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ceive help in any of these instances, it is necessary he should give them help in other instances wherein they stand in need of his. This is one foundation of justice between man and man; that so every man may have the necessaries and conveniences of life by his neighbour's assistance. Thus the king himself, as Solomon says, is served by the field; Eccl. v. 9. "The prince stands in need of the plowman: The plowman gives food to the prince, and the prince gives to the plownian protection and safety.
I might run through the various instances wherein justice is to be practised, and shew how the higher and lower orders and characters of men have mutual need of each other : The buyer and the seller, the artificer and the merchant, the teacher and the scholar; and thus I might make it appear, that unless a due exchange of benefits be maintained, and the practice of justice secured, none of us could enjoy the safety, the ease, or the conveniences of life.
Where there is no practice of justice amongst men, no man can live safe by his neighbour : Every one that is mighty and malicious, that is proud or covetous, that is envious or knavish, would rob another of his due, and either assume the possessions of his neighbour to himself, or make havoc of them, and destroy them. There would be everlasting confusion amongst men, slander and theft, cheating and knavery; plunder and slaughter, and bloody violence would reign among all the tribes of mankind; if justice were banished from the earth ; for neither life, nor liberty, nor peace, nor any of our possessions, nor our good name, can be secured without it. Therefore the light and law of nature sets a sacred guard upon justice, and has written the necessity of it in he consciences of all men, who have not seared those consciences as with a red-hot iron, and rased out so much of human nature from their souls.
The practice of justioe has so extensive an influence into the whole conduct of our lives, and the welfare of mankind, that some of the heathen writers have made it to be comprehensive of all virtues.
But because sinful men are ready to break the bonds of commutative justice and invade the property, the peace, or the life of their neighbours, therefore government is appointed, and magistrates are ordained to maintain peace and equity amongst men, and to punish the breakers of it. This is the greatest reason why there must be such a thing as magistracy and distributive justice amongst mankind ; that those who commit outrage upon their neighbours, and practice injustice toward them, may be punished by the laws: For, as the apostle says to Timothy, the law is not made for the righteous, bu: for the disobedient, for the ungodly, and för sinners ; for muiderers, stealers, and liars, &c. 'That it may be a strong restraint upon the violent inclinations of men, and bring just vengeance upon them, when they bring injury upon their neighbours. Therefore it is for the welfare of the innocent and the righteous, that the laws have ordained vengeance for the guilty ; that those who would not injure their fellow-creatures, may be guarded in the enjoyment of their own property and their peace, and may have them secured from the
, sons of injustice.
And besides all the punishment that such sinners justly receive from men on earth, God, the great Governor of the world, has often revealed his wrath from heaven against all the unrighteousness of men, as well as their ungodliness. He has hereby proclaimed his public approbation of justice, and his hatred of all iniquity. His terrors have sometimes appeared in signal and severe instances against those who have been notoriously unrighteous, and who have broken all the rules of equity in the treatment of their fellow-creatures. This the heathens themselves have taken notice of. And they thought this to be so necessary for the government of the world, that their priests have invented a sort of goddess called Nemesis, whose office is to avenge the practice of fraud or violence, and to bring down curses on the head of this kind of criminals.
As the ancient records of the heathen world give us some histories of divine vengeance, so the bible abounds with more awful and illustrious instances of this kind; which leads me to,
The fourth head of my discourse; and that is, to consider what forcible arguments and motives the christian religion affords for the practice of justice among men.
If I were to speak of distributive justice, or that which belongs to the practice of the magistrate, never was it more gloriously manifest, than in and by God the Father, when he refused to pass by our iniquities without punishment, and laid the dreadful weight of it upon the head and soul of his own Son. Never could magistracy receive such a glory, as when our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, hung and died upon the cross, suffering the penalty that the law of God, the supreme magistrate, had denounced against sinners.
And as punishing justice was glorified in all its terrors, so rewarding justice also appeared most illustrious. Because our Lord Jesus Christ had fulfilled obedience not only to the broken law which we lay under, but to those peculiar laws which God the Father also gave him as a Mediator; therefore it pleased God highly to advance him, according to his own eternal covenant. God rewarded him, as a magistrate, distributing justice to a person who had done the greatest things for the honour of his sovereign: He exalted him at his own right-hand, and gave lum
a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knce should bow ; for he deserved it at the hands of his Father, and his Father distributed rewards equal to his desert.
Rewarding justice again appears glorious, in that God the Father communicates unto us the rewards of the sufferings of his own Son. God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, because the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, has paid for all our follies and unrighteousness; 1 John i. 9. Faithful and just to his Son, that he may not go without the rewards of his sufferings : Faithful and just to us, because it was in our name and stead that the Son suffered. But not to insist upon this longer, commutative justice is abundantly enforced also by many considerations drawn from the books of the Old Testament, as well as from the gospel of Christ.
If we consult the moral statutes of God, which were given to the Jews, we shall find them full of righteousness. These statutes are of everlasting force, and their divine solemnity should impress our consciences. That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live and inherit the land : And the judges and ofjicers shall judge the people with righteous judgment, and shall shero no respect to persons, nor take a gift to pervert justice ; Deut. xvi. 18, 19, 20. Ye shall not steal, nor deal falscly, nor lie to one another. Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, nor rob him. The wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning. Ve shall do no unrighteousness in judg, ment, in weight, or in measure, just balances and just weights shall ye hare; I am the Lord your God; Lev. xix. 12, &c. A false balance is an abomination to the Lord; but a just weight is his delight; Prov. xi. 1. To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice; Prov. iii. 15. itoe to him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong, who uses his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work; Jer. xxii. 13. Remore not the ancient land-marks, nor enter into the field of the fatherless : for their Redeemer is mighty, and he shall plead their cause with thee; Prov. xxii. 10, 11.
If we review the records of the Jewish history, we shall find the cruel and the covetous, the tyrant and the oppressor, made terrible examples of the vengeance of God against unrighteousness. Survey the plagues of Egypt, and the dreadful desolations of that fruitful country, with the destruction of the first-born by the midnight pestilence, and the armies of Pharaoh drowned in the Red sca, and you may read there the wrath of God against the unrighteousness of men, written in dreadful characters. They treated the race of Israel with cruelty and sore oppression; they destroyed their male-children, and provoked God to bring swift destruction upon themselves. Behold Adonibezek, king of the Canaanites, with his thumbs and his great toes cut off by Joshua, and confessing the justice of the great God. Threescore and ten kings, saith he, with their great toes and their thumbs cut off, have gathered their meat under my table : As I have done, so God hath requited me; Judges i. 7. See the dogs licking up the blood of Ahab in the place where he slew Naboth the Jezreelite, in order to take unjust possession of his vineyard ; 1 Kings xxi. 19. These things which were written of old time,
. remain upon record for our instruction in the days of christianity.
But let us take more special notice what influences may be derived from the gospel, and from the name of Christ, to enforce the practice of justice among men.
1. If we look to our Lord Jesus Christ as a law-giver, how various and how plain are his solemn and repeated commands, not only in his sermon upon the mount, but
other occasions too, that justice be practised between man and man. He hath explained to us that glorious rule of equity, on purpose to make the practice of justice
easy, plain, and universal, love your neighbour as yourself ; that is, do to others, as ye would that others do
We cannot but think that the holy soul of our Lord Jesus was concerned to secure the practice of justice and righteousness among his followers, when we read his terrible rebuke to the pharisees for the neglect of it, and a curse pronounced upon them ; Mat. xxiii. 23. “ Woe unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites: for ye pay tythe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. Judgment in that place may signify commutative and distributive justice : all manner of exercise of righteousness towards their fellow-creatures. Under a pretence of serving God better than your neighbours, and crowding his temple with your presence, and his altar with sacrifices and gifts, ye abandon common justice, ye neglect the righteousness due to your fellowcreatures. There is a woe denounced upon you, and my Father will inflict the curse, for he hates robbery for burnt-offering ; Is. Ixi. 8. Nor will the God of heaven excuse you from paying your dues to men on earth, under pretence of paying honour or sacrifices to him.
There are many other threatenings in the New Testament written against those that neglect justice, and pronounced by the apostles in the name and authority of Christ, their exalted Lord. The covetous and extortioners, those that take away the light of their fellow-creatures, are shut out from the heavenly blessedness; I Cor. vi. 10. “ Know ye not, says the apostle, that none of these shall inherit the kingdom of God?” As much as to say, it is so very obvious a thing, that an unjust man can never enter into heaven, whatsoever pretence he makes, that I may appeal to the meanest capacity, ye all know it. God will repay vengeance to them that do wrong to their neighbours, whether they be great or mean, for there is no respect of persons with him ; Col. iji. 25.
II. Consider Christ as a pattern of justice and righteousness. Look to the example of our Lord Jesus ; you see him, who was the sovereign Magistrate and Lord of all, who could distribute crowns and kingdoins to men, submitting himself to commutative justice among creatures.
Behold the Son of God, who was the brightness of his Father's glory, and the delight of his soul before the creation ; behold him stooping down to our world, and taking flesh and blood upon him to become our brother, that he might shew us how we ought to love our brethren. It was an unparalleled instance of divine love that Christ has given us, when he came down from heaven to become our neighbour, and to dwell amongst us, that he might teach us to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Behold the glorious Son of God subjecting himself to his earthly parents, to Joseplı the carpenter, and to Mary his mother, that he might instruct us how to pay obedience to our superior relations. See how the King of kings pays tribute to Cæsar, when he was so poor, that he was forced to send Peter a fishing, to procure the tribute-money by a miracle. And though the beasts of the field were his, and he could have commanded the cattle upon a thousand hills, to make provision for his followers ; yet he would not dispossess the owners of them, but created food on purpose to feed four or five thousand in the wilderness.
III. If we consider Christ as a glorious benefactor, who has taken care to provide for us the necessaries of this life, and hath purchased for us, at the hands of God, the eternal treasures of heaven and glory. Has not this blessed consideration force. enough to guard us against all temptations to injustice ? Shall a christian break the rules of equity, and steal, or cheat, or plunder his neighbour to gain money or merchandise, who has the promises of God for his support in a way of diligence and humble faith? Shall we sully our consciences, and defile our souls with knavery and injustice for a little of the pelf of this world, when we have the unsearchable riches of Christ made orer to us in the gospel, and the inheritance of heaven in reVersion ?
IV. Let us consider the very nature and design of the gospel of Christ, it is to make sinners holy, to make the unjust righteous : The new man of christianity must be created in righ,