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pressed in the text. The essence and foundation principle of morality is involved in the precept, “Do justly.” It is a compact summary of all social duty, binding us not only to legal exactness, but to absolute rectitude, and yielding to no other court of final resort the authority of the court of conscience. It lays its injunctions upon us in solitude and in darkness, as if our actions were read and known. It abolishes all standards of mere selfish advantage and worldly policy, commanding us to do the just, the true, the righteous thing, whatever may come of it in the way of personal or temporal conseqnences. There is no relation in which we ought to stand to our neighbor, to society, to the world around us, no affection that we ought to entertain for our fellow-men, nothing that we ought to do concerning him, before his face or behind his back, in his knowledge or in his ignorance, not summed up in these words, “ Do justly.” That is all that is required of you. In the mart, in the workshop, in the counting-room, in the office, in public and private, that is all that is required of you. Be just, clear down to the sockets of your soul—in thought, in deed, in word, in hand, in brain, in heart.
It will not do merely to mumble these words over, and say, “Do justly,” in a flippant way. Here is a requirement for a man to test his conduct by, to take as a lamp wherewith to search himself even to the innermost depths.
The first thing to consider in doing this is, What is my idea of justice? Does it seem limited to the mere scope of legal censure? It seems so to some; their standard of justice seems limited to the point at which the law can not take hold of them or make them suffer, no matter whether they impede the rule of right, and thwart absolute justice or not.
It would be very singular if this great elastic shad-net of the law did not enable them to catch at something balking for the time the eternal flood-tide of justice. Oh, what a vast difference between law and justice between human enactments and God's everlasting requirements ! Sorrow for us if all existing laws were the representatives of God's justice, as men sometimes pompously say.
Is your idea of justice that which is legal, merelythat which the law will enable you to do? Pay twenty-five cents on a dollar, when you ought to pay a hundred, if the law will only let you? Screw the last cent out of a poor man who stands before you in the naked appeal of his poverty, because it is legal ? Turn the widow and children out of doors, because you have a legal right to do it? If anything could surprise God Almighty (I speak it with reverence), it must be this. He must look with pitying wonder to see how his children, who every moment depend on his mercy for their very breath, impudently strut forth, in the name of justice, and claim their rights with a hard, unbending, unyielding heart. Is it your idea of justice to set up your individual will, your selfish standard, regulated only by parchment laws, no matter what the spirit of civilization, no matter what the general good demands? Do you, in your conception of justice, set the sum total of your profits against the sum total of human welfare? Will you deliver
Jesus Christ, or the image of him in humanity, to the authorities for thirty pieces of silver, and call that justice? I repeat, is it not sickening to think how men caricature divine justice, and claim to be its representatives? Oh, no, my friends, law is not always justice, and by slipping into some little knot-hole of legal technicality, we do not escape the requisition in the text. It is a very sublime precept--" Do justice." Oh, how it goes down into the world's heart, and strikes the world's conscience? How it smites the world's sin ! How it touches almost every fiber of our social organization, rebuking and commanding us to do justice! The justice that stands forever on God's side, insisting upon the right, the ancient, eternal right, with its clear, awful eyes burning away every sophistry of individual souls, is very different from the justice that is meted out by courts and juries.
With others, justice only means the stern thing, the severe thing-eye for eye, tooth for tooth-give back as good a blow as you receive—that serves any one right-let them have the full force that they gave—that is justice for them. Away with this puling sentimentality about mercy; drive a stern plowshare clear through the human heart, and strike out every truth that Jesus Christ has planted there; that is justice in the idea of many. In this way a man gets a good chance to deify his own passions, and thinks he is doing God service. Thus a strong nation, under the pretext of some petty insult from a weaker nation, stalks forth with a desolating army, and teaches it justice with belching fire and gunpowder.
Sometimes men reverse this a very little ; they do not exactly give blow for blow, but they manage in some other way, by some sting of reproach, or some obnoxious word, to get their revenge. They are after their revenge all the while. Even when they profess to be Christians, some men take up the very code of Christ, which requires them to return good for evil, and endeavor not so much to do good to those that injure them as to get revenge. They heap coals of fire on their enemy's head in order to love him ; but they are very much disappointed if the coals do not scorch. Now justice is often a severe thing, but it is never a brutal thing, never a fierce thing. More than this, strange as it may seem, justice is a merciful thing. This calling down fire from heaven, this giving blow for blow, may satisfy the mere savage, uncultivated sentiment of man's heart, but, after all, it does not do the work of true justice. True justice rectifies and sets things right; blow for blow deranges and sets things wrong. It entails a perpetuity of evil; revenge follows revenge. When we take in, not mer ly the good that comes to society, but all the final
results, we see a great difference between the operations of God's justice and what man dignifies with that name. No, my friends, the essence of justice is mercy. You make a child suffer for wrong-doing ; that is merciful to the child. There is no mercy in letting the child have its own will, plunging headlong with the bits in its mouth, to destruction. There is no mercy to society nor to the criminal if the wrong is not repressed and the right vindicated. You injure the soul of the culprit who comes up to take his proper doom at the bar of justice, if you do not make him feel that he has done a wrong thing. You may deliver his body from the prison, but not at the expense of justice, nor to his own injury.
Mercy, good-will — that is always the spirit of justice, depend upon it. Though sometimes it is severe, yet it is never merciless.
Sometimes justice requires us to be merciful in expression and action, as well as in feeling and motive.
“ Love thy neighbor as thyself;" that is justice. It is a merciful, tender, beautiful sentiment. It is the justice of charity-of construing others' acts by that standard in your own breast which shows how much there is to palliate and excuse. Interpret the lives and conduct of others by the best possible motive; give the most allowance to their transgressions that you can ; that is what
you wish them to do to you—not press the hardest construction. What a savage thing this is in society! A man does an apparent wrong; he is sure to