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for another thing. For when we consider what we ourselves owe to God, how much we are beholden to him and how much we depend upon his grace ; and when we think upon ourselves as christians, as relieved by Christ, and what thereby we are enjoined by our Saviour towards our brethren ; then (I say) it will not become us to appear in the defence of strict right, where equity is on the other side ; without moderation, clemency, compaffion and dealing with qur brethren as we ourselves are dealt withal by God. And when we shall thus consider, we shall find it necessary to abate of that which we call our due. It is this that the apostle chargeth upon us in the 5th verse of this chapter, where the word that is translated moderation (let your moderation be known to all men) is let your equity, your canilor, your ingenuity, your fair dealing, your giving allowance to all things considerable in a cafe; let this be known. And I am sure if we do not thus use this fairness and candor, but stand upon strict right, and upon the utmost terms that possibly we may demand ; we not only depart from the nobleness and ingenuity of a gospel-spirit, but we take a course that a cancelled obligation may return upon
And upon this confideration I offer to you the case in the xviiith of Matthew, from the 23d to the 35th verfe ; where you have a parable of a lord that had forgiven to his servant a debt ; this man hath a fellow-fervant that was indebted to him, he falls upon his debtor with violence, uses extremity, and will abate nothing, not remembring what his lord had forgiven him ; but his lord calls him to an account and was wroth with him, and delivered him
to the tormenters till he should pay all that he was due unto him. Our Saviour meant thus : we ourselves are greatly indebted to God, we pray for pardon and forgiveness and for grace, and we do obtain it ; and God doth expect that we should express the sense thereof, by dealing with others tenderly and compassionately ; if we do not, we provoke God to deliver us over to punishment : 80 likewise shall my heavenly father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Let a man therefore take heed ; for fins that were in a fair tendency toward forgiveness, may return upon a man by his extremity. I am sure we expect other meafure from God in all our deprecations. Psalms cxxx. 4. there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayst be feared. And the ciii. Psalm hath many verses together, highly to be valued and considered by us all. It begins at the 8th verse ; the lord is merciful and gracious, flow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. ver. 9. he will not always chide, neither will be keep his anger for ever. ver. 10. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquity. ver. 11. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards them that fear him. ver. 12. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. ver. 13. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. 14. For he knoweth our frame, he remembreth that we are dust.
ver. 15. As for man, his days are as grass : as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. ver. 16. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone, and the place thereof Mall know it no more. 17.
But the mercy
of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto childrens children, &c. It is not possible that any man should read this scripture and consider it, and reflect upon himself and think how much it is his own cafe, how much he is indebted to God; but he must needs think himself obliged to all acts of clemency, of forbearance and forgiveness, all pity and compassion ; for thus God is to all sinners, and we are all finners before him ; and can we expect this from God, and express ourselves quite contrary towards our fellowcreatures? In Dan. ix. 16. Daniel prayeth; O Lord, according to all thy righteoufnejs, I beseech thee let thine anger and thy fury be turned away, &c. Obferve how the septuagint glofles upon these words, according to all thy righteousness; thus the septuagint, according to thy benignity, clemency and compassion. God's righteoufness we expect in such a conjunction, Psalm li. 1. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Nehemiah ix. 32. Now therefore our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepeth covenant and mercy. So that he is very little mindful of the weakness and infirmity of human nature, who is not moved to bowels of pity and compassion, and fair and equal consideration : he doth not consider how much he is engaged to God, nor doth he consider the infirmities of human nature, that doth not afford fair allowance. Pfalm cxlv. 7. Men shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and fall sing of thy righteousness. verse 8. The Lord is gracious, and full of compasion, how to anger,
and of great mercy, verse 9. The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works. I have said enough to engage all men to measure strict right by that which we call ingenuous, noble, equal, fair. Let us afford one another the measure that we our felves depend upon and expect from divine goodness, or we are undone for ever,
Now to speak to my argument. Two things lic before me to show you.
1. The rule and measure of just and equal,
2. The difference between these two, what is just, and what is equal. There is that which may be called just and right ; of which if a man will abate nothing, the law will allow it ; it may be done and an- : other cannot hinder it, nor none can call him an unrighteous person if he will have it. And there is that which is equal and fit and good to be done, and which becomes a good man to do. This distinction you have in Rom. v. 7. where the apostle calls one a righteous man, and another a good man : for scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some will even dare to die.
The righteous man is a man of strict right, he will do no wrong, but he hath hardly that largeness of ipirit to do good, he will do nothing but what the law will admit, that which another can neither hinder it nor call him in question for doing it : but the other, the good man, he will do that which is equal and fit; he will abate of strict right, he is willing to do courtesies, to perform all mutual good offices : for this good man, (he is so lovely a person, so highly valuable,) a man would, eyen venture his own life to save this good
man's life, he is so beneficial to his neighbours.
But to speak to the point. Just is said to be twa ways.
1. That is just, which may be done ; and if it be, no wrong is then done. And,
2. That is just that must be done, and ought to be, done. Or in short thus : there is, just if it be; and just, that it must be.
I will make improvement of this distinction ; for this distinction will give a well-meaning-man relief about the justice of God, which we dread to think of, because we ourselves are obnoxious and liable : we are wont to lay, it is just with God to punish sins; I will grant ’tis true in the one sense, but I hope not in the second : it is just with God to punish sin ; wherever he thinks fit to punish a finner, he doth that which is just. Nehemiah ix. 33. Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us ; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly. But I will not say, just that it must be done ; then were we all undone, and our repentance and faith in vain ; and if God then use patience and forgiveness upon repentance or upon any other terms, then God in pardoning is not true to his justice. So it is just with God to punish finners, where God thinks fit to inflict it; and no body can say any thing to the contrary : but thanks be to God, not just in the latter sense, that God is bound to it, that he ought to do it, that he must do it. Now, that it is not just with God to punish fin in this latter sense, is, because God is Lord and master of his own right, and he may depart from his right if he pleases. For thus I will state the case ; we are.