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them and Divine Perfection. All these stand by a voluntary obedience.
There are certain laws, by which they are all governed ., by which they are all improving in their natures and encreasing in their enjoyments.
Man, the lowest of these, by his body allied to the animals around him, and by his soul allied to superior intelligencies, has the noble prospect before him of rising, by the culture of his moral capacities, into these nobler societies according to the degrees of his improvement. Some men, fired with a noble ardor despise this world and its pollutions; others are caught by its snares, whom the common father, by various methods of discipline, awakes from their error and trains by degrees for their designed happiness. And others, impenitent and unreformed by all the efforts of his mercy, choose this baser inheritance, and renounce all their greater privileges.
Can we now say, that it becomes Divine Goodness toestablish nodistinction between creatures, making these contrary uses of his mercies? Can goodness in a governor will any thing contrary to order and the general welfare?
Let Us only take these two things along with us, that the gospel assures us that punishments will be greater or smaller in exact proportion to the degrees of guilt, and that none but impenitent and irreclaimable sinners are to be finally punished; let us, I say, take these two things along with us; and I am much mistaken, if, upon the common footing of nature, (to which the infidel confidently appeals) the future punishment of the wicked appears not to be a real act, I will not say of justice, but of goodness.
The only conceivable engines of moral government, are rewards and punishments.
Now though there is no doubt, but
that that happy spirits are confirmed in their state of beatitude beyond the danger of falling, yet their safety cannot flow from any external irresistible impulse of the Deity's; (for this is inconsistent with their free agency) but from one or both of the moral motives, mentioned before; which are only suited to their free-natures. The pleasures of goodness, the consciousness of being as happy as Almighty Power can make them, may be conceived as one powerful motive to their perseverance. But this is not sufficient: many exalted spirits, we know, have already fallen; and what has happened may happen again without some farther provision. The miseries of apostate angels has endeared the innocent state to the happy, and confirmed them in their obedience. And may not the punishment of the reprobate of human kind be equally necessary to confirm the virtuous in that immutable state, which God has proF 2 mised mised them, and which can be immutable only under the force of moral motives?
This, then, being supposed, or rather indeed ascertained in the discoveries of God, who best knows the secrets of his future kingdom, let me aflc you, how the perpetual continuance of this punishment can be inconsistent with the goodness of God? What is goodness but a desire of doing all possible good, of making happiness as general and diffusive, as the nature of things will admit? And is it not an act of this very perfection, to prefer the general welfare to that of individuals, when they happen to interfere; when those individuals have by their depravity rendered themselves incapable of good, and when their punishment is necessary to the general preservation ? *
* In his hominibus, qui nos, qui conjuges, qui liberos nostros trucidare voluerunt, &c. si iiehemtnU.Jimi fueri
We may thus argue with those, who impiously call the ways of God to the bar of human judgment. And upon this fooling, it is demonstrable, that there are better reasons for the punishment of the wicked than for their impunity. But, in truth, all his ways are founded in better reasons than what we can suggest or conceive. Our business is to acquiesce in his revealed will, and to discharge our duty with patience: and if we only do this, with that degree of deference usually paid to earthly authority, we mall not want the necessary proportion either of faith or obedience.
We conceive a deal too highly of our own importance in the scale of being. Look at the immensity of God: Be
mus, misericordes habebimur: Sin remijjiores esse voluerimus, summit nobis crudelitatis in patriæ civiumqe pernicie fama Subeunda est, Cicero. Or. 4. Catil.
F 3 bold!