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Another head of the first part of the dissertation — Arguments for the necessary egress of vindicatory justice from the supposition of sin — The first argument — God’s hatred of sin; what — Whether God by nature hates sin, or because he wills so to do — Testimonies from holy Scripture — Dr Twisse’s answer — The sum of it — The same obviated — The relation of obedience to reward and of sin to punishment not the same — Justice and mercy, in respect of their exercise, different — The second argument — The description of God in the Scriptures in respect of sin — In what sense he is called a “consuming fire” — Twisse’s answer refuted — The fallacies of the answer.
We have sufficiently proved, if I be not mistaken, that sin-punishing justice is natural to God. The opposite arguments, more numerous than weighty, shall be considered hereafter. We are now to prove the second part of the question, — namely, that the existence and sin of a rational creature being supposed, the exercise of this justice is necessary. And, granting what appears from what we have 550already said concerning the nature of justice, especially from the first argument, our proofs must necessarily be conclusive. The first is this:—
I. He who cannot but hate all sin cannot but punish sin; for to hate sin is, as to the affection, to will to punish it, and as to the effect, the punishment itself. And to be unable not to will the punishment of sin is the same with the necessity of punishing it; for he who cannot but will to punish sin cannot but punish it: for “our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased,” Ps. cxv. 3. Now, when we say that God necessarily punishes sin, we mean, that on account of the rectitude and perfection of his nature, he cannot possess an indifference of will to punish; for it being supposed that God hates sin, he must hate it either by nature or by choice. If it be by nature, then we have gained our point. If by choice, or because he wills it, then it is possible for him not to hate it. Nay, he may even justly will the contrary, or exercise a contrary act about the same object; for those acts of the divine will are most free, namely, which have their foundation in the will only: that is to say, it is even possible for him to love sin; for the divine will is not so inclined to any object, but that, if it should be inclined to its contrary, that might, consistent with justice, be done. This reasoning Durandus agrees to, and this Twisse urges as an argument. The conclusion, then, must be, that God may love sin, considered as sin.
“The sons of circumcision may receive
The wondrous tale, which I shall ne’er believe.”
For “God hates all workers of iniquity,” Ps. v. 5. He calls it “The abominable thing that he hateth,” Jer. xliv. 4. Besides these, other passages of Scripture testify that God hates sin, and that he cannot but hate it: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity,” Hab. i. 13. On account of the purity of God’s eyes, — that is, of his holiness, an attribute which none hath ever ventured to deny, — he “cannot look on iniquity;” that is, he cannot but hate it. “Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness,” says the psalmist, Ps. v. 4, 5, — that is, “Thou art a God who hatest all wickedness;” — for “evil shall not dwell with thee, and the foolish shall not stand in thy sight; thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” Is it a free act of the divine will that he here describes, which might or might not be executed without any injury to the holiness, purity, and justice of God; or the divine nature itself, as averse to, hating and punishing every sin? Why shall not the foolish stand in God’s sight? Is it because he freely wills to punish them, or because our God to all workers of iniquity is a consuming fire? Not that the nature of God can wax hot at the sight of sin, in 551a natural manner, as fire doth after the combustible materials have been applied to it; but that punishment as naturally follows sin as its consequence, on account of the pressing demand of justice, as fire consumes the fuel that is applied to it.
But it is not without good reason that God, who is love, so often testifies in the holy Scriptures his hatred and abomination of sin: “The wicked, and him that loveth violence, his soul hateth,” Ps. xi. 5. Speaking of sinners, Lev. xxvi. 30, he says, “My soul shall abhor you.” He calls sin “That abominable thing,” 1 Kings xxi. 26; Ps. xiv. 1; Deut. xvi. 22. There is nothing that God hates but sin; and because of sin only other things are liable to his hatred. In what sense passions and affections are ascribed to God, and what he would have us to understand by such a description of his nature and attributes, is known to everybody. But of all the affections of human nature, hatred is the most restless and turbulent, and to the person who is under its influence, and who can neither divest himself of it nor give a satisfactory vent to its motions, the most tormenting and vexatious; for as it takes its rise from a disagreement with and dislike of its object, so that its object is always viewed as repugnant and offensive, no wonder that it should rouse the most vehement commotions and bitterest sensations. But God, who enjoys eternal and infinite happiness and glory, as he is far removed from any such perturbations, and placed far beyond all variableness or shadow of change, would not assume this affection so often, for our instruction, unless he meant clearly to point out to us this supreme, immutable, and constant purpose of punishing sin, — as that monster whose property it is to be the object of God’s hatred, that is, of the hatred of infinite goodness, — to be natural and essential to him.
The learned Twisse answers, “I cannot agree that God by nature equally punishes and hates sin, unless you mean that hatred in the Deity to respect his will as appointing a punishment for sin; in which sense I acknowledge it to be true that God equally, from nature and necessity, punishes and hates sin. But I deny it to be necessary that he should either so hate sin or punish it. If hatred be understood to mean God’s displeasure, I maintain that it is not equally natural to God to punish sin and to hate it; for we maintain it to be necessary that every sin should displease God, but it is not necessary that God should punish every sin.” The sum of the answer is this: God’s hatred of sin is taken either for his will of punishing it, and so is not natural to God; or for his displeasure on account of sin, and so is natural to him: but it does not thence follow that God necessarily punishes every sin, and that he can let no sin pass unpunished.
But, first, this learned gentleman denies what has been proved; nor does he deign to advance a word to invalidate the proof. He denies that God naturally hates sin, hatred being taken for the will 552of punishing: but this we have before demonstrated, both from Scripture and sound reason. It would be easy indeed to elude the force of any argument in this manner. Afterward, he acknowledges that every sin must necessarily be displeasing to God. This, then, depends not on the free will of God, but on his nature. It belongs, then, immutably to God, and it is altogether impossible that it should not displease him. This, then, is supposed, that sin is always displeasing to God, but that God may or may not punish it, but pardon the sin and cherish the sinner, though his sin eternally displease him; for that depends upon his nature, which is eternally immutable. Nor is it possible that what hath been sin should ever be any thing but sin. From this natural displeasure, then, with sin, we may with propriety argue to its necessary punishment; otherwise, what meaneth that despairing exclamation of alarmed hypocrites, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”104104 Isa. xxxiii. 14.
The learned doctor retorts, “Obedience must necessarily please God; but God is not bound by his justice necessarily to reward it.” But the learned gentleman will hardly maintain that the relation of obedience to reward, and disobedience to punishment, is the same; for God is bound to reward no man for obedience performed, for that is due to him by natural right: Luke xvii. 10, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” Ps. xvi. 2, “My goodness extendeth not unto thee.” But every man owes to God obedience, or is obnoxious to a vicarious punishment; nor can the moral dependence of a rational creature on its Creator be otherwise preserved: “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life,” Rom. vi. 23.
Away, then, with all proud thoughts of equalling the relation of obedience to reward and sin to punishment. “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen,” Rom. xi. 35, 36. “What hast thou,” O man, “that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” 1 Cor. iv. 7. God requireth nothing of us but what he hath formerly given us; and, therefore, he has every right to require it, although he were to bestow no rewards. What! doth not God observe a just proportion in the infliction of punishments, so that the degrees of punishment, according to the rule of his justice, should not exceed the demerit of the transgression. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” But beware, Dr Twisse, of asserting that there is any proportion between the eternal fruition of God and the inexpressible participation of his 553glory, in which he hath been graciously pleased that the reward of our obedience should consist, and the obedience of an insignificant reptile, almost less than nothing. Whatever dignity or happiness we arrive at, we are still God’s creatures.
It is impossible that he who is blessed forever and ever, and is so infinitely happy in his own essential glory that he stands in no need of us or of our services, and who, in requiring all that we are and all that we can do, only requires his own, can, by the receipt of it, become bound in any debt or obligation. For God, I say, from the beginning, stood in no need of our praise; nor did he create us merely that he might have creatures to honour him, but that, agreeably to his goodness, he might conduct us to happiness.
But he again retorts, and maintains, “That God can punish where he does not hate; and, therefore, he may hate and not punish: for he punished his most holy Son, whom God forbid that we should say he ever hated.” But, besides that this mode of arguing from opposites hardly holds good in theology, though God hated not his Son when he punished him, personally considered, he however hated the sins on account of which he punished him (and even himself, substitutively considered, with respect to the effect of sin), no less than if they had been laid to any sinner. Yea, and from this argument it follows that God cannot hate sin and not punish it; for when he laid sins, which he hates, to the charge of his most holy Son, whom he loved with the highest love, yet he could not but punish him.
II. The representation or description of God, and of the divine nature in respect of its habitude105105 Habitude means the state of a person or a thing with relation to something else. The habitude of the divine nature with respect to sin is a disposition to punish it. — Tr. to sin, which the Scriptures furnish us with, and the description of sin with relation to God and his justice, supply us with a second argument. They call God a “consuming fire,” “everlasting burnings,”106106 Heb. xii. 29; Deut. iv. 24; Isa. xxxiii. 14. a God who “will by no means clear the guilty.”107107 Exod. xxxiv. 7.
They represent sin as “that abominable thing which he hateth,” which he will destroy “as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff.”108108 Jer. xliv. 4; Isa. v. 24. As, then, consuming fire cannot but burn and consume stubble, when applied to it, so neither can God do otherwise than punish sin, that abominable thing, which is consuming or destroying it, whenever presented before him and his justice.
But the very learned Twisse replies, “That God is a consuming fire, but an intelligent and rational one, not a natural and insensible one. And this,” says he, “is manifest from this, that this fire once burnt something not consumable,109109 The word in the original is “combustible,” meaning something that is susceptible of and consumable by fire. It must be evident to every one that the phrase is used in allusion to the metaphor which represents God as a consuming fire. The Son of God, then, was not, strictly and properly speaking, consumable, or susceptible of this fire, — that is, he was by no means the object of divine anger or punishment, considered as the Son of God, and without any relation to mankind, — but, on the contrary, was the beloved of his Father, with whom he was always well pleased. But he was liable to the effect of this fire, — that is, of God’s vindicatory justice, — as our representative and federal head. And every sinner is consumable by this fire; that is, is properly and naturally the object of divine wrath and punishment. — Tr. namely, his own Son, in whom there 554was no sin; which,” says he, “may serve as a proof that this fire may not burn what is consumable, when applied to it.”
But, in my opinion, this very learned man was never more unhappy in extricating himself; for, first, he acknowledges God to be “a consuming fire,” though “a rational and intelligent one, not a natural and insensible one.” But the comparison was made between the events of the operations, not the modes of operating. Nobody ever said that God acts without sense, or from absolute necessity and principles of nature, without any concomitant liberty. But although he acts by will and understanding, we have said that his nature as necessarily requires him to punish any sin committed, as natural and insensible fire burns the combustible matter that is applied to it. But the learned gentleman does not deny this; nay, he even confirms it, granting that with respect to sin God “is a consuming fire,” though only “an intelligent and rational one.”
I am sorry that this very learned author should have used the expression, that “this fire burnt something not consumable,” when he punished his most holy and well-beloved Son; for God did not punish Christ as his most holy Son, but as our mediator and the surety of the covenant, “whom he made sin for us, though he knew no sin.” Surely, “he laid upon him our sins,” before “the chastisement of our peace was upon him.” But in this sense he was very susceptible of the effects of this fire, — namely, when considered as bearing the guilt of all our sins; and therefore it was that by fire the Lord did plead with him.110110 Isa. lxvi. 16. Therefore, what this very learned man asserts in the third place falls to the ground; for the conclusion from such a very false supposition must necessarily be false. We go on to the third argument.
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