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from the dealings of God with his creatures, especially with the human race.
This will be rendered very evident, by considering a gradation of events, in which the Lord hath exercised love and mercy, far beyond all that ever could have entered into the heart of man to conceive, had it not been revealed.
Let us then endeavour to realize, as far as such poor worms are able, the infinite and self-existent God, from all eternity possessed of essential glory and felicity, incapable of increase or diminution.
Thus circumstanced, he could have no other possible inducement but love, or a disposition to delight in communicating happiness, in creating the universe, and producing a vast variety of beings, capable of life and enjoyment. The inanimate creation was formed perfectly good, and exactly suited to the use and benefit of living creatures. The numerous orders of these, from the invisible animated atom to the bright Seraph before the throne, were all made complete in their kind, adapted to the place and design of their existence, and capable of a measure of enjoyment: and, except as sin has deranged the original constitution of infinite love, no creature is left destitute of a degree of happiness equal to its capacity. In meditating, however, on this subject, we must recollect, that "the creation groaneth and travaileth "in pain," through the sins of man: his cruelty and
*tyranny add immensely to the sufferings of innocent animals, and he is punished in them, as his property and the subjects of his original dominion.
It is also worthy of observation, that no rational creature has ever been deprived of an adequate felicity, except in the case of transgression; at least we have no intimation of this kind, either in the works or in the word of God. None has been degraded to an inferior situation, rendered uncertain in respect of the future, or distressed by terror, bitterness, or vanity. On the contrary, we have every reason to conclude, that the capacities of all obedient creatures continually expand; that their enjoyment proportionably increases; and that they all will become more and more blessed to all eternity. In these things surely GOD is LOVE!
If the case of infants should be thought an exception, seeing they suffer and die without personal criminality; we may observe, without entering on an intricate controversy, that all who believe the Bible, must allow the human race to have become sinful and mortal by the fall of Adam; and they who reject revelation, will not find less difficulty than others, in accounting for the present condition of mankind.-If then every branch fell, when the root was overthrown; "if we are born in "sin and the children of wrath;" it behoves us to be silent on this subject, and to wait for the clearer light of the great decisive day. For indeed, it is highly probable, that the case of infants will then
appear not only consistent with the divine justice, in respect of their present sufferings, but one grand display of the divine mercy and goodness, in the felicity by which those sufferings were succeeded.
The Lord hath manifested his love, by condescending to become the moral Governor of his rational creatures. Infinite wisdom, justice, goodness, and truth, are indispensably requisite in the Sovereign of the universe. His government must be infinitely perfect, and of the highest possible advantage to all creatures. "The Lord reigneth, "let the earth rejoice:" for nothing, but enmity and rebellion, can be dissatisfied. The law also, being holy, just, and good, was dictated by perfect love. Like a wise and kind Father, the Lord requires us to love him with all our hearts, and to love others as ourselves: every other requirement may be readily resolved into these two great commandments; and if they were universally obeyed, universal harmony and felicity would be the consequence. Yet this is the law, against which the corrupt passions of man's heart rise in desperate enmity!--Who then can deny that GOD is LOVE?
But the law is enforced by an awful sanction, and it denounces an awful curse against every transgressor: what then shall we say to this? It would not perhaps be difficult to prove, that the punishments, threatened in the law and inflicted by the justice of God, result from love directed
by infinite wisdom: not love of the individuals, whose final condemnation is determined, but enlarged benevolence to universal being through eternal ages. This however, would carry us too far from our subject: it must therefore suffice to observe, that in the government of accountable creatures, who act voluntarily, and are influenced by motives, the denunciation of punishment must form a part of the system: and if this punishment be only inflicted on the disobedient, and do not exceed the heinousness of their crimes; while it tends to retain multitudes in obedience, and preserve the universe from the effects of general rebellion, it must prove a publick benefit, and consist with wise and holy love. That must be the most beneficent plan, which secures the greatest, most extensive, and permanent advantages to the most excellent part of moral agents: and the philosophical notion, that the felicity even of sinful creatures is the ultimate end proposed to himself by the Governor of the world, is not more repugnant to scripture, than to the common sense and opinion of mankind in similar cases. A wise ruler of a nation, in proportion as he loved his people, would be careful, by good laws impartially executed, to restrain the ill-disposed from injuring their fellow subjects, and disturbing the peace of the community; and if this made it necessary to punish with death some individuals, these would be considered as suffering for the publick good; and,
provided they deserved their doom, it would not be deemed an impeachment of his paternal love to his people. On the contrary, the prince, who under the plea of clemency should neglect to punish evil doers, and to protect his peaceable subjects, might indeed be the favourite of the fraudulent and rapacious, but his conduct would be reprobated by all honest men.
But as we are not capable of fully comprehending the plan of the divine government, let us turn our thoughts to another view of the subject.The Lord hath shewn that he is love, in his dealings with sinful men, by his patience and providential bounty. Could we possibly witness all the crimes of every description, with all their aggravations, which are perpetrated in London, or any other large city, during a single day; could we see the malignity of every sin, and conceive of them all as committed against us, by persons on whom we had conferred the greatest favours; and did we possess the unrestrained power of executing vengeance; I am persuaded that our patience. would be wearied out before evening. But the Lord at once sees all the. sins committed in the whole world, together with the desperate wickedness of the human heart; he abhors, with unalterable and infinite hatred, every kind and degree of unholiness; he is able at any moment to punish sinners with irresistible vengeance; he could sustain no loss, if he destroyed all the workers of ૨