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creatures nearly alike in dignity of existence, and in qualifications of body and mind; bound by the same ties of blood, and the same laws of nature, reason, and religion ; but differing only in circumstances. of birth, education, and fortune. So that my offence against my brother being only an offence against one of my own kind, which is liable to the same errors and faults, can deserve only a limited and proportionable punishment, which also should be mitigated by charity and humanity.
True indeed it is, that the ends of society have induced a necessity of subordination, and that every degree of rank and power should be fenced and guarded with a suitable proportion of honour, respect, and obedi
ence; consequently the heinousness of every offence, and the punishment attending it, mult, in order to preserve a due subjection in the state, be adequate to the dignity of the person against whom the offence is committed.
But what proportion is there betwixt the lowest and the highest of men, and God? And yet how cruelly exact are they in their inflictions for the least offences ? how merciful and forgiving He to those that have committed the greatest ?
Let us view the difference a little more attentively in his dealings with David, in the case before us.
2. God by afflicting mankind, endeavours to reclaim them, and to that end often gives warning of his intention, either that we may by our repentance, prevent the affliction, or be the more able to bear it.
Thus did he forewarn David, by his prophet Gad, and even gave him the choice of his punishment, so that knowing the nature of it, he was not distressed with the fear of accumulat, ed miseries; and was not even with, out hope of removing that which was coming upon him; comfort flowed from the very nature of his punishment.
But is man offended; his whole intention is revenge, which suddenly breaks out into action, and overs whelms the guilty victim with vad riety of cruelties, almoft before he knows that he has offended; who having no certainty of the nature or duration of his torments, nor any hope of softening the inexorable heart of his adversary, sinks under ihe double pressure of guilt and despair. Well therefore might David cry out with such earnestness,
fall now into the hand of the “ Lord (for his mercies are great)
and let me not fall into the hand " of man!”
3. Another circumftance that shews the comparative cruelty of man is, that God being omniscient, knows the precise nature of our crime, and every motive and action
attending' it; and accordingly punishes in just weight and measure'; never exceeding, but often in pity diminishing the due proportion : as is particularly remarkable in his punishing David for numbering the people, by diminishing that number.
But man, who knows nothing of the thoughts of another, and but little of his actions, when a small crime is committed is ever ready to aggravate it to the highest, and even to realize the appearance of evil into evil itself. And thus doth he, either ignorantly or wilfully, adapt the greatest punishment to the smallest crimes, and too often exults in the insupportable sufferings of the unhappy criminal. Nay! even the innocent, when he is so unhappy as to