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sents a fair subject of inquiry . Do we then perceive any thing in vice * considered in iUelf ^ which makes it necessary that pain should follow i * , even though this pain should be useless both to the sufferer and toothers ? It is in vain to reply , that , according to the constitution of nature , suffering is the consequence of vice , and therefore that to suppose the fact to be different from what it is , is to suppose an impossibility . That guilt and pain are
connected by a law of nature , is admitted . But the present inquiry is , whether we see any reason , exclusive of utility , why they should be thus connected . And I conceive that we do not . For the sake of brevity I shall occasionally use the term punishment for suffering by which neither the sufferer himself nor others would be benefited . Will it , then , be said , that the fitness of things requires that punishment should follow guilt ? To speak of the fitness of things , without stating to what that fitness relates , is
only to employ words instead of ideas , and to use a relative term as though it had an absolute sense . And granting all that has been said respecting the fitness of things , the question may still be asked , do we see that the fitness of things demands what it is now supposed to require ? Perhaps it may be alleged that the human mind intuitively perceives that guilt ought to be followed by punishment . For other minds I cannot answer , but I have not this intuitive perception . I can , indeed , perceive clearly enough that
punishment which shall be productive of good may be inflicted from a principle of benevolence , but beyond this I perceive nothing . But vice or sin , considered as an offence against the perfect law of God , may justly be visited with what has been termed vindictive punishment . I answer , that the perfection of the divine law , when considered , as it ought to be , in connexion with the frailty of man , does not appear to supply a reason for the infliction of punishment which should do no good ; and that the perfection of the
Divine character forbids the supposition that such punishment will be inflicted . But the honour of the Divine government , it may perhaps be said , requires that guilt should be followed by punishment . When it shall be shewn that the honour of the Divine government consists in something distinct from the good of the creation , this proposition will deserve to be considered . In the mean time it is sufficient to ask , how the honour of any government can be sustained by punishments which should have no
beneficial influence on the subjects of this government ? But does not the ordinary language of mankind seem to be founded on the supposition that guilt deserves punishment for its own sake ? Do we not say of an atrocious criminal , a brutal murderer for example , that he deserves to suffer something worse than death ? In reply , I observe , first , that the indignation which we feel at certain crimes , though a useful principle in our constitution , may sometimes mislead our judgment ; secondly , that the ideas of guilt and
punishment are so closely associated in our minds that we are apt to overlook the link by which the things themselves are connected ; thirdly , that were we to analyze our ideas when we use the above language , we should find our meaning to be , that while death is the legal punishment for lighter offences , the atrocious criminal , if punished according to the enormity of his crime , might justly experience a severer doom . But let us be convinced that no good whatever would follow this severer punishment , and we should immediately acknowledge that to inflict it would only be to add one evil to another .
But , it will be asked , does not every man feel that sin deserves punishment for its own sake , and independently of any benefit by which the punishment may be followed ? To this question I would reply , that where
On Divine Justice . 19
Monthly Repository (1806-1838) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Jan. 2, 1831, page 19, in the Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (2008; 2018) ncse.ac.uk/periodicals/mruc/issues/vm2-ncseproduct2593/page/19/