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deprivation which it prohibits, is always the deprivation of a good, which is the property of another. It restrains from the infliction or diffusion of evil; and thus it secures to every one his portion of welfare. It co-operates, therefore, with benevolence in the production of beneficial effects; and, whenever the laws of justice are respected, more from the love of order, and the desire of promoting good, than from theapprehension of a penalty, or the expectation of a reward, it is a most valuable species of benevolence. The truly benevolent man cannot be unjust. His earnest desire to promote the welfare of another, will secure him from committing an intentional injury. When we apply this mode of reasoning to the Deity, it acquires strength in proportion to our conceptions of his benignity. w In contemplating the moral government of God, as it respects his intelligent offspring, the character of a Legislator immediately presents itself; and we cannot advert to those laws which we pronounce to be of moral obligation, without perceiving how essential they are to universal and permanent well-being. The wisdom and goodness of God have adapted all the duties of morality to the state and situation of moral agents, because personal welfare, and the felicity of social
beings, so immediately depend upon the observance of them. Therefore it is that the divine governor has annexed punishment to guilt, and recompense to obedience. Human laws may be unjust and cruel in their penalties, by rendering the suffering much too severe for the demerit of the offence; and they are seldom capable of distributing rewards according to theextent of merit. To the supreme legislator these imperfections are unknown. It is in the power, and also in the nature, of infinite beneficence, to reward far beyond the deserts of the obedient; but the attribute of Justice cannot punish beyond the degree of criminality. -
Thus it appears obvious, that the divine justice itself co-operates with beneficence in the production of good. In its principle, it protects from the violation of rights; and it is the guardian of laws which have no other object than the general welfare.
In the above statement our readers will observe, that our attention has been solely directed to that conduct which is due from one being to another, in their social or relative characters. Nor can it, strictly speaking, be considered in any other point of view. For, although it be self-evident that whatever is due to ourselves we have a right to claim, yet we are not absolutely compelled, by the law of justice, to receive according to the extent of our claim. We are not guilty of a personal injustice when we yield up, for the benefit of others, what is properly our own. This would annihilate every species of liberality. Nor are we compelled to demand satisfaction for every injury; for this would annihilate mercy. It may sometimes be prudent, and highly necessary, to punish offenders, for the sake of example, or for their reformation, but never to satiate revenge. A benevolent disposition will, if possible, cheerfully remit the punishment, whenever there is reason to believe that the penitence is sincere, and the reformation is accomplished. A total change of character deserves a change of conduct; and justice now inclines the balance in favour of the offender.
In the application of these principles to the justice of the Supreme being, a complete parallel does not exist, because he cannot suffer personal injury by the most nefarious practices; nor can he feel the resentments of impassioned man. When he inflicts punishments, denounced
against transgressors, it is in his official charac
ter of Legislator and Judge, who demands a strict observance of those laws upon which the felicity of moral agents depends. He may be inflexible respecting the obdurate and impenitent, but he cannot be vindictive; nor can the most rigorous exercise of the divine Justice, forbid the manifestations of his mercy to the humble penitent.
ON THE ASC RIPTION OF PASSIONS AND AFFECTIONS TO THE DIVINE MIND,
The above observations concerning the divine attributes, united with the extensive view that was formerly taken of the nature, origin, effects, and final causes of the various passions and emotions in the human breast, may enable us to form some consistent ideas respecting the Ascription of human Passions and Affections to the Deity. In times of gross ignorance, when the imagination is in vigorous exercise, and reason in its infancy, there is nothing too absurd to become an article of the most obstinate belief. But in proportion as reason gains the ascendency, will such absurdities be rejected. The heathen world, in the days of deep ignorance, saw no incongruity in ascribing the worst of passions to the most exalted of their Deities. But according to the advancement of civilization,