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RESTRICTION OF THE TERM.

a right to appoint, and actually exercises the right of appointing, some of the subjects of his moral government to the endurance of misery—perhaps final, eternal misery-without any reason on their part for such an appointment. I take the liberty of assuring them, in the name of my brethren, that we believe no such thing. We maintain, that conduct, such as they mistakingly imagine we set ourselves to defend, would be flagrant injustice, gross and detestable cruelty, not sovereignty. We regard it as utterly impossible, that, under any righteous moral government, the subjects of that government should either be appointed to punishment, or called actually to sustain it, but as the reward of their crimes.

“ The sovereignty of God," says Dr. Russel,“ should never be confounded with his supremacy. The former is the right he possesses to bestow good of any kind, in any degree, and in whatever manner he pleases, not only where there is no claim, but where there is the greatest demerit. It is as absurd, then, to speak of sovereign justice, as of equitable mercy. The sum of the whole is, that when men suffer, they do so because they have sinned, and therefore deserve punishment; and when they are saved and blessed, they are so of free and sovereign favour.” (Letters, vol. ii., p. 275.)

The sovereignty of God is not, then, the arbitrary inflictor of evil, for “ sovereignty never pains, never punishes at all.” It is, on the contrary, the bestower of good, to which the recipient has no claim. It is the blessed source from which the universe, together with all the life and happiness with which it abounds, has proceeded. It alleviates the evils which guilt must otherwise have superinduced, and secures to the transgressor a measure of good which the hand of equity could not have imparted; for though the establishment of a moral system lays a restraint, as we have seen, upon the exercise of this prerogative, it does not forbid its development when it can be manifested in harmony with the claims and safety of that government.

It is likely that these views of Divine sovereignty would have prevailed more extensively than they even do at present, but for an objection which has suggested itself to the minds of some, that, in thus restricting the application of the term

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sovereignty, we use a freedom with it which the manner in which it is employed in reference to earthly rulers does not warrant. Now it is by no means certain that this would be a valid objection, even if the case were as it is represented to be. Divine and human governments are by no means so precisely alike as to render it safe, in all cases, to reason from one to the other. Justification with God is not the same thing with justification among men. Why might it not, then, be supposed that the Divine sovereignty is not exactly identical with human sovereignty? But it may be more than questioned whether the objection does not rest upon a false assumption. When the king signs the death-warrant, he acts in the capacity of judge; when he transmits a reprieve, he acts in the character of a sovereign. He pardons as a king; he cannot do it as a judge. Mere equity can only give that which is due; it cannot, consequently, bestow forgiveness upon a criminal. And when subordinate judges extend mercy to an offender, it is done as an exercise of the kingly prerogative, intrusted to them for the purpose of facilitating and expediting the proceedings of the court.

Should it be alleged that, in a case wherein certain individuals are selected as proper objects of royal clemency, while others, guilty of the same general crime, are left to suffer the sentence of the law—the act of passing over the latter is as much an act of sovereignty as the act of selecting the former; I should be disposed to reply, that it will be found very difficult to support this allegation. There is doubtless an actual determination on the part of the sovereign to exempt the former from punishment, since without such determination they must share the same fate as their companions. But what is meant by the act of passing by the latter? Does there exist in the mind of the sovereign a positive volition, an actual determination that they shall suffer? Why, what need is there for such a determination? They are condemned already, and must suffer punishment, without a determination to prevent it. In what would such a determination, were it ever formed, differ from the act of condemning a man already condemned? And in cases where it may be admitted that the

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OBJECTION ANSWERED.

chief magistrate does actually determine that some of the criminals shall suffer, that determination rests upon their superior guilt; i. e., it has its basis in equity, not in sovereignty. A determination not resting on this ground, if such determination could be proved to exist, would surely be an instance of that necessary imperfection which must be expected to mingle itself with all human proceedings. I again, however, apprize the reader, that the parallel between the government of God, and that of man, is not perfect; and that in the following pages, the term sovereignty will be used to denote that blessed prerogative, from which all good, beyond the claim of the recipient, emanates; for “ in regard to a moral system as such, and every individual moral agent, whatever is not the effect of equity, must, of course, be the effect of sovereignty, in the sense defined. For to these two principles every thing, as to the Divine conduct towards such a system, is ultimately reducible. Abstract from it equitable desert, and sovereign power, and nothing remains. This position, as it relates to the conduct of God, to Christian knowledge, and to pious affections, is of the greatest importance. But as I never heard or saw it denied, a formal proof of it appears to be needless. My full conviction is, that the

negation of it, in any given instance, may be reduced to some absurd consequence.” (Williams's Equity and Sovereignty,

p. 126.)

After these general remarks, illustrative of the nature of sovereignty, it will be expedient to exhibit some of the manifestations of Divine sovereignty in reference to rational and accountable beings, for to them, for obvious reasons, our remarks will be confined.

It will prove, it is imagined, an important guide to just conceptions to remember that, even in a moral system, sovereignty is left free, except where it is controlled by equity. It may act in all cases except where acting is either required by equity, (for then equity acts,) or contrary to equity. It cannot, indeed, inflict the punishment upon the rebellious subject, or bestow the reward upon the perfectly obedient subject; for both are required by equity, and what equity

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demands, that it does. It cannot, again, except in cases to be considered afterwards, rescue a transgressor from punishment, for that is forbidden by equity. But in all other cases God retains his right, and exercises his right, to do as he pleasesto manifest his goodness in whatever form or degree it may seem right to him; the manifestation being, however, invariably guided by the perfections of his most holy and blessed nature; and the cases are innumerable in which opportunities exist, even in a moral system, for the development of sovereignty. It may, therefore, be desirable to specify a fewand I merely profess to make a selection—for the sake of still further illustrating the principle.

First, then, there is room for sovereignty to develop itself in the bestowment of various kinds and degrees of mental qualities upon the subjects of the system. Reason, indeed, understanding by the term those faculties which distinguish men from animals, without stopping at present to specify what they are, must be conferred upon all; and, therefore, reason is not, in one aspect of the case, the gift of sovereignty. The Creator did not, indeed, owe it to man as a creature merely, for he would have done him no wrong if he had not given to him the human nature, or even not created him at all. But, determining that man should render to Him an account of his conduct, the Creator did, in this aspect of the case-in reference to his ultimate intentions and proceedings towards him-owe to him the gift of reason. Now reason is possessed by all except idiots and madmen, who cannot be regarded as accountable beings. No one supposes that the higher powers of mind-acuteness and vividness of perception, brilliance of imagination, fertility of fancy, fire of genius, intensity of feeling, &c.,-are necessary to render man a responsible agent. No doubt they connect with them higher degrees of responsibility, for“ where much is given, much will be required;" but they are not essential to responsibility itself. All men, with the exceptions just referred to, possess that kind and degree of mind which will render it just in God to call them to an account; and, therefore, all must appear at length at his tribunal. Now, as all men, even had they possessed the lowest

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grade of mind only, would have been responsible beings, there was room for sovereignty to develop itself, and it has done so, in the communication of mental faculties varied in an incredible degree, both as to kind and power. The mind of one man is marked by infantile weakness, of another by a giant's strength. Nothing can elevate the former ; nothing permanently depress and overpower the latter. His intellect is comprehensive, searching, profound. Scarcely any subjects elude his notice; few defy his efforts to unravel and explain them. In the case of certain persons, the reasoning powers preponderate ; in that of others, the imaginative. This man has little judgment, but an exuberant fancy. Another has received the gift of a piercing intellect, but if it be clear as a frosty night, it is also as cold. A third is all impetuosity and fire, but it is a fire that scorches and consumes every thing that comes in its way. We can account for these diversities by the principle of sovereignty alone. God " divideth to every man severally as he will." “ He giveth none account of these matters.” He has a right to “ do what he will with his own.”

Secondly, there is room for the development of sovereignty in the degree in which providential blessings are communicated to men. That inequalities in their external condition and circumstances exist, is manifest to all. The questions, then, which force themselves upon our attention are these : “Do these inequalities originate with God, or with man? and, if with the former, are they the results of equity, or sovereignty?" To attain satisfaction, we must contemplate some of these inequalities, recollecting, as we proceed, that the lowest degree of providential good which God has conferred upon man may be taken as a measure (a large one, no doubt) of that amount of good, of which equity requires the bestowment. God will never give to any subject of a moral system less than he deserves.

There exists, then, great inequality in the rank or station of men. One is a prince, or an emperor, another a beggar upon a dunghill. Nor in many cases can it even be conceived that the former was thus elevated on account of his mental or moral worth, and that the latter was thus depressed by his

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