Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

his creatures. It is fit that there should be one that has this office; and this office properly belongs to the Supreme Being. And if he should fail of doing justice to himself in a necessary vindication of his own majesty and glory, it would be an immensely greater failure of his rectoral justice, than if he should deprive the creature : (that are beings of infinitely less consequence) of their right.

4. There is a necessity of sin's being punished with a condign punishment, from the law of God that threatens such punishment. All but Epicureans will own, that all creatures that are moral agents, are subjects of God's moral government; and that therefore he has given a law to his creatures. But if God has given a law to his creatures, that law must have sanctions, i. e., it must be enforced with threatenings of punishment : otherwise it fails of having the nature of a law, and is only of the nature of counsel or advice; or rather of a request. For one being to express his inclination or will to another, concerning any thing he would receive from him, any love or respect, without any threatening annexed, but leaving it with the person applied to, whether he will afford it or not, whether he will grant it or not, supposing that his refusal will be with impunity ; is properly of the nature of a request. It does not amount to counsel or advice; because, when we give counsel to others, it is for their interest. But when we express our desire or will of something we would receive from them, with impunity to them whether they grant it or not, this is more properly requesting than counselling. No doubt it falls far short of the nature of law-giving. For such an expression of one's will as this, is an expression of will, without any expression of authority. It holds forth no authority, for us merely to manifest our wills or inclinations to another ; nor indeed does it exhibit any authority over a person applied to, to promise him rewards. So persons may, and often do, promise rewards to others, for doing those things that they have no power to oblige them to. So may persons do to their equals : so may a king do to others who are not his subjects. This is rather bargaining with others, than giving them laws.

That expression of will only is a law, which is exhibited in such a manner as to express the lawgiver's power over the person to whom it is manifested, expressing his power of disposal of him, according as he complies or refuses ; that which shows power over him, so as to oblige him to comply, or to make it be to his cost if he refuses.

For the same reason that it is necessary the divine law should have a threatening of condign punishment annexed, it is also necessary that the threatening should be fulfilled. For the threatening wholly relates to the execution. If it had no connection with execution, it would be wholly void, and would be as no threatening: and so far as there is not a connection with execution, whether that be in a greater or lesser degree; so far and in such a degree is it void, and so far approaches to the nature of no threatening, as much as if that degree of unconnection was expressed in the threatening. As for instance, if sin fails of threatened punishment half the times, this makes void the threatening in one half of it, and brings it down to be no more than if the threatening had expressed only so much, that sin should be punished half the times that it is committed.

But if it be needful that all sin in every act should be forbidden by law, i.e., with a prohibition and threatening of condign punishment annexed, and that the threatening of sin with condign punishment should be universal ; then it is necessary that it should be universally executed. A threatening of an omniscient and true being can be supposed to signify no more punishment than is intended to be executed, and is not necessarily to be understood of any more. A threatening, if it signifies any thing, is a signification of some connection betwixt the crime and the punishment. But the threatening of an omniscient being, cannot be understood to signify any more connection with punishment than there is.

If it be needful that there should be a divine law, it is needful that this divine law should be maintained in the nature, life, authority and strength that is proper to it as a law. The nature, life, authority and strength of every law, consists in its sanction, by which the deed is connected with the compensation ; and therefore depends on the strength and firmness of that connection. In proportion as that connection is weak, in such proportion does the law lose its strength, and fails of the proper nature and power of a law, and degenerates towards the nature of requests and expressions of will and desire to receive love and respect, without being enforced with authority.

Dispensing with the law by the lawgiver, so as not to fulfil it or execute it, in its nature does not differ from an abrogation of it, unless the law contains in itself such a clause, that it shall or may be dispensed with, and not fulfilled in certain cases, or when the lawgiver pleases.

But this would be a contradiction. For, if the law contained such a clause; then, not to fulfil it, would be according to the law, and a fulfilment of the law; and therefore there would be no dispensing with the law in it, because it is doing what the law itself directs to. The law may contain clauses of exception, wherein particular cases may be excepted from general rules; but it cannot make provision for a dispensation. And therefore, for the lawgiver to dispense with it, is indeed to abrogate it. Though it may not be an abrogating it wholly, yet it is in some measure changing it. To dispense with the law, in not fulfilling it on him that breaks it, is making the rule give place to the sinner. But certainly it is an indecent thing, that sin, which provokes the execution, should procure the abrogation of the law.

The necessity of fulfilling the law, in the sense that has been spoken of, appears from Matt. v. 18: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, until all be fulfilled.” The words will allow of no other tolerable sense..

It is necessary that the law of God should be maintained and executed, and not dispensed with or abrogated for the sake of the sinner, for the following reasons :

1st. The nature and being of the law requires it. For, as has been already shown, by such dispensation it loses the life and authority of a law, as it respects the subject. But it does not only fail of being a law in this respect ; it fails of being a rule to the Supreme Judge. The law is the great rule of righteousness and decorum, that the Supreme and Universal Rector has established and published, for the regulation of things in the commonwealth of the universality of intelligent beings and moral agents, in all that relates to them as concerned one with another; a rule, by which things are not only to be regulated between one subject and another, but between the king and subjects; that it may be a rule of judgment to the one, as well as a rule of duty to the other. It is but reasonable to suppose, that such a rule should be established and published for the benefit of all that belong to this universal commonwealth, to be a role to direct both their actions towards each other, and their expectations from each other, that they may have a fixed and known rule by which they are to act and to be dealt with, to be both active and passive as members of this commonwealth. The subject is most nearly concerned, not only in the

far as it is should be his great rule

measure of his own actions, but also in the consequences of them, or the method of his judge's determinations concerning him.

None that own the existence of a divine law, with threatenings annexed, can deny that there actually is such a rule as this, that relates both to the manner of the creature's acting, and also the judge's acting toward him as subject to that law. For none will deny that the precepts relate to the manner of the subject's acting, and that the threatenings relate to the manner of the judge's proceeding with the subject, in consequence of his obedience or disobedience.

It is needful that this great rule for managing affairs in this universal commonwealth, should be fixed and settled, and not be vague and uncertain. So far as it fails of this, it ceases to be of the nature of a rule. For it is essential to the nature of a rule, that it be something fixed. But if it be needful that it be something fixed, then it is needful that the author, and he by whom it subsists, should maintain and fulfil it, and not depart from it; because that is in a measure to disannul it. If he doth so, therein the rule becomes unfixed, and it so far ceases to be a rule to the judge.

2d. That the law should be made to give place to the sinner, is contrary to the direct design of the law. For the law was made that the subject should be regulated by it, and give place to it; and not to be regulated by the subject, and to give place to him, especially to a wicked, vile, rebellious subject.

The law is made that it might prevent sin, and cause it not to be; and not that sin should disannul the law and cause it not to be. Therefore it would be very indecent for the Supreme Rector to cause this great rule to give place to the rebellion of the sinner.

3d. It is in no wise fit that this great rule should be abrogated and give place to the opposition and violation of the rebellious subject, on account of the perfection of the law, and as it is an expression of the perfection of the lawgiver. The holiness and rectitude and goodness of this great rule, which the Supreme Lawgiver has established for the regulation of the commonwealth of moral agents, and its universal fitness and wisdom and absolute perfection, render a partial abrogation, for the sake of them that dislike it and will not submit to it, needless and unseemly. If the great rule should be set aside for the sake of the rebel, it would carry too much of the face of acknowledgment, in the lawgiver, of want of wisdom and foresight, or of some defect in point of holiness or righteousness in his law. He that breaks the law, finds fault with it, and casts that reflection on it, that it is not a good law; and if God should in part abrogate the law upon this, it would have too much the appearance of a conceding to the sinner's objection against it.

But God will magnify his law, and make it honorable, and will give ne occasion for any such reflections upon it, nor leave the law under such a reflection.

If this great rule of righteousness be so excellent and good a law, it is not only unfit that it should give place to rebellion, as this would be a dishonor to the excellency of the law and lawgiver ; but also a wrong to the public good, which the Supreme Rector of the world has the care and is the guardian of. If the rule be perfect, perfectly right and just and holy, and with infinite wisdom adapted to the good of the whole; then the public good requires that it be strongly established. The more firmly it is settled, and the more strongly it is guarded and defended the better, and the more is it for the public good; and every thing by which it is weakened, is a damage and loss to the commonwealth of beings.

But I have already shown how every departure from it weak as it, unfixes it, and causes it to fail of the nature of a settled rule, and, in some measure, disannuls it.

4th. The sacredness of the authority and majesty of the Divine Lawgiver requires, that he should maintain and fulfil his law, when it is violated by a rebellious subject. I have before spoken of the greatness and majesty of his Being, how that is concerned in it. I now would consider the sacredness of his authority, as he stands related to his creatures as their Lawgiver. The majesty of a ruler consists very much in that which appears in him ; that tends to strike the subject with reverence and awe, and dread of contempt of him or rebellion against him. And it is fit that this awe and dread should be in proportion to the greatness and dignity of the ruler, and the degree of authority with which he is vested. But this awe and dread is by an apprehension of the terribleness of the consequences of that contempt and rebellion, and the degree of the danger of those terrible consequences, or the degree of connection of that rebellion with those consequences : therefore, if it be meet that this awe or this apprehension should be in proportion to the greatness and dignity of the ruler, then it is fit that the consequences of contempt of the Supreme Ruler of the world should be infinitely terrible, and the danger that it brings of punishment, or connection that it has with it, be strong and certain, and consequently that the threatenings which enforce his laws should be sure and inviolable. It is fit the authority of a ruler should be sacred proportionably to the greatness of that authority, i. e., in proportion to the greatness of the ruler, and his worthiness of honor and obedience, and the height of his exaltation above us, and the absoluteness of his dominion over us, and the strength of his right to our submission and obedience. But the sacredness of the authority of a sovereign consists in the strength of the enforcement of it, and guard that is about it, i. e., in the consequences of the violation to him that is guilty, and the degree of danger of these consequences. For the authority of a ruler does not consist in the power or influence he has on another by attractives, but coercives. The fence that is about the authority of a prince, that guards it as sacred, is th: connection there is between the violations of it, and the terrible consequences; or, in other words, in the strength or sureness of the threatening. Therefort, if this connection be partly broken, the fence is partly broken: in proportio:. as the threatenings are weak, the guard is weak. But certainly it is fit that the authority of the infinitely great and absolute Lord of heaven and earth should be infinitely sacred, and should be kept so with an infinitely strong guard, and a fence without any breach in it. And it is not becoming the sacredness of the majesty and authority of the great navtoxpctwo, that that perfectly holy, just and infinitely wise and good law, which he has established as the great rule for the regulation of all things in the universal commonwealth of beings, should be set aside, to give place to the infinitely unreasonable and vile opposition that sinners make to it, and their horrid and daring rebellion against it.

5th. The truth of the lawgiver makes it necessary that the threatening of the law should be fulfilled in every punctilio. The threatening of the law is absolute : Thou shalt surely die. It is true, the obligation does not lay in the claim of the person threatened, as it is in promises : for it is not to be supposed, that the person threatened will claim the punishment threatened. And, indeed, if we look upon things strictly, those seem to reckon the wrong way, that suppose the necessity of the futurity of the execution to arise from an obligation on God in executing, properly consequent on his threatening. For the necessity

of the connection of the execution with the threatening, seems to arise directly the other way, viz., from the obligation that was on the omniscient God in threatening, consequent on the futurity of the execution. Though, strictly speaking, he is not obliged to execute because he has threatened, yet he was obliged not absolutely to threaten, if he at the same time knew that he should not and would not execute; because this would not have been consistent with his truth. So that, from the truth of God, there is an inviolable connection between absolute threatening and execution; not so properly from an obligation on God to conform the execution to the past absolute threatening, as from his obligation to conform his absolute threatening to the future execution. This, God was absolutely obliged to do, as he would speak the truth. For if God absolutely threatened contrary to what he knew would come to pass, then he absolutely threatened contrary to what he knew to be truth. And how any can speak contrary to what they know to be the truth, in declaring, promising, or threatening, or any other way, consistently with perfect and inviolable truth, I cannot conceive. Threatenings are significations of something; and, if they are made consistent with truth, or are true significations of any thing, they are significations of truth, or significations of that which is true. If absolute threatenings are significations of any thing, they are significations of the futurity of the thing threatened. But if the futurity of the thing threatened is not true, then how can the threatenings be true significations? And if God, in them, speaks contrary to what he knows, and contrary to what he intends ; how he can speak true, is to me inconceivable. It is with absolute threatenings, as it is with predictions. When God has foretold something that shall come to pass hereafter, which does not concern our interest, and so is of the nature neither of a promise nor threatening, there is a necessary connection betwixt the prediction and the fulfilment, but not by virtue of any claim we have to inake; and so not properly by virtue of any obligation to fulfil, consequent on the prediction, but by virtue of an obligation on an omniscient Being in predicting, consequent on what he knew he would fulfil; an obligation to conform the prediction to the future event. It is as much against the veracity of God, absolutely to threaten what he knows he will not accomplish, as to predict what he knows he will not accomplish; for to do either, would be to declare, that that will be, which he at the same time does not intend shall be. Absolute threatenings are a sort of predictions. God in them foretells or declares what shall come to pass. They do not differ from mere predictions, in the nature of the declaration or foretelling, but partly in the thing declared or foretold, being an evil to come upon us; and a mere prediction being of a thing indifferent : and partly in the end of foretelling. In a threatening, the end of foretelling is to deter us from sinning; and the predictions of things indifferent are for some other end. Absolute threatenings are God's declarations of something future; and the truth of God does as much oblige him to keep the truth in declarations of what is future, as of what is past or present. For things past, present, and future, are all alike before God-all alike in his view. And when God declares to others what he sees himself, he is equally obliged to truth, whether the thing declared be past, present, or to come. And, indeed, there is no need of the distinction between present truth and future, in this case. For if any of God's absolute threatenings are not to be fulfilled, those threatenings are declarations or revelations contrary, not only to future truth, but such a threatening is a revelation of the futurition of a punishment. That futurition is now present with God, when he threatens ;-present in his mind, his knowledge. And if he signifies that a thing is future, which he knows not to be future; then the sig

in eve of antibil, coneing in conform the

on fülhl; an oblike veracity of dict what

« AnteriorContinuar »