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Another modification of this attribute is commercial justice. This consists in willing exact equivalents, and uprightness in business and all secular transactions. There are some other modifications of this attribute, but the foregoing may suffice to illustrate sufficiently the various departments over which this attribute presides.
This attribute, though stern in its spirit and manifestations, is nevertheless one of prime importance in all governments by moral agents, whether human or divine. Indeed, without it government could not exist. It is vain for certain philosophers to think to disparage this attribute, and to dispense with it altogether in the administration of government. They will, if they try the experiment, find to their cost and confusion, that no one attribute of benevolence can say to another, "I have no need of thee" (1 Cor. 12:21). In short, let any one attribute of benevolence be destroyed or overlooked, and you have destroyed its perfection, its beauty, its harmony, its propriety, its glory. You have, in fact, destroyed benevolence; it is no longer benevolence, but a sickly, and inefficient, and limping sentimentalism, that has no God, no virtue, no beauty, nor form, nor comeliness in it, that when we see it we should desire it.
This attribute stands by, nay, it executes law. It aims to secure commercial honesty. It aims to secure public and private integrity and tranquillity. It says to violence, disorder, and injustice, Peace, be still, and there must be a great calm. We see the evidence and the illustrations of this attribute in the thunderings of Sinai, and in the agony of Calvary. We hear it in the wail of a world when the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and when the windows of heaven were opened, and the floods descended, and the population of a globe was swallowed up. We see its manifestations in the descending torrent that swept over the cities of the plain; and lastly, we shall forever see its bright, but awful and glorious displays, in the dark and curling folds of that pillar of smoke of the torment of the damned, that ascends up before God forever and ever.
Many seem to be afraid to contemplate justice as an attribute of benevolence. Any manifestation of it among men, causes them to recoil and shudder as if they saw a demon. But let it have its place in the glorious circle of moral attributes; it must have it will have it cannot be otherwise. Whenever any policy of government is adopted, in family or state, that excludes the exercise of this attribute, all must be failure, defeat, and ruin.
Again: Justice being an attribute of benevolence, will prevent the punishment of the finally unrepentant from diminishing the happiness of God and of holy beings. They will never delight in misery for its own sake; but they will take pleasure in the administration of justice. So that when the smoke of the torment of the damned comes up in the sight of heaven, they will, as they are represented, shout "Alleluia! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth" (Rev. 19:6): "Just and righteous are Thy ways, Thou King of saints!" (Rev. 15:3).
Before I pass from the consideration of this topic, I must not omit to insist, that where true benevolence is, there must be exact commercial justice, or business honesty and integrity. This is as certain as that benevolence exists. The rendering of exact equivalents, or the intention to do so, must be a characteristic of a truly benevolent mind. Impulsive benevolence may exist; that is, phrenological or constitutional benevolence, falsely so called, may exist to any extent, and yet justice not exist. The mind may be much and very often carried away by the impulse of feeling, so that a man may at times have the appearance of true benevolence, while the same individual is selfish in business, and overreaching in all his commercial relations. This has been a wonder and an enigma to many, but the case is a plain one. The difficulty is, the man is not just, that is, not truly benevolent. His benevolence is only an imposing species of selfishness. "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear" (Rev. 2:7). His benevolence results from feeling, and is not true benevolence.
Again: Where benevolence is, the golden rule will surely be observed: "Whatever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matt. 7:12). The justice of benevolence cannot fail to secure conformity to this rule. Benevolence is a just state of the will. It is a willing justly. It must then, by a law of necessity, secure just conduct. If the heart is just, the life must be.
This attribute of benevolence must secure its possessor against every species and degree of injustice; he cannot be unjust to his neighbor's reputation, his person, his property, his soul, his body, nor indeed be unjust in any respect to man or God. It will and must secure confession and restitution, in every case of remembered wrong, so far as this is practicable. It should be distinctly understood, that a benevolent or a truly religious man cannot be unjust. He may indeed appear to be so to others; but he cannot be truly religious or benevolent, and unjust at the same time. If he appears to be so in any instance, he is not and cannot be really so, if he is at the time in a benevolent state of mind. The attributes of selfishness, as we shall see in the proper place, are the direct opposite of those of benevolence. The two states of mind are as contrary as heaven and hell, and can no more coexist in the same mind, than a thing can be and not be at the same time. I said, that if a man, truly in the exercise of benevolence, appears to be unjust in any thing, he is only so in appearance, and not in fact. Observe, I am speaking of one who is really at the time in a benevolent state of mind. He may mistake, and do that which would be unjust, did he see it differently and intend differently. Justice and injustice belong to the intention. No outward act can in itself be either just or unjust. To say that a man, in the exercise of a truly benevolent intention, can at the same time be unjust, is the same absurdity as to say, that he can intend justly and unjustly at the same time, and in regard to the same thing; which is a contradiction. It must all along be borne in mind, that benevolence is one identical thing, to wit, goodwill, willing for its own sake the highest good of being and every known good according to its relative value. Consequently, it is impossible that justice should not be an attribute of such a choice. Justice consists in regarding and treating, or rather in willing, every thing just agreeably to its nature, or intrinsic and relative value and relations. To say, therefore, that present benevolence admits of any degree of present injustice, is to affirm a perceptible contradiction. A just man is a sanctified man, is a perfect man, in the sense that he is at present in an upright state.