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Others have urged, that if the wicked were to live for ever, they would in for ever: But this, says our author, is mere presumption. Who can say, that if a man lived ever so long, he would never repent? Besides, the justice of God only p.:nishes fins men have committed, not those they might possibly have done.
Others therefore urged, that God gives men the choice of everlasting happiness and misery; and that the reward promised to obedience, is equal to the punishment threatened to disobedience.---To which it was answered, that tho' it be not contrary to justice to exceed in rewards, that being matter of mere favour ; it may be fo to exceed in punishments. It may be added, that man in this case has nothing to complain of, fince he has only his election.--- But tho’ this may suffice to filence the finner, and make him acknowledge his destruction to be of himself, it does not satisfy the objection from the disproportion between the crime and the punishment.--- All the confiderations, therefore, hitherto alleged, proving ineffectual ; our great author is left to solve the difficulty himlelf.
33 In order to this, he observes, that the measure of penalties, with respeet to crimes, is not only, nor always taken from the quality and degree of the offence ; much less from the duration and continuance of it; but from the reasons of government, which require such penalties as may secure the observation of the law, and deter men from the breach of it.--- Among men it is not reckoned injustice to punish murther, and many other crimes, which perhaps are committed in a moment, with perpetual loss of estate, or liberty, or life. So that the objection of temporary crimes being punished with such long sufferings, is of no force.
In effect, what proportion crimes and penalties are to bear to each other, is not so properly a consideration of justice, as of wisdom and prudence in the law-giver, who may enforce his laws with what penalties he pleases, without any impeachment of his injustice which is out of the quellion
35 The primary end of all threatning is not punishment, but the prevention of it: God does not threaten that men may fin and be punished; but that they may not sin, and so escape : And therefore, the higher the threatning runs, the more goodness there is in it.
After all, it is to be considered, says the good archbishop, that he who threatens, has still the power of execution in his own hands.--- There is this difference between promises and threatnings; that he who promises, Falles over a right to another, and thereby stands obliged to him in juitice and faithfulner, to make good his word : But it is otherwise in threatnings; he that threatens, keeps the right of punishing still with him, and is not obliger 10.execute what he threatned, any farther than the reasons and ends of government require.... Thus, God absolutely threatned the desiruition of Nineveh ; and his peevish prophet underfood the threatning to be absolute, and was angry for being employed in a message that was not made good: But God understood his own sight, and did what he plealed, notwithstanding the threatning he denounced, and noiwithilanding, Jonah was so touched in point of honour, that he had rather have perished, than Nineveh should have escaped.
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