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adapt it to the state of intellect and feeling which now existed in the people of Israel, gradually withdrawing the distribution of immediate temporal rewards, as the belief in a future state became more general and operative; and the prophet thus solemnly declares the great principles of general equity, which uniformly regulate the moral government of God over the sons of men.* “ Behold all souls are mine, as the soul of the father so also the soul of the son is mine ; the soul that sinneth it shall die But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right; if he hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God. If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, that doeth the like to any one of those abominations, shall he then live ? he shall not live, he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. Yet ye say, why, doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father ?” The prophet answered this mistaken suggestion, by distinctly asserting, that the attributes of God forbade all such unequitable dealings. “When (says the prophet) the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them; he shall surely live; the soul that sinneth it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son, the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”
In truth, the idea that God should act in any manner different from that dictated by the most impartial justice-impartial according to the views which human reason und human feeling form of that attribute, every such idea is disclaimed and repelled in every part of the Old Testament, with the utmost warmth and energy.
In many passages care is taken to remove all suspicion, that God will permit the wicked to escape with impunity, because he sometimes suffers them to continue for a time in apparent prosperity; thus proving, that God acts by man with a strict and impartial justice, resting on the same principles as those which he inculcates for human conduct. “Thou shalt not (he commands) follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment; neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause : and thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause; keep thee far from a false matter, and the innocent and righteous slay thou not.”*
* Vide Lectures on the Pentateuch. Part 3, Lecture 3, sect. 1, and sect 4, the entire.
These commands are enforced not merely by the authority, but the example of God, in the reason immediately assigned “ for I will not justify the wicked.”
And this impartial exercise of divine justice, is not confined to the chosen people of Israel ; but is represented as extending over the whole race of man, in that sublime hymn, where the Psalmist calls all mankind to join in glorifying God, on this principle, that he is the righteous judge of all. “Give unto the Lord, (O ye kindreds of the people,) give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness : fear before Him all the earth. Say among the heathen, that the Lord reigneth : the world also shall be established, that it shall not be moved; he shall judge the people righteously. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad: let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord; for He cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”“ The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice : let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him : righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.”I
Now I would appeal to every unprejudiced mind to decide, do these Scriptures suggest or permit us to believe, that God elects by an eternal, unconditional, and unalterable decree a certain part of mankind for an inheritance of salvation, which they cannot forfeit, and abandons and reprobates all the rest to a damnation, which no effort of their own can enable them to escape; since that grace which alone could supply the means of escape, is by the same unalterable decree withheld ? Does this
* Exod. xxii, 2, 3, 6, 7. + Ps. xcvi. 7, to end.-- Common Prayer version.
# Ps. xcvii. 1, 2.
appear to accord with the declaration, “ that He would judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”
Another circumstance in the divine government, as displayed in the Holy Scriptures, which leads us to conceive it directed by principles of justice similar to those which from the dictates of human reason, we cannot but expect and approve, is found in the character of the different punishments menaced or inflicted for different crimes, in which an appropriateness is found exactly corresponding to our ideas of exact retribution, suiting the punishment to the exact nature and degree of the transgression, and perpetually referring to the motive and intention of the offender, as determining the essential character of the offence.
On this is founded the law of retaliation against the person, who by violence, wounded or maimed his neighbour; or by becoming false witness, exposed him to unmerited punishment. In such cases a punishment was to be inflicted in nature and degree exactly corresponding to the injury inflicted or intended. “If a man cause a blemish in his neighbour, as he hath done, so shall it be done to him, breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; and he that killeth a beast he shall restore it; and he that killeth a man shall surely be put to death. Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger as for one of your own country : for I am the Lord your God."*
Thus these principles of proportionate retaliation and impartial justice, were enjoined and recommended as being not only sanctioned by the command, but consonant to the character of God. Now is this consistent with attributing to that God, an eternal, unalterable decree of irrespective election or reprobation?
Thus also, he “who should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past,”+ was to flee to one of the cities of refuge, that he might live. But if a man come upon his neighbour presumptuously to slay him with guile, (God commands) thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he should die.” I Now can we suppose God should thus teach men to discriminate in their judgments, and yet in judging men himself, should determine the fate of the elect and the reprobate, by an eternal decree, formed
* Levit. xxiv. 17–22.
+ Deut. xix. 4.
Exod. xxi. 14.
before the individuals were born, or had done either good or evil, a decree uninfluenced by any foreknowledge of their future conduct, and unalterable by any thing they have in their power to do?
This appropriation of the punishment to the peculiar nature of the crime, is remarkable in many instances where the Divinity himself immediately inflicts or commands it. Thus Samuel to · Agag, “as thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women.”* Thus Nathan to David, for his crime against Uriah; “ thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite, with the sword, and has slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon; now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from thine house.” And again, “because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus said the Lord, behold I will raise up evil against thee, out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour. For thou didst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all. Israel, and before the sun.” And again, after his repentance was accepted, yet still the retributive justice of God was to be manifested by his punishment. “Howbeit because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born unto thee shall surely die.”+ Thus Elisha to Gehazi, for his rapacity and falsehood respecting Naaman: “the leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever.”¥ Thus also, Elijah to Ahab: “thus saith the Lord, in the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine."'S
These are undoubtedly instances only of temporal judgments. But can we believe, that in such cases, discriminate and appropriate punishments are inflicted for distinct crimes, and that men are destined to eternal life or eternal death, not according to the use every man makes of the power which he enjoys, but according to an eternal decree of unconditional election and reprobation, unalterable by any exertion in their power.
Another circumstance in the divine regulations respecting
* 1 Sam. xv. 33. + 2 Kings, v. 27.
+ 2 Sam. xii. 9—14. $ 1 Kings, xxi. 19.
the punishment of offences which shows they were conducted on the same principles of equity, which human reason recognises ; occurs in the distinction between the sins of ignorance and of presumption, as marked in the Mosaic law. “It shall be (says the law,) if aught be committed in ignorance, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the priest shall make an atonement (by offering the sacrifice required,) and it shall be forgiven all the congregation; and if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a sin-offering, and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him.” And this direction extended to the stranger as well as the Jew; for it is directed, “ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel and for the stranger that sojourneth among them ; but the soul that doeth presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord, and that soul shall be cut off from among his people, because he hath despised the word of the Lord and broken his commandment; that soul shall utterly be cut off, his iniquity shall be upon him.”*
I would here appeal to every reflecting mind, is not the distinction here acted on, as conformable to the justice of God in his dealings with man, directly opposite to the character of absolute predestination, which implies, that by an eternal and unalterable decree, the great mass of mankind are passed by and left in their natural ignorance and blindness, and does not imply that an allowance is made for that ignorance, in passing on them sentence of condemnation ? Assuredly this is not the spirit of the divine law, as exhibited in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Let us next proceed to examine with reference to the same point, the sacred records of the New.
* Nurnbers xv. 24–31.