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Divine justice, if it do not resemble that quality which, in the intercourse of men with each other, is distinguished by this term.

Man does not stand alone in the creation, He bears certain relations to his fellow-beings. From these arise certain duties, the exact performance of which constitutes the virtue termed justice. To the several relations of father, brother, husband, citizen, magistrate, judge, pertain appropriate duties, and when a person uniformly and faithfully discharges them, we say that he is just.

And though it is true that the term justice is sometimes used in a more restricted sense, to express one particular duty, yet it is often employed even in a still more extensive acceptation than that which is here assigned. It frequently comprehends not only the duties which we owe to our fellow-creatures, but those also which relate to ourselves and to God. In this sense it is often used in Scripture, as in the following passages :

Proverbs iii. 33: “ He blesseth the habitation of the just." iv. 18: “ The path of the just is as the shining light.” x. 7: “ The memory of the just is blessed.” xvii. 26 : “ To punish the just is not good.” Heb. ii. 4: “ The just shall live by faith.” Luke ii. 25: “Simeon was just and devout.” xiv. 14 : - Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. In all

these places, it is obvious that the term just is used to express general excellence of character.

In common language, however, it is more frequently employed to denote the faithful discharge of social duties; more commonly still to signify the treatment of men according to their character and desert, without regard to their persons or station ; in which sense it stands op. posed to partiality, and perhaps most commonly of all to express the equitable punishment of the guilty.

As men are connected with their fellow-beings, so the Deity bears à certain relation to men. He is their creator, their parent, their moral governor, and their judge. When we say that He is just, we can mean no more than that he is guided in his conduct towards his creatures, by a principle similar in its nature to the virtue of justice among mankind; that, as their creator, for example, he makes a provision for their comfortable existence ; as a parent, he satisfies their returning wants, and teaches them the lessons of wisdom and virtue ; as their moral governor, he rules them according to the principles of perfect equity and benevolence ; and as their judge, he treats them with the utmost exactness according to wise and salutary laws, without partiality.

Perhaps, however, it will lead to a more precise and accurate conception of the only real



difference in this principle, as a divine and a human excellence, to say, that justice in man is the rendering to every person that which is his due ; and that justice in God, is the treatment of every person in the manner which is best suited to his moral state.

When it is affirmed that this principle, as a human excellence, consists in rendering to every person that which is his due, this definition is meant to include, not only what the laws of the state and the institutions of society require, but also what humanity, conscience and religion enjoin. The just man is he who, not limiting himself to the demands of any prescribed law, does good to the utmost extent of his judgment and ability.

But because he has neither the wisdom invariably to discern what is best adapted to the moral condition of his fellow-beings, nor the power always to modify his conduct according to it, even though he should clearly perceive it, it is not proper to make this the rule of his actions. Such a rule is applicable only to Him who possesses the attribute of omniscience, and who has in his own hand the issues of events.

It is evident that the distinction which is here made between this principle as it exists in the Deity and in man, arises not from any difference in the nature of the virtue in the one being and in the other, but solely in the degree in which

they possess it; the one enjoying it in absolute perfection, the other only in a limited mea.


Dr. Edwards gives the following account of justice.* Sometimes, he says, it means commutative justice, sometimes distributive, and sometimes general, or public justice. Commutative justice he defines, the equal exchange and restitution of property ; distributive justice, the equal

i distribution of rewards and punishments ; general, or public justice, the maintenance of the rights of a community, whether a city, state, empire, or the universe. This last he considers, though a frequent, an improper use of the word, because justice in this sense is the same with benevolence.

In the inquiry, whether the endless punishment of the wicked be consistent with justice, he observes, the word justice does not mean commutative justice, because the inquiry has no respect to property, nor does it mean general or public justice; for though it be important to examine, whether the endless punishment of the sinner dying in impenitence, be consistent with the general interest of the universe, yet that is a different question : but it signifies distributive justice, and the precise inquiry is, whether to in

• The Salvation of all Men strictly examined, &c. chap. iv.

flict an endless punishment on the sinner dying in impenitence, be a treatment of bim by his judge, correspondent, and no more than correspondent, to his demerit, or to his moral conduct and personal character. He proceeds to state that a just punishment is that which is proportioned to the crime punished, and that a punishment may be said to be proportioned to the crime punished, when, by the pain or natural evil of the punishment, it exhibits a just idea of the moral evil or vicious tendency of the crime, and a proper motive to restrain all intelligent beings from the commission of it. He infers that the infliction of endless misery is such a punishment, but he advances no argument to prove it: he grounds the justice of such punishment on the nature of sin, which he holds to be an infinite evil, the proof of which he does not himself state, but considers it sufficiently established by his father and other writers on that side. This, indeed, is the only argument ever alleged to prove that the infliction of endless misery is consistent with the Divine justice ; and as this is a point of great importance, it may be proper to state the argument in the words of its chief advocate.

“ I shall show,” says the author of the Discourse on the Eternity of Hell Torments, *

* Edwards on the Eternity of Hell Torments, pp. 3,4; The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners, &c. p. 4.

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