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affection or conduct, are chiefly derived from the object who is thereby opposed and injured; therefore, the chief aggravation of all sin, or the greatness of the crime, is derived from the object against which it is committed, and is according to the greatness, excellence, worth, and importance of that object, and the criminal's special concern and connection with it, etc. There are indeed other considerations which may render obligation, in particular instances, greater or less, and consequently the magnitude of the crime in violating the obligation will be in some respects varied by these, but the chief and highest aggravation of all sin has its foundation in the object against which it is committed, and the evil of it chiefly consists in this.
Hence it is a greater crime for a son to hate and injure, and act a cruel part towards his excellent father, who presides in a large family with dignity and benevolence, and who alone provides for him, and all the rest, than it would be for him to treat one of the servants in the family after the same manner. man fall upon a stranger, whom he meets in the road, and takes away his life, in order to obtain his money, his crime is great; but if he proceed to take away the life of his most worthy friend and greatest benefactor, who had often rescued him from death, this would be a crime immensely greater than the former. He is very criminal who injures and seeks to destroy, and actually takes away the life of one of his inoffensive, though most inconsiderable, neighbors ; but how much more criminal and ill deserving is he who rises in rebellion against a most excellent prince, on whom a great nation depend for protection, support, and happiness, and actually dethrones him, and puts him to death, and hereby brings total ruin on his whole kingdom ?
Concerning such instances as these, the common sense, the feelings of men, determine without hesitation, and even irresistibly, without the labor of long reasoning, they being, in a sense, self-evident. And, doubtless, if men had as clear discerning, and as great sensibility, respecting the being and character of God, his presence, greatness, power, excellence, and goodness, and of the absolute dependence of all things on him, and of the infinite importance of his being and kingdom, as they have with respect to those things mentioned in the examples above, the conviction of the infinite magnitude of the crime of rebelling against him would be more than equally clear and irresistible.
In all the instances mentioned, and in all of this kind that can be imagined, the greater guilt and ill desert of the criminal arises from the object injured, against which the crime is committed; and is in proportion to the degree of obligation violated by the transgressor.
3. All the sins of men are committed against God. He is opposed and injured thereby. This cannot be disputed, since sin is a transgression of the law of God; for to disregard, oppose, and despise the law of God, is certainly to disregard, oppose, and despise God, and to rise in rebellion against his authority and government. Some instances of sin are more directly against God than others; but all sin is against him, and he is the chief object who is opposed and injured by it
, – because he is the first and greatest, and so much exceeds all others, who can be injured by sin, in his being, worth, and ex. tensive rights and interest, that, in comparison with him, they are of no consideration, sink into nothing, and vanish. This is strongly expressed by David, when he was humbling himself before God for his sins. “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight."
4. God is infinitely great, excellent, and worthy; and his being, interest, honor, and kingdom are of infinite worth and importance. His interest is so great, extensive, and universal, that, strictly speaking, there is no other interest but this one in the universe. He has made all things for himself; he is the only proprietor who has an absolute, perfect, and unalienable right to all creatures and things. They all depend wholly and constantly on him, and he is the boundless, infinite benefactor to all
. His authority over all is without limits, and his government absolutely perfect.
Therefore, all sin is against an infinitely great, worthy, and important object; it is opposition to God, his whole interest and kingdom; it disregards and despises him, and tramples his authority under foot.
From these premises, which none can dispute, but all must grant, the plain and unavoidable conclusion is, that all sin is infinitely criminal and ill deserving. This proposition is as demonstrably certain as any one of a moral nature can be. If wrong affection and conduct be criminal, in proportion to the greatness of the obligation to the contrary, and the obliga. tion be great in proportion to the greatness and worthiness of the object injured by such wrong affection and conduct; if all sin be against God and injurious to him, and he is infinitely great and worthy, and his interest and kingdom infinitely great and important, — all which is granted, — then men are under infinite obligations to God to love and serve him, and be friendly to his interest and kingdom; consequently, all opposition to these is a violation of infinite obligation, and infinitely criminal. Or, shorter, thus : Every crime is great in degree, in proportion to the greatness and worthiness of the being against which it is committed. Every sin is committed against God, and is an injury done to him, who is infinitely great and worthy; therefore, every sin is a crime of infinite magnitude, and deserves an infinite punishment.
5. The infinite evil of sin appears from the evil consequence of it, or the evil which it naturally tends to produce, and will take place, unless prevented. A crime is great in proportion to the evil it tends to effect, or is the natural consequence of it. But the evil which sin aims at, and tends to produce, is truly infinite.
This appears from what has been already observed. All sin is against God, and his whole interest and kingdom ; it tends to dishonor and dethrone the Almighty; to destroy all his happiness, and to ruin his whole interest and kingdom; to introduce the most dreadful confusion and infinite misery, and render the whole universe infinitely worse than nothing, to all eternity. If there be any such thing as infinite evil, this is such; and he who aims at this, and does the least towards it, or what has a direct tendency to it, is guilty of a crime which has no bounds, in this respect, as to its degree of ill desert. It is big with infinite mischief, and, therefore, is in itself an infinite evil, and nothing short of endless punishment can be its proper reward. To inflict an evil infinitely less than this, as a punishment, falls infinitely short of being answerable to the crime, or of manifesting the evil or guilt of it.
To this it will be objected, perhaps, that no such evil actually takes place. God cannot be dethroned, or really hurt, by the sinner; he is infinitely beyond the reach of the rebel, and his kingdom and interest cannot be hurt; yea, God will overrule all sin for his own honor, and to promote the happiness and glory of his kingdom forever. Why, then, should the sinner be punished as if he had actually effected infinite evil, when the evil tendency of what he does and his criminal endeavors are prevented taking effect, and no such evil can come?
Ans. 1. The crime is not to be estimated by the evil that is actually effected by it, but by the nature and tendency of what is done, and the aim of the criminal. Though the evil consequence be prevented, and it be not in the power of the criminal to effect it, yet if he does what he can to accomplish it, his crime is to be estimated by his manifest disposition, and the tendency of what he does. If a subject attempts to take away the life of a king, or, from disaffection to him, does that which tends to destroy him, and would do it, were he not prevented, though the life of the king be not hurt, and the attempt wholly miscarries, yet he is justly condemned as guilty of high treason, and punished accordingly.
The sinner does all he can to dethrone his Maker, and render him infinitely miserable, and ruin his kingdom forever. Every sin has a strong and mighty tendency to this, and no thanks to the sinner that this infinite evil has not been effected by his rebellion; and is his crime not so great, because the evil is prevented by the infinite power and wisdom of God? He who will assert this must renounce all reason and common sense. David, inspired to imprecate punishment on the wicked, says, “ Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors : give them after the work of their hands, and render to them their desert.” (Ps. xxviii. 4.) They are to be punished according to their deeds, the nature and tendency of them, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors, whether they accomplish what they attempt or not. Again: “ Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies, thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger," etc. “For they intended evil against thee; they imagined a mischievous device which they are not able to perform.” (Ps. xxi. 8, etc.) According to the objection, their intending evil against God, and imagining a mischievous device, which they were not able to perform, ought to have been given as a reason why they should not be punished, whereas it is here mentioned as a reason why God would certainly punish them.
And as God, in punishing the wicked forever, will do no more to them than they would have done to him, had it been in their power, — and surely this is but a just and equitable punishment, which they fully deserve, if they deserve any at all, — they will rebel against him, and trample on his authority and laws, let what will be the consequence to him. He would have been dethroned, and made infinitely miserable forever, had they been able to bring it to pass. This is the tendency of their treatment of him, and this must have been the effect, had he not been able to defend himself against them, and counteract their endeavors. And do they not deserve to be treated after the same manner by him, and made eternally miserable? Would any punishment short of this be in any measure answerable to the crime? If they have cast God behind their back, and cared nothing for his honor, interest, or happiness, do they not deserve to be cast off by God, and that he should take no care of their interest or happiness? Their hearts have been full of mischievous devices against God, and all they have done has tended to destroy him, his happiness, and kingdom; and will it not be just to bring the mischief on their own heads, and give them over to endless misery? Among the laws given by Moses to Israel is the following one:
“ If a false witness rise up against any man, to testify against him that which is wrong, the judges shall make diligent inquisition ; and behold, if the witness be a false witness, and testified falsely against his brother, then shall ye do unto him as he had thought to have done unto his brother. And thine eye shall not pity, but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deut. xix. 16, etc.) This law requires them to punish the man, who, by false witness, thought and endeavored to bring evil on his brother, by inflicting that very evil on him, though his brother received not the least hurt by it. All will doubtless say this is a righteous law, and it is but just that such an evil-designing man should be thus punished. And will it be unrighteousness in God, who ordered this law, to act by the same rule in punishing those who have borne false witness against him and his character, and have attempted to bring ruin on him and all his friends, by giving them up to eternal destruction, though he and his kingdom have received no hurt by their wicked attempts ?
As God and his kingdom are infinitely distinguished from every thing else in their infinite greatness, excellence, and importance, so rebellion against him, and opposition to his interest and kingdom, and an attempt to destroy the whole, must be equally distinguished from any other possible or supposable crime, and, therefore, it is right and proper that it should have an equally distinguished punishment, that is, an endless one. A temporary punishment, which is infinitely less than this, and infinitely less than the evil of sin, cannot answer the end of punishment; it will neither express the evil or crime of injuring the infinitely great Jehovah, nor serve in the least degree to show his infinite worth, grandeur, and greatness, but speak a contrary language, viz., that his being, character, and kingdom are of infinitely less worth than they really are, and so would be a real dishonor to him.
If one who has defamed the character of a worthy personage, being prosecuted, convicted, and condemned, should be punished only by paying a small fine, viz., one penny or shilling, the language of this would be, that the character of the person defamed was worth no more, and, therefore, would be so far from answering to the injury, and wiping off the reproach, that it would really fasten the disgrace upon him, and his character would suffer more than if the criminal had not been condemned and punished. And if God should punish rebels against him, who have defamed him, and highly injured his character, with a temporary punishment only, this