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race of men, (as their own historians have represented the Jewish nation to be) who were seldom long free from that very idolatry wrich those Canaanites stand charged with. To say, that those Canaanites entertained wrong and unworthy notions of a Deity, and of his providential government of the world, that their tutelar Gods were meerly fictitious, and that their manner of worshipping them was ridiculous in itself, as well as directed to falje objects, is only to say, that they were as weak, vain, and ridiculous as other Idolaters, who have not fallen under any such resentment. And if the idolatrous Canaanites were not more vile than other Idolaters, nor more the objects of divine resentment, which they do not appear to have been ; then, surely, God, that is, the supreme God, was not so partially severe to them, as is here supposed; seeing his tender mercies are equally over all his works, without such a partial regard for one, more than for another. I am sensible, that some of our great men have insisted, that there are other instances of like partiality in the divine conduct, as that above mentioned ; and, therefore, if God may, consistent with rectitude, act partially in one

instance,

instance, then he may in another, provided no injustice is done to any thereby; and this has been urged, in order to shew, that the non-universality of a revelation is no just objection against it's divinity; so that, upon this foot of argument, if the idolatrous Canaanites had rendered themselves the proper obječts of that severe resentment, which was exercised towards them, then God might, consistent with rectitude, correct them as he did, whilst he treated all other idolaters, who were equally culpable, with much greater lenity, seeing no injustice was done to any thereby. Upon which I observe, whether the non-universality of a revelation be a just * obje£tion against it's divinity, or not, is a point the present question is not concerned with and therefore, may fairly

be

ز

* In my discourse on miracles, I entered into the question, whether the non-univerfality of a revelation be a juft objection against it's divinity, or not? and introduced all the reasonings, fairly and candidly, that accrued to me, on both sides of that question ; and then concluded the whole with the following reflections. “If God gives a revelation universally to all, it must be done in one or other of these ways; viz. either, first, by applying immediately to the mind of every individual of our species, and thereby revealing, to every individual, the truths intended to be made known; or else, secondly, by applying immediately to fome one or more of our species, and revealing to him, or them, the truths intended

to

be dropped here. And were the Deity act with strict justice, through his whole conduct, or did moral rectitude require that he should, then he would not, he could not, act in that partial manner as is here supposed. In the exercise of vengeance, or punishment, friet justice requires, or it confifts in punishing exactly equal to the demerit of the crime ; so that, if two criminals are equally culpable, then justice, or equity, requires, that they shall have equal punishment ; because, otherwise, one, or the other, will be unjustly dealt with ; lenity *, or punishing less than the demerit of the crime, being as contrary to equity, as cruelty, or

punishto be made known, as aforesaid ; and then apply mediately by him, or them, to others, by requiring him, or them, to reveal or publish those truths to others, and them to others, and so on, till that revelation is communicated universally to all : And as we are not very good judges, which of these ways is liable to the least inconveniency, and which best answers the purpose of a publick good, fo, it may be urged, that this takes off, or, at least, it very much weakens, that objection against the divinity of a revelation, that arises from it's not being given universally to all. I introduce this here, to thew my readers, that in the Book referred to, I have not leaned to one side of the question, viz. that the non-univerfality of a revelation is a just objection against it's divinity ; tho' this is what has been unkindly and unjustly faid, or, at least, insinuated of

me.

* See this point more largely and fully considere), in

my enquiry into the ground and foundation of Religion.

punishing above it; and consequently, if God treated the idolatrous Canaanites with greater severity, than he did other Idolaters, who were equally culpable, then he must have acted unjustly by one, or the other ; which would have been acting contrary to rectitude, upon the present supposition, but this is groundlesly urged. Justice is a negative virtue, when it takes place of, and is

preferred before, criminal injustice; like as the absence of pain is, or, at least, may be faid to be, negative pleasure. Justice is not the offspring of bounty, or generosity, but only acting suitably to a precedent obligation, that has not been cancelled ; and therefore, it has no pohtive virtue, or merit in it. And, as it is, at best, only a restraint from vice, so it can be, at most, but a negative virtue, and lays no foundation for a reward. Justice is only valuable, when it coincides with, and is fubfervient to, goodness, by restraining from the contrary : fo that, when justice becomes incompatible with goodness, which may sometimes be the case, then it degenerates into vice; that is, it becomes, in the exercise of it, wrong and evil. It was not justice, but goodness, that was the

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spring of action to God, in calling this world into being, as he could not possibly be under any precedent obligation to give being to what was not; and therefore, it is not justice, but goodness, which is the primary rule, and the ground and reason of action to him, in the government thereof; and this is what moral rectitude requires. Goodness is the spring of action to God, even in the distribution of vengeance and punishment, as well as in the distribution of reward; it is that great concern and regard God has for his creatures well-doing, which raises in him a just indignation, and a strong resentment, against those who oppose it. And if God does not act from capricious humour and arbitrary will, but is guided by the reason of things, the latter of which is most certainly the case, (excepting in those instances in which the reason of things cannot be a rule to him, as when it is perfectly indifferent whether he acts one way or another) then he will act equally, by all his creatures, in equal or the same circumstances; becute the propriety or fitness of things requires that he should. As thus, if there be a reason, resulting from the nature of

things

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