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might so phrase it) circumscribed by some act of the divine will; and in this sense it was impossible: that is to say, it being supposed, that God willed to pardon any sins to sinners, it could not be done without laying their punishment upon the surety; but we do not pursue this argument farther at present, because we intend to resume it again in the consideration of the doctrine of Christ's satisfaction.
There are yet many arguments very proper for establishing the truth on our side of the question, which we choose not to enter on largely and on set purpose, lest we should be tiresome to the reader; perhaps, however, it will be judged worth while briefly to sketch out some heads of them, and annex them to the former arguments concerning justice and the exercise thereof. The first is to this purport:
A second act presupposes a first; and a constant manner of operating proves a habit. A sign also expresses the thing signified. Because God doeth good to all, we believe him to be good and endowed with supreme goodness. For how could he so constantly and uniformly do good, unless he himself were good? Yea, from second acts the Holy Scriptures sometimes teach the first; as for instance, that God is the living God, because he giveth life to all; that he is good, because he doeth good: why may we not also say, and that he is just, endowed with that justice of which we are treating, because God perverteth not judgment; neither doth the Almighty pervert justice;' but the Lord is righteous, and upright are his judgments.'m A constant, then, and uniform course of just operation in punishing sin, proves punitory justice to be essentially inherent in God. From his law, which is the sign" of the divine will, the same is evident. For the nature of the thing signified is, that it resembles the sign appointed for the purpose of expressing it. That the same thing may be said of the anger, fury, and severity of God hath been shewn above; Rom. i. 8.
A second, It is not the part of a just judge, of his mere good pleasure, to let the wicked pass unpunished: 'he that justifieth the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,' and woe to them that call evil good.' But God is a just judge: 'but one, who is not liable to render a reason,' you will say,
m Job viii. 3. Psal. cxix. 137.
and who is by no means subject to a law.' But the nature of God is a law to itself: he cannot lie, because he himself is truth; nor act unjustly, because he is just. Such as God · is by nature, such is he in the acts of his will.
A third, The argument, from the immutable difference of things in themselves, is of very considerable weight. For that which is sin, because it destroys that subjection of the creature which is due to the Creator, cannot even, by the omnipotence of God, be made to be not sin. To hate the supreme good implies a contradiction. But if from the nature of the thing, sin be sin, in relation to the supreme perfection of God, from the nature of the thing too it is its own punishment. Yea, God hath ordered children to obey their parents, because this is right.
A fourth, The adversaries acknowledge, 'that God cannot save the impenitent and obstinately wicked, without injury to the glory, and holiness, and perfection, of his nature.' Why so? The justice of God,' say they, 'will not suffer it.' But what kind of justice is that, I ask, which can regard certain modes and relations of transgression or sin, and will not regard the transgression or sin itself?
A fifth, God punishes sin either because he simply wills it, or because it is just that sin should be punished. If because he simply wills it, then the will of God is the alone cause of the perdition of a sinful creature. But he himself testifies to the contrary, viz. that man's ruin is of himself; 'O Israel thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help.' Again, justice does not require that the things which God doeth of his mere good pleasure should come to pass, more, than that they should not come to pass. But if it be not more just that sins should be punished, than that they should not be punished, it is certain that the non-punishment or free pardon of sin is more agreeable to the goodness, grace, love, and compassion of God, than the infliction of punishment; how then comes it to pass, that disregarding these attributes, he should freely will that which no essential property of his nature requires? If then sin be sin, because God wills it; if the transgression of the law deserve punishment because God wills it; and the punishment be at length inflicted because God wills it; the order of things, • In the original, just.
P Hos. xiii. 9.
or the condition which they are in by virtue of their respect and relation to the dominion and perfection of God, requiring no such thing, why pray, should we either hate or abhor sin, when the bare will of God alone is to be considered, both in respect of the decree which supposes that there is nothing in sin, and which implies no change of the state of things, and also in respect of its execution? But if God punish sin, because, by virtue of his natural justice it is just that it should be punished, then it is unjust not to punish it. But is God unjust? God forbid.
I am truly ashamed of those divines, who have nothing more commonly in their mouths, both in their disputations and discourses to the people, than that God might by other means have provided for the safety and honour of his justice, but that, that way by the blood of his Son was more proper and becoming.' So said Augustine of old: but what then? Of that absolute power, which they dream of, by which he might, without any intervening sacrifice, forgive sins, not the least syllable is mentioned in the whole sacred writings: nor am I afraid to affirm that a more convenient device to weaken our faith, love, and gratitude, cannot be invented. Away, then, with such speculations which teach that the mystery of the love of God the Father, of the blood of Jesus Christ, of the grace of the Holy Spirit are either indifferent, or at least were not necessary for procuring and bestowing salvation and eternal glory on miserable sinners. But it is manifest, that by such artifices Socinians endeavour to overthrow the whole healing and heavenly doctrine of the gospel: My soul, come not thou into their secret.' But that God should institute so many expiatory typical sacrifices, and attended with so great labour and cost, with a sanction of severe punishments upon delinquents, with this view only to communicate, instruction, and to serve to lead us to Christ, though they could in no wise take away the guilt of sin that he should appoint his own Son, not only to death, but to a bloody, ignominious, accursed death, to be inflicted with such shame and disgrace as hath not been purged away through so many generations that have passed since that death, even to the present time; that Jehovah
r Heb. x. 1. There the apostle argues for the necessity of the satisfaction of Christ, which he could not, if the guilt of sin could have been taken away by any other way whatever.
himself should have been pleased to bruise him, to put him to grief; that he made his own sword to awake against him, and forsook him; that God, I say, should have done these and such like things, without being induced to it by any necessary cause, let those who can, comprehend and explain.
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 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 endeavour to defend the robbery by a three-fold argument. Their first is this: as to mercy, that it is not inherent in
s See Isa. liii. 10.
a This treatise was published in Latin, in the year 1653.
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 offences 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 sup
d Let the reader remember that the compilers of the Racovian catechism are now speaking, and that the words 'they think' allude to the sentiments of the orthodox.