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beauty and excellency of them; that they all approve themselves to the reason of mankind, are all of them boly, and just, and good, worthy of God to enjoin, and fit for men to obey. I will venture to lay the whole stress of practical religion upon the justice and equity of it. When any one can prove that any of the divine precepts are unrighteous, I will grant that he is released from an obligation to the practice of them: but till he can do this, he cannot with any colour refuse obedience to them; but should follow the psalmist's example, and bind himself by an oath to the performance of God's righteous judgments.
:: Psalm CXIX. 106. : I have sworn, and I will pero
form it, that I will keep the righteous judgments.
EN a former discourse upon
py these words, I created con1 cerning religious resolution;
og and, to prevent mistakes a
bout it, laid before you its properties ; which I reduced to four heads.
1. It is founded on mature delibe· ration.
2. It is peremptory and unmoveable.
3. It refpects the time present, and admits of no delay.
4. It is universal, and respects all God's commandments.
Having thus explained the thing, I proceeded to recommend it to you from the consideracion suggested in the text; viz. the righteousness of the divine commands.
I have already confidered those which regard our conduct towards God himself; and endeavoured to prove that those precepts which enjoin the love and fear of God, trust and confidence in him, the worship and adoration of him, and obedience to him, both active and passive, are righteous precepts. I shall now attempt to prove the same concerning those precepts which regard our conduct towards our fellow creatures, and those which relate to the government of ourselves; and then from the confideration of the righteousnefs of all the divine commands, shall exhort you to follow the psalmist's example, and bind yourselves by an oath, to the performance of God's righteous judgments.. I observe therefore,
2. Concerning those precepts which regard our conduct towards our fellow creatures, that they are righteous precepts. The scripture reduces these to two heads ; viz. Justice and Mercy; Micah. VI. 8. He hath bewed thee, a man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do juftly;, and love mercy?
By justice. is commonly meant na more than the rendring to every one what is his, and permitting him quietly to enjoy it : but I shall take it in a larger sense, and comprehend under it the virtues of truth and fidelity, and gratitude to our benefactors, which are parts of justice as much as that which is strictly so called.
That it is righteous to render to every one what is his, and permit him quieta ly to enjoy it, appears at first sight. Who should enjoy a thing, if not he whose it is? That very consideration, of its being another man's property, is a plain argument, that I ought not to deprive him of it by any means, either by
UIC it as 100n as pollible
force or fraud, but should let him alone to dispose of it as he pleases ; and that, in case he hath lent it me, I ought not to detain it longer than is necessary, buc should restore it as soon as
And as there is a natural fitness and decency in this virtue of justice; fo likewise is it highly useful in society, and absolutely necessary to the support of it. What would become of mankind, if a regard to justice was banished out of the world? There would be nothing but disorder and confusion amongst men : no man would be secure in the enjoyment of his own ; but all that one has would be precarious and uncertain, and lie at the mercy of the next insolent invader, who should have it in his power to deprive him of it. How great are the mischiefs which arise from injustice? It overthrows liberty and property: it diffolves that distinction which nature has placed betwixt mine and my neighbour's goods : and whosoever is guilty of it, does as good as say that there is nothing which a man can properly call his own, but that any other person hath a right to it as much as himself, and may go and ravish it from him without doing him any injury.