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casion in our world! see Adam cast out from Paradise; the earth cursed for his sake; the man doomed to severe labour; the woman to multiplied sorrows; the creature" made subject to vanity;" and trouble, sickness, and death, like a mighty flood, overwhelming all mankind.
When men had multiplied on the earth, sin seems to have preserved a sad proportion to their numbers; and wickedness rose to such a daring height, that Justice could no longer forbear, but opened the windows of Heaven, and unbarred the gates of the great abyss, and poured universal destruction on a guilty world.
At another time, fire from Heaven consumed the base inhabitants of Sodom; and the sword of Israel was the instrument of divine justice in the extirpation of the wicked Canaanites. Israel herself, highly favoured as she was of God, could not escape his chastising hand, but always suffered when she sinned. It was divine justice that armed the Philistines, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Romans, and made them the severe scourges of an ungrateful and backsliding nation. In like manner, nation after nation, in their turn, having filled up the several measures of their iniquities, have declined and perished. Men ascribed their fall to the ambition of a neighbouring conqueror; but the real cause was predominant sin, punished by the sword of divine justice.
It is true, that God does not always execute immediate justice on every transgressor; but this is no impeachment of that perfection, although it be abused by some: "because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, the hearts of men are fully set in them to do evil." It is possible that the impunity with which some atrocious rebels seem to sin, may stumble even believers themselves, who cry, in the perplexity of their spirit, "Wherefore dot' the way of the wicked prosper?" "How long, O Lord, shall the wicked triumph?" But they should
remember that the judge of all the earth will certainly do right. Sometimes the wicked may be spared as instruments of public good. Contrary to their intentions, they may eventually effect the purposes of Heaven. Besides, the present is a state of probation. God is giving them" time and space for repentance," and, if they repent not, his arm that delays to strike, will fall with a heavier blow hereafter; and patience abused, will aggravate their future punishment.
Often, however, the great God convinces the world that he has not relinquished the government of it. His vengeance falls heavily on some distinguished rebels. Bloody persecutors have sometimes been signally cut off. Murderers have often been remarkably detected. Perjured wretches, and those who have called God to witness their falsehoods, have been suddenly destroyed; and Conscience, awakened and terrified, has frequently supplied the place of accusers, witnesses, judge, and executioner. Yes! and thus "God is known by the judgment that he executeth." Ps. ix. 16. Verily, there is a God that judgeth on the earth."
Indeed, the operation of conscience, in general, among all the children of men, affords a striking evidence of the Justice of God. Why else is it that every man feels pleasure when he has performed a good action, and pain when he has committed a bad one? Conscience, like the grand jury in our excellent constitution, finds the bill that is afterwards to be publicly tried, and frequently anticipates too the fatal results of the trial. And although there are instances in which good men are exercised with heavy afflictions, and others in which bad men enjoy abundant prosperity, yet it is certain that, that which is good tends to good, and that which is evil tends to evil. "Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness ;" "godliness is great gain;" "length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour." A life of virtue and religion tends to health,
wealth, and long life; while, on the other hand, vice and ungodliness as powerfully tend to disease, poverty, infamy, and death; and this wise distribution of things is a standing evidence of the Justice of God.
4. But the most affecting display of divine Justice was made in the sufferings and death of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Indeed, this was the chief design of the death of Christ. When all men had "sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" when they had dishonoured his holy law by their disobedience,-in what way could the honour of God be restored? If justice alone take place, the sentence of death must be executed, and every transgressor receive the wages of his sin; but if mercy interpose, and spare the guilty, what becomes of the justice of God? Here divine wisdom steps in, and provides equally for the glory of justice and of mercy. "God so loved the world, that he gave"-"he spared not, his onlybegotten Son;""he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; our sins were made to meet upon him; and the Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all." And why was this done? St. Paul 66 it was to declare the righteousness or justice of God;" and thus to convince all the world that "he is just, while the justifier of him that believeth." Thus a just and holy God " condemned sin in the flesh" (of his own Son) "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in (or for) us."-See Isa. liii. 5; Rom. iii. 25; and viii. 3. On this ground, God will appear to be just, as well as merciful, in pardoning and justifying the believer in Jesus.. On this ground it is said, concerning the penitent and believing sinner, "Save him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom." Job xxxiii. Grace is thus exalted to the hightest degree, but not to the disparagement of justice; both are exalted together; as saith the apostle (Rom. iii. 24), "Being justified freely by his grace, through
the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." If pardon for the chief of sinners could not be obtained, how would it appear that God is infinitely merciful? but if pardon were bestowed without any satisfaction for sin, how would it appear that God is infinitely just? But when God is pleased to punish sin in the person of his dear Son, and in consequence of the honour done to his law thereby, he is pleased to pardon and save the guilty; abundant provision appears to he made for the glory both of justice and mercy; and thus, "Grace reigns," but it "reigns through righteousness," through the justice of God in punishing sin, and the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the illustrious sufferer. Rom. v. 21.
On this foundation, the vilest sinners, the greatest offenders, being penitent, may hope for mercy; for "if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins;" not for the merit of repentance, as some falsely conclude, but because "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin," as St. John' saith (1 John i. 7, 9) and as he affirms immediately after, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous." He further informs us on what grounds this powerful Advocate pleads for our pardon; this immediately follows: "He is the propitiation for our sins," ver. 2. He does not, therefore, sue for mere mercy: he pleads the price paid, the ransom laid down, the death endured; and the covenant, the promise, and the oath of the Father, made with and to him, in behalf of all who were given to him, redeemed by him, and who apply to him for salvation. "All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me, and him that cometh unto me, I will in nowise cast out." "Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." John vi. 37, and John xvii. 24.
Thus we have seen that God is infinitely just. Let us then "ascribe righteousness to our Maker." His ways may sometimes appear to be mysterious, but never let his justice be suspected. "Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid!" "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Unquestionably. When he corrects his children, when he punishes his enemies, we ought to say, "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints."
If God be just, we may certainly conclude that there will be a day of judgment. If God be just, "it shall be well with the righteous; it shall be ill with the wicked." If God be just, then "what a man sows, he shall certainly reap," and every man shall receive according to his works. If so, there must be a day of judgment-the day of "the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." At present, wicked men may escape punishment, for this is the day of God's patience, and our trial. But such are the irregularities of the present state of things, that there must needs be a day of settling, a day of retribution. Let not then the daring offender flatter himself with impunity. If the young man rejoice in his youth, and he walk in the ways of his heart, and in the sight of his eyes," let him know this-that "for all these things God will bring him into judgment." O! stand in awe, and sin not, for God will bring every work and thought into judgment, whether it be good or bad. If sinners would escape the punishment of their sin, let them believe the gospel, and take refuge in Christ. There is no safe approach to this just and Holy God, without a Mediator; but through him, who has glorified divine justice by his obedience to death, the greatest sinners may be accepted.
If God be glorious in his justice, it will be our honour to imitate him. "If we know that he is righteous, we know that every one that doeth righteous