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CHAPTER 8. Objections of the adversaries answered — The Racovian catechism particularly considered — The force of the argument for the satisfaction of Christ from punitory justice — The catechists deny that justice to be inherent in God; and also sparing mercy — Their first argument weighed and refuted — Justice and mercy are not opposite — Two kinds of the divine attributes — Their second and third arguments, with the answers annexed. IT is now time to meet the objections of the adversaries, and so at length put an end to this dispute, as far as regards the subject-matter of it, already drawn out to such a length, and yet farther to be continued. We must first, then, encounter the Socinians themselves, on whose account we first engaged in this undertaking; and afterward we shall compare notes with a few learned friends. But as very lately the Racovian Catechism f404 of these heretics hath been repeatedly printed among us, we shall first consider what is to be met with there in opposition to the truth which we assert.
The Socinians grant, in that catechism of theirs, the argument for the satisfaction of Christ, drawn from the nature of this punitory justice, to be “plausible in appearance;” yea, they must necessarily acknowledge it to be such as that they cannot, even in appearance, oppose it, without being guilty of the dreadful sacrilege of robbing God of his essential attributes, and, therefore, they deny either this justice or sparing mercy to be naturally inherent in God. And they endeavor to defend the robbery by a threefold argument. Their first is this: — “As to mercy, that it is not inherent in God, in the manner that they think, is evident from this consideration, that if it were naturally inherent in God, God would not wholly punish any sin; as, in like manner, if that justice were naturally inherent in God, as they think, God could forgive no sin: for God can never do any thing against what is naturally inherent in him. As, for instance, as wisdom is naturally inherent in God, God never doeth any thing contrary to it, but whatsoever he doeth, he doeth all things wisely.
But as it is manifest that God forgives and punishes sins when he will, it appears that such a kind of mercy and justice as they think of is not naturally inherent in God, but is the effect of his own will.” I answer, first, that we have laid it down as a fixed principle that mercy is essential to God; and that the nature of it in God is the same with justice we willingly grant. Rutherford alone hath asserted that mercy is essential to God, but that this justice is a free act of the divine will. The falsity and folly of his assertion let himself be answerable for; the thing speaks for itself. To speak the truth, justice is attributed to God properly and by way of habit, mercy only analogically and by way of affection; and in the first covenant God paved no way for the display of his mercy, but proceeded in that which led straight to the glory of his justice: nevertheless, we maintain the one to be no less naturally inherent in God than the other. “But if it were naturally inherent in God,” say the catechists, “God would not punish any sin.” Why? I say; mention some plea. “Because,” say they, “God cannot do any thing contrary to what is naturally inherent in him; but it is manifest that God punishes sin.” But whose sins doth God punish? The sins of the impenitent, the unbelieving, the rebellious, for whose offenses the justice of God hath never been satisfied. But is not this contrary to mercy? Let every just judge, then, be called cruel. The punishment of sin, then, is contrary to mercy, either in respect of the infliction of the punishment itself, or because it supposes in God a quality opposite to mercy. The contrariety is not in respect of the infliction of punishment, for between an external act of divine power and eternal attributes of Deity, no opposition can be supposed; — nor can it be because punishment supposes some quality in God opposite to mercy, for that which is opposite to mercy is cruelty; but God is free from every suspicion of cruelty, yet he punishes the sins of the impenitent, as the Socinians themselves acknowledge.
But, “That punitory justice,” say they, “which you assign as the source of punishment, is opposite to mercy.” How, I say, can that be? Punitory justice, essentially considered, is the very perfection and rectitude of God itself, essentially considered; and the essence of mercy, so to speak, is the same. But the essence of God, which is most simple, is not opposed to itself. Moreover, both have their actual egresses by means of the acts of the divine will, which is always one alone and self-consistent. Objectively considered, I acknowledge they have different but not contrary effects; for to punish the impenitent guilty, for whom no satisfaction hath been made, is not contrary to the pardoning of those who believe and are penitent, through the blood of the Mediator, which was shed for the remission of sins. In one word, it is not necessary that, though actions be contrary, the essential principles should also be contrary.
But they again urge, “Wisdom is naturally inherent in God, and he never doeth any thing contrary to it; for whatsoever he doeth, he doeth all things wisely.” We answer, It hath been proved before that the punishment of sin is not contrary to mercy. But they urge something farther, and insinuate that God not only cannot act contrary to his wisdom, but that in every work he exerciseth it: “Whatsoever he doeth,” say they, “he doeth wisely.” But the nature of all the divine attributes, in respect of their exercise, is not the same: for some create and constitute an object to themselves, as power and wisdom, which God must necessarily exercise in all his works; some require an object constituted for their egress, and for these it is sufficient that no work be done that is opposite or derogatory to their honor; of this kind are mercy and justice, as was said before. Thus far concerning mercy.
The objections that they bring against justice are easily answered. “If justice be naturally inherent in God,” say they, “then he could let no sin pass unpunished.” We readily grant that God passes by no sin unpunished, nor can do it. He forgives our sins, but he doth not absolutely let them pass unpunished. Every sin hath its just recompense of reward, either in the sinner or the surety; but to pardon sin for which justice hath been satisfied is no wise contrary to justice. That the nature of justice and mercy, in respect of their relation to their object, is different, hath been shown before. Such is their first argument; the second follows, which is this: — “That justice which the adversaries oppose to mercy,” say they, “whereby God punisheth sins, the sacred Scriptures nowhere point out by the name of ‘justice,’ but call it the ‘anger and fury of God.’” We answer, in the first place, that it is a very gross mistake that we oppose justice to mercy. These catechists have need themselves to be catechized. In the second place, let those who shall please to consult the passages formerly mentioned and explained on this head, determine whether the sacred Scriptures call this justice by its own proper name or not? In the third place, anger and fury are, in reality, as to their effects, reducible to justice; hence that which is called “wrath,” or “anger,” in Romans 1:18, in the 32d verse is called “judgment.” Such is their second; and now follows the third argument: — “When God forgives sins, it is attributed in Scripture to his justice. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ ‘Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’” ( John 1:9; Romans 3:24-26) We answer, that we have already shown at great length that justice, universally taken, is the perfection and rectitude of God, and has various egresses, both in words and in deeds, according to the constitution of the objects about which it may be employed; hence effects distinct, and in some measure different, are attributed to the same divine virtue. But the justice on account of which God is said to forgive sins is the justice of faithfulness, which has the foundation of its exercise in this punitory justice: which being satisfied, God, who cannot lie, promises the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ; which promise, beyond all doubt, he will perform, because he is faithful and just. And thus vanishes in smoke all that these unhappy catechists have scraped together against this divine truth.
CHAPTER 9. Crellius taken to task — His first mistake — God doth not punish sins as being endowed with supreme dominion — The first argument of Crellius — The answer — The translation of punishment upon Christ, in what view made by God — Whether the remission of sins, without a satisfaction made, could take place without injury to any one — To whom punishment belongs — Whether every one can resign his right — Right twofold — The right of debt, what; and what that of government — A natural and positive right — Positive right, what — A description also of natural right — Concessions of Crellius. JOHN CRELLIUS treats this subject at great length, and with his usual artifice and acuteness, in his first book “Of the True Religion,” prefixed to the works of Volkelius on the same subject. f410 First, then, he asserts, “That God hath a power of inflicting and of not inflicting punishment, but that it is by no means repugnant to divine justice to pardon the sinner whom by his right he might punish.”
But here Crellius (which is a bad omen, as they say) stumbles in the very threshold, supposing punishment to be competent to God as he hath, or is endowed with, an absolute and supreme dominion over the creatures. God never punisheth, or is said to punish, as using that power. It is the part of a governor or judge to inflict punishment; and the Scriptures furnish sufficient evidence that both these relations belong to him in the infliction of punishment: “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.” “He maintaineth right, and sitteth in his throne judging right.” He is “judge of all the earth.” He is the supreme “judge.” “He hath prepared his throne for judgment; and he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in righteousness.” He is “judge of the earth,” who will “render a reward to the proud.” He is “Jehovah, our judge, our lawgiver, and our king;” and “God the judge of all.” ( James 4:12; Psalm 9:4; Genesis 18:25; Psalm 50:6; 9:7, 8, 94:2; Isaiah 33:22, Hebrews 12:23, etc.) In all the acts of his absolute dominion and supreme power God is most free; and this the apostle openly asserts with regard to his decrees making distinctions among mankind in respect of their last end, and the means thereto conducing, according to his mere good pleasure: see Romans 9. Moreover, in some operations and dispensations of providence concerning mankind, both the godly and ungodly, I acknowledge that God frequently asserts the equity and rectitude of his government from that supreme right which he possesseth and may exercise. “Behold, God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters. Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment. Who hath given him a charge over the earth? or who hath disposed the whole world?
If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.” ( Job 33:12,13, 34:12-15) But that God punishes omissions and avenges transgressions, as the supreme Lord of all, and not as the Ruler of the universe and Judge of the world, is an opinion supported by no probable reason and by no testimony of Scripture. But let us hear what Crellius himself has to say.
He thus proceeds: — “He injures none, whether he punish or do not punish, if so be that the question is only respecting his right: for the punishment is not owing to the offending person, but he owes it, and he owes it to him upon whom the whole injury will ultimately redound; who in this matter is God. But if you consider the matter in itself, every one has it in his power to prosecute his right, and likewise not to prosecute it, or to yield up of it as much as he pleases; for this is the nature of a proper and sovereign right.”
Ans . It is easy to be seen that the former fallacy diffuses its fibers through the whole of this reasoning; for the right, a dispensation with which he maintains to be lawful, he affirms to be a sovereign right, or the right of a lord and master. But this right is not the subject in question. It is a ruler and judge to whom punishment belongs, and who repays it. I would not, indeed, deny that God’s supreme and sovereign right has a place in the matter of the sarisfaction made by Christ in our stead: for although to inflict punishment be the office of a ruler and judge (that both these relations, namely, of a ruler and judge, are to be assigned to God, the Scriptures amply testify, — see chapter3), yet the very translation of guilt from us upon Christ, constituting him sin for us, is a most free act, and an act of supreme power; unless, perhaps, the acceptance of the promise made by the surety belong of right to him as ruler, and there be no other act to be assigned to God.
But let us consider these arguments of Crellius severally. “He injures no one,” says he, “whether he punish or not.” But an omission of the infliction of punishment, where it is due, cannot take place without injury to that justice on which it is incumbent to inflict the punishment. For “he that justifieth the wicked is abomination to the Lord;” and a heavy woe is pronounced equally on them that “call evil good, and good evil.” ( Proverbs 17:15; Isaiah 5:20) It is true that God neither injures nor can it,jure any one, either in what he hath done or might do; for “who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” Nor is it less true that he will not, yea, that he cannot, do injury to his own justice, which requireth the punishment of every sin. An earthly judge may oftentimes spare a guilty person without injury to another, but not without injustice in himself. Yea, Crellius asserts that God cannot forgive the sins of some sinners, namely, the contumacious, without injury to himself; for this, as he says, would be unworthy of God. But we are sure that every sin, without exception, setting aside the consideration of the redemption by Christ, would be attended with contumacy forever. Were it not for that consideration, then, it would be unworthy of God to pardon the sins of any sinner.
Crellius adds: “Punishment is not owing to the sinner, but he owes it, and owes it to him on whom all the injury will ultimately redound; who is God.” But because punishment is not owing to the sinner, but he owes it to the ruler, it doth not follow that the ruler may not inflict that punishment. Punishment, indeed, is not so owing to the sinner that an injury would be done him were it not inflicted. The debt of a sinner is not of such a kind that he can ask or enforce the payment of it; and a debt, properly speaking, implies such a condition. But the sinner hath merited punishment in such a manner that it is just he should suffer it.
But, again, the infliction of punishment belongs not to God as injured, as Crellius signifies, but as he is the ruler of all and the judge of sinners, to whom it belongs to preserve the good of the whole, and the dependence of his creatures on himself.
He thus proceeds: “But if you consider the thing in itself, every one has it in his power to prosecute his right, and likewise not to prosecute it, or to yield up of it as much as he pleases.”
Ans . As Socinus himself, in his third book “Of the Savior,” chapter 2, hath afforded an opportunity to all our theologians who have opposed Socinianism of discussing this foolish axiom, “That every one may recede from his right,” we shall answer but in few words to these positions of Crellius, and to the conclusions which he there draws as flowing from them.
There is, then, a double right; — in the first place, that of a debt; in the second place, that of government. What is purely a debt may be forgiven; for that only takes place in those things which are of an indifferent right, the prosecution of which neither nature nor justice obliges. There is also a debt, though perhaps improperly so called, the fight of which it is unlawful to renounce; but our sins, in respect of God, are not debts only nor properly, but metaphorically so called.
The right of government, moreover, is either natural or positive. The positive right of government, so to speak, is that which magistrates have over their subjects; and he who affirms that they can recede wholly from this fight must be either a madman or a fool. But this fight, as far as pertains to its exercise in respect of the infliction of punishment, either tends to the good of the whole republic, as in ordinary cases, or, as in some extraordinary cases, gives place to its hurt; for it is possible that even the exaction of punishment, in a certain condition of a state, may be hurtful. In such a situation of things, the ruler or magistrate has a power not to use his right of government in respect of particular crimes, or rather, he ought to use it in such a manner as is the most likely to attain the end; for he is bound to regard principally the good of the whole, and the safety of the people ought to be his supreme law. But he who affirms that, in ordinary cases, a magistrate may renounce his right, when that renunciation cannot but turn out to the hurt of the public good, is a stranger to all right. The same person may also affirm that parents may renounce their right over their children, so as not to take any care at all about them; and that they might do so lawfully, — that is, consistently with honor and decency. Yea, this is not a cessation from the prosecution of right, but from the performance of a duty; for the right of government supposes a duty: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.’’ ( Romans 13:3,4) The question is not what magistrates do, but what, as the guardians and protectors of the law, they ought to do. See <19A108> Psalm 101:8.
There is also a natural right of government; such is the divine right over the creatures. The right, I say, of God over rational creatures is natural to him; therefore immutable, indispensable, and which cannot by any means be derogated. Thence, too, the debt of our obedience is natural and indispensable; nor is there any other kind of obligation to punishment.
God, from the very nature of the thing, has dominion over us; and our subjection to him is either by obedience or a vicarious punishment, which comes in place of any omission or transgression on our part, as Crellius himself acknowledges. Those, then, who say that it is free to God to use this right or not, as he pleaseth, may as well say that it is free to God to be our God and Lord or not; for the demand of obedience and the exaction of punishment equally belong to God. But the Judge of the universe exercises his right; and his perpetual right, whence sinners are accounted worthy of death, he cannot but preserve unimpaired and entire.
The remaining objections, which are interspersed here and there in that book of his “Concerning God,” against the vindicatory justice of God, either fall in with those which have been mentioned from the Racovian Catechism, or shall be reduced to the order of those which follow.
We think proper, by way of conclusion, to annex some concessions of Crellius. “There is,” says he, “a certain regard to honor, with which God himself cannot dispense.” Every transgression, then, of that regard hath a punishment coeval with itself, which, from the justice of God, must necessarily be inflicted. “Yea,” says he, “neither the holiness nor majesty of God permits that his commands should, in any respect be violated with impunity.” But the holiness of God is natural to him; an essential, then, and necessary attribute of God requires the punishment of sinners.
But he himself farther adds, “It is unworthy of God to let the wickedness of obstinate sinners pass unpunished; for this is the first and perpetual effect of divine severity, not to pardon those who do not repent.” But we know for certain that all sinners would continue obstinate to all eternity, unless God be pleased, for Christ’s sake, to renew them by his omnipotent grace to repentance. Crellius, then, grants that it is unworthy of God to let the sins of those pass unpunished for whom Christ hath not made satisfaction. He again testifies, also, that God hates and abhors all sin; and grants that the mode of conducting the punishment of sin is derived from the divine justice. But the thing itself is from that same Being from whom the mode or manner of it is derived. If the mode of punishment be from divine justice, the punishment itself can flow from no other source.
CHAPTER 10. The opinion of Socinus considered — What he thought of our present question, namely, that it is the hinge on which the whole controversy concerning the satisfaction of Christ turns — His vain boasting, as if, having disproved this vindicatory justice, he had snatched the prize from his adversaries — Other clear proofs of the satisfaction of Christ — That it is our duty to acquiesce in the revealed will of God — The truth not to be forsaken — Mercy and justice not opposite — Vain distinctions of Socinus concerning divine justice — The consideration of these distinctions — His first argument against vindicatory justice — The solution of it — The anger and severity of God, what — Universal and particular justice, in what they agree — The false reasoning and vain boasting of the adversary. WE come now to Socinus himself. In almost all his writings he opposes this punitory justice. We shall consider what he hath written against Covetus, in that treatise of his entitled, “Of Jesus Christ the Savior,” and what he only repeats in other places, as occasion required. In the first book and first chapter, and also in the third book and first chapter, of that work, expressly, and of set purpose, he opposes himself vehemently and with all his might to the truth on this point. But because he very well understood that by the establishment of this justice a knife is put to the throat of his opinion, and that it cannot be defended (that is, that no reason can be given why Christ our Savior is called Jesus Christ), he maintains that the whole controversy concerning the satisfaction of Christ hinges on this very question. The reader will perceive, from the arguments already used, that I am of the same opinion: for it being granted that this justice belongs to God, not even Socinus, though doubtless a man of a great, very artful, and fertile genius, could devise any way of obtaining salvation for sinners without a satisfaction; for had he either found out one, or even feigned it upon a supposition, he would not have wanted the effrontery of imposing it on the minds of the credulous and fanatic; which, however, he nowhere hath attempted.
But, on the other hand, gallantly supposing that he had removed this justice out of the way, as if the business were entirely settled, and the strong tower of his adversaries destroyed, he highly glories in the triumphs acquired for himself and his followers; “for,” says he, “having got rid of this justice, had we no other argument, that human fiction of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ must be thoroughly detected, and totally vanish.” This vain boasting of his the learned and pious have long ago sufficiently checked by innumerable testimonies from Scripture.
And forasmuch as the fact is abundantly clear that Christ bore our sins, God laying them upon him, and that by his satisfaction he purchased eternal salvation, though it had even pleased God to keep the causes and reasons of this infinitely wise transaction hid to all eternity in the abyss of his own goodness and wisdom, it would have been our duty to acquiesce in the infinite holiness and wisdom of his will. So, also, it is beyond any doubt that no helps of our faith are to be despised, and that no revelations of the divine nature and will are to be neglected, by which our merciful Father leads us into a more intimate and saving knowledge of this mystery of holiness.
We, also, to whom the most sacred deposit of this divine truth hath been committed, would immediately judge ourselves unworthy of it should we spontaneously betray any one point or jot of it, much less so strong a pillar of our faith and hope, to its adversaries. Though, then, we have other unanswerable proofs of the satisfaction of Christ, which the gates of hell shall in vain oppose, and numberless testimonies of the God who cannot lie, so that we may suppose Socinus is only idly insulting those who grant that God might forgive sin without any intervention of a satisfaction, but that he would not, (an expression which I by no means approve), we however think it necessary that this bulwark of punitory justice, a point, beyond all doubt, of the last importance to the cause, however it shall be disposed of, should be defended from the insults of adversaries.
In the first place, then, in the first chapter of the before-mentioned book, when going to dispute against this justice, he supposes that, according to our opinion, it is opposed to mercy, and that it is contrary to it, and builds upon this false supposition through the whole of his treatise, both. in making his objections and answers. I acknowledge that he seized the opportunity of making this blunder from Covetus, against whom he is combating, who improperly and inaccurately hath said that this justice is opposed to mercy, because they have different effects; but we have formerly shown that they are neither essentially, nor actually, nor effectively opposite, as both of them are the very perfection of Deity itself, but that they are only distinguished as to their object, and not as to their subject. In all the sophisms, then, in which he afterward endeavors to prove that the Scripture acknowledges no such justice in God as is opposed to mercy, he trifles, through a perpetual mistake of the argument.
But that justice which we mean, he says, is twofold in God. “The first,” as he says, “is that by which he punishes and destroys the wicked and ungodly, — that is, those who obstinately persevere in wickedness, and who are not led, from a repentance of their sins, to have recourse to God.
The second is that by which even those whom, in his great goodness, he approves as just, were he so to will it, could not stand in his presence.”
But he again affirms, in the same chapter, “That the justice of God is twofold: that one kind he always uses when he punishes abandonedly wicked and obstinate sinners, sometimes, according to his law; the other kind, when he punishes sinners neither obstinate nor altogether desperate, but whose repentance is not expected.” And of both these kinds of justice he brings some proofs from Scripture.
That punitory justice is one alone and individual, we affirm; but that it is variously exercised, on account of the difference of the objects about which it is employed, we acknowledge; — but this by no means proves it to be twofold; for he ought not, among men, to be said to be endowed with a twofold justice who renders different recompenses to those who merit differently. But his whole treatise, from beginning to end, is disgracefully built on a mistaken and falsely-assumed principle; for he supposes that “every sin shall not receive its just recompense of reward” from divine justice, but that God punishes some sins, and can punish others only if he please. From an exceeding desire to exclude all consideration of the satisfaction of Christ entirely in the matter of inflicting punishment for sins, he stumbled against this stone: for God most certainly will finally punish the impenitent to all eternity, because he is just, and because there is no sacrifice for their sins; nor is it less true that God casts out and destroys many who are strangers to the covenant of grace, not waiting for their repentance, but that he effectually leads others to repentance; — not because he exerciseth a twofold justice, but because his justice hath been satisfied for the sins of the latter by Christ, whereas it is not so with regard to the former. See Romans 3:24,25. But because he would not acknowledge the foundation for that distinction, which may be seen in the acts or exercises of the divine justice concerning sinners, to be laid in the blood of Christ, he hath feigned a twofold justice, and a twofold mercy opposed to it, of which there is not the most distant mention made in the sacred Scriptures, and which ought not by any means to be ascribed to the divine nature, which is in itself most simple.
But coming to himself again, he denies that in the sacred writings there is any mention at all made of any kind of justice that is opposed to mercy.
We, indeed, have never said that justice is opposed to mercy; but as it clearly appears that it is his wish to deny to God the whole of that kind of justice whence, in punishing sins, he is said, or may be said, to be just (which punishment is an effect different from the pardon of sin that flows from mercy), we choose not to contend about words. Let us see, then, what kind of arguments he produces to support his robbing God of this essential attribute. He says, “that the word ‘justice,’ when applied to God in the sacred writings, is never opposed to’ mercy,’ but chiefly, and for the most part, means rectitude and equity.”
It hath been already several times shown that justice and mercy are not opposite. We have likewise demonstrated, by many proofs adduced before, that the rectitude or supreme perfection of the divine nature is often called “justice” in Scripture; but this, I am sure, is by no means of advantage, but of much hurt, to the cause of Socinianism. Let him proceed, then. “But that,” says he, “which is opposed to ‘mercy’ is not named ‘justice’ by the sacred writers, but is called ‘severity,’ or ‘anger,’ or ‘fury,’ or ‘vengeance,’ or by some such name.”
But our opponent avails himself nothing by this assertion; for that which is false proves nothing. By that which, he says, is opposed to mercy, he understands that virtue in God by which he punishes sins and sinners according as they deserve. But that this is never called “justice” in Scripture, or that God is not thence said to be “just,” is so manifestly false that nobody would dare to affirm it but one determined to say any thing in support of a bad cause. Let the reader but consult the passages adduced on this head in the third chapter, and he will be astonished at the impudence of the man. But all are agreed that anger, fury, and words denoting such troubled affections, ought not properly to be ascribed to God, but only in respect of their effects, — though analogically and reductively they belong to corrective justice, — because, in exercising his judgments, God is said to use them, but they do not denote any perfection inherent in God any farther than they can be reduced to justice, but only a certain mode of certain divine actions; for God doth not punish sins because he is angry, but because he is just, although in the punishment of them, according to our conception of things, he discovers anger.
He next proceeds to produce some passages, in order to prove that the justice of God in the sacred writings, — namely, that universal justice which we have before described, — is often used for the infinite rectitude of the divine nature (what nobody ever denied), where, in mentioning the justice of faithfulness and remunerative justice, agreeably to his faithfulness, which always hath respect to the covenant of grace ratified and established in the blood of Christ, God is said to pardon sins, and to reward those that believe, according to his justice; and thence he concludes, “that a justice opposed to mercy, by which God must punish sin, is not inherent in God.” “For what,” says he, “is more agreeable to the divine nature, and consequently more equitable and just, than to do good to the wretched and despised race of mankind, though unworthy, and freely to make them partakers of his glory?”
This surely is trifling in a serious matter, if any thing can be so called; for even novices will not bear one to argue from a position of universal justice to a negation of particular justice; much less shall we readily assent to him, who maintain that that particular justice is by no means distinguished from the universal rectitude of the divine nature, but that that rectitude is so called in respect of the egresses that it has, in consequence of the supposition of sin. But it is consonant with sound doctrine, “that that which is agreeable to the divine nature should be considered also as righteous and just;” and this Socinus acknowledges. We agree that it is agreeable to the divine nature to do good to sinners, but at the same time we dare not deny that the right of God is, that those who transgress are worthy of death; both which properties of his nature he hath very clearly demonstrated in the satisfaction of Christ, “whom he hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins;” whom, while the heretic rejecteth, he walketh in darkness, a stranger to the true and saving knowledge of God, and engaged wholly in his own vain imaginations.
But Socinus, as if having achieved some great exploit, at length thus concludes: “That punitory justice is not a virtue inherent in God, or a divine quality or property, but the effect of his will; and that that justice by which God always punishes impenitent sinners is so called, not properly, but by accident, namely, because it is agreeable to true justice or rectitude.” We have already considered the arguments that he has produced in support of this opinion; whether they be of such weight that they should induce us to deny this justice, and whether to punish sinners be essential and proper to God or only accidental, let the reader, from what hath been said on the subject, determine. So much for our first skirmish with Socinus.
CHAPTER 11. The arguments of Socinus against punitory justice weighed — A false hypothesis of his — Sins, in what sense they are debts — The first argument of Socinus, in which he takes for granted what ought to have been proved — A trifling supposition substituted for a proof — Whether that excellence by virtue of which God punishes sins be called justice in the Scriptures — The severity of God, what — Our opponent’s second argument — It labors under the same deficiency as the first — It is not opposite to mercy to punish the guilty — The mercy of God, what — There is a distinction between acts and habits — Our opponent confounds them — The mercy of God infinite, so also his justice — A distinction of the divine attributes — In pardoning sins through Jesus Christ, God hath exercised infinite justice and infinite mercy — The conclusion of the contest with Socinus.
Is the third part and first chapter of his treatise, being determined to contend to his utmost against the satisfaction of Christ, he maintains “That God, consistently with his right, could pardon our sins without any real satisfaction received for them;” and he endeavors to support the assertion chiefly by the following argument, — namely, “That God is our creditor, that our sins are debts which we have contracted with him, but that every one may yield up his right, and more especially God, who is the supreme Lord of all, and extolled in the Scriptures for his liberality and goodness.” Hence, then, it is evident that God can pardon sins without any satisfaction received; and that he is inclined to do so, he uses his best endeavors afterward to prove.
But because he foresaw that his first supposition, the foundation of his whole future reasoning, was too much exposed and obnoxious to the divine justice, he labors hard in the first chapter to remove that out of the way entirely. Let us attend, then, to his reasoning, and follow him step by step: for if he have not insuperably, and beyond all confutation, proved that God can forgive sins without a satisfaction, what he afterward armies concerning the will, liberality, and mercy of God will become of no weight or consideration; yea, the foundation being destroyed, the whole edifice or Babylonish tower must instantly tumble to the ground. He thus proceeds: — “But you will say, ‘It is necessary that God should take care to satisfy his justice, which he cannot even himself renounce, unless he in a manner deny himself.’” Ans. You are right, Socinus. We do affirm, agreeably to the holy Scriptures, that the justice of God is in such a manner natural to him, that if it be necessary that he should preserve the glory of his essential attributes undiminished, he cannot but indispensably exact the punishment of every sin and transgression of his law, and render a just recompense of reward to all sinners, or to their surety; and, therefore, we contend that without a satisfaction made no one could obtain the remission of sins and eternal salvation. Let us see, Socinus, what you have to oppose to this. “All along, from the beginning of this answer,” says he, “I have sufficiently shown that that justice which you contend ought at all events to be satisfied is not inherent in God, but is the effect of his own will; for when God punishes sinners, that we may call this work of his by some worthy name, we say that he then exerciseth justice: wherefore, there is no need that God should either provide for the satisfaction of that justice or renounce it.”
Ans. We have already considered what Socinus says in the beginning of his treatise against the justice of God. If I mistake not, we have shown that the heretic has lost his labor, and that it is far beyond his power to dethrone the Deity; for “he sitteth in the throne judging righteously.” ( Psalm 9:4) But we, diminutive beings, have not first, or of our own accord, maintained that God is just, and that he exerciseth justice in the punishment of sinners, “that we might call his work by some worthy name.” But the Judge of all the earth himself, the God of truth, in almost innumerable places, gives this testimony of himself in the sacred records; and these ought always to be the only, as they are the infallible, guide of our judgments.
Distrusting, then, what he had formerly asserted (or it being manifestly of no weight), he attempts again by other sophisms to establish the reasoning which he had formerly begun. And he thus proceeds: — “But besides the arguments which I have already used to prove that that justice is not inherent in God, it chiefly appears from this, that were it naturally resident in God, he could never pardon not even the least transgression to any one; for God never doth any thing, nor can do any thing, that is opposite to the qualities inherent in him. As, for instance, as wisdom and equity are naturally inherent in God, that justice never doth or can do any thing contrary to wisdom and equity, as we have seen above,” etc.
The intelligent reader can easily perceive that Socinus proves nothing by this argument, but that he even absurdly adds heap upon heap to his own supposition; or that with a bold effrontery, he takes for granted the thing to be determined. It is indeed our opinion, that God cannot pass the smallest sin unpunished; and that he cannot, because he can do nothing that is opposite to the qualities inherent in him. But this our opponent brings forward as a great absurdity, that must bear against us in support of his own cause; but without even any appearance of a proof. But we have before demonstrated the state of the matter to be thus, — That God neither actually pardons any sin without a satisfaction made, nor can pardon it, without an infringement of his justice, by which he condemns sinners as worthy of death. So that as God never doth nor can do the things which are opposite to his equity and wisdom, so he neither doth nor can do those which are opposite to his justice. But to pardon the sins of believers on account of the satisfaction of Christ, “whom he hath set forth as a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness,” is not opposite to his justice. But these seem absurdities to Socinus. And why should they not? for “we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” But “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.” ( Corinthians 1:18,23,24) Yea, in common equity, nothing could be mentioned more inequitable and unwise than this would be opposite to justice, — namely, not to pardon those sins for which that justice hath been amply satisfied. And must, then, this heretic, not only for nothing, substitute his own most absurd, yea, execrable opinion, namely, “That Jesus Christ hath not made satisfaction for our sins, nor borne their punishment,” — that is, that he was not “made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” — an opinion neither proved, nor that will ever be proved to all eternity; but also insinuate it as a proof of another error, which that alone, it is evident, first begot in his mind? Indeed, I cannot sufficiently wonder that some, by the sophisms of such disputants, are so easily “removed unto another gospel,” forsaking “him that called them into the grace of Christ.” “But that justice,” says Socinus, “which, as we have seen before, in the sacred writings is not called ‘justice,’ but ‘severity’ or ‘vengeance,’ or by some such name, so far as it is opposed to mercy is nothing else but to punish sins; but to punish sins and to pardon sins are entirely opposite to one another.”
A fine painter’s show-board, but void of truth.
Ans . What the adversary so often yelps out is totally without foundation, — namely, that that justice is never called by its proper name in the Scriptures. It is not only called by its own name, but is also called “purity” and “holiness,” which are essential attributes of the Deity. It is called “severity,” “vengeance,” and “anger,” but only improperly and analogically, and in respect of the effects which it produceth. What he asserts, too, of this justice, namely, that it is nothing else but to punish sin, — very improperly confounding a habit, an act, and an effect, — is altogether without foundation, and most absurd. “The LORD is just, and his judgments are righteous. The Judge of all the earth doeth right.” And, in fine, it is false that this justice is opposed to mercy; for it is beyond any doubt that different operations and effects may, in different views, be ascribed to one and the same righteous principle. To punish sins and to pardon sins, unless spoken in the same point of view, are not opposed to one another. God, indeed, pardons to us those sins which he punished in our surety: which “foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
Our opponent thus proceeds: — “If that justice be inherent in God, — that is, if there be any property in God which is altogether inclined expressly to punish any sins of mankind whatsoever, whether penitent or impenitent, — he neither spares nor can spare any one; for as to what your teachers in the church have devised, that according to this justice he can punish sin, even though the sinner should not be punished, that is quite inconsistent with this and every other kind of justice.”
Our opponent again idly fancies that we are hard pressed by this conclusion. We grant, yea, we solemnly believe and declare, that because of his justice God can never spare any sinner, unless he expressly punish his sins in another. But he artfully and shrewdly endeavors to load our opinion with prejudice, insinuating “that God then could not even spare the penitent.” But we believe all repentance of sin to be founded in the satisfaction and blood of Christ; for “him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” ( Acts 5:31) God, then, both can spare the penitent, and, according to the promises of the gospel, most certainly will spare them, — those, namely, for whose sins satisfaction hath been made through the blood of Christ, “who gave himself a ransom for them;” but that to punish sin, without the delinquents being punished, is neither contrary to this nor to any other kind of justice, absolutely considered, through divine help, shall be demonstrated in its proper place.
Hitherto our opponent hath discovered nothing but mere fancies, vain repetitions, absurd allegations, and a shameful ignorance of the argument.
He thus proceeds: “But should you say, that by the same reasoning it may be proved that mercy is not inherent in God; for if it were, he could never inflict punishment on any, as mercy is nothing else but to pardon those who have offended; — I will answer, as I have slightly noticed before, that it is very true that mercy, so far as it is opposed to that justice, that is, to severity and vengeance, is not inherent in God, but is the effect of his will.
When, then, the sacred Scriptures testify that God is merciful, they mean nothing more than that God very often and very easily pardoneth sin, if, at least, they speak of this mercy; for there is another kind of divine mercy, of which, according to the old translation, mention is frequently made in the sacred writings, which ought rather to be called goodness, and hath a more extensive signification, for it comprehends the whole divine beneficence, whether it be exercised in the pardon of sin or in communication of any other kind of benefit to mankind.”
It hath been shown already that it is not proved by such reasoning as this that justice is not inherent in God; nor from the force of such an argument will it easily appear that the divine mercy suffers any degradation. What he supposes, in the first place, is altogether without foundation, namely, “That the divine mercy is nothing else than to forgive offenders;” whereas in this an external effect of that mercy only is shown, which is itself an essential property of the divine nature, for he pardoneth sins because he is merciful. The supposition, also, is groundless, “That if mercy were inherent in God he could never inflict punishment on any;” for to inflict punishment on the impenitent, and those for whose sins the divine justice hath in no manner been satisfied, is not opposite to mercy. For mercy in God is not a sympathy or condolence with the miseries of others, with an inclination of assisting them, — a virtue which ofttimes borders near upon vice, — but is that supreme perfection of the divine nature whereby it is naturally disposed to assist the miserable, and which, the proper suppositions being made, and the glory of his other perfections preserved, he willingly exerciseth, and is inclined to exercise. But this is not “opposed to the justice of God;” neither is it an “effect of his free will” (which expression, concerning the exercise of justice, our opponent foolishly wrests to the virtue itself), but a natural attribute of the Deity.
What he adds concerning a twofold mercy of God are idle fancies: for the sparing mercy of which we are discoursing by no means differs from that benignity, grace, or goodness of God, of which he makes mention; for that very benignity, with respect to the special egresses which it hath towards miserable sinners, from the free-will of God, is that very mercy itself. That assertion of his, too, must also be noticed by the way, — namely, “That God very easily pardoneth sin;” which as it is a very precious truth if a regard be had to the oblation and satisfaction of his Son, so, simply spoken of him who hath threatened death to every transgression, and whose right it is that sinners should be worthy of death, all, whosoever shall be cited before his tribunal, aliens and strangers to Christ, will find to be without foundation, and an absolute falsehood. “But it is evident,” says he, “that neither the justice nor mercy of which we are treating is inherent in God, from what we read, namely, that he is ‘The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness;’ (See Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18) which plainly shows that these two, — namely, his justice and mercy, — are the effects of his will, the one of which is surpassed in greatness by the other, and they cannot consist with one another, and they are limited; whereas those qualities which are truly inherent in God have no limit, and are all consistent with one another, and, in respect of their greatness, are all absolutely equal.”
Our opponent again very improperly applies a comparison made between external acts to the internal habits themselves. That anger and compassion, which are only attributed to God effectively, are free effects of the divine will, limited as to their object, and unequal, which cannot be exercised about the same person, in their highest degree, we acknowledge; f423 But there is no reason that what is applicable to acts, or rather to effects, should also be applicable to the perfections whence these flow. But in that promulgation of the glory or name of God which we have in Exodus 34:6, he shows what and of what kind his disposition is towards those whom, namely, he hath purchased as his peculiar people through Jesus Christ, and what patience, long-suffering, and compassion, he is disposed to exercise towards them; (See 2 Peter 3:9, etc.) but in respect of all other sinners, he concludes that he “will by no means clear the guilty,” or deliver them from the guilt of sin; which, indeed, strikes at the very root of Socinianism. But to conclude from this that the divine perfections are opposite one to another, unequal, or surpassing one another in greatness, is only the extreme folly of one ignorant of the righteousness or justice of God, and going about to establish a righteousness or justice of his own. He proceeds thus: — “Hence it is manifest how grievously they err who affirm both this justice and mercy of God to be infinite; for as to justice, being deceived by the appearance of the word, they see not that they say no more than this, that the severity and anger of God are infinite, contrary to the most express testimonies of the sacred Scriptures, which, as we have just now said, declare God to be ‘slow to anger.’
That divine justice which hath no limit is not this of which we are discoursing, but that which alone, as we have seen before, is distinguished by this illustrious name in Scripture, and which, by another name, may be called rectitude and equity. This, indeed, is inherent in God, and is most conspicuous in all his works; and by virtue of this alone, as we shall see hereafter, even if we had no other proof, that human fiction of the satisfaction of Christ would be thoroughly detected, and vanish.”
Our opponent here serves up again nothing but his old dish, variously dressed, and repeatedly refused. We declare justice to be infinite, not deceived by the show of a word, but being so taught by the express testimonies of the sacred Scriptures, and by the most convincing and unanswerable arguments, — and we solemnly maintain it, not only with regard to that universal justice which may be called rectitude (though improperly), but also concerning that particular sin-avenging justice, which we deny to differ, either essentially or subjectively, from the former, — but that anger and severity, so far as they denote effects of divine justice, or punishment inflicted, are infinite only in duration: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to take vengeance on them who know him not, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (See Thessalonians 1:6,8,9) But in respect of that divine excellence which they point out, we affirm them to be in every respect infinite.
But it would be altogether superfluous here again to repeat what we have before clearly settled concerning this justice, or again to recite the texts of Scripture formerly adduced. The sum is this: Sin-avenging justice differs not in reality from that universal justice which our opponent does not deny to be perpetually inherent in God and a natural attribute. It is only distinguished from it in respect of its egress to its own proper object; for the egresses of justice against sin flow from the most holy perfection of Deity itself. But anger and severity, so far as they may be reduced to that justice which is manifested in them, are also infinite; in respect of their effects, they have their limits assigned them by the wisdom and justice of God. These things, however, have been proved before.
But let the pious reader judge whether our opponent, who hath presumed to call the highest mystery of the gospel, the alone foundation of the salvation of sinners, the darling jewel of our religion, the greatest testimony of the divine love, our victory over the devil, death, and hell, “a human fiction,” had sufficient cruise to annex so dreadful an omission to the conclusion of this so long continued debate. He adds, in the last place, — “But as to mercy, that is, the pardon of sins, how dare they affirm that to be infinite, when it is evident from the whole of Scripture that God doth not always use it, but frequently exerciseth vengeance and severity? Why, but because they have so shockingly blundered, that they have not attended to this, that these are only different effects of the divine will, but are not any properties, and have persuaded themselves that both of them are inherent in God.
But how could they ever entertain such a persuasion, when, as we have said, the one destroys the other? But this they deny, and maintain that God exercised both of them perfectly in the salvation procured for us by Christ; which will more clearly appear, from what follows, to be not only false but ridiculous. Meantime, let them tell us, pray, when God punishes the guilty, but especially when he doth not even grant them time to repent, what kind of mercy he exerciseth towards these? But if God do many things in which not even any trace of that mercy appears, although he be said to be ‘merciful and full of compassion’ in Scripture, must we not say that he doth many things in which that justice is by no means discernible, to which he is said to be exceeding slow? We must then conclude, according to our opinion, that there is no such justice in God as expressly dictates the necessary punishment of sin, and which he hath not a power to renounce. And since this is the case, it is abundantly evident that there is no reason why God cannot freely pardon the sins of whomsoever he may please, without any satisfaction received.”
Ans. On these heads a few observations shall suffice: — 1. It is affirmed, without any show of reason, that mercy in God is not infinite, because sometimes he exerciseth severity; that is, that God cannot be called merciful, if he punish any guilty and impenitent sinners. To prove mercy to be an essential property of God, it is sufficient that he exercises it towards any: for in this very matter, that ought to be set down as a natural perfection in God which is the proper and immediate source and ground of that operation: which attributes (mercy and justice) have no egress but towards objects placed in particular circumstances; nor have they any effects without some free act of the divine will intervening. See Romans 9:13. Nor does it any more follow that the effects of mercy ought to be infinite if it be itself infinite, than that the works of God ought to be immense because immensity is an essential property of his nature. 2. By what argument will our opponent prove that the relation between mercy and justice is in such a manner the same, that because God exerciseth no mercy towards some, — that is, so as to pardon their sins, — that therefore he should not account it necessary to exercise justice towards every sin? We have formerly mentioned in what view they are distinct, — namely, that God is bound to exercise mercy to none, but that he cannot but exercise his justice towards sinners (provided he be inclined to be just), if he would preserve his natural right and dominion over his creatures, and the holiness and purity of his nature uninjured and entire; for disobedience would take away all dependence of the creature on God, unless a compensation were made to him by a vicarious punishment. But, according to the sacred Scriptures, we maintain that God exercised both the one and the other, both justice and mercy, in justly punishing Christ, in mercifully pardoning sins, which he laid upon him, to us, who deserved everlasting punishment; which things, though they may be ridiculous to Socinus (for “the things of the Spirit of God are foolishness” to him), no divine truth, however, of any kind whatever, is more frequently, more plainly, or more clearly declared in the sacred writings: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” Romans 3:23-26.
But setting the consideration of Christ altogether aside, there is no doubt but that Socinus would carry off the prize in this contest. But while it is reckoned worth while to have any regard to him, it is easy to perceive that this heretic uses nothing but continued false reasonings and false conclusions; for it is made evident to us in Christ the Son, how and by what means God, infinitely merciful and infinitely just, — acting on the principles of strict justice with some, and of mere grace with others, but in exercising both the one and the other, both justice and mercy, in and through the Mediator, the one, indeed, in his own proper person, and the other towards those for whom he was surety, — hath declared himself.
But while Socinus despised and set at nought him and his grace, is it to be wondered at if he “became vain in his imaginations,” and that his “foolish heart was darkened?”
For what need I say more? Doth not God exercise supreme and infinite mercy towards us, miserable and lost sinners, in pardoning our sins through Christ? Have we deserved any such thing, who, after doing all that we can do, even when roused and assisted by his grace, are still unprofitable servants? Did we appoint a sacrifice, that his anger might be averted, and that an atonement to his justice might be made from our own store-house, sheep-fold, or herd? Yea, when we were enemies to him, alienated from his life, without help and without strength, dead in trespasses and in sins, knowing of no such thing, wishing for or expecting no such thing, he himself “made Christ to be sin for us, who knew no sin,” that he might “save us from the wrath to come;” that, an expiation being made for our sins, we might be presented blameless before him, to the praise and glory of his grace. But whether he showed the strictest justice and severity towards our surety, over whom he exercised a most gracious care, both on his own account and for our sakes, and whom he did not spare, shall afterward be considered.
Whether, then, when our opponent, relying on these subtleties of his, concludes, “That there is no justice in God which dictates the necessity of punishing sin, and that therefore there is no reason why God cannot freely pardon the sins of whomsoever he may please, without any satisfaction received,” and then, as if he had accomplished a glorious achievement, triumphs over the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, be not acting the part of a most silly trifler and absurd heretic, let the reader determine.
But, as all the arguments which he afterward uses against the satisfaction of Christ have their foundation in this most false supposition, which the Scriptures, as hath been shown, so often contradict, and on which he always depends in all his disputations, whether those have acted for the interest of the church of God who have voluntarily surrendered to him this impregnable tower of truth, which he hath in vain laid siege to, that he might with greater audacity carry on his attacks upon the gospel, is well known to God. We, as we hope, instructed by his word, entertain very different sentiments from theirs on this point.
But when our opponent has come to the conclusion of this dispute, he introduces many fictions about the mere good-will of God in pardoning sins, about his ceasing from his right without injury to any one, about the injustice of the substitution of a surety in the room of sinners; — all which arguments, as they depend on a false foundation, yea, on a most base error, it would be easy here to show how vain, false, inconclusive, and absurd they are, unless we had determined, with God’s will, to explain the doctrine of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, the greatest treasure of the gospel, and to defend and vindicate it from the unjust calumnies of heretics, in the proper place and time.
CHAPTER 12. The progress of the dispute to the theologians of our own country — The supreme authority of divine truth — Who they are, and what kind of men, who have gone into factions about this matter — The Coryphaeus of the adversaries, the very illustrious Twisse — The occasion of his publishing his opinion — The opinion of the Arminians — The effects of the death of Christ, what — Twisse acknowledges punitory justice to be natural to God — The division of the dispute with Twisse — Maccovius’ answers to the arguments of Twisse — The plan of our disputation. WE come now to those, and the consideration of their opinion, who, agreeing with us concerning the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures, yet, it being supposed that God willed the salvation of sinners, contend that the whole necessity of it flowed from the most free will of God, though they by no means deny sin-avenging justice to be natural to God. f426 But those who maintain this opinion are so numerous and respectable, and men who have merited so highly of the church of God, that although the freeman of Christ, and taught to call no man on earth master in matters of religion, unless I had on my side not fewer and equally famous men, I should have a religious scruple publicly to differ from them. I acknowledge that every, even the least particle of divine truth is furnished from heaven with authority towards every disciple of Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life, of holding it fast in the love and admiration of it, and of enforcing its claim, defense, and declaration, even though the whole world should rise up against him; but, perhaps, it would be unbecoming in one who would cheerfully enter as a disciple to oppose such great, learned men, and those, too, so well trained to the field of dispute, unless supported by the dignity and suffrages of others not, inferior even to those in merit.
But if modesty must be violated, all will agree that it ought to be violated in the cause of truth, and especially as I perceive that the authority of some theologians is of so great weight with many of our countrymen, that, not having duly weighed and pondered the matter, but relying on this, they go into the opinion contrary to that which we have undertaken to defend.
Considering it of importance to weigh the arguments which these very illustrious men have used, although I know myself not only unequal to the task, but that, in marshalling the line for such a controversy, I am not deserving of even a third or fourth place from the van, having been only accustomed to the popular mode of declaiming; however, I do not fear to engage in this undertaking, whatever it be, nothing doubting but that from my attempt, though weak, the readers will easily perceive that the truth might triumph gloriously, were any one furnished with better abilities to come forward in its defense.
But here, first of all the antagonists, and who, indeed, is almost equal to them all, the very learned Twisse opposes himself to us; concerning whose opinion in general a few things are to be premised before we come to the answers of objections.
The consideration of Arminius’ opinion concerning the efficacy of the death of Christ and its immediate bearing, gave occasion to this learned man of publishing his own sentiments. Arminius contends, “That Christ by his satisfaction only accomplished this much, that God now, consistently with the honor of his justice (as it had been satisfied), might pardon sinners if he willed so to do.”
This most absurd opinion, so highly derogatory to divine grace and the merit of the death of Christ, this illustrious man was inclined to differ from, so fax that he maintained that that consideration, namely, “That God could forgive sins, his justice notwithstanding, as having been satisfied,” had no place among the effects of Christ’s death.
But Arminius is the only one, so far as I know, among our opponents of this opinion; and he himself, in asserting it, is scarcely uniform and selfconsistent.
The opinion of Corvinus, which Twisse afterward discusses, is plainly different. Episcopius, likewise, after Arminius, the Coryphaeus of that cause, and by far its most noble champion, defends this very sentiment of this learned man. The Pelagian tribe have become reconciled with the Socinians, rather than brandish any more that very sharp-pointed weapon which cut the throat of their own desperate cause.
Nor can I at all see how this divine truth of ours should contribute to the support of Arminianism, as this illustrious writer seems to signify; for is he who says that Christ by his death and satisfaction effected this, that God might forgive sins, his justice not opposing, bound also to affirm that he accomplished nothing farther? God forbid. Yea, he who, without the consideration of the oblation of Christ, could not but punish sins, that oblation being made, cannot punish those sins for which Christ offered himself; ( Romans 3:23-26) yea, that he is more bound, in strict right and in justice, in respect of Jesus Christ, to confer grace and glory on all those for whom he died, I have in its proper season elsewhere demonstrated.
The learned Twisse grants that punitory or sin-avenging justice is natural to God, or that it is an essential attribute of the divine nature. This he very eloquently maintains; and several times, when it is introduced by the adversaries whom he selected to refute, he gives his suffrage in its favor. But what else is that justice but a constant will of punishing every sin, according to the rule of his right? The learned gentleman, then, grants that an immutably constant will of punishing every sin is natural to God: how, then, is it possible that he should not punish it? for who hath opposed his will?
There are two parts of the Twissian disputation. The first is contained in four principal arguments, supported by various reasons, in which he attacks this sentiment, — namely, “That God cannot without a satisfaction forgive sin.” In the second, he endeavors to answer the arguments of Piscator and Lubbertus in confirmation of this point; and he intersperses everywhere, according to his custom, a variety of new arguments on the subject. We shall briefly consider what this learned man hath done in both parts.
As to what relates to the first or introductory part, perhaps our labor may appear superfluous. The judicious Maccovius hath, with great success, performed this task, giving by no means trifling, but rather, for the most part, very solid answers to those four arguments, which Twisse calls his principal, and in a very plain and perspicuous manner; as was his general custom in all his writings.
But neither the plan of our work permits us to withdraw from this undertaking, though unequal to it, nor, perhaps, hath Maccovius satisfied his readers in every particular. Indeed, some things seem necessary to be added, that this controversy with Twisse may occasion no trouble to any one for the future. This veteran leader, then, so well trained to the scholastic field, going before and pointing us out the way, we shall, with your good leave, reader, briefly try these arguments by the rule of Scripture and right reason; and I doubt not but we shall clearly demonstrate, to all impartial judges of things, that this learned man hath by no means proved what he intended.
CHAPTER 13. Twisse’s first argument — Its answer — A trifling view of the divine attributes — Whether God could, by his absolute power, forgive sins without a satisfaction into let sins pass unpunished implies a contradiction; and that twofold — What these contradictions are — Whether God may do what man may do — Whether every man may renounce his right — Whether God cannot forgive sins because of his justice — The second argument — Its answer — Distinctions of necessity — God doth no work without himself from absolute necessity — Conditional necessity — Natural necessity twofold — God doth not punish to the extent of his power, but to the extent of his justice — God always acts with a concomitant liberty — An argument of the illustrious Vossius considered — God “a consuming fire,” but an intellectual one — An exception of Twisse’s — Whether, independent of the divine appointment, sin would merit punishment — In punishment, what things are to be considered — The relation of obedience to reward and disobedience to punishment not the same — The comparison between mercy and justice by Vossius improperly instituted. THE first argument of this great man is this: “If God cannot forgive sins without a satisfaction, it is either because he cannot on account of his justice, or because he cannot by his power; but neither of these can be affirmed.”
Ans. That enumeration of the divine attributes, as to the present cause, is mere trifling: for what God cannot do in respect of one attribute, he can do in respect of none; or, in other words, that which cannot be done because of any one essential property, cannot be done because of them all. As, for instance, if there be any thing which God cannot do in respect of truth, he cannot do that in any manner or in any respect. In the acts of the divine will, purely free, the case is otherwise; for, in a divided sense, God may do any thing (that is, he may create new worlds), which if a decree of creating this and no other be supposed, he could not do. But the objects presented to any attribute of the divine nature admit not of various respects, but are in their own kind absolutely necessary; therefore, we deny the minor.
Neither in respect of justice nor in respect of power can this be done.
But our learned antagonist leads the proof of it through its parts; and, first, after a marginal animadversion on a certain oversight of Piscator, he affirms “That it cannot be maintained that God cannot forgive sins by his power, without a satisfaction.” “For,” says he, “if God by his might or absolute power cannot pardon sin, then it is absolutely impossible for sin to be pardoned, or not to be punished; therefore, not to pardon sin consists of contradictory terms. The contradiction, then, ought to be shown, as none appears from the formal terms. And, on the other hand, it is evident that man not only can pardon, but that it is his duty to pardon his enemies when they transgress against him.”
Ans. The non-punishment of sin implies a contradiction, — not, indeed, formally and in the terms, but virtually and eminently in respect of the thing itself: for, in the first place, it implies that God is the Lord of mankind by a natural and indispensable right, but that mankind are not subject to him, neither as to obedience nor as to punishment, which would be the direct case if sin should pass with impunity; for that natural and necessary dependence being cut off (which, also, in another respect is moral) which accords to a rational creature in respect of its Creator and supreme Lord, which really comes to pass by means of sin, it cannot be renewed or made amends for but by punishment. In the second place, to hate sin, that is, to will to punish it, and not to hate sin, to will to let it pass unpunished, are manifestly contradictory.
If you say that God hath it in his power not to hate sin, you say that he hath the contrary in his power, — that is, that he can love sin; for if he hate sin of his free will, he may will the contrary, for “the divine will is not so determinately inclined towards any secondary object by any. thing in itself that can justly oppose its inclination to its opposite.” This Scorns maintains, and Twisse agrees with him. But to will good and to love justice are not less natural to God than to be himself. Here is, then, a double contradiction in that assertion of this very learned man, namely, “That God can forgive sin absolutely, without any satisfaction received.” “But it is manifest,” says he, “that man not only can pardon, but that it is his duty to pardon his enemies; and, therefore, this does not imply a contradiction.”
Ans. The supposition is denied, that God may do what man may do. That learned man raises this objection himself, that man may sin, which God cannot do, and at great length, and with much erudition, explains away this example. But as this instance of Twisse’s is not quite satisfactory to us, we think proper to proceed in a different manner.
I say, then, in the first place, that divine and human forgiveness are plainly of a different kind. The forgiveness of man only respects the hurt; the forgiveness of God respects the guilt. Man pardons sins so far as any particular injury hath been done himself; God pardons sin as the good of the universe is injured. Secondly, Neither is it in the power of every man to let sins pass unpunished, yea, of none absolutely to whom the right of punishing is competent; for although a private person may recede from his right, which for the most part is of charity, yet it is by no means allowed to a public person to renounce his right, which is a right of government, especially if that renunciation should in any way turn out to the hurt of the public. In the third place, then, I say that that instance is nothing to the purpose; for although a private person may, at certain times, renounce his right and dominion in certain cases, and ought to do so, it doth not follow from that that God, whose right and dominion is natural and indispensable, and which he cannot renounce unless he deny himself, can do the same. In the fourth place, the non-punishment of sin is an injury to the universe; for the glory of divine justice would be affronted with impunity.
Our celebrated antagonist proceeds to the consideration of divine justice. “But neither,” says he, “can it be consistently said that God cannot do this because of his justice, if it be supposed that he can do it by his power.
But Scotus reasons with more judgment and accuracy on this point. ‘The divine will is not so inclined towards any secondary object by any thing in itself,’ says he, ‘that can oppose its being justly inclined towards its opposite in the same manner, as without contradiction it may will its opposite; otherwise, it may will absolutely and not justly, which is inconsistent with divine perfection.’” Ans. We maintain that God from his nature cannot do this, and, therefore, that he cannot either by his power or his justice; and as our learned antagonist produces no argument to prove that God can do it without resistance from his justice, but what flows from this false supposition, that he can do it by his power, it is not necessary to give ourselves any trouble on this head. But to Scotus we answer: The divine will may incline to things opposite, in respect of the egresses of all those divine attributes which constitute and create objects to themselves, but not in respect of those attributes which have no egress towards their objects but upon a condition supposed. As, for instance: God may justly speak or not speak with man; but it being supposed that he wills to speak, the divine will cannot be indifferent whether he speak truth or not. So much for his first principal argument.
The second is this: “If God cannot let sin pass unpunished, then he must punish it from an absolute necessity; but this no one can maintain consistently with reason.”
This consequence the learned doctor supposes, without any argument to support it; but we deny the consequence, nor will he ever be able to prove that there is no other kind of necessity but an absolute necessity. There is also a necessity arising from a supposed condition, and which deprives not the agent of a concomitant liberty. God could not but create the world; but God did not create the world from an absolute necessity, although it was necessary upon a supposition that it should be created. It is necessary that God should speak truly, but he doth not speak from an absolute necessity; but it being supposed that he wills to speak, it is impossible that he should not speak truly. We say, therefore, that God cannot but punish sin, or that he necessarily punishes sin; not, however, from an absolute necessity of nature, as the Father begets the Son, but upon the suppositions before mentioned, — by a necessity which excludes an antecedent indifference but not a concomitant liberty in the agent, for in punishing sins he acts by volition and with understanding. “But that necessity,” you will say, “of what kind soever it be, flows from the nature of God, not his will or decree; but all necessity of nature seems to be absolute.” I acknowledge, indeed, that all necessity of nature, considered in the first act and thing signified, is absolute in its kind; but in the second act, and in its exercise, it is not so. The reader will easily perceive now that our very learned antagonist had no reason for freely supposing that consequence; which I reckon the very lowest of all the devices he has fallen upon. “If, then,” says he, “God must punish sin from a natural necessity, he must necessarily punish it to the extent of his power;” but this, with great accuracy, he shows to be absurd, by a variety of arguments.
Ans. Maccovius hath, some time ago, very clearly answered this reasoning. We reject his consequence, as built upon a false supposition; for that necessity from which God punisheth sin does not require that he should punish it to the extent of his power, but so far as is just. We do not conceive God to be a senseless, inanimate agent, as if he acted from principles of nature, after a natural manner, without a concomitant liberty; for he doth all things freely, with understanding and by volition, even those things which by supposition he doth necessarily, according to what his most holy nature requires.
The argument which the celebrated Vossius uses against our opinion is of no greater weight. “Every agent,” says that very learned man, “that acts naturally, acts upon an object naturally receptive of its action: wherefore, if to punish were natural, namely, in that acceptation which necessity carries with it, such action could not pass from the person of a sinner to another person.”
But this learned man is mistaken when he imagines that we affirm God to be such a natural agent as must, without sense and immediately, operate upon the object that is receptive of it, in a manner altogether natural, and without any concomitant liberty, — that is, without any free act of understanding or volition; for although God be “a consuming fire,” he is an intellectual one. Nor is a sinner alone an object properly receptive of the exercise of God’s vindicatory justice, as he hath committed the transgressions in his own person; for antecedent to every act of that justice, properly so called, in respect of the elect, God appointed a surety, and this surety being appointed, and all the sins of the elect laid upon him, he in their room and stead is the proper object of this vindicatory justice, so far as relates to their sins. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
But Twisse thus replies, “If God punish as far as he can with justice, — that is, as far as sin deserves, — then it must be either as far as sin deserves according to the free constitution of God, or without any regard to the divine constitution. If according to the divine constitution, this is nothing else but to assert that God punishes not so far as he can, but so far as he wills. If without any regard to the divine constitution, ‘then without the divine constitution sin so deserves punishment that God ought to punish sin because of his justice. But I conclude this to be false in this manner: If disobedience deserve punishment in this manner, — that is, without the divine constitution, — therefore obedience will also, in like manner, deserve a reward without the divine constitution; for no reason can be shown that any one should maintain that even angels have merited, by their obedience, that God should reward them with celestial glory.”
But although these arguments are specious, yet, strictly considered, they have no greater weight than those already discussed; for in the punishment of sin two things are to be considered: — 1. The punishment itself, so far as it is in its own nature something grievous and troublesome to the creature, and proper to recover the violated right of God. In this respect we say that sin merits punishment antecedently to every free act of the divine will, or to the divine constitution; or, if you would rather have it thus expressed, that it is just that God should inflict punishment, considered as such, on the transgressor, without regard to any free constitution: for if, without regard to such a constitution, sin be sin, and evil, evil, — and unless it be so, to hate the greatest and best of Beings may be the highest virtue, and to love him the greatest vice, — why may not punishment be due to it without regard to such a consideration? 2. In punishment, the mode, time, and degree are especially to be considered. In respect of these God punishes sin according to the divine constitution; for the justice of God only demanding punishment in general, as including in it the nature of punishment, nothing hinders but that God should freely appoint the mode and degree of it. He punishes them because it is just that he should do so, and consequently indispensably necessary. He punishes in one mode or in another, in one degree or in another, because, according to his wisdom, he hath determined freely so to do. What we understand by modes and degrees of punishment shall be afterward explained. “But,” says our celebrated antagonist, “if disobedience thus deserve punishment, why should not obedience in like manner deserve a reward, for no reason to the contrary can be assigned?” I wish this learned man had not so expressed himself, for he will never be able to prove that the relation of obedience to reward and disobedience to punishment is the same; for between obedience and the reward there intervenes no natural obligation. God is brought under an obligation to no one for any kind of obedience; for “after we have done all, we are still unprofitable servants.”
But God’s right that rational creatures should be subject to him, either by obedience or a vicarious punishment, is indispensable. In a word, obedience is due to God in such a manner, that from the nature of the thing he can be debtor to none in conferring rewards; but disobedience would destroy all dependence of the creature upon God, unless a recompense be made by punishment.
The celebrated Vossius, again, reasons improperly, in the passage before quoted, from a comparison made between justice and mercy. “The question is not,” says he, “whether it be just that a satisfaction be received? but whether it be unjust that it should not be received? for it doth not follow that if God be merciful in doing one thing or another, that he would be unmerciful in not doing it.” I acknowledge that it does not follow: for although mercy be natural to God as to the habit, yet because there is no natural obligation between it and its proper object, it is as to all its acts entirely free; for the nature of the thing about which it is employed is not indispensable, as we have shown before to be the case with regard to justice. So much for the learned Twisse’s second argument, with the consideration of it.
CHAPTER 14. Twisse’s third argument — A dispensation with regard to the punishment of sin, what, and of what kind — The nature of punishment and its circumstances — The instance of this learned opponent refuted — The considerations of rewarding and punishing different — How long, and in what sense, God can dispense with the punishment due to sin — God the supreme governor of the Jewish polity; also, the Lord of all — The fourth argument of Twisse — The answer — Whether God can inflict punishment on an innocent person — In what sense God is more willing to do acts of kindness than to punish — What kind of willingness that assertion respects — The conclusion of the answer to Twisse’s principal arguments. THE third argument is this: “God can inflict a milder punishment than sin deserves; therefore, he can by his absolute power suspend the punishment altogether.”
Ans. I answer, that the punishment which a sin deserves may be considered in a twofold point of view: — 1. As by means of it God compels to order a disobedient creature, that hath cast off its dependence on his supreme and natural dominion, in such a manner that his will may be done with that creature, that is itself unwilling to do it; and in this point of view he cannot inflict a more mild punishment than sin deserves. Yea, properly speaking, in this respect it cannot be said to admit of degrees, either milder or more severe. And in this sense we simply deny the foregoing proposition. 2. It may be considered in this other point of view, — namely, as God, for the greater manifestation of his glory, hath assigned to it modes, degrees, and other circumstances. But if punishment be considered in this view, we deny the sequel; for though it be granted that he exerciseth liberty as to the modes and degrees, as these flow from the free appointment of God, it doth not follow that the punishment itself, so far as the nature of punishment is preserved in it, and which takes its rise from the natural justice of God, can be altogether dispensed with.
What says our learned antagonist to this? He supposes the author of the supplement his opponent, and discusses his opinion in a variety of subtile reasonings, in his answer concerning the extent and different degrees of justice. But he confesses that these have no relation to Piscator; and as they are of no avail to the argument, we therefore pass over the consideration of them.
But this learned gentleman has still something to oppose to our reasoning; for he thus proceeds, “God may reward beyond merit; therefore, he may punish less than what is merited.” But this reason is evidently of no force; for besides that arguments from opposites do not hold always good in theology, as hath been shown in various instances by Maccovius, we have before demonstrated at large that the relation between remunerating grace and punitory justice is not the same. Moreover, these considerations all along arise not from the nature of punishment, but from its degrees, about which we have no controversy, for we have never said that God in punishing sins acts without any concomitant liberty, which respects those degrees.
But forasmuch as Socinians argue from the divine dispensation with regard to the punishment of sins to the free pardon of them without any satisfaction, we must say a few things in reply to this argument of our learned antagonist, as it seems pretty near akin to them, and as they are so very eager in wresting every thing to favor their own side of the question.
The divine dispensation, then, with the punishment of sins, respects either temporary or eternal punishment; but a temporary punishment may be considered either in respect of monitory threats or of a peremptory decree, and both in respect of the time of the infliction and of the degrees in the punishment to be inflicted. But God, as the avenger of sin, is considered in Scripture in a twofold point of view: — 1. As the Legislator and supreme Lord of the Jews and their commonwealth; whose state, from that circumstance, Josephus calls a “theocracy:” or, 2. As the supreme Lord and just Judge of the universe. If these considerations be properly attended to, the subtleties of Crellius are easily dissolved: for God, as the Legislator and supreme Ruler of the Jewish republic, ofttimes dispensed with temporary punishments, as denounced in his threatenings, both as to the place, degree, and time of their execution; but God, as the supreme Lord and just Judge of the universe, doth not dispense with the eternal punishment of sin, to be inflicted at the proper and appointed time. The learned Twisse’s fourth argument remains only to be considered. “God is able,” says he, “to inflict any torture, however great, even an infernal one, upon any person, without the consideration of any demerit; therefore, he is also able, notwithstanding the greatest demerit, to suspend the greatest punishment whatever. The antecedent hath been proved; the consequence from it is notorious, as God is more willing to do good than to punish.”
Ans. 1. We have before observed that this mode of reasoning does not always hold good in theology; neither, however, in the second place, are these opposites, namely, to inflict torture and to suspend punishment, for torture and punishment are different. But to inflict an infernal punishment upon any innocent person is a thing impossible; for punishment supposes a transgression: and, therefore, not to inflict punishment upon a guilty person is also impossible; for transgression, from the very nature of the thing, requires punishment. But it is astonishing that this learned writer should insist on the proof of the sequel, namely, “That God is more willing to do good than to punish,” as he hath many times, by very strong arguments, disallowed the natural inclination of the Deity towards the good of the creature; nor will he ever be able to prove that God is inclined to bestow such kind of benefits on a sinful creature as are opposite to the punishment due to sin, without regard to Christ and his satisfaction. But that difference respects a will commanding and exhorting according to morality, not decreeing or acting naturally.
And these are what this learned writer calls his “principal arguments;” in which he contends that God can let sin pass unpunished without any satisfaction. I hope that impartial judges, however great respect they may have for the name of Twisse, will not be offended that I have made these short answers to his arguments; as certainly they have been conducted without violence or sarcasm, and by no means from any weak desire of attacking so very illustrious a man, for whose many and great qualities none can have a greater respect. But I have engaged in this task from an earnest desire of preserving undiminished the glory of divine justice, and of establishing the necessity of the satisfaction of Christ, lest the Socinians should wrest to their purpose the arguments of this learned man, on the principal of which they place a principal dependence, and by which they acknowledge that they have been induced to adopt heretical opinions.
Our very learned antagonist adds other arguments to these; some of which have been satisfactorily answered by Maccovius; others belong not, according to our view of it, to the present controversy; and others will come to be considered in our vindication of the arguments of Piscator and Lubbertus, impugned by this celebrated writer, of which we shall take a short review, and, therefore, shall not now enter into any particular consideration of them.
CHAPTER -The defense of Sibrandus Lubbertus against Twisse — The agreement of these very learned men in a point of the utmost importance — A vindication of his argument from God’s hatred against sin — Liberality and justice different — The opinion of Lubbertus undeservedly charged with atheism — What kind of necessity of operation we suppose in God; this pointed out — The sophistical reasoning of this learned writer — How God is bound to manifest any property of his nature — The reasons of Lubbertus, and Twisse’s objections to the same considered — That passage of the apostle, Romans 1:32, considered and vindicated — His f435 mode of disputing rejected — The force of the argument from Romans 1:32 — The “righteous judgment of God,” what — Our federal representative, and those represented by him, are one mystical body — An answer to Twisse’s arguments, Exodus 34:6,7 — The learned writer’s answer respecting that passage — A defense of the passage — Punitory justice a name of God — Whether those for whom Christ hath made satisfaction ought to be called guilty — Psalm 5:4-6, the sense of that passage considered — From these three passages the argument is one and the same — Lubbertus’ argument from the definition of justice weighed — How vindicatory justice is distinguished from universal — The nature of liberality and justice evidently different — Punishment belongs to God — In inflicting punishment, God vindicates his right — Will and necessity, whether they be opposite — The end of the defense of Lubbertus. THE learned Twisse, when about to reply to the arguments of Lubbertus, brings forward two assertions of his, to the first of which he consents, but not to the latter. The first maintains “corrective justice to be essential to God,” which he approves; and herein we congratulate this very learned man that thus far, at least, he assents to the truth, and in so doing hath given cause to the Socinians to grieve. But, that “it is natural to God to hate and punish sin,” which is Lubbertus’ second assertion, he denies. The nicety of his discrimination here is truly astonishing; for what is God’s hatred against sin but this corrective justice? How, then, is it possible that that justice should be natural to God, and the hatred of sin not so likewise?
I very well know that the learned man will not allow that there is any such affection as hatred in God, properly so called. What is it, then, else than the constant will of punishing sin? but that is the very vindicatory justice of which we treat. Besides, if to hate sin be not natural to God, then it is a thing free and indifferent to him; he may then not hate it; he may, according to the opinion of Scotus formerly mentioned, as approved by Twisse, will its contrary, — that is, he may love and approve of sin, though “he be of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.” But, with good reason, he farther maintains that “mercy is essential to God, and yet that it is not necessary that he should show mercy to any one; but of his free good pleasure he showeth mercy to whomsoever he showeth mercy.” We have again and again before shown that justice and mercy, in respect of their exercise, are different. God is under no obligation to exercise mercy towards any one, but he owes it to himself to preserve his own natural right and dominion over his rational creatures; and the learned gentleman cannot show that there is any such obligation, arising from the nature of the thing itself, between remunerating justice and liberality, on which he next insists, and their objects, as there is between corrective justice and its objects.
But he brings a grievous charge, no less than even that of atheism, against this sentiment of Lubbertus, and on a double account: for, first, he says that “hence it follows that God is a necessary and not a free agent;” and he calls that proposition a spreading gangrene. 1. But theologians agree, and without any risk of atheism, that God is, in respect of his operations within himself, a necessary agent. 2. If it be necessary that God should do any thing upon some condition supposed, is he therefore to be accounted a necessary and not a free agent?
Perhaps never any one hath made God more a necessary agent than Twisse himself doth, for he everywhere maintains, that upon the supposition of a decree, it is necessary that God should do all things in conformity to it; which, however, I do by no means mention as finding fault with. Upon the supposition of a decree, for instance, God could not but create the world; but is he therefore to be called a necessary agent in the creation of the world? By no means. But you will say, “That necessity flows from the free will of God, but that which you dream of arises from the principles of his nature, and therefore how widely different!” I willingly grant, indeed, that the decree of creating the world flowed from the free will of God; but this being supposed, it was necessary to the divine nature, which is immutable, that it should be created. Nor do we ascribe any other kind of natural necessity to God in punishing sins. The decree of creating rational creatures bound to render him obedience, and so far liable to his right and dominion, and that he willed to permit these creatures to transgress the law of their creation, flowed merely from his free will; but these things being once supposed, it necessarily belongs to the divine nature, as it is just, to punish those who so transgress. But that God exerciseth a concomitant liberty in punishing them, we have several times allowed, and we have no doubt but, if this be atheism, it is also Christianity.
Secondly, “Is God at all bound,” says our very learned antagonist, “or in any manner obliged, to manifest his justice, more than to manifest his mercy, munificence, and liberality? It is evident that God is not bound to exercise any one property whatever more than another. Wherefore, either all things must be said to be necessarily performed by God, and even that the world was not made of his flee will, but from a natural necessity; or that all things have been, and still are, freely done by God.” But besides that this reasoning is sophistical, it injures not our cause. The whole matter may be clearly explained in one word: God is not absolutely bound to manifest any property of his nature, much less one more than another, for this respects the free purpose of God; but upon a condition supposed, God may be more bound to exercise one property than another, for this relates to its exercise. But none of us have said that it is necessary that God should punish sin because he is necessarily bound to demonstrate his justice: in this very thing he demonstrates his justice indeed; ( Romans 1:18) but it is necessary that he should punish sin because he is just. The learned writer then confounds the decree of manifesting the glory of the divine properties, to which God is absolutely bound by none of his properties, with the exercise of these properties upon a condition supposed; which we have endeavored to prove to be necessary with respect to vindicatory justice.
In what sense all things are said to be done by God necessarily, though he be a free agent, hath been already explained. By these arguments, then, whereby he endeavors to weigh down our opinion with prejudices, it is evident that our antagonist hath nothing availed himself. Let us now see whether he hath been more successful in his replies to Lubbertus than in his system of opposition.
He briefly states five arguments of Lubbertus, each of which he answers in order.
That passage of the apostle to the Romans, Romans 1:32, “Who, knowing the judgment” (that is, the just right or righteous judgment) “of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death,” is quoted as a proof of this doctrine by Lubbertus. Twisse thus replies: “I acknowledge that they who commit such things are worthy of death. But it by no means follows from this that it is necessary that God should punish them; which I shall demonstrate by a twofold argument: For if that followed, it would follow that they who commit such things must necessarily be punished; but the elect, because of sin, are worthy of death, but they are not punished at all, much less necessarily. Will you say, because they who have committed such things are worthy of death, that therefore it is necessary, from an absolute necessity, that either they or others, — that is, that either they themselves, who are deserving of death, or some one else on their account, though innocent, — should be punished? Who can digest such a consequence as this? Again: If they are worthy of death, then they shall die the death; either, then, a temporal or eternal one. Beyond all doubt, he will answer an eternal death. It is necessary, therefore, that they should exist to all eternity, and by an absolute necessity, to the end that they may be punished to all eternity.
And so, then, God cannot annihilate a creature.”
But, with this great man’s good leave, neither his mode of disputing, — namely, by substituting a double argument in the place of one solid and clear answer, — is at all satisfactory, nor are these arguments of any service to his cause, the first of which is captious and not at all solid, the other too nice and curious. For, first, Lubbertus does not contend that God cannot pardon sin without satisfaction, because simply, by some reason or other, sinners are worthy of death; but for this reason only, because the righteous judgment or just right of God is, that they who commit such things are worthy of death, and that, therefore, it would be unjust in God not to inflict that punishment, — namely, because, according to the justice of God, which Twisse himself acknowledges to be natural and essential to him, they are worthy of death, and therefore necessarily to be punished.
But the arguments of Twisse do not prove the contrary; for the elect themselves are worthy of death, and therefore necessarily to be punished, — not from an absolute necessity in respect of the mode of acting in God the punisher, but in respect of a condition supposed, and which excludes not the liberty of the agent. That is to say, God may inflict the punishment due to one on another, after, — in consequence of his own right and the consent of that other, — he hath laid the sins upon that other on account of which he inflicts the punishment. He might punish the elect either in their own persons, or in their surety standing in their room and stead; and when he is punished, they also are punished: for in this point of view the federal head and those represented by him are not considered as distinct, but as one; for although they are not one in respect of personal unity, they are, however, one, — that is, one body in mystical union, yea, one mystical Christ; — namely, the surety is the head, those represented by him the members; and when the head is punished, the members also are punished. Nor could even he himself be called a surety absolutely innocent: for although he was properly and personally innocent, he was imputatively and substitutively guilty; for “God made him to be sin for us;” He “laid on him the iniquity of us all.’’ ( Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:6) The second argument which this learned writer uses to confute the conclusion of Lubbertus is of no greater weight. We are not in the counsels of God, so that we can precisely pronounce with regard to his judgments and his ways. That God is able absolutely to reduce to nothing any creature that he hath created out of nothing, no one can doubt; but it being supposed that that creature is guilty of sin, and that that sin, according to the right and justice of God, deserves eternal death, we with confidence maintain that God, who cannot deny himself, cannot reduce it to nothing.
Neither is there anything absurd that can be inferred from this.
To the second proof brought from the word of God, declaring himself by that name of his, “Who will by no means clear the guilty,” Exodus 34:6,7, he answers: “It is true that God will by no means clear the guilty, yet it is evident that not a few are cleared by God. The guilty, then, whom he doth not clear, must be those who have neither repented nor believed in Christ. Hence it follows that every one hath either been punished or will be punished, either in himself or in Christ; which we do not at all deny.
But it doth not at all follow hence that God doth this from a necessity of nature, for it is possible that it may proceed from the free will of God; neither doth it belong to him to exercise his mercy and bounty from a necessity of nature, but of his free will.”
But, 1. It is of no service to his cause to urge that God does not punish some guilty sinners in their own persons, but clears them, when this learned man grants, yea, contends, that they have all been punished in Christ their head, by whom justice was fully satisfied. 2. It hath been several times shown before how God, from a necessity of nature, punishes sin, and yet with a concomitant liberty of will; and the difference between justice and mercy, in respect of their exercise and egress towards their proper objects, hath been shown; so that we do not think it proper to insist farther on these at present. These considerations, then, being set aside, it is evident that this learned man has not attended to the force of the argument: for it does not amount to this, that in respect of the event God clears none unpunished, either in themselves or in their surety, — an assertion which nobody but a Socinian speaks against; but rather to this, that as punitory justice is a natural attribute of God, a very considerable portion of his essential glory, yea, a well-known name of God, he can “by no means clear the guilty,” unless he were to deny himself, and deliver up his glory to another, — than which nothing is farther from God. But those for whom the divine justice hath been satisfied by Christ ought not, in respect of the demand of that justice, to be called guilty, for their obligation to punishment, namely, the guilt of sin, is taken away; so that it is just with God to deliver them from the wrath to come, although it be free to him at what time he may will that that deliverance, in respect of them, should take place and be manifested to their consciences, that so “being justified by faith, they may have peace with God.”
To those verses cited by Lubbertus from Psalm 5:4-6, he thus replies: “The prophet is testifying,” says he, “that God hates all who work iniquity; however, it is sufficiently evident that God does not punish all who work iniquity, for he does not punish the elect. I acknowledge that God will in his own time destroy all the wicked out of Christ; but of his free will, and from no consideration of necessity, as he is an agent entirely free.”
I am not altogether satisfied with this assertion, “That God doth not punish all who work iniquity;” neither does the instance of the elect confirm it, for even the learned gentleman does not deny that all their sins have been punished in Christ. We maintain alone that God cannot but punish every sin, because he is just; but whether he choose to do this in their own persons or in their surety rests entirely with himself: therefore, it doth not derogate from his justice that he transferred the sins of some upon Christ, and punished them in him. But they themselves, though personally guilty before Christ took their guilt upon himself, are not, however, punished, nor can be accounted guilty in respect of the judgment of God, their sins not being imputed to them; or, they ought to be said to have been punished in Christ their head, with whom they are now closely united. In the second place, we have shown before, and the learned gentleman acknowledges it, that a free act of the will may be consistent with some regard to necessity.
Allow me, then, from these three passages of Scripture cited by Lubbertus to collect one argument only; which, if I mistake not, no one of the various arguments of our very learned antagonist, nor even all of them, will be able to overthrow. It is to this purpose: If that just right or righteous “judgment of God” be essential, — namely, that which is made manifest and known to all by nature; ( Romans 1:32) if his avenging justice be such that he “will by no means clear the guilty;” (See Exodus 34:7) if as he hates sin, so he will “destroy all the workers of iniquity,” ( Psalm 5:4-6) then it is natural to God to punish sin, and he cannot let it pass unpunished, for he can do nothing contrary to his.natural attributes, exercised about their proper objects. But the former part of the argument is true; so also must the latter.
But Lubbertus likewise reasons by an argument taken from the common definition of justice, to which Twisse also refers. “Vindicatory justice,” says he, “is the eternal will of God to give to every one his own; therefore, it belongs truly or naturally to God.” Twisse cites these words from Lubbertus; for his writings against Vossius I have not by me at present.
Now, although this justly celebrated man sometimes agrees to this conclusion, yet as he twitches the argument various ways, we shall, as briefly as possible, bring it in regular order to a point. “First of all,” says he, “allow me to put you in mind that that definition of justice holds good only with regard to justice in general, but not with regard to vindicatory justice in particular; for the whole of justice is employed in giving to every one his own.” I have said before that that definition of the civilians was not quite agreeable to me, nor in every respect satisfactory. But the objection of Twisse is of no weight: for vindicatory justice is not distinguished from universal justice, or justice generally so called, as to its habit, but only in respect of its egress to its proper object; and, therefore, nothing ought to be included in the definition which is not found also in the thing itself. Although, then, the learned opponent throws obstacles in the way, he cannot deny that vindicatory justice is “a will to give to every one his own, or what is due to him.” “But let Lubbertus bethink himself,” says Twisse, “whether the divine bounty is not likewise the eternal will of the Deity to give to some beyond what is their own. Would it not, then, justly follow that it is necessary, and even from absolute necessity, that he should exercise his bounty towards some?”
But neither is this comparison between things dissimilar of the smallest advantage to our adversary’s cause: for, — 1. The objects themselves about which these attributes are employed are very different; for who does not see that there cannot be any comparison formed between the giving to every one according to his right, and giving to some beyond their right? That to give to any one beyond his right is a most free act of the will, the thing itself declares; but to give to every one his own, or what is due to him, the very thing itself requires. All acknowledge that it depends on the mere good pleasure of the Deity whether he may will to be bounteous, towards any; but who but an impious wretch would be bold enough to dispute whether he may will to be just towards any? But besides; supposing a constant will in the Deity of giving to some beyond their right, or of bestowing on them more than they deserve, in what respect it would not be necessary (the question does not respect absolute necessity) to him to exercise that bounty towards these some, I absolutely do not comprehend. But with regard to the divine bounty, and in what sense that is ascribed to God, and what kind of habitude of the divine will it denotes, this is not the place to inquire.
That punishment belongs not to us, but to God himself, the learned gentleman will afterward acknowledge. But God may give to every one his own, or what is due to every one, in the infliction of punishment, although he do not inflict it on the sinners themselves, but on their surety, substituted in their room and stead. Thus he gives glory to his justice, and does no injury to us: for no one can demand it as his right to be punished; for no one hath a right to require punishment, which is an involuntary evil, but rather becomes subject to the right of another.
To these he replies: “If justice be only the will of giving to every one his own, it is not the necessity of giving it.”
But here the learned gentleman trifles; for will and necessity are not opposed, as a thing itself may be prior, and the mode or affection of it posterior, to some other things, either in the first or second act. f440 Neither hath any one defined the justice of God by necessity, although from his justice it is necessary that he should act justly. Though it be the will of God, namely, “to give every one what is his due,” yet it is a constant and immutable will, which, as it differs not in any respect from the divine essence itself, must exist necessarily; and a proper object for its exercise being supposed, it must necessarily operate, though it act freely.
In the last place, then, this celebrated writer denies that “punishment can properly be called ours, in such a sense that, from his will of giving to every one his own, it should be necessary that God should inflict it upon us sinners;” but he asserts that “it belongs to God, as having the full power either of inflicting or relaxing it.” That punishment is ours, or belongs to us, cannot be said with propriety; it must be traced to the source whence it hath its rise, that is, whence it is just that it should be inflicted upon sinners; but this is the just right or righteous judgment of God, Romans 1:32. Thus far, then, it may be reckoned among the things that belong to God, as it is his justice that requires it should be inflicted.
But it does not follow that God has a full power of inflicting it or relaxing it, because in this sense it may be accounted among the things which belong to him. God owes it to himself to have a proper regard to the honor of all his own perfections.
We choose not to enter any farther on the arguments which this learned writer advances, either in his disputations against Lubbertus, or in his answers to his arguments; partly as they coincide with those mentioned before, and have been considered in the vindication of the argument taken from the consideration of God’s hatred against sin; and partly as they militate only against a natural and absolute necessity, which in the present case we do not assert.
CHAPTER 16. Piscator’s opinion of this controversy — How far we assent to it — Twisse’s argumentmilitate against it — How God punishes from a natural necessity — How God is a “consuming fire” — God’s right, of what kind — Its exercise necessary, from some thing supposed — Whence the obligation of God to exercise it arises — Other objections of Twisse discussed. THE consideration of what our justly celebrated antagonist hath advanced against Piscator, whom he declares to hold the first place among the theologians of the present day, and to shine as far superior to the rest as the moon doth to the lesser stars, shall put an end to this dispute. He has chosen Piscator’s notes upon his Collation of Vorstius, as the subject of his consideration and discussion. In general we are inclined to give our voice in favor of the sentiments of Piscator; but as the disciples of Christ ought to call none on earth master in matters of religion, we by no means hold ourselves bound to support all the phrases, arguments, or reasons that he may have used in defense of his opinion. Setting aside, then, all anxious search after words, expressions, and the minutiae of similes, which I could wish this distinguished writer had paid less attention to, we will endeavor to repel every charge brought against our common and principal cause, and to place this truth, which we have thus far defended, as we are now speedily hastening to a conclusion, beyond the reach of attacks and trouble from its adversaries.
The first argument, then, of Piscator, to which he replies, is taken from that comparison made in Hebrews 12:29, between God in respect of his vindicatory justice and a “consuming fire.” From this passage Piscator concludes, “That as fire, from the property of its nature, cannot but burn combustible matter when applied to it, and that by a natural necessity; so God, from the perfection of his justice, cannot but punish sin when committed, — that is, when presented before that justice.” What he asserts, with regard to a natural and absolute necessity, we do not admit; for God neither exerciseth nor can exercise any act towards objects without himself in a natural manner, or as an agent merely natural. He, indeed, is a fire, but rational and intelligent fire. Although, then, it be no less necessary to him to punish sins than it is to fire to bum the combustible matter applied to it, the same manner of operation, however, accords not to him as to fire, for he worketh as an intelligent agent; that is, with a concomitant liberty in the acts of his will, and a consistent liberty in the acts of his understanding. We agree, then, with Piscator in his conclusion, though not in his manner of leading his proof. The objections made to it by the learned Twisse we shall try by the standard of truth.
First, then, he maintains, and with many labored arguments, that God doth not punish sin from a necessity of nature, which excludes every kind of liberty. But whom do these kinds of arguments affect? They apply not at all to us; for Piscator himself seems to have understood nothing else by a “natural necessity” than that necessity which we have so often discussed, particularly modified: for he says, that “God doth some things by a natural necessity, because by nature he cannot do otherwise.” That is, sin being supposed to exist, from the strict demands of that justice which is natural to him, he cannot but punish it, or act otherwise than punish it; although he may do this without any encroachment on his liberty, as his intellectual will is inclined to happiness by a natural inclination, yet wills happiness with a concomitant liberty; for it would not be a will should it act otherwise, as freedom of action is the very essence of the will. But the arguments of Twisse do not oppose this kind of necessity, but that only which belongs to inanimate, merely natural agents, which entirely excludes all sorts of liberty, properly so called.
Let us particularly examine some of this learned gentleman’s arguments: “If,” says he, “God must punish sin from a necessity of nature, he must punish it as soon as committed.” Granted, were he to act by such a necessity of nature as denotes a necessary principle and mode of acting; but not if by a necessity that is improperly so called, because it is supposed that his nature necessarily requires that he should so act. As, for instance: suppose that he wills to speak, he must, by necessity of his nature, speak truly, for God cannot lie; yet he speaks freely when he speaks truly.
Again: “If,” says he, “God punished from a necessity of nature, then, as often as he inflicted punishment, he would inflict it to the utmost of his power, as fire burns with all its force; but this cannot be said without blasphemy.”
Here again this learned man draws absurd conclusions from a false supposition. The nature of God requires that he should punish as far as is just, not as far as he is able. It is necessary, sin being supposed to exist, that he should inflict punishment, — not the greatest that he is able to inflict, but as great as his right and justice require; for in inflicting punishment, he proceeds freely, according to the rule of these. It is necessary that the gloW of the divine holiness, purity, and dominion should be vindicated; but in what manner, at what time, in what degree, or by what kind of punishment, belongs entirely to God, and we are not of his counsels. But I am fully confident that the arguments last urged by this learned gentleman may be answered in one word. I say, then, God punishes according to what is due to sin by the rule of his right, not to what extent he is able. As, for instance: God does not use his omnipotence from an absolute necessity of nature; but supposing that he wills to do any work without himself, he cannot act but omnipotently. Neither, however, doth it hence follow that God acts to the utmost extent of his power, for he might have created more worlds. We do not, then, affirm that God is so bound by the laws of an absolute necessity that, like an insensible and merely natural agent, it would be impossible for him, by his infinite wisdom, to assign, according to the rule and demand of his justice, degrees, modes, duration, and extension of punishment, according to the degrees of the demerit or circumstances of the sin, or even to transfer it upon the surety, who has voluntarily, and with his own approbation, substituted himself in the room of sinners: but we only affirm that his natural and essential justice indispensably requires that every sin should have its “just recompense of reward;” and were not this the case, a sinful creature might emancipate itself from the power of its Creator and Lord.
This very learned man having, according to his usual custom, introduced these preliminary observations, at length advances his answers to Piscator’s argument, the nature and quality of which we shall particularly consider. That which he chiefly depends upon, which he forges from the Scripture, that asserts God, in respect of sin, to be a” consuming fire,” we have examined in the proof of our second argument, and have shown of how little weight it is to invalidate the force of our argument.
To that asseveration of Abraham, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” he thus answers, “He will do right certainly, but his own right, and will exercise it according to his own free appointment. But without the divine appointment I acknowledge no right to the exercise of which God can be influenced by any kind of necessity.”
Ans. That God exerciseth his right, or doeth right, according to his own free appointment, may be admitted in a sound sense; for in that exercise of his right he uses volition and understanding, or, more properly, he hath not appointed or determined so to act, for so to act is natural and essential to him concerning the things about which there is no free determination. It is, indeed, of the free determination of God that any right can be exercised, or any attribute manifested, for he freely decreed to create creatures, over which he hath a right, but he might not have decreed it so; and in every exercise of his right there are certain things, which we have mentioned before, which are not the objects of free determination. But that no right belongs to God without his divine appointment, to the exercise of which he is bound, is asserted without probability, and appears evidently false; for supposing that God willed to create rational creatures, does it depend upon his free determination that the right of dominion and the exercise of it should belong to him? If so, God might be neither the Lord nor God of his creatures, and a rational creature may be neither creature nor rational; for both its creation and reason suppose a dependence on and subjection to some Lord and Creator. If the right, then, of dominion depended on the free determination of God, then God might freely and justly determine that he would neither have nor exercise such right; for he might determine the contrary of that which he hath freely determined, without any injustice or any incongruity. From himself, then, and not from any one without himself, — that is, from his own nature, — he receives the obligation to exercise his right, both of dominion and of justice. Thus by nature he must speak truly, if he wills to speak. “But I cannot,” says this renowned man, “sufficiently express my astonishment at this very grave divine’s assertion, — namely, ‘That God, without injury to his justice, may will evil antecedently to whomsoever he pleases;’ for which I do not find fault with him, but that he does not assert that God, for the same or a better reason, might do good to a creature, notwithstanding its demerit, by pardoning its sin.”
If by “willing evil antecedently” be understood his willing to inflict evil without regard to the demerit of sin, it is a point too intricate for me to determine. If the evil refer to the infliction of it, I must differ from this learned doctor. If it refer to the willing, the assertion avails not his cause; for if we suppose that God, without doing injury to any one, without dishonoring any of his own attributes, without regard to sin, hath decreed to punish a creature for the sin that it was to commit, would it not thence follow that God might let sin pass unpunished, in despite both of his own glow, and to the entire destruction of the dependence of rational creatures. Nor is the following comment of our celebrated opponent of any greater weight, — namely, “That God would not be omnipotent if he necessarily punished sin, for thence it would follow that God cannot annihilate a sinful creature which he created out of nothing; which,” says he, “is evidently contrary to omnipotence.”
But how many things are there which this learned gentleman himself acknowledges that God, with respect to his decree, cannot do, without any disparagement to his omnipotence! He could not break the bones of Christ; but the person must be deprived of reason who would assert that this is any diminution of the divine omnipotence. If, then, there be many things which God cannot do, without any the smallest detraction from his omnipotence, because by a free determination he hath decreed not to do them, is he to be thought less omnipotent, so to speak, because he cannot, on account of his justice, let sins committed pass unpunished? Is God not omnipotent because, on account of his nature, he cannot lie? Yea, he would not be omnipotent if he could renounce his right and justice; for to permit a sinful creature to shake off his natural dominion is not a mark of omnipotence but of impotence, than which nothing is more remote from God.
After having brought the dispute thus far, and accurately weighed what remains of Dr Twisse’s answer to Piscator, there seemed to me nothing that could occur to give any trouble to an intelligent reader. As there is no reason, then, either to give farther trouble to the reader or myself on this point, we here conclude the controversy; and this I do with entertaining the strongest hopes that no person of discretion, or who is unacquainted with the pernicious devices which almost everywhere abound, will impute it to me as a matter of blame, that I, a person of no consideration, and so very full, too, of employment, that I could devote only a few leisure hours to this disputation, should have attacked the theological digression of a man so very illustrious and renowned, not only among our own countrymen, but even in foreign nations, as the attack has been made in the cause of truth.
CHAPTER 17. Rutherford reviewed — An oversight of that learned man — His opinion of punitory justice — He contends that divine justice exists in God freely — The consideration of that assertion — This learned writer and Twisse disagree — His first argument — Its answer — The appointment of Christ to death twofold — The appointment of Christ to the mediatorial office an act of supreme dominion — The punishment of Christ an act of punitory justice — An argument of that learned man, easy to answer — The examination of the same — The learned writer proves things not denied — Passes over things to be denied — What kind of necessity we ascribe to God in punishing sins — A necessity upon a condition supposed — What the suppositions are upon which that necessity is founded — A difference between those things which are necessary by a decree and those which are so from the divine nature — The second argument of that learned man — His obscure manner of writing pointed out — Justice and mercy different in respect of their exercise — What it is to owe the good of punitory justice to the universe — This learned man’s third argument — The answer — Whether God could forbid sin, and not under the penalty of eternal death — Concerning the modification of punishment in human courts from the divine appointment — The manner of it — What this learned author understands by the “internal court” of God — This learned author’s fourth argument — All acts of grace have a respect to Christ — His fifth argument — The answer — A dissertation of the various degrees of punishment — For what reason God may act unequally with equals — Concerning the delay of punishment, and its various dispensations. THE consideration of the arguments advanced by Mr Samuel Rutherford against this truth which we are now maintaining shall conclude this dissertation. He maintains, as I have observed before, “That punitory justice exists not in God by necessity of nature, but freely;” and he has said that Twisse hath proved this by a variety of arguments, one of which, in preference to the others, he builds on, as unanswerable.
But, with this great man’s leave, I must tell him that Twisse hath never even said, much less proved, “That punitory justice exists freely in God, and not from a necessity of nature;” nor, indeed, can it be said by any one, with any show of reason, for punitory justice denotes the habit of justice, nor is it less justice because it is punitory. But be assured the accurate Twisse hath never maintained that any habit exists in God freely, and not from a necessity of nature. We have before accounted in what sense habits are ascribed to God. Even the more sagacious Socinians do not fall into such a blunder; but they deny such a habit to exist in God at all, and entirely divest him of this justice. Twisse, indeed, maintains that the exercise of that justice is free to God, but grants that justice itself is a natural attribute of God; the Socinians, that it is only a free act of the divine will. Which party this learned author favors appears not from his words. If by justice he mean the habit, he sides with the Socinians; if the act and exercise, he is of the same opinion with Twisse, although he expresses his sentiments rather unhappily. But let us consider this learned writer’s arguments: — The first, which he acknowledges to be taken from Twisse (the same thing may be said of most of his others), and which he pronounces unanswerable, is this: “God gave up his most innocent Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to death, in consequence of his punitory justice, and it was certainly in his power not to have devoted him to death, for from no necessity of nature did God devote his Son to death; for if so, then God would not have been God, which is absurd, for of his free love he gave him up to death, John 3:16; Romans 8:32.”
As there is no need of a sword to cut this “indissoluble knot,” as he calls it, let us try by words what we can do to untie it. I answer, then, The devoting of Christ to death is taken in a twofold sense: — 1. For the appointment of Christ to the office of surety, and to suffer the punishment of our sins in our room and stead. 2. For the infliction of punishment upon Christ, now appointed our surety, and our delivery through his death being now supposed.
The devoting of Christ to death, considered in the first sense, we deny to be an act of punitory justice, or to have arisen from that justice; for that act by which God destined his Son to the work of mediation, by which, in respect of their guilt, he transferred from us all our sins and laid them upon Christ, are acts of supreme dominion, and breathe love and grace rather than avenging justice. But the punishment of Christ, made sin for us, is an act of punitory justice; nor, upon the supposition that he was received in our room as our surety, could it be otherwise. And although, in drawing such consequences, I think we ought to refrain as to what might be possible, I am not, however, afraid to affirm that God could not have been God, — that is, just and true, — if he had not devoted to death his Son, when thus appointed our mediator.
What shall we say? — that even this learned man was aware of this twofold sense of the phrase, “The devoting of Christ to death?” He either had not thoroughly weighed that distinction, or else he is inconsistent with and shamefully contradicts himself; for in the beginning of the argument he asserts, that “the devoting of Christ to death had its rise from punitory justice,” but in the end he says it was from “free love.” But certainly punishing justice is not free love. He must, then, either acknowledge a twofold appointment of Christ to death, or he cannot be consistent with himself. But the passages of Scripture that he quotes evidently mean the appointment of Christ to death, as we have explained it in the first sense of the phrase.
What reason this learned man had for so much boasting of this argument as unanswerable, let the reader determine; to me it appears not only very easily answerable, but far beneath many others that one disputing on such a subject must encounter.
But he introduces some as making answers to his argument, who affirm “That Christ was not innocent, but a sinner by imputation, and made sin for us; and that it was necessary from the essential justice of God, and his authority, as enjoining that he should make atonement for sin in himself and in his own person.” f447 I applaud the prudence of this learned man, who, from no kind of necessity , but freely , frames answers to his own arguments. Here he has exhibited such a one as nobody but himself would have dreamed of; for although what your crazy disputants, or this learned divine, fighting with himself, say be true, he must, however, be a fool who can believe that it has any relation to the present subject. To those adversaries who urge that “God freely punishes sin because he punished his Son who knew no sin,” and who contend that “God may equally not punish the guilty as punish the innocent,” we answer, that. Christ, though intrinsically and personally innocent, yet as he was by substitution, and consequently legally, guilty, is no instance of the punishment of an innocent person; for he was not punished as the most innocent Son of God. Passing over these things, then, — and indeed they are of no import to the present subject, — he endeavors to prove, by several arguments, that God laid our sins upon Christ by constituting him surety, and from no necessity of nature. But even this effort is of no service to his cause, for this we by no means deny; so that his labor is entirely superfluous. At length, however, in the progress of the dispute, this learned gentleman advances some arguments that seem suitable to his purpose. “We readily grant,” says he, “upon supposition that Christ was made our surety by the decree of God, that he could not be but punished by God, and yet freely, as God created the world of mere free will, though necessarily, in respect of his immutability; for it cannot be that a free action should impose on God a natural or physical necessity of doing any thing.”
We have shown before what kind of a necessity we ascribe to God in punishing sins. It is not an inanimate or merely physical necessity, as if God acted from principles of nature, in a manner altogether natural, — that is, without any intervening act of understanding or will; for “he worketh all things according to the counsel of his will.” But it is such a necessity as leaves to God an entire concomitant liberty in acting, but which necessarily, by destroying all antecedent indifference, accomplishes its object, — namely, the punishment of sin, — the justice, holiness, and purity of God so requiring. But this necessity, though it hindereth not the divine liberty, any more than that which is incumbent on God of doing any thing in consequence of a decree, from the immutability of his nature, yet it arises not from a decree, but from things themselves particularly constituted, and not as the other kind of necessity, from a decree only.
And, therefore, in those things which God does necessarily, merely from the supposition of a decree, the decree respects the thing to be done, and affects it antecedently to the consideration of any necessity incumbent on him; but in those whose necessity arises from the demand of the divine nature, a decree only supposes a certain condition of things, which being supposed, immediately, and without any consideration of any respect to a decree, it is necessary that one or another consequence should follow. As, for instance: after God decreed that he would create the world, it was impossible that he should not create it, because he is immutable, and the decree immediately respected that very thing, namely, the creation of it.
But the necessity of punishing sin arises from the justice and holiness of God, it being supposed that, in consequence of a decree, a rational creature existed, and was permitted to transgress; but he punishes the transgression which he decreed to permit because he is just, and not only because he decreed to punish it. The necessity, then, of creating the world arises from a decree; the necessity of punishing sin, from justice. “But it is impossible,” says Rutherford, “that a free action can impose a natural or physical necessity of doing any thing upon God.”
But by a “free action” it can be proved that certain things may be placed in such a condition that God could not but exercise certain acts towards them, on account of the strict demand of some attribute of his nature, though not from a physical and insensible necessity, which excludes all liberty of action; for it being supposed that in consequence of a free decree God willed to speak with man, it is necessary from the decree that he should speak, but that he should speak truth is necessary from the necessity of his nature. Supposing, then, a free action, in which he hath decreed to speak, a natural necessity of speaking truth is incumbent on God, nor can he do otherwise than speak truth. Supposing sin to exist, and that God willed to do any thing with regard to sin (although perhaps this is not in consequence of a decree), it is necessary, by necessity of nature, that he should do justice, — that is, that he should punish it; for the righteous judgment of God is, “That they which commit such things,” namely, who commit sin, “are worthy of death.” There are cer tain attributes of the Deity which have no egress but towards certain objects particularly modified, for they do not constitute or create objects to themselves, as other divine attributes do; but these objects being once constituted by a free act of the divine will, they must necessarily, — for such is their nature and manner, — be exercised.
What this learned writer farther adds in support of his argument is founded on a mistaken idea of the subject in question; for as the necessity of punishing sin arises from the right and justice of God, it is by no means necessary that he should punish it in one subject more than in another, but only that he should punish it, and that thereby his right may be restored and his justice satisfied.
The second argument of this learned writer is this: “As God freely has mercy on whom he will, — for he is under obligation to none, and yet mercy is essential to him, — so God does not by any necessity of nature owe punishment to a sinner. ‘Although, then, man owe obedience to God, or a vicarious compensation by means of punishment, from the necessity of a decree, yet those who say that God, by necessity of nature, owes the good of punitory justice to the universe, which were he not to execute he would not be God, — those, I say, indirectly deny the existence of a God.”
Although any one may perceive that these assertions are unsubstantial, unfounded, and more obscure than even the books of the Sibyls, we shall, however, make a few observations upon them. In the first place, then, it must be abundantly clear, from what has been already said, that mercy and justice are different in respect of their exercise, nor need we now farther insist on that point. But how this learned man will prove that sparing mercy, — which, as not only the nature of the thing itself requires, but even the Socinians with the orthodox agree, ought to be viewed in the same light as punitory justice, — is essential to God, when he affirms punitory justice to exist in God freely, I cannot conjecture. But as there is no one who doubts but that God does all things for the glory and manifestation of his own essential attributes, why it should be more acceptable to him, in his administration respecting sin committed, to exercise an act of the will purely free, no excellence of his nature so requiring, than of an essential property, to do in all respects whatsoever he pleaseth, and to spread abroad its glory, it will be difficult to assign a reason. God, I say, has a proper regard for the glory of his attributes; and as mercy earnestly and warmly urges the free pardon of sins, if no attribute of the divine nature required that they should be punished, it is strange that God, by an act of his will entirely free, should have inclined to the contrary. But we have shown before that the Scriptures lay a more sure foundation for the death of Christ.
Secondly, God does not owe to the sinner punishment from a necessity of nature, but he owes the infliction of punishment on account of sin to his own right and justice, for thence the obligation of a sinner to punishment arises; nor is the debt of obedience in rational creatures resolvable into a decree in any other respect than as it is in consequence of a decree that they are rational creatures.
In the third place, the conclusion of this argument would require even the Delian swimmer’s abilities to surmount it. So very puzzling and harsh is the diction, that it is difficult to make any sense of it; for what means that sentence, “That God, by a necessity of nature, owes the good of punitory justice to the universe ?” The good of the universe is the glory of God himself. To owe, then, “the good of punitory justice to the universe,” is to owe the good of an essential attribute to his own glory. But, again, what is “the good of punitory justice?” Justice itself, or the exercise of it? Neither can be so called with any propriety. But if the learned author mean this, that God ought to preserve his own right and dominion over the universe, and that this is just, his nature so requiring him, but that it cannot be done, supposing sin to exist, without the exercise of punitory justice, and then that those who affirm this indirectly deny the existence of God, — this is easy for any one to assert, but not so easy to prove.
This learned author’s third argument is taken from some absurd consequences, which he supposes to follow from our opinion; for he thus proceeds to reason: “Those who teach that sin merits punishment from a necessity of the divine nature, without any intervention of a free decree, teach, at the same time, that God cannot forbid sin to man without necessarily forbidding it under the penalty of eternal death. As if,” says he, “when God forbids adultery or theft, in a human court he forbids them with a modification of the punishment, — namely, that theft should not be punished with death, but by a quadruple restitution, — he could not forbid them without any sanction of a punishment; and as he commands these to be punished by men because they are sins, why cannot he for the same reason manage matters so in his own internal court, and suspend all punishment, and nevertheless forbid the same transgressions?”
A fine show of reasoning; but there is no real solid truth in it, for all is false.
In what sense sin deserves punishment from the necessity of the divine nature, we have already shown at large. Neither, however, do we think ourselves bound to teach that God could not forbid sin but under the penalty of eternal death; for we hold that not one or another kind of punishment is necessary, but that punishment itself is necessary, and the punishment, according to the rule of God’s wisdom and justice, is death.
Moreover, a rational creature, conscious of its proper subjection and obediential dependence, being created and existing, God did not account it at all necessary to forbid it to sin by a free act of his will, under one penalty or another; for both these follow from the very situation of the creature, and the order of dependence, — namely, that it should not transgress by withdrawing itself from the right and dominion of the Creator, and if it should transgress, that it should be obnoxious and exposed to coercion and punishment. But it being supposed that God should forbid sin by an external legislation, the appointment of punishment, even though there should be no mention made of it, must be coequal with the prohibition. “But God,” says he, “in his human court forbids sin by a modification of the punishment annexed; as, for instance, theft, under the penalty of a quadruple restitution: why may he not do likewise in his own internal court, and consequently suspend all punishment?”
There is no need of much disputation to prove that there is nothing sound or substantial in these arguments. The modification of punishment respects either its appointment or infliction. Punishment itself is considered either in respect of its general end, which is the punishment of transgression, and has a regard to the condition of the creatures with respect to God; or in respect of some special end, and has a respect to the condition of the creatures among themselves. But whatever modification punishment may undergo, provided it attain its proper end, by accomplishing the object in view, the nature of punishment is preserved no less than if numberless degrees were added to it. As to the establishment of punishment, then, in a human court, as it has not primarily and properly a respect to the punishment of transgression, nor a regard to the condition of the creatures with respect to God, but with respect to one another, that degree of punishment is just which is fit and proper for accomplishing the proposed end.
The punishment, then, of theft by a quadruple restitution had in its appointment no such modification conjoined with it as could render it unfit and improper in respect of the end proposed, among that people to whom that law concerning retributions was given; but as the infliction of punishment, according to the sentence of the law, depended on the supreme Ruler of that people, it belonged to him to provide that no temporal dispensation with punishment exercised by him, in right of his dominion, should turn out to the injury of the commonwealth.
We can only conjecture what he means by the “internal court” of God.
From the justice of God the appointment of punishment is derived; but that is improperly called a court. How far God is at liberty, by this justice, to exercise his power in pardoning sins the Scriptures show. The just right of God is, “that they who commit sin are worthy of death.” “But he may modify the punishment,” says our author. But not even in a human court can any such modification be admitted as would render the punishment useless in respect of its end; nor, in respect of God, do we think any degree or mode of punishment necessary, but such as may answer the end of the punishment, so far as respects the state of the creatures with respect to God. Nor is any argument from a human court applied to the divine justice, nor from the modification to the suspension for a limited time, nor from a suspension to the total punishment, all which this learned author supposes, of any force.
The sum of the whole is this, as we have laid it down, — That God must necessarily, from his right and justice, inflict punishment on sin, so far as this punishment tends to preserve the state of the creature’s dependence on its Creator and proper and natural Lord; so, whatever constitutions or inflictions of punishment, with any particular modification or dispensation, we have admitted, these do not, as the supreme judgment of all is reserved to the destined time, at all operate against our opinion.
The other reasons advanced by this learned author in support of this argument are not of sufficient weight to merit attention. It hath been clearly proved already that the supposition of the pardon of sin, without an intervening satisfaction, implies a contradiction, though not in the terms, in the very thing itself. Nor does it follow that God can without any punishment forgive sin, — to avoid which all rational creatures are indispensably bound from his natural right over them, — because any distinguished action among mankind, to the performance of which they are bound by no law, may be rewarded, there being no threatening of punishments for the neglect of it annexed, that has a respect to a privilege not due. By such consequences, drawn from such arguments, the learned gentleman will neither establish his own opinion nor prejudice ours.
He proceeds, in the fourth place: “God,” says he, “worketh nothing without himself from a necessity of nature.” This objection hath been already answered by a distinction of necessity into that which is absolute and that which is conditional, nor shall we now delay the reader by repeating what has been said elsewhere. “But to punish sin,” says he, “is not in any respect more agreeable to the divine nature than not to punish it; but this is an act of grace and liberty, — that is, an act which God freely exerciseth.”
But, according to Rutherford, “it is much more disagreeable,” to speak in his own words, “to the divine nature to punish sin than not to punish it; for not to punish it, or to forgive it, proceeds from that mercy which is essential, but to punish it from that justice which is a free act of the divine will. But such things as are natural and necessary have a previous and weightier influence with God than those which are free and may or may not take place.” Our learned author means, that setting aside the consideration of his free decree, God is indifferent to inflict punishment or not inflict it. But by what argument will he maintain this absurd position?
Does it follow from this, that God is said in Scripture to restrain his anger, and not to cut off the wicked? But surely he is not ignorant that such declarations of divine grace have either a respect to Christ, by whom satisfaction for sin was made, or only denote a temporal suspension of punishment, till the day of public and general retribution.
In the fifth place, he maintains “That a natural necessity will admit of no dispensation, modification, or delay; which, however, it is evident that God either uses, or may use, in the punishment of sin.”
Ans . With respect to absolute necessity, which excludes all liberty, perhaps this is true; but with respect to that necessity which we maintain, which admits of a concomitant liberty in acting, it is altogether without foundation. Again: a dispensation with or delay of punishment regards either temporary punishment, with which we grant that God may freely dispense, when the immediate end of that punishment hath not a respect to the creatures in that state of subjection which they owe to God; or eternal punishment, and in respect of that, the time of inflicting it, etc., and freely to appoint it, belong entirely to God; — but that he should inflict the punishment itself is just and necessary.
Nor does that instance, brought from the various degrees of punishment, at all avail him, — namely, “That if God can add or take away one degree of punishment, then he may two, and so annihilate the whole punishment:” for we are speaking of punishment as it includes in it the nature of punishment, and is ordained to preserve God’s right and dominion over his creatures, and to avenge the purity and holiness of God; not of it as, in consequence of the divine wisdom and justice, being this or that kind of punishment, or consisting of degrees. For thus far extends that liberty which we ascribe to God in the exercise of his justice, that it belongs to him entirely to determine, according to the counsel of his will, with regard to the degrees, mode, and time to be observed in the infliction of punishment; and no doubt but a proportion of the punishment to the faults is observed, so that by how much one sin exceeds another in quality, by so much one punishment exceeds another punishment in degree; and in the infliction of punishment, God has a respect to the comparative demerit of sins among themselves. We acknowledge, indeed, that God acts differently with persons in the same situation, but not without a respect to Christ and his satisfaction. The satisfaction of Christ is not, indeed, the procatarctic cause of that decree by which he determined such a dispensation of things; but the mediation of Christ, who was made sin for those to whom their sins are not imputed, is the foundation for the actual administration of the whole of that decree, respecting that part of it which consists in the dispensation of free grace and sparing mercy. What this learned writer adds, namely, “That not to punish is sometimes an act of severe justice, and that therefore God does not punish from a necessity of nature,” is grossly sophistical: for not to punish denotes either the total removal of punishment altogether, as is the case with the elect, for whom Christ died, which, so far from being an act of severe justice, this learned man will not deny to proceed from the highest grace and mercy; or it denotes only a suspension of some temporal punishment, and for a short time, to the end that sinners may fill up the measure of their iniquity. But this is not, properly speaking, not to punish, but to punish in a different manner, and in a manner more severe, than that to which it succeeds.
What observations our learned author adds in the close of his arguments are either sophistical or very untheological. He says, namely, “That God, influenced by our prayers, averts even an eternal punishment after that we have deserved it.” But what! is it to be imputed to our prayers that God averts from us the wrath to come? What occasion is there, pray, then, for the satisfaction of Christ? We have hitherto been so dull and stupid as to believe that the turning away from us of punishment, which has a respect to our faith and prayers, consisted in the dispensation of grace, peace, and the remission of the sins for which Christ made satisfaction, and that God averted from us no deserved punishment but what was laid upon Christ, “who hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us.”
In his proofs of the sixth argument, which this learned author adds to his former from Twisse, he says, “There is neither reason nor any shadow of reason in it, that the delay of punishment, or a dispensation with it, as to time and manner, can be determined by the free good pleasure of God, either one way or other, if to punish, or punishment in itself and absolutely considered, be necessary.”
We have explained before what were our sentiments as to what relates to the distinction between punishment simply considered, and attended with particular circumstances in the manner of its infliction. We affirm that a punishment proportioned to sin, according to the rule of the divine justice, from God’s natural right, and from his essential justice and holiness, is necessarily inflicted, to vindicate his glow, establish his government, and preserve his perfections entire and undiminished: and God himself hath revealed to us that this just recompense of reward consists in death eternal; for “the righteous judgment of God is, that they who commit sin are worthy of death.” It is just, then, and consequently necessary, that that punishment of death, namely, eternal, should be inflicted. But as God, though a consuming fire, is a rational or intellectual fire, who, in exercising the excellencies or qualities of his nature, proceeds with reason and understanding, it is free to him to appoint the time, manner, and suchlike circumstances as must necessarily attend that punishment in general, so as shall be most for his own gloW and the more illustrious display of his justice. But when Rutherford says, somewhat dogmatically, that “there is neither any reason nor shadow of reason in this,” let us see what solidity there is in the arguments by which he supports his assertion: — “The determination of an infernal punishment, as to its manner and time, and consequently as to its eternal duration, will then depend on the mere good pleasure of God; therefore, God can determine the end and measure of infernal punishment; and therefore he is able not to punish, and to will not farther to punish, those condemned to eternal torments: therefore, it is not of absolute necessity that he punishes.” But here is nothing but dross, as the saying is, instead of a treasure. The time concerning which we speak is of the infliction of punishment, not of its duration. He who asserts that an end may be put to eternal punishments expressly contradicts himself.
We say that God hath revealed to us that the punishment due to every sin, from his right and by the rule of his justice, is eternal; nor could the thing in itself be otherwise, for the punishment of a finite and sinful creature could not otherwise make any compensation for the guilt of its sin. But as it is certain that God, in the first threatening, and in the curse of the law, observed a strict impartiality, and appointed not any kind of punishment but what, according to the rule of his justice, sin deserved; and as the apostle testifies, that “the righteous judgment of God is, that they who commit sin are worthy of death;” and we acknowledge that death to be eternal, and that an injury done to God, infinite in respect of the object, could not be punished, in a subject in every respect finite, otherwise than by a punishment infinite in respect of duration; — that the continuation or suspension of this punishment, which it is just should be inflicted, does not undermine the divine liberty, we are bold to affirm, for it is not free to God to act justly or not. But we have shown before how absurd it is to imagine that the divine omnipotence suffers any degradation, because upon this supposition he must necessarily preserve alive a sinful creature to all eternity, and be unable to annihilate it.
CHAPTER 18. The conclusion of this dissertation — The uses of the doctrine herein vindicated — The abominable nature of sin — God’s hatred against sin revealed in various ways — The dreadful effects of sin all over the creation — Enmity between God and every sin — Threatenings and the punishment of sin appointed — The description of sin in the sacred Scriptures — To what great miseries we are liable through sin — The excellency of grace in pardoning sin through Christ — Gratitude and obedience due from the pardoned — An historical fact concerning Tigranes, king of Armenia — Christ to be loved for his cross above all things — The glory of God’s justice revealed by this doctrine, and also of his wisdom and holiness. LET US at length put an end to this dispute; and as all “acknowledging of the truth” ought to be “after godliness,” ( Titus 1:5) we shall adduce such useful and practical evident conclusions as flow from this truth, which we have thus far set forth and defended, that we may not be thought to have spent our labor in vain.
Whatever there is in heaven or in earth that we have seen, or of which we have heard, whatever declares the glory of the Creator, also exposes this disgraceful fall of the creature. The genuine offspring of sin are death and hell; for “sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” ( James 1:15) That the heavens cast out their native inhabitants, namely, “the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,” (Jude 6) etc; that the earth is filled with darkness, resentments, griefs, malediction, and revenge, — is to be attributed entirely to this cankerous ulcer of nature. Hence “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven;” ( Romans 1:18)— the earth, lately founded by a most beneficent Creator, is “cursed.” ( Genesis 3:17) Hence, the old world having but just emerged from the deluge, “the heavens and the earth which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” ( 2 Peter 3:7) Yea, forasmuch as, in this state of things which we have described as being permitted by the will of God, “the creature was made subject to vanity,” ( Romans 8:20) there is none of the creatures which, by its confusion, vanity, and inquietude, does not declare this detestable poison, with which it is thoroughly infected, to be exceeding sinful. This is the source and origin of all evils to sinners themselves. Whatever darkness, tumult, vanity, slavery, fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation to consume the adversaries, oppresses, tortures, harasses, vexes, burns, corrupts, or kills; whatever from without, penal, grievous, sad, dire, dreadful, even the last unavoidable calamity itself, — is all to be attributed to this prolific parent of miseries. Some one, perhaps, will wonder what this so great a plague is, which perverts the course of the creation; what crime, what kind of inexpiable wickedness, that it hath procured to creatures so very highly exalted, and created in the image of God to share in his glory, after being banished from heaven and paradise, an eternal deprivation of his glory, punishment to which no measure or end is appointed; what hath so incensed the mind of the most bountiful and merciful Father of all, and imbittered his anger, that he should bring eternal sorrows on the work of his own hands, and “kindle a fire that should burn to the lowest bottom, and inflame the foundations of the mountains.” I will tell him in one word.
Is it to be wondered at, that God should be disposed severely to punish that which earnestly wishes him not to be God, and strives to accomplish this with all its might? Sin opposes the divine nature and existence; it is enmity against God, and is not an idle enemy; it has even engaged in a mortal war with all the attributes of God. He would not be God if he did not avenge, by the punishment of the guilty, his own injury. He hath often and heavily complained, in his word, that by sin he is robbed of his glory and honor, affronted, exposed to calumny and blasphemy; that neither his holiness, nor his justice, nor name, nor right, nor dominion, is preserved pure and untainted: for he hath created all things for his own glory, and it belongs to the natural right of God to preserve that glory entire by the subjection of all his creatures, in their proper stations, to himself. And shall we not reckon that sin is entirely destructive of that order, which would entirely wrest that right out of his hands, and a thing to be restrained by the severest punishments? Let sinners, then, be informed that every the least transgression abounds so much with hatred against God; is so highly injurious to him, and as far as is in its power brands him with such folly, impotence, and injustice; so directly robs him of all his honor, glory, and power, — that if he wills to be God, he can by no means suffer it to escape unpunished. It was not for nothing that on that day on which he made man a living soul, he threatened him with death, even eternal death; that in giving his law he thundered forth so many dread execrations against this fatal evil; that he hath threatened it with such punishment, with so great anger, with fury, wrath, tribulation, and anguish; that with a view to vindicate his own glory, and provide for the salvation of sinners, he made his most holy Son, who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners,” “sin” and a “curse,” ( Hebrews 7:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13) and subjected him to that last punishment, the death of the cross, including in it the satisfaction due to his violated law. All these things divine justice required as necessary to the preservation of his honor, glory, wisdom, and dominion. Let every proud complaint of sinners, then, be hushed, for we know that “the judgment of God is according to truth against them that do evil.” ( Romans 2:2) But sin, in respect of the creature, is folly, madness, fury, blindness, hardness, darkness, stupor, giddiness, torpor, turpitude, uncleanness, nastiness, a stain, a spot, an apostasy, degeneracy, a wandering from the mark, a turning aside from the right path, a disease, a languor, destruction, —DEATH. In respect of the Creator, it is a disgrace, an affront, blasphemy, enmity, hatred, contempt, rebellion, — an injury. In respect of its own nature, it is poison, a stench, dung, a vomit, polluted blood, a plague, a pestilence, an abominable, detestable, cursed thing; which, by its most pernicious power of metamorphosing, hath transformed angels into devils, light into darkness, life into death, paradise into a desert, a pleasant, fruitful, blessed world into a vain, dark, accursed prison, and the Lord of all into a servant of servants; which hath rendered man, the glory of God, an enemy to himself, a wolf to others, hateful to God, his own destroyer, the destruction of others, the plague of the world, a monster, and a ruin.
First, then, to address you who live, or rather are dead, under the guilt, dominion, power, and law of sin, “how shall ye escape the damnation of hell?” The judgment of God is, that they who commit those things to which you are totally given up, and which you cannot refrain from, are “worthy of death.” “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God;” ( Hebrews 10:31) since it is “a just thing with him to render to every one according to his works.” And who shall deliver you out of his mighty hand? Wherewith can “the wrath to come” be averted? wherewithal can you make atonement to so great a judge? Sacrifices avail nothing; hence those words in the prophet, which express not so much the language of inquiry as of confusion and astonishment: “Wherewithal shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” ( Micah 6:6,7) Would you attempt an obedience arduous and expensive beyond all credibility? By such dreadful propitiations, by such dire and accursed sacrifices, at the thought of which human nature shudders, would you appease the offended Deity? You are not the first whom a vain superstition and ignorance of the justice of God hath forced to turn away their ears from the sighs and cries of tender infants, breathing out their very vitals, your own blood, in vain. These furies, which now by starts agitate us within, will, by their vain attempts against the snares of death, torment us to all eternity: for God, the judge of all, will not accept of “sacrifice, or offering, or burnt-offerings for sin;” with these he is not at all delighted; for “the redemption of the soul is precious, and ceaseth for ever.” ( Psalm 49:8) God cannot so lightly esteem or disregard his holiness, justice, and glory, to which your sins have done so great an injury, that he should renounce them all for the sake of hostile conspirators, unless there should be some other remedy quickly provided for us; — unless the judge himself shall provide a lamb for a burnt-offering; unless the gates of a city of refuge shall be quickly opened to you, exclaiming and trembling at the avenging curse of the law; unless you can find access to the horns of the altar. If God be to remain blessed for ever, you must doubtless perish for ever. If, then, you have the least concern or anxiety for your eternal state, hasten, “while it is called To-day,” to “lay hold on the hope that is set before you.” Give yourselves up entirely to him; receive him “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, that he might declare his righteousness.” But what and how bitter a sense of sin; how deep a humiliation, contrition, and dejection of heart and spirit; what selfhatred, condemnation, and contempt; what great self-indignation and revenge; what esteem, what faith in the necessity, excellence, and dignity of the righteousness and satisfaction of Christ, especially if God hath graciously condescended to bestow his holy Spirit, to convince men’s hearts of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (without whose effectual aid and heart-changing grace even the most apposite remedies applied to this disease will be in vain), and to excite and work such sentiments concerning the transgression of the divine law, the nature of sin, or the disobedience of the creatures! A persuasion how fit and proper, those who have spiritual eyes will easily perceive.
To those happy persons “whose sins are forgiven, and to whom God will not impute iniquity,” because he hath laid their transgressions upon Christ, the knowledge of this divine truth is as a spur to quicken them to the practice of every virtue and to sincere obedience; for in what high, yea, infinite honor and esteem must God be held by him who, having escaped from the snares of death and the destruction due to him, through his inexpressible mercy, hath thoroughly weighed the nature of sin and the consequences of it, which we have mentioned before! for whosoever shall reflect with himself that such is the quality and nature of sin, and that it is so impiously inimical to God, that unless by some means his justice be satisfied by the punishment of another, he could not pardon it or let it pass unpunished, will ever acknowledge himself indebted to eternal love for the remission of the least transgression, because in inexpressible grace and goodness it hath been forgiven. And hence, too, we may learn how much beyond all other objects of our affection we are bound to love with our heart and soul, and all that is within us, our dear and beloved Deliverer and most merciful Savior, Jesus Christ, “who hath delivered us from the wrath to come.”
When Tigranes, son of the king of Armenia, had said to Cyrus that he would purchase his wife’s liberty at the price of his life, and she was consequently set free by Cyrus, while some were admiring and extolling one virtue of Cyrus, and some another, she being asked what she most admired in that illustrious hero, answered, “My thoughts were not turned upon him.” Her husband again asking her, “Upon whom, then?” she replied, “Upon him who said that he would redeem me from slavery at the expense of his life.” Is not He, then, to be caressed and dearly beloved, to be contemplated with faith, love, and joy, who answered for our lives with his own, — devoted himself to punishment, and at the price of his blood, “while we were yet enemies,” purchased us, and rendered us “a peculiar people to himself?” We, now secure, may contemplate in his agony, sweat, tremor, horror, exclamations, prayers, cross, and blood, what is God’s severity against sin, what the punishment of the broken law and curse are. Unless God, the judge and ruler of all, after having thoroughly examined the nature, hearts, breasts, ways, and lives of us all, had thence collected whatever was contrary to his law, improper, unjust, and impure, — whatever displeased the eyes of his purity, provoked his justice, roused his anger and severity, — and laid it all on the shoulders of our Redeemer, and condemned it in his flesh, it had been better for us, rather than to be left eternally entangled in the snares of death and of the curse, never to have enjoyed this common air, but to have been annihilated as soon as born. “Wretched men that we are, who shall deliver us” from this most miserable state by nature? “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” May we always, then, be “sick of love” towards our deliverer! may he always be our “beloved, who is white and ruddy, and the chiefest among ten thousand!”
The acknowledging of this truth has a respect not only to the manifestation of his justice, but also of the wisdom, holiness, and dominion of God over his creatures: for that justice which, in respect of its effect and egress, we call vindicatory, which, as we have before demonstrated, is natural to God and essential, and therefore absolutely perfect in itself, or rather perfection itself, this very truth, which we have thus far defended, evidently illustrates; as also his supreme rectitude in the exercise of it, “when he sits on his throne judging righteously;” and how severe a judge he will be towards impenitent sinners, whose sins are not expiated in the blood of Christ! That justice is not a free act of the divine will, which God may use or renounce at pleasure; nor is sin only a debt of ours, which, as we were unable to pay, he might forgive by only freely receding from his right: for what reason, then, could be assigned why the Father of mercies should so severely punish his most holy Son on our account, that he might, according to justice, deliver us from our sins, when, without any difficulty, by one act of his will, and that too a most free and holy act, he could have delivered both himself and us wretched sinners from this evil? But it exists in God in the manner of a habit, natural to the divine essence itself, perpetually and immutably inherent in it, which, from his very nature, he must necessarily exercise in every work that respecteth the proper object of his justice; for sin is that ineffable evil which would overturn God’s whole right over his creatures unless it were punished. As, then, the perfection of divine justice is infinite, and such as God cannot by any means relax, it is of the last importance to sinners seriously and deeply to bethink themselves how they are to stand before him.
Moreover, the infinite wisdom of God, the traces of which we so clearly read in creation, legislation, and in the other works of God, is hereby wondrously displayed, to the eternal astonishment of men and angels; for none but an infinitely wise God could bring it about, that that which in its own nature is opposite to him, inimical, and full of obstinacy, should turn out to his highest honor, and the eternal glory of his grace. Yea, the divine wisdom not only had respect to God himself, and to the security of his glory, honor, right, and justice, but even provided for the good of miserable sinners, for their best interests, exaltation, and salvation, and from the empoisoned bowels of sin itself. “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” By interposing a surety and covenant-head between sin and the sinner, between the transgression of the law and its transgressor, he condemned and punished sin, restored the law, and freed the sinner both from sin and from the law. “He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence,’’ Ephesians 1:8, when he “made all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,” chapter 3:9; for “in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” Colossians 2:2,3.
It will be for ever esteemed a miracle of God’s providence, that he should have made the captivity or wicked sale of Joseph, by means of so many windings, perplexed mazes, and strange occurrences, issue at last in his own exaltation and. the preservation of his brethren, who impiously sold him. But if any one, though endowed with the tongues of angels and of men, should attempt to describe this mystery of divine wisdom, whereby it is evident that God exalts his own name, and not only recovers his former honor, but even raises it, manifests his justice, preserves inviolable his right and dominion in pardoning sin, wherewith he is highly pleased and incredibly delighted (and unless this heavenly discovery, a truly Godlike invention, had intervened, he could not have pardoned even the least sin), he must feel his language not only deficient, but the eye of the mind, are powered with light, will fill him with awe and astonishment. That that which is the greatest, yea, the only disgrace and affront to God, should turn out to his highest honor and glory; that that which could not be permitted to triumph without the greatest injury to the justice, right, holiness, and truth of God, should find grace and pardon, to the eternal and glorious display of justice, right, holiness, and truth, — was a work that required infinite wisdom, an arduous task, and every way worthy of God.
Finally, Let us constantly contemplate in the mirror of this truth the holiness of God, whereby “he is of purer eyes than to behold evil,” in “whose presence the wicked shall not stand,” that we ourselves may become more pure in heart, and more holy in life, speech, and behavior.
END OF VOLUME 10.