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in consistency with justice, and to retain the ability of permanent usefulness: he aims to render his liberality subservient to the best interests of mankind, and uniformly to discountenance sloth, profligacy, and ungodliness. And thus, while he seems to limit his bounty, he renders it more abundantly and durably useful, by regulating it with prudence and discretion.-In like manner the wisdom and justice of God may appear to restrain the exercise of his love; but they only direct it in that manner, which is most worthy and honourable to his name, and which best promotes the interest of his universal and everlasting kingdom.
It may therefore suffice in general to observe, that the Lord acts freely and according to his own perfections, and not by constraint or reluctantly; that loving kindness is his peculiar honour, which adds lustre to all his other attributes; that he delights in goodness and mercy, and rejoices in his boundless power of communicating felicity; that he is not in any respect less holy, just, and true, than if he had shewn no mercy; and that it is impossible he should communicate more happiness, upon any other plan, than he actually will communicate in that way which his infinite wisdom has devised, whatever ignorance or presumption may imagine or assert.
II. We proceed then to illustrate the truth and importance of the doctrine contained in the text, from the dealings of God with his creatures, especially with the human race.
This will be rendered very evident by considering a gradation of events, in which the Lord has
exercised love and mercy, far beyond all that ever could have entered into the heart of man to conceive, had it not been revealed.
Let us then endeavour to realize, as far as such poor worms are able, the infinite and self-existent God, from all eternity possessed of essential glory and felicity, incapable of increase or diminution.
Thus circumstanced, he could have no other possible inducement but love, or a disposition to delight in communicating happiness, in creating the universe, and producing a vast variety of beings, capable of life and enjoyment. The ina ́nimate creation was formed perfectly good, and exactly suited to the use and benefit of living creatures. The numerous orders of these, from the invisible animated atom to the bright seraph before the throne, were all made complete in their kind, adapted to the place and design of their existence, and capable of a measure of enjoyment: and, except as sin has deranged the original constitution of infinite love, no creature is left destitute of a degree of happiness equal to its capacity. In meditating, however, on this subject, we must recollect, that "the creation groaneth and travail"eth in pain," through the sins of man: his cruelty and tyranny add immensely to the sufferings of innocent animals, and he is punished in them, as his property and the subjects of his original dominion.
It is also worthy of observation, that no rational creature has ever been deprived of an adequate felicity, except in the case of transgression; at least we have no intimation of such a fact, either in the works or in the word of God. None has
been degraded to an inferior situation, rendered uncertain in respect of the future, or distressed by terror, bitterness, or vanity. On the contrary, we have every reason to conclude that the capacities of all obedient creatures continually expand; that their enjoyment proportionably increases; and that they all will become more and more blessed to all eternity. In these things surely GOD IS
If the case of infants should be thought an exception, seeing they suffer and die without personal criminality; we may observe, without entering on an intricate controversy, that all who believe the Bible must allow the human race to have become sinful and mortal by the fall of Adam ; and they who reject revelation will not find less difficulty than others, in accounting for the present condition of mankind. If then every branch fell when the root was overthrown; if we are
born in sin and the children of wrath;' it behoves us to be silent on this subject, and to wait for the clearer light of the great decisive day. For indeed it is highly probable, that the case of infants will then appear not only consistent with the divine justice, in respect of their present sufferings, but one grand display of the divine mercy and goodness, in the felicity by which those sufferings were succeeded.
The Lord, having, then created various orders of rational creatures, has further manifested his love," by condescending to become their moral Governor. Infinite wisdom, justice, goodness, and truth, are indispensably requisite in the Sovereign of the universe. His government must
be infinitely perfect, and of the highest possible advantage to all creatures. "The Lord reigneth, "let the earth rejoice: for nothing, but enmity, and rebellion, can be dissatisfied. The law also, being holy, just, and good, was dictated by perfect love. Like a wise and kind father, the Lord requires us "to love him with all our hearts," and, "to love others as ourselves:" every other requirement may be readily resolved into these two great commandments; and, if they were universally obeyed, universal harmony and felicity would be the consequence. Yet this is the law, against which the corrupt passions of man's heart rise in desperate enmity!-Who then can deny that GOD IS LOVE?
But the law is enforced by an awful sanction, and it denounces an awful curse against every transgressor: what then shall we say to this? It would not perhaps be difficult to prove, that the punishments, threatened in the law and inflicted by the justice of God, result from love directed by infinite wisdom: not love of the individuals whose final condemnation is determined, but enlarged benevolence to universal being through eternal ages. This, however, would carry us too far from our subject: it must therefore suffice to observe, that in the government of accountable creatures, who act voluntarily, and are influenced by motives, the denunciation of punishment must form a part of the system: and, if this punishment be only inflicted on the disobedient, and do not exceed the heinousness of their crimes; while it tends to retain multitudes in obedience, and preserve the universe from the effects of general re
bellion; it must prove a public benefit, and consist with wise and holy love. That must be the most beneficent plan, which secures the greatest, most extensive, and most permanent advantages to the most excellent part of moral agents: and the philosophical notion, that the felicity even of sinful creatures is the ultimate end proposed to himself by the Governor of the world, is not more repugnant to scripture, than to the common sense and opinion of mankind in similar cases. A wise ruler of a nation, in proportion as he loved his people, would be careful, by good laws impartially executed, to restrain the ill-disposed from injuring their fellow subjects, and disturbing the peace of the community: and, if this made it necessary to punish with death some individuals, these would be considered as suffering for the public good; and, provided they deserved their doom, it would not be deemed an impeachment of his paternal love to his people. On the contrary, the prince, who under the plea of clemency should neglect to punish evil doers, and to protect his peaceable subjects, might indeed be the favourite of the fraudulent and rapacious, but his conduct would be reprobated by all honest men.
But, as we are not capable of fully comprehending the plan of the divine government, let us turn our thoughts to another view of the subject.-The Lord hath shewn that he is love, in his dealings with sinful men, by his patience and providential bounty. Could we possibly witness all the crimes of every description, with all their aggravations, which are perpetrated in London, or any other large city, during a single day; could we see the