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which the great Proprietor of the world hath seen good to bestow on others.
IV. The Lord hath a right to exercise dominion over all his creatures, and to be the Lawgiver and Judge of all rational agent6. He governs the inanimate and irrational creation, by that constitution of their powers and properties, their order and relation to each other, and that connexion of causes and effects, which are called " the laws of nature.-" But beings endued with the capacity of reflection, of knowing their Maker's will, and of obeying or disobeying it, require another kind of government, and are properly considered as accountable for their actions. It is then reasonable to suppose, that they would have rules prescribed to them for their conduct; and that the consequences of observing, or neglecting them would be set before them; that they might perform their part in the universe, not by external coercion, or an instinct which could admit of no deviation; but from rational motives, and a voluntary choice.
Infinite wisdom, however, was absolutely necessary to form such rules, or laws as perfectly suited the capacities and situations of those, who were to be governed by them: the authority of God alone could give them adequate validity, and demand absolute obedience from every individual: and his omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect justice, truth, and goodness were requisite, in order to the distribution of rewards and punishments, in a manner which none could resist, elude, or blame.
It might be expected, that many things in the divine law and government, though perfectly wise, just,
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and good, would appear to us in another light, both as we are short-sighted creatures, and as we are sinners. We are utterly incompetent to determine what becomes the infinite God, in the government of his universal and everlasting kingdom; or what his own glory, and the best interests of the creation, may require. We might reasonably suppose, that holy creatures, who were made acquainted with our state and character, would expect, that God’s laws must appear to us too strict and spiritual, his denunciations too dreadful, and his judgments extremely severe. Self. love alone suffices in this case to warp the judgment: those vicious affections which prompt us to disobey the holy precept, will dispose us to desire impunity in transgression; and to prefer our own indulgence and security to the honour of God and the good of the universe: and he, who is unacquainted with the influence of our desires upon our reasonings and conclusions, where we ourselves are concerned, has not so much as begun to understand the history of the human species, or to know his own heart. What legislator consults the dishonest part of the community, however sagacious, about repealing or altering the laws, and regulating the administration of justice? The objections of criminals to the strictness of the laws, and the severe vigilance of the magistrates, are deemed their best encomium; and it scarcely admits a doubt, but that holy creatures consider the objections of sinners to the laws and government of God, in exactly the same light. - We, perhaps, over-rate the inhabitants of our earth, in comparison with the whole intelligent creation,
through eternal ages: for it is probable, that the numbers immured in prison, or put to death, Under the best regulated human governments, bear as large a proportion to the whole nation, as merii and fallen angels too, bear to all the rational creatures^ which have l)een, or shall be, brought into existence. Yet the exemption from deserved punishment, of comparatively a sm;ill part of the community* is hot thought art obi ject worthy to be put in competition With the publick welfare.
All the laws of God, contained in the scriptures, are wise and righteous, and suited to the purposes for which they were given: and those which were intended for mankind in general are most equitable in their nature, and beneficial in their tendency. As the Lord himself is the Perfection and Source of all beauty and excellency; and as he is the Author of our existence, and the bountiful Giver of all that we enjoy or hope for: so it is most reasonable, that we should love him with our whole hearts, and serve him with all our powers, and in the use of all his gifts. He must have an undeniable right to demand all this of us; and we must be guilty of injustice, as well as ingratitude, if we do not thus love and serve him. We ought supremely to admire and love all his glorious excellencies; to reverence his majesty and authority; to deare and delight m his favour above aft things; to receive all his benefits with most lively gratitude; to devote ourselves wholly to his service; and to make hij glory the great end of all our actions. Who can reasonably find fault with one article in this compendium of the first table of the law? who can urge a single oo
jection to it, without pleading in behalf of some degree of ingratitude, of aversion to infinite excellency, or disaffection to the authority of consummate wisdom, justice, truth, and love? The substance of the second table is equally consonant to the decisions of sober reason; as we must perceive, if we could but divest ourselves of the bias which results from our inordinate self-love. The happiness of any other of our species is, in itself, as important as our own: it is therefore reasonable, that we should “love our neighbour as ourselves;” and that we should judge and act, in all the various concerns and relations of life, with an undeviating regard to this equitable rule. This would produce an habitual attention to the life, health, reputation, liberty, ease, peace, domestick comfort, and purity, of every other person, similar to that with which wise and rational selflove would desire that they should regard our's. We should never, in this case, pursue our own interest, or indulge our own passions, to the injury of any other person: we should recede from our own advantages, and thwart our own inclinations, whenever we could thus promote the greater good of any man, though a perfect stranger, or an injurious adversary: and we should uniformly practise perfect equity, sincerity, fidelity, candour, kindness, and forgiveness; and connect universal philanthropy with the unfailing performance of every relative duty. If all men acted in this manner: fraud, slander, malice, envy, discord, wars, seditions, massacres, oppressions, slavery, licentiousness, and the long train of dire evils, which waste and harrass the human species, would be final. ty terminated; and earth would resemble heaven in felicity as well as purity: for, all confusion and miseryspring from the transgression of the law, and its inseparable consequences.
If we could not so clearly discern the excellency of the divine law, it w,ould nevertheless be reasonable for us to acknowledge the right of the great Lawgiver, and to submit to his authority as Judge of the worldBut when it is demonstrable, that his " law is holy just, and good," and calculated to make all his obedient subjects completely happy; they must be left without excuse, who not only break his commandments, but speak and act as if he had no right to command, or as if they were under no obligations to obey.
When we seriously reflect upon the miseries which have arisen from transgression, in every part of the creation which it hath pervaded; as well as on the rebellion, contempt, ingratitude, and enmity against God, which are contained in every wilful sin; can we confidently say, that we are capable of determining what degree or duration of punishment it deserves? Shall we not rather keep silence on a subject, in which we are too deeply interested to be impartial, and too short-sighted to be competent judges? Surely it is more reasonable to leave this matter to the decision of infinite wisdom and justice, to submit to the award of our Creator, and to betake ourselves to his mercy, as our only refuge from his righteous indignation! This must be one of the Rights Of God, and of our duties: and perhaps human folly, impiety, and presumption have seldom appeared more complicated,