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and accordingly in the room of this and such like moral virtues, they have foisted in a sort of spiritual religion as they call it; which consists in a certain model of conversion and regeneration, that is made up of nothing but a mere fanciful train of dejections and triumphs, that are most commonly either the effects of a distempered blood, or the unaccountable freaks of an overheated fancy: and if they find they have been converted secundum artem, i. e. that they have undergone those frightful, sorrowful, or joyous passions, which this stated method of regeneration includes, all their after-religion is nothing else but a leaning and rolling on Jesus Christ. And whilst they should be governing their wills, their tongues, and their actions by the eternal rules of justice and goodness, they are employed, as they think, in a higher dispensation ; in forming odd schemes of spiritual experiences, and attending to the inward whispers, and incomes, and withdrawings of the Spirit of God; all which are commonly nothing but only the effects of a melancholy fancy tinctured with religious fears, and flushed with a natural enthusiasm. But whatever it be, it is doubtless a dangerous mistake for men to take up with any religion, which doth not principally insist upon the eternal laws of morality : and though justice or honesty in our dealings with men will never singly recommend us to God, unless it be conjoined with mercy, sobriety, and godliness; yea, though all these together will never recommend us to God, unless their imperfections be purged and expiated by the all-sufficient merit of our blessed Saviour; yet without justice and honesty all our religion is a damnable cheat; and all the merit of our Saviour will be as insignificant to us, as it is to the
devils or damned ghosts. For his merit is no refuge for religious knaves, his wounds no sanctuary for spiritual cheats, or liars, or oppressors : and for such persons as these to shelter themselves in our Saviour's propitiation, is to profane and desecrate it; and thereby to cause those vocal wounds to accuse them, which were made to plead for them; and to provoke that eloquent blood to cry aloud for vengeance against them, which in its native language speaketh far better things than the blood of Abel, Heb. xii. 24. For justice is a duty of that indispensable necessity, that God will not, yea, to speak with reverence, cannot dispense with it: and so far was our Saviour from ever designing to obtain a dispensation from it, that the great end of his dying to obtain our pardon for our past unrighteousness, was to encourage and oblige us to live more justly and righteously for the future. For so the apostle tells us, Tit. ii. 14. That he gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works : and notwithstanding all that he hath done for us, he hath plainly assured us by his apostles, that no unrighteous person shall inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. vi. 9. and that the unjust shall be reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished, 2 Pet. ii. 9. that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men, Rom. i. 18. and that they all shall be damned that take pleasure in unrighteousness, 2 Thess. ii. 12. And if these things be so, then as ever you hope to enter into the kingdom of God, to escape his unquenchable wrath, to hold up your heads at his tribunal, and not to be condemned to everlasting horror and confusion; be persuaded to fly from all unrighteousness, and use all honest care to deal justly and righteously with all men.
II. Consider the great vanity or desperateness of injustice: for if the wrong and injustice you do to another man be such as is repairable, you must resolve to repair it, or to perish for ever. For he who doth not repair an injury when he is able, doth every moment continue and repeat it: and though the first injurious act were transient, and did expire and die in the commission, yet because it leaves a permament evil behind it upon the good name or estate of my neighbour, I am as much obliged, if I am able, to remove the evil from him, as I was at first not to bring it upon him; and all the while I neglect to remove it, I wilfully continue the evil upon him, and in so doing continue wilfully injurious to him. As for instance, when I wilfully asperse another man's reputation, my sin dies not with my slanderous breath, but survives in the evil effects of it; and till I have endeavoured to purge his stained reputation, and to restore him his good name again by a fair and ingenuous vindication, I am a slanderer still, and accountable for all those hard thoughts and injurious words which I have occasioned others to think or speak against him. Again; when I rob or defraud another man of his estate, or any part of it, the sin doth not cease with the transient act of stealth, or cozenage, or violence, which ends and expires in the commission; but continues so long as the damage and evil effect of it remains: whilst therefore he suffers in his estate by my injurious act, and it is in my power to repair it, I continue injuring him; and till I have made him all the re
stitution I am able, I am a cheat, or a thief, or a robber. Since therefore injustice is a damnable sin, as I shewed you before, it necessarily follows, that whenever a man deals unjustly by another, he must at the same time either resolve to undo his own act, or to run the hazard of being undone for ever; the former of which is a ridiculous vanity, and the latter a desperate madness. For what a vanity is it, for a man to do what he resolves to undo, to slander with a purpose to vindicate, and cheat with a resolution to refund; that is, to do an evil thing with a purpose to be never the better for it? If you resolve to restore what you wrongfully take from another, why do
you take it? Is it so cheap a matter to be wicked, that you should covet to be wicked for nothing ? that you should contract a guilt which will bind you over to eternal punishment, with an intention to part with all that temporary gain which tempted and invited you to it? What is this but to weave a Penelope's web, to do and undo, and build castles of cards, to blow them down again; and, which is more vain and nonsensical, to swallow deadly poison for our health and ease, which we know will rack and convulse us, with a purpose to vomit it up again, without gaining either health or ease by it! For he who wrongs another with a purpose to make him restitution, doth an evil action with an intent to get nothing but guilt by it. You say, you intend to restore to him what you wrong him of; and if so, for what end do you wrong him, unless it be to render yourself more criminal and guilty ? for when you have restored to him what you have wrongfully deprived him of, what can remain to you but only the guilt of a wrongful and injurious action ? So that
for men to deal unjustly by others, with an intent to make them restitution, is the greatest vanity and nonsense in the world; but then to do it without such an intent is the most desperate madness. For since every wilful act of injustice binds men over to eternal punishment, and since nothing but restitution, so far as they are able, can release and absolve them from that dire obligation, it necessarily follows, that he who deals unjustly by others without any intent of making them restitution, doth by his own act wilfully oblige himself to endure an eternal punishment. For he knows that what he gains unjustly from another must be restored, or his soul must be lost; and therefore, if he resolve upon that gain without any intent to restore it, he doth in effect stake his soul to it, and freely oblige himself to endure hell-fire for ever, in consideration of the present gain he acquires by his unjust dealing. For he who knows that such a potion, however sweetened and made palatable, is compounded with the juice of deadly nightshade, and yet wilfully swallows it without any intent to disgorge it again, doth thereby voluntarily murder and destroy himself: and so he who knows that such an unjust gain, how tempting soever it may look for the present, hath an everlasting horror and anguish intermingled with it, and yet wilfully seizes it, without any intent to refund it, doth freely consent to undergo the evil to enjoy the good of it, and shake hands upon this desperate bargain, that upon condition he may reap such an unlawful profit, he will freely surrender up his immortal soul to the pangs and agonies of eternal death. For in every temptation to deal unjustly the Devil cheapens our immortal soul, and the un