« PreviousContinue »
proved themselves, as the Ministers of Christ, and his faithful Followers, in Honour and Dishonour, by evil Report and good Report, as Deceivers, and yet true : When we have the Example of his Church, in the best Ages, who, as Justin Martyr tells the Jews, prayed for them, and all others, that were unjustly their Enemies, that, repenting of their Wickedness, and ceasing to blaspheme Christ Jesus, they might, together with Christians, be sav. ed by him, at his second glorious Coming: When we have his gracious Promise of a Recompence to be made us, for all that we suffer upon this Score ; for blessed are ye, when Men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all Manner of Evil against you falsly for my Sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad ; for great is your Reward in Heaven : And lastly, when we have his severe Comminations, that, without forgiving our Enemies, we can have no Remission of our own Transgresions ; for, if he that is but Flesh (as the Son of Syrach observes) nourisheth Hatred, who fall intreat for Pardon of his Sins ? And therefore he concludeth, Remember thy End, and let Enmity cease : Remember Corruption and Death, and abide in the Commandments : Remember the Commandments, and bear no Malice to tby Neighbour : Remember the Covenant of the most High, and wink at Ignorance,
Sęc t. I.
Of Justice in general,
in the Observance of those Laws, whether buman or divine, which respect the several Rights of Men, whether natural or acquired.
1. The natural Rights of Men are those, which appertain to them, as rational Creatures, dwelling in mortal Bodies, joined together in mutual Relations, and united in one common Society. These are Rights inherent in them, antecedently to all human Confļitutions, and what they may justly claim of one another, as eternal Dues, which no Laws can cancel, no Custom dissolve, no Circumstances make void or abrogate. To do justly then, with respect to this kind of Rights, is to render to every Man what we are indebted to him by the Obligation of Nature ; as he is a rational Creature, to treat him equitably, and to do him all the good we can juftly desire he should do to us, if we were in his Circumstances ; quietly to permit him to judge for himself, without endeavouring to tyrannise over his Conscience, by persecuting, cenfureing, and reviling him, because he is not of our Opinion ; freely to suffer him to comply with the Dictates of right Reason, and not to put him, by any kind of Violence or Necessity, upon any wicked or dishonourable Act; and, in a Word, to pay him all those fair Respects, and Instances of Courtesy, that are due to the Dignity of human Nature. These are Debts, which every rational Creature owes to his own Kind, and which we cannot withhold from one another, without manifest Injustice to human Nature : But then, as we are rational Creatures, inhabiting these mortal Bodies, we are. obliged in Justice not to maim, or destroy, or captivate another Man's Body, unless it be in the neceffary Defence of our own Lives, Estates, or Liberties ; not to deprive him of his necessary Live. lihood and Subsistence, but out of our Abundance (if he be rich, and we poor) to supply his Necessities. And so again, as we are rational Creatures, joined together by natural Relations, we are obliged to pay each other all those Respects and Duties, which the Nature of our Relation calls for ; as we are Parents, to love, and instruct, and make suitable Provision for our Children ; and, as we are Children, to love, and reverence, to fuccour, and obey our Parents ; and fo in all other Relations. Once again, as we are rational Creatures, united in one common Society, we owe Love and Peace, Truth and Credit, Protection and Participation of Profit to our Fellow-members; and when, instead of these, we hate and malign, we vex and disturb one another ; when we lye, and equivocate, and violaté our Promises and Oaths ; when we are negligent and prodigal of each other's Livės, Estates, and Reputations, and ufurp to ourfelves all the Profit of our mutual Intercourse, we then destroy the natural Rights of human Society, and demean ourselves as open Enemies to Mankind.
2. The acquired Rights of Men are such, as arise from their sacred and civil Relations, from their legal Poffessions, their personal Accomplishments, their outward Rank and Quality, and the like; of which we intend to discourse fomewhat more diftinctly, after we have considered, 1. Our Obligation to Justice in general, and, 2. The Rule and Motives, that may engage our Practice of it.
1. That there is a secret Inclination, or Impression upon the Minds of Men, whereby they are naturally carried to approve some Things, as good and fit, and to dislike other Things, as having a native Evil and Deformity in them; and that, by these natural Inclinations and Impressions, the great Lines of our Duty may be traced out, a Man needs but consult the Oracle of his own Breast to be fatisfied. That to be juit in our Dealings, true in our Trusts, faithful in our Promises, and in all Things to do to others, as we would they should do unto us, are Actions eternally good, and fitted to the genuine Propensions of our Nature ; as, on
the contrary, to be false and perfidious in our Words or Deeds, to injure the Innocent, or oppress the Impotent, or defraud the Ignorant, are Actions eternally evil, and abhorrent to our natural and undepraved Notions, is visible from the. Glory and Appearance, which is known to attend the one, and the Shame and Confusion which usually accompanies the other ; for Glory and Shame are nothing else, but an Appeal to the Judgment of others, concerning the Good or Evil of our Actions.
And, as by our natural Propensions we are called upon to the Practice of all Manner of Justice, so are we no less obliged to perform it, in Conformity to the Nature, in Submission to the Providence, and in Obedience to the Will of our great Creator. . As God, by the infinite Self-suficiency of his Nature, is secured from all Temptation to Injustice, so, by the infinite Goodness of it, he stands invariably bent and inclined to deal justly and righteously by his Creatures, never to with-hold from them any Right, never to amict them
beyond their Demerit; and therefore the Royal Psalmist makes his Acknowledgment ; Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy Judgments ; even as the seven Angels, in the Song of the Lamb, declare, Great and marvellous are thy Works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are thy Ways, thou King of Saints. Since then the Nature of God is the great Exemplar and Pattern of all reasonable Natures, as being in itself the most perfe&tly reasonable, whatever is imitable in it, that we are obliged to transcribe into our own ; and, consequently, since he is eternally just, we are obliged to be just likewise. For indeed, considering that God, as the supreme Lord and Proprietor of all Things, has an eternal Right to share his own Goods amongst his own Creatures, as he pleases, to deprive another Man of what his
Providence has allotted him, besides the Injury done the Person, is a direct Opposition to the Divine Ordination and Appointment; a setting ourselves up to carve for ourselves out of those Allowances, that he has distributed to others, and living in open
Rebellion to his wise Government. Well therefore might the Word of God teach and admonish us, that, denying Ungodliness and worldly Lufts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present World ; that, in all our Dealings, we should maintain a Conscience void of Offence, not going beyond, or defrauding one another ; but, in every Thing, dealing with other Men, as we would they should deal with us : For be bath jewed thee, O Man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? What doth the Lord require of thee ? All thy other Works, and Performances, thy coming before him with Burnt-Offerings, with Calves of a Year old ; thy bringing to his Altar Thousands of Rams, and ten Thousand Rivers of Oil ; nay, thy giving thy First-Born for thy Transgreshon, the Fruit of thy Body for the Sin of thy Soul, will avail thee nothing : So long as thou art a Tranfgreffor of the eternal Rules of Righteousness, whatever thy Worship, whatever thy Form of Religion be, it will never recommend thee to the Fa. vour of that God, who loves Justice more than Sacrifice, and the Integrity of thy Dealings, more than all the Solemnity of thy other Services. And so we proceed,
II. To state the Measure and inforce the Motives of this Duty. It is reported of Alexander Severus, the Roman Emperor, that he had so great an Elteem for our blessed Saviour, upon Account of his being the Author of this one Sentence, All Things whatsoever ye would that Men should do unto you, do you even go to them, that he was once minded to