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indeed a fearful error to imagine we have a right to dispose of our affections as we will. In their direction, their duration, and degree, they are to be regulated and controlled, like any other gift of God, and to be applied, as they have been communicated, to his, and his peoples' use and service.

These are the instructions to be gathered from the whole ; and if we will but duly examine how liable we are to fail; nay, how frequently we have already transgressed the holiness of God's law

upon these points, we shall then be prepared more fully to appreciate our danger, more deeply to be affected by the punishment with which we shall perceive, in our next Discourse that these errors, in the present instance, were visited, and more effectually moved to repentance and to vigilance, lest the same punishment should fall upon ourselves.

LECTURE XVII.

JACOB AND ESAU.

PART II.

EZEKIEL XXII. 17, 18, 19.

Their own way have I recompensed upon their heads,

saith the Lord God."

The utmost which retributive justice can legitimately inflict upon the transgressors of a law, is a punishment proportioned to the offence. It would be a manifest advantage, doubtless, if this punishment were made to follow immediately after the commission of the crime ; to arise out of the very circumstances of the transgression ; and to bear in all its parts the impress of retaliation as well as judgement. For when the sword with which the murderer has pierced his brother's breast is plunged the very next moment into his own, we are struck with an additional awe. But though the readiness with which the arm of vengeance is lifted up, and the analogy between the penalty

and the guilt be indeed powerful in their effect upon the feelings, they are not absolutely necessary to the ends of substantial justice. If the slayer be slain, no matter how, we deem it enough to give a warning to others against the repetition of the crime: and neither the practice nor the precepts of any human legislator prescribe an uniform similitude between the sin committed and the suffering endured. They measure, but they do not mould the one by the other.

Such being the principles upon which sentence is usually pronounced against a malefactor; and the certainty rather than the time or manner of visiting guilt with the proper degree of punishment, being that which it is of most consequence to bring home to the reflections of mankind, we may next observe that in order to justify the ways of God to man, it is not necessary that the displeasure of the Almighty against every individual sinner should be uniformly manifested in the life that now is. Confiding in the unerring equity of the Lord, and believing in the reality of a future state, we have no reason for condemning the

ways of Providence as unjust, merely because we behold the ungodly rejoicing in the prosperity of the present world. We know that “ doubtless there is a God that judgeth the earth",”

* Psalm lvji, 11.

that so

notwithstanding the numerous inequalities we observe in the distribution of happiness and misery, and we feel convinced that from his allseeing eye no iniquity can be hid, and that from his ineffable purity no wickedness can escape. Though, therefore, we should see the wicked

they come in no misfortune like other folk",” yet should we still consider their final retribution to be equally sure and severe, and look forward with a fearful foreboding to that grievous recompence which, unless averted by penitence and faith, is most assuredly reserved for them at the resurrection of the dead. If then the Scripture had been altogether silent as to any punishment which, on this side the grave, was inflicted upon the subtilty of Rebekah and Jacob (for it is with a view of applying them to the history of these individuals that I have introduced the preceding remarks): if, I say, we had seen them flourishing through the whole course of their lives in one unbroken train of prosperity and joy, whilst Esau, the victim of their arts, was depressed, degraded, and in want,-we should still have had no right to condemn the dispensation of Heaven, or to deny the Scriptures to be a revelation of God's will, because they have recorded such a dispensation. For whilst the Bible represents the

ways

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vedly in themselves. Yet did both these miseries await the misplaced affections of Isaac. He permitted his heart to yearn with an overweening fondness towards his less deserving child; and in the disobedience and waywardness of that child he experienced his punishment and his grief. In the very hour in which he imagined he was testifying his tenderness in his blessing upon Esau, he was taught the bitterness of wounded feelings, and blighted hopes, by finding that the weightiest of his words, and the warmest of his wishes had fallen, most unwillingly, upon Jacob's head. It must be a rigorous mind indeed which would call for a severer sentence upon a merely misguided partiality.

2. The punishment of Rebekah was of a different nature. The mysterious arrangements of an over-ruling Providence allowed her scheme, however artful in its contrivance, and however objectionable in the mode of its execution, to be crowned with success in no inconsiderable degree. Her desires, in their most important particular, in procuring “the blessing of Abraham" for Jacob, were certainly and signally fulfilled ; because in this respect her wishes corresponded with the will of the Most High : and it would ill become the Holy One that inhabiteth eternity, to permit the presumption of his creatures, to break

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