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II. Place, consider how he exercises S ERM.

VI. this moral attribute among his creatures. Now to understand this, we ought to reflect, that God being our Creator, he hath an absolute 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 distribution of his bounty. For as his dominion over us is absolute, we can have no claim to any thing, but what it is confiftent with his wisdom 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 circumstances. He will not arbitrarily destroy us, or make us miserable; 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 absolute dominion of God must have its limits, and must be determined by his Justice. So that the Justice of God to his creatures, consists in his acting toward them suitably to

their

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VI.

SER M. their nature, in not willingly making them

miserable, or requiring of them more than they have abilities to perform. He will treat them according to the circumstances and powers which he has given them. Now this being considered, it is obvious, in the

1. Place, that in his acting towards us, he will have no respect of persons, All will be equally regarded by him. For as we are all the work of his hands, the greatest as well as the lowest, with the same moral dispositions, must be equally acceptable to him. There can be no plea for any favour before him, but what arises from the circumstances of our case. The Almighty cannot err in his judgment of us, through any weakness, nor is he to be flattered, or drawn to any dislike, , by any arts that can be used. He, as it is expressed, in the book of Job xxxiv. 19. accepteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor.

2. He will act in justice with us, according to our good or evil, as the truth of our moral character requires. This is the only distinction that God will make in his judgment of us. For as he made us reasonable creatures, with the power

of

VI.

of chusing and acting, and hath given us SERM. 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

This is the great law of heaven, that men shall be justified or condemned by their moral conduct. To use the words of the prophet Ezekiel, the righteousness of the righteous shall 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 seek for glory and honour, he will give eternal life; but to them that are disobedient, and obey not the truth, indignation and wratb.

3. But more particularly, as God sees and knows all things in the most perfect manner, he will make an exact distribution according to the circumstances of every case. He will observe 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

rent

VI.

SER M. rent circumstances, with greater or fewer e advantages, so more or less will be re

quired of us. The servant that knew not bis Lord's will, and did things worthy of ftripes, shall be beaten with few stripes; but be that knew his will and did it not, Mall be beaten with many stripes. And it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, that is, for sinners that have less 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 considered, and all reasonable allowances made. He who had ten talents bestowed 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 severely chastised. And on the other hand, the goodness of heart, the desires and inclinations of those who had fewer opportunities, and less ability, will be considered and justly

re

rewarded. As they had it in their hearts SERM. to do good, fo he who is the searcher of the heart, will treat them accordingly.

Let us now in the

VI.

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III. Place, consider briefly, some 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 prosper and enjoy the greatest advantages, while the best of men, those who fear God and endeavour to serve him, labour under many difficulties, and are even sometimes in a miserable situation. Now the solution of this is easy, 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 severely punished. The joy and success of wicked men here, and all their vicious pleasures, may be fully balanced by their anguish and misery hereafter. And on the other hand, all the troubles and difficulties of

good

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