Imatges de pàgina


ministered, so as not to inflict more evil than the demerit of the crime, nor communicate less good than the receiver has a title to, by a just right of claim. As to his own property, I fay, as before, that he is left free, by the laws of common equity, to dispose of it as he will ; so that he may communicate good, either without or beyond merit, which we call bounty, or he may remit or punish less than the crime deserves, which we call mercy, without being criminally unjust; nay, it is so far from being a crime, that it is noble and glorious, when the object is proper and suitable for that bounty or mercy to be exercised upon. This being so, I say, that criminal injustice is inconsistent with God's goodness. For, that innate goodness, which dwells in God, is a bar to all fraud and cruelty; and God is so far from exercising fraud in with-holding that good which another has a right to claim from him, that he is rather disposed, by tis goodness, to confer that good which they have no right to, if the object be proper and suitable to receive it ; that is, in other words, bounty is a consequence of his goodness, but fraud is directly opposite to it. Again, God is so far from exercising cruelty, in punishing beyond the demerit of the crime, that he is sather disposed, by his goodness, to exercise mercy in punishing less than the crime deserves, if the object be proper and suitable for that mercy to be exercised upon ; that is, in other words, mercy is a consequence of his goodness, whereas cruelty 'is opposite to it.

From hence it appears that God is a just Being.

OBJECTIONS with their ANSWERS. Objefl. 1. May not God, for the glorifying of his power, make creatures to be miserable without demerit, and yer act according to the princi


ples ples of justice, forasmuch as the laws of equity or justice leave every being free to dispose of his own property, as he will ? seeing therefore God's 'creatures are his own, he may do what he will • with them, without being chargeable with criminal injustice. Answer, Tho they are his own, and receive their being from him, yet we conceive it would be still criminal injustice in him to give them being for no other end, with respect to the creatures, but to make them miserable ; because every being has a right, from common equity, to claim a continuance in its present state, when its change will add to, or give being to its mifery, except its demerit cuts off that claim. Therefore, I say, that non-entity has a right, if we may so speak, to continue so, when its receiving existence serves only to make it miserable; and it would be an act of criminal injustice to non-entity, to give it existence to that end, because nonentity is better, and rather to be chosen than a state of misery. And farther, I fay, God will never glorify his.power at the expence of his justice and goodness, when he can do it a thousand ways consistent with both.

Objeët. II. We lee that the sensible creatures below us are capable of misery, and do really suffer it, and yet have no demerit. Answer, As they receive evil, so they receive good from God's hand; and as we cannot know the measure of the evil they suffer, fo neither can we know the measure of the good they enjoy ; so that, for all we know, the good they receive is more than equivalent to, and a compensation for the evil they suffer. So again we cannot know, whether they are without demerit; for as they have inferiour capacities, and as they, seeming to us, have a freedom in the use and exercise of them, so they may, for 'ought we know, contract an in


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feriour guilt, in proportion to their inferiour capacities. Upon the whole, I say, seeing we are wholly ignorant of their case, we cannot deter- mine ought concerning them, and therefore the objection is of no force.

Object. III. Doth not the unequal distribution of providence, as to good and evil, with respect to good and bad men, seem to imply an unjust hand in that distribution, seeing it often happens that bad men enjoy the good, and good men the evil of life? Answer, As to good men, that leffer measure of good which they enjoy is all bounty, because they have no merit; and that greater measure of evil which they suffer is still mercy, because it is less than their demerit; fo then there is no criminal injustice, with respect to good men. And as to bad men, I say, that the greater good they enjoy is God's bounty ; and forasmuch as none are wrong'd by that ad. ministration, seeing God gives his own and not another's goods, there can be no criminal injustice in that administration. As to the leffer evil which they suffer, that is God's mercy; and forasmuch as none are wrong'd in the exercise of that mercy, it cannot be criminally unjust in God to exercise it.

Object. IV. God being in himself incomprehensible, and his ways unsearchable, who dares presume to say what he can, or cannot do ? or what is agreeable or disagreeable to his perfections, seeing his ways are in the deep, and his paths in the great waters, and his foot-steps are not known? tho' we may ftate the notion of justice, goodness, truth, holiness, and the like, and of what is agreeable or disagreeable to these, with relation to ourfelves; yet who can state the notion of them, or be capable of judging when things are agreeable or disagreeable to these in God? To pretend to

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do this, is presumptuous; 'tis looking into iraccessible light, and measuring the ways of God by the finite line of human understanding. Answer, First, That God is in himself incomprehensible, and that the way of his providence is a great deep, which the line of human understanding, at present, doth not fathom, I readily grant: but then, I say, as in Pfalm xcvii. 2. that as clouds and darkness are round about him, which is the foundation of our astonishment, so righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne, which is the foundation of our comfort. And therefore if there are some things, in the way of his providence, which seem to clath, or to be contrary to those divine perfections, which the light of nature hath fufficiently demonstrated, or divine revelation hath fully revealed to be in God, this doth not arise from luch a real clashing, but from the shortness of our understanding, which cannot see thro', nor to the end of things ; so that God is true, tho' every man be a liar : he is really good, just, holy, &c. and he cannot, or rather he never will, act contrary to these. I answer, secondly, That tho' God is incomprehensible in himself, yet we may form a conception of what he is, as he stands related unto us. Tho' we cano not form a cenception of what the nature or substance of God is, if I may so speak, yet we may and can form a conception of him, that he is a wise, powerful, just, good Being, and the like; because he hath abundantly demonstrated him. self to human understanding to be fuch, and therefore human understanding may, withont prefumption, and ought to form a conception of these, and of what is agrecable or dilagreeable to thefe in God; the truth of which will abundantly appear from the following confiderations. Firsi, If human understanding Cannot forma


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conception of goodness, justice, truth, holiness, and the like, and of what is agreeable or disagreeable to these, as they are in God, then vain and fruitless are all those discoveries which God hath made of himself by revelation. He hath revealed himself to be a holy God, Lev. xix. 2. But if we may not be allowed to judge what holiness is when applied to God, and what is agreeable or disagreeable to it, then such a revelation is of no manner of use to us. If the Lord hath declared himself to be, the Lord God, merciful, gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, as in Exod. xxxiv, 6. To what end can this serve, if we may not be allowed to judge what mercifulness and graciousness are, when applied to God, and what is agreeable or disagreeable to these ? Surely, all such revelations are useless and vain, if they are above the reach of human understanding, or if it would be presumption to discern and judge what is intended by them. Secondly, God is the proper object of our affections, and it is, not only our duty, but also our happiness to fear him, to love him, to delight in him, &c. Now, whatever makes him to be the object of cur affections, inust be such things in him as we do, actually apprehend, and can form a conception of, and of what is agreeable or disagreeable to them. It must be something which we have an actual conception of, which must excite and raise these affections in us. We must conceive God to be a holy and powerful Being, and likewise what is agreeable or disagreeable to these in him, or else we could not make him the object of our fear. We must form a conception of the goodness of God, and of his being lo. to us, and of what is agreeable or disagreeable to it, as it is in God, op else we cannot make him the object of our love. Thirdly, Godis propounded to us as the.objecr

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