wont to regulate their sentiments and actions, and to substitute in their stead others by which they should be governed. This discourse, delivered upon the mount, which contains the spirit of his discipline, divides itself into two parts :—First, of outward or overt acts—Secondly, of inward sentiments and feelings.
Amongst outward acts, he gives the first place to the inficting of injuries. The law current in his day, and still current in all well-governed societies, that whosoever killed another should be in danger of the judgment, he refines upon, by threatening both judgment here and hell hereafter, to every one who, without a cause, should allow himself in anger against his brother, or rate him for a fool ;thus striking at the root of injuries, by prohibiting the hot and hasty language in which they originate, crushing quarrels in the bud, by making the first outbreak of them as criminal as their most lamentable termination. The second place he gives to the retaliating of injuries, upon which the lex talionis—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth-was the current maxim of his day, as it is still. This he utterly abrogates, forbidding to resent or even to resist evil, but to repay it with good a law which, being understood in the letter, would abrogate all law, making us slaves to the worst of masters, the evil passions and ungoverned wills of the wicked ;-but being understood in the spirit, forbids all revenge of injury, and all defence which proceeds in the spirit of revenge ; not prohibiting self-defence, nor suits for justice, nor restrainings of wickedness; but cautioning us to proceed in these with a benevolent spirit for the reformation of the evil-doer, for the maintenance of good order, and for the ascertaining of righteousness and truth. These two maxims, which compose the whole criminal code of Christ, if obeyed, would put a stop to the inflicting and resenting of