« AnteriorContinuar »
pretended. But if the only reason why it is, or can be just for God to shew displeasure at sin, be, that the sinner may thereby be led to repentance; then sin itself, or the proper nature of sin, is not a just reason, why GOD should either be displeased, or show displeasure at it. Impenitence or the repetition of sin or the continuance of the sinner in it, is on this supposition, the only just reason or ground of either displeasure, or of any manifestation of displeasure at sin. Therefore sin in general, or sin as such, deserves no displeasure or manifestation of displeasure; but sin in some particular case only, as when it is persisted in or repeated. If we should hold, that sins committed in the day time, do not deserve punishment; but that those which are committed in the night, do deserve punishment, I think it would be manifest to every man, that we denied, that sin as such, and by the general nature common to all sins, deserves punishment; and that we confined the desert of punishment to something which is merely accidental, and not at all essential to sin. And is it not manifest, that the desert of punishment is as really not extended to the general nature of sin, but is confined to something merely accidental, when it is asserted, that sin deserves no punishment, unless it be followed with impenitence? or unless it be persisted in? or, which is the same thing, that no punishment is just, except that which is designed to lead the sinner to repentance?
If sin do not by its general nature deserve punishment, it does not by its general nature deserve the manifestation of divine displeasure; because all manifestation of divine displeasure at sin, is punishment.-Again, if sin do not by its general nature deserve the manifestation of divine displeasure, it does not by its general nature deserve displeasure itself: and if so, it is not by its general nature a moral evil.
It appears then, that on the hypothesis now under consideration, sin deserves neither punishment nor hatred, and is no moral evil, unless it be followed with impenitence; or unless it be persisted in, for at least some time. The first act of sin is no moral evil. But if the first act be not a moral evil, why is the second, the third, or any subsequent act? Impenitence is nothing but a repetition or perseverance in acts the same or similar to that of which we do not repent. But if the first act, abstracted from the subsequent, be not a moral evil, what reason can be assigned, why the subsequent should be a moral evil? Thus the principle, that sin deserves punishment so far only, as the punishment of it tends to the repentance and good of the sinner, implies, that there is no moral evil in the universe, either in the first sin, or in any which follow; none even in impenitence itself.-On the other hand, if sin in all instances be a moral evil, it is justly to be abhorred by the Deity, whether repentance succeed or not: and if it may justly be abhorred by the Deity, he may justly manifest his abhorrence of it, whether repentance succeed or not. But to allow this, is to give up the principle, that sin deserves no other punishment, than that which is subservient to the repentance and good of the sinner.
Punishment is a proper manifestation of displeasure, made by a person in authority, at some crime or moral evil. If sin, though repented of, be still a moral evil, and the just object of the divine displeasure; why is it not just, that this displeasure should be manifested? But the manifestation of the divine displeasure at moral evil, is punishment. If on the other hand, it be an injurious treatment of a sinner, that the Deity should, after repentance, manifest his displeasure at him, on account of his sin; then doubtless it is injurious in the Deity to be displeased with him on account of his sin, of which he has
repented. Again; if it be injurious in the Deity to be displeased with a man on account of his sin, after he has desisted from it in repentance, why is it not injurious to be displeased with him, on account of his past sin, though he is still persisting in sin? If one act of murder be not the proper object of the abhorrence of all holy intelligences, creator and creatures, why are two or one hundred acts of murder proper objects of abhorrence. Add nought to itself as often as you please, you can never make it something. So that by this principle we seem to be necessarily led to this conclusion, that no man on account of any sin whatever, whether repented of or not, can consistently with justice be made the object of divine abhorrence or displeasure, and consequently that sin in no instance whatever is a moral evil.
On the principle which I am now opposing, whenever a man commits any sin, for instance murder, neither God, nor man hath any right to manifest displeasure at his conduct, or even to be displeased with it, till two things are fully known; first, whether the murderer do or do not repent; secondly, whether displeasure in this case, or the manifestation of displeasure, will conduce to the happiness of the murderer. If he do repent, no intelligent being bath a right, on the footing of justice, to be displeased; nor even if he be impenitent, unless it be known for a certainty, that the displeasure of the person, who is inquiring whether he have a right to be displeased or not, will conduce to the repentance and good of the murderer. To say otherwise; to say that we have a right in justice to be displeased with the conduct of a murderer, though he does repent, or though such displeasure does not conduce to his repentance and happiness, is to give up the principle in question. For if we may justly be displeased with his conduct, though he is penitent, or though our displeasure does not conduce to his personal
happiness; we may justly manifest our displeasure. But manifestation of displeasure, especially by a ruler, at the misconduct of a subject, is punishment.
Once more; on the supposition that we have no right to be displeased with murder, unless our displeasure conduce to the good of the murderer; if there be any moral evil or turpitude in murder, it consists not in the murder itself, or in the malicious action of murder; but wholly in this circumstance attending it, that displeasure at it, conduces to the personal good of the murderer.
Perhaps it may be objected to the reasoning in the last argument, that if it prove any thing, it proves too much, and therefore really proves nothing; that if sin, or any crime, do in all cases, and on account of its own nature and turpitude, deserve disapprobation and punishment, it will follow, that it deserves the same, even after it has been punished according to strict distributive justice; that after such punishment the nature of the crime is the same which it was before; that the crime therefore is still the proper object of disapprobation, and of the manifestation of disapprobation; and on the ground of the preceding reasoning, deserves an additional punishment, after it has been once punished according to strict distributive justice; which is absurd.
To this it may be answered, that a crime considered in connexion with its just and full punishment, is not that crime considered, in itself, or in its own nature merely, Water mingled with wine, and thus become a compound substance, is no longer mere water. The preceding reasoning supposes, that a crime in its own nature and tendency deserves disapprobation and the manifestation of disapprobation. But a crime taken with the full punishment of it which is according to strict distributive justice, and considered in this complex view, or that crime and the just punishment of it considered as one
complex object, is not that crime considered in itself and in its own nature merely. Therefore although the crime considered in itself deserves punishment, yet considered in the complex view just stated, it deserves not additional punishment.-And whereas it is implied in the objection now under consideration, that a crime even after it has been punished according to strict distributive justice, is still the just object of disapprobation, and therefore that disapprobation may justly be manifested even by the magistrate, or the crime may be punished; it is to be observed, that the whole force of this reasoning depends on the meaning of the expression, a crime even after it has been punished according to strict distributive justice, is still the just object of disapprobation. If the meaning of that expression be, that the crime considered in its own nature and tendency, and as abstracted from the punishment or any thing done to prevent the ill effect of the crime, is a proper object of disapprobation, and is an event most ardently to be deprecated, or it is most ardently to be wished, that it might never have come into existence, and in this sense, it is the just object of disapprobation and of the manifestation of disapprobation this is undoubtedly true, and no ill consequence to the preceding reasoning will follow. But if the meaning of that expression be, that a crime considered in connexion with its just punishment and the good effects of that punishment, as one complex object, is a proper object of disapprobation, so that it is proper to wish, that this complex object had not come into existence; it is not true that in this sense a crime after it has been punished according to strict distributive justice, is still the just object of disapprobation. There have doubtless been many instances of crimes in civil society, which taken with the just punishments inflicted on them, have been on the whole the occasion of great good to