DISSERTATION ON DIVINE JUSTICE: OR, THE CLAIMS OF VINDICATORY JUSTICE VINDICATED
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WHEREIN THAT ESSENTIAL PROPERTY OF THE DIVINE NATURE IS DEMONSTRATED FROM THE SACRED WRITINGS,AND DEFENDED AGAINST SOCINIANS,PARTICULARLY THE AUTHORS OF THE RACOVIAN CATECHISM,JOHN CRELLIUS,AND F.SOCINUS HIMSELF; LIKEWISE THE NECESSARY EXERCISE THEREOF; TOGETHER WITH THE INDISPENSABLE NECESSITY OF THE SATISFACTION OF CHRIST FOR THE SALVATION OF SINNERS IS ESTABLISHED AGAINST THE OBJECTIONS OF CERTAIN VERY LEARNED MEN, G.TWISSE, G.VOSSIUS,SAMUEL RUTHERFORD, AND OTHERS.
OXFORD: THOMAS ROBINSON. 1653.
This work is devoted to a refutation of the doctrine that sin could be pardoned by a mere volition on the part of God, without any satisfaction to his justice; or, to state the question in the abstract form which it chiefly assumes in the reasonings of Owen, that justice is not a natural attribute of the divine nature, but so much an act of the divine will, that God is free to punish or to refrain from punishing sin. Owen clearly saw that if such a doctrine were entertained, there could be no evidence for the necessity of the atonement, and a stronghold would be surrendered to the Socinian heresy. He was the more induced to engage in the refutation of it, as it was maintained by some divines of eminent worth and ability. Calvin has been cited in its favor; and Owen, without naming him, refers to the only passage in his writings which, so far as we are aware, conveys the obnoxious sentiment, when in the second chapter he speaks of the learned men who, along with Augustine, and amongst orthodox divines, held the view in question. The passage occurs in his commentary on John 15:13: — “Poterat nos Deus verbo ant nutu redimere, nisi aliter nostra causa visum esset, ut proprio et unigenito Filio non parcens, testatum faceret in ejus persona quantum habeat salutis nostrae curam.” An isolated phrase, however, when the question was not specially under his review, is scarcely sufficient basis from which to infer that Calvin held the possibility of sin being forgiven without an atonement; and other parts of his works might be quoted, in which he speaks of the death of Christ as a satisfaction to divine justice, in such terms as almost to preclude the theory for which the sanction of his name has been pleaded. Dr. William Twisse, the learned prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly, published in 1632 a large work, now almost fallen into oblivion, but which passed through several editions, and was justly held in high esteem, “Vindiciae Gratiae. Potestatis, ac Providentiae Divinae.” In the midst of his discussions he inserts several digressions on special topics; and the eighth digression contains an argument to prove that God punishes sin, not by any necessity of nature, or under the promptings of justice, as essential to the perfection of his character, but simply in virtue of a decree, originating in a free act of his will, and regulating, in this subordinate sense, all his procedure towards our race. He was followed by Rutherford in his “Disputatio Scholastica de Divina Providentia,” 1649; and in his work on “Christ Dying, and Drawing Sinners,” etc. One extract from the latter gives a plausible and condensed statement of the whole theory: — “If we of God’s absolute power without respect to his free decree, he could have pardoned sin without a ransom, and gifted all mankind and fallen angels with heaven without any satistfaction of either the sinner or his surety; for he neither punisheth sin, nor tenders heaven to men or angels, by necessity of nature, — as the fire casteth out heat, and the sun light, — but freely.”
Owen, in one of the public disputations at Oxford, had asserted that the exercise of divine justice was necessary and absolute in the punishment of sin. Though his arguments were directed against Socinians, some divines in the university, it was found, held a different opinion from our author on this particular point, and, in full explanation of his views, in 1653 he published his Diatriba. “It is almost entirely,” says Mr Orme, “of a scholastic nature discovering,” indeed, much acuteness, and a profound acquaintance with the subject, but not likely now to be read with much interest. We concur in this criticism, but must take exception to the last remark. The work, in our judgment, at least deserves to be read with interest, as the conclusive settlement of a question of vital moment, one of the most vigorous productions of Owen’s intellect, a specimen of controversy conducted in the best spirit, and displaying powers of thought which remind us of the massive theology of Edwards, while rich in the stores of a learning to which the great American could not lay claim. In the first part of it. Owen proves that “sin-punishing justice is natural, and its exercise necessary to God,” by four leading arguments, — 1. The statements of Holy Writ; 2. The consent of mankind; 3. The course of Providence; and, lastly, The attributes of God as revealed in the cross of Christ. Various subsidiary arguments of considerable importance follow. The second part refutes in succession the opposing arguments of the Socinians, Twisse, and Rutherford Thomas Gilbert, so great an admirer of Owen that he was employed to write his epitaph, nevertheless combated the views maintained in the Diatriba, in a work entitled, “Vindiciae Supremi Dei Domini (cum Deo) Initae,” etc., 1665. Baxter, in a brief premonition to his treatise against infidelity, dissented from the doctrine of Owen on this subject.
The Diatriba was published in Latin. We have compared Mr Hamilton’s translation of it, which appeared in 1794, with the original, and have been constrained to make some serious changes on it, which we cannot but deem improvements. The title, page is more exactly and fully-rendered; a translation of the dedication to Cromwell is for the first time, inserted; passages which had been placed at the foot of the page are restored to their proper place in the body of the text; several passages altogether omitted are now supplied; minor errors have been corrected: and where the change was so extensive as to interfere with the translator’s responsibilities, we have appended a different rendering in a note. — ED.
TO THE PUBLIC.
Any recommendation, therefore, of the present work seems unnecessary.
As the treatise, however, now offered to the public, has long been locked up in a dead language, it may not be improper to say, what will be granted by all competent judges, that the author discovers an uncommon acquaintance with his subject; that he has clearly explained the nature of divine justice, and demonstrated it to be, not merely an arbitrary thing, depending upon the sovereign pleasure of the supreme Lawgiver, but essential to the divine nature. In doing this, he has overthrown the arguments of the Socinians and others against the atonement of Christ, and proved that a complete satisfaction to the law and justice of God was necessary, in order that sinners might be pardoned, justified, sanctified, and eternally saved, consistently with the honor of all the divine perfections.
Whoever makes himself master of the Doctor’s reasoning in the following treatise will be able to answer all the objections and cavils of the enemies of the truth therein contended for. It is, therefore, earnestly recommended to the attention and careful perusal of all who wish to obtain right ideas of God, the nature and extent of the divine law, the horrid nature and demerit of sin, etc., but especially to the attention of young divines. The translation, upon the whole, is faithful. If it have any fault, it is perhaps its being too literal.
That it may meet with that reception which it justly merits from the public, and which the importance of the subject demands, is the earnest prayer of the servants in the gospel of Christ, S. STAFFORD, D.D.
J. RYLAND, SEN., M.A.
TO HIS ILLUSTRIOUS HIGHNESS LORD OLIVER CROMWELL, OF ENGLAND, THE RIGHT HONORABLE CHANCELLOR OF THE VERY CELEBRATED UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.
HAD it not been almost a crime for me, holding my present place in this most celebrated university, under your appointment and auspices, to have inscribed any literary production with a dedication to any other name, I would not have held in such poor account the weight of business you sustain as to make an endeavor to divert your thoughts and attention, so constantly directed to the welfare of the commonwealth, to a little bywork of this kind. But since, according to the nature of my office, I am under frequent necessity to address your Highness in the name of literature and of learned men, the affability of your nature will not suffer me to remain under any anxiety but that you will condescend to examine even this humble production of ours. Perhaps the dedication of books to you (amid prevailing “wars and rumors of wars,” and the fury and commotion of parties bent with eagerness on mutual destruction) will seem unseasonable, and not unlike the celebrated abstraction of him who, amid the destruction of his country and the sack of the city to which he belonged, neglecting all concern about his personal safety, was so obstinately bent on learned trifles as to be slain by a soldier while persisting in those pursuits on account of his skill in which the commander had resolved to spare his life. But even Christian authors have their polemics; and these, alas! too much fitted to excite, increase, and promote bloody strife; — such is the blindness, nay, the madness of most men.
Even this small piece of ours is polemical, I confess; but it fights by means of weapons not offensive to peace, not imbued with hostility, but appropriate to truth, — namely, by the word of God and reason. In this arena, in this fortress, within this list and limit, if all controversies on divine things took place, no longer, on account of seditions and wars, would religion herself, over all Christendom, be so evil spoken of. The cause I maintain will not be esteemed by many of such consequence that I should contend for it so earnestly. But of how much importance it is in war (for it is a war in which we are engaged, and that a sacred one, with the enemies of truth) to secure a citadel or breast-work, your Excellency knows right well; that it is so to the army of the living God, redeemed and. purified by the blood of Christ, whose truth we have undertaken, according to our ability, to defend, any man on serious reflection will easily perceive. Surely we may be permitted to contend for the truth.
Some there are who, under pretense of zeal for the gospel, delight to mingle of their own accord in wars, tumults, strifes, and commotion, sufficiently skilled “AEre ciere viros, Martemque accendere cantu.” We pretend, however, to no such eloquence, nor have we so learned Christ. My hope is, that the Lord and Judge of all will find me intently occupied in preaching Christ and him crucified, in season and out of season, and wrestling in prayer with God our gracious Father, for the salvation of the little flock of his well-beloved Son. Not as if it were in our power to keep free from controversies, for He who declared himself to have been sent, according to his own and the Father’s counsel, not to destroy but to save the lives of men (that is, spiritually and eternally), predicted, however, that from the innate malice of men perversely opposing themselves to heavenly truth, not love, not tranquillity and peace, but strife, hatred, war, and the sword, would ensue upon the promulgation of that truth. Peace, indeed, he bequeathed to his own; but it was that divine peace which dwells in the bosom of the Father, and in the inmost recesses of their own souls. In truth, while his disciples live mingled with other men, and are exposed to national disturbances, how can they but share, like a small boat attached to a ship, in the same tempest and agitation with the rest? But since we have it in command, “if it be possible, and as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all men,” that contention is alone pleasing which is in defense of truth; and it is pleasing only because for the truth we are bound to contend. Therefore, we address ourselves to this work, however humble it may be, in the service of our beloved Savior, to whom we know that a work of this kind, although feeble and imperfect, is pleasing and acceptable; in whom alone, also, we would find both an encouragement and an aim in the prosecution of our studies, not unwilling to undergo any risk or danger under the guidance of such a Leader. But seeing what is acceptable to him cannot displease your Highness, I dedicate with pleasure to your Excellency, in testimony of my gratitude, what I have accomplished in fulfillment of my duty to him. For what remains (since a reason must elsewhere be rendered to the reader for undertaking this work, and “ — in publica commoda peccem, Si longo sermone morer tua tempora”), I bow before God, the best and greatest, beseeching him in Jesus Christ that he would continually direct, by his own Spirit, all the counsels, undertakings, and actions of your highness; that he would turn all these to his own glory, and to the peace, honor, and advantage of the church, commonwealth, and university; and that he would preserve your spirit, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honor and glory for ever. This I write under ill health at Oxford, the last day of the year 1652.
The devoted Servant of your Illustrious Highness, and your Vice- Chancelor in this famous University, John Owen THE PREFACE TO THE READER.
As perhaps, learned reader, you will think it strange that I, who have such abundance of various and laborious employment of another kind, should think of publishing such a work as this, it may not be improper to lay before you a summary account of the reasons that induced me to this undertaking; and I do it the rather that this little production may escape free from the injurious suspicions which the manners of the times are but too apt to affix to works of this kind. It is now four months and upwards since, in the usual course of duty, in defending certain theological theses in our university, it fell to my lot to discourse and dispute on the vindicatory justice of God, and the necessity of its exercise, on the supposition of the existence of sin. Although these observations were directed, to the best of my abilities, immediately against the Socinians, yet it was understood that many very respectable theologians entertained sentiments on this subject very different from mine; and although the warmest opposers of what we then maintained were obliged to acknowledge that our arguments are quite decisive against the adversaries, yet there were not wanting some, who, not altogether agreeing with us, employed themselves in strictures upon our opinion, and accused it of error, while others continued wavering, and, in the diversity of opinions, knew not on which to fix. Much controversy ensuing in consequence of this, I agreed with some learned men to enter, both in writings and conversation, upon an orderly and deliberate investigation of the subject. And after the scruples of several had been removed by a more full consideration of our opinion (to effect which the following considerations chiefly contributed, namely, that they clearly saw this doctrine conduced to the establishment of the necessity of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, a precious truth, which these worthy and good men, partakers of the grace and gift of righteousness through means of the blood of Christ, not only warmly favored, but dearly venerated, as the most honorable treasure of the church, the seed of a blessed immortality, and the darling jewel of our religion), I was greatly encouraged in the conferences with these gentlemen to take a deeper view of the subject, and to examine it more closely, for the future benefit of mankind.
Besides; several of those who had before examined and were acquainted with our sentiments, or to whom, in consequence of our short discourse in the university on the subject, they began to be more acceptable, — and these, too, considerable both for their number and rank, — ceased not to urge me to a more close consideration and accurate review of the controversy; for in that public dissertation, it being confined, according to the general custom of such exercises in universities, within the narrow limits of an hour, I could only slightly touch on the nature of vindicatory justice, whereas the rules and limits of such exercises would not permit me to enter on the chief point, the great hinge of the controversy, — namely, concerning the necessary exercise of that justice. This is the difficulty that requires the abilities of the most judicious and acute to investigate and solve. In this situation of matters, not only a more full view of the whole state of the controversy, but likewise of the weight of those arguments on which the truth of that side of the question which we have espoused depends, as also an explanation and confutation of certain subtilties whereby the opponents had embarrassed the minds of some inquirers after truth, became objects of general request. And, indeed, such were the circumstances of this controversy, that any one might easily perceive that a scholastic dissertation on the subject must take a very different turn, and could bear no farther resemblance, and owe nothing more to the former exercise, than the having furnished an opportunity or occasion for its appearance in public.
Although, then, I was more than sufficiently full of employment already, yet, being excited by the encouragement of good men, and fully persuaded in my own mind that the truth which we embrace is so far from being of trivial consequence in our religion, that it is intimately connected with many, the most important articles of the Christian doctrine, concerning the attributes of God, the satisfaction of Christ, and the nature of sin, and of our obedience, and that it strikes its roots deep through almost the whole of theology, or the acknowledging of the truth which is according to godliness; — fully persuaded, I say, of these facts, I prevailed with myself, rather than this doctrine should remain any longer neglected or buried, and hardly even known by name, or be held captive by the reasonings of some enslaving the minds of mankind, “through philosophy and vain deceit,” to exert my best abilities in its declaration and defense.
Several things, however, which, with your good leave, reader, I shall now mention, almost deterred me from the task when begun. The first and chief was, the great difficulty of the subject itself, which, among the more abstruse points of truth, is by no means the least abstruse: for as every divine truth has a peculiar majesty and reverence belonging to it, which debars from the spiritual knowledge of it (as it is in Christ) the ignorant and unstable, — that is, those who are not taught of God, or become subject to the truth, — so those points which dwell in more intimate recesses, and approach nearer its immense fountain, the “Father of lights,” darting brighter rays, by their excess of light present a confounding darkness to the minds of the greatest men (and are as darkness to the eyes, breaking forth amidst so great light): — “Suntque oculis tenebrae per tantum lumen obortae.”
For what we call darkness in divine subjects is nothing else than their celestial glory and splendor striking on the weak ball of our eyes, the rays of which we are not able in this life, which “is but a vapor” (and that not very clear), “which appeareth but for a little,” to bear. Hence God himself, who is “light, and in whom there is no darkness at all,” who “dwelleth in light inaccessible,” and who “clotheth himself with light as with a garment,” in respect of us, is said to have made “darkness his pavilion.”
Not, as the Roman Catholics say, that there is any reason that we should blasphemously accuse the holy Scriptures of obscurity; for “the law of the LoRD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of theLORD is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Nor is there reason to complain that any one part of the truth hath been too sparingly or obscurely revealed: for even the smallest portion of the divine word is, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, assisting to dispose and frame either the subject or our hearts, so as to view the bright object of divine truth in its proper and spiritual light, sufficient to communicate the knowledge of truths of the last importance; for it is owing to the nature of the doctrines themselves and their exceeding splendor that there are some things hard to be conceived and interpreted, and which surpass our capacity and comprehension. Whether this article of divine truth which we are now inquiring into be not akin to those which we have now mentioned, let the learned judge and determine, especially those who shall reflect what a close connection there is between it and the whole doctrine concerning the nature of God, the satisfaction of Christ, the desert of sin, and every one of the dark and more abstruse heads of our religion. I have, therefore, determined to place my chief dependence on His aid “who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” For those unhappy gentlemen only lose their labor, and may not improperly be compared to the artists who used more than common exertions in building Noah’s ark, and who, like bees, work for others and not for themselves in the search of truth, who, relying on their own abilities and industry, use every effort to ascertain and comprehend divine truths, while, at the same time, they continue utterly regardless whether “He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath hitherto shone in their hearts, to give them the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ;” for, after all, they can accomplish nothing more, by their utmost efforts, but to discover their technical or artificial ignorance. f303 Setting aside, then, the consideration of some phrases, and even of some arguments, as to what relates to the principal point of the controversy, I hold myself bound, in conscience and in honor, not even to imagine that I have attained a proper knowledge of any one article of truth, much less to publish it, unless through the Holy Spirit I have had such a taste of it. in its spiritual sense, as that I may be able from the heart to say with the psalmist, “I have believed, and therefore have I spoken.” He who, in the investigation of truth, makes it his chief care to have his mind and will rendered subject to the faith, and obedient to the “Father of lights,” and who with attention waits upon Him whose throne is in the heavens; he alone (since the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God) attains to true wisdom, — the others walk in a “vain show.” It has, then, been my principal object, in tracing the depths and secret nature of the subject in question, — while I, a poor worm, contemplated the majesty and glory of Him concerning whose perfections I was treating, — to attend and obey, with all humility and reverence, what the great God the Lord hath spoken in his word; not at all doubting but that, whatever way he should incline my heart, by the power of his Spirit and truth, I should be enabled, in a dependence on his aid, to bear the contradictions of a false knowledge, and all human and philosophical arguments.
Arid, to say the truth, as I have adopted the opinion which I defend in this dissertation from no regard to the arguments of either one or another learned man, and much less from any slavish attachment to authority, example, or traditionary prejudices, and from no confidence in the opinion or abilities of others, but, as I hope, from a most humble contemplation of the holiness, purity, justice, right, dominion, wisdom; and mercy of God; so by the guidance of his Spirit alone, and power of his heart-changing grace, filling my mind with all the fullness of truth, and striking me with a deep awe and admiration of it, I have been enabled to surmount the difficulty of the research. Theology is the “wisdom that is from above,” a habit of grace and spiritual gifts, the manifestation of the Spirit, reporting what is conducive to happiness. It is not a science to be learned from the precepts of man, or from the rules of arts, or method of other sciences, as those represent it who also maintain that a “natural man” may attain all that artificial and methodical theology, even though, in the matters of God and mysteries of the gospel, he be blinder than a mole. What a distinguished theologian must he be “who receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God!”
But again, having sailed through this sea of troubles and being ready to launch out upon the subject, that gigantic specter, “It is everywhere spoken against,” should have occasioned me no delay, had it not come forth inscribed with the mighty names of Augustine, Calvin, Musculus, Twisse, and Vossius. And although I could not but entertain for these divines that honor and respect which is due to such great names, yet. partly by considering myself as entitled to that “freedom wherewith CHRIST hath made us free,” and partly by opposing to these the names of other very learned theologians, — namely, Paraeus, Piscator, Molinaeus, Lubbertus, Rivetus, Cameron, Maccovius, Junius, the professors at Saumur, and others, — who, after the spreading of the poison of Socinianism, have with great accuracy and caution investigated and cleared up this truth, I easily got rid of any uneasiness from that quarter.
Having thus surmounted these difficulties, and begun the undertaking by devoting to it a few leisure hours stolen from other engagements, the work prospered beyond all expectation; and, by the favor of the “Father of lights,” who “worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” in a few days it was brought to a conclusion.
And now that the labor of composing was ended, I again entertained doubts, and continued for some time in suspense, whether, considering the manners of the times in which we live, it would not be more prudent to throw the papers, with some other kindred compositions on other subjects of divinity, into some secret coffers, there to be buried in eternal oblivion, than bring them forth to public discussion.
For even all know with what vain arrogance, malice, party spirit, and eager lust of attacking the labors of others, the minds of many are corrupted and infected. Not only, then, was it necessary that I should anticipate and digest in my mind the contempt and scoffings which these bantering, saucy, dull-witted, self-sufficient despisers of others, or any of such a contemptible race, whose greatest pleasure it is to disparage all kinds of exertions, however praiseworthy, might pour out against me; but I likewise foresaw that I should have to contend with the soured tempers and prejudiced opinions of others, who, being carried away by party zeal, and roused by the unexpected state and condition of public affairs, and who thinking themselves to be the men, and that wisdom was born and will die with them, look down with contempt upon all who differ from them; and not with these only, but I likewise knew that I had a more severe scrutiny to undergo from some learned men, to whom, it was easy to conjecture, this work, for many reasons, would not be acceptable, — for there are some by whom all labor employed in the search of any more obscure or difficult truth is accounted as misemployed, nor do these want the ingenuity of assigning honorable pretences for their indolence. I should, however, be ashamed to enter into any serious argument with such, nor is it worth while to enter upon a review of their long declamations. And although these, and many other things of such a kind, may appear grievous and hard to be borne to your dainty gentlemen, who eagerly court splendor and fame, yet, ingenuously to say the truth, I am very fully persuaded that no man can either think or speak of me and my works with so much disregard and contempt as I myself, from my soul, both think and speak.
And having in no respect any other expectation than that of contempt to myself and name, provided divine truth he promoted, all these considerations had long ago become not only of small consequence to me, but appeared as the merest trifles; for why should we be anxious about what shall become either of ourselves or our names, if only we “commit our souls to God in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator,” and by continuing in well-doing, stop the mouths of ignorant babblers? “God careth for us;” let us “cast our burdens upon him, and he will sustain us.”
Let but the truth triumph, vanquish, rout, and put to flight its enemies; let the word of the cross have “free course and be glorified;” let wretched sinners learn daily more and more of fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, of the necessity of satisfaction for sins by the blood of the Son of God, so that he who is “white and ruddy, and the chiefest among ten thousand,” may appear so to them, “yea, altogether lovely,” till, being admitted into the chambers of the church’s husband, they drink” love that is better than wine,” and “become a willing people in the day of his power, and in the beauty of holiness;” and I shall very little regard being “judged of man’s judgment.”
Since, then, I not only have believed what I have spoken, but as both my own heart and God, who is greater than my heart, are witnesses that I have engaged in this labor for the truth under the influence of the most sacred regard and reverence for the majesty, purity, holiness, justice, grace, and mercy of God, from a detestation of that abominable thing which his Soul hateth, and with a heart inflamed with zeal for the honor and glory of our dearest Savior Jesus Christ, who is fairer than the sons of men and altogether lovely, whom with my soul and all that is within me I worship, love, and adore, whose glorious coming I wish and long for (“Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly”), for “whose sake I count all things but as loss and dung;” — since, I say, I have engaged in this labor from these motives alone, I am under no anxiety or doubt but it will meet with a favorable reception from impartial judges, from those acquainted with the terror of the Lord, the curse of the law, the virtue of the cross, the power of the gospel, and the riches of the glory of divine grace.
There are, no doubt, many other portions and subjects of our religion, of that blessed trust committed to us for our instruction, on which we might dwell with greater pleasure and satisfaction of mind. Such, I mean, as afford a more free and wider scope of ranging through the most pleasant meads of the holy Scripture and contemplating in these the transparent fountains of life and rivers of consolation; subjects which, unencumbered by the thickets of scholastic terms and distinctions, unembarrassed by the impediments and sophisms of an enslaving philosophy or false knowledge, sweetly and pleasantly lead into a pure, unmixed, and delightful fellowship with the Father and with his Son, shedding abroad in the heart the inmost loves of our Beloved, with the odor of his sweet ointment poured forth.
This truth, [however, which is under our consideration], likewise has its uses, and such as are of the greatest importance to those wire are walking in the way of holiness and evangelical obedience. A brief specimen and abstract of them is added, for the benefit of the pious reader, in the end of the dissertation, in order to excite his love towards our beloved High Priest and Chief Shepherd, and true fear towards God, who is a “consuming fire,” and whom we cannot serve “acceptably” unless with “reverence and godly fear.”
There can be no doubt but that many points of doctrine still remain, on which the labors of the godly and learned may be usefully employed: for although man), reverend and learned divines, both of the present and former age, [from the time, at least, when God vouchsafed to our fathers that glorious regeneration, or time of reformation, of a purer religion and of sound learning, after a long reign of darkness,] have composed from the sacred writings a synopsis, or methodical body, of doctrine or heavenly truth, and published their compositions under various titles; and although other theological writings, catechetical, dogmatical, exegetical, casuistical, and polemical, have increased to such a mass that the “world can hardly contain the books that have been written;” yet such is the nature of divine truth, so deep and inexhaustible the fountain of the sacred Scriptures, whence we draw it, so innumerable the salutary remedies and antidotes proposed in these to dispel all the poisons and temptations wherewith the adversary can ever attack either the minds of the pious or the peace of the church and the true doctrine, that serious and thinking men can entertain no doubt but that we perform a service praise-worthy and profitable to the church of Christ, when, under the direction of “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, we bring forward, explain, and defend the most important and necessary articles of evangelical truth.
But to be more particular: how sparingly, for instance, yea, how obscure]y, how confusedly, is the whole economy of the Spirit towards believers (one of the greatest mysteries of our religion, — a most invaluable portion of the salvation brought about for us by Christ) described by divines in general! or rather, by the most, is it not altogether neglected? In their catechisms, common-place books, public and private theses, systems, compends, etc., even in their commentaries, harmonies, and expositions, concerning the indwelling, sealing testimony, unction, and consolation of the Spirit, — Good God! concerning this inestimable fruit of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this invaluable treasure of the godly, though copiously revealed and explained in the Scriptures, there is almost a total silence; and with regard to union and communion with Christ, and with his Father and our Father, and some other doctrines respecting his person, as the husband and head of the church, the same observation holds good.
For almost from the very period in which they were capable of judging even of the first principles of religion, the orthodox have applied themselves to clear up and explain those articles of the truth which Satan, by his various artifices, hath endeavored to darken, pervert, or undermine.
But as there is no part of divine truth which, since the eternal and sworn enmity took place between him and the seed of the woman, he hath not opposed with all his might, fury, and cunning; so he hath not thought proper wholly to entrust the success of his interest to instruments delegated from among mankind, — though many of them seem to have discovered such a wonderful promptitude, alacrity, and zeal in transacting his business, that one would think they had been formed and fashioned for the purpose, — but he hath reserved, according to that power which he hath over darkness and all kind of wickedness, a certain portion of his work, to be administered in a peculiar manner by himself. And as he has, in all ages, reaped an abundant crop of tares from that part of his [domain] which he hired out to be improved by man, though, from the nature of human affairs, not without much noise, tumult, blood, and slaughter; so from that which he thought proper to manage himself, without any delegated assistance, he has received a more abundant and richer crop of infernal fruit.
The exertions of Satan against the truth of the gospel may be distinguished into two divisions. In the first, as the god of this world, he endeavors to darken the minds of unbelievers, “that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may not shine unto them.” With what success he exercises this soul-destroying employment we cannot pretend to say; but there is reason to lament that he hath succeeded, and still succeeds, beyond his utmost hope. In the other, he carries on an implacable war, an unremitting strife; not, as formerly, with Michael about the body of Moses, but about the Spirit of Christ, about some of the more distinguished articles of the truth, and the application of each of them in order to cultivate communion with God the Father, and with his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, — against the hearts of the godly and the new creature formed within them.
In this situation of affairs, most Christian writers have made it their study to oppose that first effort of the devil, whereby, through means of his instruments, he openly endeavors to suppress the light, both natural and revealed; but they have not been equally solicitous to succor the minds of believers when wrestling, “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” and almost ready to sink under the contest. Hence, I say, a very minute investigation hath been set on foot by many of those articles of religion which he has openly, through the instrumentality of the slaves of error and darkness, attacked, and the vindication of them made clear and plain. But those which, both from their relation to practice and a holy communion, full of spiritual joy, to be cultivated with God, the old serpent hath reserved for his own attack in the hearts of believers, most writers, (partly either because they were ignorant of his wiles, or because they saw not much evil publicly arising thence, and partly because the arguments of the adversary were not founded on any general principle, but only to be deduced from the private and particular state and case of individuals,) have either passed over or very slightly touched upon.
As to what pertains to theology itself, or that “knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,” wherewith being filled “we ourselves become perfect, and throughly furnished to every good work,” and “able ministers of the new testament, not of t he letter, but of the spirit,” — “apt to teach, rightly dividing the word of truth;” that subject, I say, though a common and chief topic in the writings both of the schoolmen and others on religion, many have acknowledged, to their fatal experience, when too late, is treated in too perplexed and intricate a manner to be of any real and general service.
For while they are warmly employed in disputing whether theology be an art or a science, and whether it be a speculative or practical art or science; and while they attempt to measure it exactly by those rules, laws, and methods which human reason has devised for other sciences, thus endeavoring to render it more plain and clear, — they find themselves, to the grief and sorrow of many candidates for the truth, entangled in inextricable difficulties, and left in possession only of a human system of doctrines, having little or no connection at all with true theology. I hope, therefore, — “if the Lord will, and I live,” — to publish (but from no desire of gainsaying any one) some specimens of evangelical truth on the points before mentioned, as well as on other subjects. f309 As to the work that I have now in hand, the first part of the dissertation is concerning the cause of the death of Christ; and in the execution of which I have the greatest pleasure and satisfaction (though proudly defied by the adversaries, so conceited with themselves and their productions are they), because “I have determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified,” — at least, nothing that could divert my attention from that subject. F310 But now, learned reader, lest, as the saving is, “the gate should become wider than the city,” if you will bear with me while I say a few things of myself, however little worthy of your notice, I shall immediately conclude the preface.
About two years ago, the parliament of the commonwealth promoted me, while diligently employed, according to the measure of the gift of grace bestowed on me, in preaching the gospel, by their authority and influence, though with reluctance on my part, to a chair in the very celebrated university of Oxford. I mean not to relate what various employments fell to my lot from that period; what frequent journeys I became engaged in; not, indeed, expeditions of pleasure, or on my own or private account, but such as the unavoidable necessities of the university, and the commands of superiors, whose authority was not be gainsaid, imposed upon me. And now I clearly found that I, who dreaded almost every academical employment, as being unequal to the task (for what could be expected from a man not far advanced in years, who had for several years been very full of employment, and accustomed only to the popular mode of speaking; who, being altogether devoted to the investigation and explanation of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ, had for some time taken leave of all scholastic studies; whose genius is by no means quick, and who had even forgot, in some measure, the portion of polite learning that he might have formerly acquired, and at a time, too, when I had entertained hope that, through the goodness of God, in giving me leisure, and retirement, and strength for study, the deficiency of genius and penetration might be made up by industry and diligence), was now so circumstanced that the career of my studies must be interrupted by more and greater impediments than ever before.
For, to mention first what certainly is most weighty and important, the task of lecturing in public was put upon me; which would, strictly and properly, require the whole time and attention even of the most grave and experienced divine; and in the discharge of which, unless I had been greatly assisted and encouraged by the candor, piety, submission, and self-denial of the auditors, and by their respect for the divine institution and their love of the truth, with every kind of indulgence and kind attention towards the earthen vessel, which distinguish most academicians, of every rank, age, and description, beyond mankind in general, I should have long ago lost all hope of discharging that province, either to the public advantage or my own private satisfaction and comfort.
And as most of them are endowed with a pious disposition and Christian temper, and well furnished with superior gifts, and instructed in learning of every kind, — which, in the present imperfect and depraved state of human nature, is apt to fill the minds of men with prejudices against “the foolishness of preaching,” and to disapprove “the simplicity that is in Christ,” — I should be the most ungrateful of mankind were I not to acknowledge that the humility, diligence, and alacrity with which they attended to and obeyed the words of the cross, indulging neither pride of heart, nor animosity of mind, nor itching of ears, though dispensed by a most unworthy servant of God in the gospel of his Son, have given, and still give me great courage in the discharge of the different duties of my office.
The most merciful Father of all things shall, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, dispose of the affairs of our university. Reports, however, are everywhere spread abroad concerning the abolition and destruction of the colleges, and efforts for that purpose made by some who, being entire strangers to every kind of literature, or at least ignorant of every thing of greater antiquity than what their own memory or that of their fathers can reach, and regardless of the future, imagine the whole globe and bounds of human knowledge to be contained within the limits of their own little cabins, ignorant whether the sun ever shone beyond their own little island or not, — “neither knowing what they say nor whereof they affirm;” and by others who are deeply sunk in the basest of crimes, and who would, therefore, wish all light distinguishing between good and evil entirely extinguished (for “evil doers hate the light, nor do they come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved”), that they (mean lurchers hitherto) may “fill up the measure of their iniquity” with some kind of eclat. With this faction are combined those who, never having become candidates for literature themselves, yet, by pushing themselves forward, have unseasonably thrust themselves into such services and offices as necessarily require knowledge and learning. These, I say, like the fox which had lost his tail, would wish all the world deprived of the means of knowledge, lest their own shameful ignorance, despicable indolence, and total unfitness for the offices which they solicit or hold, should appear to all who have the least degree of understanding and sense. And lastly, too, [the same reports are spread] by a despicable herd of prodigal, idle fellows, eagerly gaping for the revenues of the university. I could not, therefore, but give such a public testimony, as a regard to truth and duty required from me, to these very respectable and learned men (however much these treacherous calumniators and falsifying sycophants may rail and show their teeth upon the occasion), the heads of the colleges, who have merited so highly of the church [and of the commonwealth], for their distinguished candour, great diligence, uncommon erudition, blameless politeness; many of whom are zealously studious of every kind of literature; and many, by their conduct in the early period of their youth, gave the most promising hopes of future merit: so that I would venture to affirm, that no impartial and unprejudiced judge will believe that our university hath either been, for ages past, surpassed, or is now surpassed, either in point of a proper respect and esteem for piety, for the saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, manners orderly and worthy of the Christian vocation, or for a due regard to doctrines, arts, languages, and all sciences that can be ornamental to wise, worthy, and good men, appointed for the public good, by any society of men in the world.
Relying, then, on the humanity, piety, and candor of such men (who may be “afflicted, but not straitened; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;” who carry about with them the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ), though destitute of all strength of my own, and devoting myself entirely to Him “who furnisheth seed to the sower,” and who “from the mouths of babes and sucklings ordaineth strength,” who hath appointed Christ a perpetual source of help, and who furnishes a seasonable aid to every pious effort, — I have, in conjunction with my very learned colleague (a very eminent man, and whose equal in the work of the gospel if the parliament of the commonwealth had conjoined with him, they would have attended to the best interests of the university), continued in the discharge of the duties of this laborious and difficult province.
But not on this account alone would I have been reluctant to return, after so long an interval of time, to this darling university; but another care, another office, and that by far the most weighty, was, by the concurring voice of the senate of the university, and notwithstanding my most earnest requests to the contrary, entrusted and assigned to me, and by the undertaking of which I have knowingly and wittingly compounded with the loss of my peace and all my studious pursuits. f313 Such, candid reader, is the account of the author of the following little treatise, and of his situation when composing it; a man not wise in the estimation of others, — in his own, very foolish; first called from rural retirement and the noise of arms to this university, and very lately again returned to it from excursions in the cause of the gospel, not only to the extremities of this island, but to coasts beyond the seas, and now again deeply engaged in the various and weighty duties of his station. Whether any thing exalted or refined can be expected from such a person is easy for any one to determine.
With regard to our manner of writing, or Latin diction, as some are wont to acquire great praise from their sublimity of expression, allow me but a word or two. Know, then, reader, that you have to do with a person who, provided his words but clearly express the sentiments of his mind, entertains a fixed and absolute disregard for all elegance and ornaments of speech; for, — “Dieite, pontifices, in sacris quid facit aurum?’ “Say, bishops, of what avail is glitter to sacred subjects?” In my opinion, indeed, he who, in a theological contest, should please himself with the idea of displaying rhetorical flourishes, would derive no other advantage therefrom but that his head, adorned with magnificent verbose garlands and pellets, would fall a richer victim to the criticisms of the learned.
But whatever shall be the decision of the serious and judicious with respect to this treatise, if I shall any how stir up an emulation in others, on whom the grace of God may have bestowed more excellent gifts, to bring forward to public utility their pious, solid, and learned labors, and shall excite them, from their light, to confer light on the splendor of this university, I shall be abundantly gratified. Farewell, pious reader, and think not lightly of him who hath used his most zealous endeavors to serve thy interest in the cause of the gospel. JOHN OWEN.
CHAPTER 1. The introduction — The design of the work — Atheists — The prolepsis of divine justice in general — The divisions of justice, according to Aristotle — The sentiments of the schoolmen respecting these — Another division — Justice considered absolutely; then in various respects. IN this treatise we are to discourse of God and of his justice, the most illustrious of all the divine perfections, but especially of his vindicatory justice; of the certainty of which I most firmly believe that all mankind will, one time or other, be made fully sensible, either by faith in it here, as revealed in the word, or by feeling its effects, to their extreme misery, in the world hereafter, Romans 2:8,9,12; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9. But as the human mind is blind to divine light, and as both our understandings and tongues are inadequate to conceive of God aright and to declare him (hence that common and just observation, that it is an arduous thing to speak of God aright), [and much darkness rests upon divine things], that we may handle so important a subject with that reverence and perspicuity wherewith it becomes it to be treated, we must chiefly depend on His aid who was “made the righteousness of God for us,” himself “God blessed for ever,” 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 9:5. But whatever I have written, and whatever I have asserted, on this subject, whether I have written and asserted it with modesty, sobriety, judgment, and humility, must be left to the decision of such as are competent judges.
We think proper to divide this dissertation into two parts. In theFIRST PART, which contains the body of our opinion, after having premised some general descriptions of divine justice, I maintain sin-punishing justice to be natural, and in its exercise necessary, to God. The truth of this assertion forms a very distinguished part of natural theology. The defense of it, to the best of my abilities, both against Socinians, who bitterly oppose it, as well as against certain of our own countrymen, who, in defiance of all truth, under a specious pretext, support the same pernicious scheme with them, shall be the subject of theLATTER PART.
In almost all ages there have existed some who have denied the being of a God, although but very few, and these the most abandoned. And as mankind, for the most part, have submitted to the evidence of a divine existence, so there never has existed one who has ever preferred an indictment of injustice against God, or who hath not declared him to be infinitely just. The despairing complaints of some in deep calamities, the unhallowed expostulations of others at the point of death, do not bespeak the real sentiments of the man, but the misery of his situation: as, for instance, that expostulation of Job, Job 10:3, “Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress?” and among the Gentiles, that of Brutus, “O wretched virtue! how mere a nothing art thou, but a name!” and that furious exclamation of Titus when dying, related by Suetonius, “who, pulling aside his curtains, and looking up to the heavens, complained that his life was taken from him undeservedly and unjustly.” Of the same kind was that late dreadful epiphonema of a despairing Italian, related by Mersennus, who, speaking of God and the devil, in dread contempt of divine justice, exclaimed, “Let the strongest take me.”
But as “the judgments of God are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out,” Romans 11:33, those who have refused to submit to his absolute dominion and supreme jurisdiction (some monstrous human characters) have been hardy enough to assert that there is no God, rather than venture to call him unjust. Hence that common couplet: — “Marmoreo tumulo Licinus jacet, at Cato parvo, Pompeius nullo; credimus esse deos ?” “Licinus lies buried in a marble tomb, Cato in a mean one, Pompey has none; — can we believe that there are gods?” And hence Ulysses is introduced by Euripides, expressing his horror of the gormandizing of the man-devouring Cyclops, in these verses: — f323 “O Jupiter, behold such violations of hospitality; for if thou regardest them not, Thou art in vain accounted Jupiter, for thou canst be no god.”
Beyond any doubt, the audacity of those abandoned triflers, who would wish to seem to act the mad part with a show of reason, is more akin to the madness of atheism than to the folly of ascribing to the God whom they worship and acknowledge such attributes as would not only be unworthy but disgraceful to him. Protagoras, therefore, not comprehending the justice of God in respect of his government, hath written, “With regard to the gods, I do not know whether they exist or do not exist.” Yet, even among the Gentiles themselves, and those who were destitute of the true knowledge of the true God (for they, in some sense, were without God in the world), writers, of whom Seneca and Plutarch were the most distinguished, have not been wanting who have endeavored, by serious and forcible arguments, to unravel the difficulty respecting the contrary lots of good and bad men in this life. Our first idea, therefore, of the Divine Being, and the natural conceptions of all men, demand and enforce the necessity of justice being ascribed to God. To be eloquent, then, in so easy a cause, or to triumph with arguments on a matter so universally acknowledged, we have neither leisure nor inclination. What, and of what kind, the peculiar quality and nature of sin-punishing justice is, shall now be briefly explained. And that we may do this with the greater perspicuity and force of evidence, a few observations seem necessary to be premised concerning justice in general, and its more commonly received divisions.
The philosopher Aristotle, long ago, as is well known, hath divided justice into universal and particular. Concerning the former, he says that he might compare it to the celebrated saying, “In justice every virtue is summarily comprehended,” Ethic. ad Nicom., lib. 5. cap. 1,2; and he affirms that it in no wise differs from virtue in general, unless in respect of its relation to another being.
But he says that particular justice is a part thereof under the same name, which he again distinguishes into distributive and commutative. The schoolmen, too, agreeing with him (which is rather surprising), divide the divine justice into universal and particular; for that excellence, say they, is spoken of God and man by way of analogy. Nor is it like that bird mentioned by Homer, which goes by a double name, by one among mortals, by another among the immortals, — “The gods call it Chalcis, but men Cumindis,” Hom.; — but is understood as existing in God principally, as in the first analogized being. Nor do later divines dissent from them; nay, all of them who have made the divine attributes the subject of their contemplations have, by their unanimous voice, approved of this distinction, and given their suffrages in its favor. f332 But, farther, they assert that particular justice, in respect of its exercise, consists either in what is said or in what is done. That which is displayed in things said, in commands, is equity; in declarations, truth; — both which the holy Scriptures ( Romans 1:17, 3:21; Ezra 9:15; Nehemiah 9:8; Deuteronomy 4:8; <19B907> Psalm 119:7; Hebrews 6:10; 2 Timothy 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:5.) do sometimes point out under the title of Divine Justice. But the justice which respects things done is either that of government, or jurisdiction or judgment; and this, again, they affirm to be either remunerative or corrective, but that corrective is either castigatory or vindicatory. With the last member of this last distinction I begin this work; and yet, indeed, although the most learned of our divines, in later ages, have assented to this distribution of divine justice into these various significations, it seems proper to me to proceed in a manner somewhat different, and more suited to our purpose.
First, The justice of God, absolutely considered, is the universal rectitude and perfection of the divine nature; for such is the divine nature antecedent to all acts of his will and suppositions of objects towards which it might operate. This excellence is most universal; nor, from its own nature, as an excellence, can it belong to any other being.
Secondly, It is to be viewed with respect to its egress and exercise. And thus, in the order of nature, it is considered as consequent, or at least as concomitant, to some acts of the divine will, assigning or appointing to it a proper object. Hence, that rectitude, which in itself is an absolute property of the divine nature, is considered as a relative and hypothetical attribute, and has a certain habitude to its proper objects.
That is to say, this rectitude, or universal justice, has certain egresses towards objects out’ of itself, in consequence of the divine will, and in a manner agreeable to the rule of his supreme right and wisdom, — namely, when some object of justice is supposed and appointed (which object must necessarily depend on the mere good pleasure of God, because it was possible it might never have existed at all, God, notwithstanding, continuing just and righteous to all eternity). And these egresses are twofold: — 1. They are absolute and perfectly free, — namely, in words. 2. They are necessary, — namely, in actions.
For the justice of God is neither altogether one of that kind of perfections which create and constitute an object to themselves, as power and wisdom do, nor of that kind which not only require an object for their exercise, but one peculiarly affected and circumstanced, as mercy, patience, and forbearance do; but may be considered in both points of view, as shall be more fully demonstrated hereafter. 1. For the first, it has absolute egresses in words (constituting, and, as it were, creating an object to itself); as, for instance, in words of legislation, and is then called equity; or in words of declaration and narration, and is then called truth. Both these I suppose for the present to take place absolutely and freely. Whether God hath necessarily prescribed a law to his rational creatures, at least one accompanied with threats and promises, is another consideration. 2. There are respective egresses of this justice in deeds, and according to the distinctions above mentioned; — that is to say, it is exercised either in the government of all things according to what is due to them by the counsel and will of God, or in judgments rewarding or punishing, according to the rule of his right and wisdom; which also is the rule of equity in legislation, and of truth in the declarations annexed. In respect of these, f336 I call the egresses of the divine justice necessary, and such that they could not possibly be otherwise; which, by divine help, I shall prove hereafter: and this is the same as saying that vindicatory justice is so natural to God, that, sin being supposed, he cannot, according to the rule of his right, wisdom, and truth, but punish it. But antecedent to this whole exercise of the divine justice, I suppose a natural right, which indispensably requires the dependence and moral subjection of the rational creature, in God, all the egresses of whose justice, in words, contain an arrest of judgment till farther trial, in respect of the object.
It now, then, appears that all these distinctions of divine justice respect it not as considered in itself, but its egresses and exercise only; to make which clear was the reason that I departed from the beaten track. Nay, perhaps it would be a difficult matter to assign any virtue to God but in the general, and not as having any specific ratio of any virtue. But that which answers to the ratio of any particular virtue in God consists in the exercise of the same. For instance: mercy is properly attributed to God, so far as it denotes the highest perfection in the will of God, the particular ratio or quality of which, — namely, a disposition of assisting the miserable, with a compassion of their misery, — is found not altogether as to some, as to others altogether and only, in the exercise of the abovementioned perfection; but it is called a proper attribute of God, because by means of it some operation is performed agreeable to the nature of God, which, in respect of his other attributes, his will would not produce. This kind, therefore, of the divine attributes, because they have proper and formal objects, thence only derive their formal and specific ratios. But all these observations upon justice must be briefly examined and explained, that we may arrive at the point intended.
CHAPTER 2. The universal justice of God — The idle fancies of the schoolmen — The arguments of Durandus against commutative justice — Suarez’s censure of the scholastic reasonings — His opinion of divine justice — The examination of it — A description of universal justice from the sacred writings — A division of it in respect of its egress — Rectitude of government in God, what, and of what kind — Definitions of the philosophers and lawyers — Divisions of the justice of government — A caution respecting these — Vindicatory justice — The opinions of the partisans — An explication of the true opinion — Who the adversaries are — The state of the controversy farther considered. WE are first, then, briefly to treat of the universal justice of God, or of his justice considered in itself and absolutely, which contains in it all the divine excellencies. The schoolmen, treading in the steps of the philosophers, who have acknowledged no kind of justice which has not naturally some respect to another object, are for the most part silent concerning this justice. And once, by the way, to take notice of these [hair-splitters], on this, as almost on every other subject, they are strangely divided. Duns Scotus, Durandus, and Paludamus deny that there is commutative justice in God. f339 For the Master of the Sentences himself calls God an impartial and just distributer, but says not a word of commutation. Thomas Aquinas and Cajetan do the same; though the latter says “that some degree of commutative justice is discernible.” So also Ferorariensis, on the same place; and Sotus, in the third book of his treatise, “Of Nature and Grace,” chap. 7. Durandus, in particular, contends, with many arguments, that this kind of justice ought not to be assigned to God; — first, Because that this justice observes an equality between the thing given and received, which cannot be the case between us and God; — and, secondly, Because that we cannot be of any service to him (which he proves from Romans 11:35; Job 22:3, 35:7; Luke 17:10), whereby he can be bound to make an equality with us by virtue of commutation; — and, thirdly, Because that we cannot make an equal return to God for benefits received; — and, finally, That as there is no proper commutative justice between a father and his children, according to Aristotle’s opinion, much less can it subsist between God and us.
But the same Durandus likewise denies to God distributive justice, f342 because he is not indebted to any one. He, however, acknowledges some mode of distributive justice, and Pesantius follows his opinion.
But Gabriel, on the same distinction, asserts commutative justice to be inherent in God; for there is a certain equality, as he says, between God and man, from the acceptation of God the receiver. Proudly enough said, indeed!
But what shall we say of these triflers? They resemble those advocates in Terence, whose opinion, after Demipho, embarrassed by the cheats of Phormio the sycophant, had asked, he exclaims, “Well done, gentlemen; I am now in a greater uncertainty than before!” so intricate were their answers, and resembling the practices of the Andabatae. f345 Hence, Francis Suarez himself, after he had reviewed the opinions of the schoolmen concerning the justice of God, bids adieu to them all, declaring, “That the expressions of Scripture had greater weight with him than their philosophic human arguments,” Opusc. 6. de Just. Div. sec. 1. But with much labor and prolixity he insists that both distributive and commutative justice are to be ascribed to God that so he might pave the way for that rotten fiction concerning the merits of Roman Catholics with God, — a doctrine which, were even all his suppositions granted, appears not to follow, much less to be confirmed. This opinion of Suarez concerning vindicatory justice, as it is deservedly famous in scholastic theology, we think proper to lay before you in few words.
In his discourses concerning the justice of God, he contends that the affection of punishing, which he calls “a perfection elicitive of the act of punishing,” is properly and formally inherent in God; and it is so because it hath a proper object, namely, to punish the guilt of sin, which is honorable; nor does it include any imperfection; and, therefore, that some formal and proper divine attribute ought to correspond to that effect.
He farther maintains that this affection of punishing is neither commutative nor distributive justice. His conclusions here I do not oppose, though I cannot approve of many of his reasonings and arguments. In fine, he contends that vindicatory justice in God is the same with universal, or legal, or providential justice, which we call the justice of government. But he makes a dishonorable and base conclusion from a distinction about the persons punished, namely, into such as are merely passive sufferers, and such as spontaneously submit themselves to punishment, that they may satisfy the punitory justice of God; reasoning in such a manner, that after he has forced the whole doctrine concerning the commutative and distributive justice of God to become subservient to that sacrilegious and proud error concerning the merits of man with God, and even of one from the supererogation of another, he strenuously endeavors to establish a consistency between this doctrine of vindicatory justice and a fiction not less impious and disgraceful to the blood of Christ, which “cleanseth us from all sin,” about penal satisfaction, to be performed by such ways and means as God hath never prescribed, or even thought of. “Ut turpiter atrum Desinat in piscem mulier formosa superne.” — Hor.
Dismissing these bunglers (who know not the righteousness of God), then, from our dissertation, let us attend to the more sure word of prophecy.
That word everywhere asserts God to be just, and possessed of such justice as denotes the universal rectitude and perfection of his divine nature. His essence is most wise, most perfect, most excellent, most merciful, most blessed; that, in fine, is the justice of God, according to the Scriptures, namely, considered absolutely and in itself. Nor would the holy Scriptures have us to understand any thing else by divine justice than the power and readiness of God to do all things rightly and becomingly, according to the rule of his wisdom, goodness, truth, mercy, and clemency.
Hence the above-mentioned sophists agree that justice, taken precisely and in itself, and abstracting it from all human imperfections, simply means perfection without intrinsic imperfection; for it is not a virtue that rules the passions, but directs their operations.
Hence it presides, as it were, in all the divine decrees, actions, works, and words, of whatsoever kind they be. There is no egress of the divine will, no work or exercise of providence, though immediately and distinctly breathing clemency, mercy, anger, truth, or wisdom, but in respect thereof God is eminently said to be just, and to execute justice. Hence, Isaiah 51:6, he is said to be just in bringing salvation; Romans 3:25,26, just in pardoning sin; Revelation 16:5,6, just in avenging and punishing sin; Romans 3:5,6, just in all the exercises of his supreme right and dominion, Job 34:12-14; Romans 9:14,15,18, he is just in sparing according to his mercy; just in punishing according to his anger and wrath.
In a word, whatsoever, by reason of his right, he doeth or worketh “according to the counsel of his will,” whatever proceeds from his faithfulness, mercy, grace, love, clemency, anger, and even from his fury, is said to be done by, through, and because of his justice, as the perfection inducing to, or the cause effecting and procuring, such operations. It is evident, then, that justice, universally taken, denotes the highest rectitude of the divine nature, and a power and promptitude of doing all things in a manner becoming and agreeable to his wisdom, goodness, and right.
The more solemn egresses of this justice, to which all particular acts may be easily reduced, have been already pointed out; but equity in legislation, fidelity and truth in threatenings and promises annexed to it, in which God is often said to be just, and to execute justice, I think maybe passed over, as being too remote from our purpose. But as it appears that some light may be thrown on this subject which we are now treating of, from the consideration of the relation of rectitude and divine wisdom, that is, of universal justice, to government and judgment, we must say a few words on that head.
But rectitude of government, to which that justice analogically corresponds, is that which philosophers and civilians unanimously agree to be the highest excellence, though they have variously described it.
Aristotle calls it “a habit by which men are capable of doing just things, and by which they both will and do just things;” attributing to it aptitude, will, and action. Cicero calls it “an affection of the mind, giving to every one his due;” understanding by “affection” not any passion of the mind, but a habit. The civilians understand by it “a constant and perpetual will, assigning to every one his due.” The propriety of their definition we leave to themselves. That “constant and perpetual will” of theirs is the same as the “ habit” of the philosophers; which, whether it be the proper genus of this virtue, let logicians determine. Again; as they constantly attribute three acts to right, which is the object of justice, — namely, “to live honestly, to hurt nobody, and to give every one his due,” — how comes it to pass that they define justice by one act, when doubtless it respects all right? therefore it is, they say, that to give every one his due is not of the same extent in the definition of justice and in the description of the acts of right.
But let them both unite in their sentiments as they please, neither the “habit” or “affection” of the philosophers, nor the “living honestly and hurting nobody” of the civilians, can be assigned to God; for in ascribing the perfection of excellencies to him, we exclude the ratio of habit or quality, properly so called, and every material and imperfect mode of operation. He must be a mortal man, and subject to a law, to whom these things apply.
Moreover, those (I speak of our own countrymen) who divide this justice of government into commutative and distributive rob God entirely of the commutative, which consists in a mutual giving and receiving. For, “Who hath first given to him?” “Who maketh thee to differ from another?” “He giveth not account of any of his matters.” But distributive, which belongs to him as the supreme governor of all things, who renders to every one his due, is proper to himself alone. This we have above asserted to be the justice of government or judgment. Of this justice of government frequent mention is made in the sacred writings. It is that perfection of the Divine Being whereby he directs all his actions in governing and administering created things, according to the rule of his rectitude and wisdom. But this excellence, or habitude for action, in no wise differs from universal justice, unless in respect of its relation to another being. But what is a law to us, in the administration of things, in God is his right, in conjunction with his most wise and just will; for God, as it is said, is a law unto himself. To this justice are these passages to be referred, Zephaniah 3:5; Chronicles 12:6; Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:8, with almost innumerable others. But in all the effects and egresses of this justice God is justified, not from the reason of things, but from his dominion and supreme right. Thus, Job 14:14, 33:12, 34:12-15. And this is the first egress of the divine rectitude in works.
The other egress of this justice is in judgment, the last member of the divisions of which, above mentioned, — namely, that by which God punishes the crimes of rational beings, to whom a law hath been given, according to the rule of his right, — is the vindicatory justice of which we are treating.
Here again, reader, I would wish to put you in mind that I by no means assert many species of universal justice, or, so to speak, particular or special justices, as distinct perfections in God, which others seem to do, but one only, — namely, the universal and essential rectitude of the divine nature variously exercised; and therefore I maintain that this vindicatory justice is the very rectitude and perfection of the Deity.
Some of the schoolmen, however, agree with me in opinion; for Cajetan f354 upon Thomas grants that vindicatory justice in a public person differs nothing from legal and universal justice; although he maintains that there is a peculiar species of justice in a private person, — a position which, I confess, I do not understand, since punishment, considered as punishment, is not the right of a private person. God certainly does not punish us as being injured, but as a ruler and judge. But again, concerning this justice, another question arises, Whether it be natural to God, or an essential attribute of the divine nature, — that is to say, such that, the existence of sin being admitted, God must necessarily exercise it, because it supposes in him a constant and immutable will to punish sin, so that while he acts consistently with his nature he cannot do otherwise than punish and avenge it, — or whether it be a free act of the divine will, which he may exercise at pleasure? On this point theologians are divided. We shall consider what has been determined on the matter by the most notorious enemies of divine truth, and especially by those of our own times. 1. Then, they own, “That such a kind of justice is applicable to God, which were he always inclined to exercise, he might, consistently with right, destroy all sinners without waiting for their repentance, and so let no sin pass unpunished.” 2. “That he will not pardon any sins but those of the penitent.” Nor do they deny, so far as I know, — 3. “That God hath determined the punishment of sin by the rule of his right and wisdom.” But they deny, — 1. That perfection by which God punishes sins either to be his justice or to be so called in Scripture, but only anger, fury, or fierce indignation, — expressions denoting in the clearest manner the freedom of the divine will in the act of punishing; although some of Socinus’ followers, among whom is Crellius, have declared openly against him on this point. Again, they deny, — 2. That there is any such attribute in God as requires a satisfaction for sins, which he is willing to forgive, but maintain that he is entirely free to “yield up his claim of right,” as they phrase it, at pleasure; that, therefore, divine justice ought, by no means, to be reckoned among the causes of Christ’s death. Nay more, say they, “Such a kind of justice may be found in the epistles of Iscariot to the Pharisees” (they are the words of Gitichius ad Luc.), “but is not to be found in the holy Scriptures.”
Between their sentiments and ours on this point there is the widest difference; for we affirm the justice by which God punishes sin to be the very essential rectitude of Deity itself, exercised in the punishment of sins, according to the rule of his wisdom, and which is in itself no more free than the divine essence.
This kind of justice Faustus Socinus opposes with all his might in almost all his writings, but especially in his Theological Lectures of the Savior, book 1. chap. 1, etc.; Moscorovius, also, on the Racovian Catechism, chap. 8. quest. 19; Ostorodius, a most absurd heretic, in his Institutions, chap. 31., and in his Disputations to Tradelius; Volkelius, of the True Religion, book 5. chap. 21; also Crellius, the most acute and learned of all the adversaries, in that book which he wished to have prefixed to the Dissertations of Volkelius, chap. 28, and in his Vindications against Grotius, chap. 1; in a little work, also, entitled, “Of the Causes of the Death of Christ,” chap. 16. He pursued the same object in almost all his other writings, both polemical and dogmatical, and likewise in his commentaries ; — a very artful man, and one that employed very great diligence and learning in the worst of causes. Michael Gitichius has the same thing in view in his writings against Paraeus, and in his dispute with Ludovicus Lucius in defense of his first argument; — a most trifling sophist, a mere copyist of Socinus, and a servile follower of his master. Of mightier powers, too, rise up against us Valentinus Smalcius against Franzius; and (who is said to be still alive) the learned Jonas Schlichtingius. All these, with the rest of that herd, place all their hopes of overturning the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ in opposing this justice.
But these are not the only adversaries we have to do with: there are others, pious, worthy, and very learned divines, who, respecting the point of Christ’s satisfaction, are most strictly orthodox, and who, though they cannot find in their hearts directly to deny that such an attribute or power is essential to God, yet maintain all its egresses and its whole exercise respecting sin to be so free and dependent on the mere free motion and good pleasure of the divine will, that should not that oppose, God might by his nod, by his word, without any trouble, by other modes and ways besides the satisfaction of Christ, if it only seemed proper to his wisdom, take away, pardon, and make an end of sin, without inflicting any penalty for the transgression of his law; and this, it is said, was the opinion of Augustine. By which, I will say, rash and daring assertion, — be it spoken without offense, for they are truly great men, — by their nod and breath, they suspend and disperse the very strongest arguments by which the adversaries feel themselves most hardly pushed, and by which the belief of Christ’s satisfaction is strongly supported, and deliver up our most holy cause, I had almost said defenceless, to be the sport of the Philistines.
Nay, not very long ago, it has been discovered and lamented by the orthodox, that very considerable assistance has been imprudently given by a learned countryman of our own to these aliens, who defy the armies of the living God. “For if we could but get rid of this justice, even if we had no other proof,” says Socinus, “that human fiction of Christ’s satisfaction would be thoroughly exposed, and would vanish,” Soc. of the Savior, book 3. chap. 1, etc.
Of our own countrymen, the only one I know is Rutherford, a Scotch divine, who roundly and boldly asserts “punitive justice to be a free act of the divine will.” Nor is he.content with the bare assertion, but, supported chiefly by his arguments to whom the schoolmen are so much indebted, he defends the fallacy against both Cameron and Voetius, those two thunderbolts of theological war; though, in my opinion, neither with a force of argument nor felicity of issue equal to his opponents. But both the one and the others grant that God hath decreed to let no sin pass unpunished without a satisfaction; but that decree being supposed, with a law given, and a sanction of the same by threatenings, that a satisfaction was necessary. But that punitive justice necessarily requires the punishment of all sins, according to the rule of God’s right and wisdom, this is what they deny, and endeavor to overturn.
But to me these arguments are altogether astonishing, — namely, “That sin-punishing justice should be natural to God, and yet that God, sin being supposed to exist, may either exercise it or not exercise it.” They may also say, and with as much propriety, that truth is natural to God, but, upon a supposition that he were to converse with man, he might either use it or not; or, that omnipotence is natural to God, but upon a supposition that he were inclined to do any work without himself, that it were free to him to act omnipotently or not; or, finally, that sin-punishing justice is among the primary causes of the death of Christ, and that Christ was set forth as a propitiation to declare his righteousness, and yet that that justice required not the punishment of sin, for if it should require it, how is it possible that it should not necessarily require it, since God would be unjust if he should not inflict punishment? Or farther, they might as well assert that God willed that justice should be satisfied by so many and such great sufferings of his Son Christ, when that justice required no such thing; nay more, that setting aside the free act of the divine will, sin and no sin are the same with God, and that man’s mortality hath not followed chiefly as the consequence of sin, but of the will of God. These and such like difficulties I leave to the authors of this opinion (for they are very learned men) to unravel; as to myself, they fill me with confusion and astonishment.
But this I cannot forbear to mention, that those very divines who oppose our opinion, when hard pushed by their adversaries, perpetually have recourse in their disputations to this justice as to their sacred anchor, f356 and assert that without satisfaction God could not pardon sin consistently with his nature, justice and truth. But as these are very great absurdities, it would have seemed strange to me that any men of judgment and orthodoxy should have been so entangled in some of these sophisms as to renounce the truth on their account, unless I had happened at one time myself to fall into the same snare; which, to the praise and glory of that truth, of which I am now a servant, I freely confess to have been my case.
But to avoid mistakes as much as possible in discussing the nature of this justice, we will make the following observations: — 1. There are some attributes of Deity which, in order to their exercise, require no determined object antecedent to their egress; of this kind are wisdom and power. These attributes, at least as to their first exercise, must be entirely free, and dependent on the mere good pleasure of God only; so that antecedent to their acting, the divine will is so indifferent as to every exercise of them, on objects without himself, that he might even will the opposite. But if we suppose that God wills to do any work without himself, he must act omnipotently and wisely.
There are, again, some attributes which can in no wise have an egress or be exercised without an object predetermined, and, as it were, by some circumstances prepared for them. Among these is punitive justice, for the exercise of which there would be no ground but upon the supposition of the existence of a rational being and its having sinned; but these being supposed, this justice must necessarily act according to its own rule. 2. But that rule is not any free act of the divine will, but a supreme, intrinsic, natural right of Deity, conjoined with wisdom, to which the entire exercise of this justice ought to be reduced. Those men entirely trifle, then, who, devising certain absurd conclusions of their own, annex them to a supposition of the necessity of punitive justice, as to its exercise: as, for instance, that God ought to punish sin to the full extent of his power, and that he ought to punish every sin with eternal punishment; and that, therefore, he must preserve every creature that sins to eternity, and that he cannot do otherwise. I say they trifle, for God does not punish to the utmost extent of his power, but so fax as is just; and all modes and degrees of punishment are determined by the standard of the divine right and wisdom.
Whether that necessarily require that every sin should be punished with eternal punishment, let those inquire who choose. “Nobis non licet esse tam disertis.” 3. But the existence of a rational creature, and the moral dependence which it has, and must have, upon God, being supposed, the first egress of this justice is in the constitution of a penal law; not as a law which, as was before observed, originates from the justice of government, but as a penal law.
For if such a law were not made necessarily, it might be possible that God should lose his natural right and dominion over his creatures, and thus he would not be God; or, that right being established, that the creature might not be subject to him, which implies a contradiction not less than if you were to say that Abraham is the father of Isaac, but that Isaac is not the son of Abraham: for in case of a failure in point of obedience (a circumstance which might happen, and really hath happened), that dependence could be continued in no way but through means of a vicarious punishment, and there must have been a penal law constituted necessarily requiring that punishment. Hence arises a secondary right of punishing, which extends to every amplification of that penal law, in whatever manner made. But it has a second egress, in the infliction of punishment. 4. And here it is to be remarked, that this justice necessarily respects punishment in general, as including in it the nature of punishment, and ordaining such a vindication of the divine honor as God can acquiesce in: not the time or degrees, or such like circumstances of punishment, yea, not this or that species of punishment; for it respects only the preservation of God’s natural right and the vindication of his glory, both which may be done by punishment in general, however circumstanced. A dispensation, therefore, with punishment (especially temporary punishment), by a delay of time, an increase or diminution of the degree, by no means prejudiceth the necessity of the exercise of this justice, which only intends an infliction of punishment in general. 5. But, again, though we determine the egresses of this justice to be necessary, we do not deny that God exercises it freely; for that necessity doth not exclude a concomitant liberty, but only an antecedent indifference.
This only we deny, — namely, that supposing a sinful creature, the will of God can be indifferent (by virtue of the punitive justice inherent in it) to inflict or not inflict punishment upon that creature, or to the volition of punishment or its opposite. The whole of Scripture, indeed, loudly testifies against any such indifference, nor is it consistent with God’s supreme right over his creatures; neither do they who espouse a different side contend with a single word brought from the Scriptures. But that God punishes sins with a concomitant liberty, because he is of all agents the most free, we have not a doubt. Thus, his intellectual will is carried towards happiness by an essential inclination antecedent to liberty, and notwithstanding it wills happiness with a concomitant liberty: for to act freely is the very nature of the will; yea, it must necessarily act freely.
Let our adversaries, therefore, dream as they please, that we determine God to be an absolutely necessary agent when he is a most free one, and that his will is so circumscribed, by some kind of justice which we maintain, that he cannot will those things which, setting the consideration of that justice aside, would be free to him; for we acknowledge the Deity to be both a necessary and free agent, — necessary in respect of all his actions internally, or in respect of the persons in the Godhead towards one another. The Father necessarily begets the Son, and loves himself. As to these and such like actions, he is of all necessary agents the most necessary. But in respect of the acts of the divine will which have their operations and effects upon external objects, he is an agent absolutely free, being one “who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will.” But of these acts there are two kinds; for some are absolute, and admit no respect to any antecedent condition.
Of this kind is his purpose of creating the world, and in it rational creatures, properly adapted to know and obey the Creator, Benefactor, and Lord of all. In works of this kind God hath exercised the greatest liberty. His infinitely wise and infinitely free will is the fountain and origin of all things; neither is there in God any kind of justice, or any other essential attribute, which could prescribe any limits or measure to the divine will. But this decree of creating being supposed, the divine will undergoes a double necessity, so to speak, both in respect of the event and in respect of its manner of acting: for in respect of the event, it is necessary, from the immutability of God, that the world should be created; and in respect of the manner of doing it, that it should be done omnipotently, because God is essentially omnipotent, and it being once supposed that he wills to do any work without himself, he must do it omnipotently. Yet, notwithstanding these considerations, in the creation of the world God was entirely a free agent; he exercised will and understanding in acting, although the choice of acting or not acting, and of acting in one particular way or another, is taken away by his immutability and omnipotence.
There is another kind of the acts of the divine will which could have no possible existence but upon a condition supposed.
This kind contains the egresses and exercise of those attributes which could not be exercised but upon a supposition of other antecedent acts, of which we have treated before. Of this kind are all the acts of the divine will in which justice, mercy, etc., exert their energy. [But these attributes of the divine nature are either for the purpose of preserving or continuing to God what belongs to him of right, supposing that state of things which he hath freely appointed, or for bestowing on his creatures some farther good. Of the former kind is vindicatory justice; which, as it cannot be exercised but upon the supposition of the existence of a rational being and of its sin, so, these being supposed, the supreme right and dominion of the Deity could not be preserved entire unless it were exercised. Of the latter kind is sparing mercy, by which God bestows an undeserved good on miserable creatures; for, setting aside the consideration of their misery, this attribute cannot be exercised, but that being supposed, if he be inclined to bestow any undeserved good on creatures wretched through their own transgression, he may exercise this mercy if he will. But again; in the exercise of that justice, although, if it were not to be exercised, according to our former hypothesis, God would cease from his right and dominion, and so would not be God, still he is a free and also an absolutely necessary agent; for he acts from will and understanding, and not from an impetus of nature only, as fire burns. And he freely willed that state and condition of things; which being supposed, that justice must necessarily be exercised.
Therefore, in the exercise of it he is not less free than in speaking; for supposing, as I said before, that his will were to speak anything, it is necessary that he speak the truth. Those loud outcries, therefore, which the adversaries so unseasonably make against our opinion, as if it determined God to be an absolutely necessary agent, in his operations ad extra, entirely vanish and come to naught. But we will treat more fully of these things when we come to answer objections.
Finally, let it be observed that the nature of mercy and justice are different in respect of their exercise: for between the act of mercy and its object no natural obligation intervenes; for God is not bound to any one to exercise any act of mercy, neither is he bound to reward obedience, for this is a debt due from his natural right, and from the moral dependence of the rational creature, and indispensably thence arising. But between the act of justice and its object a natural obligation intervenes, arising from the indispensable subordination of the creature to God; which, supposing disobedience or sin, could not otherwise be secured than by punishment.
Nor is the liberty of the divine will diminished in any respect more by the necessary egresses of divine justice than by the exercise of other attributes; for these necessary egresses are the consequence, not of an absolute but of a conditional necessity, — namely, a rational creature and its sin being supposed, and both existing freely in respect of God, but the necessary suppositions being made, the exercise of other perfections is also necessary; for it being supposed that God were disposed to speak with man, he must necessarily speak according to truth.
CHAPTER 3. A series of arguments in support of vindicatory justice — First, from the Scriptures — Three divisions of the passages of Scripture — The first contains those which respect the purity and holiness of God — The second, those which respect God as the judge — What it is to judge with justice — The third, those which respect the divine supreme right. A second argument is taken from the general consent of mankind — A threefold testimony of that consent — The first from the Scriptures — Some testimonies of the heathens — The second from the power of conscience — Testimonies concerning that power — The mark set upon Cain — The expression of the Emperor Adrian when at the point of death — The consternation of mankind at prodigies — The horror of the wicked, whom even fictions terrify — Two conclusions — The third testimony, from the confession of all nations — A vindication of the argument against Rutherford — The regard paid to sacrifices among the nations — Different kinds of the same — Propitiatory sacrifices — Some instances of them. THESE preliminaries being thus laid down, to facilitate our entrance on the subject, I proceed to demonstrate, by a variety of arguments, both against enemies and against friends from whom I dissent, that this punitive justice is natural to God, and necessary as to its egresses respecting sin. But because, since the entrance of sin into the world, God hath either continued or increased the knowledge of himself, or accommodated it to our capacities by four ways, — namely, by the written word, by a rational conscience, by his works of providence, and, lastly, by the person of Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, and by the mystery of godliness manifested in him, — we will show that by each of these modes of communication he hath revealed and made known to us this his justice.
I. Our first argument, then, is taken from the testimony of the sacred writings, which, in almost numberless places, ascribe this vindicatory justice to God.
The passages of holy Scripture which ascribe this justice to God may be classed under three divisions. The first contains those which certify that the purity and holiness of God hostilely oppose and detest sin. Whether holiness or purity be an attribute natural to God, and immutably residing in him, has not yet been called in question by our adversaries. They have not yet arrived at such a pitch of madness. But this is that universal perfection of God, which, when he exercises [it] in punishing the transgressions of his creatures, is called vindicatory justice; for whatever there be in God perpetually inherent, whatever excellence there be essential to his nature, which occasions his displeasure with sin, and which necessarily occasions this displeasure, this is that justice of which we are speaking.
But here, first, occurs to us that celebrated passage of the prophet Habakkuk, Habakkuk 1:13, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” The prophet here ascribes to God the greatest detestation, and such an immortal hatred of sin that he cannot look upon it, but, with a wrathful aversion of his countenance, abominates and dooms it to punishment. But perhaps God thus hates sin because he wills to do so, and by an act of his will entirely free, though the state of things might be changed without any injury to him or diminution of his essential glory. But the Holy Spirit gives us a reason very different from this, namely, — the purity of God’s eyes: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil.” But there is no one who can doubt that the prophet here intended the holiness of God. The incomprehensible, infinite, and most perfect holiness or purity of God is the cause why he hates and detests all sin; and that justice and holiness are the same, as to the common and general notion of them, we have shown before.
Of the same import is the admonition of Joshua in his address to the people of Israel, Joshua 24:19, “Ye cannot serve the LORD” (that is, he will not accept of a false and hypocritical worship from you): “for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.” God, then, will not forgive transgressions, — that is, he will most certainly punish them, — because he is most holy. But this holiness is the universal perfection of God, which, when exercised in punishing the sins of the creatures, is called vindicator) justice; that is, in relation to its exercise and effects, for in reality the holiness and justice of God are the same, neither of which, considered in itself and absolutely, differs from the divine nature, whence they are frequently used the one for the other.
Moreover, it is manifest that God meant this holiness in that promulgation of his glorious name, or of the essential properties of his divine nature, made face to face to Moses, Exodus 34:5-7; which name he had also before declared, chapter 23:7. That non-absolution or punishment denotes an external effect of the divine will is granted; but when God proclaims this to be his name, “The LORD, The LORD God,” etc, “that will by no means clear the guilty,” he manifestly leads us to the contemplation of that excellence essentially inherent in his nature, which induces him to such an act. But that, by whatever name it be distinguished, in condescension to our capacities, is the justice that we mean.
That eulogium of divine justice by the psalmist, Psalm 5:4-6, favors this opinion: “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” But those who deny this hatred of sin and sinners, and the disposition to punish them, to be perpetually, immutably, and habitually inherent in God, I am afraid have never strictly weighed in their thoughts the divine purity and holiness.
To the second class may be referred those passages of Scripture which ascribe to God the office of a judge, and which affirm that he judges, and will judge, all things with justice. The first which occurs is that celebrated expression of Abraham, Genesis 18:25, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” These are not the words of one who doubts, but of one enforcing a truth acknowledged and confessed among all; a truth upon which the intercession of this faithful friend of God for the pious and just inhabitants of Sodom is founded: for Abraham here ascribes to God the power and office of a just judge; in consequence of which character he must necessarily exercise judgment according to the different merits of mankind. This the words in the preceding clause of the verse, accompanied with a vehement rejection and detestation of every suspicion that might arise to the contrary, sufficiently demonstrate: “That be far from thee to do,” — namely, “to slay the righteous with the wicked.” God, then, is a judge, and a just one; and it is impossible for him not to exercise right or judgment. But that justice wherewith he is now endowed, and by which he exerciseth right, is not a free act of his will, (for who would entertain such contemptible thoughts even of an earthly judge?) but a habit or excellence at all times inherent in his nature.
But this supreme excellence and general idea which Abraham made mention of and enforced, the apostle again afterward supports and recommends: Romans 3:5,6, “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?”
Unless he were just, how shall he judge the world? Therefore, this most righteous of all judges exerciseth justice in judging the world “because he is just.”
For why should God so often be said to judge the world justly, and in justice, unless his justice were that perfection whence this righteous and just judgment flows and is derived? Acts 17:31, “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained;” and in Romans 2:5, the day of the last judgment is called “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
But, again, on this very account the justice of God is celebrated, and he himself, in an especial manner, is said to be just, because he inflicts punishment and exercises his judgments according to the demerits of sinners: Revelation 16:5,6, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.”
But all retaliation for a crime proceeds from vindicatory justice; but that God exercises that justice, and is thence denominated just, is evident. ‘The Holy Spirit establishes this truth in the plainest words, Psalm 9:4,5, where he gloriously vindicates this justice of God: “Thou hast maintained my right and my cause,” says the psalmist; “thou satest in the throne judging right. Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.” God exerciseth justice and determines causes as he sits upon his throne, — that is, as being endowed with supreme judiciary power, — and that as he is a judge of righteousness, or most righteous judge: <19B9137> Psalm 119:137, “Righteous art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments.”
Thirdly, It now remains that we take a view of one or two of those passages of Scripture which, in consideration of this divine justice, assert the infliction of punishment for sin in itself, and as far as relates to the thing itself, to be just. To this purpose is that of the apostle to the Romans, Romans 1:32, “Who knowing the judgment,” or justice, “of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.” Whatever, or of what kind soever, that justice or right of God may be of which the apostle is speaking, it seems evident that the three following properties belong to it: — 1. That it is universally acknowledged; nay, it is not unknown even to the most abandoned of mankind, and to those schools of every kind of wickedness which the apostle is there describing. Whence they derive this knowledge of the divine law and justice shall be made to appear hereafter. 2. That, it is the cause, source, and rule of all punishments to be inflicted; for this is the right of God, “that those who commit sin are worthy of death.” From this right of God it follows that “the wages of” every “sin is death.” 3. That, it is natural and essential to God: for although, in respect of its exercise, it may have a handle or occasion from some things external to the Deity, and in respect of its effects may have a meritorious cause, yet in respect of its source and root, it respects himself as its subject, if God be absolutely perfect. If belonging to any other being, it cannot agree to him. f358 You will say that this right of God is free; but I deny that any right of God which respects his creatures can, as a habit inherent in his nature, be free, though in the exercise of every right God be absolutely free. Neither can any free act of the divine will towards creatures be called any right of Deity; it is only the exercise of some right. But an act is distinguished from its habit or root.
And now it appears evident that this right is not that supreme right or absolute dominion of God, which, under the primary notion of a Creator, must be necessarily ascribed to him; for it belongs not to the supreme Lord, as such, to inflict punishment, but as ruler or judge.
The supreme dominion and right of God over his creatures, no doubt, so far as it supposes dependence and obedience, necessarily requires that a vicarious punishment should be appointed in case of transgression or disobedience: but the very appointment of punishment, as well as the infliction of it, flows from his right as the governor; which right, considered with respect to transgressors, is nothing else than vindicatory justice. The apostle, therefore, signifies that that is the justice always resident in God, as a legislator, ruler, and judge of all things; which, by common presumption, even the most abandoned of mankind acknowledge.
To these may be added two other passages which occur in the writings of the same apostle: 2 Thessalonians 1:6, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.”
A recompense of tribulation is a real peculiar act of vindicatory justice; but that belongs to God as he is just. Thence the punishment of sin is called in Hebrews 2:2, “A just recompense of reward;” and by Jude, verse 7, “The vengeance,” or justice, “of eternal fire;” because, namely, it follows from that justice of God that such crimes are justly recompensed by such a punishment.
But we will not be farther troublesome in reciting particular proofs; from those already mentioned, and from others equally strong, we thus briefly argue: — That to that Being whose property it is to “render unto every man according to his deeds,” not to clear the guilty, to condemn sinners as worthy of death and to inflict the same upon them, to hate sin, and who will in no wise let sin pass unpunished, and all this because he is just, and because his justice so requires, sin-punishing justice naturally belongs, and that he cannot act contrary to that justice; but the passages of Scripture just now mentioned, with many others, assert that all these properties above recounted belong to and are proper to God, because he is just: therefore, this justice belongs to God, and is natural to him.
It matters not what we affirm of vindicatory justice, whether that it be meant of God essentially, and not only denominatively, that it has an absolute name (for it is called “holiness” and “purity”), that we have it expressed both in the abstract and concrete; for, what is more than that, it is affirmed expressly, directly, and particularly, oft-times, in the pan, sages above mentioned, that it requires the punishment of sinners, that it implies a constant and immutable will of punishing every sin according to the rule of divine wisdom and right. Impudent to a high degree indeed, then, must Socinus have been, who hath maintained that that perfection of Deity by which he punisheth sin is not called justice, but always anger or fury. Anger, indeed, and fury, analogically and effectively, belong to justice.
So much for our first argument.
II. The universal consent of mankind furnishes us with a second, from which we may reason in this manner: “What common opinion and the innate conceptions of all assign to God, that is natural to God; but this corrective justice is so assigned to God: therefore, this justice is natural to God.”
The major proposition is evident; for what is not natural to God neither exists in him by any mode of habit or mode of affection, but is only a free act of the divine will, and the knowledge of that can by no means be naturally implanted in creatures; for whence should there be a universal previous conception of an act which might either take place or never take place? No such thing was at the first engraven on the hearts of men, and the fabric of the world teaches us no such thing.
But the minor proposition is established by a threefold proof: — 1. By the testimony of the Scripture; 2. By the testimony of every sinner’s conscience; and 3. By that of the public consent of all nations.
First, The holy Scriptures testify that such an innate conception is implanted by God in the minds of men. Thus the apostle to the Romans, Romans 1:32, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.”
He is here speaking of those nations that were the most forsaken by God, and delivered over to a reprobate mind; yet even to these he ascribes some remaining knowledge of this immutable fight of God, which renders it necessary that “every transgression should receive its just recompense of reward,” and that sinners should be deserving of death in such a manner that it would be unworthy of God not to inflict it. That is to say, although the operations of this observing and acknowledging principle should often become very languid, and be even almost entirely overwhelmed by abounding wickedness, — for “what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves,” — yet that mankind must cease to exist before they can altogether lose this innate sense of divine fight and judgment. Hence the barbarians concluded against Paul, then a prisoner and in bonds, seeing the viper hanging on one of his hands, that “no doubt he was a murderer, whom, though he had escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffered not to live.” Here they argue from the effect to the cause; which, in matters relating to moral good or evil, they could not, unless convinced in their consciences that there is an inviolable connection between sin and punishment, which they here ascribe to Justice. f361 Justice among them, according to their fabulous theology, which was particularly favored by the bulk of the people, was the daughter of Jupiter, whom he set over the affairs of mortals, to avenge the injuries which they should do to one another, and to inflict condign punishment on all those who should impiously offend against the gods. Hence Hesiod, speaking of Jupiter, says,- “He married a second wife, the fair Themis, who brought forth the Hours, And Eunomia, and Justice, etc., Who should watch o’er the actions of mortal men.” — Hesiod in Theog. 901.
Again, the same author says, — “Justice is a virgin, descended from Jupiter, Chaste, and honor’d by the heavenly deities; And when any one hath injured her with impious indignity, [Instantly she, seated beside her father, Saturnian Jupiter, Complains of the iniquity of men,” etc.] — Hesiod in Oper. 256.
Also, Orpheus in the hymns, — “I sing the eye of Justice, who looketh behind her, and is fair, Who likewise sits upon the sacred throne of sovereign Jupiter As the avenger of the unjust.”
Hence, these common sayings, — “God hath an avenging eye; God hath found the transgressor.” In all which, and in numberless other such passages, the wisest men in those times of ignorance have announced their sense of this vindicatory justice.
And among the Latins, the following passages prove their sense of the same: — “Aspiciunt oculis superi mortalia justis.” “The gods above behold the affairs of mortals with impartial eyes.” “Raro antecedentem scelestum, Deseruit pede Poena claudo.” “Seldom hath Punishment, through lameness of foot, left off pursuit of the wicked man, though he hath had the start of her. “ — Horace.
Also, that celebrated response of the Delphic oracle, recorded by AElian: — “But divine Justice pursues those who are guilty of crimes, Nor can it be avoided even by the descendants of Jupiter; But it hangs over the heads of the wicked themselves, and over the heads of their Children; and one disaster to their race is followed by another.”
All which assert this vindicatory justice.
This, then, as Plutarch says, is the “ancient faith of mankind;” or, in the words of Aristotle, “opinion concerning God,” which Dion Prusaeensis calls “a very strong and eternal persuasion, from time immemorial received, and still remaining among all nations.”
Secondly, The consciences of all mankind concur to corroborate this truth; but the cause which has numberless witnesses to support it cannot fail.
Hence, not only the flight, hiding-place, and fig-leaf aprons of our primogenitors, but every word of dire meaning and evil omen, as terror, horror, tremor, and whatever else harasses guilty mortals, have derived their origin. Conscious to themselves of their wickedness, and convinced of the divine dominion over them, this idea above all dwells in their minds, that he with whom they have to do is supremely just, and the avenger of all sin. From this consideration even the people of God have been induced to believe that death must inevitably be their portion should they be but for once sisted in his presence. Not that the mass of the body is to us an obscure and dark prison, as the Platonists dream, whence, when we obtain a view of divine things, being formerly enveloped by that mass, it is immediately suggested to the mind that the bond of union between mind and body must be instantly dissolved.
The justice and purity of God, on account of which he can bear nothing impure or filthy to come into his presence, occurs to sinners’ minds; wherefore, they think of nothing else but of a present God, of punishment prepared, and of deserved penalties to be immediately inflicted. The thought of the Deity bursting in upon the mind, immediately every sinner stands confessed a debtor, — a guilty and self-condemned criminal.
Fetters, prisons, rods, axes, and fire, without delay and without end, rise to his view. Whence some have judged the mark set upon Cain to have been some horrible tremor, by which, being continually shaken and agitated, he was known to all. Hence, too, these following verses: — “Whither fliest thou, Enceladus? Whatever coasts thou shalt arrive on, Thou wilt always be under the eye of Jupiter.”
And these: — “As every one’s conscience is, so in his heart he conceives hope or fear, according to his actions. “This is the first punishment, that ever in his own judgment no guilty person is acquitted. “Do you think that those have escaped whom a guilty conscience holds abashed, and lashes with its inexorable scourge, the mind, the executioner, shaking the secret lash ?” — See Voss. on Idol. book 1. chap. 2.
It is the saying of a certain author, that punishment is coeval with injustice, and that the horror of natural conscience is not terminated by the limits of human life: — “Sunt aliquid manes: lethum non omnia finit, Lucidaque evictos effugit umbra rogos.” “The soul is something: death ends not at all, And the light spirit escapes the vanquished funeral pile.” Hence the famous verses of Adrian, the Roman emperor, spoken on his death-bed: — “Animula vagula, blandula, Hospes comesque corporis, Quae nunc abibis in loca? Pallidula, rigida, nudula, Nec, ut soles, dabis joca.” “Alas! my soul, thou pleasing companion of this body, thou fleeting thing, that art now deserting it! whither art thou flying? to what unknown scene? All trembling, fearful, and pensive! What now is become of thy former wit and humor? Thou shalt jest and be gay no more.” f363 “That which is truly evil,” says Tertullian, “not even those who are under its influence dare defend as good. All evil fills nature with fear or shame. Evil doers are glad to lie concealed; they avoid making their appearance; they tremble when apprehended.”
Hence the heathens have represented Jove himself, when conscious of any crime, as not free from fear. We find Mercury thus speaking of him in Plautus: — “Etenim file,” etc. “Even that Jupiter, by whose order I come hither, Dreads evil no less than any of us:
Being himself descended from a human father and mother, There is no reason to wonder that he should fear for himself.” Hence, too, mankind have a dread awe of every thing in nature that is grand, unusual, and strange, as thunders, lightning, or eclipses of the heavenly bodies, and tremble at every prodigy, specter, or comet, nay, even at the hobgoblins of the night, exclaiming, like the woman of Zarephath upon the death of her son, “What have I to do with thee? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance?” Hence, even the most abandoned of men, when vengeance for their sins hangs over their heads, have confessed their sins and acknowledged the divine justice.
It is related by Suetonius, that Nero, that disgrace of human nature, just before his death, exclaimed, “My wife, my mother, and my father, are forcing me to my end.’’ Most deservedly celebrated, too, is that expression of Mauricius the Cappadocian, when slain by Phocas, “Just art thou, O Lord, and thy judgments are righteous!”
But, moreover, while guilty man dreads the consequences of evil, which he knows he has really committed, he torments and vexes himself even with fictitious fears and bugbears. Hence these verses of Horace: — “Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas, Nocturnos lemures, portentaque Thessala finxit,” [rides?] f365 — ideas for the most part ridiculous, but, as the old proverb says, “Tis but reasonable that they should wear the fetters which themselves have forged.” Hence the guilty trembling mob is imposed upon and cheated by impostors, by vagrant fortune-tellers and astrologers. If any illiterate juggler shall have foretold a year of darkness, alluding, namely, to the night-season of the year, the consternation is as great as if Hannibal were at the gates of the city. The stings of conscience vex and goad them, and their minds have such presentiments of divine justice that they look upon every new prodigy as final, or portentous of the final consummation. I pass over observing at present that if once a conviction of the guilt of any sin be carried home to the mind, this solemn tribunal cannot thoroughly be dislodged from any man’s bosom either by dismal solitude or by frequent company, by affluence of delicacies or by habits of wickedness and impiety, nor, in fine, by any endeavors after the practice of innocence. The apostle in his epistle to the Romans, chap. it., enters more fully into this subject. Two things, then, are to be concluded from what has been said, that mankind are guilty, and that they acknowledge, — 1. That God hates sin, as contrary to himself, and that therefore it is impossible for a sinner with safety to appear before him. But if God hate sin, he does it either from his nature or because he so wills it. But it cannot be because he wills it, for in that case he might not will it; a supposition most absurd. And, indeed, that assertion of Socinus is every way barbarous, abominable, and most unworthy of God, wherein he says, “I maintain that our damnation derives its origin, not from any justice of God, but from the freewill of God;” Socinus de Serv. p. 3. cap. 8. But if God hate sin by nature, then by nature he is just, and vindicatory justice is natural to him. 2. That our sins are debts, and therefore we shun the sight of our creditor.
But I mean such a debt as, with relation to God’s supreme dominion, implies in it a perpetual right of punishment.
And such is the second proof of the minor proposition of the second argument; the third remains.
Thirdly, The public consent of all nations furnishes the third proof of this truth. There are writers, indeed, who have affirmed (a thing by no means credible) that some nations have been so given up to a reprobate mind that they acknowledge no deity. Socinus hath written that a certain Dominican friar, a worthy honest man, had related this much to himself of the Brazilians and other natives of America. But who can assure us that this friar has not falsified, according to the usual custom of travelers, or that Socinus himself has not invented this story (for he had a genius fertile in falsehoods) to answer his own ends? But let this matter rest on the credit of Socinus, who was but little better than an infidel. But nobody, even by report, hath heard that there exist any who have acknowledged the being of a God, and who have not, at the same time, declared him to be just, to be displeased with sinners and sin, and that it is the duty of mankind to propitiate him if they would enjoy his favor.
But a respectable writer objects, — namely, Rutherford on Providence, chap. 22. p. 355, — that this argument, that that which men know of God by the natural power of conscience must be naturally inherent in God, is of no weight. “For,” says he, “by the natural power of conscience, men know that God does many good things freely, without himself; as, for instance, that he has created the world, that the sun rises and gives light; — and yet in these operations God does not act from any necessity of nature.”
But this learned man blunders miserably here, as often elsewhere, in his apprehension of the design and meaning of his opponents; for they do not use this argument to prove that the egresses of divine justice are necessary, but that justice itself is necessary to God; which Socinians deny. What is his answer to these arguments? “Mankind acknowledge many things,” says he, “which God does freely.” To be sure they do, when he exhibits them before their eyes; but what follows from that? So, too, they acknowledge that God punishes sin, when he punishes it. But because all mankind, from the works of God and from the natural power of conscience, acknowledge God to be good and bountiful, we may, without hesitation, conclude goodness and bounty to be essential attributes of God: so likewise, because, from the natural power of conscience and the consideration of God’s works of providence, they conclude and agree that God is just, we contend that justice is natural to God.
But as mankind have testified this consent by other methods, so they have especially done it by sacrifices; concerning which Pliny says, “That all the world have agreed in them, although enemies or strangers to one another.” But since these are plainly of a divine origin, and instituted to prefigure, so to speak, the true atonement by the blood of Christ, in which he hath been the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, — that is, from the promise made of the seed of the woman, and from the sacrifice of Abel which followed, — the use of them descended to all the posterity of Adam: therefore, though afterward the whole plan and purpose of the institution was lost among by far the greatest part of mankind, and even the true God himself, to whom alone they were due, was unknown, and though no traces of the thing signified, — namely, the promised seed, — remained, yet still the thing itself, and the general notion of appeasing the Deity by sacrifices, hath survived all the darkness, impieties, dreadful wickedness, punishments, migrations of nations, downfalls and destructions of cities, states, and people, in which the world for these many ages hath been involved; for a consciousness of sin, and a sense of divine and avenging justice, have taken deeper root in the heart of man than that they can by any means be eradicated.
There were four kinds of sacrifices among the Gentiles: — First, the propitiatory or peace-making sacrifices; for by those they thought they could render the gods propitious or appease them, or avert the anger of the gods, and obtain peace with them. Hence these verses on that undertaking of the Greeks, in the exordium of Homer: — “But let some prophet or some sacred sage Explore the cause of great Apollo’s rage: Or learn the wasteful vengeance to remove By mystic dreams; for dreams descend from Jove. If broken vows this heavy curse have laid, Let altars smoke and hecatombs be paid: So Heaven atoned shall dying Greece restore, And Phoebus dart his burning shafts no more.” — Pope’s Homer.
They were desirous of appeasing Apollo by sacrifices, who had inflicted on them a lamentable mortality. To the same purpose is that passage of Virgil, — “The prophet first with sacrifice adores The greater gods; their pardon then implores.” — Dryden’s Virgil Hence, too, that lamentation of the person in the Poenulus of Plautus, who could not make satisfaction to his gods: — “Unhappy man that I am,” says he, “today I have sacrificed six lambs to my much-incensed gods, and yet I have not been able to render Venus propitious to me; and as I could not appease her, I came instantly off.”
And Suetonius, speaking of Otho, says, “He endeavors, by all kinds of piacular sacrifices, to propitiate the manes of Galba, by whom he had seen himself thrust down and expelled.” And the same author affirms of Nero, “That he had been instructed that kings were wont to expiate the heavenly prodigies by the slaughter of some illustrious victim, and to turn them from themselves upon the heads of their nobles;” though this, perhaps, rather belongs to the second kind. But innumerable expressions to this purpose are extant, both among the Greek and Latin authors.
The second kind were the expiatory or purifying sacrifices, by which sins were said to be atoned, expiated, and cleansed, and sinners purified, purged, and reconciled, and the anger of the gods turned aside and averted.
It would be tedious, and perhaps superfluous, to produce examples; the learned can easily trace them in great abundance. The other kinds were the eucharistical and prophetical, which have no relation to our present purpose.
In this way of appeasing the Deity, mankind, I say, formerly agreed; whence it is evident that an innate conception of this sin-avenging justice is natural to all, and, therefore, that that justice is to be reckoned among the essential attributes of the divine nature; concerning which only, and not concerning the free acts of his will, mankind universally agree.
CHAPTER 4. The origin of human sacrifices — Their use among the Jews, Assyrians, Germans, Goths, the inhabitants of Marseilles, the Normans, the Francs, the Tyrians, the Egyptians) and the ancient Gauls — Testimonies of Cicero and Caesar that they were used among the Britons and Romans by the Druids — A fiction of Apion concerning the worship in the temple of Jerusalem — The names of some persons sacrificed — The use of human sacrifices among the Gentiles proved from Clemens of Alexandria, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Porphyry, Philo, Eusebius, Tertullian, Euripides — Instances of human sacrifices in the sacred Scriptures — The remarkable obedience of Abraham — What the neighboring nations might have gathered from that event — Why human sacrifices were not instituted by God — The story of Iphigenia — The history of Jephthah — Whether he put his daughter to death — The cause of the difficulty — The impious sacrifice of the king of Moab — The abominable superstition of the Rugiani — The craftiness of the devil — Vindications of the argument — The same concluded. BUT it is strange to think what a stir was made by the ancient enemy of mankind to prevent any ray of light respecting the true sacrifice, that was to be made in the fullness of time, from being communicated to the minds of men through means of this universal ceremony and custom of sacrificing. Hence he influenced the most of the nations to the heinous, horrible, and detestable crime of offering human sacrifices, in order to make atonement for themselves, and render God propitious by such an abominable wickedness.
But as it seems probable that some light may be borrowed from the consideration of these sacrifices, in which mankind, from the presumption of a future judgment, have so closely agreed, perhaps the learned reader will think it not foreign to our purpose to dwell a little on the subject, and to reckon up some examples. This abomination, prohibited by God under the penalty of a total extermination, was divers times committed by the Jews, running headlong into forbidden wickedness, while urged on by the stings of conscience to this infernal remedy. They offered their children as burnt-sacrifices to Moloch, — that is, to the Saturn of the Tyrians; not to the planet of that name, not to the father of the Cretan Jupiter, but to the Saturn of the Tyrians, — that is, to Baal or to the sun; and not by making them to pass between two fires for purification, as some think, but by burning them in the manner of a whole burnt-offering. <19A636> Psalm 106:36-38, “And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.”
Almost the whole world, during the times of that ignorance which God winked at, were indebted to the devil. Since, then, it is abundantly evident from these sacrifices by what a sense of vindicatory justice, horror of punishment, and consciousness of sin, mankind are constrained, we must enlarge a little on the consideration of them.
Tacitus, speaking of the Germans, says, “Of the gods, they chiefly worship Mercury; to whom, on certain days, they hold it as an article of religion and piety to sacrifice human victims. Mars they have always been accustomed to appease by a most cruel worship; for his victims were the deaths of the captives.” Jornandes affirms the same of the Goths. And thus Lucan writes in his siege of Marseilles: — “Here the sacred rites of the gods are barbarous in their manner; altars are built for deadly ceremonies, and every tree is purified by human blood.”
And the same author, in the sixth book, from his Precepts of Magic, has these verses: — “Vulnere si ventris,” etc. “If, contrary to nature, the child be extracted through a wound in the belly, to be served up on the hot altars.” Virgil bears witness that such sacrifices were offered to Phoebus or the Sun, AEneid 10: — “Next Lycas fell; who, not like others born, Was from his wretched mother ripp’d and torn:
And thus the Scriptures testify, 2 Kings 17:29-31, “Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt. And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima, and the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.”
Ditmarus, in his first book, testifies “That the Normans and Danes sacrificed yearly, in the month of January, to their gods, ninety-nine human creatures, as many horses, besides dogs and cocks.” But what Procopius, on the Gothic war, writes, is truly astonishing, — namely, “That the Francs made use of human victims in his time, even though they then worshipped Christ.” Alas! for such a kind of Christianity. The practices of the Tyrians, Carthaginians, and Egyptians, in this respect are known to every one. And Theodoret says, “That in Rhodes, some person was sacrificed to Saturn on the sixteenth of the calends of November, which, after having been for a long time observed, became a custom; and they used to reserve one of those who had been capitally condemned till the feast of Saturn.”
Porphyry, on “Abstinence from Animals,” relates the customs of the Phoenicians concerning this matter. “The Phoenicians,” says he, “in great disasters, either by wars, or commotions, or droughts, used to sacrifice one of their dearest friends or relations to Saturn, devoted to this fate by the common suffrages.” They were called Phoenicians from the word foi>nix , which signifies a red color. Foi>nix , according to Eustathius, is from fo>nov , which signifies blood; thence the color called foini>keov , or the purple color. Hence the learned conjecture that the Phoenicians were the descendants of Esau or Edom, whose name also signifies red; and from whom, also, the Red Sea was named. Edom, then, foi>nex , and ejruqrai~ov , mean the; same, — namely, red. Why may we not, then, conjecture that the Phoenicians, or Idumaeans, were first led to this custom from some corrupt tradition concerning the sacrificing of Isaac, the father of Esau, the leader and head of their nation? This, at least, makes for the conjecture, that while ether nations sacrificed enemies or strangers, Porphyry bears witness that they sacrificed one of their dearest friends or relations. But Isaac was not to Abraham one of the dearest, but the only dear one. From such corrupt traditions as these, it is not to be wondered that the consciences of men, struck with a fear of punishment, should have been encouraged to persevere in so cruel and superstitious a worship.
Concerning the ancient Gauls, we have the most credible evidences, — Cicero and Julius Caesar; the former of whom charges them with the practice of offering human sacrifices, as a horrid crime, and certain evidence of their contempt of Deity. The other, however, commends them on this very account, on the score of a more severe religion. “If at any time, induced by fear, they think it necessary that the gods should be appeased, they defile their altars and temples with human victims, — as if they could not practice religion without first violating it by their wickedness; for who does not know that, even at this day, they retain that savage and barbarous custom of sacrificing human beings, thinking that the immortal gods can be appeased by the blood and wickedness of man?’
Cicero pro Fonteio. But Caesar, the conqueror of the Gauls, gives us a very different account of these kind of sacrifices. “This nation,” says he, “of the Gauls, is most of all devoted to religious observances; and for that reason, those who labor under any grievous distemper, or who are conversant in dangers and battles, either sacrifice human victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and they employ the Druids as the conductors of such sacrifices; for they have an opinion that unless a human life be given for a human life, the heavenly deities cannot be appeased.” These last words seem to me to acknowledge a persuasion, that must have arisen from some ancient tradition, about the substitution of the Son of Man in the stead of sinners as a propitiation for sin.
No doubt can be entertained concerning the inhabitants of Britain but that they were guilty of the same practices; for from them came the Druids, the first promoters of that superstition, not only among the Gauls, but even in Italy and in the city of Rome itself. “The doctrine of the Druids,” says Caesar, “is thought to have been found in Britain, and brought thence into Gaul; and now such as are desirous to examine more particularly into that matter generally go thither for the sake of information,” book 6 of the Wars in Gaul. But Tacitus informs us with what kind of sacrifices they performed their divine services there, in the fourteenth book of his Annala “When the island of Anglesey was conquered by Paulinus, a guard,” says he, “was placed over the vanquished, and the groves devoted to cruel superstitions were hewn down” (the same was done by Caesar in the siege of Marseilles, Lucan, book 3); “for it was an article of their religion to sacrifice their captives on the altars, and to consult their gods by human entrails.”
Hence that verse in Horace: — “Visam Britannos, hospitibus feros.” “I will visit the Britons, cruel to strangers.” At which remote place the Britons used to sacrifice their guests for victims; yea, even in Rome itself, as Plutarch, in his Life of Marcellus, testifies, they buried, by order of the high priests, “a man and woman of Gaul, and a man and woman of Greece,” alive in the cattle market, to avert some calamity by such a fatal sacrifice. Whether this was done yearly, as some think, I am rather inclined to doubt.
Of the same kind was the religion of the Decii, devoting themselves for the safety of the city. Hence a suspicion arose, and was everywhere rumoured, among the Gentiles, concerning the sacred rites of the Jews, with which they were unacquainted, — namely, that they were wont to be solemnized with human sacrifices: for although, after the destruction of the temple, it was manifest that they worshipped the God of heaven only, yet so long as they celebrated the secret mysteries appointed them by God, Josephus against Apion bears witness that they labored under the infamy of that horrible crime, — namely, of sacrificing human victims, among those who were unacquainted with the Jewish polity; where he also recites, from the same Apion, a most ridiculous fiction about a young Greek captive being delivered by Antiochus, when he impiously spoiled the temple, after having been fed there on a sumptuous diet for the space of a year, that he might make the fatter a victim.
A custom that prevailed with some, not unlike this untruth about the young Greek kept in the temple, seems to have given rise to it; for thus Diodorus, in book v., writes of the Druids, “They fix up their malefactors upon poles, after having kept them five years” (it seems they fattened much slower than at Jerusalem), “and sacrifice them to their gods, and, with other first-fruits of the year, offer them on large funeral piles.”
Theodoret also mentions something of that kind concerning the Rhodians, in the first book of the “Greek Affections;” the words have been mentioned before.
But that young Greek, destined for sacrifice, in Apion, has no name; that is, there never was any such person. “But, friend, discover faithful what I crave, — Artful concealment ill becomes the brave; Say what thy birth, and what the name you bore, Imposed by parents in the natal hour.”
Pope’s Homer’s OdysSey, book 8.
But, alter having prepared the plot, he ought not to have shunned the task of giving names to the actors. We have the name of a Persian sacrificed even among the Thracians, in Herodotus, book 9. “The Thracians of Apsinthium,” says he, “having seized (Eobazus flying into Thrace, sacrificed him, after their custom, to Pleistorus, the god of the country.”
There is still remaining, if I rightly remember, the name of a Spanish soldier, a captive, with other of his companions, among the Mexicans, well-known inhabitants of America, who being sacrificed, on a very high altar, to the gods of the country, when his heart was pulled out (if we can credit Peter Martyr, author of the History of the West Indies), tumbling down upon the sand, exclaimed, “O companions, they have murdered me!”
Clemens of Alexandria makes mention of Theopompus, a king of the Lacedaemonians, being sacrificed by Aristomenes the Messenian. His words, which elegantly set forth this custom of all the nations, we shall beg leave to trouble the reader with: “But now, when they had invaded all states and nations as plagues (he is speaking of demons), they demanded cruel sacrifices; and one Aristomenes, a Messenian, slew three hundred in honor of Ithometan Jupiter, thinking that he sacrificed so many hecatombs in due form, and of such a kind. Among these, too, was Theopompus, king of the Lacedemonians, an illustrious victim. But the inhabitants of Mount Taurus, who dwell about the Tauric Chersonese, instantly sacrifice whatever shipwrecked strangers they find upon their coasts to Diana of Taurus. Thence, ye inhospitable shores! Euripides again and again bewails in his scenes these your sacrifices,” Clemens’ Exhortations to the Greeks.
But what he says concerning Euripides has a reference to the story of “Iphigenia in Tauris;” where, however, the poet signifies that she detested such kinds of sacrifices, for he introduces Iphigenia, the priestess of Diana, thus bewailing her lot: “They have appointed me priestess in these temples, where Diana, the goddess of the festival, is delighted with such laws, whose name alone is honorable; but I say no more, dreading the goddess. For I sacrifice (and it long hath been a custom of the state) every Grecian that arrives in this country,” Eur. Iph. in Tauris, 5:34.
Thus far Clemens, who also demonstrates the same thing of the Thessalians, Lycians, Lesbians, Phocensians, and Romans, from Monimus, Antoclides, Pythocles, and Demaratus. That deed, too, of Agamemnon, alluded to by Virgil, furnishes another proof: — “Sanguine placastis ventos, et vlrgine caesa.” “O Grecians, when the Trojan shores you sought, Your passage with a virgin’s blood was bought.”
Tertullian also bears witness to this wickedness: “In Africa they openly sacrificed infants to Saturn, even down to the time of the proconsulate of Tiberius; and what is surprising, even in that most religious city of the pious descendants of AEneas, there is a certain Jupiter, whom, at his games, they drench with human blood.”
It is notoriously known, that in the sanguinary games of the Romans, they made atonement to the gods with human blood, — namely, that of captives. But Eusebius Pamphilus (Praep. Evang. lib. 4. cap. 16) enters the most fully of any into this matter; for he shows from Porphyry, Philo, Clemens, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and Diodorus Siculus, that this ceremony of offering human sacrifices was practiced all over the world.
Porphyry, indeed, shows at large who instituted this kind of worship in. different places, and who put an end to it. Another very ingenious poet brings an accusation of extreme folly and madness against this rite in these verses. It is a Plebeian addressing Agamemnon: — “Tu quum pro vitula, statuis dulcem Aulide natam, Ante aras, spargisque mola caput, improbe, salsa, Rectum animi servas?” — Hor., lib. 2. sat. in. 5:199. “When your own child you to the altar led, And pour’d the salted meal upon her head; When you beheld the lovely victim slain, Unnatural father! were you sound of brain?” Agamemnon is introduced thus, apologizing for himself on account of the utility and necessity of the sacrifice: — “Verum ego, ut haerentes adverso littore naves Eriperem, prudens placavi sanguine divos.” “But I, while adverse winds tempestuous roar, To loose our fated navy from the shore, Wisely with blood the powers divine adore.”
The Plebeian again charges him with madness: — “Nempe tuo furiose?” “What! your own blood, you madman?” But Philo, in his first book, relates that one Saturn (there were many illustrious persons of that name, as well as of the name of Hercules), when the enemies of his country were oppressing it, sacrificed at the altars his own daughter, named Leudem; which among them, namely, the Tyrians, means only-begotten.
I have little or no doubt but that this Saturn was Jephthah the Israelite; that their Hercules was Joshua, the celebrated Vossius has clearly proved, book 1. of Idol.
But as we have made mention of Jephthah, it will not be foreign to our purpose briefly to treat of those three famous examples of human sacrifices recorded in the sacred writings. The first is contained in that celebrated history concerning the trial of Abraham; an undertaking so wonderful and astonishing that no age hath ever produced or will produce its like. It even exceeds every thing that fabulous Greece hath presumed in story. A most indulgent and affectionate father, weighed down with age, is ordered to offer his only son, the pillar of his house and family, the trust of Heaven, a son solemnly promised him by God, the foundation of the future church, in whom, according to the oracles of God, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed; this most innocent and most obedient son he is ordered to offer as a burnt-offering, — a dreadful kind of sacrifice indeed! which required that the victim should be first slain, afterward cut in pieces, and lastly burnt, by the hands of a father! What though the purpose was not accomplished, God having graciously so ordained it, this obedience of the holy man is, notwithstanding, to be had in everlasting remembrance! And forasmuch as he began the task with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, the Holy Spirit bears testimony to him as if he had really offered his son: Hebrews 11:17, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten.”
The fame of this transaction, no doubt, was spread in ancient times over many of the eastern nations. But that those who were altogether ignorant of the communion and friendship which Abraham cultivated with the Lord, and yet were convinced in their consciences that a more noble sacrifice than all cattle, and a more precious victim, was necessary to be offered to God (for if this persuasion had not been deeply impressed on their minds, the devil could not have induced them to that dreadful worship), assumed the courage of practicing the same thing from that event, there is not any room to doubt. And, farther, if any report were spread abroad concerning the divine command and oracle which Abraham received, the eyes of all would be turned upon him as the wisest and holiest of men, and they would be led, perhaps, to conclude, falsely, that God might be propitiated by such kind of victims: for they did not this from any rival-ship of Abraham, whom they respected as a wise and just man; but, being deceived by that action of his, and endeavoring at an expiation of their own crimes, they did the same thing that he did, but with a very different end, for the offering up of Isaac was a type of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
But from that right and dominion which God naturally hath over all the creatures, or from that superior excellence and eminence wherewith he is endowed and constituted, he might, without any degree or suspicion of injustice or cruelty, exact victims as a tribute from man. But he hath declared his will to the contrary: Exodus 34:19,20, “But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and the first-born of thy sons thou shalt redeem;” — partly, lest human blood, of which he has the highest care, should become of little account; but especially because all mankind in general being polluted with iniquities, a type of his immaculate Son could not be taken from among them.
But this history the falsifying poets of the Greeks have corrupted by that fable of theirs concerning the sacrifice of Iphigenia, begun by her father Agamemnon, but who was liberated by the substitution of a doe. f374 Hence, in Euripides, these words are falsely applied to the virgin destined to be sacrificed, which (the proper changes being made) might with more propriety be spoken of Isaac, when acting in obedience to the command of God and of his father. — w= pa>ter pa>reimi> soi , etc. “O, father, I am here present; and I cheerfully deliver up my body for my country and for all Greece, to be sacrificed at the altar of the goddess, by those who now conduct me thither, if the oracle so require,” Euripid. Iphigenia in Aulis, near the end, 5:1552.
It is worth while to notice, by the way, the use of the word uJpe>r . The virgin to be sacrificed declared that she was willing to appease the anger of the gods, and suffer punishment in behalf of, or instead of, her country and all Greece; and but a little before she is introduced exulting in these words, — Jeli>sset j wJmf|i< nao>n , etc. “Invoke to her temple, to her altar, Diana, queen Diana, the blessed Diana; for if it shall be necessary, by my blood and sacrifice I will obliterate the oracle,” Ib. 5:1480.
Justly celebrated, too, in the second place, is the history of Jephthah’s sacrificing his only daughter, related by the Holy Spirit in these words: Judges 11:30,31,34,39, “And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering.”
But when he returned, “his daughter came out to meet him;” and “at the end of two months, he did with her according to his vow.” If any passage ever puzzled both Jewish and Christian interpreters, ancient and modern, as well as all your disputants upon and patchers up of common-place difficulties, this one has. For, on the one hand, here it is supposed that all offering of human sacrifices is detested and abhorred by God; and to ascribe such a thing to a man of piety, and one celebrated by the Holy Spirit for his faith, many will not venture. But again, on the other hand, the words of the history, the circumstances, the grief and lamentation of the father, seem hardly capable of admitting any other meaning. But to me these things are ambiguous. f375 First, It is evident that a gross ignorance of the law, either in making the vow or in executing it, is by no means to be ascribed to Jephthah, who was, though a military man, a man of piety, a fearer of God, and well acquainted with the sacred writings. Now, then, if he simply made a vow, that a compensation and redemption, according to the valuation of the priests, ought to have been made, could not have escaped him; and therefore there was no reason why he should so much bewail the event of a vow by which he had engaged himself to the Lord, and to which he was bound, for he might both keep his faith and free his daughter, according to the words of the law, Leviticus 27:1-8.
Or if we should conjecture that he was so grossly mistaken, and entirely unacquainted with divine matters, was there no priest or scribe among all the people, who, during that time which he granted to his daughter, at her own request, to bewail her virginity, could instruct this illustrious leader, who had lately merited so highly of the commonwealth, in the meaning of the law, so that he should neither vex himself, render his family extinct, nor worship God to no purpose, by a vain superstition? I have no doubt, then, but that Jephthah performed his duty in executing his vow, according to the precept of the law, however much he might have erred in his original conception of it.
Nor is it less doubtful, in the second place, that Jephthah did not offer his daughter as a burnt-offering, as the words of the vow imply, according to the ceremony and institution of that kind of sacrifice; for as these sacrifices could be performed by the priest only by killing the victim, cutting it in pieces, and consuming it by fire upon the altar, — offices in which no priest would have ministered or assisted, — so also, such kind of sacrifices are enumerated among the abominations to the Lord, which he hateth: Deuteronomy 12:31, “Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God; for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters have they burnt in the fire to their gods.”
Thirdly, Nor does it seem probable that Jephthah had dedicated his (laughter to God, that she should perpetually remain a virgin; for neither hath God instituted any such kind of worship, nor could the forced virginity of the daughter by any means ever be reckoned to the account of the father, as any valuable consideration, in place of a victim.
As, then, there were two kinds of things devoted to God, the first of which was of the class of those which, as God did not order that they should be offered in sacrifice, it was made a statute that they should be valued by the priest at a fair valuation, and be redeemed, and so return again to common use. The law of these is delivered, Leviticus 27:1,2, etc., “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When a man shall make a singular vow, the persons shall be for the LORD by thy estimation, And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary. And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels,” etc.
And verse 8: “But if he be poorer than thy estimation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall value him; according to his ability that vowed shall the priest value him.”
But the second kind of these were called Cherem, concerning which it was not a simple vow rd,n, , of which there was no redemption or estimation to be made by the priest. The law respecting these is given in the 28th and 29th verses of the same chapter: “Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.”
That it belonged not to the first is as clear as the day; because if we suppose that it did, he might easily have extricated himself and family from all grief on that account by paying the estimation made by the priest.
It was, then, a cherem which by his vow Jephthah had vowed to the Lord, by no means to be redeemed, but accounted “most holy unto the LORD,” as in verses 28,29, before mentioned.
But it is doubted whether a rational creature could be made a cherem; but, in fact, there can hardly remain any room for doubt. To the person who considers the text itself it will easily appear. The words are, “Every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD. None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed; but shall surely be put to death.” It is evident from the foregoing verse that the words, “of men,” point not at the efficient cause but the matter of the vow; where the same words, in the original, cannot be otherwise rendered than by “of,” or “touching man,” or by “out of,” or “from among mankind or men,” or “of the class of men.”
And all those writers interpret the words in this sense (and there are not a few of them, both among Jews and Christians), who are of opinion that the passage ought to be explained as relating to the enemies of God, devoted to universal slaughter and destruction.
As Jephthah, then, had devoted his daughter as a cherem, it seems hardly to admit of a doubt that the cause of his consternation and sorrow at meeting her was because that, according to the law, he had slain her, having devoted her to God in such a manner as not to be redeemed.
It would be foreign to our purpose to agitate this question any farther. We shall only say, then, that after having maturely weighed all the circumstances of the text and of the thing itself, according to the measure of our abilities, we have gone into the opinion of those who maintain that Jephthah gave up his daughter to death, she being devoted to God in such a manner as, according to the law, not to be redeemed, that Supreme Being, who has the absolute right and power of life and death, so requiring it.
The theologians of both nations who espouse this side of the question are both numerous and renowned. Peter Martyr testifies that almost all the more ancient rabbins agreed in this opinion. Josephus in his Antiquities follows them, although he hath not determined Jephthah to be free of blame. Of the fathers, it is sufficient (for the matter is not to be determined by votes) that Jerome in his epistle to Julian, Ambrose on Virginity, book 3, Augustine on the book of Judges; and of those in later times, Peter Martyr in his commentary on the 11th of Judges, and Ludovicus Cappellus in that excellent treatise of his concerning Jephthah’s vow, have either approved, or at least have not dissented from, this opinion. What Epiphanius relates concern ing the deification of Jephthah’s daughter favors this opinion. “In Sebaste,” says he, “which was formerly called Samaria, having deified the daughter of Jephthah, they yearly celebrate a solemn festival in honor of her.” Yea, more, the most learned agree that the fame of this transaction was so spread among the Gentile nations, that thence Homer, Euripides, and others, seized the occasion of raising that fable about Agamemnon’s sacrificing his daughter, and that there never was any other Iphigenia than Jephthegenia, nor Iphianassa than Ifqianassa or Jephtheanassa.
But this was a kind of human sacrifice by which, as God intended to shadow forth the true sacrifice of his Son, so the enemy of the human race, aping the Almighty, and taking advantage of and insulting the blindness of mankind and the horror of their troubled consciences, arising from a sense of the guilt of sin, influenced and compelled them to the performance of ceremonies of a similar kind.
There is no need that we should dwell on the third instance of this kind of sacrifices that occurs in the sacred writings, — namely, that of the king of Moab, during the siege of his city, offering up either his own son or the king of Edom’s upon the wall, as he was a heathen and a worshipper of Saturn, according to the custom of the Phoenicians. Despairing of his situation, when it seemed to him that the city could no longer be defended, and when he had no hope of breaking through or of escaping, he offered his own son, in my opinion (for the king of Edom had no first-born to succeed him in the government, being himself only a deputy king), as a sacrifice to the gods of his country, to procure a deliverance. The three kings then departed from the city which they were besieging, God so directing it, either having entered into an agreement to that purpose, or because of the war not being successfully ended (for the conjectures on this point are by no means satisfactory), some indignation having broke out among the troops of the Israelites, who also themselves were idolaters. See <120301> Kings 3:26,27.
We shall conclude this train of testimonies with that noted account of the Rugiani, certain inhabitants of an island of Sclavonia, related by Albertus Crantzius, from which we may learn the dreadful judgment of God against a late superstition of Christians. “Some preachers of the gospel of Christ” (who and what they were the historian shows) “converted the whole island of the Rugiani to the faith.
Then they built an oratory in honor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and in memory of St Virus, patron of Corveia. But after, by divine permission, matters were changed, and the Rugiani fell off from the faith, having instantly expelled the priests and Christians, they converted their religion into superstition; for they worship St Vitus, whom we acknowledge as a martyr and servant of Christ, as God. Nor is there any barbarous people under heaven that more dread Christians and priests; whence also, in peculiar honor of St Vitus, they have been accustomed to sacrifice yearly any Christian that may accidentally fall into their hands.”
A more horrible issue of Christianity sinking into superstition would, perhaps, be difficult to be found. But we are now tired of dwelling on such horrid rites and abominable sacrifices. Forasmuch, then, as we ourselves are the offspring of those who were wholly polluted with such sacrifices, and by nature not better or wiser than they, but only, through the rich, free, and unspeakable mercy of God, have been translated from the power of darkness, and the kingdom of Satan, into his marvelous light, it is most evident that, by every tie, we are bound to offer and devote ourselves wholly to Christ, our Deliverer and most glorious Savior, “who hath loved us, and who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Thus the prophecies concerning the oblation of Christ being but badly understood, mankind were seduced, through the instigation of the devil, to pollute themselves with these inhuman and accursed sacrifices. Perhaps, too, that most artful seducer had it in view, by such sacrifices, to prejudice the more acute and intelligent part of mankind against that life-giving sacrifice that was to be destructive of his kingdom; for such now hold these atrocious sacrifices and detestable rites in abhorrence. However, to keep the minds of men in suspense and in subjection to himself, he did not fail, from another quarter, by words dubious, to spread abroad and send forth ambiguous oracles, as if such rites and sacrifices were of no avail for the expiation of sins. Thence these verses in Cato’s Distichs: — Cum sis ipse nocens, moritur cur victima pro to?
Stultitia est morte alterius sperare salutem.” “Since it is thyself that art guilty, why need any victim die for thee? It is madness to expect salvation from the death of another.” I have no doubt but that this last verse is a diabolical oracle. By such deceitful practices, the old serpent, inflamed with envy, and being himself for ever lost, because he could not eradicate every sense of avenging justice (which is as a curb to restrain the fury of the wicked) from the minds of men, wished to lead them into mazes, that he might still keep them the slaves of sin, and subject to his own dominion.
There have been, and still are, some of mankind, I confess it, who, from indulging their vices, are seared in their consciences, and whose minds are become callous by the practice of iniquity; who, flattering themselves to their own destruction, have falsely conceived either that God does not trouble himself about such things, or that he can be easily appeased, and without any trouble. Hence that profane wretch introduced by Erasmus, after having settled matters with the Dominican commissaries, to a jolly companion of his own, when he asked him, “Whether God would ratify the bargain?” answers, “I fear rather lest the devil should not ratify it, for God by nature is easy to be appeased.” It is from the same idea that many of the barbarous natives of America, idly fancying that there are two gods, one good and another evil, say that there is no need to offer sacrifices to the good one, because, being naturally good, he is not disposed to hurt or injure any one. But they use all possible care, both by words, and actions, and every kind of horrible sacrifice, to please the evil one. Likewise those who are called by Mersennus Deists, exclaim, “That the bigots, or superstitiously religious, who believe in infernal punishments, are worse than Atheists, who deny that there is a God.” So, too, some new masters among our own countrymen talk of nothing in their discourses but of the goodness of God. His supreme right, dominion, and vindicatory justice are of no account with them. But he himself knows how to preserve his glory and his truth pure and entire, in spite of the abilities, and without regard to the delicacy, of these fashionable and dainty gentlemen.
But Rutherford on Providence answers, “That the Gentiles formerly borrowed their purgations and lustrations from the Jews, and not from the light of nature.” But he must be a mere novice in the knowledge of these matters into whose mind even the slightest thought of that kind could enter; for I believe there is no one who doubts the custom and ceremony of sacrificing among the Gentile nations to be much more ancient than the Mosaic institutions. Nor can any one imagine that this universal custom among all nations, tribes, and people, civilized and barbarous, unknown to one another, differently situated and scattered all over the world, could have first arisen and proceeded from the institutions of the Jews. “But,” says he, “the light is dark, that a sinful creature could dream of being able to perform a satisfaction, and make propitiatory expiation, to an infinite God incensed, and such, too, as would be satisfactory for sin.”
But, notwithstanding, it is true that God must be appeased by a propitiatory sacrifice, if we would that our sins should be forgiven us; and this much he hath pointed out to all mankind by that light of nature, obscure indeed, but not dark. Nor is it necessary, in order to prove this, that we should have recourse to the fabulous antiquities of the Egyptians, the very modest writer of which, Manetho, the high priest of Heliopolis, who lived in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and took his history from the Seriadic hieroglyphical obelisks, writes, that the Egyptian empire had endured to the time of Alexander the Great, through thirty-one dynasties, containing a period of five thousand three hundred and fifty-three years. This is the sum of the years according to that writer, as Scaliger collects it, to which Vossius has added two years. But other Egyptians have been by no means satisfied with this period of time; for “from Osiris and His, to the reign of Alexander, who built a city of his own name in Egypt, they reckon more than ten thousand years, and, as some write, little less than twenty-three thousand years,” says Diodorus: during which period of time they say that the sun had four times changed his course, for that he had twice risen in the west and set in the east; which things, though they may seem the dreams of madmen, strictly and properly understood, yet some very learned men entertain a hope, by means of the distinction of the years which the Egyptians used, and the description of their festivals, of reconciling them with the truth of the holy Scriptures.
But passing over these things, it can hardly be doubted that Jupiterammon, among the Egyptians, was no other than Ham, the son of Noah, and Bacchus Noah himself; and that Vulcan, among other nations, was Tubal-cain: to all whom, and to others, sacrifices were offered before the birth of Moses. What, too, do they say to this, that Job, among the Gentiles, offered burnt-offerings before the institution of the Mosaic ceremonies? See Job 1:5, 42:8. And Jethro, the priest of Midian, offered a burnt-offering and sacrifices to God even in the very camp of the Israelites in the wilderness, Exodus 18:12. Either, then, the sacrifice of Cain and Abel, or that of Adam himself and Eve, consisting of those beasts of whose skins coats were made to them by God, and by whose blood the covenant was ratified, which could not have been made with them after their fall without shedding of blood, gave the first occasion to mankind of discharging that persuasion concerning the necessity of appeasing the offended Deity, which hath arisen from the light of nature, through this channel of sacrificing. Yea, it is evident that this innate notion concerning vindicatory justice, and the observation of its exercise and egress, have given rise to all divine worship. Hence that expression, “Primus in orbe deos fecit timor,” “Fear first created gods.” And hence these verses in Virgil, spoken by king Evander: — “Non haec solennia nobis,” etc. — AEn, 8:185. “These rites, these altars, and this feast, O king!
From no vain fears or superstition spring, Or blind devotion, or from blinder chance, Or heady zeal, or brutal ignorance; But saved from danger, with a grateful sense, The labors of a god we recompense.” But I do not mention these things as if it were my opinion that sacrifices are prescribed by the law of nature. The most of the Romish clergy maintain this opinion, that so they may pave the way for establishing the blasphemous sacrifice of the mass. Thus Lessius on “Justice and Right,” book 2. Suarez, however, is of a different opinion; “for,” says he, “there is no natural precept from which it can be sufficiently gathered that a determination to that particular mode of worship is at all necessary to good morals,” in p. 3 of his Theol. on quest. 8, distinct. 71, sect. 8. But from the agreement of mankind in the ceremony of sacrificing, I maintain that they have possessed a constant sense of sin and vindicatory justice, discovering to them more and more of this rite, from its first commencement, by means of tradition.
But to return from this digression: it appears that such a presumption of corrective justice is implanted in all by nature, that it cannot by any means be eradicated. But since these universal conceptions by no means relate to what may belong or not belong to God at his free pleasure, it follows that sin-avenging justice is natural to God; the point that was to be proved.
I shall only add, in one word, that an argument from the consent of all is by consent of all allowed to be very strong: for thus says the philosopher, “What is admitted by all, we also admit; but he who would destroy such faith can himself advance nothing more credible,’’ Aristotle, Nicom. in.
And Hesiod says, “That sentiment cannot be altogether groundless which many people agree in publishing.” And, “When we discourse of the eternity of the soul,” says Seneca, “the consent of mankind is considered as a weighty argument; I content myself with this public persuasion,” Seneca, Ep. 117.
And again, Aristotle says, “It is a very strong proof, if all shall agree in what we shall say.” And in that observation another author concurs: “The things that are commonly agreed on are worthy of credit.” And here endeth the second argument CHAPTER 5. The third argument — This divine attribute demonstrated in the works of providence — That passage of the apostle to the Romans, Romans 1:18, considered — Anger, what it is — The definitions of the philosophers — The opinion of Lactantius concerning the anger of God — Anger often ascribed to God in the holy Scriptures — In what sense this is done — The divine anger denotes, 1. The effect of anger; 2. The will of punishing — What that will is in God — Why the justice of God is expressed by anger — The manifestation of the divine anger, what it is — How it is “revealed from heaven” — The sum of the argument — The fourth argument — Vindicatory justice revealed in the cross of Christ — The attributes of God, how displayed in Christ — Heads of other arguments — The conclusion.
III. It remains, then, that we should now consider, in the third place, what testimony God has given, and is still giving, to this essential attribute of his in the works of providence. This Paul takes notice of, Romans 1:18. “The wrath of God,” says he, “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”
The philosopher Aristotle says that “anger is a desire of punishing on account of an apparent neglect;” a definition, perhaps, not altogether accurate. Seneca says that Aristotle’s definition of anger, that it is “a desire of requiting pain,” differs but little from his own, namely, that “anger is a desire of inflicting punishment,” book 1. “Of Anger,” chapter 3, where he discusses it with great elegance, according to the maxims of the Stoics. But Aristotle reckons ajorghsi>an among vices or extremes, Ethic. Nicom. lib. 2. cap. 7. But Phavorinus says that “anger is a desire to punish the person appearing to have injured you, contrary to what is fit and proper.” But in whatever manner it be defined, it is beyond a doubt that it cannot, properly speaking, belong to God. Lactantius Firmianus, therefore, is lashed by the learned, who, in his book “Of the Anger of God,” chapter 4, in refuting the Stoics, who contend that anger ought not in any manner whatever to be ascribed to God, has ventured to ascribe to the Deity commotions and affections of mind, but such as are just and good. Suarez, however, excuses him, in his disputation “On Divine Justice,” sect. 5, and contends that the nature of anger is very specially preserved in the disposition of punishing offenses.
But however this matter be, certain it is that God assumes no affection of our nature so often to himself in Scripture as this; and that, too, in words which for the most part, in the Old Testament, denote the greatest commotion of mind. Wrath, fury, the heat of great anger, indignation, hot anger, smoking anger, wrathful anger, anger appearing in the countenance, inflaming the nostrils, rousing the heart, flaming and consuming, are often assigned to him, and in words, too, which among the Hebrews express the parts of the body affected by such commotions. ( Numbers 25:4; Deuteronomy 13:17; Joshua 7:26; Psalm 78:49; Isaiah 13:9; Deuteronomy 29:24; Judges 2:14; Psalm 74:1, 69:24; Isaiah 30:30; Lamentations 2:6; Ezekiel 5:15; Psalm 78:49; Isaiah 34:2; 2 Chronicles 28:11; Ezra 10:14; Habakkuk 3:8,12.)
In fine, there is no perturbation of the mind, no commotion of the spirits, no change of the bodily parts, by which either the materiality or formality (as they phrase it) of anger is expressed, when we are most deeply affected thereby, which he has not assumed to himself.
But since with God, beyond all doubt, “there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” it will be worth while strictly to examine what he means by this description of his most holy and unchangeable nature, so well accommodated to our weak capacities. Every material circumstance, such as in us is the commotion of the blood and gall about the heart, and likewise those troublesome affections of sorrow and pain with which it is accompanied, being entirely excluded, we shall consider what this anger of God means.
First, then, it is manifest that, by the anger of God, the effects of anger are denoted: “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? God forbid,” Romans 3:5. And it is said, Ephesians 5:6, “Because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience;” that is, God will most assuredly punish them. Hence the frequent mention of “the wrath to come;” that is, the last and everlasting punishment. Thus, that great and terrible day, “in which God will judge the world by that man whom he hath ordained,” is called “The day of his wrath,” because it is the day of “the revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” Romans 2:5.
And he is said to be “slow to wrath” because he oftentimes proceeds slowly, as it seems to us, to inflict punishment or recompense evil. But, perhaps, this difficulty is better obviated by Peter, who removes every idea of slowness from God, but ascribes to him patience and long-suffering in Christ towards the faithful. And of this dispensation even the whole world, in a secondary sense, are made partakers. “The Lord is not slack,” says he, “concerning his promise” (the promise, namely, of a future judgment), “as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.
Nay, the threatening of punishment is sometimes described by the words “anger, fury, wrath,” and “fierce wrath.” Thus, Jonah 3:9, “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” that is, “whether he may not, upon our humiliation and repentance, avert from us the grievous punishment denounced by the prophet.”
But, secondly, It denotes a constant and immutable will in God of avenging and punishing, by a just punishment, every injury, transgression, and sin. And hence that expression, Romans 9:22, “What if God, willing to show his wrath,” — that is, his justice, or constant will of punishing sinners; for when any external operations of the Deity are described by a word denoting a human affection that is wont to produce such effects, the holy Scripture means to point out to us some perfection perpetually resident in God, whence these operations flow, and which is their proper and next principle. f393 And what is that perfection but this justice of which we are discoursing?
For we must remove far from God every idea of angel properly so called, which, in respect of its causes and effects, and of its own nature, supposes even the greatest perturbation, change, and inquietude of all the affections in its subject; and yet we are under the necessity of ascribing to him a nature adapted to effect those operations which are reckoned to belong to anger. But since the Scriptures testify that God works these works as he is just, and because he is just (and we have proved it above), it plainly appears that that perfection of the divine nature is nothing else but this vindicatory justice; whence Thomas Aquinas asserts that anger is not said to be in God in allusion to any passion of the mind, but to the judgment or decision of his justice. Nay, that “anger” may not only be reduced to “justice,” but that the words themselves are synonymous, and that they are taken so in Scripture, is certain: Psalm 7:6,9, “Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded. Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.”
To “judge in anger,” or with “justice,” are phrases of the same import: Psalm 56:7, “Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God;” or, “In justice cast them down, because of their iniquity.”
Thus, when he justly destroyed the people of Israel by the king of Babylon, he says it came to pass through his anger: 2 Kings 24:20, “For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.”
But the apostle says that this anger or punitory justice is “revealed from heaven.” The apostle uses the same word here that is translated “revealed” in the preceding verse, when speaking of the manifestation or revelation of the righteousness of faith in the gospel Therefore, some have been of opinion that the apostle here asserts that this very anger of God is again and again made known and manifested, or openly declared, in the gospel against unbelievers. But to what purpose, then, is there any mention made of “heaven,” whence that manifestation or revelation is said to have been made? The apostle, therefore, uses the word in a different sense in Romans 1:18, from that which it is used in the preceding. There it means a manifestation by the preaching of the word, here it signifies a declaration by examples; and therefore one might not improperly translate the word “is laid open,” or “clearly appears,” — that is, is proved by numberless instances. Moreover, this verse is the principal of the arguments by which the apostle proves the necessity of justification by faith in the remission of sins through the blood of Christ, because that all have sinned, and thereby rendered God their open and avowed enemy.
The apostle, then, affirms that God hath taken care that his anger against sin, or that his justice, should appear by innumerable examples of punishments inflicted on mankind for their sins, in his providential government of the world, and that it should appear in so clear a manner that there should be no room left for conjectures about the matter. Not that punishment is always inflicted on the wicked and impious while in this world, or, at least, that it appears to be so, for very many of them enjoy all the pleasures of a rich and flourishing outward estate; but besides that he exercises his anger on their consciences, as we proved before, and that the external good things of fortune, as they call them, are only a fattening of them for the day of slaughter, even in this life he oft-times, in the middle of their career, exercises his severe judgments against the public enemies of Heaven, the monsters of the earth, the architects of wickedness, sunk in the mire and filth of their vices; and that, too, even to the entire ruin and desolation both of whole nations and of particular individuals, whom, by a remarkable punishment, he thinks proper to make an example and spectacle of to the world, both to angels and to men.
Therefore, although “God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known,” not in that way only, — namely, by exercising public punishments in this life, — of which we are now speaking, “endure with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” and though he should not instantly dart his lightning against all and every individual of the abandoned and profane, yet mankind will easily discern what the mind and thoughts of God are, what his right and pleasure, and of what kind his anger and justice are, with regard to every sin whatever.
Therefore, the apostle affirms that the anger of God, of which he gives only some instances, is by these judgments openly declared against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men whatever, whether they fail in the worship and duty which they owe to God, or in the duties which it is incumbent on them to perform to one another; moreover, that the solemn revelation of this divine justice consists, not only in those judgments which, sooner or later, he hath exercised upon particular persons, but also in the whole series of his divine dispensations towards men: in which, as he gives testimony both to his goodness and patience, inasmuch as “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” and “leaveth not himself without witness, in that he doeth good, and giveth us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness,’’ Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17; so also he gives equally clear signs and testimonies of his anger, severity, and indignation, or of his punitory justice. Hence, on account of the efficacy of the divine anger exercising its power and influence far and near, this visible world, as if the very fuel of the curse, is appointed as the seat and abode of all kinds of misery, grief, lamentation, cares, wrath, vanity, and inquietude. Why need I mention tempests, thunders, lightning, deluges, pestilences, with many things more, by means of which, on account of the wickedness of man, universal nature is struck with horror? All these, beyond a doubt, have a respect to the revelation of God’s anger or justice against the unrighteousness and the ungodliness of men.
Moreover, the apostle testifies this revelation to be made from heaven.
Even the most abandoned cannot but observe punishments of various kinds making havoc everywhere in the world, and innumerable evils brooding, as it were, over the very texture of the universe. But because they wish for and desire nothing more ardently than either that there were no God, or that he paid no regard to human affairs, they either really ascribe, or pretend to ascribe, all these things to chance, fortune, the revolutions of the stars and their influence, or, finally, to natural causes. In order to free the minds of men from this pernicious deceit of atheism, the apostle affirms that all these things come to pass “from heaven;” that is, under the direction of God, or by a divine power and providence punishing the sins and wickedness of men, and manifesting the justice of God. Thus, “The LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven,” Genesis 19:24: which cities, by that punishment inflicted on them from heaven, he hath set up as an example, in every future age, to all those who should afterward persevere in the like impieties. To these considerations add, that the apostle, from this demonstration of the divine anger from heaven against the sins of men, argues the necessity of appointing an atonement through the blood of Christ, Romans 3:18-26; which would by no means follow but upon the supposition that that anger of God was such that it could not be averted without the intervention of an atonement.
But not to be tedious, it is evident that God, by the works of his providence, in the government of this world, gives a most copious testimony to his vindicatory justice, not inferior to that given to his goodness, or any other of his attributes; which testimony concerning himself and his nature he makes known, and openly exhibits to all, by innumerable examples, constantly provided and appointed for that purpose. He, then, who shall deny this justice to be essential to God, may, for the same reason, reject his goodness and long-suffering patience.
IV. The fourth argument shall be taken from the revelation of that name, glory, and nature, which God hath exhibited to us in and through Christ: John 1:18, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him;” — him who, though he be light itself, and dwelling in light inaccessible, yet in respect of us, who without Christ are naturally blinder than moles, is covered with darkness. In creation, in legislation, and in the works of providence, God, indeed, hath plainly marked out and discovered to us certain traces of his power, wisdom, goodness, justice, and longsufferance.
But, besides that there are some attributes of his nature the knowledge of which could not reach the ears of sinners but by Christ, — such as his love to his peculiar people, his sparing mercy, his free and saving grace, — even the others, which he hath made known to us in some measure by the ways and means above mentioned, we could have no clear or saving knowledge of unless in and through this same Christ; for “in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” In him God hath fully and clearly exhibited himself to us, to be loved, adored, and known; and that not only in regard of his heavenly doctrine, in which he hath “brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” ( 2 Timothy 1:10) God finishing the revelation of himself to mankind by the mission and ministry of his Son, but also, exhibiting, both in the person of Christ and in his mediatorial office, the brightness of his own glory and the express image of his person, he glorified his own name and manifested his nature, to all those at least who, being engrafted into Christ and baptized into his Spirit, enjoy both the Father and Son. But in the whole matter of salvation by the Mediator, God-man, there is no excellence of God, no essential property, no attribute of his nature, the glory of which is the chief end of all his works, that he hath more clearly and eminently displayed than this punitory justice.
It was for the display of his justice that he set forth Christ as a propitiation, through faith in his blood. He spared him not, but laid the punishment of us all upon him. It was for this that he was pleased to bruise him, to put him to grief, and to make his soul an offering for sin.
The infinite wisdom of God, his inexpressible grace, free love, boundless mercy, goodness, and benevolence to men, in the constitution of such a Mediator, — namely, a God-man, — are not more illustriously displayed, to the astonishment of men and angels, in bringing sinful man from death, condemnation, and a state of enmity, into a state of life, of salvation, of glow, and of union and communion with himself, than is this punitory justice, for the satisfaction, manifestation, and glory of which this whole scheme, pregnant with innumerable mysteries, was instituted. But that attribute whose glory and manifestation God intended and accomplished, both in the appointment ( 2 Timothy 1:10) of his only-begotten Son to the office of mediator, and in his mission, must be natural to him; and there is no need of arguments to prove that this was his vindicatory justice. Yea, supposing this justice and all regard to it entirely set aside, the glory of God’s love in sending his Son, and delivering him up to the death for us all, which the Scriptures so much extol, is manifestly much obscured, if it do not rather totally disappear; for what kind of love can that be which God hath shown, in doing what there was no occasion for him to do?
We will not at present enter fully into the consideration of other arguments by which the knowledge of this truth is supported; among which that of the necessity of assigning to God (observing a just analogy) whatever perfections or excellencies are found among the creatures, is not of the least importance. These we pass, partly that we may not be tedious to the learned reader, partly because the truth flows in a channel already sufficiently replenished with proofs. It would be easy, however, to show that this justice denotes the highest perfection, and by no means includes any imperfection, on account of which it should be excluded from the divine nature. Neither, in the definition of it, does one iota occur that can imply any imperfection; but all perfection, simple or formal, simply and formally, is found in God. But when this perfection is employed in any operation respecting another being, and having for its object the common good, it necessarily acquires the nature of justice.
I shall not be farther troublesome to my readers; if what has been already said amount not to proof sufficient, I know not what is sufficient. I urge only one testimony more from Scripture and conclude. It is found in Hebrews 10:26,27: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.” “But perhaps God will pardon without any sacrifice.” The apostle is of a contrary opinion. Where there is “no sacrifice for sin,” he argues that, from the very nature of the thing, there must be “a looking for of judgment and fiery indignation;” — the very point that was to be proved.
I could heartily wish that some sinner whose conscience the hand of the omnipotent God hath lately touched, whose “sore ran in the night and ceased not,” and whose “soul refused to be comforted,” whose “grief is heavier than the sand of the sea,” in whom “the arrows of the Almighty” stick fast, “the poison whereof drinketh up the spirit,” ( Job 6:2-4) were to estimate and determine this difficult and doubtful dispute. Let us, I say, have recourse to a person, who, being convinced by the Spirit of his debts to God, is weighed down by their burden, while the sharp arrows of Christ are piercing the heart, Psalm 45:5, and let us inform him that God, with the greatest ease, by his nod, or by the light touch of his finger, so to speak, can blot out, hide, and forgive all sins. Will he rest satisfied in such a thought? will he immediately subscribe to it? Will he not rather exclaim, “I have heard many such things; ‘miserable comforters are ye all;’ ( Job 13:4, 16:2) nay, ‘ye are forgers of lies, physicians of no value.’ The terrors of the Lord, which surround me, and beset me day and night, ye feel not. I have to do with the most just, the most holy, the supreme Judge of all, who ‘will do right, and will by no means clear the guilty.’ Therefore, ‘my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread.
By reason of the voice of my groaning, my bones cleave to my skin.’ ( <19A203> Psalm 102:3-5) ‘I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.’ ( Psalm 88:15,16) I wish I were hid in the grave, yea, even in the pit, unless the Judge himself say to me, ‘Deliver him from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom.’ ( Job 33:24) Indeed, when the recollection of that very melancholy period comes into mind, when-first God was pleased by his Spirit effectually to convince the heart of me, a poor sinner, of sin, and when the whole of God’s controversy with me for sin is again presented to my view, I cannot sufficiently wonder what thoughts could possess those men who have treated of the remission of sins in so very slight, I had almost said contemptuous, a manner.” But these reflections are rather foreign to our present business.
CHAPTER 6. Another head of the first part of the dissertation — Arguments for the necessary egress of vindicatory justice from the supposition of sin — The first argument — God’s hatred of sin; what — Whether God by nature hates sin, or because he wills so to do — Testimonies from holy Scripture — Dr Twisse’s answer — The sum of it — The same obviated — The relation of obedience to reward and of sin to punishment not the same — Justice and mercy, in respect of their exercise, different — The second argument — The description of God in the Scriptures in respect of sin — In what sense he is called a “consuming fire” — Twisse’s answer refuted — The fallacies of the answer. WE have sufficiently proved, if I be not mistaken, that sin-punishing justice is natural to God. The opposite arguments, more numerous than weighty, shall be considered hereafter. We are now to prove the second part of the question, — namely, that the existence and sin of a rational creature being supposed, the exercise of this justice is necessary. And, granting what appears from what we have already said concerning the nature of justice, especially from the first argument, our proofs must necessarily be conclusive. The first is this: — I. He who cannot but hate all sin cannot but punish sin; for to hate sin is, as to the affection, to will to punish it, and as to the effect, the punishment itself. And to be unable not to will the punishment of sin is the same with the necessity of punishing it; for he who cannot but will to punish sin cannot but punish it: for “our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased,” <19B503> Psalm 115:3. Now, when we say that God necessarily punishes sin, we mean, that on account of the rectitude and perfection of his nature, he cannot possess an indifference of will to punish; for it being supposed that God hates sin, he must hate it either by nature or by choice. If it be by nature, then we have gained our point. If by choice, or because he wills it, then it is possible for him not to hate it. Nay, he may even justly will the contrary, or exercise a contrary act about the same object; for those acts of the divine will are most free, namely, which have their foundation in the will only: that is to say, it is even possible for him to love sin; for the divine will is not so inclined to any object, but that, if it should be inclined to its contrary, that might, consistent with justice, be done. This reasoning Durandus agrees to, and this Twisse urges as an argument. The conclusion, then, must be, that God may love sin, considered as sin. “Credat Apella.” “The sons of circumcision may receive The wondrous tale, which I shall ne’er believe.”
For “God hates all workers of iniquity,” Psalm 5:5. He calls it “The abominable thing that he hateth,” Jeremiah 44:4. Besides these, other passages of Scripture testify that God hates sin, and that he cannot but hate it: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity,” Habakkuk 1:13.
On account of the purity of God’s eyes, — that is, of his holiness, an attribute which none hath ever ventured to deny, — he “cannot look on iniquity;” that is, he cannot but hate it. “Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness,” says the psalmist, Psalm 5:4,5, — that is, “Thou art a God who hatest all wickedness;” — for “evil shall not dwell with thee, and the foolish shall not stand in thy sight; thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” Is it a free act of the divine will that he here describes, which might or might not be executed without any injury to the holiness, purity, and justice of God; or the divine nature itself, as averse to, hating and punishing every sin? Why shall not the foolish stand in God’s sight? Is it because he freely wills to punish them, or because our God to all workers of iniquity is a consuming fire? Not that the nature of God can wax hot at the sight of sin, in a natural manner, as fire doth after the combustible materials have been applied to it; but that punishment as naturally follows sin as its consequence, on account of the pressing demand of justice, as fire consumes the fuel that is applied to it.
But it is not without good reason that God, who is love, so often testifies in the holy Scriptures his hatred and abomination of sin: “The wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth,” Psalm 11:5. Speaking of sinners, Leviticus 26:30, he says, “My soul shall abhor you.” He calls sin “That abominable thing,” 1 Kings 21:26; Psalm 14:1; Deuteronomy 16:22. There is nothing that God hates but sin; and because of sin only other things are liable to his hatred. In what sense passions and affections are ascribed to God, and what he would have us to understand by such a description of his nature and attributes, is known to everybody. But of all the affections of human nature, hatred is the most restless and turbulent, and to the person who is under its influence, and who can neither divest himself of it nor give a satisfactory vent to its motions, the most tormenting and vexatious; for as it takes its rise from a disagreement with and dislike of its object, so that its object is always viewed as repugnant and offensive, no wonder that it should rouse the most vehement commotions and bitterest sensations. But God, who enjoys eternal and infinite happiness and glory, as he is far removed from any such perturbations, and placed far beyond all variableness or shadow of change, would not assume this affection so often, for our instruction, unless he meant clearly to point out to us this supreme, immutable, and constant purpose of punishing sin, — as that monster whose property it is to be the object of God’s hatred, that is, of the hatred of infinite goodness, — to be natural and essential to him.
The learned Twisse answers, “I cannot agree that God by nature equally punishes and hates sin, unless you mean that hatred in the Deity to respect his will as appointing a punishment for sin; in which sense I acknowledge it to be true that God equally, from nature and necessity, punishes and hates sin. But I deny it to be necessary that he should either so hate sin or punish it. If hatred be understood to mean God’s displeasure, I maintain that it is not equally natural to God to punish sin and to hate it; for we maintain it to be necessary that every sin should displease God, but it is not necessary that God should punish every sin.”
The sum of the answer is this: God’s hatred of sin is taken either for his will of punishing it, and so is not natural to God; or for his displeasure on account of sin, and so is natural to him: but it does not thence follow that God necessarily punishes every sin, and that he can let no sin pass unpunished.
But, first, this learned gentleman denies what has been proved; nor does he deign to advance a word to invalidate the proof. He denies that God naturally hates sin, hatred being taken for the will of punishing: but this we have before demonstrated, both from Scripture and sound reason. It would be easy indeed to elude the force of any argument in this manner.
It belongs, then, immutably to God, and it is altogether impossible that it should not displease him. This, then, is supposed, that sin is always displeasing to God, but that God may or may not punish it, but pardon the sin and cherish the sinner, though his sin eternally displease him; for that depends upon his nature, which is eternally immutable. Nor is it possible that what hath been sin should ever be any thing but sin. From this natural displeasure, then, with sin, we may with propriety argue to its necessary punishment; otherwise, what meaneth that despairing exclamation of alarmed hypocrites, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” ( Isaiah 33:14) The learned doctor retorts, “Obedience must necessarily please God; but God is not bound by his justice necessarily to reward it.” But the learned gentleman will hardly maintain that the relation of obedience to reward, and disobedience to punishment, is the same; for God is hound to reward no man for obedience performed, for that is due to him by natural right: Luke 17:10, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” Psalm 16:2, “My goodness extendeth not unto thee.” But every man owes to God obedience, or is obnoxious to a vicarious punishment; nor can the moral dependence of a rational creature on its Creator be otherwise preserved: “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life,” Romans 6:23.
Away, then, with all proud thoughts of equalling the relation of obedience to reward and sin to punishment. “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen,” Romans 11:35,36. “What hast thou,” O man, “that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” 1 Corinthians 4:7.
God requireth nothing of us but what he hath formerly given us; and, therefore, he has every right to require it, although he were to bestow no rewards. What! doth not God observe a just proportion in the infliction of punishments, so that the degrees of punishment, according to the rule of his justice, should not exceed the demerit of the transgression. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” But beware, Dr Twisse, of asserting that there is any proportion between the eternal fruition of God and the inexpressible participation of his glory, in which he hath been graciously pleased that the reward of our obedience should consist, and the obedience of an insignificant reptile, almost less than nothing. Whatever dignity or happiness we arrive at, we are still God’s creatures.
It is impossible that he who is blessed forever and ever, and is so infinitely happy in his own essential glory that he stands in no need of us or of our services, and who, in requiring all that we are and all that we can do, only requires his own, can, by the receipt of it, become bound in any debt or obligation. For God, I say, from the beginning, stood in no need of our praise; nor did he create us merely that he might have creatures to honor him, but that, agreeably to his goodness, he might conduct us to happiness.
But he again retorts, and maintains, “That God can punish where he does not hate; and, therefore, he may hate and not punish: for he punished his most holy Son, whom God forbid that we should say he ever hated.” But, besides that this mode of arguing from opposites hardly holds good in theology, though God hated not his Son when he punished him, personally considered, he however hated the sins on account of which he punished him (and even himself, substitutively considered, with respect to the effect of sin), no less than if they had been laid to any sinner. Yea, and from this argument it follows that God cannot hate sin and not punish it; for when he laid sins, which he hates, to the charge of his most holy Son, whom he loved with the highest love, yet he could not but punish him.
II. The representation or description of God, and of the divine nature in respect of its habitudeb to sin, which the Scriptures furnish us with, and the description of sin with relation to God and his justice, supply us with a second argument. They call God a “consuming fire;” “everlasting burnings,” ( Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 33:14) a God who “will by no means clear the guilty.” ( Exodus 34:7) They represent sin as “that abominable thing which he hateth,” which he will destroy “as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff.” ( Jeremiah 44:4; Isaiah 5:24) As, then, consuming fire cannot but burn and consume stubble, when applied to it, so neither can God do otherwise than punish sin, that abominable thing, which is consuming or destroying it, whenever presented before him and his justice.
But the very learned Twisse replies, “That God is a consuming fire, but an intelligent and rational one, not a natural and insensible one. And this,” says he, “is manifest from this, that this fire once burnt something not consumable, namely, his own Son, in whom there was no sin; which,” says he, “may serve as a proof that this fire may not burn what is consumable, when applied to it.”
But, in my opinion, this very learned man was never more unhappy in extricating himself; for, first, he acknowledges God to be “a consuming fire,” though “a rational and intelligent one, not a natural and insensible one.” But the comparison was made between the events of the operations, not the modes of operating. Nobody ever said that God acts without sense, or from absolute necessity and principles of nature, without any concomitant liberty. But although he acts by will and understanding, we have said that his nature as necessarily requires him to punish any sin committed, as natural and insensible fire burns the combustible matter that is applied to it. But the learned gentleman does not deny this; nay, he even confirms it, granting that with respect to sin God “is a consuming fire,” though only “an intelligent and rational one.”
I am sorry that this very learned author should have used the expression, that “this fire burnt something not consumable,” when he punished his most holy and well-beloved Son; for God did not punish Christ as his most holy Son, but as our mediator and the surety of the covenant, “whom he made sin for us, though he knew no sin.” Surely, “he laid upon him our sins,” before “the chastisement of our peace was upon him.” But in this sense he was very susceptible of the effects of this fire, — namely, when considered as bearing the guilt of all our sins; and therefore it was that by fire the Lord did plead with him. ( Isaiah 56:16) Therefore, what this very learned man asserts in the third place falls to the ground; for the conclusion from such a very false supposition must necessarily be false.
We go on to the third argument.
CHAPTER 7. The third argument — The non-punishment of sin is contrary to the glory of God’s justice — Likewise of his holiness and dominion — A fourth argument — The necessity of a satisfaction being made by the death of Christ — No necessary cause or cogent reason for the death of Christ, according to the adversaries — The objection refuted — The use of sacrifices — The end of the first part of the dissertation.
III. OUR third argument is this: It is absolutely necessary that God should preserve his glory entire to all eternity; but sin being supposed, without the infliction of the punishment due to it he cannot preserve his glory free from violation: therefore, it is necessary that he should punish it. Concerning the major proposition there is no dispute; for all acknowledge, not only that it is necessary to God that he should preserve his glory, but that this is incumbent on him by a necessity of nature, for he cannot but love himself. He is Jehovah, and will not give his glory to another. ( Isaiah 42:8) The truth of the assumption is no less clear; for the very nature of the thing itself proclaims that the glory of justice or of holiness, and dominion, could not otherwise be preserved and secured than by the punishment of sin. For, — First, The glory of God is displayed in doing the things that are just; but in omitting these it is impaired, not less than in doing the things that are contrary. “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” ( Proverbs 17:15) “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” ( Genesis 18:25) or what is just? But “it is a righteous” or just “thing with God to recompense tribulation” to the disobedient, and to punish those who, on account of sin, are “worthy of death.” ( 2 Thessalonians 1:6; Romans 1:32) Suppose, then, that God should let the disobedient, whom it is a just thing for him to punish, go unpunished, and that those who axe worthy of death should never be required to die, but that he should clear the guilty and the wicked, although he hath declared them to be an abomination to him, where is the glory of his justice? That it is most evident that God thus punishes because he is just, we have proved before. “Is God unrighteous,” or unjust, “who taketh vengeance? God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” And he is “righteous,” or just, “because he hath given them blood to drink, who were worthy of it,” ( Romans 3:5,6; Revelation 16:5-7) and would be so far unjust were he not to inflict punishment on those deserving it.
Secondly, A proper regard is not shown to divine holiness, nor is its glory manifested, unless the punishment due to sin be inflicted. Holiness is opposed to sin; for “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity,” ( Habakkuk 1:13) and is the cause why he cannot let sin pass unpunished. “Ye cannot serve the LORD; for he is an holy God: he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins,” ( Joshua 24:10) said Joshua to the Israelites. For why? Can any thing impure and polluted stand before his holy Majesty? He himself declares the contrary; — that he is “not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness ;” that “evil shall not dwell with him;” that “the foolish shall not stand in his sight;” that “he hateth all workers of iniquity;” and that “there shall in no wise enter into the new Jerusalem any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.” ( Psalm 5:4-6; Revelation 21:27) Nor can Jesus Christ present his church to his Father till it be “sanctified and cleansed with the washing of water by the word,” and made “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish.” ( Ephesians 5:26,27) And we are enjoined to be holy, because he is holy. But all things are to be “purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” ( Hebrews 9:22) Thirdly, We have sufficiently shown above that the nurtural dominion which God hath over rational creatures, and which they by sin renounce, could not otherwise be preserved or continued than by means of a vicarious punishment. And now let impartial judges decide whether it be necessary to God that he should preserve entire the glory of his justice, holiness, and supreme dominion, or not.
IV. And which is a principal point to be considered on this subject, Were the opinions of the adversaries to be admitted, and were we to suppose that God might will the salvation of any sinner, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to assign any sufficient and necessary cause of the death of Christ. For let us suppose that God hath imposed on mankind a law, ratified by a threatening of eternal death, and that they, by a violation of that law, have deserved the punishment threatened, and consequently are become liable to eternal death; again, let us suppose that God in that threatening did not expressly intend the death of the sinner, but afterward declared what and of what kind he willed that the guilt of sin should be, and what punishment he might justly inflict on the sinner, and what the sinner himself ought to expect (all which things flow from the free determination of God), but that he might by his nod or word, without any trouble, though no satisfaction were either made or received, without the least diminution of his glory, and without any affront or dishonor to any attribute, or any injury or disgrace to himself, consistently with the preservation of his right, dominion, and justice, freely pardon the sins of those whom he might will to save; — what sufficient reason could be given, pray, then, why he should lay those sins, so easily remissible, to the charge of his most holy Son, and on their account subject him to such dreadful sufferings?
While Socinians do not acknowledge other ends of the whole of this dispensation and mystery than those which they assign, they will be unable, to all eternity, to give any probable reason why a most merciful and just God should expose a most innocent and holy man, — who was his own Son by way of eminence, and who was introduced by himself into the world in a preternatural manner, as they themselves acknowledge, — to afflictions and sufferings of every kind, while among the living he pointed out to them the way of life, and at last to a cruel, ignominious, and accursed death.
I very well know that I cannot pretend to be either ingenious or quicksighted; but respecting this matter I am not ashamed to confess my dullness to be such, that I cannot see that God, consistently with the preservation of his right and glory entire, could, without the intervention of a ransom, pardon sins, as if justice did not require their punishment, or that Christ had died in vain. For why? Hath not God set him forth to be a propitiation for the demonstration or declaration of his sin-punishing justice? But how could that justice be demonstrated by an action which it did not require, or if the action might be omitted without any diminution of it, — if God would have been infinitely just to eternity, nor would have done any thing contrary and offensive to justice, though he had never inflicted punishment upon any sin? Could any ruler become highly famed and celebrated on account of his justice, by doing those things which, from the right of his dominion, he can do without injustice, but to the performance of which he is no way obligated by the virtue of justice? But if the adversaries suppose that when God freely made a law for his rational creatures, he freely appointed a punishment for transgression, freely substituted Christ in the room of transgressors; in fine, that God did all these things, and the like, because so it pleased him, and that therefore we are to acquiesce in that most wise and free will of his disposing all things at his pleasure; — they should not find me opposing them. Unless God himself had taught us in his word that sin is “that abominable thing which his soul hateth,” which is affrontive to him, which entirely casteth off all regard to that glory, honor, and reverence, which are due to him; and that to the sinner himself it is something evil and bitter, for “he shall eat of the fruit of his way, and be filled with his own devices;” and that God, with respect to sinners, is a “consuming fire,” an “everlasting burning,” in which they shall “dwell;” that “he will by no means clear the guilty;” that “he judgeth those who are worthy of death, and by his just judgment taketh vengeance on them; and that, therefore, “without the shedding of blood, there can be no remission,” and that without a victim for sin, there remaineth to sinners nothing but “a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, that shall consume the adversaries;” and that he had appointed from the beginning his only-begotten Son, for the declaration and satisfaction of his justice, and the recovery of his glory, to open the way to heaven, otherwise shut, and to remain shut forever; — if, I say, God had not instructed us in these and such-like truths from his word, I should not oppose them; but these being clearly laid down in the word, we solemnly declare our belief that no sinner could obtain the remission of his sins, provided that we are disposed to acknowledge God to be just, without a price of redemption. f400 Perhaps some one will say, “It doth not follow from the death of Christ that God necessarily punisheth sin; for Christ himself, in his agony, placeth the passing away of the cup among things possible. ‘All things,’ saith he, ‘Father, are possible with thee. Let this cup pass from me.’“ I answer, It is well known that the word “impossibility” may be considered in a twofold point of view. The first is in itself absolute, which respects the absolute power of God, antecedent to any free act of the divine will: in this respect, it was not impossible that that cup should pass from Christ. The second is conditional, which respects the power of God, as directed in a certain order, that is determined, and (if I might so phrase it) circumscribed by some act of the divine will: and in this sense it was impossible; that is to say, it being supposed that God willed to pardon any sins to sinners, it could not be done without laying their punishment upon the surety. But we do not pursue this argument farther at present, because we intend to resume it again in the consideration of the doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction.
There are yet many arguments very proper for establishing the truth on our side of the question, which we choose not to enter on largely and on set purpose, lest we should be tiresome to the reader. Perhaps, however, it will be judged worth while briefly to sketch out some heads of them, and annex them to the former arguments concerning justice and the exercise thereof. The first is to this purport: — 1. A second act presupposes a first, and a constant manner of operating proves a habit; a sign also expresses the thing signified. Because God doeth good to all, we believe him to be good, and endowed with supreme goodness; for how could he so constantly and uniformly do good, unless he himself were good? Yea, from second acts the holy Scriptures sometimes teach the first; as, for instance, that God is the living God, because he giveth life to all, — that he is good, because he doeth good.
Why may we not also say that he is just, endowed with that justice of which we are treating, because “God perverteth not judgment, neither doth the Almighty pervert justice,” but “the LORD is righteous, and upright are his judgments?” ( Job 8:8; <19B9137> Psalm 119:137) A constant, then, and uniform course of just operation in punishing sin proves punitory justice to be essentially inherent in God. From his law, which is the sign of the divine will, the same is evident; for the nature of the thing signified is, that it resembles the sign appointed for the purpose of expressing it. That the same thing may be said of the anger, fury, and severity of God hath been shown above, Romans 1:18. 2. It is not the part of a just judge, of his mere good pleasure, to let the wicked pass unpunished: “He that justifieth the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,” and, “Woe to them that call evil good!” But God is a just judge. “But one who is not liable to render a reason,” you will say, “and who is by no means subject to a law.” But the nature of God is a law to itself. He cannot lie, because he himself is truth; nor act unjustly, because he is just. Such as God is by nature, such is he in the acts of his will. 3. The argument, from the immutable difference of things in themselves is of very considerable weight; for that which is sin, because it destroys that subjection of the creature which is due to the Creator, cannot, even by the omnipotence of God, be made to be not sin. To hate the supreme good implies a contradiction. But if, from the nature of the thing, sin be sin, in relation to the supreme perfection of God, from the nature of the thing, too, is its punishment. Yea, God hath ordered children to obey their parents, because this is right. f402 4. The adversaries acknowledge “That God cannot save the impenitent and obstinately wicked without injury to the glory, and holiness, and perfection of his nature.” Why so? “The justice of God,” say they, “will not suffer it.” But what kind of justice is that, I ask, which can regard certain modes and relations of transgression or sin, and will not regard the transgression or sin itself? 5. God punishes sin either because he simply wills it, or because it is just that sin should be punished. If because he simply wills it, then the will of God is the alone cause of the perdition of a sinful creature. But he himself testifies to the contrary, — namely, that man’s ruin is of himself: “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.” ( Hosea 13:9) Again; justice does not require that the things which God doeth of his mere good pleasure should come to pass, more than that they should not come to pass. But if it be not more just that sins should be punished than that they should not be punished, it is certain that the non-punishment or free pardon of sin is more agreeable to the goodness, grace, love, and compassion of God than the infliction of punishment; how, then, comes it to pass that, disregarding these attributes, he should freely will that which no essential property of his nautre requires? If, then, sin be sin because God wills it, if the transgression of the law deserve punishment because God wills it, and the punishment be at length inflicted because God wills it, the order of things, or the condition which they are in by virtue of their respect and relation to the dominion and perfection of God, requiring no such thing, why, pray, should we either hate or abhor sin, when the bare will of God alone is to be considered, both in respect of the decree, which supposes that there is nothing in sin, and which implies no change of the state of things, and also in respect of its execution? But if God punish sin because, by virtue of his natural justice, it is just that it should be punished, then it is unjust not to punish it. But is God unjust? God forbid!
I am truly ashamed of those divines who have nothing more commonly in their mouths, both in their disputations and discourses to the people, than “that God might by other means have provided for the safety and honor of his justice, but that that way by the blood of his Son was more proper and becoming.” So said Augustine of old. But what then? Of that absolute power which they dream of, by which he might, without any intervening sacrifice, forgive sins, not the least syllable is mentioned in the whole sacred writings; nor am I afraid to affirm that a more convenient device to weaken our faith, love, and gratitude, cannot be invented. Away, then, with such speculations, which teach that the mystery of the love of God the Father, of the blood of Jesus Christ, of the grace of the Holy Spirit, are either indifferent, or at least were not necessary, for procuring and bestowing salvation and eternal glory on miserable sinners. But it is manifest that by such artifices Socinians endeavor to overthrow the whole healing and heavenly doctrine of the gospel. “My soul, come not thou into their secret!’ But that God should institute so many typical expiatory sacrifices, and attended with so great labor and cost, with a sanction of severe punishments upon delinquents, with this view only, to communicate instruction, and to serve to lead us to Christ, though they could in no wise take away the guilt of sin; that he should appoint his own Son, not only to death, but to a bloody, ignominious, accursed death, to be inflicted with such shame and disgrace as hath not been purged away through so many generations that have passed since that death, even to the present time; that Jehovah himself should have been pleased to bruise him, to put him to grief; that he made his own sword to awake against him, and forsook him; ( Isaiah 53:10) — that God, I say, should have done these and such like things, without being induced to it by any necessary cause, let those who can, comprehend and explain.