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ness require in this world'; and therefore, whenever the scale of vice rises in a nation to a certain degree, that nation becomes necessarily the object of God's vengeance. And surely it is exceedingly happy for the world at large that it does so: for let any one consider the excessive increase of luxury and wickedness in the Roman empire, from the middle of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar to the period of its dissolution; and if that wickedness had been suffered to increase in the same ratio from that time to this, the world would have been flooded with iniquity, and have been in many parts a perfect Pandæmonium. But God knows there is real mercy in punishment as well as in reward, (as was observed in the former proposition, and that the one is often as actual a proof and demonstration of his goodness as the other. In fact, the lesson that all the empires that have ever been held out to the world is, that a nation is established by righteousness *, and destroyed
* This assertion of Solomon's is supported even by Machiavel; who, in his Discourse on Livy, observes, respecting the Romans, that “ for several ages together never was the fear of “God more eminently conspicuous than in that Republic, and “ that their religion produced good laws, good laws good for“tune, and good fortune a good end in whatever they under
by iniquity: and their history is a fine comment, proving the conformity between the promises and the actions of God to mankind; and that though he is abundant in goodness and mercy, he yet will never clear impenitent guilt.
From the character God has been pleased to give of himself, of being “ the Lord, the “ Lord God, merciful and gracious, long
suffering, and abundant in goodness and “ truth; keeping mercy for thousands, for
giving iniquity, transgression, and sin," &c. it is impossible to make any other inference, or draw any other conclusion, than that God is ever disposed to be exceedingly kind, gracious, and good to the human race, if they as free agents will allow him to be so'; that is, if they will be obedient to his commands, and not thwart his good intentions towards them: for if they will deliberately and wilfully disobey his laws, it is no
“ took." And Cicero likewise observes, in his Oration in answer to the Haruspices, “ Nec numero Hispanos, nec robore, " Gallos, nec calliditate Poenos, nec artibus Græcos, nec denique “ hoc ipso hujus gentis et terræ domestico nativoque sensu Ita" los ipsos et Latinos ; sed pietate ac religione, atque hac una
sapientia, quod Deorum immortalium numine omnia regi « gubernarique perspeximus; omnes gentes nationesque super"" avimus."
more to be considered as an imputation on the goodness of God to punish free agents thus wilfully offending, than it is an imputation on a wise and good king to punish such abandoned malefactors as knowingly and wilfully infringe those laws he has instituted for the general welfare of himself and his subjects.
The next thing to be considered in this proposition is the laws of God to man, and to observe whether they confirm and corro. borate the gracious and merciful character God has been pleased to give of himself, or whether they militate against it, by being in any respect arbitrary, unreasonable, grievous, or beyond the ability of man to accomplish, As God thought proper to create man a free agent, with a mind and intellect capable of adoring, worshipping, and honouring him ; at the same time quite equal to the knowledge of the virtue of obedience to the particular injunction first commanded him, and, by the express communication of God himself, well and fully apprised of the criminality of disobeying that injunction ; likewise as he was created with feelings of gratitude, and a sense of obligations conferred, it seems by no means incongruous to reason that God should
be pleased to make trial of that free agency and portion of intellect which he had bestowed on his new-formed creatures, and that he should put both these to some test, compatible with the powers with which our first parents were endued. And surely, in the situation in which they were placed, no one can think, if God allowed them to eat freely of every tree in Paradise but one, that to abstain from that one was a test at all grievous, or beyond their power to obey; or, if they considered, and they had full power to consider, that they owed their existence and their entire happiness to God, but that their feelings of gratitude, a sense of their obligations, and especially the fear of that punishment they were told they should incur by their disobedience, might altogether weigh so properly and forcibly on their minds, as to have induced them to resist the violation of an express command of God, and to have rejected a temptation to sin against it, which a being to them unknown impiously suggested, however artfully that suggestion might be made. Notwithstanding what man may think proper rashly and presumptuously to decide on this subject, we have good authority from Scripture to infer, that God himself thought very
differently, (" he himself made man from the
beginning, and left him in the hands of his
own counsel *,'') and that the powers of resistance with which our first parents were endued were quite equal to the trial to which they were appointed; for otherwise it bears infinitely too hard on our ideas of God's wisdom and goodness to have destined them to it, and much too hard on his justice to inflict a dire and heavy punishment for a conduct they had neither power to obviate or control. Indeed it appears a direct affront to the wisdom of God to assert, that our first parents had not full power to comply with God's injunction to them, had they only properly exerted that power; for Eve's speech to the serpent, in acknowledging that she was not only not to eat, but not to touch, the fruit of the forbidden tree, equally implies that she was fully apprised of God's will in this respect, of the danger of her disobedience, and of her power to refrain, if she had chosen to do so; and fully justifies Lord Bacon's remark on this subject, of the greatness of her crime, in making her own will the measure of good and evil, instead of respecting and obeying
* Ecclus. xv. 14,