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of oil, nor the firsk-born of a man's offspring, nor the first-born of every creature; which can possibly render a man approvable to God; because as these do not render a man personally valuable in himself, they do not render him the proper object of the divine approbation and affection. But it is the doing justice, the loving mercy, and the walking bumbly with God, which will render a man acceptable to the Deity; because these render him personally valuable in himself, and the proper object of the divine acceptance. And this is the case both with and witbout divine revelation, and whether men be in high or low stations, and whereever their lot is caft, in any part of the world. The sum of the matter is this, true religion, (when the term is used to express the grounds of our acceptance with God) consists in the right use and exercise of oui intellectual and active faculties, by our doing all that in reason may be expected from us, in our respective circumstances, to have our understandings rightly informed; and in an honest and upright behaviour, in the general course of our actions, agreeably thereto. This, I say, and this only, constitutes true religion ; because it is this, and this only, which renders us personally valuable in our selves, and the proper objects of divine regard. And whatever besides this is represented to be, or which may be relied upon as the ground of acceptance with God, all such things
are falle -grounds, and consequently; aré false religion. This is the state of the case independent of any divine revelation or promulged law, and when considered in the abItract nature and reason of things And this leads me to enquire,
Thirdly and lastly, whether religion, when the term is used to express the grounds upon which finners obtain the divine mercy, is also founded in nature. And here, I think, it will be proper to state the notion of mercy, and shew what idea we annex to that term, in the present case: By mercy, I think, we intend the remitting to an offender, in whole, or in part, the punishment which, by his offence, he had justly rendered himself obnoxious to. So that mercy stands opposed first, to cruelty, whereof justice is the mean. He who lays upon the offender a greater punishment * than his crime deserves, is cruel. He who punishes equal to the offence, is just. And he who remits that punishment, in whole, or in part, is merciful. Again, mercy stands opposed secondly, to unmerciful; that is, to the punilhing such offenders as have sendered themselves the proper objects of mercy. He who punishes such an offender as has rendered himself the proper obje&t of mercy, is unmerciful; and he who remits that punilhment, is merciful. Again mercy, of a merciful disposition, is generally, and, I
See my Collection of Tračls, pags. 142.
think, juftly esteemed to be a perfektion, or a good quality in the agent in which it takes place; and unmercifulness, or an unmerciful difpofition, is generally esteemed to be an im, perfection, or an evil quality in the subject in which it' resides. But then, i this supposes that there is something in nature which renders an offender the proper object of mercy, for otherwise miercifulness could not be a perfection, por unmercifulness an imperfection in nature. Besides, to suppose a perfection to take place in nature, and at the same time to suppose that there is nothing in nature which corresponds with, and is the ground of * that perfection, is the same grofs abfurdity as to suppose àn effect without a cause. And if there is some thing in nature which renders an offender the proper object of mercy, (which must needs be the case) then, to shew mercy to fuch, an offender must be right and fit, for that very reason;" namely, because he, viz. the offender, is become the suitable and proper object of such mercy. And to be unmerciful to such an offender as has rendered himself the proper object of mercy, by punishing him according to the demerit of his crime, must be wrong and blame-worthy, for the very fame reason, viz. because, by his becoming the proper object of mercy he ceased to be the proper object of punishment, and therefore, to punish such an offender must be wrong. An offender,
* By perfection here is meant moral perfection.
by his offence, becomes the proper obje&t of punishment, and must continue lo to be, till he has suffered the punishment his crime deserves, or till something takes place in him which renders him the proper object of mercy; and when either of these take place, then he ceases to be the proper object of punishment. I say, 'when either of these take place, because when the offender has rendered himself the proper object of mercy, and as far as he has done fo, then he thereby ceases to be the proper object of punishment, as much as he would, by his füffering in whole, or in part, the punishment his crime deserved. I here put the case, when the offender has rendered himself the proper object of mercy, and as far as he has done so; because, possibly, * an offender may become the proper object of mercy in part, that' is, such circumstances may attend him as mày render it reasonable that his punishment should be abated, but not wholly taken away. This must be the case, except we admit that an offender can be the proper object of mercy to the full, and of punishment to the full, at the same time, which is an apparent contradiction ; because mercy consists in the remiffion of punishment. So that it is not the thewing mercy to any, or to all of fenders, without any rule or reafon; but only
. * I here admit the supposition that an offender come the proper object of mercy only in part, but do nos take upon me to maintain either side of the question.
to fuch as have rendered themselves the proper obječts of mercy, which is right, fit, commendable, and praise-worthy. If to shew mercy to all offenders, without regarding that which renders the offender the proper object of mercy were right and fit, then the consequence will be, that there will be no punishment in futurity ; because we may well be assured that God will not punish where the reason of the thing requires that he should Thew mercy. And, on the other side, if to punish all offenders equal to their crimes, without regarding that which renders the offender the proper object of mercy were right and fit, then the consequence will be, that there will be no mercy shewn in futurity ; because God will not shew mercy where the reason of the thing requires that he fhould punish, which is the present cafe. But the truth lies betwixt those extreams. For, as God will punish such offenders as continue to be, notwithstanding his patience and long-suffering towards them, the prom per objects of punishment; so he will certainly shew mercy to all such offenders as have rendered themselves the suitable and proper objects of it.
Thus, I think, I have fully stated the notion of mercy, and shewed what idea we annex to that term, in the present cafe. The next thing to be considered, is what there is in nature which can, and does, render, an offender the proper object of mercy,