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CHRISTIAN MORALITY, viz. JUSTICE, &c.!
PurLIPPIANS iv. 8
Whatsoever things are true,' whatsoever things
are honest, or grave, whatsoever things are just--think on these things.
many parts of the sacred writings, there appears a very close connexion of the subjects which are handled ; a natural order is observed, and a beautiful transition made from one to the other: but this is not to be expected in every text, nor is it at all necessary that it should be so. When St. Paul enumerates several virtues or vices, he sometimes heaps them together, and doth not design any regularity or natural order in placing them. Our commentators therefore in such cases, when they are once resolved to find these beautics and connexions where the holy writer did not intend them, they oftentimes torture and strain both their own invention, and the words of scripture. Thus, I fear, I should do, if I would attempt to give a reason why the apostle in this collection of virtues, named gravity or decency, before justice, which is of so much greater importance in the Christian life.
I take them therefore in the order in which they Jie; and having treated of truth and gravity, I proceed now to consider the third piece of morality which he mentions, that is, justice.
Whatsvever things are just, think on these things, let these be the objects of your meditation and of your practice.
And here if I should entertain you in two discourses with this single subject of justice, I hope I shall not exceed the limits of your patience ; for it is what the apostle frequently insists upon as a glory to Christianity, that those that profess it be just or righteous You who have fixed your hope on the grace of God, and have a design to honour the gospel, to you I would recommend this great duty of the law, and that in this method :
I. I shall endeavour to shew what is the general nature of this justice, and lay down the universa: rule of it.
• II. Discover in various special instances what those things are which are just, or wherein our justice or righteousness must appear.
[II. I shall give some proof of this great duty of justice or righteousness by the light of nature, and according to the law of reason
IV. Shew what forcible influence the gospel of Christ has to recommend justice to your meditation and practice.
V. Propose a few directions low to guard yourselves against temptations to injustice, or rather point out some of the chief springs of injustice, that you may avoid them.
And while I proceed in this work, you will rejoice inwardly if you find your own consciences sincerely answering to the characters of this virtue in any good measure; and if there be any shall find himself a guilty sinner, and very deficient in this practice, let him be reproved, ashamed, and amend.
First then, Let us consider the nature of this justice, and what is the most universal rule of it.
In general, justice consists in giving to every one their due. According to the stations in which God has placed us, and according to the several relations in which providence has joined us to our fellowcreatures, every person we converse with hath something due to him ; and this we are bound to pay as men, and much more as Christians.
But since cases and circumstances are infinite, and it is impossible for any book to contain, or any man to receive and remember so many special rules for justice, as there may be occurring circumstances in the world, which require the practice of it; our Lord Jesus Christ has therefore given us one short rule whereby to judge what is due to every man, and fitted it to every purpose, Matt. vii. 12. All hings whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do yc even so to them, for this is the law ayd the prophets.
I confess there may happen in human affairs some cases of such exceeding intricacy and difficulty, that very few persons have skill enough to determine precisely what is due, or what would be strictly just and righteous; nor will this rule infallibly lead us into the perfect knowledge of it; but even in such cases, a sincere honest man consulting his own conscience, and asking, what he thought reasonable that his neighbour, in the like case, should do to him, would seldom wander far from strict justice ; and by practising agreeably to this general law, ho
would approve his conduct both in the sight of God and men.
Thus our blessed Saviour has set up a court of equity in the breast of every man.
This rule is easy to be understood, and ready to be applied upon every occasion. The meanest of them may learn and practise it, and the highest are bound to obey it. This is that divine and comprehensive rule of justice or righteousness, by which you must regulate all
your actions, and give every one their due ; do to others as you would have them do to you ; not as an unreasonable self-love would wish to receive from others, but as your own conscience would think it reasonable others should do to you, as I have explained it at large in a
on that text.
The second thing proposed, was to discover in various instances what those things are which are just, or wherein our righteousness must appear.
Here it is necessary to distinguish justice into that which belongs to magistrates, and that which belongs to private persons.
That which belongs to magistrates is called distributive justice, because it divides and distributes such rewards and punishments as are due to every one, according to the merit or demerit of the person; and this is done either by the law and light of nature, or by the laws of the land in which we dwell. Now in this sort of justice, the general rule of our Saviour, of which we have been speaking, is of excellent and constant use. Let a prince or a magistrate place himself in the room of a subject or inferior, and ask what is equitable and just that his governor should practise toward him, and let that be ihe measure of his own conduct toward his subjects or inferiors ; let him exercise his authority according to this sacred rule of righteousness.
But in our separate assemblies we have very little need to speak of the duty of magistrates, or of distributive justice, since there are very few of that rank and order of men among our hearers. We have reason to give hearty thanks to our present governors who distribute so much justice to us, as to give us the liberty of worshipping God in a manner that differs from theirs.
I apply myself therefore immediately to consider that justice which belongs chiefly to private persons, and which is their duty to practise. This is called commutative justice. This is that equity of dealing, that mutual cxchange of benefits, and rendering to every one their due, which is necessary between man and man, in order to the common welfare of each other. This is that justice that is due from every person toward his neighbour, whether he be superior, inferior, or equal: and I think the following instances which I shall mention, will comprehend most of the cases wherein the practice of justice is required.
i. It is just that we honour, reverence and respect those who are onr superiors in any kind; whether parents, masters, magistrrtes ministers, or teachers, or whatsoever other character of superiority there be in the natural, the civil, or the religious life ; otherwise we do not pay them their due.
Honour and obedience are due to parents. It is the first command of the second table. Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land. Children obey your parents, for this is right in the Lord. Manifest your affectionate duty toward them. Pay all due submission to their commands, and all honourable regard to their advice.
Honour the king as supreme, and other ministers of justice as subordinate to him, and submit to them 6 and penh tahun