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you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for then which despitefully use you, and persecute you ; that ye may be the children of your father which is in heaven ; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the un, just. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have
Do not even the publicans the same ? And if you salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect." Rom. xii. 20, 21. * Therefore, if thine enemy huoger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink : for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
After being fully convinced that God never awards punishment to the sinner from a principle of retaliation, it may still serve to illustrate the subject to allow that he does for the sake of seeing what must be the consequence deduceible from such premises.
Allowing God to be injured hy sin, and that he punishes the sinner according to his sins, with a design to support and gratify a principle of retaliation and revenge, of which he is possessed, the conclusion is, that he will injure the sinner exactly as much as the sinner has injured the Almighty, and no more! Having carried this particular as far as appears necessary in order to show that the idea of punisliment on the principle of retaliation is erroneous, I would close my remarks on the subject by observing, that if such a principle could be supported, the consequence generally supposed to follow must be necessarily given up, unless it be contended that the great, Jehovah must absolutely feel the ill effects of sin to the wasteless ages of his existence, this being the supposed durance of the retaliation !
The object to be promoted by the retribution signified by re: svarding every man according to his work, in all cases where the work of the creature requires the rod of chastisement, may be exsily understood by the lollowing scriptures. See Prov. iii, 11, 12, “My son, despise put the chastiseing of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction : for whom the Lord loveth he cor. recteth, even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” Heb. xii, 10, 11, "For they verily tor a few days chastened us after their own pleasure ; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness." Lam. iii, 31, 32, 33, “For the Lord will not cast of forever ; but though he cause grief, yet will he
have compassicn according to the multitude of his mercies.-For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of mer." The manitest object to be promoted by a just retribution for sin, according to the foregoing scriptures, is the profit which results to the creature by being made a partaker of divine holiness, which clearly shows that this retribution is directed by divine love as.is so manifestly and particularly set forth in the above scriptures.
An objection to a general application of the for going passages will undoubtedly labour in some very candid mints, az the more COMMON USE of such scripture is to designate the merciful dealings of God with those for whom he entertains a more particular love than he does for siuners in general. To this objection, it is believed, the objector will find a satisfactory answer, in the following arguments and illustrations.
1st. As the objection necessarily supposes that God awards afflictions and tribulations to some with a graciuus design to bis moral holiness, and that to others he awards afdictions and tribulations without designing any good to the afflicted, the candid objector is required to examine carefully and see what disposition exists in the all-wise creator so different from love, which warrants this supposition. This disposition surely is not entitled to any appellation by which we distinguish the happy harmonious family of divine love, because it is manifestly in direct opposition to the nature and communications of Love. : 2d. The general subject now under consideration is founded on that divine testimony, in which it is declared that God will render unto every man according to his deeds, which testimony is used in evidence by the apostle, to prove that there is no respect of persons with God.
If it be argued that God punishes some sinners from a disposition of love, for their spiritual profit, and that he punishes others from an entirely different disposition, it is required how the impartiality for which we conceive our heavenly father is so justly celebrated, is to be maintained.
3dly. If it be argued that the divine being grievously aflicts and forever casts off, and will never have mercy on some of the children of men, does not this argument stand in direct opposition to the unreserved and positive testimony above quoted from the prophet Jeremiah ?
4thly. An illus:ration of this subject is obtained by examining the dealings of God with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
For his sins, against which the prophet Daniel admonished him, and for the pride of his heart in noi acknowledging
his dependence on God, he was deposed of his glory and kingdom, deprived of his reason and understanding, driven from human society, and being possessed of the heart of a beast, he had his portion in the grass of the earth until seven times passed over him. Here is an astonishing example of God's disapprobation of sin, perhaps as much so as any particular circumstance recorded in scripture. However, all this just retribution was directed in conformity to that divine love, which like a band of iron and brass secured him as in the tender
of the earth, and finally issued in bringing one of the most haughty, self-sufficient, and ungodiy of tyrants into the deepest humility, and just sense of his dependence on the God of heaven, and to make the following acknowledgment. See Daniel iv. 37. “ Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the king of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgement; and those that walk in pride he is able to al ase." It is evident beyond contradiction, that God chastised the king of Babylon for his profit. It must likewise be granted that he rewarded, or rendered unto him according to his deeds ; for the testimony is, that God will render unto every man according to his deeds. The unavoidable conclusion from these demonstrated facts, is, that in rewarding or rendering unto every mau according to his work, the profit of the creature is the object to be promotrilo
Lastly, in answer to the above objection, it is reasonable to urge the moral de; raviy un which the objection is founded : for it is evident, as has been proved from the word of God, that to render evii for evil is contrary to the revealed character of our heavenly father, and a sin which he reproves in us. And as it is evident that the objection not only tolerates this iniquity in ourselves and among men, but also charges it on our father who is in heaven, it ought to be rescinded.
We are assured that the correction exercised by our heavenly father is similar to that which a father exercises on his son in whom he delighteth. This is making use of the parental affections, and of the parental faithfulness, which being duly operative in unison, dise over in a striking manner the administration of retributive justice as administered by God himself.-The faithful father will render unto his son according to his deeds ; but never punishes his son from a disposition of revenge or retaliation, but from molives which the tenderest love and affection inspire, directing this retribution with all possible wisdom and prudence in such : way as to carry conviction to the mind of the chastened, that parental love is the moving cause of this affection. Here is the nature of forgiveness, displayed in the dispet.sation of justice ; and the sole object is the good of the son, which is to be effected by taking away his sins. This retribution then is necessary in order to carry into effect the merciful desigas of that forgiveness which is for. ever with God. » The want of love in a parent not only gives his chastisements an unfavorable appearance, but renders them useless as to answering any laudable purpose. This wont of love surely cannot be imputed to our heavenly father, and as it must be acknowledged that there is no lack of wisdom or power in him, so it must be acknowledged that the gracious purposes of all his dispensations will be accomplished in due time.
Lest possibly a difficulty should labor in the mind respecting the ratio of punishment, as the text defines it to be accordjog to our work, it may be expedient to illustrate this particu. lar, in doing which it will fall in our way to show the distinction which it is proper to make between justice and mercy.
Though we have sufficiently proved that the design of chastisement is the profit of the chastised, yet the process by which the sinner is brought to experience this profit, perhaps ought more fully to be considered.! : The most immediate object of chastisement is to produce true penitence in the transgressor; and while the love of the divine being is exercising the rod nf affliction for this special purpose, the administration of divine love is distinguished by the term justice. When the necessary work of repentance is fully effected, and the penitent feels his ut:er unworthiness to receive the least favor, judging from his own wicked character, the still abounding goodness of God is now gleriously manifested to the enraptured mind, now all filled with wonder to behold the goodness of him whom he had disobeyed; this scene of divine favour is distinguished by the term mercy. These different terms are therefore not to distinguish different dispositions in God, but different manifestations which the same disposition in our heavenly father makes to his crea. ture.
The ratio of punishment is to be measured in relation to two particular circumstances : the first is the state of moral turpitude into which the sinner has fallen; and the second is, che situation of penitence into which this proportionate punishment is designed to bring him.
When the prodigal son had suffered enough to convince him of the evil nature of his conduct, and to humble him in his own estimation, it was sufficient. There was no revenge rank. ling in the heart of the father which remained to be satisfied after the son humbly confessed, " Father. I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” It was then a suitable time for the open manifestations of love and mercy to be displayed to the infinite honor of the father, and to the unspeakable happiness of the son, now saved, not from deserved punishment, but from his prodigality and sin.
While it is readily acknowledged that the foregoing tract falls greatly short of embracing, so particularly, the various subjects which are necessarily connected with and allied to the general question under consideration, of what might reasona. bly be expected from arguments better constructed, or a trea. tise labored more largely, yet a humble hope is entertained that the most important subjects are made sufficiently plain to the understanding of the reader, as to contribute something to the promotion of piety towards God and morality among men.
It is conceived that whenever the divine character is consistently represented to the human mind, and man is taught to see a father in his creator, he will no longer be disposed to call him a hard master, but feeling his sonship is the father of his spirit, will strive to discharge the duties of piety and unfeigned devotion. And it is further believed that by taking our les. sons of morality from the manifestations of the divine charać. ter, so wonderfully displayed in the economy of his universal goodness, our morality will naturally become well purified from all the evils of superstition, and will facilitate the desired object of our loving our neighbours as ourselves.
ANSWER TO THE QUESTION ON THE APPLICATION OF
QUESTION. As the Scriptures declare that Christ suffered the just
for the urjust-and by his stripes we are healed-in what manner is an application made to our salvation, of his sufferings, so as to produce such an effect ?
That all mankind are sinners, and that “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved,” bat “by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth," who was "crucified," and whom God raised from the dead,"* will not be called in question in this discussion; as those facts are not
*Acts iv, 10, 12.