Page images

demanding the everlasting destruction of all who come short of obedience. If we allow this sentiment concerning the demands of divine justice, is it not evident that justice is opposed to love in such demands? This cannot be denied. Those who hold the opinion that sinners must be punished everlastingly in the future state, never undertake to prove such an opinion by arguing that sinners are the objects of divine love. But justice is always referred to as the attribute which is opposed to the sinner's salvation. Now if justice and love are opposed to each other in God, does not this constitute transgression? "Sin is the trangression of the law," justice is the law; and if love be opposed to justice, it is opposed to the law, and transgresses the law! But St. Paul says; "love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." If love fulfils the law, it certainly is not opposed to justice.

We will for a few minutes, attempt to examine divine justice, both as to its requirements in its precepts, and in its administration of punishments; and carefully compare with the dictates of divine love, in order to see if there be any disagreement. What then does the divine law require? The blessed Saviour explains the law as follows; "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." This is what divine justice demands of all men; this is the whole law, as saith the Apostle; "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Now compare this divine requisition with what love requires. Love most surely cannot require any thing short of itself. If one person love another sincerely, can any thing short of love in return give satisfaction? The parents of a family of children love their offspring most affectionately; this love is commended to the children by a thousand favors. varied according to their wants. Now what

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

does this love require in return? It requires the children to love their parents. The Apostle says; "We love him, because he first loved us." Nothing will answer as a substitute for love. If the children attend ever so punctually to the performance of every duty enjoined in the precepts of the parents, if love be wanting, all is unsavory. Love is the salt that must season every performance in order to render it acceptable. St. Paul must have had this view of our subject when he wrote the following; "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of Angels, and have not charity, (the same with love) I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." And I think we may say according to divine truth, that, that sort of justice which is destitute of love, is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal; it has sounded through all christendom and tinkled in all our ears. And as it is destitute of love itself, so it has produced none in its votaries.

Now as we have seen that justice and love are united in their requirements, it may add no little strength to the evidence already adduced to look at the principle on which they urge their united claim.

In order for any demand to be just, it must be founded on a reasonable principle. So if justice and love demand of us, that we love God, and one another, it is proper to ascertain the principle on which the propriety of this demand is seen. Love and hatred are what we are necessarily inclined to; and we are necesarily inclined to love that which is agreeable to us, and to hate what is otherwise. It would then be a most unreasonable thing to require us to love what is not lovely, and to hate what is not hateful. If then we are required to love God, it is because he is lovely, if rightly understood. If there

were any quality in the divine Being which is opposed to our well being, it is a most unreasonable thing to require us to love that quality. The result then of this part of the inquiry is this, namely, justice and love both agree in requiring us to love that which is altogether for our own profit, and it is not in the nature of either to require us to love any object beyond our interest. We will not say that this may not be consid ered rather a new kind of argument; but even if it is, this circumstance ought, by no means, to be urged against the propriety of it; it may be urged as a proper occasion for carefully examining it. If it be necessary to make it still more evident, we may ask, what or whose interest is to be served by our loving that which is of no benefit to ourselves? No one will be so erroneous as to contend that any benefit can result to the divine being from our love to him; and certainly not from our loving him beyond our interest in him, as it will, at once, be allowed, that it is impossible to love him more than we are benefitted by him. This argument holds equally good as it applies to any one, or all of the divine attributes. We cannot love wisdom, knowledge, power, justice, truth, mercy or love, to a greater degree than we are benefitted by these divine principles.

As we have enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing a perfect agreement in the preceptive requirements of divine love and justice, it will now increase our rational felicity if we can see these divine attributes equally harmonize in retributive requisitions. But as this argument has been instituted for the purpose of showing that divine justice does not oppose the sinner's salvation, we may confine our present remarks to punitive requirements. The subject now to be determined is, what kind of punishment does divine justice require to be inflicted on the transgressor for his offences, for what purpose, and to what extent ? Answer: As it is not in the nature of divine justice to do any thing to prevent its own precepts from being obeyed, it can never punish the sinner in any way to prevent his final obedience; but on the other hand, it keeping an eye

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

directly on the original object embraced in the very design of the precept, awards that kind of punishment which is best calculated to work repentance and reformation, which is the object of punishment, and administers it until the desired effect is produced. It seems impossible to extend punishment any further, unless we arm it with weapons hostile to its own rebequirements. That the hearer may see this subject, if possible, still plainer, we will ask, for what possible purpose can justice require any punishment to be inflicted on the sinner that does not tend to the sinner's benefit? As no one's interest is the object of the precept, except those on whom it is binding, why should the punishment for disobedience seek any other interest than that which is aimed at by the precept? We know it is said that it is necessary to punish an offender, as a terror to others, to prevent their committing offences. But if this be allowed, in room of its making at all against our argument, it goes directly to establish it; therefore it is admitted.

Do you ask how this is? Answer: If it be right and reasonable to punish an offender for the benefit of others, it supposes a common interest exists between the one punished and those for whose benefit we say the punishment is inflicted. This being the principle on which the punishment is administered, it cannot be inflicted beyond the limits of this common in


13 00

able t

lt the



he pat


en if

be u

as a

it be


our for

о спе

it can


r inter


es to

[ocr errors]



nga p

ts of

[blocks in formation]

If we are correct in this reasoning, we have the increased felicity sought, for it will be seen at once that divine love as much requires this punishment as justice does; for love cannot require less than that which is for the good of its object. O the beauty! The glory of the scene which here opens on our wondering eyes! Divine truth, a golden line, appears lovely beyond description, and mercy lies parallel from the begining to the end.

To conclude; The imperfect view we have been able to take of the immense subject of this discourse, seems amply sufficient to give elevated thoughts of the divine character, thoughts calculated to raise our af

fections from every meaner object, and place them on God. With what gratitude do we turn our eyes towards heaven, and realize that God who is love, is our Father; that all his infinitely glorious attributes harmonize in love; that they all work in unison, aiming at the highest possible improvement and felicity of all moral beings. With what pleasing reflections do we behold each other. Children of the same Father, heirs of the same inheritance, pilgrims on the same journey, and bound to the same eternal home.

How reasonable it is that we should love, sincerely love the God of love. How reasonable is it that we should love one another. Our pretensions to religion, without love, are but frauds practised on ourselves. "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" Love is a "fountain of living waters, a place of broad rivers and streams," to which we are invited in the following divine language, with which I close;" Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »