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NO RESPECT OF PERSONS WITH GOD.
ROM. ii. 11.
For there is no respect of persons with God.
Ir is an ordinary conceit, grounded on a superficial view SERM. LXX. of things, that Almighty God dispenseth his gifts with great inequality, and dealeth very partially with men; being lavish in his bounty to some, but sparing therein to others; slack and indulgent in calling some to account, but rigorous and severe in judgment toward others.
Which imagination often hath influence upon the affections and the actions of men; so that hence some men do Ps. lxxiii. 6. highly presume, others are much discouraged: some are apt to boast themselves special darlings and favourites of Heaven; others are tempted to complain of their being quite deserted, or neglected thereby.
But whoever more carefully will observe things, and weigh them with good consideration, shall find this to be a great mistake; and that in truth God distributeth his favours with very equal measures: he poiseth the scales of justice with a most even hand; so that reasonably no man Job xxxi. 6. should be exalted, no man should be dejected in mind,
upon account of any considerable difference in God's regard towards him, and other persons; the which is clearly discovered by God, or merely dependeth on his will and providence.
The advantages, which one man hath above another, SERM. being estimated morally, in reference to solid felicity and LXX. content, are indeed none; or are not absolutely made by God, but framed by men unto themselves. For,
God is indifferently affected towards persons as such, nakedly and privately considered; or as divested of moral conditions, qualifications, and actions: he in his dealing, whether as benefactor or judge, purely considereth the reason and exigency of things, the intrinsic worth of persons, the real merits of each cause; he maketh no arbitrary or groundless discriminations; he neither loveth and favoureth, nor loatheth and discountenanceth any person unaccountably: he doth utterly disclaim partiality, or respect of persons, as a calumnious aspersion on him, and a scandal to his providence.
Such in holy Scriptures he representeth himself, upon various occasions; declaring his perfect impartiality, and that nothing beside the right and reason of cases doth sway with him; all other considerations being impertinent and insignificant to him. For instance,
It is declared, that he hath no partial respect to nations; (Rom. ". for the piety of Job, an Edomite; of Melchisedeck, a Ca- 12. iii. 29.) naanite; of Jethro, a Midianite; were very pleasing to him: he favourably did hear the prayers and accept the alms of Cornelius a Roman soldier; whereupon St. Peter made this general reflection: Of a truth I perceive that God is no Acts x. 34. respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth 35. him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
that Col. iii. 11.
He is declared not to regard the external profession of true religion, but real practice according to it: He ren-(Gal. v. 6. dereth, saith St. Paul, to every man according to his iii. 28.) deeds-tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but 6, 9, 10, 11. glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good, (x. 12. iii. to the Jew first and also to the Gentile: for, addeth the Apostle, assigning the reason of this proceeding, there is no respect of persons with God.
He is said not to respect faces, or any exterior appear
SERM. ances, however specious in the eye of the world; acLXX. cording to that saying of God to Samuel, at the choice of David before his brethren; Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature, because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance; but the Lord looketh on the heart.
1 Sam. xvi. 7.
It is expressed, that he hath no respect to the outward
or worldly rank and dignity of men; but that prinees and peasants, masters and servants, the honourable or wealthy, and the mean or poor, are of equal consideraJob xxxiv. tion with him; He, saith Job, accepteth not the persons of Wisă. vi. 7. princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of his hands; and St. Paul biddeth Eph. vi. 9. masters to deal fairly with their servants, knowing, saith he, that your Master is also in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
25. iv. 1.
We are taught, that he doth not regard even the most sacred offices, or more worthy accomplishments of men, in prejudice to the verity of things, or equity of the case; for hence St. Paul maintaineth his resolute behaviour toward Gal. ii. 6. those great pillars of religion, St. Peter and St. James; Of those who seemeth to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person.
It is frequently inculcated, that he hath no consideration of any gifts, of sacrifices, of services presented to him with sinister intent, to compound for sin, or excuse from duty, to pervert justice, or palliate wrong; according Deut. x. 17. to that [declaration of Moses, The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward;
2 Chron. and that] charge of king Jehoshaphat to his judges, Let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed, and do it; for
there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of Ecclus. persons, nor taking of gifts. And, Do not think, saith the (Isa.i.3.1xi. Hebrew wise man, to corrupt (him) with gifts; for such 8. lxvi. 3. he will not receive; and trust not to unrighteous sacrixxi. 27. fices; for the Lord is judge, and with him is no respect of
Prov. xv. 8.
Jer. vi. 20. Mic. vi. 7, 8. Hos. vi. 6.) Rom. ii. 11.
In fine, it is often generally declared, that God impar- SERM. tially dispenseth recompenses, in just proportion, accord- LXX. ing to the deeds of men: He, saith St. Paul, that doeth Col. iii. 25. wrong, shall receive for the wrong which he hath done, and there is no respect of persons: And if, saith St. Peter, ye 1 Pet. i. 17. call upon the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.
There is nothing more frequently asserted, or more seriously urged in holy Scripture, than this point, that God will judge and deal with men, not according to his absolute, antecedent affections, but according to their own works, or the tenor of their practice, duly scanned and estimated by the rules of justice; so that the really better man will certainly prove the happier, and the worse man shall be the more wretched: He will reward every man, saith our Lord, Matth. xvi. zarà rηv zgãğıv aùroũ, according to his practice: Every one, Rom. ii. 6. saith St. Paul, shall receive the things done in his body, Rev. ii. #gòs rà gya, suitably, (in just proportion) to his works; and 2 Cor. v. 10. each man shall receive ïdiov pov, his own wages according 1 Cor. iii. 8. to his own labour; and then praise (or a due taxation) 10. shall be to every man from God: Behold, saith he in the xxxii. 19. Revelation, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to 1 Cor. iv. 5. recompense each man ὡς τὸ αὐτοῦ ἔργον ἔσται, as his work shall be.
23. xx. 12.
Ps. lxii. 12.)
Wherefore by sacred testimonies it is abundantly mani-'Adva fest, that impartiality is a divine attribute and perfection of God; the which (for our greater satisfaction, and farther illustration of the point) may be also evinced by divers arguments, some proving that it must be so, others shewing that it is so; some inferring it a priori, from the prime, most avowed attributes of God's nature, and from his relations to men; others arguing it a posteriori, from principal instances of God's proceedings and providential dispensations toward men.
Of the first sort are these:
1. God is impartial, because he is perfectly wise, and thence doth truly estimate persons and things.
Wisdom doth look evenly, with a free and pure (an in
SERM. different and uncorrupt) eye upon all things; apprehendLXX. ing and esteeming each as it is in itself; making no distinction where it findeth none; not preferring one thing before another, without ground of difference in them. It doth not fix a valuation on its objects, but acknowledgeth it, and taketh it for such as it is in themselves.
Wherefore God cannot have any blind affection or fondness toward any person grounded on no reason, or upon any unaccountable prejudice. No person can seem amiable or odious to him, who is not in himself truly such.
This argument is often used in Scripture; and to assure us of this truth, it is there frequently affirmed, that God doth search the hearts, doth try the spirits, doth weigh the actions of men: The Lord, said Hannah, is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed: All the ways of man, saith Solomon, are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits: His eyes, saith the Psalmist, behold, his eyelids try the children of men: And, O Lord of hosts, saith Jeremiah, that judgest righteously, that triest Jer. xxxii. the reins and the heartThine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.]
2. God cannot be partial, because he is perfectly righteous, just, and holy. This reason adjoined to the former doth make up a complete demonstration: for partiality doth proceed either from blindness of mind, or from perverseness of will; he, therefore, who hath both an exact knowledge of things, and a perfect rectitude of will, can nowise be partial; the one enabling him to judge, the other disposing him to affect things as they are and deserve; to esteem and love that which is indeed worthy and lovely ; to despise and dislike that which is despicable and odious ; to have no opinion or affection toward a person, abstracted from all qualifications; such an one being no special object of a wise and just either esteem or contempt, love or
1 Sam. ii. Prov. xvi.
Psal. xi. 4.
Jer. xvii. 10.