|« Prev||Chapter III.||Next »|
A series of arguments in support of vindicatory justice — First, from the Scriptures — Three divisions of the passages of Scripture — The first contains those which respect the purity and holiness of God — The second, those which respect God as the judge — What it is to judge with justice — The third, those which respect the divine supreme right — A second argument is taken from the general consent of mankind — A threefold testimony of that consent — The first from the Scriptures — Some testimonies of the heathens — The second from the power of conscience — Testimonies concerning that power — The mark set upon Cain — The expression of the Emperor Adrian when at the point of death — The consternation of mankind at prodigies — The horror of the wicked, whom even fictions terrify — Two conclusions — The third testimony, from the confession of all nations — A vindication of the argument against Rutherford — The regard paid to sacrifices among the nations — Different kinds of the same — Propitiatory sacrifices — Some instances of them.
These preliminaries being thus laid down, to facilitate our entrance on the subject, I proceed to demonstrate, by a variety of arguments, both against enemies and against friends from whom I dissent, that this punitive justice is natural to God, and necessary as to its egresses respecting sin. But because, since the entrance of sin into the world, God hath either continued or increased the knowledge of himself, or accommodated it to our capacities by four ways, — namely, by the written word, by a rational conscience, by his works of providence, and, lastly, by the person of Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, and by the mystery of godliness manifested in him, — we will show that by each of these modes of communication he hath revealed and made known to us this his justice.
I. Our first argument, then, is taken from the testimony of the sacred writings, which, in almost numberless places, ascribe this vindicatory justice to God.
The passages of holy Scripture which ascribe this justice to God may be classed under three divisions. The first contains those which certify that the purity and holiness of God hostilely oppose and detest sin. Whether holiness or purity be an attribute natural to God, 513and immutably residing in him, has not yet been called in question by our adversaries. They have not yet arrived at such a pitch of madness. But this is that universal perfection of God, which, when he exercises [it] in punishing the transgressions of his creatures, is called vindicatory justice; for whatever there be in God perpetually inherent, whatever excellence there be essential to his nature, which occasions his displeasure with sin, and which necessarily occasions this displeasure, this is that justice of which we are speaking.
But here, first, occurs to us that celebrated passage of the prophet Habakkuk, chap. i. 13, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” The prophet here ascribes to God the greatest detestation, and such an immortal hatred of sin that he cannot look upon it, but, with a wrathful aversion of his countenance, abominates and dooms it to punishment. But perhaps God thus hates sin because he wills to do so, and by an act of his will entirely free, though the state of things might be changed without any injury to him or diminution of his essential glory. But the Holy Spirit gives us a reason very different from this, namely, — the purity of God’s eyes: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil.” But there is no one who can doubt that the prophet here intended the holiness of God. The incomprehensible, infinite, and most perfect holiness or purity of God is the cause why he hates and detests all sin; and that justice and holiness are the same, as to the common and general notion of them, we have shown before.
Of the same import is the admonition of Joshua in his address to the people of Israel, chap. xxiv. 19, “Ye cannot serve the Lord” (that is, he will not accept of a false and hypocritical worship from you): “for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.” God, then, will not forgive transgressions, — that is, he will most certainly punish them, — because he is most holy. But this holiness is the universal perfection of God, which, when exercised in punishing the sins of the creatures, is called vindicatory justice; that is, in relation to its exercise and effects, for in reality the holiness and justice of God are the same, neither of which, considered in itself and absolutely, differs from the divine nature, whence they are frequently used the one for the other.
Moreover, it is manifest that God meant this holiness in that promulgation of his glorious name, or of the essential properties of his divine nature, made face to face to Moses, Exod. xxxiv. 5–7; which name he had also before declared, chap. xxiii. 7. That non-absolution or punishment denotes an external effect of the divine will is granted; but when God proclaims this to be his name, “The Lord, The Lord God,” etc, “that will by no means clear the guilty,” he manifestly leads us to the contemplation of that excellence essentially inherent in his nature, which induces him to such an act. But 514that, by whatever name it be distinguished, in condescension to our capacities, is the justice that we mean.
That eulogium of divine justice by the psalmist, Ps. v. 4–6, favours this opinion: “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” But those who deny this hatred of sin and sinners, and the disposition to punish them, to be perpetually, immutably, and habitually inherent in God, I am afraid have never strictly weighed in their thoughts the divine purity and holiness.
To the second class may be referred those passages of Scripture which ascribe to God the office of a judge, and which affirm that he judges, and will judge, all things with justice. The first which occurs is that celebrated expression of Abraham, Gen. xviii. 25, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” These are not the words of one who doubts, but of one enforcing a truth acknowledged and confessed among all; a truth upon which the intercession of this faithful friend of God for the pious and just inhabitants of Sodom is founded: for Abraham here ascribes to God the power and office of a just judge; in consequence of which character he must necessarily exercise judgment according to the different merits of mankind. This the words in the preceding clause of the verse, accompanied with a vehement rejection and detestation of every suspicion that might arise to the contrary, sufficiently demonstrate: “That be far from thee to do,” — namely, “to slay the righteous with the wicked.” God, then, is a judge, and a just one; and it is impossible for him not to exercise right or judgment. But that justice wherewith he is now endowed, and by which he exerciseth right, is not a free act of his will, (for who would entertain such contemptible thoughts even of an earthly judge?) but a habit or excellence at all times inherent in his nature.
But this supreme excellence and general idea which Abraham made mention of and enforced, the apostle again afterward supports and recommends: Rom. iii. 5, 6, “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” Unless he were just, how shall he judge the world? Therefore, this most righteous of all judges exerciseth justice in judging the world “because he is just.”
For why should God so often be said to judge the world justly, and in justice, unless his justice were that perfection whence this righteous and just judgment flows and is derived? Acts xvii. 31, “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained;” and in Rom. ii. 5, the day of the last judgment is called “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
515But, again, on this very account the justice of God is celebrated, and he himself, in an especial manner, is said to be just, because he inflicts punishment and exercises his judgments according to the demerits of sinners: Rev. xvi. 5, 6, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.”
But all retaliation5858 “Compensatio” is the word in the original, and as “retaliation” is frequently used in a particular sense as connected with evil feeling, perhaps “retribution” would better express the meaning of Owen. — Ed. for a crime proceeds from vindicatory justice; but that God exercises that justice, and is thence denominated just, is evident. ‘The Holy Spirit establishes this truth in the plainest words, Ps. ix. 4, 5, where he gloriously vindicates this justice of God: “Thou hast maintained my right and my cause,” says the psalmist; “thou satest in the throne judging right. Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.” God exerciseth justice and determines causes as he sits upon his throne, — that is, as being endowed with supreme judiciary power, — and that as he is a judge of righteousness, or most righteous judge: Ps. cxix. 137, “Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments.”
Thirdly, It now remains that we take a view of one or two of those passages of Scripture which, in consideration of this divine justice, assert the infliction of punishment for sin in itself, and as far as relates to the thing itself, to be just. To this purpose is that of the apostle to the Romans, chap. i. 32, “Who knowing the judgment,” or justice, “of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.” Whatever, or of what kind soever, that justice or right of God may be of which the apostle is speaking, it seems evident that the three following properties belong to it:—
1. That it is universally acknowledged; nay, it is not unknown even to the most abandoned of mankind, and to those schools of every kind of wickedness which the apostle is there describing. Whence they derive this knowledge of the divine law and justice shall be made to appear hereafter.
2. That, it is the cause, source, and rule of all punishments to be inflicted; for this is the right of God, “that those who commit sin are worthy of death.” From this right of God it follows that “the wages of” every “sin is death.”
3. That, it is natural and essential to God: for although, in respect of its exercise, it may have a handle or occasion from some things external to the Deity, and in respect of its effects may have a meritorious cause, yet in respect of its source and root, it respects 516himself as its subject, if God be absolutely perfect. If belonging to any other being, it cannot agree to him.5959 Here it is necessary to supply another translation: “Yet in respect of its source and root, so far as pertains to its subject, if God be absolutely perfect, it cannot be derived to him from any other source.” — Ed.
You will say that this right of God is free; but I deny that any right of God which respects his creatures can, as a habit inherent in his nature, be free, though in the exercise of every right God be absolutely free. Neither can any free act of the divine will towards creatures be called any right of Deity; it is only the exercise of some right. But an act is distinguished from its habit or root.
And now it appears evident that this right is not that supreme right or absolute dominion of God, which, under the primary notion of a Creator, must be necessarily ascribed to him; for it belongs not to the supreme Lord, as such, to inflict punishment, but as ruler or judge.
The supreme dominion and right of God over his creatures, no doubt, so far as it supposes dependence and obedience, necessarily requires that a vicarious punishment should be appointed in case of transgression or disobedience: but the very appointment of punishment, as well as the infliction of it, flows from his right as the governor; which right, considered with respect to transgressors, is nothing else than vindicatory justice. The apostle, therefore, signifies that that is the justice always resident in God, as a legislator, ruler, and judge of all things; which, by common presumption, even the most abandoned of mankind acknowledge.
To these may be added two other passages which occur in the writings of the same apostle: 2 Thess. i. 6, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you.” A recompense of tribulation is a real peculiar act of vindicatory justice; but that belongs to God as he is just. Thence the punishment of sin is called in Heb. ii. 2, “A just recompense of reward;” and by Jude, verse 7, “The vengeance,” or justice, “of eternal fire;” because, namely, it follows from that justice of God that such crimes are justly recompensed by such a punishment.
But we will not be farther troublesome in reciting particular proofs; from those already mentioned, and from others equally strong, we thus briefly argue:— That to that Being whose property it is to “render unto every man according to his deeds,” not to clear the guilty, to condemn sinners as worthy of death and to inflict the same upon them, to hate sin, and who will in no wise let sin pass unpunished, and all this because he is just, and because his justice so requires, sin-punishing justice naturally belongs, and that he cannot act contrary to that justice; but the passages of Scripture just now mentioned, with many others, assert that all these properties above recounted belong to 517and are proper to God, because he is just: therefore, this justice belongs to God, and is natural to him.
It matters not what we affirm of vindicatory justice, whether that it be meant of God essentially, and not only denominatively, that it has an absolute name (for it is called “holiness” and “purity”), that we have it expressed both in the abstract and concrete; for, what is more than that, it is affirmed expressly, directly, and particularly, ofttimes, in the passages above mentioned, that it requires the punishment of sinners, that it implies a constant and immutable will of punishing every sin according to the rule of divine wisdom and right.6060 The sentence might be more intelligibly rendered: “There is nothing which we affirm of vindicatory justice, — whether that it is meant of God essentially, and not only denominatively, that it has an absolute name (for it is called “holiness” and “purity”), that we have it expressed both in the abstract and concrete, that it requires the punishment of sinners, that it implies a constant and immutable will of punishing every sin, according to the rule of divine wisdom and right, — but what is ofttimes affirmed expressly, directly, and particularly, in the passages above mentioned.” — Ed. Impudent to a high degree indeed, then, must Socinus have been, who hath maintained that that perfection of Deity by which he punisheth sin is not called justice, but always anger or fury. Anger, indeed, and fury, analogically and effectively, belong to justice.
So much for our first argument.
II. The universal consent of mankind furnishes us with a second, from which we may reason in this manner: “What common opinion and the innate conceptions of all assign to God, that is natural to God; but this corrective justice is so assigned to God: therefore, this justice is natural to God.”
The major proposition is evident; for what is not natural to God neither exists in him by any mode of habit or mode of affection, but is only a free act of the divine will, and the knowledge of that can by no means be naturally implanted in creatures; for whence should there be a universal previous conception of an act which might either take place or never take place? No such thing was at the first engraven on the hearts of men, and the fabric of the world teaches us no such thing.
But the minor proposition is established by a threefold proof:— 1. By the testimony of the Scripture; 2. By the testimony of every sinner’s conscience; and 3. By that of the public consent of all nations.
First, The holy Scriptures testify that such an innate conception6161 The Greek word πρόληψις is employed in the original, for which perhaps it was difficult to find a precise rendering in one English word. It was a word employed in the canonics or psychology of Epicurus to denote the second of his conditions or criteria of truth, which related to ideas as distinguished from sensations or emotions, though, like them, derived from sensuous perception. It implied such a primary and absolute idea of a thing as existed in the mind antecedently to any objective presentation of it, and without which no mental act can take place regarding it, whether of naming, thinking, doubting, or inquiring. It is used by Owen to describe a principle in the human mind which is not created by the evidence of testimony or any course of training, which is naturally and essentially interwoven with our mental constitution, and is ready beforehand, by anticipation, as the word πρόληψις simply means, to respond to the abstract idea of equity, or to confirm the concrete application of it in the common awards of good or evil. — Ed. is 518implanted by God in the minds of men. Thus the apostle to the Romans, chap. i. 32, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death.” He is here speaking of those nations that were the most forsaken by God, and delivered over to a reprobate mind; yet even to these he ascribes some remaining knowledge of this immutable right of God, which renders it necessary that “every transgression should receive its just recompense of reward,” and that sinners should be deserving of death in such a manner that it would be unworthy of God not to inflict it. That is to say, although the operations of this observing and acknowledging principle should often become very languid, and be even almost entirely overwhelmed by abounding wickedness, — for “what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves,” — yet that mankind must cease to exist before they can altogether lose this innate sense of divine right and judgment. Hence the barbarians concluded against Paul, then a prisoner and in bonds, seeing the viper hanging on one of his hands, that “no doubt he was a murderer, whom, though he had escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffered not to live.” Here they argue from the effect to the cause; which, in matters relating to moral good or evil, they could not, unless convinced in their consciences that there is an inviolable connection between sin and punishment, which they here ascribe to Justice.6262 Ὤιμωξα κᾳγὼ πρὸς τέκνων χειρουμένης. Νέμει τοι δίκαν θεὸς ὃταν τύχῃ. Σχέτλια μὲν ἔπαθες, ἀνόσια δ’ εἰργάσω Τάλαιν’ εὐνέταν. Eurip. Elec., 1168.
Justice among them, according to their fabulous theology, which was particularly favoured by the bulk of the people, was the daughter of Jupiter, whom he set over the affairs of mortals, to avenge the injuries which they should do to one another, and to inflict condign punishment on all those who should impiously offend against the gods. Hence Hesiod, speaking of Jupiter, says, —
“He married a second wife, the fair Themis, who brought forth the Hours,
And Eunomia, and Justice, etc.,
Who should watch o’er the actions of mortal men.”
Hesiod in Theog. 901.
Again, the same author says, —
“Justice is a virgin, descended from Jupiter,
Chaste, and honour’d by the heavenly deities;
And when any one hath injured her with impious indignity,
[Instantly she, seated beside her father, Saturnian Jupiter,
Complains of the iniquity of men,” etc.]
Hesiod in Oper. 256.
Also, Orpheus in the hymns, —
“I sing the eye of Justice, who looketh behind her, and is fair,
Who likewise sits upon the sacred throne of sovereign Jupiter
As the avenger of the unjust.”
519Hence, these common sayings, —
“God hath an avenging eye;
God hath found the transgressor.”
In all which, and in numberless other such passages, the wisest men in those times of ignorance have announced their sense of this vindicatory justice.
And among the Latins, the following passages prove their sense of the same:—
“Aspiciunt oculis superi mortalia justis.”
“The gods above behold the affairs of mortals with impartial eyes.”
“Raro antecedentem scelestum,
Deseruit pede Poena claudo.”
“Seldom hath Punishment, through lameness of foot, left off pursuit of the wicked man, though he hath had the start of her.”
Also, that celebrated response of the Delphic oracle, recorded by Ælian:—
“But divine Justice pursues those who are guilty of crimes,
Nor can it be avoided even by the descendants of Jupiter;
But it hangs over the heads of the wicked themselves, and over the heads of their Children; and one disaster to their race is followed by another.”
All which assert this vindicatory justice.
This, then, as Plutarch says, is the “ancient faith of mankind;” or, in the words of Aristotle, “opinion concerning God,” which Dion Prusæensis calls “a very strong and eternal persuasion, from time immemorial received, and still remaining among all nations.”
Secondly, The consciences of all mankind concur to corroborate this truth; but the cause which has numberless witnesses to support it cannot fail. Hence, not only the flight, hiding-place, and fig-leaf aprons of our primogenitors, but every word of dire meaning and evil omen, as terror, horror, tremor, and whatever else harasses guilty mortals, have derived their origin. Conscious to themselves of their wickedness, and convinced of the divine dominion over them, this idea above all dwells in their minds, that he with whom they have to do is supremely just, and the avenger of all sin. From this consideration even the people of God have been induced to believe that death must inevitably be their portion should they be but for once sisted in his presence. Not that the mass of the body is to us an obscure and dark prison, as the Platonists dream, whence, when we obtain a view of divine things, being formerly enveloped by that mass, it is immediately suggested to the mind that the bond of union between mind and body must be instantly dissolved.
It must, indeed, be acknowledged, that through sin we have been transformed into worms, moles, bats, and owls; but the cause of this general fear and dismay is not to be derived from this source.
The justice and purity of God, on account of which he can bear nothing impure or filthy to come into his presence, occurs to sinners’ 520minds; wherefore, they think of nothing else but of a present God, of punishment prepared, and of deserved penalties to be immediately inflicted. The thought of the Deity bursting in upon the mind, immediately every sinner stands confessed a debtor, — a guilty and self-condemned criminal. Fetters, prisons, rods, axes, and fire, without delay and without end, rise to his view. Whence some have judged the mark set upon Cain to have been some horrible tremor, by which, being continually shaken and agitated, he was known to all. Hence, too, these following verses:—
“Whither fliest thou, Enceladus? Whatever coasts thou shalt arrive on,
Thou wilt always be under the eye of Jupiter.”
“As every one’s conscience is, so in his heart he conceives hope or fear, according to his actions.
“Do you think that those have escaped whom a guilty conscience holds abashed, and lashes with its inexorable scourge, the mind, the executioner, shaking the secret lash?”
See Voss. on Idol. book i. chap. 2.
It is the saying of a certain author, that punishment is coeval with injustice, and that the horror of natural conscience is not terminated by the limits of human life:—
“Sunt aliquid manes: lethum non omnia finit,
Lucidaque evictos effugit umbra rogos.”
“The soul is something: death ends not at all,
And the light spirit escapes the vanquished funeral pile.”
Hence the famous verses of Adrian, the Roman emperor, spoken on his death-bed:—
“Animula vagula, blandula,
Hospes comesque corporis,
Quæ nunc abibis in loca?
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis joca.”
“Alas! my soul, thou pleasing companion of this body,
thou fleeting thing, that art now deserting it! whither art thou flying? to
what unknown scene? All trembling, fearful, and pensive! What now is
become of thy former wit and humour? Thou shalt jest and be gay no
more.”6464 Translated thus by Pope:—
“Ah! fleeting spirit! wandering fire,
That long hast warm’d my tender breast,
Must thou no more this frame inspire?
No more a pleasing, cheerful guest?
Whither, ah! whither art thou flying?
To what dark undiscover’d shore?
Thou seem’st all trembling, shiv’ring, dying,
And wit and humour are no more.”
521“That which is truly evil,” says Tertullian, “not even those who are under its influence dare defend as good. All evil fills nature with fear or shame. Evil doers are glad to lie concealed; they avoid making their appearance; they tremble when apprehended.” Hence the heathens have represented Jove himself, when conscious of any crime, as not free from fear. We find Mercury thus speaking of him in Plautus:—
“Etenim ille,” etc.
“Even that Jupiter, by whose order I come hither,
Dreads evil no less than any of us:
Being himself descended from a human father and mother,
There is no reason to wonder that he should fear for himself.”
Hence, too, mankind have a dread awe of every thing in nature that is grand, unusual, and strange, as thunders, lightnings, or eclipses of the heavenly bodies, and tremble at every prodigy, spectre, or comet, nay, even at the hobgoblins of the night, exclaiming, like the woman of Zarephath upon the death of her son, “What have I to do with thee? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance?” Hence, even the most abandoned of men, when vengeance for their sins hangs over their heads, have confessed their sins and acknowledged the divine justice.
It is related by Suetonius, that Nero, that disgrace of human nature, just before his death, exclaimed, “My wife, my mother, and my father, are forcing me to my end.”6565 His mother, Agrippina, had poisoned her last husband, the Emperor Claudius, to make way for his succession, and Nero rewarded her by causing her to be murdered. He likewise caused his wife, Octavia, and his tutor, Seneca, to lose their lives; and was in every respect, perhaps, one of the greatest monsters of wickedness that ever disgraced human nature. — Tr. Most deservedly celebrated, too, is that expression of Mauricius the Cappadocian, when slain by Phocas, “Just art thou, O Lord, and thy judgments are righteous!”
But, moreover, while guilty man dreads the consequences of evil, which he knows he has really committed, he torments and vexes himself even with fictitious fears and bugbears. Hence these verses of Horace:—
“Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas,
— ideas for the most part ridiculous, but, as the old proverb says, “ ’Tis but reasonable that they should wear the fetters which themselves have forged.” Hence the guilty trembling mob is imposed upon and cheated by impostors, by vagrant fortune-tellers and astrologers. If any illiterate juggler shall have foretold a year of darkness, alluding, namely, to the night-season of the year, the consternation is as great as if Hannibal were at the gates of the city. The stings of conscience vex and goad them, and their minds have such presentiments of divine justice that they look upon every 522new prodigy as final, or portentous of the final consummation. I pass over observing at present that if once a conviction of the guilt of any sin be carried home to the mind, this solemn tribunal cannot thoroughly be dislodged from any man’s bosom either by dismal solitude or by frequent company, by affluence of delicacies or by habits of wickedness and impiety, nor, in fine, by any endeavours after the practice of innocence. The apostle in his epistle to the Romans, chap. ii., enters more fully into this subject. Two things, then, are to be concluded from what has been said, that mankind are guilty, and that they acknowledge, —
1. That God hates sin, as contrary to himself, and that therefore it is impossible for a sinner with safety to appear before him. But if God hate sin, he does it either from his nature or because he so wills it. But it cannot be because he wills it, for in that case he might not will it; a supposition most absurd. And, indeed, that assertion of Socinus is every way barbarous, abominable, and most unworthy of God, wherein he says, “I maintain that our damnation derives its origin, not from any justice of God, but from the free-will of God;” Socinus de Serv. p. 3. cap. 8. But if God hate sin by nature, then by nature he is just, and vindicatory justice is natural to him.
2. That our sins are debts, and therefore we shun the sight of our creditor. But I mean such a debt as, with relation to God’s supreme dominion, implies in it a perpetual right of punishment.
And such is the second proof of the minor proposition of the second argument; the third remains.
Thirdly, The public consent of all nations furnishes the third proof of this truth. There are writers, indeed, who have affirmed (a thing by no means credible) that some nations have been so given up to a reprobate mind that they acknowledge no deity. Socinus hath written6767 Socin., de Authoritate Scripturæ; lib. edit. sub nomine Dominici Lopez, Soc. Jes. that a certain Dominican friar, a worthy honest man, had related this much to himself of the Brazilians and other natives of America. But who can assure us that this friar has not falsified, according to the usual custom of travellers, or that Socinus himself has not invented this story (for he had a genius fertile in falsehoods) to answer his own ends? But let this matter rest on the credit of Socinus, who was but little better than an infidel. But nobody, even by report, hath heard that there exist any who have acknowledged the being of a God, and who have not, at the same time, declared him to be just, to be displeased with sinners and sin, and that it is the duty of mankind to propitiate him if they would enjoy his favour.
But a respectable writer objects, — namely, Rutherford on Providence, chap. xxii. p. 355, — that this argument, that that which men know of God by the natural power of conscience must be naturally 523inherent in God, is of no weight. “For,” says he, “by the natural power of conscience, men know that God does many good things freely, without himself; as, for instance, that he has created the world, that the sun rises and gives light; — and yet in these operations God does not act from any necessity of nature.”
But this learned man blunders miserably here, as often elsewhere, in his apprehension of the design and meaning of his opponents; for they do not use this argument to prove that the egresses of divine justice are necessary, but that justice itself is necessary to God; which Socinians deny. What is his answer to these arguments? “Mankind acknowledge many things,” says he, “which God does freely.” To be sure they do, when he exhibits them before their eyes; but what follows from that? So, too, they acknowledge that God punishes sin, when he punishes it. But because all mankind, from the works of God and from the natural power of conscience, acknowledge God to be good and bountiful, we may, without hesitation, conclude goodness and bounty to be essential attributes of God: so likewise, because, from the natural power of conscience and the consideration of God’s works of providence, they conclude and agree that God is just, we contend that justice is natural to God.
But as mankind have testified this consent by other methods, so they have especially done it by sacrifices; concerning which Pliny says, “That all the world have agreed in them, although enemies or strangers to one another.” But since these are plainly of a divine origin, and instituted to prefigure, so to speak, the true atonement by the blood of Christ, in which he hath been the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, — that is, from the promise made of the seed of the woman, and from the sacrifice of Abel which followed, — the use of them descended to all the posterity of Adam: therefore, though afterward the whole plan and purpose of the institution was lost among by far the greatest part of mankind, and even the true God himself, to whom alone they were due, was unknown, and though no traces of the thing signified, — namely, the promised seed, — remained, yet still the thing itself, and the general notion of appeasing the Deity by sacrifices, hath survived all the darkness, impieties, dreadful wickedness, punishments, migrations of nations, downfalls and destructions of cities, states, and people, in which the world for these many ages hath been involved; for a consciousness of sin, and a sense of divine and avenging justice, have taken deeper root in the heart of man than that they can by any means be eradicated.
There were four kinds of sacrifices among the Gentiles:— First, the propitiatory or peace-making sacrifices; for by those they thought they could render the gods propitious or appease them, or avert the anger of the gods, and obtain peace with them. Hence 524these verses on that undertaking of the Greeks, in the exordium of Homer:—
“But let some prophet or some sacred sage
Explore the cause of great Apollo’s rage:
Or learn the wasteful vengeance to remove
By mystic dreams; for dreams descend from Jove.
If broken vows this heavy curse have laid,
Let altars smoke and hecatombs be paid:
So Heaven atoned shall dying Greece restore,
And Phœbus dart his burning shafts no more.”
They were desirous of appeasing Apollo by sacrifices, who had inflicted on them a lamentable mortality. To the same purpose is that passage of Virgil, —
The greater gods; their pardon then implores.”
Hence, too, that lamentation of the person in the Pœnulus of Plautus, who could not make satisfaction to his gods:—
“Unhappy man that I am,” says he, “today I have sacrificed six lambs to my much-incensed gods, and yet I have not been able to render Venus propitious to me; and as I could not appease her, I came instantly off.”
And Suetonius, speaking of Otho, says, “He endeavours, by all kinds of piacular sacrifices, to propitiate the manes of Galba, by whom he had seen himself thrust down and expelled.” And the same author affirms of Nero, “That he had been instructed that kings were wont to expiate the heavenly prodigies by the slaughter of some illustrious victim, and to turn them from themselves upon the heads of their nobles;” though this, perhaps, rather belongs to the second kind. But innumerable expressions to this purpose are extant, both among the Greek and Latin authors.
The second kind were the expiatory or purifying sacrifices, by which sins were said to be atoned, expiated, and cleansed, and sinners purified, purged, and reconciled, and the anger of the gods turned aside and averted. It would be tedious, and perhaps superfluous, to produce examples; the learned can easily trace them in great abundance. The other kinds were the eucharistical and prophetical, which have no relation to our present purpose.
In this way of appeasing the Deity, mankind, I say, formerly agreed; whence it is evident that an innate conception6969 See note, p. 517. of this sin-avenging justice is natural to all, and, therefore, that that justice is to be reckoned among the essential attributes of the divine nature; concerning which only, and not concerning the free acts of his will, mankind universally agree.
|« Prev||Chapter III.||Next »|