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First, That an action be not due; that is to say, it must not be such as a man stands obliged to the doing of, but such as he is free either to do, or not to do, without being chargeable with the guilt of any sinful omission in case he does it not. It being no ill account given of merit by Spanhemiusb, the elder, that it is opus bonum indebitum faciens præmium, debitum ex indebito. For otherwise, if that which is due may also merit, then, by paying what I owe, I may make my creditors my debtors; and every payment would not only clear, but also transfer the debt.

Besides, that in all the benefactions passing from Almighty God upon such as serve him the best they can, there could be no such thing as liberality; which can never take place but where something is given, which the receiver cannot challenge : nay, very hardly could there be any such thing as gift. For if there be first a claim, then, in strictness of speech, it is not so properly gift as payment. Yea, so vast would be the comprehension of justice, that it would scarce leave any object for favour. But God's

grace and bounty being so prevented by merit, would be spectators rather than actors in the whole work of man's salvation. Nor would our obedience

God's positive precepts only, but also to his negative, sometimes strike in for their share of merit and claim to a reward. And any one who could plead such a negative righteousness, might come and demand a recompence of God for not drinking or whoring, swearing or blaspheming; just as the Pharisee did, for not being as the very dregs of sin

• Dub. Evang. parte iii. pag. 782.

ners; and so vouch himself meritorious, forsooth, for being a degree or two short of scandalous. Moreover, amongst men, it would pass for an obligation between neighbours, that one of them did not rob or murder the other; and a sufficient plea for preferment before kings and governors, not to have deserved the gibbet and the halter; which is a poor plea indeed, when to have deserved them proves oftentimes a better. In short, upon these terms, he, who is not the very worst of villains, must commence presently a person of a peculiar worth ; and bare indemnity will be too low a privilege for the merit of not being a clamorous, overgrown malefactor.

But now, that all that any man alive is capable of doing, is but an indispensable homage to God, and not a free oblation; and that also such an homage, as makes his obligation to what he does much earlier than his doing of it, will appear both from the law of nature, and that of God's positive command: of each of which a word or two, and

First, for the law of nature. There is nothing that nature proclaims with a louder and more intelligible voice, than that he who gives a being, and afterwards preserves and supports it, has an indefeasible claim to whatsoever the said being, so given and supported by him, either is, or has, or can possibly do. But this is a point which I must be more particular upon, and thereby lay a foundation for what I shall argue, a fortiori, concerning God himself, from what is to be observed amongst men. Now the right which one man has to the actions of another, is generally derived from one or both of these two great originals, production or possession. The first of which gives a parent right over the ac

tions of his child; and the other gives a master a title to whatsoever can be done by his servant : which two are certainly the principal and most undoubted rights that take place in the world. And both of them are eminently and transcendently in God, as he stands related to men : and,

First, for production. By the purest and most entire communication of being, God did not only produce, but create man. He gave him an existence out of nothing, and while he was yet but a mere idea or possibility in the mind of his eternal Maker. That one expression of the Psalmist, It is he who hath made us, and not we ourselves, being both a full account, and an irrefragable demonstration of his absolute sovereignty over our persons, and incontestable claim to all our services : nor is this the utmost measure of our obligation to him, but as he first drew us out of nothing and non-existence, so he ever since keeps us from relapsing into it; his power brought us forth, and his providence maintains us. And thus has this poor impotent creature been perpetually hanging upon the bounty of his great Creator, and by a daily preservation of his precarious being, stands obliged to him under the growing renewed title of a continual creation. But this is not all. There is yet,

Secondly, another title; whereby one person obtains a right to all that another can do; and that is possession. A title, every whit as transcendently in God as the former; as being founded in, and resulting from, his forementioned prerogative of a Creator. Nothing being more unquestionable, than that the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; as the Psalmist declares, Psalm xxiv. 1.

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He is the sole proprietor and grand landlord of the universe. And moreover, as all things were made by him, so they were made for him also; He made all things for himself, says the wisest of men, Prov. xvi. 4. He is the original efficient by which, and the great and last end for which, they are; for by him they begun, and in him they terminate: after which two essential relations borne by God to man on the one side, and obliging man to God on the other, can there be any thing that is good, either in the being or actions of the latter, which can be called perfectly his own? any thing

? which is not entirely due to God, and that by a complication of the most binding and indispensable titles? And if so, how and where can there be any room for such a thing as merit?

The civil law tells us, that servants have not properly a jus, a right or title, to any thing, by virtue whereof they can implead or bring an action against their lord, upon any account whatsoever; every such servant, as the law here speaks of, being not only his master's vassal, but also part of his possessions. And this right our Saviour himself owns, and sets forth to us by an elegant parable, couching under it as strong an argument, Luke xvii. 7, 8, 9. Which of you, saith he, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. Where we see upon what terms of right even

the most diligent and faithful servant stands with his master; who, after he had been toiling all day in his master's business, dressing and manuring his grounds, and watering them with the drops of his brow, comes home at length hungry and tired, , (where, if he could find no reward for his hard service, yet one would think, that he might at least expect a discharge from any further work, and receive the present refreshments of his natural food,) yet even then his master renews his employment, delays his repast, and commands him to serve and attend him at his table, and with weary limbs and an empty stomach to expect a dismission at his pleasure; and all this, without so much as any thanks for his pains. In which neither is the master unjust, nor the servant injured: for he did no more than what his condition obliged him to; he did but his duty; and duty certainly neither is nor can be meritorious. Thus, I say, stands the case amongst men according to the difference of their respective conditions in this world. And if so, must not the same obligation, as it passes between God and man, rise as much higher, as the condition of a creature founds an obligation incomparably greater than that of a bare servant possibly can? And therefore, since man stands bound to God under both these titles, to wit, of production and possession, how can there be a greater paradox, than for such a contemptible, forlorn piece of living dirt to claim any thing upon the stock of merit from him, who is both his master and his maker too? No, the very best of men, upon the very best of their services, have no other plea before God but prayer; they may indeed beg an alms, but must not think to stand upon their terms. But,

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