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holy;" let us “sing his praises with understanding." Let us also aim at still higher degrees of purification,-still beholding in the gospel, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord. May we be “ changed into the same image, from glory to glory,"_perfecting holiness in the fear of God!”
“ Now, the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work, to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.” Amen.
THE JUSTICE OF GOD.
Deuteronomy xxxii: 4. Just and right is he.
JUSTICE, among men, is giving to every one his J due; and the importance of doing so, is acknowledged by every honest man. It is easy to see that there could be no safety nor happiness in society, if justice were not regarded. If there are any persons who do not approve of the administration of justice, it is probable that they themselves are unjust. The character of a judge may not be very amiable in the eyes of a criminal prisoner, and he may not look forward to the approaching assizes with any degree of pleasure ; he would perhaps be willing to dispense with the whole system of justice in our laws, because he is exposed to the punishment which those laws require ; but honest and virtuous men highly ap. prove of the execution of justice. They regulate all their affairs, in their dealings with men, by a regard to justice ; and they wish to be treated in the same manner by their neighbours. This general regard to justice, this tribute of mankind to its excellence, leads us naturally to conclude that it must have the sanction of divine authority, and that it must be a perfection of the divine nature ; and we could as easily conceive of a God without power, or a God without goodness, as of a God without justice. We are not left, however, to the mere conjectures or
conclusions of reason ; we have the fullest authority from God's own word, to assure us that he is perfectly just. The assertion is made in the text, which is taken from the song of Moses ; not that which was sung immediately after the passage of Israel through the Red Sea, but that which he uttered just before his death, and solemnly delivered to the people. He begins the sacred ode by ascribing glory to God; first, the glory of his greatness; and here, the glory of his justice and righteousness.
By the justice of God, we understand that universal rectitude of his nature, whereby, in his government of the world, he does all things with perfect righteousness, giving to every one his due.
1. We are to consider God, not only as the Maker and Preserver of men, but as their Governor also. He who made man, and furnished him with all his wonderful powers, has an undoubted right to prescribe laws for his conduct, and to enforce the laws which he prescribes by sufficient sanctions, by rewards and punishments, as in his infinite wisdom he sees fit; and in so doing, he consults the good of his creatures, as well as his own glory; for as the peace and order of society cannot be maintained without human laws properly enforced, so we cannot conceive of the preservation of the divine government, without laws worthy of a wise, holy, and just God.
This right seems to have been exercised towards Adam at his creation. Besides the moral law, the substance of which is love to God and man, and which was written on his heart, a positive law was given to him, as the test of his obedience. One particular tree, though as pleasant to the eyes and as good for food as others, was forbidden, and that on pain of death ; for this positive law was armed with a dreadful sanction—“in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely dię.”
In like manner, God has given laws to all mankind. For many ages they were handed down from father to son, and afterwards renewed to the Jews (and through them to a great part of the world) in an awful manner, at Sinai ; and where men have not this written law, they have, as St. Paul assures us, “ a law in themselves, the work of the law written on their hearts ; and their consciences (more or less informed) accusing or excusing them,” according as they observe it or break it. Rom. ii.
Now the law which God has given to man, is worthy of himself. It is said, in Rom. vii. 12, to be “Holy and Just, and Good:” it requires nothing but what God may justly demand of man; nothing but what man ought to pay : for, can any thing be more reasonable, than that we should love the su. preme good in a supreme manner; and, loving him, should abstain from what he forbids, and perform what he requires ; especially when both would be for our advantage, our safety, and our happiness; and when disobedience would terminate only in our everlasting destruction ? Thus, as the apostle saith, “che commandment was ordained unto life;" — " but,” he adds, in words that well demand our serious regard " I found it to be unto death.” Rom. vii. For now, alas! man is a fallen creature : fallen in Adam, the first sinner ; and is no longer able to render the full obedience required by the law. God, however, has not lost his right to command. His law, like himself, is unchangeable ; and if not obeyed, renders the sinner liable to his just and awful displeasure.
2. We observe then, in the next place, that God is just in punishing disobedience to his holy law. As he sanctioned the law of Paradise, with that dreadful threatening,“ In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die ;' so he sanctions the moral law with a terrible curse, as it is written (Gal. iii. 10) “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Observe, he who performs not all things, he who continues not to perform them all, without omitting one, without a single failure in thought, word, or deed ; and, that this is the meaning of the passage, appears from another text in St. James (ch. ii. 10), “ For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The law has not relaxed in its demands, in consequence of the fall and frailty of man. Some have pretended that now sincere obedience only is required instead of perfect obedience ; but this notion has no foundation in Scripture, and tends strongly to encourage sin ; for most men, however sinful, flatter themselves that they are sincere, though imperfect. It is not by reducing the demands of the law, that a sinner is entitled to entertain hope of salvation ; but by looking to him whom the gospel sets before us as " the end of the law for righteousness," who has "redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." Gal. iii. 13. But the law itself affords no relief: it may convince; it must condemn; and it leaves every one, who seeks salvation by obedience to it, under its fearful curse. St. Paul therefore justly concludes (ver. 10), that " as many as are under the law, are under the curse;" and, " that every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” It is by the gospel, and not by the law, that we obtain the knowledge of Christ, " whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation for sins ; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Rom. iv. 19, 20–25.
3. If we consult the Scriptures, we shall find that God has displaved his justice, in many awful instances, by the punishment of sinners*.
The rebei angels were expelled from Heaven ; they are awful monuments of bis justice already; and will be rendered visibly such in the judgment of the great day. What a dreadful revolution did sin oc
* The following instances are more briefly expressed, on account of their having been introduced in the sermon on God's Holiness ; but it was not proper wholly to pass over them in a discourse on Divine Justice.