Page images


4 So shall our souls their vernal hail,
When sin and strife no more prevail;
Our robes of life more joy express,
Than nature in her summer's dress.

5 The darksome night, a gloomy scene,
With falt'ring sighs and deadly mien,
Gives greater joy to morning notes,
Sung from ten thousand warbling throats.

6. But when our night of sin and death
Fulfils the time of feeble faith,
Transcendent day begins the praise
Of million tongues in cheerful lays.

[ocr errors]


Delivered December 25,



MAT. v. 17, 18.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.


ROMANS xiii. 8, 10.

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulilling of the law.

A law of commandments always presup poses legislative authority, and subjects proper to be made amenable to the dictates of its own power. In these subjects, the existence of moral powers are understood; that is, an ability to obey or disobey. Without such ability the law could be of no use. It could neither prevent injury, ner promote virtue. It follows then, that if men be governed by a law of necessity, that a law of commandments, wherever it opposes that law of necessity, would be unjust; because it requires, where there is no ability to perform. In human

courts, wherever it is seen, that the criminal possesses not the capacity to understand, or the ability to obey, that is common to the subjects of law, or adequate to the avoiding of his crime, this want of ability is considered a palliation of his offence. In the same proportion as they find a want of power, they reckon a freedom from accountability. A law then always presupposing, in the subjects, a power to obey or disobey, naturally makes disobedi ence probable in a multitude of instances. Disobedience appears the more probable, when we consider, "the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient." What is naturally implied, or rendered the probable effects of a labor, can never frustrate the design of the laborer. It

appears, therefore, the intention of the legis lature in legislation is not thwarted by transgression, in which, if it were, the law would lose its force. It is the requisition or command of the law only, and not the intention of the legislature, that is violated by transgression. Transgression evidently does not weaken the force of the command, but the command holds of full force, till it is obeyed, being supported by the power of the law.

Whenever a law imposes punishments as penalties for disobedience, all those punishments must be calculated to enforce the requirements of the law in the mind of the subject. They must be calculated for the general interest of the whole community, which

generally consists in the particular interest of each individual. Every punishment which is calculated to hinder obedience, rather than enforce it, is contrary to every good principle of law, the design of every good law is the amendment of its subjects, or to protect the proper rights of each. This design is evidently not abandoned by transgression, even toward the criminal himself. If a man be commanded to love his neighbor, the law, which requires this, will not abandon its first requisition, in requiring punishment. It will not require a punishment that is calculated to prevent his loving his neighbor. In a state of endless punishment, no man can possess that love which the law requires. It is, therefore, difficult to conceive, that the law requires such a punishment. For in order to this, it must first require love and obedience, and, for transgression, abandoning this requirement, change to require of the same person a state, that eternally excludes love and obedience.

[ocr errors]

It may be considered a proposition that is self-evident, that whatever a thing requires, it must have accomplished, according to what it requires, to be fulfilled; and to pass unfulfilled, its requisitions must be violated with impunity. When a parent commands his child, obedience fulfils his command; and disobedience with impunity destroys it. But it is to be observed, no punishment can be accepted as a substitute for obedience; but

may be inflicted as a necessary mean to in đuce to future obedience, by which the word of the parent once violated, may be still fulfilled.

According to the proposition, which I have stated to be self-evident, if the law say, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself," nothing but love ean fulfil the law. That subject must love the Lord his God and his neighbor as himself, and then the law is fulfilled respecting him, If the law require hatred, nothing but hatred in the subject could fulfil it.

Having laid this proposition before you, my hearers, and illustrated it in the use of a proper example, it is hoped you will assent to it without any fear of the consequences to which it will lead; or endeavor to decide in your mind where its fallacy lies. A decision on this point is necessary to the profitable pursu ance of our subject.

You are sensible the common opinion coneerning the law is, that it requires the infinite or endless punishment of the transgressor. Nothing can be more evident than if the law require not this punishment, there remains no ground by which it can be maintained, with even the appearance of plausibility. We are not therefore surprised to find this sentiment among all the denominations of christians, which hold to the doctrine of endless misery. And as this appears to be the ground of that doctrine, which is held by so large a portion of the christian world, I shall endeavor to be

« PreviousContinue »