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II. Place, confider how he exercises S ER M. this moral attribute among his creatures. Now to understand this, we ought to reflect, that God being our Creator, he hath an abfolute property in us, and authority over us, and that all we have is the voluntary effect of his goodness. And therefore, he cannot act towards us, as if we were independent upon him; nor could we have any demand upon him for an equal diftribution of his bounty. For as his dominion over us is abfolute, we can have no claim to any thing, but what it is confiftent with his wifdom and goodness to give. Nevertheless, as we are his reasonable creatures, and he hath given us laws for our conduct in life, he will act towards us according to our nature and circumftances. He will not ar bitrarily deftroy us, or make us miferable; nor will he fo take from us all the
benefit of our creation, that it would have been better for us never to have been. In this, the abfolute dominion of God muft have its limits, and must be determined by his Juftice. So that the Juftice of God to his creatures, consists in his acting toward them fuitably to H 4 their
SER M. their nature, in not willingly making them miferable, or requiring of them more than they have abilities to perform. He will treat them according to the circumftances and powers which he has given them. Now this being confidered, it is obvious, in the
1. Place, that in his acting towards us, he will have no refpect of perfons, All will be equally regarded by him. For as we are all the work of his hands, the greatest as well as the loweft, with the same moral difpofitions, must be equally acceptable to him. There can be no plea for any favour before him, but what arifes from the circumstances of our cafe. The Almighty cannot err in his judgment of us, through any weakness, nor is he to be flattered, or drawn to any diflike, by any arts that can be used. He, as it is expreffed, in the book of Job xxxiv. 19. accepteth not the perfons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor.
2. He will act in juftice with us, according to our good or evil, as the truth of our moral character requires. This is the only diftinction that God will make in his judgment of us. For as he made us reasonable creatures, with the power of
of chufing and acting, and hath given us SER M. laws for our conduct, he may justly call us to an account, and treat us according to our different behaviour. It will be just with him to render to every man according to his works. This is the great law of heaven, that men fhall be justified or condemned by their moral conduct. To ufe the words of the prophet Ezekiel, the righteousness of the righteous fhall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. He who is infinitely pure and holy, who loves righteousness and hates fin, cannot but regard the just and innocent, and abhor the vicious and wicked. Therefore, to them who by patient continuance in well doing feek for glory and honour, he will give eternal life; but to them that are difobedient, and obey not the truth, indignation and wrath.
3. But more particularly, as God fees and knows all things in the most perfect manner, he will make an exact diftribution according to the circumftances of every cafe. He will obferve a just proportion of reward and punishment, according to the various degrees of our moral conduct. For as he has given us different powers, and placed us in diffe
SER M. rent circumstances, with greater or fewer advantages, fo more or lefs will be required of us. The fervant that knew not bis Lord's will, and did things worthy of ftripes, fhall be beaten with few stripes ; but be that knew his will and did it not, shall be beaten with many ftripes. And it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, that is, for finners that have lefs knowledge, and fewer opportunities, than for those who have the light of the gospel, with all its advantages. The truth of the circumstances will be confidered, and all reasonable allowances made. He who had ten talents beftowed upon him, will be called to an account for his improvement of every one of them; but he who had only one, will be accountable for that alone. Those who are placed in the highest stations, and have great opportunities of improvement and doing good in the world, will be judged according to what it was in their power to have done; and their wilful abuse of it will be feverely chastised. And on the other hand, the goodness of heart, the defires and inclinations of those who had fewer opportunities, and lefs ability, will be confidered and juftly
rewarded. As they had it in their hearts S ER M. to do good, fo he who is the fearcher of the heart, will treat them accordingly. Let us now in the
III. Place, confider briefly, fome cbjections that may be made to the Justice of God, from the present appearance of things. And in the first place, there is that common objection, which has been made in all ages, namely, the unequal distribution of things in this world; that the wicked and the vileft of men often profper and enjoy the greatest advantages, while the best of men, thofe who fear God and endeavour to ferve him, labour under many difficulties, and are even fometimes in a miferable fituation. Now the folution of this is eafy, if we extend our views to another existence. For if there is a life to come, all the inequalities observed here, may there be adjusted; virtue and goodness may have a full reward, and vice and wickedness be feverely punished. The joy and fuccefs of wicked men here, and all their vicious pleasures, may be fully balanced by their anguish and mifery hereafter. And on the other hand, all the troubles and difficulties of good