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offence, they contend, increases in proportion to the dignity of the personage against whom it is committed ; hence, a crime against a king is always visited with greater severity of punishment, than an offence against an ordinary per, $on. Since, therefore, God is infinite, and since every sin is an offence against God, every sin is an infinite evil.
The full reply to this reasoning is, that it is not rạnk and station which aggravate a crime, but its tendency to occasion misery. An offence against a king, it is true, is of a greater magnitude, and is punished with more severity, than the injurious treatment of an ordinary person; but the reason is, that an offence against a king is likely to be attended with worse con. sequences than one against a private individual, If a king be treated with insult or injustice, a whole nation may be injured and thrown into commotion. In the one case, the evil attaches to a single individual, in the other to millions of persons: in the one case, therefore, it is as much greater than the other, as the sum of an evil which extends to millions exceeds that which attaches only to a single individual,
Besides, were sin an infinite evil, there could be no degree in transgression: for when speaking of infinity, it is absurd to talk of greater or less. All human actions, therefore, all the language of mankind, all laws, human and divine, and all punishments, contradict this opinion : for they all proceed upon the principle, that some crimes are of greater magnitude than others. We know too, that the Deity distinguishes in the most exact manner between different offences ; that he apportions to each an equitable degree of punishment, and that he who has sinned greatly shall be beaten with many, and he who has offended less, with fewer stripes.
Indeed, it is when we consider the minute shades by which different sins and even different characters are discriminated, that we perceive in the most forcible manner the impossibility both of the doctrine of endless misery, and of limited punishment terminated by destruction. How slight is the difference between the worst good man and the best wicked man ! How impossible is it for the utmost exertion of human sagacity to distinguish between them! Yet for this imperceptible difference in character there is, according to these doctrines, an infinite difference in des. tiny! He who is lowest in the scale of goodness, and who differs from the best wicked man only by the slightest shade, is admitted to infinite happiness : he in whom wickedness preponderates upon the whole, but in so small a measure that no human penetration can discern it, is shut out from the enjoyment of heaven ; doomed by one doctrine to inconceivable torments through endless ages, and by the other to dreadful suf
fering for a very protracted period, and then to endless extinction of being. According to one opinion the positive torment, according to the other the positive loss, is infinite, yet the difference in desert is indistinguishable! This is a disproportion to which there is no parallel in any of the works of the Deity, and which cannot exist, it is reasonable to believe, in any of his dispensations.
OF THE ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF ENDLESS MISERY, FOUND
ED ON THE DIVINE JUSTICE.
As the Author of the beautiful systeni of the universe must possess almighty power and infinite wisdom, so he must be endowed with
every moral excellence. He who gave to all things the relations they possess, must be perfectly acquainted with them ; and since he cannot possibly err, nor have any motive to commit injustice, he must always act with undeviating rectitude.
Justice is one of those virtues which are essential to the perfection of the moral character. The intercourses of society could not subsist without it, and it is peculiarly necessary in a governor and judge. It is, therefore, with the greatest propriety, attributed to the wise and benevolent Ruler of the world.
Yet while it is universally admitted that the Deity possesses this excellence in the highest perfection, many persons entertain very erroneous ideas respecting it. It is usual to speak of it as a stupendous and awful attribute, inexplicable in its nature, terrible in its consequences, and possessing little in common with the virtue of justice among mankind. It is represented as contrary in its nature to goodness, and all the use which is made of it in favor of the doctrine of endless misery, must proceed upon this presumption : for if it be of the same nature as benevolence, it can no more oppose the final restoration of all mankind than goodness itself.
To shew the fallacy of the distinction which many persons endeavor to establish between the justice and goodness of God, it is sufficient to observe, that the Deity cannot possess two attributes of an opposite nature to each other; that all his perfections harmonize; that they have all one origin and one object; that that origin is be
; nevolence, and that object the diffusion of happiness : but as there is no attribute concerning which such vague and mistaken notions are entertained, and as these opinions necessarily affect the view which is taken of the most interesting doctrines, it is of great importance to establish precise and just conceptions respecting it.
The misapprehension which has prevailed relative to this subject, has arisen chiefly from the opinion, that justice in God is of a different nature from this excellence in man.
But as we have no idea of the Divine goodness, except from those indications of it which are similar to the appearances that prove the benignity of human beings, so we can have no conception of the